Proving Their Mettle to Rosecrans: Rich Mountain and the 19th Ohio
When General William S. Rosecrans first met the soldiers of the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the summer of 1861 in western Virginia, the newly-minted Buckeye brigadier was less than impressed with what he saw. Calling them "the band box regiment," Rosecrans brought them along with his column of three Indiana regiments in a flanking maneuver at the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861, and it was here that the 19th Ohio started to build its reputation for steadiness, courage, and efficiency. Coming under a sudden unexpected fire, the Indiana regiments charged forward bravely but all discipline was lost as the men started to fight on their own hook. The officers of the 19th Ohio begged Rosecrans to send them forward, and when he finally assented, they made their presence known in dramatic fashion.
"The 19th Ohio, which had been formed into column of companies under cover, now wheeled into line, and with the exception of three companies who were held as a reserve, advanced rapidly till within 60 rods of the enemy. We then halted and fired a volley in good style, after which the men fired as fast as they could load for about an average of two rounds more, then advanced in splendid style to within less than 40 rods and fired a murderous volley as one man. Our first fire silenced the enemy’s battery and the second was terribly destructive. We had to aim high the second time in order to overshoot the Indianans who were skirmishing in front of us, and just as we fired the Rebels were forming in line in the woods behind their breastworks on the hill across the road from us, our shot struck right in their ranks (though we could not see them) and mowed them down in heaps literally," remembered Second Lieutenant Henry Wolcott of Co. C.
Rosecrans heaped praise on the regiment afterwards; their two battalion volleys had broken the Confederate line, and given victory to the Federals at Rich Mountain. The 19th Ohio would soon leave western Virginia for service in the western theater, where it would again serve under Rosecrans' command during the Stones Rover, Tullahoma, and Chickamauga campaigns. The following account of Rich Mountain penned by Lieutenant Henry Wolcott of the 19th Ohio saw publication in the July 24, 1861 edition of the Western Reserve Chronicle.
July 1861 
We were much elated at the prospect of a fight and camped in an old oat field as unconcernedly as if we were at Camp Taylor. Our trouble was rain and rattlesnakes which were plenty. Leland’s Band killed one in their tent, and one monstrous one was killed which had eleven rattles. On Wednesday p.m., we were called out for a fight but for some reason the attack was delayed and we went back to our tents in a severe storm of rain. We drew flour rations that night (just as we usually do when circumstances are such that we cannot cook them) and having neither saleratus or grease of any kind, we might as well have had so much sawdust furnished us. But we were used to it and it was useless to grumble, so we went supper-less to bed, only to be called to arms at 2 a.m. We formed in line and there stood in the cold damp of the morning till about 4 o’clock, then we marched out to the road and there halted for an hour in a cold drizzling rain. At last our march commenced and after a short distance we turned off the road into the woods and marched silently mile after mile through dense woods, over steep hills and deep ravines, following a wild path that our axmen had partially cleared for us. Our object was to make a wide detour and attack the enemy in the rear and cut off their retreat, while the other division under General McClellan in person was to attack them in front, and the regulars get their cannon into position so as to play upon the Rebels’ guns and silence them, if possible.
Our brigade consisted of the 8th, 10th, and 13th Indiana regiments, and the 19th Ohio and a squad of Cincinnati dragoons, all under command of General William S. Rosecrans. We had advanced to within three miles of their position, when to our surprise our scouts were fired on by the Rebel pickets and two of the Indianans killed and two others wounded. We pressed on at quick time for about a mile when it commenced to rain furiously; we were forced to halt some 20 minutes in order to preserve our guns from the wet. We were drenched to the skin but “kept our powder dry,” and pressed on about half a mile and there halted to reconnoiter, when boom went one of the Rebel cannon and whiz, crash came a shot through the trees right over our heads. Thus, the ball opened, shot, shell, grape, and canister followed spiritedly, but fortunately for us their range was too high and but few shots struck among us, otherwise many would have fallen. We soon pressed forward under the cover of the woods and the 8th and 10th Indiana, who were in advance of us, opened with their rifles, but as they advanced over the hill toward the road (on the other side of which the Rebels were posted behind a breast work of rocks and logs), they broke their lines and each sheltered himself as best he could behind rocks and trees while both sides kept up a brisk fire with deadly effect.
|The Federal force under Rosecrans overran the Confederate camp while suffering relatively light casualties; the 19th Ohio didn't have a single man injured during the battle.|
Meanwhile, the 19th Ohio stood steadily in ranks, exposed to the cannonade of the enemy but unable to reply. Our colonel Samuel Beatty begged in vain for the general’s permission to charge the Rebels and silence their battery, but at length the order came for us to advance and support Colonel Jeremiah Sullivan’s regiment [13th Indiana] who charged up the road to the left of the enemy’s position. The 19th Ohio, which had been formed into column of companies under cover, now wheeled into line, and with the exception of three companies who were held as a reserve, advanced rapidly till within 60 rods of the enemy. We then halted and fired a volley in good style, after which the men fired as fast as they could load for about an average of two rounds more, then advanced in splendid style to within less than 40 rods and fired a murderous volley as one man. Our first fire silenced the enemy’s battery and the second was terribly destructive. We had to aim high the second time in order to overshoot the Indianans who were skirmishing in front of us, and just as we fired the Rebels were forming in line in the woods behind their breastworks on the hill across the road from us, our shot struck right in their ranks (though we could not see them) and mowed them down in heaps literally. We were prevented from further firing by the Indianans who charged up the road on the left and had now reached a point so near the enemy that our fire would have been destructive to friends and foes alike. At our second fire, the Rebels fled in disorder and the field was won.
|Captain Norman A. Barrett|
Co. C, 19th OVI (3 months)
Later Colonel of 6th OVC
The force of the Rebels was some 800-1,000, our own about double that number, but we had no cannon and they had the advantage of position and fortifications. I visited the position held by the Rebels and found the ground thickly strewn with their dead. Their loss was between 100-200 killed, over 100 have been found and buried and every day more are found behind rocks and in the thick bushes. Our own loss is concealed as much as possible but as near as I can learn it does not exceed 20 killed and as many wounded and what is almost miraculous is that the 19th Ohio did not lose a man, most of the loss being sustained by the Indianans who were skirmishing in front of us. It is wonderful that none of the 19th Ohio were killed.
General Rosecrans told us publicly that the 19th Ohio was the steadiest, best-behaved regiment on the field. He had previously called us the “band box regiment.” The night after the battle was a dismal one; we had nothing to eat, were without blankets, and a cold rain was falling. We were ignorant of the force of the enemy who were encamped and strongly fortified on Rich Mountain only one and a half miles distant. Our pickets fired repeatedly and we were formed in line of battle several times expecting an attack. Imagination can hardly paint the gloom and discomfort of that night, as wet, weary, and half-starved we lay shivering on our arms near our scanty camp fires amid the dead and dying. In the morning, we marched to attack the Rebel camp but found it deserted. They had escaped in the darkness of night by some mountain path unknown to us, leaving their tents, wagons, etc. behind. We had nothing to do but taken possession of the spoils. 
 Western Reserve Chronicle, July 24, 1861, pg. 2
 Henry Goodrich Wolcott was born August 8, 1841 in West Farmington, Trumbull Co., Ohio. He was elected second lieutenant of the Trumbull Rifles, which became Co. C of the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on April 27, 1861 and served with the company through its 90-day term of service. He was mustered out of service August 29, 1861. He then enlisted as a corporal in Co. D, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry August 17, 1861. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant and evidently lost his right foot at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee. He was subsequently discharged June 6, 1863 by order of the War Department. Wolcott moved to Nebraska after the war and died July 27, 1925 at the Veterans’ Home in Sawtelle, California. He is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery.
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