Wednesday, September 19, 2018

One Thousand sable heroes martialed for the defense of their country


In part I of this series, I recounted the story of Addison White’s escape from bondage in Kentucky, his dramatic confrontation with slave catchers at the home of Udney Hyde in Mechanicsburg, and the subsequent events that led to the Battle of Lumbarton and the storied “Green County Rescue Case” in which two white Ohioans faced federal charges for their defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This second part of the story leaps ahead six years to the spring of 1863 when the momentous issue of enlisting black men into the army to help in suppressing the Civil War had just begun. The intention is to explore a bit of how the community of Urbana viewed these enlistments, all for the purpose of setting the stage for an insightful letter written by Addison White while he was serving in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry…
Addison White

Addison White would get a chance to strike yet another blow for freedom, but it would take a six years and a bloody civil war to provide that chance. Once authorization was given to enlist black men into the army, agents from the state of Massachusetts canvassed various communities throughout the North seeking volunteers. Roughly 20 recruits were secured from Champaign County area in early May and they went on to join the ranks of the 54th Massachusetts. Addison enlisted April 23, 1863 and was mustered in May 16, 1863 as a Private in Co. E of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at Camp Meigs at Readville, Massachusetts, listing his age as 41, height of 5 feet 11 inches, occupation as salt maker, and residence of Mechanicsburg, Ohio.[i]
Addison White's description from the Company Descriptive Book

Governor David Tod of Ohio did not object to the recruiting of black men from his state, but he was eager to ensure that the state received credit for the enlistments, which would subsequently lower the number of white men which would need to be drafted to fill the quota. “No provision being made by the laws of Ohio, Governor Tod said that he requested the Governor of Massachusetts to organize the colored men from Ohio into separate companies, so far as practicable, and also keep him fully advised as to the number, with the age, name, and residences of each so that Ohio may have the full benefit of all enlistments from the state, and the recruits the benefit of such aid as may be extended to them by our associations.”[ii]

Democrats had opposed the enlistment of black troops all along, and nervously looked upon these efforts to recruit black men into the army. In their May 13, 1863 issue, the Urbana Union took particular umbrage at T.D. Crow, a black citizen who was called upon to address a recruiting rally on May 8, 1863 where he “intelligently and enthusiastically urged colored men to volunteer.” The Union dismissed the results of the local rally, stating that only eight recruits came forth and “it was the general impression that it would have been more successful had there been less ‘crowing’ done and more room given to the enunciation of sense and the transaction of business.” The Union then printed the reported remarks of Crow, publishing them in the stereotypical ‘Negro’ vernacular of the time that quite frankly is too insulting to reside on my blog, and as such will not be repeated here.[iii]

G.W. Guy, a black resident of Urbana, fired back at the Union in a letter published in the Citizen & Gazette  the following week, disputing the Union’s claim that only eight men joined up (Guy claimed that 15 men enlisted as a result of the rally) and stated that the recruits came forth due to Crow’s “manly speaking.” He rhetorically asked the Union, “Have white men done any better in the same length of time in proportion to their number? If we ‘niggers’ can save you whites from the draft, nobody but traitors will object!” Guy argued that the Union was slandering their efforts out of fear that “we will do something to elevate our race. Hence his attempt to discourage our volunteering, and his cowardly assault upon our efforts and that of the gentleman (Crow) who had the soul in him to speak noble and eloquent words in our behalf, while urging us to fight for our common country.”[iv]

Now that we have seen something of the context of the community and times from which he enlisted, we can more properly appreciate Addison White’s letter. This letter was written in August 1863 to a white friend from Ohio (Brother Taylor, presumably Charles or Edward Taylor who were arrested for assisting him is his escape to Canada in May 1857) while Addison was engaged in the siege of Battery Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina.



He finds his situation “peculiar” but invigorating, as he, “the representative of a downtrodden and proscribed race,” was now engaged in subjugating “the power that has thus bound me.” Upon arrival in Massachusetts in May, White found “1,000 sable heroes, martialed there for the defense of a country that has ever proscribed them, yet they were there with a spirit as buoyant as any. The squad I arrived in more than filled the regiment; so you see, brother, if I was not a complete soldier, I completed the regiment; looking at it in that light, I considered it indispensable that I should enlist as a soldier.”

His letter recounts the parade of regiment through the streets of Boston, the lengthy sea voyage to the “Sunny South,” and the reception the men met upon their arrival in Beaufort. “As we passed a large group of had-been slaves, one old lady whose sands in her hour glass had almost run out, raised her hands to Heaven and exclaimed, “God bless you!”

White also remembered the regiment’s part in the raid on Dairen, Georgia, the engagement on James Island, and briefly described the regiment’s assault on Battery Wagner. White noted from where he now wrote, he was only six miles from the grave of “the great arch-traitor” John C. Calhoun (widely considered to be the author of secession), and relished in stating that he was now “martialed in battle array to subjugate his principles and his posterity.”[v]

Addison White had come a long way in six years. He went from barricading himself in the loft of a cabin in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, an escaped slave fending off slave catchers with his courage and a rifle, to being a soldier in a grand army defending the very government whose laws six years prior had proscribed him as nothing more than property, but now destined and endeavoring to secure a “new birth of freedom.”

Addison White’s story in many ways is emblematic of the turmoil which engulfed so many of our forebears in the years leading up to the Civil War, and is a testament to one’s man’s courage and determination to secure his freedom.

Addison White’s letter was published on the first page of the Urbana Citizen & Gazette’s October 22, 1863 issue with a brief introduction from “Brother Taylor” which reads as follows:

Mechanicsburg, Ohio
September 27, 1863
            The following is a letter written to the undersigned by a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts. Perhaps you may deem it worthy of publication; if so, it is at your service.

Morris Island, South Carolina
August 26, 1863
Brother Taylor: The circumstances under which I address you are peculiar and quite congenial with my feelings. I left the good old state of Ohio under different circumstances from most men. I left there the representative of a downtrodden and proscribed race, having all my days or life borne its heaviest burdens of proscription and then to find myself en route to subjugate or annihilate the power that had thus bound me. I am frank to acknowledge, it seemed a little peculiar to me. Brother, you nor any of yours ever have and I pray never will occupy the beautiful position of a man and beast at the same time, and the government acknowledging you neither- while you feel yourself a sort of a living specimen of life and death and the supreme orbit of both, and then to see that government struggling to save its own created canker, and calling upon you to lend your aid. What would be your reply? Knowing you as I do, I know it would be “I will fly to the rescue of my country and the vindication of justice and liberty.”

I found myself in the state of Massachusetts after a ride of two days and a half on the cars, and the sight I there beheld will forever remain in my mind. I found 1,000 sable heroes, martialed there for the defense of a country that has ever proscribed them, yet they were there with a spirit as buoyant as any, and as firm as the rock whose base rests upon the bosom of the ocean, and whose apex darts to the clouds. And if you could only have beheld them at drill, or on dress parade, you would have said they would have done honor to Napoleon’s Old Guard, so soldierly was their martial tread, and so readily do they take to the manual of arms. The squad I arrived in more than filled the regiment; so you see, brother, if I was not a complete soldier, I completed the regiment; looking at it in that light, I considered it indispensable that I should enlist as a soldier.

In a few weeks after this, we were reviewed by his Excellency, the Governor of Massachusetts. His very eyes flashed rays of sympathy that seemed to flow from a heart that knew nothing but good. It was on this occasion that the regiment received its colors. We next received the bounty of $50, all in greenbacks, and then commenced to make hasty preparations for our departure south. We were fitted out as well as a regiment could possibly be, and every preparation made to transport us from Camp Meigs to Boston, a distance of nine miles which was by way of cars. On the morning of the 28th of May, we embarked for Boston. On our arrival there, it seemed as though business was entirely suspended and everybody was in the streets. No regiment ever was received with such enthusiasm as we were. After passing through the most popular streets, we were next marched in companies in front of the State House. There we were joined by the Governor and staff in full dress, and escorted to Boston Commons. There we were received by his Excellency in the presence of a multitude of people that I can compare to nothing but the host that greeted Pompey when he triumphantly entered Rome after the Mithridatic War with the three kings to adorn his train.
Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts
"His very eyes flashed rays of sympathy that seemed
 to flow from a heart that knew nothing but good,"
Addison White wrote in 1863.

We were next marched to the dock where the good ship DeMolia lay in readiness to transport us south. We boarded her, and in a few minutes we were borne away by a sweet and pleasant gale towards the Sunny South, and our good ship, as though conscious of her precious load, moved over the mighty deep like a swan upon a park pond, and on we glided with nothing to mar our happiness, save a few that were sea sick. When about three days out, Orion seemed to rise from her Oriental home from the very bosom of the mighty deep, and it was then and there, Brother Taylor, that I could not fail from looking into the ocean with astonishment and admiration. Who can behold such a vast world of water without riveting his mind on the Deity? Who can listen to its ceaseless roar; behold its myriad of living inhabitants, without beholding the awful sublimity of the living God?

But eight days brought us within the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina and as our noble ship neared the harbor, we were greeted along the river banks by the little dark faces as we passed with a patriotism that would do honor to any American. We landed on the ninth morning from Boston. The city of Beaufort is a dilapidated looking city, yet there are many things to admire. The orange, lemon, fig, and pomegranate trees all waved a graceful bow as we passed along. The corners of every street were crowded with anxious spectators of both sexes, and all ages, and their very countenances revealed their joy at beholding their own kindred marching by platoons in their defense. One circumstance I shall never forget- it is indelibly fixed on my memory. As we passed a large group of had-been slaves, one old lady whose sands in her hour glass had almost run out, raised her hands to Heaven and exclaimed, “God bless you!”

            We passed on through the town to an eminence of ground, well suited for a camp, and bivouacked for a short time. We only remained one week when we received marching orders. We then went down the Savannah River about 150 miles into the state of Georgia to St. Simond’s Island. When there on the second day, the long roll beat and in a moment every man was under arms; eight companies sailed for a little town up the river 50 miles and on our way we were joined by the 2nd South Carolina regiment under Colonel Montgomery. On arriving at this town (its name I think was Dairen), we found it almost entirely deserted. We reconnoitered the place, confiscated everything of use, burned the place, and returned without losing a man.


But we remained only a short time, when we again received marching orders. Our next place of destination was St. Helena Island, South Carolina. We remained on this island a short time when we were again ordered to march. Our next destination was the famous James Island. When on this island, we threw out three companies as pickets and on the night of July 15, 1863, Ethiopia showed herself. Our three companies were attacked by a force of 6-8,000, and the 300 held them at bay from 3 in the morning until 6, when was whole force was drawn up in line of battle and it only took us about 30 minutes to put the Rebels to flight. The Rebs acknowledge a loss of from 200-300 killed and wounded. We then made hasty preparations to withdraw from the island. Our officers learned by the prisoners we captured that the Rebels intended to attack us with overwhelming numbers, so we made a successful withdrawal from the island.

We made a forced march of two days and two nights. On the night of the 17th, we stood all night in a drenching rain. The next day being the 18th was the day on which the 54th Massachusetts regiment made that never to be forgotten charge on Fort Wagner. We were marched up the beach and ordered to lie down in order to allow the shells to pass over our heads, and while lying in that position, we were for the first time informed we were going to be put into action, and about 8 o’clock we received the command “Forward, march!” When in about musket shot distance, we gave a yell and double quicked to the fort. Well, we had a short but desperate struggle. In about 30 minutes, we left between 300-400 of our brave men on the field, and were forced to retire. And here we are yet, only about six miles from the tomb of the great arch-traitor John C. Calhoun, whose giant mind so powerfully maintained errors, and who commenced secession 30 years ago. And now I, the chattel, am martialed in battle array to subjugate his principles and his posterity. More anon.

Click here to read part I of this series:




[i] Addison White Compiled Military Record, National Archives & Records Administration. Fold3.com has digitized all records of soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts, including Addison White’s file.
[ii] ‘More Colored Recruits,’ Urbana Citizen & Gazette, May 21, 1863, pg. 3
[iii] ‘Negro Recruiting,’ Urbana Union, May 13, 1863, pg. 3
[iv] ‘Negro Recruiting’ Urbana Citizen & Gazette, May 21, 1863, pg. 3. Guy’s letter was also published in the Urbana Union’s May 20th issue in which the Union editor disclaimed any intent to discourage black men from volunteering.
[v] This paragraph and the preceding three quote from “Letter from Addison White,” Urbana Citizen & Gazette, October 22, 1863, pg. 1
[vi] Ibid.

Willing to whip his weight in wildcats: The Addison White Story Part I


As this week marks the 156th anniversary of two significant turning points in the Civil War, specifically the Battle of Antietam and Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, it seemed an opportune time discuss the real world outcome of those events and how it impacted Ohioans. Lincoln’s proclamation and the Union’s continuing struggles with suppressing the rebellion opened the door in early 1863 for the acceptance of black troops into the army. Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts secured approval to raise the first black regiment in January 1863- this would become the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry which contained in its ranks a number of Ohioans.

Click here to read part II of this story: https://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2018/09/one-thousand-sable-heroes-martialed-for.html

(Stories about a couple of these Ohioans of the 54th Massachusetts have been featured in earlier posts which can be viewed here:

This article (the first in a two part series) will focus on the story of Addison White of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, a salt maker who would go on to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. But Addison White’s story doesn’t begin or end with his service in the 54th Massachusetts; he had struck a blow for freedom six years prior which is where our story begins…
Addison White

Addison White was born in 1822 as a slave in Fleming County, Kentucky, and by the 1850s he was considered the property of a man named Daniel White. In August 1856, Addison escaped from slavery, crossed the Ohio River and traveled north in Ohio along the Underground Railroad. Finding that he had exhausted his funds and feeling safe, he stopped in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. “Finding employment, he concluded to remain there until he made enough to send for his wife and children who were still in Kentucky, but free,” it was reported. The region was known as a hotbed of abolitionist sentiment, and Addison hired out to local farmer and abolitionist named Udney H. Hyde who lived about a mile from town. (Hyde, a 50 year old native of Vermont, had a reputation for assisting slaves escape to freedom, and for his superlative command of profanity.) A newspaper article described Addison as “remarkably large and stout” and stated that “he is a powerful man, able to raise a barrel of whiskey over his head with great ease; a feat that but few men are able to perform.”[i]

In the meantime, Addison’s former master had tracked him down. The circumstances of which have been variously related, but the most plausible story was that his friend Charles Taylor wrote a letter to Addison’s wife in Kentucky and advised her where her husband was living. Postmaster William Boggs of Springfield reputedly directed the letter to Daniel White, and thus he learned where his escaped slave was residing. (Interestingly, his wife refused to join him in Ohio and Addison eventually remarried.) Under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Daniel White obtained an arrest warrant in Cincinnati and set out to Champaign County in the company of Deputy Marshal John C. Elliott of Cincinnati and four other Kentuckians, including slave catcher Benjamin P. Churchill.
Udney Hay Hyde (Ohio History Connection)

On Tuesday May 19, 1857, this group was joined by Deputy Marshal John Poffinbarger of Urbana (Champaign County Federal Marshal) and the group traveled to Mechanicsburg to arrest Addison and return him to slavery in Kentucky.[ii] “Ad was at that time a powerful man, able and willing to whip his weight in wildcats if necessary, and had expressed his determination never to return to slavery alive. Churchill & Co. had been advised of this and made their approaches to Hyde's house cautiously, informing some persons in Mechanicsburg of their business, and suggesting to them to go out and see the fun, which invitation was promptly accepted.”[iii]

The Urbana Citizen & Gazette reported that “quite early in the morning, the party made a descent upon the cabin of Mr. Hyde where the colored man resided. Making known the object of their visit, and reading their warrant, Mr. Hyde told them that Addison was there and interposed no objection to his arrest.”[iv]

 “Addison was in the front room of the Hyde house pulling on his boots when a squad of U.S. marshals and deputies passed the window. He quickly sprang to the ladder and ascended to the loft of the cabin. To prevent escape, the deputies were stationed on all sides of the house. The three marshals without stopping to knock pushed open the door and entered.”[v]

The 1881 History of Clark County continues: “Ad slept in the loft of Hyde's house, to which access could only be obtained by means of a ladder and one person only at a time. Here he had provided himself with such articles of defense as a rifle, double-barreled shot-gun, revolver, knife and ax, and had the steady nerve and skill to use them successfully if circumstances forced him to. Churchill and his party arrived at Hyde's and found the game in his retreat. They parleyed with him for some time, coaxed him to come down, ordered old man Hyde to go up and bring him out, deputized the men who followed them to go up and bring him down, but all declined, telling them five men ought to be able to take one. White finally proposed, in order to relieve Hyde of danger of compromise, that if the five Marshals would lay aside their arms and permit him to go into an adjoining field, and they could then overpower him, he would make no further resistance, but so long as they persisted in their advantage, he would remain where he was, and kill the first man who attempted to enter the loft.”[vi]

“Deputy Marshal Elliot, of Cincinnati, was the first and only one to make the attempt to enter where White was, and as his body passed above the floor of the loft, he held a shotgun before him, perhaps to protect himself, but particularly to scare White. But White was not to be scared that way. He meant what he said when he warned them to let him alone, and, quick as thought, the sharp crack of a rifle rang out in the air, and Elliott dropped to the floor, not killed, but saved by his gun, the ball having struck the barrels.” [vii]
The Udney Hyde home in Mechanicsburg, Ohio where Addison White confronted the slave catchers. It is no longer standing. (Ohio History Connection)

Marshal Elliott’s ear was wounded when the bullet ricocheted off his gun barrel, and “he fell to the floor below exclaiming ‘I am a dead man.’ [Udney] Hyde, a very excitable man, fumed and swore, “Why didn’t you go up and get him? Damn you!”[viii]

In a ploy to inform his neighbors of what was going on, Udney called to his daughter Manda and told her to go feed the chickens. Manda set off toward the barnyard, and then headed off to the neighbor’s house. After she had a good head start, “one of the marshal’s shouted after her, ‘You girl, stop, or I’ll shoot!’ Her black eyes snapped as she shouted back “Shoot and be durned!” and away she fled and the people in the ‘abolition hole’ of Mechanicsburg were notified of the situation.”[ix]

 “Word soon went to town and in a short time, quite a crowd came out to the rescue. The braggadocio spirit of the slave catchers was properly resented, and finding that they had got into the ‘wrong diggins’ to catch fugitives, the whole party left in double quick time.”[x] The crowd “rallied them considerably on their failure and in all probability was not very choice in their English to express their opinions of slave hunters.” The men left for Urbana and then returned to Cincinnati empty-handed.[xi]

The Citizen & Gazette defiantly reported that “Addison is still in the neighborhood, fully armed, and determined never to be taken alive.” Interestingly, one of the guns that Addison White used to defend himself (which was given to him by Udney Hyde) is now property of Ohio History Connection.[xii]

 “Chagrined and mortified at their failure, and smarting under the sharp rallies of the bystanders, Churchill and Elliott made their report to the Court at Cincinnati, and made oath that Azro L. Mann, Charles Taylor, David Tullis and Udney Hyde had interfered and prevented the capture of the Negro White, and refused to assist when called upon.”[xiii] Warrants were issued for their arrest, and a posse of 14 men set out to execute the warrants.

They arrived in Urbana on Monday May 25th on the 10:30 train from Cincinnati, but stayed in Urbana until Wednesday. It was reported that Addison had left for Canada several days before the posse arrived. “These deputy marshals, it appears, were determined to arrest somebody, and well knowing that the fugitive Addison was more than a match for them, they had writs for five or six citizens of Mechanicsburg who were suspicioned of aiding Addison in his escape. Not suspecting anything of the kind, the people of the burg were taken by surprise when four of their citizens were suddenly arrested and carried off from their homes by those official dignitaries.” The men arrested were Charles and Edward Taylor (brothers), Hiram Guthridge, and Russell Hyde, a son of Udney Hyde.[xiv]

 “The men were prominent in the community, and their arrest created intense excitement. Parties followed the Marshals, expecting them to go to Urbana to board the cars for Cincinnati, but they left the main road, striking through the country, their actions creating additional excitement, and causing a suspicion of abduction. A party went at once to Urbana and obtained from Judge S.V. Baldwin a writ of habeas corpus, commanding the marshals to bring their prisoners and show by what authority they were held. John Clark, Jr., then Sheriff of Champaign County, summoned a posse and started in pursuit, overtaking the Marshals with their prisoners just across the county line at Catawba, when the two parties dined together.”[xv]

The Fremont Journal picks up the story, quoting from the Xenia News: “We have heard some facts in regard to the conduct of the United States marshal and his accomplices towards the prisoners while in their custody which go very far towards showing that they were engaged in a scheme to kidnap these men under the color of legal authority, take them into Kentucky, and deal with them as their depraved passions might dictate. They not only hand cuffed the prisoners, but they treated them with all manner of indignity, as for instance, remarking when a convenient limb projected over the road that ‘that would be a good place to hang such damned abolitionists’ as they were. They threatened to blow out their brains if they opened their mouths to tell anybody they were under arrest or what for.”[xvi]
Joseph C. Brand of Urbana

 “In the meantime, Judge Ichabod Corwin and Hon. Joseph C. Brand went to Springfield with a copy of the writ, and started Sheriff John E. Layton, of Clark County, and his deputy to intercept them at South Charleston. They reached there just as the Marshals passed through, and overtook them half a mile beyond the town. In attempting to serve the writ, Layton was assaulted by Elliott with a slingshot, furiously and brutally beaten to the ground, receiving injuries from which he never fully recovered. Layton's deputy, Compton, was shot at several times, but escaped unhurt, and when he saw his superior stricken down and helpless, he went to him and permitted the Marshals to resume their journey. Sheriff Clark and his party came up soon after, and Sheriff Layton was borne back to South Charleston in a dying condition, it was supposed, but a powerful constitution withstood the tremendous shock, although his health was never fully restored.”[xvii]

“The assault upon Sheriff Layton was at once telegraphed to Springfield and other points, causing intense excitement and arousing great indignation. Parties were organized and the capture of the Marshals undertaken in earnest. Their track now lay through Greene County. Sheriff Lewis was telegraphed for and joined the party. On the following morning, near the village of Lumberton, in Greene County, the State officers, headed by Sheriff Lewis, overtook the Marshals, who surrendered without resistance. The prisoners were taken to Urbana before Judge Baldwin and released, as no one appeared to show why they were arrested, or should be detained.”[xviii]

“The United States Marshals were all arrested at Springfield, on their way to Urbana, for assault with intent to kill, and, being unable to furnish security, were lodged in jail overnight. James S. Christie was Justice of the Peace at the time, and issued the warrants for the arrest of the Marshals; the excitement was so great that the examination was held in the old court house which proved too small for the crowd. Mr. Christie was one of those who were obliged to attend at Cincinnati. The Marshals again returned to Cincinnati and procured warrants for the arrest of the four persons released upon habeas corpus, together with a large number of citizens of Mechanicsburg, Urbana, Springfield and Xenia, who participated in the capture of the Marshals.”[xix]

In Champaign County the feeling against the enforcement of this feature of the fugitive slave law had become so intense that the officers serving the warrants were in danger of violence. Ministers of the Gospel and many of the best and most responsible citizens of Urbana said to Judge Baldwin, Judge Corwin, Judge Brand and Sheriff Clark, on the day of arrest: "If you do not want to go, say the word, and we will protect you." feeling that the conflict was inevitable, and might as well be precipitated at that time. These men, however, counseled in moderation, and were ready and willing to suffer the inconvenience, expense and harassment of prosecution for the sake of testing this feature of the slave driver's law, and also in hope and belief that it would make it more odious, and secure its early repeal or change.”[xx]

“The cases of Udney Hyde and Hon. Joseph C. Brand were selected as test cases representing the two features — that of Hyde for refusing to assist in the arrest of a fugitive slave, and that of Brand for interference with a United States officer in the discharge of duty. The District Attorney was assisted by able counsel, and the most eminent lawyers in the State were secured to conduct the defense, when, after a long and stormy trial, the jury failed to make a verdict. The contest had now lasted nearly or quite a year, and all parties were becoming tired of it. The patriotism actuating both sides, though being of a different character and order, was entirely exhausted, and the glory to be obtained would now be left for others yet to follow.

The Kentucky gentlemen (Daniel White) who had stirred up all this racket in an effort to get possession of his $1,000  in human flesh and blood now stepped to the front and proposed to settle the trouble if he could have $1,000 for his Ad White, and all the costs in the cases paid.[xxi] This proposition was readily acceded to, the money paid (presumably by the citizens of Mechanicsburg), and the cases all nulled by District Attorney Matthews. The deed of Ad White was made in regular form by his Kentucky owner, and now forms one of the curious and interesting features of the Probate Court records for Champaign County. Thus ended one of the great conflicts in the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, which did much toward crystallizing public sentiment against the extension of slavery, and added thousands to the Republican voters of the State.”[xxii]
Addison White historical marker in Mechanicsburg, Ohio was dedicated in 2005.

“Ad White was notified of his freedom, and at once returned to Mechanicsburg, where he yet resides (1881), borne down by hard work and age, but ever cherishing the memory of those who gave him shelter and protection when fleeing from oppression and seeking his freedom.”[xxiii] Udney Hyde remained in hiding for a period of time, but eventually returned to Champaign County and is claimed to have helped 513 slaves on their way to freedom.[xxiv]

After the war, Addison White worked for the Street Department of Mechanicsburg and died in 1885. He is buried with his second wife Amanda at Maple Grove Cemetery with a government stone noting his service with the 54th Massachusetts.[xxv]

This concludes part I of the Addison White story. Click on the link below to read part II in which Addison provides an account of his experiences after joining the 54th Massachusetts regiment.




[i] “Slave Catcher’s Baffled,” Urbana Citizen & Gazette, May 22, 1857, pg. 3
[ii] This date has been variously reported as May 15 and also as late April- the Citizen & Gazette article already cited states that the event occurred the previous Tuesday which was May 19, 1857.
[iii] History of Clark County, Ohio.  Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881, pg. 287
[iv] “Slave Catcher’s Baffled,” op. cit.
[v] Ware, Joseph. History of Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Columbus: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1917, pgs. 40-42
[vi] History of Clark County, op cit.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ware, op. cit.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] “Slave Catcher’s Baffled,” op. cit.
[xi] History of Clark County, op cit.
[xii] “Slave Catcher’s Baffled,” op. cit.
[xiii] History of Clark County, op cit.
[xiv] “Slave Catcher’s Baffled,” op. cit.
[xv] History of Clark County, op cit.
[xvi] “The Man Hunt-Slave Catching: Resistance of Officers and High-Handed Outrages,” Fremont Journal, June 5, 1857, pg. 2
[xvii] History of Clark County, op cit.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Ibid.
[xxi] This has been reported in various accounts ranging from $800-1,000.
[xxii] History of Clark County, op cit.
[xxiii] Ibid.
[xxiv] http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Udney_H._Hyde
[xxv] “Addison White” Ohio Historical Marker in Mechanicsburg, Ohio and findagrave.com

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dirty, ragged, hungry, and footsore: a view of Fremont's army from a lieutenant of the 82nd Ohio


The net effect of Stonewall Jackson’s successful Shenandoah Valley campaign served to flummox General George McClellan’s campaign outside of Richmond by tying up thousands of Federal troops who otherwise would have assisted in the drive upon the Confederate capital. Perhaps less noted was the impact that this campaign had upon the armies that waged it- many regiments finished the campaign down to half or one-third of their numbers of which they started. But it generally wasn’t combat that drove thousands of men into the hospitals- they often fell victim to the hardships engendered by strenuous marches along the difficult mountain roads, substandard rations, and near constant exposure to the vagaries of the weather.
Unknown private from a New York or Pennsylvania regiment
(Author's collection)
            For the men of General John C. Fremont’s Army of Virginia, the Valley campaign was their first exposure to heavy marching and as the men at this stage of the war tended to overburden themselves (and the army) with impedimenta, the men broke down in droves under the load. To be sure, the proclivity of the army to amass an immense wagon train proved a considerable impediment to John Pope’s campaign in Virginia later that summer and eventually led to a significant reduction in the number of wagons that each regiment could possess. (During Pope’s campaign, regiments often had 15 wagons served by a total of about 40 men drawn from the ranks as teamsters; one of McClellan’s final acts was to reduce this number to six per regiment; later commanders reduced it further.)
            But for the troops on this campaign, the wagons lagged far behind the scene of action which left the men few options short of shedding equipment.  A soldier of the 32nd Ohio wrote that “there was nothing for any poor fellow who wearied out on the way to do but to follow on, until some town was reached, and then wait until he should be rested enough to follow on.” (see letter from “Seneachie,” in Urbana Citizen & Gazette, July 3, 1862, pg. 2) In so doing, the regiments shed men from the ranks by dozens. The further the army advanced up the Valley, the more its combat strength was diminished due to the inability of many to keep up the brutal pace.
Campaigning in the Shenandoah Valley, circa 1862. Photo courtesy of William A. Keesy's War as Viewed from the Ranks.
            First Lieutenant Charles P. Wickham of Co. D, 55th Ohio described life on the march thus: “All the tents and baggage of the army were left at Petersburg before the march was commenced. The men had nothing along but their rubber blankets and some of them didn’t even have them. We were compelled to sleep with our clothes and boots on. Mine were not off for two weeks,” he related. “We made coffee and boiled meat in the same kettles and used cups and coffee pots without washing them. We sometimes had a few crackers issued for a day, sometimes none; sometimes we had meat issued, and sometimes none. We were hungry most of the time and yet had more toil and exposure than we ever had before.” Second Lieutenant Edward C. Culp of Co. G, 25th Ohio complained in the same vein that “we have not had a change of clothes for three weeks- not even a shirt and have been on the tramp every day, wet or dry, without tents or shelter of any kind. So you can imagine what kind of a looking object I am!” (see Wickham and Culp letters in Norwalk Reflector, June 24, 1862, pg. 2) Captain Julien E. Curtiss of the 8th West Virginia described his comrades at the end of the march as “a harder set of mortals I think never existed- muddy, tired, and black with powder; we looked as though we had just been ‘dug up.’” (see Gallipolis Dispatch, July 9, 1862, pg. 1)
            Private William Keesy of the 55th Ohio remembered the Valley campaign as utterly exhausting. “I have marched for whole days scarcely noticing even the general lay of the country because I was too tired,” he wrote in 1898. “Everything seemed a task. My gun was cutting into my shoulder. My accoutrements felt like great iron bands. My knapsack was a load. The 60 or 120 rounds of cartridges were a dead weight, and my canteen and haversack were very cumbersome as, footsore and weary, sometimes hungry and thirsty, we dragged along.” (see War as Viewed from the Ranks, pg. 36; The hardships of the Valley campaign got to Keesy- he developed a malignant form of diarrhea and his health eventually collapsed such that he was discharged for disability about six months later, only to be drafted in the final months of the war and serve with the 64th Ohio in the western theater). Private Edward P. Stephenson of Co. E, 60th Ohio commented that early in the campaign, the men were ordered to roll up their blankets and throw them over their shoulders. “We had proceeded but a short distance before we were informed that our knapsacks, and everything else that could not be put into the wagons, had been placed into a pile and burned. Thus went everything we had to wear, save what we carried on our backs.” (see Springfield Republic, June 25, 1862, pg. 1)
Private William A. Keesy, 55th O.V.I.
            Dirty, ragged, hungry, sickly, footsore, and yet determined to do their duty- this would be a fair description of both armies as they clashed at Cross Keys on June 8, 1862.
            The following letter, written by Francis S. Jacobs, a regular correspondent to the Ashland Union, who was then serving as the first lieutenant of Co. K, 82nd Ohio Infantry, speaks to the effect of continued hardships upon his regiment in some detail and gives voice to the weariness and frustration felt by many soldiers that served in Fremont’s army following the unsuccessful campaign. His letter, describing not only the Battle of Cross Keys but the Valley campaign in general, was published in the July 2, 1862 edition of the Ashland Union. Jacobs’ sense that there was “something rotten in Denmark” was spot on- before the Union published his letter on July 2, 1862, the Lincoln Administration had relieved both Generals John Fremont and James Shields from their respective commands, in part for their shortcomings evidenced during the Valley campaign.
(To provide additional context, the 82nd Ohio formed a part of General Robert Schenk’s “First Ohio Brigade,” consisting of the 32nd, 55th, 73rd, 75th, and 82nd Ohio regiments, along with Captain William L. DeBeck’s Battery K, 1st O.V.L.A., Rigby’s Indiana battery, and a battalion of Connecticut Cavalry under Captain Erastus Blakeslee.)

Headquarters, 82nd Regt. O.V.I.
Camp at Strasburg, Virginia, June 22, 1862

            I have just been informed by a “reliable” gentleman that this is Sunday; if it is, it is the first one we have spent in camp for so long a time that “the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.” Our heaviest marches have been invariably on that day and the principal portion of our fighting also. Four weeks ago today we started on this tramp with no tents, baggage, cooking utensils, or anything to make us in the slightest degree comfortable- the supposition being at that time that we would not be gone over five days and here we are in ten times worse condition than we were when we started out.
            I am not and have not grumbled at anything that we have been ordered to do, hard as it may have been, but when I see our men getting lousy, dirty, and filthy (as they are), our ranks being decimated by disease for want of proper treatment and care, I begin to think that there is something “rotten in Denmark;” that there is inefficiency in some department that should and must be remedied, or we will all go to rack and ruin. I know that our own regimental and brigade surgeons have done everything that they could to make our men comfortable. I know that General Schenk has done and is doing everything he possibly can to have us treated as white men, but it is all a failure.
Brig. Gen. Robert Schenk led the Ohio Brigade at Cross Keys
Library of Congress
            Our regiment has been on the move continually since the 4th day of May and since that time we have not slept in our tents a half dozen times, have had no rest of any consequence, have lived on quarter and half rations the principal portion of the time, and as a natural consequence, out of 900 men, we have not 300 efficient fighting men today. The same may be said of every regiment in the brigade. The picture is a gloomy one, but nevertheless true. I don’t presume that there has been harder marching done in the whole campaign than has been done by this division since the 24th of May, the date of the commencement of this march. The first nine days it rained almost incessantly, and some of the most terrific thunder and hailstorms I ever witnessed and have had them semi-occasionally ever since. The first couple of nights that the big pattering drops of rain came splashing down my face and a stream of water running down my back awakened me and caused a slightly disagreeable sensation, but I soon got accustomed to that and can now sleep as comfortable in the rain and water as in the best feather bed. Think of some sleeping in the Shenandoah as I believed we have become: impregnable to wind, water, or fire.
            You have probably got ere this all the news and more, too, in regard to our march up this valley and it would be very hard for me to attempt to give you any kind of description of the fight outside of the part our own brigade acted. We could hear the firing of cannon and rifle and took no part in any of the engagements with the enemy. At the Battle of Cross Keys, our brigade occupied the extreme right and the infantry portion of it was not engaged at any time.
            We laid in a wheat field for about 15 minutes when the Rebels got very good range on us and then several shells fell in pretty close proximity to us, causing us to dodge down into the wheat in rather an amusing manner; fortunately none of them burst. We then advanced into a piece of woods and remained there until we were ordered off the field about 4 o’clock. We marched back about half  a mile to where the Rebels had first taken position and been driven from; there we formed a line of battle, posted our batteries, and waited for them. Pretty soon we heard a sharp hissing sound and saw a shell strike near Captain DeBeck’s battery, then two more came in rapid succession. By that time, our batteries opened their whole force upon the enemy and silenced them completely in less than five minutes. That closed up the fight for that night.
Map of the Battle of Cross Keys from my book Alfred E. Lee's Civil War (Map by Hal Jespersen)
            The next morning when we got up the bird had flown again; we started after them, the men being cheered up by the heavy cannonading we heard in front of us, supposing that Shields and his force was engaging the enemy at Port Republic and keeping them from crossing the bridge and that we had him bagged certain. When we arrived at the river, we found him and his whole force across the river and the bridge burned. Shields’ force only consisted of one brigade and had been repulsed and badly cut up. If we had only got there an hour sooner, we might have saved the whole thing. Our batteries opened upon them there and played a very lively turn for about half an hour, shelling them out of the woods.
            When we first arrived at the river, we saw a force of about 5,000 drawn up in line of battle below us and on the opposite side of the river. We supposed that they were Shields’ men from the fact that they had blue clothes on and that we expected his force to come in from that direction, so we did not open upon them. We soon found out that their clothes were some that they had captured at Front Royal. If we had known who they were, we could have shelled them out in less than five minutes, but before we found out, they got into the woods and we saw nothing more of them.
            The next morning, we “advanced backwards” and have finally brought up at this point and it is impossible to tell how long we will remain here. We are in hopes that we will be ordered to Richmond. The last Ashland Union dated May 25th came to hand the day we landed on the banks of the river at Port Republic and at the time our batteries were shelling the woods on the opposite side. It was our first mail in two weeks and you can bet they were welcome. I read everything in it, patent advertisements and all. There is only one thing we soldiers do not like to see in the papers, and that is the “Strawberries and Ice Cream” and “Schneidam Schnapps” advertisements.  It is a great aggravation I assure you and ought to be prohibited; the government ought to consider it contraband news and have it suppressed.
            Yours affectionately,
            F.S. Jacobs