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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 68 - January-February-March, 1864

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
June 8, 1882


Four miles up the bay from our camp was Oldtown. Thirteen miles farther was Lavaca. At the first named place a detachment of our troops was in camp. Our soldiering here was fraught with many pleasantries. All of the German girls could dance and gladly attended social dancing parties with the soldiers. Balls were held alternately at Indianola and Oldtown. The girls of both places were hauled back and forth in government wagons. While there were many of our boys that were familiar with the German language, there were those that could not speak it or understand it. Of the latter was Sergt. Playford. Being an expert in tripping the light fantastic toe, he sought out a buxom partner that could speak a little English. Her name was Louisa Gambrella. It was a jawbreaker for Playford, but he tackled it recklessly and called her Crumbelly.

West of camp, a short distance, was a slough that was filled with water when the tide was in. All along this miry belt hundreds of cattle had stuck fast in attempting to cross, and died. Those that had recently perished gave off no offensive smell. Fresh meat, exposed in this region, don't seem to decompose so rapidly as in higher latitudes, but will dry up and get as hard as a board. The long-horned Spanish cattle were the popular stock here, as elsewhere in the Lone Star State. Hardy and fleet they roamed the limitless prairies in almost countless numbers and subsisted where finer breeds would perish. Men obtained cattle by catching and branding the calves, which retained the mark distinctly as they matured. Herding these cattle, that grow larger than the native mustang, was not always a safe business. The bulls often became ferocious and made the herdsman climb. Often the revolver of the latter settled the dangerous animal. In peaceful times cattle were shipped from this place by water. To reach the pier they had to be driven through town. Citizens related to us many exciting incidents of how these big cattle, bewildered and enraged by the shouts and whips of the mounted drivers, resented by turning and charging through everything. A mile back from town on the prairie was a cattle corral made of two long rows of Osage orange hedge in the form of the letter V.

Moral and religious efforts were made among the soldiers here with some good results. Many were induced to sign the temperance pledge and prayer meetings were not uncommon. The colored cooks of the 16th, at times, came together and united in prayer.

Company and battalion drills were kept going. Gen. Lawler was very much interested in tactical matters and frequently took charge and drilled the battalion himself. Although made quite popular by Upton's Tactics since, it is always difficult to execute with nicety by a large body of men, as it is very laborious for the men on the turning flank. Many of the commands were given by the bugle. The bugler accompanying the officer in charge and blowing the commands as they were given by the superior. On one of these drills a practical joke was played on one of the buglers, by some of the boys. Before going out to the drill-ground, the bugle was slily [sic] plugged with mud, and when Dressler, the bugler, went to blow, he couldn't make it come.

While marching up the main street of town, returning to quarters, one fair day, the horse of Major Mills became frightened, and rearing almost perpendicular, fell over on its side, bruising and hurting the Major severely, but not seriously.

On the 5th of February an expedition under Gen. Warren went about twenty miles back into the country toward Victoria. Only a few of the enemy were seen. Those were cavalry and kept out of range. The troops bivouaced [sic] at the farm of a Mr. Foster. Fuel being scarce, the boys made their coffee on fires of bull chips. This material, when thoroughly dried and seasoned, burns like tinder.

All over this grassy country, jack rabbits, coons, skunks and other small animals abound. Further up in the Gandeloupe swamps, panthers, bears and peccaries are to be met with, and, according to the accounts of natives, furnish exciting sport for the adventurous hunter. When the expedition returned it brought in thirty wagon loads of lumber. Along the road as far as the eye could reach over the country, scarcely a tree or shrub could be seen, except that which was planted by the people.

The discipline and health of the entire command was good. In the absence of northers, this kind of soldiering was congenial to the boys. The pure sea breezes invigorated the body, and windy complimentary addresses from the General in command, buoyed up the spirits. Gen. Ord commanded the corps, and Washburn our division. A line of works almost a mile long was built from the bay back through the cemetery to the lake. There were five forts in the line.

Deserters from the C.S. army came into our lines. They were generally Germans and belonged to Indianola.

In the latter part of February another norther made things spin.

Renewed efforts were made to get the 16th to re-enlist. It was almost a success. A large majority of the younger members of the regiment were foremost to go. Youthful looking fellows, whose smooth faces had scarcely felt the razor's edge, and whose experiences in the army almost make a man wince to recount, were ready to raise their right hand and pledge themselves for three years longer.

Of the numerous boy volunteers of the late war there are many facts, not recorded generally that are worthy of thought. Thousands of them, under eighteen, got into the army by false statements of their ages. After they had once lied to the enrolling officer, it was easy to lie to the mustering officer. When the latter quizzed the would-be soldiers too close about their ages, sometimes they confessed and were rejected, invariably to reappear at another recruiting office and try it again. This green material had such obstacles to face as the counsel of parents and friends and the jeers of the older and more robust and successful aspirants, and the probable lack of physical strength and endurance to pass through the stern requirements that lay before the newly enlisted soldier, particularly in 1861, after the battle of Bull Run, when the morale of the Confederates was in the ascendency. The Rubicon once passed there was no inducements to look back. If surrounding circumstances became oppressive the thoughts of the persevering efforts that brought him there suppressed the almost uttered complaints of the youthful volunteer. The march might seem long and the accoutrements heavy, but the proud spirit within him kept him quiet. It takes a rough sea to make a good sailor and it takes rough service to make a good soldier. None learned this more emphatically than the boy volunteer. Glancing down through the vista of memory at the ranks of long ago, the boyish faces reappear--in the hospital, on the battle-field and in the prison pen--everywhere where life was imperiled there we readily find them. A recent visitor to the National cemetery at Andersonville, is forcibly impressed by the ages nineteen and twenty, given on so many of the head-boards of the soldiers' graves there.

On the 20th of February Gen. John A. McClernand received orders to relieve Gen. Ord in the command of the 13th army corps. McClernand shortly afterward visited his divisions in Texas. When he came to Indianola the troops turned out and received him with the usual military ceremonies and enthusiastic cheers.

March 9th we got marching orders. Baggage and tents to be taken by boat and the troops to hoof it to Matagorda Island. A strong wind came up and unexpectedly delayed us by driving the steamer Planter aground. Our baggage had been put on this boat and we had to wait until she could be got afloat. This was accomplished by the steamer Matamoras and the tug Percy. Citizens were offered transportation and other inducements to go with us when we prepared to evacuate.

Some of the young Germans in the western regiments, had formed matrimonial alliances with the marriageable girls. These of course went.

Leopold, the old naturalist, with his two boys, parted from their household idols and went to New Orleans, where the old fellow was making a fair living as a taxidermist when last seen by any of the 16th boys.

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