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Camp & FieldArticles
by Theodore Wolbach
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 71 - April, 1864
Published in Holmes County Republican
Across the street was an old rickety frame tenement house, partly inhabited by poor people. One was an Irishman that once belonged to a Louisiana Confederate regiment. After the battle of Shiloh, he deserted.
April 23d, in the evening, we marched through the city and embarked on a river transport. In the morning we steamed up the old river, enjoying to the fullest degree the balmy tropical air. It seemed more like a pleasure excursion to us than going to the relief of a beaten army.
On the morning of the 25th we passed Baton Rouge, where many of our old comrades of the 22d Kentucky and 42d Ohio came down to the river's edge and cheered us. That evening we entered the mouth of Red river and ascended to the mouth of Black Bayou, about ten miles from the Mississippi. We lay here quietly till morning, then resuming the journey we passed Ft. DeRussey, where a gunboat joined us as escort. At dusk, on the evening of the 26th, we reached Alexandria, disembarking immediately. In the morning we marched through town and went into camp three miles beyond.
Banks' army was grouped around the town. In number it seemed to be strong enough for an offensive campaign, and the health of the soldiers was good but the lack of confidence in the commanding general seemed to keep everybody in a state of doubt. Men of the defeated army willingly gave us a history of their part in the fight and retreat. Farther up the river, at Grand Ecore, the Federal forces, in their aggressive movement, had taken a road that ran west, leaving the river to the right, and approaching Shreveport, the objective point from the South. The extreme advance was a small body of cavalry; next an insufficient detachment of infantry; back of these the road was filled for six miles with wagons, artillery and ambulances; then came the 19th army corps--the bulk of Banks' army. The Confederate commander, Gen. Dick Tayler, seeing the situation in his favor, struck the advance with superior number and after a spirited and bloody fight crushed and drove it back, uncovering the long army train which fell an easy prize to the enemy. At Pleasant Hill a stand was made and the herd of exultant rebels severely chastised and repulsed. This was mainly accomplished by the stubborn bravery of some fragments of western regiments under Gen. A. J. Smith, who came on the field at this point. More might have been accomplished, but Banks was retreating and the order could not be changed. From the land forces the rebels turned their attention to the boats that had progressed well up the narrow river. The wood work of every boat was riddled with bullets. Many rebels in their recklessness were killed by the fire of the gunboats. One of the latter, temporarily aground near shore, maintained an unequal battle with a large force of the enemy under Gen. Greene, who with many of his soldiers were killed by the skillfully handled naval guns.
The rebels had killed some of our negro soldiers and throwed their bodies into the river. We passed one of these corpses floating on the surface below Alexandria. How this body could float so many miles unmolested down the river, where alligators were so numerous, seems singular.
On the 28th two companies of the 16th were sent back to the boat landing to unload Quartermaster's supplies, consisting mainly of corn and oats for the horses and mules. While at work a report reached them that the regiment had suddenly got orders to break camp and fall back toward town. The men on duty at the landing having left their arms and accoutrements in camp, hurried away to the front to look after them. On their way they met mule teams, ambulances, cavalry, stragglers and everything coming back in an unwarranted stampede. The enemy had shown himself in our front in force and pitched some shell over in-
to our advanced camp, doing no further damage than demoralizing a coffee pot standing on a fire in the camp of the 16th. The federal troops with commendable promptness formed line and awaited the action of the enemy, who soon retired. Instead of making a real attack they were only making a reconnaissance in force.
When Gen. Banks set out from Alexandria in the early spring no fear of a failure was thought of. The army in number was strong, and Commodore Porter, with the best portion of his Mississippi gunboat fleet, passed up, expecting, no doubt, that the work in view would be accomplished before the river fell and made the shoals, a short distance above Alexandria, impassible for the heavy boats. With other vexations came the decline of the water, which left some of the gunboats shut in above the rapids. One of the most valuable iron-clads, the Eastport, had run aground up toward Grand Ecore, and after exhausting all means at hand to float it off, was blown up and destroyed. The rest of the boats were saved by the ingenuity of an engineering officer, Col. Baily, of a Wisconsin regiment. This gallant and talented man was killed in Missouri since the war, attempting to make an arrest while acting as sheriff. This man General Banks appointed to superintend the construction of a dam which would force the water into one channel and make it sufficiently deep. It was a mammoth undertaking, but Baily went at it with characteristic assurance and directed the work of over two thousand soldiers--who worked by reliefs--for thirteen days and nights unceasingly. Large trees were cut down and rolled, tops and all, into the river with butts down stream and built up with cross timbers, log-cabin style. The tops were weighed down by throwing upon them many tons of rock, brick and earth. Empty barges, by means of stout hawsers, from both sides of the river were floated to the required place and loaded with ground and other heavy material until they sunk. Three-cornered pens of green logs, pinned firmly together, were similarly planted. There were two wings to the dam. The longest was built from the north side and extended nearly two-third across the river. When the channel was thought to be deep enough, a boat's crew of courageous seamen ventured to run the swift current in a yawl. At the foot of the chute the water was kept in a frightful state of agitation by an unevenness of the bottom. Here the boat capsized and one of the men drowned. Another small boat followed and shot through like an arrow, without accident. A tug tried it and succeeded, losing one man that was pitched from the bow, where he foolishly persisted in standing.
The iron-clads had their heavy guns removed and hauled down with big trucks below the rapids. Some heavy plating was also removed. When the first big boat, (the Pittsburg,) steamed down the dam to run through, the bulk of the army at hand gathered on the banks to witness the dangerous undertaking. Under a full head of steam the black monster entered the gap and passed through to the rough place mentioned, where it stuck, but only for a moment. The force of the accumulating water a stern shoved the vessel through into the deep water ahead. The vast crowd that so far had viewed the thrilling scene in breathless silence, now gave a prolonged cheer, that was echoed back by the gratified gunboatsmen. The last boat to pass was the Tuscumbia, the heaviest of all. It rubbed the bottom harshly but sustained no injury.
The right wing of the 16th was detailed to assist on the dam. On the 30th of April they reported at Banks' headquarters, got their instructions, crossed the river and bivouaced near the rapids. Being the first troop on hand, there was a fair opportunity to forage in the immediate neighborhood. A supply of smoked meat was found packed in tubs and hid in a thicket. Some live stock was started up and chased through the woods. Arch Buckmaster brought one of them--a very fine beef--down by a marvellous off-hand shot at a hundred yards. Many books and other reading matter was found stowed away in unfrequented places. This furnished refreshing pastime for many during the hours of rest.
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