The 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry played an important role in the Battle of Chickamauga.
Col. Emerson Opdycke's commander was Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. Thomas, from Virginia, had stayed in the Union Army, his sisters never spoke to him after he refused to fight for Virginia. Thomas acquired the sobriquet The Rock of Chickamauga, because he held his ground and continued to assault the Confederates. Brig. Gen. William Wood - upon seeing the 125th OVI assaulting the Confederates - called them Tigers, for the way they advanced and fought.
Thomas and Opdycke shared something - they were both much loved by their soldiers. Thomas was called "Old Pap" and men of the 125 had the greatest love, confidence and respect for Opdycke. Chickamauga is considered a Confederate victory, however, Thomas' determination and the 125th OVI's staunch aggression helped save the Union Army.
March 1863 found the 125th OVI in Franklin, Tenn. There they published a newspaper called The Federal Knapsack. The Cleveland Herald and the Western Reserve Chronicle received letters anonymously written from several soldiers, keeping the people back home informed. Companies B and C were recruited primarily from Trumbull County. Capt.Edward Bates, born in Hartford, joined the 19th OVI as a private, and was promoted to captain in the 125th in September 1862. Second Lt. Alson C. Dilley, Co. C, was from Howland and several letters written by him have survived. Ezra B. Taylor, father of Harriet Taylor Upton was chosen for lieutenant colonel. An attorney, he turned this down and later enlisted in the 171st Ohio, a 100 day regiment that guarded prisoners on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay.
The first shots of the battle were fired on Sept. 18 near Chickamauga Creek, about 10 miles south of Chattanooga. A Union soldier said there was no mistake that the rebels were in front of them, the smoke from the guns hid the soldiers' presence and riderless horses ran between the lines. The 125th OVI was marching the night of the 18th from McLennore's Cave along with the rest of the 14th Division of Thomas' men.
Thomas directed his men a half-mile on the east side of LaFayette Road, between the McDonald house and the Kelly farm, near a cathedral like forest, free of underbrush. That night was cold, foggy and the forest was so dense even the leaves blocked out the sky.
When you go
At 2 p.m. Oct. 5, The Civil War 150 Committee of the Sutliff Museum will present a video and slide lecture by Trumbull County historian Wendell Lauth on the Battle of Chickamauga, at the Thomas Room of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, Warren.
Dawn came at 7 a.m. Sept. 19. That day the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg, was not successful in his repeated attacks against the Union Army.
Early in the morning of Sept. 20, Rosecrans rode along the line, and his men said he looked tired. Confusion and stress had a role in Rosecrans' decision to have a trusted aide write an order to have Brig. Gen. Thomas Wood leave the front to support Brig. Gen. Reynolds. Maj. James Garfield, chief of staff, usually wrote the orders, Garfield had a map with all the Army positions, and this mistake caused serious consequences for it left a gap in the Union line.
With fresh troops, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet broke through the gap causing part of the Union Army to flee. Rosecrans and staff were swept up, rumors spread that Rosecrans and Thomas were killed. Thomas was positioned on a hill near the Snodgrass house and he told Opdycke that this point must be held. Opdycke answered that they would hold this ground or go to heaven. Then Opdycke held his sword high crying, "Men I will lead you, follow me."
Brig. Gen. Thomas Wood watched this assault and exclaimed, "They fight like Tigers." The fighting began about 1 p.m. and lasted until dark. Reserve troops of Gen. Graham and Steedman, from Ohio came to Thomas bringing 7,500 soldiers and much needed ammunition.
Also at this time Maj. Garfield had ridden across the battlefield, taking Confederate fire which killed two of his aides, giving orders for Thomas to retire. Thomas declared that it would ruin the army to retire now, he must wait until nightfall. Garfield sent a message back to Rosecrans stating that Thomas is standing like a rock. Sunset was after 6 p.m. and Thomas organized his men to begin retiring at 5:30 p.m.
The Rock of Chickamauga enabled Rosecrans' Army to retire to Chattanooga and not be destroyed. Thomas' own men protected his flanks and enabled his retirement to be unnoticed by the Confederates, and the 125th OVI was on the front line.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.