Colonel Carlton's Chickamauga Account
I compiled this account of the 89th's Chickamauga experience from three documents in Col Carlton's papers in the Library of Congress. He wrote these accounts in the early 1890's; only one document was dated, Nov 1892, and none were addressed to a specific person. I believe these documents were drafts of letters he wrote to other veterans to describe the battle for historical and monument placement purposes.
To improve readability, I chose the same first-person style he used in one of the documents. All of the words are his with the exception of those in brackets [ ]. I cut and pasted his sentences, phrases, and paragraphs into a seamless, chronological account of the campaign.
The 89th Ohio Volunteer Infantry belonged to Crooks (afterwards Turchins) Brigade, Reynolds Division 14th Army Corps. On 17th August 1863 this regiment was detached from the Division, then at University Place Tenn and ordered to Tracy City, scouting guarding and forwarding supplies for the 21st Army Corps while that Corps was making a demonstration on Chattanooga. It remained at Tracy City until Sept 9th when it (with thirty mounted men of General Wilders Command) marched to Bridgeport and reported to General Gordon Granger there on 12th Sept and was by him temporarily assigned to Steedmans Division of the Reserve Corps.
The 22d Michigan reported to General Steedman at the same time, and by his order the two regiments were placed together as a temporary Brigade, Colonel Le Favor [sic - La Favour], of the 22d Michigan the Senior officer commanding it. [I] retained Corporal Allen and four mounted men, and sent the rest of the mounted men to report to General Granger.
This Brigade marched on morning 13th Sept, crossed the river, moved by forced marches to and through Chattanooga, and arrived at Rossville on 14th. On 17th made reconnaissance to Ringgold, returning in the evening and while going into camp after dark, was suddenly attacked. Two companies of the 89th Ohio, one commanded by Lt Jackson (who was killed at Chickamauga) the other commanded by Lt Scott (who lost an arm at Peach Tree Creek) had just reported to the Division Staff officer at the front for picket duty, held their ground and repulsed the attack, for which they were complimented by Generals Granger and Steedman.
On morning of 19th, Colonel Le Favor reported with both regiments to General W. C. Whitaker at McAfees Church. That afternoon the 89th had a skirmish with the enemy at Spring Creek (east of the church) and had nine men wounded. The regiment remained at the creek during the night. When Colonel Le Favor visited it, he stated that the General said "He was very much pleased with the conduct of the regiment during the action."
The next day (Sunday 20th) the 89th marched about 10 A.M. with Whitakers brigade from near the church, using part of the way the old road (now closed) that came into the La Fayette road near the Hines House. The enemys cavalry appeared in our front but upon our forming line and advancing it withdrew and we resumed our march. Just before reaching Thomas troops, a section of its artillery shelling us from our left as we passed on to join General Thomas command and one shell came from the right and front and buried itself in the ridge a few paces from General Steedman and [me]. (No one except [us seemed] to have noticed this shell or the position the rebel battery must then have held to fire it.)
Six regiments were then formed in two lines. The 22d Michigan being the left or third regiment in the first line. The 89th Ohio the left or third regiment in the second line. This command was marched to the right and front sometimes moving in line and occasionally, in column of fours, for some distance, until past the right flank of Thomas troops.
After marching some distance, to the base of Snodgrass or Horse Shoe Ridge, the first line moved rapidly forward in line without halting and disappeared in the timber and the rapid firing that soon commenced indicated that it was heavily engaged. The second line was halted in a wooded ravine formed by spurs running north west from the main ridge. This ravine was I think the third ravine counting from the top of the Ridge, it had an occasional small puddle of water in it.
As Col Le Favor had when marching to the ridge requested me to follow and support the 22d Mich, [when the second line] did not seem disposed to move and the front line seemed to be warmly engaged, I marched the 89th forward, leaving the other two regiments of the 2d line at a halt. In passing over the two spurs before reaching the ridge, a section of artillery that had followed the 1st line came to a left about and moved to the rear, and to avoid its cutting through my left wing, I obliqued the regiment to the right and then moved forward, but doubtless still continued to incline to the right.
On reaching the top of the ridge we met the middle (an Illinois) Reg [96th] of our front line retreating and in great disorder. The 89th laid down and the retreating men [passed] in the rear over it. My horse was killed under me at this time and I mounted that of a Corporal Allen of Wilders Brigade (the corporal did good service with his carbine during the day. He was seriously wounded late in the afternoon).
The 22d was driven back and formed on my left, the right Regt [115th Illinois] was swept off the front line, fell back and I think joined the second line. The 2d line was formed at this time or very soon after in rear of my right making near a right angle with the line of the 89th + 22, the left of the second line being (as near as we could judge through the woods) from one to two hundred yds from the right of 89th. As soon as the Illinois regt passed we opened a brisk fire on the enemy, and in order to keep the men employed and in good humor I allowed them to fire oftener than was necessary to keep the enemy from advancing.
The enemy soon made several attacks but were repulsed. Their attacks were fortunately only in front. The right flank of the 89th was entirely unprotected.
During the first attack Captain Russell of Grangers Staff rode up to the 89th and when [I] informed [him] how the regiment had arrived there [he] said "Granger told Steedman to put you here so you are where you are wanted." As the Captain was riding away he was killed, and four men of the 89th were sent to take his body to the rear.
Soon after, heavy firing was heard to the right rear, as the firing and cheering moved to the right it indicated a successful movement of our troops. (It was afterwards understood that General Steedman had wheeled the two regiments of the second line to the right and charged with them. Their line being at right angles to that of the 22d and 89th but they were so far in rear of the ridge that the whistle of the enemys shot fired at them was not heard by the 89th.)
That firing soon ceased and General Steedman came to us from our right rear and I dismounted and showed him the position of 89th. He was on foot without staff or orderly with his handkerchief wrapped around his hand. [I] told him how [the 89th] had taken its position on the right of 22d Mich and asked if he had any orders to give. He said "No only hang on to this position." The General expressed his satisfaction and as he walked away to the left rear towards the 22d Michigan, laughingly said "I have my scratch of a wound and am fireproof for the rest of this fight."
Soon after he had passed, the firing again commenced on our right rear and gradually passed to rear seeming to indicate that the enemy had driven back our troops and was occupying a position in our rear.
The enemy in front of the ridge also made attacks and some of their men taking a position on our right flank, it was necessary to face a right company of the 89th to the right to protect that flank of the regiment, and as the enemys force on that flank increased after each attack, additional companies were faced to the right during the afternoon, until at sunset most of the regiment was facing diagonally to the right, making a slight angle with its first position, a long interval being between its left and the right of the 22d. The fire from the right increasing and the men getting out of ammunition, our line withdrew further from the crest after each advance.
About three oclock or half past, the captains reported they were getting out of ammunition and I rode to Colonel Le Favor and asked for some. (Lt Col Glenn and myself were the only ones mounted with 89th and Col Le Favor and his acting adjutant the only ones mounted with 22d.) He sent his acting adjutant for some and on his return the Colonel sent for me. The adjutant reported that Genl Granger said, "Tell Carlton and Le Favor, they must hold that hill at all hazards with the bayonet if necessary. I have no ammunition." The adjt also stated that Granger was aiming a piece of artillery back over the road we had marched over and as he had difficulty in rejoining us he thought we must be surrounded.
After the enemys first attack was repulsed the men on both sides would, when the firing ceased, stand up, wave their hats and shout to each other, although the distance was too great to clearly understand what was said. The rebels as we afterwards learned [thought] we had surrendered.
The officers and men were in excellent spirits, in spite of the fact that they had lost heavily in killed and wounded and in men going to the rear with wounded. The first line in retiring had carried off some men, but the two regiments were still holding the advanced position they had reached. The broken and wooded ground prevented their seeing or hearing what was going on in other commands, and no one came near to tell them what was occurring in other parts of the field.
About this time some men of the 89th captured three rebel soldiers whom they reported as deserters, but the prisoners on being questioned denied deserting and claimed their capture was accidental. One of the 89th stated that the rebels were shouting that several hundred of them would come over (desert) if we would not fire on them.
As our men had repulsed what they considered as three advances of the enemy, they were in good spirits, but soon after became depressed. It was not desirable to discourage the men by informing them that no ammunition was to be had. Orders were given not to fire without orders. At the same time it was difficult for them to resist the temptation to fire on the enemy in sight. So orders were given for one or two men of each company to remain on the top of the hill as lookouts, the other men to lie down a few paces below the crest where they would be less exposed to the enemys fire. When the lookouts reported the enemy advancing or moving, the line would be ordered to move promptly up to the top of the hill and open fire, and when the enemy dropped back and laid down, cease firing was ordered and the men moved back a few paces from the crest. As men got out of ammunition bayonets were fixed in advancing.
As men were killed or wounded and men dropped out to carry wounded to the rear, the men remained closed towards their colors in each regiment increasing the interval between the regiments.
About sunset the 21st Ohio (seemingly only two or three small Cos with colors probably a total of eighty or ninety men) came from the left, pass[ed] in rear of the 22d Michigan and marched along the north slope of the ridge in line, making a right angle with that of the 22d Mich. Its commanding officer asked if he could assist us. I told him the 22d was on my left and recommended him to reinforce my right. I think he said he had no ammunition or only one round. The 21 Ohio passed our rear and formed a line on my right. My regiment wheeled in order to connect with it. The enemy fired and both regt swung back behind our original line so that the three regt formed nearly a half circle.
At dusk all of our troops on our right seemed to have withdrawn and there seemed to me to be nothing to prevent the enemys troops that had been opposite them from swinging around our flank into our rear, but as they did not seem to be moving. I started up to propose to Col Le Favor that we attack to join our army (no firing could be heard in any direction) thinking if there was any Confederate troops in our rear we could get through them in the dark. I rode along several companies of 22d Mich asking for him and was finally told he had heard the enemy moving in front and had walked out to reconnoiter. While waiting for him to return, I dismounted and filled my pipe and while lighting heard some of the men of the 22d say in effect, "Hear those troops marching by the 89th, thats more than one regiment making that noise + c."
I at once mounted and rode to the 89th and found a line of the rebels with their pieces presented about thirty feet from and in front of my right wing in front and on the flank and rear of the 21st. Our men [were] sitting and lying down, for them to rise and attempt to move up hill with empty guns would expose them to a volley from front and flank delivered from only a few paces distant. I gave the command to retreat, an order that no one attempted to obey except one Capt who got up and repeated the command. ([I] was told afterwards [my] order was not heard.) Neither party fired a shot during this advance. The rebels who advanced a few moments after on the left flank of the 22 and in my rear did not behave as well. After my men had risen they poured several volleys into us at some of the 22d trying to escape (Col Wait of a Virginia Regt who was conversing with me had his [horse] killed), which stampeded my regt; the rebels dropped their muskets and blue coats + grey stampeded in all directions.
Col Glenn and myself then attempted to escape riding rapidly in the direction we supposed our army to be, but after moving with the crowd some distance down the slope to the rear, came upon a line of rebel infantry that with bayonets at a charge halted and arrested all. We turned to our left and rode along this line looking for an interval to pass through probably the front of two companies before they seized our bridles recogniz[ing] us as Union officers. We could not ride fast on account of the crowd jammed against us. It was thought we might have escaped had I not been smoking. As but one volley was fired, order was soon restored among the enemys troops.
Col Kelly commanding a Brigade of Confederate troops (afterwards Genl Kelly, who was I think killed at Franklin) rode up and after mentioning his heavy losses during the day and making some complimentary remarks in regard to our troops, informed Col Le Favor + myself that understanding that we were surrounded at 4 oclock and seeing we had ceased firing, he advanced in front of his troops and shouted for an officer to come and meet, that a person he supposed to be an officer advanced from our line. Kelly asked him if he surrendered, the man replied, "Not yet," and turned back as Kelly supposed to confer with the other officers. Kelly thinking our surrender was a mere matter of time commenced to form his men to advance and take possession of us as soon as we surrendered. During the formation we fired upon them and continued it whenever they attempted to move.
[I] replied that I didnt know of any of our command who had for a moment thought of surrendering. At the time General Kelly referred to which must have been about half past three, no one except [me], Colonel Le Favor and his adjutant considered our position doubtful and certainly none of [us] thought for a moment of surrendering. Our men at that time thought we were gaining a victory, and [I] quoted the remark of one of them, "That the rebels in our front wanted to come over and surrender." General Kelly had doubtless misunderstood the shouting and chaffing of the men for only a moment before we were finally captured [I] had gone to propose to Colonel Le Favor that as the battle was over and we had carried out our orders, that we make an effort to join our Division. [Had I] promptly found Colonel Le Favor we would probably have been in motion and might have forced our way out and avoided capture. General Kelly seemed satisfied that he was in error and said something about regretting that he had reported the matter to higher authority.
A few hours after Major Cleburne [?] of Gen B. S. [Buckners staff (thinking I was the senior officer as Colonel Le Favor was on foot and without a sword, while [I] was mounted and still had [my] sword) took me to Genl Buckner who stated that it had been reported to him that my command had been [unreadable] + surrender at 4 oclock in afternoon and wished to know if I had any excuse to offer for it. No explanation that I could make would satisfy him until one of his officers of Arty, an acquaintance of mine, informed him that I was a graduate. He did not seem to be satisfied with my statement that I knew about the circumstances of Col Kelleys proposal until he learned that I was a graduate.
It was the first battle the regiment was ever engaged in. All the officers (except the adjutant who abandoned us on reaching the Ridge and rode to the rear and was afterwards allowed to resign from the service) and men of the 89th behaved handsomely throughout that day.
The first charge (after relieving the middle regiment of the first line) stopped and drove back the enemy pursuing the 1st line. The subsequent advances of the regiment or charges as later in the afternoon they might properly be called, were made promptly and with spirit and accomplished the object intended, to repulse the enemy and retain possession of the position.
It was only after ammunition had been for some time exhausted and the enemy threatened front, flank and rear, that they took the position.
I do not know where the 1st and 2d regiments of the front line went after the 89th relieved the 2d regiment of that line, nor where the 1st and 2d regiment of the 2d line went after the 89th advanced from that line, but have supposed those four regiments were moved further to our right and engaged the enemy there.
No troops were in our immediate rear to support us; had there been their commander would have of course have communicated with Le Favor and we would have also probably have seen them.
The last order received by the 89th was that of General Granger transmitted by the adjutant of the 22d Michigan.