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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 56 - June, 1863

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
March 16, 1882


Since the 19th of May we had changed our camp several times. When we moved it was without wagons or the usual work of staking off a camp. After the order was given we folded our pup-tents and blankets, fell into ranks and marched away to the new place, and in a short time were established.

Those that were killed were generally buried in the rear and not far from the front line. In the little nooks sheltered from the enemy's view, little hillocks of fresh earth marked the last resting place of many a valiant Federal. As the living soldier passes the grave of a comrade a shade of sadness may, for a moment, come over his feelings but is quickly dispelled as he moved on to mingle in the exciting scenes of the hour. Near by, in the bivouac, under anything that will screen them from the rays of the sun, men with cards are engaged at poker, seven-up, euchre, &c. Such pastimes as the soldier readily resorts to. Chuck-a-luck is also popular, and clusters of men are anxiously crowding each other to see the figures as the dice are thrown on the board. Other games are in vogue and now and then a little racket intrudes itself. The restraining power of the average soldier, over the inclination to violence was, ordinarily, good, but sudden gushes of anger, under extraordinary provocation, sometimes led to violence.

One warm June day, a fine looking young soldier of Co. H was seen hurrying through the bivouac. His face was covered with blood from a gash in his forehead. It seems he and a messmate had a dispute as to who should get some drinking water. Soap claimed it was the duty of the cook to provide water, while the cook claimed it was hard enough to be cook without being required to do more. In the heat of passion Soap grabbed his sabre, his opponent reached for another from a stack of guns, and struck Soap on the forehead with the hilt. Soap fell down the hillside, rolling over the pup-tent and upsetting the bean-pot of the Wapakanetta boys. The trouble lasted but a minute. Soap went to the surgeon's tent, had his head plastered up, went back to his messmates, and he and his opponent were afterwards better friends than ever. If a man blustered up and showed he was ripe for a muse his bravado was hooted down and he was generally glad to subside, and be careful in the future that he gave no more such unpopular exhibitions.

June 4th we moved camp for the last time while participating in the siege. The site was a little south of and close to the railroad. It was selected more for its safety from the rebel fire, than for beauty of location or comfort. It was in a deep ravine with steep sides, running north and south. The boys terraced the slopes for level places to sleep on. A field hospital on an elevation to the rear of us was marked by the usual red flag that floated conspicuously above it. Before we had fairly settled down in the new place we received some attention from Whistling Dick, (the rebel cannon that I have previously mentioned.) The watchful gunners had probably caught sight of the moving troop and concluded to annoy them a little. About half a dozen shell came screaming over to us as fast as the active artillerymen could load and fire. They grazed the crest of the hill, throwing showers of yellow earth over us, and bounding beyond us exploded or fell spent on the earth near the hospital. Whistling Dick was most advantageously posted and admirably worked. It commanded the river above the city as well as the country back of it. Our gunboats and land batteries had found, at serious cost, that it was a powerful antagonist. On the 28th of May it had sent a shot through the heavy iron plating of the gunboat Cincinnati over a mile away, sinking the boat.

Reinforcements far overbalancing our losses were arriving from the north. Negro troops, as fast as they could be organized and equipped for service were placed on duty. Warrenton, Milliken's Bend, and other places not liable to be attacked in force were garrisoned by black sol-

diers mainly. At Milliken's Bend, during the siege, the 23rd Iowa Infantry, in conjunction with some new negro regiments, sustained a fierce attack by an overwhelming body of Dick Tayler's Trans-Mississippi army, and with the aid of a gunboat gallantly repulsed them. The vigilance and energy of the besieging army continued unabated. Every night new approaches were thrown up. In some instances the enemy were forced to make counterworks to thwart our men in the new advantage gained. Huge fascines were made of the long straight cane that grow plentifully in the ravines. These bullet-proof bundles were rolled forward where the ground was favorable, and wherever they stopped, the pick and shovel were industriously applied and soon a formidable bank of earth was the result. The sleepless vigilance which our foeman were forced to observe, sent many of them to the hospitals or invalid camps back toward the river in the deep ravines.

Affairs beyond the Big Black in our rear demanded increased attention and stronger force to keep the wily and skillful Joe Johnson at bay, and prevent a serious interruption of the siege that was bound before long to decide the fate of Vicksburg.

One of the great wants of Pemberton's besieged army was percussion caps. This was not generally known to our men at that time, but subsequent writers have told the story of how, daring and ingenious rebels, at momentary hazard of their lives, with caps concealed about their persons, crept through our lines.

Our regiment received orders several times to march to Black River, but they were always countermanded. Finally, on June 8th, we moved in that direction. The weather was very warm, yet the men marched blithely and we accomplished the distance, ten miles, in a reasonably short time. We encamped about a half mile west of the ruins of the bridge, on an elevated plateau flanked by ravines that run down to the river. The ground had been occupied for camp before and was tramped hard. Much common camp debris covered the site.

Nearly all of our division, (9th,) was on hand. Two regiments, 22nd Ky. and 42nd Ohio, of our brigade, were back at Vicksburg, but came up soon. To be free to walk about without bullets zipping close to our ears was a relished relief. There were no camp guards to confine us to narrow limits. The boys came and went as they pleased between duty hours. The cooking was done by hired contrabands, and for a short period we were not burdened with very arduous duties. Details for picket were heavy, but this work was light compared to the tedious service in the trenches we had left. Sudden alarms, several times, required the speedy assembling of the regiment. Preceding these the boys might be scattered around under the neighboring trees, in the shade, or down by the streams bathing, and very few in camp. At the first notes of the bugle there was a scampering for quarters to get into line that would have tickled any disciplinarian.

On the day of our arrival here, Gen. Osterhaus, while reconnoitering with a small detachment of cavalry beyond the river, was almost captured by the enemy.

It was a short walk from camp to the edge of the bluff that overlooked the part of the river valley that contained the rebel works and battlefield of a month before. Rains had revived and refreshed the trampled grasses and weeds to such an extent that the traces of the battle of May 17th were almost obliterated and seemed like an affair of long ago.

On the 10th it rained frequently very hard and continued nearly all day. That night the 16th was ordered out and lay on their arms until morning. It was a little dismal, but better to be up and ready than caught napping.

Foraging trains, under heavy escort, were sent out beyond our lines and invariably encountered rebel cavalry, who were easily driven off while the wagons loaded. This foraging on the east side of the river ceased when Johnson's Infantry came closer.

On the 23rd there was some indications of an attack on their part. We were awaiting them in the earthworks that we had built on the elevated land that bordered the river. Instead of a movement to attack they were only making a reconnaissance in force.

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