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Sunday, April 5, 2020

"May God save us from any more such days" Lieutenant Adams of the 57th Ohio Describes Shiloh

In honor of tomorrow marking the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, I take pleasure in presenting the following account written by Second Lieutenant John Adams of Co. G, 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He wrote this reminiscence many years after the war and it was published in the Findlay Daily Jeffersonian

Second Lieutenant John Adams, Co. G, 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
(Robert Van Dorn Collection)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

"Lead is a Terrible Reformer" The 49th Ohio at Shiloh

It was a calm, quiet, beautifully sunlit April Sunday at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, but Captain James M. Patterson (1832-1917) of Co. K of the 49th Ohio was soaked to the skin, shaken both by the cold and what he had witnessed since crossing the Tennessee River a week before. The rain began as his regiment waited nervously at Savannah, Tennessee on Sunday night April 6, 1862, a regular “Baptist downpour” it was called; a tremendous thunderstorm punctuated by the dull heavy roar of the Union gunboats as they dropped shells towards the Confederate lines all night long. “It rained nearly all night. In fact, the elements have been so disturbed that it rained nearly all the time until today,” he wrote on Sunday April 13, 1862. “We never got our tents until last night but we are now fixed and I can now write. I have seen the elephant, I have stood upon the bloody field of Shiloh amidst the showers of grape and shell.”
A period print showing the 1st Ohio of Rousseau's Brigade going into action at Shiloh; the 49th Ohio operated in support of Rousseau and were called into action at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. The heavily wooded and rolling topography is evident in the print, as is the close quarters in which the men fought. 
Patterson’s 49th Ohio Infantry had had a long day’s march to arrive at Savannah the previous Sunday; a confusion of orders had the regiment marching at a regular pace, then sped up because they were needed at the front, then slowed down again, and finally at dinner time, the order came: “abandon all teams and press forward with all possible haste.”

          “We reached Savannah at 10 p.m., tired and hungry,” he wrote. “We learned that we could not get up the river by boat before daylight as there are two divisions and two brigades before us. We stacked our arms and lay in the streets. The rain fell in torrents and every house in town had been converted to a hospital. Every boat brings down her hundreds of wounded. Surgeons and citizens do all in their power to comfort them and ease their pains.”

          “At intervals, the cannon still belches forth their messengers of death. It is understood that the Rebels have driven back our forces to the water’s edge and although that day had been baptized in blood, the next was to crown the climax,” he stated. “It was indeed a night to try the bravery of us all, but every boy nerved himself for the conflict. Morning came, and it still rained and the dead and wounded were still brought down the river.”

“We marched aboard the John B. Roe and were soon upon the stream for the field of danger. [Colonel William H. Gibson reported that the regiment boarded the Roe around 9 a.m.] The conflict of the day had already began, and as we moved up the river, we would meet boatloads of wounded. The cry was ‘hurry on, we need you!’ I passed among the boys and although there was not as much merriment as usual, I could see that every man had made up his mind to drive the rebels from the field or die a hero. We soon reached Pittsburg Landing and hurried to the field. [Gibson reports their arrival as 11 a.m.  An unnamed correspondent to the Tiffin Tribune recalled on the march to the field that “the atmosphere was impregnated with powder and the deep roar of cannon mingled with the sharp rattle of musketry told of death’s dread harvest. The field was not darkened with smoke as a strong wind from the South lifted it up so that at a distance the cloud of smoke hanging over the ground and above the tree tops looked like a vast burning forest.”]
Union and Confederate casualties littered the battlefield  at Shiloh. 

“We were drawn up in line of battle and advanced to the right of Rousseau’s Brigade as their cartridges had given out- the first thing the boys knew they were in close range of the enemy and hot work began. We fought with coolness and judgment. We fired into the Rebel ranks a constant sheet of lead and they replied with vigor and courage worthy of a better cause. Twice did they get upon our left flank and force us to change front on the first company.”

Lieutenant Colonel Albert M. Blackman continued the story. “We were brought into action about 1 p.m. occupying the left of the brigade and the extreme left of the division. Our position was taken under a severe fire from infantry and artillery, but my men came up firmly and fired with coolness and precision that soon caused a wavering in the ranks of the enemy. Shell and grape shot from one battery was very annoying to my left without doing much damage, their range being too high. We advanced to our second position continuing to fire by file. The enemy now attempted to take advantage of the exposed condition of our left. He advanced up a ravine and opened fire, quartering on my left and rear. I at once changed front to the rear on the first company. This change was made in perfect order, the men behaving in the very best manner. Our fire soon drove the flanking force from their position,” Blackman wrote. The regiment changed front again and continued to push the Rebels to their front.

“After a desperate conflict of nearly two hours, the Rebels were forced from the field and compelled to give up the struggle,” Patterson wrote. [The unnamed Tribune correspondent added that “we captured several prisoners and two hospitals full of Rebel wounded. As we approached the hospitals, a white flag met us to notify that they were hospitals. A very gentlemanly Rebel surgeon was in attendance and Colonel Gibson told him we would respect the hospital unless fired on from them, in which case we would fire upon and burn them to ashes.”
"It was very common to see three or four Rebels laying behind the same tree, each shot through the head," Patterson reported. This engraving from the National Tribune shows two Federals gawking one of those dead Rebels, the Confederate soldier frozen in position about to fire his rifle. Soldiers at Shiloh saw sights beyond imagination. 

“But oh what a sight was there. Wounded Rebels laying side by side with the dead. It is impossible for me to describe the scene. They wounded a large proportion of our men in the arms and legs while our men shot with wonderful precision. Most of the battleground is in the woods and the Rebels would get behind trees and shoot; as a result, it was very common to see three or four rebels laying behind the same tree, each shot through the head. We buried our dead first and then the Rebels. On Friday, we buried 2,700 Rebels. I have seen as high as 150 buried in the same pit. The Rebels have fought us in every shape and I think made their last desperate effort. The prisoners say their generals told them in their speeches if they were whipped here, it would be their last effort.”
Private Sam Houston, Jr., Co. C, 2nd Texas Infantry. Patterson met Houston when a detail under his command loaded the young soldier aboard a hospital boat headed to Illinois. "He was shot through both thighs; he is a lad of about 23 years and told me his father was still a Union man and told him not to join the Rebel army for the South was all wrong, and that he himself now learned his father was right. I thought yes, my lad, lead is a terrible reformer."
“Yesterday I had a detail of men to load some wounded on a boat. We loaded 300. It rained all the time and I got very wet, in fact I have not been dry in nearly a week. Among the number of wounded we loaded on the boat was the son of Sam Houston of Texas. [Houston was serving as a private in Co. C of the 2nd Texas]. He was shot through both thighs; he is a lad of about 23 years and told me his father was still a Union man and told him not to join the Rebel army for the South was all wrong, and that he himself now learned his father was right. I thought yes, my lad, lead is a terrible reformer.”

Weekly Tiffin Tribune, April 25, 1862, pg. 3

Friday, April 3, 2020

You May Glory in Us Now: Powder-Stained Bayonets and the fight before Shiloh

Two days before the battle of Shiloh, two companies of the 72nd Ohio became involved in a fracas with 400 Alabama cavalry south of the drill field near Shiloh Church. The regiment was conducting battalion drill under the guidance of Major Leroy Crockett around 2 in the afternoon on Friday, April 5, 1862 when the sounds of musketry were heard to the south.

Fearing an attack upon the Federal picket line, Major Crockett, at Colonel Ralph Buckland’s order, led two companies (B and H) and deployed them in a skirmish line to find the Confederates. Crockett took command of Co. H on the right and led them into the thickets while Captain George Raymond took his company (B) off to the left. The two companies were soon out of sight of one another and a mile and a half south of the picket line, Co. B ran into a hornet’s nest of cavalry. Heavily outnumbered, the Ohioans conducted themselves well in this, their first engagement with the enemy.
Private Chester A. Buckland
Co. B, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Died of wounds sustained at Shiloh 

          The following letter, penned by Private Chester A. Buckland of Co. B, describes in great detail this engagement of April 4, 1862 from the perspective of a green recruit in the ranks. It was written in the evening of Saturday, April 5, 1862, mere hours before the Confederates ran into the Federals at Fraley Field and opened the bloodiest battle in American history to that point in time. His final words to his mother are prophetic: “Good bye, dear Mother and remember if I die, it is for my country.” Buckland was mortally wounded the following morning and would die a few weeks later. His letter was published in the April 25, 1862 issue of the Fremont Journal.

Camp Shiloh, Tennessee
April 5, 1862

Dearest Mother:
          You may glory in us now. Yesterday, while drilling about a mile from here, our pickets were fired upon. In a very few moments, the 72nd Ohio was on its way to battle at a double-quick step, Company B in the rear. When we arrived at a convenient place, we were deployed as skirmishers and were to try and surround the Rebels. Henry and I were near the end of the company. The company was in groups of four and each group was 20 paces apart. An order was given to rally on the first group when the front commenced to fire but ceased before we could get up.
Captain George Raymond
Co. B, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

          We moved around for nearly an hour in a body making frequent halts. Every ear was listening and every eye watching eagerly for sound or sight of the enemy. Nearly an hour from the first fire we got sight of them again and nearly all got a chance to fire. We think one was killed or badly wounded. Here we found there were more of the enemy than we thought and so we retreated to a kind of pen built of rails and then to a big tree on the brow of a ravine. In a little time the Rebel cavalry rode up in sight and then the fight began. I could hear the balls go “whizip” through the air and strike the trees around us. There were a 150 Rebels against 44 of us!

Once in a while one would drop from his horse or a horse would fall dead or wounded. We would load, run up to where we could see, drop on one knee, take aim, and fire, and then run back to load. In this way we made them believe there were a good many more than there were of us.

In this part of the fight two men were wounded, Charles H. Bennett in the right leg and James Titsword through the left breast above the heart. When we had fought for about three-quarters of an hour, it commenced to rain and hail which made it difficult to load without wetting the powder. Then the Rebels retreated. In a very little time it rained so hard we could not see more than a couple of rods, which was just exactly the time for them to ride on to us and cut us to pieces. We threw out guards to wait for them. I never knew it to rain so hard.

When the rain ceased, we saw them forming on a sort of prairie beyond the reach of our Enfields. In a short time, they gave us a great shout and advanced on us. As soon as they were in good reach, we commenced to drop them again. They had been reinforced to about 400-500 beside what they may have been in reserve. We fought here about a quarter of an hour more during which three more were wounded and several had shot holes in the clothes- one having a thumb broke, two shots in his arm and one in his boot. Now was a desperate time.
Private John M. Lemmon
Co. B, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

The Rebels fired a volley, drew sabers, and began to advance. They were on three sides of us. Our hearts began to sink. We rallied round the old white oak, each one firmly grasping his gun with its powder-stained bayonet and determined to give as good as we got. How fierce we felt.

Our last chance seemed gone when a volley sounded in the rear of the Rebels. It was the 72nd! How loud the hurrahs sounded then! It was the sweetest music I ever heard! The Rebels turned and fled. We were saved! We fired as long as we could reach them, and then took Titsword in acre, after which we went over to where part of the Rebels had been. We found two of them mortally wounded. Our Enfields made wicked holes. The first was a boy about 18. He was afraid of us and wanted to know what we would do with him. We answered that we should take care of him as we would of our own men. Thus assured, his fears were allayed. The other man was about 25. We carried them as far as the pickets where we had to leave them for we could carry them no farther. Each one said there were 400-500 of them. They were from Alabama, were well-dressed and well-armed. These two men died last night.

The Rebels had carried all their wounded and dead away, but our cavalry say they saw about 20 dead Rebels in the woods and there must have been many wounded. I saw four dead horses. Company A passed over the ground where our heaviest fire was aimed and found a great many sabers, pistols, guns, blankets, and everything they couldn’t take away. They had a battery not far from where we were, and the cavalry followed them nearly into it. I have heard our men took two pieces of artillery but am not certain if it be true.
Color Sergeant Gustavus Gessner
Co. H, 72nd Ohio Infantry
Wounded and briefly captured April 4, 1862

None of our side were killed but Major Crockett, I fear, is a prisoner. The last seen of him he was riding like a flash through the woods followed by a dozen Rebel horsemen. He had no arms with him and couldn’t fight them. A sergeant and a corporal were taken prisoners from Co. H. Company H had four wounded, one the color sergeant Dr. Gessner’s son. He was taken prisoner and told to climb up behind one of the Rebels which he would not do. The Rebel drew a revolver and snapped it at him but is misfired. He ran while the Rebel was cocking it again and when the fellow shot, he hit him in the shoulder.

Our men took nine or ten prisoners who said they hadn’t thought we could shoot so well. We must have killed about as many as there were of us for every man took aim and there are some who don’t miss often. Orin England and Eugene Rawson were with our company and neither one of them had even a pistol. But as soon as Titsword was wounded, Orin took his gun and cartridge box and fought well, while Eugene stood up with the boys and talked and laughed and told them to keep cool and take good aim.  It was no light matter to stand up unarmed and a lot of Rebels shooting at you.
Private Samuel Shutts
Co. B, 72nd Ohio Infantry
Killed in action at Shiloh, April 6, 1862

Our fight will not probably appear in the papers, but we had a hard struggle and against most fearful odds. Ten to one is a great disadvantage. Two minutes more and Co. B, 72nd Ohio would have been no more. We would have all been killed for each one would have died fighting. It would have been a barren victory for there would have been a dead Rebel or two for every one of us. Our bayonets were fixed and they are sorry things to run upon. We weren’t willing to stop fighting.

How soon we will have another fight I don’t know but any minute the long roll may sound for battle. We may fight and die but Mother, your sons will never quail. It is getting too dark to write so I must close. Good bye, dear Mother and remember if I die, it is for my country.

Your son,
Chester A. Buckland

To read more about the 72nd Ohio at the Battle of Shiloh, check out my other blog posts on this subject:
General Buckland Explains the Battle of Shiloh
72nd Ohio Flag Captured at the Battle of Shiloh
John M. Lemmon and the Battle of Shiloh
Honoring Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Crockett, 72nd Ohio Infantry

For a lengthier study of the service of the 72nd Ohio, please check my book "Sherman's Praetorian Guard: Civil War Letters of John McIntrye Lemmon, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry" available through my bookstore.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Chronicles of the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

The 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was raised throughout northwestern Ohio, with companies from Defiance, Fulton, Lucas, Henry, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood Counties making up its ranks. Shortly after mustering in, the regiment was sent (sans any training) to Cincinnati to help defend the city against the Confederate invasion of Kentucky. They spent the fall of 1862 and winter of 1863 moving from post to post in eastern Kentucky and while busily engaged in "bushwhacking," never had an opportunity to take part in a major engagement. That changed in the late summer of 1863.

Quoting Whitelaw Reid, "On the 13th of August, the regiment went into camp at Danville preparatory for the march to East Tennessee. Upon arriving at Knoxville, a portion of the regiment was sent up to the Virginia State Line to guard the railroad. The detachment, 240 strong, was captured by the enemy and sent to Richmond, Virginia." The engagement mentioned occurred at Limestone Station, Tennessee, and while it was not mentioned in the following piece, the comment about stretching his hands to deliver his fellow soldiers from Danville is in reference to the men captured at Limestone. 

This whimsical piece, written by a soldier of Co. F of the 100th Ohio under the pen name Maumee, was published in Parson Brownlow's organ of East Tennessee Unionism the Knoxville Whig and Rebel Ventilator on page 2 of the April 2, 1864 issue. 
Image of unknown soldier from the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, likely from Co. A as it was raised partially in Wood County. Note the "100" on his kepi; this image likely dates from the enlistment of the regiment in the summer of 1862. Photo courtesy of Wood County Historical Museum

"Chronicles of the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry"
1.     Man that is born of woman and enlisteth as a soldier in the 100th Ohio is of few days and short rations.

2.     He cometh forth at reveille, is present also at retreat, yea even at tattoo, and retireth apparently at taps.

3.     He draweth his rations from the commissary and devoureth the same. He striketh his teeth against much hardtack and is satisfied. He filleth his canteen with applejack and clappeth the mouth thereof upon the bung of a whiskey barrel and after a while goeth away rejoicing in his strategy.

4.     Much soldiering has made him sharp, yea even the seat of his breeches is in danger of being cut through.

5.     He coventeth with the credulous farmer for many turkeys, chickens, and pigs; also, at the same time, for muck milk and honey, to be paid for at the end of ten days and lo, his regiment moveth on the ninth day to another post!

6.     His tent is filled with many delicate morsels of delicious taste which abound not in the Commissary Department; and many other things not in the returns and which never will return; yet, of a truth, it must be said of the soldier of the 100th Ohio, that he taketh nothing that he cannot reach.

7.     He fireth his Enfield rifle at midnight and the whole camp is aroused and formed in line of battle, when lo his mess comes bearing in a nice porker, which he solemnly declareth so resembled a Secesh that he was compelled to pull the trigger.

8.     He giveth the Provost Marshal much trouble, often capturing the guard, and possesseth himself of the city. At such times lager and pretzels flow like milk and honey. He giveth without stint to his own comrade, yea and witholdeth not from his neighbor soldier.

9.     He stretcheth forth his hand to deliver his fellow soldiers from Danville from the power of the enemy; yea he starteth at early dawn from Richmond, even a forced march doth he go, and toileth through much suffering, privation, and much vexation of spirit until they are delivered. Verily I say unto you, after he suffereth for want of tents and camp kettles. Yea, in Camp Ella Bishop his voice was heard proclaiming loudly for hardtack and coffee, yet he murmureth not and consenteth to share the hospitalities of his neighbors.

10. But the grunt of a pig or the crowing of a cock awaketh him from the soundest sleep, and he goeth forth until halted by the guard, when he instantly clappeth his hands upon his bread basket and the guard in commiseration alloweth him to pass to the rear. No sooner hath he passed the sentry’s beat, he striketh a bee line for the nearest hen roost and seizing a pair of plump pullets, returneth soliloquizing: ‘The noise of a goose saved Rome, how much more the flesh of the chickens preserveth the soldier!’

11. The many acts which were performed by the soldier of the 100th Ohio Infantry on the march across the Cumberland Mountains and the trip up the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad and many things which transpired at the siege of Knoxville if they were all to be chronicled would require much paper to contain them. And many things doeth he, and lo they are not recorded in the morning reports of Company F? Yea, verily.


To read more about the 100th Ohio, check Tony Valentine's site here

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Damning Wartime Knoxville

Private Harry Comer of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry gained a reputation for wielding a spicy pen, but after three months of occupation duty in and around Knoxville, he was fit to be tied. “Of all the places I have ever seen, this Knoxville certainly the most uncouth and vile,” he began his regular missive to the Lancaster Gazette on April 4, 1864 “The majority of the people here are camp followers, knucks, cracksmen, shoulder hitters, confidence men, etc., who, blended together with the army play offs who possumed sick when their commands left for the front constitute one of the most God-forsaken, law-defying, conglomerated masses of vice and immorality that Heaven in its mercy ever permitted to exist.”

          Southern cities occupied during the Civil War became playgrounds for criminal activity and hubs of illicit trade. Knoxville was no different in this regard. The city had been bitterly divided over the question of secession, and two local editors, William G. “Parson” Brownlow of the Knoxville Whig and J. Austin Sperry of the Knoxville Register, hurled personal invectives at one another during the debates over secession. In June 1861, a special election was held in which Tennessee voted to leave the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Eastern Tennessee had by and large been opposed to secession and an acrimonious period of Confederate occupation soon began.

          In September 1863, Union forces under General Ambrose E. Burnside occupied the city and were later joined by a contingent sent from the Army of the Cumberland which included the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 4th Corps commanded by General Gordon Granger drew this assignment, and the 1st Ohio was assigned to Second Brigade (General William B. Hazen) of the Third Division (General Thomas J. Wood) along with the 6th Indiana, 5th, 6th, and 23rd Kentucky, along with the 6th, 41st, 93rd, and 124th Ohio regiments. The 1st Ohio spent the winter months of 1864 encamped around Knoxville; Burnside’s 9th Corps had returned to the east by April 1864 which, in Comer’s opinion, left the 4th Corps with little to do but guard the 23rd Corps! And with that shot across the bow, here is the rest of Comer’s incendiary missive…
Knoxville, Tennessee in 1860