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16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Where was the regiment on
Sunday, December 21, 1862

On this day the 16th Ohio and Gen. George W. Morgan's division arrived at Helena, Arkansas, in the morning, having sailed 72 miles from Memphis, leaving there the night before. The troops remained on their anchored boats for the remainder of the daytime. At dark, the fleet resumed its course down the Mississippi River toward Vicksburg.

Pvt. Peter Perrine of Company C and Pvt. Frank Mason, Company A, 42nd Ohio, report that during this leg of the trip the lead boats were fired upon by Rebel guerillas from the Mississippi shore. In response, Federal forces landed and burned all the buildings in a small village in the area of the attack. [Reports are unclear on whether troops were actually landed on shore or if the gunboats simply bombarded the small town, setting it on fire] The fleet then tied up on shore for the night as the boat pilots did not want to risk the possibility of another attack during the night.

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

We moved in an immense fleet of about sixty boats, all told. It was the largest flotilla that the circumstances of war had yet brought together on this river. It was a novel and rare sight in the day time to see the numerous white boats, freighted with 'the men of the north and the west,' bearing away in a long line southward. The steamer Jewess, had a steam calliope (on board), and often our voyage was enlivened by this instrument. On the water it could be heard a mile. We drift steadily past Helena, Arkansas. The yellow fresh earthworks on the bluffs, surmounted by the United States flag, assured us that things were all right there. A furious attempt was made the following summer by the Confederates, under Price and Holmes, to capture the works, but after a bloody and sanguinary battle they were driven back in disastrous defeat, losing many prisoners and leaving the hill-sides covered with many dead and wounded. A gunboat was stationed at Friar's Point, five miles below Helena. The boys had very little cooked food on the boat. If a fellow could manage to get a cup of hot coffee he was very apt to be satisfied. All of the available places for cooking were occupied through the day. Each on had to look out for himself, or go without a 'warm bite.' From the hurricane deck we could see far out over the country to the right and left, and once in a great while we could see squads of mounted men in the distance. It was easy to guess their character, as they kept out of range.

Floating away to the southward in this magnificent Armada, was a smooth and pleasant beginning to a thrilling epoch in the history of the 16th. The boom of a distant cannon once in a while sent its saucy echoes along the surface of the dark river. This firing was principally done by the gunboats left to watch vulnerable points.

* 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.

Modern day map of 16th Ohio locations on December 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 the invasion fleet moored the morning of December 21, 1862
GreenPin - Notional point where the 16th Ohio and the invasion fleet reached the night of December 21, 1862
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