Sheep Before Destroying Wolves: Wounded at Stones River with the 93rd Ohio

At 37 years of age, James Tingle was one of the oldest volunteers to join Co. B of the 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in August of 1862. A veteran of the Mexican War, he was promoted to sergeant on the cusp of the Stones River campaign. It was his first major battle as he related the following story of that campaign in this short memoir which appears on the blog courtesy of my friend Phil Spaugy and the Historical Society of Vandalia-Butler.


Sergeant James Tingle of the 93rd Ohio was struck down twice as his regiment battled against Confederates close to the Nashville Pike. This image, dating from the 1890s, depicts the approximate location that Tingle received his second wound. 

          On December 26th, we broke camp and started for Bragg’s Rebel army. We met them and quite heavy skirmishing took place. We then marched to Stones River where we joined our corps on the evening of December 30, 1862. On our arrival, our regiment was sent out on the extreme right of the army as then in position. We observed the movements of the Rebel cavalry until dark. We then returned to our part of the line where we arrived about 7 o’clock.

          General Richard W. Johnson, our division commander, ordered Colonel Charles Anderson, our regimental commander, to put his regiment in camp in rear of division headquarters for the balance of the night. After cooking our supper and desiring water for coffee in the morning and to have a canteen full for service the next day, I and Hunter Browner went out in search of water. We must have traveled two or three miles in our search for water. Browner almost became discouraged and would have given up the search but I urged him on with the plea that as tomorrow would in all likelihood be a day of fighting, it would be well for us to have water not only for coffee in the morning but also to have our canteens filled for the emergency of the fight and possible wounds on the battlefield. Thus urged, Browner accompanied me in further searches. We at last found a creek far in the rear at which we filled our coffee pots and canteens. It was after midnight when we returned to camp.

General Richard W. Johnson

          That canteen of water on the 31st was a bonanza beyond all price. In the early morning, we had just completed our breakfast when a tremendous brisk musket firing began on our right front. At once it began to draw nearer and nearer our vicinity. The Rebels driving our lines back as sheep before the pursuing wolves, for the onslaught of the Rebel force was so heavy and fierce as by mere force of numbers we were driven before in the manner of scared sheep before the destroying wolves. We were driven from our position to the rear of our division on our left. Our right, in confusion, became broken in passing through a heavily timbered spot filled with cedar undergrowth.

Captain Birch with myself and most of Co. B and parts of two or three other companies found on our getting clear of the cedars that our columns were not in sight, but that a line of battle was formed near at hand. Captain Birch organized the men of the 93rd and reported to the colonel of the 19th Ohio who assigned us to his left which then rested on the Murfreesboro Turnpike from Nashville. At this time, it was 11:30 a.m. as I looked at my watch. We were ordered to move slightly to the right in a cotton field. We advanced a few hundred yards in this field and were ordered to lie down where we were. A few minutes later a heavy column of Rebels charged us, and we fell back.

1908 reunion of the 93rd O.V.I.

Just at this time, whilst in the act of rising from the ground, a Minie ball struck me when about half arisen from the ground in the right groin. The ball passed under the heavy muscles and flesh, just missing the thigh bone. It came out immediately over the outer hip joint. Private Robert Babbit, being on my left as I occupied the position of first sergeant on the right of the company, asked me if I was hit. I told him yes, but I thought it was not serious. I then placed my right arm over his shoulder, and we started for the rear. When perhaps 50 or 75 yards from the spot where I was first hit, I received a second shot immediately below the right shoulder blade which passed through my body and came out in my breast about one inch above the right nipple. I was at this time just to the right of the pike as you face Murfreesboro. I became blind, but not unconscious, and fell.

Colonel Charles Anderson of the 93rd Ohio commanded the regiment at Stones River and ran on the Union ticket with John Brough in the 1863 Ohio gubernatorial election. Following Brough's death in August 1865, Anderson served as the state's 27th governor. A few years ago David Dixon wrote a superb book about Anderson entitled The Lost Gettysburg Address which features a superb account of the 93rd Ohio at Stones River. Anderson's life story and connection to Gettysburg is fascinating; David's book can be purchased here through his website. 

I asked Babbit to get assistance and take me across the pike and place me in the corner of an old rail fence that formed part of a country lane to the pike. This he succeeded in doing. He lay down with me for a short time. While we lay there, our own battle line reformed about 100 yards in the rear thus leaving us between the two battle lines and in the rear of our infantry.

It was at this point on the battlefield that General Rosecrans had massed his artillery for use, but as yet they had not fired a gun at the point where the battle line crossed the pike. At this time General Rosecrans and staff rode along the front lines urging the men to hold the present position for a few minutes, when he would open up his artillery and blow the Rebels from their front. It was here and then that Colonel Julius Garesche, his chief of staff, was killed.

Private John Gottlieb Weckel
Co. A, 93rd O.V.I.

Just before the artillery opened, I persuaded Babbit to try and get to the rear and if alive at the close of the fight to come and look after me. He succeeded in gaining the rear. It was while lying here on that afternoon that I found my bonanza in my canteen of water. Not all the army stores of both armies equaled its value to me as it was full of water. I, from the loss of blood, seemed almost famished for drink and I had it. The walk of the night previous was the most valuable to me of all the walks of my life. I verily believe that it was the very life to me on that battlefield.

93rd Ohio marker in Dayton, Ohio
(Image courtesy of Phil Spaugy)

About a half hour before sundown, firing ceased on both sides and the ambulances of the Yanks and Rebs began to come between the lines for their wounded. Then came Babbit who found me alive and sought an ambulance to place me in. The firing again began along the lines from both sides. Our ambulance got off with a few bullet holes through its cover, but none were hurt. I was taken to the field hospital about three miles in the rear and placed in the hallway of a farmhouse.

93rd O.V.I. national colors


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