From this time on to September our time was employed in active,often thrilling dangerous work. From May to September it may betruthfully said that we were scarcely ever out of range of theenemy's shots. Many events worthy of record have escaped my memory,or my recollection of them are so vague and indefinite I cannotrecall with sufficient accuracy of detail to warrant the effort.I remember one night very distinctly. It was soon after our arrivalat the front. Our regiment was detailed to build temporary defenses.This had to be done in very close proximity to the enemy. No noisewas to be made. We were even to talk in whispers and work as noiselesslyas possible. Our labor consisted in carrying logs, placing themin position and digging up and throwing dirt over them. It wasan extremely dark night. Therefore, our work was strenuous anddifficult. Our nervous as well as our physical systems were undera tremendous strain, momentarily expecting a volley from our friends(the enemy). They did not fire upon us and the reason became apparentnext morning. My! But we were glad when the gruesome job was completedand we were permitted to take our place in the line. Subsequentlywe learned that the enemy was equally as bad if not more alarmedthan we. They had worked just as faithfully and as silently aswe had, but they were getting away from our front. Observationsbegan early next morning revealed the fact that they were goneand we soon pitched out after them. During this day we performedwhat was a rather novel service to us, i.e., supporting Cavalry.Up to nearly this period of the war we had viewed the cavalryarm of the service with a more or less degree of contempt. Ithad often been contemptuously asked "Who ever saw a deadcavalryman?" In fact at the beginning of the war about allthey were good for was to get out in the country, raise a rumpusand then "skeedaddle" back to the infantry. Later, muchimprovement was noted, and at the time of which I write they hadbecome a valiant, gallant auxiliary to the other arms of the service.They had accomplished much good and performed many gallant anddaring feats, notable among which I may mention the Greirson raid,of which I have already spoken. A few days after the events ofthe night of which we have narrated, we had an opportunity topersonally witness an exhibition of the potency and proficiencyof our cavalry by seeing them actually in action. Our brigadewas ordered out as a support to Wilder's brigade of cavalry. Wekept well up in supporting distance and watched them. They wouldcome up on the enemy and if he was a little bit stubborn and hardto move, they would dismount and go after them in regular infantryfashion. Several times during the day we thought we would surelyhave to go to their assistance, but they were a plucky, persistentlot of fellows, and when they started after the rebels in earnestthey invariably succeeded in pushing them back. So we had nothingto do but keep up in supporting distance and take care of theprisoners they sent back to us. After this day's work we all entertaineda more exalted regard for the cavalry.
About the first of June we came up on the enemy again drawnup on Kenesaw and Lost Mountains. We closed up and stopped neara little station called Big Shanty, known in history as the placewhere the locomotive was stolen, or to put it a little more modestly,captured, by some of General Mitchell's enterprising Ohioans.After capturing the locomotive they intended to run through andbeyond Chatanooga, burning all bridges as they went. They succeededin passing Kingston after an almost interminable delay, whichin fact proved their final undoing. They were finally compelledto abandon the engine and take to the woods where after the mostinsufferable and earnest efforts to escape they were all ultimatelycaptured and placed in prison. Some of them were subsequentlyhung, some died in prison and a few only got an exchange and wenthome.
About the first of June it began to rain in the locality in whichwe were operating. I think it rained every day more or less, forfifteen days, intermittent showers, persistently but irregularlysupervening one after another, and at the most undesirable andunexpected times. At a given time the Heavens canopy would beclear as crystal. In a few moments rain would be falling likea deluge. When one of those torrents began the boys would sitdown on their knapsack, draw their ponchos over them and facetiouslyremark that they were "aggravating the rain".
On the 16th the rain ceased and so did our quietude and inactivity.We were moved around to the extreme left of our army, where wehad a brisk engagement with the enemy. Leaving our former positionas reserves we moved around to the left of our line, advanceda line of skirmishers with our regiment as their immediate support,the remainder of the brigade supporting us. The advancing skirmisherssoon waked up the enemy occupying a line of rifle pits. Here knapsackswere unslung and every arrangement made for active work. The supportwas now soon up with the skirmish line and a rush was made forthe fellows in the rifle pits. These, by the way, were situatedon a large plantation and just beyond a drainage ditch. This ditchhad washed out quite deeply. It contained muddy water which gavea deceptive idea as to its probable depth, the crossing of whichcaused many of us to run up against a surprise and get a duckingin the bargain. It was too wide to jump across so we just jumpedinto it (ca-lunge) up to our waist. Under less serious surroundingsit would have been laughable to witness the different expressionsof surprise, and even indignation that was clearly apparent inthe boys' faces. Personally, I jumped into what I supposed wasa few inches of water. For my pains (or rather for the want ofthem) I got my head nearly jerked from my shoulders. Some fellin the ditch getting thoroughly soaked. We scrambled out and weresoon on the enemy, capturing those in the pits, most of one regiment,and sending them to the rear. Just beyond and up a considerablehill covered with forest we met a reinforcing column. The wordwas to go after those fellows and we did so, ultimately capturingmost of them. We were not doing all this without suffering somecasualties. I remember as we ascended the hill, comrade W. C.Moore, who was then First Serg't. was temporarily in command ofour company. Like all the rest of us his clothes were wet, hisshoes full of water, already tired. Chugging along up the hill,I was just a little to the left rear of Serg't Moore when he receiveda shot in the foot. He swung around and came very nearly capsizingme with gun. I said "Are you bad hurt serg't." "No,go ahead, go ahead" and go ahead we did. We did not get allthis regiment as some of them outran us. However, we got theircolonel. I then thought, and I now think that I recognized him.If it was the man I thought it was, he had just prior to the beginningof the war lived in Marion, Illinois. Lest I might possibly bewrong I will not mention his name - having no desire to do himor his posterity an injury, intentional or otherwise. I had onlyseen him a few times during the political campaign of 1860, sothere is bare chance for a case of mistaken identity. I heardthat the man of whom I am talking went south at the outbreak ofthe war. I shall always believe, unless convinced to the contrary,that I knew the man. I remember quite distinctly calling the attentionof some of the boys to the fact that I believed I knew him.
Serg't Moore's wound was a serious and a very painful one.He was sent to the hospital and I did not see him again untilthe war was over, as I was discharged the following Septemberbefore he returned to the company.
After the chase after the last bunch of the enemy we stoppedfor a little breathing spell. About a fourth of a mile in ourimmediate front was a large brick house, two stories high andapparently unoccupied. Around and about it we could plainly seethe enemy maneuvering. Presently they brought up a section ofartillery and began shelling us, killing one of the 46th Ohio.About this time General Logan rode up to where we were, took alook through his field glasses at the enemy, rode hastily awayto our right where there was a field battery and directed themto silence the rebel guns, which they did most beautifully. Wethen returned to our former position in line.
One other incident in connection with this trip. You will doubtlessremember I told you that we unslung knapsacks preliminary to thebeginning of the engagement. We always did this just before goinginto an engagement and left some comrade who was about broke downto guard them. On this occasion we left them in the care of uncleJohn Cullins. When we returned we did not do as we usually did,go back by the place we had left our knapsacks and take them andtheir guard to quarters. We took a different route on our return,missing them. So uncle John and the knapsacks remained out inthe immediate front of the enemy all night. But the old man wasfaithful to his trust and stayed with them until relieved nextmorning.
We remained quietly in camp until about the 23d, but otherportions of the army were in active service. During this interimthe Confederate General Pillow was killed by one of our cannons.He with Generals Hardee and another officer were in an exposedposition taking observation of our movements. They were observedby one of our batteries and fired upon with the above-named result.(only it was Polk instead of Pillow) Polk had been a Bishop inthe Presbyterian church prior to the war. Probably it was theEpiscopal church instead of the Presbyterian. I am not positivewhich. At any rate he lay down the surplice for the epaulets,"Glory and Gore".
On the night of the 23d, we silently moved out from our camp,moving toward the right and occupying the position just beingvacated by Jeff C. Davis' division of the 14th army corps. Weremained here until the fateful morning of the 27th of June, preparingfor that great bloody struggle, where so many good faithful menoffered up "their last full measure of devotion" tothe land and country they loved. Death is robbed of much of itsbitterest gall if we know that in dying we have not been sacrificedin vain. I have never been able to see any proper justificationfor the great sacrifice of human life made on that day in a fruitlessand seemingly foolhardy effort to storm the almost inaccessibleheights of Kenesaw Mountain. A man should not be held up to thescorn, contempt and condemnation of mankind simply because hehas erred in judgement, or made some great blunder, even if itis of national significance. Some of the greatest men we haveknown, have at some period of their lives been at fault in judgementand have made great mistakes, which because of their own greatnessinvolve correspondingly great issues and consequences. We areall from the highest to the lowest, fallible creatures and allmake mistakes. Fortunate indeed is the man that in retrospectingthe past can see past faults, divesting himself of the elementsof selfishness so potent in us all that, he will be enabled totake advantage of opportunities as they present themselves forbetterment in the future, guiding his actions by the great moralaxioms of truth, justice and mercy, willing to acquire correctknowledge from past experience.
"That the assault on Kenesaw mountain, June 27th, 1864,was a great military blunder in my judgement admits of no question."General Sherman in his official report, virtually concedes thecorrectness of this statement, and while his reasons or excusesfor making it may act as a palliative to his conscience, be acceptedas sufficient by the military critic, yet it will scarcely satisfythe friends and relatives of the thousands of noble, devoted,heroic men who were ruthlessly thrust against that almost impregnablestronghold and needlessly sacrificed either slain outrightor maimed and crippled for life without any apparent hope of success.
I do not give utterance to these words simply in a spirit ofcriticism of General Sherman. I do it in defense of the many unfortunate,but brave officers and men that there fell victim to an errorin judgement of their commanding general. The subsequent successfulstrategic routing of the enemy from this "Gibraltar"without the loss of life clearly, in my opinion, warrants theconclusion that the assault was a military blunder.
This must not be accepted as saying or intending to conveythe impression that General Sherman was not a great military manand successful commander. He was a good, great general, lovedalmost to infatuation by his army, entitled to and ungrudginglyreceiving their implicit love, faith and confidence. He came outof the smoke and strife of the mighty conflict one of its greatestheroes to whom homage was properly due and joyfully, patrioticallygiven.
My personal recollections of the assault proper are about asfollows: On the morning of June 27, 1864, we were early calledout in line and carefully instructed in regard to the work wewere expected to perform. We were to divest ourselves of all unnecessaryequipage. Guns were to be loaded, and as nearly as possible strictsilence to be maintained in the ranks. We were also given an intimationof the serious and dangerous work we should be expected to perform.Then were drawn out to our place in the assaulting column. Duringthis maneuver we were furiously assailed by the enemy's batterieson the mountaintop, resulting in more fright than damage. Duringthis movement some things occurred that were ludicrous and funny.I observed one poor fellow belonging to Co. D of whom it was saidthat he had never yet been got into a fight. When the shells beganto explode in close proximity to us he took fright and skulkedout of ranks, hiding behind a large tree. His company commanderwent to him and talked to him kindly and firmly like a fatherto a son, telling of his poor record as a fighter in the past,that his time of service would soon expire and that if for noother purpose than of retrieving his reputation and going homecrowned with honor, plead with him "For God's sake come onnow and be a man and go to your home and family in credit."He succeeded in getting him back into ranks, but presently hewas missed again and not seen any more during the engagement.The sequel of this man's service was very unfortunate. Less thantwo weeks after this he was accidentally wounded in the leg, necessitatingamputation. The wound refused to heal kindly and the poor fellowdied lamenting his misfortune just a few days before the expirationof his time of service. Such are the fortunes or rather misfortunesof war.
The ground over which we traveled to the assault was a levelplateau, covered with forest and thick undergrowth until the mountainproper was reached. The assent was sharp, abrupt and irregular.The forest growth on the mountain side had been cut and throwntop down, pointing towards us, the limbs all cut off at irregularlengths and sharpened, forming what was called in army lingo,"Abattis". No person that has never seen one of thesecan form any correct idea as to their successful utility as ameans of defense. Five days subsequent to the action, after theenemy had retreated, I found out how difficult it was to get throughthis abbatis when no one was opposing.
We had been instructed to move quietly up to the mountain as nearas we could and until we were observed by the enemy, then to makea dash and if possible go up the mountain and over the enemy'sworks. We worked our way along as silently as possible until nearingthe base of the mountain we met a terrible withering fire whichmade sad havoc in our ranks. Reaching the foot of the mountainwe found it would be a moral impossibility to scale it in theface of an active, vigilant and relentless foe. Some, in obedienceto orders promulgated in the early morning, tried the assent,and left their lifeless remains as testimonials of the futilityof the undertaking. Here we lost our Lieut. Col. Barnhill, shotdead, and quite a number of others. Colonel Barnhill was a Masonand his body was taken and decently buried by the enemy. Otherdead being on the firing line between the two contending armieswere left where they fell, sweltering in the sun. The enemy realizedthat we had got ourselves into a "bag" and exultinglytwitted and reproached us for our apparent foolhardiness. Personally,at this time I was in rather poor health. By the time we had reachedthe mountain I was exhausted and overheat. But for the kindly,comradely attention of comrades Hosea H. Vise and Moses Sims,I suppose I would have been killed or what was even worse, havefallen into the hands of the enemy as a prisoner.
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