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15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

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NEW BOOK---The Buckeye Vanguard

NEW BOOK---BLOOD SHED IN THIS WAR

In The Footsteps of the 15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

15th OHIO VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY


     "But there are strange sounds to me tonight; and the longer it continues, the stranger the sounds appear."-- Chaplain Randall Ross

     The first week of January, 1864, the Regiment was offered the status of Veteran Volunteer Infantry if the men would re-enlist for three years or the end of the war--whichever came first. Three hundred and two men re-enlisted. Those that did not were sent to the 68th Indiana and rejoined the regiment in April to finish their term of service. On February 10th, the regiment arrived at Columbus, Ohio and immediately left for their homes on a 30-day furlough.

     On March 18th, the regiment gathered on the east front of the Capitol in Columbus, where they gave their tattered old battleflag to Gov. John Brough and accepted a new one from the ladies of Rix's Mill, Ohio. Col. Askew accepted the flag on behalf of the regiment.

     On May 3, 1864, the regiment began the famous Atlanta Campaign. Skirmishing with the enemy at Rocky Face Ridge, the brigade moved toward the town of Resaca. On the morning of May 14, the regiment lay in reserve but expected to be called upon at any time. They were soon called up the the rear of the 49th Ohio and 89th Illinois on the left of the Union line. During this juncture, General Willich was badly wounded. Shot in the right shoulder and side, the general was being carried to the rear when the men of the 15th crowded around him. He told them to do their duty as well without him as they had when he was there. Colonel William Gibson of the 49th Ohio Volunteers took command of the brigade.

PICKETT'S MILL

     As Sherman's Army pushed on after Reseca, the Fourth Corps was sent to the left of the army line from the area of New Hope Church. On the morning of May 27th, General Howard order the corps to begin pushing for the Confederate left in order to flank the rebel line. General Thomas and General Howard personally began to reconnoiter the area. The route is through dense forested areas with deep thickets and ravines. Col. Gibson, in order to try and keep his men together, orders the bugles to blow. Alex Cope couldn't believe what was being done. "If they want to surprise the enemy, why don't they stop those damned bugles? But on we went, our bugles blowing. Even when we halted for a short rest the bugles sounded the long, drawn-out note which commanded us to stop. The afternoon was almost consumed by this difficult and tiresome march. We finally came to an open timbered space near a road which wound up a hill toward the enemy's supposed position, and halted on the right of the road. It was reported that we had found the enemy's right flank. Gens. Howard and Wood came up to our position and stopped for a while. There was a sudden and sharp rattle of carbines in our front and a little to our left and almost immediately came an order for us to advance."

     "The horses of the lieutenant colonel and I, which had been left behind when we started on our surprise party, had been brought up in the meantime and we mounted them. The regiment was formed in line and advanced up through the open wooded space, our colors floating in a brisk breeze which caught them as we neared the top of the slope. Suddenly a battery of the enemy, who was strongly posted across the open space a few hundred yards away, opened on our colors. The first shots wounded Lieut. Thomas C. Davis of Company C, as well as number of the color guard, and the regiment momentarily halted. A terrific fire of musketry opened on our left where Gen. Hazen's brigade was charging, and we received an order to move to the left across the road to the shelter of the woods."

     Sgt. Andrew J. Gleason recounts the next few moments. "I followed the left of the regiment until a halt was made, dropping behind a convenient log until it moved on, when I reluctantly left my natural freastwork. Moving forward to the crest of a ridge close to the rebel works, where it met with a decided check, and having little protection was in a literal slaughter-pen. Here fell gallant Sergeant Ambers Norton, our color bearer, with his life blood staining the flag a deeper crimson. One by one all the color guard, with one exception, were either killed or wounded. Company H, the left color company, seemed almost annihilated. Orderly Mumaugh, Sergeant Miller, Corporal Updegrove and several others were killed, while Captain Updegrove and many of his men were wounded."

     Colonel Askew, in his official report, takes up the story. "We soon received orders from Colonel Gibson, commanding the brigade, to refuse our regiment to protect the right flank. This disposition was partly made when the line was ordered forward. In the advance the regiment was thrown into some confusion, as we were moving by the left flank, at the time the order to advance came, and by some means or other, to me unknown, the line was broken near the center, and in moving forward the right wing, with the exception of Company A, moved in such a direction, that it came to the attack to the left of the left wing of the regiment. Upon receiving the order, however, the men moved forward with spirit and determination under a terrible fire from the artillery and small arms of the enemy posted behind their works. The fire was so hot and well directed and decimated our ranks so repidly, that the advance was checked within a short distance of the enemy's works, where we were compelled to seek such shelter from the storm of shot as the nature of the ground accorded. It soon became evident that the attack had failed, and the recall was sounded, by the brigade bugle, about 6 P.M. As I could not find Colonel Wallace on the field (I learned afterward that he had been injured in a fall, and had gone or been taken off) I did not think it prudent to withdraw then, as it was still daylight, and an attempt to withdraw then would have exposed us to great risks; besides we would have been compelled to leave nearly all our wounded in the hands of the enemy. I waited until dark, then sent out parties to gather up the wounded, and carry them to the rear."

Losses in enlisted men for the 15th Ohio were 19 killed, 61 wounded and 19 missing.

GENERAL O.O. HOWARD

 

....no adventure has ever thrilled me like the spirited charge of the Fifteenth Ohio men under Colonel Askew, when we recaptured that Bald Knob..."

Bald Knob----Kennesaw Mountain--June 21, 1864

On the afternoon of June 20, 1864, the 15th Ohio was near the center of the Union line at Kennesaw Mountain just opposite what came to be known as Bald Knob. At 6 P.M., the enemy advanced and drove Col. Kirby's brigade off the Knob. Heavy picket fire went on all night. The next morning, around 11am, the Corps Commander, General Howard, rode up to Colonel Askew and with a quick salute said, "Colonel, I want you to take your command and assault and carry that knob and hold and fortify it. After you have carried it I will have the pioneers of the brigade report to you. Make your dispositions and be ready to advance when you receive the order". He then rode off. Colonel Askew was very surprised that one regiment was being asked to take and hold a position that an entire brigade had been driven from the night before. But they set about to follow orders. (It wouldn't be until years later that Colonel Askew would discover that General Howard had mistaken him for Colonel Kirby and that Howard had meant for the entire brigade to attack Bald Knob.)

(The following account of the Battle at Bald Knob is taken from the supplement to the Official Records, Volume 51, pages 345-46. The author is unknown, although it is believed to have been written by Alex Cope, Adjutant of the regiment.)

JUNE 21, 1864--About noon we were order by Colonel Nodine, then commanding the brigade, to take four companies of the regiment and deploy two as skirmishers and hold two in reserve, and to take and hold in conjunction with Colonel Kirby's command at Bald Knob in front of the left of our position and the right of Colonel Kirby's Brigade of the First Division, and which the enemy then held with a strong line skirmishers protected with rifle pits. Under instructions from General Howard delivered in person, the position was reconnoitered and it was ascertained that in order to hold it after it was taken it would be necessary to drive the enemy out of, and hold the woods to the right and front of the Knob, which would afford him a good cover to rally in case he was driven off this Knob or to mass any force with which he might attempt to retake the position. Accordingly, Company B, Lt. Smith and Company G, Capt. Dawson were moved forward by the right flank under cover of a skirt of woods to a place as near the Knob as they could get without exposing themselves with instructions that on the signal from the bugle they should make a right wheel and dash rapidly for the enemy's rifle pits on top of the Knob without halting to fire. Co. E, Lt. DuBois and Co. K, Capt. Carroll were moved directly in the rear of Companies B and G with instructions that as soon as the movement was begun by Companies B and G so that they would have room to deploy as skirmishers connecting the left of Co. K with the right of Co. G and dash forward into woods to the right of the Knob. The other six companies were moved forward in column of company left in front directly in rear of Companies E and K. At the signal the front companies, B, G, K, and E, dashed forward in splendid style and with such rapidity that the astonished enemy had hardly time to get off as we captured some twenty-five or thirty of them in their pits. As soon as the front companies had gained the top of the knob, and driven the enemy back in the woods, the other six companies were deployed by the right flank on the left company and moved rapidly forward so that the left of the left, Company H, struck the top of the Knob and the right extended out into the woods near an open field near where the left of General Hazen's Brigade afterwards rested. As it was General Howard's intentions that we should fortify and hold the Knob at all hazards, the then companies on the left, together with the pioneers of the brigade who had been ordered to report for that purpose, were set to work to fortify the Knob. This we did under a most terrific fire from two or three batteries of the enemy posted in their main works from 600 to 700 yards distant. At the same time the other seven companies of the regiment were engaged in a hard fight in the woods to the right of the Knob as the enemy had (as we learned afterwards from thier newspapers) determined to retake the position and had sent out two regiments, the Fifteenth and Thirty-seventh Tennessee, for that purpose. They approached through the woods to the right and were gallantly met by these seven companies: their advance checked and with the assistance of the Forty-ninth Ohio, which about this time came to our support, drove back with a very heavy loss as they admit, leaving a number of their dead and wounded in our hands. We were then relieved for a short time until we had gathered up our dead and wounded and were again put in the first line and during the night built a line of works. Our loss in this engagement was two commissioned officers wounded and nine enlisted men killed and forty-four wounded.

After the attack on Bald Knob, it became clear that the 15th couldn't hold the position. The rebels launched a counter attack. Colonel Askew sent Captain Cope to find help. While looking for Colonel Gibson, who Cope thought was commanding the brigade that day, he ran across Lt. Col. Samuel Gray of the 49th Ohio. Cope quickly explained the situation to Col. Gray and asked for help. "Colonel Gray said his regiment had been on duty all the night before and that he would no move a step for any other regiment but the Fifteenth Ohio. He at once called to his men to fall in and the adjutant, the writer (Cope) led the regiment down through the woods to the right of the Fifteenth Ohio". The 49th Ohio arrived just in the nick of time to stop the rebel attack and stabilize the line.

 

ATLANTA CAMPAIGN

     Following the attacks at Bald Knob, the regiment moved on toward Atlanta, skirmishing as they went. Crossing the Chattahoochee River, the brigade went into action at Peachtree Creek before moving south toward Jonesboro. Rev. Randall Ross, writing in the United Presybertian, wrote about his experiences in front of Atlanta.

     "We learn that a heavy fight took place yesterday at Jonesboro. This is eighteen miles from Atlanta, along the Macon Railroad. Rebels driven with heavy loss....We move at 9pm Just think of having to hitch up the mules, and of having to roll up our beds already spread down to sleep on, and start at this time of night, and as dark as it usually gets, and to move on a strange road and in the enemy's country.....we move until about 3am, when we strike the railroad near Jonesboro. We are parked (I mean the hospital train was parked) in an old Georgia field; but we cannot sleep. I had thought I had heard all conceivable sounds connected with warfare. But there are strange sounds to me tonight; and the longer it continues, the stranger the sounds apear. I heard the bombardment of Sumter on the 7th of April, 1863; I heard the cannonading at Chickamauga on September 19 and 20, 1863; I had heard the cannonading at Chattanooga often; I heard the cannonading before Atlanta but a few mornings before, when it seemed as if the heavens and earth were coming together, but the like of this I had never yet heard. In the stillness of the night it seemed like not very distant cannonading, but such as I had never yet heard, as it was just on continuous peal; and sometimes it seemed as if a hundred guns were let loose at the same instant. There were more than I that did not sleep. Next morning, many were the conjectures as to what new thing had turned up. Some thought there must be a terrible fight going on in the direction of Atlanta; others thought it must be the rebel cavalry who had got into our rear and were destroying our ammunition train; and one officer ran over about daylight , to General Schofield's headquarters to find out what was the matter. He found the General taking it very cooly in bed-knew nothing about it. He had received no dispatch from the rear informing him of any danger, and he knew that Kilpatrick was there, and he would keep things straight in the rear. For my own part, I was forcibly reminded of Don Quixotte's encounter with the fulling mills. But so soon as it got daylight, we were moved off quick as possible, in the opposite direction from the terrible sounds and in a few hours we were several miles south of Jonesboro, immediately in the rear of Lovejoy's Station. I may as well here, however, state that the cause of these terrible sounds was afterward found to be the rebels blowing up their ammunition at Atlanta nearly twenty miles distant preparatory to their evacuating the city."