Soldiers catch up on news from home

150 years ago this week in the Civil War, there were no major engagements. There were a few minor skirmishes and raids.

Federal troops and sailors burned Mound City, Ark., a haven for Southern guerrillas.

Gen. Burnside moved his Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock River to attack Robert E. Lee’s left flank northwest of Fredericksburg, Va. However, relentless rains turned the countryside into a quagmire, and Burnside had to call a halt to “the mud march” and retreat to the army’s encampment across the river from Fredericksburg.

For the most part, Trumbull County units were ensconced somewhere in winter quarters.

The lull in fighting enabled unit correspondents to forward articles to the local press. One such report came to the Western Reserve Chronicle from the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI), which will later earn the alternative sobriquets of Yankee or Ohio or Opdycke’s Tigers.

However, during this period, the 125th was enroute to the Nashville, Tenn., area for its first combat deployment since finishing “basic training” at Camp Cleveland around Jan. 1, 1863. At the moment (Jan. 19, 1863), the unit was quartered in Camp Opdycke, named for its regimental commander, Emerson Opdycke of Warren, outside of Louisville, Ky.

The 125th correspondent, Ralsa C. Rice, reported the names of each soldier in Company B. All but six of the 88 men listed were from Trumbull County. The remaining six were from Ashtabula County. The company commander was Capt. Albert Yeomans from Kinsman. Rice, who was from Greene, was first sergeant.

Rice had originally enlisted in the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in August 1861. But he contracted measles in January 1862 and languished in the hospital for two months. He subsequently contracted mumps and pneumonia.

On May 25, 1862, he was discharged from the service as physically unfit for duty. He came home to recuperate and decided in August, against the wishes of his family (he was married with two children), to re-enlist in the newly formed 125th. He would ultimately be promoted to lead Company B.

After the war, he wrote the history the 125th, which became a published work entitled ”Yankee Tigers.” He also served as Trumbull County auditor for several years.

A second 125th correspondent, unidentified, sent an article to the Warren Constitution. He recounted the 125th’s journey from Camp Cleveland to Camp Opdycke.

He reported: “The Regiment is in good trim and well rigged for fighting. We have the finest of Springfield rifles and other accoutrements of war, and the boys are very uneasy to get a chance of trying their new and splendid rifles on some of the rebels.”

Another report, dated Jan. 14, 1863, came to the Chronicle from Battery 14th Ohio, on garrison duty at Camp Jackson, Tenn. Although Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest had been operating in the area and cut off the 14th’s telegraph communications since Dec. 18, 1862, mail service was restored on Jan. 10. Since then, time “was spent in reading, writing and searching the columns of the papers for the news. We now receive our mail regular, which makes us feel quite at home.”

Two articles, both dated Jan. 18, 1863, came in from Trumbull’s own 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, the only unit that trained at Camp Hutchins in Warren at what was then the fairgrounds and today the home of Warren G. Harding High School.

One report was from A SOLDIER. He reported: “Our Regiment is stationed near Stafford Court House, Stafford Co. Va., and are engaged in picketing, scouting and patrolling through the country.”

The regiment was critically understrength at the time: “The Regiment cannot muster over two hundred men present for duty, and sixty of them new recruits.”

The writer listed a large number of absentees from his unit, Company I. Many men were in the hospital or on detached duty.

The second article was from N.A. Barrett (Lt. Col.), who noted that he had not written in a while because: “In the present inactive state of our army here, there is very little going on that would interest you.

“The health of the regiment has never been better. We have lately been strengthened by a re-enforcement of sixty drafted men, whom Col. Lloyd brought with him from Ohio. (Lloyd was the organizer and first regimental commander of the 6th OVC.)

”The Col. is now in command of the brigade. To us this is a source of gratification, for we have had dutch (sic) brigadiers so long that an English Order, no matter how difficult, is music to our ears.”

The last message I will note is one from The Trumbull Guard, quartered in Gallipolis. It was signed off by SOLDIER, who said ”… there is nothing more cheering to the men than to get a chance at the dear old Chronicle, when at their posts or in their tents. I want you to send my paper to Gallipolis, box 200, and as soon as we get our pay, there are nine or ten others that will subscribe for the Chronicle, and we all hope that will be soon, for we have received nary red (cent?) as yet.

“If Jeff don’t keep his secesh (secessionist) Constitution away from here, the boys swear they will throw his press into the river when they go home on furlough. They say Southern papers are almost loyal by the side of his secesh sheet. They brand it with a rebel’s brand. He could print no such trash here. Shame for Trumbull county.”

Jeff is Jefferson Palm, editor and owner of the Warren Constitution, which was started in 1862 during the war. Palm was sympathetic to the Peace Democrats, a group that stumped for an immediate end to the war and restoration of the Union with slavery.

Although Trumbull County voted solidly for Lincoln in the election of 1860 (60 percent to 80 percent), there were certainly some folks of a different persuasion.

Peace Democrats were a viable force in Ohio, especially along the Ohio River. Probably the most notable leader of the Peace Democrats was a former Ohio Representative to Congress, Clement Vallandigham, who was deported to the Confederacy, which also decided not to want him. Therefore, he emigrated to Canada, from which he made an unsuccessful run for the Ohio governorship in 1863.

Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.