Our Men Stood Well Their Ground~September 1863~the 20th to the 23rd

Our Men Stood Well Their Ground~ Gideon Welles

Fighting at Chickamauga

Fighting at Chickamauga

In a move that restores Southern hopes, damaged by the losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the Confederacy wins a major battle at Chickamauga, Georgia, yet pays a high price in a large number of casualties. Only the courage of Union General Thomas prevents the defeat from turning into a rout. Gideon Welles blames Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Confederate President seeks the moral support of the Pope. Whitman receives financial support. A German story-teller dies.

September 20– Sunday– Chickamauga, Georgia– The final day of the battle, terribly damaging to both sides. Confederate General Bragg continues his assault on the Union line on the left. In late morning, Union General Rosecrans is informed that a gap exists in his line; however, by moving units to shore up the supposed gap, Rosencrans creates a real one, and General Longstreet’s seasoned Confederate soldiers promptly exploit it, driving one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans himself, from the field. Union General George Thomas, Virginia-born, 47 years old, West Point graduate, Class of 1840, assumes command and consolidates Federal forces on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. Although Bragg’s forces launch a series of determined assaults on the Union forces, Thomas’s soldiers hold until after dark. Thomas leaves the field to the Confederates and carefully withdraws to fortified positions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union losses amount to 16,170 (1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded, and 4,757 captured or missing), while the Confederate total reaches 18,454 (2,312 killed, 14,674 wounded, and 1,468 captured or missing). These are the second-highest of the war overall. Although the Confederates technically win, driving the Federals from the field, they have not effectively destroyed the Union forces nor have they regained Confederate control of the region of East Tennessee. General Thomas becomes known as “the Rock of Chickamauga.’

General George Thomas

General George Thomas

September 20– Sunday– Berlin, Germany– Jacob Grimm, philologist, jurist, mythologist and editor, dies at age 78.

Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm

September 21– Boston, Massachusetts–”I have been much interested in a letter from you to Mr. Redpath, written some weeks ago, which I have lately seen, & I am very glad to send you the inclosed check to be used for the benefit of our noble ‘boys’ in the hospitals, at your discretion. I have seen much of the hospitals myself, & I know how much good your friendly sympathy must do them, & also that even a slight pecuniary aid is sometimes very acceptable to them in their forlorn condition. Of the enclosed check, ten dollars of the amount is contributed by my sister, Mrs. G. W. Briggs of Salem, to whom I read your letter, & ten dollars by my friend Edward Atkinson. The balance I give to the boys with great pleasure, & I will very gladly give more hereafter, when I hear from you of the receipt of this & find that more is needed. As your letter is not of a very late date, I do not feel certain that your address may be the same as at the time you wrote. Please inform me how this is, as I hope to be able to send you more from other friends. I hope you will continue in your good work, as I am sure from your letter, & from what my friend, Mr. Emerson, says of his own acquaintance with you, that your visits must give great comfort to our poor suffering men.” ~ Letter from Dr Le Baron Russell to Walt Whitman. [Dr Russell, age 49, is a prominent Boston physician, descended from a distinguished family and an abolitionist. His sister, Lucia Jane Russell Briggs, is the wife of the pastor of the First Parish Church in Salem, Massachusetts and will continue to send money to Whitman.]

September 21– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “A battle was fought on Saturday near Chattanooga and resumed yesterday. Am apprehensive our troops have suffered and perhaps are in danger. As yet the news is not sufficiently definite. The President came to me this afternoon with the latest news. He was feeling badly. Tells me a dispatch was sent to him at the Soldiers’ Home shortly after he got asleep, and so disturbed him that he had no more rest, but arose and came to the city and passed the remainder of the night awake and watchful. He has a telegram this p.m. which he brings me that is more encouraging. Our men stood well their ground and fought like Union heroes for their country and cause. We conclude the Rebels have concentrated a large force to overpower Rosecrans and recapture Chattanooga.”~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

September 21– Monday– Washington, D. C.– Concerned about the battle of Chickamauga, President Lincoln wires General Burnside in east Tennessee. “Go to Rosecrans with your force without a moment’s delay.” He also telegraphs General Rosecrans. “Be of good cheer. We have unabated confidence in you, and in your soldiers and officers. In the main you must be the judge as to what is to be done. If I were to suggest, I would say, save your army by taking strong positions until Burnside joins you, when, I hope, you can turn the tide.”

September 21– Monday– Chickamauga, Georgia– Mortally wounded in battle, Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helms dies. He is 32 years old and, being married to Emilie Todd, a half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, is President Lincoln’s brother-in-law. The President and First Lady mourn his death in private.

General Benjamin Hardin Helm

General Benjamin Hardin Helm

September 22– Tuesday– Brooklyn, New York– “The enclosed $25 is from my old friend Joseph P. Davis who is Engineering down in Peru. Although he is far away yet he does not forget home. I have written him in some of my letters what you were doing, with short extracts from your letters. Well Walt it looks as if we had met rather a bad reverse in the West. If Rosecrans is whipped I should hardly think that the United States was large enough to contain the infernal quacks that administer the military arm of our government. I suppose there is at least 30,000 men nibbling around in Kansas and other parts west. Matters that would tumble of their own weight if the army in front of Rosecrans was thoroughly whipped. Tis awful to think of.” ~ Jeff Whitman in a letter to his brother Walt. [The $25 contribution would equal about $472 in today’s dollars.]

September 22– Tuesday– Philadelphia– “You will see by this, that I am in charge of an employment office for colored persons. The demand is very good at this time and all the more since the New York riots. I write to ask if you think the way can be opened so as to get a number of both women and girls to the City from Norfolk, and the Fortress. I can get them good homes, and I cannot think that their suffering will be less this winter than last, at the above places. Please do me the favor, if it will not be to much trouble, to tell me whether or no, you think anything can be accomplished by coming to the Fortress.” ~ Letter from John Oliver to Mr C B Wilder at Fortress Monroe.

September 22– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “The effects of this great victory will be electrical. The whole South will be filled again with patriotic fervor, and in the North there will be a corresponding depression. Rosecrans’s position is now one of great peril; for his army, being away from the protection of gun-boats, may be utterly destroyed, and then Tennessee and Southern Kentucky may fall into our hands again. To-morrow the papers will be filled with accounts from the field of battle, and we shall have a more distinct knowledge of the magnitude of it. There must have been at least 150,000 men engaged; and no doubt the killed and wounded on both sides amounted to tens of thousands! Surely the Government of the United States must now see the impossibility of subjugating the Southern people, spread over such a vast extent of territory; and the European governments ought now to interpose to put an end to this cruel waste of blood and treasure.” ~ Government clerk John Jones writing in his diary about the battle of Chickamauga.

September 22– Tuesday– near Hickman’s Bridge, Kentucky– “About 2000 of the prisoners that Burnside took at Cumberland Gap, passed here the other day, on their way to Louisville (Jeff that was rather a slick thing, old Burny did, up there wasn’t it, he fooled the rebs that time nicely) they were rather a good looking set of men but very dirty, and badly uniformed, some of them seemed to talk pretty spunky, but the most of them seemed to think they’d had about pie enough. We have rather bad news from Rosecrans this morning, but I hope that it is nothing very serious, for I expected that Rosey was going to strike them a mighty blow down there, and if he has met with any very serious reverse it will set things back a long while. It seems to me that he should have remained at Chattanooga until he had been sufficiently reinforced to have gone right down through Georgia and drove everything before him. Gillmore too seems to have a pretty hard time, down at Charleston, but still I don’t know but he is getting along about as well as could be expected, considering what he has to contend with and if he only makes a sure thing of it in the end, a few days, or weeks, time won’t make much difference.” ~ George Whitman evaluates several major battle-fronts in a letter to his brother Jeff.

September 22– Tuesday– Blountsville, Tennessee– In a four hour battle Union cavalry and artillery capture the town. The Federal attackers lose a total of 27 killed, wounded and missing while the Confederate defenders suffer a total of 165 casualties.

September 22– Tuesday– Carter’s Depot, Tennessee; Marrow Bone Creek, Kentucky; Centreville, Virginia; Rockville, Maryland; Orange Court House, Virginia; Darien, Georgia; La Fayette County, Missouri– Skirmishes, raids and fire fights add to the casualty lists.

September 23– Wednesday– New York City– “News Monday that Rosecrans had been badly defeated at ‘Chickamauga Creek’ . . . . But rebel dispatches speak in subdued tone. It was probably a desperate but indecisive conflict, and every battle in which the rebels come short of complete victory is equivalent to a rebel defeat just now.” ~ George Templeton Strong in his diary.

September 23– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Stanton tells me that General Meade is in town. I trust some efficient blows to be struck now that Lee is weak. The opportunity should not be lost, but the army is to me a puzzle. I do not find that Stanton has much to say or do. If there are facilities of combination and concentration, it is not developed. No offensive movements here; no assistance has been rendered Rosecrans. For four weeks the Rebels have been operating to overwhelm him, but not a move has been made, a step taken, or an order given, that I can learn.” ~Gideon Welles in his diary.

tribute to the fallen in Harper's Weekly

tribute to the fallen in Harper’s Weekly

September 23– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis, an Episcopalian, sends a letter to Pope Pius IX, head of the Roman Catholic Church. “The letters which you have written to the clergy of New Orleans and New York have been communicated to me, and I have read with emotion the deep grief therein expressed for the ruin and devastation caused by the war which is now being waged by the United States against the States and people which have selected me as their President, and your orders to your clergy to exhort the people to peace and charity. I am deeply sensible of the Christian charity which has impelled you to this reiterated appeal to the clergy. It is for this reason that I feel it my duty to express personally, and in the name of the Confederate States, our gratitude for such sentiments of Christian good feeling and love, and to assure Your Holiness that the people, threatened even on their own hearths with the most cruel oppression and terrible carnage, is desirous now, as it has always been, to see the end of this impious war ; that we have ever addressed prayers to Heaven for that issue which Your Holiness now desires; that we desire none of our enemy’s possessions, but that we fight merely to resist the devastation of our country and the shedding of our best blood, and to force them to let us live in peace under the protection of our own institutions, and under our laws, which not only insure to every one the enjoyment of his temporal rights, but also the free exercise of his religion. I pray Your Holiness to accept, on the part of myself and the people of the Confederate States, our sincere thanks for your efforts in favor of peace.”

Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX

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