Buckeyes, Blackhats and the Boys of '61

A Worthwhile Endeavor: Help Us Restore “Long Tall Sol” Meredith’s Statue.


As you can see in the image above, the statue over the grave of Solomon Meredith, commander of both the 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and the famed Iron Brigade of the West, is slowly being covered by a growth of green moss. My friend, Phil Harris has spent much time and treasure ensuring that the headstones of the men of the 19th have been restored or, in many cases, replaced by new government headstones. This work is simply his passion. Phil noticed the growth covering Sol’s statue and started a plan of action to rectify it. To that end, he has recently launched a “GoFundMe” campaign to clean the green “Berdan”-like covering off of Old Sol and return him to his former glory. He asked for my help, but to make this worthwhile mission we are asking for YOUR help too.

Please consider making a contribution to our project. You may get access to more information by clicking on the link below.


And for Phil’s wonderful 19th Indiana website follow the link below:


Now that we have that established…let’s talk about Old Sol a bit!

For many students of the Iron Brigade, Solomon Meredith comes off as a bit of a caricature. Meredith, the first colonel of the 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and later commander of the famed “Iron Brigade of the West,” was tall like his friend Abraham Lincoln. At 6’7″ and 250 pounds, he was easily the tallest Federal general in the war. Nicknamed “Long Tall Sol” due to his height, Meredith commanded the 19th Indiana from its formation in May of 1861 until November of 1862 when, due in large part to his political connections, he was promoted to the command of the Iron Brigade. It was no secret that “Sol” was held in low esteem by the brigade’s commander, Brigadier General John Gibbon. Gibbon felt that Meredith, who was a political appointee as colonel of the 19th, was far too lax in matters of discipline and drill when it came to keeping the “Swamp Hogs” of the 19th Indiana up to the regular army standard the West Point-educated Gibbon expected. This feeling of dislike hit a high point when Meredith, using a slight wound suffered at the battle of South Mountain as the reason, missed the battle of Antietam to go to Washington to recover, and while there started campaigning for a promotion to brigadier general. Command of  the 19th then fell to Lt. Colonel Alois Bachman who was later killed while leading the regiment into action on the morning of September 17th. This inexcusable absence (in Gibbon’s mind) gave added emphasis to Gibbon’s already poor professional opinion and personal dislike of Meredith.

Shortly after the battle of  Antietam, Gibbon was promoted to divisional command. Meanwhile, Meredith, while recovering from his wound, had successfully used his network of political connections to gain promotion to brigadier general of volunteers and was awaiting appointment to a command.  With Gibbon’s promotion, the Iron Brigade needed a commander. Sol, again using every political means at his disposal, went to work to gain the appointment to this coveted spot. Gibbon was simply livid and requested Ambrose Burnside, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, to assign Meredith to a “position where he could at least do as little harm as possible.” Burnside turned down this request, stating that Meredith’s “many strong friends made” rendered Gibbon’s request impossible.

So, in the eyes of many whose passion lies in the study of  the actions of the Army of the Potomac and in particular the famed “Iron Brigade of the West,” Meredith oft-times comes off as an atypical volunteer general, a man who not by ability or respect rose to command of one of the most fabled units of the war solely by using his political connections to do so. While there certainly is a bit of truth to this, Sol’s tactics for self-promotion by using “networking” were hardly unique during the war to those seeking promotion…civilian soldiers or West Pointers alike!

Given the above, over the upcoming weeks I will be posting some articles that may give you a better perception of Sol’s life, service and sacrifice. Articles that I hope will give you a better understanding of this man and perhaps even move you to give a bit to help us restore the statue over “Old Sol’s” final resting place.


A Story of an American Treasure for this Fourth of July.


Ed Bearss talking with the living historians of the 1st South Carolina Infantry -Seminary Ridge, July 2nd, 2016.

On this Fourth of July, I find myself reflecting of two days in Gettysburg spent with Ed Bearss, and of the many subjects discussed and lessons learned. However, I keep coming back to one shining impression of his presence: The attraction of the people to him, and his gentlemanly grace in responding to them.

People wanted to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for his service to our country, as both a World War II Marine, wounded in action, and as Chief Historian of the National Park Service, of which he is now Chief Historian Emeritus. They wanted their picture taken with him, or to introduce their children to him, so that someday they could say they met the great Ed Bearss. But, above all, was his respect and appreciation for the Living Historians of the 151st Pennsylvania and the 1st South Carolina, for their passionate dedication in visually presenting the history of our American Civil War to the public. I was struck by how the faces of these historians would light up when they met Ed and he would question them about their unit or their kit, where they were from, and many other questions that made them feel that Ed was, in fact, learning from and about them. And, in Ed’s eyes, what they were doing was so very important to him. It was simply amazing how important this 93-year-old man was to so many people. I have never seen the likes of it before, and don’t believe I will again.

As Ed and I walked to lunch from his talk on the events of the First Day at Gettsyburg, I asked him if he noticed how important both his presence and kind words of praise and encouragement were to these living historians. Ed stopped, drew himself up ramrod straight, pondered the question for a moment, and said, “Phil, this great country has given me so much, this is my way to repay the debt I owe her.” And then he moved on ahead, this 93-year-old Marine, marching ever onward with his eye on his sole mission…to repay his debt to “this great country” of ours.

As for me, I watched him move on, stunned by the tears of emotion running down my cheeks, as I realized once again that I was in the presence of a truly great American treasure, one of which we may never see the likes of again.

ed and rob

Ed Bearss and Rob Hodge. The best of “Pards!”


On (To) Wisconsin!


As part of the Kenosha, Wisconsin Civil War Museums “Salute To Freedom”   event to be held the weekend of June 10th through the 12th 2016, I am honored to be giving the following  presentations on the “Iron Brigade of the West:”

Friday, June 10, 2016; Noon
The 19th Indiana Color Guard at Gettysburg

The 19th Indiana fought alongside the other four regiments of the Iron Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, losing 72 percent of those engaged. This talk encompasses both the morning and afternoon phases of the action with an emphasis on telling the stories of the men of the 19th who carried the regimental colors on that fateful day. We will also discuss the process of bringing the story of Sergeant Major Asa Blanchard to life in Don Troiani’s print “The Black Hats.”


“The Black Hats” – by Don Troiani.

Saturday, June 11th, 2016; 1pmThe Fight at the Barricade – “Here We Made Our Last And Hopeless Stand”

This presentation will cover the “Last Stand” of the Iron Brigade at the “Barricade of Rails” just west of the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. This final act bought critical time – 20 minutes – that arguably saved not only the Army of the Potomac but also the Federal Union. We will also discuss the Seminary Ridge Museum’s mission to preserve the historical location of the “Barricade” along with interpreting the crucial fighting on July 1st, 1863.

The 19th Indiana at the actual location of the “Barricade of Rails” – July 2015

I hope to see many of my friends. old and new during what promises to be a great weekend celebration of the famed “Iron Brigade of the West!”

Two Brothers. One Family’s Supreme Sacrifice. A Story for Decoration Day.

Isaac R. Haney Residence was not listed; 22 years old. Enlisted on 8/22/1862 as a Private. On 8/22/1862 he mustered into "E" Co. OH 110th Infantry He died of wounds on 6/27/1863 at Winchester, VA He was listed as: * Wounded 6/14/1863 Winchester VA.

Final resting place of the brothers Haney, Issac and Peter who fell in the defense of the “Old Flag.” Fletcher,Ohio Cemetery. Photo by the author.

Can there be any more heartbreaking task than bringing the bodies of two of your sons home for burial in a span of four months? That is the tragedy that Miami County, Ohio farmer Joseph Haney was faced with between June and October 1863.

Joseph,a carpenter by trade settled on piece of farmland in northern Miami County in 1855, where along with his wife Eva they raised a family of eight, five boys and three girls. Two of their sons, Peter and Issac joined Ohio regiments organized in defense of the “Old Flag.”

Peter was the first to volunteer,enlisting in Captain William Calender’s Company E, of the Seventy First Ohio Volunteer Infantry in October of 1861. Almost a year after, Issac followed his brother into service,enlisting in Captain William Moore’s Company E of the One Hundred Tenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

One can only imagine the anxiety the Haney family felt having two sons in the service, far from home in two very different military theaters. And the many nights spent in earnest prayer for their sons safe return home.

Sadly it was not to be.

Issac was the first to fall. In action during the Second Battle of Winchester (Virginia,) on June 13th or 14th, 1863 Issac suffered a severe wound to his left thigh. Left behind as a prisoner when the Federal forces retreated from Winchester, Issac was cared for in a Confederate hospital , where he succumbed to his wound on June 27th. When the news of his death reached home, his father paid $100 dollars to have his remains returned to Miami County where he was buried in the family plot in the Fletcher town cemetery.

Tragically, the following October, Issac’s brother Peter also fell. Killed in action on October 10th, 1863 near Hartsville Tennessee. He was the only man killed in this small inconsequential action against Rebel guerilla forces operating in this backwater of the war. Once again, Peter Haney paid to have one of his beloved sons remains returned home to Miami County where he too lies at rest in the Fletcher Cemetery, next to his beloved brother Issac.

Today like in so many cemeteries crossed our great country, the brothers Haney lie there mostly forgotten, their headstones weathered and worn. Their final resting place and the tragic long ago story of one family’s supreme sacrifice unknown to those who pass busily by.

Lest We Forget.



Mingus, Scott and Wittenberg, Eric. The Second Battle of Winchester. The Confederate Victory that Opened the Door to Gettysburg, June 13th to 15th 1863. El Dorado California, Savas Beatie,2016.

Stewart, Martin. Redemption. The 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, Troy, Ohio, Martin Stewart,2010

The 133rd National Skirmish…Shootin’ in the Rain Once Again !

Union Guards B Company

Yes.It.Rained.Again.Damnit…..Now that we got that out of the way…………

I had fun. And as shown in the following photo of the long forgotten and under appreciated Battle of Lake Shenandoah, those of us shooting around position 25 sure made the most of the rain!

The Battle of Lake Shenandoah !

The Battle of Lake Shenandoah !

And, to me, that is what being a member of the North-South Skirmish Association is about. An enjoyable 5 or 6 days spent with some of the best people I have ever known.

So here is a quick view of some of the things I enjoyed most…

Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats handing out the 50 year awards on Sunday morning. If one wishes to really understand what the N-SSA means to many of us, all you have to do is look into the eyes of those receiving their 50 year awards. You will see a half century of memories of great times and great friends. Good shots, and bad shots. Many shared campfires with friends and family and, as is inevitable, many vacant chairs. Yes, this way of life we call skirmishing sure has much value to many.


John Sharrett and I presenting Mike Lauer his 50 year award.


Charlie Andrews and I. Charlie had just received his 50 year award and told me that he wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for anything.













Thanks to my good pard, Richard Wood, and his paper cartridge making expertise, I had the opportunity to shoot in my first Traditional Match. The participants in this match must shoot in their full uniform with proper accoutrements. Firearms used must be “as issued” with no modification to their rear or front sights. Cartridges must be of the style used during the war, which means that the tail of the cartridge must be torn off by your teeth before you can load the powder and then the “Burton Ball” into your rifle musket. I quickly came to understand the soldiers stories of powder caked and dry lips and mouth as the match progressed! It was a fun, yet educational experience and I hope that this event grows in popularity in the future.


Correctly constructed m1861 cartridge by Richard Wood.



Cartridge Tins with 40 rounds!

Speaking of tradition, the “Black Hats” of the First Maryland Infantry (CSA) continue to expand and improve on their very original and unique campsite. Their Sibley tent has been moved, and thanks to research by one of their members and another very accomplished skirmisher,  Dr. Lawrence Babits, a “California” style external firebox was installed in the hillside outside the Sibley tent. And not only is this camp full of period huts and such, it is home to some of the best fife and drum music to be found anywhere. Playing as the Second Maryland Fifes and Drums, these fine musicians are the lineal descendants of the original Field Music of the North-South Skirmish Association.


First Maryland “Black Hats” Sibley tent with the “California Stove” addition. – Image by Dean Nelson

While visiting the First Maryland’s camp, I ran into my friend Rob Hodge. Rob is not only a proud member of the N-SSA, he ranks as one of the top American Civil War living historians and preservationists in the country today. To top that off, he also is an Emmy award winner for his film on the Battle of Franklin. Rob and I are in the planning stages of an N-SSA hosted Living Historian / Re-enactor Open House to be held in conjunction with the 135th National Skirmish. A good man for sure, and one that I am proud to have in our ranks!

Rob Hodge – A Good Old Johnny! –   Image by Dean Nelson.

The fine production staff of Blue Forest Studios was on hand to start capturing the footage to be used in the N-SSA’s new recruiting and information video which should be available by the upcoming 134th National Skirmish (October 5th to the 9th.) They were very impressed with the scope of our National Skirmish and even more impressed with the hospitality shown to them by our members. I most certainly was taken by their friendly, professional demeanor and I look forward to seeing the final results of their hard work.

While small arms competition makes up much of the National Skirmish program as attested by the video below, there is not doubt that the artillery match is both unique and a sight to behold!

2nd Maryland Baltimore Light Artillery C.S.A. shooting Cannon at the 133rd North-South Skirmish Association National, May 2016

Mention must be made of the great shooting performance by the 149th PVI “Bucktails” who won both the Class A musket and Carbine matches. A top-notch performance in very tough weather conditions for sure. Huzzah!!!!

A complete list of the various small arms, mortar and artillery competitions can be found here:



Thanks to all those skirmishers who attended the 133rd and stayed through the weekend. And a special thanks to Skirmish Director, Phil Crabill, and his staff for their work throughout the wet weather.

In closing, take a moment of remembrance this Memorial Day weekend, for this “holiday” was borne from the same conflict that gave us the formation of our beloved North-South Skirmish Association. I think we all need to pause to remember the over 700,000 dead…Americans all, who, whether they wore the Blue or the Gray sacrificed all for causes they believed were right and just.










The North-South Skirmish Association…….and Me!


For the 37th straight spring I will be traveling to Virginia to attend a North – South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) Spring National Skirmish. This event, the 133rd National Skirmish in the N-SSA’s long history will be will be held May 18th to the 22nd, at “Fort Shenandoah” which is the home range of the N-SSA.

The “Fort” as it is affectionately called by N-SSA members is located just of Route 522, seven miles northwest of Winchester Virginia.

For a schedule of events follow this link-133rd National Skirmish Schedule of Events

For directions to the location of this event at Fort Shenandoah, follow this link –Directions to and location of Fort Shenandoah.

To say that my membership in the N-SSA has had a profound and positive influence in my life would be an understatement. Founded in 1950, and the organization from which the modern re-enacting movement in the United States got its start. From its very beginning, the ranks of its membership has included of some of the best military and materiel culture historians, artillerymen and small arms marksman in the world. The friendships made and knowledge selfishly shared by these individuals with me and other members over the past 38 years, help kindled my interest in the both the history of the American Civil War and arms collecting. Most certainly a treasured gift of knowledge and passion that I try as might will be very difficult to re-pay!

The following are some links to videos of what the N-SSA and our National Skirmishes are about. Like all of our National and Regional events. the 133rd Nationals is free of charge and open to the public, so if you are looking for something to do on the weekend of May 21st, stop by the “Fort”and witness for yourself the color and excitement of Civil War small arms and artillery “live fire.” I promise you will not be disappointed.

And from the Civil War Trust – Civil War Trust – N-SSA Video

And finally, a image from the collodian camera of my friend Todd Harrington of the members of my unit, The Union Guards, Company A, 19th Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

Union Guard Fall National 2009

Company A, 19th Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, “the Union Guards.” Since 1978 I have proudly worn the “Black Hat” of the Iron Brigade and have been both student and mentor to my “Pards” in this image. Image by Todd Harrington.

A Case for Battlefield Preservation – The Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery – Part 4.

Part three of this series can be found here

As I close out this series on the Eleventh Ohio Battery’s fight at Iuka, I thought it might be interesting to take a look how the battlefield appears today.

First a map of the battlefield as it appeared in 1862:

View of the Eleventh Ohio Battery position at the battle of Iuka.

View of the Eleventh Ohio’s position at the battle of Iuka.

Next, courtesy of “Google Earth” an aerial view of the Eleventh’s position today:

aerial view of the 11th OVA position

The following view is what the advancing “Johnnies” would have seen as they charged the Eleventh’s battery position. In the foreground is the Mississippi historical marker describing the Eleventh’s gallant stand.

11th OVM Battery positionHere is what the “Johnnies” experienced as they advanced up the hill to try to capture the battery:

“As we ascended the hill we came in range of our own artillery, and the guns had to be silenced. The entire Federal artillery fire was soon turned on us, using grape and canister shot, and as their battery was directly in front of the Third Texas, their grape shot and musketry fire soon began to play havoc with our people, four of our men, the two files just to my right, being killed. We charged the battery, and with desperate fighting took nine pieces and one caisson. The horses hitched to the caisson tried to run off, but we shot them down and took it, the brave defenders standing nobly to their posts until they were nearly all shot down around their guns,—one poor fellow being found lying near his gun, with his ramrod grasped in both hands, as if he were in the act of ramming down a cartridge when he was killed. The infantry fought stubbornly, but after we captured their guns we drove them back step by step, about six hundred yards, when darkness put an end to a battle that had lasted a little more than two and a half hours, the lines being within two hundred yards of each other.

I cannot give the number of Federal troops engaged in the battle, but General Rosecrans, in giving his casualties, enumerates eighteen regiments of infantry, three of cavalry, one detached company, and four batteries of artillery. The cavalry was not in the engagement, and I think he had but two batteries engaged. One of these, the Eleventh Ohio Light Battery, lost its guns and fifty-four men………… The Third Texas had 388 men, and lost 22 killed and 74 wounded; total, 96. Company C lost W. P. Bowers, Carter Caldwell, W. P. Crawley, and W. T. Harris killed; and J. J. Felps severely wounded. Crawley had a belt of gold around his waist, but only four or five of us knew this, and I presume, of course, it was buried with him…….The captured artillery was drawn by hand into town that night, where the guns were left next morning, after being spiked, as we had no spare horses to pull them away. Spiking guns means that round steel files were driven hard into the touch-holes, giving the enemy the trouble of drilling these out before the guns can be of any use again.”

– Excerpt from “Lone Star Defenders. A History of the Third Texas Cavalry Regiment” by Samuel Benton Barron

I wonder how many people today stop to consider the terrible loss of the Third Texas Cavalry (who fought here dismounted) as they charged up the slope in the photo?

View from 11th OVA position

View from the Eleventh Ohio Artillery position.

Above we have the view from the Eleventh’s Battery position. A look back at the first post in this series describes the horrific fight and gallant stand of the “Buckeyes” of the Eleventh on the slopes in the photo above.  But no words compare to reading the names on the list below, and considering the lives lost or lives forever changed here. Not only of those who fell killed or wounded, but the life-long effect of this battle on their families back hone in Ohio.

11th Iuka Causalties

And, finally, the view of the reverse slope of the hill on which the Eleventh advanced and on whose crest it fought. I believe that it was to the right of the road, just beyond the clearing, that Lieutenant Neil and a few of his surviving battery-men laid sixteen of their neighbors, relatives, and comrades to rest “under a shady tree.” After the war, those men buried here would be moved to the Corinth National Cemetery.

11th OVA Burial Site

While the Civil War Trust has preserved 58 acres of the Iuka battlefield, much of the core area such as where the Eleventh Battery fought (and died) has been lost forever. As noted in the CWT 2007 History Under Siege Report, when the motel was built on the site of the Eleventh’s stand, it not only changed the character of the land forever, but destroyed many artifacts from the battle.

It is my hope, that by reading this series on the Eleventh Ohio Battery, you have learned a bit about courage, sacrifice and tenacity. All three of these values are reflected in the case of the “Private of the Eleventh Ohio Battery,” Henry Walsh, who managed a hint of humor in his letter home while recovering from a grievous facial wound and the prospect of an uncertain future. And, perhaps, you might be moved enough to consider supporting the Civil War Trust as it leads the charge in the never-ending fight to preserve these precious parcels of ground, made hallow by the blood of our ancestors, and on which so many gave their last “Full Measure of Devotion.”


Neil, Henry M.  A Battery at Close Quarters. Google Books.

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, Wyandot Pioneer

Ohio In the Civil War

Barron, Samuel Benton. Lone Star Defenders. The Guttenberg Project

A Letter to the “Boys in the Neighborhood.” – The Eleventh Ohio Battery – Part 3

Part two of this series can be found here.

Often, when I start to research a blog post subject, I find that as I learn more about the topic, one post ends up becoming a series.This certainly has held true with this current series of posts on the Eleventh Ohio Battery.

While looking for some additional material on the Eleventh, I came across the following letter to the editor of the Wyandot Pioneer:

Letter from STL -Part 1Letter from STL - Part 2

A .pdf transcription of the above can be found here: 11th letter to home

Clearly the writer, simply identified as “A Private of the 11th Ohio Battery” had retained some sense of humor while suffering a horrific wound to his face. Just as clear was his opinion of the “boys in the neighborhood” who had stayed home. The tone of the letter intrigued me enough to try and find out the identity of the author.

I started with accessing the the roster of the wounded of the battery on the American Civil War Research Database to see if I could find reference to any member of the Eleventh who suffered a facial wound. While the list of wounded was helpful, there was no mention of type of wounds. Then I remembered reading Lieutenant Cyrus Sears’ letter to the Wyandot Pioneer describing the action, and giving a list of the killed, wounded, and captured. It was in this article that I saw that Henry Welsh had suffered a severe facial wound.

11th Iuka Causalties

Now that I had a name, I wanted to see if this “Private of the 11th Ohio Battery” had recovered from his wound, and how he got on with the rest of his life. A search of the internet turned up the following from the “History of Wyandot County” published in 1884:

HENRY M WELSH one of the prominent farmers of this born in Crawford County Ohio May 2 1840 He is a son of ER Sarah A McClain Welsh his father having come to this county doing an extensive business in stock dealing in this and He also dealt to some extent in real estate and controlled a of property up to the date of his death in 1880 Henry M subject of this sketch was engaged on the farm with his father till he attained his majority soon after which he enlisted in the Eleventh Ohio Battery and entered the United States service He participated in the battles of New Madrid Island No 10 and Iuka but was chiefly employed on the march or post duty He was wounded in the battle of Iuka Miss by a musket ball which fractured his lower jaw resulting in the loss of half of the osseous structure of that member He was discharged in November 1862 returned home and has since engaged in farming and stock dealing In 1861 he obtained 450 acres from his father’s estate and has increased that number by subsequent purchases till he now owns 1,436 acres valued at $60 to $75 per acre He does an extensive farming business usually sowing 300 to 500 acres of wheat and planting 200 to 400 acres of corn Besides his large farming and stock raising interests in this county Mr Welsh is also interested in an extensive cattle ranch in Wyoming Territory Mr Welsh has always conducted his business independently and may fairly be considered one of the most successful operators in the county He was married November 24 1863 to Miss Emily Hoover who was born in Crawford County Ohio her parents being early settlers in that locality She is a daughter of William and Phoebe Swisher Hoover her father being one of the leading farmers and stock dealers of Crawford County By this marriage three children were born namely Edmond T Sanford C and Myrtie E aged seventeen fifteen and fourteen respectively Mr Welsh is known throughout the county as a thorough business man and is highly esteemed as a citizen

As you can see, Henry Welsh, who was reminded of the horrors of the Iuka every time he looked in the mirror or ate a meal, returned home and made a fine life for himself. But one has to wonder how many of the “boys in the neighborhood” heeded Henry’s advice not to go “unless they wanted to get hurt.” And, as the years rolled on, and as those boys who stayed at home turned into men, what Henry thought of them, or they of him?

But, in the fall of 1862, all of the above was in the future for the grievously wounded Henry Welsh. The business of War stopped for no man. The insatiable grist mill of the battles of the autumn of 1862 needed all the human fodder that could be found. The following notice appeared in the same issue, same page, the next column over from Henry’s letter to the editor.

Recruiting notice from Wyandot Pioneer


Neil, Henry M.  A Battery at Close Quarters. Google Books.

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, National Tribune

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, Wyandot Pioneer

Ohio In the Civil War

History of Wyandot County, Internet Archive.

Next up: Part four. Iuka today. A Case for Battlefield Preservation.

Resurrection and Redemption – The Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery – Part Two

Confederate dead in front of Battery Robinette. Battle of Corinth. Courtesy of the LOC.

Confederate dead in front of Battery Robinette. Battle of Corinth. Courtesy of the LOC.

 Click here for Part One of this series

The next morning (September 20th) Lieutenant Neil woke the surviving battery-men from their bivouac on the reverse slope of the hill where the Eleventh Battery had made their stand. Following closely behind the skirmishers of the 39th Ohio as they cautiously crested the hill, the Federals were surprised to find the Johnnies gone and horrified at the indescribable scene of carnage around the Eleventh’s battery position. Dead and dying horses and men lay intermingled. The men found driver John Dean, who had refused an order to leave the horse team of his limber, lying dead still holding the bridles of two of  his horses-also dead. Many of the surviving drivers openly wept at the sight of their dead horse teams. With great emotion and reverence, the sixteen dead battery-men were gathered together by their comrades and buried near a large tree just to the rear of the position they had so gallantly defended.

It was with no little surprise that the six artillery pieces of the battery, captured at such a high cost, were found a short distance down the hill. The Rebs, obviously hampered by the lack of horses and harnesses to move the guns, had crudely spiked the pieces by driving files into their vents. Even with the guns spiked and the gun carriages all shot up, the men of the Eleventh rejoiced at their recovery.

It was early that same afternoon when General Rosecrans ordered Neil to immediately refit the Eleventh Battery. By slipping away during the night, the Confederate army had successfully stolen a march on the Federals, and “Old Rosey” (as Rosecrans men called him) was giving chase. Neil’s men went to work removing the files from the vents, and starting to repair the bullet-scarred gun carriages. While this work was getting underway, Neil started filling his depleted ranks with volunteers from the infantry regiments of Sanborn’s brigade. Once this was done, Neil started the training that would turn the foot soldiers into artillerymen. Amazingly, by late afternoon on October 1st, the young lieutenant had his command refitted, trained and ready to move. General Rosecrans had left orders for the Eleventh that, upon completion of their reorganization, they were to rejoin his forces gathering to defend the vital rail junction at Corinth, Mississippi against the combined Confederate armies of Price and Van Dorn.

Declining to wait for a cavalry escort, Neil procured some extra horses and used some of his battery-men as his advance guard. The Eleventh departed Iuka for Corinth on the morning of October 2nd and made the 20-mile march to Corinth without incident, arriving late that same afternoon. After being assigned to an unfamiliar brigade, the battery went into camp for the night.

On the morning of October 3rd, Neil requested that the unit be moved and assigned to their old brigade (Sanborn’s). This request was granted, and the battery soon broke camp and moved to join their old comrades of this brigade who had fought so valiantly in defense of the battery at Iuka. As the battery rolled into the brigade’s bivouac, it was met with loud cheers and more than a few tears. Notes by Colonel John Sanborn related that his soldiers recognized that Neil, …“came upon the field with his battery fully manned, equipped and drilled, amid the hurrahs and tears of the infantry that had seen it destroyed under the terrible fire of the 19th of September, and who now seemed to feel that the battery men, horses and all, had come back from the regions of the dead.”

The following morning (October 4th) found the Eleventh Battery in position on the far right of the Federal line as fight for Corinth began. The Confederate attack began on the Federal left, rolling towards  the center, and finally, that afternoon, the action reached the battery’s position. Writing 20 years later, Colonel Sanborn gave his eyewitness account of both Lieutenant Neil and his battery that day:

“……when the irresistible assault of the rebel army came, the Eleventh Ohio Battery was in position commanding the whole rebel line and the Fourth Minnesota Infantry in line flat upon the ground close in its rear. Lieutenant Neil was seated on his thoroughbred from twenty to forty feet in front of the battery, between the line of fire of the guns of the middle section. He requested the Colonel of the infantry to keep his eye upon him and whenever he beckoned with his saber, to have the infantry rise up and deliver their fire.
Now the assaulting lines of the rebel armies come on like a wave of the sea, rolling along over breastworks and batteries. He orders the men to open fire and, still in his advanced position, waves his hat constantly to the advancing lines of rebels, and shouts, ‘Come on! Come on! if you think you can play Iuka over again.’ A strange coincidence was that the same rebel battalions came against this battery that had captured it on the 19th of September. But they could not come on here. Three times the Lieutenant signaled the infantry to rise and fire, and each time they rose to hear him say, ‘No, no, they have broke again.’
For a half mile in front of this battery, after the battle, were large areas covered with the dead and dying, which told with what terrible effect it had been served during the assault.
The sight of the Lieutenant, after twenty years, brought up these occurrences—this whole scene, and made it as fresh as if it had transpired yesterday, and made me resolve to commit it to writing before I died, feeling that none of us had done him justice in our reports of these battles.
The scene at Corinth, if it could be placed on canvas, would be thrilling even to strangers. An elegant thoroughbred Kentucky horse fully caparisoned, on which the Lieutenant is sitting erectly, with his hat in his hand, is standing out in front of the battery between the lines of fire of the two center guns, seemingly conscious that if he moved to the right or left he would be torn to atoms, and trusting himself wholly to his rider, the Lieutenant is waving his hat in the air, and bidding defiance to the foe; advancing in masses and lines upon his positions, the artillerymen with superhuman power and skill, amid the smoke that rolled incessantly from the muzzles of every gun, loading and firing, is a picture before the mind at this distance plainer than can be placed on canvas by the most skillful artist. It is such men and such services that saved this nation in the war. They were not conspicuous nor vain-glorious, perhaps not heard of before the war, nor afterwards; but in the midst of it, meeting the full demands of the great occasion and leaving the reward to posterity.”

The above description should leave little doubt that in the space of two weeks, the “Resurrection and Redemption” of the Eleventh Battery was complete, achieved against the very same rebel units that had captured the battery at Iuka!

Up next: A Letter from the Front – The Eleventh Ohio Battery – Part Three.


Cozzens, Peter. The Darkest Days of the War. The Battles of Iuka and Corinth. Chapel Hill NC, 1997

Fox, William. Regimental Losses in the Civil War. Dayton, Ohio, 1997

Neil, Henry M.  A Battery at Close Quarters. Google Books.

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, National Tribune

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, Wyandot Pioneer

To The Sound of the Guns Blog

Civil War Preservation Trust

Ohio In the Civil War

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Part 17, Volumes 1 and 2.

“Use Canister, Aim Low And Give Then Hell!” The Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery. Part One.

 Image is from - https://www.flagcollection.com/itemdetails.php?CollectionItem_ID=2582

The guidon of the Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery.

Prompted by my friend and blogger extraordinaire Craig Swain’s recent series on Ohio artillery units in his “To The Sound of the Guns” blog, today’s post will tell the story of the gallant Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery and its action at the battle of Iuka, Mississippi on September 19th, 1862. It was in this action that the Eleventh battery suffered more losses in one battle than another light artillery unit in the American Civil War.

Approaching Iuka,  Mississippi from the southwest as part of Major General William Rosecrans’ “Army off the Mississippi” column advancing on Confederate Major General Sterling Prices “Army of the West, September 19th, 1862 had already been a long day for  30-year-old Lieutenant Cyrus Sears and his Eleventh Ohio Independent Battery. Much of the afternoon of the advance had been slowed by the presence of Confederate skirmishers who increased their resistance as the Federal column drew closer to Iuka. As the firing increased, Sears and his battery were ordered to advance up Jacinto Road to the top of a small hill. When they reached the crest, the Eleventh was “to form in battery and to await further orders.”  No sooner had the six guns of the Eleventh reached the top of the hill and started to move into battery, they were met with a terrific small arms and artillery fire from the “Johnnies” positioned in a ravine immediately below their intended position. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, these first volleys of small arms fire were high, and as the battery settled into its position, the firing seemed to subside a bit.

Detail of the battlefield of Iuka, showing the position of the Eleventh Independent Battery.

Detail of the battlefield of Iuka showing the position of the Eleventh Independent Battery.

The lull in the action was short-lived, as a long line of butternut infantry belonging to Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little’s division of Major General Sterling Price’s “Army of the West” charged out of the wooded ravine and made straight up the hill for the guns of the Eleventh, which by this time had been supported on their immediate right flank by the 5th Iowa and on the left by the 48th Indiana.

Watching this advance with great interest was Lieutenant Sears, who calmly sat his horse behind his battery awaiting orders which would never come. Finally, with the enemy advancing well within easy canister range (200 yards) and lending an ear to the nervous exclamations and curses of his men to commence firing, he rose in his stirrups, shouting, “With canister, load, aim low and give them hell as fast as you can!” And for 30 minutes or so, “buckeye” hell reigned supreme, as the “Johnnies” tried repeatedly to gain the rise and take the exposed battery. The terrific volume of canister fire to the battery’s immediate front had the effect of forcing the Confederate advance to move right and left in an attempt to outflank the guns. This movement, in conjunction with the advance of the other southern infantry units of Little’s Division, caused both the 48th Indiana and the 5th Iowa to fall back, leaving the guns of the Eleventh alone and exposed to a maelstrom of small arms fire on the hill. With darkness rapidly falling, the action around the guns became a primal melee of bayonets, musket butts, hand-spikes, sponge staffs and fists. Or, as Sears would later write:

“Before the end it became clear that the position of the guns of this battery had become so much the bone of contention in that fight, that everything else, both flags, the Union and the Confederacy, and even the ‘damned nigger’ were forgotten in that all-absorbing, hand-spike and ramrod, rough-and-tumble, devil-take-the-hindmost fight for those six guns.”

Lieutenant Sears (who would be awarded the Medal of Honor in 1892 for his leadership that day) was soon felled by a musket ball through his right shoulder, or as he would later succinctly describe, “I was wounded and sent home for repairs.” But the scenes of the gallantry of his battery-men never left his mind. He would later relate the story of a young native of Wyandot County, John Ettles, who after being wounded by a musket ball through his chest exclaimed,  “Well Lieutenant, I guess I got hell today, but I’m going to try to give them two or three rounds yet.” He died serving his gun. Private David W. Montgomery was in the process of pulling the lanyard when he was “throttled by a ‘Big Secesh'” who Montgomery subdued by drawing an unfired canister round from his haversack and bludgeoning him with it.

With Lieutenant Sears wounded and out of action, command of the battery fell upon young 2nd Lieutenant Henry Neil. Neil, 30 years old, descended from a notable family in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of Harvard, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Eleventh in January of 1862. Now, on that dark, smokey hill-side, with his infantry support gone, surrounded on three sides, it was apparent that battery’s position could no longer hold. Lieutenant Neil, bloodied after being hit four times by either shell fragments or musket balls, ordered the few surviving battery-men to fall back to the infantry lines reforming to their rear. The victorious “Johnnies” finally gained control of the Eleventh’s position, along with the six guns of the battery which were then dragged northwards toward the town by their captors, the men of the 3rd Texas Dismounted Cavalry.

The casualties suffered by the Eleventh at Iuka on this September day were to be unequaled by any other light battery in the Federal or Confederate service during the war. In fact, the number killed and mortally wounded would equal, within one, the total killed in any light battery during its entire term of service! The battery went into the battle with 97 enlisted men and 5 officers; of that number 18 died at their guns,  and 39 were wounded, many of whom would die later. A number of the wounded were bayoneted at their guns. Of the cannon crews alone, 46 out of the 54 men who served the guns were killed or wounded. Finally, the losses suffered by the Eleventh were 22 percent higher than any other light battery in any one engagement in the war. The loss in horseflesh and equipment was also staggering; 42 horses killed outright, and the remaining 42 were rendered unfit for further service. All of the horse team harnesses were gone, taken by the Rebs when they finally captured the battery.

Coming soon – Part two of this series on the Eleventh Ohio Battery


Cozzens, Peter. The Darkest Days of the War. The Battles of Iuka and Corinth. Chapel Hill NC, 1997

Fox, William. Regimental Losses in the Civil War. Dayton, Ohio, 1997

Neil, Henry M.  A Battery at Close Quarters. Google Books.

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, National Tribune

Library of Congress, Chronicling of America, Wyandot Pioneer

To The Sound of the Guns Blog

Civil War Preservation Trust

Ohio In the Civil War









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