This week 150 years ago was certainly the turning point in the Civil War. Arguably the two most notable campaigns of the war climaxed in Union victories. The first was the Gettysburg campaign, which culminated in the the largest land battle ever waged on the North American continent. The Battle of Gettysburg, which has been immortalized in the annals of warfare by Gen. George Pickett's ill-fated charge is certainly the most notable Civil War event stamped in the memory of the American public.
The second, the end of the long and arduous Vicksburg, Miss., campaign, which is far less acclaimed but may have actually had more far-reaching results. Certainly President Lincoln considered the fall of Vicksburg the key to the war.
In spite of these momentous victories, the Union could not end the war for almost another two years. The Confederacy, in spite of the great odds against it, managed to persist admirably in the field for many more months, during which its fighting men endured severe privations.
Trumbull County soldiers had a role in Gettysburg. Three units represented 92 percent of the Trumbull boys that participated in the battle: the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry with 210 Trumbull natives, the 7th Volunteer Infantry with 95 and the 29th OVI with 33. The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, which was originally organized and trained in Trumbull, participated in several of the campaign events that led up to Gettysburg but did not directly play a combat role. Instead, its mission was to guard supply trains that supported the troops in the field.
From a Trumbull perspective, the 7th OVI played the most interesting role. It arrived late on the afternoon of July 1 and camped in the area of Little Round Top. The next day it was sent north to Culp's Hill along with the rest of the 2nd Division, of which it and the 29th OVI were a part, to build breastworks. It was Gen. George Greene's idea to build the breastworks. He was the commander of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of the XII Corps and notably at 62, the oldest general officer in the Union Army. His immediate commander, Gen. Geary reluctantly approved the building of the breastworks, which later proved to be the linchpin for Union success at holding that precious high ground.
On July 2, most of the division, including the 7th and 29th OVI, was sent south to reinforce the Union left. It ended up getting lost along the Baltimore Pike, failing to reach its intended support area. That night the 7th returned to Culp's Hill. While the rest of the division had been away, Greene's 3rd Brigade had valiantly and single-handedly defended the Union positions on Culp's Hill, albeit the Confederates did take some of the abandoned Union posts. Greene was later cited for his leadership in repelling the Confederate assaults and sustaining the Union dominance on the hill.
About 6 a.m. July 3, the 7th was chosen to relieve the 60th New York at the left of Greene's line. It would be the first time the 7th had ever fought behind breastworks.
Sherman R. Norris of Company D found that the rebel forces in front of the 7th "melted away before our volleys, and after they had been broken, numbers of the enemy took refuge behind trees and rocks." At 8 a.m., the 60th New York relieved the 7th. But the latter was back in the breastworks by 9:45 a.m., relieving an unspecified unit to the left of the 29th Ohio. It was at this time that Confederate Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson made his last assault on Culp's Hill after two days of unrelenting attempts.
About 11 a.m., Col. William R. Creighton, commander of the 7th, noticed a makeshift white flag thrown out from behind the rocks in front of the 7th entrenchments. Creighton ordered his men to quit shooting. Soon after, the Ohioans saw a mounted Confederate officer crisscrossing the foot of the hill below them trying to stop any attempt at surrender. As he advanced up the slope, he was met by a hail of Union bullets. Both he and his horse fell dead. The officer proved to be Maj. Benjamin Leigh, Allegheny Johnson's chief of staff. After he fell, 78 rebels surrendered to the 7th. Many of the prisoners were from the 4th Virginia, a regiment that was part of the vaunted "Stonewall" Brigade, which, ironically enough, had directly opposed the 7th on several other occasions - most notably in the Shenandoah Campaign in the spring of 1862.
The next morning the 7th's Sgt. John Pollock of Company H and Warren, climbed over the works and picked up the 4th Virginia's battle flag, one of three captured by Geary's division at Culp's Hill.
In spite of its sobriquet as "The Bloody Seventh" the regiment suffered no casualties at Gettysburg. In fact, Trumbull suffered no casualties during that engagement, which resulted in 51,000 casualties, including 7,000 deaths.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the U.S. equivalent to the modern interstate system was the Mississippi River. The agricultural and industrial production in the North made its way to world markets through the port of New Orleans via the "Father of Waters."
Soon after the war began, the Confederacy quickly gained control of the lower river, denying movement of Northern commerce. The Union soon responded and made military strides to regain control. By early 1863, the only obstacle to the passage of Northern commerce to New Orleans was Vicksburg, Miss. Lincoln had told his civilian and military leaders that, "Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket."
On July 4, 1863, the city of Vicksburg, after nearly seven weeks of siege, surrendered to the forces of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The fall of that citadel gave the Union gunboats complete control of the river again. Upon hearing of the surrender, Lincoln declared: "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea." The loss of Vicksburg cut the Confederacy in half, depriving Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia access to many resources that could otherwise aid it.
The primary Trumbull unit involved in the Vicksburg campaign was the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Over the course of the many months that comprised that campaign, seven Trumbull boys made the ultimate sacrifice.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.