Letter – August Willich, 19 January 1876


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Letter written by former Brigadier General August Willich of the U.S. Volunteers, to the editor of the Cincinnati Commercial, from St. Mary’s, OH. Willich is criticizing a letter written by General Judson Kilpatrick, concerning the battle at Missionary Ridge which was published in the newspaper. Willich writes that Kilpatrick manufactured heroes in his article by giving credit to a few select officers, rather than the whole Army of the Cumberland, whomoved forward as one without the direct orders of their leaders during the battle. Willich hopes that his letter will be published, to “help lessen the stupid and nefarious hero worship.” A note written in the margins, possibly by the editor, gives the title, “The Battle of Chattanooga and the vindication of history.”

St. Marys January 19th 1876

Editor Comercial!

The Comercial of January, 13th contains General Kilpatrick’s story of the storming and taking of Missionary Ridge.

Public opinion had settled down to the belief, that the whole line of the army of the Cumberland had been carried simultaneously forward and over the entrenchments of the enemy, on the top of the ridge, by an enthusiastic impulse of the soldiers, without order of their leaders.

Those next concerned in this act were willing to let it rest so. Gen Kilpatrick now opens again the manufactory of heros, kept in full blast during the war by so many correspondents, and writers of official reports. In a few phrases, in the sparkling of ey[e]s of one or another intended hero, he absorbs, all the merits of thousands of galant and devoted soldiers and their leaders. A statement of the naked facts of the storm of Miss. Ridge will have the approval of all, who participate in it, and who do not claim, but their due share of the credit connected with it. It may also throw some light on the manner of heromaking, and may help to lessen the stupid and nefarious hero whorship. I ask the favor of you Mr. Editor to give this a place in your paper and oblige Yours Respectfully

August Willich

August von Willich was born in Brausberg, Prussia on November 19, 1810. After graduating from a Berlin military academy he entered the Prussian army, rising to the rank of captain. A follower of Karl Marx, was court martialed and fled to the U.S. in 1853. He worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a carpenter, and in 1858 became the editor of a German language newspaper in Cincinatti. After serving as a lieutenant and A.A.G. of the 8th OH Infantry in 1861, he recruited and was commissioned colonel of the 32nd IN Infantry. His strong combat record at Shiloh, Perryville, and Stones River (where he was captured) resulted in his promotion to brigadier general July 17, 1862. Once exchanged, Willich fought as a brigade commander at Chickamauga, and was foremost in leading his troops in the famous assault of November 25, 1863, up Missionary Ridge. His troops were the first to reach the crest and break the enemy line at “Sharp’s Spur.” Willich was wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Resaca, GA in May 1864, and later served as commander of the post of Cincinnati, OH. After the Civil War, he went to Germany to fight in the Franco-Prussian War, but was ultimately thwarted in seeing combat. Returning to the U.S. he lived in St. Marys, OH until his death on January 22, 1878. He was rather fondly known for being an eccentric, including having a pet raccoon.

Letter – William Smith, 1 November 1888


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Letter written by former Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith, Chief Engineer for the Army of the Cumberland, to General Henry M. Cist, from Philadelphia, PA. Smith writes that he thoroughly analyzed Ulysses S. Grant’s account of the battle of Chattanooga, which he wrote as a reply to General William T. Sherman’s “Grand Strategy of the War” that was published in Century Magazine. Smith never published his analysis, but promises to send a copy to Cist. Smith goes on to describe the roles played by Generals Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, William T. Sherman, and George H. Thomas at the battle of Chattanooga. Smith writes of how Grant gave the order to attack the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge, a decision that Smith refers to as “absurd.”

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1902 Pine Street Phila

Nov 1st 88

My dear General Cist,

Your favor of the 29th ult. reached me this morning. I have made a very exhaustive analysis of the account of the battle of Chattanooga as given by Grant and his satellites in a paper & wrote to reply to Gen Sherman’s “Grand Strategy of the War” published [in] the Century Magazine last Feb 7, (I think). I have no copy of it, having never published the paper as I intended in pamphlet form as I had no money to put up for such a labor to others’ interests. I will make a copy of that paper so far as it relates to the

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battle of Chattanooga and send it to you. If given out the whole paper in print you would see what an inconsequential writer Sherman is. He it was who began to revile the Army of the Cumberland in his memoirs and before and I always attributed to him the strictures that Grant pressed on it. I was on Orchard Knob during all the time, but knew nothing of Grant’s order to Thomas. It may or may not be true. The first I knew of such a design was the order from Grant in person to go and give the orders to Baird to attack the rifle pits at

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the base of the Ridge at a given signal. If you will read my paper carefully you will find that Thomas had his own views and had given his own orders apparently without consultation with Grant and that Thomas was waiting to hear from Hooker before ordering a forward movement from the A[rmy] of C[umberland]. I told Thomas in the early morning that Hooker would not send him word when Rossville Gap was carried as it would not be for his interest to do so. That he (Thomas) ought to have a staff officer with Hooker to be sure to get the information – About the time when Grant says he had ordered Thomas to make the assault Thomas and I had a short talk on

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Orchard Knob. It was the only time when I ever saw Thomas show worry and anxiety and it was because he could not understand why Hooker was not heard from. The order to assault the rifle pits was an absurd one. It was retrieved from disgrace and defeat because the soldiers went on and did the necessary thing and because also Hooker had crossed the ridge and was sweeping down it so that a lot of prisoners were taken between his command and that of Johnson. I will send you my paper and you may publish what you please of it.


Wm F Smith

William Farrar “Baldy” Smith, was born February 17, 1824 at St. Albans, VT. An engineer (USMA 1845 – 4th in his class), he was an instructor at the Military Academy prior to the Civil War. He was commissioned colonel of the 3rd VT Infantry in 1861. He served at 1st Bull Run as a staff officer with General Irvin McDowell before being appointed brigadier general of volunteers on August 13, 1861. Smith commanded a division of the VI Corps and then the corps itself from the Peninsula to Fredericksburg, earning promotion to major general July 4, 1862. His outspoken criticism of Burnside and his close ties to McClellan resulted in his removal, and the Senate failed to confirm him as a major general. In 1863 he was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland as its chief engineer. He was re-nominated as a major general, effective March 9, 1864. Smith commanded the XVIII Corps under general Benjamin Butler, and fought at Cold Harbor. Due to his failure to take Petersburg during the early fighting he was removed from corps command July 19, 1864. His continued outspoken criticism of senior commanders resulted in his resignation in 1865 (vols.) and 1867 (reg. army). In civilian life, Smith was the president of a telegraph company, then president of the NY city board of police commissioners, and worked as a harbor engineer for various govternment projects. He lived in Philadelphia for many years prior to his death Feb. 28, 1903.

Henry Martyn Cist was from Ohio, enlisting as a private in the 6th OH Infantry on April 20, 1861. He was commissioned 2nd lieutenant of the 52nd OH Infantry on October 16, 1861, and 1st lieutenant and adjutant of the 74th OH Infantry on Oct 22, 1861. He served on staff duty with Rosecrans as A.A.A.G. before being promoted to captain April 20, 1864, and major 13 March, 1865. Cist was brevetted lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general for Stones River, Chickamauga, and war service. He was mustered out January 4, 1865, and lived until December 16, 1902. He also wrote for Century Mag.

Letter – Cecil Fogg, 21 December 1863


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Letter written by Private Cecil Fogg of Company B, 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, to his father from Chattanooga, TN. Fogg mentions the recent battle at Chattanooga. He has been at work clearing the ground for a National Cemetery between Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge, and can hear the Engineer Corps blasting as they work on the road around Lookout Mountain. The troops are on reduced rations until the railroad is completed. General William T. Sherman’s 15th Corps recently passed through as well as General Joseph Hooker’s troops. Fogg describes them as being in “destitute condition.” He mentions a letter printed in the Nashville Union from the 2nd Minnesota Regiment, which describes the battle at Missionary Ridge on November 24th and “straightens up” a misleading account written by a member of the 6th Indiana. He states that the 11th Ohio’s flag was the first one in the Confederate works, though it was his division led by Absalom Baird which engaged the enemy in hand to hand combat.

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Chattanooga, Tenn. Dec. 21st 1863


     I rec’d yours of the 11th yesterday. There is nothing of importance going on here at present. I have written to you twice since the last battle [Chattanooga]. I also sent you a Nashville Union and Louisville Journal, and will send another by this mail. The Union is the anti-slavery paper of this section, and sells the quickest among the soldiers in this army. But the news dealers will persist in bringing on Nashville papers, Dispatches, Louisville Journals, etc., and consequently they have large quantities of them left over which they have to sell at reduced prices for waste papers, etc. The price of newspapers has been reduced from 10 to 5 cents here lately. There are no

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sutlers here, and therefore we have to do without some little necessary articles as well as conveniences. I wish you would send me a skim of thread in a letter the next time you write. The Engineer Corps are at work day and night at the road around Lookout [Mountain]. We could hear them blasting rock all night last night. The river is up higher than it has been before since we came here, and it has been very cold for a few days. About a week ago there was a hard thunder shower, with some of the loudest thunder that I ever heard. It rained 2 or 3 days and then turned in very cold. I was at work one day last week clearing off the ground for a National Cemetery. One-hundred of our regt. done the first day’s work on it. It includes almost 30 acres

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and is on a knoll about halfway between Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge, to the right of “Orchard Knob,” the Knoxville R.R. running just on this side of it. We are still on ¾ rations, without any prospect of any more than that until the R.R. is completed to this place. Sherman’s (15th) Corps passed down the 18th, but I did not get to see the boys in the 53rd [Ohio] as I was out at work that day.

Hooker’s men passed down the day before, and they were in very destitute condition. A great many of them were bare-footed, and many of them had no blankets. They left their knapsacks here when they went up the river. They lived off the country nearly altogether, they said, having drawn only 2 day’s rations from the gov’t since they left here (about the 28th of Nov.). In the Nashville Union

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of the 17th, which I send [to] you, is a letter from a member of the 2nd Minn. Regt., which partly straightens up a very exaggerated and partial account of the battle of the 24th [of November – Missionary Ridge], which was written by a member of the 6th Ind, (Johnson’s Division) who doesn’t do any fighting himself, but stands back at Ft. Wood till the battle is over, and then tells about what “we done” at Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Our brigade was not in the advance when the charge was first attempted on Ms. Ridge, but we were on top of the ridge as soon as any of them on our part of the line. The flag of the 11th Ohio was the 1st one in the Rebel works on our part of the line. Our regimental flag was not there, or it would have been on the ridge as soon as any of them. It was our division (Baird’s) which engaged the enemy in that hand to hand fight on the left just about sundown after we had driven them a half mile out along the ridge. My overcoat has not arrived yet, but I suppose it is safe as it is in the hands of the Express boat.

                                   Cecil Fogg       

Cecil Fogg enlisted in Company B of the 36th OH Volunteer Infantry on August 12, 1861 at Marietta, OH at the age of 20. He served through his three year term of service and re-enlisted for the war, but was mustered out July 27, 1865 based upon a surgeon’s certificate of disability. The 36th served in West Virginia in 1861, and participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam as a part of the 9th Corps before being transferred west in January 1863. As a part of the Army of the Cumberland’s 14th Army Corps (George H. Thomas), the regiment fought at Chickamauga and later in the Atlanta and Savannah, GA (March to the Sea) Campaigns.