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TENTH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
After the fall of Sumter, the city of Cincinnati promptly responded to the call for volunteers, by sending several regiments of infantry, of which the Tenth was one, to Camp Harrison. It was mustered into the service on the 7th of May, 1861, by Captain Gordon Granger, United States Army, and a few days after it marched to Camp Dennison, Ohio, a distance of seventeen miles, in three hours and three-quarters. During the short period of its instruction at Camp Dennison, the regiment rapidly acquired a knowledge of its military duties. In its ranks were many old soldiers, who had studied the art of war, and were not unfamiliar with scenes of actual combat. Some had served in European armies, and not a few had been through the Mexican war. It was at this time that the regiment was inspected by General McClellan, who expressed his admiration of it in very high terms.
The Tenth was a three-months' regiment, and already half of its time had expired; and as it became evident that troops were needed for a longer term of service, the Tenth, almost as a whole, volunteered for three years; and on the 3d of June it was mustered into the service as a three-years' regiment. Immediately after this, the ladies of Cincinnati presented a magnificent stand of colors to the regiment. The presentation took place at Camp Dennison. Judge Storer made the presentation speech, to which the lamented Lytle responded in eloquent terms, causing shout after shout to burst from the ranks.
At last marching orders came, and by the 24th of June the regiment had crossed the Ohio, and reported to General McClellan at Grafton, West Virginia, (1) where it bivouacked a week, when it was ordered to Clarksburg, and thence to Buckhannon, where the army was being concentrated. Just as McClellan's columns had taken up the line of march, a courier arrived with the intelligence that five companies of the Seventeenth Ohio, stationed at Glenville, about forty miles distant, had been surrounded by a large force of Rebels under Wise. (2) The Tenth was immediately sent to the assistance of the garrison, and arrived the afternoon of the next day, and found that Colonel Tyler, (3) of the Seventh Ohio Infantry, had anticipated orders and rescued the besieged companies. Two months' marching and countermarching, and scouting in the mountains of Virginia, inured the regiment to the hardships of campaigning.
When General Rosecrans (4) assumed command of the army, his first move was to the right of his front of operations, on the Gauley and New Rivers, the Tenth leading the advance of the army. Information having been received that Floyd (5) was intrenching himself at Carnifex Ferry, the column moved to attack him, and, after four days' marching, reached the Gauley River. Company C deployed as skirmishers, and first struck the enemy, and drove them back on their camp, which was carried by the bayonet, and everything in it captured, including a fine drove of cattle. The Tenth was ordered to move forward and reconnoiter the enemy's position. The regiment advanced through a dense wood; and, just as it gained the crest of the hill, the Rebels opened with shot, shell, and musketry. The regiment fixed bayonets, and advanced to the charge by the flank, no other formation being possible. The head of the column reached the ditch, when the whole Rebel line delivered a volley and the advance was checked. Fitzgibbon, the color-bearer, had his right hand shot off at the wrist, but immediately picked up the colors with his left hand, and, while advancing thus, was mortally wounded, exclaiming as he fell: "Never mind me, boys. Save the flag!" Each company was sadly shattered as it came over (pg 79) the hill; and at last, slowly and reluctantly, they fell back. The line was re-formed, and a brisk fire was kept up, to prevent the enemy from capturing the wounded. The next morning the Rebels were in full retreat, having abandoned their camp equipage and a large quantity of ammunition, stores, and supplies. (6)
After a short rest at Cross Lanes the regiment was again in motion. Cox (7) had driven Wise from Kanawha Valley to Sewell Mountain, where Floyd followed. To prevent their capture, Lee (8) retired from Cheat Mountain and came to their assistance. In this part of the campaign, the Tenth took an active share. In falling back from Sewell to Gauley, the roads were very muddy, and the column was much delayed by the trains. The Tenth was placed in charge of the train, and after that there was no more delay. The regiment served with General Rosecrans in every skirmish and battle in the campaign of Western Virginia, closing with the pursuit of Floyd from Cotton Mountain. On the 2d of November, 1862, (9) the regiment reached Cincinnati, on its way to Kentucky, and received an enthusiastic welcome. The "heroes of Carnifex" were everywhere greeted with applause, and the streets through which the column passed were so thronged that it was with difficulty it moved to its rendezvous. The column halted and wheeled into line on Broadway, its center resting opposite the residence of Colonel Lytle, who, though suffering from a wound, had risen from his bed to accompany the regiment in its triumphal march through the city.(10)
The regiment remained a week in Cincinnati, and, upon arriving in Kentucky, was brigaded with the Third and Thirteenth Ohio, Fifteenth Kentucky, and Loomis's battery, forming the Seventeenth Brigade of Buell's army, and was a part of the Third Division (Mitchel's). (11) The regiment moved through Kentucky and Tennessee to Northern Alabama, sharing in all the splendid achievements of General Mitchel. (12) After three months' severe service the regiment was designated as the garrison for the city of Huntsville, and Lieutenant-Colonel Burke became Provost-Marshal of Middle Tennessee and Northern Alabama. It is a remarkable circumstance, that during the time the regiment performed the duty of provost guard, not a single case of outrage occurred, and the government of the city was more secure than when under civil rule, facts held in grateful remembrance by the citizens of Huntsville. (13) When General Mitchel was ordered to Washington, that portion of the regiment on duty was assembled, and the General took leave of them in an appropriate address, speaking in the highest terms of the efficiency and discipline of the regiment, and expressing the warmest friendship for Colonel Lytle and Lieutenant-Colonel Burke.
The command of the division devolved upon General Rousseau, (14) and under him Lytle's brigade commenced the long march to Kentucky after Bragg, and, in common with the whole army, endured all the privations incident to the movement. On the 2d of October, 1862, the regiment received an accession of sixty recruits, and the day after marched with the division, in McCook's corps, to meet Bragg's army. (15) On the 8th of October the corps marched from Macksville (16) toward Perryville, Lytle's brigade in the advance, and the Tenth leading. Upon reaching the field the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and, after advancing some distance, was withdrawn and placed in support of Loomis's battery. When Loomis had exhausted his ammunition, and retired to replenish, the Tenth moved to the crest of the eminence. This position was held till the regiment was exposed on both flanks. It drove the enemy from the front by a charge, but in retiring, which it was forced to do, its track was marked by the dead of the regiment. Company formation was impossible, and the men crowded toward the colors. Being aware of the loss the regiment must sustain if it retired in disorder, Colonel Burke seized a bugle and sounded a halt, formed and dressed the lines, deployed the flank companies as skirmishers to cover the retreat, and then retired to the new lines, having but two hundred and sixty-three men out of five hundred and twenty-eight.
When General Rosecrans assumed command of the army, in general orders the Tenth was announced as head-quarters and provost guard of the Army of the Cumberland. The regiment relieved the Fifteenth United States Infantry, and entered upon its new duties, furnishing guards for head-quarters, taking charge of prisoners, preventing straggling during engagements, and (pg 80) during the battle of Stone River it protected the line of communication, and for its efficiency was especially mentioned in General Rosecrans's report. (17) The three bridges on which the army crossed Stewart's Creek were left in charge of Colonel Burke and eight companies, companies A and C having accompanied General Rosecrans to the front. In the early part of the engagement the Rebel cavalry captured several trains, but Colonel Burke sent out parties and succeeded in recapturing every wagon, and in bringing them within reach of his guns. The little band intrenched themselves, and calmly awaited the approach of Wheeler, (18) who advanced cautiously toward Stewart's Creek; and, meeting an obstinate resistance from Colonel Burke's skirmishers, he proceeded to Lavergne, where a great part of the large army train was parked. During Wheeler's march to Lavergne the little handful of troops at Stewart's Creek were deployed as skirmishers, and engaged in arresting crowds of fugitives from the battle-field, and in less than two hours over three thousand men were stopped, re-assured, and returned to their regiments. Cannonading was heard in the direction of Lavergne, where Colonel Innes, Michigan Engineers, commanded. Thomas Reilly, a citizen, dashed through the Rebel lines, having dispatches to Burke from Innes, asking assistance. Four companies of cavalry and two pieces of artillery, which had reported to Colonel Burke, were sent to Innes; but the officer in command, seeing the vast number of Rebels besieging the garrison, refused to charge through to its assistance, and the artillery officer returned and reported the facts to Colonel Burke. The Rebels had made several furious assaults on Innes's gallant little band, and he again appealed for assistance. Colonel Burke abandoned Stewart's Creek, leaving a few men to guard the bridges, and with seven small companies marched against the three thousand Rebel cavalry surrounding Innes. A mile from Lavergne the Rebel force was struck, cooling rifling the trains preparatory to burning it. The Rebel troopers did not fire a shot, rode off to the main body bearing the intelligence of the arrival of re-inforcements, and Wheeler quickly withdrew. A courier was dispatched to General Rosecrans with the report of Wheeler's retreat, and General Rosecrans replied:
"Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, Tenth Ohio Infantry:At head-quarters the regiment soon regained its spirit, and increased in numbers, and its appearance and discipline were subjects of comment among its comrades. General Roscrans's wife presented the members of the "Roll of Honor" with their ribbons, and pinned them herself on the breasts of the veterans. The city of Cincinnati presented the regiment with an elegant National standard, in appreciation of its gallantry and daring. The Tenth followed Rosecrans to the Tennessee River, and was present at Chickamauga, where it was again officially noticed for its efficiency in the performance of its duties.
When General Thomas (19) assumed command of the army, he retained the regiment as head-quarter's guard, and with him it was present at Mission Ridge, Buzzard's Roost, Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, and as far in the Atlanta campaign as Kingston.(20)
The regiment's term of service having nearly expired, a day was fixed for its departure, and it was drawn up in line in front of General Thomas's head-quarters. The General, contrary to his usual custom, spoke a few words of parting cheer, and kindly eulogized the regiment for its bearing on all occasions. The Chief of Staff, General W. D. Whipple, addressed the regiment a very complimentary letter, expressing his great regret that the army was going to lose the "glorious old Tenth Ohio." The boys gave "three cheers" for General Thomas, the same for the Army of the Cumberland; and, concluding with three cheers for the cause of the Union, filed off on their way to their long absent homes and friends. At Cincinnati the friends of the regiment greeted it with a cordial welcome; and though it did not return bearing the trophies and spoils of war, it bore that which was far better, an unsullied fame. Its ranks were thinned and its banners were blood-stained and torn; and of the thousand brave hearts that beat the day they pledged their lives for the protection of their colors, but few remained to tell of Lytle and the Tenth Ohio.
Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the Civil War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers, (reprint of the 1895 edition, Robert Clarke Company, Cincinnati) Volume 2, pages 78-80.
(1) Still part of the state of Virginia at the time. Reid uses both interchangeably.
Endnotes © 2001 David M. Smith
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