The prompt for this week is Lucky; for next week it is Misfortune. I'll use these two prompts to tell you more about my great-great grandparents, William and Catharine (Murphy) Reck.
I blogged about William before; first about his Civil War service, and then some about his life after the war.
William (also called Harrison) Reck was 24 years old when he enlisted in 1861. He had married Catharine Murphy in 1859. At the time he enlisted, they had a son David, not quite two years old, and Catharine had just given birth to their son John less than one month before. He joined the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. My earlier blog post highlighted some activities of this unit.
|William Harrison and Catharine Murphy Reck|
The battle took place over three days. The men were encamped at the end of December 1862, knowing a battle was about to take place. They were ordered to have no campfires during this time. On New Year's Eve, though, the men were allowed to make fires in the morning, and enjoyed warming their hands and having some hot coffee. It was exactly at this time the Rebels attacked.
The men struggled to grab their weapons and form up. The fighting that day was incredible. I studied the maps of where the different units were, and Harrison's Ohio 69th was very close to what became known as the Slaughter Pen. This was a rocky area with some deep crevicees where the Union soldiers hid and fired from.
|The Slaughter Pen; my daughter is standing in one of the rocky cracks for scale|
The Slaughter Pen was only a part of the horrors that day. The Union was beaten down. New Year's Day finally dawned, though many men never slept that night. Both sides tended to their wounded and collected their dead. The Confederates felt certain they had won the day. However, due to the bravery of some units holding strong, reinforcements were able to arrive. The battle resumed the next day and led to a Union victory. Stones River was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Harrison Reck's unit went on to other battles. Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Missionary Ridge. Sherman's March to the Sea. Harrison, in spite of all the horrors he had to witness, was in some aspects a lucky man. First, he was a survivor. The second thing I learned at the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield.
|Outside the Visitors Center at Kennesaw Mountain|
The person working the desk in the visitors center was most helpful. I gave her my ancestors' units, and she looked up where they would have been camped and fought. She marked them on a map for me and photocopied some other pages of information. When we got to Harrison Reck's unit, she looked up at me and confirmed that he wasn't actually there. I said correct, he was taken out of active combat duty already. "He was really lucky," was her reply. She said his unit was located at Cheatham Hill, where the heaviest losses were during this battle. "He probably wouldn't have survived this."
|Harrison Reck, blind in his old age, with his cane|
|Stones River National Cemetery|