History - Part VI


The Craven House still sits atop Lookout Mountain with a commanding view of Chattanooga TN below

PART VI: September - December 1863

September 1863 - From the last days of September through October 1863, the Confederate army begins a siege operation of its own at Chattanooga, Tennessee. General Braxton Bragg’s army lays siege to the Union army under Major General William Rosecrans, cutting off its supplies.

October 17, 1863 - Major General Ulysses S. Grant receives command of all of the Federal western armies; he moves to reinforce Chattanooga and replaces Rosecrans (whom he has distrusted since his failure to pursue the Confederates at Corinth) with Major General George H. Thomas. A new supply line is soon established.

November 1, 1863 - Again, following the rules of engagement of the Civil War, the 37th Alabama is
officially declared "exchanged." It is reorganized at its parole camp near Demopolis, Alabama. The scattered elements of the regiment are ordered to return and to reform.

The only weapons available to the men of the 37th Alabama at Demopolis are antique muskets - which have previously been condemned as unfit for military service. Yet they are issued anyway. To add insult to injury, there is not even enough muskets to supply each man in the unit. There is also only a meager supply of ammunition available, as well, and much of it is even the wrong caliber for the available weapons. General Moore complained that the weapons would be useless in battle, but was assured by his superiors that the situation was temporary and new weapons would soon be issued.

In the meantime, Gen. Moore observed that fallen
leaves from the trees had to be employed as additional "wadding" in order to wedge and hold the smaller ammunition (.69 caliber balls) in the barrels of some of the larger bore (.75 caliber) barrels.

Privates David Leroy Helms (Co C), John Helton (Co A) and Bryant Hemby (Co H) die of various causes in early November, Helms dies of measles on November 2, the other two die presumably of wounds or from being weakened by disease or malnutrition from Vicksburg. Helton on November 6 and Hemby on November 11.

The exchanged regiment remains in Moore’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division, Hardee’s (1st) Corps, Army of Tennessee. The regiment moves by train toward eastern Tennessee.

Army of Tennessee: General Braxton Bragg, Commanding
Hardee’s (1st) Corps: Lieutenant General William J. Hardee
Cheatham’s Division: Brigadier General John K. Jackson (Cheatham on leave)
Moore’s Brigade: Brigadier General John C. Moore
37th Regiment of Alabama: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene

Within a few days, the 37th Alabama takes its position on Lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The canon at left sit atop Lookout Mountain today. Note the panoramic view - on a clear day - of modern Chattanooga in the distance below.

Mid-November 1863 - U.S. Major General William Tecumseh Sherman arrives at Chattanooga with his four divisions and the Yankees quickly begin their own offensive operations.

November 23, 1863 - Union forces strike and capture Orchard Knob and, unexpectedly, the remaining Confederate positions on Lookout Mountain.

November 23-24, 1863 - The 37th Alabama is engaged in the "Battle of Lookout Mountain," called by the Confederates,
"The Battle Above the Clouds".

Army of Tennessee: General Braxton Bragg, Commanding
Hardee’s (1st) Corps: Lieutenant General William J. Hardee
Cheatham’s Division: Brigadier General John K. Jackson (Cheatham on leave)
Moore’s Brigade: Brigadier General John C. Moore
37th Regiment of Alabama: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene
Regimental losses: 4 killed, 11 wounded, 56 missing or captured

The 37th Alabama’s Major William F. Slaton is captured in the confusion of Lookout Mountain. (Slaton is in command of Moore's brigade’s pickets that are strung out along the base of the mountain and up its side when he was captured along with them). He must spend the rest of the war in a Michigan prison camp. One source even states that Major Slaton was taken before the Union commander, U.S. Grant where he was verbally rebuked and threatened
by Grant with execution for having (mistakenly) violated the terms of his Vicksburg parole..

The 37th Alabama plays a key role in slowing the Union advance long enough to allow the Confederate forces time to withdraw from the mountain. Officially, four men are Killed in Action and one officer (Slaton) and 11 enlisted men are wounded with another 56 missing or taken prisoner.

Read an account of the action at Lookout Mountain written by Brigadier General John C. Moore some years after the war ended.

Known Regimental Dead at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
- Private Theodore G. Bozeman (Co B) KIA (conflicting data has him POW)
- Private John B. Buxton (Co A) KIA November 24
- Private James Glover (Co H) KIA November 24
- Private William G. Slaughter (Co D) KIA November 24

November 24, 1863 - Overnight, the remaining Confederate forces consolidate on Missionary Ridge.

November 25, 1863 - The 37th Alabama is engaged in the "Battle of Missionary Ridge"
Army of Tennessee: General Braxton Bragg, Commanding
Hardee’s (1st) Corps: Lieutenant General William J. Hardee
Cheatham’s Division: Brigadier General John K. Jackson
Moore’s Brigade: Brigadier General John C. Moore
37th Regiment of Alabama: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene (wounded)
Regimental losses: 1 wounded, 1 missing or captured

Union soldiers assault and carry the Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. One of the Confederacy’s two major armies is routed - although the wing which is defended by the 37th Alabama again holds long enough to allow the Confederate forces the opportunity to escape overnight.

A total eclipse of the moon on the cold, cloudless night also assists the Rebels in slipping past Union pickets.

The Federals now hold Chattanooga, the "Gateway to the Lower South," that becomes the supply and logistics base for Sherman’s famous - and infamous - 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Captain Marion C. J. Searcy (Co H) dies of the seemingly minor wound he receives at Missionary Ridge; while recuperating in the hospital, the wound - above the elbow - became gangrenous and his arm was amputated at the shoulder. He did not survive the surgery. H. F. Reynolds is named as his replacement. The regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene is wounded again during the fighting on Missionary Ridge. Greene and Searcy, having become good friends had agreed to write one another’s eulogy in the event of the other’s death. Alexander Greene has to make good on his promise.

The substandard weapons the regiment had been issued at Demopolis, Alabama, previously condemned for drill only, and not fit for battle had failed miserably in the fight at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Many were as useful as an equal number of clubs might have been.

In his memoirs of about 1913, former Private S.L. Burney (Co G) wrote of the still-deadly effect of the antique weapon he wielded on Lookout Mountain:
"... We were armed now with any kind of an old musket available. We had old Belgian muskets, the one I had made the year I was born, 1844. Our cartridges contained one ounce ball and three buckshot, a gun much superior to their one ball rifles at close range, say 150 yards, but they had us at a great disadvantage at long range as they had guns with a range of 800 to 1000 yards.

Our elevation on this occasion enabled us to reach them by elevating our guns somewhat to a distance of about 300 yards. This we did I think with good effect.
... [during the Union advance up the mountain] ... My gun being loaded I pulled up and let her go in the bunch [of Federals]. Down went a man. Then it was up to me to run, be captured or killed. They had not discovered me until I fired into them as they were looking after our men immediately in their front. I at once ran hoping to make my escape and owing to the broken surface I thought I had a chance to get away. This I did not having to go many yards till I was under cover and out of sight. My thought as I ran and as the bullets whizzed by like hot pitch from a burning torch was that God would not permit me to escape as I had just killed a man. ..."

In 1931, a cache of nine of these pitifully inferior weapons was discovered in a cave on the western face of Lookout Mountain. These abandoned Confederate weapons ranged in age, manufacture and caliber. One was a French-style smooth bore musket (.75 caliber) with its stock dated to the Revolutionary period of 1779. Another, a model 1816 U.S.-made musket, was manufactured between 1822-1831 (.69 caliber) had been modified from its original flintlock to a percussion-cap ignition. A third was a crudely sawn-off model 1842 (.69 caliber) musket that had most likely been cut off in order to rid it of a flawed or cracked muzzle. All these weapons would be considered "third-class" weaponry at best by any measure and served to confirm the woeful state of the arms issued to Moore's Brigade to defend the mountain. All nine weapons remain in private hands, but a few have been put on public display (photo above).

Private John Malcolm Culpepper (Co B) described his service at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge in a newspaper article circa 1912 (photo of him at left circa 1920):

" ... Our brigade went on Lookout Mountain, Nov 24, engaged in that fight, which was in and above the clouds. The next day formed a line of battle on Missionary Ridge, had a hot fight on the Ridge. Two of my comrades were killed, Ervin Blanks and John Rodney. We had to retreat, so we just left the two lying there. ... "

Known Regimental Dead from Actions at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee:
- Private William Barksdale (Co E) KIA Nov 25
- Private William Ervin Blanks (Co B) KIA Nov 25 - officially MIA
- Private Joseph Boone (Co G) KIA Nov 25
- Private John L. Bruster (Co B) KIA Nov 25
- Private Winston Collins (Co D) KIA Nov 25
- Private Joseph Craddock (Co F) KIA Nov 25
- Private Sylvester C. Lester (Co D) KIA Nov 25
- Private Isador Mendheim (Co A) KIA Nov 25
- Private David L. Neal (Co D) KIA Nov 25
- Private John M. Radney (Co B) KIA Nov 25
- Captain Marion C.J. Searcy (Co H) WIA Nov 25 - DOW Dec 3
- Private Abraham Singer (Co I) KIA Nov 25
- Private Jesse Woodruff (Co D) KIA Nov 25

Again, the official numbers of 1 Wounded man and 1 Missing/POW vastly underestimate the actual known figures. One of the most interesting casualties is Private James B. Davis (Co K) who appears on the hospital rolls on December 7 shortly after the battles in Tennessee, with a diagnosis of "Aphonia" - a complete loss of voice - often attributed to shock - effectively striking him mute. Even more intriguing is that he is not the first member of the regiment thus affected.

Private William H. Manning
(Co K) had already received a disability discharge at Enterprise MS on 27 Oct 1863 indicating that he too was "Aphonic." and has a "Nearly complete loss of voice being able to speak only in a low whisper. We would recommend detail as nurse in hospital."

Those men taken POW at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge also have the misfortune of being considered as parole violators, or as the term of the day states being
"Taken In Arms." Federal officials on the scene mistakenly do not show that the 37th Alabama has been officially exchanged, and therefore its members are seen as criminals and are immediately processed to northern prison camps rather than being eligible for parole again.

December 1863
- Following his defeats around Chattanooga, Tennessee, General Braxton Bragg withdraws his army to winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia. The 37th Alabama Regiment reports 73 casualties from the actions at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and now totals only 407 men and 359 pitifully out-of-date arms.

NEXT: History - Part VII


37th Alabama Regiment of Volunteer Infantry CSA
2300 Cottondale Lane Little Rock, AR 72202

© Copyright 2007 C.C. (Chip) Culpepper