We Glory in It: Outgunning the Rebs at Resaca

     The pride in his regiment’s accomplishments at Resaca comes clearly through the pen of Captain Dennis H. Williams of the 43rd Ohio. “In all these operations we are very well pleased with ourselves,” he wrote home shortly after the battle. “We are now resting for the first time since the 12th, having been marching or fighting since that time without one entire night’s sleep or one full day’s rations. Still, we glory in it if we can but put down this unholy rebellion.”

          The 43rd Ohio, as part of Colonel John W. Sprague’s brigade of the Fourth Division of the 16th Army Corps, fought on the far right of the Union army, not far from the Oostanaula River, and took part in the 15th Corps attack on the evening of May 14th that pushed General James Cantey’s division back to a second line of works closer to the town of Resaca. Williams was pretty touchy about that affair, noting that his brigade was brought up as support and ending up in the front line, charging over 15th corps troops who had become demoralized. “General Logan is said to treat his supports as he did us; that is, put them in front and then give his own troops credit of what his borrowed troops accomplish,” Williams’ grumped.

          Captain Williams’ account of the fighting at Resaca first appeared in the June 2, 1864, edition of the Belmont Chronicle published in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

 

A fine example of the rare State of Ohio breastplate known to be worn by some members of the old Ohio Brigade which consisted of the 27th, 39th, 43rd, and 63rd Ohio regiments. 


Near Kingston, Georgia

May 20, 1864

          We have been in war for some days past. In the operations at Resaca the 16th Army Corps occupied the extreme right and did much of what you will see attributed to the 15th Army Corps under General John Logan. We had pushed our lines closer to the Rebel works that had any command in the army when our brigade (Colonel John Sprague’s Second Brigade, Fourth Division, 16th Corps) was called to support an assault to be made by Brigadier General Osterhaus and Smith upon an important position. Instead of being put in support, we were really in the advance and two regiments, the 25th Wisconsin and the 35th New Jersey, charged right over the already repulsed forces of the 15th corps, drove the enemy back in confusion, then took and held a hill more commanding and 300 yards nearer the enemy’s works than that from which the 15th corps men had been dislodged.

          While this was going on, the 43rd Ohio on the left had charged across a bridge, found a lodgment in some timber, and repulsed every attempt of the enemy to turn our left flank and cut off the party that finally came and held the hill. Most of this occurred after dark on the 14th instant, and since Iuka we have not heard such terrific musketry. The woods seemed alive with combatants. About 9 p.m., after an effort to dislodge our forces by a terrific shelling, the firing entirely ceased and we held ground that rendered the enemy’s works utterly useless.

          The next day was spent in mounting guns bearing on the works and in heavy and effective skirmishing. I am happy to say that in this duty Co. D won the praise of both brigade and regimental commanders and in front of the line we occupied the next morning we counted eight dead Rebels and the wounded must have exceeded this usual proportion. This was at a distance of 500 yards. The boys accompanied all of their effective shots with “Hurrah for Lincoln!”

Brigadier General John W. Sprague
Medal of Honor recipient

          The next morning, Companies A, B, and H of the 43rd pushed our skirmish line forward and soon found the enemy absent. They were the first to enter the works and captured more than half the prisoners taken in the fortifications. Corporal George Long of Co. A alone surrounded and brought in eight men. By this time, General Osterhaus had arrived and afterwards the skirmishers of the 15th corps began to swagger in, claiming that the 15th corps, as usual, had taken the fort. It is admitted that they did their duty but could never have succeeded the day before without the help we gave them and this was what decided the matter, as any could walk into deserted works, however formidable. These circumstances are mentioned with this particularity as General Logan is said to treat his supports as he did us; that is, put them in front and then give his own troops credit of what his borrowed troops accomplish!

          I have not mentioned the operations of our command on the 12th and 13th. We advanced steadily in the face of a warm fire as far as we could go without breaking the connection between our own and the 15th corps. Sprague’s brigade was in the advance all the while and sustained nearly the entire loss of the division, which was small considering the stubbornness of the enemy and that we were contending with Cantey’s noted Alabama sharpshooters. Our own common 43rd Ohio soldiers proved themselves better bushwhackers that they, using up one company of them on one occasion so badly that their officers came into our lines and gave themselves up, all their men except two having been killed or wounded and these came in with their officers. In all these operations we are very well pleased with ourselves. Colonel Sprague has more than sustained his former reputation for gallantry and good sense. Colonel Wager Swayne showed himself a workman that need not be ashamed of his performances.

          I must mention the good conduct of our recruits. They have equaled the veterans in steadiness under fire and the fatigues of the march. Some of them are fine shots, and one of our company, Singleton D. Owings, was seen to bring a Rebel out of a tree at 500 yards.

          We are now resting for the first time since the 12th, having been marching or fighting since that time without one entire night’s sleep or one full day’s rations. Still, we glory in it if we can but put down this unholy rebellion. I have given you nothing of a general character as you will hear that better from others. I have heard a great many favorable and no unfavorable reports. All the trophies I have seen are four cannons, an immense amount of stores of all sorts, and several hundred prisoners.

 

43rd Ohio regimental colors

          After the war, Captain Williams would move to Minnesota and would serve as mayor of Rochester, Minnesota from 1873-1875.

 The 43rd Ohio and Sprague’s brigade fought on the far right of the Union line, crossing the Camp Creek valley where they helped push Cantey’s Division from their first line of works to a second line located just west of the town of Resaca on the evening of May 14, 1864. This particular portion of the battlefield is not part of the Resaca Battlefield Park, but also has not yet been developed. Cantey’s line of works lay on the high ground to the east of Camp Creek stretching north from its confluence with the Oostanaula River. Please visit The Friends of Resaca Battlefield website here to learn more.

 

Source:

Letter from Captain Dennis Hogan Williams, Co. D, 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Belmont Chronicle (Ohio), June 2, 1864, pg. 2

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