Remember the Orphan Brigade

AUG

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Part 1

The Orphan Brigade was formed in October 1861 from a group of Kentucky units that mustered into Confederate service in northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky in the summer and fall of 1861. Due to Kentucky's neutrality policy in the summer of 1861, men wishing to join the Confederacy traveled to Camps Boone and Burnette, near Clarksville, TN. Here, the nucleus of the Orphan Brigade was formed.

2nd Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Boone, 17 July 1861

3rd Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Boone, 20 July 1861

4th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Camp Burnett, 13 September 1861

6th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Bowling Green, KY, 19 November 1861

9th Kentucky Infantry, organized at Bowling Green, 3 October 1861, as the 5th Kentucky Infantry (preliminary
organization; final organization not complete until 15 May 1862

1st Kentucky Artillery (Cobb's Battery), organized at Bowling Green, 20 September1861

Graves' Battery, organized at Bowling Green, 8 November 1861

Byrne's Battery, organized in Washington County, MS, July 1861

John Hunt Morgan's Cavalry Squadron, organized at Bowling Green, 5 November 186

Some of these units left the Brigade for other organizations, and other units joined later. Through most of its career, the Orphan Brigade was composed of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th Infantry regiments, and Cobb's Battery.

The name "Orphan Brigade" was apparently a post-war invention by the veterans. It may have been in limited use by the end of the war, but it was not a widespread name like "Stonewall Brigade." During the war, the Orphan Brigade was generally known as the Kentucky Brigade, or the First Kentucky Brigade. There have been two theories put forward as to the source of the name, both are probably partly correct.

Following the Orphans' disastrous assault at Murfreesboro on 2 January 1863, in which they suffered devastating casualties from massed Federal artillery, Gen. Breckinridge rode along their lines. Distraught at the obvious high casualties, he cried out, "My poor Orphan Brigade! They have cut it to pieces!" ("E.P. Thompson," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 4, No. 11, November 1896, p. 368). In this battle, the Brigade commander, Gen. Roger Hanson, was mortally wounded. The Kentuckians again lost their commander, Gen. Ben Hardin Helm, at Chickamauga, further contributing to their feeling of being "orphaned."

Another possible source for the name was the general situation faced by the Kentucky Confederates. When they left the state in February 1862, they were never able to return as a unit during the war. Cut off from supplies, recruits, and even mail from their homes behind enemy lines, the Kentuckians began to see themselves as "orphans" whose only home was the Confederate Army.

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Cheer!, Boys, Cheer! The Orphan Brigade at Shiloh Part 2

As Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston organized his forces in preparation for an attack on the Federals at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, he placed Gen. John C. Breckinridge in command of a Reserve Corps at Burnsville, Mississippi, at the end of March 1862. This "corps" was a division-size unit composed of the Kentucky Brigade, Bowen's, and Statham's Brigades. The senior Kentucky colonel, Robert P. Trabue of the 4th Kentucky Infantry, took command of the Kentucky Brigade, consisting of the 3rd, 4th, 5/9th, and 6th Kentucky regiments, 31st Alabama Infantry, 4th Alabama Battalion, Crews' Tennessee Battalion, Cobb's and Byrne's Batteries, and Morgan's Cavalry Squadron (attached). Here at Burnsville, on the eve of the battle of Shiloh, the Kentuckians received a supply of brand-new Enfield rifles that had been run through the blockade the previous fall, along with British accoutrements and ammunition. They would make good use of these in the coming battle.

Breckinridge's Reserve Corps took the road from Burnsville on the morning of April 4 and moved slowly in the rear of the army, passing Mickey's House (a local landmark often mentioned in reports) to arrive within four miles of Pittsburg Landing on the night of April 5. On the morning of the 6th, they again formed the rear of the army, following Gen. Leonidas Polk's Corps in the attack column. Early in this movement, Gen. Breckinridge was ordered to take his two rear brigades to the right, leaving Col. Trabue to lead the Kentucky Brigade forward on his own.

Moving off the Pittsburg-Corinth Road and passing Shiloh Church to their right, the Orphans came to the edge of an old field, which had been the scene of earlier action. With cannon shot and bullets whistling over their heads, Col. Trabue halted the Brigade in a depression and rode forward to reconnoiter and to place Cobb's Battery. Here, in the modern Crescent Field on Shiloh National Military Park, occurred one of the most memorable scenes of the battle. John Hunt Morgan's cavalrymen were nearby, having already been in action guarding the army's left flank. As the Kentuckians met, both groups broke out in song, singing the Kentuckians' favorite battle anthem:

"Cheer, boys, cheer, we'll march away to battle;
Cheer, boys, cheer, for our sweethearts and our wives;
Cheer, boys, cheer, we'll nobly do our duty;
And give to Kentucky our hearts, our arms, our lives!"

Here, too, Kentucky Confederate Governor George W. Johnson joined the ranks. He had been serving as a volunteer aide, but a stray shot killed his horse. He picked up a musket and asked to be sworn into the ranks as a private, joining Company E of the 4th Kentucky Infantry.

1565573098587.png

About this time, the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, the Alabama and Tennessee battalions, and Byrne's Battery were detached and moved to the right by order of Gen. Beauregard. Cobb's Battery was also moved (without Trabue's knowledge), so the Kentucky Brigade went into action with only the 4th, 6th, and 5th/9th Kentucky in line, with the 31st Alabama in reserve. Trabue's reconnaissance showed the enemy in the woods to his left front, and he moved to attack them.

Trabue advanced the Brigade across a small clearing and into a woodline, where he observed the Federals forming line on the other side of a stream bed. This was McDowell's Brigade of Sherman's Division, which had been in action earlier and was returning to the field. As Trabue maneuvered his Kentuckians against the enemy, the 4th Kentucky found itself opposite the 46th Ohio Infantry, but at an angle. Calmly sitting his horse as if on the parade field, Maj. Thomas B. Monroe skillfully changed the front of his regiment to meet the enemy squarely. The Ohioans fired first, a volley which in their haste flew mostly over the Kentuckians' heads. Now the long hours of drill paid off as the Fourth completed its maneuver and took careful aim at the Federals, only a hundred yards away.

Maj. Monroe kept his men steady, and gave the commands to aim and fire without hurry. The 4th Kentucky's precision fire from their new Enfields crashed home into the Buckeye line. The repeated volleys from the 4th Kentucky devastated the Ohioans, who suffered half their number as casualties during this part of the battle (you can read about this action today on the monument of the 46th Ohio, erected on this spot on the battlefield, near Tour Stop 2). The 6th and 5th/9th regiments were also fighting McDowell's Brigade, inflicting heavy casualties on the 6th Iowa and 13th Missouri Infantry, and after fighting for about an hour and a half, Trabue sensed the enemy's impending collapse. He ordered a bayonet charge down the slope, and with the shrill Rebel Yell streaming from their throats, the Kentuckians charged across the ravine. The Federals broke and ran for their camps in the rear, but failed to make a stand, and retreated toward Pittsburg Landing. Elated with their victory, the Orphans moved forward and through the abandoned Yankee camps. They had indeed "seen the elephant" (Civil War slang for going into combat for the first time), and had come out on top.

Cobb's Battery, meanwhile, did not enjoy the same level of success as the Kentucky infantry. Detached from the Kentucky Brigade, they were moved a couple hundred yards to the east, where they unlimbered in a captured Federal camp and prepared to meet the advance of two brigades in Blue. Lacking proper support, the battery lost most of its horses and nearly forty men in a matter of minutes. A determined rush by the Federals succeeded in overrunning the guns, but they were retaken, and four were successfully removed to the rear. Cobb's Battery had been decimated, and saw no further action that day.

After defeating McDowell's Brigade, Trabue moved the Kentucky infantry cautiously forward, heading east toward the sound of heaviest fighting. Stopping occasionally to engage scattered Federal forces, the Brigade made its way across Tilghman Creek and into the abandoned camp of the 3rd Iowa Infantry, about 5PM. While the Orphans were fighting on the left, the Confederates in the center had run into stiff opposition from Federals along a sunken wagon lane, later to be called the "Hornets' Nest." The Kentuckians found themselves in the rear of the Hornets' Nest as the Federal lines finally broke and the survivors fell back. Trabue placed his Brigade in a blocking position and fired into the Federals, turning them back into their camps and capturing most of the 12th Iowa Infantry. The enemy's captured Enfields were issued to the 6th and 5th/9th regiments, who had not been fully supplied at Burnsville.

It had been a signal day for Kentucky Confederates. Here at the rear of the Hornets' Nest, the triumphant Orphan infantry met their beloved leader, Gen. Breckinridge, at the height of their success. Morgan's Squadron continued to screen the army's left, finally charging an Ohio battery at full gallop, in an unsuccessful attempt to break the final Federal line on their right. Byrne's Battery had formed part of Ruggles' famous artillery line, and helped break the Hornets' Nest with its accurate fire. Reunited with the rest of Breckinridge's force, the Orphans moved toward the river and occupied a bluff overlooking the final Federal line at the landing. Here they were subjected to heavy shell fire from the Federal gunboats Tyler and Lexington. Upon order, Trabue withdrew to the rear to encamp, picking up Byrne's Battery along the way, and passing back along the Purdy Road to occupy the camps of the 46th Ohio and 6th Iowa, whom the Kentuckians had defeated in their first engagement that morning. The Kentuckians spent a damp night in the Federal camps, where the tents had been largely destroyed. But their spirits were buoyed by enjoying the spoils of war, as the enemy had left a large amount of food and other supplies in their hasty retreat of the morning. Sgt. Henry "Unk" Cowling of the 5th/9th Kentucky found a large round cheese, which he carried stuck on his bayonet until his colonel made him throw it away. Gen. Johnston having been killed near the Hornets' Nest, Gen. Beauregard was now in command of the Confederate force. Beauregard was confident that the Federals were defeated, and he fully expected them to retreat during the night. Gen. Grant spent the night not in retreat, but in organizing his scattered forces and the reinforcements from Gen. Buell's army. These he launched in a counterattack first thing on Monday morning, April 7, 1862. Gen. Buell's fresh troops had little trouble dealing with the initial Confederate defense, since Beauregard had done little to reorganize and resupply his forces, in his confidence that Grant would retreat.

As the Federals attacked on Monday morning, Trabue moved the Kentucky Brigade back to the field to meet this threat. As they arrived at the Duncan Field, the Kentuckians found Buell's troops to their front. Trabue placed Byrne's Battery on a slight elevation, where the guns were fought continuously for over an hour, and a third of the men were lost. The Brigade was deployed in support, and was soon moved to the right, toward the heaviest fighting. During this movement, the 4th Kentucky Infantry and 4th Alabama Battalion were detached by Gen. Bragg, and ordered to attack the enemy across the field. In four separate attacks, the Kentuckians and Alabamians moved against vastly superior numbers. The enemy forces included the 5th Kentucky Infantry US (the "Louisville Legion") and the 6th and 9th Kentucky US regiments, and for the first of what would become many occasions during the war, Kentuckian fought Kentuckian.

Attacking without adequate support, the 4th Kentucky suffered their greatest casualties of the battle here in the Duncan Field. Maj. Thomas B. Monroe was killed, and his brother Ben was mortally wounded. Also killed was Gov. George Johnson, fighting in Capt. Ben Monroe's company. Hugh Henry, an Irishman who had served in the British Army at Waterloo, stood to his task in the ranks after repeated wounds, until he, too, was killed. When the day ended, the 4th Kentucky had lost just under fifty percent casualties.

Forced to fall back by the advance of the fresh Federal reinforcements, the Kentuckians regrouped near Shiloh Church, where they fell in with other Confederate units in a final delaying action. Cobb's Battery was again engaged near Water Oaks Pond, but was soon forced to retire. Breckinridge's Corps formed the army's rear guard, and the Kentuckians bivouacked a few miles from Shiloh Church, on the road to Corinth. The next day they moved back to Mickey's House and guarded the Confederate hospitals, assisting Forrest's Cavalry in repelling a Federal attack. Moving back to Corinth, the Orphan Brigade went to work on the trenches in that area.

Shiloh had a devastating effect on the Orphan Brigade, like many other commands. The men had indeed seen the elephant, and it was a rude awakening. Cobb's Battery was nearly shattered, and was forced to make up its losses by the breakup of Byrne's Battery. The 4th Kentucky was at little over half-strength. The other regiments had also suffered severe losses; Johnny Green took the colors of the 5th/9th regiment after the entire color-guard was lost. The Brigade lost nearly 850 men in total. Many men who had enthusiastically gone to war only half a year earlier were now lying in hospitals with shattered limbs, or in Northern prison camps, or dead on the field, awaiting burial in mass graves.

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AUG

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Part 3 The Orphan Brigade at Vicksburg

Although a battle honor for "Vicksburg(h)" appears on original Orphan Brigade flag, and "Vicksburg" is listed as a battle among the company rosters in Thompson's History of the Orphan Brigade (1898), the Orphans' actions there should not be confused with the campaign in the summer of 1863 which resulted in the fall of the city. The Kentuckians of the Orphan Brigade served at Vicksburg an entire year prior, manning various positions during the defense of the city in July 1862.
The Confederate forces fell back from Corinth at the end of May 1862, marching further south into Mississippi. In mid-June Breckinridge's Division was detached and sent toward Vicksburg, arriving there at the end of the month. The men went into camp in a valley near a bridge four miles out on the railroad to Jackson, and for the next month they endured the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of the Mississippi summer. The brigades were dispersed among the defenses of the city, and the 4th Kentucky Infantry was detached and sent fourteen miles south of Vicksburg to Warrenton, to guard against a land attack by the Federals.

The Kentuckians fought no pitched battles while at Vicksburg, but they were constantly on guard against the bombardment of the Federal fleets, particularly the mortar boats, whose huge shells could be seen streaking high into the air, to eventually descend and burst over the city. Undoubtedly, the most exciting moments for the Orphans came when the Confederate ironclad ram Arkansas, commanded by fellow Kentuckian Lt. Isaac Newton Brown, made a daring run through the Federal fleet and anchored at Vicksburg in mid-July. A detail of soldiers was assigned to the ship following its battles, to help recoal and resupply it. Some of the Kentucky volunteers from Cobb's Battery even helped serve the Arkansas' guns during a night battle at Vicksburg, and Caleb Allen of the 6th Kentucky Infantry actually transferred to the Navy for a time, serving on theArkansas during her further battles.

The Orphans at Vicksburg whiled away the time in the heat, amusing themselves as best they could, but with tragic results on one occasion. A couple of captured hogs provided steeds for an improvised race, but frightened by Federal shelling, the hogs became uncontrollable. One porcine steed, with Charles Edwards of the 9th Kentucky on its back, ran straight over a 50-foot bluff. Edwards suffered a broken back and died in a few minutes, but the Orphans got their revenge on his hog, which was slaughtered and eaten by Edwards' friends.
Breckinridge's Division received orders to take Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from the Federals, and so left Vicksburg at the end of July. One doubts if any of the Orphans looked back.

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donna

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Thanks for post. This is one of my favorite Brigades. A great book is "Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade, The Journal of a Confederate Soldier". It is edited by A.D. Kirwan.

Johnny Green (1841-1920) served in the Orphan Brigade thorough out the war and was discharged with the rank of regimental sergeant major. In his journal, he writes about all the major campaigns that the Brigade was in, including Shiloh, Baton Rouge, Munfreesboro, Stone's River, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Dalton, Atlanta, and the battles in the Carolinas.

I feel as others, that the Orphan Brigade had a dramatic combat record unparalleled by that of any Civil War Unit, North or South. It was formed with 5000 volunteers. By the end of the war, only 900 men remained as part of a mounted unit in the Carolina campaign, and yet they all passionately protested the inevitable surrender.

Johnny Green was a Kentucky boy , born and raised and died in the state. After the war, he came to Louisville, Kentucky. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
 

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Part 4 The Orphan Brigade at Murfreesboro/Stones River

The captured men of Ft. Donelson, as well as their officers had been paroled and exchanged in August and
September of 1862, in Vicksburg. They reunited with the Kentucky Brigade at Knoxville, TN, and fought together at Murfreesboro. Upon the reuniting of the brigade, Col. Hanson was now the senior officer. He was given the command of the Kentucky Brigade, and raised to the rank of Brig. General.

1565572937075.png


Gen. Roger W. Hanson (shown as a Colonel in this 1862 cdv)

January 2, 1863, found the Kentucky Brigade and Hanson, entering the fourth day of the Battle of Murfreesboro. Shortly after noon, Breckinridge rode to Bragg's headquarters to receive his orders. Without consulting any of the other commanding general's as to position, reconnaissance or terrain, Bragg ordered Breckinridge to take his division and capture high ground occupied by Federals on his front. Breckinridge protested, complaining that even if they took the high ground, they would be open targets for the Federal artillery on an adjoining ridge. Bragg would not relent and a dejected Breckinridge went back to give the orders to his division.

All of the division generals objected to these orders, but Hanson objected the strongest. He called the order "murderous" and was so infuriated he wanted to go to headquarters immediately and shoot Bragg. Breckinridge and Brig. Gen. William Preston managed to talk Hanson out of this. Breckinridge, however, told Preston that should he die, he wanted it known to all that he believed the attack to be unwise and had tried to prevent it. This was the first and only time that Breckinridge spoke of dying before a battle.

Sadly, the attack turned out exactly as Breckinridge had predicted. Once the ground was taken the Federal artillery opened fire on Breckinridge's division. Hanson was one of the first to fall, mortally wounded. The Kentucky Brigade was once again orphaned. The price of this battle was high as the Orphans lost 27% of their brigade.

When the battle ended, Breckinridge surveyed the damage. He had great anger at the suicidal and senseless order by Bragg, which had cost the life of Hanson and many others.....and great sadness at the observation of what was left of his old brigade. This was too much for him. A tear came from his eye.

"My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans!", he cried, "My poor Orphan Brigade! They have cut it to pieces!"

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Part 5 The Orphan Brigade at the Battle of Jackson Mississippi

Following the battle of Murfreesboro (and their tragic assault on 2 January 1863), the Orphan Brigade joined the Army of Tennessee in the area of Manchester, Beech Grove, and Wartrace, TN, to regroup. The Orphans camped in this area from January through late May 1863. While here, Ben Hardin Helm was promoted to command of the Brigade, to replace Gen. Hanson, killed at Murfreesboro. Camp life was punctuated by occasional excitement, such as a surprise attack by Federal cavalry on an Orphan outpost at McMinnville, TN, on 21 April, in which a few of the Kentuckians were captured. Perhaps the greatest excitement was caused by a trial drill in May between the Orphans and Adams' Louisiana Brigade, both of which units had reason to believe themselves the best drilled in Breckinridge's Division. Regiment after regiment faced off against one another, with the Kentuckians victorious on each occasion. Marching orders cut the competition short, but the championship was never in doubt to the Orphans.

Orders came on 23 May for Breckinridge to travel to Vicksburg, as he had the previous summer, to join Gen. Joseph Johnston's forces in an attempt to relieve the river city. By the end of the month the Orphans had reached Jackson, the state capital, where they were to remain in idleness during the siege of Vicksburg. They moved toward Vicksburg in early July, but they were too late to engage the enemy, and they fell back to Jackson. Here they went into prepared trenches on the far left of the Confederate line, in front of Town Creek, with their left flank resting on Pearl River, guarding the pontoon bridges that the army would use in case of retreat.

The Federals approached on 10 July and settled down to siege actions and sharpshooting. The Orphans were stationed immediately in the rear of a mansion belonging to a Col. Withers, an old veteran. The Colonel took up a musket to defend his property, but was killed during an attack on 12 July, and his mansion was burned when the Confederates evacuated.

The only general action involving the Orphan Brigade came on 12 July, when Gen. Jacob Lauman's Division of the Federal 13th Corps attacked Breckinridge's Division. The attack came mainly in front of Adams' Brigade in the center, but the rightmost regiments of the Orphan Brigade were able to place an oblique fire into the enemy. Cobb's Battery was heavily engaged, with sections supporting both Adams and Stovall (on the right of the division). In a little over forty minutes, the Federals lost over half their numbers in killed, wounded, and captured. Maj. Rice Graves, Breckinridge's Chief of Artillery, led a patrol into the area between the lines following the failed Federal attack, capturing 200 prisoners and three Union flags.

The Orphan infantry suffered only five wounded, the bulk of the casualties falling on the men of Cobb's Battery. Two were killed and seven wounded, including Pvt. B. A. Dudley, whose face and hands were badly burned by explosion of a cartridge during loading.

Johnston evacuated Jackson on the night of 16 July, leaving by way of the pontoon bridges over the Pearl River that the Orphans had guarded. The Orphans formed the army's rear guard (as was their habit), eventually falling back to the vicinity of Morton, MS. Here, in "Camp Hurricane," they passed a peaceful six weeks, before joining the Army of Tennessee once more for the Chickamauga Campaign.

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Part 6 The Orphan Brigade in the Atlanta Campaign

The campaign for Atlanta in the summer of 1864 was the most severe test for the Army of Tennessee, and the Orphan Brigade as part of it. Active combat started for the Brigade on 7 May 1864, and did not cease until 2 September, nearly four grueling months later. The Orphans began the campaign by manning various positions on Rocky Face Ridge, outside Dalton, Georgia (as you drive south on I-75 toward Atlanta, you pass through Mill Creek Gap just before Dalton, with Rocky Face Ridge to your right). From there they marched to Resaca, and participated in the defense of that town on 14-15 May. The 2nd and 4th Kentucky regiments repulsed several heavy assaults from their works at Resaca.


As Gen. Johnston's Army of Tennessee was continually outflanked, the Orphans fell back to the south, arriving near Dallas, Georgia, on 25 May. Here, on 28 May, they participated in a fateful assault that never should have been. What was meant to be a probing action turned into a full-scale assault, and supporting units fell back before the Orphans got the word, leaving them to attack the Federal works alone. The Brigade lost 51 percent of its strength in this doomed attack.


The Orphans went on to man the Pine Mountain line (where Gen. Leonidas Polk was killed) and the Kennesaw Line. They saw heavy skirmish action, but did not participate in the main battle of Kennesaw Mountain. As part of Bate's Division, Lewis' Orphan Brigade attacked on the Confederate right during the battles of Peachtree Creek (20 July 1864) and Atlanta (22 July), but they were unable to turn the Federal lines. The Orphans referred to this latter action as the battle of Intrenchment Creek, after a water course that ran near their lines.


On 6 August 1864 the Brigade found itself on the far left of the Confederate line, where it was attacked by a strong Union probing force near Utoy Creek. Here, brother fought against brother, as the Federal 11th Kentucky Infantry attacked the 4th Kentucky Infantry of the Orphan Brigade. The Orphans were once again successful in repelling the Federal attacks. (The site of the battle of Utoy Creek is located today in Cascade Springs Park, on Cascade Road in western Atlanta.)


As the Federal noose around Atlanta grew ever tighter, the Orphans became part of a force moved south to Jonesboro to protect the last remaining rail line into the city. A desperate assault on 31 August 1864, which claimed many Orphan lives, failed to dislodge the Federals. The next day, Hardee's depleted corps was left to defend Jonesboro against nearly the entire Federal army. Hardee's men stood their ground against repeated attacks, but finally, the brigade to the Orphans' left gave way, and the Federals surged around the Kentuckians' left flank and rear. Many men of the 2nd and 6th regiments were overrun and captured, along with the battle flag of the 6th Kentucky. The remainder of the Brigade fell back to a more defensible position. Among those who would serve no more was the faithful color-bearer of the 4th Kentucky Infantry, Robert Lindsay, mortally wounded during the attack on the 31st.


The battle of Jonesboro marked the end of the Atlanta Campaign, and the end of the Orphans' infantry service. They were issued horses and mules, and converted to mounted infantry. As such, they opposed Sherman's March to the Sea. The campaign had taken a terrible toll on the Orphans. They started in May at Dalton, 1,140 strong. By the time the Brigade reached Jonesboro, it had compiled a total of 1,860 cases of death or hospitalization. Many men were wounded multiple times and returned to the ranks. On 1 September, the Brigade could muster only 240 men in the ranks. Yet, during this entire campaign, fewer than ten men deserted.


Battle flag of the 6th Kentucky, captured at Jonesboro



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Part 7 The Orphan Brigade at Stockbridge, Georgia

Following the battle of
Jonesboro and the fall of Atlanta, the Kentuckians of Gen. Joseph Lewis' Confederate Orphan Brigade were ordered to the area of Griffin and Barnesville, Georgia, to be converted to mounted infantry. Here they received their horses, mules, saddles, and tack, and learned the rudiments of mounted scouting. They were assigned to Iverson's Division of Wheeler's Cavalry Corps.
The Orphans' first assignment as mounted infantry was to scout the roads leading southeast from Atlanta. In late October 1864, the Brigade headquarters was established in Stockbridge, on the main road from Atlanta to Macon (now US Hwy. 23). Other roads came into Stockbridge from Buckhead and Decatur, making it an important crossroads.
To cover the area between Stockbridge and Atlanta, the left wing of the Fourth Kentucky Mounted Infantry, under the command of Acting Major John Weller (Captain of Company D), was moved forward on the Decatur road about eight miles. Weller established his command post at the intersection of the main road to Atlanta and a road leading eastward (now the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Anvilblock Road, seven miles north of Stockbridge). He spread his videttes, under the command of Captain Jack Brown of Company C, out a couple of miles to the north, along the old stagecoach road from Decatur to Columbus. The area to the left, covering the main Atlanta-Macon Road, was guarded by the Second Kentucky Mounted Infantry, and part of the Fifth Kentucky Mounted Infantry was posted on Weller's right.

Captain Jack Brown, 4th Ky Infantry


Weller and his Fourth Kentuckians settled down to a peaceful period of scouting and making the acquaintance of the local folks. Weller in particular enjoyed the company of a Miss Nannie Stubbs, who lived in a house on the stagecoach road near the northern limit of Weller's area of responsibility (near the modern intersection of Bouldercrest Road and Panthersville Road). So popular was Miss Stubbs that officers from the other regiments were frequent visitors to her house, even though they had to leave their assigned sectors to do so. This gave Weller something to worry about, primarily because he was afraid the others would eat up all the Stubbs' rations!

Capt. john Weller, 4th Kentucky Infantry


Not all was carefree, though. One day the Orphans received a report that marauding Yankees had attempted to molest (fortunately unsuccessfully) two young ladies in the neighborhood. Their sense of honor and decency aroused, men of the Fourth Kentucky rode toward the enemy's lines and managed to capture two of the offenders. These were soon found swinging from trees beside the road, a grim reminder of the efficiency of these battle-hardened veterans.

The period of mostly quiet scouting was shattered on November 15, 1864, when Sherman's huge force turned its back on Atlanta and started on its March to the Sea. The Right Wing, consisting of the 15th and 17th Army Corps and the main supply trains, headed south and east toward Rough and Ready, Morrow, and McDonough. This route took them through Stockbridge, and into a collision with the Orphan Brigade.

On the afternoon of the 15th, as Weller was visiting Miss Stubbs (as usual!), he received reports of fighting near his headquarters, two miles back down the road. Hastily bidding farewell to Miss Stubbs, he headed for the scene of the action. He found his men contesting the advance of the 17th Army Corps on the road from Atlanta. The Federal Right Wing had split at White Hall (on the railroad just southwest of Atlanta), the 17th Corps heading east and then south toward Stockbridge on the McDonough and Decatur roads, while the 15th Corps headed south on the Jonesboro Road toward Morrow's Station, then cut across to the Macon Road toward Stockbridge. These two forces were to unite at McDonough, then move on toward Milledgeville.

While the Second Kentucky Infantry on the left fell back, Weller's wing was reinforced by the remainder of the Fourth Kentucky from Stockbridge, and the rest of the Fifth Kentucky came up on their right. A lively running battle ensued, the Orphans dismounting at every opportunity to use their long Enfield rifle-muskets as traditional infantry. However, an entire Army Corps against a couple of understrength regiments was long odds, and the Kentuckians were compelled to retire toward Stockbridge. Finding the Federals in their rear (from the Macon road in the Second Kentucky's sector), the Fourth and Fifth regiments were forced to find a route along country roads to the north and east of Stockbridge. Following a harrowing night ride, they arrived in McDonough and reunited with the rest of the Orphans.

The Federals camped that night just to the west and north of Stockbridge (along Reeves, Panther, Upton, and Brush Creeks), and proceeded on their way to McDonough the next day. The Orphans' actions northwest of Stockbridge had not been a significant check to Sherman's Right Wing, although they did force the 17th Corps to detour off their planned route. In a larger sense, the Orphans' determined resistance served notice to Sherman that his raid through Georgia would not go unopposed. The Orphans moved back toward Lovejoy and Griffin, and then on to Ball's Ferry, south of Milledgeville, where they again opposed the Right Wing at its crossing of the Oconee River in late November. Sherman went on to capture Savannah in December, and his goal of Marching to the Sea was realized. The Orphans patrolled from eastern Georgia into central South Carolina, where the Fourth Kentucky Infantry fought in one of the last organized actions of the War Between the States on April 29, 1865. On May 6-7, 1865, the Orphan Brigade laid down their arms and were paroled at Washington, Georgia, able at last to return to their homes in Kentucky.

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AUG

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Part 8 The Orphan Brigade at Oconee River

Following the battle of Stockbridge, Georgia, in which the mounted infantry troops of the Orphan Brigade gave Sherman's March to the Sea its first real resistance, the Kentuckians fell back in front of Sherman's Right Wing, toward Milledgeville. The Federals bypassed Milledgeville, and found themselves at the crossings of the Oconee River, south of Milledgeville, on November 24, 1864. These crossings consisted of the main road, which crossed via Ball's Ferry, and the railroad bridge, some three miles to the north.
Captain John Weller, Acting Major of the Fourth Kentucky Mounted Infantry, described the defense of the railroad bridge. The Fourth Kentucky was joined in this action by a unit of convicts from the Milledgeville penitentiary and a battalion of cadets from the Georgia Military Institute at Milledgeville. The Fourth Kentucky had previously crossed the river at Ball's Ferry, headed north to the railroad bridge, and recrossed there, to set up a defensive position blocking the bridge. The Fourth Kentucky was in the center, protecting the bridge, with the convicts and cadets on either side. Let us join Capt. Weller's narrative:

"The convicts were dressed in prison garb, and were hardened in appearance, but calm and brave. The cadets were, of course, very young, some of them certainly not over fourteen years of age. The Federals advanced their line of skirmishers, and firing commenced. The bravery of the school boys was the glory of this fight. Several of their number were carried off wounded and dying. I can never forget the looks of one little boy as four convicts carried him on a stretcher to the rear. His handsome young face, with the flush of fever on it, and the resolute expression of his eyes, indicated that he fully realized the situation."

The skill of the Fourth Kentucky, and the bravery of the cadets and convicts notwithstanding, the Confederate force (probably numbering not over 400 total) was facing an entire Army Corps (probably the 17th) of Sherman's force. As at Stockbridge, there was little the gallant Southerners could do to stop the Federal juggernaut. When Federal artillery began to fire at the bridge, the Confederates withdrew and recrossed the river. The Federal 15th Army Corps had already crossed further down, both by the main road at Ball's Ferry and by a boat crossing, so the force at the railroad bridge would soon have been cut off. Once again, the Orphans had delayed Sherman's March, but could not prevent it from reaching Savannah.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~orphanhm/oconee.htm
 

AUG

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Part 9 The Orphan Brigade at Mounted Infantry in South Carolina

The second phase of the Orphan Brigade’s service as mounted infantry began about the first of April, 1865. The first phase, opposing Sherman’s March to the Sea, had ended at Savannah in late December 1864. From January to March 1865 the mounted Orphans were stationed along the Savannah River between Savannah and Augusta, operating on both sides of the river in both Georgia and South Carolina, but mainly near Augusta, to guard against an anticipated Federal move against the important arsenal and powder works there. During this period, in February, the Orphans met to draw up a remarkable set of resolutions in support of Confederate victory.

About the first of April, the 9th Kentucky under Col. Caldwell was ordered to Sumter, SC, to protect the railroad there. On 5 April a force of two Federal brigades (2700 total) under the command of Brig.Gen. Edward Potter left Georgetown, SC, on the coast, with the object of destroying railroad tracks, trestles, and rolling stock in the areas of Sumter, Camden, and Florence. The 9th Kentucky Mounted Infantry (and local militia – a total force of some 600 defenders) fought Potter’s force at Dingle’s Mill, three miles south of Sumter, on April 9. The rest of the Orphan Brigade, hurrying to Caldwell’s support, arrived near Stateburg, west of Sumter near the Wateree River, on April 14. Here they fought and repulsed some of Potter’s troops on the 14th, but on the following day Potter brought up his entire force, pushing the Orphans back, but unable to reach the railroad they guarded.

Col. Lee’s 2nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry, on detached service, laid a skillful ambush at Reynold’s Ford (called McClernand’s Ford by the Kentuckians) on Swift Creek, near Spring Hill (north of Sumter) on April 18, inflicting heavy casualties on the surprised enemy. Meanwhile, the rest of the Brigade fought Potter’s troops in one of the largest battles of the campaign, at Boykin’s Mill, ten miles south of Camden. In this battle, the Orphans fought the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment of black soldiers. The Confederates held the Federals for some six hours, but as they were outnumbered by over 2-to-1, they were finally compelled to retreat.

The last large-scale battle in the East was fought at Dinkin’s Mill, at the crossing of Rafting Creek a few miles north of Stateburg, on April 19. The Confederates were again forced back, and now found themselves in the rear of Potter’s force, unable to prevent him from advancing on Middleton Depot and destroying the trains there on April 20. His mission accomplished, Potter started his force back toward Georgetown on April 21. News of the armistice between Gens. Sherman and Johnston reached both sides on April 21, with skirmishing still going on, and a truce was arranged.
In spite of this truce, and period reports that show Potter’s force back in Georgetown by April 25, there are several accounts that show a part of the Orphan Brigade still fighting Federals in South Carolina on April 29, 1865, nearly three weeks after Gen. Lee had surrendered in Virginia. It must be remembered that the initial armistice between Gens. Sherman and Johnston was not approved by Sherman’s superiors, and the final surrender of Johnston’s forces did not take place until April 26. It must also be considered that as mounted infantry, the Orphan Brigade often fought as detached elements. It is entirely possible that one of these detached elements (in this case, the 4th Kentucky Infantry) found Federals to fight somewhere near Stateburg, SC, on April 29, and that both sides were informed of the surrender on that day, and hostilities finally ceased.
This final campaign was little more than a footnote in the history of the war. Although the mounted Orphans fought valiantly and skillfully to accomplish their missions, their numbers were never enough to seriously threaten or impede the Federals. However, they did manage to protect the railroad stock in western South Carolina for two weeks, and their constant harrying of Potter’s flanks doubtless saved the surrounding countryside from much further devastation. A taste of what the entire area would have suffered is shown by the looting, burning, and terrorism conducted by Potter’s troops in Sumter and Camden (see, for example, pages 264-266 of Anne King Gregorie’s History of Sumter County; Weller). Indeed, although the Federal official reports treat the Confederates as more of an annoyance than any significant threat, these same reports make it clear that the Confederate forces were able to turn them from their planned path, and keep their forces closed up on the main body, on several occasions.

The nature of this mounted skirmishing resulted in few casualties among the Orphans, and the majority of these were wounded. Only a few deaths were reported during this period. One of these was Eli Lonaker of Co. G, 6th Kentucky Infantry, who accidentally killed himself with his rifle during the final campaign (Thompson, pp. 788-89). About the 18th of April, near Camden, John Miller of Co. I, 2nd Kentucky Infantry was killed while scouting the Federal positions (Thompson, p. 290).

The most tragic Orphan death was that of George Doyle, Co. A, 9th Kentucky Infantry. The circumstances surrounding his death are somewhat unclear, but he was reportedly captured by Potter’s troops about the 20th of April. Refusing to swear the Oath of Allegiance to the Union, Pvt. Doyle was reportedly executed by Potter’s black soldiers (Thompson, p. 810; Report of the Adjutant General, pp. 414-415). This happened while Potter had his headquarters at Melrose, the Matthew Singleton plantation near Manning’s Mill, south of Middleton Depot. This property is today encompassed in Poinsett State Park, and park records corroborate this story, without, however, mentioning Doyle’s name (Thurmond).

Other interpretations relate that George Doyle was killed in battle, as late as April 29. John Jackman of the 9th Kentucky reported that when the truce was announced, Doyle "heeded it not, but mounted his horse, and like the enraged Mamelukes that rode down against the invulnerable squares of Napoleon, so did George Doyle ride down single handed against the Federal lines of infantry, and perished. … I think I am therefore authorized in stating that George Doyle was the last Confederate soldier to lose his life on the field of battle – at least east of the Mississippi river – in our Civil War" (Jackman, "Seeking Adventures"; Confederate Veteran, 1905 - this note was probably also written by Jackman; Kirwan, p. 195 - Johnny Green does not say precisely whether Doyle was killed in battle or murdered; Jackman was not present at this time, so he did not witness Doyle's death).

A fitting conclusion to this final campaign was written by Ed Porter Thompson, the Orphan Brigade historian:

"Dying in the Last Ditch -- A good deal was heard about the determination of Southern men to die in the last ditch rather than submit to Northern domination; but the serious work of four years stopped a little (although comparatively little) short of this dire consummation. It is not extravagant to claim, however, that the main body of men who lived and fought till the struggle seemed to be hopeless would have gone to this extremity at the call of leaders whom they really trusted. The temper of the Kentucky soldiers during the last days, taken in conjunction with the fact that, several times before, they had refused to give ground without orders when imminent destruction stared them in the face, warrants the assertion that if, like Leonidas and his little band, they had been posted with orders to "guard the pass" against overwhelming odds, live or die, there would have been a virtual repetition of the old story that "none were left to tell the tale."

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~orphanhm/scarcamp.htm
 

AUG

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Part 10 Surrender of the Orphan Brigade

The end of the War Between the States found the Kentucky Brigade serving as mounted infantry in South Carolina. They had opposed Sherman's March to the Sea in the fall of 1864, skirmishing with the Federals at such locations as Stockbridge, Oconee River, and Savannah, Georgia. Following the evacuation of Savannah, the mounted Orphans operated in eastern Georgia and western and central South Carolina.
The Kentuckians were ordered to move back to Washington, Georgia, to surrender their arms and be paroled by Gen. James Wilson's Federal forces. Arriving in Washington on 6 May 1865, the Orphans were met by Capt. Lot Abraham of the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Capt. Abraham was an ideal parole officer, since he sympathized with the plight of his former foes, and did everything he could to ease their condition. He allowed each man to keep his horse or mule, and every seventh man was permitted to keep his musket for the long journey home.

John Jackman of the 9th Kentucky eloquently described the Orphans' last bivouc: the camp duties, the bugle calls, the quiet talks around the camp fires, now for the last time. The arms were taken to Gen. Lewis' headquarters and piled in heaps, muster rolls were prepared for the parole, and on the morning of 7 May 1865, the Orphan Brigade as a unit ceased to exist. Before they broke up for the homeward trip, they had one final duty to perform. Rather than surrender their battle flag, torn, tattered, and with the names of many battles written upon their fields, the Orphans allowed Mrs. Bettie Phillips, wife of Capt. William Phillips of the 4th Kentucky, to cut the flags into small pieces for the men to take home as mementos. A star cut from the flag of the 9th Kentucky, brought home by Sgt.Maj. Johnny Green, is in the collections of the Filson Club in Louisville today. The crossed cannons cut from the same flag survive today in the family of Ensign James Foulks, the final color-bearer of the regiment.

The original parole records, taken home to Iowa by Capt. Abraham, show that he paroled 526 officers and men of the Orphan Brigade at Washington, Georgia. The records are not complete, however, and as many as 800 or 900 may have been included in the surrender. The Brigade began its career in 1861 with some 4500 men. The rest filled graves all across the South, or hospital beds, or prison cells. Some had been discharged, and some deserted. But for all, the long war was finally over. With paroles in hand and an uncertain future in front of them, the survivors started the long journey home.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~orphanhm/washsurr.htm
 

AUG

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Flags of the Orphan Brigade

The flags of the Orphan Brigade trace its assignments throughout its service period. The Kentuckians left the state in early 1862 with a variety of flags. Some of these may have been unit flags of the Kentucky State Guard. Each company of the KSG apparently had its own banner, and since some companies went into Confederate service with their KSG uniforms and weapons, it is reasonable to assume they may have taken their flags with them. A KSG flag of the 1860s period belonging to the Woodford Blues resembles a U.S. infantry regimental color. It is a large blue silk banner, with an eagle and shield painted on a blue disk, and a red scroll below with the unit designation.

Early in the conflict, many Confederate regiments carried more than one flag. Many regiments were composed of a number of previously independent companies, and these companies were reluctant to give up their own flags, many of which had been presented by the ladies of their hometown. Orphan Brigade flags of this type include that of the Hamilton Guards, Co. G, 2nd Kentucky Infantry. This flag was sewn from wedding dresses by ladies in the Guards' hometown of Paris, Kentucky, who also sewed their first uniforms. This is a silk flag of the Confederate First National style, or "Stars and Bars." This flag was recently rediscovered, and is now on display in the Hopewell Museum, Paris, Kentucky.
Subsequent examination of the flag shown here, plus post-war data, indicates that it was not, in fact, the flag of the "Hamilton Guards." Although the ladies of Paris did indeed present such a flag to the "Hamilton Guards," this particular flag had a different history. It was initially a flag of the 1st Kentucky Infantry, which was a 12-month regiment serving in Virginia. When this regiment was disbanded in May 1862, this flag was saved and brought West, where it became the battle flag of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry when that regiment was released from its captivity at Fort Donelson.

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Picture on left from the October 1925 "Confederate Veteran" magazine; others courtesy Hopewell Museum, Paris, Kentucky. The flag is currently displayed folded in half, inside a frame, with only the reverse side showing.

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When the flag was adopted by the 2nd Kentucky, new white panels were sewn over the originals, and the unit
designation 2ND KENTUCKY REGIMENT was added (inexplicably, the lettering was upsidedown). The gold scrolls
with KENTUCKY on the canton are original to the flag, but the lettering HAMILTON GUARDS was added when
the flag was conserved in 1925.

Other early First National flags were carried by the Citizen Guards, Co. B, 9th Kentucky Infantry, and Company C of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry. This latter flag was captured when the regiment surrendered at Fort Donelson. Its canton displays the motto KENTUCKY SHALL BE FREE over a Latin cross, a common motif on Western Theater flags. The 6th Kentucky Infantry carried a silk First National flag that had been presented by the ladies of Huntsville, Alabama, as the regiment passed through there on the way to Shiloh.

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Battle flag of the 4th Kentucky

Units of the Orphan Brigade carried an unusual pattern battle flag in 1862. Although this style has previously been identified as a Brigade flag (also called a "Beauregard battle flag"), they were apparently regimental issues. Little information is available on these flags, although at least three originals survive, but they were issued to the regiments of Gen. Breckinridge's division in May 1862, when the army was at Corinth, Mississippi.

This style of flag is a large banner of dark blue bunting, with a red Latin cross bearing thirteen white stars on each side (obverse and reverse). One of the surviving originals is identified to the 4th Kentucky Infantry, whose members noted after the war that this type of flag was not popular, because it looked too much like a black flag when furled.

Following the battle of Murfreesboro, the Orphans were assigned to Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps, and they were issued battle flags of Hardee's pattern in early 1863 (recent research indicates that this style of flag was probably invented by Gen. Simon Boliver Buckner of Kentucky). The 4th Kentucky was issued a new flag in March 1863, and the Hardee flag belonging to the 9th Kentucky survives today in the family of the final commander of the regiment. The unit designation on this flag is a graphic reminder that the 9th was numbered as the 5th ( 9th / Formerly the / 5th Ky ) for its first year of existence. An artist's rendition of other Kentucky Hardee pattern flags is shown on the cover of the sheet music for the "Kentucky Battle Song," written by Charles Ward of the 4th Kentucky Infantry. The period engraving on the bugle of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry also shows a Hardee pattern flag.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~orphanhm/flags.htm
 
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ExNavyPilot

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One of my ancestors was with the 3rd Wisconsin Battery, the only battery on the east side of Stones River, when Breckenridge attacked. The battery was able to pull its six guns back across McFadden's Ford to take position in Mendenhall's 45-gun line (2 more batteries--12 more guns--were south of the ford providing enfilade fire on the Confederate line of attack) and thus my ancestor probably helped to inflict some of the casualties on the Orphan Brigade. It saddens me to think about that.
 

AUG

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One of my ancestors was with the 3rd Wisconsin Battery, the only battery on the east side of Stones River, when Breckenridge attacked. The battery was able to pull its six guns back across McFadden's Ford to take position in Mendenhall's 45-gun line (2 more batteries--12 more guns--were south of the ford providing enfilade fire on the Confederate line of attack) and thus my ancestor probably helped to inflict some of the casualties on the Orphan Brigade. It saddens me to think about that.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, while watching the guns fire onto the other bank said
"Van Cleve's Division of my command war retiring down the opposite slope, before overwhelming numbers of the enemy, when the guns opened upon the swarming enemy. The very forest seemed to fall ... and not a Confederate reached the river."

That's one of the last places I'd ever want to be. Think about how each gun can fire 2 or 3 rounds a minute and that's 57 guns, so about 171 rounds flying through the air per minute!
 

Union_Buff

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Thanks for posting this AUG351 :smile:

Over the years, I have liked to read anything and everything about the Orphan Brigade.
 

ExNavyPilot

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Maj. Gen. Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, while watching the guns fire onto the other bank said
"Van Cleve's Division of my command war retiring down the opposite slope, before overwhelming numbers of the enemy, when the guns opened upon the swarming enemy. The very forest seemed to fall ... and not a Confederate reached the river."

That's one of the last places I'd ever want to be. Think about how each gun can fire 2 or 3 rounds a minute and that's 57 guns, so about 171 rounds flying through the air per minute!
I believe the Confederates got close enough to the river for Mendenhall's guns to fire double canister (within ~200 yds). If you assume 48 of the approximately 1" diameter shots per canister (double canister thus firing 96 shots), and if all 45 guns in the main line were to fire double canister (the 12 guns to the south would have probably been firing case shot or solid shot) at once, that's 4,320 one-inch iron balls blasting out at Breckenridge's men per volley from the grand battery. They couldn't fire very many canister rounds as each gun usually only had a few (about four) in the limber's ammo chest, but they could cut the fuses on the spherical case to basically zero seconds so the case would burst as it left the gun, creating something like a canister shot, and they carried three to five times as many of those as canister.

My ancestor (PVT Lewis Massuere, a driver for one of the guns) later told of seeing the gunners being dropped to their knees by the concussion when two or more adjacent guns fired at the same time, and that the gunners' ears bled and they were deaf for several days after the battle.
 

AUG

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I believe the Confederates got close enough to the river for Mendenhall's guns to fire double canister (within ~200 yds). If you assume 48 of the approximately 1" diameter shots per canister (double canister thus firing 96 shots), and if all 45 guns in the main line were to fire double canister (the 12 guns to the south would have probably been firing case shot or solid shot) at once, that's 4,320 one-inch iron balls blasting out at Breckenridge's men per volley from the grand battery. They couldn't fire very many canister rounds as each gun usually only had a few (about four) in the limber's ammo chest, but they could cut the fuses on the spherical case to basically zero seconds so the case would burst as it left the gun, creating something like a canister shot, and they carried three to five times as many of those as canister.

My ancestor (PVT Lewis Massuere, a driver for one of the guns) later told of seeing the gunners being dropped to their knees by the concussion when two or more adjacent guns fired at the same time, and that the gunners' ears bled and they were deaf for several days after the battle.
In a very desperate scenario they could fire case shot without the fuse, which was called "rotten shot". It would explode in or just as it left the barrel, sending out a shower of shrapnel and shot, acting in the same way canister would. Any idea if that was put to use at Stones River?
 
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