Buckeyes Along the Monocacy

     In the opening days of July 1864, General Jubal Early, leading what was once Jackson's corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, crossed the Potomac River into Maryland with the aim of forcing General U.S. Grant to lessen his pressure on the main Confederate force at Petersburg. Early hoped to be able to make a rapid march on Washington; whether he really intended to actually attack the city or just demonstrate on it seems to be a matter of opinion. The fact is that his troops did skirmish with some of the outer defenses of Washington on July 11th and 12th, but by then, ample Federal troops were in the city. Regardless, it was a very close shave for the Federal government, and would have been considerably dicier had it not been for some hard fighting conducted a few days earlier by a scratch force of troops led by General Lew Wallace 50 miles north of Washington at a battle remembered as Monocacy. 

    Today's post features an account from each of the three Ohio regiments assigned to the 6th Army Corps that took part in the Battle of Monocacy: the 110th, 122nd, and 126th Ohio. Pulled from the lines at Petersburg, Virginia, the 6th and 19th Army Corps were dispatched to Maryland to halt Early's invasion of the state, and to secure Washington. The Third Division under General James Ricketts arrived at Baltimore first and was sent west via the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to Frederick, arriving at Monocacy Junction on July 8th. The presence of experienced veteran troops were a boon to General Lew Wallace's hopes of being able to slow Early's march; the 100-days volunteers were certainly eager enough, but there wasn't many of them at hand and Wallace probably had some real doubts as to how effective they would be under fire from veteran Confederate infantry. With the 6th Corps, he knew that he had proven men, hard fighters. 

    A total of six Ohio regiments (or portions of regiments) fought at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864; the three 6th Corps regiments listed above and three companies of the 144th,  seven companies of the 149th, and the a company of the 159th regiments (all 100-day federalized National Guard troops) were part of the Middle Department. 

Private Elias A. Barr, Co. I, 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

          Early on the morning of the 6th instant, orders were received to prepare to move immediately. An hour later we were on the march from our position south of Petersburg to City Point, a distance of 15 miles. Upon our arrival there, we got aboard transports and soon were steaming down the James River. Passing Fortress Monroe, we continued our watery journey until we reached Baltimore. At this city, we were placed upon cars and were soon speeding along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to some place, we knew not where. However, we did not long remain is ignorance as to our destination as a ride of a few hours brought us to Monocacy Brigade at which place we disembarked and camped for the night. The Third Division of the VI Corps was embraced in this movement.

          Pickets were thrown out, but everything wore such a peaceful appearance compared with the place we left that it seemed improbable and barely possible that the day following would baptize that tranquil place with blood. But the sequel shows that in the hour of serenity, a storm was gathering. The night passed without any alarm.

          Morning came and with it came the Rebels. They entered Frederick about sunrise, our troops having evacuated the place during the night. The pickets of our division were stationed two-and-a-half miles from the city who were informed by citizens coming within our lines of advance of the enemy. About 8 a.m., the first shots between the skirmishers were exchanged. Our line of battle had been previously formed and was in readiness for the approaching conflict. As the advance of the enemy was from the direction of Frederick, our line of battle was formed fronting in that direction. As a strong skirmish line of the enemy advanced, our skirmishers retired to the railroad, a distance of half a mile, from which position the enemy was unable to dislodge them, although they made several attempts.

          During the skirmishing at this point, the enemy moved to the left evidently with the design of flanking our positions in which purpose he was foiled. Our battle line changed front to meet the enemy in the new direction he had chosen for his advance. Skirmishing in front soon commenced, but the enemy proved too strong; our skirmishers fell back upon which our line of battle advanced and the engagement became general. We had but one line of battle and four pieces of artillery while the enemy had three lines of battle and at lease nine pieces of artillery.

110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry National colors

For a short time, the battle raged furiously, the bullets flying thick and fast, and the bursting shells made the air hideous. Our artillery expended all its ammunition, thus leaving the infantry as it were to the mercy of the enemy’s artillery which poured solid shot, grape, and shells both in its front and on the flank. Our line fell back, but soon rallied and advanced, but fell back a second time and a second time rallied. But it was impossible for our decimated ranks to longer resist the enemy’s advance. Valor could not avail or withstand a force so greatly superior in point of numbers. We retreated in considerable confusion at first, but after proceeding a short distance, a column was formed, and order again restored. Thus, was fought and lost the battle of Monocacy Bridge.

The color bearer of the 110th Ohio fell in the action and the colors left with him; seeing which Corporal William R. Moyer of Co. H seized the colors and brought them off safely, not, however, without great exposure to himself. It was a praiseworthy deed, and I take pleasure in noticing it in this connection. Our loss was heavy, and the loss of the Rebels could not be light as we could distinctly see them in squads carrying off their wounded. A few of our wounded fell into their hands and undoubtedly, they took some prisoners.

This map from the American Battlefield Trust shows the location of the 110th, 122nd, and 126th Ohio on the Third Division's right flank along with the 9th New York Heavy Artillery and 138th Pennsylvania regiments. Monocacy National Battlefield is headquarters at Gambrill Mill, a beautiful location just to the rear of their line. 

First Lieutenant Charles J. Gibson, Co. D, 122nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

          As there is no regular correspondent of the Herald in the 122nd O.V.I., perhaps a few lines from me might interest some of your readers, particularly those who have friends that were engaged in the battle at Monocacy Station on the 9th inst. On the 6th of July, our division was ordered from its position on the left of General Grant’s army at Petersburg to City Point, where we arrived the evening of the same day. Boats were there ready to receive us. The First Brigade commenced embarking immediately. About 1 a.m., five companies of the 122nd Ohio, together with all of the officers of the regiment except myself embarked and started for Baltimore. The balance of the regiment consisting of Cos. B, C, E,I, and K had to wait until 7 a.m. the next day when we found a boat ready for us. We took passage on the U.S. transport Sulver, had a very nice trip down the James and up the bay, arriving at Baltimore at 1 p.m. on the 8th. Hearing that the enemy was in force near Frederick city, we were hurried on the cars and immediately followed our division which had gone on to Frederick (all except the 6th Maryland, 67th Pennsylvania, and five companies of the 122nd Ohio) which seems we had passed some place coming up the bay.

We arrived at Monocacy Junction on the morning of the 9th; our forces at Frederick had already fallen back to Monocacy and about 9 a.m. skirmishing commenced along our front. We immediately formed our line of battle, my five companies on the right of the 126th Ohio and connecting with the 106th New York of the First Brigade. Colonel McClellan commanding our brigade ordered me to send out 50 skirmishers which I did from Companies B and C. About noon it was evident that the enemy were massing on our left as troops were seen going in that direction. Troops were sent from our right to the left which left the right a little weak. The skirmishers on the left charged and drove the enemy over a quarter of a mile through an open field, slaughtering many of them. It was no long, however, before we saw the enemy coming in two columns on a charge sounding the old familiar yell which have heard so much we know it whenever we hear it. Our skirmishers were driven in but our line was there and they could not move it. Now was our time to charge, the order was given, the boys raised a yell and went on the double quick, driving two lines of the enemy most beautifully over the same ground they had driven our skirmishers previously, completely turning their right flank; while we were weakening our right the Rebels were strengthening their left. We could see them on the double quick from their right to left. In a few minutes they threw three lines of battle on our right, compelling it to fall back, completely flanking us and nearly cutting our brigade off from the First.

122nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry regimental colors

General Wallace, seeing his brave little army overpowered, ordered a retreat which was commenced in good order, but the Rebs, coming in such torrents forced our boys to fall back a little faster than we were used to. We fell back about two miles where we rallied a strong rear guard which saved many from being captured. When we had got back to New Market, about six miles from Monocacy, we met the five companies of our regiment, the 6th Maryland, and the 67th Pennsylvania, which formed a rear guard back to Ellicott’s Mills, a distance of 36 miles.

All of the old vets elicited the praise of their commanders. They added new laurels to those already won on so many battlefields in Virginia during this campaign. Our provost guard picked up the colors of the 11th Maryland which does not speak very well for their courage. Our force engaged was about 6,000 infantry and seven pieces of artillery of very inferior quality, being four and six-pound guns, while the enemy had at least 12,000 infantry and twelve pieces of artillery, 12- and 24-pound guns which were worked admirably, their fire being very accurate and low.

The battle was fought in open ground where both parties could see the movements of each other. The enemy displayed the usual amount of courage, their color bearer beautifully coming out 20 steps in front of their line; at one place a little to the left of me they brought their colors about midway between their lines and ours where the color bearer was shot, leaving the colors between the lines for some minutes. About 230 of the 122nd Ohio were engaged; 72 of them were killed, wounded, and missing. Our total loss is about 1,500, 900 killed and wounded, 600 prisoners.  

A view from the other side of the Monoacy, looking towards the rear of the position of the three Ohio regiments where the covered bridge over the Monocacy goes up in flames. 

Corporal William T. McDougle, Co. K, 126th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

          On the evening before the Battle of Monocacy, we landed at the junction and camped nearby. I was on the detail for picket and was placed in charge of the post on the Frederick & Georgetown turnpike. During the night nothing occurred to disturb our peace. The morning dawned with halo of sunshine and beauty. The birds which we had been so unaccustomed to hear during our late journey from the Rapidan to Petersburg) never appeared to be so joyful. The large farmhouse on the hill to our left seemed almost a paradise with its surroundings of horses, hogs, cattle, fowls, etc. These things in the absence of our accustomed routine for the past two months were to me most impressive. We could scarcely believe it possible that before the setting of the sun this beautiful place would be the scene of such deadly strife.

          At length the clouds began to gather. The refugees were coming in great numbers- men, women, children, old and young, black and white, appearing to be moving with them all of their household effects. Firing was heard in the direction of Harper’s Ferry and we were told by the refugees that the Rebs were coming in great numbers. Nearer and nearer came the sound of the distant guns until at length we heard the shrieks of the shells as they pierced the air.

Private Joseph Whetstone of Co. A of the 126th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had served six months in the 4th Ohio Cavalry Battalion before he enlisted as an 18-year-old substitute on May 18, 1864 in the 126th Ohio; less than two months later, he was wounded at Monocacy, but survived to be wounded a second time September 19, 1864 at Third Winchester. He was mustered out with the regiment in 1865.
(Ohio History Connection)


The enemy had now massed in our front and was preparing to charge. Their batteries having opened, we were greeted by a volley. A cannon ball struck the tree by which we were posted; another dropped a few feet to our rear and went bounding across the valley like a schoolboy’s rubber ball; another struck and buried itself in the earth a few feet in our front. All was now commotion. The orderlies were galloping from place to place, the officers hurrying hither and thither with their commands. The pickets were ordered in. I found my regiment down on the right near the river bridge. The regiment was immediately ordered to the left of the First Brigade and near the picket post we had just vacated.

An incident occurred on our way which I think will bear passing notice. The enemy, perceiving our move, brought their batteries to bear upon us. A high board fence was to be crossed. As I took hold of the top board, I was crowded back by a more anxious comrade. As he swung himself over the fence, his knapsack was riddled with grapeshot. Again, I made the attempt with the same success. But this time my predecessor, as he swung himself over the fence, was struck in the left arm above the elbow by a grapeshot, his arm falling by his side. I again made the attempt and cleared the fence, barely escaping a large cannon ball that struck the board from which I had just alighted.

We found the enemy bearing down hard on the left of the First Brigade. They halted on a hill in our front. A large washout with a stiff growth of weeds on its banks extended up the hill. I was among the nine who crawled up in this to surprise the Rebs, two of our number receiving severe wounds. Judge our surprise when, in a short time, it was discovered that the Rebs had flanked us on the right and gobbled up the most of our regiment and held undisputed control of the field. I crawled on the bank but could see no chance of escape.

I had my gun loaded but, in the excitement, it occurred to me that I could not surrender with a loaded gun. A Rebel flag surrounded by 15 or 20 of its followers was on a knoll nearby. The Confederates did not appear to notice me as I raised my gun and sent my best wishes into their midst. I then threw my gun down and sat down, a prisoner! It was the most horrid thought that had ever entered my mind. Never before had I fully realized the blessing of liberty and now I had a fair prospect of being sent to Andersonville, Libby, or some other prison. I could not stand it, and springing to my feet and seizing my gun, I started for the North. They ordered me to halt but without effect, and then sent shot after shot after me till the air appeared alive with their gentle missiles but still without effect. One of them undertook to run me down, but after throwing away my knapsack I managed to make good my escape. That knapsack had two keepsakes which I lost: my diary, and the picture of “the girl I left behind me.”

Star from the national colors of the 110th Ohio courtesy of Heritage Auctions. 


Ohio Casualties at Monocacy:

110th Ohio   4 killed, 82 wounded, 52 missing, total 138

122nd Ohio  4 killed, 10 wounded, 46 missing, total 60

126th Ohio   6 killed, 43 wounded, 51 missing, total 100

144th Ohio   4 killed, 15 wounded, 28 missing, total 47

149th Ohio   4 killed, 10 wounded, 187 missing, total 201

159th Ohio   1 killed, 8 missing, total 9


Totals: 23 killed, 160 wounded, 372 missing, total 555

 

Sources:

Letter from Private Elias A. Barr, Co. I, 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Springfield Republic (Ohio), July 20, 1864, pg. 1

Letter from First Lieutenant Charles J. Gibson, Co. D, 122nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Morgan County Herald (Ohio), July 22, 1864, pg. 2

“An Indiana Soldier at the Battle of Monocacy,” Corporal William T. McDougle, Co. K, 126th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, National Tribune, February 21, 1884, pg. 7


 


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