Newspaper Articles Regarding the "Battle of Buzzard Roost Gap"

Submitted by Craig Crawford, whose gr-gr-grandfather, John Moreland, was a member of Co. D, 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and participated in the "Battle of Buzzard Roost Gap"

See also newspaper articles describing the reunions of Co. D, 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

See a list of the men of Company D

See photos

Plucky Blockhouse Defenders

Editor National Tribune: One of the most important blockhouse battles was the one near Tunnel Hill. No blockhouse fight from Atlanta to Nashville, nor anywhere during the civil war so tested the defenders, and none held out so nobly as did Col. D, 115th Ill. there. Our orders when Col. Moore sent us there from Tunnel Hill was to "hold the gap at all hazards." Capt. S. Hymer, of Co. D, 115th Ill., received a gold medal for it.

It was a pleasant Autumn day. I was on picket duty on the west side when we were attached. I went inside of the blockhouse. Some of the boys were yet outside. The rebels planted cannon on the hill. This was about noon Oct. 13, 1864. We could see them on all three sides, and we kept up a continual fire thru the portholes. The blockhouse roof was knocked away. Comrade Moreland and I shot out of the same porthole. The battle raged from noon till night. About 3,000 shot and shell struck our blockhouse and almost tore it to pieces.

About the middle of the afternoon I was stooping down on the floor loading my gun. It was Comrade Moreland's time to shoot, and just as he poked his gun out of the porthole a cannon ball struck the gun, twisted the barrel and he was badly stunned. I was knocked senseless. The same shot killed two of our comrades on the other side of the blockhouse. In less than an hour another ball struck our porthole and killed two more. At this stage our Captain held a council of war, and it was decided to hold on. They were fixing to blow us to pieces by planting more cannon on the hill and behind the railroad bridge.

A truce was asked, and our Captain chose a few of the boys that seemed to be hurt the least to meet the truce, and about 9 o'clock firing ceased and we were prisoners. A young man that went into the Confederate service from that neighborhood deserted and came home, and he often told us that if we were ever attacked that he would help us. He was as good as his word. As soon as Comrade Jones fell he grabbed his gun and did his best. Towards evening this young man asked our Captain the privilege of putting our uniform on over his clothes, which he did, and it was a good thing to do. Next morning, as the guards were sleeping, he pulled off his uniform and slid out past the guards and hundreds of rebel soldiers, and was hidden by his lady friends. We heard from him after the war, and he was alive a few years ago. - M. P. Julian, South Berne, N.Y.

Battle of Buzzard Roost Gap - An Incident in the War of the Rebellion where Forty-one Schuyler Boys held 30,000 Southern Soldiers in Check - by William Tyson

Medal of Honor.

The U.S. Congress to Samuel Hymer,

Capt. Co. D 115th Ill. Infantry.

Date of Issue, March 28th, 1896.

Place of Action, Buzzard Roose Gap, Georgia.

Date, Oct. 13, 1864.

Grounds of Award.

With only forty-one men under his command, defended and held a block house against the attack of Hood's Division for nearly ten hours, thus checking the advance of the enemy and insuring the safety of the balance of the regiment as well as that of the 8th Kentucky Infantry, then stationed at Ringgold, Ga.

Thus reads the medal voted to Capt. Samuel Hymer, now of Lacygne, Kan., who led the boys from Schuyler thru many a hard fight in the civil war. The battle of Buzzard Roost Gap has been recalled to mind by seeing a copy of the Scuyler Citizen that was found among the late Dr. D. C. Linn's papers by Thomas Hodgson. Under date of Oct. 18, 1864, E. W. Dace, writing from Tunnel Hill, Georgia, gives the list of the killed, wounded and captured in this battle as follows:

Killed - Privates John Parrish, Jos. E. Boyd, Fielden Loe, Wm. Dixson, Nathan Jones.

Wounded - Corporals Andrew Jackson, P. A. Zimmerman, Geo. Masterson, James Thompson, James C. Dupuy, Wm. Harlow.

Captured - Capt. Samuel Hymer, Lieut. Michael P. Jones, Sergeants Andrew Jacoby, Alva Bond and Robert Stewart; Corporals Andrew Jackson, P. A. Zimmerman, James C. Dupuy, James Thompson, Overton Parke, Garrett Lane and Geo. Masterson; Privates James M. Bryant, Squire Bechtol, Andrew J. Barker, Joseph W. Campbell, Geo. W. Cross, Joseph Collister, Samuel Eades, Martin Goree, Geo. Gregory, Wm. Herron, John D. Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Milton P. Julian, Charles Lamaster, John Moreland, James W. Robertson, Thomas Smedley, John Smith, John M. Stevens, Elias Stevens, Andrew Terrell, Wm. Tyson and Anson W. Underhill.

Three of the wounded were paroled and left, namely; Geo. Masterson, Wm. Harlow and Squire Bechtol. The rest were taken further south. I will send you another letter in a few days.

Very respectfully, E. W. Dace

At the request of some of my old comrades I have undertaken to give a full and detailed account of this battle that it may be read by the surviving comrades - there are about twenty of them - and be put in permanent form to show the valor of our Schuyler boys in the field.

During the summer of 1864 General Sherman was transporting about 145 car loads of supplies to his army every day over the Western & Atlantic railroad, and it has been remarked by someone that this road should be the pride of every true American, for by it the union was saved. It was necessary in order to insure the preservation of all the trains to place a garrison at each bridge, and company D was detailed to guard this particular bridge.

On the 5th day of July, 1864, Captain Hymer was ordered to take his company to Buzzard Roost Gap, about four miles south of Tunnel Hill, where we pitched our tents on the banks of Mill creek. Our duty consisted in patroling the railroad two or three miles each way twice a day and also kept guard on the bridge at night. This was necessary to keep the rebels from pulling out the spikes, tearing up the rails and ditching the trains that were daily carrying supplies and troops and ammunition to Sherman's army. Some time after we had been there a company of engineers was sent to build a block house and by company D's assistance they soon had it completed.

Along about the 14th of August Joe Wheeler was raiding Sherman's rear, and it was late one Sunday afternoon, late in the evening, he came dashing up to the block house after a Kentucky Union regiment of cavalry. As the Kentucky boys went by they cried, "Joe Wheeler is coming; give it to him." Every man was at a port hole with a loaded gun at once and just as soon as they came in plain view, and at the word of command from our captain, we fired. That one volley effectively put a stop to any farther pursuit of the Union cavalry and they immediately wheeled around and put off down the valley, and that was the last we ever saw of Joe Wheeler.

For the next two months we had a very pleasant time. We had made the acquaintance of several of the citizens in the immediate vicinity of the block house and Captain Hymer gave the boys passes to go out in the country. There was hardly a day but some of us were out making calls. Some were fishing in Mill creek that ran right alongside of our tents; some were picking blackberries and gathering fruit, which grew in abundance, and with the rations from the commissary department we had plenty to eat and sat down to three sumptuous meals, and between times lay down in the block house and took a good nap. Captain Hymer organized a Sunday school and every Sunday morning about 10 o'clock we met around the captain's tent, read a chapter in the Testament and would sing that old familiar hymn that has been sung around the world two or three times:

"When I can read my title clear

To mansions in the skies,

I'll bid farewell to every fear

and wipe my weeping eyes."

And then some one of the members would pray, so after while the citizens began coming in and taking part in the exercises, and it got to be quite interesting to see the girls coming flocking in every Sunday morning with a little stick in the corner of their mouth. The girls in that country all used snuff and they used a little stick to dip into the snuff.

Everything looked favorable for our remaining here all winter and probably to the end of the war, and on the morning of the 13th of October we all went to work to put up winter quarters. We borrowed a yoke of oxen and a cart to do our hauling and as Anson Underhill was an expert at driving we put him in charge of the team. We were getting along nicely until about noon when we saw some men up on top the hill about a quarter of a mile a little south of us. We couldn't make out from that distance whether they were friends or foes and we watched them for some time, when Captain Hymer says, "Give them a few shots and we'll find out who they are." Myself and three others stepped out about thirty feet in front of the block house, raised our guns and fired. We hadn't any more than discharged our pieces when around to the right of us a volley from the rebels' guns rang out and the bullets came flying thick and fast all around us and then we broke for the block house p. d. q. About the time we all got inside Anson drove up with the team and Captain Hymer called to him to come in. Anson replied, "wait until I unhitch the oxen," and he stayed out there as unconcerned as tho there was nothing the matter, unhitched the team, took the yoke off and turned them loose.

About this time the firing was getting pretty lively on both sides. The rebels had gotten a battery in position on a hill abut a quarter of a mile southeast of us and about half past 1 o'clock they began a cannonading of the block house. They kept this up for some time without doing much damage. Then the general ordered up Captain Slocum's battern of New Orleans and as soon as he got in position and got the range of the block house General Bates says: "Now blow the damned thing down." They poured the solid shot into the block house from that time until dark. We boys in the block house kept up an incessant fire with our Enfield rifles until darkness put a stop to any further fighting.

Of the 133 cannon balls fired at the block house none came inside except those that struck a port hole, of which there were four, and each one killed a man; abut in spite of the desperate onslaught of the rebel army our little band of Spartans held them in check ten hours, when we were finally forced to surrender. After hostilities had ceased on both sides every man acted as a sentinel and kept a close watch for fear the rebels would slip in on us. It was just about full moon and it was beginning to shine around the spur of Rocky Face ridge and lighted things up when Sergeant Jacoby noticed something out on the bridge which he took to be a man advancing toward the block house. He halted him and asked him what he wanted. He replied that he wanted us to surrender. Sergeant Robert Stewart and Andrew Jacoby went out and met them on the bridge and wanted to know who they were. One of them answered that he was General Bates' aid-de-camp and wanted us to surrender. He took Jacoby alongside of the railroad embankment and showed him the men lying there with sharpened rails to stop up the port holes with and lumber to cross the ditch on, and told him if we didn't surrender they intended to charge on us, set fire to the fort and burn it down. Our men came back and reported to Captain Hymer what they had seen, when he went out and held a consultation with him, when the following article of agreement, written by moonlight, was drawn up and signed by Captain Hymer:

In the Field Near Dalton, Ga., Oct. 13, 1864

Captain Hymer, command fort of U.S. troops near Dalton: I am ordered by Major General Bates, C.S.A., to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the fort and garrison. Your command, your officers and men will be treated as prisoners of war and with the courtesy due their respective ranks. They will be permitted to retain their personal property and clothing. Your defense has been gallant and any further resistance an unnecessary effusion of blood.

Respectfully, The. Carter, Capt. C.S.A.

I accept the terms, believing further resistance hopeless.

Sam Hymer, Capt. Co. D, 115th Ills. Vol. Inft., Commander

As soon as the agreement was signed they marched up a company of rebels and formed a line in front of the block house. We filled our haversacks full of "grub" and picked up some extra clothing and took a look at the dead. They were Nathan Jones, Fielden Loe, John Parrish, Joseph Boyd and Wm. Dixson. Some of the boys could not help crying and with tears in our eyes we marched out and gave ourselves up to the southern confederacy. When we stepped outside a scene presented itself to our view that were not looking form. There upon the ground were a hundred or more cannon balls, glistening in the bright moonlight, that had struck the block house and bounded back. One whole side and corner of the block house was torn into splinters from top to bottom.

Soon a howling mob of confederate soldiers came blocking around us and asking us all sorts of questions. "Is this all there is?" and when we told them it was they seemed to be terribly surprised. "We ? ? as a whole regiment." What regiment do you'ns belong ? ? We told them the 115th Illinois. ? thought you'ns were Illinois boys ? you'ns just fit like hell. If all the Yanks fought like you'ns do the southern confederacy wouldn't last long."

They marched us up near General Bates' headquarters and showed us where to sleep. We soon spread our blankets down on the ground and laid down and being tired and sleepy and worn out with our day's work we were soon all sound asleep. It was sun-up when we awoke the next morning and as soon as we had eaten our breakfast the rebels wanted four men to bury the dead. They detailed pat Zimmerman, Alva Bond, another one whose name I have forgotten, and myself to bury them. We went directly to the block house under guard and when we went in there lay the boys just as they fell the day before. We passed around and took a minute inspection of each one. Nathan Jones was shot thru the forehead with a musket ball which came throu a port hole; he was the first man killed. Fielden Loe had his head shot off with a cannonball. Joseph Boyd had his left arm torn off at the shoulder with a cannon ball; he lived for some time after he was shot and begged for someone to shoot him and put him out of his misery. John Parrish had his left arm shot off between the elbow and wrist; there was just enough skin left on the under side to hold his hand on and keep it from dropping off; he was also bruised on the left side by a piece of timber. When we came to Wm. Dixon he had just died and his body was still arm. A cannonball tore the flesh all off the inside of his left leg about the knee. The next thing to do was to select a place to bury them and we picked out a place just south of the road in a nice blue-grass plat, dug a grave about six feet square and two feet deep, then carried them out and laid them in it side by side; wrapped their blankets around them and covered them up. It would be proper to say here that since the close of the war they were all taken up and removed to the national cemetery at Chattanooga and are buried in section K. The number of the graves are: Joseph Boyd, 9903; John Parrish, 9900; Wm. Dixon, 9918; Fielden Loe, 9921; Nathan Jones, 9922.

Besides these were Wm. Harlow, who was badly wounded at the block house Ot. 13, 1864, from which he died in the hospital at Jeffersonville, Ind., Jan. 2, 1865. James Masterson died in Missouri in 1899 from the effects of the hurt he got in the block house. John S. Smith, while in Andersonville, was aken sick with weakness and debility and was removed to the hospital where he died Feb. 1, 1865. He was buried in the cemetery about 300 yards from the stockade and the number of his grave is 12,566.

As soon as we got thru filling up the grave they marched us to our company and then the rebels set fire to the block house, and as soon as it got to burning right good they marched us all down under a heavy guard and halted us right in front of it, facing towards the fort and there we stood, not knowing what they intended to do with us, with the burning block house in front of us and a guard behind us with death in their guns. There ws about fifth tons of earth on top of the fort and when the timbers burned out underneath it all fell down into the hot coals with a terrible crash, sending up dirt, smoke and ashes into the air fifty feet high. It made an impression on our minds that time can scarcely efface, and I can hardly tell you how it did look, but if you were ever at the pit entrance of hell on a right dark night and watched the old devil poke up the fire you might have some idea how it was. When the fire began to smoulder and die out and they thought we had gazed at it long enough the captain of the guard said: "Company, attention, right face, forward march," and off we went to prison.

Let me quote you a passage from the history of the 115th regiment on page 224:

"The defense made by Captain Hymer and the brave boys of company D of their block house in Buzzard Roost Gap is worthy of special mention. That gap afforded Hood his only way thru the mountain, as General Sherman was too close on his track for him to return and avail himself of the route via Snake Creek Gap, and to attempt to pass to the north of Rocky Face Ridge would have invited certain destruction. The gap was so narrow and the mountain sides so abrupt that it was impossible for his army to pass the gap without first taking the block house. But 45 brave men, under the lead of an officer who knew no such word as surrender as long as resistance was possible, were there to dispute his passage. For 45 men to hold such a position nearly twelve hours against an army of 30,000 men with more than 70 pieces of artilery is certainly a fact worthy a place in history, and well merited was the brevet rank of major given to Captain Hymer by President Lincoln and the medal of honor voted by him by the United States congress for his gallant conduct."

Here is a letter from a comrade who was a member of the 2d Mo. Vol. Inft.:

St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 121, 1897.

Wm. Tyson - Dear Comrade: You probably remember the 13th of October, 1864. I know I do. I am the man who took in the flag of truce to your block house in the evening of the 13th. I was taken a prisoner by Hood in the morning and was a member of the 2d Mo. Vol. Inft. that was stationed at the next bridge below you, toward Dalton. When a prisoner in the hands of Hood I was given a little yellow mule to ride with Hood's staff and they called me the little black eyed ? ? the afternoon we got to your place and formed in line of battle and sent in the flag of truce, which was shot down ? ? orders were given to use the battery, baut on account of the hill the battery could not get the correct range on you and could not do much. Then another flag of truce was sent in and it was shot down. After this they called up Captain Slocum's battery from New Orleans and orders were given to "shoot the damned thing down," but they didn't do it either. Then a great big Johnny on a horse took the flag of truce. He got within 200 yards of you and he dropped from his horse. By this time the rebels were getting wild and it looked to me as if they were going to make a charge on you. But the officers had a talk about the matter and the orders were to wait until dark, as it would take less men to take you. Everything was quiet for a long time. When darkness came the orders were given to fall in. There were no signals given and they fell in and formed a square around your block house. It looked to me like they were six or eight columns deep. Just then an officer rode up to the headquarters and said, "General, I am ready." Then a general came up to me and asked me if I thought that commander would surrender if he were made acquainted with the true state of things, just as I saw it before me. Then I jumped up and volunteered to take in the flag of truce, which they accepted. several officers went with me, but at the bridge a number stayed back, but we went in and when the terms of surrender were discussed your captain told the rebel officer to call up some of his men and he would call some of his out of the block house, and the papers were signed. NMow if I had not volunteered to take that flag in your company D would not be among the living today, for the orders were to not take any prisoners, after your shooting down their flag of truce, and I know that you have no doubt of their ability in doing so, as they had about 60,000 in the vicinity or near the block house. Of course they were by no means struck on making the charge, as they were aware of the result. I found out that you did not fire on the flag of truce intentionally, but that you simply could not recognize the flag on account of the smoke in the house. I remain yours truly,

Comrade J. B. S.

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