Honoring Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Crockett, 72nd Ohio Infantry

    While reviewing issues of The Ohio Soldier, a National Tribune-like newspaper printed in Chillicothe during the 1880s and 1890s, I came across a couple of articles written by Captain John M. Lemmon of the 72nd Ohio. Today's article contains a talk that Lemmon wrote for presentation to the 18th annual reunion of the 72nd Ohio, and which was read at the reunion by Private Orlin A. Harrison of Company A. The subject of the talk was Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Crockett, a rather notable character of the regiment. 

    Leroy Crockett was 28 years old when he was commissioned as major of the 72nd Ohio while serving as first lieutenant of Co. K (enlisted in Tiffin) in the 1st U.S. Chasseurs, also known as the 65th New York Infantry. Captain Lemmon wrote, "Major Crockett had great capacity as a drill master and as an officer to educate, drill, and fit his soldiers for the field. It was he, largely, who drilled and trained the 72nd Ohio." Colonel Crockett was captured two days before Shiloh and spent many months in Rebel prisons before being exchanged; he then led the regiment during the Vicksburg campaign where he contracted the disease that eventually took his life December 10, 1863 while home in Seneca County, Ohio. 

    Leroy Crockett was born in Clinton Twp., Seneca County, Ohio October 21, 1832 and his people moved to Adams Township in 1833. He was reared on a farm. He received a common school education, was raised of good parents, and in pretty thoroughly right ways. Early on the breaking out of the war, he went into the military service. He had, for a short time, been engaged in business in Clyde, Ohio, I believe having charge of a grain elevator or warehouse there for himself. He joined a company which was in large part recruited at Clyde for the 1st Regiment U.S. Chasseurs then being organized in New York with Colonel John Cochrane for regimental commander. There were men recruited for this company from both Sandusky and Seneca Counties. This regiment was also known as the 65th New York Volunteers. He was lieutenant and was noted, I have always understood, as a competent, faithful, and gallant officer.
Colonel Ralph P. Buckland, 72nd O.V.I.

When the 72nd Ohio was to be organized, Ralph P. Buckland of Fremont it was understood would be its colonel; Herman Canfield of Medina was selected as its lieutenant colonel and Gilbert M. Ogden of Republic, Seneca County was selected its major. For some reason, Ogden did not conclude to go into the field, and after the regiment had been in large part recruited, it became necessary to select a major. It was then thought by many that it would be proper to select a man for major who had some military experience as the two senior officers were quite without. The result was that Leroy Crockett was selected for major. He resigned his commission in the 65th New York and was commissioned major of the 72nd Ohio. Major Crockett had great capacity as a drill master and as an officer to educate, drill, and fit his soldiers for the field. It was he, largely, who drilled and trained the 72nd Ohio. He went into the field with the regiment, was a young man who took great delight in drilling the regiment and as a consequence, had that work mostly to do. Lieutenant Colonel Canfield was a much older man, nearly as old I should say as General Buckland, who had much less interest in the drill field than such a man as Crockett; but against whom, let it be said, no word of disparagement can be truly uttered. It was at Shiloh in the preliminary skirmish before the battle that Major Crockett was made a prisoner.
Colonel Crockett returned to his regiment for duty at Corinth in January 1863, and very soon resumed command of the regiment. He had been promoted in the meantime to lieutenant colonel in place of Canfield who had been killed in the battle of Shiloh. Charles G. Eaton had been made major in turn. I think he was exchanged as a prisoner of war, so that he reached his home in Seneca County, Ohio in the latter part of November 1862. 

Lieutenant Colonel Charles G. Eaton, 72nd O.V.I.

He was in command of the regiment during the Vicksburg campaign, except when prostrated by illness, and headed it in the gallant charges made on Vicksburg May 19th and May 22, 1863. His health began to fail him before this siege of Vicksburg was over. He had been confined the best part of one year in Rebel prison and he had endured a great many hardships of prison life. The hardships of the campaigns, especially the Vicksburg campaign, were very great and they overcame him. It was very soon after the surrender of Vicksburg that those who were near him observed that his health was very seriously failing. I was serving at that time as adjutant of the regiment, and was very near to Colonel Crockett and enjoyed his friendship. There was one thing, however, that I always observed dominant in him, and that was a very strong desire to know that his regiment was properly cared for, the men properly looked after, and everything being attended to that was necessary for the honor and glory of his command. 

Captain John M. Lemmon, Co. I, 72nd O.V.I.

It was not Colonel Crockett who first suggested that he should leave the field and attend to his health. I believe at that time Major Eaton, our only field officer (for General Buckland was then a brigadier general in full) was away on sick leave, and very sick, too. But all of Colonel Crockett’s friends and especially the surgeon of the regiment, Dr. John B. Rice, strongly advised him that he could not live and remain where he was. The result was that after considerable persuasion Colonel Crockett yielded to the demand of himself and the wishes of his friends, and application was made for him for leave of absence. The rule was to allow but one field officer absent at a time, or at least to require that one field officer should remain with his regiment. We sought to make an exception to this by reason of sickness. The application was made out, and General Buckland went with me personally to division headquarters, where we got the approval of that officer, and a personal note to General Grant requesting that the application be granted. 

Surgeon John Birchard Rice, 72nd O.V.I.

On the next morning Colonel Crockett, accompanied by Dr. Rice and myself, went to the landing at Vicksburg, a distance of 18 miles from our camp where we hoped to get our leave of absence perfected, and to find the boat going up the river. This application for leave was made on Wednesday August 12th and approved by General Sherman. The next day in the afternoon we went to Vicksburg by way of Big Black Bridge, going part of the way by rail. We reached Vicksburg about suppertime, where we had a very fair supper and a very poor bed. On the 14th I had no difficulty in getting Colonel Crockett’s leave of absence from General Grant’s headquarters, and at 3 P.M. Colonel Crockett started north on the steamboat Albert Pearce. This was the last we ever saw of him living, except those of us who happened to meet him when home on furlough.
There never was a soldier more anxious to live, and there never was one of his grade that was more capable of doing valuable service. He came to his old home in Adams Township, Seneca County, Ohio. His health gradually failed, and it was not many months until he was unable to leave that home. He died in the county where he was born, December 10, 1863, of disease contracted while in the line of duty in the service of his country. The house in which Colonel Crockett breathed his last is that, I understand, in which his people have lived since the 1833, two years subsequent to his birth. His remains lie in the burial ground of the neighborhood, only a short walk from the house where he died. It is a beautiful country, and none of the soldiers of the 72nd have a more beautiful final resting place than Colonel Crockett.
It is impossible for me to exaggerate in praise of Colonel Leroy Crockett: he was a perfect model, in my opinion, of a regimental commander. He was severe in discipline, regular in enforcing all military regulations and orders. But it did not take a true soldier many minutes to discover that if he simply behaved himself as a soldier should he had a certain friend in Colonel Crockett.
There was one occasion that tested the metal of the men of the 72nd Ohio, in my opinion, rather more than any other, and that was in the assaults on Vicksburg. The assault on the first day (May 19) was made by approaching the Rebels works by the right flank of the regiment, four men abreast. The attempt was to move the troops in by this way, and then, after they had crossed certain hills or obstacles where the road was narrow and the passage difficult, they were to break to the right and form a regimental front. It is simply the truth to say that as soon as the Rebels had discovered what the movement was (viz., that the troops were advancing by the front) through the roadway, they poured in such a fire that it was simply impossible to advance, and the regiment broke away in two or three places to the right and down the hill on the brink of which we were moving. Colonel Crockett witnessed the occurrence, and, I am satisfied, never had a word of reprimand for any soldier who failed to keep in line on that occasion.
On the 22nd we were given a somewhat different position in which to advance, but the possibility of advancing was no better than on the 19th, and it was impossible to do more than plunge forward until we got under full view from the Rebel guns and then be shot to death. On the 19th, Colonel Crockett narrowly escaped being wounded, his clothes being shot through on the left side and front. Our troops on that day were almost constantly engaged. We had not a dozen men that we could take out of line and put on fatigue duty. Those of the troops who had got well to the front were needed there to hold our line, and those who had gotten there could not very well get there. It was while we were in these circumstances that Colonel Crockett himself engaged in the hard and perilous duty of carrying the wounded and disabled soldiers from exposed and unprotected place on the field, and aiding the stretcher bearers. That is, he assisted very materially in bringing these wounded and disabled men together in shady or secluded places where they could rest with some degree of comfort, and some certainty of protection until the stretcher bearers could carry them from the field to the hospital. I could mention a great many instances showing his great humanity and wonderful readiness to do those things that speak louder than words in favor of a man’s heart and sentiment, but it is probably unnecessary among the soldiers of the 72nd.

I could mention a great many incidents which would show the sense, courage, and resolution he had in enforcing military discipline and order among his troops. But in view of the fact that some of these narratives would not be pleasant to persons who are living, it is perhaps just as well to omit them. He had an almost undisguised contempt for an officer or soldier who shirked any duty, or shirked it ever so slightly. To be absent a moment without urgent necessity from a post of danger at a time of need was to almost irretrievably lose favor with Colonel Crockett. With all this strictness, he was as liberal, generous, and whole-souled as any man who ever drew a sword. I think there was no kinder-hearted officer in the 72nd.  


  1. I just stumbled across this. Thank you so much for sharing this. Leroy Crockett was my 1st cousin 5x removed and a 2nd cousin 5x removed two ways. Capt. Lemmon's article gives a nice history on someone who lived such a short life. I'm glad I found your blog.

  2. Dan - Where did you find copies of The Ohio Soldier? Is it digitized? Thanks!


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