It Was Timber Then

Where the 27th Indiana faced Stewart’s Division in the Rebel flank attempt, timber covered the slope between Colgrove and the Rebel trench. So visitors to the timber-less site might have to use some imagination and check his map as they read the account by Edmund Randolph Brown, the regiment’s historian. He explains:

“By the morning of the 15th the Twentieth Corps had mostly reached the vicinity of its assigned position. After some preliminary moves the Twenty-seventh finally took its place in the line of the brigade, which was formed along a timbered ridge (not a mountain) overlooking a wide ravine, along which the ground was somewhat open. The whole line then moved forward across the ravine and open ground, almost to the crest of the next ridge, which was not as high as the first had been. This advance brought some of the regiments to our left out into the cleared fields, near the log farm- house of one J. F. Scales. This house was some two miles north of Resaca, near the railroad, on its west side.

In this position the Twenty-seventh was on the right of the brigade. The Second Massachusetts joined us on the left, while next to us on the right was the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, of the First Brigade. The enemy’s main entrenched line was one hundred and twenty yards in front of ours. Further to our left his line curved back somewhat, to conform to the ridge upon which it was located, and was, therefore, further away from the Union line. The ground between the two lines varied considerably, but it was all more or less timbered, except just about the Scales house. As has been said, the line of the Twenty-seventh was not quite upon the crest of the ridge, but slightly back from it. After the crest was passed the ground immediately in our front descended gradually, through open timber, for eighty yards. Forty yards further on, upon quite a steep bluff, was the enemy’s line, behind a good breastwork of timber and earth. The fact will be clear to all soldiers that nothing but the trees, which stood between the enemy’s line and our own, and which hid the one from the other, prevented active hostilities from the start. When the writer, and others formerly connected with the Twenty-seventh, visited this field in 1895, the land near the position of the regiment had been cleared. A cotton field extended from the swale, back of where our line was, forward to the base of the bluff occupied by the enemy’s line. A log farmhouse stood near the exact spot where the right of the Twenty-seventh rested against the left of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania. The various positions were identified beyond a doubt and the distances were carefully measured. The ground not having been cleared at that point, the excavation for the enemy’s breastworks.”

Sun and Moon May 15

Here are the positions of the sun and moon on the day of the battle. The weather was clear.

U.S. Naval Observatory

Astronomical Applications Department

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia (longitude W85.0, latitude N34.8):

    Sunday, 15 May 1864 Eastern Standard Time


Begin civil twilight5:08 a.m.
Sunrise5:36 a.m.
Sun transit12:36 p.m.
Sunset7:36 p.m
End civil twilight8:04 p.m.


Moonrise1:16 p.m. on preceding day
Moonset1:58 a.m.
Moonrise2:10 p.m.
Moon transit8:22 p.m.
Moonset2:28 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 15 May: waxing gibbous with 68% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated. First quarter Moon on 13 May 1864 at 1:19 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Advancing Under Fire

… Our Brig. Went into action in mass by batallion when the first or advance rigiment was ordered to fire they were to lay down then the 2nd march over them, fire and lay down, & so on. We did not commence fireing untill close to the masked battery“.

From the Friends of Resaca website, this article by W.F. Jenkins of the 19th Michigan describes how they were to advance. This illustrates one difference between a mock battle and a real one. Not only were they too mixed up and scattered to have proceeded this way (and no one said they had), Harrison’s 70th Indiana and the 105th Illinois literally ran ahead, leaving the others to catch up. Note that Jenkins’ regiment was in Coburn’s brigade, which had not even had the benefit of the mock battles that Harrison’s (Ward’s) brigade had undergone. (Text is as Jenkins wrote it.)

Unripe Apples

From Merrill’s history of the 70th Indiana, a story unrelated to this book’s purpose, but enlightening reading nonetheless:

J. E. Cleland: “It must have been the summer of 63 when Harry Meteer, of Company I, was sent to the hospital with the malady which carried so large a proportion of our army to the lazar house and beyond. The doctors diagnosed an ulcer on every quarter inch of his intestinal gearing. His digestive apparatus couldn’t turn a wheel, and he was strictly forbidden to swallow anything but toast and boiled milk, but he had a howling and continuing craving for all real and imaginary food, like a chronic drunkard ravenous for drink. Quantities of microby water, butter milk, hard fried eggs, green vegetables and fruits were devoured on the sly, when occasion could be found. The surgeons were amazed, and the nurses horrified, as, from his own mouth and other sources, damaging evidence of his transgressions abundantly flowed. Daily he wasted away, until there was left little promise in him of any further soldierly or other value. Only the regulation amount of bones and enough hide to hold them together were left.

“Some flattering obituary notices of him circulated in the North and drifted back to camp, but he thought it hardly worth while to make any denial, as a little previousness was all that seemed the matter with the necrological facts. His soul, or some other organ of his inner emptiness cried out for relief of some kind, and even death seemed less grim and forbidding than of old. The sick were expected to eat what, and only what, the surgeons prescribed, and Hobson, the nurse, was faithful to his trust and to the doctors. So when Meteer was heard to crunch green apples in the stillness of the night, and when a large supply of half-grown fruit was found under his pillow, the wrath of Hobson was consuming. He not only predicted death, but seemed to derive some satisfaction in the anticipation. In reply, Meteer, in a thin, but resolute voice, squeaked out, I may die, but I will not die empty, and here goes for the rest of that peck of apples. He refused to furnish the fulfillment of Hobson s prophecy, and his voice, now full and strong, may still be heard every Sunday preaching to other sinners, in Utah, if you happen to pass that way. The medical moral of this would seem to be, that unripe apples are good for some sick soldiers, at some times, under some circumstances. “