Buckeyes, Blackhats and the Boys of '61

A Story About July 22, 1864, and a Buckeye Who Never Returned Home

Originally posted on Buckeyes, Blackhats and the Boys of '61:

Grave #4990 final resting place of Theo Ailes. Company I, 20th OVI

Grave #4990 final resting place of Theo Ailes Company I, 20th OVI

(Authors note: Even though I first published this article one year ago, I think it is worth sharing again. Tomorrow will be the 150th anniversary of the fierce combat at Bald or Leggetts Hill near Atlanta, Georgia. This fight took the lives of more that 30 men, members of the 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry who hailed from Shelby County, Ohio. For many years after the war, the date of July 22nd, 1864 brought forth sad memories and many tears of lives and loved ones lost).

In 1861, Theophilus [or Theo as he was known to his friends and family] Ailes was an 18-year old blacksmith living in Port Jefferson, Ohio when he answered his country’s call and enlisted for 3 years in Company I of the 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Present through all the campaigns and battle…

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Gettysburg-July 2014

M1857 "Napoleon" of Battery L, 1st OLA overlooking Plum Run Valley.

M1857 “Napoleon” of Battery L, 1st OLA overlooking Plum Run Valley.

While this trip to Gettysburg was highlighted by the donation and dedication of the Civil War ambulance to the Seminary Ridge Museum (more on that event in a later post), I did find some time to meet some new friends, enjoy the company of old friends, and add more to my knowledge of the battle. 

Monday, June 30th started with a drive around the first day’s field and stopping to leave buckeyes on some of the monuments to the Ohio units that fought on July 1st. This was followed by a great breakfast at the Lincoln Dinner with my pard and author of the superb blog, “To the Sound of the Guns,”  Craig Swain. Craig asked me if I wanted to go with  him while he updated his artillery database, and of course I said yes. Heading south on West Confederate Avenue, we stopped often as he checked for newly placed or moved artillery pieces. As usual when I’m with Craig, I learned much, especially about Confederate Napoleons and the nuances between their various makers. Stopping on the north slope of Little Round Top, we took the short walk to the position of Gibbs Battery L, 1st Ohio Light Artillery, to update the database  to reflect the newly-returned M1857 Napoleon tubes there. We paused for a while to discuss the effect that the canister fired from that elevation had on helping to stop the confederate advance late in the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863. We agreed that this was perhaps the finest Napoleon position on the entire battlefield.  Intending to head to the right end of the Federal position, we ended our morning tour with a climb up Powers Hill (my first) which gave me a new perspective on the strength of the Federal position, especially the use of the terrain to protect the extreme right flank of famous “Fishhook” line. We soon returned to the car, did the obligatory check for ticks, and headed to the Appalachian Brewing Company for a well-earned lunch. After lunch we walked over to the Seminary Ridge Museum to listen to a wonderful presentation by noted Civil War cavalry writer and historian Eric Wittenberg on General John Buford and the actions of his cavalry division on the morning of July 1st. What a great way to wind up a very good day!

July 1st found me up early and headed back to the Lincoln Diner for breakfast before starting out on what promised to be a very memorable day. A small group of friends (Frank Mittler, his friend Annie, Chuck Fulton, and Lon Hathaway) and I were going to join Iron Brigade historian and author Lance Herdegen and his friend Mike Benton on a morning tour of Iron Brigade sites. This would be a special tour opportunity with Lance guiding us and with July 1st being the 151st anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg.

We began driving south from Gettysburg on the Emmitsburg Road to Moritz Tavern, where Major General John Reynolds spent his last night and where he received word to start the left wing of the Army of the Potomac forward to Gettysburg. From there we drove north on the Emmitsburg Road back towards Gettysburg, pausing for moment at Marsh Creek which was the bivouac of the Iron Brigade (less the 19th Indiana) the night of June 30th, 1863. Continuing north, we turned right on South Confederate Avenue and stopped to look at the position of the 19th Indiana as they were assigned to picket duty the afternoon and evening of June 30th. They established their line of pickets on “a ridge, in the shadow of the big mountain.” As we stood on this slight elevation (named Warfield Ridge, which on July 2nd would be made famous as the jumping-off point for the attack of Hood’s division of Longstreet’s Corps on the left flank of the Federal Third Army Corps), we were struck by the peaceful fields and woodlots of the Bushman and Slyder farms before us. It was not hard to picture the “Swamp Hogs #19″ coming off picket duty on that damp and humid morning, starting their coffee boiling over the small cook fires, and, given their well-deserved reputation for foraging, perhaps some “recently procured” Pennsylvania chickens were roasted. Sadly, we all came to the realization that this would be the last morning that many of these young men and boys from far-off Indiana would ever know.

Confederate Napolean of Bachmans Battery on Warfield Ridge overlooking the Bushman Farm. This was the position of the 19th Indiana while on picket duty during the evening of June 30th and into the morning of July 1st, 1863.

Confederate Napoleon of Bachman’s Battery on Warfield Ridge overlooking the Bushman Farm. This was the position of the 19th Indiana while on picket duty during the evening of June 30th and into the morning of July 1st, 1863.

We continued on, making a brief stop on Little Round Top. Due to the early hour, we were able to enjoy LRT without the annoyances of traffic and crowds. It was 20 minutes or so well spent.

Our tour group on Little Round Top.

Our tour group on Little Round Top.

Getting back to our Iron Brigade theme, we drove north past the Codori Farm, taking notice of where the Iron Brigade turned off the Emmitsburg Road and by the “double quick” moved northwest to the swale between Seminary Ridge and East McPherson’s Ridge. It was here, with the 6th Wisconsin held in reserve, that the 2nd and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan would form from column into line of battle and advance to the hurried commands of Major General Reynolds as he implored them “Forward Men, for God’s sake forward and drive those fellows from the woods!” Reynolds soon fell mortally wounded, and the “Black Hats” pitched into Archers Brigade and drove those “fellows” from the woods, sending them tumbling back across Willoughby Run

Moving on to Stone and Meridith Avenues, we stopped at the Iron Brigade monuments (2nd and 7th Wisconsin, 24th Michigan, and 19th Indiana) where we enjoyed Lance’s stories of the men of the brigade and their actions here on the morning of July 1st. Our next stop was near the southeast corner of the Herbst woodlot. We gathered near the 151st PVI monument to discuss the horrific fighting that took place in that area during the afternoon of July 1st, not only by the “Black Hats,” but also by the 151st PVI in what would prove to be their first and last battle. Lance and I had had the privilege of working with Don Troiani to bring the story of Sgt. Major Asa Blanchard of the 19th Indiana to life in his print, “The Black Hats”, the setting of which is in the area near 151st monument. We took this opportunity to share with our friends the research and process of working with Don to bring this scene to life.

Lance and I discussing the actions of the 151st PVI and the Iron Brigade on the afternoon of July 1st, 1863

Lance and I discussing the actions of the 151st PVI and the Iron Brigade on the afternoon of July 1st, 1863.

Our last stop was near the monument to First Division, First Corps commander,  Major General James Wadsworth. This provided us with a great vantage point to hear Lance talk about his beloved 6th Wisconsin, their commander Lt. Colonel Rufus Dawes, and their gallant charge against the infamous “railroad cut” full of “Johnnies” of the 2nd Mississippi and the 55th North Carolina.

Lance discussing the action of the 6th Wisconsin during the charge on the Confederate position in the railroad cut.

Lance discussing the action of the 6th Wisconsin during the charge on the Confederate position in the railroad cut.

Our morning tour ended far too soon, and we all headed back to our motel of choice, the Quality Inn at General Lee’s Headquarters. Earlier that morning we had noticed a large, white tent being erected in the field just across from the hotel. For a day or so rumors had been flying that the Civil War Trust (of which I am a member) was going to buy the property, and return the four-plus acre tract to its 1863 appearance. Seeing quite a crowd forming, curiosity got the best of me and I headed across the road to hear the CWT presentation that confirmed the rumors!  Now for a bit of a confession. I have been a supporter of battlefield and historical preservation for all of my adult life, and this was the very first time I have ever felt a twinge of selfish regret over one of their preservation projects. Amy and I had many great stays at this establishment. We especially had grown fond of the Fireside Suite and its proximity to many of the scenes of the first day’s battle that I am so drawn to. Being close the Seminary Ridge Museum was also a plus, as Amy and I are Founding Members there, and we look to be more involved in supporting the museum and its activities in the future. All that said, I do think it is the proper move for the CWT to make, and I look forward to seeing the area where “Old Battery B,” 4th U.S. Artillery fought so well on the afternoon of July 1st returned to its native state.

Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery marker with the Fireside Suite room in the background.

Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery marker with the Fireside Suite in the background.


Remembering A Good Friend

Stan Verrill with his son Harley at the 2003 Dayton Airshow

Stan Verrill with his son Harley at the 2003 Dayton Airshow

Today’s blog post is a departure from my normal subjects, but it’s a story of a person who was close to my heart, as well as the tale of a life well-lived.

This past Thursday I received one of those messages that as I grow older seem to arrive much too often. I opened an email from my old friend Debbie Brooker informing me that her father, Stanley Verrill, had passed away on July 2nd in his native state of Maine. Stan was 97.

I first met Stan in the fall of 1971, it was my junior year in high school and Debbie and I had just started dating. What I remember most was how he and his wife Genevieve [who passed away in 2001] warmly welcomed me into their home. Tall and strongly built, Stan exhibited the stoic, no-nonsense demeanor that one would expect from a son of the “Pine Tree State.” And while he could be quite intimating, especially to a young man of 17 who was dating his only daughter, I soon discovered that he had a sharp sense of humor and loved telling a good joke. He was blessed with one of the nicest grins that often would blossom into the most brilliant, heartwarming smile that I have ever known.

As a member of our “Greatest Generation,” Stan served in the Army Air Corps as a flight engineer on Boeing B-17’s during World War II, flying and fighting with the “Mighty 8th” Air Force in the European Theater of Operations. He also saw service with one of the few U.S.A.A.F. units  that operated the fast and stealthy DeHaviland Mosquito. Returning from his war service, Stan soon married Genny, settled in Vandalia, Ohio, and started raising a family of two boys [Harley and Andy] and daughter Debbie. He took a job working at nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base from which he retired in the early 1970’s. For a young man with an interest in both aviation and history, the time I spent looking through his photo albums and talking about his war experiences were simply priceless.

Retirement did not suit Stan well and he soon took a job at Aviation Sales, Inc. [ASI], a fixed based operator on Dayton International Airport. His position was that of a janitor, but he quickly became the company handyman. [I very much doubt that any company ever had a more intelligent or competent "janitor" than Stan!] As for me, I was still dating Debbie, and in the spring of my senior year [1973] I found myself out of work and soon to graduate high school with a stunning GPA of 2.4. That anemic level of academic achievement, coupled with a complete lack of interest in attending college, had me pretty much adrift. Fortunately for me, Stan told me that ASI had an opening for an aircraft lineman, a job I applied for, and in large part thanks to Stan’s good word I was soon hired. On April 27, 1973 I started my career in aviation at a company that since 1988 I have been a very proud co-owner of.

By 1974, Debbie had gone off to college, and I was still pumping gas into airplanes at ASI and struggling to figure out just what I was going to do with my life. During this period I spent a lot of time working with Stan. I learned much from him and benefited greatly, not only from his wise advice but his friendship. He gave me the incentive to take some college classes in Aviation Management at a local community college and also to get my pilot’s license. Simply put, without his friendship and guidance my life would be much different from what it is today. In 1978, Stan retired from ASI. He and his beloved Genny soon moved back to Maine where they built a beautiful house on the banks of the Penobscot River near Winterport.

After his move to Maine, we stayed in touch on an infrequent basis. In 1995 I made a trip to Maine with my boys and their mother [my ex-wife] to see Stan and Genevieve, who even with his bum knees made sure we saw all the sights. On several occasions Stan would visit Dayton, often flying in with his son, Harley, who owned and flew a Cessna Cardinal. It was always a great pleasure to see him and to catch up on old times. He took a great interest in how ASI was getting along, and seem to take a bit of well-deserved pride in my ownership and success with the business. Stanley was one of those people who seemed never to age. As the years rolled by Debbie did a great job of emailing and keeping me informed on how he was getting along. Several years ago he had finally been moved to a nursing home, and while he suffered some “miseries” with his knees and hearing, he was still pretty sharp for his age. Sadly, as is often the case, Amy and I were planning to go to Massachusetts in August, and while there I was going to take a trip up to Bangor and visit with him. Oh, how I regret not making that trip much sooner!

So the last several days have been filled full of fond memories, some sadness, a few regrets, and a great thankfulness that in my youth I had the privilege and good fortune of knowing Stan Verrill. I have found that as I grow older, and as the heroes and icons of  my youth pass, I tend to feel that much older. Years ago Stan Verrill, by the simplest gestures of friendship, counsel, and time, made a big difference in a young man’s life. I only hope that I can keep his legacy alive by doing the same. I figure that my old friend Stan would like that.




A Buckeye “Black Hats” Birthday – July 4th, 1863

The following letter from Lt. Colonel Rufus Dawes of the Iron Brigade’s Sixth  Wisconsin Infantry was written to his  fiance, Mary Beman Gates, on his 25th birthday, July 4th, 1863. Dawes the great grandson of William Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere on the night of April 18th, 1776 and was born on July 4th, 1838 in Marietta, Ohio.

JULY 4th, 6 P. M.

What a solemn birthday. My little band, now only two hundred men, have all been out burying the bloody corpses of friend and foe. No fighting to-day. Both armies need rest from the exhaustion of the desperate struggle. My boys until just now have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning. No regiment in this army or in any other army in the world ever did better service than ours. We were detached from the brigade early on the first day and we operated as an independent command. I saved my men all I could and we suffered terribly to be sure, but less than any other regiment in the brigade. We captured a regiment. I don’t know as we will get our just credit before the country, but we have it with our Generals.”
I went in person taking the captured battle flag to General Meade, at headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. The object of this visit was to obtain, if possible, permission to send the battle flag to the Governor of Wisconsin to be retained at the capitol of Wisconsin as a trophy. In this effort I was unsuccessful, and I brought the flag back. As I passed along from General Meade’s headquarters to Culps’ Hill, carrying the rebel battle flag loosely folded over my arm, I took my course over the ground where General Pickett made his charge. Many wounded Confederate soldiers were still lying on this ground. A badly wounded Confederate sergeant who had lain upon the ground during the night, called to me in a faint voice: “You have got our flag!” It was a sergeant of the second Mississippi regiment. The men of this regiment who had escaped from the railroad cut and other casualties on July first, had taken part in this attack. This man informed me that the commander of his regiment at the time of its surrender was Major John A. Blair, and he gave me many particulars in regard to the history of the regiment. No introductions took place at ‘the railroad cut. I do not know whether this sergeant survived his wound. I did all in my power to secure for him aid and attention.

The Iron Brigades position on the northern face of Culps Hill. It was near here that Lt. Colonel Dawes wrote his letter.

The Iron Brigades position from the evening on July 1st until July 5th, 1863 was on the northern face of Culps Hill. The 6th Wisconsin was in line near the top of this image. It was near here that Lt. Colonel Dawes wrote his letter.

Source – Service with the Sixth Wisconsin by Rufus Dawes.



Reflections on July 1st, 2013 and the “Last March of the Iron Brigade” – One Year Later


The post below was first published on my Facebook page on July 2nd, 2013. Even after the passage of a year, the memories of this day still stir very strong emotions in me.

After a good night’s rest I want to share with you some of my thoughts and emotions of the events of July 1st.

Accompanied by our good friend Frank Mittler III, my wife Amy and I started the day by traveling west of Gettysburg to participate in the First Shot commemoration event  that had been organized by renown authors J David Petruzzi and Steven Stanley. Amazingly the weather was much like it was July 1st 1863, overcast with drizzle warm and humid. JD’s descriptions of the events of the morning of July 1st were concise and well delivered. It was a great start to what would be a memorable day.

With J. David Petruzzi, at the First Shot Commemoration, July 1st, 2013

With J. David Petruzzi, at the First Shot Commemoration, July 1st, 2013


Amy then dropped Frank and I off at the Codori Farm so we could participate in the NPS “Last March of the Iron Brigade” event. The purpose of this event would be to retrace the two plus mile march of the brigade from the Emmitsburg Road to McPhersons Ridge, where the Iron Brigade went into battle. Headed by Gettysburg NPS historians Scott Hartwig, and Dan Welch the march was to be lead by one of the premier living history groups in existence today, the Liberty Rifles, dressed and accoutered as a full company of the 2nd Wisconsin. My plan was to be in uniform with my haversack and canteen and to simply fall in behind the Liberty Rifles and carry the regimental color of the 19th on the march, once we reached McPhersons Ridge to honor the brave men of the 19th and the Iron Brigade by pulling the shuck of the colors much like Abe Buckles did 150 years ago to the day.

After we are dropped off, I was approached by 2 young men in uniform with “19’s” on their Hardee hats. They introduced themselves as Jeremy Brandt and Dale Zartman and asked if the shucked colors I was carrying were of the 19th, I said yes they were the regimental and that I also had the National color in the car. They said they would be honored to help carry the colors, so I called Amy, she turned the car around and dropped of the National and we were set. Soon we were joined by 2 other living historians whose names I have regrettably forgotten, however one of them was a young man who had traveled from Australia for the BGA reenactment and this event.

As we waited to start, the crowd continued to gather and as the numbers swelled to more than 500 we were all amazed and knew that this was going to be something very special.

Now I must mention something. I am not a living historian, nor re-enactor. As a member of the North South Skirmish Association for the past 35 years, I participate in live fire events with Civil War firearms, an activity I dearly love. N-SSA members as a whole don’t march too much or for that matter very well, and like me tend to be older [ I am 59] and like me are not to be in the best of physical condition. When we shoot in our skirmishes oft times we don’t wear our wool uniform blouses, just our period shirts. So here I am little old, a bit overweight and not in shape getting ready to march with some  of the finest equipped, very fit men I could ever image ! Did I feel a bit out of place? You bet. Was I glad I was with going on the march with these boys? Why hell yes!

We formed up and stepped off and just like 150 years ago, the fifes and drums started playing “The Campbells Are Coming” as we started across the fields, followed by the growing crowd of  more than 800 people. Pretty soon we fell into route step and the clock started turning back to 1863. At intervals we would halt, while Scott and Dan would speak on the Iron Brigade and what was happening 150 years ago. In the distance we could hear the thumping of artillery as there were artillery demos going on in different areas of the park….and time kept going spinning backwards.

During these halts, the boys shared their hardtack and parched corn with me, pipes would be lit, and talk would begin about how damn lucky we were to be doing this event to honor the Brigade.

When we arrived in the swale between Seminary and McPhersons Ridge we halted and our captain told us that we would move into line of battle and double quick to the top of the ridge. I had not planned on having to run, but as the 2nd shook itself out into line of battle, our little color guard moved to the left, I turned to my young Australian friend and yelled as loud as I could, ” Abe, pull the shuck” and with great style and grace he did and the colors of the 19th once again flew on the field of Gettysburg.

Now came the order to charge…..and to be honest, it was hard to run with my eyes tearing up and my 59 year old legs tiring quickly so I stumbled a bit, but with the help of my new pards we made it to the top of the ridge….to the cheers and applause of the hundreds of people gathered there.

After we got to the top of the ridge, we were simply mobbed by people who want to see and touch the colors or have their photo taken with them. Many of these people had ancestors who had fought and in some cases died in during the action of July 1st and we along with the colors were a very tangible connection for them of their family’s sacrifice. They thanked us over and over, but in turned we thanked them for being there to honor the men who had sacrificed so much for what they believed in.

After as the crowd started to thin…our little color guard moved down to the 19ths monument to render honors to the regiment, and once again people flocked to the colors to pay their respect. We then returned back to the top of the ridge to rest and reflect a bit. Then a most amazing thing happened. My new pards asked me to lead them to the Reynolds monument to render honors. I explained to them that my grasp of the correct commands was shaky at best, but they helped me through it and it was yet another very memorable event in a day full of great events and memories.

We then carried the colors back to the final position of the 19th on Seminary Ridge, and paused a bit to reflect. My pards wanted me to accompany them as they retraced the retreat through town to Cemetery Hill and then to the Iron Brigades final position on Culps Hill, but I declined. I was done. Physically and emotional drained. And I don’t think I have ever felt so good in my life !

So there you have it. The best of days, one where I met new “Pards” who are some of the finest most dedicated living historians one could hope to know, we drank from canteens and ate hardtack on the march, smoked pipes during the halts in the advance and heard the distant booming of artillery as we made our hurried march, I held our colors as they were un-shucked and saw them unfurl into the gentle breeze as we advanced up McPhersons Ridge. I had the great honor of meeting descendants of the men of the Iron Brigade and watched the expressions on their faces as our presence and even more so the colors of the 19th helped them connect over 150 years with their ancestors.

I would like to think that as they looked down on us, those “Boys of 61″ who wore the Black Hats of the Iron Brigade of the West were proud of what we did on our march and that we honor their memory so. And I hope they noticed throngs of cheering people of the ridge, who traveled from every part of the world to honor their great sacrifice and know that those Boys of  ’61 who wore the “Tall Black Hats” are not nor never will be forgotten.

Yes my friends, it was a good day….a very good day.

Follow the link below  for the National Park Service video of this event:

Iron Brigade Pards





So Fell the Captain of the Gate. The Assault on Cheathams Hill -150 Years Ago Today


Colonel Dan McCook Image from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_McCook,_Jr.

While my focus over the last several posts has concentrated on Gettysburg, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize today’s 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Below is an excerpt from the regimental history of the 52nd OVI by Nixon B. Stewart. The 52nd which was once commanded by brigade commander Colonel Daniel McCook, a member of the famed Ohio family of “Fighting McCooks. With great gallantry General McCook led his command across the killing fields below the Confederate position ( soon to be known as the “Dead Angle”) on Cheathams Hill and charging up the steep slopes of the hill was mortally wounded just feet from the top of the enemy’s line of entrenchments:

That beautiful morning was half gone when we were told that all things were ready. The hostile army grimly waited for our coming, as slowly we marched into the jaws of death. Just as the batteries ceased firing, we dressed our lines into column, and Col. Dan. McCook, standing in front of the brigade, repeated from McCauley’s poem in Horatius the words:

“Then out spoke bold Horatius, the captain of the gate,
To all men of the earth cometh soon or late.
But how can man die nobler, when facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temple of his Gods.”

It was fifty paces from McCook’s to Morgan’s line. We moved promptly on signal, going at quick time, then double-quick, on coming to the creek, which was marshy and sluggish, our lines was somewhat broken.

Firing began immediately. From the crest both musketry and artillery, but we pushed on capturing the line of rifle pits, taking the men prisoners. The batteries opened right and left, as we pushed on up the hill. It is dreadful to think about. Grape and canister, shot and shell sowed the ground with rugged iron and garnished it with the dead. The first to fall was Sergeant John T. Fowler, of Co. B. As he fell, his tongue protruded from his mouth, caused by a contraction of the muscles of the throat. I longed to take him in my arms and minister to his sufferings, but we were to push the battle. The race of flags grew every moment more terrible. Four color-bearers were either killed or wounded. Linley H. Street, a brave boy, beloved by his comrades, fell, pierced to death. Sergeant Wm. J. Bradfield snatches the flag and is wounded in the strong right arm as he leads the charging column. Poor boy, he goes back to Nashville to die with the dread gangrene. David U. McCullough of Co. E, seizes the old banner and is wounded in the shoulder. Thus three of our color-bearers are shot down. The line wavers like a great billow and up comes the banner again. Now it is in the hands of James Lynne of Co. C. He loses an arm and on we go. Sheets of flame baptize us. Plunging shot tear away comrades on left and right. It is no longer shoulder to shoulder, it is God for us all. We are facing the steady fire of two thousand infantry, pouring down upon our heads as if it were the old historic curse from heaven. We wrestled with the mountain, but our brave men are climbing steadily on — upward still. Things are growing desperate. The enemy began to throw stones upon our heads. They light the fuse and throw hand grenades in our faces. One of these struck James Sheets, of Co. E, tearing away all the flesh from his cheek.


View of the field from the confederate earthworks crossed by the 52nd OVI during their assault on Cheathams Hill.

They shout down upon us “Chickamauga.” Our brave Dan McCook was in the lead, when our front line had reached the fortifications, only to find a barrier which was calculated to make a weak man falter and a brave man think. The works were fringed with pikes, sharpened pins driven into logs, standing like a hay rack, pointing toward your face. Four lines of these stood one behind the other, so arranged that they overlapped each other. In a moment the front line grasped the barrier of pikes, and carried them endways, thus opening the way to the line of earth works.

Our brave Colonel urging his men on, was struck as he said, “Come on boys, the day is won,” as he reached the earth work. He was shot about four inches below the collar bone, in the right breast, falling outside of the fortifications.


Marker designating the spot just outside the confederate earthworks where Colonel McCook Fell mortally wounded. Authors Photo

After the fall of Col. McCook, the voice of Captain Charles Fellows of McCook’s staff was heard, but his half finished, “come on boys—we’ll take”—was cut short, and brave Charley fell dead only a few feet from the ditch.

Regiment after regiment breasted the storm as we came upon the mountain, until all four of the regiments in front of our line had tried and failed, and when we reached the works, we were in the front line. Several colors were planted in the loose earth at the foot of the ditch. We learned from a member of the ist Tennessee Infantry, that Capt. Beasley of that regiment lost his life while attempting to grasp the colors of the 52nd Ohio. Our regiment preserved a fair allignment to the last, and was undoubtedly assisted in the final stand by many members of other regiments. No braver and better behaved men ever attempted to storm an impregnable fortress than the Illinois and Indiana boys who were slaughtered in that terrible assault.

Col. Harmon, of the 125th, took command. He gave the command “Forward” and fell into the arms of his men, pierced through the heart. Deadly volleys mowed us down. The ground was strewn with the dead and dying. The living crouched behind the dead comrades. Col. Dilworth of the 85th Iil., was now the ranking officer, and no sooner in command than he was wounded, and the command was assumed by Lieut. Col. J. W. Langhley, of 125th 1ll.

The order had been given to fall back twenty paces and thus straighten our lines which had swung to the right and rear, owing to the galling fire from the lower depression of the enemy’s line in that direction. When the order was given to re-form our lines we had lain down right under the enemy’s works, and everyone of us would have been killed or captured, had it not been that the line formed twenty-five yards below us with the advantage of the depression of the slope. They, by firing over our heads, soon had control of the line in our immediate front. Probably one half of our regiment that were unharmed, lay within twelve feet of the earth works and not in a position to load and fire. One by one our men crawled back to the new line below while many of us, with the dead and seriously wounded, lay near the works. Three of my comrades were struck just as our men lay down. Joseph Hanlon lay dead on my right. Isaac Winters, who was shot in the temple, but living, lay within my reach on the left. Frank Grace of Co. D, lay dead just below me, and Joseph E. Watkins of the 22nd Indiana Regiment, rose to start for the line below, when he fell dead across my feet, as I lay near a chestnut stump, within ten feet of the earth works. Col. Clancy was on my left, and in an opportune moment, he started for the line below, catching his foot in the belt of a sword, plunged into our line below, taking the sword with him. It proved to be Capt. S. M. Neighbor’s, he, having been seriously wounded a short time before, stripped off his sword and belt and staggered to the rear.

While lying here with a dead soldier across my feet, who could describe the sensations of the forty minutes that passed. To run the gauntlet might be death, to lie there, a movement of the body would draw the fire of the enemy on the “Dead Angle” to our right. The comrade shot in the temple sat up and began to talk in delirium, which attracted the enemy. He plead for water. I pushed my canteen toward him and he reached out but failed to get it.

As mentioned in the above the 52nd fell back to a new line which thanks to a slight fold or depression in the ground offered a bit of protection from the savage confederate small arm and artillery fire. The 52nd’s loss during the assault on the Dead Angle and Cheathams Hill was 34 killed and 102 wounded and three prisoners, total 139.  The regiment remained on this line for six more days, under confederate fire most of the time, save for a truce to bury the dead…….

Wednesday morning a truce lasting from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m. was arranged to bury the dead. Unarmed guards, detailed from each side, were stationed in two lines, facing outward, to prevent the passing of other than the burial party, which worked between. A general exchange of news papers, coffee and tobacco while a jolly good feeling abounded everywhere. Our dead had lain upon the ground forty hours and the smell was terrible. Thirty-seven of our brigade were buried in the four hours in which we worked. It was my good fortune to be on the detail and to be able to identify all who belonged to the 52nd Ohio. We dug the graves, right where they lay, covering them over and marking the spot with the name and regiment. Our men sat upon the head logs and crowds of armed men from the commands near by thronged our works. The rebel line was crowned with sightseers of high and low rank. Generals from both sides circulated freely between the lines, although this was in direct violation of the terms of the truce. Hindman, Cheatham and Maney were prominent. I was particularly interested in Pat Cleburne, who afterwards lost his life at Franklin. He was tall, with a genial face and a good fighter, as we had a chance to know. We sat down and chatted with the detail and enjoyed ourselves like friends. A challenge came from a rebel who wanted to wrestle with any yank in the crowd. It was accepted by one of our boys, a recruit. He threw the Johnny, amid the shouts of our boys. The signal gun was fired and we were pecking away at each other in five minutes.

Colonel McCook would be transported to the family home in Steubenville Ohio, only to die of the lingering affects of his wound on July 17th, 1864. He was 29 years old.

Sources -Stewart, Nixon B. Dan McCooks Regiment, 52nd OVI, Alliance Ohio, Review Print 1900. Reprint by Blue Acorn Press

“What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”


Phil Spaugy – First trip to Gettysburg National Battlefield, July 1974. Location was the Cavalry Field Road.

#tbt – My first visit to Gettysburg – July 1974.

Accompanied by my buddy, Joe Davis I loaded up my VW Beetle with a pup tent and other camping supplies and left home [Vandalia, Ohio] shortly after I got off work which was around 11:00 PM. Driving east through the night we approached the battlefield on US Route 30 just shortly after sunrise. What is and always will be etched into my memory is how the Buford and Reynolds statues seem to rise like specter-like out of the early morning mist. I was simply awestruck and I remember well the feeling coming over me that I was in a place where for whatever reason I was supposed to be. We stayed at the Drummer Boy Campground and in my view spent three wonderful days exploring [much of it on foot] the battlefield. Up early, coffee and breakfast on the Coleman stove then off to the battlefield! Evenings were spent in what my memory serves me correctly was the “Billy Yank – Johnny Reb” Tavern on the southeast corner of the town square, where the hamburgers were good and they served ice-cold Coors beer which was a real treat for us since it was not available in OHIO at that time. Unfortunately, even after being plied with plenty of ice-cold” Rocky Mountain” goodness, Joe did not share the same enthusiasms as I for Gettysburg, a feeling that exists even to this day. Whenever the subject comes up and I begin to reminisce about our long ago road trip he gets a strange look in his eyes and even starts to quiver a bit! Oh well, I tried to convert him, I really did !

So today, as I look forward with much anticipation to next weeks 151st anniversary events and activities at both the Seminary Ridge Museum and on the battlefield, I have reflected back on the many visits I have made to Gettysburg since that first trip in July of 1974. I find it hard to believe that so much time has passed since that first visit, and as I think back I just can’t seem to get the line from the Grateful Dead’s song “Truckin” that seems to sum up this life long journey of mine most perfectly – Yes…….

“What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”

The Ambulance – Part Two

The ambulance at it’s new home. The Seminary Ridge Museum.

Those who follow this blog might remember that earlier this year my wife, Amy, and I purchased a reproduction Civil War Ambulance from Marvin and Liz Knasel of Eaton, Ohio. Our intent was to donate this unique Civil War item to the new Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg, and after a brief flurry of emails and phone calls with Denise Doyle, the Administrative and Development Officer of the museum, our offer was graciously accepted.

Now we needed to figure out some way to get the ambulance from Vandalia, Ohio to the museum in time for the 151st anniversary of the battle. This problem was soon solved by my friend and fellow North-South Skirmish Association member, Jerry Smith, who offered the use of his truck and car hauler to transport the ambulance east. So on Tuesday, June 10th we loaded the ambulance into Jerry’s’ trailer and headed east to Gettysburg. Arriving in the late afternoon, we were meet by Denise and soon had the ambulance unloaded. After an all-too-brief visit and a quick night’s sleep we headed back to Ohio the next day.

Denise Doyle and I with "her" new ambulance.

Denise Doyle and I with “her” new ambulance.

Amy and I made this donation, not only because Gettysburg is a very special place for us, but as Founding Members of the Seminary Ridge Museum we are strong supporters of its message of courage and sacrifice. The story told within the walls is not only of those who fought here, but also of those who ministered to the wounded and dying in the Seminary building. Additionally, I have a special very personal connection in that the Ziegler family, who figure so prominently in the story of the Seminary building during and after the battle, are distant ancestors of mine. Another ancestor, William Spaugy of Company F, 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, fought with his regiment in the fields west of and surrounding the Seminary building. Given all those factors Amy and I agreed that there was no better home for this ambulance than in Gettysburg and at this museum.

The ambulance in place on the grounds of the Seminary Ridge Museum.

The ambulance in place on the grounds of the Seminary Ridge Museum.

One finishing touch remained, however. Given my lifelong passion for the Iron Brigade of the West, along with the study of the actions of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac on that fateful day of July 1st,1863, it was my desire to have the ambulance correctly marked as belonging to the First Division of the Army of the Potomac. Thanks to research done by my friend Lance Herdegen (and Iron Brigade historian extraordinaire), we were able to find out how the ambulance would be marked as to unit. Now we needed to find someone who had the talent to paint this on the canvas sides of the ambulance. Denise quickly called on her friend, renowned sculptor Gary Casteel, to perform this work. He graciously agreed, and it looks like this finishing touch will be by the July 1st dedication of the ambulance. (Click on program of 151st events at the museum.)

Since the age of seven, I, like many others, have been enthralled with the story of the American Civil War. To say that the pursuit of the history and understanding of this conflict has defined my life would not be an understatement. Like others who have this sort of passion, or even obsession, there usually is someone like a parent, relative, teacher, or coach who piques your interest and sends you on your way. For me, it was my grandmother, Helen Taylor Ehemann, who, among other things, taught in a one room school house in Shelby County, Ohio. She was quite a free thinker for her time, loved to garden, but most of all was a lover of books, reading, and of history. I had some challenges to overcome in my early years, and my grandparents’ farm was a great refuge for a young boy, especially during the summer months. So, it is only proper and fitting that the ambulance dedication plaque will honor the memory of not only the men who gave so much on July 1st, 1863, but also a grandmother who started her grandson on a wonderful lifetime journey in pursuit of the history of our great Civil War.

civil war ambulance plaque

A Press Release from the Getttysburg Foundation and the Gettysburg National Military Park

The following is today’s press release concerning the remains of the Civil War soldier, whose sale was stopped by public outcry yesterday.

And again, thanks to all who made this happen.


June 3, 2014
Soldier’s Remains Now at Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg Foundation

Katie Lawhon, Gettysburg National Military Park

Cindy L. Small, Gettysburg Foundation

News Release Date: June 3, 2014

Soldier’s Remains Now at Gettysburg –After authentication, Gettysburg Foundation and National Park Service plan for a burial with honors.

Due to an outpouring of concern from people across the nation about a planned auction of the skull of a Civil War soldier reportedly killed at Gettysburg, the soldier’s remains will not be sold and have been donated to the Gettysburg Foundation.

Late Monday, June 2, the president of the Gettysburg Foundation, Joanne Hanley, accepted the donation from auctioneer Tom Taylor of Estate Auctions of Hershey, Pa.  The sale was set to take place in Hagerstown, Maryland.  The owner of the collection wished to remain anonymous.

The Gettysburg Foundation will work with the National Park Service to authenticate the human remains.   Once provenance of the remains has been verified, the Gettysburg Foundation will donate them to Gettysburg National Military Park for interment with full military honors in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

In response to news coverage of the planned auction, an unprecedented outcry from concerned citizens overwhelmed organizers of the auction, and included threats of a riot, according to the manager of the hotel in Hagerstown, Maryland, where the auction was going to take place.

Late in the afternoon on June 2, the hotel manager contacted the park on behalf of the auctioneers to offer the donation of the remains to the park for a respectful burial in the National Cemetery.

The remains are now in storage at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center pending verification of their authenticity.

“We are thankful to have the opportunity to honor what is very likely an American veteran and have his final resting place recognized,” said Ed W. Clark, Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park.  “The outpouring of support, passion and concern from American citizens made the difference and a positive outcome was achieved.”

“We are extremely grateful to the owners of the collection for making this decision, and to Tom Taylor, the auctioneer, for helping make it happen,” said Joanne Hanley. “It truly was the right decision to return these remains to Gettysburg, providing the integrity and dignity this veteran deserves.”

“I am very honored that we can do this with the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service so that the remains are properly handled and his service will be recognized,” said Tom Taylor, Estate Auctions.

Gettysburg National Military Park is a unit of the National Park System that preserves and protects the resources associated with the Battle of Gettysburg and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and provides an understanding of the events that occurred there within the context of American History.  Information is available at www.nps.gov/gett.

The Gettysburg Foundation is a  non-profit educational organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg. The Foundation raised funds for and now operates the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park, which opened in April 2008. In addition to operating the Museum and Visitor Center, the Foundation has a broad preservation mission that includes land, monument and artifact preservation and battlefield rehabilitation—all in support of the National Park Service’s goals at Gettysburg. Information is available at www.gettysburgfoundation.org.

A Horrific Situation…NO LONGER. This soldier will be coming home !

Phil Spaugy:

Updated !!!!

Originally posted on Buckeyes, Blackhats and the Boys of '61:

I join with many others in the Civil War community in my complete disgust of the following auction, and I can only hope that the buyer sees that the remains of this American soldier are buried with full honor and respect.

Take a minute to reflect on what is for “sale” here. It is the remains of not only one who wore the Blue or Gray, but a son, or brother, or father who while fighting for what they believed in, gave their life for those beliefs. This must not stand !

In fact, I along with many others will demand just that!


An update from WHAG –

Thanks to all who laid “siege” to Mr. Taylor today. You all did a very important thing today, and in the near future one who wore the Blue or the Gray will finally rest in honored glory with his “Pards!!”

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