Jeff Parsons of the 67th Ohio at the First Battle of Kernstown

One of the favorite regiments that I've been introduced to over the past 20 years of Civil War research is one discovered in my own backyard: the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 67th Ohio served exclusively in the eastern theater, starting off their service in the Shenandoah Valley fighting against Stonewall Jackson at First Kernstown in March 1862, then traipsed all over Virginia with Shields' Division before joining the Army of the Potomac at Harrison's Landing in the wake of the Seven Days battles. For the remainder of the war, the 67th Ohio served in what I would term the 'backwaters' of the war: Suffolk, Va., the sea islands in South Carolina, and then Bermuda Hundred. As Grant's army closed in on Petersburg, the 67th Ohio took part in the siege and played an important role in breaking the Confederate hold on Petersburg by storming Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865, and was present for the close of the war at Appomattox Courthouse.

The 67th Ohio's soldiers came from all over northwestern and northeastern Ohio, with large contingents from the Toledo, Cleveland, and Akron areas. As a matter of fact, I've found 67th Ohio soldiers' correspondence in more than a dozen newspapers from all over the state. However, one of the most interesting sets of correspondence I've come across was really the first that I found while indexing the Perrysburg Journal back in 2001. Wood County resident John J. "Jeff" Parsons enlisted in Company H on October 9, 1861 and was appointed Corporal when the regiment mustered into service in December. Corporal Parsons served with Co. H through early 1864 (he was promoted to Sergeant along the way), when he was commissioned as second lieutenant of Co. B. He was promoted again to First Lieutenant and was assigned back to Co. H on August 11, 1864- five days later, he was dead, having been killed while leading his company in a desperate charge on Confederate breastworks at the Battle of Deep Bottom Run.

In this letter below (his fourth letter published in the Perrysburg Journal), Corporal Parsons recounts his regiment's first time under fire during the First Battle of Kernstown which was fought March 23, 1862 by the men of Shields' division and about 3,000 men under the command of 'Stonewall' Jackson. It was a Federal victory, one of the few obtained against the legendary Confederate general, and a point of pride for the 67th Ohio as long as its veterans could tell the tale....

Strasburg, Virginia
March 30, 1862
 
Friends in Wood County:
            Let me express to you the success and joys of the 67th Ohio which we obtained at Winchester, Virginia on the 23rd of this month. On Saturday evening about 5 o’clock, we were hastily called out from our camp, which is situated two miles north of town, and hastened through and beyond the place about a mile, when we were greeted by the roar of one of the enemies’ big guns. We were immediately deployed into line as skirmishers and proceeded to our duty, but as battery H of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery (from Toledo) opened on them, the enemy thought best to draw back, and as the darkness came on things had to rest for the night.; three companies remaining out during the night as pickets, one of which was Company H. The first shot the enemy made was the means of wounding General Shields in the left arm. It was afterwards found that the enemy’s forces on Saturday evening were only composed of Ashby’s cavalry and two pieces of artillery.
Lt. Col. Alvin C. Voris led the 67th Ohio
at Kernstown- the former colonel Otto Burstenbinder
had been placed under arrest for a multitude of abuses
and would be dishonorably dismissed July 29, 1862.
 
On Sunday morning about 9 o’clock, they opened fire on us again, having been reinforced either in the night or early morning by Jackson’s forces of from 5,000-7,000 infantry. Dunn’s splendid battery was soon arrayed against them with the 67th in support. Here we were for the first time introduced to the hellish sounds of the enemy’s shells as they began to visit our position while on their intended messages of death, and while at the same time our own cannon were doing good execution hastening their infantry from one place to another. At noon our regiment was relieved by the 5th Ohio and we moved off to the right into a little wood where we remained for about two hours. We then returned to the support of the battery, the 5th moving to the rear. Just at this time, the enemy tried to flank our forces on the left, but our men having good guns and being superior marksmen, the Secesh were soon driven back to their reserve, many of them having received genuine passes to another world.
            The cannonading was then kept up on our side for a few minutes, but it was soon ascertained that their infantry was fast congregating in the woods in front of us just across a clear low land about a half mile distant and from all appearances about to make a charge upon us; but Battery L, 1st Ohio Light Artillery (brass battery with 6 pounders) soon hustled them out of that, and the way they hurried over the wood covered hill which they had chosen as their battleground and defense is indescribable. Just at this time we could very distinctly see that they were planting their artillery on quite a high hill nearly in front of ours, about a mile distant and to the right of their infantry, but our Parrot guns soon drove them back into the woods; yet they were not to be disappointed in this and soon opened on us with a large 24 pounder which they manned well, aiming this gun at our regiment. We were immediately ordered to lay down and hide our flag.
National colors of the 67th O.V.I.
Here we lay for nearly 5 hours in fair view of their gunners, some of their shells bursted in front of us, throwing dirt into our line while others produced almost a yell as they sped through the air, our batteries doing their best at the same time. While this cannonading was going on, Battery L of the brass guns ran out of ammunition and moved down to hill to our right, and directly in front of their left flank, not for the intention of charging them, for as I have said, they were out of ammunition, but for the purpose of drawing them further down to our right. This move had a charming effect as they soon had their guns stationed at intervals from their big 24 pounder above mentioned all along the ridge of woods, to nearly opposite our right and proceeded to open fire briskly on the defenseless battery, killing one of its gunners.
It had now gotten to be about 4:40 in the afternoon and as we were getting quite serious to know the result of the day, we saw Tyler’s Brigade, composed of several regiments including the 7th Ohio entering the woods on the left flank of the enemy. They soon met and commenced firing sharply, we about the same time receiving orders to arise and double quick across the flat and next in front. As soon as we started, they commenced on us with their artillery, throwing shell and grape accurately, but luckily we gained the woods, losing only one or two men. We gained the woods, ascended the hill and took our position on its brow, at the left of the 7th Ohio with the 84th Pennsylvania at our left, just in time to render great assistance to the 7th which was receiving the greater part of the enemy’s shots. The rebels were behind and defended by a stone wall which ran parallel with and 20 rods in front of the line of Tyler’s Brigade. As we came up, we formed a right angle with Tyler’s men at the same time opening a cross fire on the hidden rebels where we could shoot lengthwise of the wall. In this position, we showed our good will for our country’s sake for about half an hour, when the enemy became panic stricken and turning their backs to us, commenced hunting more comfortable quarters as fast as possible while our men were yelling and hallowing for joy at the top of their voices as they continued to pursue them as fast as they sped on.
Map of the Battle of Kernstown by Hal Jespersen (www.cwmaps.com)
 
Soon the enemy attempted to make another stand, but this time we routed them for good and as our men were so overjoyed with their success, they rushed upon several of the enemy’s cannons, turning them upside down before they could be gotten away, the gunners being obliged to cut their things and flee for their own lives, leaving several guns to our care. Here night set in and huddled in a heap on the fallen leaves among the dead sons of Dixie, awaited the coming morn. Those who have died in the Union forces up to this date from effects of the battle number a little over 100, while Jackson lost in killed and wounded from 500 to 600. Our wounded were about 150, while his is unknown yet undoubtedly will swell up to 400. The battle was a hard fought one and many a brave son fell, but through the kindness of Him who is ever mindful of the right, we sustained our cause and won a glorious victory.
The Rebels continued to flee during the night, carrying off many of their wounded in wagons, a fact which was proved the next day as we followed them, finding many houses along the road filled with them. The prisoners taken in connection with the killed and wounded will without exaggeration exceed 1,000. Secesh stragglers tell us that Jackson fled, showing no mercy to his men, and is undoubtedly by this time 50 miles from our lines.
But my story is becoming lengthy, and suffice to say, that we are sweetly anticipating an evening not many months hence when with our dear ones at home around glowing firesides, we shall relate the many little incidents and hairs breadth escapes of which we were ourselves eyewitnesses, while in the service of our country, fighting her battles.
Long may our country stand.

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