Battle Above the Clouds
Chapter 38 (November 24, 1863)
Those who saw this charge from the valley below pronounced it the greatest and most wonderful scene of any during the Civil War. General Ousterhaus’ division of the 15th Corps, and General Geary’s White Star Division, of the 12th Corps, captured Lookout Mountain, the artillery assisting. We moved slowly around the point of the mountain. Firing became more fierce with the Rebels falling back until night came on and with it a cold, light rain. We finally took possession for the night, hanging to the steep side of the mountain and scarcely able to keep from rolling down.
The writer being near the captain said to him that he smelled a dead man. He said, “You must have a good smeller.” I told him I smelled his blood, and sure enough when morning came here lay a dead Rebel very near us in the bushes. A Rebel was wounded near their camp and lay across the road but was unable to crawl away. As our boys would step over him he called piteously to them to help him get away. But as we were driving the Rebels none took the time, and no doubt many a one tramped on him or gave him a kick. Such is cruel war.
The Rebels would roll great rocks down on the soldiers, and many were wounded in this way. As we were getting into line at night a light from a fire up the hill shone just in front of the captain and the writer. The captain said I should dress up into line better. I saw before me a man, laying, with a blanket over him, and thinking the captain would tramp on him I said: “Captain, be careful there is a dead man before you.” When I said dead man the fellow jumped up and throwing up his hands threw the wet blanket with which he had covered himself over me and yelled at the top of his voice: “No. I am not dead.” If I ever was near being scared to death it was at this time. I scratched and pulled and did everything I could to remove the blanket, and my legs trembled as never before. The soldier explained that he was a member of the 5th Ohio regiment of our brigade, and that he gave out coming up the mountain and lay down to rest awhile, when he fell asleep and knew nothing of the world until he heard me say dead man. He seemed to be as much unstrung as the captain and the writer.
The night spent on Lookout Mountain, clinging to its rocky side in a cold, drizzling November rain without any shelter tents, blankets, or gum blankets-no shelter whatever-will never be forgotten by those who were participants in that great battle. This was the famous Battle Above the Clouds. Besides heavy losses in killed and wounded on the part of the enemy, one thousand nine hundred and forty prisoners were captured, two pieces of artillery, nine battle flags, forty thousand rations, two thousand stand of small arms and camp equipage sufficient for two divisions.
While marching up Lookout and changing positions owing to the nature of the ground we moved along beyond the point with the regiment left in front. The Colonel gave the command to countermarch. We were then on a road leading around the mountain, and as we were executing this command the Regiment was just doubled up as a volley from the Rebels compelled us to drop down over the embankment along the road. The adjutant of the regiment, Samuel Magee, thinking it meant a route, drew his sabre and struck Jere Hathaway across the back-cried “halt!” that he did not want us to run. Ed Fisher, who was close to the adjutant, said: “Who the Devil intends to run? You tell us what to do and we are here to do it.” The order from the Colonel to front face and dress up was speedily done. We advanced to the road. When the command forward was given, the 147th again showed the quality of the men and officers composing the regiment, for many a regiment would have been unable to rally its men under similar conditions.
Around the mountain is a perpendicular ledge of rocks, at one place 400 feet high, called sunset rock. The Rebel artillery on the mountain top was useless so far as doing us any damage was concerned, because they were unable to depress their pieces. The Rebel sharpshooters would come out to the edge of the rocks and tried to pick off our officers. Corporal Nathan Wagner, of Company F fired several shots at one of these fellows, until at last he hit him, and the sharpshooter fell headlong into the crevices of the rocks and this place no doubt became his last resting place.
Near the point of the mountain the Rebels had made steps and a ladder to get up and down during the time they occupied the heights. These same steps and ladder were used by our boys to carry up the flag on the night following the battle.