Captured at Chickamauga with the 21st Ohio Infantry

    The following account by Private Jacob “Doc” Jones of Co. I, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry gives a personal account of his capture and subsequent imprisonment along with the 135 men of the regiment who were taken in the fading hours of September 20, 1863. “Doc” Jones provided this account as the first in a series of 13 articles published in the Perrysburg Journal entitled “The Capture and Escape: A History of the Experiences of Doc Jones during the War of the Rebellion as told by Himself.” The first article was published in the September 13, 1889 issue to coincide with the annual reunion of the regiment which was held on September 19th at Elmore, Ohio.

    "After a hard fight lasting all of that memorable day and having made five charges, hope nerved our arms and kept us in line by the promise constantly ringing in our ears, “reinforcements are coming” until late in the evening when Captain Henry H. Alban (Co. F) said to the writer “Go back and hurry up reinforcements as our support as quickly as possible; the Confederate forces are pushing us in our front and we have not one round of ammunition to hold them in check.” (See my March 31, 2018 post for the story of Captain Alban's escape from captivity a year later.)

    I was quite positive that I knew where to go as we had heard troops in our rear for an hour and a half or more, commands of the officers, and other familiar sounds of the moving of soldiers, and the reader can imagine my surprise when after making my way back as fast as I possibly could and rushing up to an officer at the head of a column saying “Come along up as fast as you can; the Rebs are massing in our front and we are hard pushed and haven’t a round of ammunition.” He instantly ordered me to surrender and at the same time calling to his men “Here is a damned Yank, disarm him!” A little fellow they called sergeant took me in charge. Then I had the presence of mind to think that by throwing away the cylinder of my gun I could make the weapon useless to them. It was a Colt’s revolving rifle and it was but the work of a second to take out the cylinder which I did, fortunately without being observed. After giving him my rifle, he demanded the rest of my accoutrements. When I attempted to loosen my cartridge box, I had some trouble getting it off; at least I was not quick enough about it to suit him (I may have been scared). At any rate his royal highness offered his services by jerking out a knife exclaiming “By God, I can get it off,” and slashed away at it. It came off.

I did not venture any remarks on this occasion but like the Irishman’s parrot kept up a devil of a thinking and it is singular how my thoughts framed themselves; they seemed very much like this: “You little Reb son-of-a-gun, if I only had you three rods away from your command about five minutes I would give you a token of my regard that would help you to remember the 20th day of September 1863.”

By the time he had succeeded in disarming me, we had got back to the hill where our regiment had been all afternoon and I witnessed one of the saddest sights of my life up to that time, and that was to see our grand old regiment surrender simply because they had nothing to defend themselves with. We could not help feeling forsaken; with as noble a lot of men as ever drew up in line of battle reduced in their fighting abilities to a mere band of boys and all on account of somebody’s negligence of duty. If memory serves me right we were marched off under guard of the 54th Virginia and at night were huddled together in a field like a lot of cattle several miles in the rear of the Rebel army. Of course I felt ridiculous as well as forsaken and no doubt others of the unfortunate ones felt similarly. The idea of being captured never entered my head because I had such implicit confidence in the fighting qualities of my comrades that the fact now staring me in the face did not seem credible. I thoroughly believe now as I did then that had the old 21st been supplied with ammunition, the boys would have gone through that Rebel line in our rear as they had done on similar occasions. Is it any wonder we felt forsaken?

Private Sidney Brewster of Co. C was killed in action September 19, 1863; he had previously been captured at Stones River and imprisoned for a time in Richmond. He is dressed in the typical uniform and equipment of the 21st Ohio Infantry at Chickamauga, including the famous Colt's Revolving Rifle that eight of the ten companies carried into action. A nice example of this rifle resides at the Civil War Museum of Ohio in Tiffin, Ohio- that rifle belonged to a soldier in Company H and is missing the cylinder. It is possible that the soldier who carried the rifle followed Jones' example and chucked it into the darkened woods when he was captured. (CAC-BGSU)

Sleep did not visit me that night; my thoughts were occupied with the 13 brave comrades who were killed that day and of the 22 heroes who had been wounded. Then later, thoughts of home; of the feeling of my parents away up there in northern Ohio when the news of my capture reached their knowledge. And of the 13 families, each of whom had that day given a life that peace and prosperity might bless and be with his successors. These 13 were the pride of these 13 families: the representatives of the patriotism of fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers who daily scanned the bulletins and newspapers for news concerning their heroes. Imagination pictured to me the tears and anguish of the loved ones at home when the sorrowful facts were broken to them. Hopes of the return of the heroes had been blasted in a few sentences, hopes that had been harbored and nurtured for months. Sad thoughts were these but they were ever present with me during that long night in the field under Rebel supervision.

As soon as it was light enough next morning, I began to look at my surroundings and the first familiar face that greeted my eyes was Major Arnold McMahan who had been in command during the afternoon of the preceding day. He had the appearance of a man who had an extended term of intoxication and was just beginning to realize that he was still among the living but could not just exactly locate himself. As the Major and I had been on quite intimate terms, I concluded to go to him for consolation; a few words that might have a tendency toward bracing up a thoroughly disgusted and disconsolate soldier. Surely words could not express my feelings that morning. As I approached the Major, he was sitting with his head bowed and resting on his hand, a perfect picture of despondency. “Major, how does this strike you?” He slowly raised his head and looking straight into my eyes said “Isn’t this hell?”

Major Arnold McMahan led the 21st Ohio in the critical
hours atop Horseshoe Ridge following the wounding of
Lieutenant Colonel Dwella Stoughton. When asked the following
morning about how he felt about being captured, he said "Isn't this hell?"
The next day we were marched to Ringgold and kept overnight. The following morning we were loaded on a train and shipped to Atlanta. Arriving there, we were taken from the train and stationed in a grove under a strong guard for a day and night. On the morning of the second day after our arrival, our captors put us in a large prison or stockade. During our ride to Atlanta we were apparently great curiosities as the denizens along the route never seemed to tire of looking at us. I shall not attempt to describe all that I saw and heard, or record the conversations between the Rebs and our boys. When we had proceeded as far as Marietta, Georgia, the train stopped in a deep cut and a great many of the inhabitants came out on the banks to feast their eyes on our misfortune and pass remarks about us. One circumstance at this place I shall always remember; among the many who were interested spectators was a young woman, and this fact the reader will do well to keep in mind. I was lying in the door of a freight car trying to rest myself. I had been hit on the shoulder by a spent ball late in the afternoon of the September 20th and I was quite lame. While I was in that position, this young lady came toward me with a butcher knife in her hand and looking straight at me went through the motion of cutting my throat, intimating that it would afford her much pleasure to perform that operation. I dared not say a word as there were two Rebel guards standing near me and laughing at the antics of what they called a brave woman. The nearest words I could come up were in communion with myself, and I mentally ejaculated “if ever the opportunity offers itself, I will kill that girl.”

The short time of our stay in Atlanta was made interesting by the large number of visitors from the city and surrounding country who came undoubtedly to see what a Yank looked like, and were probably surprised when they saw men. I had a little enjoyment in that city and that was furnished by one man. In our regiment there was a man named Jim Feasel, a member of Company B. (Feasel would be discharged on a surgeon’s certificate of disability in August 1864) Jim was a man about 6 feet 6 inches in height and had the largest feet and hands of any man I ever saw. He was not handsome by any means, yet all the Rebels that came to look at us seemed to be impressed most with his physiognomy, and were constantly casting slurs at him in preference to anyone else. They surely made no mistake in the object of their ridicule, because if their desire was to increase their hatred of the Yankees, their attacks upon Feasel were just the proper course to pursue to gratify their desire.

When they went to Jim with questions they were not disappointed in receiving an answer; he had a very amiable habit of always answering questions and sanctioning or corroborating statements made by them. Yet this desire on his part to please them seemed to have the opposite effect for they invariably went away angry and calling down anathemas on the head of poor Jim. As an instance: some distinguished ladies came to see us and as usual Jim was selected as the target of their remarks. They twitted us about being whipped at Chickamauga and insisted “in less than two weeks Bragg would have Rosecrans back across the Ohio River.” Jim unflinchingly met their gaze and said, “Oh Lord ladies, it will not take them that long. They will only have to chase them across Tennessee, a part of Alabama and Kentucky, a distance of 1,500 or 1,800 miles by the route they will be compelled to take. Candidly ladies, I think they can get them back across the Ohio before breakfast in the morning. Why,” says he with all the earnestness imaginable, “I am confident the war is about ended. President Lincoln has already dispensed with his long range guns!” The ladies by this time had become interested in Jim’s analysis of the war and eagerly asked why Lincoln had discarded his long range guns. He looked with all the impudence with which he was possessed and a magazine exploded. “By God, he is afraid of shooting across the Confederacy and killing his own men!”

Their questions were answered and their statements vouched for, but one of the ladies seemed to have a vision and the truth gradually dawned upon her intellect when she said, “Why, he is making fun of us!” They immediately moved away with faces like thunder clouds. One day I asked him how it was that he received all the attention and abuse from the Rebels that came to visit us. He said “I will show you someday why it is so.” An opportunity was not long in presenting itself. While we were at Columbia, South Carolina we chanced to be standing side by side when a party of Rebels came up. “Now look at me,” Jim said. Up to this time they had taken no notice of him or if they did, had paid no attention to him. He stood there facing them, but the expression on his countenance I shall never forget. His mind was pictured in his face, and you could read it as plainly as thought it was written and it required no large amount of intellect to read the utter disgust therefore depicted and the spectator might make language ever so strong, it would be no exaggeration. Shortly one of the Rebels said, “Old Yank, how do you like this?” That was sufficient to start Feasel and he was soon disputing with the Rebels. After that I was thoroughly convinced of the cause of the Rebs always venting their spite on my comrade.

Captain Milo Caton of Co. H was also captured at
Horseshoe Ridge on September 20th. When he
emerged from Rebel captivity months later, his gaunt
appearance stunned onlookers.
Upon our arrival in Columbia, I was forcibly impressed with the difference in the men guarding us, The Rebel soldiers who had been performing that service had been sent to the front and we were put in charge of the rear guard, or rather old planters and their sons and the change was one very much regretted I assure you. There was also a different class of citizens. At Atlanta we could occasionally see a friend among the many who visited us; but at Columbia, none were visible. A man fighting for a principle, be it ever so contrary to our opinion of right and wrong, we still have respect for that man when he is willing to face death and if necessary lay down his life for that principle. But none are so contemptible as those who profess to be what he dares not stand up and defend to the best of his ability; an utter lack of manhood. Our present guards were of this class; they were willing to hold their muskets ever ready to shoot down the defenseless prisoners and heap abuse upon their head simply because they had the opportunity. We were subjected to every conceivable annoyance.


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