Several weeks had passed with no news being received by the editor of the Western Reserve Chronicle from local troops fighting in Tennessee. A belated letter from the 125th Ohio Infantry Regiment "Opdycke's Tigers" was front page news for the paper's readers. Here is that correspondence:
Editor, Chronicle: I have delayed writing until now, that I might be enabled to furnish an accurate list of the killed and wounded in the two companies from Trumbull County; also the full particulars concerning the part our regiment took in the late battle (Missionary Ridge). We have won a great victory, and can think nor talk of nothing else. Even the wounded soldier forgets for the moment, his sufferings, while he contemplates the great work has has, with his fellow soldiers, accomplished. Let me briefly give you a general idea of the position of our forces prior to the engagement, and then refer more particularly to our regiment.
Lookout Mountain is three miles from town (Chattanooga), next the river, the terminates in a bluff 500 feet high, and has been occupied by the rebels since the battle of Chickamauga. It commanded both the railroad, and the river; thus we were prevented from getting our supplies through this channel, and as the roads had become impassable, something must be done, or our army would soon be in a starving condition.
General Hooker was on our right, below Lookout Mountain, General Granger in the center, and in front of Chattanooga, while General Sherman, on the north side of the river, was on the left. On the 23rd of November at 1:30 p.m., our center moved out one mile, and drive the rebel pickets from their position. On the 24th we advanced still farther, while our batteries took an active part in the engagement. At the same time Hooker stormed, and gallantly carried the works on Lookout Mountain. The musketry firing was kept up until 12 o'clock at night. We have taken 2,000 prisoners, with a loss to ourselves of 250 killed and wounded. While this battle was occupying the attention of the enemy, General Sherman hastily threw a pontoon bridge across the river, seven miles above, and crossed his whole force, thus getting in the rear of the right wing of Bragg's army. Thus on the evening of the 24th, General Hooker has taken Lookout Mountain, General Hazen's brigade had captured a regiment of Alabamians, while General Sherman waited for the order to attack the enemy's flank; nor had he long to wait, for on the 25th day, which will be memorable in history of the rebellion, the order was received to attack the enemy, but the position was too strong, and we were repulsed twice, with considerable loss. While this attack was being made, our center again advanced, and took some rifle-pits near the base of Missionary Ridge. The Ridge is three miles from town, and in full view of several miles. Bragg's Headquarters was located there, directly in front of our brigade, as it then stood at the foot of the Mountain, in life of battle.
The center was ordered to advance up that Ridge, and take some rifle-pits, and there rest until further orders. They obeyed the order, so far as taking the rifle-pits was concerned, but they did not stop there for orders. They charged right up the steep Mountain side, right up to the very mouths of the rebel guns. Standing at Fort Wood, we could see the whole thing.
A more grand or sublime sight has never been presented to view, since the war began. The long line of soldiers, with the colors of each regiment floating to the breeze, can be seen toiling slowly, but steadily, up, up, while from forty pieces of artillery, the enemy rained their shot and shell into the lines of our brave boys; still they waver not, but move on, on, towards what seems most certain destruction. Our batteries in the rear, thundered forth their missiles of destruction at the enemy, thus forming a roof of smoke and iron hail for our soldiers, who still move on and upward; but see the line has halted; they fall back to the breastworks; General Sheridan rides up and says, "That's right, boys; you done just right; you couldn't go up there alone."
Then, after they had breathed a few moment, the command rings out, "forward", when every man springs to his feet and again presses forward. The panic-stricken enemy throw down their arms, and while hundreds escape, many with hands uplifted, rush towards our lines and gave themselves up. Colonel Harker-the noble commander of our brigade- seizes a flag, and in advance of the rest, is soon astride the gun "Lady Buckner", shouting, "rally around the flag boys", while one of the soldiers of our regiment is soon beside him, and begs leave to turn the gun on the flying enemy, which he does with good effect.
Colonel Opdycke exhibited his accustomed bravery, laughing at the fears of some, or with revolver in hand threatening to shoot down the coward who sought to skulk away to a place of safety. The Colonel commanded a demi-brigade, and I am happy to say that none from our regiment were threatened with his revolver. It was Colonel Opdycke's command that captured General Bragg's headquarters, and eight pieces of artillery. The Colonel had two horses shot under him, but came out of the conflict unscratched. We all feel proud of such a commander, and will follow, or go at his bidding anywhere.
Captain Edward Bates, of Company, commanded our regiment, which formed a part of Colonel Opdycke's command. Captain Bates is a brave and conscientious man, and highly esteemed by all who know him. That night the campfires of Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge, were kindled by Union soldiers, and as they gathered round to cook their coffee, and eat their hard bread, and talked over the scenes and incidents of the day, they grasped each other by the hand, as friends who have long been separated. Ah, their day's work will form one of the brightest pages in the history of our country, and it will not hasten the time when all our enemies shall be conquered, and we be permitted to return home and friends again.
The loss in our regiment was two killed, and thirty wounded.
Wounded in Company B-Sergt. Rufus Woods, severely, by shell; Private James Floody, slightly, right leg broken; David B. Wood, slightly, right foot; Wallace J. Henry, slightly, right hand.
Wounded in Company C-William Seaborn, severely in the head; Avery Harwood, seriously in thigh; Leroy Fuller, slightly, in shoulder.
All are in Hospitals and under charge of our own Surgeon. Lieutenant Elmer Moses has returned to us a Captain [Company E]; and Lieutenant Ridgley Powers is with us again [Company B]; we are happy to see them.
They brought with them a number of men who had been absent at the various hospitals, and at home. Our regiment is again on the march, but will probably return to this place. Adams Express is now established here and in running order.
NOTE: A check of the Official Roster of the 125th Ohio Infantry Regiment published in 1888 identifies the two men killed on November 25, 1863, in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. They are Private Reuben Bunnell, age 31, Company A; and Private William Miller, age 39, Company E.
Both are buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Three of the wounded died within hours of the battle. They were William H. Friend, age 21, Company I, died November 26th; Oliver Richardson, age 18, Company I, died November 26th; and Frederick Brower, age 23, Company F, died November 27th. These men are also interred at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
The correspondent who wrote the Western Reserve Chronicle under the "nom de plume" H was never identified, and so remains a mystery 150 years later as we look back on the history of the Civil War.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.