Overrun at Chickamauga: “Pork & Beans” of the Regular Artillery
During the Civil War, readers of the Toledo Commercial enjoyed regular missives from an “old regular” serving with Battery H of the 5th U.S. Light Artillery in the western theater. This soldier, who I have never been able to identify, had enlisted in the U.S. Army in the 1850s, served out his term, and moved to Toledo. Once the war broke out, he joined up again and became a sergeant in Battery H, which he always referred to as Terrill’s Battery after its former commander Captain William Terrill who was killed at the Battle of Perryville leading a brigade a newly-raised troops. This witty correspondent went by the pen name “Pork & Beans.”
Battery H saw heavy action during Perryville and Stones River, and saw heavy action again at Chickamauga. Attached to the Regular Brigade (General John H. King) of Absalom Baird’s First Division of the 14th Corps, the battery was initially led by Lieutenant Howard Mather Burnham then Lieutenant Joshua Fessenden following Burnham’s mortal wound. “Pork & Beans” was there and provided the following account of Chickamauga which was published in the October 8, 1863 issue of the Toledo Commercial.
September 26, 1863
My last informed you that my next would be from the south side of the Tennessee River. Here it is, and thanks to God, I am safe. I will recount to you the many hardships encountered by this army in marching across the mountains to meet the army of Rebeldom. We marched all Friday night, the 19th and daybreak found us in line of battle before the enemy. The skirmishing commenced on the left (Crittenden’s) but soon extended to the right and center. The First Division moved towards the left and engaged the enemy first at about 10:30 a.m.
By noon the battle raged all along the line and the volleys of musketry was truly deafening. Little or no artillery firing was done until noon. In our front was a dense wood and a rugged and uneven country. Terrill’s battery was brought into position and was immediately ordered to “limber to the rear,” the enemy having driven the infantry from our right and advancing in strong force. The order came too late. Like madmen, the Rebels rushed up on and around the battery. It only delivered four rounds of canister before it was taken. Our cannoneers were shot down in large numbers and horses and drivers in the limbers shared a like fate. We lost our battery, but soon the gallant 9th Ohio came on at a charge, drove the enemy back and recaptured the battery. [Battery H was overrun by the Mississippians of General Edward C. Walthall’s brigade, specifically the 29th, 30th, and 34th regiments.]
|Lieutenant Howard M. Burnham|
Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery
Lieutenant Burnham, commanding, was shot down at the first fire, Lieutenant Ludlow taken prisoner, and the only remaining officer Lieutenant Joshua Fessenden, slightly wounded, managed to escape. How he managed to escape is a miracle. His clothing was pierced with bullets in eight different places. Twelve men were left dead on the field; 15 were wounded, some most severely, but were gotten off. We left 14 wounded in the enemy’s hands. All this occurred in five minutes. A lifetime was involved in that short space. It will not be soon forgotten by those lucky enough to escape.
Two Cleveland boys met their death: Sergeant James Scanlan was found dead in his saddle. Corporal McGrath, an old typo, was instantly killed at the first fire. Both were brave and gallant soldiers and we miss them here in our little circle. Their families have the condolence of all, and the grand assurance that they met their fate with undaunted bravery, boldly fighting at their post to maintain the supremacy of the old flag. Sergeant Bickel was bayonetted in endeavoring to spike his gun. John T. Carroll of Cleveland spiked his gun and made his escape. The spike has since been removed; he picked up a musket ramrod, inserted it into the vent and broke it off. Loomis lost five of his guns but subsequently recovered one of them. Lieutenant Van Pelt was killed. The 4th Indiana Battery fared no better. It was indeed a melancholy sight to see the remnants of the once famous Terrill’s and Loomis’ batteries huddled together after the fight.
On Sunday morning, Lieutenant Fessenden rigged up two Napoleons and went into action but finding it impossible to gain a good position for the two guns, by order of General Thomas, he withdrew them and marched back to this point when they were placed in the forts. On Monday he again moved to the front but finding that the enemy was steadily retiring, without engaging the enemy, we retired also. Now we are in position again, protected by what was once Rousseau’s gallant division now dwindled down to not more than a full brigade. The Regular Brigade lost over 1,000 men and 50 officers.
We are not whipped! No, we have been overpowered; we have fought thrice our number, yet undaunted, we boldly await the Rebel minions to come on. Will they do it? Had Rosecrans been reinforced we would have held the field despite the whole Southern Confederacy. As it is, he is now in what may be considered a safe position although in great danger of being cut off from his supplies.
Shiloh and Stones River dwindle in significance when compared to the bloody fighting on Saturday and Sunday at Chickamauga. It is to be regretted that so many of our dead were left on the field unburied and large numbers of our wounded fell into the hands of the enemy, many of whom, no doubt, were badly wounded, and met a fate worse than death. In the First Division, nearly all who were made prisoners were first wounded. The living lament over the fate of their dead brothers and commiserate with the relatives of the brave men who have fallen.
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