From the Archives: Chickamauga
I'd like to close out the Memorial Day with one more from the archives. This one is from September 2013 and the anniversary of Chickamauga. It will answer a few questions that have arisen from a picture that appeared on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Chickamauga, 150 Years Later
I have long pondered how I would commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamaga. This battle that is not actually in my back yard produced a volume of cannon fire that could literally be heard here at the house, roughly a one hour trip using modern contrivances.
It took the war several months and thousands of lives to get here.
I know there is a lot of discussion about Bragg, Rosecrans, Forrest, Thomas and other generals. Highlights and the celebrities of the war will cover many accounts of the battle.
But I want to do something different. I'm going to mention two men, one from each nation involved, and put a face on this battle. So here we go.
Lt. Howard M. Burnham is no relation to me. We aren't cousins. I checked. He was leading a battery of Union artillery in the opening stages of the battle on September 19, 1863. When his battery came under a charge of Confederate infantry. With little infantry support of his own and his horses killed by enemy fire, Burnham ordered his men to fight to keep the guns from being captured. Heavy rifle fire resulted in many casualties, including Lt. Burnham who fell mortally wounded but still encouraging his men to defend their cannons.
The Union officer was only 21 years old. He was an educated man who had a bright, promising future. But all of that ended in the woods of Northwest Georgia 150 years ago today.
The place where he fell is marked by a monument that is easily accessible on the General Bragg Trail at Chickamauga Battlefield. He was buried in his native Massachusetts.
Col. Peyton H. Colquitt was a native Georgian. In fact, Colquitt County is named for his father, Walter Colquitt. His brother was an officer in the Confederate Army as well and would eventually serve as both a senator and governor of Georgia.
All indications are that Peyton's future would have been that successful. But that future was deferred. He was killed around noon on the second day of fighting. He was one of four Confederate Army commanders that would perish while fighting at "The River of Death". He was 31 years old. The spot where he fell is marked by a large stack of cannonballs near the intersection of Alexander Bridge Rd and Battleline Rd. It's within walking distance of the Walter Burnham site. The banner photo currently displayed at the top of this blog was taken just feet from the stack of cannonballs.
I picked these two men because, while they're not average enlisted men, they are relatively unheard of. Their last names got my attention for different reasons. They fought for opposing armies. Their homelands were as different as daylight and dark. But their fate at Chickamauga was identical.
Burnham was one of the 1,657 killed of the 16,170 Union casualties. Peyton was one of the 2,312 killed of the 18,454 Confederate casualties. The total casualty numbers for the two day battle are second only to the three days at Gettysburg.
Like most of the casualties, Howard and Peyton were young. Like many others, they were fighting for their convictions. Like many others, they fought bravely and died in the service of their country.
4,000 men killed in two days. 30,000 others wounded, missing or captured.
Two men. One for each army. One killed on each day. Different men, same fate. Multiplied 2000 times each.
That was Chickamauga.
Leave a Reply.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire