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The Camp & Field Articles
by Theodore Wolbach
Cpl. Theodore Wolbach

Cpl. Theodore D. Wolbach

Web Author's Notes:

The following image represents one of a series of articles written by Cpl. Theodore D. Wolbach, Company E, titled "Camp and Field" and published, by chapter, in the Holmes County Republican newspaper from February 24, 1881 to August 17, 1882. The articles tell the story, in great detail and color, of the 16th OVI, from the inception of the 3-year regiment in October, 1861, through all its camps, battles and marches until it was disbanded on October 31, 1864. The first 35 chapters, also presented on these pages, were obtained from a book in which the articles, clipped from the newspaper, had been pasted over the pages, believed to have been done by a descendant of Capt. Rezin Vorhes, Company H. All the remaining chapters (36 through 78), except chapter 60, were recently found in a Holmes County library by researcher Rob Garber who obtained copies, performed the transcriptions and provided to this website and which are also presented here, thus providing the complete work by Theodore Wolbach.

Throughout these articles click on the underlined white text for additional details.

The webauthor thanks 16th Ohio descendant Rob Garber for his excellent research on the Camp And Field articles and for performing the tedious digital transcription of those articles found on each page. The transcriptions were made to reflect the original articles verbatim, misspellings and all. Rob is the 3rd great nephew of Capt. William Buchanan, Company F, 16th Ohio, who served in the 90-day regiment as a private, re-enlisting in the three year regiment, and eventually making the rank of Captain of Company F. Thanks Rob!

Chapter 61 - July, 1863

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
April 20, 1882


A large per cent. of the 16th got sick in this short campaign and had to be hauled back to camp in wagons.

On the 23d we moved steadily over war-beaten ground toward the Big Black, meeting, frequently, paroled men of Pemberton's army that were now scattered to the four winds. These unarmed fellows, with their haversacks well filled with Federal rations, looked docile enough after an experience that thoroughly proved their fibre. Between them and the Northern boys there was manifested the friendship of comrades. Hand-shakings, when they met, and good-byes, at parting, with kind, whole-souled utterances, were acts of courtesy that might seem novel and inconsistent to be practiced by soldiers fighting for principles so opposite.

To-day, a 16th man while leaning over a wooden well curb, drawing water, some distance from the road, was startled by the report of a rifle in an adjacent woods, and the crash of a bullet through the boards close to him. He didn't stay to investigate or be a target for a second shot.

A mule that one of the boys captured was put to good use to-day. A lot of blankets were strapped on him and it worked well several hours, when the officer of the rear-guard, possibly thinking it bad taste and unmilitary, had the mule divested of his burden and the blankets dropped by the roadside. The boys, with a little trouble, recovered their blankets and spontaneously invoked blood-curdling maledictions on that particular officer.

We reached our old camp before night. The boys who had remained there thoughtfully cooked plenty of grub, of which we partook with a relish.

On the 24th we broke camp and took up the march for Vicksburg. Various rumors were afloat as to what would be done next with us. Much news had reached us of military work in distant parts, the most significant of which was the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and their repulse at Gettysburg.

You have heard the rest
How General Lee
Flower of Southern chivalry
Baffled and beaten backward, reeled,
From a stubborn Mead and a barren field.

Depressed by the stifling heat and wearied by a period of wakefulness and imperfect rest, we still felt that buoyancy of spirit that pervades a victorious army after a remarkable success of arms. Some of the boys thought the rebels ought to give up now, since they had been so unsuccessful all summer. Little idea did we entertain that the closing battle was almost two years distant, and regiments now grouping around Vicksburg were to carry their silken flags through the hot breath of battle, over fields ghastly with heaps of slaughtered fellow creatures. Yet so it was. The red paths from Wilderness to Appomattox, and from Chattanooga to the sea must yet be trodden.

Two miles from Vicksburg, back on the clay hills, the 16th spread their blankets and lay down to rest on the night of July 24th. In the morning we approached the city by their main road from Jackson, which runs near the railroad. The scarred landscape in front and as far to the right and left as we could see was a curiosity. A perfect medley of ditches, lunettes, forts, etc., marked the recent line of operations. The hostile parapets were so close in place that hand grenades could be thrown from one to the other and the hostile soldiers, during the siege, could converse in ordinary tones. Inside of the Confederate works, where the road wound around the base of a hill, we saw a number of the artificial caves where the citizens had sought refuge from the bombardment. Plenty of Spanish moss covered the floors, and we were told bedding and furniture were placed in the apartments.

Though gloomy looking they appeared like cool, comfortable, sleeping places in the hot season. I am pretty sure if a regiment was to bivouac here at night, in summer time, the soldiers would speedily occupy the caves.

The captured cannon from the outer works were parked on some vacant lots in town. The variety of these, principally field guns, was considerable. Bronze and iron pieces that had been stolen from the U.S. at the beginning of Secession, stood beside rifled cannon of a later pattern. Some of the heavy siege guns had already been dismounted and taken down to the boat-landing to be shipped to other parts along the river. To haul these big guns, high wheeled trucks were used. The gun being swung under them log fashion and drawn by oxen. Over thirty thousand muskets and a vast amount of ammunition was stored away in warehouses and securely guarded. Besides the sick and wounded in the hospitals, many paroled confederates were yet in the place. Many of them had lost all hope for their cause since the great river was wrested from them.

The life that surrounded us, as we marched through town, was of curious interest. Soldiers of both armies and all arms of the service, on land and water; sallow, grave-looking citizens of the captured city quietly regarding the motley multitude; bright, intelligent-looking northern tradesmen, with an eye to business; thousands of contrabands of both sexes and all ages, from the little coffee-colored babe to the white headed and decrepid [sic] of more than four score, contributed to the variety of this mass of human beings around us.

Down the river, half a mile beyond the town, we pitched tents. The air was warm in daytime but chilly at night. On the 26th it rained very hard in the afternoon.

The facilities for bathing, clothes-washing and cleaning up were good for those who felt ambitious in that direction.

A Confederate convalescent camp, near us, was visited by our men. Some of our old acquaintances of the 42d Georgia were there. They were a sorry looking set after the wearing duties in the trenches, day and night, on exceedingly slim rations. They were now drawing full rations from the Federal commissary and soon would be strong enough to march for their homes. With plenty of food and an opportunity to rest, they seemed to have one want yet not supplied--they wanted tobacco.

Among the horde of contrabands that had come pouring in here, there was much suffering. There were many sick among them that needed medicines and the attention of physicians. Black mothers held their sick children in their arms until they died, not knowing who to appeal to for help. Old people, weighed down with years, and feeble and rheumatic from hard toil in the service of white masters, laid down and died. Too timid to ask the soldiers for food or help and dazed by the strange circumstances that their freedom had brought them, they quietly resigned themselves to their sad fate and patiently waited at the threshold for the golden gates to swing open and admit them to the grandest freedom of all.

Many black folks occupied an old planing mill near the river. At all hours of the day, soldiers were wandering through it. A small party, on one of these trips, made inquiries for the cause of a very offensive smell in the building. A negress pointed to a box and said Dar in dat box is a dead chile; dar's whar de bad smell come from. It had been dead three days and was already badly decomposed.

Up along the river toward the boat landing, where tall brick buildings had crumbled under the fire of the gunboats, a sight which was witnessed by thousands but seemed to produce no outward manifestation of feeling with anyone presented itself. On the morning of the 31st, an old negro lay dead on a pile of brick. A bony hand clutched a well-worn staff, and a face ghastly and haggard, that ought to have excited pity, stared with fixed and glassy eyes at the passer by.

From the crest of the commanding hills, where dismantled forts gaped like extinct volcanoes, we could view the site of our old camp in the flat land beyond and far up the river. The canal, easily traced without the aid of a field glass, lay in the foreground. We were now fully able to appreciate the situation of our last winter's soldiering and understood why the confederates looked with contempt on our efforts to get this stronghold, that they so often and with warm assurance declared to the world was impregnable against any Yankee attack.

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