The Indignant Old Eagle: Bearing the Colors at Hatchie Bridge

Isaac McCoy’s usual duties as orderly sergeant of Co. C of the 68th Ohio during battle kept him in close proximity to the regimental color guard. [Companies C and H formed the center of the regiment, each company on a flank of the color guard] On the morning of October 4, 1862, as the 68th Ohio left Bolivar, Tennessee to intercept the Confederate army retreating from their defeat at Corinth, Mississippi, it was discovered that someone was needed to carry the regimental banner as the usual color sergeant was away ill. “Old Zeke” McCoy stepped in to fill the void and bore the colors through the ensuing Battle of Hatchie Bridge fought the following day.

          The Battle of Hatchie Bridge pitted three brigades of Federal troops against Sterling Price’s Army of the West. The battle, a Union victory, cost both sides roughly 500 casualties and other than giving Price’s army a nudge in their retreat, was bereft of significant results. The Federal pursuit of Price’s and Van Dorn’s armies ended shortly after Hatchie Bridge. McCoy, who wrote under the pen name Old Zeke, had the following letter published in the October 17, 1862 issue of the Daily Toledo Blade describing the battle.


Unidentified Union soldier posing with his musket with a U.S. flag draped over an adjacent chair.
Library of Congress


Bolivar, Mississippi

October 7, 1862

          On the 4th inst., Hurlbut’s division with the Second Brigade of our division, composed of the 68th Ohio and 12th Michigan, commanded by Colonel Robert K. Scott of the 68th, left camp here about 3 a.m. After accomplishing a march of 26 miles in the direction of Corinth, we encamped for the night at a point about three miles from the bridge which spans the Hatchie between Middleton and Pocahontas known as Davis’ Bridge. Early next morning, we pressed forward, expecting the Rebels would dispute our passage at that place. In this we were mistaken. He had advanced across the river in considerable force and planted his batteries. As we advanced, he poured numerous volleys among us. Our batteries soon took position on the brow of a hill in front of the enemy’s center and after vigorous firing for about three hours we succeeded in driving him from his guns.

          Our brigade immediately engaged the Rebels’ left, the 68th Ohio now being commanded by Major John S. Snook. We formed under cover of a peach orchard and then advanced in line of battle. For half a mile we forced our way through brambles, green briars, and underbrush, leaping ditches and scaling fences when at length we fell upon the enemy under cover of a high fence overgrown with vines and bushes with a thicket in his rear. He poured a heavy fire upon, almost in our very faces and directly in front. Our boys received this fire like veterans, and in accordance with the manner in which they had been drilled in skirmishing, immediately fell flat upon the ground and poured volley after volley into his ranks, soon compelling him to fall back. We soon fell upon him again under cover of the timber. He sent a shower of bullets about our ears, which was met by a prompt reply from us, we falling flat upon the ground as before, hundreds of the enemy’s bullets passing over our heads. After rapid firing for a few minutes, we again drove him back. Here the 12th Michigan was engaged on our right and the 14th Illinois on our left. Colonel [John A.] Davis of the 46th Illinois, being wounded, the command of that regiment also devolved on Colonel Scott, who now commanded three regiments. In these two engagements the 68th Ohio had ten men wounded. Of the extent of the loss in the 12th Michigan and 46th Illinois I could not ascertain.

Battle of Hatchie Bridge or Davis Bridge, Tennessee was fought October 5, 1862
(American Battlefield Trust)

After this last engagement we pushed forward to the river bank, but not overtake the enemy. We now started by the left flank for the bridge. The Rebel battery at the river had fallen into our hands. But upon the hill some distance from the bridge other batteries kept up heavy and constant firing. Our artillery had crossed in order to drive him from his position. Column after column of infantry passed the bridge and many regiment suffered terribly. As the 68th Ohio advanced with the boys with loud and deafening cheers, crossed on a double quick amid a perfect shower of grape and canister. We now filed to the left, following the bank of the river for half a mile. By this movement, we cut off and captured 100 Rebels and 100 stand of arms.

We now took possession of a hill to our right in order to support our batteries, the 7th Ohio Battery. Our batteries did excellent execution and in about one hour the Rebel batteries were silenced. Our shot fell with great precision, doing great credit to our gunners who exhibited a degree of coolness not witnessed on ordinary occasions. The enemy left behind two sections of his battery and several caissons which immediately fell into our hands. His firing had entirely ceased, and we were masters of the field. During the battle, twelve pieces of cannon were taken, three of which were spiked. The enemy being now driven from the field, we encamped on it during the night. Next morning, we were ordered to report to General Ross, who came up during the fight. Late in the afternoon we entered into line. We took possession of the prisoners who had been arriving all days in squads, captured by our pickets and small parties sent out for that purpose- the prisoners now number 870. We started for Bolivar where we arrived about 2 P.M. the next day.

"The old eagle seemed particularly indignant and darted from side to side in great violence," remembered temporary color sergeant Isaac McCoy of the 68th Ohio. The regimental colors of the 68th Ohio is depicted above from the collections of the Ohio History Connection. 

Our color sergeant being absent on business, your humble servant had the honor of bearing the good old Star-Spangled banner through the fray and took great pleasure in seeing her flap about the ears of the Southern Confederacy. As we approached Bolivar, a gentle breeze sprang up, unfolding her beauties to the view. Many Secesh ladies were looking on with great mortification. The old eagle seemed particularly indignant and darted from side to side in great violence and would finally bring up in the faces of some of those chivalrous gentlemen, teaching them to heed and respect her presence. The butternuts have been taught a lesson within the last week here that they will never forget. Victory has perched upon their banner for the last time. The stars and stripes will soon again wave over a united country, loved and respected by all.

The battle is over, the fierce conflict ended, and night, silence, and death brood over the field which a few short hours ago resounded with the roar of cannon and clashing of bayonets blended with the shrieks of the wounded and dying. The pale moon which is now shining on the scenes of the battlefield and the ghastly upturned faces of the dead. In the expression of the faces of the dead may be seen a type of their last thoughts and words. A calm serenity pervades the countenance of one as if his last words were “mother, home.” Another has his hands clenched fiercely and on feature is plainly stamped the patriot’s words, “my country and my God.” And on the pale resolved brow of the sleeper by his side is written “victory or death.”  ~ Second Lieutenant Lewis Dubbs, Co. I, 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry


Most Popular Posts

Arming the Buckeyes: Longarms of the Ohio Infantry Regiments

Dressing the Rebels: How to Dye Butternut Jeans Cloth

Bullets for the Union: Manufacturing Small Arms Ammunition During the Civil War

The Vaunted Enfield Rifle Musket

Straw Already Threshed: Sherman on Shiloh

Charging Battery Robinett: An Alabama Soldier Recalls the Vicious Fighting at Corinth

A Fight for Corn: Eight Medals of Honor Awarded at Nolensville

In front of Atlanta with the 68th Ohio

The Legend of Leatherbreeches: Hubert Dilger in the Atlanta Campaign

Federal Arms in the Stones River Campaign