A "Yankee" Trick Played on the 38th Ohio

In March 1864, Adjutant Joseph Newton of the 14th Ohio relayed the following story about a new recruit who joined the 38th Ohio when it was on veteran furlough, but who promptly “deserted” to the Confederacy his first night on picket duty.
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            It all started when the 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was home on veterans’ furlough in January 1864. While recruiting, a man calling himself Lyman Beecher Adams said he wanted to join the regiment. This name resonated with the Buckeyes as Connecticut-born Lyman Beecher was a noted abolitionist who had lived his Cincinnati for many years, making him a known quantity in the state. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was famous as the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Adams claimed that he was from Rhode Island and the Buckeyes thought that with a name linking men such as Lyman Beecher and John Adams, this new recruit must have a heart bounding with patriotism.

            “Being apparently sound in mind and body and responding to the name of Lyman Beecher Adams (which bespoke more than individual assurances of a patriotic ancestry), he was promptly received into the good faith and fellowship of the veterans of the regiment,” wrote Joseph Newton. “With such a name and hailing from the little state of Rhode Island, so fruitful in loyal progress, who could demand any further voucher or guarantee of his character?”

“He underwent the ceremonies attending his initiation into the volunteer service, accepted his allotted bounty, and started for the seat of war, sharing for a season with his companions in arms many of the fatigues and exposures incident to army life. During his passage with us, he continually repeated the sentiment of the Negro melody ‘I’m gwine ‘long down to Georgia, I ain’t got long to stay.’ 

Entry from state roster showing Lyman P. Adams joining Co. C of the 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The blank area next to his entry indicates a charge of desertion. 

            “Shortly after the arrival of the 38th Ohio in Chattanooga it was sent out upon picket duty and Lyman Beecher Adams was expected to and did (willingly of course) enter upon this rather unpleasant branch of the service but being a true soldier, he would not feign sickness or attempt to shirk from any duties. Taking advantage of this, his first experience on picket duty, he concluded to absent himself from the next roll call and with rifle, cartridge box, and person, he entered into the Rebel lines.”

            “A few days thereafter some Rebel officers with a flag of truce, having some communication with General Grant, appeared before our lines and were met by officers of our army. During the interchange of civilities common to such occasions, a Rebel officer stated that he had been requested by the late Lyman Beecher Adams to present his compliments to the 38th Ohio regiment, and to tender his grateful acknowledgements for their kindness in delivering him from the land of his captivity to the bosom of his friends. Lyman Beecher Adams was a Rebel captain under John Hunt Morgan and, having escaped from Johnson’s Island, was generously provided with a dead-head ticket to Dixie. The joke is to be relished exclusively by the Rebels. The moral of the story being that new recruits sometime need to furnish proper credentials before being accepted for the service.”
Lyman Beecher Adams? No way to know for sure but this crafty Confederate escaped from Johnson's Island prison camp near Sandusky, Ohio, joined the 38th Ohio, and promptly slipped back into the Confederacy when he had the chance.
(Library of Congress)

“Letter from Ringgold,” Daily Toledo Blade, March 21, 1864, pg. 2


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