In front of Atlanta with the 68th Ohio

 

The arrow corps badge of the 17th Army Corps was worn by many members of the 68th Ohio in the latter days of the war. 


    Private Edward A. Bigelow of Co. F of the 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry wrote this brief account of the Battle of Atlanta just two days afterwards to his father back home in Henry County, Ohio. The regiment formed a part of Colonel Robert K. Scott's three regiment all-Ohio brigade consisting of the 20th, 68th, and 78th regiments, being designated the Second Brigade of the Third Division of Frank Blair's 17th Army Corps. Bigelow's letter originally appeared in the Napoleon Press newspaper and was copied in the Toledo Daily Commercial which was providential as no known copies exist today of the wartime Napoleon Press. 

Lieutenant Henry Welty of Co. A of the 68th Ohio later was appointed regimental adjutant and kept a superb album of images of his comrades of the 68th Ohio which his great-great granddaughter Pam Welty shared with me some time ago. The album contained 28 identified images of veterans of the regiment, four of which are shared in this post. 


Before Atlanta, Georgia

July 24, 1864

Dear Father,

          I take this opportunity of giving you a short history of one of the hardest fought battles of the war to which I was an eyewitness. Our old soldiers that were at Donelson and Shiloh say this equals them both. Our corps [17th] occupied a position on the extreme left and weakest point of the whole line. About noon the day before yesterday, the Rebels skirmishers opened a brisk fire on our boys which was returned with equal vigor. It did not take General Sherman long to find out that the dirty graybacks (for such they may be called) were trying to flank us. “But they didn’t quite see it.”

Lieutenant Colonel George E. Welles led the 17 officers and 242 enlisted men of the northwestern Ohio-raised 68th Ohio during the Battle of Atlanta where he sustained a slight wound in his arm and had four bullet holes shot through his clothes. The regiment had companies that originated from Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding, Williams, and Wood Counties, Co. H having a substantial contingent from my home of Perrysburg. The 68th Ohio sustained a loss of 78 killed, wounded and missing in this single engagement.

          First came the brought around into position on the double quick; next came the infantry into position which was formed into lines by General Sherman himself, for I was within speaking distance of him while doing so. It was no sooner done than the Rebels came out of the woods three lines deep and made a charge upon a masked battery on a hill under a galling fire of grape, canister, and of musketry which mowed them down like wheat. I tell you the Rebels done some good shooting and killed a great many of our brave soldiers and officers.

          The fight commenced about half past 12 and lasted until dark, but you can judge things were done in a hurry for at 12 o’clock they had not a single piece of artillery nor a single regiment on the field of battle. Our brigade was charged three different times but held their position under a murderous fire from the Rebels who were about two-thirds drunk, in fact some of them were perfectly crazy from the effects of gunpowder and whiskey of which each man had a good supply.

 

“We lost our noble, brave, and gentlemanly department commander Major General J.B. McPherson. A more noble, kind, consistent general never was known. He for a long time commanded our 17th Corps and we have had every opportunity to become acquainted with him and at all times he took every care to preserve the lives and health of his men. In him the country has sustained an irreparable loss, and the soldiers of the 17th Corps the kindest friend.” ~Private William R. Snook, Co. C, 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

 

Private John Shupe of Co. K of the 68th Ohio sustained a severe head wound during the battle of July 22nd and died the following day. 

          We lost pretty heavily in our brigade which consists of but three regiments: the 68th Ohio lost 65 men, the 78th Ohio lost 102, and the 20th Ohio lost 141 men. We also lost some good officers. I tell you it was the grandest sight I ever witnessed and seemed to me that men could not have been mowed down faster than they fell there. Our boys would fight first on one side of the entrenchments and then in the other. It was a regular hand-to-hand fight. The boys would knock the Rebels off the breastworks with the butts of their muskets. In front of where our regiment was stationed during the fight, the ground is or was literally covered with dead and wounded Rebels, and it was almost impossible to walk about without stepping on them. A flag of truce was out yesterday for over an hour, exchanging the wounded and dead and while doing so we exchanged six Rebels for one Yankee during the time they were permitted to remain.

First Sergeant George W. Scott of Bigelow's Co. F of the 68th Ohio proudly wears his 17th Army Corps badge on his jacket in this image taken in 1865. The 22-year-old native of Henry County, Ohio enlisted as a private in Co. F in November 1861 and was successively promoted up the ranks, becoming orderly sergeant in January 1865. He was later commissioned a lieutenant but never mustered at that grade. 


I am sorry to inform you of the loss of our brave and noble officer Major General James B. McPherson; also of Brigadier General Manning F. Force wounded in the face. There are some hopes of recovery, however. Among the killed, wounded, and missing of the brigade are the following officers: Colonel Robert K. Scott commanding the Second Brigade, missing and probably a prisoner. Lieutenant Colonel Welles commanding the 68th Ohio wounded slightly; Captain Wilson Skeels, killed, Captain Harmon, wounded slightly, Captain James H. Long, wounded slightly, arm broken; Lieutenant Abram C. Urquhart, killed or a prisoner. The loss in the brigade is about 300 killed, wounded, and missing. Colonel Scott is supposed to have been captured shortly after the battle commenced while trying to force the lines. His horse was found dead on the field. Colonel Greenberry Wiles of the 78th Ohio commands the brigade.

 From your affectionate son,

Edward A. Bigelow

Source:

Letter from Private Edward A. Bigelow, Co. F, 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Toledo Daily Commercial (Ohio), August 8, 1864, pg. 2

 

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