Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hard times for the sutler in western Virginia

Lt. Col. Stephen J. McGroarty, 61st Ohio Infantry
Campaigning in the mountains of western Virginia proved to be an arduous task for the Union troops who drew this assignment. For the sutler of the 61st Ohio Infantry, it proved not only arduous but highly unprofitable as shown by the following incident from June 1862.
The 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry had been camped in the vicinity of Petersburg chasing after scattered bands of Confederate cavalry and bushwhackers. On June 11th, the regiment was ordered to march to Moorefield and there the trouble began. “Things are pretty high here and difficult to get,” related Private Edwin D. Miles of Company E. “Our lieutenant colonel (Stephen J. McGroarty) likes his bitters very much and not being able to get it as cheap as he thought it ought to be sold, they charging $1.25 per pint for whiskey and 25 cents for pies, he ordered the sutler to leave in a 1 ½ hours, which he did not comply with, and a soldier understanding the matter, he gave some encouragement to the boys and they pitched in. Artillerymen, cavalry, and the 61st Ohio took a very prominent part. He disputed and threatened and threw his boxes at some; it was getting dark and his tent was getting quite full, some of the soldiers with sharp knives cut the stay ropes and down it came on all of the heads and then commenced an indiscriminate scramble after sardines, cigars, tobacco, soap, envelopes, paper, peach brandy, whiskey, and all other things they could lay their hands on. I must say I am not guiltless, I took a little peach brandy that a man was serving out in a tin cup. I could view 50 men carrying away things at one time. The different captains of companies collected some of his things and returned them but he says he is $400 short.”
Typical sutler's tent
~Wilmington Watchman, June 26, 1862

Captain John M. Lemmon of the 72nd Ohio, whose letters are featured in my recent book Sherman's Prateorian Guard (available here, had little use for sutlers, writing “of all the pernicious, wicked and swindling institutions known to the army is the sutler. These sutlers are a set of vampires who by virtue of a law which disgraces the statute book, are following the different regiments and taking from the unsuspecting and thoughtless soldiers wages almost as fast as he earns them, bringing want and suffering to the families of thousands. Not one of the articles vended by the sutlers is needed by the volunteers save tobacco and that should be supplied by the commissary. Ohio is voting ¾ of a mill of tax for the families and government is continually increasing the pay of its soldiers and yet this system of sutlerage is tolerated- a dishonor to the nation- and a system of robbery to the soldier.”
Lt. Col. McGroarty would doubtless agree- $1.25 for a pint of whiskey is certainly "robbery" to the thirsty soldier!
"It was getting dark and his tent was getting quite full, some of the soldiers with sharp knives cut the stay ropes and down it came on all of the heads and then commenced an indiscriminate scramble after sardines, cigars, tobacco, soap, envelopes, paper, peach brandy, whiskey, and all other things they could lay their hands on." Private Edwin D. Miles, Co. E, 61st O.V.I.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Elizabeth Piper and the Battle of Antietam

Over the past 18 years, I have spent countless hours in front of a microfilm machine reviewing Civil War era newspapers with the aim on extracting soldiers' correspondence, and to date have found thousands of letters. Many of these are rather mundane explanations of campaigns or life in camp, while others grab your attention through their immediacy and sheer power. It was such a rare treat today while I was scanning through the pages of the Wilmington Watchman (Wilmington, Ohio) that I stumbled across a letter written from a civilian whose home was right in the middle of the bloodiest single day battle of the Civil War: Antietam.

This isn't the first time I have discovered a civilian account of Antietam buried in an Ohio newspaper (the Dr. Augustin Biggs letter I found in the Weekly Lancaster Gazette was featured in the spring 2016 issue of the Maryland Historical Magazine, and on John Banks' superb Antietam blog, see here:, but reading Elizabeth Piper's account of her experiences during the battle felt very much like striking gold a second time.
This letter was written by the 22 year old daughter of Henry Piper to her friend Miss Sallie Farran of Wilmington, and was handed by Sallie's father James W. Farran to the editors of the Watchman. The editor commented that the letter “was very interesting and we commend it to the perusal of our readers,” additionally stating that the letter “bears upon its face the imprint of truth and honesty.”

As stated above, Elizabeth Piper was the 22 year old daughter of Henry and Elizabeth (Betsy) Piper, whose farm was located just south of the Sunken Lane. Henry and Betsy had eight children, although only five were living at the time of Antietam: Barbara Ann (born 1829), Samuel (born 1836) Mary Ellen (born 1841), Susan Sevilla (born 1845), and Elizabeth (born 1840); three children had passed away before the war including Martha Ann in 1839, John in 1851, and Jane Catherine in 1852. At the time of the battle, Henry Piper and his family operated a prosperous farm that consisted of a large wheat field and a 25 acre cornfield that had not yet been harvested. The farm also featured a 15 acre apple orchard, as well as the house, outbuildings, and barn located in a hollow. The Piper's owned six slaves at the time. I've seen some accounts online quoting both Samuel Piper and Mary Ellen Piper, but I think the letter below is the first account from Elizabeth to see the light of day in many a year.

The Piper Farm was selected by General Robert E. Lee as the center of his position at Antietam, and he arrayed a series of artillery batteries along the north side of the farm to provide support to the Confederate center located along the Bloody Lane. Elizabeth's letter picks up the story of when the Confederates arrived in the area on Monday morning September 15, 1862...

Near Sharpsburg, Maryland
October 4, 1862

Dear Friend,

As all have gone from home this morning I find it very lonesome and I know of no mode in which I could more pleasantly pass an hour or two away than in answering your letter which I received a few weeks ago; but I write this letter under far different circumstances than the last I wrote you. I suppose you know to what I refer: the battle of Antietam, or more properly called the Battle of Sharpsburg though I presume you have no idea how it was.

You have heard of the Rebel army crossing into Maryland. They were in the state a week or more before they were molested. On Sabbath morning, General McClellan's army overtook them on South Mountain which lies between Frederick and Boonesboro. The Rebels were there defeated. The first I saw of the Rebels was early Monday morning. They would come in six, eight, and ten at a time for breakfast. About 9 o'clock, I went up on the hill above our house as I heard the Rebel army was all moving across the river. The principal part of them was then crossing into a field about half a mile from where I stood. I was there perhaps ten minutes, when I observed they again had marching orders. In a short time, I perceived them throwing down our fence, and the whole column was entering. In a few minutes, the fences were all level with the ground and as far as the eye could see was one living mass of human beings.

At 10 o'clock, Generals Longstreet, Lee, and Hill were on our porch. We inquired of them if there was any danger, and if they anticipated having a battle. They answered us they did not- that they intended only remaining an hour or two and passing on, although they admitted it was the most splendid position they could possibly have. I inquired of them why they were planting cannon in every direction? They replied it was merely to cover their retreat, and gave us every assurance if there was any danger whatever, they would give us warning in time. Our yard was so crowded that it was almost impossible to move. I had often heard of the condition of the Rebel army, but thought it must be exaggerated, but a great many had no shoes, no hats, in fact they were filthy in every respect. They would eat anything they could lay hands on. I believe we fed 200 in half a day, besides the officers who took dinner with us.

Our house was completely surrounded with cannon and before 2 o'clock I was startled to hear the report of the cannon of the Federal army, which was not more than two miles back. The shell exploded about ten yards from the house and wounded two men. The next moment a messenger came directing us to leave the house instantly as it was in the range of the Federal army's guns. We took a few dresses on our arms, locked up the house, and started off. The man who is living with us took the horses and we all walked about a mile and a half when father said, if possible, we should walk on and they would go back for the buggy. They again reached the house though it was raining grape and shell in every direction.
Sharpsburg residents fleeing town on Monday September 15, 1862 (Alfred Waud courtesy of Library of Congress)

We went three miles back of the Rebel lines to my uncle's place (Samuel Piper) where we remained Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday till the afternoon, when the Federal army began shelling a house just below where we were. We were quite near the river and there was no other alternative; we were compelled to cross into Virginia, and remain until that battery was removed. We then returned to uncle's and remained until Friday morning (September 18) when we heard they were all gone, or at least the greater portion of them.

We knew it was impossible to get home with the buggy or horses and, as excitement gives strength, Sue and I determined to walk home. A gentleman offered to accompany us and off we started, prepared to encounter all we should meet. We had not proceeded more than a mile when we came to a Rebel hospital. I stopped a few minutes to look at the wounded. It was sickening in the extreme. My heart bled to see human beings in such a state of suffering. The yard was filled with the dead, dying, and wounded, the latter dying from starvation. I had nothing with me to give them, so I procured a few apples with great difficulty and gave to a few. You could hear nearly all of them calling their dear old mothers' names, or their wife, sister, or some other absent loved one.

But not to tire your patience, I will hurry on. The road and fields were strewn with haversacks, canteens, guns, and other articles in every direction. Trees and fences were knocked down and deep holes plowed in the earth by balls, shot, and shell. As we came home, my heart almost died within me. However, I did not think of turning back.

When I reached home, I could scarcely recognize the place. I entered the yard, which was covered with bloody clothing, straw, feathers, and everything that was disgusting. I went up the steps and opened the dining room door and was thunderstruck. Great Heaven! What a sight met my gaze. The room was full of dead men! Pools of blood were standing on the floor. I only looked one glance and passed on. I next went into the parlor. The dead had been removed from here, but the carpets were full of stains, the furniture broken up, and everything destroyed. The house had been pillaged from garret to cellar. Our clothing was taken, and what they could not take was torn up, in fact everything of any value whatever was gone. Our shoes, stockings, shawls, dresses, bonnets, even down to our toothbrushes, and if you would have gone from cellar to garret, not a mouthful could have been found to eat. Our cattle had been killed; the sheep, hogs, chickens, and everything were gone. We had 300 chickens, besides turkeys, geese, etc., but now we have not one.

The officers had the dead removed from the house and I put the colored men to removing the carpets, charging them to clean the floor before they left. I then prepared to leave, when in the yard I first noticed what I had before failed to see. I looked in the orchard and the adjoining fields and they were dotted with dead. In the meantime some of our friends, having heard that we had gone home, came in and we, with a number of others, went to that part of the battlefield which was in the upper orchard and our cornfield where those desperate charges were made. You could have walked five miles and not been off the battlefield. No tongue can tell or pen describe the horrors of the battlefield. The lane that separates our farm from Mr. Roulett's had been washed into a tolerably deep gulley, and this was used as a rifle pit. The dead were lying so thick in this lane that it looked like the living mass.
The Bloody Lane at Antietam by Alexander Gardner (Library of Congress)

In the evening I went to Sharpsburg. I did not return until Monday. The dead had not all been buried when I returned. I tell you we are living in style now; no carpet on the floor in some of the rooms and only one room in the house that a cannon ball had not penetrated. Everything is remarkably high priced. My friend, I have not told you half, but I can write no more at present. Do not understand me to say that all the damage was done by the Rebels; at least half was done by Federal forces.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The 7th Ohio Infantry at the Battle of Antietam

Last month I had the opportunity to tour Antietam National Battlefield, following in the steps of Hector Tyndale's Federal brigade as it assaulted the Confederates in the Miller Cornfield and pushed them all the way back to the vicinity of Dunker Church. It was an incredibly moving experience to walk the field and read the words of the men who were there.

One of the soldiers whose accounts helped clarify the experience was Captain Frederick A. Seymour of Company G, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. I quote below an excerpt from a letter Captain Seymour wrote home following the battle and include some photos of the areas of the battlefield that he described.

On the 4th day of September, our brigade crossed the Potomac from Virginia at Georgetown and moved on the road to Rockville. Our progress was slow and toilsome on account of the great mass of troops and the enormous supply train necessary to move so large an army. We made slow progress, but kept moving steadily on to Frederick City. On the 8th day of September, Colonel (Joel) Asper left the regiment on account of sickness and acting Major (Orrin J.) Crane being absent, the command of the regiment devolved upon myself. On the 9th day, Col. Buckley of the 29th Ohio left the brigade where he had been commanding for the last few days, he being no longer able for duty. Lieutenant Colonel Hector Tyndale of the 28th Pennsylvania Regiment took command of the brigade which was composed of the following regiments: the 5th Ohio, the 7th Ohio, the 29th Ohio, the 66th Ohio, and the 28th Pennsylvania. On the 11th day, while halting for the rest, Gen. (Jacob D.) Cox of our old command, came up with his division. He stopped by for a while to see his old friends, and was warmly received.
Into the Cornfield by Alfred Waud

We moved on in perfect order; slow of necessity for we were in three and some of the time in five columns when on the march, for which it would be impracticable for all to pass on one road in single column. It was a sight magnificent and grand, as from some hill top we could get a view of advancing columns, stretching far away. We kept steadily on, day by day, until the 13th when we came in sight of Frederick City. As we drew near the town, the sound of artillery broke upon our ears. We were hurried forward with all possible haste, but on coming to the town, found the rebels had fallen back to the mountains and were fortifying to dispute the passage of our advance.
The Ohio monument located across from Dunker Church

We encamped on the night of the 13th in sight of the town and awaited orders. Soon, the order came to be ready to march at break of day with three days’ rations. On the morning of the 14th, we moved on through the town. The people seemed wild with joy to think that Union troops were coming to their relief. Old ladies, blooming maidens, young girls, little boys with pails of cool water, all striving to be the first to do something for the Union soldiers. At nearly every window, were displayed the Stars and Stripes by ladies fair as they bid us welcome and God speed. On through the town we passed, with lighter hearts and quickened footsteps, all feeling that we left friends behind us and not, as in Virginia, lurking secret foes to shoot down our pickets.

Yours truly on the south side of the cornfield. It is truly sacred ground.
As we left the friendly city, one might discover the glistening tear in the soldier’s eye, as he turned himself around to gaze again, as it brought to mind his home and loved ones. As we moved on to South Mountain Pass, the booming cannon from rebel batteries, as they tried to hold our men in check, came thundering through the air. At last as we came nearer, the heavy roar of infantry told too plainly that a terrible battle was waging. As our artillery were returning the fire from the rebel batteries, Gen. Cox with his division had attacked them, and completely flanked them and before they were aware of his approach, poured a deadly fire upon them, drove them from their stronghold behind stone works with terrible slaughter, leaving their dead piled in heaps so terrible was their destruction. Gen. Cox and his men won for themselves a name which will not soon be forgotten.

The night of the 14th we encamped at the foot of the mountain in sight of the bloody field. One Monday the 15th we were early on the march. As we passed up the mountain road, we met a flag of truce borne by a rebel surgeon seeking the body of a colonel who fell the day before. They lost a general also and a large number of officers of less rank. It was in this engagement that Gen. (Jesse) Reno fell, a loss severely felt by our men for he was a good man and a brave general. As we went forward, the road on all sides gave unmistakable evidence of a terrible battle for on all sides, dead men and horses, broken cannon and all the dreadful carnage of war lay in wild confusion. Not a farm house, or mountain hut, barn or shed, but was filled with dead and wounded in all forms- some without arms, others with legs cut off by the terrible cannon ball, others too badly wounded to be helped but in their last agonies begging for help.
Lt. Col. G. Hector Tyndale, 28th Pennsylvania

As we moved on in pursuit of the fleeing foe, our men in good spirits, wrought up by the presence of our great chieftain Gen. McClellan as he rode through our ranks, it was pleasant to see the countenances of our men light up with joy as the rent the air with cheer after cheer, which was gracefully acknowledged by the gallant general. After marching till dark this night, the 15th, we bivouacked for the night. On the morning of the 16th we were aroused from our bed on the ground and received the order to march, for our artillery had engaged the enemy on a hill, a mile in our front. Our division was formed under Gen. Green; in quick time, we were on the move to support the batteries, but after an hour’s artillery dueling, the rebels fell back across Antietam Creek. We were formed in close order of division and the order came to stack arms and make ourselves as comfortable as possible. Our men set about making coffee, the soldier’s only solace, after which, choosing the softest place on the ground, sought that rest and sleep so much needed by our nearly exhausted men, and night setting in, without further orders, we prepared to pass the night; but soon the order came to ‘fall in’ and in a moment we were under arms and on the march, which was slow and tedious as all night marches are. We kept on our march until three o’clock in the morning when arriving at a point near where the rebels were encamped and made a stand, we were ordered to halt and await the return of morning. Our men quickly dropping to the ground, were quietly sleeping as if there was nothing to disturb them the coming morning.

But to the tired and weary soldier, from three o’clock till morning passes quickly away and scarcely had the first tints of daylight broke upon the eastern horizon when the roar of artillery and musketry started the slumbering soldier and the order came to ‘fall in.’ With aching heads and benumbed limbs, they quickly obeyed the order and were on the march. After moving a mile to where the enemy was engaging our right wing, we were ordered to halt for our men to make coffee. Fires were soon kindled and the most of our men were able to get their coffee- some that were too slow had to do without for the order came to advance on the enemy. Our men were formed in column of division, the right in front, our brigade under Lt. Col. Tyndale of the 28th Pennsylvania, our division under Gen. (George S.) Green, our corps under Gen. (Joseph K.) Mansfield. In this order we moved on in solid column till we reached the point of woods where the enemy were in heavy force and were holding our men in check.

At this point, we deployed our brigade in line of battle to the right, the 7th regiment on the right of the brigade, and marched into the woods, where the rebels were masked behind a fence, lying flat on the ground, their dirty gray (not uniforms, but rags) were so near the color of the ground that at first it was difficult to see where they were, but we soon learned for the leaden hail came thick and fast, and told upon our men, for three of Co. G had already been wounded. Our men soon discovered their hiding place and most terribly did they avenge their fallen comrades. After about 20 minutes of terrific fighting, we drove them from their shelter and put them to flight. In pursuing, as we advanced to their hiding place, the dead lay in piles, so sure and deadly had been our fire. They fell back through a field of standing corn, our men hotly pursuing, literally covering the ground with dead and wounded, capturing hundreds of prisoners of all grades, from colonels down to privates, besides a large number of colors. The carnage of that bloody field was terrible beyond all description. No language can describe, nor pen every picture it.

The northeast corner of the Miller Cornfield where the 7th Ohio struck the Confederate lines held by the 6th Georgia Infantry of Colquitt's Brigade.
After following them a mile or more, giving them to time to rally their confused and disordered ranks, our fire slackened for our ammunition had given out, although each man had from 60 to 70 rounds at the commencement of the fight. So it may safely be inferred that there was some shooting done. An orderly being dispatched for ammunition by Gen. Green, our men lay down upon the ground, when shot and shell went screaming through the air above us, yet so as not to harm us. After waiting half an hour, the ammunition having been brought up and our cartridge boxes replenished, we changed our line of battle to the right and marched to a slight elevation of ground towards which point the enemy were advancing.
Dunker Church
As we gained the top of the hill, they were advancing upon us in columns of regiments. On they came with a steady tramp, determined to gain what they had lost in the last two hours. Our men, nothing daunted, thought to show them a specimen of the Yankee- accordingly ordered our right to advance as skirmishers, which they did, with orders to fall back at a given signal. Our regiment suddenly falling back under the hill, lay down, and calmly awaited their approach. On they came, confidently expecting to overwhelm us with their superior force as to numbers. Our skirmishers falling back to where the regiment lay, drew them on; until within 50 yards of our lines. Then, rising suddenly to our feet, we poured so deadly a fire upon them that they were completely broken and confused, our men following them with volley after volley with such terrible effect that they again retired in confusion, almost a total rout.
Crossing over the fence surrounding the Miller Cornfield at Antietam
(National Tribune)

They took shelter again in a piece of heavy standing timber, half a mile or so back, to where our troops pursued with victorious shouts, capturing prisoners almost without number, and still driving them from their shelter; our right acting as skirmishers in the woods, driving them from tree to tree and held the ground we had gained for an hour or more, they holding their men as best they could, and fighting with the desperation of fiends, seeming determined to perish rather than yield. The ground from the hill from which we had driven them in wild disorder back to the woods was all the way strewed thick with the wounded and slain, and presented a spectacle of horror at which the heart saddens and grows sick in beholding. The dead lying mangled and torn in all the horrid ghastliness of death, was a sight terrible beyond all conception. The wounded rebel and Union soldiers lay side by side, apparently forgetting they were ever enemies, piteously asking for water and help from those, who a short half hour ago, were seeking each other’s lives with all the intensity of hatred of which man is capable. A rebel officer upon being offered water, looked up with his eyes full of tears- said he did not expect that, but supposed he would be bayonetted.

Rail fence around the cornfield
It was on this part of the field that our loss was the heaviest. It was here that Corporal Lazarus of Co. G, and Sergeant Carter of Co. F fell in the thickest of the fight; and I may be allowed to say, that two better soldiers never fell on any battlefield. And terrible and heart crushing as it is to friends, they have the mournful satisfaction of knowing that they died at their post, in the midst of dangers from which they never for a moment shrank or faltered. They nobly died with their face to the foe.

Gen. Green ordered us back to rest our men as our brigade commander Col. Tyndale had been severely wounded, and as our troops had been constantly under fire of the hottest kind since six in the morning. It was after one P.M. and our men were glad to get a chance to rest for they were nearly exhausted. The day was very warm and the work terrible. Before falling back, both Col. Tyndale and Gen. Green paid us a high compliment for our good order, coolness, and courage in battle. He said he was proud of his Ohio troops-they were worthy of any commander. It was with much sorrow that we learned at this time of the fall of our corps commander Gen. Mansfield. We had learned to admire him and believed him a good man as well as a good general.

Gen. McClellan was everywhere, on all parts of the field, giving orders and encouraging his troops. You could tell on what part of the field the general was passing by the deafening cheers that rent the air. It will be seen that the work he had to do was of a magnitude which most minds would have been inadequate to perform.

As the darkness set in, our little shattered brigade was again ordered to the front. Being in command of our regiment on the receipt of the order, I soon had the 7th under arms and were on the march. Arriving 80 rods from the enemy’s line, we were ordered to halt and wait for orders. Giving our tired men the order to rest, they were soon lying on the ground, each with his musket firmly grasped, ready for that oft repeated word ‘fall in.’ Receiving no further orders for the night, our men were soon lost in sleep, forgetful of the events of that never to be forgotten day. Nearly all night, the pickets kept up their dueling and many a soldier went out to duty, who returned no more.

On the morning of the 18th, I begged permission to go back to the field in order to obtain the bodies of Corporal Lazarus and Sergeant Green, and receiving an order from Gen. Green to take as many men as I needed to bury the dead of our regiment, I obeyed the order, taking with me some 20 men with stretchers and shortly we started on our sorrowful mission to perform the last rites to our fallen comrades. On arriving at the point where out men had fallen, we collected all we knew to have been killed, took them to a burying ground neatly enclosed, laid them in their soldier’s grave, put up a headboard to their graves, dropped a tear over their ashes, and bid them farewell.

All agree that it was the most terrible fight that ever occurred on American soil. As we moved on, on all sides for two or three miles the ground was still covered with the unburied dead, the rebels having stole away in the night, leaving their dead for us to bury. The provost marshal has reported 5,000 dead rebels which he has buried, and not through then. It is said, and without exaggeration, that their loss on leaving Manassas was 60,000 men. This is their own account, and 40,000 crossed into Maryland and never went back. A terrible retribution after their pompous boast that they would desolate Pennsylvania.
The Ohio Monument- 5th, 7th, and 66th Ohio right across the road from the Dunker Church
The 7th Ohio Infantry was also known as the "Rooster Regiment"

Friday, September 8, 2017

Cary Lockhart Nelson of the 81st Ohio at Shiloh

Cary Lockhart Nelson enlisted in Company C, 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry while a third year student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, enlisting with his older brother Joseph K. Nelson (referred to in the letter as ‘Jo’). Cary was given a medical discharge later in 1862 due to illness.
The 81st Ohio formed of a part of Brigadier General John McArthur's Second Brigade of Brigadier General William H.L. Wallace's Second Division. The 81st Ohio suffered relatively light casualties (4 killed and 17 wounded) compared with the rest of the brigade.
The letter and journal pages below were published in the May 8, 1862 issue of the Highland Weekly News from Hillsborough, Ohio.

Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee April 13, 1862
81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry National Colors
Ohio Historical Society
We are quietly sojourning in our encampment near this place. The weather during the past week has been very disagreeable except last Sabbath April 6th.

Sabbath has come again. A beautiful day it is, and very quiet for a Sabbath in camp. There is less loud talking and swearing than usual, but 10,000 birds are singing as cheerfully through this forest, as if beneath the trees, among whose boughs they are flitting, did not lie on the cold ground, thousands of men slain in this fraternal strife! Oh, how long will the sons of men continue thus to slaughter one another? Would that I could hold up the horrors of the battlefield before the eyes of the world, till all would seek to avoid war and try to live together in harmony and love!
I send my journal, containing an account of the part the 81st Regiment took part in the great battles of the 6th and 7th. I am in favor of doing with our might what we have to do without necessary delay. That, with God’s blessing upon our endeavors, will soon quell this rebellion, and those of us who are spared may return to our friends and peace to our beloved land.
Yours affectionately,
Cary L. Nelson
April 6- This morning between 7 and 8 o’clock, we heard the booming of cannon on the left of our army, some 5 or 6 miles from us- we being on the extreme right. In about an hour came the order for our company to ‘fall in.’ We were soon in line and marched to guard abridge across a creek about a mile further to the right. I had been quite unwell ever since we came here but was determined to be with the company if there was any fighting to be done. After we had been at the bridge half an hour, the rest of the 81st came and drew up in line of battle near the bridge. After staying there an hour, the 81st was ordered to come back and occupy a position near our camp where our right flank and Company I sharpshooters had a skirmish with some rebels and drove them away.
Brigadier General William H.L. Wallace
The Urbana, Ohio native led the Second Division
at Shiloh where he was mortally wounded on April 6th,
dying in his wife's arms on April 10, 1862.
About 3 o’clock, the 81st was ordered to the left wing about two miles off. There we went as skirmishers in front of our of troops, who were drawn up in line of battle. We were soon greeted with a tremendous volley of musketry, grapeshot, and shells. The moment we heard the report of the guns we dropped on our faces and the missiles passed harmlessly over all of us except Capt. Armstrong who was struck in the head by a grapeshot and instantly killed. His orderly carried him from the field. The regiment returned fire and continued firing until ordered to desist. I did not fire because I saw some of our sharpshooters in front of us but could not see the enemy until we were ordered to cease firing and fall in ranks, which was not two minutes after we fell. We formed and filed to the left, marching parallel with our lines between them and the enemy. Then boom went the revel guns, down went the 81st, and the grape whizzed, the balls whistled, and the shells flew over our heads.
We were ordered to lie close and not fire. After a few minutes, we were ordered to fall back to our main lines. This we did in a perfect rush, as we had to pass up a hill in clear range of the rebel battery. When we got back to our troops, who were drawn up in line of battle, Gen. Grant said to us, “Boys, you have done a good thing.” (finding out where the rebel battery was) Our battery then opened upon it. The 81st was then ordered back to our old position near our tents. When we were crossing an open field about a half mile from our tents, a rebel battery sent some big shells ‘a howlin’ tro de wilderness’ on our left at us, over the heads of some of our troops who were lying down in line of battle along the edge of the field. They flew over our heads. We then marched a short distance toward the battery, which was throwing shells at us, and took our places, Co. C (our company) on the right, and the rest of the regiment behind those who were lying in line of battle. While we were doing this, a battery on our left opened upon the rebel battery and silenced it in a few minutes. This was, I believe, the last fighting that was done on the 6th.
The fighting in the latter portion of April 6th showed Wallace's division holding back a concerted push by Bragg's troops to overrun the Union salient near the Hornet's Nest. Map courtesy of Hal Jespersen's website.
All day from early morning till it began to grow dark, the rebels had been gradually gaining ground. Our men had been surprised, and some regiments had been scattered so in their retreat that they could not be got together again during the day, and hundreds of cowards from other regiments (a few from the 81st) had run to the river to get away from the danger. Most of the regiments had fought with great determination, but were overpowered and compelled to fall back. The cheers of the rebels as they gained point after point sank heavily upon our hearts. As we lay in line of battle as above mentioned, and the shells were flying over us, I thought of what Wellington said on the field of Waterloo, “Oh, that Blucher or night would come!” We prayed that Buell or night would come. Night did soon come and the firing ceased, except that at intervals of about 10 minutes the gunboats would send a great shell howling among the rebels.
Shortly after dark, Co. C deployed as skirmishers and advanced between the lines of the two armies- so close to the rebels that we could hear them giving commands in a low tone, and Charley Wright who was on the extreme left as we wheeled right, took a prisoner who was armed with a splendid Enfield rifle. We then returned to the regiment and all lay in line of battle during the night. I went to an unoccupied tent near by and borrowed an overcoat apiece for Jo and me, which kept us comfortable as we lay together upon a brush pile. We both slept sound, notwithstanding the rain and the firing from the gunboat.

Brigadier General John McArthur of Illinois
led the Second Brigade, Second Division
on April 6th before he was wounded. Colonel
Thomas Morton of the 81st Ohio assumed brigade
command for the remainder of the battle.
April 7- At the dawn of day, we rose from our beds of mud and brush, put fresh caps on our rifles, and were ready to meet the foe. We were not called into action immediately, but stood ready while Buell’s and Wallace’s forces, who had come to our assistance, advanced against the enemy, feeling for him in the woods, for there are only a few small cleared fields in the whole battlefield which comprises thousands of acres. After the firing had commenced, the 81st and another regiment advanced on the extreme right, followed by a battery, which threw over our heads into the woods as we advanced past where the desperate fighting was going on in the center. Then our battery, having taken position on a ridge in the edge of a cornfield, began firing and was answered by a rebel battery not directly in front of us, but more to the left. We lay flat on the ground to the left of our battery and for at least half an hour the batteries kept up a most terrific firing at each other. The shot and shell whistled and howled over our heads, and struck the ground behind us.
Our battery at last silenced the enemy’s guns. Co. C had a comparatively safe position, being farthest from our battery and in a small ravine during the artillery fight. But at one time a rebel battery father to the left began to send grapeshot whistling directly along the line of our regiment, but it was soon compelled to pay its respects to a Union battery in the center which just then addressed it in thunder tones.
When our battery ceased firing, we gathered ourselves up out of the mud and again advanced, wheeling somewhat to the left. When we had crossed the corner of the open field and were advancing into the woods, a tremendous fire of musketry was poured upon us by an unseen foe. We fired in the direction whence the bullets came, but as the enemy could not be seen, we were ordered to cease firing and lie down. I with several others lay behind a small log. I could hear the balls strike the log and see the bark fly from the top of it. Then a battery opened upon us with grape. They whistled awfully near us. The Colonel (who was acting Brigadier General) seeing all this ordered us to ‘fall back.’ We ‘got up and skedaddled’ amid a hurricane of grapeshot and musket balls and it seems to me almost a miracle that none of us were killed. Lt. Chamberlin said to me as we retreated, ‘Dear! Dear! This is bad. The right wing of our army is broken!’ We did not retreat far, however, nor did the rebels follow us. We got into a ravine and again formed into a line of battle, marched a short distance to the left, faced toward the enemy, and advanced in as good a line as was possible for a poorly-drilled regiment, among trees and stick hickory and oak bushes. The 3rd Iowa advanced in line with us. Suddenly the enemy appeared before us, fired and fell. We too obeyed the order to fall- some behind trees and logs, others unsheltered. Among the latter were Jo and I. We lay down where we were standing, side by side. The ground between us and the enemy was level, so we fired along near the ground- the rebels ditto. Our orderly William Johnson was hit on the side of the head and severely wounded. Another of Co. C was wounded similarly but more dangerously.
When we had fired from 10 to 20 rounds, the rebels began to run. We got up and took after them pell mell, helter skelter. Co. C, led by Capt. Robert N. Adams and cheered on by Lt. William H. Chamberlin, was ahead of all the rest. We advanced to where the rebels had been when fighting us, drove them across a small open field into a thick woods and took possession of a battery from which we had driven them. When they got to the woods, they rallied and began to fire upon us again. We sheltered ourselves as much as possible behind the trees, a pile of sacks of corn, the cannon, etc. As I am near sighted, I got behind a tree nearest the rebels. Charley Wright was behind the same tree and Jo was behind the cannon, among the dead horses and rebels.
We fought there but a few minutes when a battery on our left opened upon us with grape, the Rebel cavalry began to move across the open field to get around us on the right, and the columns of infantry grew more dense in front. We saw we could not hold the position and fell back, or rather retreated as we had advanced- every fellow for himself. In this fight, Lt. Post of Co. C was mortally wounded and Col. Morton’s horse who shot from under him, and in falling mashed the colonel against a tree, bruising him considerably. As we fell back, we met column after column of fresh troops coming up.
The 81st being utterly worried out with nearly two days of skirmishing and fighting, its colonel being disabled, two of its commissioned officers shot, 21 of its men wounded and two killed, and many of the men being separated from the regiment, retired from the conflict. The troops we met as we retreated were soon engaged in a fierce fight, which proved the last of the battle. The firing ceased about the time we reached our tents, and the prolonged cheers which rang through the forest were this time on the right side thank God! Arriving at our tents, we found our knapsacks and blankets where we had left them the day before, but the invalids and cooks (Amos Swarts included) had retreated to the river as directed by the quartermaster and surgeon. Amos soon returned with the rest and made a kettle of coffee for mess no. 3, to which we did justice. I immediately after arriving, sat down and wrote to Kate, to let our friends know that Jo and I were safe. We then lay down in our dry, comfortable tents and slept soundly all night, while tens of thousands of our fellow soldiers were lying in the rain and mud between us and the enemy.
April 8- We were ordered out with two days’ rations in our haversacks, marched three or four miles through mud and water toward Corinth, stood in the mud among dead men and horses till dark, and then marched back to camp again. We were in hopes we would get to go on, but did not.
In the 1890s, there was  considerable controversy regarding whether or not the 81st Ohio actually captured Cobb's Kentucky battery, the controversy playing a role in where the regimental monument would be placed. Nick Kurtz' superb blog goes into this controversy in great detail and can be visited here:
Based on Private Nelson's account, he adds some evidence to support the claim that the 81st Ohio did in fact overrun this battery.
Back in 2008, I wrote an article about the court martial of Captain Peter A. Tyler of Company D, 81st Ohio in March 1863 that stemmed in part from the charge of cowardice on the field of Shiloh that touches in part upon the controversial capture of Cobb's battery. Quoting from the article:
In a trial taking seven days, the prosecution argued that during the battle of Shiloh while the regiment was preparing to charge a Rebel battery, Tyler shied away from the line and dodged from tree to tree until he disappeared over a hill in the rear of the regiment. Second Sergeant Elijah W. Longabaugh testified that he saw the Captain behind a tree and encouraged him to join in the charge; “Hurrah Cap, we are giving them hell today!” Tyler refused to budge, and consequently Second Lieutenant Joseph M. Post led the company in the charge and was mortally wounded in so doing. Colonel Thomas Morton, who commanded a scratch brigade that day, in controversial testimony that was repeatedly objected to by Captain Tyler stated that he also saw Tyler running for the rear but assumed that he was wounded. Interestingly, he failed to press charges because he did not become aware of the facts and circumstances of the situation for sometime afterwards.
Reminding the court that following Tyler’s abandonment of the line, Lieutenant Joseph M. Post took command of the company and was mortally wounded in the charge upon the Rebel battery, Hawes pleaded with the court, “at this very moment, the bleaching bones of that young man call upon this court to do what lies in its power to punish the man whose cowardice rendered it necessary for him to sacrifice his life." Captain Tyler was dishonorably dismissed in April 1863.
Biographical information for Private Cary Lockhart Nelson:
February 26, 1840 Hillsboro, Ohio-February 19, 1900 Albia, Monroe Co., Iowa

Carey Lockhart Nelson became a resident of Albia in March of 1867, coming here from a farm five miles beyond Eddyville, in Mahaska county. He is a native of Ohio, born on a farm four miles from Hillsboro, Highland county February 26, 1840. His paternal ancestors were of the Scotch Irish Presbyterian stock, which settled in Augusta county, Virginia, before the War of the Revolution. He worked on the farm and attended the common district school when a boy, and later the more advanced schools in Hillsboro, riding on horseback from home. The breaking out of the War of the Rebellion found Cary in his third year as a student in Miami University at Oxford Ohio; reciting to Prof. David Swing. In September, 1861, he and his youngest brother, Joseph K. Nelson now of Butler county, Kansas, who had gone at Abraham Lincoln's first call and served through "the three month's service" enlisted under a couple of the students of the senior class in an "in independent Rifle Regiment." Which afterwards was numbered the 81st. Ohio Volunteer Infantry. With his regiment he served during the first fall and winter in Missouri, April 6th, 1862, found the regiment not far from Shiloh Church, Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, under Gen. W.H.L.Wallace, who was killed early in the fight. The Nelson brothers were complimented by the officers on their work during the two days of the great battle. After taking part in the tedious siege of Corinth, Cary took down sick with some kind of slow fever which did not yield to treatment and he was discharged and sent home.
After he had recuperated on his father's farm for a few weeks, he received a commission to help recruit the 8th Ohio cavalry; but the medical department declined to admit him to the service again. He than came to Iowa and located on the farm mentioned.Gov. Kirkwood commissioned him captain of the militia of Harrison township when the "guerillas" were expected to invade Iowa, and he drilled his command in Phillips grove. February 21st, 1865 he lead to the matrimonial altar Miss Rebecca C. Loughbridge, of Oskaloosa, Iowa. He took her to the farm. There, fourteen months later, their only child, now Mrs. W.B. Pickens, of Keokuk, was born.
During 1866, finding himself still unable to work on the farm to do any good, he studied law under the direction of Hon. Wm. Loughridge. Being further embarrassed by collapse of the sheep business at the close of the war, he sold out, came to Albia as stated and went to work at the insurance business. Continuing his law studies he was admitted to the bar the next fall. Upon the resignation of A.C. Barnes he was appointed assistant assessor for the U.S. government in and for Monroe county. In 1872 he took the editorial chair on "The Weekly Albia Union," which he had occupied temporarily once before. In 1877 he was the nominee of the Republican party for auditor of Monroe county. Though he carried Troy township by a majority of 202 he went under with the rest of the ticket (except treasurer). While editing the "Union" he served Albia at different times as justice of the peace, city clerk and city solicitor. In 1882 he wrote and published a pamphlet history of Monroe County, entitled, "Homes in the Heart of the Continent." At about this time his health became so poor thet he was compelled to quit the newspaper business; but continued literary work for a few months, writing histories of Mahaska and Marion counties. Before he got through with this work he lost his home and what money he had by the failure of the Monroe County Bank.
After this he resumed the insurance business, and finding his health improved he continued in the work up to the day of his last sickness. In 1887 misfortune again overtook him and in September of that year the wife of his youth was laid beneath the sod. In February, 1888, his daughter married. The next year she moved to Keokuk leaving him entirely alone. March 19th, 1891, he married Miss Nancy S. Hanks of Troy Township. He was a honored member of the A.F. and A.M.I.O.O.F., A.O.U.W., and G.A.R. fraternities. He became a member of the Presbyterian Church early in life and remained a faithful member until his death.
He took sick with what proved to be his last illness on Tuesday, February 13th, 1900, and grew worse rapidly and died on the 10th at his home on Washington Street, from acute uramla. He was a kind and affectionate husband and father, a true brother and friend, honest and upright in all his relations in life. He was loved by his relation and intimate acquaintances, having many warm personal friends and but few enemies. A wife and daughter survive him. A noble man has gone from among us. The funeral services were held at First Presbyterian Church. Members of the various organizations to which he belonged, with the G.A.R. bearing the flag front, conveyed the remains from the house to the church. the pall bearers were Wm. Peppers, R.O. Cramer, George Cramer, W.S. Fall, George Hobson, Ed Noble, all members of the Masonic Lodge. Rev. Linn read Scripture lesson from 90th Psalm, and the 15th Chapter of Corinthians, and used as a test for his discourse the 9th verse of the 90th Psalm, "For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." He read a brief history of the life of the deceased and paid a warm tribute of praise to his grand character and noble citizenship. The church choir sang appropriate selections. Rev. W. Porter invoked the Divine favor on the widow and daughter and all the other relatives and friends. The audience was permitted to take a last look at the remains, when the cortege was formed and proceeded to Oak View. At the grave the impressive Masonic organization was used. Rev. Linn pronounced the benediction and Carl Varner, for the G.A.R. Post, sounded taps, and the old soldier and honored citizen had the last honors of life paid him. Albia, Iowa Union Republic.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Harlan Bradford at the Battle of Cross Keys

The Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia was fought on June 8, 1862 and consisted of a clash of the Federal army under General John C. Fremont and Stonewall Jackson's Confederate army just north of the town of Port Republic, Virginia. Jackson had been retreating through the Shenandoah Valley for several days to escape three Federal armies that were in pursuit: Fremont's, Banks', and McDowell's.
Battery I of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery under the command of Captain Henry F. Hyman (this is also sometimes listed as Hayman, the state roster says Hyman) was attached to Milroy's Brigade, which consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th West Virginia Infantry regiments, along with the 25th Ohio, 1st West Virginia Cavalry, and two more batteries: Ewing's Battery G, West Virginia Light Artillery and the 12th Ohio Battery.
The following letter, originally published in the July 2, 1862 edition of the Portage County Democrat, who written by Corporal Harlan P. Bradford, a loader on gun no. 2.
Harlan Page Bradford was born February 28, 1837 in Newburgh Heights, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio to Grafton and Charlaine Bradford, and grew up on a farm in Ravenna Twp., Portage Co., Ohio. The 23 year old farmer enlisted in the battery on October 15, 1861 and was appointed a Corporal on March 8, 1862. Bradford was wounded July 4, 1864 near Chattahoochee Bridge, Georgia and was mustered out of the service November 4, 1864 at Columbus, Ohio at the expiration of his three year term of service. Bradford was granted a pension for his war wound in 1873; he later married, had four children, and worked as a miller before he died on September 26, 1881 in Ravenna. Corporal Bradford is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Ravenna. (See
Captain Hubert C. Dilger, Battery I, 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
Battery I, 1st OVLA saw service in both the eastern and western theaters, and gained much fame due to the colorful and supremely effective Hubert Dilger who led the battery starting in late 1862. Dilger, also known as Leatherbreeches, is a hero worthy of his own blog post, but as the focus here is Harlan Bradford and Cross Keys, I digress...
Battle of Cross Keys included in the OR- the Civil War Preservation Trust has a much more detailed map available at
Mount Jackson, Virginia
June 13, 1862

Dear friends at home:

I improve the first opportunity to write, knowing you will be anxious to hear from me since the battle. I am enjoying life and good health, and that is all a soldier ought to ask for. Day before yesterday I received three letters, and was glad to get them, I assure you, for they were the first that I have received from old Portage since I left on April 24. I have not written you since we left Franklin, for we have been marching all the time in pursuit of Jackson. We left Franklin three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, we arrived at Strasburg where we found Jackson, but on our approach he lit out. Our cavalry and advance troops had some skirmishing with him, killing some. As we passed along, we could now and then see the dead by the roadside, with some one left to bury them. Jackson retreated so fast that we could not get the main force near enough to hurt them. He burned every bridge as he went, and the river was so high we could not cross until we put down our pontoon bridge, and this occasioned some delay. Jackson kept on the macadamized road until within 15 or 20 miles of Staunton, where he left it and broke across the country, and we after him.
Major General John C. Fremont

One day it was reported that he was about to make a stand, we camped that night, anxious for the morrow and the fight. The next day (Sabbath) came and we advanced upon him. The country was rolling, diversified with woods here and there. Our army was spread two or three miles in length. As we advanced upon an eminence, our battery was ordered to halt and take position to command the surrounding country, while the infantry scoured the woods. Before we could get into position, we heard their cannon (but could not see it) and a ball struck 10 feet one side of our guns, covering us with dust. Then another just in front, and another a few feet over our heads, but lucky for us, they had been wet and did not burst.

By this time, we were ready for them, and could discover where their guns were by the smoke (in the edge of the woods). We opened a fire upon them that soon drive them back. We advanced upon them and were just passing a strip of woods when they fired on us again. We changed ends with our guns and gave them the best we had. They were in plain sight this time. At first, they had five guns; they soon had five more, and then ten were playing upon our four. The shot and shell came scratching through the woods, cutting right and left. The limbs fell thick around us, and splinters flew in every direction. We stood their fire about an hour, when our ammunition gave out. We fell back to get more, and another battery was ordered in our place but the fire was so hot they refused to go.

Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy
When we got our supply, we took our position again and with the help of another battery, we soon drive them back. Our loss was one killed and several wounded. It seems a miracle that no more were killed. We lost but one horse. The next day, as we passed by the place where the rebel battery stood, I counted 14 dead horses. All their horses were behind the hill- while we were firing not one of them was in sight. I don’t know how we killed so many, probably the shells bursting on the hill. The ground was all tore up around them. We must have killed a good many men. After we silenced that battery, we drew out into the open field to await further orders. We had been there but a short time and a large number of officers and men gathered around, looking and talking, when another shell came from an unseen gun, and struck just in front of them. They scattered quickly, and we were left alone to do the best we could. We could guess very near where the enemy’s guns were, about a mile off in the bushes. The shells came thick and close this time, but did not hurt anyone. One passed just over our heads and went through an officer’s horse a few rods beyond, dismounting the officer against his will.

Some think it the hardest artillery fight except Pittsburg. Our officers say they never heard as heavy cannonading as that. Our boys say they are satisfied; they don’t want the shells to come any nearer.

We did not advance on Jackson that night. The next morning, we found he had retreated during the night, crossed the Shenandoah River, burned the bridge, and started towards Richmond, down the valley the other side of the Shenandoah mountains. The mountains ran out here and he passed around the south end. Fremont commenced putting down the pontoon bridge with the intention to follow him, but before it was the completed, the orders were changed. It was taken up, and we started back the same way we came. We heard heavy cannonading all the forenoon; it was the engagement between Jackson and Shields (Port Republic, June 9, 1862).
The Battle of Cross Keys as sketched by Edwin Forbes

We took 500-600 prisoners from Jackson. Some of our boys that he captured from Banks made their escape. They were glad enough to get away. The most of the prisoners that we have taken seem well pleased with their situation. They like it better than to be with Jackson. I don’t know exactly what our loss was, but I think not far from 150 killed. The rebel loss was much larger- our boys buried their dead. They report to have buried 400 in two trenches, they were very much scattered. When we came back, we found quite a number as we crossed the battlefield. We left our tents, knapsacks, and everything at Petersburg- were not allowed to take but one blanket each. When night comes, or rather when we stop (for we do not always when night comes), we lie down beside our guns and make the best of it we can. Often it rains all night and wets us through and through. Then all we have to do is make a big fire the first chance we get and dry. This is a beautiful valley we are in-rich in every respect- about 50 miles wide called the Virginia Valley. There are thousands of acres of beautiful wheat, open to the commons, the fences all used to cook the soldiers’ rations. We are camped not in a large wheat field at Mount Jackson. I like Capt. Hyman well- my position at the gun is No. 2 (help load it).

H.P. Bradford

A few additional details are provided on the Battle of Cross Keys in John Waddell's article from the May 7, 1903 edition of the National Tribune:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Theron Winship of the 29th Ohio at the Battle of Port Republic

As I had the opportunity to "fall in" and take part in yesterday's reenactment of the Battle of Port Republic at the Hale Farm and Village Civil War event, I thought it would be appropriate to share a couple of letters from Adjutant Theron Winship of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry giving his experiences of that battle. The Battle of Port Republic, while a Confederate victory, was an incredibly hard-fought battle. The two Union brigades, under the overall command of Brigadier General Erastus B. Tyler (please see my Monocacy post from July 9th) acquitted themselves well, giving the Confederate army under Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson a sharp bloody nose before being leveraged out of their position and forced to retreat.

Port Republic was the crowning victory of Jackson's Valley campaign, in which he successfully kept three Union armies under John Fremont, Nathaniel Banks, and Irvin McDowell busy chasing him hither and thither throughout the Valley, and thereby preventing these forces from joining George McClellan's campaign against Richmond. In my personal opinion, I'm not sure that the addition of these 20 or 30,000 troops to McClellan's already massive army would have emboldened McClellan or allowed him to win the campaign (he didn't seem to make very good use of the troops he already had in the vicinity as shown in the Seven Day's battles), but the campaign in the Valley cemented Stonewall Jackson's reputation for daring and for brilliant military operations. Jackson's star was on the rise, and the victory at Port Republic vaulted his fame throughout the South to newfound heights.

On the Union side, General James Shields, the divisional commander of the two Union brigades at Port Republic, saw his career end as he was publicly accorded blame for the defeat. John Fremont soon also exited the scene, resigning when he was placed in a subordinate position in the general reorganization of the armies in northern Virginia that led to the creation of the Army of Virginia under Major General John Pope. This army would face Stonewall Jackson yet again at Second Bull Run in late August 1862 with similarly disastrous results for the Union.

For the soldiers that fought at Port Republic, there was among some a sense that they were poorly used, a sentiment that Adjutant Theron Seward Winship (1839-1892) gives voice to in these two letters that he wrote in the aftermath of the battle. Adjutant Winship resigned his commission in January 1863 and returned to his farm near Conneaut, Ohio.

Both letters were published in the June 28, 1862 issue of the Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph.

Headquarters, 29th Regt., O.V.I., near Luray, Virginia, June 11, 1862
Emory Luce, my dear sir:
It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son Captain Horatio Luce in the engagement at Port Republic on the 9th inst. God bless the dear brave captain for he fell while bravely charging upon the enemy near the close of the engagement which resulted so disastrously to our little handful of brave men. I have no heart to recite the disasters of the day. Suffice to say that two brigades of our division numbering less than 3,000 men fought for 4 hours the enemy, strongly posted and numbering not less than 20,000. We drove them like dogs on the right, but our meager force obliges us to leave our left but partially protected, which was turned and we were forced to retire from the field- leaving our dead and a portion of our wounded.
The dear old 29th, already reduced by disease and exposure to 450 men, cannot now rally but 225, the balance of the number are killed, wounded, taken prisoners, and missing. A few in all probability have fled to the mountains and will soon return, but the great number are either prisoners or have suffered worse-wounded and killed, it is impossible to give anything like an accurate account at present as our friends who visited the battlefield under a flag of truce have not yet returned. A terrible responsibility rests upon someone for this disaster. I do not feel like turning this letter into a paper of criticism upon recent movements of this division, but perhaps I can have a heart for such work at another time- should I attempt it, it would be severe.
I can now only assure you my dear sir that my heart is almost broken with the thought that one whom I loved so dearly, whom I loved as a brother and look up to as an officer of no common ability must fall upon the field, and I be unable to give him the tender attention due to the dear departed. But while it is impossible for me to prepare his last resting place with my own hands as I could wish to have done as the last tribute to a loved one. Yet I directed the officers who accompanied the flag of truce to give it his attention, which as a brother officer he readily pledged himself to do.
My heart is so full tonight that I cannot write more. My dear sir, you must not allow this terrible stroke to take too strong a hold upon you. Let your grief for the loss of a son on whom you had set your heart and of whom you had reason to be proud, be mitigated in some degree by the thought that he fell in a noble cause, bravely fighting the battles of his country and for the preservation of the dear old flag, the stars and stripes which we waving over him when he fell and towards which he looked exclaiming with the last breath, ‘Boys, defend it!’ Your other boy Charley escaped unharmed and is now well with the exception of the fatigue incident to a forced march. I have taken him under my especial care and shall send him home on a visit soon.
Give my kindest regards to your family and assure them your loss and theirs is mine also.
Very Respectfully,
Theron S. Winship, Adjutant, 29th Ohio

P.S. Our regiment had only 350 engaged of whom 17 were killed, 40 wounded, 134 missing. 7 officers wounded, 12 missing-slaughter complete.
Topographical map of the Battle of Port Republic by Jedediah Hotchkiss, C.S.A. (Library of Congress)
Headquarters, 29th Regt., O.V.I., near Luray, Virginia, June 12, 1862
Messers. Eds:
The bloody scenes of the 9th are past and some few of us are comparatively safe; and although I have no heart to do so, nor am I in a fit condition, mentally or physically to write, yet I feel that the anxious friends of us all at home must be apprised of our fate. The hardships and exposures incident to daily marching for 30 consecutive days culminated on Monday last in a fight at Port Republic, a brief account of which I will give. On Friday last, the 4th brigade of this division left Columbia Bridge for a forward movement up the Valley. On Saturday at noon the 3rd brigade followed in the wake of the 4th. Sunday morning the 4th brigade met the enemy at Port Republic in numbers 10 times our own and were repulsed. During the afternoon, the 3rd (our brigade) reached the scene of action in time to save the 4th brigade from complete rout. During the afternoon the enemy made no further demonstration upon our lines under the mistaken impression that the whole division had come up. Thus things remained during the afternoon and night; the enemy were in plain sight on the river bank. Their numbers could with the aid of a glass be easily estimated and all saw and knew that at least they outnumbered us six to one, backed by two regiments of cavalry, while we had but two companies, and a large portion of them had been taken in the charge of the morning. What was to be done? Could we stand an attack from such overwhelming odds? No, that was impossible! Could the balance of the division reinforce us in time, no. Must we stand here and be murdered?
Brigadier General Erastus B. Tyler
Such were the orders; and so at an early hour we marched upon the field- well knowing what must be our fate. Thus we fought for four hours until ammunition was gone, or nearly so, during which time we had driven them like dogs from position after position; but alas for the fates of war, their superior numbers obliged us to leave our left flank but partially protected, when they turned and forced us to leave the field, which was done in good order until a charge of cavalry came upon our regiment which was in the extreme rear; this broke us and we sought safety in the woods. Col. Buckley, Capt. Fitch, Lt. Dice, Stewart Smith, and about 34 of our men, together with Capt. White of the 1st Virginia, Lt. App (34th Pennsylvania), and men from every regiment of the two brigades making in all about 80 men who remained together under cover from which we emerged and reached Luray last night, fatigued and nearly worn out. In fact, the subscriber reports himself as used up for the present.
My blood runs cold when I think of the carnage of that field- it only surprises me that any escaped. Colonel Buckley had two horses shot. I had three shot and my sword belt shot from my waist. Capt. Fitch was struck by a ball in the back, tearing his coat from shoulder to shoulder, but fortunately not otherwise injuring him. But I have not time to make further personal mentions, save that my noble friend Capt. Luce was shot dead upon the field near the close of the engagement. Poor captain, I was obliged to leave him on the field, together with all of our dead, and a portion of our wounded. “Sad thought,” that one cannot pay the last tribute to the brave departed dead, which civilization and affection would demand, but God knows that we have paid the noble tribute of affection and admiration for the bravery of the noble ones who have fallen, but I have no time to write more. I will try and send you a list of casualties in our regiment so far as known as many questions will be asked by all our friends, that I fell bound to send it, painful though it be to us all.
Colonel Lewis P. Buckley, 29th O.V.I.
Many of those named among the missing are undoubtedly among the mountains and will be with us in a few days, at least I hope for the best. The dear old 29th presents tonight a very sorry aspect indeed. As one after another of those supposed to be taken come in, you can hear the cheering of the little squad composing the regiment as their joy at the sight of still another of our number is made known. Yet the sorrowful countenances of those who are safe make our camp appear more like a field of mourning than the residence of a body of fighting men. At some future time I will give you an account of my sojourn in the mountains which may be more interesting to think of than to experience, at least that is my opinion of the experience. Hoping to be able to report a large accession to our strength, I remain in great haste,

Theron S. Winship, Adjutant, 29th Ohio
For further reading on Jackson's Valley campaign, particularly the campaign as viewed by the Union participants, I'd offer that Peter Cozzens' Shenandoah 1862 (one of my personal favorites) is a fantastic place to start and is available on Amazon or through the University of North Carolina Press. Robert G. Tanner's Stonewall in the Valley also does a nice job with this campaign; this work has been around since 1976 but is also available on Amazon.
For further reading on the Civil War service of the 29th Ohio, I strongly recommend James T. Frisch's superb regimental history The Untried Life which is available through Ohio University Press at