4th of July in western Virginia
In honor of the nations 242nd birthday, I thought a look back on how our Civil War veterans celebrated the 4th of July during the war might be in order. Private John J. Evers of Company C, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry wrote the following letter from Weston, Lewis Co., Virginia on July 4, 1861 which appeared in the July 18, 1861 issue of the Perrysburg Journal. Company C, known as the Monroe Rifles, was enlisted by Giles Shurtliff and was composed largely of students from Oberlin College; Evers was one of these students.
I know of no other way to give vent to the patriotic feelings which inspire the heart of every true American citizen on the glorious fourth even though he be on secession soil; so I write to the ever remembered Journal. I left the almost unbroken plain of northwest Ohio on the 24th of June and rejoined the 7th at camp from which place we made our exit Wednesday the 26th at 6 p.m. Went by way of Xenia, Columbus, Newark and Zanesville to Bellair. Crossed the river at Benwood, Virginia and all enjoyed sweet sleep with knapsacks for pillows and mother dust for beds. Although it was night, the passage from camp to Newark was one of continual cheering and “Give ‘em fits” from the crowds at the different stations. The train consisted of 56 cars heavily loaded and drawn by 4 heavy engines from Columbus through. Men, horses, and baggage wagons were all aboard. We are fully uniformed and equipped with one exception, and that is we have no canteens but many would rather go without than use the India rubber things which others have.
At Benwood, the ammunition was distributed. From this place to Grafton, 103 miles are the most wild, romantic, rugged, and in many instances beautiful hills I have ever seen anywhere. A great many of them are coal hills but have been used but little on account of the country being so thinly populated. This tract of country seems to have been designed for an Indian war ground or some other worthless thing because it is so rocky and barren that man could never sustain life here, except by “fighting seceshers” (as they call them) and clothed and fed by the United States. Grafton is Gen. McClellan’s headquarters in western Virginia. The 9 regiments now in Lewis, Harrison, and Barbour counties get their provisions from Clarksburg, it being the nearest railroad station. In order to make the transportation of troops safe, there have been guards placed on every bridge of the Ohio Central R.R. and whole companies of the 16th and 20th regiments guard bridges on the Baltimore and Ohio, so that all is secure.
The 7th is from the dreaded Western Reserve, consequently it will be fight or die for it. E.B. Tyler of Ravenna is Colonel. He has been doing business in Virginia for the last 20 years and is well acquainted with every winding stream, hill, and vale as any man in the Union. From Grafton, we took the railroad towards Parkersburg, 22 miles from Clarksburg. Pitched tents Friday night and remained until Saturday, 3 p.m. At this hour, we were called out and ordered to be ready in one hour to march.
The hour passed and we started out on what proved to be one of the most fatiguing marches I ever experienced. It was up and down hill all the way from camp to Weston, 24 miles and all afoot with not less than 40 to 60 pounds to the man. This was the case when we started, but many dispensed with their burdens entirely before we got through by casting them to the winds. We hadn’t a mouthful of provisions with us. The road was macadamized all the way and we were not allowed to break ranks. Many had thin soled shoes and boots on, which caused them to tread lightly over the stones for the last 10 miles. They say this was a forced march. I am sure the last three miles were with me at least. No one save the staff knew our destination. We started with 1040 men and got through with 850, the rest being left by the roadside. The Colonel expected to find a force of 1300 in this place as it was strongly secession, but they heard of our approach and left. The Colonel, however, gave us a little advice as we were entering the town, using the only oath I ever heard him use-“Now boys, by damn do your duty.” We did. Of the prisoners taken, there were 5 who said they wouldn’t take the oath of allegiance and were sent to McClellan. $27,000 in gold and silver was taken and I had the honor of guarding it from here to the railroad. It was to have been sent to Richmond at 10 o’clock Sunday and we got it at 6 in the morning.
S. Allen Day unfurled the flag given by the ladies of Bowling Green over the secession printing office by order of Col. Tyler. There are six Wood County boys in the 7th. It seems impossible to bring the enemy to an engagement as they retreat as fast as the Union troops advance. They are armed with shot guns and rifles which they possessed long before this. They make some good shots on our pickets though. The people of this place came out on Sabbath morn to get a glimpse of the approaching soldiers in an attire which indicates truce, it being too early to find them moving. They soon became Union people, and set the best tables for us which we made a famous charge on. General good health prevails. Crops do not look as good as in Ohio. Cattle raising is the main dependence of the people. As one of the men was being examined as to his loyalty, a big man of color walked lazily up and said, “Well massa, I guess you’re in for it.” He was surely.
Evers was promoted to the rank of Corporal on November 20, 1861, and took part in the Battles of Kernstown and Port Republic. He was severely wounded in the thigh August 9, 1862 at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia, and despite being in so much pain that "asked to be put to death, but loss of blood soon ended his sufferings and he died on the field in the hands of the enemy about midnight." (https://ehistory.osu.edu/exhibitions/Regimental/ohio/union/7thOhio/biogc)
Corporal Evans is memorialized upon one of the tablets at Wright Park at Oberlin. (http://www2.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/Civil%20War%20Monument/soldiers_monument.htm)
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