Captain Eli Lilly’s Report on the 18th Indiana Battery at the Battle of Chickamauga

Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly

Before the Civil War, and before he founded the pharmaceutical company that bears his name, Eli Lilly was a pharmacist in Greencastle, Indiana. When the war began, Lilly recruited men for a company of artillery, which was mustered into service on August 20th, 1862, as the 18th Indiana Independent Battery of Artillery, with Lilly as it’s Captain and commanding officer.

Over the next 10 months, the 18th was on duty at various points in Kentucky and Tennessee. In June of 1863, the 18th was assigned to Colonel John T. Wilder’s brigade of mounted infantrymen, which consisted of the 92nd, 98th, and 123rd Illinois regiments, plus the 17th and 72nd Indiana regiments. Wilder’s brigade was a formidable fighting unit; not only were his infantrymen on horses, but they were also armed with seven shot Spenser repeating rifles. Wilder’s brigade was the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division of the Union 14th Corps, though it was on detached service during the Chickamauga Campaign.

Lilly’s artillery and the rest of Wilder’s brigade saw extensive action, primarily on the Union right, at the September 19th-20th Battle of Chickamauga. They were also engaged in some preliminary skirmishes and actions in the campaign in the days before the main battle. Lilly filed this after action report on the 18th Indiana Battery’s fighting in the Chickamauga Campaign:

HDQRS. 18TH IND. BATTERY, 1st BRIG., 4TH Div., 14TH A. C.,
Friar’s Island, Tenn., September 26, 1863.
CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders, I have the honor herewith to report operations of this battery since crossing the Tennessee River at this ford September 10, 1863:

After fording as above, the battery moved with the brigade on the Ringgold road and at nightfall camped near the Georgia line.

Eleventh instant marched at 7 a.m., and arriving within 2 miles of Ringgold, Ga., our advance was resisted and one section was taken forward and placed in position, which soon shelled the rebels out and the town was occupied. We from this point took the Dalton road, the enemy making a stand at a gap 2 miles out, and a sharp artillery duel ensued from which they retired after an hour and a half’s fight, leaving 3 crippled horses and harness on the field. Our movement from this to Tunnel Hill was uninterrupted.

Twelfth, moved back to Ringgold and took the La Fayette road. Following the camps and marches of the brigade, nothing of note occurred till the 17th instant, when we marched from Pond Spring to Alexander’s Bridge on Chickamauga Creek, 3 miles from Gordon’s Mills.

Eighteenth instant, at 9.30 a.m., one section was sent with detachment from our brigade to re-enforce Colonel Minty, who was reported hard pressed on our left. At about 12.30 p.m. the enemy appeared in strong infantry force on our front and attacked our skirmishers. I immediately opened fire on them from my four remaining guns, doing fine execution on their ranks with long-range canister and shell at from 600 to 1,200 yards range. They soon planted two guns on an open hill in front and succeeded in throwing three shells at us before we silenced them. One of their shells fell near one of my guns when Private Sidney A. Speed, seeing the fuse still burning, picked it up from among my cannoneers and threw it over the house near by before it burst. This engagement lasted till 4.30 p.m., when Colonel Minty having been obliged to fall back, I was ordered to limber my pieces and move out, when we retired to the Gordon’s Mills and Chattanooga road and rested for the night.

On the 19th instant I did not become engaged until about 2.30 p.m., when our brigade moved in support of Davis’ division, at which time I shelled the enemy’s lines to cover the movement. When our brigade was relieved by other troops and returned to its former line I ceased firing. My, position at this time was on the west side of and facing the Gordon’s Mills and Chattanooga road, four pieces near the right of an open field, two pieces at the left corner of the same field, all retired in the edge of the timber. A ravine crossed the field parallel to our line two-thirds of the way to the road. The troops in our front were now falling back, and as it was expected the enemy would fall on our left, the lines were extended in that direction and the four pieces on the right were moved to a corn-field on the left of the timber we had just left, and in a direct line with our former position. This was no sooner done than the enemy moved to the road in front of our center, when the section posted at the corner the field opened lively, the pieces being double-shotted with canister. They advanced under this and a strong oblique fire from my pieces the left, in addition to the fire of the infantry lines, until they reached the ravine, when they fell back in disorder. We remained on this part of the field all night.

Battle of Chickamauga by Kurz and Allison

Battle of Chickamauga by Kurz and Allison

On the 20th instant we took position with the brigade on the extreme right of our lines, and were posted on the first ridge west of the road running from Crawfish Spring to Chattanooga, near where department headquarters were the day before. At — o’clock Sheridan’s division, on our left, was faltering and our brigade went to its support. The brigade moved in at double-quick, and the battery took position a few hundred yards to the left of our former post and opened very rapidly, shelling a field beyond a narrow strip of woods through which the enemy was moving. The brigade soon cleared the woods, and I took a section from the hill and planted it to the right of former department headquarters and opened with canister on the retreating enemy till out of range. We now moved to our former position and finally to Chattanooga Valley, 5 miles from Chattanooga, from which place on the 21st instant we recrossed the river at Chattanooga and took position at Friar’s Island covering the ford. My four mountain howitzers were with the Ninety-second Illinois Volunteers detached from the brigade on Saturday, and under Sergeant Anderson, Seventy-second Indiana Volunteers, did good fighting. Sergeant Anderson was wounded severely, and Sergeant Edwards, Seventeenth Indiana Volunteers, took command and did good work till all support left them and the enemy were within a few yards of his pieces, when he succeeded in escaping with three of his pieces and the limber of the other. Either of these men would do honor to the commissions of the miserable shoulder-strapped poltroons who allowed the support to run away from the pieces in the hour of danger. Of my officers and men I can say they have behaved bravely whenever called on. They have never faltered in duty. There is a single exception of one man who has already suffered severe punishment for straggling from the field. I have met with a loss of 2 men killed and 8 wounded. I have also lost in action 6 horses killed, 1 horse wounded, and I mountain howitzer; ammunition expended, 778 rounds.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

I have the honor to be, captain, your most obedient servant,

ELI LILLY,
Captain, Commanding Eighteenth Indiana Battery.

Capt. ALEXANDER A. R. E.
Asst. Adjt Brig., 1st Brig., 4th Div Army Corps.

Sources:

A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick Dyer

Indiana at Chickamauga 1863-1900. A Report of the Indiana Commissioners, Chickamauga National Military Park

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XXX, Part 1

The Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, Including the Tullahoma Operations, June 22 – September 23, 1863 by David A. Powell and David A. Frederichs

This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga by Peter Cozzens

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