Major James Edmund Callaway

He was placed in command of the 81st Indiana by General Carlin, commanding brigade, after the commander of the 81st was relieved on the field at the beginning of the Battle of Chickamauga. The 81st did outstanding duty under Maj. Callaway. Some time after the battle the men of the 81st Indiana marched to the camp of the 21st Illinois and presented Maj. Callaway with a presentation sword.


Headquarters Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers
Chattanooga, September 28, 1863


In accordance with orders from headquarters Second Brigade, First Division, Twentieth Army Corps, I have the honor to report that about 2:30 p. m. on the 19th instant, while with the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, and being hotly engaged with the enemy at a point about 3 miles north of Crawfish Spring, on a line west of and near Chickamauga Creek, and east of and parallel to the LaFayette road, leading to Chattanooga, I received an order to immediately report to Brigadier-General Carlin, commanding brigade. Upon reporting, General Carlin directed me to at once assume command of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, of his brigade. I immediately obeyed the order, and, upon assuming command, found the regiment (Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers) lying about 50 yards in rear of and supporting the Second Minnesota Battery, the regiment not yet having engaged the enemy. The regiment then numbered, in fighting men present for duty, 15 officers and 240 enlisted men. About five minutes thereafter I received an order in person from Brigadier-General Davis, commanding division, to move my command about 200 yards to the right and front of the Second Minnesota Battery and support a regiment there severely engaged with the enemy, saying at the time he thought it was the Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers. Upon taking position, the right resting behind and shielded by a point of timber with heavy undergrowth, the left resting on the crest of and being covered by a slight elevation, I had discovered a regiment (Seventeenth Kentucky Volunteers) to my right and a little to my front slowly giving way to the right, and steadily contesting the ground under a most withering fire from a very heavy column of the enemy briskly advancing and not over 300 yards distant. We immediately opened a well-directed fire, first by volley and then by file, causing the enemy to recoil and give way in much confusion, thereby relieving the regiment to our right. The firing had not yet ceased when a large body of the enemy was seen moving to our left, and soon attacked the Second and Third Brigades of Davis' division. The enemy in our front again took courage and advanced upon our position, but, being shattered, was easily repulsed. The brigades to our left and the Second Minnesota Battery, together with the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers, immediately joining the Eighty-first Indiana on the left, though most stubbornly and bravely resisting the terrible onset of most overwhelming numbers, were driven from their position, leaving the Eighty-first Indiana entirely without support on the left. I had in the mean time made a partial change of front to the rear by throwing back the left wing of the regiment, and continued our fire, somewhat enfilading the lines of the enemy and partially checking his farther progress.

About this time a vigorous attack was made on our front and right, causing the Seventeenth Kentucky to farther withdraw.

The Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, owing to the admirable position occupied, was not suffering very greatly, but the position was so flanked as to endanger my entire command, exposing it to capture. It was then withdrawn in good order about 200 yards to a thin curtain of timber covering the road. After again halting and reopening fire, I was informed by an officer that 50 yards to our rear and across the road was a fieldwork that had been hastily constructed of rails. I accordingly faced the regiment about and took position within the works, when we again opened and continued a most galling and deadly fire upon the enemy, who had advanced within short range, and after long and hard fighting he was dislodged from his position with heavy loss. We immediately followed his retreating forces and retook our former position at the front, that we had been compelled to abandon, and held it during the remainder of the day. The Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers again came up to our left, and about the same time I observed Brigadier-General Carlin, still to the left of the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers, most fearlessly moving forward a body of troops I then supposed to be the remainder of this brigade to the attack of the enemy, again moving up in double lines and well supported to our attack. The general and his command made a most gallant and heroic resistance, but being overpowered, were shattered and driven back with fearful loss, leaving the colors of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers in the hands of the color-sergeant, who was shot dead on the field. I immediately ordered the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers to open an oblique fire to the left, completely enfilading the lines of the enemy, and repulsed him with immense slaughter, recovering the colors of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers and protecting the One hundred and first Ohio while it most gallantly recovered the Eighth Indiana Battery taken by the enemy. The Third Brigade of Sheridan's division came to the relief of General Carlin, and formed on the left of the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers; and though the brigade, together with the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers, was twice driven from their position, the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers stubbornly holding its position, never losing an inch of the ground, the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers recoiling each time, but seeing the Eighty-first Indiana standing firmly, would rally and return to our assistance.

Hearing a heavy roll of musketry and much cannonading on our right, and not knowing who occupied the position, I had fears that my position might be flanked, as the forces seemed to recoil and the firing was growing to our rear. Upon information received, and after making a personal inspection of the right, I learned that a brigade commanded by a Colonel Barnes had been repulsed on our right, but the colonel had so posted his battery as to command his front and our right, enfilading the enemy's approach in attempting to turn our position. During the engagement Captain Eaton and Lieutenant Gross and about 60 men of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers either reported to me or were rallied upon the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, and continued fighting most gallantly under my command, several of them being wounded; Sergeant Russell, Company G, and Private John Jones, Company F, Twenty-first Illinois, severely.

Being still on the front line and our ammunition nearly exhausted, I was endeavoring to obtain a supply, when, about sunset, an order came from General Davis, and immediately thereafter from General Carlin, to withdraw my command and join the division about 800 yards in rear.

During the engagement on that afternoon we fired an average of 54 rounds to each man of my command, and suffered the following losses: Officers wounded, 4, Captain Mitchell mortally; enlisted men, killed, 4; wounded, 58; making a grand total of 66 killed and wounded.

In obedience to orders received I rejoined the brigade about dusk, with the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers and 3 officers, the regimental colors, and with about 50 men of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, when we bivouacked for the night.

At 3 a. m. next morning, on the 20th instant, I received orders to move my command left in front, following the One hundred and first Ohio. Marched about half mile and stacked arms at General Rosecrans' headquarters, remaining until about sunrise. At that hour we moved to the rear about 600 yards and formed a line on an elevated ridge, running west of and parallel to the Chattanooga and LaFayette road. At about 10 a. m. I received orders from Brigadier-General Carlin to form my command into double column at half distance and follow the One hundred and first Ohio, moving by the left flank. We moved steadily along the apex of the ridge in a northeasterly direction about 1 mile, when we came into an extended glade and halted. The Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers was ordered to deploy and move forward in line, the Eighty-first Indiana moving in column abreast with the Twenty-first Illinois, and to deploy on reaching the apex of the hill in our front, and take position in line on the left of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers.

Having deployed my command and the enemy not being immediately in range, though heavy firing was progressing on our left, I was ordered to form my command into close column by division, right in front, and follow the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers. Following on this line we marched about 800 yards, ascending to a somewhat elevated position, and was ordered to deploy my command and take position on the left of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, behind some rude and ill constructed fieldworks erected upon our line of battle. I then threw forward Company A, Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, Lieut. S. H. McCoy commanding, and relieved the skirmishers of another command, then retiring.

While posting the skirmishers, I observed the Third Brigade on our left was heavily attacked and driven back before getting into position. In a few moments thereafter the enemy appeared emerging from a body of thick timber about 150 yards in our front and moving to our attack without skirmishers and in most over-whelming numbers, massed by battalions, and, as near as I could judge from the battle-flags exhibited, four lines in depth. Our skirmishers came flying in, and, according to previous instructions, rallied on the right of the regiment.

As soon as my battalion front was unmasked by the skirmishers we opened a terrible and deadly fire upon the advancing foe. The firing was continued with unabated fury on both sides, the enemy steadily advancing and our men determinedly resisting until but 3 men of the enemy's first line and about half of his second line were standing; their comrades apparently had fallen in windrows and his farther progress seemed checked, perhaps impossible. Being near the right of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers and the left of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, I saw to my inexpressible surprise and horror the right of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers was breaking and rapidly melting away. After a second and more careful observation I noticed the enemy was actually crossing the breastworks on the right and extending his left flank far to our rear, completely flanking our position, at the same time pouring a deadly fire from the rear of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers. Seeing the desperate and critical state of affairs, having no opportunity of obtaining orders, and knowing further delay would surrender my entire command, I gave orders for a hasty retreat. The fire being most terribly destructive our lines were entirely broken and the command was temporarily disorganized. In company with Brigadier-General Carlin, commanding brigade; Captain Smith, One hundred and first Ohio; Captain Varner, Twenty-fifth Illinois, and Captain Wheeler, and several other officers of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers, we made several efforts with partial success to rally our scattered commands. We made three several stands, and on a rise about 1,200 yards to the rear of the fieldworks, made the last and desperate resistance with a few hundred men, checking the progress of the enemy and enabling our batteries to be taken safely from the field. We then withdrew from the field quietly and sullenly with every regimental color and field piece of the brigade, and retired about 1-1/2 miles to the rear, reaching there about 2 p. m., and reformed our remnant of a command. We then, in company with the brigade and divisions of the army, moved to a position about 2 miles nearer Chattanooga, and bivouacked for the night.

Upon calling the roll of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers 2 officers and 19 enlisted men were reported missing. We have good evidence for knowing that several among the missing were killed or wounded, but owing to the great uncertainty enveloping the case they are all reported on the sad list of missing. We expended in the two days' fighting about 61 rounds of ammunition per man, and sustained the following casualties: Six officers and 81 enlisted men, a correct list of the names having preceded this report.

It is due, under the circumstances, that I should speak of the conduct of the officers and men of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers. With scarcely an exception they behaved in the most gallant and admirable manner, and though comparatively a young regiment, conducted themselves with the coolness, steadiness, and precision of veterans on the field of battle. Captain Mitchell, a brave and efficient officer, was mortally wounded, and Lieutenants Northcutt, Cummings, and Zimmerman were wounded while gallantly leading their men in the discharge of their duties. They battled as brave men worthy of the best Government ever instituted among men, and the Republic may feel confident when its interests rest in the hands of such defenders. I would be deemed little less than invidious were I to mention one officer or man as excelling another in gallantry and efficiency, but I cannot close this report without thanking Adjutant Schell for the aid and courtesies he has shown me in the discharge of my duties, and tendering all the officers and men my thanks for the cheerfulness and universal promptness with which they have obeyed my orders. I desire to offer no eulogium upon the conduct of the officers and men of the Eighty-first Indiana Volunteers. I wish to say they shared no higher honor than that they "fought in Carlin's brigade of the Army of the Cumberland, obeyed orders, and did their duty in the great battle of Chickamauga, 'the Creek of Death,'" and when the long sad list of killed, wounded, and missing is published the shadows of gloom that will gather around many of the hearthstones of our homes will show that there also they were loved and appreciated.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Major Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, Commanding
Capt. S. P. Voris,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brigade, First Division.

His family line of descent is as follows:
Joseph Callaway
James Callaway
Edmund Callaway b abt 1764 in Bedford Co., VA
Samuel Taylor Callaway b Jan 14, 1808 in Christian Co., KY
James Edmund Callaway b Jul 7, 1835 in Trigg Co., KY

This letter was posted on the web site of Donald Edward Monroe (islandtimer00 at at along with other Callaway associated pages at


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