NEWS | Nov. 24, 2021

The Eighth Kentucky and the Battle Above the Clouds

By John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

NOTE: This is a guest article from SFC(R) John Trowbridge. He's a Kentucky Guardsman and former Command Historian that has compiled information on this topic from a variety of sources which aren't cited here. For more information on where this information has originated, please contact Mr. Trowbridge at the following: john.m.trowbridge.nfg@mail.mil.

Every war has its iconic images or photographs, capturing for posterity, depicting a moment defining a battle or conflict.  During the Second World War, one such moment was captured on February 23, 1945, with the Stars and Stripes being raised over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima, by five Marines. 
 
Just over eighty years before this event, six Union Soldiers from Kentucky, were captured in a photograph accomplishing a similar mission atop Lookout Mountain, located near Chattanooga, Tennessee, during what would become known as the “Battle Above the Clouds.”
 
On that day, the colors of the Eighth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment were unfurled atop Lookout Mountain.  It was a sign to the men below that the mountain had been taken, just before they began their own assault up Missionary Ridge.  But who were the six men that made the treacherous climb?
 
The story of the Eight Kentucky Infantry Regiment begins in the autumn of 1861, when Sidney M. Barnes, began raising the regiment in Estill County, Kentucky.  By November he had a full regiment ready for service in the Union Army.  
 
On the evening of November 27, 1861, a delegation of ladies from Irvine and vicinity in Estill County, Kentucky, donated a large silk flag, made by them to the men of the Eighth Kentucky Infantry Regiment.  During the presentation ceremony the final remark made by the presenter of the flag was, “Carry that flag to victory; never let it be deserted or dishonored by brave Kentuckians!” to which the boys responded, “Never!” “Never!” and then gave three cheers for the ladies.
 
For the remainder of 1861 and most of 1862, the men of the Eighth marched around Tennessee and Kentucky, being present, but not participating in the Battle of Perryville and missing out on the Battle of Shiloh.  After General Braxton Bragg's retreat from Kentucky, many men of the Eighth took what was referred to at the time, French Leave (deserted).  Most of these desertions from military service were not due to cowardice, but to the fact that the men's families lived nearby.  Among those who had deserted were Privates Joel Bradley and William Witt, men who would later take part in climbing Lookout Mountain.
 
The first true test of the Regiment came in December 1862 during the Battle of Stones River near Munfordville, Tennessee.  In this battle the flag which had been presented by the ladies of Estill County was nearly destroyed due to the high volume of fire from the Confederates.  The regiment suffered over seventy casualties in this fight.  The battle-torn and shredded flag of the Eighth was returned to Kentucky in 1863.  Today, that flag is part of Kentucky’s Civil War flags housed in the Special Collection of the Kentucky Historical Society, in Frankfort, Kentucky.
 
In the House of Representatives of the State of Kentucky, March 2, 1863, Francis L. Cleveland, and Curtis F. Burnam were appointed a committee for the House to receive from Governor, James F. Robinson, Kentucky battle flags.  Just prior to noon, the Senate repaired to the House chambers.  At noon Daniel C. Wickliff, Secretary of State, appeared with the storm-tossed and war-torn flags of the Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twenty-first Regiments of Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, together with a message from the governor, giving a short history of each flag.  In that message, in referring to the flags of the Eighth and Twenty-first, he stated:
 
These mementoes, which I have the honor to place at your disposal, were brought from Tennessee.  They are storm-tossed and leaden-tattered flags presented to me for preservation, along with other mementoes of the terrible realities of the existing convulsion.  Under these riddled colors many cherished sons of Kentucky have met death in this cruel and unnatural war.  We are pleased to have been the bearer to this body of these flags, that were borne amid the storm of battle by our gallant sons.  It will be observed that the colors of the Eighth Regiment are almost destroyed, [following the Battle of Stones River].  It was upheld, amid showers of shot and shell, by [Thomas] Edgar Park, Company C, until the missiles of the foe had pierced again and again its every fold.  Finally, the staff was struck and shivered to pieces.  The enemy was crowding closely around the undaunted standard-bearer.  The broken staff could no longer be grasped, but he quickly gathered the remnants of the flag and bore them rapidly to those who so nobly defended it, with an intrepidity rarely equaled and never surpassed.  These standards, around which cluster so many glorious memories, it is hoped, will be placed in the archives of the State, while others will be furnished to take their places in the field. 
 
Soon after returning their battle-worn Colors to Kentucky, the Eighth was issued a new flag.  The men of the Eight would continue to fight, their next major engagement came at the Battle of Chickamauga, where the regiment performed admirably.  The Regiment was part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army that was attempting to hold the strategic city of Chattanooga against General Braxton Bragg’s besieging Confederate forces.   
 
Before any serious fighting began, Captain John Wilson of Company C, had led a combined picket detail of the Eighth and 21st Kentucky Infantry close enough to two Confederate pickets who were debating whether Bragg and Longstreet's combined Confederate forces could annihilate Rosecrans’ Union Forces.  During the battle, on September 19th, the Eighth was able to drive off the Confederates on multiple occasions.  When the Confederates exploited a massive gap in the Union line, the Eighth was nearly cut off.  The following is an excerpt from Captain T. J. Wright’s book: History of the Eight Kentucky:
Through this wide breach poured a long line of rebels, taking two batteries and instantly turning them on our right flank and the rear...sending a perfect storm of grape and canister shot into our lines.  At the same time, we were in a brisk skirmish with the enemy in our front.  This situation made it impossible for us to hold our position many minutes without certain captured.  Private S. Lynch...was literally torn to fragments by a shell.  Our retreat was necessarily a running the gauntlet between two fires, while the enemy was trying to close on us and cut us off.  About 20 of the Eighth were captured. 
 
The Eight had escaped destruction to march back to Chattanooga, and the rest of the army.
 
On November 24th, the regiment joined an attack against the Confederates on Lookout Mountain, which looms over the southeastern Tennessee city and which was a vital railroad hub.  Fog shrouded the combatants in what would be known as the “Battle Above the Clouds.”
 
The Eighth’s historian, Captain T. J. Wright wrote:
 
Early on the morning of the 24th, our brigade...moved up Lookout Valley into a dense forest, south of the Wauhatchie, where the enemy lost sight of us for a few hours.  In this forest we piled our knapsacks, blankets, and part of our rations, and left them under a guard.  We faced north, the Eighth Kentucky forming the extreme right wing of the line, therefore we were nearest the cliff.  A heavy skirmish line was put forward.  We moved forward...The enemy made a determined stand.  Being near the wall or palisade, the enemy above us not only shot at us whenever the cloud would lift, to enable them to see, but resorted to a novel method of warfare, rolling down loose stones at us.
 
The evening of the November 24th, General Walter C. Whitaker asked Colonel Sidney M. Barnes if he had an officer that would carry the flag to the mountaintop as a morale booster.  In the early morning hours of November 25, Captain John Wilson and his band began their assent to the summit of Lookout Mountain.  In later life Wilson was interviewed and recalled the events of that fateful morning:
 
At Lookout Mountain, where the 8th Kentucky was engaged, it being in one of the columns on the extreme right nearest the palisade or top of said mountain, on the night of November 24, 1863, it lay above the Craven House and above any other command.  Just before daylight on the 25th of November, General Walter C. Whitaker, Brigade Commander, came to Colonel Sidney M. Barnes and said: ‘Col. Barnes, have you got an officer that will volunteer to go and place the Eighth Kentucky flag on the top or peak of said mountain?’  Said he: ‘I could order them up, but will not, for it is a hazardous undertaking, but will be an honor to the one who gets there first.’  The promise ever being fresh in my mind made to the ladies of Estill, I was not only ready and willing to go where ordered but was ready to volunteer and go where my superior officers would not order me, to fulfill my promise to those ladies.  Said I, ‘General, I will go.’  He turned to the regiment and said: “Boys, how many of you will volunteers to go with Captain Wilson?’  There were five others volunteered to go, to wit:  Sergeant Harris H. Davis, of Company A; Sergeant Joseph Wagers, of Company B; Sergeant James Wood, of Company H; Private William Witt, of Company A, and Private Joseph Bradley, of Company I. 
 
I called to my Color Sergeant and asked him if he did not want to go and carry it; he shook his head and said no. I unbuckled my belt and gave him my sword, and told him to bring it up with him, and I took the flag and started.”
Colonel Barnes called the event that was about to happen an "experiment," so it is probable that planting the colors on the summit was not really expected but hoped for.  Colonel Barnes promised Wilson that the regiment would support him if needed.
 
Those who have seen the awe-inspiring precipice at the top of the great mountain can realize what a serious undertaking was before us.  We crept cautiously upward, clutching at rocks and bushes, supporting each other, using sticks and poles and such other aids as we could gather. At every step we expected to be greeted with deadly missiles of some sort from the enemy.
 
We started immediately.  Said Gen, Whitaker, ‘take your flag, Captain.’ I called to my Color Sergeant and asked him if he did not want to go and carry it, he shook his head and said no.  I unbuckled my belt and gave him my sword, and told him to bring it up with him, I took the flag.
 
Those who have seen the awe-inspiring precipice at the top of the great mountain can realize what a serious undertaking was before us, not to mention our lack of knowledge concerning the Confederates, who the day before had held Hooker at bay.  Dim daylight was dawning.  We crept cautiously upward, clutching at rocks and bushes, supporting each other, using sticks and poles and other such aids as we can gather.  At every step we expected to be greeted with deadly missiles of some sort from the enemy.
 
But fortune favored us, and before sunup, I, in front, reached the summit of Lookout Mountain and stepping out on the projecting brow, began to unfurl the flag.  Soon the breeze waved that dear old emblem of light and liberty.  We were the lions of the day in the Union army...And to us six belongs the honor of planting the first National Flag on the top or peak of Lookout Mountain, on the morning of November 25th, 1863, it being the highest flag planted during the war, being 2,400 feet above the level of the valley.
 
The men in the valley below erupted into cheers before they began their assault on Missionary Ridge.  The flag waving in the breeze from atop the mountain could be seen for miles and gave a clear signal to the Union Army that Lookout
 
Mountain had been taken and secured.
 
In his book, History of the Eight Kentucky, Captain T. J. Wright, described the event as follows: 
 
In the early dawn of the 25th, General Whitaker walked up in front of the 8th Kentucky, and said, “Col. Barnes, I want a few volunteers to climb that cliff and see if the enemy are still there.”  The Colonel replied, “The whole regiment, General, if you wish it.”  Every man sprang to his feet, ready to obey the expected command.  But only Capt. Wilson and six picked men were permitted at that time to immolate themselves on this high altar as a sacrifice to our country’s cause.  These apparently devoted men, carrying the 8th’s flag, proceeded to ascend these hundred feet or more of almost perpendicular wall, at a place where there was an irregular kind of a natural stairway, by which hung a large wild grape vine.  At the base stood the 8th, and with bated breath watched this brave little squad, with their guns slung over their backs, climbing to where, in all probability, sudden death awaited them.  At last, they disappear over the top.  Hearing no noise above us indicating the presence of the enemy, we instantly commenced the toilsome ascent of Lookout in the same manner the squad had just done.  Just as the king of day came peeping up over Missionary Ridge, Capt. John Wilson stepped out on the projecting brow of Lookout Mountain and unfurled to the morning breeze that dear old emblem of light and liberty.  As the sight of the flag met the upturned gaze of our vast army below, cheer after cheer echoed and re-echoed from camp to camp, from mountain to mountain, until the bosom of the placid, broad Tennessee River and the beautiful valleys appeared to shout for very joy.  The enemy during the latter part of the night had silently fled from their works, both on top and along the south-east side of Lookout and joined the balance of Bragg’s army on Mission Ridge, leaving over 200 of their sick and convalescent, with a thin line of pickets surrounding their camp at Summertown, half a mile west of the point of Lookout.
 
When the attack on Missionary Ridge commenced, the men of the Eighth had the perfect vantage point to view the Union victory.  As the massive assault was underway, one member of the Regiment viewed the action through an opera glass, while one of the Kentuckians remembered:
 
The line pushed up, leaving the hill side strewn with dead and wounded.  We could see some dragging their mangled bodies back down the slope, while their more fortunate comrades were mounting over the rebel works...our hearts appeared ready to leap out of our throats I am confident my hair more than once came near pushing my cap from my head.
 
General Cruft would later write:
 
As the morning sun rose it discovered the national banner floating out in the mountain air from Lookout Point, and the soldiery below caught up a shout from the regiment on the summit which rang though the crags and valleys and was borne to their comrades below, who were standing to arms behind the defenses of Chattanooga.
 
General Walter C. Whitaker related in his report of the event: 
 
It was a bold undertaking.  Scaling the cliff, they took our country's flag where so lately treason had defiantly flaunted her symbol of ruin.  This flag was the gift of the loyal ladies of Estill County, Kentucky.  It has been most honorably borne.
 
General Joseph “Fight Joe” Hooker made his way to the men who planted the colors on the mountain, where General Whitaker asked him if the Eighth Kentucky might be allowed to stay and guard the stores and new position.  The historian of the Eighth, Captain T. J. Wright, wrote that Hooker replied:
 
Sir, these western soldiers will fight anything on earth like rebels, and even climb above the clouds to complete victory and capture the enemy.
 
During the initial unfurling of Old Glory on Lookout Mountain the morning of November 25, no photographer preserved the event for posterity, however days later, Captain Wilson and his detachment staged the event for the camera of Rayan Linn, of J.B. Linn & Co.  Shortly after the fighting had ended, Linn asked Captain Wilson and the volunteers to recreate the event.  The men again took the Eighth’s flag and climbed to the Lookout Point.  They walked to the point and held the pose captured by the camera.  Captain Wilson held the flag with his hat in hand while the soldiers aimed at imaginary enemies.  The image captured would go went down in history as one of the iconic photographs of the war.  Besides Captain Wilson the others in the photograph are Sergeant James Wood (Co. H), Private William Witt (Co. A), Sergeant Harris H. Davis (Co. E), Sergeant Joseph Wagers (Co. B), and Private Joseph Bailey (Co. I).
 
On December 21, 1863, the Kentucky Legislature recognized the Armies of the Cumberland and Mississippi, for their victories at Stones River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge:
 
No. 9.
 
RESOLUTION of thanks to Army of the Cumberland and Army of the Mississippi.
           
While the people of Kentucky feel sentiments of the highest admiration for all the brave officers and soldiers fighting in the cause of the Union, and for the preservation of the government of our fathers, wherever their field of operations may be, we entertain a peculiar gratitude for those for those who have given us the recent victories under the lead of those gallant and patriotic officers, Gen. Wm. S. Rosecrans, and Gen. U. S. Grant, at Stones River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge, and also those under the immediate command of the chivalrous Burnside, who has relieved the loyal people of East Tennessee from rebel rule and tyranny, and have also, in a great measure, secured the people of Kentucky from the dire calamity of another rebel invasion—therefore.
           
Resolved by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
           
That Gen. W. S. Rosecrans, Gen. U. S. Grant, and Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, together with the brave officers and men under their command deserve the thanks of Kentucky, and the same are hereby tendered to each and every man of them for their brilliant victories and achievements in said campaign.
 
                                                            Approved December 21, 1863.
 
In December 1863, the Eighth Kentucky was re-organized and consolidated, Colonel Barnes and Major Clark were by reason of this consolidation discharged from the service, on January 23, 1864.  Captain Wilson and his 5-man detachment were granted a 30-day furlough given to them by Major General George H. Thomas on January 18, 1864, for their actions on Lookout Mountain, and accompanied Barnes and Clark to Kentucky. 
 
The following spring and summer the men of the Eighth Kentucky were fortunate enough not to have participated with George Thomas’ Army as it moved south toward Atlanta, Georgia.  The Regiment spent its time between Chattanooga and Bridgeport, Alabama on garrison duty until February 1865, when it was mustered out of Federal Service.
 
As to the flag that flew over Lookout Mountain, there is some debate as to whether or not it was the flag presented by the ladies of Estill County or one that replaced it.  However, whichever flag it was, there seems to be a mystery as to what has happened to it.  According to an auction site that sold some of Wilson's personal belongings, the Lookout Mountain flag was in the possession of multiple family members, and as of the 1970’s it was only known to be “out west” with a family member.  Hopefully, someday the flag which flew on such a memorable moment in our nation’s history will be presented to the state for posterity.
 
General Ulysses S. Grant would later make reference to the “Battle Above the Clouds” in his memoir:
 
The Battle of Lookout Mountain is one of the romances of the war.  There was no such battle and no action even worthy to be called a battle on Lookout Mountain.  It is all poetry.
 
 
 

 
The Men of the Eighth Kentucky on Lookout Mountain
 
Information was compiled from the Adjutant General’s Report and Speed’s Kentucky Union Regiments. Some of these individuals were transferred to the 4th Kentucky Infantry later in the war.  At the time the photograph was taken all were members of the Eighth Kentucky.  All were from Estill or surrounding counties.  Identified in the photograph, from left to right: Sergeant Joseph Wagers (Co. B), Private Joel Bradley (Co. I), Sergeant Harris H. Davis (Co. A), Private William Witt (Co. A), Sergeant James Wood (Co. H) and Captain John C. Wilson (Co. C, holding the flag).
 
From the book, History of the Eighth Kentucky Infantry Volunteers, by Captain T. J. Wright, the following individuals were listed as the first to reach the summit of Lookout Mountain: Captain John Wilson, Sergeants: Joseph Wages, Charles Witt, Edward Anderson; Privates: William Witt and John Gilbert.
 
Little information has survived on the men with the exception for Captain Wilson.
 
Head Quarters 8th Ky Vols Inf
Shell Mound, Tenn.  January 1864
 
Brig. Gen’l Wm. D. Whipple
Asst Adjt Gen’l
Dept Comb,
General
           
For meritorious conduct at Lookout Mountain on the morning of the 25th day of November 1863, I most respectfully ask that leave of absence for thirty (30) days be granted to Capt. John Wilson Co. “C” of this regiment and furloughs for same length of time be granted to the following non-com’d officers and privates Viz:
           
Harris H. Davis          1st Serg’t Co. “A” 8th Ky Vols.
            Joseph Wages              2nd Serg’t Co. “B” 8th Ky Vols.
            James Wood                4th Serg’t Co. “B” 8th Ky Vols.
            William Witt                Pvt. Co. “A” 8th Ky Vols.
            Joel Bradley                Pvt. Co. “I” 8th Ky Vols.
 
Early on the morning of the day above named while our Brigade was lying under the cliff near the pinnacle of “Lookout.”  Genr’l Whitaker then comd’g the Brigade came to Col. Barnes then comd’g this reg’t and asked if there could be formed in his command an officer and eight or ten men who would volunteer to make an effort to plant the Colors of the reg’t on top of the mountain saying, at the same time, that the attempt would be hazardous and unsafe and that he would not order it, but would be pleased to see the Colors planted there.
 
The attempt had been made on the evening before by a Lieut. and ten or fifteen men from this reg’t but being so fiercely and desperately opposed by Rebel Sharpshooters on top of the cliffs, they were compelled to abandoned for the time its further persecution.
 
But now Capt. Wilson of the Color Company stepped out with the flag and started towards the summit, and was immediately followed by the five gallant young men above named.  Col. Barnes assured them that the Regiment would at all hazard support them.  The Rebel Sharpshooters were not there firing from the cliffs, but it was feared that they had withdrawn a short distance in order to enable a small force to ascend and then overpower and capture them.
 
After some delay, caused by the difficulties of ascent they gained the top, the Captain deployed his men and sent them in the direction of Summer town and he himself then carried the flag to the pinnacle of the Cliff and unfurled it to the breeze, instantaneously loud and prolonged cheers broke forth from our whole army, and, the Colors being plainly visible to the whole of the Rebel Army, no doubt caused terror and despondency in their ranks.  Immediately the 8th Ky started to their Colors and within an hour the last man had reached the summit.  Skirmishers were thrown forward and rifle pits were made.  The Reg’t on that day after reaching the top of the mountain captured over one hundred prisoners, besides a large amount of Commissary stores and a great many tents, blankets, knapsacks & etc.
 
I hope that Capt. Wilson & the five men will be rewarded for the coolness and bravery they evinced on that morning, by the granting of the leave of absence and furloughs. . . Capt. Wilson’s Post office address “Irvine, Kentucky.”
                       
Most Respectfully
Your Obt Servant
Jno. S. Clark
Major, Comd’g
 
  1. Captain John Wilson: 
 
Age: 40.
            Enrolled: September 23, 1861, Irvine, Kentucky. Captain Wilson’s Company (Co. C).
Mustered-in: January 15, 1862, Lebanon, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.
December 16, 1862:  30-day recruiting duty by special order #: 21, from General
Rosecrans.
            Transferred:  January 1864, Captain of Company A, and commanding the 8th Kentucky
Infantry.
            Mustered-out:  November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee. 
Born: May 14, 1822, Estill County, Kentucky.
Died: May 24, 1896, Estill County, Kentucky.  Buried: Station Camp/Wilson Cemetery,
Irvine, Kentucky.
Parents:  Ebenezer (1793-1876) and Rhoda Dillingham Wilson (1788-1857).
Spouse: Sarah Bowman Wilson (1826-1900).
Children:  Theodore Wilson (1847-1916),
Mary E. Wilson Maupin (1848-1931),
George M. Wilson (1859-1930).
 
Captain Wilson returned to Estill County after the war, becoming a prosperous farmer.  He became active in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in later life. He was a Mason and at the time of his death the following resolutions were made by his lodge:
 
 John Wilson had become a Mason on September 20, 1861 and was honored by Masons wherever he was known for his loving and kind disposition, zeal for Masonry, and his ever ready and willing hand to assist the needy. 
 
Therefore, be it Resolved, 1st.
 
That in the death of Bro. Wilson our O.D. Henderson Lodge No. 437, has lost a wise counselor and a true and faithful member, the county a worthy citizen, the church a consistent member and his family a kind, loving and devoted father.
 
2nd.  That we, as Masons, deploring the untimely death of our dear brother, yet having faith in Him. Who he served, hope in a coming day when our silver cord shall be loosed or the golden bowl be broken to meet him in that celestial world where sickness, death and parting are unknown.  Faith, hope and charity are jewels he possessed, cherished and practiced.
 
3rd.  A precious one from us has gone, A voice we loved is stilled, A place is vacant in our lodge and home, Which can never be filled.  God in his wisdom as recalled, The boon His love had given, And though the body slumbers here, The soul is safe in Heaven.
 
4th.  That these resolutions be spread at large on the minutes of the lodge, published in the Masonic Home Journal and the Richmond Climax and a copy sent to the family of our deceased brother.
 
In December 1963, a Kentucky Historical Highway marker (#639) was placed in West Irvine along Kentucky Highway 52, honoring John Wilson as the “Lookout Mountain Hero.”  The sign reads: 
 
In that crucial battle of the Chattanooga campaign, Nov. 25, 1863, Capt. John C. Wilson and 5 others from Estill Co., of 8th Ky. Inf., answered call for volunteers to plant U.S. flag on Lookout Mtn. Reaching summit in sight of both armies, they planted their colors, made by Estill County women. Regiment followed, taking mountain. His grave in Station Camp Cemetery, 4 miles S.W.
 
  1. First Sergeant Harris H. Davis:
 
Age: 29.
Enrolled: September 2, 1861, Barbourville, Kentucky. 8th Corporal, Captain Mayhew’s
Company (Co. A).   
Mustered-in: October 1, 1862, Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.
Dropped from Muster Roll:  August 18, 1862.  Went home to Knox County on 20 days
furlough from 20 June 1862 and has been sick all the time and not able to return.  Reduced in rank to Private.  Restored to duty and rank by order of Colonel Samuel Beatty, commanding 3rd Division, August 1862.
            Promoted:  3rd Sergeant, January 20, 1863.  1st Sergeant, June 1, 1863.
            Transferred: Company E, 8th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, January 1864.
            Mustered-out:  November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
 
  1. Second Sergeant Joseph Wages: 
 
Age: 23.
            Enrolled: September 23, 1861, Estill Springs, Kentucky. 5th Sergeant, Captain Powell’s
Company (Co. B).   
Mustered-in: January 15, 1862, Lebanon, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.
Promoted: 4th Sergeant, November 1862.  3rd Sergeant, 10 April 1863.  2nd Sergeant, June
1863.
            Transferred:  Sergeant, Company A, 8th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, January 1864.
            Mustered-out: November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Born: March 1, 1838, Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky.
Died: April 13, 1888, Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky.
Buried: Richmond Cemetery Richmond, Kentucky.
Parents: James Anderson Wagers (1800-1864)
                        Morning Mona Parks Wagers (1803-Unknown)
Spouse: Roseline Pinkerton Shepherd Wager (1842-1941)
Children: none listed.
 
  1. Fourth Sergeant James T. Wood: 
 
Age: 21.
Enrolled: September 23, 1861, Estill Springs, Kentucky.  3rd Corporal, Captain Powell’s
Company (Co. B).    
Mustered-in: January 15, 1862, Louisville, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.
March 4, 1862: Left sick at Nashville, Tennessee.
Promoted:  2nd Corporal, November 1862.  1st Corporal, January 1, 1863.  5th Sergeant,
April 10, 1863.  4th Sergeant, June 30, 1863.
            Transferred: January 1864, Private, Company A, 8th Kentucky Infantry Regiment.
Reduced temporarily by verbal order of General Cruff from 4th Sergeant to be mustered out, paragraph 5, General Order 86 War Department, the regiment having been consolidated.
            Mustered-out:  May 14, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Continued duty as a Private
with consolidated Company A from January 6, 1864.
            Mustered-out:  Sergeant, November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
 
  1. Private Joel Bradley:
 
Age: 21, born in North Carolina.
Enrolled: November 13, 1861, Winchester, Kentucky.  Captain McDaniel’s Company
(Co. I). 
Mustered-in: January 15, 1862, Lebanon, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.
Deserted: November 6, 1862 to May 17, 1863, at Glasgow, Kentucky.  Returned and
restored to duty.  Had been detached to the Pioneer Corps on November 23, 1862.
            Discharged: January 3, 1864, by reason of reenlistment.     
Veteran Volunteer:
            Enlisted: January 4, 1864, at Shell Mound, Tennessee, Company B, 8th Kentucky
Infantry Regiment.    
Mustered-in: February 1, 1864, at Tyner Station, Tennessee.  For 3 years’ service.
Mustered-out: November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee. 
Transferred: 4th Kentucky Infantry Regiment.
 
  1. Private William H. Witt: 
 
Age: 20.
Enrolled: September 23, 1861, at Estill Springs, Kentucky.  Captain Powell’s Company
(Co. B). 
Mustered-in: October 1, 1861, Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky, and January 15, 1862,
Lebanon, Kentucky.  For 3 years’ service.   
Sent to hospital at Murfreesboro on 24 August 1862. 
Deserted:  5 November 1862 to 20 January 1863. 
October 1863: on detached duty at field hospital. 
January 1864: assigned to Company A, 8th Kentucky Infantry Regiment. 
Mustered-out: November 17, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 
History of the Eighth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry
(Speed’s Union Regiments of Kentucky)
 
The Eighth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized at Estill Springs and Lebanon, Estill County, Kentucky for a three-year enlistment in the fall of 1861 under Colonel Sidney J. Barnes.  The regiment engaged in the defense of Eastern Kentucky some time before it was regularly mustered into the United States Service. November 28, 1861, General George Henry Thomas commanding in that section of the state, ordered it to move from Irvine, the county seat of Estill County, to Lebanon.  It was mustered into service January 15, 1862, by Captain C. C. Gilbert of the regular army, and was at once attached to the 16th Brigade, Army of the Ohio, to February 1862.  In April and May 1862, the Eighth, with other troops, was at Wartrace and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in General Ebenezer Dumont's Division, 23rd Brigade, Colonel Henry Martyn Duffield. June 16, 1862, in the organization of General Don Carlos Buell's Army, the Eighth was in the 7th Division, General George W. Morgan, 23rd Brigade, Colonel Henry C. Lester, and was commanded by Colonel Sidney M. Barnes.  In July 1862, it was employed to guard the railroad from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga and was a portion of the time at Elk River, Wartrace and Murfreesboro.  In the organization of Buell's Army, in October 1862, the Eighth was in the 8th Division, General Horatio Phillips Van Cleve, 23rd Brigade, Colonel Stanley Matthews, and was still commanded by Colonel Barnes.  It moved with Buell to Kentucky, and October 19th was at Crab Orchard, Kentucky.  December 9, 1862, it had returned to Tennessee, and Matthews' Brigade was engaged with the enemy near Lavergne with severe loss, and a number of the Eighth were killed and wounded.  In the battle of Stone's River, or Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862, the regiment was in command of Lieutenant Colonel Reuben May and the brigade was commanded by Colonel Samuel W. Price, of the 21st Kentucky Infantry.  Colonel Price, in his report, says: “The gallantry and coolness evinced by the officers and soldiers of the Eighth Kentucky Infantry deserves the highest praise.”  In the reports of other officers, whose commands were in the same part of the field, the Eighth Kentucky is mentioned as acting “most gallantly” and “heroically.”  The Eighth remained with the army under General William Rosecrans after the battle of Stone's River and performed its full duty in all the marches and movements incident to the campaign through Tullahoma to Chattanooga, during the spring and summer of 1863.  In the organization June 30, 1863, the Eighth was in the 21st Army Corps, General Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, 3rd Division, General Van Cleve, 3rd Brigade, Colonel Barnes, while the regiment was led by Lieutenant Colonel James D. Mayhew.  This organization continued through July and August.  In September, the regiment participated in the movements preceding and leading up to the great battle of Chickamauga, and most gallantly bore itself through that engagement, the 21st Army Corps being at that time in command of General Thomas L. Crittenden.  The loss of the 8Eighth in the battle of Chickamauga was seventy-nine killed, wounded and prisoners, losing its gallant leader, Colonel Mayhew.  When General Ulysses Simpson Grant took command of the army at Chattanooga and a reorganization was made, the Eighth was still in the Army of the Cumberland, under General Thomas, in the 4th Corps, General Gordon Granger, 1st Division, General Charles Cruft, and in the 2nd Brigade, commanded by General Walter C. Whitaker.  Active operations having begun, the Eighth was with Whitaker's Brigade, on the south side of Tennessee River at Shellmound, on the 22nd of November; the next day it moved to Lookout Mountain, and that night bivouacked in Lookout Valley.  The next day, the 24th, it marched to Wauhatchie, where General Walter C. Whitaker's Brigade was to co-operate with General John W. Geary.  On the 24th the brigade advanced from Wauhatchie and began to press up Lookout Mountain.  General Cruft says, in his official report: “The storming of Lookout was a complete success throughout, on account of the dash and intrepidity of the soldiers.”  It would be useless to describe here the wonderful battle. It is enough to say that in that extraordinary assault, called the Battle above the Clouds, the Eighth Kentucky, under its gallant colonel, Sidney M. Barnes, in Whitaker's Brigade, led the way, and planted its colors first on the top of the mountain.  In the climbing fight of November 24th, the advance troops reached the palisades and there rested for the night.  Early next morning the push was made for the summit. General Cruft says: “At daylight on the morning of the 25th my command lay along the slope of the mountain, and arrangements were made before dawn to scale the summit.”  He adds, “The Eighth Kentucky was the successful competitor for the honor.”  General Joseph Hooker says, in his official report: “Several regiments were detailed to scale it (the summit), but to the Eighth Kentucky must belong the distinction of having been foremost to reach the crest, and at sunrise to display our flag from the peak of Lookout amid the wild and prolonged cheers of the men whose dauntless valor had borne them to that point.”  The members of the Eighth who were foremost in this daring deed were Captain John Wilson, Sergeants Harris Davis, Joseph Wagers and James Woods, and Privates William H Witt and Joel Bradley.  General Joseph Scott Fullerton, in an article in the Century War Book, describes Whitaker's Brigade as having reached Wauhatchie, and being in the advance drove back the enemy's pickets and quickly ascended the mountain until it reached the palisades.  “A grand sight,” says he, “was old Lookout that night; not two miles apart were the parallel campfires of the two armies, extending from the summit of the mountain to its base, looking like streams of burning lava, while in between the flashes from the skirmishers' muskets glowed like giant fire- flies.  The next morning there was silence in Hooker's front.  Before daylight eight adventurous, active volunteers from the Eight Kentucky Infantry scaled the palisades and ran up the Stars and Stripes.”  The flag which was thus unfurled by the Eighth Kentucky, on the lofty summit of Lookout Mountain, was one which was presented to the regiment by the ladies of Estill County. The survivors of the regiment have it in their possession, and it was carried in the parade through the streets of Louisville of the Grand Army of the Republic, in the year 1895.  The Eighth remained during the winter at Chattanooga, and in March 1865, it was in James B. Steedman's Division.  During the spring of 1864, it participated in the earlier movements of the Atlanta campaign, but was held at Chattanooga and vicinity doing guard duty.  It remained on this duty during September, October and November 1864, being in the organization known as the District of the Etowah, under command of General Steedman.  December 28, 1864, it was sent to Bridgeport, Alabama.  In January 1865, it was placed in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Cumberland.
 
Its term of enlistment having expired it was mustered out at Chattanooga, the veterans and recruits being transferred to the 4th Kentucky Infantry.
 
Assignments:
 
The regiment was attached to General George Henry Thomas' Command to January 1862. 16th Brigade, Army of the Ohio, to February 1862, 23rd Independent Brigade, Army of the Ohio, to September 1862.  23rd Brigade, 5th Division, Army of the Ohio, September 1862.  23rd Brigade, 5th Division, II Corps, Army of the Ohio, to November 1862.  3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, Left Wing, XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to January 1863.  3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XXI Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to October 1863.  2nd Brigade, 1st Division, IV Corps, to April 1864.  1st Separate Brigade, Post of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland, to November 1864.  2nd Brigade, District of the Etowah, Department of the Cumberland, to February 1865.
 
The Eighth Kentucky Infantry mustered out of service in February 1865; veterans and new recruits were transferred to the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry.
 
Service:
 
1861 – 1862
 
Duty at Estill Springs, Kentucky, until November 28, 1861.  March to Lebanon, Kentucky, November 28–December 3, and duty there until March 1862.  Moved to Nashville, Tennessee, March 10–23; thence to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, April 3–4, and to Wartrace, Tennessee, May 3. Duty there until June 11.  General John Dumont’s Expedition over Cumberland Mountains, June 11-19.  Moved to Elk River Bridge, July 4; thence to Tullahoma, July 9, and joined General William “Bull” Nelson.  March to Louisville, Kentucky, in pursuit of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, August 21–September 26.  Russellville and Glasgow, Kentucky, September 30.  Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky, October 1–22.  Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October 8.  Nelson's Cross Roads, October 18.  Reconnaissance on Madison Road, October 19.  March to Nashville, Tennessee, October 22–November 12, and duty there until December 26.  Murfreesboro Pike, November 9.  Dobbins' Ferry, near Lavergne, December 9.  Advance on Murfreesboro, December 26–30.  Battles of Stones River, December 30–31, 1862 and January 1–3, 1863.
 
1863
 
At Murfreesboro until June.  Tullahoma Campaign June 23–July 7.  Liberty Gap June 25–26.  At McMinnville until August 16.  Passage of Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River and Chickamauga Campaign, August 16–September 22.  Ringgold, Georgia, September 11.  Battle of Chickamauga, September 19–20.  Siege of Chattanooga, September 24–November 23.  Reopening Tennessee River, October 26–29.  Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign, November 23–27.  Lookout Mountain, November 23–24.  Missionary Ridge, November 25. Taylor's Ridge, Ringgold Gap, November 27.
 
1864 – 1865
 
At Shellmound, Tennessee, until March 1864.  Demonstration on Dalton, Georgia, February 22–27.  Buzzard's Roost Gap and Rocky Faced Ridge, February 23–25.  Moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, March 1, and garrison duty there until September 26, 1864.  Moved to Elk River Bridge, September 26 and duty there until October 20.  At Chattanooga until November 28 and at Bridgeport, Alabama, until January 1865.
 
The regiment lost a total of 205 men during service; 4 officers and 56 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 1 officer and 144 enlisted men died of disease.
 

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