To Falter Would Disgrace the Name of the Old 76th Ohio: A Buckeye Survives Taylor’s Ridge

     For Lieutenant Lyman U. Humphrey of the 76th Ohio, the fighting at Taylor’s Ridge near Ringgold, Georgia on November 27, 1863, was close, hot, and deadly. Tasked with pursuing Braxton Bragg’s retreating Army of Tennessee, the 76th Ohio was surprised to find the Confederates entrenched atop Taylor’s Ridge near Ringgold Gap and determined to put up a fight.

The regiment had started up the hill when “we saw them closing around us and pouring an enfilading fire on our flanks, but we determined not to give back, and stood there and fought them almost hand to hand,” Humphrey wrote in a letter to his mother. “I saw a big Rebel behind a tree grab one of our men and tear the haversack off of him, just then one of our fellows shot the Rebel and the prisoner came back to us. We were so close that a Rebel picked up a stone and hit one of our men, hurting him severely. And so hot was the fire that both the color bearers were shot down and every color guard was either killed or wounded.”

Humphrey himself sustained two wounds in the fight, the 76th Ohio lost its regimental colors, and 45% of the men who went into the engagement. The 76th Ohio fought under the command of Major Willard Warner as part of the First Brigade (General Charles R. Woods) of the First Division (General Peter Osterhaus) of the 15th Army Corps during the Chattanooga Campaign. Lieutenant Humphrey became the 11th governor of the state of Kansas in 1889. 

 

The torn and mangled national colors of the 76th Ohio were photographed at a studio in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 4, 1864 while the regiment was home on veterans' furlough. Suspended on a wire above the flag is an officer's sash, sword, belt, and knot. The framed images flanking the flag are of Colonel Charles Woods and his brother General William Woods.  The 1st Arkansas captured the regimental colors at Ringgold Gap and returned them to the survivors of the 76th Ohio at joint reunion of the two regiments on September 20, 1916 in Newark, Ohio. 

Bridgeport, Alabama

December 7, 1863

 

Dear mother,

          At last I have found a few moments to write to you a few lines for which I expect you have been looking sometime in vain. I cannot attempt to tell you of all that has transpired since I last wrote but a hurried sketch must suffice for this time. I last wrote to you from this place some two weeks since and believe me those two weeks have been busy ones for us.

          We crossed the [Tennessee] river at this place on November 20th and marched through rain and mud, bad roads, and worst of all, on short rations via the Nickajack Cave to the base of Lookout Mountain where we arrived on the 23rd. Our corps was to cross the river and go to the left of the Cumberland army but when three divisions crossed [at Brown’s Ferry], the pontoons broke, and our division was left for the time with the army of Joe Hooker; then we had a chance to try our pluck among the men of the grand Army of the Potomac. On the 24th without a day’s rest for us we attacked the dreaded Lookout and for some reason, maybe the experience we had at Vicksburg in climbing and digging, our division was put in advance and our brigade took the lead and did most of the fighting. But the boys went in with a yell and a will that ensures success and before night we had nearly cleared the mountain and the next morning, we took possession.

          The left of the army had also been heavily engaged with the enemy on Mission Ridge and on the 25th we started to assist them. Our division by a circuitous route got in the rear of the Rebels and we made a charge upon them, captured a whole Alabama brigade. On the 26th we followed the Rebels about 15 miles and on the morning of the 27th we attacked them on what is called Taylor’s Ridge near Ringgold, Georgia.

          Our division was put in front again and I guess it was not supposed that the enemy would offer so much resistance as they did by the way things were conducted. The ridge on which the Rebs were strongly posted was high, rough, and the ground lay at an angle of 45 degrees so that it would have been a job to climb them unopposed and besides our boys had been without rations for 48 hours and were weak and worn out. But we, our regiment, started up by itself, no support anywhere near and on we went clinging to the bushes and rocks to get up the hill. We saw the Rebels on top waiting to pour their fire into us, but we were ordered up and to falter would disgrace the name of the old 76th.

Governor Lyman Underwood Humphrey
Former lieutenant Co. I, 76th O.V.I.

          When we had approached to a close range, they opened on us a terrible fire of musketry, but we returned it and moved ahead to within a few rods of them where we halted, finding no one to aid us against the greatly superior numbers who opposed us. We saw them closing around us and pouring an enfilading fire on our flanks, but we determined not to give back, and stood there and fought them almost hand to hand. I saw a big Rebel behind a tree grab one of our men and tear the haversack off of him, just then one of our fellows shot the Rebel and the prisoner came back to us. We were so close that a Rebel picked up a stone and hit one of our men, hurting him severely.

And so hot was the fire that both the color bearers were shot down and every color guard was either killed or wounded. When the colors fell, the lieutenant of the color company ordered another sergeant to pick them up but before he could raise them, he was killed. The lieutenant then picked them up and he was wounded. One of our lieutenants then attempted to grab the flag and he, too, was wounded; then the lieutenant of Co. F succeeded in bringing away the flag, but the banner fell into the Rebels hands but not until bravely fought for.

We maintained the fight for three hours when we finally drove the Rebels from the hill. The regiment took about 140 men into the fight and had 64 men killed and wounded; one company had eight killed and seven wounded while another company had all either killed or wounded, but others were more fortunate. And I must not forget to tell you that at last I have received my mark: one slight wound on the right arm which I did not mind, but I soon got another on my left wrist which disabled me for a while, but I am all right again now and hope I may sometime pay back the favor with good interest.

We gave up further pursuit and returned to Chattanooga on the 3rd of December. On the 4th we left Chattanooga and came here on the 5th. We expect to go into permanent camp soon to enjoy a little rest from our long marches and hard fighting. Web Bissell has returned to us again under arrest. He was picked up, paroled, and sent to Nashville and then Chattanooga where we found him. He will be all right at last but will lose the price of a gun and knapsack and blankets by the operation. I received the letters in which you spoke of the money I sent, also the paper and pictures of you and John. I was so glad to get them as they seem so natural. I will write soon again and send some more money. I wish you would see my friend N.H. Steffa who is at Massillon recruiting. No more now; I saw the letter published. It was copied in other papers. The weather is quite cool now. My love to all.

Lyman U. Humphrey

 

Corps badge belonging to the First Division of the 15th Army Corps

Source:

Harper, Paul F. The Temple of Fame: A Personal Biography of Lyman Underwood Humphrey. Newton: The Mennonite Press, 1995, pgs. 59-60

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