After President Lincoln had given his Gettysburg address on Nov. 19, 1863, he went back to Washington and had become ill with a mild form of smallpox. He made the comment later that day that "at last I have something I can give to everybody."
On the same date, Nov. 21, generals Grant and Sherman, along with Hooker Thomas and others, develop the plan for the Battle of Chattanooga. In the following days, the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge were fought with Union success.
Gen. Bragg of the Confederate Army had positioned his forces in a way to detour the advance of the Union army toward Atlanta. Many of these Union troops were Trumbull County men who were under Hooker's command and whose assignment was to pursue the Confederates further south in Georgia.
On Nov. 26, Confederate Gen. Bragg's troops are falling back into the area surrounding Ringgold Georgia and here they were ordered to delay the federal advance as long as possible so that the main branch of Bragg's army could escape to Atlanta.
It was on Nov. 27 that Hooker's men would clash with Bragg's troops at Ringgold in a bloody and terrible battle that left Hooker's Corps reeling in defeat. It was in Ringgold - namely Taylor's Ridge - that the Seventh Ohio, with many Trumbull County men, suffered the greatest loss in their three-year service.
Hooker, in his overzealous rapidity to push Bragg's men further south, ordered the brigade, including the Seventh, to push the rebels off of Taylor's Ridge and to allow advancement of the remaining troops. However, Hooker did not allow time for Union artillery to come up and support the brigade in their attack.
Taylor's Ridge is a gap near Ringgold that is very steep on both sides and the Union troops had to enter the gap with rebel soldiers perched on both sides with superior natural protection from the rocks above. The brigade was led by Col. William R. Creighton of the Seventh Ohio, who was given the task of moving the rebels out of the gap.
When they entered the gap, they immediately came under fire from both sides, they continued unabated toward the summit, and approximately half way up, the fire from the rebels became so intense that they had to cease their advancement.
The Seventh Ohio, during this engagement, had approximately 200 men on active duty. Thirteen of these men were officers, of which 12 were either killed or wounded. During this engagement, colonels William R. Creighton and Orrin J. Crane, both of the Seventh, were killed. Another 17 men of this regiment were also killed and 57 wounded. It would be, percentage wise, one of the most significant losses of any single regiment during the entire war.
The bodies of Creighton and Crane were immediately carried to safety where they were prepared to be moved to Cleveland.
An excerpt from a journal from one of the Seventh's men present during the battle reflects the true relationship between their colonel and the regiment:
"Early this morning, the news reached us of our beloved commanders Col. William R. Creighton and Lt. Col. Crane now sleep the sleep of death. Oh this is a sad, gloomy time in the history of the Seventh Ohio Regiment.
''When it was first told us, I could not believe it was true, that it perfectly impossible, but when later in the day it was confirmed, we could doubt no longer. The painful truth burst upon us with all its might. Our noble generous and beloved kernels (sic) are gone from us, never, never to return. Our regiment is robbed of all that made it what it was, the name of being the 'pride of northern Ohio,' the brave and true.
''We shall never again here (sic) of the clear and ringing voice of our Colonel as in times past - giving his commands. And how cheerful and promptly were those commands obeyed by all. Never again will his face light up with satisfaction and pleasure. That smile has left his lips forever; those eyes that once took in the whole regiment at a single glance and detected the slightest mistake in drill, those keen, bright, penetrating eyes are closed to us now. One look of his was enough to quell a disturbance or punish an offender.
''Col. Creighton was the idol, the life, the joy of the salt. He is taken from us in the full measure of manhood - 26 years - and vigor of life. His young wife and aged mother, how they will mourn for him. I am told his last words were 'Oh my poor wife and mother.'
''He had his faults, but we could overlook them. The wine glass had a temptation he could not resist. At times he drank too freely and when under the influence of liquor sometimes did that on becoming a soldier but never abused his men. He was given to too much profanity but we could never get offended at him, it seemed so natural and easy for him to swear."
The bodies of Creighton and Crane were transferred to Nashville, on Dec. 3, 1863. They were to be embalmed and sent on to Louisville, Ky. On Dec. 6, their bodies arrived in Cleveland. Here the bodies lay in state and were viewed by thousands of northeast Ohio citizens who wanted to give them thanks for their service. The funeral of Creighton and Crane would become the largest funeral procession in Cleveland history.
After the battle at Ringgold, the men moved 20 miles north back to Chattanooga. Here are the remnants of the Seventh would set up camp for the winter.
It was also at this time that the higher-ranked officials were trying to persuade them to re-enlist until the end of the war. Most of these men served three years and had seen battle after battle, and suffered greatly from both the weather and the enemy. A letter from a member of the Seventh during this period illustrates the efforts that were aimed at them to change their mind about re-enlisting:
"Efforts were made at this camp to induce the men to re-enlist. A fine speech of Gen. Geary's was insufficient to cause the boys to forget their abuse and hard usage, which had so prejudiced their minds that they could not see it to be their duty to do further service. Besides, the general had not, by any means, made himself their favorite; and therefore, in his protestations that 'to lose the Seventh would be to lose the seventh star of the Pleiades,' and that 'they were dear to him as the apple of his eye' only serve to discuss them.
''Another effort was made by Gen. Slocum and all the 12th core authorities to persuade the men to enter the veteran service; but they said, 'We know the promises of men in authority, and how much care is exercised for the comfort of those under them. We love the society of our friends at home as well as the multitudes of young men who have never spent a day in the service. We will take our turn with them.'"
It should also be noted at this point that a lot of the recruits that joined the Seventh, including many from Trumbull County, were told upon their enlistment that they would be released of their commitment when the regiment fulfilled their three-year duty.
However, they are now being told that these men, who were recruited in September 1862, would not be allowed to go home with the rest of the regiment and would have to be transferred to the Fifth Ohio and serve the remaining time under that unit. Needless to say, this was not a very popular decision and created a lot of distrust with the commanding officers at the uppermost level.
The regiment would remain in Chattanooga until the Atlanta campaign in the spring.
Other war news of late November and early December 1863 is widespread and extremely important. On Nov. 27, the rebel marauder John Hunt Morgan, of Morgans's Raid fame, imprisoned at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus, escapes and heads south to rejoin the Confederate forces.
Confederate Gen. Longstreet on Nov. 29 launches an attack on the federal forces around Knoxville, Tenn., seeking to dislodge Burnside's troops and recapture Knoxville for the Confederates. This battle does not end well for Longstreet and it would be the last attempt to regain Knoxville for the Confederates during the war.
On Nov. 30, after the defeat of Bragg around Chattanooga, President Davis accepts Bragg's resignation from the Army. The victory at Chickamauga is now seen as a wasted victory. Bragg is replaced by Gen. W.H. Hardee and asks his forces to support him.
On Dec. 8, 1863, President Lincoln, in addressing Congress, makes his first statement of reconstruction. It is to be a proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction. The main points of his proclamation were as follows: A full pardon for all Confederates, excepting government officials, high-ranking army officers, those who resigned the U.S. military for the Confederacy, and those who have mistreated white or black prisoners of war.
It would proclaim that all property except slaves would be restored to the rebels. All pardons would be conditional on the oath of allegiance to the United States. Statehood would be recognized in any state that seceded if one-tenth of the citizens swear allegiance and forbid slavery.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.