Vining's Station and the End of Captain Daniel Lewis
Written by Lieutenant Colonel Arnold McMahan, 21st Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry
On Captain Daniel Lewis: "He was brave enough to give his life away but not brave enough to be called a coward."
|Lieutenant Colonel Arnold McMahan, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry|
Daniel Lewis served for a long time as Lieutenant and acting Quartermaster of our regiment but the rapid changes incident to the fighting campaigns of 1863 advanced him to the rank of captain of Company C, which was without a doubt the most difficult company to manage in the regiment, and as he had but little or no experience in dealing with men of strong character such as he was now to command, and who were veterans in all the arts of army life as well as fighting, he often found himself perplexed for means to sustain himself.
He was not a genius in military affairs but he was thoroughly loyal and anxious to do whatever he could to advance our lines and suffer the rebellion. The men in the ranks soon discovered his want of tact to command and they took advantage of him in various ways and finally he heard them call him a coward. These anonymous men were so arranged that Lewis could not reach the perpetrators with punishment. I had formerly commanded Company C and in the early days of the war and caused the arrest of then Lieutenant Lewis on account of some business matters, but at the time I was commanding the regiment, and as he never afterward felt as kindly towards me as if the arrest had not occurred. He was loath to ask me for assistance with troubles in my old command.
But finally, he did complain to me as commander of the regiment and asked my assistance which I promised to give him, for he said he could not stand to be called a coward, but how to help him I did not know at that time. I never believed that Captain Lewis was a coward and concluded to find some means to put it beyond the frames of any man to apply such an epithet to him. If he could truly earn the reputation of being a good fighter it would more that counterbalance all his misfortunes and his company would change from abuse to praise. I therefore determined that Captain Lewis and his company should have a fair fight and as favors settle their troubles. A good hot fight would settle more trouble in a company than a dozen courts martial, but no company will fight that is not under control of its officers and here is where I found for the success of my plan, though the company had good stuff in it.
My first acquaintance with the troubles of Captain Lewis was on the night of May 27, 1864 when he built the field works which the men said that was none but a coward could continue; and then the regiment was under fire nearly every day yet, no favorable opportunity offered for a company to distinguish itself until the night of the 9th of July at Chattahoochee Bridge or Vining’s Station. But in the meantime, I had not disclosed to Captain Lewis my plan. Yet he bore himself bravely often recklessly in the several fights at or about New Hope Church and Kennesaw and as he frequently exposed himself to the fire of the enemy when there was no necessity for it, I knew the cause and admonished him not to unnecessarily endanger his life. We had no lives to waste yet the company vexations did not cease.
On the night of July 8, 1864, the whole regiment was detailed for out front guard duty and reported the next morning, every man in his best, arms and accoutrements as clean as could be found in the army. An aide-de-camp directed us to the reserves which was in a ravine near the railroad bridge across the Chattahoochee River, about 7 miles north of Atlanta and between the posts and the river lay the Rebel army entrenched, but we did not know that at that particular time. Upon our arrival at the reserve station, instead of arranging reliefs for guard duty I received an order to move out with my whole regiment and attack the enemy wherever found. I had anticipated when leaving camp a pleasant day on outpost duty, no trenches today, no marching, no road working, and the weather was fine. But that order to fight raised a lump in my throat as it meant death to many of my comrades in a few moments, as the Rebels were now in plain view in an open field beyond a skirt of woods.
But in five minutes the regiment was ready for battle and in five minutes more we were into it, drove two Rebel regiments off the field (4th Mississippi and 54th Louisiana), took their rifle pits and held them with 17 prisoners and a lot of arms and ammunition. Well, 14 loyal hearts ceased to beat there that day and we sent 39 cripples to the North next morning and they are called government paupers now. In my report of that fight which is filed in Washington occurs the following paragraph:
HDQRS. TWENTY-FIRST OHIO INFANTRY, VOLS.,
In the Field, Ga., July 10, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report:
Soon after occupying the picket-line yesterday morning, in obedience to orders, I formed my regiment to attack the enemy. The rifle-pits of the enemy on our right of the railroad were soon carried. The troops on our left failed to support my command, and we suffered from a flank fire from the enemy in their works on the left of the road. I sent Captain Silas F. Cheney with four companies to dislodge the enemy on the left of the road, which was promptly accomplished. Support still failed to arrive, and we were forced to abandon the works on our left of the road. We held the works on the right of the road. At 4 o'clock this morning the skirmishers, under command of Captain Daniel Lewis, advanced and occupied the stockade and trenches of the enemy, and in a short time our lines at the bridge. Adjutant Edwin L. Baird is entitled to credit for his efficient aid in our affair of yesterday.
I moved to the front with 12 officers and 382 men. Our loss is as follows: Killed-enlisted men, 14. Wounded-commissioned officers, 2; enlisted men, 37. Missing-commissioned officers, 1; enlisted men, 1. Total, 55. We captured 17 prisoners.
Now members of the regiment who were in the fight will remember that this order was not complied with for the reason that to relieve our regiment as we were posted by another regiment that did not know the lay of the ground after dark would create so much racket as to draw the Rebel fire on both regiments and thus destroy life unnecessarily, after the position of the of the enemy had been fully detected by us.
|Adjutant Edward L. Baird, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry|
The next morning as the faint light in the east warned the appearance of day, the idea came to me that the opportunity for Captain Lewis had come. I went to him at once, told him my plan, and ordered him to take Company C and move out and attack the enemy wherever found. I ordered him to strike hard and push his company right into the fight and wash out at whatever cost the hateful stigma. He moved out at once but of course the enemy was gone and when he came back without firing a shot, we were both glad he had missed his opportunity. Of course, it must be understood that this duty had to be done by some one and Company C was detailed for the reason I have given. Had the Rebels been found by Captain Lewis as I believed they would be, I would in all probability have sheltered his attack with the whole regiment, so we may be thankful that then there are so many of us yet alive. This is the explanation of my reference particularly to Captain Lewis and his company in my report and I have often wondered if the other company commanders were jealous of the distribution.
The loss of 53 old comrades among who were some of the best men of the regiment brought severe sorrow to every heart though the regiment was accustomed to hasty burials on that campaign nearly every day. While life remains, we cannot forget the stormy days at Noonday Creek, New Hope Church, Bald Knob, Kennesaw, Chattahoochee Bridge, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, and Jonesboro and the 153 comrades who parted with us there.
The troubles of Captain Lewis and his company appeared to be overshadowed until we came under fire on the 21st day of July at Peach Tree Creek, when it appeared that there was no place too exposed to danger for him to get into, and that evening while directing the construction of rifle pits for his men, he stood out in fair view and point blank range of the enemy works until he was shot down and killed. He was buried with his boots on just as he fell in a hastily dug grave, a solid shot at his feet and a comrade’s blouse to cover his face. He was brave enough to give his life away but not brave enough to be called a coward. I have always grieved the death of Captain Lewis.
Diary entries of Private Jacob Adams, Co. F, 21st O.V.I.
Saturday, July 9th. At 6 a.m. our regiment went on the skirmish line. We had hardly taken position when we had orders to advance to the enemy's rifle pits, skirmish line. Our company, F, in reserve. This order was executed. Then crossing to the left of the railroad under heavy fire, we advanced to the crest of a little hill or ridge 150 yards from the enemy's main line of works. We lay there some time exposed to a galling fire from the enemy, and some from our artillery, our regiment losing heavily. This is where Jimmy Dorsey and Thomas Foreman of our company were killed, and a number wounded. Our company, finding ourselves outflanked by the withdrawal of our support on both our right and left, fell back to the enemy's rifle pits. Here, finding we were still outflanked we retired nearly to our old skirmish line, where we remained the balance of the day and night, to the right of the railroad. In this retreat I felt my danger as keenly as any time when in the service. On my way back I overtook Mahlon Povenmire, of our company, very badly wounded- totally disabled in one leg. Had him throw his weight (190 lbs.) on me and hobble along on one leg. We realized our progress was very slow crossing the railroad where bullets flew thick and fast.
Sunday, July 10th. Finding the enemy had evacuated their works and safely crossed the Chattahoochee River, and seeing our dead comrades were decently buried, we returned to camp to rest of weary limbs.
Private Mahlon Povenmire, Co. F, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
21st Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry
Casualties at the Battle of Vining’s Station, Tennessee July 9, 1864
Private George W. Smith, killed
Private Andrew L. Morehart, killed
Second Lieutenant Daniel McClintock, slightly wounded in left hand
First Sergeant John H. Morrell, slightly wounded in face and died of wounds 7/10/1864
Private Isaac Hershey, severely wounded in chest
Private Squire J. Kampf, flesh wound in left arm, died of wounds 8/12/1864
Private Richard Hawkins, flesh wound in left arm
Private Isaac Wilkinson, head slight
Sergeant George W. Ferguson, killed
Private Frederick Rundle, killed
Second Lieutenant William H. Welker, captured
Private William Wakefield, killed
Corporal Lewis Kingfield, slightly wounded in head
Private Henry Muncil, flesh wound wound in thigh
Private Frederick McLargin, severely wounded in left leg
Private James Lundy, slightly wounded in head
Corporal Ezekiel Jones, killed
Wagoner Ezra D. Byers, killed
Private George M. Payne, killed
Sergeant Oscar A. Clark, severely wounded in arm and leg
Corporal Myron Warrington, slightly wounded in left hand
Corporal Jackson Sylvis, severely wounded in left wrist
Private James Frantz, flesh wound in left arm
Private John Gingery, slightly wounded in thumb, died of wounds 2/20/1865
Private Edson Hubbard, wounded and died of wounds 7/12/1864
Private Richard McBride, flesh wound in left arm
Second Lieutenant John Mercer, slightly wounded in face
Private Jason C. Baker, wounded and died of wounds 7/12/1864
Private Osgood S. Crary, slightly wounded in shoulder
Private Marion Cox, slightly wounded in left elbow
Private William Coulter, wounded in left shoulder
Private Henry B. Ware, flesh wound in left thigh, died of wounds 2/10/1865
Private George Gilbert, severely wounded in knee
Private Thomas Foreman, killed
Private James Dorsey, killed
Private Mahlon Povenmire, severely wounded in groin
Private Edward Bowersox, killed
Private Uriah E. Bearse, severely wounded in hip
Private James Lyner, severely wounded in left side
Private William Pohner, slightly wounded in heel
Private James Taylor, killed
Private James Sullivan, killed
Private George Cornell, killed
Private John H. Morrison, captured and died as POW 11/28/164 (reported killed)
First Sergeant Francis H. Burkhart, slightly wounded in left knee
Corporal Hiram Henderson, severely wounded in right hand
Private Eugene Brisben, slightly wounded in head
Private Albert Brisben, wounded in right side
Private Charles W. Hollis, slightly wounded in right hand
Private Edward Knifer, slightly wounded in neck
Private Henry Sholes, wounded in right side and shoulder, died of wounds 8/10/1864
Private Alexander Stewart, slightly wounded in right shoulder
Private Philander Rose, slightly wounded in head
Private Bryon Rockwood, flesh wound in left arm
Private William Stacy, slightly wounded in neck
Died of wounds: 7
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