Sunday, August 01, 2010

They Stood As If Every Man was a Hero

In the afternoon after a blistering morning at the Chickamauga battlefield, I went back up to the relative cool of Lookout Mountain and the three of us - Jenbach, Isabella, and myself - went over to Point Park, a strategic location overlooking Chattanooga held by the Confederates during the siege of Chattanooga.

At 4:00 AM on the morning of September 8, 1863, Company A of the Kentucky 23rd Infantry started up Lookout Mountain on a reconnaissance, arriving at Point Lookout about 11:30 AM. "we found no enemy in force on the mountain, and now from this point could be distinctly seen the dust from the enemy's column moving out from Chattanooga". I wonder if our second great grandfather, George Caseman, would have thought three of his granddaughters would be looking at the same view from the same location a hundred and sixty four years later.

Eleven days later, brothers George, Jacob, and Foster Caseman were fighting in the bloody battle at Chickamauga, a few miles south of Chattanooga. From their brigade commander's report at Chickamauga, "they stood as if every man was a hero... I ordered my men to rise up and open fire, which they did with a cheer. The Twenty-fourth Ohio halted in our rear, and now, side by side and shoulder to shoulder, did the Twenty-fourth Ohio and Twenty-third Kentucky stand up and successively repulse the enemy in all his attacks...the fire now was very appeared to me as though every third man in the regiment was struck". Of the brothers, only George and Jacob would survive to retreat with the Union Army to Chattanooga. On the first day of battle, young Foster, age 21, was killed in action.

Later in the evening we walked downtown Chattanooga, found Orchard Knob which I had to climb, closed to the public or not,

and drove a bit east to Missionary Ridge.

Here the Kentucky 23rd was part of the famous charge up Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863. Ordered to only make a "demonstration" at the bottom of Missionary Ridge, the 18,000 enlisted men on their own and without orders from General Grant, smarting from the defeat at Chickamauga, one by one or in small groups of two to three, gradually rose to their feet and charged up the steep slopes of the ridge toward the rebel's fortified position chanting "Chickamauga, Chickamauga".

"At the center of this unplanned and unordered attack was Arthur MacArthur and the 24th Wisconsin. MacArthur’s color bearer had been killed during the fighting for the rifle pits and, as men began to clamber out of the trenches and up the hill, his replacement was decapitated by a round of solid shot from a Confederate gun above. MacArthur himself was wounded but still standing. When the colors went down a second time, he climbed out of the trench, grabbed them, and turned to his men, who were still cowering in the rifle pits. Raising the now ragged, battle-scarred flag high above his head, he shouted "On Wisconsin!" and moved quickly up the ridge.

In one of those rare moments when men are moved from terror to bravery, the men of the 24th Wisconsin rose up and began to follow Little Mac up the steep slope amid a hail of enemy rifle and artillery fire. As the Union soldiers up and down the line moved closer, the Confederate defenders abandoned their positions at the crest in disorganized panic. As Arthur MacArthur reached the summit of Missionary Ridge, he firmly planted the staff of the bullet-riddled flag in the ground for all to see. MacArthur, the 24th Wisconsin, and the Army of the Cumberland, who Grant had feared would not leave their trenches, smashed Bragg’s center in six places, sending the Southern army into full retreat. The siege of Chattanooga was broken."

Young Arthur was an 18 year old lieutenant with a command in the Wisconsin 24th, a Scotsman, of course, father of General Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame, and inspiration for the "On, Wisconsin" fight song. I wonder if most University of Wisconsin freshmen know this?

Tomorrow, we start our "March Through Georgia", by car of course.


MaCoBra said...

Nice blog you have, interesting stories, I enjoyed reading it!

Pat said...

Hi MaCoBra! Kathie (who has done most of our writing over the last year) is computerless this weekend as she's off hiking in Washington. On her behalf, thanks for the compliment! She does put a lot of work into her blogging.

Hope you're back to blogging now. We'll be checking on you. :)