Stout Enough Hearts for the Fray: A Buckeye Describes Chickamauga
In the aftermath of the Battle of Chickamauga, Private Augustus C. May of the 14th Ohio wrote this chatty letter back to the editor of the Toledo Daily Commercial. It gives one a good sense of the confidence (one could say over confidence) that the soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland had in the leadership of General Rosecrans, even after the defeat at Chickamauga. But what he was most proud of was his claim that the Buckeyes had thrashed Longstreet's vaunted corps, "which claimed that they were never whipped until they came down they came down here and run against some of the Western stand-stills." A bit of puffery, a bit of history, and a whole lot of attitude sums up this missive from September 1863.
|Colonel Henry D. Kingsbury, 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry|
Headquarters 14th Ohio Volunteers, Chattanooga, Tennessee
September 30, 1863
When I wrote you last it was from Winchester, Tenn., and I then told you, I believe, that the next time you heard form me, my letter should be dated in Chattanooga,--that far-famed and long blowed about Rebel stronghold--and so you see I have told you the truth for once, if I never did before. Yes, we drove the Rebels out, and took possession some two weeks ago, and after we had taken possession we thought we might as well travel on a "wee bit" further, and see what we could find, and "snatch um in," but before we had got more than a few Tennessee miles out from Chattanooga, we ran against something Secesh but the substance was so "soft" that it didn't hurt us much, and, as for the "scare,"--why we wouldn't run a step. The consequence was that Bragg and Rosy had to have a fight right there, and so fight we had it.
When Bragg "skipped" out of Chattanooga he anticipated that Rosy and his "boys" would probably follow him up for a mile or two at the least, so the cowardly "puppy" had to send on to Richmond, and every other hole in the South part of the Confederacy, for re-enforcements to come on and meet him; and come they did; so many that their army outnumbered our men two to one.--But what else could we do more than fight? It is true we had but a "squad" of men when compared with their army, but then that little "squad" was in good "fighting trim," inasmuch as we had been living very high of late, and, when we got fairly into the fight, the Rebels found us to be so heavy that they unanimously declared that they were not able to "tote us."
Among the reinforcements that came up to Bragg, was that of Longstreet and his champion Corps of dare-devil Rebels, who boasted loudly that they had never been whipped yet, and they had been fighting our men on the Potomac for over two years. Now, everybody knows that the Army of the Cumberland has never been whipped, and in this same army there is a Corps called the "14th Army Corps," commanded by Major General Thomas, and in this Crops there is a Division commanded by Brig. Gen. Brannan, and in this Division there is a Brigade called the "2d Brigade, 3d Division, 14th A.C., D.C., and it is composed of the following Regiments, viz: 14th Ohio, 4th Ky., 10th Ind., 10th Ky., and 74th Ind. Well, now I have got to the Brigade I wanted to tell you about and the reason why I came right down to the figures was because I wanted everybody to know and remember what kind of stuff--the 'Brigade was made 'up of,' that so handsomely ripped up, chased down, and cleaned out that famous Longstreet Corps from the Potomac, which claimed that they were never whipped until they came down here and run against some of the Western stand-stills.
The fight commenced on the 19th, and all that day, and the next, I believe we fought as never men fought before. The enemy, as I said before, had as many as two men to our one, and, it was certainly no small job we had to do in order to hold our own. Colonel John Croxton, of the 4th Kentucky, commanded our brigade when we went into the fight, and we had no more than fairly "started in," when the Longstreet Corps came piling down upon us pell-mell, shouting and bellowing at the top of their voices, with the intention of scaring us to death at the first "turn," but we were used to noise and wind, and what they made didn't move us a peg--backwards--but when we had gazed on their Potomac style a moment, we rushed in--the 14th Ohio leading the van; and such slashing, slaying and killing of men as now took place--why, I never before saw or heard of. When our little brigade pitched into Longstreet's Corps so heavily and willingly, it completely discouraged them, and they got up and did git, now, I tell you. Our brigade followed them up and "sticked" 'em over with the bayonet for quite a distance, and our regiment, the 14th Ohio; followed them full eighty rods further, all alone, over broken down timber, and I'll assure you that we killed enough of the rebellious chaps during our short run over those logs, to satisfy us, if we never get another chance at them as long as we stay in the service.
I observe by looking over the columns of some of the Northern papers-whose editors are not so "sound" for the Union as they should be--that they tried very hard to make the masses believe that Rosy and his invincible Army of the Cumberland were completely whipped out and demoralized, and that they had been hurled back in a panic upon Chattanooga by Bragg and his host of rebel followers. Now, this is not so. Bragg has never whipped us yet, and, what is more, he knows he never can. The truth of the whole story is simply told: After Rosecrans had routed Bragg out of Tullahoma, he laid his plans to perfection, and then proceeded to drive him out and take possession of Chattanooga, which he did most effectually. After we had possession of Chattanooga--the object we "struck out" for--Rosecrans marched on beyond Chattanooga a short distance, just for the purpose of seeing how Bragg stood, and when he came up to him he found that Bragg had reinforcements, and was going to stand and give him battle, (for the first time since we have been following him,) so we "pitched in" and fought him hard for two days, when Rosy thought it bad policy to fight his army against a force double his own, and so he fell back handsomely and in good order, and formed a splendid line about one and a half miles out from Chattanooga, which we defy the whole Southern Confederacy, to move us from. Before falling back, however, every one should understand that the Army of the Cumberland did not disgrace its name nor that of its noble Commander--far from it. Every man fought with such gallantry as cannot be excelled by any other army in the world, and when we quit fighting the rebels were perfectly satisfied; for we punished them so severely that their own men admit their loss to be nearly double our own.
The Rebels try to claim a victory, but they say that as "Rosy" still holds Chattanooga, they can hardly call it a victory after all. Yes, "Rosy" has Chattanooga and intends to keep it, and that is what hurts the rebels. Now let all those who have no better sense say that invincible "Rosy" was defeated and thrown back upon Chattanooga in a panic, as much as they please, for it does not hurt or discourage the boys, under his command, in the least. Gen. "Rosy" has always been all right, is all right now, and every one here believes that he is the right man for the future. There is no time, when he is passing up and down the line, but that he is greeted with prolonged and hearty cheering from every man, which very plainly shows that we have the greatest confidence in him, and are willing to follow him to the other side of "Dixie," where he is bound to lead us.
Now I suppose you and your readers would like to hear a few words in particular about the 14th Ohio. Well, the 14th Ohio formed in good line, and went into the "fray" with good hearts. We had been marching a good long distance, within the last two years or over, for the purpose of finding a big fight, and now that we had come to one, you certainly must know that, we "Pitched in" with a will. There was no flinching and standing back, but, on the contrary, every man stood manfully up to the business and then fired away. Colonel Henry Kingsbury was at the head of the Regiment, just as brave as a man could be; and he did not go into the fight like some officers do -- swinging his sword in the air--but he went in on foot, with a cartridge box strapped on his shoulder and musket in his hand, and, besides performing the laborious duty of constantly cheering on his men, he, at the same time, kept loading and firing his musket with dexterity, and, I doubt not, but that he made as many Rebels bite the dust as any other man on the field. In fact, he shot and "blowed" himself nearly away, for when he came off from the field he was that hoarse, from cheering his men on to the fight, that he could not speak above a whisper. Also, there is our gallant, beloved little Major, John J. Wilson who showed such bravery as could not but be noticed by every one; and then he is a military man besides, and either he Colonel Kingsbury could put our regiment in any shape they wished to have it, in the short space of five minutes' time, which was in a measure the means of our being so successful on the field. Throughout the two days' engagement our Regiment did splendid fighting and made some gallant charges, which proved very ticklish business for the Rebs. At one time we had our gallant and service-stained colors shot down four times in succession, but they were never allowed to lie on the ground a second but were instantly picked up again by some other brave man of the 14th, and shook again defiantly in the faces of our enemies, as we again bore down upon them with a revengeful rush.
To let you and your readers know to what extent the 14th Ohio pushed in, I will herewith submit to you a list of the killed, wounded and missing of the Regiment during the fight.
List of killed, wounded and missing of the 14th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
COMPANY A.--Killed.--Corporal J. H. Owen, Privates, Wm. Anderson, John Hepp.
Wounded.--Captain Albert Moore; Lieutenant N. 0. Cobb, Sergeants John Gillman, J. M. Perrin, Thomas N. Gilbert, Corporals, A. D. Tarbox, Gaines B. Hanford, George Dodels; Privates Wm Burns., F. C. Barnes, N. Gilbert, E. James, J. Jally, F. M. Segur, C. M. Williams, Levi S. Warner.
Missing.--Privates Eli Richfield, F. W. Bornor, A. Glenn, J. Harbauer, S. T. Wood, H. L. Waldron.
COMPANY F.--Killed.--Corporal C. A. O'Callaghan; private E. Munson.
Wounded.--Sergeant C. G. Tibbitts; Corporals W. C. Lathrop; privates A. W. Henies, A. Fox, Albert Knapp, since died; J - Surbeck, J. W. Cooper, C. Dennis, A. M. Thorp, F. G. Ward, Wm. Farley, A. J. Ingersoll, A. L. Smith, Henry Clifford, W. B. Retchel, since died, C. W. Van Orman, A. Rulapaugh, J. K. Hardy.
Missing--Privates D. Buck, G. H. Seymour, L. Ostrander, A. Nicholson, M. Dingo. O. Hendrickson.
COMPANY H.--Killed.--Corporals J. Wells, L. B. Clemance; private J. Miller.
Wounded.--Capt. Samuel Pomeroy; Corporals George Geyfang, George B. Hartman; Privates, L. Kramer, since died, H. Anglemire, H. Andrie, Thomas Birk, S. B. Battenfield, S. H. Bates, J. Bilstone, William Casteel, S. Knowles, H. Marsh, William B. Moss, B. Mirice, S. Overmire, T. Patten, C. P. Russell, P. Shaster, O. Stour, A. F. Thatcher, A. Birch.
Missing.--G. Brubaker, J. Bawker.
COMPANY I.--Killed.--Privates J. Cossy, William Sebing, H. Nelson.
Wounded.--Sergeants J. Pray, E. Sly, George Smith; corporals M. Scott, Wm. Gaunt, Chs. Birch; Privates E. Berry, J. Cable, F. French, B. Gesback, C. Houferd, J. Hipp, 0. W. Smith, R. Trumbull, H. Vanfleet, J. Welch, W. Wolfinger, Ger. Yeager, B. Huftile, Thomas Kine, George Switzo. J. Word, P. Bateman, N. Coder
Missing--Corporal A. A: Reed.
COMPANY C.--Killed.--Orderly Sergeant Bromhaffer, (he picked up the colors after they had been shot down the first time, and received a ball through the head and fell dead the same instant;) Privates J. P. Burton, G. W. Horton.
Wounded.--Corps. L. S. Hull, A. J. Martin, G. Applegate, A. Isabel, G. R. Morris; Privates, P. W. Disbrow, Chas. Upel, R. Train, M. Rinysley, E. Robadien, C. J. Prince, J. Albinson, J. Burrell, J. Sullivan, T. L. Phillips, A. J. Wilson, J. McKay, J. Carget. M. Cousino.
Missing--Serg't G. E. Church; Corp. M. Lutes; Privates, Summerlot, T. Foley, P. Enfield, H. N. Dible, J. Vaun.
Wounded.--Serg'ts A. H. Mour, A. S. Croxton; Corp. J. Solton, J. Kanawer; Privates, Wm. Bergin, D. Cotrell, L. A. Carpenter, T. Carr, J. H. Coodman, L. Hazele, O. Hilbert, J. Vaska, Wm. Liberman, Jas. McFadden, John Nicholson, C. Poe, J. Scies, Sam. Spencer, L. Shenaway, J. Wetsel.
Missing.--Corps. H. Vertill, J. S. Philo; Privates, H. D. Cain, Wm. Samse, James Wickham.
COMPANY E.-Killed.--Corporal John Cain; Privates Wm. Graham, Sam. K. Keezer.
Wounded.--Sergeants C. V. Mettiler, J. S. Eckles, David Trine, Aquilla Masters; Corporals J. B. Partee, (since died,) J. Miller; Speaker (since died,) B. O'Callaghan, (since died,) Wm. C. Brenelle, J. Hoeltzel, O. J. Kraft, H. B. Randall, Wm. C. Toops, John Wagoner.
Missing.--Corporal J. N. Crist; Privates E. Patterf, A. Partee.
COMPANY K.--Killed.--Sergeant Richard D. Boyer, Robert O. Leasure; Corporals W. R. Black, O. Oglevie, Wm. Belford, P. Vertner; Privates J. Coup, J. B. Featheringill, H. Kippin, A, Killin, B. Louis, Wm. Scott, Wm. Ward.
Wounded.--Lieut. Isaac L. VanMeter; Sergeant Buron Slamon; Corporals D. B. Parrish, G. T. Craig, Wm. Glemming; Privates S. Bowers, R. Douglass, J. Davidson, Wm. P. Elwell, J. Hayden, S. Kliven, Wm. McComb, Chas. Meris, H. M. Osborn, ----- Tate, John Vanmeter.
Missing.--Private Francis Bowers, Sam. McComb, Louis Oglevie.
COMPANY G.--Killed.--Corporals C. Bruning, R. E. Doering,; Privates D. Ballsinger, J. M. Osborn, B. Lamilte, C. Smith, E. T. Tenant.
Wounded.--Lieut. Wm. Bennett; Sergeant Wm. A. Tanner, Emersn F. Zedaker; Corporals Thos. B. Harris, J. Oswalt, J. Saylor; Privates D. Ricee, J. M. Banks, D. Boger, Geo. Ballsinger, D. S. Deadle, Geo. A. Byers, Geo. W. Coffett, Wm. Hoover, L. Litchty, F. McCalla, Thos. Murphy.
Missing.--J. Q. A. Conard; Privates Wm. J. Bogart, H. A. Brown, John A. Eckles, J. Rice, B. F. Pond, J. Stiner.
Lieuts. W. Bigelow and James Mc Bride, of Co. "I." were also wounded.
Co. "B." were absent on "detached duty," during the two days fight, which debarred them of the pleasure of "mixing in" with the rest in the "bloody fray," and consequently they have no "killed," "wounded" and missing to report. The majority of those in the "wounded list" received all slight wounds, and so their friends need entertain but small fears on their account.
Our whole army is still in line of battle, and only about a mile from that of the enemy, so another big fight is expected at any moment. If such should be the case, you will hear from me again without delay. Until then, I will cease scribbling, and bid your readers a kind adieu.
Augustus C. May
Letter from Private Augustus C. May, Co. B, 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Toledo Daily Commercial (Ohio), October 17, 1863, pg. 2
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