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History of the Eighty-Sixth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry and McCook’s 36th Brigade During the American Civil War

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History of the Eighty-Sixth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry and McCook’s 36th Brigade During the American Civil War
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Author(s): John R. Kinnear
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 128
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-109-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-110-2

A Union Army regiment at war

This concise account of a regiment of volunteers from the state of Illinois enables the reader to follow its progress through its service during the war between the states. Marching towards Nashville, the 86th took part in the Battle of Chickamauga followed by Mission Ridge, Knoxville, the Atlanta Campaign, Averysboro, Bentonville and the capture of Johnston’s Army to war’s end. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket. Another essential unit history for students of the American Civil War.

Our corps, commanded by General Gordon Granger, was held in reserve at this battle, and was not generally engaged on the 19th. The battle of the 19th was a hard contested one, and, when night came, the advantages were about equal. The enemy were vastly superior in numbers, in about the ratio of five to three, making him buoyant and desperate on this day and the next. On the next day, the 20th of September, the fate of Chickamauga was to be decided.<br>
The battle commenced at half-past eight a.m., the effort of the enemy being, as on the previous day, to turn the left flank of our army, and then gain access to the Lafayette and Chattanooga road. Thomas, who was in command at the left, was hard pressed from the start, and General Rosecrans directed him to hold on, assuring him that he should be reinforced if necessary, by the entire army. Our brigade was moved, early on the morning of the 20th, from its position of the night previous, and marched out on the left wing of the army to an old church, known as the McAfee Church.<br>
Here it manoeuvred about on the left flank of the army, taking different positions, in readiness for the expected advance of the enemy in that quarter. The battle continued to rage furiously on our right. From some misunderstanding, there was a gap left in the line of battle on the right centre of the army. The rebels instantly worked into this breach, striking our troops in flank and rear, throwing them into complete confusion, from which they never recovered till they reached Rossville. Seven brigades, or about one-fourth of our entire force, were thus swept away by this misfortune, and though the loss in killed and wounded was not very heavy, and that in prisoners less than would have been expected, they were effectually cut off from rendering further aid to the rest of the army during that day.<br>
Among those in this rout, were, without fault of their own, Major-Generals Rosecrans, McCook, and Crittenden. Each made repeated efforts to join the main body, but in vain, and finally fell back to Rossville, whence General Rosecrans sent his chief of staff, General Garfield, to ascertain how Thomas was succeeding in holding the rebels at bay, and himself, with Generals McCook and Crittenden, went on to Chattanooga, to secure the trains and put the city in a state of defence, if, as he feared, the army should be driven to retreat thither. The rout on the right wing took place about one o’clock p.m.<br>
Notwithstanding the break on the right, General Thomas, though opposed by a force at least five to two, stood grim and defiant, resisting the repeated assaults upon his lines with a persistency never surpassed. From two o’clock till sunset, a terrible battle raged along Thomas’ line. About two in the afternoon, our brigade was ordered to the assistance of Thomas, it then being some three miles to his left, and going this distance on the double-quick. The General saw a cloud of dust in the direction we were coming, and, it is said, he was uneasy at first, not knowing whose forces they were, Confederate or Union. A messenger was sent to ascertain who they were and whence they came.<br>
When the brigade arrived and was taking up position, the enemy opened a furious fire upon it, and had it advanced a short distance further, would certainly have been captured. When the brigade got into position, Battery I, replied with spirit to the fire of the enemy, which, by this time, had got the right range on us. Our position now became fairly hideous; the woods roared and the very heavens quaked, while shot and shell filled the air with frightful sounds. The grass and woods between our brigade and the enemy had caught fire, which conspired to make our position more disagreeable than ever, though it doubtless saved us a hard fight, for the rebels would not advance through it.<br>
The other two brigades of our division, still on our right, led by General Steedman in person, rushed upon the enemy in a furious charge, which was passing through a low gap to the rear and flank of Brannan’s position. The shock was terrible; and for a time, as the opposing forces met in a hand-to-hand fight, success swayed from side to side; in a few minutes more the enemy was repulsed, and dared not make the attempt again. A thousand of these brave men fell, killed or wounded, in that brief half hour’s struggle; but they held the gap.<br>
When night came, the battle ceased, everything becoming still and hushed. The enemy now fell back, leaving the field of battle in possession of General Thomas; but finding the ammunition, food and water necessary for his men were exhausted, the General withdrew with his troops about midnight to Rossville, where they arrived in good order.<br>
McCook’s brigade was the last that left the field, and the Eighty-sixth, the last regiment. It was after one o’clock at night when it passed the Rossville Gap and went into camp. There laid down to sleep that night a tired set of men, the fatigues of the day having almost overcome them. Many a brave comrade fell on the bloody field of Chickamauga; and another such would have ruined our army.
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