Report of Brig. Gen. William P. Carlin, U.S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 22, 1863.--The Chickamauga Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXX/1 [S# 50]
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., FIRST DIV., 20TH ARMY CORPS,
Chattanooga, September 27, 1863.
Capt. T. W. MORRISON,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. First Div., 20th Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report as follows on the part taken by my command in the battles of the 19th and 20th instant, near Gordon's Mills:
Under the direction of Brig. Gen. J. C. Davis, commanding the division, the brigade was brought into action on the right of the Third Brigade, Colonel Heg commanding, and in the following order:
The Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Gilmer commanding, on the left; the One hundred and first Ohio Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Messer commanding, in the center; the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, Capt. N. B. Boone commanding, on the right; the Thirty-eighth Illinois being in the timber, the other two regiments in an open field. The Twenty-first Illinois, Colonel Alexander commanding, was first ordered by General Davis to remain in reserve, and was placed about 100 yards to the right and rear of the Eighty-first, in the edge of a forest which lay directly in front of it. This regiment had no sooner reached the position described than an order came from General Davis for it to report to Colonel Heg to support his brigade, and went accordingly to the Third Brigade.
About the same time the general commanding the division ordered me to send a regiment to support the artillery of the division, and in obedience to this order the Eighty-first Indiana was detached from my command. The Second Minnesota Battery had previously been withdrawn from my brigade, and was serving under the direction of Captain Hotchkiss, chief of artillery. My command during the fight was therefore reduced to two regiments of infantry. The incompetency displayed by Captain Boone early in the action induced me to supersede him by Maj. James E. Calloway, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, a gallant and very efficient officer.
When my line was formed, General Davis rode along my regiments and ordered them to lie down, without giving me or them additional instructions. The firing then was heavy on my left, and from the enemy. When my line was first formed Colonel Wilder informed me that two of his regiments were on my right in the timber. Shortly after this I discovered troops in front of my right swinging around at right angles to my line. Not knowing whose they were I galloped over to them, under fire from the enemy, and ascertained that they were Colonel Barnes' brigade. They continued their wheel to the left, until they masked half of the One hundred and first Ohio, when, to prevent them masking both my regiments, I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Messer to advance and half wheel to the left and open fire into the woods, where the enemy was posted. This movement was completed when a volley from the enemy caused the left of Barnes' brigade to break, and in doing so they carried away the right of the One hundred and first Ohio. The Thirty-eighth Illinois maintained its position till the Third Brigade had been driven back, when that regiment gave way. The One hundred and first Ohio fell back in better order, fighting over every step, under the efficient command of the gallant and chivalric Messer, aided by the brave Major McDanald. The two regiments fell back across the road and across the open field west of the road into the edge of the timber occupied by a part of Wood's division. During this retreat there were many instances of individual gallantry observed, the most conspicuous of which was in the commander of the One hundred and first Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Messer, who always kept his colors and a part of his regiment facing the enemy. In the open field west of the road I succeeded in rallying men enough from all the regiments of the Second and Third Brigades, and some from other divisions, to form a respectable line. This was a very arduous and very perilous service, and there were many brave officers and soldiers whose assistance was invaluable at that critical moment, but whose names I do not know. The lamented Colonel Heg and Lieutenant-Colonel Chandler, Thirty-fifth Illinois, were among them. With the hope of recovering the ground we had lost, I led them in a charge across the field to the road, but the want of regimental organizations prevented me from getting them farther. At that moment a brigade of Sheridan's division took the front but was soon driven back. It was now about sundown, and orders were received from General Davis to fall back to an open field half a mile to the rear, and bivouac for the night.
The Eighty-first Indiana and Twenty-first Illinois not having fought under my directions, I can make no special report upon their conduct.
Major Calloway, however, speaks in terms of great praise of the Eighty-first Indiana, and judging from the severe loss in the Twenty-first Illinois it must have done as well as could have been expected. It is proper here to remark that during the action of the 19th repeated complaints were made by the One hundred and first Ohio that our batteries were killing and wounding our men. I immediately informed Lieutenant Woodbury, commanding Second Minnesota Battery, of this fact, and he replied that the charge was probably true as he had received repeatedly orders from Captain Hotchkiss and General Davis to shorten his fuse and burst his shells nearer, and that he really had not been informed where our troops were. This battery was immediately in rear of the One hundred and first Ohio. So much for the 19th September.
Early on the 20th the brigade was moved up on a high ridge near Widow Glenn's. About 9:30 a.m. I received orders again to move forward. Passing over a rocky ridge a position was assigned to my brigade by General Davis and Major-General Crittenden. The position seemed strong, having been improved by rude breastworks. The Third Brigade was again on my left; there were no troops on my right.
The Thirty-eighth Illinois was held in reserve behind breastworks 100 yards in rear of the brigade. The Twenty-first Illinois was on the right, the Eighty-first Indiana in the center, and the One hundred and first Ohio on the left. Skirmishers were thrown out to the front, and twice I rode out beyond the skirmishers and beyond the main road leading up the valley to reconnoiter. Not the least sign of an enemy could be seen. I had just returned from the second visit to the front of my skirmishers when firing commenced and the skirmishers ran into the main line. The firing on both sides immediately became terrific, and ours I know was very destructive. The front line of the assaulting column of the enemy was everywhere driven back or shot down except where it overlapped my right, but soon I discovered a few men running on the right of the Twenty-first Illinois.
I immediately rode up to Lieutenant-Colonel Gilmer, Thirty-eighth Illinois, and ordered him to move his regiment to the right of the Twenty-first Illinois. From some cause not now ascertainable he hesitated, but finally succeeded in giving an order to his men to rise; it was now too late. A column of the enemy had come directly on my right flank and nearly against it, and opened a most destructive enfilading fire. This enabled the storming column in front of my right to reach the breastworks, and many of the enemy were on our side of them before a retreat was ordered. Seeing that the position could not be held I ordered a retreat, intending to reform on the rocky ridge in rear about 400 yards. But in this design I was utterly disappointed. But one field officer of my brigade succeeded in getting away from the position, and but few company officers; I believe nearly if not quite all of them were killed or wounded, and many of our men shared the same fate. When assistance was too late a part of Sheridan's command came up on my right, but fell back in disorder at the first fire of the enemy. I remained near the position for half an hour or more endeavoring to collect scattered men to hold the enemy in check, and the scattering fire from a few brave men that could be induced to halt checked the enemy for a long time. The officers of my staff had gone to the rear to rally the regiments of the brigade, and succeeded in collecting about 400 men, with a few officers.
Until about 4 o'clock in the evening I remained near the position endeavoring to collect men and to do the best that circumstances would permit. It was too evident that but little more fighting could be procured from this division. I had received no instructions from General Davis for an emergency of this kind, and could find neither him nor his staff; finally I discovered a column headed by General Sheridan and followed by the remnants of the Second and Third Brigades. Sheridan sent word to me that he was conducting the column, and I replied that I would follow him.
The flag of the division commander was delivered to me by a staff officer of General Davis (Lieutenant Reynolds I believe). Placing Major Calloway in command of the Second Brigade, I assumed command of the division and conducted it to Rossville, where I found General Davis, who there resumed command. On approaching Rossville Major-General Negley, with sword in hand, came to me and informed me that General Thomas was still fighting. That the rebel cavalry pickets were between us and him, and that we should go to his relief. He then remarked, "If you will go to his relief I will support you." Considering that I had but about 600 men in the two brigades and having heard that the major-general had almost his entire division intact in the vicinity, I felt compelled to refer him to General Sheridan, commanding the column.
On the 19th I took into action 85 officers and 1,130 enlisted men; aggregate, 1,215. I lost 43 officers and 608 enlisted men; aggregate, 651. Among these officers were many of the bravest and best of my brigade, including every field officer engaged of the four regiments except one, viz, Col. J. W. S. Alexander and Lieutenant-Colonel McMackin, Twenty-first Illinois: Lieutenant-Colonel Gilmer and Maj. H. N. Alden, Thirty-eighth Illinois; Lieutenant-Colonel Messer and Major McDanald, One hundred and first Ohio. Lieutenant-Colonel Messer and Major Alden, having been wounded on the 19th, did not fall into the hands of the enemy. All the others I believe were killed or wounded and captured.
I have now to perform the pleasing duty of mentioning those officers who proved themselves brave and efficient under the most terrible fire. The most conspicuous of these were Lieut. Col. J. Messer and Maj. B. B. McDanald, One hundred and first Ohio; Maj. James E. Calloway, Twenty-first Illinois, commanding Eighty-first Indiana; Maj. Henry H. Alden, Thirty-eighth Illinois; Capt. Leonard D. Smith, One hundred and first Ohio. The conduct of these officers was truly admirable, and nothing better for the public service could be done than to promote those who survive to the command of regiments.
After our division was scattered and not another officer could be seen on the field Major Calloway remained with me and assisted me in halting men and causing them to fire back at the enemy, and I am confident that but for these efforts the pursuit of the enemy would have been far more rapid and consequently more destructive. Every officer of my staff deserves credit for gallantry and efficiency during the struggle.
Capt. W. C. Harris, Thirty-eighth Illinois, provost-marshal, acted as aide-de-camp on the field, and frequently volunteered to perform the most perilous duty. Capt. S. P. Voris, Thirty-eighth Illinois, acting assistant adjutant-general, had one horse killed under him; Lieut. W. E. Carlin, Thirty-eighth Illinois, aide-de-camp, had one killed and another wounded under him. Lieut. J. W. Vance, Twenty-first Illinois, inspector, was constantly under fire with me, and was at all times zealous and efficient in the execution of my orders.
The attention of my superior officers is respectfully called to the reports of regimental commanders which are inclosed herewith. As the aggregate of this brigade is now less than 700, and many companies have not an officer with them, I most earnestly recommend a thorough reorganization of every regiment.
I could have little confidence in their usefulness if taken into battle in their present condition.
W. P. CARLIN,
General Carlin was called upon for a report of the part taken by his brigade in the late action. He has seen fit to introduce a number of uncalled-for and out-of-place insinuations and reflections upon myself, staff, and others; these reflections and insinuations, so far as myself and staff are concerned, are false representations throughout, and the undersigned is constrained to believe they were introduced from motives of malice. Good taste or the good of the service certainly did not authorize their insertion in a report of this kind.
With these remarks this report is respectfully submitted to my superiors for their consideration.
JEF. C. DAVIS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
HEADQUARTERS TWENTIETH ARMY CORPS,
October 4, 1863.
This report is respectfully forwarded.
I am sorry such feeling exists between General Carlin and his division commander. I respectfully recommend that General Carlin be transferred to some other command.
A. McD. McCOOK,
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