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Thursday, November 20, 2008


Lookout Mountain - Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley - 2008 (click on image to enlarge) Photograph was acquired on a visit to the site of the Battle of Lookout Mountain by James E. Moss. The notations in ink are in his handwriting.

75 years ago, an aged Iowa farmer wrote his memories of being wounded in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Tennessee. 145 years have passed this month since the horrible event that left James E. Moss crippled for the duration of his life.
The battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge were part of the 3rd Battle of Chattanooga that took place from November 23 to 25 in 1863. Chattanooga, a major railroad hub was seen as the doorway to the conquest of the Confederacy.
This posting on the blog of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley is dedicated to the men and women of New Direction, an organization that seeks to transform the lives of American veterans whose lives have been shattered as a result of their service to our country. Learn more about New Directions on line at

November 25, 1923
“This is the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, and as I arose from my bed, thought I ought to write of my personal recollections, as it was the beginning of a new experience, one that was to follow me through life, that of being a cripple the rest of my days. Not being of a down cast or brooding nature, I thought I’d make the best of what was left of me, and today I can find no fault. While I regret I am not as other men in appearance, yet think I have been of some good to my country, and have cause to be thankful for what little ability I have shown through these sixty years I have lived.”

“I was wounded about five o’clock and layed near the top of the ridge and was carried down by four comrades on a stretcher and placed in a log house near the bottom of the ridge, which was full of wounded men - just room for one more. Was very cold, had a fire place and fire. It was hard ride down the hill and steep. Imagine if you can, being carried down a steep hill, holding to stretcher bars to keep from working forward, with about three inches of both bones (of left leg) crushed!
Was left in this house until toward evening of next day, then with a wounded Rebel, was taken to Chattanooga and placed in a Presbyterian Church and laid on the floor until afternoon of the next day - when the leg was taken off just below the knee - 47 hours after being wounded.
There many died during the night. One boy lay close by my side and became crazed with pain and calling to his friends and looking into my face. He fell over on to me and died. I worked him off and we laid there all night. He was carried out - a boy - 16 years old that had been in the service only 2 days. (He) was taken into Chattanooga before I was. I often think about him.”
“There were 2 brothers, one was sick at Stevenson, Tennessee, (the other) was homesick. I tried to cheer him up the first day at the house. He wound was in the knee, and did not seem as bad as mine. When I saw him in the church he was crying. I tried to cheer him up but he did not live through the night.

“I could almost write a book about my experiences of a few days. They come to me so often now.
My bunk mate at the time (when James was shot) was Edwin Zellar and we stood side by side. (note of his daughter Jennie: “probably when in formation or line”) He was wounded 4 times and his right arm was amputated above the elbow. A fine man - older than I, and he made the little stand Sadie has, of many pieces, and with one hand. It is a relic of the Civil War days. Keep it, some of your children may enjoy it.
The morning after the operation, I was laid on the operating table. The would and the leg was so swollen, the stitches had pulled out and had to be closed together with strips of adhesive tape, and hair shaved off. That nearly done me up, it was awful.”

“Then I was put in a ward on the rail road storehouse with two hundred and twenty five (men) and for two days it was just all I could stand; I had been bleeding nearly three days. Captain Lushe Hemenway sent an extra nurse to care for Ed Zellar and I, from our company, S.M. Jay, and I truly believe he saved my life. He used to tell me of it every time I would meet him. He was 45 years of age and a neighbor at home.
We then moved to Nashville, Tennessee as soon as able, to convalescent camp and later, home. And, on this trip, I learned that the best thing was not to depend on others to help you when they had cares of their own. It was “Poor Soldiers” until something happened they were interested in.
I’ll never forget, we changed cars at Indianapolis, Indiana; the station was full of people. Zellar could stand, but I had to sit on my knapsack on the floor and hold my wounded knee or leg in my hands. An incoming train rolled into the depot and they (daughter’s note: the people) ran over to us in all kinds of shape. I finally got mad and they found there was a fellow on the ground floor that was not so dead after all.
Sympathy is easily shown by words, but when it costs some effort to express it, that interferes with ones own interest, it seems not so easy. So, it is best to look out for ones’self.”

Later on I was carried to our train by some comrades and arrived home the next night, a bitter cold night. Found our folks not looking for me, and all abed and house cold. It was some surprise sure. Think of it, sixty years ago and I am here to write it to my children."

This and many other precious accounts of the American Civil War and other stories of military service outside of California are, and will continue to be, in the archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. Civil War veterans, like thousands of their modern counterparts, made their way to California for the climate and social acceptance.
It is our Museum's responsibility, not only to preserve documents like the account of James E. Moss, but to share our discoveries with other organizations working to broaden the understanding of our people and ancestors.