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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 74 - May, 1864

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
July 20, 1882


Our men fought well, though every collision seemed to force them back a little. Bullets are beginning to come singing over to us from the rebel lines. More troops must be sent over there and that quickly too. Smith's men got orders to fall in and away they start, light-hearted and enthusiastic. Little regiments that one commissioned officer could handle without inconvenience; regiments that have left more dead on a single battlefield than the living ones present number to-day. In looking down through the vista of memory the soul is filled with pride and we almost raise our hats to the inspiring example of these gallant men of the North and the West, who have but a few weeks or months perhaps to serve yet, marching into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell. Over the pontoons and up to the plateau they form and advance. With a wild rush, never waiting to dress a line, they pass the hard-pressed men of the rearguard, whose faces stained with sweat and powder look horrid in the gloomy shadows of the cypress forest. Brawny Texans, brown-skinned Louisianians, and men from the Arkansas wilds led by officers of undisputed courage were slowly advancing, half crouching with the steady tread and keen eye of the panther hunter, looking for the plucky Federal rearguard, who they intuitively know were waiting with loaded carbines for the reappearance of the foe. Suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted. The blue cyclone sweeps unheralded and with mad velocity down on the slouched hats and glaring eyes of the rebel horde. A few shots followed in an instant by a terrific crash, and Smith's veterans were right in the midst of the Confederates. It was not the admirable charge of the regular in which Hardee's manual and the cadence of step was observed, but it was the rush of devils in which each individual expects to do his utmost. Around trees, over logs and through thickets of weeds, rank as undergrowth, Smith's men shot and pounded their way. Men with blood trickling from their faded clothing kept up the battle yell until their voices failed. Some with wounds that would send many a soldier to the rear on a stretcher, fought on. It was a combat of determined men--of short duration. The Confederates doggedly fell back, then rapidly retired, leaving over five hundred killed, wounded and prisoners behind. Our brigade follows after Smith for support. It was evening and the sun's rays were already shut from our view by the tall, dense forest, as we marched over and took position. Wounded men were passing back in ambulances or on foot. The exhibition of manliness and even cheerfulness among these unfortunate fellows was marked. One fine-looking fellow, with dark beard, raised his head as the ambulance paused near us for a moment, and said, Boys, I have got through a good many fights without a scratch, but they've plugged me at last. A boyish-looking fellow, that walked back unattended and alone, was a distressing sight. The greater part of his nose was shot entirely away. His face and a temporary bandage bound over part of it, was covered with blood, yet the gallant young soldier was wearing his equipments and carrying his gun as if he didn't intend laying them aside just now. On the rear of one ambulance was a wounded rebel. He tried repeatedly to suck some water from an empty wooden canteen. Night had fairly set in when we moved closer to Smith's line, which was now inactive, and contrary to expected cautionary measures were building fires. We lay in support all night, moving into a dense woods when it had got to be so dark that we could not see an arm's length ahead. Men tripped over roots and caught their chins on vines until they instinctively thrust one hand ahead to ward off the troublesome object. Now and then, when a fellow run against the muzzle

of a gun carried by a comrade ahead, profanity might be heard. To intensify the disagreeableness of this groping around in the forest, was the presence of endless numbers of, and infinite varieties of spiders, bugs, worms and other insects, that were disagreeable to the touch and often poisonous. Great tiger beetles crawling up a pant leg and hanging on firmly with their barbed claws when an effort was made to expel them; plethoric spiders promenading over the bare skin, and armies of ants and other little industrious creatures perambulating our woolen clothing kept sleep far away and caused many a sudden change of position. Now and then from high above us, among the moss-grown branches of the cypress, came the demoniac hoot of the owl. The Confederates seemed to be pretty well punished and did not disturb us during the night that was long and uncomfortable to the boys in the forest.

On the 19th, in the morning, we marched back across the Yellow bayou. After a short rest we took a long tramp down the east bank of that stream in search of any of the enemy that might be in that direction. Our advance encountered a small force that fired and fled. Later in the day three men were captured while trying to cross a bayou in a skiff. One of them proved to be Gen. Dick Taylor's A.A. Adj. Gen. There was some significance in their presence here. Probably a flank movement was intended. Whatever the enemy's plan might have been our sudden appearance checkmated them. While we were down here looking after things, a mammoth bridge of steamboats was formed across the river up at the crossing. Over this the army and its trains and material passed. We crossed on the morning of the 20th, marched down stream, and laid all day while the army was crossing. When we went back there in the evening every thing was over and the troops gone toward the Mississippi. No living thing was left on the other side, save a few dogs that were sniffing around over the abandoned camp grounds. Five gunboats, once in a while, sent a shell into the opposite woods near the late crossing, but elicited no response. We brought up the rear and followed the main force about dusk. The marching was not hard. There were frequent halts but no chance for sleep. Many of the soldiers were so overcome with the desire to sleep that it was difficult to wake some of them when the march was resumed. Solomon Tipton, of Co. B, began to exhibit symptoms of insanity in the early part of the night, and before many hours he was a raving maniac. He refused to carry his gun and finally refused to walk. Before morning we went into bivouac and got some sleep. Were bugled up before sun rise, made a little coffee, and felt a little refreshed. Tipton was a pitiable sight. Reason had fled and he scarcely knew enough to take food. When a cup of coffee was handed him he dashed it to the ground. When the march was resumed he rode in an ambulance. Once when the vehicle halted he leaped out, ran into the woods and began to gnaw at a cypress knee. His comrades took him by force and put him back. Poor Tipton's condition grew worse until death, which took place shortly after at the Parish prison, New Orleans.

On the 21st we passed many gigantic trees. We measured several. The largest was thirty-three feet in circumference. In the evening we camped on the banks of the Mississippi; received a very large mail with abundance of news from Grant's campaign against Lee in Virginia. Our retreat was now ended, the enemy having abandoned the pursuit, in force, back at the Atchafalaya.

May 22d we moved three miles further down the levee and camped. We never could understand why we should be kept retreating before an enemy that we could thrash whenever we turned on him. The retreat from Alexandria was characterized by some hard fighting, and the rebels got the worst of it every time, and we did not lose a dollar's worth of material. We lost some men in battle but the enemy lost many more. If Gen. Banks managed this retreat he deserves great credit. The Red River expedition was now ended and was failure. Whose fault was it? Let us be charitable in our utterances until the military adept discovers.

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