Joseph Belton Letters

Posted in Regimental History, Soldier Profile with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by 40thindiana
Joseph Belton

Grave of Joseph Belton

Several years ago I ran across a small collection of letters written by Pvt. Joseph Belton of company H at the Crawfordsville (IN.) District Public Library. The letters do not talk about great battles or life in the field. Joseph Belton became sick sometime in May 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign. Joseph’s letters give a view of life in a Union Army hospital.

Joseph Belton (b.Pennsylvania, 1835) owned a farm & blacksmith shop in Waveland, Indiana. He enlisted in the 40th Indiana on December 15, 1863, when Sergeant Joseph O’Brien returned home from the army to actively recruit for companies C & H. In 1861 Joseph Belton served as Captain in a local state militia, “Waveland Zouaves,” and apparently continued in this capacity until enlistment. Joseph was married to Mary Hamilton, the couple had three children. Frank (b.11/4/1859), Elizabeth (b. 8/8/1861) and Carrie (b. 11/3/1864). During Joseph’s hospital stay, Mary and the children would travel to Ohio in order to be with other family members. Joseph’s brother Samuel, mentioned in the letters, was also a resident of Waveland.

Joseph Belton contracted chronic diarrhea in 1864. At times in the letters it seems that Joseph will make it home. Unfortunately, Joseph would succumb to the disease, dying on March 28, 1865. His remains were returned back to Waveland, Joseph Belton is buried in the Waveland Presbyterian Cemetery.

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Letter written on stationary of the United States Sanitary Commission

Camp Joe Holt, August 5, 1864

Dear Wife – I wrote to you yesterday and under the circumstances had to rite rather a discouraging letter, but I have some better news today. My furlough has not come yet, but the doctor in charge says if it don’t come tomorrow he will send another for me, for he says I shall have it , and so if I don’t come home first now you may be sure I will come before long. And I don’t know but it will be better in the end. It is strange that I have been disappointed in the way I have, but I believe it is for some cause and I believe it is all for the best. It may be the means of saving my life. We don’t know these things, but we can only hope for the best and I have come to believe that all things are for the best. But it is not necessary for you to be uneasy about me for I am getting along very well now. It is true I have a great desire to get home, and you are anxious to see me out, it would not do for me to come only by lawful authority, and I will have to wait until I can get that. But that will not be long. I think my furlough must have got lost on the road or mislaid in some office. I can’t account for it nor the doctor can’t in any but the way I have told you. But there has not been any went away from here but what came back except five that went with mine and they are all lost. The train must have been captured that they went on, and it may come in yet in a few days, but I will have another one started for fear it don’t come. But, wife, I would advise you to learn to bear with disappointments for this world is full of them, and so cheer up and look forward to a better day. Mary, I want you to rite to me and tell me all the particulars in regard to yourself and the children. I expect they would like to see me and I hope they will before long. I don’t know the reason that Sam don’t write to me. I would like to hear from him but I will rite to him tomorrow. I tell you, wife, the most of the boys here are in favor of McClellan for president, and I think he is the man. I think it is time to have peace. Well, Mary, I can’t rite much more now, but I want you to do rite and I will be at home before long, yet, if I live. Give my love to Louise’s folks and the rest of my friends. Nothing more, but I remain yours.

Joseph Belton

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Letter written at Camp Holt, December 25, 1864

Dear wife – I will once more attempt to let you know how I am and when I arrived at this place. I got here last Tuesday. I am in Ward 7 in Doc Carpenter’s ward, but I don’t know how long I will stay here. When I came here they give me charge of the medicine, and so I am giving that out to the patients. That is all the duty I have to do but it is as much as I am able to do for the ward is full, and there is some very sick men here. Four men have died since I have been here. It is now half past one O’clock on Christmas morning, and I am sitting up here all alone in the ward, and it is so lonesome to be here with all the sick and wounded. And when I think of home and then I cannot drive the thoughts of you and my little ones from my mind. But I hope this may find you all well.

I am not well – my back hurts me a great deal, and the piles hurt me some yet out not near so bad as they did when I was at home. I am taking medicine to act on my kidneys but it don’t do me any good yet. I don’t think I will ever be fit for any more duty in the field. But it is hard to tell weather they will send me there or not for they have no feeling for a man at all. I have not said anything to them about my discharge yet. I thought it would be best to wait a few days but I don’t expect there will be any show for it. But I will do the best I can for I know I shall never be able to do any good in the army. There is inspection today at ten O’clock and I expect they will send a lot of men (to the) front, but I don’t think they will send me. I have made up my mind to stay here as long as I can for when I think of my family it gives me trouble enough as it is and if I were to loose an arm or a leg the thoughts of it would kill me. And if I can stay here I may get home and be able to make a living. Mary, it was the hardest task I ever had when the time came for me to leave you and them Dear children, but try and keep up your courage and rite me all the encouraging letters you can, and the time will come when this trouble will be over and we can live at home in peace. But Mary, I want you to conduct yourself rite and try to raise the children in a way that they will not learn any bad habits. If you want anything from the store go to Davises’ and get it and if I stay here I think I will have some money before long. But when you get ready to go home (Ohio) Sam said he would see you started safe from Lafayette, and after that when you have to change I want you to call on the conductor to assist you for three children is more than you can attend to.

Mary, I have lost my gun and wool blanket. I left them in ward when I came home, and somebody stole them, and my haversack and canteen and plate, cup, knife and fork. But I don’t need them while I stay here. I don’t know that I have anything more to rite but I want you to rite me as soon as you get this, and let me know how you are getting along, and when you are going to start home. Direct your letter to Joe Holt Hospital, Ward 7, Jeffersonville, Ind. I have nothing more to say now. Hoping this may find you all well, I will close by saying it remain your affectionate husband

Joseph Belton

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Joe Holt Hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.
February 9th, 1865

Dear Wife- I have just received a letter from your hand, stating that you and family are well which I am glad to hear. I am also glad to hear that the money came to your hand all safe for I was afraid it would be lost. I rote to you since I sent the money and I expect you have got it there this time. Well, as regards my own health is poor for I have the diarrhea pretty bad, and the piles hurt me very bad and I have pain in my back yet. As for my discharge I don’t know yet how it will be for I went to see the surgeon in charge yesterday about it and my descriptive roll has not come and so he sent for it, and send my Capt word if he did not send it right away he would report him to Washington, and have him discharged from the service. So I think it will come now. He said he could not fill out my discharge without my descriptive roll, but when it came he would re-examine me, I told him what was the matter with me near as I could and he talked as if he would discharge me and I think he will, but he may not for all that. But I will have to wait and see for they will take their time for it, and they will do as they please about giving it to me. I have just got a letter from Sam. He is well. They are going to pay out of the draft Sam made the payment on out farm. He says it has been cold there.

Mary, I want you to know if you ever rite to mother. I know she is looking for you there and she is expecting Frank to stay with her. I want mother to have Frank awhile, and I think it nothing but right that you should go and stay with her part of the time. And I want you to take particular pains in looking to the welfare of the children. You may think strange of me giving you such advice but I consider it one part of my duty to give you good advice in regard to yourself and them two, and so if you don’t like it you may take the more of it. I think we have got rid of the small pox here. All that broke out with them was sent to the small pox hospital. They have sent about all the men to the front that was fit and so there is not many left here. I think the government is preparing for a hard campaign when spring opens. I think the southern army will be about broke up this summer, but it is hard to tell when the war will be over. I don’t know of anything more to rite that will interest you, so give my love to the folks and tell them to rite to me. Tell Frank and Belle that I would like to see them and little Carrie. Nothing More, but I remain yours most affectionately.

Joseph Belton

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Joe Holt Hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.
February 20, 1865

Dear Wife – I once more sit down to rite a few lines to you. I got a letter from you a few days agao, but I have been so sick that I could not answer it any sooner. I have been confined to my bed for a week, and am hardly able to be up now, but I am a great deal better than I was. I have had the hardest spell of sickness I have had for a long time, but I think I will get along now pretty well. I am undergoing an examination for a discharge, but I don’t know how it will terminate. You must not feel disappointed if I don’t get it for it is almost impossible to get one at all, and they are giving me a very close examination. They have been at it a few days and I don’t know when they will get through. They have been testing my water and pronounce my kidneys diseased, but I don’t know what else they will find wrong with me, but I will have to wait and see. Mary, I am glad to hear that you are well. I hope that you will keep so for good health is one of the greatest blessings we have on earth.

I got a letter from Mother. They are all well. Israel has lost his wife. She died the last of January. Mother is looking for you there. Mary, I cannot rite any more now for my nerves are out of fix that I cannot hold a pen. So kiss the children for me and give my love to all the folks and rite me soon.

Nothing more out I remain your
affectionate husband,

Joseph Belton

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Joe Holt Hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.
February 29, 1865

Dear Wife – On receipt of a note received from your hand last evening, I will attempt to address a few lines to you for the purpose of informing you of my whereabouts and how I am getting along. I received your letter and read it with pleasure. I am glad to hear that you and the children are as well as you are, and I pray to God that you may be blessed with good health and all other necessaries of life in my absence. It gives me more pleasure to hear of you enjoying yourself. It encourages me and makes me look forward to a future day when all shall be peace and happiness with myself and family again. When I stop to think of my situation being separated as I am from yourself and my children, I do almost give up in despair, but then upon the other hand I look forward to a better day, and I am in hopes it is not far distant. Judging from every movement now we are forced to the conclusion that this is the last year of the war. I acknowledge that I made a bad step when I went into the army and I have regretted it a thousand times, but it cannot be helped, not now, and if you harbor any hard thoughts against me for that act I hope you will forgive me and banish them from your mind. This is a wicked war brought on by wicked men and I was only like thousands of other men. I was deceived in it when I come to study the true causes of the war, they are not what I thought them were when I enlisted. But however we can only hope for the best, and I do sincerely think the end of the war is not far distant. I am well aware the time seems long and dreary for you, separated as we are, and it does to me, but under the circumstances it cannot be helped, and therefore I can only advise you to bear the wait to the best of your ability. I will promise on my part to do everything in my power to make you happy. I have since I have been in the army conducted myself better than I ever did before, and shall continue to do so, and when I draw my pay I will send you some money, and everything I can do to add to the comfort of you and the children you may rest assured I will do. In your last letter you seem to resent the advice I gave you in regard to yourself and the children. I will just say that I meant nothing wrong by it, and I thought you had lived with me long enough to know better than to take offense at anything I might say to you. I rote to you a few days ago, but I directed to Mother, and you may not get the letter at present. For fear you do not I will state here that I have been very sick for about ten days, so bad that I was not able to be up at all, but I am better now. I have been partly examined for a discharge. They pronounce my kidneys badly diseased, but I think there is no prospect of a discharge. I don’t think I will be fir for duty any time soon, but if they have a mind to keep me I can’t help myself. And so I will have to make the best of it.

Well, I don’t know of anything else of importance to rite now. Tell Mother I got a letter from her and was glad to hear from her and the rest of the family. I will try and answer it soon, but for the present you can let her read this and it will answer for both as there is nothing here that will interfere with anybody reading it. Rite me soon – give my love to all. Tell the rest to rite, and I remain your most,

affectionate husband.
Joseph Belton

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Joe Holt Hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.
March 9, 1865

As it has been some days since I rote to you and I feel bad on account of a dream I had last night, I thought I would rite a few lines to you to find out if there was any truth in it or not. I have lost sleep last night, and have been in trouble all day about that dream, but I do sincerely hope there is no grounds for any trouble. The dream was about Frank. I thought he said he was going to (?)fia, and wandered off and got lost and got to what is called the Franklin hospital 14 miles from where mother lives, and in wandering about there to find me he fell into a well and was dead when we found him. When I got to this point I woke myself up by giving way to my grief, and when I awoke it was raining – storming very hard. I expect I think too much of my children is one reason why I have such dreams, but I can’t help thinking of them, and I hope this is nothing more than a dream. At the same time I can’t drive it away from my mind until I get a letter from you in answer to this.

I hope this may find you all well. The Ohio river is so high that it is very near all around our hospital, but I don’t think it will get much higher. It is about two miles wider here now. The first story of a good many of the houses in Louisville is under water. I got a letter from Louise’s in Waveland. Samantha sends her love to you and wants you to rite her. Milt Kinder has got home and is going to work for Sam. He says everything is in good order about the house. Mary, they have moved me to Ward 3. The patients were all moved out of Ward 7 on account of small pox, and so direct mail to Ward 3. I have nothing more to rite now, but kiss the babies for me and give my love to all the folks, and rite to me soon for I have not had a letter from you for some time.

Nothing more, but I remain your true husband,
Joseph Belton

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Joe Holt Hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.
March 22, 1865

I once more attempt to answer your kind and affectionate letter that I received yesterday, dated February 23rd. I feel rejoiced to hear that you are all well and hope when this reaches you it may find you in the same good health and Mother and family also. As for myself I am not well, but I feel better than I have done for some time. I rote a letter to you and directed to Alliance in which I stated as near as possible my affections and feelings towards my family. I therefore think in unnecessary to repeat it at present. Suffice it to say that I widh you all the enjoyments and necessaries of life both for yourself and children.

You spoke of Miss Belle writing to me. I would like to see one of her letters, but I would a heap rather see the lady herself. You can’t form an idea how well I would like to see the children, for it is so lonesome here that I cannot help but think of home and family most of the time; and to keep from it as much as possible I employ a great deal of my time in reading, such as daily papers and good books – something that will be beneficial to me in this world and the world to come. The papers cost us five cents each, but we take turns in buying them and I generally do the reading for the ward, as I am about the best reader there is here. The boys always call on me as soon as there is a paper comes in. As for the books they are purchased by the Christian Commission and are religious books. Our library consists of nothing else. It would be a good thing if it did, for the most of the boys buy novels and read them where if we had a library composed of histories they would read them and get a great deal of information from them and might change their minds to a different course of life. From the daily papers I get all information in regard to the war and I think from the course that things are taking now , the war will close this summer. I think everything bids fair to destroy Lee’s army this spring and if that is done they will be compelled to give up.

Mary, if Frank is not satisfied to stay with mother you can take him away with you, but I would like to have you stay there a good part of your time for it will be better for you as there is no prospect of me getting home for some time and if you go to Waveland you will not be contented there, and mother will be glad to have you with her, and I know the children will be company for all of you. I am glad to hear that Frank learns so fast. I hope he continues to learn his books. I don’t know that I can write anything more of intrest, but kiss the children for me and accept my best wishes. Rite soon.

I remain yours truly, from your husband,

Joseph Belton

P.S. Mother, Jane, and Nancy – I will try and put in a line to let you know that I still am alive and able to take my rations if they are not of the finest quality. I have seen the time that I would of like to had a little more than I got, but here we have plenty such as it is. But then I get along better now than I did at first. I expect Nancy often thinks of me when she has something good for dinner, for she was always grumbling at me for being so hard to please. Well, I am not so hard to please as I was; Jane, I hope you are getting along well. I want you to act as schoolmam over Mr. Frank, and I will try and reward you for it sometime. I want you and Nancy to rite to me, or have you forgot that I still alive. Well, Mother, I have rote all in this letter I can think of (nothing) that is of any importance and so I will close for the present by asking you to give my love to Caroline and tell her to rite to me and don’t forget to rite yourself, for I am always glad to hear from you.

I remain yours,
Jo Belton

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Western Union Telegraph Company

No. 1
To-Wn. Hamilton From-Jeffersonville, Ind Mch 30
Wooster, O. Date Rec’d – Mch 30, 1865 – 5:07 P.M.

Joseph Belton is dead. I will write you the particulars.

Sam’l Belton

Paid

Company H Weekend at Kennesaw Mt.

Posted in 40th Haversack, Atlanta Campaign with tags , , on June 30, 2014 by 40thindiana

40th

June 27, 2014 marked the 150th anniversary of the bloody assault on Kennesaw Mt. by Wagner’s Brigade. If you happened to visit Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park this past weekend, you were in for a real treat. A group of authentic reenactors chose to recreate Company H, 40th Indiana as their guiding impression to mark the 150th anniversary of the battle. Men traveled form several states to participate as members of the company. If a reader has ever wondered what the Western Federal soldier of the 40th Indiana Reg’t. looked like during the Atlanta Campaign, this image of Company H recreated is spot on.

Standing in this photograph (2nd from the right) is Matthew Rector. Matthew’s great grandfather was Pvt. Jerome Dooley of the original Company H. Jerome enlisted as a recruit in Waveland, IN., December, 1863. Pvt. Dooley served through the Atlanta Campaign and was wounded at the Battle of Franklin, TN.

Unfortunately, My son and I were to attend as members until an unforeseen problem arose. I am truly heartbroken that we could not attend, but I know that Company H was very well represented during the 150th anniversary event.

Thank you to the “Hairy Nation Boys” and other attendees for representing the 40th Indiana Reg’t. as your 150th Kennesaw Mt. impression. Bully for you!”

James Prevo Diary Entry

Posted in Franklin, Soldier Profile with tags , , , on March 9, 2014 by 40thindiana

hospitalCivil War nurse aiding wounded soldiers, 1863.

Saturday, December 24, 1864

“The second death in the ward. It was that of a young, noble-looking man – Prevo, of the 40th Indiana. He died of a gunshot wound, the ball entering the lungs. He was battling with the grim monster all day yesterday, and thought himself at one time on a forced march through the country of the enemy, and at another in the heat of battle, when he would cheer on the soldiers. A lock of hair and a few words of condolence will go to one more mourning family in place of the dear, noble boy.” – Nurse Elvira J. Powers, Jefferson Hospital, Jeffersonville, Indiana

James Y. Prevo enlisted as a member of Company I, on December 18, 1861 at Covington, Indiana. He marched and fought with the 40th Indiana for three years of war. On November 30, 1864, during the confusion and intense combat at Franklin, Prevo was wounded in the chest by a musket-ball. After being seen in a field hospital, James was transferred to Jefferson Hospital where he died on December 26, 1864. Twenty-three year old James Prevo is buried in the New Albany National Cemetery, New Albany, Indiana

Blake’s Greyhounds!

Posted in 40th Haversack, Regimental History with tags , on March 3, 2014 by 40thindiana

Blake's Greyhounds!

Indianapolis Journal, April 30, 1863

Colonel Blake has returned to his regiment, taking among other testimonials, new national and regimental flags. On the regimental flag is inscribed in gold, Shiloh, Chaplin Hill, and Stone River, in memory of those battles. The ladies of Lafayette have also embroidered in silk, Munfordsville, Manchester, Cornith and Bowling Green, skirmishes in which the regiment was engaged. The regiment having by their rapid movements earned the title of ‘Blake’s Greyhounds,’ a greyhound is appropriately embroidered on the right-hand corner of this gallant battleflag.

Wagner’s Brigade, Kennesaw Mountain

Posted in Atlanta Campaign, Wagners Brigade with tags , , , on February 27, 2014 by 40thindiana

“ Kennesaw Mountain, June 1864, Bitter Standoff at the Gibralter of Georgia”
By Richard A. Baumgartner and Larry M. Strayer, Blue Acorn Press, 1998; pp 125-128

ksaw2

“Delegated for the effort from the 4th Corps was Newton’s entire division of three brigades, commanded left to right by Generals Nathan Kimball, George Wagner and Charles G. Harker. Newton and corps commander O.O. Howard had examined with field glasses the terrain to be traversed, and decided to organize the brigades in close-packed columns of reqimental divisions, each presenting a two-company front and a depth of 30 lines. “That formation,” wrote Howard years afterward, “seemed best for the situation; first to keep the men concealed as well as possible beforehand and during the first third of the distance, the ground being favorable for this; second, to make as narrow a front as he could with many men, so as to make a sudden rush with numbers over their works.” In other words, they were to become a human battering ram.”

“…At 9 A.M., one hour behind schedule, the advance began. In front of Wagner, Lt. Col. Willis Blanch’s 57th Ind. Deployed as skirmishers, each man 5 paces apart. Following close behind were the brigade’s five other regiments, headed by the 40th Indiana. The Hoosiers no sooner had crossed the Union breastworks when the left of Cleburne’s line exploded in a blaze of musketry. “Unmindful of the terific havoc in their ranks,” Wagner reflected, “the column moved forward.”

Before the Rebel pickets’ rifle pits could be overrun, their occupants loosed a volley and ran up the slope to saftey. The opposing lines here were separated by only 500 yards, so little time was consumed by Wagner’s leading elements in reaching the Confederate obstructions, 40 yards from the trenches. The 40th Indiana having caught up with the 57th Indiana skirmishers, began tugging and slashing at the abatis in order to clear a pathway. Captain Kirkpatrick, commanding the 40th’s Company G, drew abreast of Wagner and asked him, “Where shall I strike the enemy’s lines?” The general pointed and Kirkpatrick passed on. Suddenly, wrote Sergeant Walter Wilson of the 57th,” the hillside was transformed into the hottest place I ever was in.”

At that moment, two Napoleon 12-pounders loaded with canister fired into the Hoosiers’ faces. The guns belonged to a section of Capt. William B. Turner’s Mississippi Battery, and were commanded by 2nd Lt. W.W. Henry. The young officer’s cannoneers swabbed the barrels, reloaded and fired again into the tightly packed blueclad mass. Among those instantly killed were Kirkpatrick, Capt. Charles Elliott of Co. A, and 1st Lt. John C. Sharp commanding Co. F. An eyewitness recalled: “The enemy reserved their artillery fire till the 40th advanced to within a short distance of their works, had raised the yell, and were moving forward on the double-quick, when they opened a withering fire of grape and canister … The assaulting party was checked, and the men laid down.”

“Behind them the rest of the brigade pushed on, as did Kimball’s seven regiments supporting Wagner’s left……..”

“….It was a nightmare on Wagner’s front. The 57th and 40th Indiana were stymied at the abatis, unable to punch through of find shelter rearward as the 28th KY, 100TH Ill., 26th and 97th Ohio bunched inextricably together behind them. To Capt. Robert D. Smith, a Tennessean serving on Cleburne’s staff, “the slaughter was terrific as our troops literally mowed them down.” Cleburne’s adjutant, Capt. Irving A. Buck, stated that Polk’s Arkansans and Tennesseans “cooly and rapidly poured a murderous fire into the massed Federals, causing losses to them entirely out of proportion to those inflicted upon the Confederates……”

Wagners men twice surged uphill, but all efforts to bypass the inhibiting obstructions failed. In the column’s hindmost regiment, the 97th Ohio, 1st Sergeant John W. Marshall saw his company had no chance to proceed further. “As advance was impossible, the line falters, breaks, and comes rushing back on the next line, which in turn breaks, causing the wildest confusion.” Another non-commissioned officer, Ashbury Kerwood of the 57th Indiana, wrote: “The order was given to fall back by companies from the rear, but in the confusion and excitement it was misunderstood, and a general retreat commenced. The slaughter among our troops at this moment was even greater than when they advanced, for the enemy now rose from behind their works, fearless of danger from the retreating force, and fired with greater precision than when the column advanced.”

“The assault cost Kimball 194 dead, wounded and missing. Wagner’s losses totalled 215. Not all these casualties, however, resulted from bullets or cannon shot.”

While the battered Federals headed rearward, orange flames began flickering along the ground where the fighting had raged fiercest. Soon a sizeable brushfire, ignited by embers from hundreds of discharged weapons falling amidst dry leaves, twigs and pine needles, cracked in front of Polk’s Brigade. The Confederates watched in horror as the flames crept toward the bodies of dead and severely wounded Yankees still lying on the battlefield. Screams rent the air. Lt. Col. William H. Martin of the 1st/15th Arkansas realized that if something was not done instantly, dozens of helpless men would be burned alive.”

“At this stage”, recounted William T. Barnes, an Arkansas private in Co. G, “our colonel sang out, ‘Boys, this is butchery,’ and mounting our head logs with a white hankerchief, he sang out to the Yanks as well as to our own mwn: ‘Cease firing and help get out those men,’ It is needless to add that the Feds never once refused to comply with this request. Our men scaling the head logs as though for a counter charge, were soon mixed with Yankees, carrying out dead and wounded Feds with those who, a few minutes previous were trying to ‘down our shanties.’ Together, the Rebs and Yanks soon had the fire beat out and the dead and wounded removed to the Federal side of the fence.”

Montgomery County Indiana at Missionary Ridge

Posted in Missionary Ridge, Wagners Brigade with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by 40thindiana

Sharing an article I did about Missionary Ridge for a local newspaper in Montgomery County, Indiana.

GALEY
(above) Sgt. Wm. Galey of Waveland, IN. KIA 11/25/64

Our Darkest Day; the Battle of Missionary Ridge

Montgomery County is very rich in the annuals of the Civil War. We can boast of five general officers and well over 2000 men that enlisted to fight during four years of Civil War. Many men from MontgomeryCounty fought valiantly in every theatre of the war. Articles could be written for weeks about the battles and hardships endured by MontgomeryCounty men. The purpose of this article is to focus on the actions of Montgomery County solders at the battle of Missionary Ridge. The often overlooked battle took place 150 years ago, on a lofty steep ridge overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

The battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on November 25, 1863.  It was the end result of a long 1863 summer/fall campaign through Middle and East Tennessee. The fight for Chattanooga took place a month after the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. MontgomeryCounty men that fought and died on Missionary Ridge were proud members of Gen. George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland. The Army of the Cumberland had been soundly defeated at Chickamauga on September 20th and had retreated to the City of Chattanooga. The Confederate Army followed and laid siege to the city.   Grant and Sherman arrived from Mississippi with the Army of Tennessee and broke through the Confederate siege lines bringing aid to Thomas’ army. Members of the Army of the Tennessee, including many of their commanders quietly considered Thomas’ men inferior to their army. After all, the Army of the Tennessee had just arrived in Chattanooga after their great victory at Vicksburg. Tensions would remain high between the two Union armies sitting in Chattanooga.

 

As overall commander of both armies in Chattanooga, General Ulysses S. Grant was making his battle plans to drive the rebel army off of their strong position on Missionary Ridge. His plan was for Gen. Sherman to assault the Confederate right flank on the northern end of Missionary Ridge and drive the rebels off of the heights. The Army of the Cumberland was to play a secondary role in the action. It was to advance forward, take the Confederate rifle-pits at the bottom of Missionary Ridge and then stop. They were to be a diversion; it was thought they had no fighting spirit after the Chickamauga loss. But, the main attack on the northern end of the ridge didn’t go according to plan. Meeting a strong Confederate resistance, Sherman’s attack stalled. As the Army of the Cumberland stepped off toward the Confederate rifle-pits, the rank and file soldiers felt that they had something to prove. They were going to show Gen. Grant that they had plenty of fight left in them.

 

Major Henry Leaming, of the 40th Indiana Inf. stated that the Army of the Cumberland would cover “more than a mile, without cover of any sort, over dead level, commanded at all points by the enemy’s batteries, and the last quarter mile under fire of the infantry.” Montgomery County had men present in the following regiments on Missionary Ridge. The 10th, 15th, 38th, 40th, 79th & 86th Indiana Infantry. At 2:00 o’clock the men stepped off to take the rebel rifle-pits, there were no orders to scale the heights. Once the Confederate rifle-pits had been taken, an order was received to advance the quarter-mile to the ridge.  In after-action reports from Gen. George Wagner’s Brigade, which contained the 15th & 40th Indiana Regiments, commanders state that they were taking heavy rifle fire but were making forward progress. The brigade had reached a spot at the bottom of the ridge where they were somewhat shielded from the bullets of the enemy.

 

 Lt. Col Elias Neff, of the 40th Indiana Infantry sums up what happened next. “Scarcely had this movement upon the ridge commenced when the order to fall back to the rifle-pits was received from General Wagner, through an aide, and given to the men. It was with the greatest reluctance, almost amounting to a refusal at first, that this order was obeyed, but the sense of duty prevailed, and they fell back, suffering very severely in the movement; but the shelter thus obtained was not long made use of. Again, under the proper order, the line advanced to its former position, again loosing heavily in the movement. Now commenced the struggle; man by man, as each was would gather breath, firing as they went, the brave fellows rushed up, always onward, never backward for one moment. The fire here, on the part of the enemy, rapid and well sustained, both by the infantry and the batteries upon the ridge, which at this time poured a constant shower of grape down the slope; but the advance was not even checked………” 

 

The 15th Indiana Infantry were members of Gen. George Wagner’s Brigade. On November 25 Wagner’s Brigade was one of the hardest hit brigades in the Army of the Cumberland. Company E of the 15th was composed of men from Montgomery County. The ranks of the 15th had been thinned during a bayonet charge performed by the regiment at the battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862. Six men from company E had been killed; numerous others had been wounded and disabled. The company reported 28 men present for duty at Chattanooga. Captain Benjamin Hegler, commanding the 15th Indiana explains the regiment’s assault on Missionary Ridge. “…. The ascent was very steep and our progress so obstinately contested that it was necessarily slow, but in forty-five minutes after leaving the base of the ridge our colors were planted by 2nd Lt. Thomas Graham and the enemy fleeing in disorder.”  Officers and men fought and clawed their way up the slope, paying a price in blood for every step taken. Several color-bearers from the 15th were shot down during the assault, but the men kept pushing. Color-bearer George Banks, who was wounded twice, said the ridge “was a perfect hail of bullets.” The 15thIndiana had the honor of being the first regiment to plant a flag on the heights of Missionary Ridge. On December 10, 1863 a list of causalities from company E appeared in the “Crawfordsville Daily Journal.” The article reported that company E “went into the fight with only 28 men, rank and file; and came out with a loss of just one half – 5 killed and 9 wounded. These numbers would change as several men succumbed to their wounds.  Causalities for the regiment as a whole were 202 men killed and wounded – 60 percent of the regiment.

 

Also in Wagner’s Brigade was the 40th Indiana Infantry. Companies C, G, &H, contained men from Montgomery County. Every step the regiment took was heavily contested by the Confederate defenders.  Major Henry Leaming of the 40th described his view of the attack; “ I could see our brave boys dropping all around me as we moved forward, some killed, others desperately wounded, but the advance was not even checked. It moved as if each man felt himself invulnerable.” As the regiment neared the ridge top, regimental flags became targets for the Confederate defenders. At one point, 2nd Lt. James Hanna of Waveland was carrying one of the regiment’s flags; he was severely shot in the hip by a musket-ball. Close by James was his brother, Corp. Robert Hanna. Seeing his brother go down, he grabbed the flag from his brother’s grasp and started for the top. 20 year old Robert had only taken a few steps when he was killed, “pierced through the head by a musket-ball.” At another point, James H. Seaman of Brown Township, picked up a flag and advanced with it. Seaman also went down; a musket wound to one of his legs. After the war Lt. Col. Neff cited Seaman for “gallant and distinguished conduct as color bearer of the 40th Indiana Regiment at Missionary Ridge.” Brown Twp. resident, Hezekiah Harrell, was able to grab the regimental colors after it had “fallen five times.” Harrell made it to the summit and planted his flag. The commander of the 40th; Lt. Col. Elias Neff,  picked up the national flag after it had fallen numerous times. Once at the top, Neff planted the flag right in front of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s headquarters. Major Leaming reported; “ The Fortieth took two hundred prisoners, and eight pieces of artillery.” Losses in the 40thIndiana were 158 killed and wounded – 45 percent of the regiment.

 

To the left of Wagner’s Brigade was the 79th and 86th Indiana Regiments in Gen Samuel Beatty’s Brigade. Company K of the 86th had been raised in Montgomery County. Reverend Henry Newton Ornbaun of Crawfordsville had left his ministry and was serving as a sergeant in company K, 79th Indiana Infantry. The 86th and 79th regiments had been consolidated at Chattanooga because of losses sustained in each regiment at Chickamauga. Beatty’s Brigade experienced a rough time climbing the ridge, especially from Confederate artillery fire. W. H. Laymon of the 86th Indiana sent a letter that appeared in the December 10, 1863 addition of the “Crawfordsville Daily Journal.” Laymon’s description of the assault; “ ….we advanced in fine order, on the double-quick, charged and took that line of the enemy’s defenses, and still charged on and on until the foot of Missionary Ridge was gained, and on up the ridge still we charged against eight pieces of heavy artillery directly in our front, thirty more pieces of artillery constantly  pouring their fire upon us both from the right and the left and Gen. Hardee’s Corps of three entire Divisions in our front, right and left, from behind breast-works pouring their galling fire into us. On up the mountain still charged the noble 86th and 79th.”

 

 Lymon also mentions MontgomeryCounty’s company K of the 86thIndiana. “Capt. Southard was shot in the breast and instantly expired, at the head of his men, when about half way up the mountain. His conduct is well spoken of by all who witnessed him on the battlefield, and his death is severely felt, not only by his own command, but by all the officers and men of the regiment. Poor Billy! His is another good life given for our country. The other causalities sustained by his company are Serg’t B.F. Snyder, severely wounded in the left hip; Corp. Tillman A. Howard, slightly wounded in the left breast; privates Morris Welch, severely through the right arm; James Harrington, slightly in the left side; Wm. Saunders, slightly in the left knee; Jas. Williams, slightly on left elbow. Lieutenant John Yount was pretty severely bruised by a fall, but it did not prevent him from bravely leading on the noble boys of company K. ”Long may he wave,” and enjoy the honors so nobly won.”

 

Sergeant Henry N. Ornbaun, of Crawfordsville is also mentioned in the Laymon letter. “Serg’t Newton Ornbaun of the 79th, I saw fall, severely wounded in the thigh, whilst bravely charging the rebel breastworks. I hope he may soon be able for duty again, for he is one of the bravest and best soldiers.” Ornbaun’s return was not to be, he would die from his wounds on December 1, 1863. Ornbaun’s body was returned to Crawfordsville, where he was interred in the Crawfordsville Masonic Cemetery on Grant Ave. The following article appeared in the “Crawfordsville Daily Journal,” on Thursday, January 21, 1864.

Funeral of Serg’t Ornbaun

“The remains of Serg’t H.N. Ornbaun, of Company K,79th Indiana Regiment, who fell mortally wounded at the battle of Missionary Ridge, on the 25th of November last, and who died on the 1st day of December, arrived at home on Saturday morning last for interment. On Tuesday of this week, under military escort, the remains were conveyed from the family residence to the Methodist E. Church;(where appropriate funeral exercises were had);and thence to the town Cemetery, where they were consigned to the tomb-the final resting place of all that is mortal of man.”

 

Once the summit had been gained, the fighting continued down the reverse slope of Missionary Ridge. The Confederates were in a mad retreat, muskets, cannon and wagons were left behind. The Army of the Cumberland was in pursuit, and gathering many prisoners along the way. They had proven that they could still fight and felt as if their honor had been restored. By the morning of November 26, 1863 the great railroad hub of Chattanooga lay in union hands. The Confederate army had been beaten and was in full retreat. The little remembered battles for Chattanooga had opened the door for Union forces to take Atlanta in 1864 and ultimately it helped win the war. MontgomeryCounty had played a significant part in the battle; “our boys” would continue fighting on many other fields of battle. But, never again would we pay such a high price in a single day of battle. Eighteen county men had been lost during the assault and capture of Missionary Ridge. Other local men would be lost in the war, but never on the same scale as November 25, 1863. It was MontgomeryCounty’s darkest day of the Civil War.

 

As in the case of Sergeant H.N. Ornbaun, several other causalities of the battle rest in MontgomeryCounty. John C. Monfort of the 40th Indiana is also buried in the Crawfordsville Masonic Cemetery. Four members of the 40th Indiana are interred in  Freedom Cemetery, Brown Township.  They were friends and neighbors in life and comrades in company C. They are Sergeant William B. Gayley, Lt James Hanna, Corp. Robert Hanna and James Elrod. They are all in the same general area of the cemetery. A visit to this spot brings the thought of the devastation this battle produced to families in a tight knit community. The valor and deeds of all Montgomery County soldiers that fought on Missionary Ridge should be remembered on this 150th anniversary of the battle.

 

Our Heroes lost on Missionary Ridge

 

Sgt. Robert B. Gilbert – 15thInd.

Sgt. Frederick Waltz – 15thInd.

Sgt. Solomon Bowers – 15thInd.

Pvt. William R. Emmerson – 15thInd.

Pvt. Silas Cooley – 15thInd.

Pvt. John C. Tyson – 15thInd.

Pvt. William R. Creek – 15thInd.

Sgt. Alvin Egnew – 40thInd.

Lt. James M. Hanna – 40thInd.

Cpl. Robert C.H. Hanna – 40thInd.

Sgt. Wm. B. Galey – 40thInd.

Pvt. James Elrod – 40thInd.

Pvt. John C. Monfort – 40thInd.

Pvt. James R. Shelton – 40thInd.

Pvt. George Krauss – 40thInd.

Pvt. Taylor McIntosh – 40thInd.

Sgt. William Newton Ornbaun – 79thInd.

Capt. William M. Southard – 86thInd.

Cpl. Levin G. Murphy, Company B

Posted in Atlanta Campaign, Stones River with tags , on August 5, 2013 by 40thindiana

Levin G. Murphy, Company B

Biography of Levin Graham Murphy, “Biographical and Genealogical History of Cass, Miami, Howard, and Tipton Counties Vol. 1 & 2″ He is listed in company B’s roster as Grimes L. Murphy.

“LEVIN G. MURPHY – lumber dealer and leading citizen of Xenia, was born in Shelby County, Ohio, October 1, 1841, is the fourth child, and one of the five children of George G. and Margaret (Arbuckle) Murphy, the former a native of Delaware, born February 29, 1808, and the latter a native of Preble County, Ohio, born in November 1813. The father in early life followed the trade of a carpenter, and in 1849, removed with his family to Miami County, Indiana, locating at Peoria, where he engaged in saw-milling and where he now resides. The paternal grandfather was Reuben Murphy, a native of Delaware, and died with the cholera in Ohio in 1849. Samuel Arbuckle, the maternal grandfather, was a native of Pennsylvania, was a soldier in the war of 1812, a farmer by occupation and died in Hamilton County, Ohio. Our subject was reared by his parents, his education being acquired in the common schools. September 11, 1861, he enlisted in Company B, Fortieth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and served until December 9, 1864. He took part in a number of engagements, among which were Shiloh, siege of Corinth, Stone River, in which he received a slight wound in the left shoulder and head, battle of Tullahoma, and with his brigade was the first to enter Chattanooga. His next battles were Mission Ridge, Knoxville, Buzzard Roost Gap, in the last named he was wounded in the leg, the battle of Resaca, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, in that famous charge of June 27, 1864, where he received a wound in the left eye, totally destroying the sight of that organ, and which effectually ended his military career. He never wavered in the immediate discharge of such duties as devolved upon him, and throughout his military career was a brave and efficient soldier. He returned to Miami County after the war and engaged in the lumber business, in which he has successfully continued. Mr. Murphy was united in marriage January 1, 1872, to Miss Mary C. Slocum, and one daughter has blessed their union, Ethel, born January 19 1875. Mrs. Murphy is a native of Huron County, Ohio, born February 7, 1846. Her parents are George and Eliza (Pierce) Slocum, natives of Peru, the father born July 3, 1823, and the mother March 12, 1825. They removed to Wabash County, Indiana, in the fall of 1846, where the father died January 20, 1860. The mother is still living and resides in Iowa. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy are among the best citizens of Xenia. He is a Republican and a member of the G. A. R.”

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