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Wilhelm: Real human stories found in Civil War publications

The News-Messenger (Fremont) logo The News-Messenger (Fremont) 1/28/2023 Roy Wilhelm

In February of 1865, Charles Aldrich, who enlisted in the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Union Army at Fremont four years earlier, was captured by the Rebels near Petersburg.

According to the story, he was marched about three miles “near the south side of a swamp, where the rebels halted and began to divide the money, valuables and rations of their prisoners. Just at this time, however, about 300 boys in blue came around the swamp and recaptured their comrades, besides many prisoners and a battery.”  The rebels’ horses being dead, “the rebels lent helping, though unwilling, hands to draw it (the battery) back to the union lines.”

That interesting anecdote is the kind of real human stories about the Civil War that you learn from “Military and Personal Sketches of Ohio’s Rank and File from Sandusky County in the War of the Rebellion.” 

Hayes online library has sketches of Ohio military history

It’s part of “Hardesty’s Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia” published in the late 19th century and those sketches are available online through the Rutherford B. Hayes Library and Museums. According to Wikipedia, the encyclopedia was a luminous package of information produced by H.H. Hardesty and Company, publishers of Chicago and Toledo. Hardesty’s package also includes a stand-alone military history titled “The Military History of Ohio.”  That is available online through other sources.

The sketches include incredible stories and deal with men with familiar names.

Josiah Zimmerman, who served with the 49th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, was wounded at the battle of Dallas, Georgia, in May of 1864.  “A mini ball struck him in front of the ear, and, passing through his mouth, cut his tongue nearly in two.  He lay on the field some time, as he was supposed to be dead. At last, they removed him to the hospital, where the surgeons pronounced his case a hopeless one.  For four weeks he lingered between life and death, and it was two months before he could speak so that anyone could understand him.” 

About two decades later, “Hardesty’s” reported that “His speech is still somewhat affected by his wound.  He receives eight dollars a month pension.” 

The sketches include General Ralph Buckland’s valuable leadership at Pittsburg Landing and the heroics of future president Rutherford B. Hayes.  They also include countless tales of heroism and tragedy of everyday heroes.

James Bennett and his comrades “had a severe encounter with the enemy, and the regiment lost half of its men in thirty minutes” at Prairie Grove.

Hardesty, however points out that “Mr. Bennett escaped with a bullet hole in his pantaloons’ leg.” and after the war he enjoyed “the peace which his efforts have aided in bringing to his country on his farm near Bellevue.”

Disease battered soldiers, killed others

John Donnels, who enlisted at Fremont in the 169th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, was taken sick while at Fort Ethan Allen near Washington D. C. and “has never entirely recovered his health.”

The sketch relates that “The regiment, during the four months of its service, lost two hundred men by disease.”

G. Lindon Donnels enlisted at Rollersville in the 111th Ohio Volunteer Army.  When the 111th started at “double quick” to attack the fort at Nashville, the commander told Colonel Moore to get his men in line.  The colonel replied that that was “the way they fight in the west” and they captured the fort.

Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for both The News-Messenger and News Herald. 

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Wilhelm: Real human stories found in Civil War publications


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