Given that this past Sunday was the 152nd anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Shiloh, I thought I might share the stories of two local “Boys of ’61″ who fell in this first great battle of the American Civil War.
Corporal Thomas Westerman Born January 15, 1839
Died July 7, 1862
Corporal Thomas Westerman was born on or about January 15, 1839, to Henry and Ellen Westerman on the family farm in Butler Township. On September 3, 1861, flushed with the patriotic excitement and fervor that was sweeping the Northern states, Thomas [or Tom as he was known to his friends and family] volunteered to help suppress the rebellion of the southern states and was mustered into Company C of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry [OVI], for a period of three years.
Like the typical infantry regiment mustered for service in the Civil War, the 1st OVI consisted of 10 companies of 100 men each, plus officers and staff. Companies B, C and D were all from Montgomery County. Since Company C was primarily raised from Butler and its neighboring townships, Tom was serving with many familiar faces. Leaving Camp Corwin [which was located on the east side of Dayton] on October 31, 1861, for Cincinnati, and then on to Louisville, the 1st OVI started their journey to the “Seat of the War” from which many of the boys would never return.
Using transport boats to move up Tennessee River from Savannah; the 1st OVI arrived on the battlefield at Shiloh [also know as Pittsburg Landing] in the early morning hours of April 7th and by 5:00 AM the regiment started disembarking from their transport steamer The men of Company C, along with the other soldiers of the 1st were greeted by scores of stragglers cowering under the bluffs of the landing, and wild rumors of the total rout and defeat of the Federal forces on the 6th. At approximately 600 AM on the morning of the 7th the 1st, along with the other regiments of Rousseau’s brigade started moving toward their assigned position near the center of the Federal battle line. As the marched they passed a small crude log cabin, where the Federal surgeons were plying their ghastly trade, not unnoticed by the men was the pile of amputated arms and legs the littered the ground near the so called “hospital”. One can only imagine the sense of anticipation and anxiety that filled the minds and souls of Tom and his comrades of Company C as they experienced the sights and sounds of a Civil War battlefield for the first time.
By midday on April 7th, the 1st OVI came under heavy artillery and small arms fire while repulsing several Confederate counterattacks on their portion of the Federal line. According to a US government Pension File Affidavit signed by Tom’s father in 1884, “at 4:00 p.m. Tom was severely wounded by an artillery shell in the side and, shortly thereafter, he was wounded a second time, in the leg.”
After suffering his wounds Tom was moved to a crude field aid station, then to a hospital steamboat which transported him first to a field hospital near Savannah Tennessee, and then on to a military hospital in Louisville. Upon learning of the severity of his son’s injuries, Tom’s father traveled to Louisville and on May 1st, Tom was granted furlough to return to his home near Chambersburg to continue his recuperation under the loving care of his friends and family. However, try as they might to nurse him back to health, their efforts were to no avail as Tom could not recover from the effect of his wounds. On July 7, 1862, at the age of 23 years, 5 months and 23 days, he died. He rests today in Poplar Hill Cemetery in Vandalia.
Private George L. Heikes Born February 20, 1842
Died April 29, 1862
George Heikes was born on or about February 20th, 1842 on the Heikes family farm which was located in the southwest corner of State Route 48 and present-day Turner Road. George enlisted in Co. C of the 1st OVI om 9/13/61. His experiences before the battle of Shiloh were much the same as Thomas’, however the following is an excerpt from Albert Kerns regimental history of the 1st OVI, which describes Georges wounding on April 7th:
“Adam Dixon of Company C during the intensive firing on the morning of the seventh, called out to his captain Gates Thurston that his ramrod had stuck fast in the barrel of his musket. The captain told him to wait a bit, that there would soon be an idle gun to be had. Shortly thereafter, George L. Heikes, also a member of Company C was stuck by a ball through the hip, he swung around as he fell, exclaiming, Oh my God!, Dixon took the musket of his comrade and resumes firing. Heikes was put on board a transport after the battle and carried to St. Louis where he died on April 29th, 1862, and strange to relate his body was sent home and now rest in “Shiloh Cemetery located north of Dayton on the Covington Pike”. George was 20 years old when he died.
It should also be mentioned another resident of Butler Township, Hamilton Waymire, age 20, was wounded at Shiloh and subsequently died April 15, 1862, on a hospital steamboat in the Mississippi River. Hamilton was a member of the Waymire family who were early settlers of Butler Township and as of this writing we have not been able to locate his final resting place.
It’s important to note that in addition to the above, the remaining companies of the 1st OVI lost an additional seven men who were either killed or wounded in action at Shiloh and died later. They also suffered approximately 30 other men wounded, and one captured.