Liberty Gap, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge-1863
15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry



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In The Footsteps of the 15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry


With the capture of General Willich and over 100 men of the 15th Ohio, the regiment was severely depleted. Most of the men captured at Stone River were sent to Libby Prison in Richmond. While there, General Willich developed a tactic called "Advance Firing." The theory was simple. The regiment would form line of battle in four rows. The front line would fire. The fourth line would then advance through the other three rows and fire. This would continue as long as needed and enabled the regiment to keep up a continuous fire. It would prove very effective on many a battlefield. By May, most of those who were captured were exchanged and had rejoined the regiment in time for the Tullahoma Campaign.


  LIBERTY GAP-JUNE 25-26, 1863

     On the morning of June 24, 1863, McCook's XX Corps marched south out of Murfreesboro. A soft rain had begun to fall, a rain which would become heavier as the day progressed, turning the roads into a muddy mess. In the lead was the mounted infantry of Col. Harrison's 39th Indiana Volunteers. Willich's Brigade was to drive the enemy out of Liberty Gap and then keep it occupied while the main thrust was carried out by General Thomas at Hoover's Gap, a few miles to the east.

    Near 2 p.m., Harrison approached Liberty Gap and called a halt, sending back for support. The crest of the hills forming the northern entrance to Liberty Gap were steep, open half way to the top and then wooded. A fence ran along the base where rebel skirmishers were deployed. General Willich pushed the brigade forward toward the gap. His lead regiment, the 15th Ohio, deployed in an open field to the right of the road leading into the gap. The 49th Ohio deployed to the left. General WIllich now stood before the imposing hills of Liberty Gap and he didn't like what he saw. A frontal assault was out of the question. He estimated that he would lose ten to one by direct assault. He ordered his lead regiments to extend their lines in an effort to find the enemies flank.

     On the right, Col. Frank Askew, just recently returned to the regiment after being severely wounded at Stone River, deployed two companies, A and B, as skirmishers. He advanced but a short distance when he halted and extended his line further to the right. He did so by moving Co. C, I and E to the right with Co. K in reserve. He was still outflanked. Askew sent word back to General Willich that he needed help in order to extend his lines and overlap the Rebel flank. Willich responded by sending the 29th Indiana in on the right of the 15th. The left of the 15th's line was engaging the rebel skirmishers at the bottom of the hill. Goodspeed's artillery went to work with good effect, assisting both the 15th and 49th.

     On the left, Col. Gibson of the 49th Ohio had the same problem with two companies of the 32nd Indiana moving up to support the 49th. Gibson's regiment launched an all out assault to take the gap. Frances Kiene recorded the event in his diary. "...when we had nearly gained the hill, hte rebels mad one more effort to drive us back and for a moment our line in the center wavered but just then our gallant adjutant dashed forward and urged the men onward...the move was more dash and the hill was ours and a hearty cheer told  us that we were gaining. Co. I had been in reserve till now but now we relieved Co. C and deployed out, when we again moved forward on this side of the hill. We found the camp of the 15th Arkansas, whom we had been fighting on the hill...they had left most of their tents sitting and many knapsacks were left..a table was left setting that was set for supper."

     On the right, the 77th Pennsylvania had outflanked the rebel line. The 15th Ohio and 29th Indiana charged up the slopes to find the 5th Arkansas falling back to a point a hal a mile away. The brigade drove ahead to Liberty Church, having cleared the northern entrance to the gap. With darkness coming on, the men halted. Fighting in a drenching rain and rough terrain had taken its toll. Darkness was welcomed.

     As the sun rose on the morning of June 25th, Willich moved his brigade to the front and relieved Baldwin's Brigade. As the men finished breakfast, the 32nd Indiana was sent to the left with the 15th Ohio in reserve and the 89th Illinois went to the right with the 49th Ohio in reserve. By nine a.m. skirmishing broke out along the entire line. The Confederates were pressing the brigade and feeling out the positions held by Willich's men. By mid-afternoon, Confederate General Liddill, believing that Willich was withdrawing, began to press the Union lines. With ammunition running low, General Willich ordered Colonel Askew to relieve the 32nd Indiana. Askew wasted no time going into action. "I immediately deployed the battalion as skirmishers and moved forward to the line of the 32nd Indiain...We opened a fire on the enemy, who were posted opposite our left on the hill across the valley and along a fence, around a cornfield and about the house in the valley nest the road. We had a good position and our men were mostly under cover, so that the enemy did us little damage on the left of our line, althought they kept up a brisk fire from their line and from a battery posted on a hill a short distance in rear of their line and also from a mountain howitzer posted in the road near a house in our front. The right of our line, Companies A, F, D, and H which were in the woods on the top of the hill, together with that part of the 32nd Indiana and 89th Illinois which were on picket duty there, encountered a very spirited attack of the enemy, who I have no doubt, designed to drive us from the summit of the hill, which in their possession would have made our whole line untenable and compelled us to fall back. They were gallantly met and repulsed...".

     Captain Amos Glover was in command of Co. A when the rebel attack came. "Our line is being driven rapidly when we reinforce and by a desperate and quick fight succeed in checking them and breaking their line which caused their entire left to fall back and our right is saved from what appeared to be inevitable defeat. I presume thaere has been few occasions when so much depended upon so small a force and never did any men meet the call for a determined desperate fight then did my little handful of brave men."

     It was indeed a desperate fight, with acts of heroism abounding. Writing after the battle, Col. Askew made special note of one such deed. "It is the case of James E. Ramage, (see photo page) a private of his company (A), who in the hot fight on top of the hill, on the 25th of June, fell mortally wounded. Immediately rising to a sitting posture, he grasped his rifle again and calling to a comrade, "I am giving them my last shot," fired his gun and fell back exhausted by the pain of his wound and this his last effort to punish the traitor to his country. When the Captain approached him, he cheerfully said, "Tell my father I fell with my face toward the enemy." "

     Between 5 and 6pm, with ammunition exhausted in his other regiments, General Willich ordered forward the 49th Ohio. This was to be the first time that General Willich's Advance Firing would be used in battle. The brigade cheered as the 49th moved forward to the charge. Col. Gibson gave the order to advance firing! By the second volley, the enemy wavered. By the fourth volley they broke and ran. The battle was over. Willich's brigade held the field.

     On the evening of June 26th, the Brigade withdrew through the gap to join the rest of the army. Willich's orders had been to seize and hold the gap and he had done just that. Two days later, the brigade passed through Hoover's Gap where General Thomas had defeated the Rebels a few days before.

(For a more detailed account of the Battle of Liberty Gap, see back issues of Advance Firing.)




     September 19th, 1863 found the regiment in Northern Georgia at a place called Chickamauga. This was to be the defining battle in the history of the regiment. Captain Lorenzo Danford described the battle in a letter printed in the Belmont Chronicle.

     "On Saturday, when we first reported to General Thomas, we were put into action immediately on a part of his line from which one of his divisions had been driven in the morning, with great loss, including their battery. The division "went in" with a will, our brigade in the lead and soon drove the enemy back upon his lines of the morning taking several pieces of artillery, three of them pieces that had been lost in the morning by our men. Five of these pieces were taken by our brigade. Our lines advanced far ahead of either the right or left and this position we held until dark. The Rebels,  about dusk, made a fearful dash at our lines and a terrible night fight ensued, in which many prisoners were taken on both sides. Our second brigade suffered severely in prisoners here."

     It was during this fight that General August Willich earned the undying admiration of his men. The men of the 89th Illimois, moving forward during the fight, lost all order ina n attempt to capture some artillery. Major William of the 89th recalled the scene. "At this point, Brigadier General Willich came forward, and standing in front of the regiment and amid the shower of bullets poured into us, complimented the regiment for is impetuous advance, calmed their excitement, instructed them how to "advance firing" and maintain their alignment with the advance of the brigade, and by his own inimitable calmness of manner, restored order and confidence int he regiment and after dressing them and drilling them in the manual of arms for a short time, ordered them to advance about thirty paces to the edge of an open space (Winfrey Field). They do so in good order, lay down and kept the enemy in check."

     Captain Danford takes up the story. "Our lines were advanced far ahead of either the right or left, and this position we held until dark---The Rebels about dusk made a fearful dsh at our lines, and a terrible night fight ensued, in which many prisoners were taken on both sides. Oor Second Brigade suffered severely in prisoners here. After dark, we were drawn off and took a position on another part of the field." (Kelly Field)

     "About 9 o'clock Sunday the battle opened upon our part of the line, and from that until dark we were almost constantly engaged and night found our proud old Brigade where it had been in the morning, its ranks thinned by killed and wounded in the frequent, terrific charges it has made and recieved during the day; but still unkroken and undismayed. At one time the Rebels (one of Longstreet's Divisions) made a furious charge upon our left. The 15th was wheeled into position and quickly deployed to meet the shock. A battery was put into position immediatley behind us. The Rebels came pouring down upon the left in swarms. The famous 9th Ohio, overpowered, was hurled before it like chaff. Our Regiment lay close to the ground. Not a man stirred. The 9th--glorious fellows that they are--came through our ranks and began forming in the rear. The bullets were thick as hail. A whole Rebel Brigade was upon us. Our boys began to raise their guns to fire when the Rebels gave way all at once and fled precipitately from the field. The 9th sprang to their places and charged them far back into the woods"

     "When we rose to our feet, we saw the cause of the Rebel consternation and flight. Willich had hurled the glorious 49th upon the Rebel flank. I never saw a more glorious sight than the flag of the 49th Ohio as it rapidly and steadily advanced, the Regiment "going in" on Willich's drill, "advance firing." Had it not been for the firm wall of earnest men presented by the 15th, and the rapid movement of the 49th, the day would have been lost there."

    After withstanding a night attack by Cleburne's Confederate Division, the regiment withdrew to Kelly's Field. The fighting just described was one of the most glorious in the Regiment's history. Col. Askew described the event. "There I received an order from the General to go to the support of Captain Goodspeed's Battery and to form on its left.The battery at that time was near the house on the road, a little to the right and considerably to the rear of our line.I immediately moved by the right flank. When the head of my column had nearly reached the battery, though we were still on the right of it, we received a sharp volley from the body of the enemy who were advancing down the road and on the left flank of our general line of battle, and who had driven our troops that were protecting that flank before them. I immediately halted and faced by the rear rank, and gave the enemy a volley. By this time the Ninth Ohio which had been formed parallel to the road and fronting our general line of battle, changed front forward on their tenth company, which threw their line in front of ours, and this attack of the enemy was repulsed with the assistance of two other regiments of the brigade which were in line along the barricades, and which faced I supposed by the rear rank and gave the enemy a fire on his flank. As soon as possible I proceeded to form on the left of the battery as before ordered, my right resting on the road and fronting up the road in a northerly direction, and in the direction from which the last attack was made."

     Wilbur Goodspeed, writing in his report, remembered the day well. Writing of his actions in Kelly Field, "At this time the 15th Ohio Volunteers came up and was ordered to the left of my battery. A few minutes later, the enemy charged upon us, and got up to within fifty yards. My battery then opened, double shotted with canister, and being gallantly supported by the 15th Ohio, we succeeded in routing the enemy and driving him back with great slaughter."

    That evening, the brigade was one of the last to leave the field, withdrawing toward Chattanooga. Many years after the war, when the unit monuments were being placed on the field, Captain Goodspeed insisted that the 15th Ohio receive special mention on Battery A's monument for their actions on that day. No greater honor could be given the regiment!

    When the matter of where to place the 15th Ohio's monument on the field, a small dispute broke out. Some felt the monuument should be at Winfrey's Field, where the first day's fight occured. Others felt that Kelly Field was the proper place. The matter was turned over to Col. Askew for a decision and the Colonel felt that Winfrey's Field was proper. A small granite shaft was place at Kelly's Field to mark the regiments position during the second day of action.










Following the Battle of Chickamauga, the Army of the Cumberland was reorganized. Willich's Brigade was enlarged and joined the new Fourth Corps under General Wood. Added to the Brigade were the 25th and 35th Illinois, 68th Indiana, 8th Kansas and the 15th Wisconsin. Designated the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Fourth Army Corps.

     Orchard Knob was a rugged hill lying between the Federal Lines at Chattanooga and the rebel lines on Missionary Ridge. Along the crest of the hill, the enemy had made breastworks of logs and a line of rifle pits. In order to attack Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob first had to be taken. At one P.M. on November 23, 1863, the 4th Corps under the command of General Gordon Granger, began to line up for the assault. The division was formed with Willich's Brigade on the left, Hazen's Brigade on the right and Beatty's brigade in reserve. The post of honor, the front right regiment, was given the 15th Ohio, with the 49th Ohio to their left, followed by the 25th Illinois and the 35th Illinois. The second line from right to left contained 32nd Indiana, 89th Illinois, 68th Indiana and 15th Wisconsin.

General Willich aimed his brigade directly at the hill while Hazen's Brigade worked toward the Rebel line to the right. The attack started slow and steady with the Rebels being driven in front of both brigades. As they neared the hill, the fighting became intense until the brigade rushed the hill and captured it, sending the Rebels running for the rifle pits at the bottom of Missionary Ridge. Following a brief rest, the men began to build breastworks.

    On the 24th, the brigade once again moved into position to attack the rifle pits below Missionary Ridge. Willich's Brigade lined up in the same positions as on the attack on Orchard Knob. Captain Danford, writing home on the 27th, described the attack. "The signal was given, and forward as one man sprang wht whole corps. Then was witnesed a sight grand and thrilling beyond description. It was one mile form the position occupied by our troops to the base of the Ridge, and one half mile of rugged mountain from the base to the summit. It seemed like madness to attempt to scale the mountain, but the blood of the noble boys was up, and down upon the works at the base of the ridge they swept. The rebels occupying them fled without much resistance, and broke for the summit. The batteries upon the ridge opened up. The whole summit seemed lined with them: but all their shot and shell were unheeded. On the men rushed, and soon reached the base; but there was no halt there, and up the mountainside they clambered. The rebel infantry on the summit opened out, but the men pushed on, sheltering themselves by every ravine, stump, log and stone upon the  mountainside. The batteries could not reach them there, and slowly they crawled up! up! the glorious Stars and Stripes above them! On! on! every cover blazed with the fire of their rifles; and finally, after almost one hour of toilin and fighting, they reached the works upon the summit, and with the enthusiasm of madmen; almost. the works were scaled and victory won. So confident were the rebels of holding their position there that no arrangement had been made for getting off their artillery, and it almost all fell into our hands, with great numbers of prisoners. When the men reached the summit of the ridge, the rebels fled in utter confusion, running pell mell every way."

    " The men say that their triumph on reaching the mountain top repaid them for all their long night watches and suffering for twenty seven months. I have had the scene described to me by dozens of them, and all agree that the scene there was rich beyond all description. The work was done and the defeat of the rebels utter and terrible; and then the boys had a good hearty, old-fashioned shout of great triumph. Men never felt better. And let me say, if there is a father in all the North who had a son in that charge upon Missionary Ridge, and who does not thank God for it, he ought to have no son; if there is a girl in the North who will marry one of those poor cusses who are at home waiting for the draft to bring them into the field, until the last boy charged up Missionary Ridge on last Wednesday is beyond her reach, then, by thunder! she ought to be whipped by the aforesaid poor cuss. There is no use talking, it was the greatest thing accomplished by men since the creation."

     "Willich's brigade occupied the centre of the 3d division. I don't claim that our brigade done any better than the other two. That it done as well as either no man will deny. Nor do I claim that our division done better than Sheridan's but that it done as well everyone must admit. The 15th went up with the brigade in the front line, and was on the hill as soon as any other. Our colors, it is claimed, were the second on the works....Col. Askew, Major McClenahan and Adjutant Dubois were all up the hill in good time and all say the trip paid well. Capt. Carroll can't begin to tell how good he did feel; but thinks it the best sight of the elephant he ever had."

     "The rebel have gone to Dixie or the devil fast within the last week in this neighborhood. About another week of such work and they will all be there."



     Following the battle of Stone River, Colonel William Wallace left the regiment because of illness. Returning to Ohio, the Colonel was given command of the Camp Chase Prison Camp. In the fall of 1863, A.M. Clark, Acting Medical Inspector for Prisoners of War, made a tour of the military prisons and was concerned about what he found at Camp Chase and expressed his disappointment with Colonel Wallace. He felt that not enough was being done to correct the problems of an "utterly inefficient" sewage and drainage system and he attributed the outbreak of pneumonia and diarrhea to these poor sanitary conditions. He also reported in early 1864 that the health conditions of the guards of the 88th Ohio Volunteer Infantry were not much better than that of the prisoners and it appeared that the camp commander was doing nothing to improve conditions. Clark wrote that "no measures had been taken to prevent the spreading of the disease." Clark took it upon himself to order the "immediate vaccination of every person in or connected with the camp.."

     In January of 1864, it was brought to the attention of Colonel Hoffman, the man in charge of military prisons, that four prisoners had been shot to death at Camp Chase. He immediately requested an investigation into these shootings by Col. Wallace. Instead of seeing to this personally, as requested, Wallace delegated the chore to his second in command, Lt. Col. A. H. Poten. Poten reported back that two of the shootings occurred because the prisoners refused to back away from the fenceline after being warned to do so. The other two men were killed when guards fired into the barracks when prisoners failed to extinguish their lights when ordered to do so. Hoffman was not satisfied with the report of Lt. Col. Poten. He felt the report was vague and lacked evidence to support the stories. He felt that security at Camp Chase had become too strict. Hoffman ordered Wallace to relieve Poten while an investigation was conducted.

     While Hoffman ordered a new investigation, Colonel Wallace was relieved of command and returned to the 15th Ohio in the field. Most of those involved in the shootings had already been transferred. A court martial of Col. Wallace was ordered but there is no evidence that it was ever carried out.

(Sources-Aldie's Civil War-"Camp Chase Shootings-The Brush Over of Negligent Sentinels" and Ohio History-The Journal of the Ohio Historical Society-"War Within Walls" Vol. 96 p. 46-48 )

Battery A 1st Ohio Light Artillery-Kelly Field-Chickamauga

Ironically, this was to be the last time Battery A would fight with Willich's Brigade. Short on horses and men, the battery would be assigned to the army's Reserve Artillery. However, Wilbur Goodspeed would again be a part of the history of Willich's Brigade when he became artillery commander for the IV Corps during the Atlanta Campaign.