This Day in Dayton, 11 July

On July 11, 1864, the Courier published a letter it had received from Col. Henry Leaming of Tippecanoe County telling of the part played by the 40th Indiana in the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain. Leaming painted a picture of useless slaughter and blamed the disaster on poor planning. The attack was carried out by companies of men closely grouped in divisions of two companies so that only the front line could fire; the men behind could not fire without endangering their comrades in front. There was no support from the right or left to limit the ability of the enemy to fire at the attacking force. Consequently, the Southerners were able to stop the attack and inflict heavy casualties. Leaming called it a disaster and praised General Wagner. Indeed, the Courier revealed on July 13 that General Wagner had argued with his commanding officer, then struck him so that he fell from his horse, and called in the badly needed support himself. As a result, Wagner was later placed under arrest. He then accused his superior officer of drunkenness, and that man was also arrested.

Leaming’s letter went on to recount that the rebels themselves expressed admiration for the charge at Kenesaw Mountain. When a fire broke out in the brush and leaves, Southerners and Northerners worked together to put out the fire and move the wounded to safety. Two days later the same cooperation carried the dead in for burial. During the Civil War, bodies (embalmed and packed in ice) were shipped home by rail when possible. Arrangements were usually made by friends of the fallen.

Leaming had praise for the fallen men of the 40th: “Than Capt. [Charles] Elliot there was no more gallant spirit, no more noble and generous gentleman, a more efficient officer in this whole army of the Cumberland; his loss is most acutely felt. Capt. [Absalom] Kirkpatrick, too, gentle, kind, brave and most efficient, beloved by all who knew him, going into battle with a strong presentiment of the fate which befell him, yet calm and resolute” (Courier, July 11, 1864).

Susan ClawsonComment