August 23, 1864: News of Wheeler

Gen. Joseph Wheeler

Wheeler’s cavalry, sent north to attack Sherman’s supply lines, were defeated at Dalton, in part by the stout resistance of the 14th US Colored Troops regiment. The Richmond Daily Dispatch can only call their reports about this “muddled” — which apparently means “hard to reconcile with our relentless optimism”.

Sherman’s Communications — Wheeler’s operations.

The telegrams in regard to Wheeler’s operations at and around Dalton are exceedingly muddled. –On Sunday and Monday last Wheeler is reported to have attacked the Federal garrison at Dalton, and to have been put to flight in great confusion by troops sent to the relief of the garrison by General Steadman. It is now represented that Steadman, in advancing from Chattanoogathree days later, met Wheeler at Graysville, north of Dalton, and but eight miles distant from Chattanooga; that a fight ensued, in which General Steedman was badly wounded, and Colonel Straight, of Indians, killed. In one account of this affair the result is not stated; but in a telegram from Nashville it is reported that Wheeler was defeated. Another Confederate force was, on Wednesday last, at Cleveland, a point on the Knoxville road, northeast of Chattanooga. A brigade had been sent from Chattanooga to drive off the enemy and re-occupy Cleveland.

The New York Times touts the victory in a less ambiguous way:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Wednesday, Aug. 17.

The Chattanooga Gazette, of the 16th inst., has the following highly interesting intelligence:

The rebels, in their attack on Dalton, Ga., numbered 5,000 men, infantry and cavalry, with six brass howitzers. They were commanded by Maj.-Gen. WHEELER.

Our garrison at Dalton numbered 400 men of the Second Division, commanded by Col. LEIBOLDT.

On Sunday morning the rebels approached the town in line of battle, and Gen. WHEELER sent forward the following formal letter for the surrender of the place:

To prevent the effusion of blood, I have the honor to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the forces under your command at this garrison. (Signed.)

JAMES WHEELER, Major-General,
Commanding Confederate Forces.

Col. LEIBOLDT responded in the following laconic terms:

I have been placed here to defend the post, but not to surrender it.

(Signed) B. LEIBOLDT,
Commanding U.S. Forces.

The rebels outnumbered Col. LEIBOLDT ten to one, and his command sought protection in their earthworks and a large brick building.

The invaders swarmed into the town, but were gallantly kept at bay by the garrison, who from their earthworks mowed down the rebels in great numbers.

On Monday morning Gen. STEEDMAN arrived with reinforcements.

A skirmish at once commenced, and the garrison rallied out of their earthworks.

At this stage, the Fourteenth United States Colored Infantry, Col. MORGAN commanding, were ordered to charge.
With a ringing cheer and an impetuous rush, which was irresistible, they charged upon the rebels, who broke and fled in the utmost confusion.

The rebels slightly damaged the railroad track one mile this side of Dalton. The damage has been repaired.

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