Buckeyes, Blackhats and the Boys of '61

The Story of Two Fallen Buckeyes from the Battle of Shiloh

1st OVI monument at Shiloh

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.


Gravestone of Corporal Thomas Westerman, Popular Hill Cemetery, Vandalia, Ohio

Detail of Thomas Westerman’s gravestone

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.


Gravestone of Private George Heikes, Shiloh Cemetery, Dayton Ohio



Detail of George Heikes’s gravestone.




The “Panoply of Arms” on George Heikes’s gravestone.


A Federal Monument Surrounded by a Un-reconstructed Fence

Another quick Civil War post from Cayo Hueso…aka Key West.

Long one of my favorite Civil War spots in Key West, this monument, located in Clinton Square in the heart of Old Town was erected in 1866 by the Navy Club of Key West and inscribed with the following “To the memory of the officers, sailors & soldiers of the Army, Navy & Marine Corps of the United States who lost their lives in their country’s service upon this station from 1861-1865” was most certainly one of the first such monuments in the country erected after the Civil War.



Upon approaching the monument your eye is quickly drawn to the fence which surrounds the memorial, with a small plaque upon the gate your eye is drawn to the small plaque upon the iron gate:


And there in lies a story….

Born in South Carolina in 1839,  Jeptha Vining Harris grew up in both South Carolina and Mississippi where he graduated form the University of Mississippi with a medical degree in 1859. He married Mary Perkins of Mississippi in the spring of 1861, and putting his medical education to good use served as a Asst. Surgeon in both the Confederate States Army and Navy, where he was assigned to the Mobile Squadron, serving  upon the CSS Morgan. After the war he moved his family to Key West, where among other things he was the customs collector, residing in the magnificent red brick Custom House which sits across the street from this memorial. Doctor Harris died in 1914, and is buried in the Key West Cemetery.

Upon his arrival in Key West and obviously very proud of his service to the Confederacy, Harris erected the fence around the Federal monument and while the fence bears no other inscription other than the simple plaque on the gate, the symbolism of a “Rebel” fence surrounded a Federal memorial speaks with much more meaning and emotion than words might ever express.



Bust of J. Vining Harris in the Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden http://www.keywestsculpturegarden.org/


Plaque describing Dr. Harris’s rather illustrious career and rather full life. http://www.keywestsculpturegarden.org/

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that the good Doctor was most certainly a “Good Old Rebel” to the very end!

You Never Know Who You Might Run Into In Key West

photo 4


Just a quick post while on vacation in Key West Florida,  where yesterday we visited the Key West Lighthouse Museum.


The first display that I came upon featured this familiar looking fellow:

photo 1


photo 2


As you can see the”Old Snapping Turtle” had quite the pre-war career in lighthouse design and construction all along the east coast of the United States.

It always amazes me that no matter how far one may roam, the men of the American Civil war and their connection to Gettysburg are oft times discovered where you least expect to find them.



Stacked Arms: a Photographic Study of Federal Late-War Arms and Accoutrements

As a long-time student of the arms and accoutrements of the Federal soldier of the American Civil War, I have always been drawn to the image below:

Stacked Arms

Taken at Petersburg, Virginia in late 1864 or early 1865, the image shows a row of stacked rifle muskets along with various items of  equipage carried by the common Federal infantryman in the later stages of the American Civil War. Thanks to modern technology, this image is available in several downloadable formats from the Library of Congress website (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/). Once downloaded, one can enlarge the image and get a great view of the arms and other equipage carried by “Billy Yank” during the last eastern campaign of the war. (If the image looks familiar, it is depicted on one of the large wall murals on display at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park Visitor Center.

The following are some enlargements of items in this image that I have found interesting. I encourage those interested in further studying this and other images to access the LOC website and see what “hidden treasures” you might find.

The Arms

The first thing one notices when the image is enlarged is that the arms are obviously well-kept and burnished bright, with a mix of Model 1861, 1863, and 1864 (aka Model 1863 Type II) pattern rifle muskets in the stacks of arms.

61 and 63 Springfield Rifle Muskets

You can tell the Model 1861′s from the Model 1863′s by the hammer shape or style, flat barrel bands and band retaining springs of the Model 1861, versus the redesigned hammer, oval, screw-tightened bands of the Model 1863′s which lack band retaining springs. The Model 1861′s also had a distinctive swell to the ramrod to secure the ramrod in the ramrod channel, whereas the M1863/64′s used a ramrod retaining spoon in the stock, which enabled the ramrod to have a straight shaft.

M1861 swelled ramrods and flat barrel bands.

Three  M1861 rifle muskets with swelled ramrods and flat barrel bands held in place by a retaining spring. Note the one M1863 rifle musket with the oval barrel bands held in place by a screw in the bottom of the band.

M1861 hammer detail

Note the distinctive “C” shape of the M1861 hammer, a holdover from the M1855 series of arms in which the hammer had to clear the high hump of the Maynard tape primer lock-plate unique to that series of arms.

stack 63type2

The third rifle musket from the left appears to be a Model 1864 (aka M1863  Type II), which had the retaining band springs added when it was discovered  that the screw barrel bands showed a tendency to loosen during firing.

Cone protector

Interesting closeup of a M1864 hammer resting on what appears to be an Enfield-style snap cap or nipple protector. When this image is enlarged, you can see that the arm is a M1864 with the barrel band retaining springs.

The Accoutrements

What I find interesting in the images below are the two methods of carrying the cartridge box: suspended on the belt or by the shoulder strap. Also note that the knapsacks are of the common double-bag pattern. There is what appears to be an over-the-shoulder sling suspension type of blanket roll in the first image below.

In the lower left of this closeup there appears to be a blanket roll, that was carried by an over the shoulder leather sling.

In the lower left of this closeup there appears to be a blanket roll that was carried by an over-the-shoulder leather sling.

Model 1864 .58 caliber cartridge box, suspended on a M1856 enlisted mans belt, with brass keeper.

Model 1864 .58 caliber cartridge box with embossed “US” suspended on a M1856 enlisted man’s belt with the brass keeper.

Note the holes punched  in the cartridge box strap for the missing eagle breastplate.

Note the holes punched in the cartridge box strap for the missing eagle breastplate.

A tin container, commonly referred to as a mucket.

A tin container, commonly referred to as a mucket,  appears to be attached to a buckle on a double-bag knapsack. “Billy Yank” oft-times added the wire bail to a tin cup or other container so that it could be suspended over a fire.

M1858 “Improved” US issue canteen, which was strengthened by stamping concentric rings into the sides. This gave the canteen its nickname, the “Bullseye” canteen.

A full haversack with a tin cup secured by the haversack fastener strap.

And lastly, probably one of the the most important pieces of the soldiers equipment: a coffee pot, and a rather large one at that.coffee pot

In closing, this image is a fine example of just how well the Federal soldier of the late war was equipped, which of course did not bode well for for the Confederacy in the spring of 1865.


American Military Equipage, 1851-1872; Volume I; Frederick P. Todd; Company of Military Historians; 1974

American Military Shoulder Arms; Volume III; George D. Moller; University of New Mexico Press; 2011

American Military Belts and Related Equipments; R.Stephen Dorsey; Pioneer Press; 1984

A Tale of “Two Ladies”

Many readers of this blog know Garry Adelman, the high-energy (to say the least) author, Director of History and Education for the Civil War Trust (http://www.civilwar.org/), Licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guide, and founder and longtime vice president of the Center for Civil War Photography (http://www.civilwarphotography.org/ ). Several times each week Gary will post a Civil War image, often from the Library of Congress collection, on his Facebook page, challenging his followers to download, study and comment on the image. It is a very enjoyable exercise and learning experience for all involved.

Today (March 5th) Gary posted the image below, entitled “Unidentified Soldiers of the 5th Ohio Cavalry and a Mountain Howitzer.”  


5th OVC

With the subject of the image being that of OHIO soldiers, I quickly downloaded the image, enlarged it, and starting the process of analyzing it closely.

Without a doubt, it is an outstanding image of hard-bitten, veteran Buckeye horse soldiers of the western theater during the war. The fact that they were proudly posing with a M1835 12 pound Mountain Howitzer (https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/model-1835-mountain-howitzer) complete with limber, made it even more fascinating. In the background one can make out what appears to be the top of a blockhouse. The well mounted and armed troopers themselves are posing on the edge of some sort of ditch or cut, railroad perhaps, and one might even argue that the logs in the foreground might be railroad ties.

After reviewing the image, I started researching the 5th OVC  to see if perhaps I could provide some more information on when the image was taken, and, in particular, the story behind the mountain howitzer being a prominent part of the scene.

A quick review of Ohio in the Civil War by Whitelaw Reid provided me with the regimental history of the 5th OVC, including the following passage on page 784:

“…It being of the utmost importance to keep the enemy in the dark as to the preparations crossing the river at Chickasaw General Osterhaus on the morning of the (October) 26th sent the trains escort to Dickson Station and with the entire division, the Fifth Ohio in advance started at daylight for Tuscumbia; driving the enemy continually and occupying the town capturing a of prisoners destroying large quantities of Rebel army supplies and returning three days afterward. Though in this expedition the enemy had not risked a general engagement they scarcely were ever out of sight. They promptly followed the division back to its encampment upon the next morning drove in the pickets and attacked impetuously in force pushing lines to within a short distance of the General’s head quarters before they were repulsed. The Fifth in this engagement as in the eight days of almost constant fighting preceding did its whole duty and won weighty compliments from General Osterhaus and staff.  Here the regiment drew two fine twelve pound mountain howitzers which were christened Lady Heath and Lady Bumill [Pummill] and assigned to squadron G.”

Well, part of the mystery was solved, but why were the two howitzers so named?  A quick look at the American Civil War Research Database (http://www.civilwardata.com) provided the following information on the commander of the 5th OVC, Colonel Thomas Hinsley Heath, in whose honor the “Lady Heath” was named:

Colonel Thomas Heath

Residence – Cincinnati, Ohio; 27 years old.
Enlisted on 8/26/1861 as a Lt. Colonel
On 10/17/1861 he was commissioned into Field & Staff, 5th OVC
He was Mustered Out on 10/30/1865 at Charlotte, NC

* Colonel 8/11/1863
* Brig-General 12/15/1864

Other Information:
born 3/10/1835 in Xenia, OH
died 10/18/1925 in Loveland, OH
Buried: Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH
Gravesite: 14-99-1

But the namesake of the “Lady Bumill” was a bit more elusive. Once again, I searched the database, but there was no “Bumill” to be found. But a quick look at the company roster showed John Pummill, who was in command of Squadron “G” to which the howitzers were assigned. Mystery solved.

Residence – Cincinnati, Ohio; age 40 years old.
Enlisted on 9/1/1861 as a Private.
On 9/1/1861 he mustered into “G” Co. 5th OVC
He was Mustered Out on 10/30/1865 at Charlotte, NC

* 1st Sergt 11/7/1861
* 1st Lieut 2/6/1863
* Capt 3/1/64
* Major 10/12/1864
* Lt Colonel 1/13/1865

Intra Regimental Company Transfers:

* 1/13/1865 from company G to Field & Staff

Other Information:
born in 1814
died 3/22/1883 in Cincinnati, OH
Buried: Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH
Gravesite: 105-41-5

As you can see, John Pummill, who at the age of 40 in 1861, enlisted as a private and served with great distinction throughout the war, eventually obtained the rank of Lt. Colonel in command of the 5th OVC. It is ironic to note that in March of 1862, his regiment was the first Federal cavalry regiment to enter the state of Mississippi, which was the home state of his uncle, one Jefferson Davis!

As to the service of the two “Ladies” of the 5th OVC, one only needs to read the following report of the Battle of Buckhead Creek to realize their value to the regiment:

Report of Col. Thomas T. Heath, Fifth Ohio Cavalry.


Near King’s Bridge, Ga., December 23, 1864.

CAPT.: I have the honor to report that the Fifth Ohio Cavalry (with the First Squadron Ohio Cavalry temporarily attached), with an aggregate of 563 men, marched with the Second Bridge, Col. S. D. Atkins commanding, from Marietta, Ga., on the 14th of November, 1864, on the expedition ending with the occupation of Savannah by our forces.

Just previous to marching 440 men of my regiment, and 9 officers, whose terms of service had expired, were ordered to Ohio to be mustered out of service. Myself and 11 other officers were retained on the order of Maj.-Gen. Howard, commanding Army and Department of the Tennessee, though entitled to be ordered to Ohio for muster out of service on the 14th of November, 1864. During this most arduous campaign both officers and men have done their whole duty, never discontented at nor flagging in the routine of day and night marches, building breast-works, destroying railroads, picket, skirmish, and battle, through thirty-eight days and nights in an enemy’s country.

I am proud to say, that for intelligent and ready execution of all orders received, as well as for valorous action on the battle-field, my officers and men deserve the highest commendation, have my thanks, and promptly received acknowledgment in general orders from brigade and division commanders. Dogged by a president and relentless enemy from East Point to the walls of Savannah, through woods and swamps hitherto considered impracticable, the Fifth Ohio Cavalry has done its full share of every work, participated in every engagement, and never faltered. At Macon it supported the gallant Tenth Ohio in its charge, while one battalion tore up the railroad. On the 28th of November the First Brigade was hard pressed in the swamp at Buck Head Creek. This regiment was ordered by Col. Atkins to go to the rear and cover the crossing of the brigade. Moving rapidly to the rear, it took position, dismounted, threw up barricades of rails, planted its section of howitzers to cover the bridge, enabled the whole brigade to cross in safety, and checked the advance of Wheeler’s whole force, which was exultingly pressing the rear. When the smoke of our discharge of canister had cleared away the rebels who were crowded on the causeways to the bridge were not seen, and Capt. William Jessup, Company D, with twenty of his men, under the fire of their riflemen daringly burned and completely destroyed the bridge, while shells from the howitzers compelled the enemy to ploy and seek crossing above and below.

After  two hours, finding the enemy was crossing at other points and gaining our flanks and rear, we steadily retired on the brigade, which had taken position two miles and a half to our front. We had not marched far before the enemy closed them either flank on the road we were marching and began skirmishing. Capt. Alexander C. Rossman, Company E, commanding Third Battalion, Fifth Ohio, as rear guard, skillfully and gallantry kept them in check until the advance battalion had been assigned position with the brigade at Reynold’s plantation. At this moment the enemy charged in two columns with vigor. Capt. Rossman, with his battalion re-enforced by Company C and a line of dismounted skirmished, fought in front of the barricade; the remainder of the regiment, with the howitzers, from behind the work. The enemy were quickly and easily repulsed with loss…

 I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,


Col. Fifth Regt. Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.
Capt. H. J. SMITH,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brig. Third Div., Cav. Corps.

Source:  Official Records


[Series I. Vol. 44. Serial No. 92.]


Ohio in the Civil War - http://www.ohiocivilwar.com/cwc5.html

Ohio in the Civil War by Whitelaw Reid – Available on Google Books:http://books.google.com/books?id=qvKxouViJBEC&dq=ohio%20in%20the%20civil%20war&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q=ohio%20in%20the%20civil%20war&f=false


Meeting Announcement

Phil Spaugy:

This will be a great presentation on the First Battle of Bull Run, and what the “fresh fish” Buckeyes of the 1st and 2nd OVM were up against when “facing the elephant” for the first time !

Originally posted on Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable:

When:    March 12th

Where: Otterbein University. Towers Hall 3rd floor. Room 318. Westerville Ohio 43081. Please go to the “About the COCWRT” tab for more information.

Time:  7pm

Speaker: Harry Smeltzer

Topic:   “McDowell’s  Plan for Bull Run: Brilliant, Sound or Something Less”

Irvin McDowell’s Plan and Other Bull Run Misconceptions. This program will explore what the presenter feels are popular misconceptions surrounding the First Bull Run campaign, with primary focus on the army commander’s intentions up to the early hours of July 21, 1861. We will discuss how we have come to know the story of Bull Run as we know it, various primary sources and secondary accounts of the campaign, treatments by historians and institutions, the general interest (or lack thereof) of Civil War enthusiasts in the details of the campaign, and other related – or even unrelated – topics. As always, the audience will likely play…

View original 150 more words

A Worthwhile Program That Needs Your Support !

The Seminary Ridge Musuem, Gettysburg Pa.

This spring, the Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg Pa. will be launching a new program; entitled “Becoming a Soldier” aimed at giving young people the experience the life of a Civil War Soldier. To further this unique experience, the Museum is asking for donations of the items [reproduction] listed below:

  • 30 or more each USA and CSA enlisted forage caps or kepis
  • 10 or more each USA and CSA canteens,
  • 30 or more each USA and CSA haversacks

There is also a need for a camp desk, stool, tin plate and cup, youth sized uniform jackets, shoes, and the like that would be passed around. A used A-frame tent for authenticity and/or open sided tent would also be useful.

If you have not visited the Seminary Ridge Museum, please make a point to do so on your next visit to Gettysburg. You will not be disappointed. If you have a Civil War bucket list (like I do), treat yourself to a climb up to the Seminary cupola like John Buford did on the morning of July 1, 1863. You can take in the view to the west, watching for the advance of Harry Heth’s grey-clad infantry. But beware, the wind in the cupola can play some strange tricks on your mind, and perhaps if it is blowing just right you might catch the faintest scent of pipe tobacco, tinged a bit with the familiar smell of black powder, and hear a voice from below say, “What’s the matter John?” …and maybe, just maybe, a voice carried on the gentle breeze will respond, “There’s the devil to pay!”

If you have any items listed above that you might like to loan or wish to learn more about other donation opportunities contact:

Denise L Doyle

Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum

Administration and Development Officer

61 Seminary Ridge
Valentine Hall Ste 412

Gettysburg, PA 17325

717-339-1359 (office)

717-334-1647 (fax)




The Ambulance.

Reproduction Civil War Howard Ambulance built by Marvin and Liz Knasel.

Reproduction Civil War Howard Ambulance built by Marvin and Liz Knasel.

Since my youth, I have had a tremendous interest in the American Civil War. This has caused me to be a collector, or in some cases, a gatherer, of items relating to the conflict. When the unique opportunity came about to purchase a reproduction of a Civil War ambulance I could not pass it up.

Offered for sale by the builder, master woodworker and Civil War re-enactor Marvin Knasel and his wife Liz, both of Eaton, Ohio, the ambulance had been used in the living history displays of the Ohio Valley Civil War Association (http://www.ovcwa.com) of which Marvin and Liz are both members. After making a short trip to Eaton to meet Marvin and Liz and to “kick the tires” a bit, a deal was struck, and my wife Amy and I became the proud owners of this very unique and historical vehicle. We will take delivery when the weather gets better, and at that time I will have more photos (and perhaps a short video) to share. One item that I am researching is what would be the appropriate unit designation to be painted on the canvas sides of the ambulance. If you have some information please feel free to pass it along.

Now what to do with a Civil War ambulance?  My friend and fellow blogger Craig Swain (http://markerhunter.wordpress.com) suggested that the ambulance would be just the thing for us to travel in to attend the 2014 Sesquicentennial events. However, we are lacking a mule team and driver, even though I have no doubt that Craig, being from Missouri, could pull that off.  Amy had several ideas on what I might do with the ambulance, but one was physically not possible (I think) and the rest are probably best not mentioned here. There is a plan afoot, however, and over the next month or so  it will be chronicled in this blog so stay tuned!!

Ambulance drivers and their wagons at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. July, 1863.

Ambulance drivers and their wagons at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C.
July, 1863.

Another Brutal Winter….150 Years Ago

ACW Winter

While many of us endure one of the most brutal winters in recent history, made a bit easier by modern conveniences, I thought this might be a good opportunity to add some historical perspective by taking a look at the equally brutal winter weather conditions of January 1864 and its effect on the Federal troops in the field. What follows is an excerpt from the “History of the 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Volunteers during the War of the Rebellion” by the major of the 81st, W.H. Chamberlin:

  “The old year died in a storm of wind and snow and hail. Hoary winter, with his beard of icicles, and his breath of frost, triumphantly ushered in the New Year, and placed him on his icy throne. Every wind and zephyr caught the spirit of the new dynasty, and straightway, like couriers, they sped over the land, carrying with them the chill that encircled the throne. High carnival for “Winter! A new year inaugurated under his auspices. Eight vigorously does he use his power. Perhaps, as around our northern homes the wintry blasts howl, and the snow flies in eddying whirls, and the air becomes like a knife, while within-doors the grates glow with warmth giving coals, and the cabin hearths are ablaze with the roaring, crackling winter fires—perhaps in our homes there are hearts that shudder as they think of some loved one in their circle, now absent in the army, and wonder if he is not cold and shivering on a cheerless picket post. ‘Oh, where is my boy to-night?’ is the anxious inquiry of many a mother’s heart, as she looks out on the wintry scene.

Alas! that I can not say that the soldiers do not suffer! Winter brings no cessation of duty. As many men stand as sentinels around this command when the thermometer falls below zero as when the sun sends down his kindliest rays. The Quartermasters send as many wagons over the frozen ground for forage and supplies as they sent when the ground was smooth. The teamsters and train guards are not lessened in number. Yet, after all, there is more solicitude for our comfort in the homes we have left, than we feel here. Each soldier makes it his special duty to provide for his own comfort, and the result is that he suffers comparatively little, and complains less than if he depended upon others. If on picket, he passes his two hours of duty as best he may, knowing that at the end of his ‘trick’ he has four hours at his own disposal, in which time he can provide a fire. He does not sit down helplessly, and whine because the Government does not provide him a warm shelter—he builds one for himself, and if on returning to the same post to duty, he finds his shelter burned, he sheds no childish tears over his misfortune, but with a patience and cheerfulness that would do honor to the traditional spider, with a broken web, he builds again and again for the hundredth time.

The citizens of this vicinity say that not since 1837, has there been such cold weather as that of the past week. Yet, notwithstanding the number of men exposed, there has been no case of severe freezing among them all. Here and there an ear or a finger has been ‘frosted,’ but there have been no serious cases.”

And so the “Boys of 61″ endured a long, brutal winter. Whether they soldiered in Virginia or Georgia, I wonder how many of them reflected back on the chill of the past winter, while they endured the long marches, fierce fighting and the bone numbing fatigues of trench warfare during the heat of the upcoming summer campaigns of 1864?

Sources: “History of the 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Volunteers during the War of the Rebellion” by W.H. Chamberlin, Late Major of the Regiment.

Available on line at :


The First Man.

A short vignette of the horror and regret of personal combat in the war from “Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, with Pictures of Life in Camp and Field” by Benjamin F. Taylor.


Sharpshooting is the squirrel-hunting of war, and it is wonderful how utterly forgetful of self the marksmen grow; with what sportsman-like eyes they watch the grander game, and with what coolness and accuracy they bring it down. But indifferent as men become to human life, they have the most vivid and minute remembrance of the first man they brought down with a deliberate aim; often noting, in the instant of time preceding the fatal shot, the fashion of features, color of eyes and hair, even the expression of face, all painted in a picture that shall last the life out.

“ My first man,” said an artilleryman to me, “I saw but twenty seconds and shall remember him forever. I was standing by my gun, when an infantry soldier rushed up and made a lunge with the bayonet at one of the horses. I whipped out my revolver, took him through the breast, he threw up his hands, gave me the strangest look in the world and fell forward upon his face. He had blue eyes, brown, curling hair, a dark mustache and a handsome face.”

The gunner paused a moment and added: “I thought the instant I shot that I should have loved that man had I known him. I tell you what—this war is terrible business.” And so it is—and so it is—but “they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.

Enfilading Lines

... a flanking fire of words!

Eric Schlehlein, Author/Freelance writer

(re)Living History, with occasional attempts at humor and the rare pot-luck subject. Sorry, it's BYOB. All I have is Hamm's.


Reflections of a History Educator & Historian

Research Press

Firearms, long range target shooting and associated history

BattleofFranklin.net | Est. 2006 | Facebook.com/Franklin1864 | battleoffranklin@yahoo.com

The Civil War

the conflict in the East

The Founder's Blog

The history of the Founding Fathers you didn't learn in school

Shenandoah 1864

The 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Chickamauga Blog

Chickamauga, the Civil War, and sometimes, just life

We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in ... France

An amateur historian tries to understand airborne operations in World War II

Emerging Civil War

Giving a voice to the next generation of Civil War historians.

Irish in the American Civil War

Exploring Irish involvement in the American Civil War

Better Off Red

Jamie Ramsey gives you an all-access pass into the world of the Cincinnati Reds

The Daily Doty

Positive Thinking Blog Goddess goes from "wish, want, & will" to "am & did."

Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: 'died of a theory.'" -- Jefferson Davis


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