Unceasing Fury at Chickamauga

Fourteen hundred and 91 days in the Confederate Army (1953)
W.W. Heartsill as he appeared after the Civil War

The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 18–20, 1863, pitted William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland against Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee in the war’s first major land battle in Georgia. The bloody fighting, which resulted in a resounding Confederate victory and produced some 34,000 total causalties, was marked by a series of Rebel attacks. On the 19th, Union forces were able to stave off the Confederate advances. On the 20th, James Longstreet’s corps exploited a gap in the Union line and drove a large portion of the Union army—including Rosecrans himself—from the field. The remaining Union troops, led by George H. Thomas, held firm in the face of repeated Confederate assaults. Among the Confederate troops who fought at Chickamauga was W.W. Heartsill, a native of Texas who had enlisted in the army at the beginning of the war. Throughout his military service, Heartsill kept a detailed journal of his experiences; his entries for the Battle of Chickamauga are reproduced below. Heartsill would survive the battle and the war. After the conflict, he returned to Texas, where he sold groceries and saddles. He died in 1916. Sept 19 This morning is still cool but the day promises verry pleasant. at 7 oclock cannonading is ringing some three miles toward Chattanooga and now at 8 all is quiet.

Courrirs are dashing to and fro all in perfect motion. Our position here at present the reserve of the extreme left. Gen Hills HcQts are some two hundred yards down on the road on the right at the forks of the road one leading to Chattanooga the other west toward Lookout mountain. 10 oclk the roar of Battle is pealing forth on the right. The cannonading is terrific. Wee cannot hear the small arms on account of the distance and hills on our right. 11 oclk The battle still rages we have rumors that Breckenridge & Longstreet have crossed the Chickamauga driving the enemy before them. The rattle of musketry is now getting close at ½ past 11 wee are called into lines and expect to move at any moment. ¼ to 12 wee move to the right other troops are pooring down the valley. at 12 the fight is raging verry heavy. This fight decides whether this shall be a long or a short war our Boys are confidend.

Wee march quick and double quick for 5 miles and have the pleasure of wading the chickamauga below Lee & Gordons mills. The fireing is now on our left and is quite lively wee pass 150 prisoners in one group and several smaller squads some are wounded. At 5 oclock wee are now about the center of the army the firing is verry heavy on our left for the past 4 hours. The fight has raged with unceasing furry our boys at sunset have driven them some two miles. wee have just passed annother squad of prisoners. Our wounded are scatered around in large numbers at dark … the fight is increasing on our right and continues until 8 oclock … at 9 oclock all is quiet. We are the front line. Wee have seen 7 yankee stand of collors and some 4 or 5 hundred prisoners from the fight on our extreme left…. Wee manuver all night do not get a particle of sleep wee pass over a large number of Dead Yankees.

A depiction of the fighting at Chickamauga by Thomas Nast

Sept 20

Another sunday and evry prospect of a fierce conflict between mighty armies at day break wee advance in line of Battle wee are waiting patiently for the dread conflict of to day. The woods wee are now show evidence of the fierce fight of yesterday.

Confederate general James Deshler

There is an abundance of Dead Yankees scatered around. our Litter corps have carried all the enemys wounded to the rear that can be found. 7 oclock skirmishing has commenced in front. 8 oclock the artillery has just opened…. wee front forward about face right & left flank quick and double quick for about 3 miles and take our position in the center on a ridge amidst a perfect storm of Grape … solid shot and minie balls which are pooring in on us from the valley beyond. Wee lay down and thus escape destruction at 9 oclock Gen [James] Deshler is killed by shell it is useless to pass eulogies upon Gen D. for to know him was to love him and evry man in his Brigade regrets his death…. our Brigade holds the position althou the enemy try evry means to disloge us at 3 oclock the fight became general and until sun set never did the roar of Battle peal louder. it seemed that the verry heavens and earth shook and then the triumphant shout that went up at sun set our Boys are driving them back in fact they are in full retreat our victory is completed and now at 9 oclock I am writing by a federal Camp fire…. wee have work before us for Rosey will certainly hold us a lively string for the next few days it is bed time I must sleep for our work is fairly begun.

Source: Fourteen hundred and 91 days in the Confederate Army (1953)

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Aboard a Gun Deck During the Battle of Fort Henry

Gun-Deck of one of the Mississippi Gun-Boats Engaged in the Attack on Fort Henry – sketched by Alexander Simplot – Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, February 22, 1862