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100 Years Ago

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The speed with which the Union armies were pushed to move into Georgia took its toll as well. For example, the brigade containing the 118th Ohio was forced to complete a punishing march of 100 miles in just 5 days. It was a tattered and weary 118th, containing many Ft. Loramie and Sidney, Ohio boys, that arrived in the vicinity of Resaca, Georgia, on May 9, 1864. Leading them was General Henry Judah. Having been previously disciplined for poor performance (and some bouts with alcohol) by his superior, General Schofield, Judah was given one last chance to redeem himself at the Battle of Resaca. In his haste to seize victory, Judah did not reconnoiter the battlefield terrain beforehand or use his artillery in the fight.

After the command was given to move forward with the attack, the brigade including the 118th moved forward and down into a creek bed against the well-fortified rebel line. Other supporting federal units did not move forward, and Judah denied the request of his field commanders to retreat and coordinate the Union attack.

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General Henry Judah

Mike Klinger, who wrote an article on the action at Resaca entitled "Botched Union Attack," described what followed: "With all hope of a cohesive attack shattered, Judah still refused to halt and re-form. He drove his division into that deadly valley. Those who reached the creek tried to hold out as best they could in waist-deep water and mud. Not only were they being slaughtered in appalling numbers, they were even losing the ability to fight back."

It was all over in just ten minutes. The 118th had sent 270 men into battle. One hundred sixteen were killed, wounded, or captured. Cynthian Township residents George Baker, Joseph Beckman, James Clawson, and brother Thomas were among those killed. The angel of mercy visited Sidney soldier Cassius Wilson, the brother of Dr. Albert Wilson. Just before the battle, his company was ordered to the rear to guard the supply trains, and thus escaped the disaster.  Years later, 118th Ohio veteran Ebenezer Davis echoed the sentiments of many when asked to recall his worst moment of the war. "The charge of Resaca, insane, useless charge, ordered by an intoxicated officer."

The action at Resaca was actually an exception to the generally accepted theory of battle tactics that had developed by 1864. Early in the war, huge losses of life in the face of rifle and artillery fire convinced many commanders that valor should take second place to common sense. Common sense dictated that whenever possible, the men should be protected behind fortified breastworks. If the high ground is properly selected and fortified, the enemy then must take the risk to attack.  Lt. Henry Dwight of the 20th Ohio wrote an article that appeared in the October 1864, edition of "Harper's Monthly Magazine." He described chest-high breastworks, thick enough to stop bullets, imbedded with wooden, pointed stakes jutting out at a 45 degree angle. Hidden trip wires completed the almost impregnable line. It was just these types of barriers that would come into play at the Battle of Atlanta.

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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