Mournful Intelligence: A Guthrie Gray Writes After Chickamauga

    Despite being in intense pain from his own wounds, Captain Jules J. Montagnier of the 6th Ohio performed the melancholy task that fell to company commanders during the Civil War of notifying the next of kin of the death of one of the men under his command.

          Montagnier, born in Cincinnati in 1835 to a French veteran of Napoleon’s army, had been educated at St. Xavier’s College in Cincinnati then went into the newspaper trade, working as a typographer for the Cincinnati Enquirer and later editing the largest circulating Know-Nothing organ of southern Indiana. The outbreak of the war found him back in Cincinnati as a member of the old Guthrie Gray Battalion, and Montagnier was among the first to respond to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion.

          Montagnier, commissioned a second lieutenant in Co. G, would progressively rise to the rank of captain and saw action with the 6th Ohio throughout the western theater, including Shiloh, Stones River, and finally at Chickamauga where he sustained two severe leg wounds on September 19th that led to his discharge from the army, and ultimately contributed to his death in 1872 at the age of 36. Initially sent home to Cincinnati to recover, Montagnier’s health was broken by his wounds that he could only briefly return to his prewar life in the newspaper business and spent the last three years of his life as an invalid.

“All through the war, he was a brave soldier and through all the hard service that fell to the lot of that regiment to be engaged in, Captain Montagnier had his full share; but his whole heart was in the cause and he never faltered and he was known and respected in the regiment as one of the truest and bravest men in it,” his obituary from the Society of the Army of the Cumberland read.

The 6th Ohio, part of Colonel William Grose’s brigade, went into action at Chickamauga with 23 officers and 322 enlisted men and lost 110. Montagnier’s company lost three men killed, one mortally wounded, five wounded, and three missing.

          Montagnier’s letter, one of four that he wrote to families of his deceased men after Chickamauga, was written October 10, 1863 while he was convalescing in Cincinnati. It was written to Colonel R.R. Allen of Hillsboro, Ohio to inform him that Allen’s son Richard numbered among the slain at Chickamauga. Due to his own wound, “I am consequently unable to give you any of the particulars of his demise. But from the information I have received from the regiment in regard to it, his death must have been almost instantaneous. The circumstances were such as not to permit his remains being interred by his comrades,” Montagnier wrote. Private Richard R. Allen remains in an unknown grave.

          Montagnier’s letter originally appeared in the October 15, 1863, edition of the Highland Weekly News.

 

First Lieutenant John Kestner of Co. C, 6th O.V.I. It fell to the line officers to write letters back to families to explain the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones. It was noble work, but given the close relationships that grew up within a company, I can think of few more painful tasks for a commander. 

Cincinnati, Ohio

October 10, 1863

Colonel R.R. Allen, Hillsboro, Ohio

Dear sir,

          The melancholy task falls to my lot of apprising you officially of the death of your son Richard R. Allen from wounds received in the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19, 1863. I was myself severely wounded before your son received the fatal bullet that terminated his life and am consequently unable to give you any of the particulars of his demise. But from the information I have received from the regiment in regard to it, his death must have been almost instantaneous. The circumstances were such as not to permit his remains being interred by his comrades, but such effects as were on his person were taken charge of by First Sergeant George B. Young of my company who will forward them to you at the earliest possible moment.

          On communicating this mournful intelligence to you, permit me to tender to you the sincere condolence and sympathy of a fellow soldier. As your son’s commanding officer, I can assure you that his conduct was such as to entitle him to my respect. During the time he was under my control, I never had occasion to reprimand him for any dereliction of duty. On the contrary, his soldierly bearing and neat and clean appearance frequently caused me to commend and encourage him. He was in short, a fair type of true American soldier: intelligent and obedient, prompt to perform what was required of him, and possessed of that chivalrous courage which is destined to render our arms invincible.

Corporal Guy C. Nearing, Co. B, 6th O.V.I.
Later probate judge in Wood County, Ohio

          The last time that my attention was particularly attracted to your son was on the field of battle. He was voluntarily engaged in an errand of mercy at the peril of his own life- withdrawing a comrade (then supposed to be wounded but whose soul was then in another world) from the fire of the enemy. This incident, illustrative of his noble character, excited the admiration of those who beheld it.

          Trusting that you may bring to bear upon your affliction that resignation to the Divine Will which is the surest consolation in the hour of trouble, I beg leave to subscribe myself yours with sincere sympathy,

 J.J. Montagnier, Capt., Co. B, 6th O.V.I.

 Source:

Letter from Captain Jules J. Montagnier, Co. B, 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Highland Weekly News (Ohio), October 15, 1863, pg. 3


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