By: David McDonald
If you are in Branch County and you mention the Civil War battle of Chickamauga, anyone remotely knowledgeable of local history will say, “Oh yes, that’s where the Loomis Battery lost five of their cannons.” With plaques in the 4-Corners Park downtown, Coldwater tells the story of the Loomis Battery (correctly identified as Battery A).
But who remembers anyone saying anything about Battery D? This battery rendezvoused in White Pigeon along with the 11th Infantry which also was formed in Branch County. Battery D manpower was composed of 75% of its men from Branch County. Its officers included Josiah Church of Coldwater, James Beadle and Henry Corbin of Union City and Edward Wheat of Quincy.
The Battery left Michigan with the 11th Infantry from White Pigeon on December 9, 1861. They joined the army of General Buell in Kentucky and arrived in Shiloh at the very end of the battle there. They faced their first hostile combat at Pea Ridge in Mississippi. On the move, they went from Corinth to Louisville and then back to Nashville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma and Chattanooga. Battles included Perryville, Stone River, Hoover’s Gap and then on to Chickamauga.
At Chickamauga on September 19 & 20, 1863, they would be heavily engaged in direct confrontation with Confederate forces. The Battery moved from Gower’s Ford on the evening of September 18, marching through the night to a position near the Kelly house on the morning of the 19th. Nearing midnight of the 19th they found themselves moving equipment in the night to strategic positions in Dyer field around 11 a.m. on the morning of September 20.
It was here in Dyer field that the Battery would find themselves desperately engaged at double canister range with oncoming Confederate troops. All infantry support to their right was forced back and many of the horses were killed. The battery was then forced to abandon three of their six cannons, while the remaining three were retreated to the hills at the rear of the battlefield.
Battery D would lose eleven of their men in Dyer field that day as they were overrun and forced into retreat. In a similar confrontation on September 19, the Loomis Battery would lose twenty-five men, with six killed, six wounded and thirteen taken prisoner. After this battle the Battery D men would be moved to Fort Negley in Chattanooga where they would assume operation of twenty-pound fort wall Parrott cannons. They would be engaged in the action of Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge on November 24 & 25.
The unit returned to Jackson, MI on July 22, 1865 and were mustered out of service on August 3, 1865. I am proud to say that family member, Estes McDonald, served from December 9, 1861 to September 17, 1864 with Battery D of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery.