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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 67 - December, 1863-January, 1864

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
June 1, 1882


On the gulf side of the peninsula was a row of low sand hills that made good lookouts to view the foamy breakers that continually roared and surged landward. We formed a skittish acquaintance here with the sand spider, or more properly the spider crab, a repulsive looking and timid fellow about the size of a tarantula, but lighter colored and not venomous. They burrowed in holes in the sand.

Many sea nettles were washed ashore. In shape they resembled a mushroom, though ten times as large. They are translucent and of a pale milky color. In handling them, a slight electric sensation is felt in the ends of the fingers. Lying on the sand, exposed to the sun, the nettle soon dissolves and disappears.

By the use of a large seine, in the bay, pretty fair rations of fish were secured. The local names for those commonly caught were the sheep-head, mullet, blue fish, and red fish. One of the latter weighed thirty-six pounds. Flounders were sometimes taken, and now and then catfish. Many useless things were raked ashore at every haul of the seine--stingerees, silvery looking eels, things not classed in natural histories, for which we substituted such names as blow toads, cowfish, sea-horses, &c.

Mr. Decrow lived in a large frame house. Gen. Lawler occupied a part of it for headquarters. The members of his staff stayed there or in tents near at hand.

When we landed many cattle and sheep grazed on the peninsula. In time these were appropriated and slaughtered for the soldiers. Fresh meat was always at a premium and much was often risked in getting it. Lawler's colored cook was trying, one morning, to recapture a turkey that had escaped from him. Some soldiers helped to flank the bird, and before the cook could realize the manner in which it was done, Lawler's turkey was spirited away. The matter was reported to the General, who promptly ordered a search and sent the cook along to identify the soldiers that he thought were mixed up in the affair. Their efforts were fruitless, as investigations and searches generally were among the 16th boys. The turkey was cooked within a stone's throw of headquarters.

A hog that was butchered and hung up in an unfinished wing of the house and guarded by a sentinel, followed the turkey one very dark night. The plan of capture was as skillful as the execution was bold. The watchful guard was passed and repassed. The interior of the premises was carefully explored by feeling around in the dark. The men who performed the delicate work moved as noiseless as shadows. The porker was cut up in darkness in one of the tents, and before the grey dawn brought an alarm, the meat was hid away in safety. For further particulars I refer the reader to W.B. Taneyhill, T. Reed and P. Myers. Capt. Wm. Ross was officer of the day the next day and had some part in the pork hunt.

On the last day of December the wind was blowing continually. Toward night it increased in velocity, veering around to the north-west, growing colder every hour. All night and the next day it continued. Tents were blown flat and movable objects hurled through the air. Every attempt to cook in the camps was a dismal failure, the wind blowing the fire away from under the kettles. The men huddled together under the canvas and made it as merry as was possible in the miserable situation. The 16th didn't lack sand in that dark and trying hour, for their eyes and mouths were full of it. Vessels inside the bar, at the beginning of this fearful norther, put to sea, where they could have deep water and plenty of room to buffet the storm. One vessel stayed behind and was driven from her moorings and drifted against Pelican Island, at the mouth of the pass. When the weather again calmed she was towed away, not having sustained any injury. The aspect of the bay and gulf was enough to fill a person with terror, even when viewing it from land. The crests of waves were lashed and beat into a furious foam. Birds that rose to take wing were carried with the wind. Where the spray dashed upon the beach, the sand was covered several inches deep with beads of ice. Several good sized fish, that, evidently have been killed by being thrown violently ashore by the waves, were picked up.

Some oleander trees, planted as ornaments in the yards, were killed by the intense cold--something that had not occurred for ten years. It was a rough beginning for the new year (1864) but when the norther had expended itself the weather was mild again.

In 1849 the steam ship Meteor attempted to enter the bay without the aid of the local pilot. When squarely on the bar, she struck and sprung a leak and became a wreck at once. About three hundred passengers aboard were all saved, except one man who was stunned by an oar and fell into the water and drowned. Harrison, the bar pilot, was then living here with another young man, both unmarried. They were promptly on hand, and to them is largely due the rescue of the people from the ship. The heavy iron work of the vessel settled down in the sand and much of it could be seen fifteen years later, when we were there.

In sight of the coast here the privateer Alabama made a part of its record by sinking the U.S. gunboat Hatteras. Many fragments and some of the contents of the latter were washed ashore.

On the 13th of January, the 16th, with other troops, embarked and went to Indianola, fifteen miles up the bay. The people of the town were nearly all Germans, recently emigrated from Prussia. There was a noticeable absence of able-bodied men. Those at home told us that the men were forced (?) into the southern army. Many good looking females were left behind for our boys to protect, and right gallantly they did it.

Indianola is the county seat of Calhoun county. Its court house is made of cement, a preparation of shell, lime and sand. The chimneys of the town are built of the same material. On the bay front were two piers supported by piles driven into the sand and extending from shore to deep water. The timber looked old, the part underwater being bored by the teredo and covered with barnacles.

Level prairies stretched away toward the interior, and the nearest timber was thirty miles distant, at Victoria. The fuel supply for the people of Indianola was cut off, so it was necessary to economize the stock on hand. Guards were placed at private residences to keep the soldiers from carrying off the precious wood. Everything that was not guarded was speedily transferred to camp.

The Marine Hospital, a large U.S. Government building, back of the town, was soon gutted by the soldiers in quest of boards.

We were using the wedge tents which were just comfortably large for four men, yet we had more men crowded into them. One soldier preferring more room rolled up a large wooden cistern tank and bunked in it alone. This man, S.J. Uhl, who is now (1882) a celebrated portrait painter in Europe, undoubtedly often thinks of his novel quarters while soldiering in Texas.

Some of the older regiments began to veteranize. The subject of re-enlisting was agitated in the 16th. Meetings were held and speeches made. About two hundred of the regiment put down their names for more service. By some reason the matter was dropped before the final steps were reached.

A few rods from our camp lived a German naturalist by the name of Leopold. He had a large garden filled mainly with tropical plants and shrubs. Many rare horticultural wonders could be seen there. The variety of cactuses was immense. In the centre of the garden, in a latticed bower, covered with climbing vines, was the grave of the naturalist's deceased wife. Those who looked in could read the notice in red chalk on a board Respect the dedd. If the misspelling of a word did provoke a smile the sanctity of the place was not profaned by even the roughest soldier.

Powderhorn Lake extended from the town back several miles. In the lake and the bay, oysters were found in abundance and easy to get at. The soldiers could all get oysters if they went after them. Skulls of cattle, pieces of wood and other articles were often taken up from the shallow beds covered with the bivalves. A specimen of the carib fish was raked into a boat by some of our boys one day. This species is small but very ferocious. They attack larger fish fearlessly. In the oyster beds they devour the small oysters, shell and all. Humbolt [sic] mentions the carib as abounding in the Orinoco river, where they showed their savage nature by leaping at the fingers of the oarsmen when holding to the gunwale of the boat.

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