Report of Col. John B. Palmer, Fifty-eighth North Carolina
FIFTY-EIGHTH NORTH CAROLINA VOLS.,
Before Chattanooga, September 25, 1863.
CAPT.: In accordance with directions received
from the colonel
commanding brigade, I have the honor submit the following
report of the part taken by the regiment
under my command in
the actions of September 19 and 20:
On the 19th, this regiment, with the balance of the brigade,
held in reserve.
On the 20th, the Fifty-eighth North Carolina Volunteers, with he
remainder of the brigade,
was moved to a position in supporting
distance of a battery protected by fortifications erected during the
night, Lieut. Col. Edmund Kirby, of this regiment,
being placed in command of the line of skirmishers thrown
to watch the movements of the enemy.
At about 3 p. m. Lieut.-Col. Kirby rejoined the regiment with
under his command, and the Fifty-eighth North
Carolina Volunteers, the Sixty-third Virginia, and the Fifth
in the order name, moved to the front, and formed in
line of battle, the left resting on the Chattanooga road, from
position they were soon after moved by the left flank to
relieve Gen. Anderson, then engaging the enemy.
occupied a range of ridges, from which they had
repulsed several assaults made by our troops. The approach to
ridges was along spurs and through intervening
depressions, all more or less wooded, but more open and
the right of the brigade. The line being again
formed, my regiment, which was on the right, moved with
this comparatively open space till my extreme
right arrived within 10 or 12 left of the enemy. The line of the
formed with the line of the enemy an angle of perhaps 22
1/2, my right being at the angle.
Arrived at the position
refereed to, a charge was about being
made when direction were received from the Col. commanding
brigade to cease firing,
with a statement that we were firing upon
our friends. Having discovered that no friends were in advance,
resumed by the center and left (the right had not
ceased its fire) and continued with vigor. A deadly fire was, and
been ever since we came within range, poured into our ranks
by the fore. My major, the captain and 1 lieutenant of my left
company, 2 lieutenants in the center, and my adjutant
had been wounded. My lieutenant-colonel and 2 company officers
been killed on my extreme right. Two-thirds of my right
flanking company, which was exposed to a most galling
from the enemy on our right and in front, had been
killed and wounded. A longer continuance in this position seemed
human endurance, and in spite of my most strenuous
exertions, my right was forced back a short distance and sought
I, however, succeeded without difficulty in reforming it
and in again advancing it in perfect good order, when,
that no charge was being made, I caused the men to
lie down and fire upon the enemy.
In the meantime, the left wing
of my regiment had stood firm
and continued to pour its fire into the foe. I desire to state here
that the position
against which the regiment under my command
advanced was one of the very strongest occupied by the enemy
battle of Chickamauga, and from which our troops
had been at least twice repulsed before our arrival upon the field,
as we pressed forward we met and swept over the retreating
and shattered regiments that had preceded us in the attack.
men moved with calmness and deliberation, and I am confident
that had not the advance been checked by the report
that we were
firing upon our friends we would have swept the enemy from his
position at our first charge.
remained for some time in the position I have last
mentioned, I, by directions of the colonel commanding brigade,
my regiment by the left flank, and taking my position on
the left of the brigade we advanced at an angle of about 45 with
first position. This we did with coolness, although our
ammunition was nearly, and in some instance quite, exhausted.
regiments on my right being forced back out of sight, the
charge was abandoned and my men sought protection behind
such of them as had any ammunition continuing to fire
vigorously. A second line was formed and another charge
whit like results. Fancying soon after that the enemy
had discontinued firing, I ordered my men to cease
firing in order
that I might ascertain definitely; not a shot
was being fired by the foe. I sent a messenger to Col. Kelly,
brigade, to acquaint him with the fact and to
suggest that, if the other regiments would reform and advance to
occupied by me, we could probably carry the enemy's
position without further opposition. The messenger could not find
I then went myself, and ascertaining that the other regiment
had formed some distance to the right, I moved by the flank
formed on the prolongation of their line.
Being told by Col. Hawkins that Col. Kelly had a short time
been summoned suddenly from the field by Gen. Preston
without time to notify me of the fact, I assumed command of the
and, changing direction to the right, advanced toward
the enemy at right angles with our first line of advance. Col.
had in the meantime, and after the enemy's fire had
ceased, moved his brigade up a depression between us and the
position of the enemy, and to his command some of them
were about surrendering.
My regiment captured about 20 officers
and men, who, by my
directions, were turned into the ranks of one of Col. Trigg's
regiments as it afterward passed to
the rear with prisoners, but
without any notification on my part to the officer in command.
It had now become quite
dark, and it was my intention so soon
as Col. Trigg's brigade (which passed by the right flank between
near the right of which I was standing, and the two
other regiments) had moved to the rear to advance our brigade
the ridge finally occupied by the enemy, and there await Col.
Kelly's return; but ascertaining when Col. Trigg's command
passed back that the remaining regiments of Kelly's brigade to
the ridge finally occupied by the enemy, and there
Kelly's return; but ascertaining when Col. Trigg's brigade had
gone with them (I supposed at the time by
directions of Col.
Kelly, but I subsequently ascertained that he was still absent) and
that my regiment was thus left
alone on the field, I, accompanied
by Lieut. Terrett, of Col. Kelly's staff, moved my regiment so
as to sweep over the
scene of our conflict, and gathering a
portion of our dead and all of our wounded, caused details from
assisted by the infirmary corps, to convey the latter
to the foot of the ridge, and the former to the division hospital
near by. Col. Kelly afterward returning, the brigade
was collected together and we all slept upon the battle-field.
the accident of Col. Kelly's absence from the field and my
ignorance of the fact was owing our failure to capture the
and standards taken by Col. Trigg, for had Col. Kelly
remained, or had he notified me of his departure, our brigade
have been promptly advanced to the ridge occupied as a
final position by the enemy and the prisoners secured by us.
men of my regiment were engaged in their first battle. They
acted with the courage and firmness of veterans. The list of
tells of their noble endurance and terrible exposure.
Every field and staff officer and one-half of the balance of the
killed or wounded indicates the nature of the conflict
and affords the best evidence of the constancy of my men.
cannot close this report without allusion to the gallant conduct
of my acting lieutenant-colonel (Edmund Kirby), who was
early in the action. With the words ''Drive the, boys! drive
them!'' on his lips he fell, pierced by four balls,
leading my right wing. In his death the regiment has lost an able
officer and one full of promise. A son
of the late Col. Reynolds
of the old army, and educated at Lexington Military
Institute, he was by birth and
by education a soldier-a brave,
generous, selfdenying soldier.
I desire to bear testimony to the gallant conduct
Terrett, Mastin, and McDaniel, of the staff of the colonel
My officers and men, with
hardly an exception, performed their
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN B. PALMER,
Comdg. Fifty-eighth Regt. North Carolina Vols.
Capt. JOHN B. Maj.,
Assistant Adjutant-Gen., Kelly's Brigade.
Source: Official Records, CHAP. XLIL. THE CHICKAMAUGA CAMPAIGN. [Series I. Vol. 30. Part II, Reports. Serial
Recommended Reading: This Terrible Sound: THE BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA (Civil War Trilogy)
(Hardcover: 688 pages) (University of Illinois Press). Description:
Peter Cozzens is one of those amazing writers that brings you onto the
field and allows you to experience the campaign. You advance with Cleburne's
Division as it moves through the dusk shrouded woods and your pulse races as you envision Gen. Lytle's command trying to decide
whether to save their dying commander or flee as the Rebs pound up that smoke-filled hill. Continued below...
account of the Battle of Chickamauga is first rate and thrilling. The profusion of regimental and brigade disposition maps
are particularly useful for any serious visit to the battlefield. There are some intriguing ideas introduced as well. Forrest's
role in the early stages of the battle is fascinating to read and to contemplate. Also revealing are the ammunition problems
that plagued the mounted units; a problem that would hinder Forrest's command at Spring Hill a year later.
Recommended Reading: Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga
and Chattanooga Campaigns (Great Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: When
Vicksburg fell to Union forces under General Grant in July 1863, the balance turned against the Confederacy in the trans-Appalachian
theater. The Federal success along the river opened the way for advances into central and eastern Tennessee, which culminated
in the bloody battle of Chickamauga and then a struggle for Chattanooga. Continued below...
Chickamauga is usually counted as a Confederate victory, albeit a costly
one. That battle—indeed the entire campaign—is marked by muddle and blunders occasionally relieved by strokes
of brilliant generalship and high courage. The campaign ended significant Confederate presence in Tennessee and left the Union
poised to advance upon Atlanta and the Confederacy on the brink of defeat in the western theater.
Editor's Pick: CIVIL WAR IN WEST SLIP CASES: From Stones River to Chattanooga [BOX SET], by Peter Cozzens (1528 pages) (University of Illinois
Press). Description: This trilogy very competently fills
in much needed analysis and detail on the critical Civil War battles of Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga. "Cozzens' comprehensive study of these three great battles has set a new standard in Civil
War studies....the research, detail and accuracy are first-rate." Mr. Cozzens' has delivered a very valuable, enjoyable work deserving of attention. The art work by Keith Rocco is also
a nice touch, effecting, without sentimentality...historical art which contributes to the whole.
Viewing: The Battle
of Chickamauga (DVD) (Special Widescreen Edition). Description:
WINNER OF THE 2008 SILVER TELLY AWARD, The Top Prize At The Ceremony! The Battle of Chickamauga proved to be one of the fiercest
engagements of the American Civil War. Over a period of two days in September 1863, more than 100,000 men struggled for control
of the south's most strategic transportation hub, the city of Chattanooga. Along the hills and valleys surrounding the Chickamauga
Creek, over 34,000 casualties would be suffered, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee would achieve their last, great victory.
Only one battle would surpass the bloodshed and carnage of bloody Chickamauga
Shot on location
using High Definition cameras, this 70-minute documentary film dramatically recreates the battle by including more than 50
fully animated maps, period photographs, historical documents, and re-enactors. This Special Edition DVD also contains over
30 minutes of bonus features, including an in-depth tour of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga
National Military Park's
very own Fuller Gun Collection. Absolutely a must have for the Civil War buff. FIVE STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org
Recommended Reading: Chickamauga 1863: The River
Of Death (Campaign). Description: By the autumn
of 1863 the Confederacy was in dire straits. In a colossal gamble, Confederate President Jefferson Davis stripped forces from
all the major Confederate armies to reinforce the Army of Tennessee in a last ditch attempt to crush the Union.
On 19th September the Confederates attacked the Union army along Chickamauga creek south of
Chattanooga. On the second day of bloody fighting the entire
Union right collapsed and the army retreated headlong for Chattanooga, all except General George
H. Thomas' Corps who fought on doggedly until nightfall delaying the confederate advance, saving the Union
and earning his fame as the "Rock of Chickamauga". Continued below…
About the Author: James R. Arnold
is a US-born freelance writer who has contributed to numerous military publications. James spent his formative years in Europe and used the opportunity
to study the sites of historic battlefields. He has more than 15 published books to his credit, many of them focusing on the
Napoleonic campaigns and American Civil War.
Recommended Reading: Chickamauga and Chattanooga:
The Battles That Doomed the Confederacy (Paperback). From Booklist: This slim, eminently readable book
by an established novelist and historian covers the two major battles of the Tennessee campaign in the fall of 1863. The Confederacy
then had its last clear chance to reverse the course of the war. But its army proceeded to throw away what might have been
a decisive victory at Chickamauga and was then driven from Tennessee at Chattanooga (the best-known episode of which is the
Battle of Missionary Ridge). Bowers gives us almost straight narrative history, providing little background and less analysis
but many memorable pen portraits of specific units and commanders (he adds notably to the well-deserved scorn heaped on Braxton
Included in the book are Thomas'
many military victories: the complete defeat of a Confederate army at the battles of Mill Springs and Nashville, repulse of
Hood's attacks at Atlanta, and of course, perhaps his most stunning achievement - holding the Confederate Army at bay on Snodgrass
Hill while the rest of the Union Army retreated from Chickamauga. Throughout the book, Cleaves describes Thomas as a man who
willingly subordinated his desires for the best of the nation, something lacking in most "leaders" today. Several times Cleaves
describes Thomas as a calm, confident, and not easily shaken man in whom soldiers took great comfort in knowing he was in
charge. “[A] great read…refreshing change from the status-quo.”