Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 23 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

23, Skirmish at Orchard Knob*
Report of Lieut. Col. Frank Askew, Fifteenth Ohio Infantry.
HDQRS. FIFTEENTH REGT. OHIO INFANTRY Volunteers, Camp near Knoxville, Tennessee, December 20, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by this command in the operations in front of Chattanooga, from the 23d to the 25th days of November, inclusive:

About noon on the 23d, we received the order to prepare to move out immediately, with two days' rations in haversacks and 60 rounds of ammunition. Our preparations were soon made, and about 1 p.m. we moved out of the works, following the Forty-ninth Ohio, and formed directly in front of Fort Wood, being on the right of the first line of the brigade, and connecting with the left of the first line of Gen. Hazen's brigade. We remained here a short time waiting for the other troops to form. When all was ready, at the signal we moved forward with the whole line, the pickets moving forward as skirmishers and driving the enemy's pickets before them, under a sharp fire. When we had gained the summit of Orchard Knob, we rested, the object of the movement-which was understood to be a reconnaissance-having, I suppose, been accomplished. After resting here a few minutes, in pursuance of the orders of the general, we began to erect a barricade or breastwork of logs and stones, and whatever loose material we could find, on the knob. As soon as we began to work the enemy opened on us with his batteries from the top of Mission Ridge, and also from batteries at the foot, and although their firing was rapid, and continued until nearly dark, it did not materially interfere with the progress of our work, so that by the morning of the 24th we had erected a very good protection against the fire of infantry.

During the forenoon of the 24th, we were relieved by the Thirty-second Indiana Regiment, and took their place in the second line, where we remained until the forenoon of the 25th, when we relieved the Thirty-second Indiana, taking again the right of the first line of the brigade, covering our own front with Company A (Capt. J. C. Cummins) and Company B (Lieut. Smith) deployed as skirmishers, supported by Company F (Capt. Glover) and Company G (Capt. Dawson) in reserve, all under the command of Maj. McClenahan. We were disposed in this manner on the afternoon of the 25th, when the signal for the general advance was given, at which we moved forward with the whole line, taking the double-quick step as soon as we reached the open ground in front of the first line of the enemy's works at the foot of Mission Ridge.

The skirmishers, with the supporting companies deployed with them went into the works at the foot of the ridge, meeting with very little resistance from the few infantry of the enemy, who occupied these works. Their artillery had all been removed during the nights of the 23d or 24th. Our skirmishers were soon followed by the regiment in line, which, as we neared the foot of the ridge, was exposed to a very heavy fire from artillery and infantry, posted behind the works on the top of the ridge, the artillery fire doing us but little damage, however, as they shot over us. Here, every one being considerably exhausted by the rapid pace at which we had reached the foot of the ridge, and under the protection of the log huts which had been the camp of the enemy, most of the command halted, and rested for a moment before undertaking the difficult ask of climbing the steep face of the ridge, "crowned with batteries, and encircled with rifle-pits;" however, the stouter ones soon pushed out, followed by the whole command, and slowly and stubbornly began to climb the hill, exposed all the while to a deluge of grape and canister from the batteries and musket-balls from the rifle-pits. Still on they went a stage at a time, picking of any of the enemy who dared show his head above their works; finally the works were reached, and, with a yell, the men went over them and in among the terror-stricken and confused enemy; many of whom threw down their arms and yielded themselves prisoners, and were sent to the rear. Those who attempted to escape were pursued down the eastern slope of the ridge and many of them captured, and pieces of artillery and caissons, which the enemy were attempting to get off down the road-which leaves the summit of the ridge where this command gained it and runs down the eastern slope of the ridge to the valley-were pursued, some of the horses shot, and the artillerists driven off or captured. The command being by this time very much scattered and disorganized, and fearing that there might be an attempt on the part of the enemy to regain the ridge, I caused the rally to be sounded, and in as short time as possible we were reorganized and ready for any movement, offensive or defensive, and awaited orders.

While resting here, Capt.'s Dawson, Carroll, and Pettit were sent with details from the regiment to bring up the artillery and caissons, which we had compelled the enemy to abandon.

They returned with five pieces of artillery and several caissons.
Shortly after this I received the order to join the brigade on the top of the ridge, which we did, and our operations for this day were ended. I desire to call the attention of the general to the gallant conduct of Sergeant Ward, our color bearer, who, while climbing up the ridge with the colors in advance of the regiment, received a severe wound. The colors were taken up by Corporal Norton, one of the color guard, and borne on up, and we have the gratification of knowing were among the first which were planted on the enemy's works.

Robert B. Brown, a private of Company A, also deserves special mention for having captured a flag of the enemy. Maj. McClenahan and Adjutant Dubois were present during the operations of the three days, and fully sustained their reputation as brave men and good officers, which they had gained on other battle-fields.

Capt. J. C. Cummins (who has his left arm shot away after he had gained the top of the ridge), Capt. Glover, Capt. Dawson, Capt. Carroll, Capt. G. W. Cummins, Capt. Pettit, and Capt. Byrd (who was again wounded, having just rejoined the regiment from an absence on account of wound received at Chickamauga) were conspicuous for their gallantry, and were with their men cheering them on. The subalterns of the regiment bore themselves well, and rendered valuable service. Lieut. Sanders, who was killed, although but lately promoted, gave promise of being as good an officer as he was an excellent soldier.

I regret that on account of the already voluminous extent of this report I cannot furnish you the names of every non-commissioned officer and private of this regiment who participated in the assault on Mission Ridge, but I hope that measures may be taken to have their names preserved and recorded, so that in after days, when their labors shall have been rewarded with the blessings of peace, they may be able to point with pride to the fact that they were among the heroes of Mission Ridge....

* * * * 
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant


Lieut.-Col., Cmdg. Regt.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. II, pp. 274-276.

*Ed. Note - There are 65 reports on the skirmishes at Orchard Knob, Indian Hill and Bushy Knob in OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. II. These make up some of the most exciting reading in the Official Records. Only one is presented here.

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