Raiding with Crook: A 23rd Ohio Private Remembers Cloyd's Mountain

The 23rd Ohio was among the most notable regiments that served from the state in part because it was the “birthplace” of so many generals and Presidents. Its first commander was William S. Rosecrans who went on to become a major general and led the Army of the Cumberland; its next commander, Eliakim P. Scammon, became a brigadier general as did its third commander Rutherford B. Hayes. Stanley Matthews left the regiment as lieutenant colonel to head the 51st Ohio and was later a brigade commander. Two members of the regiment served as President of the United States: Rutherford B. Hayes from 1877-1881, and William McKinley from 1897-1901.

This post features a campaign letter from one of the privates in the ranks of the 23rd Ohio. Wilson B. Patterson was born May 24, 1841 in Morgan County, Ohio to Leander and Nancy Patterson. The 1860 census shows him living at home with his parents and working as an apprentice. He enlisted in Co. H of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry for three years’ service under Captain James L. Drake on May 30, 1861. His company was raised from north-central and northeast Ohio, with portions of the company coming from Ashland and Holmes Counties. He re-enlisted in 1864 and was transferred to Co. F on July 1, 1864, serving the remainder of the war with the regiment and mustering out July 26, 1865.

Patterson’s older brother Henry served in Co. B of the 52nd Ohio and survived the war. After the war, Patterson married Jenny Mary Long, moved to Wisconsin, and had two children, neither of whom survived him.  He died August 26, 1906 and is buried at Mauston-Oakwood Cemetery in Mauston, Juneau Co., Wisconsin.

Patterson’s account Crook’s raid into southwestern Virginia including the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain was sent home to his parents a few weeks after the campaign and published in the June 24, 1864 issue of the Morgan County Herald.

Captain Carlos A. Sperry and two unidentified men from his company (Co. B) in an image dating from  March 1862. Sperry mustered out of service in June 1864.
Library of Congress

Meadow Bluffs, West Virginia
May 29, 1864
I will occupy a few leisure moments in writing a few lines to you which you can give room in your columns if you see fit. I will now give you a slight detail of the recent raid on the Richmond & Tennessee Railroad by General George Crook. Our forces were concentrated at Fayetteville, Virginia on May 1st. Our force is composed of five Ohio regiments- the 12th, 23rd, 34th, 36th, and 91st along with four West Virginia regiments- the 9th, 11th, 14th, and 15th. The 1st Ohio Battery under Captain James R. McMullen, Captain Stenn’s 1st Kentucky Battery under Captain David Glassie, and two companies of cavalry rounded out the force which amounted to about 6,000.
General George Crook

On the morning of May 2nd, we broke up camp at daylight and set out for the railroad; we marched twelve miles and camped for the night on Black’s farms. Our scouts captured 200 bushwhackers and brought them into camp; they were sent with a guard and dispatched. The next morning, we broke up camp at 5 o’clock and marched to Ravine Creek- a distance of 14 miles. The next day we went to Princeton where we expected a little brush, but were put off with a little skirmish. Our advance guard charged into the Rebel camp and drove the Rebels from it; they ran like wild men, leaving their camp equipage to fall into our hands. All the officers’ baggage was left in a house in the town. Two of our boys were wounded slightly.

The next day we marched to Rocky Gap- distance 24 miles. Next day we marched to Camp Creek- distance 14 miles. Skirmishing took place several times during the day but none hurt on our side. On the morning of the 8th, we marched to Parisburg and Dublin Pike, cut the Rebel telegraph wire and dispatched to the Rebels to know what their force was at Dublin; they answered 40,000 and said they were ready to receive us. I suppose they thought they would scare us, but we didn’t scare worth a cent.

23rd Ohio Infantry Color Guard. These men "didn't scare worth a cent," either. 

We broke up camp Monday morning the 8th and started towards Cloyd’s Mountain where the main body of the enemy lay in their fortifications to receive us. The Third Brigade in advance, the Second Brigade next, leaving the First Brigade in the rear. We advanced about two miles when the enemy’s pickets fired on our advance guard but they were soon driven back toward the main body, closely pursued by our braves. The main column of our force advanced slowly; we soon came in range of the enemy’s batteries when they opened on us with shells.
Roadside marker commemorating the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain fought May 9, 1864
The Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Carr B.White of the 12th O.V.I., had taken a by road and went around on the enemy’s right flank. We took a path which led down a steep hill, so steep that we were obliged to hold to the bushes to prevent us from falling. We reached the bench and formed a line of battle and laid down waiting to hear from the Second Brigade. We did not have to wait long until we heard the skirmishers guns going ‘click, click.’ Shortly after we heard a volley and a cheer given by the enemy. We were then called to attention which was obeyed in almost an instant. We were then ordered forward. We left the woods, went into an open meadow which we had to cross, facing the enemy while they poured volley after volley into our ranks, but did little damage. The enemy was in the woods on the opposite side of the meadow from which we started. We went on the double quick. Just at the edge of the roads there was a creek which we had to cross; we did not wait to see who was going in first, but all plunged in together and crossed; there was a noble little hill which screened us from the enemy’s fire.
Shell-torn flag of the 23rd Ohio 

We halted a short time- then up the hill- charged on the Rebs through grape, canister, and showers of buck and ball, but not a man looked to the rear, but all forward- leaped the enemy’s works and drove them away. They lit out on a dead run- some of them got the dead without the run. We followed them, taking two pieces of artillery, 170 prisoners, and quite a number of their wounded which fell into our hands. They left one colonel, one major, and several captains and lieutenants, and 195 dead privates on the field. A contraband told me that they had sent nine car loads to Lynchburg. Their loss was very heavy; I cannot tell what our loss was exactly. Out of 470 in our regiment, Co. H lost seven wounded and none killed. The Rebs retreated beyond the depot. We camped at the depot for the night.

On the morning of the 10th, we burned the depot and a large quantity of Confederate Army stores of various kinds, then started down the railroad toward New River Bridge, tearing up the track and burning all the culverts as we went. We came near the bridge about half past 7 o’clock and found the enemy in position. Our battery got a position and in a short time silenced the enemy and drove them from their position. They left three siege guns to fall into our hands after burning the carriages of them. We set fire to the bridge, which burned down in a short time. We then went down the river about two miles, crossed, and camped for the night. We had then accomplished all we had desired and all we had to do was to get back. We were out of grub and far from home.

The morning of the 11th found us on our road by daybreak marching toward Blacksburg; then we began to see hard times. Nothing to eat and it was raining. We reached Blacksburg about 2 o’clock and had a little skirmish which killed a Rebel colonel of the 8th Virginia Cavalry and took one colonel prisoner, then camped and sent out foraging parties who soon found plenty to eat. The rain fell fast all night and we made the fences suffer to keep fire for us. On the 12th it rained all day. We marched to the top of Salt Pond Mountain and camped in the woods, or wherever we could find a spot to lie on. We lay down without either fire or food. There was but little sleeping done that night. The next morning it was still raining; the mud was so deep that we were compelled to throw all our camp equipage away and burn a part of our trains and double team in order to get along at all. After this was done, we started on our way rejoicing in the rain and mud without anything to eat.
Members of the regimental band of the 23rd Ohio in an image taken at Lakeside, Ohio in 1885. 
We descended the mountain, found a portion of Mudwall Jackson’s force; our advance fired on them and they lit out leaving ten wagons, two pieces of artillery sticking in the mud, which we then burned, that is the wagons. We took the artillery along and camped that night in the woods, sending out foragers and got what little we could. We pressed two mills, ground all the wheat and corn we could find, and stayed there until 3 o’clock the next day and then marched to a little town called Union. There we lived fat. The quartermaster issued corn in the ear and wheat in the chaff. We blew the wheat out of the chaff and boiled it and parched the corn and had a fine supper and breakfast. The rain still fell. We lay there one day. The morning of the 15th, the sun again showed his beautiful face which was cheered by the whole division. About 9 o’clock the assembly was blown and we were soon on the march for Alderson’s Ferry across Greenbrier River. Our regiment was in the rear and we did not get to camp until about 9 o’clock; had just got fixed down to sleep when Companies C and H had to go on guard to guard prisoners. We were two nights and a part of two days crossing the river. We had to stay on guard all this time, faring on the best of parched corn.
Wilson B. Patterson gravestone in Mauston, Wisconsin 


Most Popular Posts

Bullets for the Union: Manufacturing Small Arms Ammunition During the Civil War

Dressing the Rebels: How to Dye Butternut Jeans Cloth

Arming the Buckeyes: Longarms of the Ohio Infantry Regiments

A Buckeye Remembers Scenes of Horror After the Battle of Corinth

Mauled at Resaca: Eight Fatal Minutes for the 36th Alabama

Standing like pillars of adamant: the 61st Ohio at Freeman's Ford

The Cannons are Now Silent: The Field of Death of Tupelo

Buckeye Rapid-Fire: The 21st Ohio and the Colt’s Revolving Rifles

Dedicating the Gettysburg National Cemetery

A Galvanized Yankee Executed at Tullahoma