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CHICKAMUGA 

Newspaper article written by Lt. Col. William M. Cockrum describing
his 1894 visit and the reminiscing of the Chickamauga Campaign

 Source: Oakland City, Indiana Journal, September 10, 1894
Thanks to Bill Marshall who submitted this article

 

 

CHICKAMAUGA

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The writer has just returned from a visit to the historical battle-fields of Chickamauga, Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, where thirty-one years ago some of the most desperate and bloody scenes that took place during the war were enacted.

            But what a change has come over that country.  The wilderness and tangled wild wood, strewn with fallen timbers that were on the Chickamauga battle-field, has all been changed.  The united States has purchased eight thousand acres, which includes nearly all the ground on which the great battle was fought, and have cleared it all of underbrush and logs, and have made sixty-three miles of as (unreadable) pike road on the grounds as can (unreadable) made.  Every part of the vast field is (?) touched by these roads.  The grounds have been most thoroughly sliced (?) and are under a board of United States officers, who are having (unreadable) these vast improvements made.  Large bronze tablets three feet square with raised letters mark all the points and explain in full the troops engaged at that point – both federal and confederate – and the number of killed and wounded.  There are 163 of these tablets besides over 200 smaller tablets showing how to find the different places of interest.  The United States has erected to each of the 4 U.S. regular regiments and to the regular battery a monument of granite with a full history of doings of each of these commands at this battle on (unreadable).  The state of Ohio has now 55 large monuments of granite erected and being erected to her regiments and batteries.  The state of Minnesota had only one regiment, the second, in the fight, and she has two large monuments erected to that regiment.  One of these marks the last stand made on Snodgrass hill.  Where Thomas made his desperate fight on top of it there is a bronze statue of a group of soldiers full size fighting under (?) a flag.

            The confederates have large monuments erected to their general officers who were killed, and many tablets marking the most prominent points of the fight.  Indiana had 28 regiments of infantry, 2 regiments and one battalion of cavalry and 8 batteries of artillery.  She had two division generals and six brigadier generals in that fight, yet the only monument erected is the one put up by General Wilder’s Brigade and a monument of cannon balls where Col. King of the 68th Indiana was killed.

            Our great state can’t afford to be this(?) behind and be outdone by other states.  There will be an effort made to get an appropriation for that purpose as did Ohio.

            I easily found the point where my regiment went into the fearful battle Sunday morning, though everything had been greatly changed, yet the old house near where I lay on that awful field all day Sunday was still there.  I was shot down and (unreadable) fell into the hands of the enemy, and was taken on Monday some two miles to the old Alexander house or yard near to bridge of that name that spans the Chickamauga Creek, here I lay 17 days.  Sixty of us was put in a line across a peach orchard, all badly wounded, 31 of the number died during the 17 days.  I was there, everything looks much the same as it did then.  The ground is still in peach trees, and the old stone chimney stands there just as it did then.  This point is just at the edge of the government purchase.  How may terrible scenes of that awful battle reoccurred to me as I was passing along.  It seemed that I could almost hear the cry and moans of a poor wounded young soldier, who had been hit by a cannon ball taking away a large part of his right side.  I felt as though I could almost see him and hear him cry, “Jesus, have mercy on my soul.”  What a multitude of thoughts were crowded into that half hour that he lived, lying there by my side.  What regrets, what hopes, what fears, the sky was darkening, earth fading, wealth, power, fame, the prized most esteemed by men were as nothing.  His only hope lay in the Savior, of whom his mother had taught him.  I doubt not that his earnest agonizing prayers were heard.  Nay, to doubt would be to question the mercy of God.

            A confederate boy that should have been with his mother was lying within less than a rod on the other side of me, with both his legs nearly cut off, by a piece of shell.  He was bleeding to death and crying bitterly, another confederate, who knew him, was trying to console, but the poor little fellow was continually saying, “Oh, if I could see my dear mother.”  As badly as I was off myself, I was greatly affected by the agonizing and pleading cries of these young soldiers.  They were fighting under different flags but the same awful realization come to both of them, when they come face to face with grim death, both looked to the same power for consoling grace to die with, both were aiming for the same haven of rest.  They died within ten minutes of each other, neither of them over 18 years old.  These are only two instances of many that was being enacted within hearing of where I lay.  All over the ground as far as I could see wounded and dead men of both armies were laying.  Some were slowing crawling, trying to get away from the fury of battle.  Others were crying piteously for water.  What must have been the agony, mentally and physically of these desperately wounded men as they lay in the dreary roads sensible that there was no on to comfort or care for them, and that in a few hours more their career on earth would be ended.  But I must stop.

            The awful reality of that desperate battle came back to me as fresh and plain, whilst I was driving over it, as did the evening of the 20th of  Sept. 1863, when I heard for the first time during my service the long, loud shout of victory by the rebels, and realized that I was doomed to remain a prisoner with a good prospect of bleeding to death.

 

 

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