A Brief Sketch of the First Battle of Trion Factory, Georgia
by Agnew Myers
September is the most important month in Chattooga County's Civil War history. One hundred and forty-two years ago on September 1, 1863, the Federal Army began to move into our county. They came from the West. Thousands of soldiers on horseback, representing part of the 19 cavalry regiments of the XX Corps were fanned out all over Lookout Mountain following every trail and road looking for passage down the mountain. When they found what they were looking for they had to stop because the roads were blocked by hundreds of cut trees. The Confederates had cut those trees to block the roads and slow the advance.
Confederate Cavalry regiments attacked the Union cavalry on September 1, at Henderson's Gap near Alpine; Tap's Gap near Cloudland (Confederate loss was 25 men, Union loss was 150 men); and at Neal's Gap (Confederate loss was 9 men, Union loss was 40 men). These were probably ambuscade engagements that were quick and deadly.
General Alexander McDowell McCook, commanding the XX Army Corps, reevaluated his position on September 13 and started the retrograde of his army. Being detached 40 miles from reinforcements and fearing that the entire Confederate Army of Tennessee was between Trion and LaFayette, he ordered all of his army back to Valley Head, Alabama. The general advance of the Twentieth Army Corps of the Army of the Cumberland toward its target of Rome, Georgia would grind to a stop in Chattooga County on September 15th after the first Battle of Trion. A massive retrograde movement of the XX Corps back across Lookout Mountain to Alabama commenced in earnest after the fight in Trion. Most of the Federal XX Corps never made it across Lookout Mountain into Chattooga County at all.
The first battle of Trion Factory, Georgia, took place on Tuesday, September 13, 1863. This battle was the culmination of weeks of continuous cavalry skirmishing and fighting all over southern Chattooga County and north Alabama. In each of these events the Union cavalry would press the Confederate cavalry, attempting to find out where the Confederates would draw the line in the sand and make a stand.
On September 15, 1863 there was a cavalry skirmish in Summerville. After vigorous fighting, the Union cavalry pressed the Confederates north up the Summerville-Lafayette Road toward Trion Factory. As the Federals chased the Confederate horsemen into Trion, a brigade of strategically placed infantry and artillery opened fire on the Union cavalry. The covered bridge across the Chattooga River in Trion is where the Rebels "drew the line" for the Yankees. The fight was brief, and it was bloody. The Confederates lost seven men; the Union lost 55 men. The dead were buried on the battlefield beside the road (now the Trion Cemetery). This is the large area of the cemetery fronting First Street where there are no markers but obviously contain graves. It was once known in Trion as "the unknown soldiers' cemetery". My great-grandfather, Green Berry Myers, a former Confederate soldier, wanted to be laid to rest beside the unknown soldiers. True to his wish, he was buried there at his death in 1910.
Remains of the covered bridge at Trion Factory around 1892. Today, the stone pier is a pile of rocks in the middle of the Chattooga River behind the Trion Cemetery.
The most notable aspect of the battle of Trion Factory was the element of infantry. None of the other September battles in Chattooga County involved Confederate infantry troops. The infantry at Trion Factory, Helm's Brigade, was from the Confederate Army of Tennessee (headquarters in Lafayette under the command of General Braxton Bragg); Hill's Corps, Breckenridge's Division.
Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm
Lt. Col. Paul F. Anderson, commanding Fourth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, wrote an official report about the battle at Trion Factory that did survive. He was "in the Field" in Trenton, Georgia, October 30, 1863, when he first had time to write a report on the action here. It is from this report that we learn of the placement of Helm's Brigade of infantry here in Trion.
Helm's Brigade consisted of 2,809 aggregate present and absent men on August 26, 1863, about three weeks before the action in Trion. This included the 41st Alabama Infantry Regiment., commanded by Col. Martin L. Stansel; 2nd Kentucky Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. James W. Hewitt (Killed In Action at Chickamauga); 4th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. Joseph P. Nuckols ; 6th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. Joseph H. Lewis; 9th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. John W. Caldwell; and Cobb's Kentucky Battery, commanded by Captain Robert S. Cobb.
The Confederate cavalry forces that fought in Trion on September 13, 1863, were under the overall command of Maj. General Joseph Wheeler. Records indicate that regiments from Brig. Gen. John A. Wharton's division; Col. Thomas Harrison's Brigade; 3rd Confederate Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Col. W.N. Estes; 4th Tennessee Cavalry. Regt., commanded by Paul F. Anderson. Also from Brig. Gen. WilliamT. Martin's Division, Col. John T. Morgan's Brigade, 1st Alabama Cav. Regt., Lt. Col. D.T. Blakely; 3rd Alabama Cav. Regt., T.H. Mauldin; 51st Alabama Cav. Regt., Col. M.L. Kirkpatrick; and 8th Confederate Cav. Regt., Lt. Col. John S. Prather were here in Trion.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul F. Anderson
The Federal or Union cavalry forces in the battle of Trion were from the
Twentieth Army Corps of the Army of the Cumberland:
Brig. Gen. George Crook's Division
Second Brigade, commanded by Col. Eli Long 2nd Kentucky Cav. Regt., commanded by Col. Thomas P. Nicholas
1st Ohio Cav. Regt., commanded by Lt. Col. Valentine Cupp
3rd Ohio Cav. Regt., commanded by Lt. Col. Charles B. Seidel
4th Ohio Cav. Regt., commanded by Lt. Col. Oliver P. Robie
The battle of Trion Factory was not actually near the mill itself but near the covered bridge across the Chattooga River along the Summerville-Lafayette Road. The Summerville-Lafayette Road at the time passed through what is now the middle of the Triangle Shopping Center parking lot, passing under the milk-dairy aisle of Fisher's supermarket, continuing north onto what is now Melba Drive, passing 100 feet west of the Krueger residence, going down the hill into the floodplain of the river, crossing the covered bridge, continuing north through the Trion Cemetery, following Thomas Road north to the intersection with Old Highway 27 at the north Trion city limit, where it continued north following Old 27.
After the action in Trion, the Union Cavalry regiments retreated back toward Lookout Mountain, some going south through Summerville to Alpine to rejoin the main line of march of the XX Corps. The 1st and 3rd Ohio Regiments went west out of Trion across the valley to Neal's Gap, where they went up to Lookout Mountain and then north again to Dougherty's Gap where they dropped down into McLemore's Cove.
Almost all of the participants of the September 15th fight in Trion would meet each other again on Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th, 1863, as the Union and Confederate armies finally unified for the great battle of Chickamauga.
The Second battle of Trion Factory would be fought a year later on October 18, 1864.
The War of the Rebellion. Official Records of th Union and Confederate Armies. Vols. 50, 51, 52, 53. U.S. Government, 1892.
Guild, George B. Narrative of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. 1913.
McElroy, Joseph C. Chickamauga Record of the Ohio Commission. 1896.
Wheeler, Joseph Lt. Gen. Confederate Military History. Volume VIII. Alabama, 1899.
United Daughters of the Confederacy, Cemetery Census Records. Trion, Georgia. 1913.
Van Horn, Thomas B. History of the Army of the Cumberland, 1875