A Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight

By Robert Jenkins

Dalton 150th Civil War Commission

 In the first year of the War, many excited young men from the North and South flocked to the training camps to fight for their side.  After the Battle of First Manassas in July, 1861, and the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, the horrifically large casualty lists shocked the people of both sides.  While the casualties at the Battle of First Manassas (also called First Bull Run) were high, approximately 2,000 Confederate losses and 3,000 Federal losses, those at the two-day Battle of Shiloh in Southwest Tennessee were staggering.  With some 13,000 Federal losses and 10,700 Confederate losses at Shiloh, the combined 23,700 casualties were more than all of the American military losses from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined.  It became very apparent to everyone that many more men would be needed to decide the outcome of the War.

The fall of Forts Donelson and Henry in Tennessee in February, followed by the captures of Nashville and Memphis and the Rebel loss on the second day at Shiloh, left Tennessee prey to several Northern armies and opened the path to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi in the Deep South.  From February to April 1862, the Volunteer State had been overrun and the Gulf States appeared to be next.  As a result, the governors from each Gulf State called for more volunteers to repel the Yankee parry into their region.  In Richmond, President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress continued to debate a conscription act, or draft, which would require service in the military.  Some leaders, including Georgia Governor Joe Brown, vehemently opposed the idea of the draft, and instead called out for volunteers to defend the state.

 In the Appalachian Region of Northern Georgia, many in the predominantly Scotch-Irish populace married within their allied families for several generations, causing tightly knit relations among them.  Much like the old clans of Scotland, these families shared with and protected one another.  They worshiped together, farmed together, worked together, and lived together, and their primary loyalty was to the family alliances which formed their community, almost their “country.”  It was not likely then, that notions of Southern Independence compelled most of these “mountain folk” of the Southern Appalachians to leave their allied families to go and fight. The majority of these families did not own slaves and could never afford to own slaves as they scratched out an existence, although they were not necessarily opposed to slavery.  For most of them, it was the presence of a very real threat to their core value, the safety of their allied families, caused by the Yankee invasion of their homes, lands and families during the spring of 1862, which led them to join the Confederate Army and spill their blood for it.  Following the Battle of Shiloh, one young Southern soldier who had been captured was asked why he was fighting if he didn’t own any slaves or have a stake in Southern Independence.  He simply replied, “Because you’re down here.”

Knowledge of an imminent draft that season also helped to swell the ranks, perhaps more so than any noble deed or grand speech.  It was considered better to have bravely volunteered in the spring of 1862 than to wait to be conscripted and thought of as yellow by your peers.  Besides, a $50.00 bounty was paid to all volunteers and that didn’t hurt.   The Confederate draft that had been widely talked about during the winter of 1861-1862 would eventually come during the first week of May 1862.  It required all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 who were not exempted due to work as a machinist in a factory, foreman of a plantation, engineer on a railroad, or other similar duty, to serve.

 As was typical of most wars, this one was indeed a “rich man’s war, and a poor man’s fight,” at least it seemed that way to the common man, North and South.  Many plantation owners and businessmen could avoid military service or the draft by “substituting” someone for them, meaning that they could pay someone to serve in their stead.  Alternatively, they could also avoid serving in the military if they could show that they were needed to serve the nation in another capacity such as running a mill, a railroad, a plant, or a large plantation with its many slaves.

The South remained a sharply divided society in terms of wealth and resources, with a pronounced hierarchical social structure dictated by the institution of slavery. In Georgia, much of this concentration of wealth was on the coastal plain, or the Piedmont in the central portion of the state.  The hill country of Northwest Georgia did not share in this wealth, and its absence shaped the political climate there in which many Confederate units were formed.

Typically a regiment of infantry contained 10 companies of 100 men each, for a total of 1,000 men on paper.  In 1861, when war drums first sounded, 4 units were formed from Whitfield and Murray Counties, accounting for approximately 400 men (or 100 for each Company).  These units included the “Dalton Guards,” (Co. B of Phillips Legion), and the “Wright Infantry” (Co. H, 2nd Georgia Infantry Regiment) of Whitfield County, and the “Murray Rifles” (Co. C, 11th Georgia Infantry Regiment), and Company D, 22nd Georgia Infantry Regiment, from Murray County.

During the spring of 1862, another 1,500 men and boys from Whitfield and Murray County helped swell the ranks of the Confederacy in newly formed Georgia regiments.  These units included the “Fitzgerald Rifles” (Co. A, 34th Georgia Infantry Regiment); Cos B, C, G, H, and I (one-half of the 36th Georgia Infantry Regiment); and the “Wells Guards” (Cos. C of the 39th Georgia Infantry Regiment), all of Whitfield County.   Company A from the 37th Georgia Infantry Regiment, and the “Cohutta Rangers” (Co. A), along with Company B from the 39th Georgia Infantry Regiment came from Murray County.  (The balance of the 39th Georgia came from  other Northwest Georgia counties, including Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gilmer, and Walker.)  Additionally, a number of men and boys from Whitfield and Murray Counties joined cavalry and artillery units, and some even spent time in the Confederate Navy serving on ironclads and gunboats during the defense of Vicksburg.

Before 1862 was over, 500 more men from Northwest Georgia were added to the ranks of the Confederacy as part of the 60th Georgia Infantry Regiment in the “Fannin Guards” (Co. B), the “Walker Independents” (Co. C), the “Whitfield Volunteers” (Co. D), the “Bartow Avengers” (Co E.), and the “Gilmer Volunteers” (Co. F).  Although these units had other local county ties, each of these five was formed in Dalton, and all had a number of Whitfield County members.

The rigors of camp life, marching, drilling, and combat quickly reduced the ranks of units to a fraction of their prescribed numbers.  It was common for over 100 men of a regiment to die from exposure to disease and dysentery in camps without ever serving in a battle.  In North and South alike, typically a new regiment would lose about a third of its number to illness during the first month of its existence and about 1 in 10 would die from disease in the first year, which is why most regiments never took to the fields of battle with much more than a few hundred men at a time.  The Northwest Georgia units were no exception.  Dying without a battlefield’s fiery honor, without the red badge of courage, was the fate of so many.  In the 19th Century era of romanticism and chivalry, dying in battle for your home and cause was perhaps more important that even death itself.  Death by dysentery and disease was both gruesome and inglorious.  War that took the lives of its warriors without the honor of battle was indeed cruel.




by Jim Burran


Dalton Civil War 150th Commission




Braxton Bragg was a man on a mission.  This 45-year-old West Point graduate and Confederate corps commander under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh had just been given Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi.  It was June 20, 1862.  Johnston had died at Shiloh two months earlier and his second in command, P. G. T. Beauregard, had so irritated President Jefferson Davis by his subsequent lack of aggressiveness that now Bragg was a full general in charge of the Confederacy’s second-largest army.


Bragg’s mission was to intercept the Union Army of the Ohio under the command of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell.  Also a veteran of Shiloh, Buell had orders to march his 40,000 soldiers from West Tennessee eastward to the important rail junction of Chattanooga and take control of that city.  The blue columns tramped through northern Mississippi and Alabama along the route of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, their progress slowed by marauding Confederate cavalry.  Learning of Buell’s objective, Bragg resolved to beat the Federals to Chattanooga.  Leaving 32,000 men in Mississippi under Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn and Maj. Gen. Sterling Price with instructions to clear the area of bluecoats and retake Memphis (an effort that eventually failed), Bragg gathered his remaining 35,000 soldiers for a rendezvous with glory.


An able organizer with a prickly personality, Bragg commandeered enough rolling stock to send his infantry by rail to Chattanooga while the supply wagons, cavalry, and artillery marched overland.  In what has been described as the finest hour of Confederate railroads, the first regiments boarded at Tupelo, Mississippi, on July 23.  Because Buell’s army blocked the direct route, a total of 28,000 infantry traveled by rail south to Mobile, across Mobile Bay by boat, then northeast through Montgomery to Atlanta, with the final leg coming through Dalton on the Western & Atlantic.


As the trains steamed across Alabama and Georgia, admiring crowds gathered at every station.  Washington Ives, a member of the 4th Florida Infantry regiment, described the trip in a letter to his sister:  “All along the railroad girls about your age threw us Confederate flags.  Peaches and apples [were] generally given to us also. At Marietta, Georgia, an opera troup of young ladies sang finely.”  The first of Bragg’s troop trains pulled into Chattanooga on July 27, and the rest followed over the next ten days.  The Army of the Mississippi had won the race.


By mid-August Gen. Buell had crossed the Tennessee River at Stevenson, Alabama, and maneuvered his army to a point between Chattanooga and Nashville where he awaited Bragg’s next move.  In the meantime, Bragg had a decision to make.  He could either move directly toward Buell and fight a decisive battle in Middle Tennessee, or he could bypass the Federal army and strike out for Kentucky.  The more he thought about it, the better he liked the idea of a bold thrust toward the Ohio River.


This alternative had a number of advantages.  First, a strike into Kentucky would undoubtedly draw thousands of new soldiers into Bragg’s army and might even induce this slaveholding border state to leave the Union.  Second, Buell would be forced to follow the advancing Confederate columns into Kentucky, thus giving Bragg the opportunity to turn on the Federals at his discretion and destroy them then and there.  Finally, such a move would enable Bragg to enlist the assistance of Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, whose independent force of 8,000 Southerners was then operating in East Tennessee with headquarters at Knoxville.  Among Smith’s soldiers was a brigade under Brig. Gen. Carter Stevenson that included the 36th and 39th Georgia Infantry regiments, both of which contained Whitfield and Murray men in abundance.


Bragg and Smith agreed to coordinate a joint offensive in which Bragg would move north from Chattanooga and Smith from Knoxville on roughly parallel routes to a junction somewhere south of Louisville from which a final, united drive would then be launched.  In preparation for this effort, Bragg now turned to the many details associated with supplying his troops for the campaign to come.  One of these involved establishing ordnance depots at locations along the railroad. Toward the end of July, Bragg ordered his Chief of Ordnance, a Polish immigrant with the spectacular name of Col. Hypolite Oladowski, to create such a depot at Dalton “where supplies should be deposited for 60,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and 100 pieces of artillery.”  Oladowski turned the Dalton ordnance project over to one of his subordinates, Capt. W. H. McMain, with instructions to rent part of the Western & Atlantic depot for this purpose.


On August 14 an impatient Smith decided that he could not wait for Bragg and started north with his Army of Kentucky, which by now numbered about 12,000 combat troops thanks to the loan of two brigades from Bragg.  Moving by way of Barbourville, Kentucky, Smith was near Richmond by the end of the month.  On August 30 elements of Smith’s army defeated an inexperienced Union force under Brig. Gen. William Nelson, capturing 4,300 out of Nelson’s 6,500 Federals in the process.  Flushed with success, Smith pressed on to Lexington and then to Frankfort, the state capital.  The governors of Indiana and Ohio declared states of emergency and ordered home guard units to mobilize while appealing to the Lincoln Administration for help.


Bragg finally got moving on August 28.  Avoiding the Nashville area, where General Buell had by now relocated his army, Bragg led his 31,000 men through the Middle Tennessee countryside north to Glasgow, Kentucky.  Pausing at Glasgow on September 14 to issue a proclamation to the citizens of Kentucky, Bragg declared:  “Kentuckians, I have entered your State with the Confederate Army of the West, and offer you an opportunity to free yourselves from the tyranny of a despotic ruler.”   But in the meantime Buell’s cavalry had detected Bragg’s maneuvers and now the race to the Ohio River was on.  Buell had the inside track, and by September 20 part of his army was in position to intercept Bragg’s columns.  To make matters worse, Buell’s army, now reinforced to 55,000 soldiers, was almost twice the size of Bragg’s.  The Army of the Mississippi reached as far north as Bardstown before Bragg began to realize the full extent of the danger confronting him.


With the immediate prospect of a triumph along the banks of the Ohio now out of the question, Bragg ordered his columns eastward in an effort to join ranks with Smith, still at Frankfort.  Before this could be fully accomplished, however, Union forces collided with the left wing of Bragg’s army on October 7.  The Battle of Perryville, fought the next day, was a tactical Confederate victory.  Taking the offensive, about 16,000 Southern troops forced 22,000 Federals to abandon the field with heavy losses.


But disaster was lurking.  Both Confederate armies were now very short on ammunition and provisions.  Bragg had lost 4,200 men during the campaign and only 2,500 Kentuckians had volunteered to replace them.  Smith had done no better.  And Buell was now maneuvering his entire army for another, even larger battle.  On October 12 Bragg, Smith, and their principal subordinates held a council of war and decided to withdraw from Kentucky.  Buell followed halfheartedly and permitted the Confederates to retreat unmolested.  This cost him his command. Shortly thereafter Buell was replaced by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans.


In the aftermath of the Kentucky Campaign, Edmund Kirby Smith was packed off to the other side of the Mississippi River where he remained until the end.  Bragg fought Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River in late December and then retreated once again, this time to Tullahoma.  In September 1863 Bragg won a resounding victory over Rosecrans at Chickamauga and then laid siege to the dispirited Union army licking its wounds in Chattanooga.  Rosecrans was sacked shortly thereafter and replaced by Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant, who then turned the tables on Bragg at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in late November.  The stricken Confederate force, by now renamed the Army of Tennessee, retreated to Dalton 16 months after Bragg had first entered the city by rail on his way to Kentucky.  This time it was Bragg who would lose his command.