The 25th Ohio Gets Stung at Honey Hill

     November 30, 1864 is often associated with the lopsided Federal victory at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, where an army of 33,000 Confederates charged repeatedly against a line of breastworks held by a Federal army of 30,000 men and lost 6,252 men in the process against Federal losses of 2,326.

The battered Confederate survivors of Franklin might have taken some grim solace in the fact that a few hundred miles away in southwestern South Carolina, a small Confederate army of 1,400 men gained an even more lopsided victory against 5,000 Federals at the Battle of Honey Hill. The similarities between the two battles abound with the roles reversed: the Confederates were on the retreat and had taken up a position at Honey Hill to protect their line of communications (the Charleston & Savannah Railroad), had built up a line of breastworks, and the Federals then battered themselves to a bloody pulp against them for hours, losing 755 casualties and inflicting roughly 50 on the Confederates.

Among the Federals that suffered at Honey Hill was the storied 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry, a regiment which had seen hard service with the Army of the Potomac at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The 25th Ohio had, as a matter of fact, suffered so many casualties in those last two battles that it was sent down to South Carolina in 1863 to recuperate. When the regiment elected to veteranize in early 1864, 17-year-old Samuel A. Wildman of Norwalk, Ohio joined up, and was assigned to Co. B where he was soon promoted to the rank of Corporal. The summer and fall of 1864 was a quiet one for the 25th Ohio, performing garrison duty at Seabrook Landing on Hilton Head Island. At Honey Hill, it would lose 155 men, losses rivaling that which it sustained at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. 

          In late November 1864, word reached General John G. Foster, commanding the Department of the South that General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army was marching south from Atlanta, and he decided to dispatch General Edward Hatch with 5,500 troops to cut the Charleston & Savannah Railroad, thus preventing any reinforcements from reaching Savannah and impeding Sherman’s march. Corporal Wildman picks up the story from there, Honey Hill being the first time he had ever been under fire.

 

Samuel A. Wildman, Co. B, 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry (1846-1934)
Judge Wildman later served for more than 20 years on the bench as a common pleas and circuit court judge in Norwalk, Ohio. 

Boyd’s Landing, near Pocataligo Beach, South Carolina

December 6, 1864

    At last, my real soldier life has commenced. I have “smelt powder,” seen the chaos of battle, heard the crash of artillery and musketry, done my duty well as I could in the front of battle all day long and came out unscathed. A week ago today, the 25th Ohio left camp at Fort Howell and marched to Hilton Head where we embarked immediately on the Cosmopolitan, a large steamer generally used as a hospital boat, but appropriated to transporting troops on occasion. The harbor was full of transports loaded with soldiers, to the number of 6-8,000, bound none of us knew whither.

    About 3 o’clock Tuesday morning the expedition started. At first, fortune seemed unpropitious, for the whole fleet got into the wrong channel and at daylight we had not passed Seabrook Landing.  The fleet turned back to get the channel and about halfway between Seabrook and the Head, the Cosmopolitan ran aground on a sand bar and was passed by the rest of the squadron. After several attempts to get off the bar, during which we were assisted by the Enoch Dean, the troops were taken aboard other steamers. Two or three companies of the 25th, among them Company B, took the Nemaha, General John Foster’s flagship, and arrived at our place of debarkation about 3 or 4 p.m., having passed two or three of the other steamers on the way.

This period map depicts a portion of the Georgia and South Carolina coastlines in December 1864. The 25th Ohio had been on garrison duty at Hilton Head for months before taking part in Hatch's expedition against the Charleston & Savannah railroad. The site of the battlefield was just south of Grahamville at center left.


    We were now at Boyd’s Landing where we disembarked, finding many of the troops already ashore. Long before this time we had surmised at our ultimate destination- the Pocataligo Bridge on the Charleston & Savannah Railroad. Several attempts have been made during the war to force a passage of this bridge and burn it, but all have failed thus far. I believe our troops had never until now effected a landing so near the bridge as this point. We halted perhaps half an hour and then started inland, the 127th New York taking the lead followed by the 25th Ohio. We were divided into two brigades under the command of General Edward Potter and Hatch. The 25th Ohio was in that of General Potter. Pickets had been stationed along the road to a considerable distance from the landing.

    I will not detail all the incidents of our march which lasted until 1 or 2 o’clock Wednesday morning. We missed our way twice, and were traveling much of the night on the wrong road. At the time mentioned, we halted at a church stationed at a crossroads only about four miles from the Landing. Just at daylight we were awakened by the firing of our pickets. It proved to be a false alarm but we did not again lie down. About 7 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday November 30, we again commenced our advance and soon found the enemy. A battery of their artillery was posted on the road in front as shelled us as we advanced. As soon as we were near enough for their shells to begin to take effect, we formed in line of battle, the right wing of the 25th on the right of the road and left wing on the left in fields covered by tall dry grass and weeds. 

    We continued to advance along these fields when the left wing found its onward course opposed by a dense wood.  I cannot describe these South Carolina forests. They must be much like the chaparral of Mexico, which I have read of, full of thick undergrowth of thorny vines, so dense that the eye can penetrate but a few rods into them and seeming like an impassable obstruction in the way of a marching column. Even our skirmish line did not try to advance, but the whole line of battle halted a few minutes and then moved by the right flank to the road and crossed. I am describing, you understand, the movements of the left wing only of the 25th Ohio, we having lost sight of the companies on the right of the regiment when we first separated from them.

Lt. Col. Nathaniel Haughton
25th O.V.V.I.

    Now we found ourselves on the right of the road and again steadily advanced, the shells of the enemy’s battery bursting overhead in front and in rear of us, but fortunately without effect. We soon found another obstacle to our passage, more invincible than the first. The high grass of the field had been set on fire between us and the Rebels, perhaps purposely, perhaps accidentally by the fire of the artillery. The wind was blowing in our faces and the broad sheet of flame swept rapidly toward us, roaring and crackling in its onward course. Major Carrington E. Randall, who was in command of the left wing of the 25th Ohio, moved us by the flank to the other side of the road again when we advanced in spite of thorny brush and Rebel shell and shot. We relieved the skirmish line which had been composed of the 127th New York and pushed on.

    A battery of our artillery unlimbered in the road on our right, and we halted to await the effect of their fire. They opened on the enemy and a few well directed shots silenced the latter and removed the principal obstacle to our progress. The Rebel battery fell back, we returned to the road, and again moved forward by the flank. The right wing of the regiment joined us and we were glad to learn that they had lost only one man thus far wounded. Onward we still pushed, undeterred by the occasional skirmishing in front, which became more frequent, until finally there was an almost continual rattle of small arms. I hardly know how it commenced, but almost before I expected it, we were formed in line of battle, the 127th New York and 32nd U.S. Colored Troops on our right, and the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment and the 144th New York on our left. The line extended I know not how much further in both directions, but the regiments named are the only ones whose positions I knew. A tremendous roar of musketry had commenced along the line, but we steadily advanced right into the tangled wall of vines and briars which clung to us as we tore our way through them.

    I was on the left of the 25th Ohio which had become badly mixed with the 55th Massachusetts and it is not surprising that I soon found myself among black faces instead of white and totally at a loss to fix the whereabouts of my comrades. I soon saw white men on my left and pushing through to them found that they were the right of the 144th New York regiment. By this time, I had been joined by two or three of our boys who had been separated from the 25th Ohio in the same manner as myself and we were on the point of falling in with the 144th New York when someone gave us a clue to the position of our own regiment which we soon after found. All this time we had driven the enemy till we had crossed a road in our way and just as I joined the 25th we entered the woods on the opposite side. Up to this time I think we had lost no men in our company, but we were not long to remain unscathed.

The 25th Ohio was located near the center of the Union line at Honey Hill.

    We advanced perhaps half a mile in the woods which I think were somewhat more open than they had been before we reached the road when at last our onward progress was stopped by a more determined resistance than we had yet met. We were before an entrenchment of some kind, although the density of the woods prevented our seeing it at the time and the Rebels poured a murderous fire into our ranks. Sergeant Moses Grandy was shot down close to me, mortally wounded, Lowell Reese fell nearer the right of the company, a bullet passing through his wrist and wounding him in the face as his hand was raised in the act of loading. Corporal Williams was wounded and started to the rear and also William Benson and Orderly Sergeant James McGuckin nearly at the same time I think, and within the first few minutes after our onward progress had been stopped in front of the Rebel fortifications.

    For upwards of an hour, we loaded and fired and in unbroken ranks for we were fighting every man for himself and on his own hook, standing, kneeling, or lying according as the nature of the ground offered opportunities of shelter. I saw Ira Sturges loading and firing a little way to my left and joined him. He was standing behind a tree close to which Watros of Co. B and a man from another company lay wounded. It was the busiest place I saw during the day, the bullets cutting the grass, striking the tree, and whistling all around us. I examined Watros’ wound and finding that he could walk with a little assistance, helped him a few rods to the rear and bound up his wound which was a bad one. Watros was wounded in the neck, and I helped him a little way to the rear and made him as easy as I could. I returned to the tree where I had left Ira Sturges and commenced loading and firing as before. Sergeant Henry Benson joined us and talked a few minutes with me, telling me he had just assisted John Perdue (badly wounded) off the field. While we still stood loading and firing another messenger of death struck Benson down in his tracks. He fell on his face without a word or a groan. I turned him on his back with his head on his knapsack and removed his waist belt, unbuttoned his vest, shirt, etc. He was shot through the lungs.

    For some time, the contest went on when our ammunition gave out and the battle line fell back in good order to the road by the side of which there was a ditch and bank which served us as an entrenchment. Soon after dark, we retreated under cover of our artillery which shelled the Rebel works far into the night. We moved silently back past the church and crossroads and bivouacked at the landing. It had been a desperate fight for the numbers engaged. The 25th Ohio lost in killed, wounded, and missing 162. Company B’s loss was three killed and 19 wounded, a total of 22 out of 52 engaged, nearly half the company. We shot away about 100 rounds of ammunition to a man.

 

After the war, Wildman returned home to Norwalk where he married and began the practice of law, eventually serving more than 20 years on the bench as a common pleas and circuit court judge. He died December 22, 1934 at age 88, one of the last survivors of the 25th Ohio.  

Source:

Corporal Samuel A. Wildman, Co. B, 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Norwalk Reflector (Ohio), January 3, 1865, pgs. 1-2

All that remains of the national colors of the 25th Ohio; the flag has deteriorated so badly that most of the battle honors cannot be made out. 


Casualty List

Field and Staff

Wounded and died of wounds

Major Carrington E. Randall, died December 16, 1864

Adjutant John O. Archbold, died December 1, 1864 

Company A

Killed

Private Thomas C. White

Wounded

Sergeant James Justus

Sergeant John Weyer

Private Richard D. Fawcette

Private William S. Hughes

Private Charles Kline

Private Samuel L. McClelland

Private James McCormick

Private Eli Nevour

Company B

Killed

Sergeant Henry Benson

Sergeant Moses D. Grandy

Private Michael R. Newton

Wounded and died of wounds

Private Gideon M. Jones, died January 14, 1865

Wounded

First Lieutenant Alexander Mattison

Sergeant M.C. Gullin (Not in state roster)

Sergeant James McGuckin

Corporal Dennis H. Odell

Corporal Benjamin F. Welch

Corporal Theodore S. Williams

Private William Benson

Private John Bowers

Private Martin Brown

Private William Holman

Private John Perdue

Private Enoch Porter

Private Lowell Reese

Private Peter Roberts

Private Abraham Starkey

Private Joseph N. Walters

 

Company C

Killed

Private James M. Henthorn

Private George Wright

Wounded and died of wounds

Second Lieutenant Austin Haughton, died December 7, 1864

Corporal James Ridgeway, died January 4, 1865

Private James A. Easterman, died January 19, 1865

Wounded

First Lieutenant Oliver W. Williams

Color Sergeant John H. Twaddle

Corporal William H. Battin

Corporal Isaiah Masters

Private Jesse Conley

Private Thomas M. Finley

Private James Greer

Private Benjamin Harson

Private John Henderson

Private Charles H. Lockwood

Private William M. Lowther

Private Dias N. Markee

Private Albert Read

Private William H. Steed

Private Amos Spieglemire

  

Company D

Killed

Private David Bandy

Private Michael Shaffer

Wounded and died of wounds

Corporal Emanuel Stevens, died January 19, 1865

Wounded

First Lieutenant Maurice S. Bell

Sergeant Theodore Vangundy

Corporal Judson K. Taylor

Private John Bixler

Private George W. Bogart

Private Alban Cluff

Private Thomas S. Crawford

Private Joseph Faulk

Private David Flower

Private George Hardinger

Private Barclay B. Haycock

Private James L. Kemper

Private John E. Robb, Jr.

 
Private Daniel Knisely, Co. E, 25th O.V.V.I.
Wounded in action at Honey Hill

Company E

Killed

Private Jeremiah Mackey

Wounded and died of wounds

Sergeant Thomas Howell, died January 1, 1865

Private Jeremiah Grant, died December 4, 1864

Wounded

Corporal Harvey M. Hall

Corporal Frederick Schultz

Corporal Edward J. Teeple

Private Howard Carman

Private Oscar Cotant

Private Frederick Gilyer

Private Daniel Knisely

Private John Lesh

Private John Miller

Private Daniel Potter

Private John Shoup

 

Company F

Wounded and died of wounds

Private Isaac Burkheimer, died December 15, 1864

Private Martin Zimmerman, died January 13, 1865

Wounded

Sergeant John Tucker

Sergeant Hugh Wilson

Corporal Francis D. Manger

Private John Brownlee

Private William Caw

Private Joseph R. Collins

Private John C. Huffman

Private Michael Huffman

Private John D. Russell

Private William F. Shannon

Private Alfred Stewart

Private Eli Westfall

 


Company G

Wounded and died of wounds

Second Lieutenant Ethan W. Guthrie, died April 8, 1865 (leg amputated)

Private Elbridge Scott, died December 28, 1865

Private Nelson Thorp, died January 11, 1865

Wounded

Captain Burget McConnaughey

Sergeant John Dyarrman

Sergeant Isaac Troxel

Corporal Elijah S. Karns

Corporal Oliver C. Longmire

Private Frank B. Adams

Private Emory B. Elliott

Private Simon Keck

Private Joseph Piccard

Private Spencer S. Saunders

Private George Schaub

Private John W. Shotwell

Private James Wagner

Wounded and missing

Private Lucius Moore

Private Eli S. Styles

 

 

Company H

Killed

Corporal John Gillespie

Corporal Eli Pyle

Private Oscar J. Dunn

Wounded and died of wounds

Corporal Theodore Timberlake, died December 19, 1864 (leg amputated)

Wounded

Sergeant Thomas J. Barclay

Sergeant George S. Clements

Corporal Artilius Musgrave

Private William A. Barrell

Private George W. Eager

Private Miles Geary

Private Samuel M. Gillespie

Private John W. Grier

Private Rule Noland

Private Thomas B. Sheets

 

Company I

Wounded and died of wounds

Private Hugh Scullen, died December 15, 1864

Wounded

Captain Israel White

First Lieutenant John H. Kehn

Sergeant Samuel G. Shirk

Sergeant Joseph H. Wilson

Corporal James W. McWilliams

Private David F. Brown

Private Michael Consodine

Private Alvin O. Holoway

Private David McMunn

Private Minor (Not in state roster)

Private James V. Moore

Private Charles R. Thompson

Private Austin Wharton

Private Wilson (Not sure which)

Wounded and missing

Private Jacob Wanzel

 

Company K

Killed

Color Sergeant Augustus Knaack

Private John Bowers

Private George Shure 

Wounded and died of wounds

Corporal Joseph S. Grim, died December 10, 1864

Wounded

Captain Charles W. Ferguson

Second Lieutenant Peter Triquart

Sergeant Morrison Lewis

Private George Angel

Private Frederick Conrad

Private John P. Linden

Private Frederick Richards

Private Charles A. Smith

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