Posts

Showing posts from December, 2021

A Band of Gypsies: The 19th Tennessee and the Fight for the Slaughter Pen

Image
     By the time of the Battle of Stones River, the 19 th Tennessee was one of most well-traveled regiments in the Army of Tennessee having moved through half of the states of the Confederacy in a year including Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia. Raised around Knoxville in the early days of the war, the 19 th was placed under the command of Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer and was among the first Confederate regiments to occupy Cumberland Gap. The 19 th Tennessee first smelled powder during the October 22, 1861 battle for Camp Wild Cat in Kentucky (see here ) but was not actively engaged in the fight. A few months later, the 19 th took part in the Battle of Mill Springs (see here ) and suffered a loss of 34 men. Following Zollicoffer’s defeat, the regiment retreated from southern Kentucky to Murfreesboro and then to Corinth, Mississippi where it joined up with the rest of Albert Sidney Johnston’s army. The regiment took part in the Battle of Shi

A Deadly Crossfire of Artillery: The 19th Alabama at Stones River

Image
    Private Parris P. Casey, Co. I "Cherokee Rangers," 19th Alabama Infantry died September 29, 1863 at the age of 23 and is buried at the Casey Family Cemetery in Cherokee Co., Alabama.       The Battle of Stones River started out badly for the men of Colonel John Quincy Loomis’ brigade of Alabama and Louisiana troops. It was scarce 7 o’clock when the 2,000 men of the brigade formed into line aiming to march across a cornfield and assail at Federal position in their front occupied by the brigades of General Joshua Sill and Colonel William Woodruff. Noticing the Alabamians forming in their front, the 8 th Wisconsin Battery and the 4 th Indiana Battery started to shell the woods that provided cover for the Confederates, bursting shells in the tree branches overhead and showering the men below with tree shards and shell fragments. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel King McSpadden, 19th Alabama Infantry Among the first casualties was the brigade commander Colonel Loomis. The colone

Retrieving Major Carpenter: Joseph R. Prentice Earns His Medal of Honor at Stones River

Image
It was midday on December 31, 1862, when the six companies constituting the 1 st Battalion of the 19 th U.S. Infantry were thrust into the furnace in the desperate fight to maintain control of the Nashville Pike at Stones River. “After taking our position on the hill near the railroad, we were again ordered with the remainder of the brigade to advance in line of battle into the cedars,” recalled Captain James B. Mulligan. “We engaged an overwhelming force of the enemy for a full 20 minutes. It was as we received the order to retire that our Major Stephen D. Carpenter fell, receiving six mortal wounds and dying instantly. The fire from the enemy at this time was terrific and our men were falling on all sides.” Private Joseph Rollin Prentice of Co. E, 1st Battalion, 19th U.S. Infantry was later awarded the Medal of Honor for retrieving the body of his commander from the field while under heavy enemy fire. He was wounded in action May 30, 1864 during the Atlanta campaign and discharged

Time for the 19th to try its grit: The 19th Ohio at Stones River

Image
     The 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was featured on this blog many months ago as being one of the quintessential regiments of the Army of the Cumberland , serving in its ranks almost from pillar to post during the Civil War. The 19th Ohio first met General William S. Rosecrans during the western Virginia campaign in the summer of 1861, and first fought under his flag at the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861. In that engagement, Rosecrans had sent three Indiana regiments to charge a Rebel encampment and when they wavered, he reluctantly sent in the 19th Ohio. Rosecrans had previously derided the 19th Ohio as a "band box regiment" so when they went into action, the men felt they had something to prove. Maneuvering into position, the regiment delivered two devastating volleys that broke the Confederate line and won for the regiment Rosecrans everlasting respect. (see the full story here )     Fast forward to December 31, 1862- the right wing of Rosecrans army is broken

Exploring Confederate Newspapers

Image
       One of the challenges I have run into over my years of researching the Civil War is the common one of the stark imbalance between the number of Federal and Confederate sources available to the researcher. It is not unusual to find three Union sources to each Confederate source which renders the challenge of providing an even-handed and impartial history at times a daunting one.       One avenue to address that imbalance, albeit a very time-consuming one, lies in perusing the pages of the hundreds of newspapers printed throughout the Confederacy during the war years. The newspapers often published correspondence direct from the soldiers in the army giving startling accounts of the marches, campaigns, and battles of the war. The knock on this approach was the fact that existing issues were available either in their original paper format or on microfilm and were not widely available outside of their home state of origin. So to access them, you either had to travel or pay someone lo

Under Most Trying Circumstances: With the 35th Ohio at Chickamauga

Image
      On the second day of the battle of Chickamauga, Samuel Perry Zehring of the 35th Ohio  took part in the rare event of two bodies of troops charging each other at the same time. It was on the morning of September 20th when his regiment and the 9th Ohio of Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer's brigade were called upon to stave off a Confederate attack that threatened to flank the left of the Union line. " General Breckinridge, with his division of Confederates, had already pressed the left and gained the rear of almost Baird’s entire line and coming upon a run struck our brigade upon the left flank as we were marching in close column to the front. Colonel Van Derveer, as only he could do, wheeled the brigade to the left, facing the enemy; this under the most trying circumstances. The enemy unexpectedly came on a full charge and within less than 100 yards of us, the dust so thick we could scarcely see the third man. Added to this were the straggling troops in full retreat, parts

Buckeye Sabers: At Aldie with the 6th Ohio Cavalry

Image
       The story of the clank of cavalry sabers and the crash of carbines did not often make the pages of Ohio’s newspapers during the Civil War, but Captain Norman A. Barrett of the 6 th Ohio Cavalry left this superb account of his regiment’s actions during the middle of June 1863 describing the opening phases of the Gettysburg campaign.      As Lee’s infantry columns moved north towards Pennsylvania shielded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry divisions nipped along the periphery of Lee’s cavalry screen to discover Lee’s intentions and stymie the march. In the span of about a week and a half, the 6 th Ohio clashed with Jeb Stuart’s troopers on four occasions at Stevensburg, Aldie, Middleburg, and finally at Upperville. The engagement at Aldie on June 17 th was a particularly hot fight as Captain Barrett recalled a few days later.      “We were at the foot of a gentle knoll that protected us from the first of the Rebel guns. Strongly posted in a hollo

Bloody Homecoming: Winchester and New Market with the 123rd Ohio

Image
       For Sergeant Frederick Wickham and his comrades of the 123 rd Ohio, marching through the streets of Winchester, Virginia in May 1864 had the sense of both a homecoming and a funeral. “This was my first visit to the place since my capture last June and to march through the streets of the old town seemed like old times and I assure you afforded me a great deal of satisfaction. The bands of the different regiments struck up “Yankee Doodle” and the men, keeping step with the music, marched along with light step and proud satisfaction. As we passed through the place, the citizens were gathered in front of their houses watching us as we passed along and many an angry scowl were gathered on their faces, denoting their hatred for us and our noble cause,” he wrote.      “Passing through town we marched out on the Strasburg pike a mile or two from town and encamped on the identical ground where we fought last June, and where so many of our brave and noble boys offered up their lives to

A Gunner's Life at Chickasaw Bayou with the 17th Ohio Battery

Image
       Writing home aboard the steamboat Hiawatha in mid-January 1863, Sergeant Absalom Mattox of the 17th Ohio Battery could scarce conceal his frustration with the fruitless result of the army's fight at Chickasaw Bayou.       " No soldier in this army had any other idea or thought of anything else but that we would take Vicksburg if we had to lie in the swamp a month," he wrote. "The idea of retreating never once entered my head, although I now think it the wisest thing General Sherman did, for had we remained there until this time and with the hard rains we have had in the last few days we would never have got out alive, for the Rebels could have shelled those woods and either killed us or taken us all prisoners. The expedition has not cost the government less than $10 million, besides many valuable lives and has resulted in no good, but on the contrary has cast a gloom over the whole country which will be hard to clear up."     The 17th Ohio Battery had be

Taking Fort Fisher with the 5th U.S. Colored Troops

Image
    Laying in line a few hundred yards from Fort Fisher in January 1865, Lieutenant Joseph S. McClelland of the 5th U.S. Colored Troops remembered the final hours before the fort surrendered. " I lay awake watching the flashes from the guns of the monitors and their terrific explosions in the doomed fort. About half past 10 we were called up to go and take part in the final charge. We had not got much more than started from our works, however, till the gunboats ceased firing and we could hear the sharp rattle of musketry. Directly afterwards, we saw a rocket ascend and then from every vessel in the fleet a rocket ascended and we knew that Fort Fisher, the Rebel stronghold, had fallen. They had made the charge before we had time to get there. We, however, marched up to the fort only to march back again. On our way to the fort we saw a great many wounded being carried to the rear and a number of dead were lying along the road," he wrote.      The 5th U.S. Colored Troops had see

Vanquished without disgrace: The 8th Ohio and the Charge Against Marye's Heights

Image
       At the age of 16, Thomas F. Galwey was the youngest lieutenant in the 8th Ohio Infantry. Born to Irish parents in London on April 15, 1846, he migrated to the U.S. in 1851, the family settling in Cleveland, Ohio. At the outbreak of the war, Galwey lied about his age (he had just turned 15!) and joined the Hibernian Guards which became Co. B of the 8th Ohio. He followed the fortunes of the regiment throughout Virginia and earned a battlefield commission following Antietam for the heroism he demonstrated on that field. Now in December 1862, his 8th Ohio was poised to assault the Confederate line atop Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. It was, Galwey wrote, "a hopeless struggle."      " The hills reverberated the thunder of cannon and Marye’s Heights were almost hid in smoke, which was pierced by the glare of Confederate cannon and of bursting Federal shells, and by the long flashes of infantry fire that marked the direction of the Confederate lines. The afternoo

A Wonderful Conflict of Arms: Skedaddling with the 99th Ohio at Stones River

Image
     On the afternoon of January 2, 1863, General John C. Breckinridge led a late afternoon attack aiming to drive the Federal left from Wayne's Hill at Stones River. Waiting atop the hill were two brigades of General Horatio Van Cleve's Third division of the left wing and among those troops were the 99th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Thus far, the regiment had not seen serious action at Stones River but Breckinridge was about to give them an education on the horrors of combat.       Looking back on the cascade of events he witnessed that day,  Chaplain James Morrow of the 99th Ohio recalled the actions of the regimental color sergeant Moore E. Thorne. " Our color Sergeant Moore E. Thorne of Sidney is a regular hero, " he wrote. "After reforming on the riverbank, an officer of another regiment asked Thorne where he belonged. The 99 th  Ohio was the reply. Then fall in here said the officer. “No, damned if I will. I will wave this flag over the 99 th  Ohio or I will wa

William Keesy and the Battle of Nashville

Image
       One of the better written if lesser-known memoirs of the Civil War was written by William A. Keesy of Norwalk, Ohio who served as a private in the 55 th Ohio early in the war then served with the 64 th Ohio in the western theater in the war’s final months. War As Viewed From the Ranks was self-published by Keesy in 1898 and his lengthy account of the battle of Nashville in December 1864 is especially noteworthy. “At about 10 o’clock on this 16 th day of December, it was my privilege to witness one of the grandest military scenes that ever graced American history,” he wrote. “The battle line was advanced across a marsh or valley where, for at least two miles, everything could be distinctly seen. The banners and battle flags were waving, arms glistening, the whole line moving by flank, couriers galloping, batteries of artillery and platoons of cavalry moving with military precision, all guided by one mind, there in the face of the enemy- a truly sublime spectacle.” Keesy wou

Among Terrill’s Gunners at Shiloh

Image
       At the Battle of Shiloh, Captain William Terrill and his Battery H, 5 th U.S. Light Artillery distinguished themselves by their hard fighting on April 7 th , 1862. Equipped with two 10-pdr Parrott rifles and four 12-pdr Napoleons, the battery disembarked from a steamboat at 8 o’clock that morning and immediately went into action supporting General William Nelson’s division. “This battery was a host in itself. Its fire was terrific. It was handled superbly. Wherever Captain Terrill turned his battery silence followed on the part of the enemy,” Nelson noted in his report. As the battle progressed, Terrill’s battery advanced with the Federal line and took heavy casualties while firing 242 rounds at the enemy. One man was killed, 15 wounded, and the battery lost 19 horses, the losses being so heavy that at one point into the afternoon, Captain Terrill was serving a gun himself alongside two of his men, one of those two being a young Cleveland, Ohio native named John Carroll. In

Cook & Brother of New Orleans

Image
    The lockplate of a New Orleans-made Cook & Brother Enfield rifle produced in 1862 shows the fine craftsmanship that became the hallmark of the maker throughout the Civil War. Note the stars and bars flag at left, an emblem used on C&B's production throughout the war and the Cook & Brother, N.O. 1862 markings. Earlier production weapons at New Orleans had the flag located just above the maker's name while later weapons produced in Athens, Georgia would have a modified flag and Athens on the plate followed by the serial number.        In the spring of 1861, two English-born businessmen, Ferdinand and Francis Cook of New Orleans, perceived the need for the South to have its own domestic production of firearms and  set out to prove "that rifles could made here as well as in Yankee land or in Europe." The brothers  elected to produce copies of the British Model 1856 .577 caliber Enfield rifle as this was considered the benchmark longarm at the outset of the

Battling for the Blockhouses with the 115th Ohio

Image
       The war experience of the 115 th Ohio stood in marked contrast with most Ohio regiments. The regiment, mustered into service in September 1862, participated in very few battles and never was in a fight as an entire organization. The war for the 115 th Ohio consisted of garrison and guard duty along the railroad lines in middle Tennessee for the last two years of the war. A portion of the regiment was mounted and sent out to combat bushwhackers while detachments of roughly 30 men were stationed in the blockhouses guarding points on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad between Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was generally dull duty, until December 1864… Horace Redfield, a teenaged New Yorker living in Jasper, Tennessee during the Civil War, had ample opportunity to study the manner of fortifications that either army erected along the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad. “For about a year and a half, one end of the Nashville and Chattanooga road was in possession