Saturday, November 30, 2019

10 Days to Franklin: The 183rd Ohio Goes To War

The 183rd Ohio Infantry, a new regiment raised primarily in Cincinnati of Germans or men of German descent, made one of the most rapid transitions from peace to war of any regiment from Ohio. Mustered into service November 18, 1864 at Camp Dennison, Ohio, in ten days the men found themselves at the front, staring across the Duck River in southern Tennessee about to square off with the invading legions of John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee. 

An unnerving experience for a new unit, the 183rd Ohio performed remarkably well in the hectic three days that followed in large part due to the breadth of experience of its officers and enlisted men. Its colonel, George Hoge, had a distinguished career with the 126th Ohio while Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Clark had served with the Rooster Regiment, the notable 7th Ohio Infantry. Chaplain John Geer had served with the 48th Ohio in the early part of the war and the story of his capture at Shiloh was recounted on this blog some time ago. (See "The Prisoner Who Never Surrendered")

Upon arriving at Columbia, Tennessee, the regiment (1,000 strong making it the size of three veteran regiments) was assigned to Colonel Silas Strickland's brigade consisting of the 50th Ohio, 72nd Illinois, and the 44th Missouri. As related in the account below from Major August Hatry, the regiment was quickly in the thick of events that culminated in the Battle of Franklin 155 years ago today.
Colonel George Hoge, 183rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Glorious Conclusion: the Surrender of Vicksburg

To mark my 100th blog post regarding the Civil War, I wanted to put something together regarding one of the most poignant events of the war, the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863. Widely regarded (with Gettysburg) as the turning point of the conflict, many of the veterans of both Grant’s and Pemberton’s armies penned memoirs and reminiscences of the events leading up to the surrender. For this post, I’d like to share the memories of a few soldiers of the 32nd Ohio who were eyewitnesses to the negotiations and eventual surrender of the city, interspersed with accounts from Generals Grant and Pemberton.
Sgt. Henry G. Lehmann, Co. H, 32nd O.V.I.
          Sergeant Henry G. Lehmann Co. H, 32nd Ohio had just finished some clerical work for Colonel Benjamin Potts and was about to commence sharpshooting on the Rebels when he spied two Rebel horsemen approaching with a white flag. “Turning to the colonel, I shouted, ‘There comes a white flag!’ He replied, ‘Order the men to cease firing.’ I at once jumped over our works, running and walking rapidly, met the two officers bearing the white flag near an oak tree which was about halfway between our line and that of the Rebels. One of the officers said to me, ‘Where is the commanding officer of this line of works?’ I turned pointing to where I had just left the colonel when I saw that he was coming halfway between where we then were and our works and replied, ‘There he comes now.’ By the time the colonel came to us, a great number of our boys who had sprung over our works now came up. The colonel, noticing this, ordered all of us to our places in the trenches. The Rebel officers were taken charge of by the officer of the day (Captain William M. Morris, Co. D, 32nd O.V.I.), blindfolded, and conducted to General Andrew J. Smith’s headquarters. White flags appeared upon the Rebel works in our front and hostilities ceased. The Rebel officers who bore the white flag were General John S. Bowen, a division commander, and Colonel L.M. Montgomery of Pemberton’s staff.”
Major General John S. Bowen
Died of dysentery July 13, 1863
          General Pemberton employed a bit of clever strategery in sending General Bowen on this mission. Bowen, a former Missouri neighbor of General Grant, was dying of dysentery and perhaps it was hoped that the sight of an old friend in obvious physical distress would soften Grant’s hand against the Confederates. Regardless, General Bowen bore the following dispatch from General Pemberton addressed to General Grant: “I have the honor to propose to you an armistice of x hours with a view to arrange terms of capitulation of Vicksburg. To this end, if agreeable to you, I will appoint three commissioners to meet a like number, to be named by yourself, at such place and hour today as you may find convenient. I make this proposition to save further effusion of blood, which must otherwise be shed to a frightful extent, feeling myself fully able to maintain my position for a yet indefinite period. This communication will be handed to you under flag of truce by Major General John S. Bowen.”
Colonel Benjamin F Potts, 32nd O.V.I.
It didn’t work. Grant refused to see Bowen, leaving his old neighbor cooling his heels at Jackson’s headquarters tent.  He wrote a note back to Pemberton stating that his only terms called for the unconditional surrender of Vicksburg and given that those were the only terms he was interested in discussing, he rejected Pemberton’s proposal to appoint commissioners to settle the question. He praised the “endurance and courage” of Pemberton’s army and assured the Pennsylvania-born commander that all “would be treated with all the respect due to prisoners of war.” However, he sent a verbal message that said that he would agree to meet directly with Pemberton to discuss the issue. Bowen returned to Confederate lines with Grant’s reply, and as Pemberton stated “at the joint request of my four division commanders” [Bowen, Carter Stevenson, John Forney, and Martin L. Smith] he agreed to meet with Grant.
Pemberton statue at Vicksburg
Lehmann continues his narrative: “At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, General Ulysses S. Grant and Generals Edward O. Ord, James B. McPherson, John A. Logan, Andrew J. Smith, and their staff officers came riding through our lines to the oak tree and were there met by General John C. Pemberton and the two officers who bore the white flag in the morning. [A quick note about this oak tree from Grant’s Memoirs: “Our place of meeting was on a hillside within a few hundred feet of the Rebel lines. Nearby stood a stunted oak tree which was made historical by the event. It was but a short time before the last vestige of its body, root, and limb had disappeared, the fragments taken as trophies.”] This meeting was nearly opposite the right of the regiment in plain view and close enough I could almost hear the conversation going on. After introductions and handshaking Grant and Pemberton withdrew a little to one side on the slope next to the enemy, lighted cigars, and entered into a conference. Presently Grant and Pemberton arose, and the conference was ended. The white flags still remained upon the Rebel works and hostilities ceased to await the result of the correspondence with reference to acceptance of the terms offered by General Grant.”
Major General Andrew Jackson Smith
          From a distance, the conference may have appeared neat and tidy, but it was a tense meeting that had a visibly upset Pemberton running headlong into a triumphant and stubborn Grant. Lehmann’s statement that he saw Grant and Pemberton go aside in a private conference was correct: what they discussed was not the surrender terms, however. They foisted that messy job on their trusted aides: Grant chose Generals McPherson and A.J. Smith while Pemberton again called upon Bowen and Colonel Montgomery to work out the details. Pemberton wrote that he and Grant spent their time “conversing only upon topics that had no relation to the important subject that brought us together.” After some discussion, the group of “commissioners” rejoined Grant and Pemberton with a proposal that apparently Grant rejected initially, but agreed to send over his own proposal later that evening. The terms Grant proposed were largely those assembled by the “commissioners,” and these were accepted by Pemberton who ordered the surrender of the Confederate garrison on July 4, 1863.
Major General U.S. Grant

Sergeant Lehmann described the way the Confederates surrendered the city of July 4th. “Along toward morning, word had come to us in the trenches that if the terms offered by General Grant were accepted, the ‘Johnnies’ would march outside their lines at 9 A.M., stack arms in front of their works, and march back inside as prisoners of war. At last we saw the head of their columns coming and soon they had marched outside, stacked their guns, and placed their flags upon the gun stacks and returned inside their works as prisoners. To us it was a glorious sight and we felt that our long and weary marches through rain, mud, and sunshine, hard fighting, ceaseless watching by day and by night, exposure to disease and death, were now at an end.”

Sergeant William Pitt Chambers of Co. B, 46th Mississippi was among the humiliated Confederate troops who marched out and stacked arms. He remembered “at an early hour we were informed that terms of capitulation had been agreed upon, and about 10 a.m. we performed the humiliating task of marching in front of our works and stacking arms in full view of the enemy, and under the direction of a Federal officer. Some of us wept as we did this for we realized that this was the end of all our sacrifices. For this ignoble ending we had fought, had watched, had hungered, and shed our blood, and many a brave comrade had gone to an untimely grave. To intensify the humiliation of the men was the suspicion, to many it was a conviction that Pemberton had been false to the flag under which he fought.”

General Pemberton surrendered 2,166 officers, 27,230 men, 172 cannons, and roughly 60,000 stands of small arms. He also sacrificed his standing in the Confederacy, one historian going so far to state that Pemberton became the most reviled man in Confederate gray due to the widespread impression that, as Chambers states above, the Northern-born Pemberton had purposely betrayed the South by surrendering Vicksburg.
Logan statue at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois
Private William M. McLain of Co. B, 32nd Ohio summed up his feelings about the significance of Vicksburg in a letter written to the Urbana Citizen & Gazette on July 4, 1863. “I doubt not but you have had a good time today, but I’ll guarantee that not one heart among you throbbed more joyously than mine when I saw the little white flags stuck on all the forts and the graybacks crawling out to stack arms. I had seen some such a sight once before but then they surrounded me and their significance included me. [McLain is referring to the surrender of Harper’s Ferry the previous September in which the 32nd Ohio, along with the entire Federal garrison, was surrendered to the Confederates.] Now like the Irish officer at Champion Hills who surrounded and captured 20 Rebels (see St. Louis Republican), I surrounded them, and their significance pointed me to a rift in the war clouds. I seemed to see in them the beginning of the end, and need I say that I felt proud of the gallant Grant, proud of the fighting Jack Logan, proud (a little) of myself, proud of every private in the Army of the Tennessee, proud of the noble dead who are ‘sleeping sweetly sleeping till the final reveille,’ in the now quiet valleys that we so lately filled, proud that they fell defending a land worthy of their bravest defense. This is (in homely but expressive terms) the biggest 4th of July that I have ever spent.”

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. III
Baumgartner, Richard A., editor. Blood & Sacrifice: The Civil War Journal of a Confederate Soldier. [Sergeant William Pitt Chambers] Huntingdon: Blue Acorn Press, 1994
Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, New York: Penguin Books, 1999
Lehmann, Henry G. Reminiscences of a Soldier, 1861-65. Np, nd
McLain, William M., Urbana Citizen & Gazette, July 23, 1863, pg. 2

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Magnolia Mission: Dr. John D. O'Connor Visits Shiloh

Dr. John Deming O'Connor was born September 24, 1822 in Woodsfield, Monroe Co., Ohio to an Irish father Daniel O'Connor who had deserted the British army in Canada shortly after the War of 1812. As remembered by lifelong friend William Okey, Daniel felt that “he had served His Majesty long enough and imbued with a love of our free institutions, he and two comrades crossed in a small boat from Queenstown to the American shore, and, after remaining in New York a short time, he came on foot to Wheeling, Virginia, then to Woodsfield.” His father settled in Woodsfield in 1818 where he married and became a successful politician, serving 30 years as the county recorder.
John D. O'Connor, Jr.
The youngest son was said to have borne a striking resemblance
to his father Dr. John D. O'Connor.
John O'Connor attended the local public schools but also received some private instruction before becoming an apprentice in the office of Dr. Josiah M. Dillon where he learned the practice of medicine. The newly minted doctor later set up practice in the small town of Clarington at the confluence of Sunfish Creek and the Ohio River in Monroe County, Ohio. “The doctor's practice extended along the riverbank and the rough hills and mountains of Monroe,” wrote an acquaintance. “He nearly wore out his life in the pursuit of his profession.” Seeking to extend his medical knowledge, he took courses from Miami Medical College and graduated in 1858. William Okey recalled that Dr. O'Connor never had robust health, but was “wiry” and “performed an amount of labor in riding over the hills of Ohio and Virginia that astonished his friends.” He married Ruth Neff in 1845 and had seven children, one, a son, tragically drowned in Sunfish Creek just before the outbreak of the Civil War. His children included Juliet (born in 1846), Ellen Ione (born in 1848), Rebecca J. (born in 1855), John D., Jr. (born 1863) and three others. A Democrat, Dr. O'Connor was elected to represent the counties of Guernsey, Monroe, and Noble in the Ohio state Senate in the November of 1861. He was re-elected to a second term in November 1863, finishing his public services at the close of the Civil War.
Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio
A fine description of Dr. O'Connor from the first session of the Ohio Legislature on January 6, 1862 was given by his fellow Democrat senator Dr. William Lang of Seneca County, Ohio. “Snow covered the earth and the air was very cold; the sky was overcast with heavy clouds, and all nature looked gloomy and dreary and so did the Senate chamber when at 10 o'clock on the morning of January 6, 1862. The city of Columbus was full of soldiers; regiment after regiment was being organized and sent to the front. The sound of martial music rang in the streets day and night, and here met the first legislature of Ohio after the breaking out of the Rebellion. The condition of the country on that morning seemed to combine with nature to cast a gloom and sadness over the Senate. The Hon. Benjamin Stanton, president of the Senate, took his seat; the members were sworn and seated and the saddest countenance in that body was Senator John D. O'Connor of Monroe. He was then about 40 years of age, about six feet high, and had black hair brushed back from a high forehead, deeply set dark eyes, a chiseled face, and a black beard covered his mouth and chin. Heavy black eyebrows gave powerful expression to the whites of his eyes making his countenance wonderfully striking. He was lean of flesh. The paleness of his face and his entire make up were calculated to arrest the attention, if not excite the sympathy, of the most careless observer. Add to this a prudent reserve, close observation, quiet demeanor, and polished manners, and you have a fair picture of Dr. O'Connor. Party spirits ran high during the war and the few members of that body elected by Democratic constituencies were treated with indifference for their votes were not necessary to carry any measure. Dr. O'Connor and the writer belonged to that small number and as misery loves company, it was not long until mutual respect warmed into warm friendship that grew brighter as time rolled on and lasted for life.” (From William Lang's The History of Seneca County from the close of the Revolutionary War to July 1880, Springfield: Transcript Printing Co., pgs. 395-98)

As a Democrat representing a heavily Democratic district, O'Connor was at times harsh in his denunciation of the methods used by the state and federal government in suppressing the Rebellion. However, even his opponents conceded his unfailing patriotism. “I discovered that as loyal and patriotic heart beat in his bosom as my own,” wrote Senator Neal. “However we might differ as to the measures to be adopted and the means to be used, he was as earnestly desirous to see the Rebellion crushed out and the Union maintained. He rejoiced in the success of our armies, gloried in their victories, and mourned over their defeats.”
The sidewheel steamer Magnolia carried the delegation of Ohioans to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh. Shown docked on the riverfront in Cincinnati, the vessel sank in 1868 after a boiler explosion. 

 In early April 1862, news arrived in Columbus of the bloody battle of Shiloh, and John D. O'Connor agreed to travel south as part of a delegation of volunteer Ohio surgeons resolved to do what they could to help alleviate the suffering of the sick and wounded. The delegation included Dr. O' Connor, Elisha Hyatt and T.B. Williams from Delaware County, H.K. Cushing of Cleveland, Charles Cochran of Toledo, and three more Columbus surgeons: S.M. Smith, S. Loving, and R.N. Bar. A contingent of Cincinnati surgeons and nurses joined while boarding the steamship Magnolia at the port of Cincinnati.

Dr. O'Connor was particularly interested in the condition of a local company, Co. A of the 77th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Initial reports suggested that the 77th Ohio had fled ingloriously at the first fire, reports later shown to be false. Below is O'Connor's account of his travels to Pittsburg Landing as reported in the Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy issue of April 30, 1862. I’ve interspersed some reports from others members of the expedition to help flesh out O’Connor’s account.

Dr. John D. O’Connor:
Upon receipt of the intelligence here on the 9th instant of the terrible battle at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on the 6th, 7th, and 8th, I volunteered as a surgeon, and in company with Lieutenant Governor Stanton, Surgeon General Webber, and several physicians of the General Assembly, started for the battlefield.

The state authorities chartered at Cincinnati a splendid steamer, the Magnolia, and after a few hours spent in procuring cots, beds, bedding, clothing, hospital stores, etc., we were on our way to the Austerlitz of America. On our way we removed all the furniture from the cabins, set our table on the guard forward of the wheelhouse on one side and enclosed the balance of the guards with rough planks so as to make as much room as possible for the sick and wounded. We arrived at Pittsburg Landing on Sunday morning [April 13, 1862]. We had our beds, some 250, all spread, our medicine and instruments arranged, and in a word, a floating hospital for the reception of our brave soldiers who had sickened in the service or had been wounded in the battles in which so many of Monroe's brave sons fell.

The boat landed at 10 o'clock Sunday morning. The volunteer corps of physicians were divided into parties of five and started out over the battlefield to gather up the sick and wounded and bring them into the boat. I will not attempt to describe this field of carnage, and of the triumph of our arms, but leave it for others and perhaps more graphic pens.

Dr. Elisha Hyatt:
The first thing that met the eye was the operation on a poor wounded soldier, amputation at the shoulder joint, injury was a gunshot wound. The suffering is untold and can never be described. When we arrived, it was the seventh day after the fight ended, yet there were hundreds lying in tents uncared for, so far as medical or surgical aid is concerned. Their comrades had given them something to eat, but there they lay on their blankets, saturated with mud and water, with mutilated bodies, torn and fractured limbs, many of which was getting gangrene, and hundreds died in this condition for the want of timely aid. Our load numbered 240, most of who were severely wounded, and with but very few exceptions, their wounds were undressed.” (Dr. Hyatt had briefly served as captain of Co. A, 20th Ohio Infantry, resigning his commission to date February 24, 1862. Delaware Gazette, April 25, 1862)

A map showing the position of Hildebrand's brigade in the opening hours of the Battle of Shiloh. Note the position of the 77th Ohio, camped just south of Shiloh Church. Dr. O'Connor no doubt had cared for many of the wounded men of the 77th Ohio regiment in his practice back home in Monroe County, Ohio. Map by Hal Jespersen and featured in Sherman's Praetorian Guard: Civil War Letters of John McIntyre Lemmon,72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry available through Columbian Arsenal Press. 

Dr. Charles Cochran:
There were perhaps 30 steamers at the Landing when we arrived, some just arrived, others already freighted with wounded soldiers. Steam whistles were sounding, bells ringing, cavalry galloping, army wagons moving, regiments marching, squads of four soldiers each following each other, bearing a suffering comrade from the camp hospital to the boats, the yelling of teamsters, the braying of mules, and last, though not least, the groans of the wounded, all mingled making a confusion confounded such as is seldom heard. (Daily Toledo Blade, April 21, 1862)

Dr. John D. O’Connor:
My first effort was to find the regiments from the eastern part of the state and especially those having in them troops from Monroe, Noble, Guernsey, Washington, and Belmont Counties. When I at last reached them, I found that many of the sick and wounded from our part of the state had been sent away before our arrival; some to Mound City, Illinois, some to St. Louis, Missouri, and others to Cairo, Illinois, New Albany, Indiana, Evansville, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio. I gathered up all of the sick and wounded that I could find from the 77th Ohio and other regiments that belonged to Monroe and got them aboard. I also brought with me to Cincinnati the remains of Second Lieutenant Joseph J. Steenrod, [Co. A, 77th Ohio] who fell in a charge at the head of his company on Monday the 7th, was mortally wounded, and died on the 8th. Before leaving the boat, I re-shipped the body to his friends in Sunfish.

I also had under my care Lieutenant William W. Scott of Marietta [Co. I, 77th Ohio], who was wounded in the chest, the ball passing through the right lung and out through the shoulder blade. He was doing well and walked up the landing with me at Cincinnati to the Marietta packet, and was put in care of kind friends to conduct him safely home. He is a noble fellow and will yet do good service for his country. Marietta may well be proud of such men. I had a list of men from Monroe that came up on the Magnolia, but have mislaid it, and can now only remember the names of Abraham Messer, Mr. Grim, Smith, Coon, and Scott. There were some four or five others that were left with them in hospital at Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati.
The wounded men aboard the Magnolia were quickly transferred to the post hospital at Camp Dennison along the banks of the Miami River near Cincinnati, Ohio. 
Dr. Charles Cochran:
As each victim, borne on a stretcher, crossed the gangplank, he was divested of his mud-bespattered blood-stained clothing, carefully washed and wiped, given a clean shirt and drawers, then was tenderly laid on his cot. The next sufferer took the next cot and so the work progressed until every cot on the boat had its suffering occupant. The whole number of patients on our boat was divided into wards with from 15 to 20 in each. Each ward was placed in charge of one surgeon and two or more nurses. Early in the morning our patients were to be washed and their persons made as neat as possible; after which their breakfast was served which was usually beef or chicken broth, served from the kitchen in pails. Each soldier had his pint cup and spoon and he was abundantly supplied with bread. Sometimes instead of soup, he is served coffee and sandwiches made of bread and dried beef or concentrated chicken. After breakfast the wounds are dressed, the sick prescribed for, and medicines dispensed, which takes up the greater part of the forenoon. Dinner is served about 1 o’clock and is very much like breakfast, only perhaps a little more substantive in its character. The afternoon is spent much like the morning by the surgeons and nurses for there is seldom at any time any long interval in which they are not called upon to relieve some pain, change some dressing, slightly alter a patient’s position, or do something to contribute to his comfort. There comes every fifteen minutes or so a shrill shriek uttered by some brave fellow caused by the awkward attempt of the attendant to move a wounded limb.

Dr. Elisha H. Hyatt:
 Our boat started and the work commenced. Coats were thrown off and to work we went with in good earnest. Limbs were amputated, bullets extracted, fractures dressed, and all other wounds that could be named were attended to, both nurses and surgeons having no rest day or night. With the best attention that could be rendered these poor sufferers, many died on the way and were buried at different landings. When we arrived at Cincinnati, we had 216 yet alive out of 240. We were then compelled to ship them aboard the cars and take them to Camp Dennison to the hospital. Their re-shipping operated very unfavorably to their recovery.

Dr. John D. O’Connor:
The state authorities sent out another boat yesterday to visit the various points to which the sick and wounded Ohio troops had been transported, and set out to bring them back to Ohio. I should have accompanied this expedition also, but was so completely used up by the trip on the Magnolia that I was satisfied that I would have to be cared for by others before the boat returned. I, therefore, with the other physicians of the General Assembly, reluctantly declined this second trip.

I will say here, for the satisfaction of those who have friends in the army, that all of the Ohio sick and wounded will be brought here to this state as fast as possible; and those who can be, or are in condition to be sent home to their friends to be nursed up, will be sent as soon as the necessary forms can be passed through. This assurance with the list of sick and wounded of the 77th Ohio will give the friends as much information as it is possible for me to give without entering into unwarranted details.

It may, however, be expected that I should briefly give the result of the battle as I learned it on the ground. Adjutant Arely Robertson, 17th Alabama Vols [no record of this name is found associated with the 17th Alabama] , a wounded prisoner under my care, informed me that Beauregard's army laid down on Saturday night, before the battle Sunday, on their arms in regular order of battle and so close to our lines that they could see into our tents. They made a general attack about daylight, captured General Prentiss and two regiments of troops at their breakfast, and completely routed several others. Before our batteries could be brought into position, the entire west line was driven some two miles in towards the river, the most of this distance being a regular hand to hand encounter, our men using their bayonets and the Rebels their cleavers, made by country blacksmiths from old files. By the middle of the afternoon, our batteries were doing good service; the men had recovered from their surprise and the advance of the Rebels was checked. They rested upon their arms at dark.

General [Don Carlos] Buell crossed the river with reinforcements during the evening and night of Sunday. The Rebels were also reinforced by 65 carloads of troops that landed near Corinth from Richmond on Saturday evening. With this addition to his forces, General Beauregard felt so confident of success and of making a complete capture of our army, that he declared (so I am informed) that he would 'water his horses in the Tennessee in the morning or in Hell.' But sad reverse to his fond hopes- at 4 o'clock our batteries commenced playing upon them and our infantry that had been out all night without food and in a severe rain, slowly commenced the advance. By noon, the rout of the Rebels had become general and before night the enemy had been driven completely beyond our lines. I had the pleasure of spending an hour with the Monroe boys in a tent used by a Rebel general as his headquarters on Sunday night.
Colonel Jesse Hildebrand, 77th O.V.I.

The 77th Ohio under Colonel Jesse Hildebrand was in the front of Sherman's division all day Sunday, lay all night in the rain and on Monday was again in front all day. Officers of the 49th, 58th, and 15th Ohio informed me that the valor of the 77th Ohio prevented the Rebels from turning our left wing on Monday. On Tuesday this new regiment, after being two days in front of the hardest fought battle on the continent without food or rest, were taken out to support a battery some miles in advance of the main body. Here they encountered a large body of Rebel cavalry and were completely cut to pieces. The general of the division [Sherman[ in his report to General Grant imputes a want of efficiency, to say the least of it, to a set of as brave men as ever stood upon a battlefield. I am fully satisfied that more blame should attach to many of the shoulder strap gentry than to the brave, exhausted infantry who stood the charge of superior numbers of cavalry until they were cut to pieces.

These recreant commanders of divisions have at this time the subordinate officers and men under their military control; that the time will come when this restraint will be removed, and these subordinates and privates will furnish the materials for many of the pages of the history of the Rebellion of 1861 and 1862, and when the jewels of the great battle of Pittsburg Landing or Shiloh Chapel is made up, the 77th Ohio will hold no inferior position. The list of her killed and wounded speaks in thunder tones of the intrepid valor and unflinching courage of Ohio's brave boys, who did such efficient service on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of April.

Among the trophies picked up on the battlefield was the Charleston Mercury of April 3rd. I find in it a call upon all the churches to send their bells to the Confederate arsenals in order that they may be converted into cannon, the government promising to pay the value, or return a similar bell at the close of the war. Another curiosity is an editorial calling the attention of the citizens to an advertisement of a grocer who notifies his patrons that he 'has received through the blockade two casks of English cured hams for which he has paid 81 cents per pound, and will sell them at retail at a small advance.' Comment is unnecessary. When our Southern friends eat bacon at 81 to 100 cents per pound, there must be some efficiency in the paper blockade.

Dr. William Lang of Tiffin, Ohio

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Brigham's War: Letters from the 27th Ohio Infantry Pt. III

In July 1861, a company was raised by Captain Milton Wells in southeastern Ohio and went to Camp Chase at Columbus to join a new regiment. The company called itself the Monroe and Noble Rangers, named for the two counties from which the men enlisted, and became Co. D of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In its ranks, an unknown soldier who went by the pen name 'Brigham' wrote a series of letters to the Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy giving a detailed account of life in the first year of the Civil War, the last of which was published in February 1863. Billed as “A Soldier's Jottings,” Brigham's letters come to us as rather chatty descriptions of life in Uncle Sam's service in the western theater in the early years of the war. This blog post includes some of the highlights of this correspondence.

The 27th Ohio Infantry served in the western theater, initially going to Missouri and taking part in several successful operations along the Mississippi River. In April 1862, it sailed up the Tennessee River to join General Henry W. Halleck's army at Pittsburg Landing where it took part in the siege of Corinth. Following the Rebel abandonment of Corinth, the 27th Ohio remained in the area until late in the year and during that time took part in both the battles of Iuka and Corinth. On the last day of December 1862, the 27th Ohio clashed with Nathan Bedford Forrest's troopers at Parker's Crossroads, Tennessee which closes out “Brigham's War.”

Part 3 of this series focuses on the series of campaign fought in and around Corinth, Mississippi from May 1862 through the end of the year, including the battles of Iuka, Corinth, and Parker's Crossroads.

Siege of Corinth, Mississippi
May-June 1862

Whitelaw Reid: “The army being ordered to Pittsburg Landing, the 27th Ohio arrived at Hamburg (near Pittsburg Landing) about the 1st of May 1862 and moved on Corinth, forming the left of Halleck's army. During the advance, the regiment was frequently engaged in skirmishing and during the siege was repeatedly under fire, and in every instance behaved well.”

Farmington, Mississippi, May 13, 1862
“Since we landed here on the 22nd of April we have seen some nice little scouting and fighting. Of course we have not had any battle or what would be called one here; but many a fight, in which fewer balls flew, has been dignified by that appellation. On the 29th ult., we made the first forward movement, and although the rain came down in torrents most of the time, and the roads were most wretched, we had a nice time. The day before, the Secesh had made a demonstration on us and we had to get out to drive them back and no we were out to see if they were anywhere close in force. Away we went, four or five thousand strong, and saw nothing hostile, until we got close to the little town of Monterey which is about six miles from Corinth. Here our advanced guard fired a few shots and halting, skirmishers were ordered out and proceeding cautiously, we found the Rebels had skedaddled, leaving all their camp equipage, which we burnt. Four or five thousand had been quartered here and when we advanced they fell back behind a small battery, to which we advanced until we drew several shots from them. Our artillery was far behind, stuck in the mud, and as our orders took us no farther, we returned having captured 15 prisoners. Camp was reached again about 4 o’clock, all satisfied with our first trip after Rebels in Mississippi.”
Major General David S. Stanley

“May 8th, Generals Stanley and Paine made a reconnaissance in force toward Corinth. We advanced to within a half a mile of their fortifications, but made no demonstration against them. A deep creek would not permit the passage of artillery, even if that had been out intention. A few guns in a piece of timber opened on us and held us in check. Our skirmishers and sharpshooters slipped up close to them and kept the Rebels busy at the not very profitable business to them of firing heavy shot and shell at a line of skirmishers, one in a thousand of which perhaps might do injury. We dark came we retired and fell back to our camp where we arrived about 11 o’clock. We had none killed or seriously wounded, but the 27th suffered a serious loss in Surgeon Thrall who was taken prisoner. He understood his profession and at such a time as this his services were indispensable, and his place can hardly be filled by any other man in the army.”

Summer in Mississippi
June-July 1862

Camp eight miles south of Corinth, Mississippi, July 15, 1862
“We are pleasantly situated down here in a fine wood, abounding with any live animal you can name, from a sneaking invisible chigger to a live and flouncing alligator. Indeed the number of tormenting creatures that live here are unnameable and innumerable. The little insect above referred to is the most agonizing of them all. It can’t be seen by the naked eye, but in great numbers it infests the body, and inserting itself beneath the skin, causes a red spot to appear with intolerable itching, which after scratching produces a sore which will not heal for weeks. Men are covered with hundreds of these blotches which are indeed annoying in the extreme. Besides this torment wood ticks abound, and lizards, scorpions, snakes, vipers, are ever present. How men, women, and children can stand it to live here always I can’t imagine.”

“The health of the company is very good considering the climate and very few of the men are unfit for active duty. Only one thing seems to be necessary to make folks happy generally, barring the insects referred to, and that is a new suit of uniform. Why on earth we don’t get it now is more than can be seen. We are idle and stationary, and somebody must be to blame for the neglect. Months ago, away up in Missouri near Sedalia, we got clothes and since then nothing like a complete outfit has ever deigned to visit us. What few clothes the men have are too heavy for summer, and most of them have thrown away their jackets in disgust and go without any at all. Among the last but not the least change which has lately transpired with us is a change of arms and accouterments. Until this we had the Greenfield Rifle Musket [Greenwood] and old accouterments used by the three months’ troops. The arms we now have are a splendid article and the boys are greatly pleased with them. It is the Whitney Rifle with a sword bayonet complete, and having globe sights, shoots as true as a gun well can. The greatest trouble now is in keeping the boys from shooting all the time, for they can hit a squirrel in the tops of the highest trees.”

Battle of Iuka, Mississippi
September 19, 1862

Camp of the 27th Regiment Ohio Infantry, Jacinto, Mississippi, September 28, 1862
“On the morning of the 13th inst., General Sterling Price, our friend of Missouri memory, appeared before Iuka, a station on the Memphis & Charleston R.R. 25 miles from Corinth and, it being held by one brigade of our troops under Colonel Murphy of Wisconsin, the town was evacuated at short notice and he took peaceable possession of all left behind by our men which, I am sorry to say, amounted to considerable. Murphy failed to destroy anything in his undue haste to escape. One hundred thousand rations and a large amount of arms and ammunition fell into the enemy's hands by this unwise movement. Colonel Murphy is under arrest and it is hoped he will be made to answer for his conduct. General Price occupied the place with his army and our generals began to put things in motion to counteract the bold Rebel's movements and, if possible, defeat his plans and his army at the same time.”
Major General William S. Rosecrans

“General Rosecrans, in command of the Army of the Mississippi, and Major General Ord combined on the 10th and started from Corinth, leaving all baggage behind, and moved toward Iuka. General Ord followed the railroad to Burnsville, a small town seven miles from the enemy's lines and came to a halt. Here he formed his command in line of battle and rested on their arms. Rosecrans proceeded to Jacinto on Friday the 18th and bivouacked for the night, distant from Iuka 20 miles. By daylight Saturday morning, we (as the Ohio brigade is with Rosecrans) were under way and things went on as usual for about seven miles when the advance came up with a body of Secesh cavalry and routed them after a short skirmish, The Rebels throwing away their arms and accouterments in their haste to escape. After this, almost constant skirmishing was kept up till within about six miles of Iuka where the close proximity of a large force became evident, and dispositions for attack were accordingly made. The train was ordered to halt and remain, and only the ammunition wagons and ambulances were to proceed further. General Hamilton's division took the lead, closely followed and supported by General Stanley's, the only two divisions with Rosecrans and the only two engaged.”

“The enemy's skirmishers were forced back in splendid style, and at 5 o'clock the battle opened in earnest. The roar of arms was now continuous and the two contending forces wavered back and forth, and the most deadly charges were made and received by both sides without flinching. Our troops fought gloriously, the Rebels doing full as well, and short was the space either gained on the other. For 2 ½ hours, the battle raged and only ceased when darkness compelled it. The Rebels fell back out of range and our men occupied the field, now covered with dead and dying from both sides. When the morning dawned, our men were up and eager for the fray, and advancing in line, the 27th Ohio being thrown out as skirmishers, the battlefield was passed and on toward town the lines moved forward, the artillery throwing shot and shell all the time.”

“A mile or more and no foe could be found. Ha! The enemy has fled! 25,000 men running from 8,000! Wonderful but true. During the night, Price had collected his scattered legions and quietly retreated, leaving all his killed and most of his wounded where they fell. Our men took possession of the town, the Rebels having held it just six days, a rather short “forever,” as they having boastingly posted handbills to that effect at different places in town.”

“The battle, though a short one, was very severe as the losses will testify. The men fought hand to hand, and after dark the combat was so close that one would ask the other where he belonged before firing, and many instances are told of personal prowess during this part of the engagement. The 11th Missouri Federal regiment engaged the Rebel regiment of the same number and for an hour they fought only as Missouri troops can fight, and at last, the Rebels gave way leaving more than two-thirds of their men on the field. This regiment was Price's celebrated fighting regiment and the loss of it will be a serious matter to him. While the fight was at its height, the Rebels became impressed with the idea that part of their regiment was fighting against the remainder, and their cries to cease firing on them, that they were friends, were heart-rending in the extreme. But our men, who comprehended matters, continued to pour the most deadly volleys in among them being able to advance close to them by answering that they belonged to the 11th Missouri.”

“The 11th Ohio Battery was captured three times by the Rebels and as many times re-captured by our men. It was posted on the right on a small elevation and was supported by the 5th Iowa and 4th Minnesota regiments. It had hardly began to play on the enemy over in the field when three regiments arose as from the ground and yelling like savages, advanced on a charge. They were so close that but few shots could be fired on them before they were among the guns and fighting hand to hand with the support and the cannoneers. Such a contest could not last long and our men were beat back and the battery was in the hands of the foe. Their possession was of short duration. Our men being reinforced, the guns were retaken and from this until the close of the battle, a continual contest raged for ownership of the pieces which was finally decided in our favor. No less than seven distinct charges were made at this point by the enemy and sustained by our troops.”

“The loss of life was fearful. The 5th Iowa had 250 killed and wounded and the battery lost 60 men out of 140. All their horses were killed but 20. The ground was left covered with killed and wounded by the enemy, and it is supposed that full one-half of the three regiments that attacked will never fight again. Our men spiked three guns, the first time they fell into the Rebels' hands, but they can be unspiked with very little damage to the guns. The 5th Iowa and 4th Minnesota suffered the most of any of our regiments, although the 11th Missouri, 26th Missouri, and 16th Iowa show heavy lists of killed and wounded, and some other regiment lost a few men. The 5th Iowa and 11th Ohio Battery are the heroes of the fight.”

“The Rebels had choice of the ground to fight upon and their selection showed that they improved it. The battlefield is 1-1/2 miles south of Iuka on the road leading to Jacinto. An old neglected field grown up with bushes about ten or fifteen feet high covered their front while their flanks were protected by heavy timber among which runs deep ravines, well adapted to hide troops from view until an advance was right on them where they could burst forth in one of those headlong charges the Rebels are becoming so noted for. This is how the 11th Ohio Battery became best so soon after opening. The enemy was hid in one of these ravines until the proper time when they rushed forth as from the ground. Our men had a swamp to cross and a hill to ascend in making the attack, and only on the road could any movement forward be made with any rapidity for the whole country was one vast thicket of little trees from the size of peach trees to that of a hundred feet in height. These alone were a great impediment to artillery movements and the gullies and ravines occupy every few yards, almost totally rendered this important arm of the service useless. After the 11th Ohio Battery was silenced, our guns could only get in a shot occasionally, and the Rebel artillery did even less work. Muskets were the sole reliance of both sides.”

“The loss on both sides is very heavy, the Rebels' loss exceeding ours considerably. We had less than 100 killed on the battlefield, and our men buried 261 Rebels. Upwards of 200 of their wounded have died in our hospitals since the fight, making their loss in killed up to 500. But few of our men have died of their wounds, round balls and buckshot not being as fatal as Minie balls. We have full 500 wounded remaining in the hospitals and the Rebels have about the same number. We lost 91 men taken prisoner and our Generals have already paroled 1,200 of the enemy, and are not yet through, as they are coming and being brought in by squads of ten to twenty all of the time. We had two Colonels wounded: the colonel of the 26th Missouri and the colonel of the 16th Iowa. The Rebels lost General Little killed and the loss of other officers on their side was very heavy, but no means are at hand to ascertain how many were killed. To recapitulate, we had 100 killed and 500 wounded; the Rebels have 500 killed or have since died and 500 wounded. We lost 91 prisoners and they 1,200. We enjoy the glory of a victory, they suffering the demoralization of a defeat.”
Graves of the cannoneers of the 11th Ohio Battery at Iuka

“The pursuit did not amount to much from some cause, and Price is now somewhere south of here, some say 15 and some 20 miles distant and my opinion is that nobody knows. We are ready to move at a moment's notice and the pursuit may be resumed at any time. Your readers may wish to know what General Ord did after he drew his men up in line of battle near Burnsville but seven miles from the enemy. That question I have heard asked 101 times since the battle and no one seems wise enough to answer it. I will venture to say on my own responsibility that he is not drawn up then in line of battle yet, but all that he has done, as far as heard from, has been to march back to Corinth. If he has attacked the enemy's right or rear, either of which no one acquainted with the country will deny was practicable, Price's army today would be among the things that were.”

“Company D under the charge of Captain Brock, who is a general favorite with the boys, is enjoying splendid health and is anxious for a knock with the enemy. Our brigade was held in reserve during the late fight and was not permitted to take an active part in any way more than yelling, which they had done up with such a vengeance that prisoners have told me that they thought we were being reinforced all the time.”

For more on the Battle of Iuka, please read my post entitled "Music of the Spheres: The 11th Ohio Battery at the Battle of Iuka," click here

Dead Confederates strewn upon the ground in front of Battery Robinette at Corinth in October 1862

Battle of Corinth, Mississippi
October 3-4, 1862

Corinth, Mississippi, October 13, 1862
“On the 29th ult., we marched from Jacinto to Rienzi and on the 30th in the afternoon started on a reconnaissance toward Ripley. We marched until night came on when we halted ten miles from camp and laid on our arms until 10 o'clock at night. We then returned without meeting anything suspicious except four or five Rebels who were on a visit from Price's army to their friends who we kindly took in charge and reported to headquarters. About 12 o'clock our camp was reached and tired and hungry we turned into our blankets and having snoozed away some two hours, an orderly came along and rudely aroused us with the order to cook two days' rations and be ready to move immediately. Perhaps some words were uttered which would shock ears polite if we dared record them, but all such wouldn't change the stern order and up at the preparations aforesaid was all we could do.”

“Hurrah for Ripley, hurrah for Corinth, and a dozen other places was sung out along the line as we rounded our way in long and glistening streams toward the west. Some knew where we were going and some did not, but we guess few had any correct ideas of our real destination. The march was a weary one and after many windings and changings of directions, the small town of Kossuth, 9 miles from Corinth, hove in sight, and entering the dilapidated place, arms were stacked and a short rest proclaimed the order of the hour. Water was wanted by all, and water there was not nearer than three miles which made things look rather discouraging to all but old soldiers who are used to such situations. Carts, wagons, and barrels were brought into requisition and away they rattled to the creek and soon all smiled with replenished canteens and haversacks, for we found the 21st Missouri stationed here and they entertained us to the best they had. May the abundant blessings of abundant rations ever go with them!”

“An hour's rest terminated our stay in Kossuth and taking up our line of march, we preceded on the road towards Corinth four miles which brought us to the Tuscumbia River and of course plenty of water. Here we camped for the night, having marched 16 miles over a country nearly destitute of water since morning and 36 miles without rest. Way-worn and weary, we sank to the ground with the broad blue sky for a covering and slept a “sleep which knew no waking” until the sun shone full in our faces the next morning. October 2nd was spent in camp and in confiscating pigs, chickens, and sweet potatoes to our heart's content, and the sorrow of the various old Secesh covies who winced under our “contributions” but who dare not mutter for fear of the guard house or something worse.”

“The morning of October 3rd found us on the road and headed toward Corinth distance five miles. As we marched, now and then, the boom of distant cannon could be heard and we knew that work was ahead and we pursued on eager to have a hand in the fray if not more. The old line of fortifications was behind us by 8 o'clock and going some distance further a halt was sounded and we rested in the shade of some venerable trees drawn up in column of divisions. The boom of cannon, ever and anon, still sounded from the north and we knew by the frequent arrival of orderlies and other well-known signs that fight was ahead and we were doomed to take an active part in it. Again and again the cannon spoke afar; had then there was a long silence unbroken save by the clatter of horses' hooves as messages came and went to and from our commanders in the hands of all-important looking and acting aides.”

“Again the cannon boomed the bugle sounded 'fall in' as the boys call the 'assembly' and we 'fell in' accordingly and formed line of battle on the extreme left of our line behind the abatis of fallen trees with which Corinth is surrounded. The fighting was now on our right and now getting pretty close as we could hear the sharp rattle of musketry when, for a moment, the cannon ceased to roar. Our position was changed again and again toward the night, but the fighting ceased for the night without us coming close enough to the enemy to take an active part in it. The Rebels fell back out of range and our men did not follow.”

“It was now certain that Price, Van Dorn, Villepigue, and Company had formed a junction and intended to capture the place the next day if possible and we had to make preparations accordingly. What other commands did, I cannot say and can only speak of our brigade knowingly. We were marched from the extreme left to the right about sundown and drawn up in line of battle to the right of town facing to the north. Here we were suffered to remain until about 10 o'clock at night, when we were moved to the center behind the abatis, supporting a redoubt of our pieces and a field battery, our position being covered by a large fort of heavy guns in our rear on a small hill south of the Memphis & Charleston R.R. We were ordered to lay down and keep close, which we did, and soon were asleep on the ground which ere another day's sun should cast long shadows over it in settling was doomed to drenched with blood. No alarm was raised during the night, and the solemn silence reigning around was a contrast with the din and turmoil of raging battle witnessed a few short hours afterward.”

“Day had not yet streaked the east with coming light when a sudden volley from the pickets around us, the echo of which had hardly died away, when whining through the air like all the demons of the lower regions, a shell from the enemy's guns flew over our heads and burst in the air close to the depot. Another and another followed in quick succession, two of which penetrated the Tishomingo House, which now was occupied as a hospital, bursting and killing a wounded soldier. Our guns soon opened at close range and the roar of cannon welcomed in the day- a day made glorious by one of the most magnificent and complete victories achieved by our arms during this war.”

“Light opened things to view and the Rebel battery was soon silenced when fair range could be had of it, and the butternuts ran and left one piece and two or three caissons in position, the horses all being killed from them. All was silent now for two hours or more and the rumor was circulated that the enemy was retreating but such was not the case. They were silently massing troops for the desperate assault. The skirmishers were soon driven in and the heavy line of advancing foes became visible emerging from the woods and crowding forward at quick time as if they would annihilate all before them. The huge cannon from three forts opened on them and the sharper crack of a dozen field batteries added to the din, and all was soon wrapped in smoke and cannon tumults were hushed into silence by the wild deafening uproar. Shells for a while hissed through the air and burst among the Rebels, scattering death wholesale around but they, regardless of the iron hail, came on until the distance between them and the guns was not more than 200 yards. Grape and canister now was poured forth with a lavish hand, added to which 10,000 muskets dealt out their leaden entrails continually. On and on they came up, and over the fallen trees and our line on the right gave back, back until the foes again trod the streets of Corinth. The times were desperate and something had to be done or the day and our all was lost. Leaping forward, General Rosecrans threw himself among his flying legions and, as if by magic, his presence and unequalled bravery restored order out of chaos and shouting, wild and long, they again faced the fore and dealt him blows thick and fast and in turn the enemy was forced back, and all that he had gained was lost.”

“The center now was assailed with unexampled fury and, as on the right, grape and canister would not check them and they were soon within 50 feet of the ditch around the fort. The Ohio Brigade was posted here and well they held their ground, not giving an inch, but standing manfully to their work dealing death to the Rebels with a lavish hand. Still the enemy advanced and General Stanley seeing the great danger, ordered the 27th Ohio and 11th Missouri forward on a charge. The sight was glorious. These two veteran regiments had not far to go to meet the foe. Together back and forth they swayed, but only for a few moments. Flesh and blood could not standing such charging and the enemy was routed, and ran pell mell never again to return. By noon they were in full retreat and the day was ours-gloriously ours. The loss was heavy on both sides and the number can only now be guessed at. They left not less than 2,000 dead and wounded on the field. Company D suffered two killed, two wounded, and one missing. Captain Brock, commanding the company, displayed great coolness and courage, and the boys are enthusiastic in his praise. Lieutenant George W. Young was hit by the pieces of an exploded shell and got several bruises, the principal of which was on the left hand, injuring a finger so that amputation was necessary. His company lost 19 men- one officer killed and the other two wounded, full half its number being disabled.”

“We have been in pursuit and after just one week of hard marching, we have returned to Corinth worn out and have settled down, perhaps for a short rest, which we greatly need. 1,500 miles we have marched on foot since we came into the service, many of which was after Price and never until now did we have fair chance to thresh him, and the chance was improved and Price is so threshed that he will remain so for some time to come.”

For more on the Battle of Corinth, check out my blog post entitled "Our Kirby: Colonel Joseph L. Kirby Smith and the 43rd Ohio at the Battle of Corinth" or my interview with Brad Quinlin that includes another battle account of Corinth written by Surgeon Pierre Starr of the 39th Ohio Infantry