This small stone marker sits at the foot of a low ridge just outside of the very sleepy burg of Resaca, in north Georgia. In mid-may, 1864, Resaca was little more than a railroad stop and a fortified camp to defend the bridge over the Oostanaula River. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, at Dalton, depended on that bridge to keep them supplied.
Which is why Union General William T. Sherman decided to destroy that bridge, sending the Union Army of the Tennessee under Major General James B. McPherson through a place called Snake Creek Gap to accomplish the task. McPherson came close to pulling it off, but was thwarted as much by his own uncertainty as Confederate intervention.
The armies gathered, and on May 14 and 15, 1864, the result was first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign: Resaca, with roughly 160,000 troops engaged, 7-8,000 of them casualties.
Resaca never became a National Military Park. Other battles and harder fighting soon overshadowed it. Today it is a Georgia State Park, overseen by Gordon County, but much of the battlefield at Resaca is lost, ravaged by the construction of Interstate 75 which runs just behind – and sometimes through – the Confederate earthworks.
The 103rd Ohio’s marker, pictured above, was for many years the only acknowledgement that there was a battle at Resaca.
The 103rd was raised in Cleveland Ohio, sworn into service in August 1862, for three years or the war.
For the first two of those years, their service was sometimes difficult, but not bloody. They served in Kentucky in East Tennessee, chasing bushwhackers, guarding supply lines, and holding off Longstreet at Knoxville. This service was certainly not without dangers, and the regiment suffered losses – 35 men fell, killed and wounded, during an engagement at Armstrong Hill in November 1863.
But even that engagement did not prepare them for their charge at Resaca. In the early afternoon of May 14, the 103rd, along with their comrades in the rest of the XXIII Corps, were flung across Camp Creek Valley to attack the entrenched Confederate line on the ridge beyond.
The 103rd brought 323 men into action. They suffered 88 losses, including virtually all of their color guard. They crossed the creek and reached the foot of the ridge, their advance marking the high water mark of the charge, but ultimately, they were repulsed.
The national colors were carried by Sgt. Martin Streibler, described as “a magnificent man, six feet four inches in height, of gigantic mould . . . He had served six years in the regular dragoons, was thoroughly disciplined, but was too brave to lie down with the rest. . .” Streibler fell, shot through the forehead. “The colors were seized by one corporal after another while they stood, but when the last one fell it was covered by his body, and in the confusion of retirement, it was discovered that the beloved flag had been left on the field.” Sgt. John Silburn retrieved the lost flag.
For the men of the 103rd, Resaca was their moment.
In 1894, Cuyahoga County dedicated a magnificent monument to the veterans of the Civil War, erected in downtown Cleveland. The image at right, showing the entire monument, dates from about 1900.
Four representative sculptures (infantry, cavalry, artillery, and naval service) adorn the four sides of the monument. The image at left, representing the infantry, is titled “The Color Guard.” The monument’s architect, former 103rd Ohio Captain Levi T. Scofield, chose to honor the 103rd’s service at Resaca.
Though they are separated by some 600 miles, these two memorials – the simple stone in Georgia and the much more elaborate monument in downtown Cleveland – are really two halves of a whole.