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The Anatomy of Numbers

Lt. Col. Young

On September 26th, 1863 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Benjamin Franklin Grafton, a first lieutenant and acting adjutant of the Twenty-Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, submitted a report on behalf of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel William H. Young.[1] The report, entitled "Effective force of the 26th Regt. Ohio Vol. Infty," provided a breakdown of the regiment's strength on September 19th, and again on September 26th. The Groundhog Regiment had taken quite a beating during the two days of fighting at Chickamauga.

At Chickamauga the Twenty-Sixth was part of George P. Buell's brigade of Thomas J. Wood's division. The regiment had been formed in the early summer of 1861 at Camp Chase, near Columbus. They were known as the Groundhog Regiment due to their ability to rapidly establish fieldworks. The regiment's first heavy fighting was at Stones River, where the men performed their duty well. But it was in those north Georgia woods in September, 1863 where the Groundhogs saw its bloodiest days of the war.

Regimental strengths for September 19th and 26th, and percentages of casualties

The report completed so soon after Chickamauga included not only the regiment's strength, but also provided a breakdown of casualties. What I find personally interesting is the amount of guns available to the regiment. While we might consider the regimental strength of the Twenty-Sixth to be 381 men, the number of guns indicated might be a better indicator of effective strength, I'll leave that to those who have more knowledge about such things to ponder or provide commentary. In either case, the number of guns available to the regiment on September 19th was 88.19% of the aggregate strength, and 98.82% of the enlisted men strength. By September 26th these percentages had slightly changed to 84.57% and 95.48% respectively, meaning that the men who were still with the colors in Chattanooga did not discard their rifles. Didn't the Federal Army of the Cumberland flee the field? If so, one might think that a heavy rifle might be one of the first things a panicked soldier might have shed in his flight. Obviously we know that a large portion of the Army of the Cumberland retreated in haste on the afternoon of September 20th, while another portion retreated in relatively good order. The Twenty-Sixth was part of the forces that were pulled out of line just as the attack of Longstreet's wing was getting underway. The Twenty-Sixth formed in front of John Mendenhall's artillery line north of the Dyer homestead. By this time, according to David Powell in his excellent book The Maps of Chickamauga, the regiment numbered no more than "100 or so bayonets."[2] Powell goes on to say that they escaped with their colors, but not much else. Yet seven days later there were 175 men listed on the report.[3} I would imagine a few of the wounded were only slightly so and could return to duty within those few days. Others who had been separated from the rest of the regiment might have been able to find their way back to the unit upon reaching Chattanooga.

What do these numbers indicate about the larger battle? It is difficult to place into context as this is simply one regiment's report. But it does indicate that the Twenty-Sixth saw heavy fighting based on the number of wounded and killed. The number of missing was only 45 men, or 11.81% of the 381 men listed on September 19th. One might think that the missing number might be higher based on the retreat of the Federal army from the field at Chickamauga, yet the Twenty-Sixth at least seemed to hold together.

Regardless of their losses at Chickamauga, the Twenty-Sixth would go on to fight at Missionary Ridge, then re-enlist as a veteran regiment prior to the the Atlanta Campaign, and then see additional service in middle Tennessee, before mustering out of service October 21st, 1865 in Victoria, Texas.

[1] - Benjamin F. Grafton was twenty years of age when he joined the Twenty-Sixth, rising from private to first lieutenant by December, 1862. He would be breveted to captain, and then serve in the United States Army until 1870. Young would serve as the regiment's lieutenant colonel until his resignation in March, 1864.

[2] - David A. Powell - The Maps of Chickamauga. Savas Beatie, 2009.

[3] - Eight men had rejoined the ranks by September 26th. Surgeon William B. McGavran had stayed at the hospitals at Crawfish Springs, and hence is counted among the missing. Captain Samuel H. Ewing of Company B was both wounded and captured, but is listed only as missing.

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May 04, 2022

I think your casualty percentages are off. The percentages are for survivors, not actual losses. For example, 185 men lost out of 340 present is a loss percentage of 54.41 % not 45.59%

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