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FIFTH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
On the afternoon of the 13th of July orders were received to move, but the cars were not ready until the night of the 14th, when the regiment was taken to Oakland, Virginia. It marched from that place on the same day, under Brigadier-General Charles W. Hill. This was the first march of the regiment, and was especially severe, on account of their total inexperience. Its route lay up and over a spur of the Alleghany Mountains. After failing in this attempt to intercept the flying Rebel forces of General Garnet's defeated army, (2) the regiment returned to Oakland. The first death of the regiment occurred at this place, a private being accidentally shot by one of his comrades.
Parkersburg was the next campaign place, where the regiment lay until the 5th of August, most of the time engaged in guard-duty and drill.
On August 5th the regiment again took up the line of march for Buckhannon. It lay here until the 3d of November. Near this place, at French Creek, companies A, B, and C. had an engagement with a band of Rebels, killing six or seven of them, and losing one man killed. From thence it went to New Creek, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On the 7th of November it was at Romney, Virginia. The duties at this place were very arduous, companies being sent out daily on scouts. The picket-force alone amounted to nearly one thousand men, portions of whom were stationed six and seven miles from camp.
While at Romney General Kelly, then in command of the National forces, was disabled by the wound he had received at Philippi, and was superseded by Colonel S. H. Dunning, of the Fifth Ohio. Learning that a force of Rebels, fifteen hundred strong, was stationed at Blue's Gap, sixteen miles from Romney, Colonel Dunning determined, if possible, to surprise and capture it. Selecting the night of the 6th of January, 1862, he started at midnight, during a driving snow-storm, and, reaching the enemy's outpost picket-line, captured it, and moved on until within a mile of the Rebel camp. At this point the expedition was discovered by the Rebel pickets, who fled to the main body and gave the alarm. The National troops pushed on and up the steep mountain side, the men being compelled to drag themselves up by the aid of the underbrush and roots. Arriving at the top, the men opened fire and charged the enemy, driving him out of his intrenchments, killing twenty, capturing a number of prisoners and two pieces of cannon. The residence of Colonel Blue, his outhouses, and mill were burned to the ground. This was the commencement of the reputation of the Fifth Ohio for bravery and thoroughness in dealing with Rebels. The Rebel papers of that day contained notices and anathemas against the regiment, headed, as they said, "by a butcher," and advising the Rebel commanders to show the members of it no quarter.
The Fifth returned to its camp at Romney the same day of the fight, having marched thirty-four miles and dispersed and defeated fifteen hundred Rebels inside of fourteen hours.
On January 10, 1862, the regiment left Romney and fell back to Patterson Creek. General Lander (3) was now in command. Thence the Fifth went to New Creek, and remained there up to the 3d of February; then returned to Patterson Creek. From this date until the 13th of February it was engaged in a series of arduous marches and counter-marches, often camping in the snow without tents or blankets, and suffering intensely from the fierce winds of that wild country.
On the February the Fifth and Eight Ohio, with a force of cavalry, made a reconnaissance on Bloomery Furnace, the whole under the command of General Lander. The cavalry, led by General Lander, had a skirmish with a body of Rebels, killing and wounding a number, and taking some thirty prisoners, including a Colonel, Major, Adjutant, and twelve officers of the line.
The regiment returned to camp at Pawpaw on the 14th of February. At this place, on the 2d of March, General Lander died, and was succeeded in the command by Colonel Nathan Kimball, of the Fourteenth Indiana. (4)
From this time until the latter part of March nothing of material interest occurred. On the 18th of March the command, under General Shields, made a reconnaissance to Strasburg, the Fifth Ohio in the advance. Some shots were exchanged with a force of Rebels, but no casualties occurred. The enemy was followed to a point seven miles beyond Mount Jackson, when the command returned and marched to Winchester, reaching that place on the evening of the 20th of March.
On Saturday, the 22d of March, the long-roll was sounded and the whole force ordered out. The Fifth went through Winchester on the double-quick, cheering, and eager for the fight. Some slight cannonading occurred that afternoon, during which General Shields was wounded in the arm. The Fifth performed picket-duty on the Romney Road that night, to prevent surprise from that direction.
On the morning of the 23d of March (5) the Fifth marched out to Kernstown, four miles from Winchester, and took position in support of Daum's Indiana battery. At nine o'clock A. M. the battle Winchester was opened. The Fifth continued in support of Daum's battery until late in the afternoon, when companies A, B, C, D, and E, under command of Colonel Kilpatrick, moved up, under orders, and passing through a clump of underbrush emerged into an open field, where it received the first fire of the enemy. This little band, although faced by overwhelming numbers, returned the Rebel fire with interest. The Eighty-Fourth Pennsylvania, on its right, attempted to follow, but quailed and fell back in disorder. Colonel Murray, of that regiment, in attempting to rally them, lost his life. The Fifth Ohio poured its volleys into the enemy at short range, and stubbornly maintained its position until re-enforcements came up. It then advanced and drove the enemy in disorder. In this fierce encounter five of the color-bearers of the regiment were shot down in succession. Captain George B. Whitcom, of Cincinnati, was one of these, and lost his life while waiving the colors over his head. A bullet struck him just above the eye, and buried itself in his brain.
When the Eighty-Fourth Pennsylvania fell back in confusion General Sullivan, commanding the brigade, exclaimed that his army was whipped; but on looking again he observed the Fifth Ohio still fighting, and exclaimed: "No, thank God; the brave Fifth Ohio is still standing its ground, and holding the Rebels." The Fourteenth Indiana moved forward at this critical moment, and the tide was turned. The enemy, beaten at all points, turned and fled. The darkness of the night alone prevented the most vigorous pursuit. The loss of the Fifth Ohio was forty-seven killed and wounded. The entire loss of the National force did not exceed five hundred. The Rebel loss was believed to be more than double that number. The regimental colors were perforated with forty-eight bullet holds and the State flag with ten.
The dead were buried and the wounded properly disposed of, and again, on the 24th of March, the regiment resumed the march. The first camping-place was five miles beyond Strasburg. On the 1st of April the regiment passed on through Woodstock, again encamped near Edinburg, near the bank of the Shenandoah River. The progress of the National force was checked at this point by the burning of a bridge which spanned the river, and by Ashby's (pg 44) cavalry, which had taken position on the opposite side. Shots were eschanged, but no damage resulted. A few days thereafter a dash was made by the Fifth Ohio and some Vermont cavalry into Mount Jackson, but the enemy had flown. After making sundry marches up and down the valley the regiment went into camp at New Market, Colonel S. H. Dunning in command of the brigade. It remained at New Market two weeks, drilling, reviewing, etc.
On May 3d marching orders were received, and an advance was made to Harrisonburg. General Banks's force was falling back. General Shields's forces now also fell back about eight miles and took a position in which the General declared he could easily whip Jackson, but that renowned Rebel kept out of the way. Before leaving Harrisonburg (on the 7th of May) the Fifth Ohio was presented with a beautiful stand of colors, sent to them by the City Council of Cincinnati, as a token of the appreciation of the people of Cincinnati for its bravery and efficiency in the battle of Winchester.
Marching was resumed on the 12th of May, and continued until Falmouth was reached, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. After lying here until the 25th of May the regiment marched to Front Royal, where, halting a few hours, it again pushed on through the driving rain and muddy roads. The night of the 3d of June found the regiment on the banks of the Shenandoah, having marched two hundred and eighty-five miles to no purpose, and with scarcely half-rations. (6 The same history was repeated until, on the 8th of June, the regiment reached Port Republic. The next morning the battle was opened. This was a hot and well-contested affair, and the regiment conducted itself with its usual bravery and dash. After firing a couple of volleys it was ordered to charge on a fence behind which a couple of Rebel regiments were hid. The charge was a success, fleeing before them into the woods, where they rallied. Again the Fifth charged, and captured one piece of artillery. Immediately thereafter it marched to the left and repulsed a charge made by the enemy on a battery. The Rebels were too strong, however, and retreat became necessary. The order was finally given, and the Fifth was designated to cover the movement, in doing which it lost one hundred and eighty-five men take prisoners. The total loss of the regiment was two hundred and forty-four in killed, wounded and prisoners. (7)
Many incidents of personal valor and cunning occurred in this affair. Lieutenant Kirkup, of Cincinnati, who had been taken prisoner, escaped from his guard, but had not proceeded far when he came in contact with two Rebels. He claimed them as prisoners - they yielded, and conducted him safely out of the mountains. The colors were saved by the Color-Corporals, Brinkman and Shaw, by wrapping them around their persons, swimming the Shenandoah, and joining General Fremont's command four days thereafter.
The retreat was continued until the evening of the 10th, when a halt was made near Luray, where it was allowed to rest until the 21st of June. It then marched through Thoroughfare Gap to Bristow Station, reaching that point about five P. M. on the 24th.
From the 24th of June the regiment was on the march every day for five successive weeks; those days of sullen gloom and confusion, when the enemy, under Jackson, was worrying them with his swift and uncertain movements. In these marches they traversed a distance of more than five hundred miles, and when at last they were halted at Alexandria, the men were nearly naked, without shelter, and completely worn out. After being recruited in health, on the 25th of July they went by rail to Warrenton, Virginia, where they remained until the 31st; thence marched to Little Washington, arriving on the 1st of August. While at this place General Tyler took leave of the brigade, and of the Fifth in particular, as they were mutually endeared to each other by reason of "floods and perils" together. The successor of General Tyler took command in the person of General Geary, of Mexican fame. (8)
On the 9th of August, 1862, then lying at Culpepper C. H., the Fifth made a forced march of eight miles, to reach the battle-field of Cedar Mountain, in which engagement they participated under command of Colonel J. H. Patrick. Re-enforcements failing to arrive in season, overwhelming numbers forced the troops to fall back. The loss of the Fifth in this battle was eighteen killed, thirteen commissioned officers and eighty-nine men wounded, and two missing out (pg 45) of two hundred and seventy0fice with which they entered the battle. In this engagement Lieutenant-Colonel H. G. Armstrong was so badly wounded as to disable him from further field-service. Then came the retrograde movements of Pope's army; those fierce, sanguinary battles, fighting over almost the whole territory from Cedar Mountain to the intrenchments around Washington City. In all this the Fifth bore a brave and bloody part. After a brief respite it joined the forces in pursuit of the Rebel army.
Passing through Frederick City, Middletown, and Boonsboro', the field of Antietam was reached on the night of the 16th of September. At daylight the regiment marched on the battle-field. The Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania had the right, followed by the Fifth Ohio, in command of Major John Collins, Colonel Patrick being sick. The Fifth Ohio proceeded in column, by company, until within range of the enemy's fire. About fifty yards in front was a belt of woods, occupied by the Rebels. The regiment advanced to the edge and opened fire, and in a short time drove the Rebels into a cornfield, where it followed and engaged them in a fierce hand-to-hand conflict, many of the men using the butts of their guns. The conflict here was terrible, but the enemy was at last compelled to give way, contesting every foot of the ground as they did so. They were driven from the field into an open plain, and from thence into and through a woods about a quarter of mile distant. The pursuit was stopped, and the position held.
Fresh bodies of Rebels were continually coming up, and it became apparent that without re-enforcements the Fifth Ohio and its brigade could not hold out much longer, for its whole strength did not exceed five hundred men. Two regiments were sent to its assistance; but, after firing a few volleys, they broke and ran in great confusion. These flying regiments were posted on the left, and their retreat made it necessary for the brigade to fall back to prevent its being outflanked. The advancing Rebels were soon met by a portion of Franklin's command, who again drove them beyond the woods. Night coming on closed the battle, the National forces occupying the whole battle-field, having driven the Rebels, with great loss, half a mile beyond their original lines. (9)
During the time the Fifth Ohio was engaged in the battle its cartridge-boxes were emptied three times, making about one hundred shots per man. On the outer edge of the cornfield mentioned above lay a row of dead Rebels on their faces, as though they had been dragged there and laid in order. In the open field near no less than three hundred dead and wounded Rebels were lying.
In this battle the Fifth Ohio lost fifty-four men killed and wounded out of one hundred and eighty, the number with which it entered the conflict.
After various marches and counter-marches the Fifth went into camp at Dumfries, on the 16th of December, 1862. On the 27th the garrison was attacked by General Stuart's Rebel cavalry. The engagement lasted from one P. M. until after dark, when the Rebels retreated, leaving many dead on the field. Colonel Patrick led the Fifth in this affair. Lieutenants Walker and Leforce, of company G, were killed, three wounded, and five made prisoners. (10)
The regiment lay at Dumfries through the months of January, February, March, and part of April. On the 20th of April, 1863, it joined the general advance of Major-General Hooker's army, skirmishing as it marched, and crossed the Rapidan on the 29th. On the 1st of May the regiment entered the battle of Chancellorsville, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Kilpatrick. In this bloody battle the Fifth performed a distinguished part - now fighting behind intrenchments thrown up at night in the face of the enemy; again, making fruitless efforts to arrest the retreating tide of the Eleventh Corps, which had given way on the second day; at another time retiring to the trenches for rest, to be aroused at midnight by the artillery, which (by reason of the bright moonlight) could be rendered as effective by night as by day; buffeting the pitiless rain and northern blasts of the fourth day; now breasting the iron hail, and, finally, abandoning their position near Chancellor House only when all our forces to the right, left, and rear, except one regiment, had retired.
Their next great battle was that of Gettysburg. The cannonading commenced early in the morning of the 2d of July. The Fifth lay in the woods in front of the town nearly all of that (pg 46) day, and did not suffer much until about four P. M., when the shells began to fall thickly around, several of the men being wounded while lying on the ground. At sundown they moved to the extreme right, and acted as pickets till midnight, when they returned to their old position in the woods; on the 3d they were engaged from daylight until eleven A. M. About four P. M. the enemy, with parked artillery, began a terrific cannonade. The Fifth being in direct range of this fire, the shot and shell crashed terribly among the trees of the orchard in which they were lying. The men lay on their arms that night. On the morning of the 4th of July it was definitely ascertained that victory had crowned our arms, and that the Rebels were in full retreat for Richmond, leaving thousands of their dead and wounded in our hands. Lieutenant Brinkman, one of the heroes of Port Republic, was killed in this engagement. The Fifth participated in the fruitless pursuit that followed.
In August, 1863, the regiment was sent from Alexandria, Virginia, to New York City, just after the great mob there. (11) It remained in New York until September 8th; then returned to Alexandria, and after a series of marches around Washington, Manassas Junction, etc., embarked on the 28th of September via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for Benwood, Virginia, where it arrived on the 30th. Thence it went by rail to Indianapolis, Indiana, avoiding Cincinnati, the home of nearly all the men, where they had not been for nearly two and a half years. A perfect ovation accompanied them through Ohio and Indiana - "their deeds had gone before them." At Louisville they took the cars for Nashville; from thence they were rushed down to Murfreesboro' (which place was menaced by the enemy), arriving there on the 6th of October. They found the trenches filled with the people, and the enemy in the town. The Fifth, with others, drove the enemy out and re-instated the citizens.
In the grand advance of Rosecrans' army toward Chattanooga the Fifth formed a part and on the 14th of November, 1863, had the honor of opening the battle above the clouds, on Lookout Mountain, under the lead of General Hooker. (12)
On the 14th of January, 1864, the Fifth was at Bridgeport, Alabama, doing post-duty in connection with the Seventh. It was with Sherman in his grand march toward Atlanta, and participated in the conflicts which marked his progress. At or near Dalton, Georgia, they lost their brave Colonel, J. H. Patrick, who fell while leading a charge against the enemy, and died amid the shouts of victory. A few days thereafter, the time of the regiment (three years) having expired, they were ordered to the rear, in charge of prisoners. Notwithstanding their hard and almost continual service; notwithstanding they were literally shattered to pieces, this brave band of heroes resolved to "go in for the war." This gave them the privilege of a short furlough home. Before the term expired most, if not all, "the boys" were back "to the front, " bravely and zealously following the lead of General Sherman in his "march to the sea," participating in all the hardships of the campaign, and always on hand when fighting was to be done. From Savannah to Goldsboro' they waded through the swamps, driving the enemy; then came that great flood of sunlight, Lee's surrender; the triumphant march up through the Rebel States and Richmond; thence to Washington, joining in the grand review; thence to the Queen City of the West, their home; and at last the muster-out at Louisville, 26th July, 1865, and the final payment and discharge at Camp Dennison.
This gallant regiment, during its term of service, took part in twenty-eight different engagements, the principal of which were: Winchester, Port Republic, McDowell, Cedar Mountain, Dumfries, South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Dallas, Kenesaw (13) Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, and Savannah.
During its term of service the regiment traveled one thousand three hundred and seventy-five miles on foot and nine hundred and ninety-three on cars, and was engaged in six pitched battles, besides a great number of reconnoissances and skirmishes, and sustained a loss in the aggregate of five hundred men, killed, wounded, and taken prisoners.
To show the fierceness of the contest around and in the vicinity of Washington at the commencement of Pope's campaign, we give the following passages, copied from a diary kept by an officer of the Fifth Ohio:
"On the afternoon of the 25th of July, having first loaded the camp equipage, we were once more on the move. We arrived at Warrenton late at night. General Pope, who was now in command of the Army of Virginia, had his head-quarters here, and was concentrating his forces. We left Warrenton on the 31st of July, arriving near Little Washington the next day. The Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania, consisting of fifteen companies and Knapp's Batter, were now added to our brigade, and Brigadier-General Geary placed in command. We were now assigned to, and formed part of Major-General Banks's corps. We again pulled up stakes on the 5th of August, passing through Sperryville the same day, arriving at Culpepper C. H. on the night of the 7th. We remained in camp on the 8th under orders to turn out at a moment's notice. During the day, reports came into camp that our troops, in considerable numbers, were drawn up in order of battle, and that Banks's corps was intended for the reserve.
Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the Civil War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers, (reprint of the 1895 edition, Robert Clarke Company, Cincinnati) Volume 2, pages 42-47.
(1) You can visit the Camp Dennison Web page at www.intcom.net/~tomt/dennison/dennison.html
Endnotes ©2001 David M. Smith
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