I've had some goods on the 20th that I've been waiting for a good excuse to list.
First, there is “The Twentieth Georgia Regiment at the Battle of Chickamauga”, SHSP, Vol. XVI, 1888, p. 384-5. I belive it was written by Col James Waddell of the 20th, as consumption for E P Alexander's I Corps history, and that Alexander had it published in SHSP as he did Gen. Benning's notes on the battle. The Chick./Chatt. NPS files have casualty numbers for the 20th, referenced to Alexander's papers; Waddell would have provided these, and the idea of Waddell doing so without any commentary just doesn't fit the man.
Here are some excerpts - SHSP is easy enough to look up:
“The morning of the 19th we [20th/bde] crossed at Reed's bridge, and bearing to the left, took position in front of what I think was the position occupied by Walker's division of reserves.”
“About 12 o'clock P. M. we [20th/bde] advanced upon the enemy, and soon became hotly engaged. The enemy slowly gave way before us, for a distance of two miles or more, until our line had crossed, nearly at right angles, the main public road leading from Lafayette, Georgia, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the farther edge of this road, near a small framed house, had been planted a battery of four guns. The enemy succeeded in carrying back his cannon, caissons, etc., by hand, after losing several horses and a number of artillerists."
“At that point we could make no further advance in consequence of greatly depleted ranks and want of artillery on our side, while the enemy was superior to us, five-fold in numbers, in position naturally stronger than ours, rendered stronger still by a rudely constructed breastwork of logs, with three batteries in full play our line. That position we held until the firing ceased at nightfall, when, being considerably in advance of the troops on our right, we were withdr[awn]essed. The loss in killed and wounded on the 19th was about one hundred; probably one hundred prisoners captured."
19-20 Sept 63
“We lay under arms that night with orders to be ready for action by [dawn] following, not however to advance and renew combat until firing should be heard nearing us on the right coming down the line, as it was not deemed advisable to press the enemy too hotly below his centre until General Polk's corps had driven his left (our right) across the Chattanooga road, so as to cut off the best road of retreat. For some reason, I have never learned, General Polk’s troops did not being the fight of Sunday, 20th, before 10 o'clock A. M., or very little before.”
20 Sept 63
“At the appointed signal we began to advance, and had proceeded but a few hundred yards before coming up with a brigade (I think from Arkansas) at a halt. We passed it, obliquing somewhat to the left, and soon engaged the enemy.”
“Six regiments of infantry were supporting a battery of four (4) guns; at least, in capturing the battery (which we did), six infantry regiments had representatives among the prisoners, besides the artillerists. In charging this battery it was that General Benning had his horse killed under him. With his pocket-knife he cut the traces, etc., of another from a caisson, mounted him bareback, and in a few moments, so mounted, led another charge upon a battery of four (4) guns, which was also captured by his brigade. The officer in command of that battery stood to his post, discharging his pistol as we advanced until we were within twenty feet of him, when he fired at and shot down a private of Captain Breazeal's Company, A (I regret that I cannot recall his name, though I knew him well), who was rushing a few feet in advance (and directly in advance of myself) for the colors. That shot emptied the officer's pistol. Then it was he proposed surrender. Before I could tell him that his conduct was, in effect, raising the "black-flag," he was riddled with bullets.”
“Here there was a cessation of activity on our part for more than an hour, awaiting reinforcements. None came. Collecting our own brigade, along with Law's Alabamians and some of Robertson's Texans, we began advancing, and happily striking the enemy at a weak point, penetrated his line, whereby fully one-fourth of Rosecrans's army was completely cut off. Information was immediately transmitted to the rear, but no advantage was taken of it. Governor I. G. Harris or Judge D. S. Terry can give you full and valuable information upon this point-particularly as to the parties upon whom blame for the failure should justly rest.”
“Here we lay until about 4 o'clock P. M., when we were ordered to a position up the Chattanooga road to repel an attack from Granger's corps, advancing rapidly, as we reported, from that direction. We found there A. P. Stewart's corps. We took position immediately in his front. Generals Law and Benning (officers of great but most signally unappreciated merit, then and afterwards, by those high in command [he's referring to Longstreet]) rode to the front and, after a hurried reconnoissance, suggested the propriety of bringing up some twenty pieces of artillery and opening upon Granger's advancing forces from directly up the Chattanooga road. It was done with a grand success. If any of his infantry bore part in that evening's fight, it was not in our immediate front-unless, indeed, losing a large number of prisoners may be construed to mean "bearing part." They fired no muskets and their cannon did but little damage."
“Our loss in the regiment was about fifty on the 20th"
“A large number of prisoners (over one thousand) were captured Sunday, but as Stewart's men had part in the capture, I cannot say what number thereof properly belonged to the brigade. It was at Benning's suggestion that Stewart made any captures at all, however, for I heard it made and Stewart assent.”
20-21 Sept 63
“The whole brigade was eager for pursuit that night, hungry and worn as the men all were. Pursuit was not ordered then, nor the next day; and so the fall fruits of a fairly won victory we were not permitted to taste of.”
----- Item #2 -----
A popular "record" of Gen. Benning at Chickamauga is General Longstreet's account, which I find first reproduced in an "interview" with Longstreet, then repeated in anything else Longstreet or his wife published. My "Original" source reference is “Gen. Longstreet. What he Thinks, Says, and Does,” H. W. G., July 23, 1879. Atlanta Constitution, July 27, 1879. This article acknowledged it was picked up off of a news wire.
“in the heart of the battle of Chickamauga, General Benning, of Georgia, one of the bravest men I ever saw, came charging up to me in great agitation. He was riding a captured artillery horse, without any saddle, with the blind bridle on, and was using a rope trace as a whip. His hat was gone, and he was much disordered. “General,” he said, “my brigade is utterly destroyed and scattered.” “Is that so?” I asked quietly – “utterly destroyed, you say?” “Yes Sir,” he replied, “gone all to pieces!” His great heart was breaking. I approached him and said quietly, “Don’t you think you could find one man, general?” “One man!” he said in astonishment. “I suppose I could. What do you want with him?” “Go and get him,” I said, still quietly laying my hand on his arm, “and bring him here. Then you and I and he will charge together. This is sacred soil, general, and we may as well die here as anywhere.” He looked at me curiously a moment, then laughed, and with an oath lashed his horse with his rope trace, and was off like a flash. In a few moments he swept by me at the head of a command that he had gathered together somehow or other, and he was into the fight again.”
----- Item #3 -----
Col Waddell read the above article, and was moved to respond. “Benning’s Brigade. A Correction of Some of General Longstreet’s Statements.” James D. Waddell, July 29, 1879. Atlanta Constitution, August 1, 1879. Excerpts below:
“It will be news, indeed, to those who knew General Benning to hear that he could suffer “great agitation” or be “much disordered” on the battlefield. Of all the men I ever saw under fire he was the coolest and most perfectly collected. He was of that class – so few in numbers – who could look danger as big as a mountain at first, steadily in the face, and see it dwindle to a mole-hill while he gazed at it” “It required no outside aid to stiffen his backbone or string his nerves or rouse his courage. It was he that inspired other men.”
Waddell mentioned that Benning had two horses shot under him, the second during the charge on the battery. “While cutting loose a horse from a captured caisson, he said to me [Waddell], on whom the command of the brigade temporarily devolved: “Press the men on; don’t give back an inch; I’ll see that we get reinforcements.” We did press forward, and cut the federal line.”
Speaking of the enemy line, Wadell noted “It was speedily reformed, with a change of front, and immediately poured upon us an enfilading fire. Without supports on the right or left, it was utter destruction to the brigade to remain where we then were. I immediately fronted two of the regiments (the 2d and 17th Georgia) to the right, and two (the 20th and 15th) to the left, thus forming the brigade into a sort of V in shape, with orders to retire slowly, and firing as they retreated. They fell back, as ordered, in good order, some four or five hundred yards, when the brigade was put in line along with and abreast of other Confederate troops. General Benning came to us at that time, riding a horse bareback, with a blind-bridle; he had his hat on, however, and an unsheathed sword – not a “rope trace”-was in his hand. He said no reinforcements could be had, and at once gave the order, “Forward!” I saw no sign of “agitation” or “disorder” about him. On the contrary, it seemed that “hope elevated, joy brightened his crest.””
“His [Benning’s] memory and the honor of his brigade are very dear to me; an for these reasons, as well as in vindication of he truth of history” Waddell wrote the article. Waddell named Gen. Law, Col. DuBose, Capts. Denny, Fontaine, Mitchell, Mims, Abbott, as witnesses to support his statements
I think the SHSP article and Waddell's letter together come as close to an official report as one could hope for. By the close of the War and after, Waddell did not think much of Longstreet, but that is it's own topic.