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Our Men were Cut Down Like Grass: With the 53rd Pennsylvania at Marye’s Heights

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H aving survived the being in the second wave of the Federal assault on Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg, Private Joseph Spang of the 53 rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry vented his frustration and war-weariness in letters home to his family.  He could scarcely find words to describe the battle.      " I cannot tell you the truth of that awful fight," he wrote his parents. "The conflict was terrible – our regiment was the furthest in advance of any of our troops.  We sheltered ourselves behind some houses and were only 50 yards from the enemy’s rifle pits.  Our men were cut down like grass while the enemy could not be touched.  All we could see of them was their guns and sometimes a head.  The fight lasted all day – at dark we came back to town – our regiment stood three hours with fixed bayonets and not a man had a cartridge.  I expected every minute the enemy would charge on us but we stood there – no one came to relieve us."       During the Fredericksburg

Dispatches from Poe’s Tavern: The Army of the Cumberland on the Cusp of the Chickamauga Campaign

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W riting from their encampment in late August 1863 at Poe’s Tavern in modern-day Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, two soldiers of the 41 st Ohio explained how the army had marched over the Cumberland Mountains and stood poised to take the city of Chattanooga. Besides reporting the army news, they also took some time to observe the local residents and made a few interesting observations. “The citizens all chew, smoke, and snuff after their own way, that is, with the snuff,” wrote one soldier who signed his name simply as Jay. “They have a little stick or brush and rub the snuff on their gums, and spit the juice in the most approved style, about equal to a genuine Yankee. One woman came in to buy some chewing tobacco for a birthday present for her little girl, all of five years old’ she proved her love for the weed by taking a chew and cramming the rest in her pocket.” Corporal Charles P. Bail noted their location was “within 18 miles of Chattanooga. What our next move we, of course, do not

Murdered by General Buell: A Wisconsin Soldier on Perryville

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S uffering from a pair of wounds sustained during the Battle of Perryville, Private David J. Ryan of the 21st Wisconsin held one man responsible for his calamity: his commanding officer General Don Carlos Buell.      " General Buell is responsible before God and man for the slaughter of our troops in the late battle," Ryan charged. "He was in full hearing of the cannonading of the fight all day long and never sent a man to reinforce us. Everyone of the 500 dead of Perryville should have marked on his headboard, “Murdered by General Buell!”       The 21 year old soldier, the youngest of five brothers, recounted his experiences of the battle to his parents back home in Appleton, Wisconsin. Ryan's father, Colonel Samuel Ryan, shared the letters with his son Francis A. Ryan, editor of the Appleton Motor newspaper who published them in his columns. 

I Ought to Have Died: Captain Lu Drury Survives A Ghastly Chest Wound

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T he echoes of Chickamauga still reverberated through the woods in Georgia when the Janesville Daily Gazette  in Wisconsin reported sad news from the front. "We regret to learn from telegraphic dispatches that Captain Lu H. Drury of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery and chief of artillery on Van Cleve's staff, has been dangerously wounded in the bowels by a sharpshooter." This type of news often was soon followed by an announcement that the soldier had died; abdominal wounds during the war so often proving fatal.       But despite all odds, Captain Drury survived and by mid-October, he had made his way back to Nashville, Tennessee where the army correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette told the full story of his wounding at Lee & Gordon's Mills nearly a week before Chickamauga. Captain Lucius H. Drury of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery served as General Horatio P. Van Cleve's chief of artillery and chief of scouts during the Chickamauga campaign, he was nearly killed when a

The Legend of Leatherbreeches: Hubert Dilger in the Atlanta Campaign

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D uring the Atlanta campaign, Captain Hubert Dilger and the six guns of his Battery I, 1st Ohio Light Artillery were nominally attached to the artillery battalion assigned to General Richard W. Johnson's First Division of the 14th Army Corps. I say nominally because Captain Dilger's reputation as an artillerist gave him essentially "carte blanche" to roam the battlefield at will and pitch in with his guns where he thought they would do the most good, a unique honor for any battery in Sherman's army.      Dilger's reputation for daring followed him from the Eastern theater where his heroism during the Battle of Chancellorsville [ see " A Few Rounds of Canister: Bowling with Dilger at Chancellorsville ."] was so marked as to eventually make him a Medal of Honor recipient. Likewise at Gettysburg, Dilger fought his guns with marked professionalism and gained a high reputation amongst his peers as a man who knew how to fight a battery. The following sprin

"Company C, Fall In!" A primer in forming companies and regiments into line

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  I n 1901, William Saxton, formerly a captain in the 157th New York, penned a lengthy series of war reminiscences published by his local newspaper, the Edgar Post , in Edgar, Nebraska. Amongst his earliest articles, Captain Saxton explained in great detail how he joined the army, how his company was recruited, and how his regiment was formed.            One detail that I found particularly interesting (and something that I always wondered about) was the position of companies within a regimental line. As Captain Saxton explains, the company letters never changed (Company A was always Company A) but the position of the company within the regimental line changed constantly, affected by the seniority of the officers commanding each company.        " For instance, if the colonel is killed, the lieutenant colonel takes his place, the major takes the lieutenant colonel’s place, and the ranking captain takes the major’s place, and each of the other officers are advanced in rank one point

The 94th Ohio Remembers Perryville

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T he veterans of the 94th Ohio marked the 35th anniversary of the Battle of Perryville by holding their annual regimental reunion on October 8, 1897, in Dayton, Ohio. The significance of the date prompted a flood of memories from the Buckeyes about their first major engagement, and many of the memories centered around the death of Captain John Drury of Co. B.       Private George Crane recalled Captain Drury's discouragement with the poor food and hard life of a soldier. " The comrades will also remember what kind of food we had the morning we started out for Perryville," remembered Crane. "It was flour mixed with water and baked on flat Rebel stones out of the creek where we camped. The men were hungry and worn out with the hot afternoon’s march. Captain Drury was very much worked up over the matter and remarked, “If this is the manner in which the soldier is to be treated, I’m ready to be cashiered.”           " But a little afterwards we had piled our knapsac

Billy Patterson: Monarch of Artillery

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T he Civil War was entering its fourth year when a batch of Southern Unionist recruits joined Lieutenant William J. Patterson's battery at Gallatin, Tennessee. The boyish lieutenant from Ohio, not yet 21 years of age, was "young enough to be brimful of boyish spirits, soldier enough to know the worth of strict discipline, dignified enough to command without danger of disobedience from any, and brave enough to fear nothing on earth or under the earth if duty pointed the way into danger," remembered one of those recruits Thomas Williamson.          " This Lieutenant Patterson had to teach us, and he did it by blending the play fellow and officer in a way that no one could have done so well as he," continued Williamson. "He went swimming with us or took off his coat with its shoulder straps and played ball with us and at such times he would say, “Now boys, I am Billy Patterson and we’ll have a good game together.” Then when the game was over, he would resume h

We Shall Conquer or Die: Interview with Author Derrick Lindow

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We Shall Conquer or Die: Partisan Warfare in 1862 Western Kentucky (Savas Beatie, 2024) is author Derrick Lindow's first published book and tackles a fascinating if seldom-discussed aspect of the war in the western theater.  We recently sat down with Derrick Lindow to discuss his new book We Shall Conquer or Die: Partisan Warfare in 1862 Western Kentucky published by Savas Beatie. Derrick works as an 8th grade history teacher in Owensboro, Kentucky where he lives with his wife and two children. In addition, Derrick is administrator of the Western Theater in the Civil War website and had ancestors that fought on both sides of the conflict.  Readers are encouraged to secure their copy of this exciting new title through the links below:  Hardcover 6" x 9", 240 pp, images, maps, $32.95 Savas Beatie  (strongly preferred) Amazon  (if you must support the Bezos empire make sure you leave a review!) 

The 29th Fights While There is a Man Left: The Bloody Demonstration on Dug Gap

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I n one of the opening moves of the Atlanta campaign, the 29 th Ohio attacked the Confederate position atop Dug Gap on Sunday, May 8, 1864. “Our instructions were to make a strong demonstration and carry, if possible, the Rebel position,” one veteran later noted.           While advancing to the assault, the brass bands in our rear indiscreetly commenced playing national airs which attracted the attention of the Rebel commander who rapidly concentrated reinforcements in our front. The advance up the declivity was nearly as difficult as Lookout Mountain and more completely fortified. Its summit was steep, precipitous, and covered with scraggy rocks and immense boulders. The 29th Ohio lost roughly 100 casualties "demonstrating" against the Confederate position atop Dug Gap, including all three field officers with the regiment. "It was a terrible blow to the regiment," John Rupp later wrote. It was only the opening move in a campaign which would last the rest of the

Philo Pearce, the 11th Connecticut, and the Origins of the Blog

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T his past weekend during the Ohio Civil War Show at Mansfield, I purchased a special relic at a dealer’s table that took me back to the origins of this blog. It was a simple piece of silk, a 35 th reunion ribbon for the 11 th Connecticut Volunteers held September 17, 1898, in Hartford, Connecticut. The ribbon was striking in appearance, featuring Hartford’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial. Every other ribbon in the binder was from local units such as the 49 th and 101 st Ohio from places like Tiffin, Norwalk, and Port Clinton, but there was this one 11 th Connecticut ribbon. What was that ribbon for a Connecticut regiment doing in Ohio amongst a collection of Buckeye ribbons? Well, I had a hunch, and it goes back to the origins of the blog. This recent find at the Ohio Civil War Show opened a host of memories for me going back to the original inspiration for the blog.  Way back on October 26, 2015, I took an early afternoon off work to visit Harrington Cemetery where an ances

My Dearest Nellie: Last Letter from Lt. Col. Leroy Crockett, 72nd O.V.I.

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I n what may have been the last letter that he wrote home, Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Crockett of the 72nd Ohio informed his "dearest Nellie" about his regiment's recent campaign in Mississippi, taking pride in " having gone farther into the Rebel state of Mississippi than any regiment in Grant's army or any other army."      " We have a pleasant camp, twenty miles from Vicksburg near the Black River stuck on top of a high hill, just wide enough for the camp and beautifully shaded by the magnolias of which there are three varieties, all very pretty," he continued. " We expect to rest here during the hot season and be ready for the full campaign.    The men as a general thing are in good health and spirits anxiously awaiting their turn to go home on furlough."       Colonel Crockett was among those anxiously awaiting his turn to visit Ohio. He had commanded the regiment throughout the Vicksburg campaign, but as the siege wore on, his own hea

With the 139th Pennsylvania at Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church

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                                                                              Five Days at Chancellorsville

Carrying Jackson off the Field at Chancellorsville

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 Five Days at Chancellorsville

Saving the Right: An Ohio Gunner Remembers Chancellorsville

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                                                                                                                       Five Days at Chancellorsville

Blowing His Own Horn: Chancellorsville as Explained by the 12th Alabama

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                                                                                                                       Five Days at Chancellorsville

We Were Not Defeated: A Fifth Corps Clerk Describes Chancellorsville

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                                                                                                                     Five Days at Chancellorsville

Come my dear husband, this is no place for us: A Perryville Story

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T he 79 th Pennsylvania, part of Colonel John Starkweather’s brigade, was marching into action at the Battle of Perryville side by side with the 1 st Wisconsin.       “As the solid, serried ranks of glistening bayonets and brave men moved onward with all the regularity and precision of a dress parade, and with the steadiness of veteran troops, the two regiments involuntarily paid just tribute to one another by sending up long and loud cheers,” one veteran recalled. “It was a grand sight! There was no flinching- not a man! Every man stood his ground firmly and manfully.”           But out of the eyesight of our correspondent, one man did flinch, indeed, making a conscious decision to flee the battlefield. He can perhaps be forgiven this decision because as John D. Kautz marched onto the battlefield at Perryville, his German-born wife Barbara and infant son Christian accompanied him. It’s an interesting if rather convoluted story. Reunion card for the first regimental reunion for the

Undone by the Mud: Vignettes of the Mud March

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I n mid-January 1863, General Ambrose Burnside directed what proved to be his final offensive move as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside’s aim was to steal a march on his opponent General Robert E. Lee, seize Banks’ Ford on the Rappahannock, and push into the rear of Fredericksburg. It was a bold move, but within two days of beginning, the drive was hopelessly mired down in the mud and the dejected Federals tramped back to their camps near Falmouth.           The offensive became known as the Mud March, and it marked both the end of Burnside’s tenure as commander of the Army of the Potomac and the nadir of the war for his army. Today’s post will revisit the Mud March through the words of the men who were in the thick of it, slogging through the Virginia mud in a downpour. It is the picture of misery as our eyewitnesses will attest.           All of the accounts comprising this post originated from Griff's incomparable Spared & Shared website . 

Worse Scared than Hurt: A 41st Illinoisan Survives Shiloh

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S ergeant Fred True of the 41 st Illinois numbered among the lucky survivors of Shiloh as he explained in a letter to his sisters back home in Illinois.           The regiment went into action on the morning of April 6, 1862, and soon found itself in a pounding firefight with advancing Confederates. “I was hit twice. One ball struck my leg and numbed it considerably without entering the pants. The other struck me on the chin or throat and drove me from the field. The wound bled severely so that I was worse scared than hurt,” True confessed. “Buell’s forces came to our relief Sunday night and on Monday by desperate fighting we forced them to fall back as steadily as they had advanced on Sunday. But for Buell’s forces, I believe we would all have been whipped and killed or taken prisoner.”           Sergeant True’s letter originally was published in the April 17, 1862, edition of the Mattoon Gazette , making it one of the earliest firsthand accounts published about the Battle of Shi

From low ebb to loud huzzahs: The 12th Illinois at Shiloh

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T he 12 th Illinois fell into line at Shiloh morning of Sunday April 6, 1862, attired in gray jackets with spirits at “very low ebb” as one soldier remembered. The sounds of battle thundered in the dim distance and the Illinoisans fell into line led by a “superannuated and inexperienced captain” in “gloomy silence.”           The cause of the gloom had to do with the fact that both their regimental commander Augustus Chetlain and their brigade commander (and former regimental commander) General John McArthur were under arrest. The prospects of going into combat under an inexperienced leader proved disheartening, but within moments all that would change.           First came the order for the men to take off their old gray jackets and throw them in a pile along the road, to be replaced by black frock coats. Then General McArthur and Colonel Chetlain rode in amongst the men. “12 th , I am permitted to lead ye once more,” bellowed General McArthur in his “broadest Scotch. This seemed

We have suffered everything but death: Travails of a Shiloh P.O.W.

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B y the time John Baker of Battery B, 1 st Michigan Light Artillery was exchanged more than six months after being captured at the Battle of Shiloh, the artilleryman had traveled through seven of the eleven states of the Confederacy, and lost his brother to typhoid fever at Cahaba, Alabama. “We have suffered everything but death and that has started us in the face,” he wrote to the editors of the Hillsdale Standard . “There has been 270 men who have died since our captivity began. We have been without clothing and have been obliged to live upon corn meal and bacon. I have never seen any meat but what was rotten, and no one but God can tell what we have suffered.” John Baker’s travelogue of Confederate captivity was compiled from a pair of letters he wrote to his hometown newspaper the Hillsdale Standard in 1862.

Twilight was Lurid with the Fire of Battle: Sergeant Richey Captures a Confederate Major

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I n the early twilight hours of September 19, 1863, at Chickamauga, Sergeant William Richey of the 15 th Ohio was dispatched between the lines to try and ascertain the location of the Confederates. “Presently I saw an officer on horseback approaching me from the right only a short distance from me,” he later wrote. “We were no sooner side by side than I discovered that we were enemies. As quickly as I could, I said to the man on horseback in a loud, bold tone, “You are my prisoner! Surrender, or I will blow out your brains!” Instantly the officer reached for his pistol but, pointing my weapon at him, I repeated my demand with increased determination and ordered him to dismount. He complied and became my prisoner.” For this act, Sergeant Richey would be awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893. He explains the story of his regiment on the first day of Chickamauga in this harrowing account published in Walter Beyer and Oscar Keydel’s 1901 tome Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the

Yankee Preacher, Rebel Lawyer: The Intersecting Lives of Granville and George Moody

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I n a war defined by the theme of brother against brother, the amazing tale of Granville and George Moody and their journey through the Civil War highlights the interconnected nature of family and social life in the 19th century. It's a story that starts in Maine, weaves through the histories of both the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Cumberland, twists in and out of prisoner of war camps, and ultimately involves President Jefferson Davis in the final days of the Civil War and President Andrew Johnson in its immediate aftermath.            Granville Moody was born January 2, 1812, in Portland, Maine to William and Harriet Brooks Moody while his younger brother George Vernon Moody was born there in February 1816. One technically could say that the brothers were born in Portland, Massachusetts, as Maine did not become a state until 1820. Regardless, the Moody family moved to the state of Maryland in 1817 and there in 1830 the paths of the brothers parted. Granville

How Kenesaw Mountain Landis Got His Unusual Name

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T he first commissioner of major league baseball was Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis who was appointed by the team owners in November 1920. His unusual first name was chosen by his parents in remembrance of one of the bloodiest engagements of the Atlanta campaign, the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain which was fought on June 27, 1864. But had his father not been wounded at Kenesaw, its possible he would have named his later famous son Chickamauga Landis after the horrors he experienced at that engagement.  Kenesaw Mountain Landis was born November 20, 1866, in Millville in Butler County, Ohio to Doctor Abraham Hoch Landis and his wife Mary (Kumler) Landis. The future judge was the sixth of seven children; among his notable siblings was an older brother John Howard Landis who followed his father in the practice of medicine and two brothers who became Congressmen: Charles B. Landis (served from 1897-1909) and Frederick D. Landis (served from 1903-1907). Dr. Landis moved his family from Ohio to