Friday, August 10, 2007

The Gap - part 7

During the morning Crittenden and Major John Mendenhall had collected whatever artillery they found onto Dyer Ridge. At various times they had the 6th Ohio Battery, 8th Indiana Battery, 3rd Wisconsin Battery, 26th Pennsylvania Battery, 7th Indiana Battery, Battery C of the 1st Illinois, Battery D of the 1st Michigan (also referred to as the 4th Michigan Battery) and Battery H of the 4th US. Some of these batteries arrived at Dyer Ridge just minutes before the break through happened while some had been there most of the morning.

A total of 44 cannon in eight batteries were on Dyer Ridge at one time or another (it being nearly impossible to determine exactly when batteries arrived and left during those hectic minutes after the breakthrough). The cannon that were on the ridge included 10 pound Parrots, 6 pound smooth bores, 12 pound howitzers, 6 pound James rifles, 12 pound Napoleons and 3 inch rifles. An exact count of cannon is nearly impossible because Battery D of the 1st Michigan had previously lost two of its six guns and Captain J.W. Church did not list what was lost when, only that he was only able to escape with a 12 pound howitzer.

Of those eight batteries they lost 23 guns during the breakthrough; the entire army lost 36 guns during the two days of battle. The 6th Ohio Battery was the only battery to go unscathed while the 8th Indiana Battery lost all 6 of its guns, the 3rd Wisconsin Battery lost 5 of 6, the 26th Pennsylvania Battery lost 4 of 6, the 7th Indiana Battery lost 1 of 6, Battery C of the 1st Illinois lost 3 of 6, Battery D of the 1st Michigan lost 3 of 4 (after having previously lost 2) and Battery H of the 4th US lost 1 of 4.

At first glance it would seem easy to compare the fields of fire at Dyer Field to other battlefields where artillery was put to good use. One could compare the numbers of guns, the time the artillery had used to prepare their position and the amount of open ground. This would not actually be too beneficial because there are too many other variables, such as the quality of the troops on either side, the availability of support and the topography of the open ground. Some attacks against artillery had long distances to travel over relatively flat surfaces (Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg) while other attacks were much shorter but over more severe terrain (Missionary Ridge). We also would not know how long the Dyer Ridge defenses would have had to prepare as it is impossible to say how long Wood might have held Longstreet back. The numbers of guns could be compared but because there are too many other contributing factors this is a moot point.


Dave Powell said...


Several of the batteries you attribute to Mendenhall's line were never there. These would be Brannan's three batteries: D, 1 Mich Lt (4th Mich) C, 1st Ohio, and Bradley's 6th Ohio Bty.

Church's Battery D, 1st Mich, was on line with Connell in Poe Field when the breakthrough occurred. He left two guns on the original line, and a third abandoned in the limber line, so he was down to three guns before he left Poe Field. He fell back, not to join Mendenhall, but instead to come to rest on Harker's Knoll next to Schultz' Battery M, 1st Ohio. When Battery M was ordered out of action by a courier from Negley, Church retired as well, but had to leave two more guns. These guns were the ones that Kershaw and the Texans both reported as captured by their attacks. Church never saw, reported to, or was part of Mendenhall's line.

Marco Gary's Battery C, 1st Ohio, was the next battery in line to the north in Poe Field, supporting Croxton's Brigade. Gary turned his battery south to face Benning, and fought for a while there, until he was outflanked. Company A of the 10th Indiana helped Gary drag 5 of his 6 guns back to the limber line. From there, Gary fell back Northwest until he met Brannan, who ordered him to Snodgrass Hill. Gary fell in alongside Smith's Battery I, 4th US near the Snodgrass House, and was ordered off the field when Negley left. He was never within a thousand yards of Mendenhall's line.

Bradley's 6th Ohio moved with Harker's Brigade when Wood moved. Bradley was Wood's Chief of arty, and was accompanying his battery on the move north. When Wood and Harker discovered the breakthrough, Two companies of Harker's 3rd KY and Bradley's 6th Ohio Battery were cut off from the rest of the brigade. They retreated almost due west and Bradley reported to Negley, who put him in line near Smith, Bridges, and Gary. Bradley followed Negley's retreat to Rossville, and did not participate in the Mendenhall fight either.

Mendenhall's original line included only the 26th PA (down to 4 guns since they lost two on Saturday) the 3rd Wisc, and 7th Indiana. The 8th Indiana joined them when Buell was Routed, and H of the 4th US wandered in from Kelly field. Battery H never unlimbered before it was pulled out again.

Mendenhall Started with 16 guns, six each from the 3rd WI and 7th IN, and the four survivors of the 26 PA. Estep's 8th IN added 6 more, and Cushing's H 4th US 4 more pieces; all for a grand total of 26 guns.

All told, the Federals lost 14 of these 26 guns. Mendenhall reported 15 lost, which is why the park tablet refers to that figure, but Mendenhall in his report mistakenly noted that all the guns of the 8th IN were captured; Estep makes it clear that one escaped.

Dave Powell

Anonymous said...

Correction: Second sentence of the first para should read: "Brannan's TWO Batteries" ...Bradley belonged to Wood, as one of the following paras makes clear...

Dave Powell

Don said...

These discussions are always informational and educational. To think that on the "staff ride" that we conducted over the battlefield we didn't even leave the vehicles here....

Dave Powell said...


Chickamauga is a complex battle. When I give a two day tour of the field, we have to skip over lots of stuff, and Dyer is usually one victim. This is why I started to do 'focus' tours every March, so we could select specific actions and examine them in more detail in a 3-4 hour battle walk.

Peter Cozzens' book on the battle is long, and very detailed, and yet there are actions which he fails to cover much at all - Brannan's fight in Poe Field, for example, or Deas and Manigault's last attack on Horseshoe Ridge.

Dave Powell

Don said...

So is Cozzens the best reference available on the battle? Definitely seems the most well known.

Dave Powell said...

Cozzens is the most complete account of the battle. However, there have not been a lot of others. Tucker's book is well known, but is now nearly 50 years old.

Dave Powell