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"No Kentucky Regiment Has a More Noble Record" - The 17th Kentucky at Chickamauga

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

The following account was published in The Louisville Daily Journal on November 5, 1863 by an anonymous author.

Colonel Alexander M. Stout, 17th Kentucky Infantry (Via Find A Grave)

"This regiment under command of our townsmen, Col. Alex. M. Stout, took a conspicuous part in the great battles of the 19th and 20th of September, attached to Gen. Beatty's brigade. On the 18th the brigade left Crawfish Spring, and on that evening took position on the north bank of Chickamauga creek. Heavy fighting on the left during the evening and next morning until near noon made it evident not only that the battle had commenced in earnest, but, from the change in direction, that our forces were yielding ground. The regiment received orders to advance, and moved quickly to the scene of conflict, about two miles distant. Having reached the spot, the brigade was formed in two lines, the 79th Indiana on the right of the first line and the 19th Ohio on the left, and the 17th and 9th Kentucky on the right and left of the second line. The first line at once engaged the enemy, and the 79th Indiana, Colonel Kneffler, finding a rebel battery in its front, charged upon and silenced it, but was almost immediately repulsed by the enemy and driven back, through the 17th Kentucky, which at once opened fire upon the enemy, who were partially concealed by a dense cover of underbrush. For about half an hour the conflict raged with great obstinacy on both sides, when the enemy fell back, abandoning their battery. In this encounter eight prisoners were taken. An order was then received from General Van Cleve, as it was understood, to advance, which order was obeyed by Col. Stout, when, seeing that the regiment on his right had halted, he also did the same thing. Just before this advance, and when the firing had partially ceased, some officers and men of the 79th Indiana went forward to take the captured artillery to the rear, when a portion of the 17th Kentucky assisted them and wheeled two of the pieces, with the flag of the battery, through the line of the 17th; the Indiana regiment wheeling the other two or three pieces through in the same way. In the mean time the enemy was seen and heard advancing on the right as if it turn the flank of the 17th, and two or three other regiments of some other brigade from the rear moved on its right, when the rebels at once attacked them with great fury, and almost immediately turned their right, advancing and firing with great rapidity, which caused them to break to the left and rear in great disorder, exposing the right of the 17th, which at once felt the enemy's fire upon its flank and rear, and, to escape capture, was compelled to fall back to the left and rear by companies, in good order, until all were in retreat, the enemy in greatly superior numbers advancing and pouring in a most galling fire. It was here that First Lieutenant John D. Millman, a faithful and gallant officer, was killed, and Capt. James W. Anthony received a shot through the right hand. The 17th fell back through a dense wood to a small open field, on high ground, from which one of our batteries was playing upon the advancing enemy, and there the 17th made a stand, and confronted him in support of the battery. His advance was thus temporarily checked in front, but almost immediately a fire was opened across the battery on the right and rear of the 17th, again compelling it to retire as before by companies, until a commanding ride was gained about on mile from the battle-field, where the brigade reformed and rested for the night.

"On the 20th, at 7 o'clock in the morning, it was apparent that some of our troops had moved to the front at least a mile and had engaged the enemy. The fire increased in intensity and by 9 o'clock it became manifest that our forces were being driven. The brigade moved down a slope by the General's order in double columns, the 19th Ohio on the right and the 79th Indiana on the left of the first line, and the 9th and 17th Kentucky on the right and left of the second line. Reaching a road in the valley running parallel with our line the brigade was quietly deployed in lines of battle. The first line came at once under fire, while the second, being only about forty paces to the rear, became almost equally exposed. The retreating forces in front were running over the brigade, and it was between the enemy and open ground, while they were concealed by dense under-brush. The 19th Ohio broke to the left and rear across the 17th Kentucky, while the enemy's shot began to tell on its flank, coming directly down the road. Col. Stout could not change his front at this time, for a battery of artillery was passing through his line, and the uproar was so great and the dust and smoke so dense that the officers could scarcely be seen or heard. This compelled a falling back to prevent capture, for there was no support. It was in this movement that Lieut. Col. Robert Vaughan received a shot through the leg while gallantly doing his duty; and Sergeant-Major Duncan was shot through both legs, but was saved. With the Major, Adjutant, and the colors, and about one hundred men, Col. Sout moved to the left and rear, halting at intervals to deliver a fire upon the enemy, but unable to make a stand, as he was constantly outflanked, until he reached the rest of a high ridge which ran north and south, and then turning at right angles inclined to the westward. This position was immediately between the battle ground and Chattanooga, and fragments of various commands, including a portion of Gen. Brannan's division, had rallied there and were hastily formed along the crest to hold it. The importance of this position was well understood, and seemed to animated all the command. The most of Col. Stout's company officers were with him, but had picked up guns and were fighting with their men. While this desperate struggle was going on, the little force was increased to some fifteen hundred; Col. Cram and Lieut. Col. Bailey of the 9th Kentucky, with a portion of that regiment, took a position and held until dark, and a few mew of the 19th Ohio and 79th Indiana were also there, and by determined fighting held the enemy in check until a portion of Gen. G. Granger's command arrived and engaged the enemy just as he was about to turn the right flank of the 17th, and kept up the fight until night. Separated from his brigade, Col. Stout reported to Brig. Gen. T.J. Wood, commanding the first division of Crittenden's corps and bivouacked near Rossville that night. The regiment went into battle both days under great disadvantage, being suddenly thrown under fire to support retreating troops, and engaged with largely superior numbers, who constantly outflanked it. The next day it moved up the mountain bounding the Chattanooga valley on the east, and remained there until near midnight, when it went into camp near Chattanooga. The men in the fight expended all their ammunition and were destitute of rations. The loss of the regiment was eight killed, ninety-seven wounded, and sixteen missing. No Kentucky regiment has a more noble record than the 17th Infantry."


Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released in Spring 2023. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.

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