ILLINOIS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY,
DURING ITS TERM OF SERVICE.
By J. R. KINNEAR,
Cruger, Woodford County, Illinois.
CHICAGO: TRIBUNE COMPANY'S BOOK AND JOB PRINTING OFFICE.
COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN
ILLINOIS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY,
This volume is respectfully dedicated, by
The history of the Eighty-sixth Illinois was written in part while the regiment was yet in the service, merely for the gratification of a personal desire; but since its muster out, the author has been frequently urged by many of his friends to have it published, that they might share what he alone enjoyed. He complied with an earnest request from Colonel Fahnestock to meet himself, General Magee, Major Thomas, Dr. Guth, Captain Zinser and others at Peoria, to have the manuscript examined before publication. It was met by their hearty approval, and an eager desire on their part to have it published; at the same time giving the assurance that they would lend their whole influence in getting it before the public. For these reasons the author has been induced to present this little volume to his comrades and friends, in the hope that it will receive their hearty welcome.
The history of the Eighty-sixth is also the history of the 85th, 125th and 110th Illinois, together with the 52nd Ohio and 22nd Indiana, all of the same brigade. Particular mention has been made of these regiments, for they were to the Eighty-sixth a band of faithful brothers.
The author acknowledges himself indebted to Colonel Fahnestock, Major Thomas, Captain Major, and Acting Adjutant Loveland, for the kind assistance and encouragement they have given him in preparing this history for publication, and to them he attributes the merit of this work, if it possesses merit.
ORGANIZATION AND MARCH TO NASHVILLE—ABOUT NASHVILLE 9-18
MARCH TO CHATTANOOGA—THE BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA 19-28
MISSION RIDGE AND KNOXVILLE 29-36
ABOUT CHATTANOOGA 37-46
CAMPAIGN AGAINST ATLANTA 47-71
TO THE REAR 72-78
RAID TO THE SEA 79-91
RAID THROUGH SOUTH CAROLINA—BATTLES OF AVERYSBORO AND BENTONVILLE 92-108
CAPTURE OF JOHNSTON'S ARMY 109-114
HOMEWARD BOUND 115-125
REGIMENTAL ROSTER 126-128
CAPTAIN BURKHALTER'S ADVENTURE 129-130
SOLDIERS' LETTERS 131-132
FARMING IN THE SOUTH 135-137
REBEL LETTER 138-139
ORGANIZATION, AND MARCH TO NASHVILLE—ABOUT NASHVILLE.
The Eighty-sixth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry was organized at Peoria in the latter part of August, 1862. David D. Irons was made Colonel; David W. Magee, Lieutenant-Colonel; J. S. Bean, Major, and J. E. Prescott, Adjutant.
On the 26th of August the captains of the several companies drew lots for the letters of their companies, and on the next day the regiment was mustered into the United States service for the period of three years or during the war. On the 29th of the same month it received one month's pay, amounting to thirteen dollars. Nothing more of importance occurred until the 6th of September, when the regiment drew its guns and its first suit of army blue. While at Peoria the Eighty-sixth was rendezvoused at Camp Lyon, a name given it by Colonel Irons. Time passed slowly, for all were anxious to move to the seat of war, and were not at rest till they did. Finally, orders came, and on the 7th of September the regiment boarded the cars for Louisville.
Every member of the Eighty-sixth left Peoria with mingled feelings of pleasure and pain—pleasure, that they were about to participate in the great struggle for Union and Liberty—pain, that they were called upon to part with their nearest and dearest friends. It was on Sunday morning; beautiful and bright the sun shone upon its bristling armor as the regiment marched through the city with measured tread, bound for the "land of Dixie." The streets and balconies were filled with anxious friends, and fair hands waved us an affectionate adieu—hands which were not only true to us in our pride and strength, but also in the darkest hour of our trials and suffering. In long days after this, when men turned copperheads by scores, these same fair ones proved true. "God bless the fair!" The regiment arrived in Jeffersonville, opposite Louisville, on the morning of the 9th, going into camp at Jo. Holt, on the Ohio river, across from the city of Louisville. At this camp the regiment first began to soldier, taking its first lessons in lying out in the open air. While at Jo. Holt it was drill, drill, almost constantly—the boys were not able to do enough drilling; but for all that, this camp became dear to us; especially in after times when water was scarce, memory would revert to the cool crystal waters of Jo. Holt.
After getting a partial outfit for campaigning, the regiment quit the Indiana side of the river, and crossed over to Louisville on the 14th. It again took up camp two miles south of the city in a very unpleasant situation, now remaining about Louisville until the 1st of October.
At one time, our brigade, which was formed on the 15th of September, and afterwards known as the 36th brigade of General Sheridan's division of Gilbert's corps, was marched through Louisville on grand review. This march was a severe one. The day was intensely hot and the roads dusty; then, the narrow streets made it doubly suffocating. Many fell powerless and died, and others received injuries for life. That day will long be remembered by those who were participators in its toils. The 85th and 125th Illinois, together with the 52nd Ohio regiment, were in the same brigade with the Eighty-sixth, and remained with it until all were discharged from the service at Washington City. The history of the Eighty-sixth Illinois is their history, and they were to each other as a band of brothers. Colonel Dan. McCook, of the 52nd Ohio, was placed in command of this newly formed brigade.
Soon after the formation of our brigade it made two other marches over the dusty roads in the direction of Bardstown, nearly as severe as the first one. They were doubtless unnecessary, and for that reason harder to perform, amounting to nothing, only out in the country ten or twelve miles and back again—training, no doubt. After these marches, the command was put in the rifle-pits that encircled the city of Louisville, for the Confederate army under General Bragg was near at hand menacing it. There was great excitement about this time, as we were unaccustomed to the work, and it went odd. While remaining at Louisville, the Eighty-sixth went on picket for the first time. Its acts and thoughts on this occasion were certainly novel, and furnished a fund of great amusement in its after career. The regiment was just beginning to experience many of the roughs and cuffs incidental to the opening scenes of soldier life. Diarrhea became a plague to many, and a change of diet a source of discomfort to others, which, upon the whole, caused us to lead a rather gloomy life at first; then we were ignorant of the many advantages an old soldier has acquired by long experience, which advantages greatly modify the hardships and discomforts of out-door life.
While the regiment lay at Louisville, a large army was being brought together in order to oppose the encroachments of the enemy under Bragg, which had advanced as far as Bardstown. The forces on our part were commanded by Major General Buell, a man of questionable loyalty, as future events determined.
Finding that the enemy were not going to attack him, Gen. Buell issued orders for the advance of his whole command on the 1st day of October. Accordingly, the line of march was taken up at the time specified in the order, the 36th brigade being among the troops that went. As Buell's army advanced, the enemy retreated, taking with him large supplies from the country. Our forces followed rapidly for seven days, when Gen. McCook's command overtook a portion of Bragg's army at Chaplin Hills or Perryville. Here, on the next day, the 8th of October, was fought the desperate battle of Perryville.
The 36th brigade was on the left of the division and had moved forward early in the morning, accompanied by Barnett's 2nd Illinois battery, and occupied its position. The 85th Illinois, Colonel Moore, was deployed upon the right, and the 52nd Ohio on the left. The 125th Illinois, Colonel Harmon, was held as a reserve, and the 86th Illinois was on the picket line. At an early hour the rebel skirmishers opened a sharp fire on the 86th, and although this was the first fight in which, it was ever engaged, it advanced steadily upon them and drove them back in confusion with severe loss. Irritated at the loss of their position, the rebels massed upon the right and left, and commenced a furious fire from their batteries upon the brigade.
The firing continued for an hour, but the brigade resolutely held its ground. About this time Barnett's battery took position and silenced their guns. In the meantime, the 125th Illinois came to the support of the battery, and did its work splendidly, and the rebels retired, leaving the brigade in possession of the ground it had won.
A cavalry force now advanced in the direction the rebels were retreating, and were soon furiously attacked. The situation became critical. The cavalry was hard pressed, but with the assistance of the 2nd Missouri regiment, together with the 2nd Michigan and 15th Missouri, the enemy was completely routed at this point, making no other effort until 3 o'clock P.M., when General Bragg, in person, led his host against this position. After the most desperate fighting this last effort proved abortive.
From the commencement of this battle it grew fiercer and fiercer as the day advanced, and the sun of that day went down in blood. This was the first contest in which the 36th brigade was called upon to take a part, and though it was not as active as many others, it did promptly all that was required. Colonel McCook paid it high compliment for the soldierly manner in which it did its duty. The loss of the Eighty-sixth in this engagement was one killed and thirteen wounded. The battle of Perryville was evenly contested by the opposing forces, neither side having gained material advantage, though if there was a balance due either party, it was in favor of the Federals.
On the morning after the battle our brigade moved forward to the main portion of the battle-field, the enemy having retreated under cover of night, leaving his dead and wounded on the field. The brigade remained in its last position three days, when on the morning of the 12th the army took up the line of pursuit, passing through Danville and Lancaster, and arriving at Crab Orchard on the 16th. The pursuit was now no longer continued, the enemy being allowed to make good his escape with all his forage and plunder.
Nashville now became Gen. Bragg's objective point, making it a race to see which army could reach it first. Accordingly, on the 20th of October the line of march was taken up for Nashville, the 36th brigade passing back through Lancaster and Danville, thence following the main road leading to Bowling Green. It remained a few days near Mammoth Cave, in order to recruit its strength, being sorely fatigued. Many of the Eighty-sixth took this opportunity to see that great natural wonder. On the 31st of the month we arrived in Bowling Green, where the brigade remained a few days to recruit and draw clothing, preparatory to its further march. Leaving this place, it followed the main road to Nashville, where it arrived on the 7th of November.
The timely arrival of our army in Nashville relieved the anxious little garrison from further apprehensions of danger, and after so long a time the city was once more opened to communication. Here ended the arduous campaign against the forces of Gen. Bragg, the army being permitted to go into winter-quarters in and about Nashville.
The campaign just ended was one that tried the bone and muscle of the new levy of troops that had just entered the field. Water was very scarce, it being impossible to procure a sufficient quantity for our real good, and even that was of the most inferior kind; it was, in fact, unfit for a beast, and enough to sicken and kill a human. Our mode of cooking and eating then seems now to be ridiculous indeed; it was every man for himself, boiling his coffee in a pint tin and roasting his meat on a stick. Being barbarously ignorant of the profession of a soldier, we would carry unnecessary loads which we were afterwards taught to discard; and undergoing toilsome marches over a rough and desolate country, under the scorching rays of a Southern sun, with not enough water to wash down the dust we were compelled to breathe. The men would readily push away the thick green scum from every stagnant pool and drink with a relish. Lazy swine were forced to leave their muddy beds to give place to the cup of the thirsty soldier. The Eighty-sixth Regiment in after times was wont to look back on this campaign—its first lesson in soldiering—with more commiseration and regret than any period of its subsequent career. It consumed thirty-eight days of the severest toils and privations, than which no other has surpassed, making a distance of over three hundred miles in pursuit of an exultant and defiant enemy.
The regiment now remained in Edgefield from the 7th of November until the 23rd, when it was marched to Mill Creek and took up encampment at a place known as Camp Sheridan. At this camp, on the 4th of December, at 12 o'clock M., the regiment having just returned from drill, was ordered to fall in and advance upon a force of the enemy's cavalry which was maneuvering in the vicinity of the camp.
Company A and B were immediately thrown out as skirmishers; the remainder of the regiment kept back in reserve. The rebels were soon dispersed, and the regiment returned at night on the double-quick. On the 9th of December the command was marched to Nashville, taking up camp there, and put on duty about the city. About this time was led a sad and disagreeable life, even more so than at any other time. The boys were new in their profession and entirely ignorant as to what conveniences a soldier might have even under circumstances so trying, and in consequence, were compelled to render themselves most unhappy. Some twenty odd men would live in the same tent, cook from a camp kettle swung in the middle of it, make their beds on the damp ground, frequently without even straw or boards under them. Snow fell, and the cold, keen winds of winter whistled without, while the poor soldiers lay cold and damp within.
Many were taken ill and died from this exposure; more died and were discharged during this winter than in all our previous and after term of service. The hospitals were yet without proper organization, the sick in them improperly cared for, for war was as yet a new thing, poorly understood and carried on. The Icelander, in his frigid and icy home of the far north, in his primeval ignorance, could not have lived in greater exposure than did the soldiers at this time. The regiment was called upon to do a great deal of duty, such as picketing about the city—a business that is anything but pleasant where there are a number of generals and other fancy officers to be looked after. While on duty at this place the battles of Stone River were fought. There was an exciting time in Nashville during this eventful period; everything was hurry and bustle. The wounded and skulkers came back in great numbers, each bearing his own report.
During these battles the troops in and about the city had to be in line of battle at 3 o'clock in the morning; it mattered not what was the condition of the elements, it was all the same thing; and certainly, if anything would provoke a soldier to feelings of wrath, this kind of business would. The first one is to be heard from who ever got used to it.
On the 25th of March, 1863, the Eighty-sixth was marched to Brentwood, where only a few hours before the garrison there was surprised and captured. On the first alarm the regiment was sent to its assistance, but it reached the fatal spot too late, the rebels having succeeded in their enterprise and made good their escape. After this reconnoissance to Brentwood, the regiment returned to Nashville, settling down again to its old business of picketing and guarding. Nearly two weeks after this, on the 8th of April, the brigade was sent to Brentwood, in supporting distance of Franklin. Brentwood was a fine situation for a camp, and as spring was at hand it was rendered more pleasant still. Comfortable quarters were readily made, and for the first time we began to live like men. It was here the boys began a happy reform in that respect; for instead of lying on the bare ground in the dirt and grass, they put up bunks, thus leading to their comfort. At this place the brigade built a fort called Fort Brentwood. It was triangular in form, having embrazures in the corners of the triangle for guns. Much time and labor was expended on this work, only to be completed that it might be demolished—a change in the situation of our army affairs compelling the evacuation of the fort. Details were made, and on the 3rd of June the work of demolition was consummated, and on the evening of the same day the brigade returned to Nashville.
The Eighty-sixth Regiment now remained in Nashville until the first of July, when it, with the rest of the brigade, was marched to Murfreesboro. At this encampment the command spent much time and labor on its camp grounds, but did not remain to reap the fruits thereof, for in a few days it returned to Nashville, where it remained until the 20th of August, 1863.
About this time occurred a sad epoch in the history of the Eighty-sixth Regiment—the death of Colonel Irons. After a severe illness he departed this life on the 11th day of August, leaving behind him a band of faithful friends to mourn his loss. Colonel Irons had the qualifications of a good man—a brave and faithful heart. On the day after his death the brigade escorted his last remains to the depot, where they were put on the cars and taken to Peoria for burial.
Soon after the death of Colonel Irons, Chaplain G. W. Brown offered his resignation, which was accepted on the 13th of October succeeding. Chaplain Brown gave his whole heart to the fulfillment of the duties incumbent on his office, by attending the sick and suffering of his regiment with a spirit and energy scarcely ever surpassed. He was indefatigable in his efforts to promote the happiness and welfare of his boys, and could always give inquiring friends from abroad the exact place and condition of the sick and suffering of the regiment.
MARCH TO CHATTANOOGA—BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA.
On the 20th of August, 1863, Colonel Dan. McCook's brigade, belonging to Steedman's division of Granger's reserves, marched from Nashville in a southerly direction. The design of this move was to repair the Nashville and Decatur railroad. On its route the brigade stopped a short time at Brentwood, where it had been encamped some two months previous. Summer had made a vast change in this place. Fruits were ripe, and we partook freely, on the score of old acquaintance.
From Brentwood the brigade continued the march to Franklin, where it also remained a short time in order to complete the necessary arrangements to repair the railroad. Franklin is an old fashioned Southern town, and a place of much historic interest on account of the tragic scenes that have transpired there. Various battles have been fought there, and two notorious spies were hung. One regiment of the brigade was left at that place, and the rest strung along the road further down. The Eighty-sixth was stationed at West Harpeth, where it began getting out timber with which to repair a bridge. Details were at work every day chopping and hewing, but it was not long till it received orders to discontinue the work and prepare for a march. West Harpeth is situated some eight miles south from Franklin in a fine portion of the country. The regiment was there in the fruit season of the year, enjoying soldier life in the first degree, for plenty sat smiling on every hand. And here it celebrated its first anniversary, Mr. Millsaps, who was afterwards its Chaplain, delivering an address suitable to the occasion.
From West Harpeth the Eighty-sixth took up the line of march for Columbia. On its route it passed through Spring Hill, a very noted place. It was here that Gen. Van Dorn, of the Confederate army, was shot for a gross insult extended to the wife of a prominent doctor.
On the evening of the 28th of August the regiment reached Columbia, Tenn., where it joined the brigade which had arrived there a short time previous, taking up quarters in the outskirts of the town until the 30th, when it was taken into it as a garrison. The remainder of the brigade continued the march in the direction of Huntsville, leaving the Eighty-sixth with orders to follow up as soon as relieved by a command of mounted infantry on its road from Kentucky. Columbia was a handsome place and of much interest. James K. Polk had lived there, and Gen. Pillow's plantation was not far distant from it. It had also several fine literary institutions, one of which continued in operation while the regiment was staying there. It was at Columbia Colonel Magee procured the famous whistle that ever afterwards remained with the regiment. By the mandates of this little instrument, in the hands of its successive commanders, the actions of the Eighty-sixth were controlled. It would advance, halt, retreat, lie down and get up, as designated by this tiny whistle. Other regiments have prided themselves in their eagles and pets, and the Eighty-sixth too, had long since concluded she "paid too dear for the whistle," not to cherish it in lasting remembrance. In years hence, when all things else will seem to have passed away, memory will not prove recreant to the faithful friend of all—the tiny whistle.
The regimental officers held an election here, and voted Captain A. L. Fahnestock Major of the regiment, though it was a long time after this before he was commissioned. The desired relief came on the 3rd of September, and the 86th took up the march on the 4th, following up the brigade, which by this time had reached Huntsville. The 28th Kentucky mounted infantry relieved us.
The weather was warm and the command marched slowly, feeling its way as it went. Colonel Magee did a good part by his men, always keeping their good and comfort in view; he would not compel them to overmarch themselves for personal gratification or that of his superiors, though always prompt in the execution of orders.
The regiment was now alone, surrounded by all manner of enemies. The brigade, on its passage down, was fired upon from houses in the little village of Lynnville, it now becoming a question whether a single regiment could make the passage at all. For the purpose of warding off all danger, the regiment observed the following order of march: One company two hundred yards in advance of the main column, and two companies in rear of the regimental train. It passed through Lynnville, the scene of former disturbances, without molestation, and camped near it.
Col. McCook had issued an order to the citizens, declaring that for every life taken by concealed enemies he would retaliate on the country. This order had a good effect, for afterwards a citizen would not harbor a guerrilla or bushwhacker.
The members of the Eighty-sixth will not forget how they transcended the liberties of the Colonel, while camped at Lynnville, by killing hogs in camp, and raising "Ned" generally—the lecture they received in consequence will not be forgotten. He admonished them never to permit a rebel hog to be too insinuating without the proper chastisement, and at the same time not to be too noisy and reckless, thus exposing him to the reprimand of his superiors.
The next place of encampment was at Pulaski, a small town that lay almost in ruins from some cause or other. A novel incident occurred here respecting a couple of doctors. The first one tried to elude the advance guard by riding off in break-neck style, but he was apprehended, brought before Colonel Magee, and examined. He declared his object to be to save his favorite pony and nothing more; he was of course released, but on further suspicion of being a spy, was searched for, but could not be found. The other doctor came into camp of his own accord, and going to the surgeon's tent, asked for a dose of morphine; whereupon, seeing a good opportunity, he stole the whole bottle, and putting it in his hat walked off. He was detected, arrested, and taken before the Colonel. He plead insanity and such like things to no purpose, but was tied up to a tree and made to suffer punishment. No one can rightly determine the object of these two men; they were doubtless enlisted sons of the Southern chivalry intent upon mischief.
The march was continued the next day from Pulaski, crossing Elk river at a place known as Elktown, the boys dismantling themselves and wading, as the bridge had been destroyed. Four miles beyond this stream is the State line, the regiment marching there and camping for the night near a beautiful brook of water.
On the 7th of September, it crossed the line and camped twelve miles south of it. The next day it reached Huntsville, and passing through, took up quarters in the outskirts. The Eighty-sixth was the only Union troops in the vicinity, the brigade having passed on, leaving orders for it to follow immediately. When night came on, the Colonel became uneasy, for citizens reported a force of the enemy near at hand. Upon this intelligence he moved his command into town, and took up position on the square. Companies were stationed in the different streets leading to it, in anticipation of a surprise. The night passed in suspense, but no enemy appeared.
Huntsville was a beautiful town with a fine location. It was, before the war, the mart of Northern Alabama. There is a large and handsome spring there, well worth the visit of the tourist and passer-by. By its own force it runs machinery which pumps water for the whole town in sufficient quantity.
The regiment greatly disliked to leave this place, and, in after times, when it was wont to wish itself in some pleasant abode, it would fondly revert to Huntsville. But, early on the morning of the 10th, it took up the line of march for Stevenson, Alabama, where it expected it would certainly join the brigade. It had not marched from Huntsville more than three miles when a soldier from Company H, Mr. Church by name, while walking in the woods near the road, espied a squad of concealed bushwhackers, whereupon he fired at them, and killed one. The dead body was brought to the road and left in plain view, being labeled with these words: "A bushwhacker." A great number of negroes—men, women and children, of every age and size, of every hue of the skin from yellow to concentrated blackness, followed out from Huntsville, presenting a jolly scene.
The march to Bridgeport attaches nothing of much importance to it, only the usual occurring incidents. The sick and barefooted were left at Brownville, to be transported from thence to Stevenson on the cars, where they joined the command. The regiment reached Bridgeport on the 14th, where it received a mail—the first since Columbia. The brigade had gone on from this place to Chattanooga, to join General Rosecrans' army, which was on the eve of battle with Bragg.
On the morning of the 15th, the regiment left Bridgeport, and on the evening of the 16th, tired and worn out, it crossed Lookout mountain, and joined the brigade at Rossville, six miles south from Chattanooga. In this vicinity was collected a large army, and the great battles that succeeded were imminent. Here ended these hard marches after so long a time. The Eighty-sixth had been in the campaign nearly twenty-seven days, seventeen of which it formed its own company, having passed over the hostile country lying between Columbia and Chattanooga, which was infested with strong bands of guerrillas of the most desperate kind, without the loss of a man. It was now much fatigued and hoped to have a short respite from its labors—but not so, something of a more terrible nature was forthcoming—the bloody battle of Chickamauga. General Bragg turned on our forces under Rosecrans, on the 16th of September, on the 17th, skirmishing began, and on the 18th, very hard skirmishing and some fighting came off. It was on the 18th that the brigade, under command of Colonel Dan. McCook, was sent out to the Chickamauga creek to burn a bridge, which it successfully accomplished. A force of the enemy came near capturing it, having nearly surrounded it. During the fight that ensued, it lost a good many men. On the evening of the 19th, the brigade returned to Rossville, afterwards moving out on the road leading to McAfee church, and took up position just inside the Rossville Gap. Here it remained in readiness for any emergency, all the night of the 19th.
Our corps, commanded by General Gordon Granger, was held in reserve at this battle, and was not generally engaged on the 19th. The battle of the 19th was a hard contested one, and, when night came, the advantages were about equal. The enemy were vastly superior in numbers, in about the ratio of five to three, making him buoyant and desperate on this day and the next. On the next day, the 20th of September, the fate of Chickamauga was to be decided.
The battle commenced at half-past eight A.M., the effort of the enemy being, as on the previous day, to turn the left flank of our army, and then gain access to the Lafayette and Chattanooga road. Thomas, who was in command at the left, was hard pressed from the start, and General Rosecrans directed him to hold on, assuring him that he should be reinforced if necessary, by the entire army. Our brigade was moved, early on the morning of the 20th, from its position of the night previous, and marched out on the left wing of the army to an old church, known as the McAfee church. Here it maneuvered about on the left flank of the army, taking different positions, in readiness for the expected advance of the enemy in that quarter. The battle continued to rage furiously on our right. From some misunderstanding, there was a gap left in the line of battle on the right centre of the army. The rebels instantly worked into this breach, striking our troops in flank and rear, throwing them into complete confusion, from which they never recovered till they reached Rossville. Seven brigades, or about one-fourth of our entire force, were thus swept away by this misfortune, and though the loss in killed and wounded was not very heavy, and that in prisoners less than would have been expected, they were effectually cut off from rendering further aid to the rest of the army during that day. Among those in this rout, were, without fault of their own, Major-Generals Rosecrans, McCook, and Crittenden. Each made repeated efforts to join the main body, but in vain, and finally fell back to Rossville, whence General Rosecrans sent his chief of staff, General Garfield, to ascertain how Thomas was succeeding in holding the rebels at bay, and himself, with Generals McCook and Crittenden, went on to Chattanooga, to secure the trains and put the city in a state of defense, if, as he feared, the army should be driven to retreat thither. The rout on the right wing took place about one o'clock P.M. Notwithstanding the break on the right, General Thomas, though opposed by a force at least five to two, stood grim and defiant, resisting the repeated assaults upon his lines with a persistency never surpassed. From two o'clock till sunset, a terrible battle raged along Thomas' line. About two in the afternoon, our brigade was ordered to the assistance of Thomas, it then being some three miles to his left, and going this distance on the double-quick. The General saw a cloud of dust in the direction we were coming, and, it is said, he was uneasy at first, not knowing whose forces they were, Confederate or Union. A messenger was sent to ascertain who they were and whence they came. When the brigade arrived and was taking up position, the enemy opened a furious fire upon it, and had it advanced a short distance further, would certainly have been captured. When the brigade got into position, Battery I, replied with spirit to the fire of the enemy, which, by this time, had got the right range on us. Our position now became fairly hideous; the woods roared and the very heavens quaked, while shot and shell filled the air with frightful sounds. The grass and woods between our brigade and the enemy had caught fire, which conspired to make our position more disagreeable than ever, though it doubtless saved us a hard fight, for the rebels would not advance through it.
The other two brigades of our division, still on our right, led by General Steedman in person, rushed upon the enemy in a furious charge, which was passing through a low gap to the rear and flank of Brannan's position. The shock was terrible; and for a time, as the opposing forces met in a hand-to-hand fight, success swayed from side to side; in a few minutes more the enemy was repulsed, and dared not make the attempt again. A thousand of these brave men fell, killed or wounded, in that brief half hour's struggle; but they held the gap.
When night came, the battle ceased, everything becoming still and hushed. The enemy now fell back, leaving the field of battle in possession of General Thomas; but finding the ammunition, food and water necessary for his men were exhausted, the General withdrew with his troops about midnight to Rossville, where they arrived in good order. McCook's brigade was the last that left the field, and the Eighty-sixth, the last regiment. It was after one o'clock at night when it passed the Rossville Gap and went into camp. There laid down to sleep that night a tired set of men, the fatigues of the day having almost overcome them. Many a brave comrade fell on the bloody field of Chickamauga; and another such would have ruined our army.
On the next day, the 31st, our brigade took a position on the right of Rossville Gap. A strong force was left here to keep back the enemy till the army could fall back on Chattanooga. The rebels pushed buoyantly forward and opened on us a heavy cannonade. Our forces held the gap until night, when they abandoned it, and retreated on Chattanooga. Our brigade arrived in Chattanooga very late at night, and after much changing about, took up position and laid down to rest.
Here ends the battle and the retreat, a stirring epoch in our history. During this battle, the regiment had the honor of conducting itself in a praiseworthy manner. There is but one exception, and that is personal. It was the case of Major O. Fountain, who conducted himself in a disrespectful manner by becoming intoxicated. On this account he was soon afterwards recommended for a discharge, which was duly furnished him. Major Fountain had many qualifications of a good soldier, and previous to this, had conducted himself in a proper manner.
After the battle, our brigade remained in Chattanooga three days, during which time it was formed in line and held as a reserve. The enemy was hourly expected to pounce upon our forces and attempt to regain the place, for unless they did, no real advantages were gained by their successes at Chickamauga. Our troops were not disheartened or hopeless, but eager and determined to conquer in a second engagement. The enemy, however, was severely punished, otherwise he would have followed up his successes.
MISSION RIDGE AND KNOXVILLE.
On the 24th of September, four days after the battle of Chickamauga, our regiment and brigade was ordered to the north side of the Tennessee river, to guard a ford near the mouth of North Chickamauga creek, some eight miles up the river from Chattanooga.
On its way to this ford, the brigade remained a few days near another ford about equidistant from the upper one and Chattanooga, where it threw up works, and leaving the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Illinois to guard them, went on to the upper ford, arriving there on the 27th, and taking up permanent quarters. This place was considered a prominent one in a military view, and was accordingly strongly protected. The boys now set to work building shanties for their comfort, as it was probable the command would make its winter-quarters there. They would fell trees, chop off large cuts and split them into slabs. Out of these rough slabs snug shanties were made, and to put on the finishing touch, fire-places were built in them. When cold, keen winds blew fierce without, the soldier sat comfortable within, and soon our North Chickamauga camp became a semi-paradise—a home in the woods. It was here the brigade suffered so much from hunger; famine was our ghost, it haunted us by day and by night.
The troops were not supplied with half rations, for the transportation of the army was insufficient. It was impossible to procure adequate supplies for a large army by hauling them sixty miles over the horrible roads across the Cumberland and Walden ridges—roads in which six miles a day was all the distance a six-mule team could accomplish. This state of affairs could not last long.
The Tennessee river is very crooked. Below Chattanooga it makes two bends; the first, eight miles in circuit, and only one and a half across; the other, thirty miles in circuit, and four miles across. If these two peninsulas could be gained, wagon transportation would be reduced to ten miles. To accomplish this, Hooker's command was ordered from Bridgeport through Shellmount to the Lookout valley, thence to Brown's ferry. While Hooker was doing this, a detail from Chattanooga, under command of General Hazen, proceeded down the river in pontoon boats to Brown's ferry, and succeeded in laying a pontoon bridge.
From here there was a good road to Kelly's ferry, and loaded wagons could go from that point to Chattanooga in half a day.
On the night of the 27th, General Geary's division of Hooker's command, pitched its camp in advance of the main force, near Wauhatchie in the Lookout valley, and was attacked at two o'clock on the morning of the 28th.
Geary held his ground, and Longstreet was defeated with severe loss. The night of this battle was clear, and the moon shone bright. The roar of artillery and rattle of musketry could be distinctly heard from our camp on the Chickamauga. Such an affair at the dead of night, when all else is calm and hushed, presents a thrill of emotions that can be experienced under no other circumstances.
On the 29th of October, Colonel Dan. McCook received orders to despatch two of his regiments to the assistance of General Hooker, who was now in the Lookout valley. The Eighty-sixth Illinois and Fifty-second Ohio, were accordingly ordered to report to him. They crossed to the south side of the Tennessee on the pontoon bridge at Kelly's ferry, below Chattanooga. After crossing the river, the Eighty-sixth was sent to guard a pass in the Raccoon ridge, and passed there a most miserable night. It was perched on a hill-side, the rain falling in torrents, and every man being obliged to hold to a sapling to keep from going down.
From this pass, the next day, the regiment went down the ridge to a position opposite Lookout mountain, where it relieved a brigade of Hooker's men. The enemy had a battery planted on the Lookout, at the Point of Rocks, whence he shelled us continually. The boys could tell when this battery would shoot, and dodge accordingly. It was here we had our first intercourse with Eastern troops. They had odd ways, peculiar to themselves, which the Western boys were unused to, and in consequence, many taunting words were passed, for either party was loth to take the jaw of the other. The Eighty-sixth and Fifty-second, remained in front of Lookout mountain five days, when they were relieved and sent back to North Chickamauga, arriving there on the evening of the 5th of November, after an absence of seven days.
Again the boys set themselves to refitting their shanties, for it now seemed probable there would be no more moving for a long time. The weather was then disagreeably cold, and they must work or freeze—they worked.
Most every mess soon had comfortable habitations, and some of them very neat ones indeed. But after all their pains, it became evident they would not remain long at this camp. Our army was beginning to strengthen, and everything indicated a move.
About the 20th of November, pontoons were placed in the mouth of the North Chickamauga for some purpose, then unknown, but afterwards revealed. There were one hundred and sixteen pontoon boats in number, in which Giles A. Smith's brigade of the Fifteenth Corps embarked on the night of the 23rd, and entering the Tennessee, moved swiftly down three miles, closely hugging the right bank; then crossed, and landed a small force above the West Chickamauga, and the remainder just below it. Landing this force, the boats were dispatched to the opposite side for reinforcements. Two divisions were ferried over, and by noon, a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee, fourteen hundred feet long, and another across the West Chickamauga, two hundred feet long, were completed.
Long before daylight on the morning of the 24th, our division under command of Jefferson C. Davis, was marched down the right bank of the Tennessee to a point opposite the mouth of the West Chickamauga, where the pontoon bridge was being constructed. At one P.M., the Fifteenth Corps, on the left bank of the river, advanced in three columns, and at half-past three were in possession of the Missionary Hills without loss. Our division crossed the pontoons late in the afternoon of the 24th, in a drizzling rain, and after much maneuvering took up a position in a thick and swampy woods.
The night of the 24th passed off with some fighting, as the enemy made an effort to regain his lost ground, but his effort proved abortive. During the battle of the 25th, our division was held as support to General Sherman, who was ordered to make a demonstration on Fort Buckner, on Tunnel Hill. When Sherman's persistence had drawn nearly one-half the force from Fort Bragg to Fort Buckner, six signal guns, fired at intervals of two seconds, told the advance of the Fourth Corps to the assault on Fort Bragg. This assault proved a complete success. The rebel works were captured, and with Hooker on their left flank and rear, and their centre broken, they were in a complete rout. Here ended the day, and under cover of night Bragg's army beat a hasty and disorderly retreat.
During this battle our brigade was not engaged, but being held in close reserve, it could see things well done. The next thing on the programme was the pursuit. Our division was ordered to march at one o'clock A.M., on the 26th, and crossing the Chickamauga by the pontoon at its mouth, pushed forward for the enemy's depot, and by eleven A.M. it appeared at the depot, just in time to see it in flames. Entering with one brigade, General Davis found the enemy occupying two hills partially entrenched, just beyond the depot. They were soon driven away. At this place was to be found all manner of things, burning and broken. Corn and corn-meal, wagons, caissons, guns, pontoons, balks, chesses, and the like, were lying around promiscuously.
As the command advanced, every kind of plunder lined the road, the private soldier having even thrown away his provisions and clothing, being in the utmost confusion and excitement. When the division reached Shepherd's run, some two miles north of Grayville, it found the enemy's rear guard intending to camp, and showing a disposition for fight. Accordingly, General Davis ordered it into line and to charge the rebels away. It was not long in executing orders. After running a long distance, jumping fences, creeks and other obstacles, it found the enemy in strong skirmish force, which was made to give ground, but night drawing near, no decisive advantage was gained.
Our division held its position until morning, when it was again set off on the pursuit, marching in supporting distance of General Hooker who was engaging the enemy at the Ringgold pass. After several charges, Hooker finally succeeded in dislodging the rebel force, and took possession, capturing three hundred prisoners. The loss of Hooker's command here was heavier than in the capture of Lookout mountain.
The junction of Bragg and Longstreet was now no longer a possibility. In the meantime, the siege of Knoxville was pressed with ardor by the forces under Longstreet, and Burnside found himself in close quarters. Having disposed of Bragg, General Grant determined to send a force, under Sherman, to the relief of Knoxville. Our division formed a part of this force.
Early on the 28th of November, bleak and cold, Sherman began his northern march through East Tennessee, to the assistance of the beleaguered city. On its route to Knoxville, our division passed near Cleveland on the 29th, and on December 1st, crossed the Hiawassee river. Marching on, it arrived at a point on the Little Tennessee opposite Morgantown, on the 4th, and crossing, marched up the river four miles when orders were countermanded; then, countermarching, recrossed the river at Morgantown—Longstreet having abandoned the siege, and hastily retreating towards Virginia.
The object of the expedition now being accomplished, the army began its return march on the 7th of December. General Jeff. C. Davis had orders to march to Columbus by way of Madisonville. On its return, the division passed through Madisonville, on the first day's march, leaving the Eighty-sixth Illinois to garrison it during the night. The regiment lived well while here, nearly every family being set to work baking corn-bread, cakes, and such. It passed a pleasant night with the good folks of this inland village, only regretting that it could not remain longer and enjoy more of their forced hospitality.
Leaving Madisonville, the regiment plod on after the division, marching the distance of twenty-five miles, through mud and rain, reaching the Conasauga Mills about ten o'clock on the night of the 8th, when the division was encamped. No Eighty-sixth man will be so recreant to the memories of the past as to forget this day's march. And no one will forget the manly action of our Colonel on this occasion, who, to encourage his men, trudged along through mud and rain, allowing his wearied boys to ride his horse by turns. The division remained encamped near these mills one week, living fat on corn-meal, molasses and pork.
On the 15th, it again took up the march, bound for Chattanooga, and arrived there in the afternoon of the 18th, after a toilsome march. Our brigade was detained several hours, waiting to be ferried over the Tennessee. It was very late at night when the Eighty-sixth effected a crossing, and when once over, it camped for the remainder of the night, marching up to its old camping ground, on the morning of the 19th.
Here ends the Knoxville campaign, and the Eighty-sixth back in its old camp on the North Chickamauga. This campaign consumed twenty-five days of the severest marching and suffering that ever soldiers experienced. Many returned barefooted and threadbare, in the chill month of December, leaving bloody tracks on the frozen ground. This march may be fairly numbered among the hardest of our hardships. No men ever bore up under so many ills with more fortitude than did the men in this arduous and difficult campaign to the relief of the besieged and almost subjugated Knoxville. On this trip we saw more loyal people than in all our previous service.
Long live the good people of East Tennessee; may they live in peace and die in plenty!
On this march Company G, of the Eighty-sixth, met with a sad misfortune near Louden; it was the accidental death of Sergeant Haynes. The column had just halted when one of his company carelessly threw down his gun, which going off, shot the sergeant in the head, killing him instantly.
The boys now made free to stick close to their shanties and fire-places, for their clothing was scant and the weather extremely cold. The division did not remain at North Chickamauga long, for, on the 26th of December, it crossed the Tennessee, taking up camp at McAfee's church, on the left of the Chickamauga battle-field and six miles from Chattanooga.
The beginning of the year 1864 found the Eighty-sixth regiment in camp at McAfee's church, busily engaged in building shanties and preparing for the winter, which was extremely cold and disagreeable. These rude habitations were soon made comfortable, and had we been well provided with provisions and clothing, everything would have passed off gay and lively. Eighteen hundred and sixty-three passed away, taking with it many fond recollections, and many, too, that were not pleasant. The hardships and privations we were called upon to endure, together with our successes and pleasures, seemed now to be nothing more than an apologue of which the moral is the only reliable feature. There was good cause for rejoicing, for success had attended our arms on land and sea. The Mississippi had been opened, and the enemy amazingly defeated at every point in the South-west.
Our encampment on the Chickamauga battle-ground had a fine location, and possessed many advantages in wood and water. A deal of pains and labor was taken to make this camp comfortable and healthy. Green trees were set out in front of the company grounds, which beautified and made them enchanting.
This vicinity of the South is noted for its grand natural scenery, nowhere to be surpassed. We read of the romantic scenery of the Oriental world—of the versatility of Italia's summer winds—of the magic charms of her hills, her rills, and dales; but the realities here presented are more enchanting than the probabilities of a might be in other parts of the world. From the heights of Lookout mountain the country around has the appearance of one vast field of ridges, tending in their direction from north to south. This mountain is 2,500 feet above the level of the Tennessee, and from the Point of Rocks, a man in the valley below appears to be no larger than one's thumb, and a train of cars gliding along at its base has the appearance of tiny toys. Chattanooga, a distance of more than five miles, seems to lie directly at its base. The first range of ridges to the eastward of Lookout range is known as Missionary Ridge. The next in succession are the Pea Vine, Pigeon, Taylor's, and Rocky Face.
Missionary Ridge, the scene of Bragg's disaster, breaks off from its regular course at Rossville, in a curve to the eastward, striking the river some five miles above Chattanooga, thus forming on the south and south-east a perfect wall of natural defenses, upon which, for two months, lay the besieging forces of the Confederate army. To complete the semicircle of walls around Chattanooga on the south side of the river, Lookout mountain stands in its huge dimensions, a key to the South-west.
In the Chickamauga valley, on the south-east side of Missionary Ridge, from McAfee's church to Lee and Gordon's Mills, is the site of the Chickamauga battle-field.
That place, even when we went there to camp, more than three months after the battle, presented a repulsive sight. The enactment of that terrible conflict, when leaden rain fell thick and fast around us, when the dying were gasping in the last agonies of death, when wounded and dead men covered the gory field, and the terrible thought of immediate danger crowded our minds,—produced not half the emotions of human misery that were experienced nearly four months afterwards when we viewed the same field. Here and there could be seen the putrified form of a human creature in Union garb. Sometimes the skull and other members of the body were seen detached along the road-side or on a stump, having been taken from their peaceful repose by ruthful hands or hungry dogs.
The entire field was yet cumbered with great numbers of our dead, and, in most cases, the flesh had fallen from the bones, leaving nothing but the mere skeleton. Years hence, children yet unborn will find, in their sports upon this field, a skull or a bone of these poor victims, and wonder and ask what it is; then, some grandfather will tell them of the great battle of Chickamauga.
But to return to Camp McAfee. For awhile at first, the boys were obliged, in a measure, to furnish their own supplies. Every day, some one of each mess had to go six miles to mill and try his hand for flour, sometimes being extremely lucky, but more frequently, to return without a mite. These were, with propriety, called our "milling days." Thus our time dragged heavily on.
On the evening of the 27th of January, our division received orders to march the next morning at daylight, with three days rations in their haversacks. Accordingly, on the morning of the 28th, it led out in the direction of Ringgold, still under the command of General Jeff. C. Davis. General Batie's brigade followed Morgan's, and Colonel McCook's brought up the rear. The evening of the same day the command camped at Ringgold, a distance of twelve miles. Here it remained until ten A.M. the next day, waiting the result of a reconnoissance which was being made in the direction of Tunnel Hill, when it returned to McAfee. The enemy was found in force at that place, and his strength tolerably well ascertained, which was the real object of the expedition. This reconnoissance resulted in the capture of forty prisoners, besides five killed and seventeen wounded.
Again, on the 14th of February our brigade marched to Chickamauga Station to relieve the 1st brigade which was there on outpost duty. The weather was now cold and wet, and we were without shanties, but the boys, with their usual energy, set to work and soon constructed comfortable quarters. The houses in the vicinity of the camp were made to suffer badly; in many instances not even a nail was left to mark the spot where once stood a neat frame building. Colonel Magee returned to his regiment while it was here, having been home on furlough, every one being glad to see his familiar face. About the time we began to realize the benefit of our labors at this place, the brigade was ordered to march, having been there eight days. On Tuesday morning, the 23rd, the brigade received orders to march in one hour's time, it being reported that the lines would not advance further than Grayville, and there go into camp.
In consequence of this understanding, almost every soldier carried a huge load of camp plunder; but they were sadly mistaken, since the column marched rapidly on Ringgold, a distance of sixteen miles, where the other two brigades of the division had previously arrived. Most of the command became so much fatigued under their burden that they were obliged to fall out and come up at their leisure.
On the next day the division continued the march from Ringgold through Tunnel Hill on to Buzzard's Roost, a narrow defile in the Rocky Face Ridge, where it found the enemy in force and very defiant. On reaching the position of the enemy at this place, our brigade was drawn up in line of battle, advancing into position so as to cover the pass, during which time a heavy cannonade was opened on our lines, and continued until dark. General Morgan's brigade having taken up position on our left, pickets were now sent out, and comparative silence prevailed during the night.
Companies E and H were detailed from the Eighty-sixth for picket duty on this occasion, company A being sent on the skirmish line the next day at 12 M.
On the morning of the 25th the pass was enveloped in a dense fog, so much so that objects could not be distinguished at any great distance, it being impossible to discover a vestige of the enemy's lines until about ten A.M., when the fog had partially disappeared. About this time, however, skirmishing began along the line, resulting in a few serious casualties on our part.
The main reason for delaying operations so long was in not knowing the exact situation of General Cruft, who had been sent round the left of Rocky Face Ridge in order to flank the enemy's position at Buzzard's Roost Gap. Cannon could be heard in that direction booming furiously, but nothing definite could be determined by that.
It soon became evident, however, that he was advancing rapidly on their flank and rear, since the roar of the cannon and rattle of musketry became more and more distinct; but no news came respecting his progress until about ten A.M., when an orderly arrived with the desired information. Towards noon the fog disappeared, and the sun having risen high, made it more favorable for operations, since in the morning it shone in our eyes and blinded us. About one o'clock, Hotchkiss' 2nd Minnesota and Warren's 19th Indiana batteries moved into position in front of our brigade on a high eminence, from whence they began to feel for the position of the enemy, which was soon discovered strongly fortified on the adjacent hills. Soon after this the Eighty-sixth was ordered to advance over the hill on which these batteries were stationed, and attack the enemy's position. When it reached the crest of the hill, the rebels opened a furious fire upon it, but this did not derange the line one particle, it marching on with as much good order as if on battalion drill. The regiment advanced to the foot of a hill or ridge only a few hundred yards from the enemy's line of works, where it halted and lay down. Colonel McCook urged Magee to charge the works, but he would not until he got support on his right, as it was unprotected, and would have resulted in the utter ruin of the regiment.
The 85th, it is true, was on the right of the Eighty-sixth, but not in supporting distance, having partially changed its direction and ascended the acclivity on the right too high. At the same time our brigade advanced on the right, General Morgan advanced on the left and made a desperate charge on the enemy's position; but he was repulsed in great disorder, the steep and rugged rocks affording a natural barrier against his assaulting force. The charge on the left having failed of success, the right was ordered to maintain its own, it being the design, however, to push forward the right had Morgan succeeded in his enterprise.
The Eighty-sixth remained in its position until night, when it was relieved by other troops, and falling back to the rear, remained in comparative quiet during the night.
On the morning of the 26th the Eighty-sixth was marched to a position covering the right flank of our forces in the gap. It was anticipated that a force of the enemy's cavalry would make a demonstration in that direction. Here the regiment built good breastworks in readiness for the expected attack; but no enemy came, though it remained until night, when it was withdrawn, taking up the line of march for Ringgold. Soon after this the whole force was put on the retreat, arriving in Ringgold late at night.
Every Eighty-sixth man will remember the odd sight that occurred on this retreat as it entered Tunnel Hill. A large frame building had caught on fire and was in full blaze when we entered town. While descending a ridge in closed ranks, the light from the burning building was reflected from every face, presenting a multitude of bright, pleasing countenances, and as all else was dark, nothing could be seen but a moving field of shining faces. Our brigade was not generally engaged in the battle just recited, the Eighty-sixth and the 85th Illinois being the only regiments brought into action, though the rest were in close reserve. The Eighty-sixth loss was one killed and seven wounded, the company loss being as follows: Co. H, three; Co. G, one; Co. K, four. The reconnoissance was now ended, and its objects accomplished.
The rebels had been sending troops to Mobile, but the movements of this expedition compelled them to bring them back. On the next day, the 27th, the division was put on the march for Camp McAfee, where it arrived at dusk of the same day, having been absent thirteen days. But after all, we were destined to remain here only a short time. Just one week after the reconnoissance to Buzzard's Roost we were again put on the move.
Our brigade received orders to march on Sunday, the 6th day of March, to Lee and Gordon's Mills, situated on the right of the Chickamauga battle-ground, about eight miles distant from the camps at McAfee. The command was sent here on account of this being a strategic point, and soon began to lay off a camp, which day by day it adorned and beautified until it became an enchanting place, the very prototype of the grand and beautiful, being situated on the banks of the South Chickamauga, a handsome stream of water.
When good comfortable shanties had been erected, the boys began to ornament their grounds after the first order of things, for neither time nor labor was spared in this work, each soldier taking a pride in doing his part. All the companies of each regiment fabricated ornaments of every conceivable workmanship, differing one from another, and on the whole really handsome. These ornaments were made of pine and cedar boughs by the more dextrous and artistical of our comrades. You might see well-fashioned eagles, letters, figures and animals hung up in conspicuous places over a beautiful frame-work of gothic structure, astonishing and eliciting remark from passers by. Besides these, there were all kinds of machinery fluttering and struggling in the air on long poles. Flutter mills and gunboats could be seen making their hasty rounds; men wrestling and turning many kinds of machinery could be taken in at the same glance of the eye. Each regiment had a meeting house and bowers, weather-boarded and covered with pine and cedar boughs, presenting the very picture of enjoyment.
This was the handsomest camp in the whole army, and drawings of it appeared in Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie, as model camps. It was here the brigade enjoyed soldiering more than at any other time or place before or after, having learned to make its profession agreeable, and looking more particularly to its comfort and enjoyment. Then, there was added to the pleasures of this camp the noted springs, known as Crawfish Springs. A huge stream of bright clear water forces itself from the foot of the hill from whence it issues. They are a natural wonder, and have called forth the admiration of all who chanced to visit them. The slaveocracy of this portion of the South made them their constant summer resort, and the soldiers also enjoyed them as a pleasant retreat to drive dull time away.
The 3rd brigade remained at Lee and Gordon's Mills two months wanting three days, during which time it contracted many fond attachments, and in after times the boys would revert to the memories of this camp with more than ordinary pleasure. It was while here that Colonel Magee came from Camp McAfee to bid the boys of his regiment good bye, having been unable to leave that place with his command. The Colonel's health for a long time had been very poor, and Surgeon Hooton assured him that he could not survive the service, nor do justice to himself and his command by continuing in it. For these reasons he was induced to offer the resignation of his command, which in due course of time was accepted. There was a universal feeling of sad regret with the boys of the Eighty-sixth at this event, a regret that their beloved Colonel no longer had the strength of body to remain with them through the trying events of the future, as he had been their pride through those of the past.
Lieutenant-Colonel D. W. Magee was a man of humane and tender feeling. Having himself served in the ranks in the Mexican war, he was well qualified to appreciate the hardships and difficulties incident to a soldier's life. He was free to converse and associate with his men, at the same time commanding their highest esteem and most submissive obedience. With his gayest humor there mingled a settled air of resolution, which made those who approached him feel they must obey, and which infused love and confidence in those with whom he was surrounded. His manners ingenuous and open-hearted, concealed an imperturbable and calculating spirit. His dress—neither gaudy nor striking, but neat—was such as to set off his person to advantage.
The Colonel took his departure from the regiment on Sunday, the 27th of March, with the consciousness of taking with him the hearty "God bless you" of all his men.
Immediately after the resignation of Colonel Magee, the regimental and company officers held an election, and unanimously voted Major Allen L. Fahnestock Colonel of the regiment, who received his commission and was mustered in as such on the 13th of April, 1864, by Captain Cole, of the 9th Indiana. Colonel Fahnestock entered upon the duties of his office with a spirit and resolution that characterized him through all the future events of the regimental history, worthy in every respect the honors of the position left vacant by his energetic predecessor.
At the same time that Colonel Fahnestock was promoted, Captain J. F. Thomas, of Company C, was voted to the position of Major of the regiment.
Major Thomas was a man of a kind and affable disposition, easy and dignified in his intercourse with others, and the real exemplification of the right man in the right place.
CAMPAIGN AGAINST ATLANTA.
Early on the morning of the 3rd of May, 1864, the Third Brigade of the Second Division, Fourteenth Army Corps, under command of Colonel Dan. McCook, left Lee and Gordon's Mills and arrived in Ringgold, a distance of twelve miles, in the afternoon of the same day, and there joined the other two brigades of the division. There was a large army camped in the vicinity of Ringgold, and the hills and valleys were covered with camps, and rung merrily with the voices of many soldiers. It now became evident that the indomitable Sherman was assembling his whole force to make a crushing effort to drive back the threatening rebels under Jo. Johnston.
The few days we remained at Ringgold our army was continually augmenting, when by the 7th of the month it had assembled in force, and set in motion against the enemy at Tunnel Hill and Dalton.
The grand army of the Mississippi, under the immediate command of Major-General Sherman, at the commencement of this campaign, numbered ninety-eight thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven effective men, and two hundred and fifty-four pieces of artillery, and was divided as follows:
The Army of the Cumberland, Major-General Thomas commanding—infantry, fifty-four thousand five hundred and sixty-eight; artillery, two thousand three hundred and seventy-seven; cavalry, three thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight. Total, sixty thousand seven hundred and seventy-three; with one hundred and thirty guns. Army of the Tennessee, Major-General McPherson commanding—infantry, twenty-two thousand four hundred and thirty-seven; artillery, one thousand four hundred and four; cavalry, six hundred and twenty-four. Total, twenty-four thousand four hundred and sixty-five; with ninety-six guns. Army of the Ohio, Major-General Schofield commanding—infantry, eleven thousand one hundred and eighty-three; artillery, six hundred and seventy-nine; cavalry, one thousand six hundred and ninety-seven. Total, thirteen thousand five hundred and fifty-nine; with twenty-eight guns. These numbers continued relatively the same during the campaign, the losses in battle and from sickness being about compensated by recruits, and returns from furlough and hospitals.
The Fourteenth Corps, to which our division belonged, was commanded by Major-General Palmer, and was assigned to a position under Thomas in the centre.
In the move of the grand army on the 7th, our division reached Tunnel Hill at noon, where the enemy made a slight resistance, and while it was getting into position, a battery played upon it from an eminence near the village. This battery was soon dislodged and the enemy put to flight, retreating behind Rocky Face Ridge, where he took up position in Buzzard's Roost Gap, our forces following up rapidly, confronting his position, and throwing up works in case of an attack. The night of the 7th passed off with some skirmish firing in the gap at the Roost, and the next day, nothing was done, only the division changed its front.
The command now held this front until the 12th, during which time there were various demonstrations made on the rebel's invincible position, to no advantage. While here, the Eighty-sixth was continually exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, who occupied a position on the highest and most abrupt portions of the Rocky Face Ridge, from whence they viewed us, on the far-spread plain below, as mere Lilliputians of a vile Yankee descent, and shooting among us, often did much injury.
The regiment went on the skirmish line on the afternoon of the 10th, where it spent a most disagreeable night, not being allowed to pitch its tents. An almost continuous skirmish fire was kept up on the 11th, resulting in no very serious casualties to the Eighty-sixth, though the Fifty-second Ohio was made to suffer severely. On the evening of the 11th, our command was relieved by General Cruft's division of the Fourth Army Corps.
In this vicinity was passed a dolesome time, the country being wild and rugged, affording handsome scenery under different circumstances, but for us it had no enchantment. It was at this same gap we fought the enemy on the 25th of February of the same year. Companies H and K had each a man wounded at this place, being the only loss of the regiment.
On the morning of the 12th of May, the Fourteenth Corps, including our division, marched to the right along Rocky Face Ridge, until it came to Snake Creek Gap, and passing through it with much difficulty at a late hour at night, camped on the south-east side of the ridge. Previous to this, General McPherson had taken possession of this gap, completely surprising a brigade of Confederate cavalry which was coming to watch and hold it.
McPherson's and Hooker's commands had gone through before us, and Schofield's followed after us, the Fourth Corps having been left to attract the enemy's attention in front. Thus, the whole army, except Howard's Fourth Corps, moved through Snake Creek Gap, on Resaca. Major-General Thomas took up position on the left of the line, and McPherson and Schofield on his right, the enemy being completely flanked by this move, from his strong position at Buzzard's Roost and Dalton, and compelled to fall back on Resaca. At this place, they determined to give our forces a check, if possible, which moved on their position on the 13th.
On the next day, the 14th, there was hard fighting, our division taking a position late in the afternoon, and building breastworks, the roar of artillery and musketry continuing furiously all the day.
At dusk, on the evening of the 15th, the Eighty-sixth was sent on the skirmish line only a short distance from the rebel works. The enemy was very conversant on this occasion, as was usually the case when their forces took up the retreat, our boys telling them that they would wager their last red that they would be gone before morning; and sure enough, when morning came, every word of this prophecy was verified.
Our commanders, suspecting the action of the rebels, ordered our batteries to play freely on their works. These batteries were stationed on the hills behind the regiment, the screaming missiles from them passing over it, presenting, in the darkness of night, a scene of magnificent grandeur.
In the morning, the rebels had evacuated their works, falling back for a better position, which they never found. In this battle, the regiment lost five, in all; the company loss being as follows: Company C, three wounded; Company H, one wounded, and Company I, one missing. No sooner had the rebels evacuated Resaca than our skirmishers were aware of the fact, so that, by daylight on the 16th, we were in possession of their works, the pursuit being taken up at an early hour.
On the evacuation of Resaca, the Third Brigade passed through it; thence, going back nearly to Snake Creek Gap, and from that place the division continuing along the west side of the Oostanaula river in the direction of Rome, arrived in the vicinity on the 17th, where it met and fought the enemy. The Eighty-sixth Illinois and Twenty-second Indiana were the only regiments generally engaged. These two regiments advancing on the left of the line over uneven and wooded ground, found the enemy and attacked him, a sharp fight ensuing of about twenty minutes in which the foe was worsted, falling back into his intrenchments; and our troops, holding the ground, built rail breastworks. The next morning the rebels were gone, burning the bridge over the Oostanaula after them.
The loss of the Eighty-sixth in this battle, was, five killed and twelve wounded, the company loss being as follows:
Company F 2 Company D 1 Company I 1 Company E 1 — Total 5
Company A 3 Company H 1 Company D 4 Company F 2 Company I 2 — Total 12
On the morning of the 18th, the Eighty-fifth Illinois crossed the river and took possession of the village of Rome, the remainder of the brigade following over in the evening, having to wait for the construction of a rickety pontoon. The people were very much frightened at the event of our entering their village, having formed the idea that the Yankees would extend them no mercy. They told us that they had heard much of Yankee inhumanity, and death was the most clement act they had expected—thus wagged the world with them.
In the possession of Rome, General Jeff. C. Davis' division met with the most gratifying success, capturing its forts, with eight or ten heavy guns, valuable mills, foundries, and various railroad communications. Our brigade remained in Rome six days, the other two brigades of the division not yet having crossed the Oostanaula. During this time, Sherman had halted his whole army along the north side of the Etowah river, in order to rest his troops and complete communications as far as Kingston. This being accomplished, he supplied his wagons with twenty days' rations, and again set his army in motion toward Dallas, nearly south from Kingston, and fifteen miles west from Marietta.
On the 24th day of May, General Davis' command took up the line of march from Rome, crossing the Oostanaula near its mouth, and marching in a southerly direction about twenty miles, camped in a heavy rain storm, the Sixteenth Corps passing it during the night. The next day the division made a forced march over rough and disagreeable roads without gaining much distance, when, late in the evening, distant cannonading could be heard at Dallas. On the 26th the command advanced a short distance beyond Dallas, and drawing up in battle line, built log breastworks, as the Confederate army was lying entrenched in a strong position near this place.
Our lines were advanced still further on the 27th, throwing them into a gap, far in advance of the main line of the battle, and built breastworks, with the appearance of staying awhile.
The enemy about this time made repeated charges on our lines, both to the right and left of us, and several on the lines of the First Brigade, but only one on the Third Brigade. These charges proved very disastrous to the enemy.
The command remained in this position nearly six days without rest, being compelled to lie on its arms, not knowing what moment the enemy might come. This detour of the whole army from the Etowah in its circuit to the right, on Dallas, was made for the purpose of turning Altoona Pass which the rebels determined to hold at all hazards, and proved eminently successful.
On the first of June, our forces began their move from Dallas to the left, in order to contract the lines, and the next position of our division was eight miles to the left of its former one, and still on the left of the Fourth Corps, remaining there two days, skirmishing continually with the enemy until it was relieved and marched further to the left, joining its corps, the Fourteenth; they having been separated since Resaca. Here the boys received a mail, the first for a long while. The corps remained in its position here one day after our division joined it, the enemy evacuating his works on the night of the 5th of June, having been flanked therefrom.
Our forces followed a short distance on the morning of the 6th, but before night took up position, and camped near Ackworth, on the railroad, until the 9th, when they were again set on the move.
After its advance from Ackworth, our army was not long in finding the rebels in another entrenched position.
About this time, General Blair arrived at Ackworth, with two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps and a brigade of cavalry—a reinforcement that amply compensated for our losses in battle, and troops left in garrison at Resaca, Rome, Kingston and Altoona.
On the morning of the 9th, the entire army moved forward to Big Shanty, the next station on the railroad. Here, we found ourselves surrounded by scenery of peculiar and lofty beauty. To our left, and on the east of the railroad, were Sweet mountain and Black Jack, while to the westward, and nearly in front, rose the bold and striking Kenesaw. To the right was Pine mountain, and more distinctly to the right was Lost mountain.
Here we found the rebel General Johnston, strongly fortified on the northern slopes of Pine, Kenesaw and Lost mountains. General Sherman says, in his official report: "The scene was enchanting; too beautiful to be disturbed by the harsh clamors of war; but the Chattahouchie lay beyond, and I had to reach it."
At this place, our division took a position at right angles with the railroad and a few miles south of Big Shanty, where it threw up substantial breastworks, and remained until the 14th, when the lines were advanced and another line of works thrown up. In front of these works there was a deal of skirmishing carried on, creating undue excitement in the lines of battle, for it was thought the Johnnies would make a trial on our strength and position.
About this time there was an incessant roar of artillery on the extreme right of our lines, despite the heavy rains that fell, which afterwards proved to be the operations of Sherman's "flanking machine."
On Saturday, the 18th, our lines were again moved forward and other works constructed, the boys working with a vengeance all night to find the Johnnies gone in the morning; being flanked and obliged to evacuate their position for another. They were followed up at early dawn on the morning of the 19th, and chased to their next place of retreat. Their right was now found resting on the Marietta and Canton road, with their centre on Kenesaw mountain, and left, across the Lost mountain and Marietta road, behind Nose's creek, and covering the railroad back to the Chattahoochie. Our division under Davis, took its position directly in front of the Big Kenesaw and nearly up to its base.
Several batteries of our artillery soon moved up in short range of the Kenesaw and opened a furious fire upon it, in order, if possible, to develop the whereabouts of the enemy's masked batteries. During this cannonade it seemed that the very heavens were in agitation and the earth in violent commotion, but no reply was received.
The troops stood from behind their works in full view of the enemy, looking on in silent amazement, enjoying in their hearts the sublime grandeur of the scene. Finally, a locomotive was run up to the base of the mountain, when behold, a masked battery opened on it in all its fury, the engine immediately reversing its steam and running back.
On the night of the 20th and 21st, the rebels constructed several strong forts on the summit of the Kenesaw, from whence they annoyed our position a great deal. On the 22nd and 23rd, interesting duels were fought between these batteries of the enemy and our own; and certainly there never was a more amusing and interesting scene portrayed than exhibited in these short, effective engagements.
The scenes about Kenesaw will ever maintain a sacred spot on the tablets of our memory. During operations about this place it rained almost continually for three weeks, so that a general move was impossible.
On the evening of the 25th of June our division was relieved from its position in front of Kenesaw by a division of the 15th Corps, and after much delay arrived at General Palmer's headquarters on the right centre of the army.
The next day Sunday the 26th, it lay in the rear of the lines of battle, resting itself for the dreadful scenes of the morrow. The loss of the Eighty-sixth Regiment, from Dallas up to this time, was nine wounded and one killed; the company loss was as follows:
Company I, one killed.
Company A 1 Company I 1 Company E 1 Company F 1 Company D 2 Company K 1 Company B 2 — Total 9
On the 24th of June, General Sherman ordered that two assaults should be made on the 27th, one by General McPherson's troops near Little Kenesaw, and another by General Thomas', about one mile further south. This came wholly unexpected to his troops, all believing that he would put "the flanking machine" in force whenever he made a demonstration on the enemy's position, but Sherman resolved to execute any plan that promised success. These two assaults were made at the time and manner prescribed in the order, and both failed.
General Thomas chose the 2nd division of the 14th Corps to aid in the work along his line, and early on the morning of the 27th it was massed preparatory to a charge. The 3rd brigade, Colonel Dan. McCook commanding, was on the left of the division; the 2nd brigade, Colonel Mitchell commanding, was on the right, and the 1st brigade, General Morgan commanding, was held in the rear as reserves. The signal for the charge was given at 8 A.M., by the simultaneous discharge of a battery of guns; the lines advancing slow and steady, passing over our line of works, descending a hill over a small stream, then crossing an open field, ascended the acclivity on which the enemy's works were built, when a desperate rush was made upon them with all the fortitude and heroism of men under a most galling fire of cannon and musketry.
The brigade on our right failing to come up, we had to receive the cross-fire of the enemy. It was too withering, the men falling before it as the grass before the scythe. When the works were reached by those who did not fall in the attack, they were too weak and too few in number to effect a breach in them, the men lying down in front of the works and up against them, until the order to fall back was given. When the order of retreat was given, it was hard to obey, being attended with a greater slaughter than the assault, the enemy having the chance of taking cool and deliberate aim. Thus our broken lines fell back, again taking position only thirty yards from the enemy, and in the most difficult manner threw up a line of works, at the same time hugging the ground for dear life, and where we remained in defiance of the exultant rebels. This was our darkest day of the war.
The loss of the brigade on this occasion was truly severe. Colonel Daniel McCook fell mortally wounded, and Colonel Harmon succeeding him, survived his command but one moment, when he was carried off the field a corpse.