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Run-In with a Rake: The 40th Fights at First Franklin

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     In early April 1863, the 40 th Ohio Volunteer Infantry along with the other troops of the General Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland lay in camp north of the Harpeth River at Franklin, Tennessee. Confederate cavalry had become increasingly active in recent days and on March 25 th , General Nathan Bedford Forrest had struck Brentwood on the outskirts of Nashville and captured two regiments of the Reserve Corps. “General Earl Van Dorn with 9,000 cavalry, two regiments of infantry, and several pieces of artillery was reported at Spring Hill and along the pike south of there to Columbia, and on April 9 th , General David Stanley was ordered from Murfreesboro by way of Triune to strengthen General Granger at Franklin,” wrote Surgeon John Noble Beach of the 40 th Ohio. “It is probable that the movement of General Stanley from Murfreesboro precipitated the attack made on Franklin at noon on the 10 th . If Van Dorn could have had any hopes of a successful attac

The continued roar of a million lions: With Morgan’s Horsemen at Shiloh

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       Long after the Civil War ended, Charles W. Geers of Pilot Point, Texas reflected back on his service with the Confederate 2 nd Kentucky Cavalry during the war. The noted Texas newspaperman had received three wounds during his service and had been captured three times, escaping prison twice. He fought in skirmishes and battles too numerous to count, but some of his most vivid memories were those of the two days he spent at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Geers recalled his reaction to seeing the field strewn with the dead. “As we advanced upon that part of the battlefield already won by our boys, we saw the dead and wounded strewn thick upon the ground. Some were torn all to pieces by artillery. We thought of military glory and the cost of it, and one man was heard to say ‘Oh, I wish I was at home plowing in the field.’ The actual sight of so many corpses at first produced a chilly sensation, but this feeling soon wore off,” he wrote. Geers’ reminiscences were published

Bloody, Battle-Stained, and Miserable: A Wounded Buckeye Recalls Shiloh

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It was more than 40 years after the Battle of Shiloh when Robert Fleming sat down to compose a paper regarding his experiences as a 19-year-old private during the battle. As a clerk at the headquarters of brigade commander Colonel Jesse Hildebrand of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s division, Fleming had a safe behind the scenes viewpoint of the army going into action on the morning of April 6, 1862. But gripped with boyish enthusiasm, he left his desk duties behind and with a borrowed gun and cartridge box took his place in the ranks of Co. D of the 77 th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The Confederate attack soon opened upon his regiment and Fleming was soon shot down by a Rebel bullet. Twelve hours later, with the regiment driven back to Pittsburg Landing and hobbled with his own painful wound, Private Fleming was distressed to find that his older brother James was aboard the same hospital boat as himself. In an emotional passage, Fleming described his feelings as he cared for James

Arming Sherman's Buckeyes at Paducah

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     In the aftermath of the Federal victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman was tasked with organizing a new division of troops being gathered at Paducah, Kentucky, an important point at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Sherman was tasked not only with organizing and drilling these raw recruits, but he was also tasked with getting them fully equipped to take the field. General Sherman was pleased to have a chance to lead troops again and was especially happy to have his fellow Buckeyes joining his division at Paducah. When the 53rd Ohio reported to him in Kentucky, Sherman asked "How long do you expect to remain in the service?" An officer replied "the regiment has enlisted for three years and expects to serve its time." Sherman replied "well, you have sense. Most of you fellows come down here intending to go home and go to Congress in about three weeks."      In those early days of the Civil War,

Getting Bitten by the Bait: The 21st Illinois at Stones River

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It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, December 30, 1862. The location was just northwest of Murfreesboro, Tennessee where the advance elements of General Alexander M. McCook’s corps were pushing the outer line of the Confederate Army of Tennessee such as to take position for the night. Confederate resistance stiffened the further south and east McCook’s men pushed and by late afternoon, with the short winter day quickly turning to darkness, the scene was set for the sharp opening clash of the Battle of Stones River. Colonel John Washington Shields Alexander, 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry In the vanguard of McCook’s thrust were two regiments of Colonel William P. Carlin’s brigade of General Jefferson C. Davis’ division, the 21 st Illinois and the 15 th Wisconsin. As Carlin’s brigade continued to push forward, it was soon far out in front of the two other brigades of Davis’ division, and despite pleas from Colonel Carlin to the other two brigade commanders to come fo

Sawyer's Flag Collection: The 8th Ohio and Pickett's Charge

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  The echoes of battle had hardly been stilled at Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 3, 1863 when Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sawyer of the 8 th Ohio Volunteer Infantry received an order to march his regiment back to Federal lines “as soon as I pleased. We threw ourselves into a formation the men called a sandwich, that is half our regiment in front with our colors and the captured flags, then our multitudinous prisoners, and our rear guard with fixed bayonets. Colonel [Samuel S.] Carroll had just returned from Cemetery Heights and not having heard from us since the night before, made anxious inquiry as to our fate. “There they are,” said a staff officer, pointing to us just as we were getting our prisoners into line. Carroll, greatly excited, sprang up upon a gun, surveyed us through his glass and startled at the unexpected sight, exclaimed, “Look you fellows! There comes my old Eighth with the balance of Lee’s army!” 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry monument at Gettysburg (Image courtes

A Hard Looking Set of Men and Boys: the North meets the Fort Donelson prisoners

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     When General Simon B. Buckner unconditionally surrendered the Fort Donelson garrison to General U.S. Grant on February 16, 1862, the estimated 12,000-man Confederate garrison constituted the largest mass surrender in U.S. military history to that time. [This would be eclipsed by the Federal surrender of the Harper’s Ferry garrison in September 1862 and by the Confederate surrender at Vicksburg in July 1863.] The last time the U.S. Army had to handle that many prisoners went back to the days of Lord Cornwallis surrendering his army to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781.              A group of Confederate prisoners of war pose in front of their barracks at Camp Douglas in Chicago. As all four of these men are wearing overcoats, they are probably from a later group of prisoners that were housed at the camp. The initial Confederate occupants in February 1862 were noted for the absence of overcoats, the men using blankets, carpets, and other cast-off bits of cloth to help shield