Recruit offers his insight on military
Thomas Corwin Sherman of Green Township, Mahoning County, enlisted in Company E, Ohio Second Calvary Regiment, on March 8, 1864. He was just three months short of his 19th birthday.
Pvt. Sherman wrote to the editor of the Western Reserve Chronicle on March 30, 1864, from Camp Parole in Annapolis, Md., detailing the events of his first weeks of military service. Here is the text of his letter as published in the Chronicle:
“Editor, Chronicle: The Second Ohio Calvary left Cleveland on the morning of the 24th inst., for Cincinnati. We had a very pleasant journey, only it was awful slow, and we had to wait for nearly every train to pass, until we were almost beginning to fear the rebellion would be over before we got to the front if we were to continue at that rate. We reached Columbus the same evening.
”We only stopped long enough to change engines, and give the boys a chance to get some supper – a chance which they improved with a good grace. We arrived at Cincinnati the next morning at about 5 o’clock. It was raining, and continued to rain nearly all day.
“Under such circumstances we did not form a very good opinion of the beauty of the city, though we saw some very nice buildings there; but the streets are too narrow, and the general aspect of the city was not such as we expected to see.
”We ate dinner and supper at the Sanitary Fair building near the Fifth Street market house. We were quartered in another Sanitary building on the corner of Sixth and Elm streets.
”Before leaving Cleveland, General Ambrose Burnside arrived there and telegraphed to Washington for permission to have us assigned to his division. Though the Second OVC has been acting under his orders for the last six months, it was not formally attached to his command. We had marching orders to go to Cincinnati and await further orders. In the evening after we arrived there, the orders came, and we were to join Burnside’s forces at Annapolis.
“We left on the cars that evening. The boys grumbled some at the idea of riding in box cars for such a long journey; but they said that soldiers could ride on a fence rail if necessary, and so piled in promiscuously for a ride of over 500 miles. From Columbus we took the Central Ohio Railroad for Bellaire, where we arrived at night; were ferried across the river and piled into some more box cars on the Baltimore and Ohio Road. On this road we saw some curiosities – one of which was the queer looking engine – the cab is placed right over the boiler, and makes them look more like a camel than anything I can think of.
”At Frederick Junction we saw one of the railroad batteries. It was clad with railroad iron of the ‘T’ pattern, bent in at the top, and slanting on the sides, forming a pretty good armor. It had four portholes, one on each end and one on either side.
“In Eastern Virginia, as we approached Harper’s Ferry, we found the country beginning to be fortified by earth works on the tops of the hills in the vicinity of the principal bridges, and every bridge of any size was guarded by a block house and a company of soldiers. At Fairmont we passed over a bridge which had been once destroyed by the rebels, and rebuilt by our forces. All along the route from Fairmont to this place, we found troops in winter quarters. Found Harper’s Ferry well guarded by both infantry and artillery, and also saw one company of cavalry there.
“We arrived at this place Annapolis about 9 o’clock on the evening of the 28th inst., and were put into a very comfortable barracks, but it is said we are soon to change our present quarters for tents.
“There must be 10,00 or 12,000 men here in camps scattered over three or four miles. The entire Ninth Army Corps is here. I saw one company of Indians belonging to the 8th Michigan Sharpshooters. They appeared to be well dressed and looked as if they had seen service.
“A Negro regiment left yesterday for the front. They look hearty, and although very rough in appearance, will no doubt make good soldiers. They were officered by white men. I observed a vivandiere following the regiment. She was dressed in the bloomer style, and wore a forage cap. (Editor’s note: “Vivandiere” is a French word for a camp follower who accompanied the army to sell provisions and liquor, etc. The term dates to colonial times.)
“We found here some men of our regiment who were captured by the rebels at Greenville, Tennessee, in August last, and were not exchanged until lately. They tell stories of the cruelty experienced by them that make the blood run cold, and the many say they would rather die than be taken prisoners by those friends in human shape.
“It is not likely that the Second OVC will move from this place for a month, for it is expected that it will be fitted out here with horses, arms and accouterments.
“I write this letter in one of those institutions for the convenience and well being of soldiers, called Chapels. It is sustained by the U.S. Christian Commission, and is well patronized by the soldiers, who appreciate the kindness of those Christians who are so anxious for our spiritual and temporal welfare. Here are books and papers to read, and pen, ink and paper to write; a good fire to sit by, and a well lighted room to read or write in. Tables and seats are plenty, and the institution is well patronized. Long may it survive, and Christians at home who give their money in support of this good cause, may rest assured that it well bestowed.
“Our present address is Annapolis, Maryland, and all letters so directed will be sure to reach us.”
NOTE: Thomas C. Sherman was mustered out of the military service on Sept. 11, 1865, at St. Louis, Mo. He took up printing as a profession and was married to Althea Hawes circa 1872. On the 1880 U.S. Census, Sherman was listed as editor of the Humboldt Union newspaper in Kansas.
After the turn of the century, Sherman relocated to Jamestown, Fentress County, Tenn., where he was the publisher of a weekly newspaper. Fentress County is best known as the home area of Sgt. Alvin York of World War I fame.
Thomas C. Sherman died on Jan. 9, 1916, at the age of 70 years, 6 months and 13 days.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.