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September, 1863 – The Bloody Battle of Chickamauga

As September of 1863 dawned at the front, the men of the 100th were on the move. They took advantage of the scenery and local attractions along the way. Many of them explored caves for the first time in their lives and described them as “quite the most beautiful thing.”

Others availed themselves of the opportunity to stand in three states at one time, going to the three-footed monument that stood at the point where Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee touch each other.

On the night of the 6th they found themselves 7 miles from Chattanooga, in sight of Lookout Mountain and the signal stations of the enemy. The 11th found them at Gordon’s Mills.

Here we must look to George Woodruff in his “The Civil War Year’s in Will County” for a description of the Battle of Chickamauga. “As we have seen, by a series of masterly movements on the part of Rosecrans, he had maneuvered Bragg out of the stronghold of Chattanooga, and where he awaited reinforcements from Longstreet, which, unfortunately for the army of Rosecrans, came in time and in force sufficient to break the Union army into pieces, and to send its broken ranks, after a brave resistance, back to Chattanooga ; leaving many a brave soldier dead or wounded on the field, and in the hands of the enemy. In its result, this battle was about equally fatal to both rebel and Union armies, and to the reputation of their several commanders.”

The 100th stayed at Gordon’s mills until the real fighting began on the 18th, with a fake attack which covered the real troop movement to flank the Union forces.

Around 3 p.m. on the 19th the 100th moved in. Woodruff describes what happened next. “Our brigade was accordingly formed behind the 8th Ind. and 6th Ohio batteries, and commenced to advance in two lines, the 100th and the 26th Ohio in front.”

“But almost as soon as they had got into position, the troops in front gave way, and came rushing through the lines of our division in wild confusion, a battery running over our men killing one and wounding several others, and compelling the brigade to fall back also, across a narrow field to the edge of the wood where it reformed.”

“In crossing this field they were under a raking fire of the enemy, and suffered considerable loss. The regiment having reformed its lines, word came to Col. Bartleson that Gen. Wood wanted the 100th to make a bayonet charge on the advancing enemy.”

“The boys responded with a cheer, and charging drove the rebels back across the field into the wood where they rallied, and our regiment endured a short and murderous fire. The enemy then rallied and made a charge upon our troops in turn, and the regiment on the left of the 100th gave way.”

“The 100th maintained its ground until all the troops on both its right and left had given way, and were about to be surrounded, and were getting a sharp fire on either flank as well as in front, when they fell back again, leaving many dead and wounded on the field. Again our brigade rallied and drove the enemy in turn, and again’ retreated, and again rallied.”

Night came on and the weary men got what rest they could while Surgeon Woodruff and his men scoured the battle field for the dead and wounded.

Again in Woodruff we read, “Next day was the Sabbath, but no day of rest to the armies on the Chickamauga. About 4 o’clock in the morning, the division was moved back to a position on the left of Crittenden’s corps. The division was formed in two lines, first line deployed the second in double column closed in mass. In moving up into position, and throwing out skirmishers, the enemy was aroused; and Col. Bartleson conceived the idea of making a charge, without having received orders to do so.”

“It turned out to be an unfortunate movement. The regiment was led by the Colonel himself in the advance, upon a masked battery, supported by infantry, who opened upon them with terrible effect. The regiment was compelled to fall back in a somewhat demoralized condition to its proper place in the division. But the colonel and some portions of the regiment did not fall back, and their fate was for a time unknown.”

The Unions troops were in disarray, one man of the 100th reported fighting with six different organizations that day. The field hospital and Surgeon Woodruff was captured, Col. Bartleson’s fate was unknown, and they had lost 165 men.