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Dreaming of Powder, Musket Balls, and Bloodshed: The 15th Illinois at Shiloh

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Private Willis S. Thompson of Co. F of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was the regular correspondent of the Woodstock Sentinel during his three years’ service in the Civil War. It was nearly eleven months into their service before the 15th Illinois first “smelled powder” at the Battle of Shiloh; they had spent months marching around Missouri and had arrived at Fort Donelson right after the surrender, missing the battle altogether. Thompson’s account of the battle of Shiloh, drawn from several letters he wrote to the Woodstock Sentinel, provide a private’s viewpoint of the desperate fighting that took place near Review Field on April 6, 1862. The 15th Illinois served as part of Colonel James C. Veatch’s Second Brigade of Brigadier General Stephen Hurlbut’s Fourth Division of U.S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee. Other infantry regiments in the brigade including the 14th and 46th Illinois and the 25th Indiana.

The Indignant Old Eagle: Bearing the Colors at Hatchie Bridge

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Isaac McCoy’s usual duties as orderly sergeant of Co. C of the 68th Ohio during battle kept him in close proximity to the regimental color guard. [Companies C and H formed the center of the regiment, each company on a flank of the color guard] On the morning of October 4, 1862, as the 68th Ohio left Bolivar, Tennessee to intercept the Confederate army retreating from their defeat at Corinth, Mississippi, it was discovered that someone was needed to carry the regimental banner as the usual color sergeant was away ill. “Old Zeke” McCoy stepped in to fill the void and bore the colors through the ensuing Battle of Hatchie Bridge fought the following day.
The Battle of Hatchie Bridge pitted three brigades of Federal troops against Sterling Price’s Army of the West. The battle, a Union victory, cost both sides roughly 500 casualties and other than giving Price’s army a nudge in their retreat, was bereft of significant results. The Federal pursuit of Price’s and Van Dorn’s armies ended short…

Stealing a Locomotive: An Andrews Raider Tells His Tale

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Corporal Daniel Allen Dorsey of the 33rd Ohio was among the first of Andrews’ Raiders to provide an account of that abortive raid upon his escape into Union lines in the fall of 1862. In April 1862, a group of 24 men (two of whom were civilians) penetrated Confederate lines into Georgia with a plan to destroy bridges along the Western & Atlantic Railroad which ran between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. They surreptitiously boarded a train at Big Shanty, Georgia, and ran it north, pursued along the way by a persistent Confederate conductor named William A. Fuller. After a chase of 87 miles, the Raiders abandoned the train and tried to escape back to Union lines. Within days, all of the Raiders were captured. Eight of the men were eventually hung in Atlanta.
Corporal Dorsey escaped from the Fulton County Jail on October 16, 1862 and made his way back into Union lines at Somerset, Kentucky. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his participation in Andrew’s Raid, commis…

A Buckeye Surgeon Behind the Lines at Franklin

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Safely in camp in Nashville, Tennessee on December 6, 1864, Surgeon W. Morrow Beach of the 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry penned this lengthy account of the Tennessee campaign through which he had just passed. The trials and dangers of the overnight march from Columbia through to Franklin still filled him with horror and relief that somehow the army had gotten through. The battle of Franklin presented horrors enough to last a lifetime. Surgeon Morrow's letter was published in the December 22, 1864 issue of the Madison County Union and is presented in two parts. Part I covers the march from Columbia through Spring Hill, while Part II covers the Battle of Franklin and the retreat to Nashville.

A Buckeye Surgeon Recalls the Dark Passage Through Spring Hill

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Safely in camp in Nashville, Tennessee on December 6, 1864, Surgeon William Morrow Beach of the 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry penned this lengthy account of the Tennessee campaign through which he had just passed. The trials and dangers of the overnight march from Columbia through to Franklin still filled him with horror and relief that somehow the army had gotten through. Dr. Beach had served as assistant surgeon with the 78th Ohio for two years, taking part in the aftermath of Shiloh, Holly Springs, and the Vicksburg campaign, later becoming a member of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee. In June of 1864, he was commissioned surgeon of the 118th Ohio and served with that regiment for a year, mustering out June 24, 1865. After the war, he returned to his farm in Madison County, Ohio and continued to practice medicine, also serving as a state senator from 1869-1873. Surgeon Beach died of paralysis May 5, 1887 and is buried at Deer Creek Township Cemetery in Lafayette, Madison Co…

Negley’s Division Escapes the Beartrap at Davis’ Crossroads

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Sergeant Launcelot L. Scott served a three-year term of service with the 18th Ohio and saw action in some of the toughest battles of the Civil War, but the tightest spot he was ever in was at the little-remembered engagement at Davis’ Crossroads in the days leading up to the battle of Chickamauga. As relayed in his article from the National Tribune, General James S. Negley’s division of the 14th Corps entered McLemore’s Cove on September 9, 1863 having crossed Lookout Mountain intent on reaching Lafayette, Georgia. The Federal army was operating on the mistaken premise that Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee was in full retreat; as Negley’s division approached Dug Gap, they found themselves confronted in front and on both flanks by determined Confederates. As the situation became clear to General Negley on the afternoon of September 11th, the division was ordered to retreat out of the beartrap set by Bragg and just in time. Sergeant Scott was convinced that the indecision shown by Gene…

A Staff Officer with the 23rd Corps Remembers Resaca

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The following letter about the Battle of Resaca was written by an officer serving on the staff of Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox. Cox commanded the Third Division of the 23rd Corps and the officer was on detached service with Cox from the 103rd Ohio. The 103rd Ohio was part of the Second Brigade of Cox’s division in General Mahlon D. Manson’s brigade (65th Illinois, 63rd and 65th Indiana, 24th Kentucky, 103rd Ohio, and 5th Tennessee) and at Resaca was led initially by Colonel John Casement; the wounding of General Manson elevated Casement to brigade command and devolved command of the 103rd unto Captain William W. Hutchinson who was killed in battle. The life of a staff officer on the field could be filled with danger as this officer describes. Dodging Confederate shell fire, he witnessed one shell pass “not more than a foot from my right side, which I can see distinctly turning end over end and the air was very severe, but fortunately it did not explode, or it would have been good ev…