The Thirty-Fives of Chickamauga

Those who know a bit about me will also know that the Thirty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment is near and dear to my heart. Over half the regiment came from my home county (Butler), and my third great uncle was a member from Preble County, wounded in action at Chickamauga on September 20th, most likely in Kelly Field since the wound was received in his leg. I also enjoy the story of the Thirty-Fifth Indiana, a mostly Irish regiment with the majority of one company coming from Ohio (and covered in a previous post). This got me thinking a bit about the experiences of the other Thirty-Fifth regiments at Chickamauga, and hence this different sort of post.


During the War of the Rebellion seventeen states raised a Thirty-Fifth regiment of infantry. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee for the Confederacy, while Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri (also one militia), New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania (also one militia), and Wisconsin for the Union, and add to that one United States Colored Infantry regiment. Four of these Thirty-Fifths would be present at Chickamauga.

Thirty-Fifth Illinois (3/1/XX) - The Thirty-Fifth Illinois started its formation in Decatur in early July of 1861. Two days after First Bull Run it was accepted into Federal service, then known as Colonel Gustavus A. Smith's Independent Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, comprising of eight companies. It would serve in the Army of Southwest Missouri, then the Army of the Mississippi, then the Army of the Ohio before that latter army's transformation into the Army of the Cumberland. At Pea Ridge it was in Grenville Dodge's brigade and suffered 113 casualties. At Stones River the regiment had 439 men and suffered another eighty-six casualties. By the fall of 1863 the Thirty-Fifth was down to 299 men, and at Chickamauga would suffer the loss of yet another 160 men. [1] The regiment was involved in the fighting in the woods north of Viniard Field on the afternoon of September 19th. Its monument can be found along LaFayette Road.

Thirty-Fifth Indiana (3/3/XXI) - The First Irish was really a mixed nationality regiment, with Irish, Germans, Belgians, and Frenchmen on the rolls. While it started forming in the fall of 1861, recruitment was sporadic, and the regiment did not muster into service until December. Men from the Sixty-First Indiana, another Irish regiment, were folded into the Thirty-Fifth in early 1862 as the Sixty-First was having a difficult time finding Irishmen to serve in the ranks. Initially assigned to the 23rd Brigade in the Army of the Ohio, the Thirty-Fifth's first heavy action was at Stones River, where it was particularly active on January 2nd, 1863 in defeating Breckinridge's attack on the Federal left, and losing 134 men. At Chickamauga the regiment would be in the Third Brigade, Third Division, XXI Corps and have a strength of 229 men. The Hoosiers would be involved in the fighting south of Viniard Field on the late afternoon of September 19th, then would move to the north, becoming part of Thomas's defensive position on the 20th, where the regiment's monument is located. [2]

Thirty-Fifth Ohio (3/3/XIV) - Formed in Hamilton, Ohio in the late summer of 1861, the Thirty-Fifth would see peripheral service until Chickamauga. It was near but not engaged at Mill Springs, arrived late in the evening at Perryville, and missed out on Stones River. While the men were seasoned by hard marches and some minor skirmishes, Chickamauga was its true baptism of fire, and the regiment, as part of Ferdinand Van Derveer's brigade (Van Derveer having been the first colonel of the Thirty-Fifth), would bring 391 men into action at Chickamauga. The Buckeyes would see heavy action throughout the battle, first on the morning of September 19th west of Jay's Mills, fighting along Reed's Bridge Road. The next morning the regiment was moved into Kelly Field, where it would face north and charge towards the Confederates that had swung around Thomas's line. Then the regiment would move to Hill #2 on the afternoon of the 20th where it would be one of the last regiments to leave the Snodgrass/Horseshoe heights. Its monument is located on Hill #2. [3]

Thirty-Fifth Tennessee (Polk's/Cleburne's/Hill's) - The Tennesseans of the Thirty-Fifth were formed near McMinnville on September 11th, 1861. Men were from Bledsoe, Cannon, DeKalb, Grundy, Hamilton, Sequatchie, Van Buren, and Warren counties. They were part of Cleburne's Brigade, Hardee's Division, in the Central Army of Kentucky from September until March 1862, when they were designated as part of the III Corps, Army of Mississippi until July (having seen action at Shiloh), when it would be assigned to Wood's Division, Left Wing of the Army of Mississippi. The brigade would be transferred to E. K. Smith's command in August for the Kentucky Campaign, being led by the Thirty-Fifth's Colonel Benjamin J. Hill and in Cleburne's Division, the Army of Kentucky, and seeing action at Richmond. By Perryville the brigade was back under the command of Patrick Cleburne, as part of Buckner's Division of the Left Wing of the Army of Mississippi, later the Army of Tennessee, where it would see action at Stones River. At Chickamauga the regiment, led by Colonel Hill and mustering 215 men, was part of Lucius Polk's brigade, Cleburne's Division, D. H. Hill's Corps, the Right Wing of the Army of Tennessee. The Thirty-Fifth would suffer sixty-one casualties out of 236 men. The Tennessee infantry monument is located a half mile west of the Snodgrass House. Colonel Hill would pen the following report about Chickamauga:


Report of Col. Benjamin J. Hill, Thirty-fifth Tennessee Infantry.


HDQRS. THIRTY-FIFTH AND FORTY-EIGHTH TENN. REGTS.

Georgetown Mills, October 30, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the action taken by my command (the Thirty-fifth Tennessee Regt.) in the engagements of September 19 and 20, on Chickamauga River:


On Saturday morning, September 19, my command moved up to within about 2 miles of Lee and Gordon's Mills, from the direction of La Fayette, on the Chattanooga and La Fayette road, in connection with the remainder of the brigade and the division, to support Maj.-Gen. Breckinridge, who had position on the left of our line of battle. At about 11 or 12 m. the command was ordered around to the extreme right, and wading the Chickamauga, took position near Underwood's steam saw-mill a little before sunset. Shortly after this the command was ordered forward, and after having advanced about 400 yards, passing the line formed by Gen. Liddell's command and other troops, we encountered the enemy in strong position, one for which the opposing forces had been contending throughout almost the entire day. I ordered Capt. Newboy, of Company A, to throw forward his company as skirmishers, thus leaving Capt. Mitchell on the right and Capt. Alley on the left. Here the left and center of our brigade became engaged, the firing from both artillery and small-arms becoming general and heavy. The engagement was fierce, lasting for about one hour. My command being on the right of the brigade did not fire but a few shots for the first half hour.


About this time Gen. Hill and staff came riding by, and complimented my command for the uniform and steady advance they were making, and their cool and manly conduct, he remarking at the same time that a battery would soon open upon the enemy from our rear with shell, grape, and canister; that he had ordered it for its moral effect. Gen. Hill had not passed on more than 200 yards to our right when the battery did open, but instead of reaching the enemy they threw their missiles into my command, which was very annoying. I immediately galloped back and soon had the firing stopped. A cavalry force here also fired upon us through mistake, but fortunately, however, doing us little damage. This error, too, I speedily corrected, and moving on forward met and routed the Sixth Indiana Regt., taking some few prisoners, one of them being an orderly to Maj. Campbell, commanding Sixth Indiana, and also 2 horses belonging to the major. The engagement lasted about one hour, resulting in the dislodgment of the enemy, who fell back in confusion about three-quarters of a mile to the position in which we attacked them on Sunday morning. We bivouacked upon the ground for which the contest had been so hotly waged during the day, the men suffering considerably during the night from cold, their clothing being yet wet from wading Chickamauga Creek, and no fires being allowed, owing to the close proximity of the enemy.


My loss was slight, having but 2 men slightly wounded.


I cannot close my report of this engagement without remarking that, from what I myself saw and from reports from others of the brigade, Gen. Polk and staff acted with great coolness, discretion, and gallantry.


On the next morning (20th), the command was awakened very early, I anticipating that the battle would be renewed by daylight. We, however, waited in suspense until about 9. 30 or 10 a. m., when we were called to attention and ordered forward. We very soon found the enemy in a position strong by nature, and rendered doubly so by breastworks of logs, rocks, and rails, erected during the night. In fact, the position was almost impregnable. While here Brig.-Gen. Polk rode up to me through a shower of shot and shell, and ordered me to hold this position and the day was ours, and right gallantly did my little command, already reduced nearly one-half, comply with the orders given, subjected as they were to a terrific fire from the front and a fire enfilading us from the fortifications on our right. We held the position as directed for about 2 1/2 hours, when we were ordered back by Capt. King, of Gen. Polk's staff, the other regiments of the brigade having retired a few minutes previously. Many of my regiment had already exhausted their ammunition. I retired in good order, the front and rear ranks while retiring fighting alternately with the enemy. I succeeded in bringing off all my wounded, but left those who were killed on the field. We fell back a distance of about half a mile, when we rested and replenished our ammunition.


Capt. Mitchell's company, being on the right and in a more exposed position, suffered more severely than the remainder of the regiment, and I must here add that, notwithstanding it was the first engagement in which his command had participated, both he and his company displayed much courage and gallantry.


Our loss here, as well as that of the whole brigade, was very severe, fighting the enemy, as we did, not more than 70 yards from his breastworks.


Between 3 and 4 p. m. the command was again called to attention, and moved by the right flank in order to connect with Gen. Jackson's left. Skirmishers were immediately thrown out in advance and a forward movement commenced. Their skirmishers were soon driven in, when we aging became generally and fiercely engaged, they still holding the strong position in which we had engaged them in the morning. They at this point poured into us a most destructive fire from artillery and small-arms, which broke our lines, driving our men back about 100 yards, and a complete rout for a time seemed inevitable. I, however, with the aid of Gen. Polk, Capt. King, and the officers of my regiment, succeeded in rallying the men, and having reformed our line moved forward to renew the attack. After advancing to the brow of the hill, which was immediately in front of us, I discovered that the regiment composing the left of Gen. Jackson's command was considerably in our rear. I also discovered that Calvert's battery, in our rear, was not engaged, since, owing to the nature of the ground, it was impossible for our artillery to render my efficient service from any position in rear of our line of battle. The enemy's artillery was playing most destructively upon our ranks, where upon I suggested to Lieut. Key, commanding our battery, to plant one section upon the crest of the hill, to which position I ordered it rolled by men from my command as well as from the other regiments composing the brigade.


This artillery did noble service in helping dislodge the enemy from his first line of fortifications, dealing out destruction at every discharge. They did noble service until they exhausted their ammunition. During the progress of this artillery duel, my negro boy having failed to bring up my sword, I took a pole or club and with this drove up officers and men of my own command who were shielding themselves behind trees, as well as those on the left of the left regiment of Jackson's brigade. As soon as Lieut. Key had exhausted all his ammunition, we moved forward some 150 yards. Here Gen. Polk informed me that Col. Colquitt, commanding the First Arkansas, had taken possession of the enemy's first line of fortifications and was out of ammunition, and for me to furnish him as far as possible, stating that he wished me to hold the position I then occupied, and also Col. Colquitt to hold highs until we were relieved by Gen. Maney's brigade. Gen. Polk then rode back to request Gen. Maney to relieve us with fresh troops, when I discovered the enemy wavering in the second line of fortifications and deemed this a favorable moment to advance, which I did in connection with the remainder of the brigade. Before this, however, I had sent Lieut.-Col. Martin, of the First Arkansas, to the officer in command of the regiment on Jackson's left, who was still lagging, with instructions to move his command forward. He (the officer just referred to) not responding, I ordered Lieut.-Col. Roberts, of my regiment, to deliver the same instructions. He now moved forward a short distance, but again halted. I then went to him myself, representing myself as Gen. Hill, and told him to advance; that victory was in our grasp. He replied that he was awaiting orders from his brigade commander. I told him that he could retreat without orders, and that he could advance without, and that I took the responsibility of ordering him to do so. His men at this rose up and moved forward gallantly about 300 yards, when they again came to a halt. I again approached him, demanding the cause. He replied that their ammunition was exhausted. Seeing a willingness to advance on the part of the officers and men, I told him that he needed no ammunition, but to fix bayonets and charge, which they cheerfully did.


In the meantime, I had ordered my major to take charge of the prisoners as they arrived, and not allow the men to be running to the rear on the pretext of carrying back prisoners. He (the major) collected and sent to the rear about 75. Just at this juncture Capt. Douglas, commanding a Texas battery, came to me, asking if he could be of any service with his battery. I had it placed in position and ordered him to throw three shells into the ranks of the routed enemy intending thereby to add to their confusion and demoralization. They had the intended effect. Just at this time Gen. Breckinridge rode up and requested me not to enfilade his men. I replied that I would not. He immediately passed on to the right. I, taking charge of Col. Colquitt's horse, rode forward with the brigade to the Chattanooga and La Fayette road, where you will recollect, general, you rode up amid shouts and rejoicing. This closed the day's labor, and we here rested for the night.


My loss in the series of engagements was 7 killed on the field and 54 wounded, out of 215 men.


I have already made this report too long, but cannot, nevertheless, close without speaking a few words in praise and commendation of some of my officers and men.


Lieut.-Col. Roberts and Maj. Deakins did their whole duty in commanding the skirmishers, both day and night and displayed great coolness and courage throughout the entire engagement, or series of engagements.


Capt.'s Newby, Kell, Mitchell, Blair, Alley, Cummings, and Lieut.'s Barnes and Cunningham, commanding companies, with Lieut.'s Summer, Boydston, Lewis, Mitchell, Masey, Taylor, Richards, Hatfield, Bonner, Haston, Hamrick, Rawlings, and Dyer, all acted well, performing their whole duty, as they had done on many former occasions. In fact, all my officers, with but two exceptions, did themselves great credit, while but few exceptions can be made in the conduct and bearing of my men. They are certainly entitled to a high degree of praise.


Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BENJ. J. HILL,

Col., Comdg. Thirty-fifth Tennessee Regt.


Capt. W. A. KING, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Polk's Brigade.


Source: Official Records

PAGE 181-51 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., N. ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. XLII. [Series I. Vol. 30. Part II, Reports. Serial No. 51.]

 

[1] Illinois Adjutant-General's Report, vol. 2, p. 713.

[2] The Union Army, Volume II.

[3] The Union Army, Volume II.


Unit strengths taken from David Powell's Maps of Chickamauga.

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