Mystery Letter from the Cherokee Light Artillery at Resaca

Among the more dramatic incidents of the Battle of Resaca was the capture of four Napoleons of Captain Max van den Corput’s Cherokee Light Artillery on the evening of May 15, 1864. The battery occupied a lunette on the far right of the Confederate line, just in advance of the main line to take advantage of the ground to their front. That afternoon, the 20th Corps advanced and in a hand-to-hand fight, drove van den Corput’s men from their guns. But the supporting Confederate infantry of General John Brown’s Tennessee brigade laid such a hot fire on the position that the Federals took to ground, leaving the four abandoned guns as highly tempting prizes.

The 5th Ohio Infantry of Colonel Charles Candy’s brigade of General John Geary’s Second Division of the 20th Corps actually snuck up to the battery after nightfall, attached ropes to the carriages of two of the guns, and dragged them back into Union lines. The 33rd New Jersey from General Adolphus Buschbeck’s brigade and 5th Ohio cooperated in a second mission to grab the remaining two guns later that night; the Confederates had already withdrawn before either effort. After the war, several regiments staked claims to taking van den Corput’s guns including the 70th Indiana under Colonel (future President) Benjamin Harrison and the 33rd New Jersey.

I thought it rather interesting to find this captured letter written by a member of the Cherokee Light Artillery. Picked up by the Federal army at Cassville about a week after Resaca, the letter was written the night of May 15, 1864, on the battlefield at Resaca. The author, identified as W.W.C. (I could not find any soldier with these initials on the roster of the Cherokee Light Artillery), wrote this obviously hurried letter to his wife explaining the misfortune that had befallen his battery and warning her that if the army couldn’t hold, the Yankees were coming. “It was as daring an exploit as when my brother’s battery was charged upon at Antietam by a N.Y. regiment," he wrote. "They threw themselves into the fort as unconscious of danger as so many ducks into a pond.”

          The captured letter first saw publication in the July 8, 1864, edition of the Clinton Republican published in Wilmington, Ohio. “The following letter, captured in Cassville and transmitted to these headquarters through regular channels of whose authenticity there can be no doubt, is better evidence of the valor of our men than all the accounts that can be accumulated,” wrote the Federal soldier who sent the letter home to Ohio.

 

In the gathering gloom on the night of May 15, 1864, a detachment of men from Colonel Charles Candy's brigade including these men from the 5th Ohio Infantry snuck up to the lunette, attached ropes to can den Corput's abandoned guns, and dragged them back into Union lines. Eventually all four pieces were recovered by the 20th Corps. 

Resaca, Georgia

May 15, 1864

My dear wife,

          John Thomson is going home to Cassville, wounded. I thought I would drop you a line by him. The Yankees charged on my battery this p.m. and captured two sections of it. It was as daring an exploit as when my brother’s battery was charged upon at Antietam by a N.Y. regiment. They threw themselves into the fort as unconscious of danger as so many ducks into a pond.

          Tell Jo and Will to stow away everything of value, fearing we shall have to fall back from here. If we do, the Yankees will get everything within their reach. Hooker’s command we had to fight here or lese the battery would never have been taken. I hear we are gaining on the Yanks in Virginia and we would have whipped them here if it had not been for Hooker’s command. They all wore a star.

          Don’t answer this. If we hold our ground here, I will see you ere long. I want you to send sis and James to Grandpa’s and you go to Uncle John’s. Take all the things you can. I must close as the train leaves immediately.

Your husband until death,

W.W.C.

To learn more about the capture of van den Corput’s battery at Resaca, please check out the American Battlefield Trust’s video entitled Capturing the ‘Cherokee Battery at Resaca.” 

Source:

Included in letter from Private Henry P. Jones, Co. G, 79th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on detached duty at headquarters First Brigade, Third Division, 20th Army Corps, Clinton Republican (Ohio), July 8, 1864, pg. 1

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