McKinley promoted; Ohio companies harass Confederates

The beginning of April 1863 found the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and Isaac Gause leaving Ohio for Kentucky. William McKinley was promoted to lieutenant and adjutant on Col. Rutherford B. Hayes’ staff.

On March 29, 1863, the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had a new adjutant; Sgt. Maj. Albert Dickerman from Company E was promoted to lieutenant and was appointed adjutant.

The 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry traveled by train to Cincinnati, then was ferried across the Ohio River to Covington, Ky., where they were transported by boat to Maysville, Ky., then traveled southward into bluegrass country.

The Army had become more efficient in moving troops and supplies. Instead of a long wagon train that blocked and held up other wagons, each company had a wagon with supplies traveling with the quartermaster.

Each trooper had his own tent strapped to his saddle. This small tent was called a dog tent by the soldiers. Cooking utensils and rations were also attached to the saddle, and the men were usually issued three days of rations.

Gause’s company went on advance and broke up into squads to take different roads. This precaution was necessary, for they were traveling where John Hunt Morgan made frequent raids on Union supplies.

Kentucky was a divided border state. Some citizens were sympathetic to the Confederates and some to the Union. Morgan found safe passage among the Confederate sympathizers, and the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, a Union cavalry commanded by Col. Woolford, moved with similar secretiveness as Morgan.

The 1st Kentucky Cavalry was informed and moved within the Union sympathizers as quickly and quietly as Morgan moved comfortably among his sympathizers. They knew every ford and bridle path in southern Kentucky, riding their thoroughbred Kentucky horses, gliding 50 or 100 miles, arriving exactly where they were needed.

It was rumored that Morgan himself stood in awe of their achievements. However, they terrorized him as he terrorized the Union Army. Everyone was constantly on alert.

Arriving in Somerset on the north bank of the Cumberland River, the 2nd Ohio Cavalry stopped. This was a ferry crossing and the town of Monticello just to the south was the headquarters of Confederate Gen. John Pegram.

Union pickets guarded the north side of the river and Confederate pickets guarded the south side. The pickets met in the middle of the river in skiffs to trade coffee for tobacco and exchange newspapers. However, when the Union commander decided to push back, Pegram and the Confederates would fire at the troopers trying to cross the Cumberland.

McKinley was familiar with paperwork as quartermaster. He issued receipts for supplies foraged in the countryside as well as accounting for all the supplies and filling out forms in duplicate.

Reenlisting, he and others were given a month furlough. Before he returned home he was given another assignment, that of adjutant, writing letters and orders for Hayes. He also signed them as acting assistant adjutant general.

The 105th Ohio was at Murfreesboro, Tenn. Dickerman had attended Oberlin College and was teaching in Chester before he joined the 105th Ohio.

Succeeding adjutant A. Robbins, who was compelled to resign because of a painful injury, Dickerman continued as adjutant for the rest of the war. He is described as being cool, prompt and courageous, never becoming nervous under any situation.

Morgan often harassed the 105th Ohio. Morgan’s cavalry commander, Col. Hutcheson, would dress in Union uniforms and approach the soldiers, who thought them to be friendly. Then the Confederates would reveal themselves and capture the men.

Many of the prisoners were paroled rather than sent to prison.

Lt. Alonzo Chubb, a wagon maker from Painesville, must have been a friendly fellow, for after telling a story to his captors about how he measures whiskey, the Confederate captain stopped at every town to demonstrate Yankee measuring.

Chubb had lost the two middle fingers of one hand and in jest placed this hand against a glass and ask for the glass to be filled up to 2 fingers. The persimmon whiskey that was made in the South made this an ordeal for Chubb, but other comrades said it entertained the Confederates, so it was worth it.

Chubb was held for several months as prisoner in Atlanta and Libby Prison in Richmond. However, other members of the 105th Ohio were paroled days after capture. They received on paper a parole which they signed declaring that they would never bear arms against the Confederate States nor disclose anything that they saw or heard.

Sources: “Four Years in Five Armies,” by Issac Gause; “Major McKinley, William McKinley in the Civil War,” by William Armstrong; and “The Story of a Thousand,” by Albion W. Tourgee.

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