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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 52 - May, 1863

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
February 16, 1882


From the rifle-pits to the covered bridge over the river ran a long trestle-work, ascending at rather a steep grade. Between the iron rails was a narrow plank foot-way. Over this some of the rebels retreated. Our artillery had set the bridge on fire and ripped the trestle-work badly in places, making this line of flight dangerous. When the bridge was a mass of smoke and flame many men ran through it. The last one to pass this gauntlet of fire was Augustus P. Babb, of the 37th Miss. (rebel) infantry.

Gen. Bowen commanded the Confederate troops here. Three of his brigades were in the earthworks that extended from the river above to a swamp below the railroad; the balance were in reserve on both sides of the river. The majority of Bowen's men had suffered much in battle, but there was one brigade here that had not yet fired a gun in the campaign up to this engagement. It was commanded by Col. Vaughn, a man that the Tazewell prisoners recollected for the inflated language that he paraded in a letter published in the Knoxville Whig, Aug., 1862. His troops were the first to break here. They being in the center, left a gap which necessitated the retreat of the flanks. Greene lost all control of his men, and himself escaped by swimming his horse across the river. He was killed at Vicksburg before he had made a report of his part in the Big Black River fight.

Gen. Francis M. Cockrell, with his brigade of Missourians, was in front of our brigade. His men had a good fighting record but they had to move with the tide. Cockrell is at present (1882) United States Senator from Missouri. He who would have prophesied such a thing eighteen years ago would have been put down as a lunatic.

One of the captured cannon standing at the railroad was disabled by having the iron axle bent by one of our shells. Some of their field pieces had names painted on them. One was the Lady Price, another Belle of the Gulf.

As soon as our infantry were fairly in the works, some of our batteries galloped up into good positions and shelled the rebels that were clambering up the sides of the steep bluff beyond the river. Some of the infantry that were trying to work the captured pieces got a shell about half way down one and abandoned it. Gen. A.J. Smith riding by, noticing the awkward manner in which the boys handled the guns, uttered some humorous criticisms. Several hundred bales of cotton, back some distance from the works, caught fire during the cannonading and was destroyed. The sharp-shooters of both sides kept up a contest across the river until night. In this desultory warfare we lost some men. Notwithstanding the decisive victory we had won here, the vicinity of our army was carefully picketed that night and those who passed the hours of darkness on their lonely posts in the midst of plenty of spiders, bugs and other insects that seemed to be particularly big in this swamp region, had entertainment enough to keep them awake. A species of blackberry, commonly called the dewberry, was ripe here at this time and some of the pickets found plenty of them in the morning.

The next morning, the 18th, we crossed the river on a floating bridge made of dry timber, and moved out leisurely toward Vicksburg. Many stragglers from Confederate regiments, thoroughly demoralized, were scattered through the country. Some of our boys, slipping away from the line of march, encountered these fellows and generally found them willing to surrender. An incident is related of one of our men running across ten or twelve of the enemy in a ravine in the woods not far from the road. He was naturally a little surprised, but not finding them on the shoot, demanded their surrender. One of them replied that they were willing to become prisoners but would not consent to go along with one man, and advised our fellows to go back for help. He acted on the suggestion and the fellows were soon taken in.

A few hours out on the road brought us to the smoking ruins of a bridge that did not retard our march very much as we marched around it. Trusty contrabands to-day aided us very much by acting as pilots. It appears in reviewing the events of this campaign that we were the only Federal force that had been compelled to fight for the passage of the Big Black River. Up the river to our right Sherman had been detained an aggravating length of time by a Confederate Lieutenant and ten men behind an entrenchment on the west side of the ferry at Bridgeport. After capturing the little squad, the pontoons, the only ones in the army in Mississippi, were put down and Sherman's men passed over.

On the night of the 18th we bivouacked in line and ready for action. We were but little wearied after a short march of eight miles. On the morning of the 19th we were on the move early and after marching about two miles we began to see the distant yellow earth-works that environed the rear of the city of Vicksburg. As we deployed and swept forward in line, white puffs of smoke from the works disclosed to us the position of their batteries. Never faltering, the line pressed onward under the increasing fire that was noisy and warlike enough, though not very destructive, until we got within about one fourth of a mile, when the infantry began to peck away at us. In spite of this combined fire we approached close to the rifle-pits--the infantry of our brigade within about fifty yards. The rebel cannon in our immediate front were in position on the parapets. The exposed position of the gunners soon enabled us to silence their pieces. In gaining this ground several of the 16th were killed--the writer recollects two, John Jordon, of Co. E, and Jacob Megary, of Co. C, and a number wounded. Clouds of powder-smoke and the dark lines of Federals showed how the work was progressing far to our right. The Confederate fortifications were now invested to about two thirds of their extent. The place occupied by the 16th was near the extreme left of the Federal line. The way was for a few days necessarily open to the south and if the rebels had chosen to, before reinforcements arrived and extended our line they could have made annoying sorties on our exposed left flank. The ground adjacent to the works was fortunately favorable to a beseiging [sic] army, permitting it to get, by a little resolution a good strong position within close rifle-range of the enemy, who had their line constructed on the higher ridges; we being in most cases located lower. The rebel rifle-pits formed the horizon in our front, and every hand or head that appeared above the crest was quickly detected by our watchful sharp-shooters. A lively fusilade [sic] was kept up from the time we struck the works in the forenoon, until it became too dark to see anything in the evening. From that on into the wee hours, talking, moving around and now and then a little shooting was kept up. The sound of the pick and shovel was heard on the crest of the hills to the rear, where entrenchments were being thrown up for the field guns that were fairly prepared for work next morning. The dead were carried back for burial and the wounded to the hospital, so when day dawned the front line had only their enemies to look after and let fly at them when they exposed themselves. The rebel cannon stood in clear relief on the parapets of the forts, but there was no attempt to fire them and some time after sunrise were pulled back out of sight. We saw no more of them and only heard them at long intervals afterward as they fired through enbrasures.

A group of large trees of the primeval forest, back of the enemy's line of works, furnished excellent lookouts for their sharp-shooters, and many soldiers of the 13th corps were struck by shots from these lofty perches. Against them the small arms had but little if any effect. Our artillery at times was directed at this source of annoyance and when they opened out in earnest they never failed to make the bark and branches fly. Cartridges for close quarters were issued to us. Instead of the bullet they contained twelve buckshot. These were to be used if an attempt should be made by the garrison to break out. There were so many exposed places to pass to reach our front line, that everyone that traversed the ground in daytime periled his life. When a man made the trip he made it lively and his steps were generally hastened by the zipping bullets that often raised little dust clouds close to his feet.

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