Killed at Kennesaw: Death of Lieutenant Dungan of the 113th Ohio

The Federal assault on Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia took place on June 27, 1864 in the midst of Sherman's drive into Georgia. It represented a serious and costly misstep and was one of the few times a head-on assault was attempted against the Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston. 

The following letter was written by Captain Otway Watson of Co. A, 113th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to John Dungan of London, Ohio, reporting the death of Dungan's son Lieutenant Jesse W. Dungan. The 113th Ohio was the leading regiment in the assault on Kennesaw and lost 10 officers and 153 men in the attack. As related by Captain Watson, Dungan was retrieved from the field due to the heroism of two enlisted men: Corporal Richard B. Corson and Private John H. Peters.
Unidentified youthful Union private in marching order wearing a nine button frock coat, knapsack, and a dagger carried in his belt.
(Library of Congress)





In the field, near Chattahoochee River, Georgia
July 14, 1864
          Mr. John Dungan, my dear sir,
          I presume you have received letters, dispatches, and communications, all  bearing sad news to you from the front, but I feel it my duty to offer you another, as one of the last duties I can discharge toward your affectionate son, and my own dear friend Jesse. Jesse was in good health and spirits the day previous to and the morning of the fatal charge. He called at my tent the evening previous and spent some time with me, there was nothing unusual in our conversation, through the thought of the coming morrow seemed to be upon everybody’s mind as we had by this time suspected the work we might have to do.

The next morning by daylight we were all busy with our duties, preparing to enter the contest. Just before we started on the charge all of the officers of the regiment were called together and the plan of attack was made known to them; I suppose so that each one might the more perfectly understand it and be the more able and efficient. It was rather a solemn meeting of the 19 of us who came together then. But few words were spoken and after the council each officer went to his command. Jesse looked well and natural, although I do not think he spoke during the meeting, as but very few of us made any remarks at all. Of that number, nine are unhurt, four have ceased from troubling and are at rest, and the other six at last account were all living but all badly wounded. After the fight was over, the remaining officers (some of whom were suffering from sunstroke or overheating and fatigue) were ordered to collect the men of the regiment together and reform them as fast as possible, in order to be ready for emergencies that might be sprung upon us.
 
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia as depicted by Kurz & Allison
While this was being done, the wounded were being sent to the hospital in the rear. The stretcher bearers were busy and the road was soon filled with ambulances. Having reorganized as well as we could, I sent a detachment from my company back to bring off their wounded comrades. After a while the adjutant and myself got permission to visit the hospital as we were anxious to know who were living and who was dead. Jesse was not there when we left, but we knew that he had been wounded but was not brought in. We could not stay long and when we rejoined the regiment, I learned that he had been brought off and sent back. They said he was in excellent spirits, patient, and looked well. Upon arriving at the hospital, his limb was amputated; he survived the amputation well, and seemed, so those say who saw him, cheerful up to the time he left Big Shanty station. No reaction seemed to have taken place up to that time.
 
113th Ohio Regimental Colors
(Ohio History Connection)
They sent toward Chattanooga all the wounded officers of our regiment on the 29th or 30th of June. I think a great mistake was made in sending them on so long and fatiguing journey so soon. The next intelligence we had of him was that of his death. [Dungan died July 4, 1864 at Chattanooga, Tennessee] Jesse fell I think about 60 yards from the enemy’s breastworks; it would have seemed impossible for any living thing to have remained there. After we had fallen back, the enemy still kept up a murderous fire, but not as terrific as before. It was under this fire that Jesse was brought off, and I am especially desirous that you should know who these brave boys are that did it, than whom none had greater love for him, that that they offered to lay down their lives for his sake. They were Corporal Richard B. Corson, who lives near my father’s home, and John H. Peters, who worked nearly opposite your store in the shoe shop.[1] These two men crawled upon their breasts, amid the sharp rattle of musketry, to the spot where he lay, and succeeded in assisting him a short distance to the rear where, although yet exposed to fire, Mr. Adams and Mr. Simpson came to their assistance, and the four carried him hastily beyond danger. These men deserve and I know you will grant them a most grateful remembrance.
Gravestone of Corporal Richard B. Corson, Co. A, 113th Ohio

If now that he is gone, the world can look upon him as having fulfilled the objects of this life, if to the soldier of the North who gives his life a sacrifice upon his country’s altar can by common consent be awarded all that is due him, then indeed no nobler end could he have aimed at, and you, as his father, could have desired no nobler record for him. A sinful and merciless minority there may be who rejoice at such a disaster, but the monument of such a hero cannot be tarnished by the breath of calumny, when defended by the thousands of loyal men whose voices can never be hushed until the traitor at home and abroad is no more. To you and your family, I extend my deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement.
 
Lieutenant Jesse W. Dungan gravestone at Oak Hill Cemetery, London, Ohio
(Find-A-Grave)
Lieutenant Dungan’s remains were sent home to his family in London, Madison Co., Ohio, and were interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in London.


[1] Richard B. Corson (1838-1911) mustered out with the regiment at the end of the war and moved to Cowley Co., Kansas where he died in 1911 at age 72.

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