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16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Where was the regiment from
October 30 to November 9, 1862

During this time the 16th Ohio, with DeCourcey's Brigade and Morgan's Division, remained in camp on the outskirts of Charleston. The town had seen more than its share of soldiers, from both sides, occupying it, building earthworks, retreating, burning bridges and buildings, re-occupying, issuing orders to the civilians and all the excitement and confusion a war can provide.

Cpl. Theodore Wolbach, Company E, tells us stories of how the 16th Ohio soldiers spent their time in Charleston:

Cpl. Theodore Wolbach

Here (Charleston) DeCourcey was destined to be the subject of another good joke. In an old burying place, in the midst of many almost obliterated graves and leaning and tumbling tombstones, our colonel fixed his headquarters. In one respect it was a convenience. Anyone looking for DeCourcey's tent was referred to the cemetery, and they had no difficulty after that in finding the place. It mattered little if the parties were in sight or miles away over the hills and out of sight, it was just as easy to direct a person to the place, as it was the only burying ground within the camp limit. Some of our men that were beyond the lines one day purchased some potatoes from a citizen, with the explicit understanding that he should get his pay from a one-eyed teamster that could be found at almost any time in a large tent in the cemetery. The citizen, with no thought of anything but a straight business transaction, in due time found the big tent and presented himself as the man that had sold the potatoes to the soldiers, and added: 'I reckon you're the one-eyed teamster that they told me -'. The sentence never was finished. The spectacle of DeCourcey in a fit of anger, hissing his bloodcurdling oaths, was demoralizing and instantaneous in its effects upon the citizen, who shot out of the tent, vaulted over the fence in front, and fled for his life, evidently feeling that the amount at stake did not justify the risk of a further effort to collect.

Away down in the Cumberland mountains, where the crooked and gnarled laurel was abundant and easy to get, the boys largely devoted their leisure time to pipe making. Curious looking and nicely carved bowls were whittled out of this fine-grained and hard wood. Human hands, heads of animals, and many other conceivable designs, were skillfully represented by the workmanship of the patient soldier. A collection of these pipes would form an interesting department in a museum. One fellow worked industriously at a knotty piece of laurel until he had cut out the figure of an eagle perched on the edge of a pipe, and with half-spread wings was looking down into (the) bowl. The whole piece, ready for the stem, was nicely executed and polished, and was one of the best specimens of wood carving in the great variety that was made in the regiment.

Here, on the Kanawha river, the shell of the fresh-water clam furnished the fine material for the display of the taste and ingenuity of the soldier in making finger-rings and other trinkets. With the few insignificant tools at hand, some of these articles were finished so exquisitely nice that they seemed to rival the lapidary's skill. The fine, soft, delicate pink and blue of the shell was pleasing to the eye, and when wrought into some tasty design, the effect was rich. No doubt many a finger-ring or charm of this material found its way by mail to fair and devoted creatures in the North, and perhaps today, some of these trinkets, rendered doubly precious, are treasured because the loved one who sent them never returned.

Some of the commissary stores were brought up the river in small stern-wheel steamboats and long, narrow keelboats. The latter were propelled with poles, the boatmen planting them against the bottom of the river and forcing the boat forward by walking them from stem to stern. Up the river, a short distance from our camp, was a narrow, swift channel, that in low water was very difficult for steamboats to pass. Going up, stout hawsers were attached to snubbing-posts, and the 'donkey-engine' of the boat slowly reeled up rope, - but with all their facilities, the passage against the current was slow and tedious.

From the beginning of the war Ohio soldiers had operated in West Virginia. In all of the important battles, skirmishes and campaigns, Ohio volunteers had participated. Some of the Ohio regiments were kept there so long that the men became proficient mountaineers and experts in the peculiar warfare that was not far removed from the sly and stealthy mode of the red men of the west. Furious combats between small numbers that fought with a deadly and determined purpose; frightful murders and bloody retaliations; hair-breadth escapes that were legion, and privations that have left no record save in the memories of those who survive, composed a part of the exciting and thrilling history of the awful work of war in these mountains. Corpses of Ohio boys have lain pale and cold in almost every valley and in almost every contested spot in this state. The historian tints the face of war with glory, but the soldier sees the ghastliness of the background where his comrades sleep in the mysterious shadows.

One day on of the Co. K boys, Corporal Thomas Russell, by a mishap, shot himself in the hand. The wound was very painful and resulted in a discharge from the military service.

In the variety of useful mineral found along the Kanawha river, was cannel coal. Oil had been successfully extracted from this by distilling. The industry was afterwards revived, but subsided when illuminating oil became cheap by the development of the petroleum resources of Pennsylvania.

* Some information and italicized quotations from a series of articles entitled Camp and Field - The Old 16th Ohio,, written in the 1880s by Theodore Wolbach, late Corporal in Company E, 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

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