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16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Where was the regiment on
Saturday, December 20, 1862

On this day the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, along with Gen. George W. Morgan's entire division, left Camp Oliver at Memphis, after 23 days there, and boarded steamboats on the Mississippi River. The 16th Ohio was part of a massive force assembled by Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant with the intention of taking the Confederate's powerful stronghold on the river at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg sat on a strategic point of the river, heavily fortified and keeping the Union from easily connecting their forces and tactics between New Orleans and Memphis. It allowed the Confederates to connect and supply their western forces in Louisiana and Texas with the eastern Confederacy. Taking this strategic point was crucial to breaking the back of the Confederacy and shortening the war.

Information from several sources indicates the 16th Ohio was transported on the steamboat Fanny Bullit. In the memoirs of General William T. Sherman, we are told that eight companies of the 16th Ohio were on the ship Henry von Phul, however, this information is believed to be inaccurate. It is possible a last minute change was made at the Memphis docks and the 16th Ohio primarily boarded the Fanny Bullit.

The troops, apparently, knew they were headed for the Yazoo River, a tributary of the Mississippi just north of Vicksburg which provided access to the city from the north.

* This website is continuing to search for a photo of the Fanny Bullit. Any help in finding one would be greatly appreciated.

The fleet of about 60 steamers left Memphis in the evening and sailed down the Mississippi River, south 72 miles, arriving in Helena, Arkansas, the next morning, where they anchored.

Cpl. Theodore Wolbach, Company E, tells us the following:

On the 20th of December we marched down through the city and embarked on the steamer Fanny Bullitt, a spacious side-wheeler, and rather a handsome looking boat. We settled down for a trip, the end of which we knew not. Those of the soldiers that were thoughtful and serious guessed at, and argued the future program, while others cared nothing for such pastime, and seemed willing to meet and take things rough or smooth, just as time unravelled them to us. The deck hands of our boat were negroes, I think six in number. They were a garrulous set, and the second mate, a little Italian, aged about forty, was their 'boss', although the first mate, an ugly, profane fellow, often 'lipped in' with his choice river language. When we stopped to wood up, the negroes were hurried and cursed, yet they chatted and seemed to take the abuse lightly. The name of one big black fellow was Jacob Cheeseman. Jacob had large feet and larger shoes. In getting around in the performance of his duties at night, he as well as some of his companions, were apt to tread on the prostrate soldiers. This generally caused only a little grumbling, but one night the resentment was a little worse and Jacob was the victim. A soldier, stung with painful shins, under the heavy tread of the deck hand, seized the rind of a large piece of bacon, (the leaner portion having been cut out but plenty of the soft fatty part remaining,) and threw it with violence at the head of Jacob, whose face was turned toward the angered man, evidently for the purpose of making one of his customary brief apologies. He received the bacon, greasy side foremost, fair in the face. The Italian was hampered in his work by the crowds of men, and there were plenty that were inclined to tease him a little. Sometime when he got worked up it was amusing to hear him say G--d d--n desoliah (?)

* Information and italicized quotations, above, 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.

View of Helena, Arkansas, Federal troops in foreground, during the Civil War

Modern day map of 16th Ohio locations on December 20 and 21, 1862:

Red Pin - Camp Oliver in eastern Memphis, where the 16th Ohio spent 23 days preparing for the Vicksburg campaign
Blue Pin - Helena, Arkansas, where the 16th Ohio and General Sherman's invasion fleet arrived on the morning of December 21, 1862.
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