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Western Federal Blues Progressive Battalion for 150th Chickamauga

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  • Western Federal Blues Progressive Battalion for 150th Chickamauga

    The Western Federal Blues is mustering a progressive battalion for the 150th Chickamauga event. We are going to portray a hard fighting western brigade from the Army of the Cumberland. Given that many of those who participate as a Western Federal Blue come from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio we could find no better impression than that of XIV Corps’ 3rd Division, 2nd Brigade. The regiments are listed below. We are raising 3 companies to form a battalion to portray elements of this brigade. The guiding impression will be that of the 10th KY Infantry. A concise history of the 2nd Brigade’s actions of the Battle of Chickamauga follows:

    Army of the Cumberland
    General Rosecrans
    XIV Corps
    Major General George Thomas
    3rd Division – Brigadier General John Milton Brannan
    2nd Brigade – Colonel John T. Croxton and Colonel William H. Hays

    10th IN
    74th IN
    4th KY
    10th KY
    14th OH

    Synopsis of Action during the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia
    September 19, 1863
    The 2nd Brigade was one of the lead elements that began the movements that would eventually become the Battle of Chickamauga. The brigade was active during morning operations against Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry and Wilson’s Georgia Brigade. Croxton’s Brigade was not able to complete its breakfast preparations as they were pulled into line and moved swiftly to engage the Confederate left. Major Henry Davidson, “The whole brigade stood like a solid wall, and although many a gallant spirit fell, we drove the enemy back not only holding our ground but advancing upon and occupying theirs.”

    Next they were engaged along the Alexander Bridge Rd. as Jackson’s Confederate Brigade surprised the Federal line. Captain J. B. Webster of the 10th KY Infantry commented on the sudden appearance of Confederate infantry on his flank. “Sudden musket firing commenced on our right… and rear.”

    Major Henry Davidson, 10th KY Infantry: “The Rebels attacked us again, and again without success, for the last two hours General Thomas was with us in person – at 2:00 o’clock P.M. we were relieved by Gen Johnson’s division having fought, seven hours, without rest. You can judge how hard we fought, when I tell you that one hundred and twenty one of the brave men of my regiment were either killed or wounded, a terrible-terrible thing, but the enemy had suffered far more than we had.”

    September 20, 1863
    During the second day at Chickamauga Croxton’s Brigade was heavily engaged against Browns Confederate Brigade composed mostly of Tennessee Regiments. N. J. Hampton of the 18th Tennessee described the intense shelling and musketry, “(the Federals) threw such heavy volleys of musketry, grapeshot, and shells hat we were compelled to fall back.” The Federal troops were firing from a covered position behind log breastworks, which they had reinforced with artillery.

    Around 11:45 the brigade engaged on the Poe Farm. During this fight Brannan’s flank collapsed. Croxton’s regiments were fighting Benning’s Georgia Brigade. The Federal brigade was aligned in an L with the 4th and 10th KY facing due south as the rest of the brigade fronted east. The fight was intense as the Georgia troops slammed into the brigade. Captain Ben Abbott, Benning’s Adjutant, “The Old Rebel Yell broke out from every throat… only to be met by a volcano of fire.” The hard fight resulted in Colonel Croxton being seriously wounded.

    Brigade command then fell to William Hays of the 10th KY. The brutal fight caused Hays to withdraw the brigade from the line. The two Kentucky regiments were the only ones to receive the orders and their withdrawal devolved into disorder. Probably due to the mass confusion with the brigade fronting two different ways, Lt. Colonel Marsh B. Taylor gave orders to the 74th and 10th Indiana Regiments to fix bayonets and charge. The action finally dislodges Benning’s Brigade. What is now Hay’s Federal brigade retires to the rear as Reynolds’s Federal regiments came up. The 10th and 74th Indiana separated from their brigade were led to General Reynolds’s Brigade and there remained throughout the rest of the day. The Confederate breakthrough pushed the Union troops back to fortified positions on Horseshoe Ridge.

    Hay’s Brigade now made up of the 14th Ohio, 4th and 10th KY composed the main Federal line on Hill 2 in the middle of Horseshoe Ridge. The Federals repulsed Kershaw’s South Carolina troop’s first assault. The Confederate Brigade was then reinforced by Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade. The Federal line was also reinforced and extended on the left flank by Colonel John Beatty’s brigade composed of elements of the 58th IN, 17th OH, 31st OH, 11th MI, 19th ILL and Walker’s Brigade. They fell into line occupying Hill 1 on Horseshoe Ridge. Their position on elevated ground held as the Confederates in their front assaulted the position.

    James Longstreet understood that the Rebel position was bad and that the enemy in their front was well fortified on the ridge. Longstreet sends Bushrod Johnson’s two brigades under Colonel John Fulton and Colonel Cyrus Sugg, around the Federal right flank on Horseshoe Ridge. The terrain was at best difficult – it slowed and caused gaps to form in the C.S. line. Their advance traversed the property of Hiram Vittetoe, whose family apparently hid under their home’s floorboards during much of the battle. However, the family greeted the Confederate’s as they marched on the Federal flank. Private Elijah Wiseman of the 17th TN, “the ladies of the house came out meeting us, waving their aprons and bonnets. We were almost worn out, but managed to give them a few cheers.”

    While Longstreet’s additional regiments marched on the Federal flank, Kershaw’s Brigade was reinforced by the 15th AL, whose leader was Colonel Oates. Oates acting mostly on his own renewed the attack and led parts of Kershaw’s and Humphrey’s men in another brutal attack. Again they were repulsed by the well seated Federals.

    By 2:00 p.m. the Federal right was heavily engaged by Johnson’s Confederates. The Federal right flank was held by Steedman’s Division with Brannan’s Division holding the center of the line. During the fighting Brannan’s troops were retired in the rear of Colonel Van Derveer’s Brigade, composed of the 35th OH, 2nd MN, and 87th IN. After holding the line for several hours and suffering heavy casualties Hays’ Brigade was out of the remaining action on Horseshoe Ridge.

    By the late afternoon ammunition was running low for the Federal Army and the long battle is taking its toll as the Federal line thins from wounded men and those lacking ammunition being sent to the rear. At about 4:00 p.m. Longstreet commits his remaining division. By that time George Thomas was aware that the remainder of the army was attempting to rally well behind him at Rossville Gap. Rosecrans was on his way to Chattanooga.

    By 4:30 in the afternoon Hill 3 on the Union right was finally over ran by the 5th KY Confederate Infantry and Hill 1 fell around 4:45, however, Thomas had already left Snodgrass Hill and ordered a withdrawal to Rossville. During the late afternoon of September 20th, Horseshoe Ridge must have been a perfect ****. The earth was scorched and made slippery by blood and gore. Union troops were running out of ammunition and the fight had been long and intense – when the order to retreat came they made good on it.

    Brannan’s Division retreated to Rossville Gap with Thomas and the rest of the Army of the Cumberland. Chickamauga had been a horrible mauling. The brigade numbered 1,998 when it entered the battle. It suffered 127 men killed, 719 men wounded, and 79 men missing. The brigade lost 925 men during the fight.

    The losses of the 10th KY during the Battle of Chickamauga were summed up by Major Davidson, “The hill was covered with dead and wounded Rebels. Our loss was much lighter than on Saturday being protected by logs and rails. My regiment lost forty four men this day, making a total of one hundred and sixty five killed and wounded out of four hundred and fifty two. It would be impossible for me to give you an accurate description of the battle this day – imagine two hundred pieces of cannon belching forth, and seventy five or eighty thousand muskets firing all at the same time. The grape shot canister, and bullets fell around thicker and faster than any hail storm you ever witnessed.”

    Regimental Losses During the Battle of Chickamauga
    10th Indiana 366 strong – 24 killed, 136 wounded, and 6 missing.
    74th Indiana 400 strong – 22 killed, 125 wounded, and 10 missing.
    4th Kentucky 351 strong – 25 killed, 157 wounded, and 9 missing.
    10th Kentucky 421 strong – 21 killed, 134 wounded, and 11 missing.
    14th Ohio 460 strong – 35 killed, 167 wounded, and 43 missing.

    “The 10th KY lost approximately 40% of their force in this fight. They were experienced soldier going into the fight, but those who made it through this battle were changed men. …They were thrown into the fight again and again and their final action was a bayonet charge that routed their foes (Sept. 19.) On September 20, they lost their brigade commander; Colonel Hay was moved to replace him and command the brigade. They retreated when blanked by superior forces, but reformed and made significant contributions to holding Horseshoe Ridge; Hills 1and 2. ..General Henry Cist, The Army of the Cumberland, would write of George Thomas’ defensive stand on Horseshoe Ridge, saying he ‘successfully resisted for nearly six long hours the repeated attacks of that same rebel army, largely re-enforced until it numbered twice his command, when it was flushed with victory and determined on his utter destruction. There is nothing finer in history than Thomas at Chickamauga.’ And the 10th Kentucky Infantry was part of that.”
    Dennis Belcher

    Quotes from the Battlefield

    Captain Israel Webster, 10th KY Infantry, Co. I – description of action in Winfrey Field. “Just at his time Capt. Milburn of Company B notified Col. Hayes that a large force was approaching our left flank at exactly right angles to us. The order to ‘Left face, forward; double-quick, file left,’ came in rapid secession, and away we went to meet the new attack. This for the enemy detected our move to change front and poured a heavy volley into our left, which those two companies caught. We hustled the “Confeds” away from there, and then took our wounded off the field. We had no time to care for the dead because of the advance of the enemy upon what at first was our right, but just then was our rear.”

    Webster, 10th KY – description of action on the morning of September 20 at Dyer Field. “It appeared that by some means the rail and log breastworks had caught fire, and before we could advance any distance the fire was under good headway, and we were forced to fall back to prevent being burned up or suffocated by the smoke. Our line was halted in due time, and the enemy had not yet passed the breastworks when we felt an enfilading fire from our right rear. Our attention was called in that direction, and we saw coming through a cornfield a large body of men marching in good form in line of battle with colors flying, apparently unconcerned as though passing in review. The word was passed down the line that the colors were Gen. McCook’s battleflag. We were ready to believe this as, they were just in the rear of our line, and only a few moments before Gen. Baird had ridden up to and instructed one of our command to remain where they were and not change our positions. His words were ‘Not yet; not yet… One of my company turned around and responded very promptly, Captain they are shooting at us.” I then told them to give to them thick and fast… If found the forces of the enemy were fast getting into our rear, turning right our right flank and doubling us up like an elbow, shortening the angle at every moment, thus enabling them to fire upon us from three directions. We were nearly annihilated when instructed to “come out of that,” which we lost no time in doing. Our loss here was considerable, Captain Seth Bevil of Company E, 10th Ky, received a mortal wound from which he died (on Sept. 21.) Second Liet. John H Myers, Company I, was killed instantly and several others were killed.”

    Webster 10th KY – Horseshoe Ridge:
    “The moments passed; no noise in our front to give us an idea of where the enemy was or what he was doing. The silence was painful. One could hear the heart of this neighbor throb – all was so still. At last a faint sound. Soldiers exchanged inquisitive glances, seeming to ask, ‘What is that’ The sound increased. It came near. It was in our rear. ‘Look, see those clouds? What is it?’ The clouds thickened and rolled this way… It was General Steedman coming to our relief. He was riding in front, and without a halt his whole line moved up the hill, passed over us, and descended the rebel side of the thicket, out of our sight in a twinkling. There was no confusion, no talking or cheering. It seemed as though every man thought he had a special errand down there, and it behooved him to get there as soon as possible. For a few minutes all was still. Then broke out a fusillade of musketry that was terrific.”

    The New York Times – Battles on Horseshoe Ridge:
    The fight around the hill now raged with terror inexperienced before even upon this terrible day. Our soldiers were formed in two lines, and as each marched up to the crest and fired a deadly volley at the advancing foe, it fell back a little ways, the men lay down upon the ground to load their guns, and the second line advanced to take their place! They, too, in their turn retired, and thus the lines kept marching back and forth, and delivering their withering volleys, till the very brain grew dizzy as it watched them. And all the time not a man wavered. Every motion was executed with as much precision as though the troops were on a holiday parade, notwithstanding the flower of the rebel army were swarming round the foot of the hill, and a score of cannon were thundering from three sides upon it. Every attempt of the enemy to scale it was repulsed.

    Minimum Impression Requirements
    We require only the typical uniform of a campaigning Federal soldier. To more accurately portray the Federal soldier at Chickamauga we will include impression hints in this section also. These are not requirements - only aides in refining your historic impression.

    Basic Uniform - U.S. Issue 4 button blouse or frock coat. Sky blue kersey trousers. Regulation issue dommet flannel shirt or an appropriate civilian shirt. U.S. issue Jefferson bootees or boots (Wellington style – just below the knee.) U.S. Model 1858 Army pattern hat or slouch hat.
    Impression Hint – After reviewing the available images of the regiments that made up Brannan’s Division it appears that sack coats are predominant, but frock coats are present. In the images reviewed there appears to be 5 sack coats to every frock coat. There are an equal mixture of Hardee hats and slouch hats. Leave the hat brass at home.

    U.S. Model belt and buckle, cap pouch, cartridge box and breastplate
    U.S. Model 1855 “double-bag” knapsack, canteen and haversack
    Impression Hint – Civil War soldiers wore their trappings above their natural waste and adjusted to make them less clunky and easily reached while on the march and in battle. Police up your traps and make sure they fit and are in good repair before you leave home.

    Long Arms
    U.S. Model 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket
    U.S. Model 1863 Springfield Rifle Musket
    British Model 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket
    (Side arms are reserved for officer impressions only and must be of appropriate model and carried properly in a period holster.)

    U.S. Model Shelter Half

    U.S. Issue Blanket and Ground Cloth
    Impression Hint – leave the blankets in your shelter when you form up.
    “Fires were not allowed, and very few of us had blankets and none had overcoats. From that time until daylight seemed very long and felt very uncomfortable.”
    Capt. I.B. Webster

    The Blues will be bringing their Ration Program with them. As a heads up, you will find yourself taking part in Battalion drills, guard duty, long marches, and other alter ego programs, as you are used to seeing at events we attend. I will post additional information as I get it. You can register today and get additional information at If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me or contact me via email at federalslouch at yahoo dot com.
    Last edited by Coatsy; 07-12-2013, 12:36 PM. Reason: Approved by Mods
    Micah Trent
    Tar Water Mess/Mess No. 1
    Friends of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site