The 70th Indiana Infantry was formed in August 1862 and spent most of its time in service prior to May 1864 guarding railroads and in garrison duty in Kentucky and Tennessee. That month, the regiment went into action in Major General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign as part of the 20th Corps in the Army of the Cumberland. The easy, rear echelon duty the unit had experienced was finished for good and the regiment saw extensive action in Sherman’s campaigns until the end of the war.
The commanding officer of the 70th Indiana was Colonel Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States. Benjamin Harrison was a lawyer who was active in the Republican party in the summer of 1862. At that time, the Lincoln Administration had put out a call for 300,000 more men to serve in the military. Indiana was lagging behind its quota of enlistments, and in a conversation with Governor Oliver Morton, Harrison offered to recruit an infantry regiment if he could be allowed to serve in the field with his men. Morton accepted the offer, and though Harrison enlisted as a Second Lieutenant, Morton promoted him to Colonel and commander of the regiment. With no military experience of his own, Harrison reluctantly took command.
On May 14th, 1864, Sherman’s forces attacked General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates at Resaca, Georgia. The fighting was intense but inconclusive as Union assaults on the entrenched Confederates were beaten back. The next day, most Federal attacks were again stopped, but there was one that was successful. A four gun Confederate battery had been placed in a forward position in one sector of the line, and Brigadier General William T. Ward’s brigade, which included the 70th Indiana, was ordered to carry the artillery position. Continue reading “Future President Benjamin Harrison and the 70th Indiana Infantry at the Battle of Resaca, Georgia” »
On May 5th, 1864, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia clashed in the Battle of the Wilderness, the first battle of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. There was another Union commander named Grant in this battle, though he was not related to the General In Chief. Colonel Lewis A. Grant commanded the 2nd Brigade of Brigadier General George W. Getty’s 2nd Division of the Major General John Sedgwick’s 6th Corps. Lewis Grant’s brigade was an all Vermont outfit consisting of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Vermont Infantry Regiments, and the brigade was better known as the 1st Vermont Brigade.
Getty’s division was ordered to hold the vital Brock Road–Orange Plank Road intersection. The division arrived at the intersection late in the morning of the 5th, and by 1:00, the 1st Vermont Brigade was in position south of the Orange Plank Road constructing earthworks. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s 2nd Corps was ordered to support Getty, and his forces began arriving early in the afternoon. At about 4:00, Hancock received orders that Getty was to attack immediately and that the 2nd Corps was to support that attack. Hancock complied with the order, even though his divisions were not yet fully in place.
The 1st Vermont Brigade attacked was heavily engaged with Major General Henry Heth’s Division of Lieutenant General A. P. Hill’s Confederate 3rd Corps. Visibility was difficult in the densely wooded Wilderness, and the fighting was intense. Grant was reinforced by Brigadier General J.H.H. Ward’s brigade from the 2nd Corps. The 1st Vermont Brigade continued fighting until Getty’s division was replaced and withdrew from the front line at about 6:00. Continue reading “Colonel Lewis Grant’s Report on the 1st Vermont Brigade at the Battle of the Wilderness” »
Many historians believe the North won the Civil War by winning in the west. With victories at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, Union armies captured territory and inflicted damage on both Confederate armies and on the South’s ability to wage war while the campaigns in the east resulted in high casualty figures but little ground gained. Yet the important battles of the western campaigns have gotten much less attention over the years than those in the east.
The Civil War: The Untold Story is a new five part documentary airing on PBS television in April 2014. Produced by Great Divide Pictures, a company that has produced history themed television documentaries and interpretive films for many National Park Service sites, this documentary emphasizes these western campaigns. Using reenactors, historian comments, archival photos, and eyewitness accounts from both soldiers and civilians, the series tells the story of the battles themselves, the causes of the war, the politics of the times, emancipation, and the role of African Americans in the war. The documentary is narrated by actress Elizabeth McGovern, currently seen on the popular PBS show Downton Abbey. Continue reading “Review: The Civil War: The Untold Story” »