The week Sept. 24, 1862, was militarily quiet on all major fronts. The bloodiest day in American history, the Battle of Antietam, was now a week or more in the past. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued on Sept. 22, 1862. So Gen. George B. McClellan, commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac, was back to doing the things he did best: reorganizing, drilling and resupplying his troops. Otherwise, there was only an occasional sniper's shot across the Potomac as the two armies regrouped.
Some of the Northern press, which decried the procrastinating McClellan for not taking more action against the enemy, began to headline their newspapers derogatorily with the old refrain, "All Quiet Along the Potomac," which had its birth after the Union loss at the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861 in telegrams from McClellan to Secretary of War Cameron.
The phrase in the telegrams spawned a noted poem, "The Picket Guard," and a popular Civil War song.
The anonymous 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry correspondent, who called himself Julius, sent to the Western Reserve Chronicle, a detailed report of his regiment's involvement in the Battle of Antietam. Its length prohibits from publishing it here in its entirety. But, in his narrative about the end of the battle he noted the horror of the event:
"As we passed the fence, the dead and wounded lay in an indiscriminate pile and in numbers difficult to imagine.
"The blood lay in pools or ran in crimson streams. To clear the bodies I had to stand upon the top of the fence, and jump as far as I could. All over the field the dead lay in long rows, plainly showing the position of every line of battle. Some idea may be gained of the immense slaughter, by the fact, that on an area of only 700 square feet, with a front of 60, fifty-seven dead bodies lay beside the proportionate number of wounded. ... The slaughter was terrible in the extreme.
"I need not describe the scenes of the next two days - they are too horrible. I shall always remember those upturned disfigured and blackened faces (gunpowder from the loading and discharging of their weapons) everywhere to be seen upon the field, along the road through the village of Sharpsburg, out to the bridge taken by Burnside, and the thousand other painful scenes."
Julius (some suspect he was Charles N. Tenney) went on to report:
"The 7th entered (the battle) with 156, and had 5 killed and 33 wounded. Company H (Trumbull County) lost one man killed - Henry Bacon and one wounded, Corporal H. J. Bell. He has recovered and is now doing duty. It is useless for me to eulogize the 7th or any other regiment. It is sufficient to be conscious that our part was well sustained, and our duty discharged in a manner worthy of patriots."
Later he noted:
"We started on the 19th (September) for Harper's Ferry, arriving at Maryland Heights, on the 20th, but the Rebels had skedaddled thence. On the 23rd we forded the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and camped upon Louden Heights, where we still remain, the 7th being detailed for 'headquarter guards' to General Geary who has just returned." Geary had been seriously wounded in the arm and leg at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on Aug. 9.
Note that a regiment normally starts with about 1,000 men. Yet the 7th, which was sometimes called "The Bloody 7th," by Julius' account entered the battle with only 156. Julius expanded on unit combat strength by reporting: "As a regiment we are 'on the gain,' although of late there has been considerable illness in camp owing probably to the water, which is rather deleterious, and the excessive fatigue endured to obtain it, having to go down the mountain fully half a mile. It is hoped that we will soon move our camp to a more favorable locality. We have lately received 190 recruits, some of whom have not be(en) assigned to companies. A number of our boys wounded at Cedar Mountain, returned last evening, having recovered. John Lentz and Joseph Kincaid of our company (H) were among the number, looking and feeling well."
Julius then closed with a lament that copies of The Chronicle had not been forthcoming from the home front for a good while.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.