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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 72 - May, 1864

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
July 6, 1882


A stout cable was procured and a trapeze put up. Some of the boys became quite proficient in making the flying leap, and made scores, that it seemed were impossible to exceed, but one day a long-haired, heavily-bearded officer, a stranger to us, happened along, and noticing the healthful exercise asked permission to try his hand. A few leaps made with the skill and ease of a practiced acrobat distanced everybody so nicely that the crowd applauded him as champion. With a modest smile of acknowledgement, the great unknown walked away as if nothing unusual had occurred.

One of our routes for hauling material ran through a cemetery. Many of the dead here were entombed above ground in marble sarcophagi, or little stone houses or vaults.

While the right wing was at work on the dam the left wing was taking an acting part in some lively work beyond our lines.

May 2d, they, with other troops under Gen. Lawler, went three miles from camp, pitched into and drove a force of the enemy. About this time Gen. McClernand was taken sick and Lawler took command of the 13th army corps. On the 5th, Lawler, with two brigades, went out again and found a considerable body of the enemy willing to fight, but a vigorous bayonet charge made them break from every position they took. Lawler was the right man in the right place. Bluff and brave and full of Irish audacity, never stopping to waste time in tedious reconnoisances or to count the noses of an opposing force, but went straight to work in a manner that meant blood-shed. The troops under Lawler, inspired by the zeal of their commander, obeyed orders with fearless alacrity.

May 6th, hunted for the enemy again. The next day they were encountered and fought well for a while but a bayonet charge started them and they didn't stop to show much fight until they reached what was called the Twelve Mile Bridge. The rebs held their ground obstinately and the firing grew terrific. A vigorous forward movement by our troops however made them get out and kept them on the move until they reached McIntosh Hill [McNutt's Hill?], where our force abandoned pursuit and bivouaced in line. In the evening, about dusk, the pickets discovered some one prowling near the line. Coming a little too close, a shot from one of our men laid him out. The body was brought in and examined. It proved to be a Major McNeil, a chief of staff. Official papers were found about him showing that they understood our situation perfectly.

The vim with which Lawler went for the rebs changed the seriousness of our situation at Alexandria very soon. From bold and threatening movements toward our camps they subsided to the sneaking warfare of the guerilla, attacking our foraging parties, creeping up and shooting at the pickets and annoying boats along the narrow river. Some of the gunboats ran short of fuel and were obliged to put men ashore to cut wood. The rebels bothered these fellows very much in the absence of our infantry.

Great quantities of cotton were fired and set afloat away up the river. Night and day this floating fire had to be watched and kept from getting against the vessels.

On the 2d of May a large body of rebs had passed around us and entrenched a battery so as to command a bend in Red River at Snaggy Point, about twelve miles below us. Unfortunately the first of our boats that came along was a transport carrying the 120th O.V.I. Without a demand to surrender or a fair warning the enemy let loose with a strong battery and thousands of muskets. Col. Marcus M. Speigel, of the 120th, wanted to fight until a gunboat could come up and help them out, but the boat was soon disabled and the Colonel mortally wounded--dying the next day--so that a majority of our fellows decided to surrender, hoisted a white flag, but some on the lower deck did not seem to understand matters, so fought on. This caused the enemy to disregard the signal of surrender and re-open their fire with hellish fury. The boat in swinging around touched the oppo-

site shore and many of the men jumping off and scrambling up the bank escaped. Those left on the boat alive became prisoners and were taken to the prison pen at Tyler, Texas, where they were kept to almost the end of the war. The men that escaped were accompanied by Lieut. Col. Slocum of the regiment. Back from the river they assembled and decided what to do. Not being in sufficient force to rescue their comrades from the overwhelming number of the rebels, they thought best to husband their ammunition and march for Alexandria, where they arrived in a weary condition the next morning and were promptly furnished with rations and comfortable quarters.

When the gunboats were all below the rapids the troops on the north shore passed over and rejoined their comrades. Sick, wounded and non-combatants were put on boats as were also the knapsacks of many of the soldiers, leaving the army in light marching order and good fighting trim. The morale of this army had improved since the Texas re-enforcements joined it. Gen. Lawler had much to do with bringing about this good result and no soldier can disprove it.

Gen. M.K. Lawler was known in the army with which he operated as a fighting general, always ready for battle and willing to strike hard. Skirmishing annoyed him. If the enemy was within gunshot he was anxious to close the distance and get into close quarters. He gloried in bayonet charges that saved ammunition and shortened battles. His manner of fighting was exactly similar to that of Gen. A.J. Smith,--quick, short and sharp.

In the Red River country, Lawler had many old regiments whose terms of enlistment had almost run out, whose numbers were reduced to the original size of a company, and whose flags were reduced to shreds. In the hours of rest, in the peaceful bivouac, the men often conversed of the nearing time, that would bring them to friends and home, but when the old Irishman's order for a forward movement came it was obeyed with spirited promptness.

Gen. Banks' army commenced its retreat from Alexandria on the morning of May 13th. The movement was orderly and entirely devoid of confusion. The fleet of boats started first; then of the land forces the 19th army corps move out, the 13th corps and A.J. Smith's troops following about 3 o'clock p.m. Our cavalry held the town and tried to prevent incendiarism. In spite of every possible precaution the Jayhawkers fired some buildings--reports came to us that the cavalry guards shot several of these vandals.

A mile away from town the road enters the heavy timber. Our rear had scarcely entered this when the rebels in heavy force made a charge. Our cavalry used their carbines lively for awhile and repulsed the attack. It wasn't long before some wounded troopers were taken past us to the ambulance train ahead. At 11 o'clock that night we bivouaced seven miles below the city. Musquitoes abounded, but the boys were too tired and sleepy to be much annoyed by them. On the 14th we made Gordon's Landing, a very short day's march. Frequent and long halts were made. Firing was kept up in front and rear almost continually during the day. The next morning we marched near where the rebels had ambuscaded the 120th. The tops of several sunken boats could be seen in the river. One was a tin-clad gunboat that had come up to engage the rebel battery on the day of the disaster.

We kept on the road all day on the 15th getting along very slow. The weather was warm and the ground dry and dusty. Night came and the weary hours crept by as we moved along in the darkness. Shots in the rear and front that sounded wild and dismal now and then broke on the night air. Our cavalry in advance camp [sic] upon a force of the enemy at Marksville, and an obstinate little set-to took place. A furious charge of our cavalry terminated the affair and secured to us two pieces of artillery and some prisoners. We did not bivouac until midnight, and then in no order whatever. The men just laid down anywhere, too much oppressed with sleep to hunt a good place to spread a blanket. At 4 a.m. we were called into line and resumed the march, approaching a section of prairie country in which the little village of Marksville is situated. The rebels were in line of battle and in heavy force beyond the town.

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