Ohio’s “Forlorn Hope” Medal of Honor Heroes

by arohmiller - October 22nd, 2014

Written By Fredric C. Lynch, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

The Medal of Honor (MOH) is the United States’ highest military award for “conspicuous gallantry at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Ohioans received 196 of the 1,522 Medals of Honor awarded during the American Civil War. Of them, 120 were presented to Ohio soldiers and sailors for valor during the campaign to capture Vicksburg, Miss. between May and July 1863. Ninety-six of those Ohioans were honored with the MOH for valor demonstrated during a single battle fought May 22, 1863. That is the highest one-day total for award of the MOH in American History.

The objective of the American Civil War’s Vicksburg Campaign was to conquer and destroy the Confederate stronghold in and surrounding Vicksburg, Miss. The city headquartered and harbored defenses that enabled the Rebels to control access to the lower Mississippi River. The Union Army first attacked the city’s strong fortifications May 19, 1863. Unfortunately, unexpectedly strong resistance yielded high casualties and the attacked failed. An especially formidable fortification encountered was the section of the defensive line called the “Stockade Redan,” a 17-foot tall dirt wall protected in front by an 8-foot wide, 6-foot deep ditch.

General Ulysses S. Grant, the Union forces’ commander, ordered an attack upon the Stockade Redan for May 22. His plan called for attacking units to benefit from logs and boards laid across the water-filled ditch, and ladders placed in front of the fortification’s earthen walls. These were to be put in place ahead of the assault by a group of volunteers officially designated the “Storming Party,” but afterwards dubbed the “Forlorn Hope.”

As reported in the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper following the battle: “The 22d of May, 1863 will be always memorable as a day of heroic daring and forlorn hopes. On the one side was a cordon of battlements and rifle pits, stretching a natural chain of most formidable earthworks for six miles or more, and defended by the remnant of the (Confederate) Army of the Mississippi, amounting to 15,000 or 20,000 men. On the other was a vast army, the conquerors of five battlefields, and wrought up to the highest pitch of morale. The history is that of a herculean attempt by a splendid army to storm one of the finest — if not the finest — fortifications in the world. The chivalric and romantic bravery of that action was worthy of the best days of the Crusades or the ‘Old Guard.’”

The “Storming Party” chosen to precede the May 22 attack was to carry pre-positioned logs two men to a log, rush toward the enemy’s entrenchments, and place the logs across the ditch to form the groundwork for plank bridges. The second 50 man detachment was to follow with boards to be thrown across the logs to provide bridges for attacking forces to cross. The third detachment was to carry scaling ladders, rush across the board bridges, and position the ladders against the dirt embankment. Afterwards, Union infantry forces would charge in force to capture the defensive works.

On May 21st each regimental commander in the Union’s Army of Tennessee’s Fifteenth Army Corps’ Second Division was ordered by General William T. Sherman, their commander, to assemble their troops, outline the plan of operations, and request volunteers for the “Storming Party.” Each of their 15 regiments was to provide 10 volunteers. In total, 300 soldiers volunteered. Of them, 150 unmarried men were approved for the mission. They were the “Forlorn Hope.”

The assault of the storming party launched at 10 a.m. The gallant volunteers grabbed their logs, planks, and ladders in sequence and charged across more than 1,000 yards of open battlefield. The Storming Party encountered intense enemy fire. As Sergeant George Powell of the Confederate’s 36th Mississippi Regiment noted, the Federals: “fell like grass before the reaper.” Any that made it to the ditch or got across it were trapped and forced to stop. By 11 a.m., their valiant effort was clearly a failure. As General Sherman noted, “about half of them were shot down. When the survivors reached the ditch, they were unable to construct the bridges as too many logs had been lost along the way when their bearers were shot down.”

Of the 150 volunteers who were the “Forlorn Hope” at Vicksburg, 85 percent were killed or seriously wounded. Seventy-eight of their number were awarded the Medal of Honor.

William Archinal

William Archinal

Among Forlorn Hope volunteers to receive the MOH, was William Archinal of the 30th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In course of the action, he was wounded and subsequently captured by Confederates. After his parole, Archinal wrote: “When I was taken into the fort, a rebel officer came up to me, slapped me on the shoulder, and said: ‘See here, young man, weren’t you fellows all drunk when you started this morning?’ I replied, ‘No, Sir!’ ‘Well, they gave you some whiskey before you started, didn’t they?’ he said, and I answered, ‘No Sir, that plan is not practiced in our army. ‘Didn’t you know it was certain death,’ he asked me again, and I replied, ‘Well, I don’t know, I am still living! ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘You are living, but I can assure you that very few of your comrades are.’”

Uriah H. Brown

Uriah H. Brown

Another 30th Ohio Infantry Regiment survivor and MOH recipient was Uriah H. Brown. The report of his gallantry noted,Despite the death of his captain at his side during the assault he continued carrying his log to the defense ditch. While he was laying his log in place he was shot down and thrown into the water. Unmindful of his own wound he, despite the intense fire, dragged 5 of his comrades from the ditch, wherein they lay wounded, to a place of safety.”

David Jones

David Jones

Most of the MOH award citations for heroes of the Forlorn Hope simply state, “Gallantry in the charge of the volunteer storming party.” Among them is that of David Jones. He was a member of Co. I, 54th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Years after the war, Jones applied for a veterans’ pension. His file includes a vivid description of what he experienced: “. . . claimant and others, were compelled to remain all day in the hot sun, and suffering from all most incessant firing of cannon by the enemy at that time claimant and his comrades, who were still alive then, could not retreat until after night, for the reason, that they all would have been killed by the enemy. Said storming party was composed of 150 men, who volunteered for that purpose, at the request of General WT Sherman. Applicants ears bled at that time from the severity of concussion, from the enemy’s cannon….”

David F. Day was a sixteen year old Private in Co. D, 57th Ohio Infantry. His regimental commander, Colonel Americus

David F. Day

David F. Day

V.Rice, described him as “a most gallant and meritorious young soldier.” Day was courageous in the attack on the “Stockade Redan.” According to Col. Rice, “In the assault he was severely wounded in the wrist, and his gun was shot from his hands. With his bayonet he dug a hole in the Rebel works, in which he was shielded from hand-grenades, and remained there until he could return to our lines under cover of darkness.”

Sadly, today, the remarkable courage of the 150 Union Army volunteers who comprised the “Forlorn Hope” at Vicksburg May 22, 1863 is a rarely noted element among the abundance of remarkable sacrifices that comprise American Civil War history. Fortunately, each member of the Storming Party wherever they rest in honored glory also stands tall today with honor among our nation’s greatest military heroes.

For more information, recommended sources are:

The Campaign for Vicksburg: (3 volume set) by Edwin C. Bearss; Vol. I-Vicksburg Is the Key; Vol. II-Grant Strikes a Fatal Blow; Vol. III-Unvexed to the Sea; Morningside Bookshop 1991.

Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients: A Complete Illustrated Record by Robert P. Broadwater; McFarland 2007.

Women’s Occupations Just Before the Civil War

by arohmiller - September 5th, 2014

Written by: Catherine Wilson, Executive Director, Greene County Historical Society

They weren’t all teachers or washerwomen or servants. There were farmers and tavern keepers and even a couple of carpenters. Some women worked outside the home during the 19th century, and I hope to tell part of their story.

This study of the 1860 census covered several areas in Ohio, urban and rural. The counties were, in alphabetical order: Adams, Allen, Belmont, Brown, Clark, Coshocton, Greene, Hocking, Lawrence, Lucas, Meigs, Morrow, Portage, and Seneca. The cities studied were Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. It did have certain limitations; some of the census microfilms were unreadable for a county I wanted to study. This is why there is an apparent concentration in southern Ohio. Of course, the variety of occupations was greatest in the cities, although rural areas had an interesting mix.

The Gest girls of Greene County.

The Gest girls of Greene County.

Women’s lives of the 1860s were mostly centered in the home, and this study reflects that fact. Most of the occupations were a variation of the “homely duties” every female was expected to know: seamstress, domestic, cook, washerwoman, and other related occupations. This did not surprise me in the least. The few non-traditional occupations were surprising: electrician, cabinet maker, ambrotypist, “droverer”, and more. There was at least one seamstress and at least one milliner in every county and city I studied, including each of Cincinnati’s 17 wards.

Not all these women were single ladies, either. For example, many of the farmers were listed as such alongside their husbands, but there were a significant number of farmers who were either unmarried or widows (no man of the “right age” in the household). The vast majority of women on the 1860 census had no occupation listed, but were employed in their homes nonetheless, with many of the same jobs such as seamstress or cook. Those who did have occupations listed were often responsible for a family as well.

The rougher side of life manifested itself in this study. Women were listed in the Ohio Penitentiary, located in Columbus ward one. There were 13 female inmates out of 936 total, and a 14th who was a housekeeper. The census listed their crimes and how long they had been there, as well as the ordinary listing of age, birthplace, and occupation: these women were “in” for murder, burglary, arson, grand larceny, stabbing, manslaughter, kidnapping, and counterfeiting. Their occupations were house keeper, dress maker, cook, “upholster” and seamstress, and two had no occupation listed. Four were born in Ohio, three in New York, two in Ireland, two in Germany, one in Canada, and one in Pennsylvania. Two were listed as black. All had been incarcerated for less than five years.

Some women listed their occupation in 1860 as a variant of the proverbial oldest profession. They were most often found in Cincinnati, with some exceptions: 9 “courtisans” in Clark Co., and 1 prostitute in Lawrence Co. There were 13 women listed as “fancy” in Lucas Co.; these may have been prostitutes as well, from the context. Most women in this occupation were under 30 and born in the US. There were two instances where an apparent mother and daughter pair were both involved in prostitution, and there may be more.

Some of the more intriguing occupations for each county and city may prove enjoyable. Cleveland had a daguerreotypist, Ruth Culver in ward 2, and a straw milliner. Catlin Millington of Cleveland ward 8 was a sailor, born in Ireland, age 30, with 4 children under age 10. Columbus had 12 lunatic asylum attendants, and Belmont Co. had 3 women who tied tobacco for a living. Adams Co. had a woman selling liquor, and Clark Co. had a gatekeeper. Brown Co. listed one who “takes life easy” and Casandrew Craig, age 17, who worked for the county. Lawrence Co. had a grass widow and an ore digger, Lucas Co. had a soap maker, Morrow Co. had a “droverer”, and Portage Co. had a teacher of ancient languages. Seneca Co. had a Church of God preacher, Olive Haffer, and Julia Rumsey was an MD there, with $2000 real estate and $300 personal estate. Meigs Co. had 7 women who were supported by their friends. Cincinnati occupations that caught my attention were steamboat maid, perfumer, phrenologist, teacher of sewing machines, regalia maker, fortune teller, star candle maker, printing press feeder, sugar kiss folder, sexton, intelligence office, clairvoyant physician, shoe lace maker, and the aforementioned electrician.

Margaret (Andrew) Quinn of Greene County.  This picture of her was taken when she was a teacher.

Margaret (Andrew) Quinn of Greene County. This picture of her was taken when she was a teacher.

Xenia women had many opportunities to interact with different types of people, including immigrants, the poor, Irish railroad workers, African-Americans, transient soldiers, and wartime refugees, for example. There were also new opportunities in education; Antioch College in nearby Yellow Springs not only admitted women, it employed them, and Xenia Female College was a sort of teachers’ college. In the 1860 census, I found 246 Greene County women employed outside the home. Two of these in particular caught my attention. Antioch College matron M. C. Paine was aged 50, born in Vermont; Methodist preacher Elizabeth H. Field lived in Bellbrook, was aged 63, and also born in Vermont. Upon further investigation, with a total of 13,008 women in the county, I found that the top occupations were as follows: domestic, teacher, seamstress, milliner, servant, farmer, and dress maker. Of all domestics in Xenia City, fifty were white, thirteen black, and eight mulatto. Twenty-seven were born in Ireland, twenty-four in Ohio, sixteen were native-born in other than Ohio, and two were foreign born (besides Ireland). Two women left their place of birth blank. Yellow Springs had thirty-seven employed women, Jamestown seven, Cedarville eight, Bellbrook five, and Osborn one.

Ohio’s Impact on the War: The Battle of the Crater

by arohmiller - July 28th, 2014

Written by Roger Micker

In March 1864, Grant had made the decision to deploy his troops to force Lee’s entire army into a total “unconditional surrender”. Part of his plan would be achieved by concentrating his eastern forces to deliver simultaneous attacks on Richmond and Atlanta. Success in one or the other would allow both to focus their combined efforts to force a surrender of the remaining city.

According to his overall plans, Grant’s assault on Richmond was to attack Lee’s forces at Richmond from the west, north, and south and cutting him off from his southern supply line by capturing Petersburg. This strategy would be carried out by 48,000 troops under the commanders: Ambrose Burnside; Ben Butler; William “Baldy” Smith; Gouvernour Warren; and Winfield Hancock (plus the availability of 55,000 troops in reserve) against the Confederate consisting of approximately 15,000 men under PGT Beauregard.

On June 14 Grant’s plan was put into motion. After crossing the Appomattox River Butler was amazed to see the fortifications of redans and breastworks of the Dimmock Line. In addition, the outside perimeter of the line was a deep trench filled with felled trees with knife – sharpened branches to discourage enemy charges.

After two days of fighting, the Union army had pierced the Confederate line, gaining approximately a two- mile stretch of land. The next morning Gen. Meade ordered an all out attack on Beauregard’s defense. Only desperate fighting prevented Dimmock Line from breaking. That night Beauregard’s men fell back one mile from their position and, using whatever tools they could find, dug new, higher entrenchments. Beauregard surveyed the situation and said, “Unless reinforcements are sent before 48 hours, God Almighty alone can save Petersburg and Richmond”.

Meade’s all out attack captured mostly vacated trenches. Many refused to continue to charge the new imposing position of Beauregard’s troops. Although 850 of the 1st Maine tried, three fourths would become casualties in thirty minutes. During the next few days, Union cavalry struck and tore up the southern railroad lines, intending to cut off the Confederate supply line.

On June 21 two Union divisions launched an attack and were shattered by A. P. Hill’s men. The blundering efforts, and casualties, brought public criticism on the ineptness of the Union efforts at Petersburg. By the end of June, Burnside proposed a plan to Meade to dig a mine towards the Confederate line. The idea came from Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania. He said, “We could blow that damned fort out of existence if we could run a mine shaft under it.” He envisioned a shaft running 500 feet to a point under a point beneath Beauregard’s line.

Meade approved the plan even though his engineers felt it would be impossible without a proper way to provide ventilation. To solve the problem a fireplace at the mine’s base and a wooden pipe would be used to pull fresh air into the mine and stale air out. Within a month the project was completed. The end of the shaft was 20 feet below the enemy along with a 75-foot long room to store gunpowder. Four tons of powder was arranged in order for the explosion to be vertical. A 100 feet long fuse was attached to the explosives. A combined explosion with an assault by Union troops would lead to the capture of Petersburg, so Burnside predicted.

Burnside’s original thoughts were to have two brigades of black troops, under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero, to lead the attack. Three divisions of white troops would follow. Meade, concerned about public criticism if the plan fails, ordered that the black troops to be positioned last in the attack.

To determine which division would go first, straws were drawn among the other three division commanders. To the dismay of the troops James Ledlie drew the short straw. It was common knowledge among the men that Ledlie possessed a cowardice tendency and drinking issue.

Early in the morning of July 30 the fuse to the 4 tons of powder was lit. Lewis Bisell said, “We witnessed a volcano and experienced an earthquake.” Another described a cannon catapulted over the Union line. The explosion created a 200 feet long crater beneath the Elliot’s Salient. The earth, fire, smoke, and body parts were hurtled into the air. At the same time Union artillery fired away. Ledlie’s men launched their attack through empty trenches towards the crater. Amazed and curious, the men ventured in to it, instead of arching around it.

As Confederate troops ran from the explosion, a 500 yard gap gave Burnside’s men the opportunity to take Petersburg, if they hurried. The first brigades responded as if they were sightseers, funneling themselves into a confused mass in the hole. Their commander was secure several hundred yards behind in a shelter drinking rum and sending orders to push forward. All the while Beauregard started to plug the gap.

Burnside ordered two more regiments into the fray. The situation became even more hopeless, like “shooting fish in a barrel” by William Mahone’s counterattack. As Ferrero’s black troops reached the slope of the crater, many became easy targets, rather than prisoners. “This became Fredericksburg all over again.” (Bruce Catton) The fighting ended when Meade ordered Burnside to withdraw.

Union casualties numbered nearly 4,000. Approximately 300 Confederates were killed in the explosion. Grant said it was “the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war”.

Seeing action in the siege of Petersburg were: 127th OVI (later the 5th Regiment Colored troops); 60th OVI; 13th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry; 9th and 10th Ind. Co. Ohio Vol. Sharpshooters.

For further reading:

Bruce Catton: A Stillness at Appomattox

Shelby Foote: Red River to Appomattox

James McPherson: Battle Cry of Freedom

Ohio Children During the Civil War

by arohmiller - May 19th, 2014

Written by Catherine Wilson

Will, John, and Flora Fudge of Xenia, Ohio.  Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Will, John, and Flora Fudge of Xenia, Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Whether letting off firecrackers on holidays or donating their pennies toward soldiers’ relief, Ohio children were affected by the Civil War in many ways. Some were orphaned by the war, some served as drummer boys, and some worked outside the home. There were good children, and delinquent ones. They played, scuffled, worshiped, did chores, threw snowballs, and went to school much like children of today.

Many orphans were made throughout the course of the war: some completely, like the Lawrie family of Brown County which lost its father at Resaca GA in 1864 and mother one year later, with many more families losing their primary source of income. Applications for the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans Home in Xenia, opened in 1869, tell the stories of these war-torn families – fathers disabled or dead, mothers unable to care for their children, even some parents committed to an asylum.

Children who worked outside the home were generally those from poorer families. Industries that employed children differed throughout Ohio: ropemaking, weaving, newspapers, agriculture, even heavy manufacturing had their bobbin boys, printer’s devils, and mill girls or whatever equivalent terms were used. These were not all family-owned, home-based businesses either, but everything from small shops to large factories.

Mattie (no last name on the photo).  Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Mattie (no last name on the photo). Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Drummer boys were the exception rather than the rule, and usually accompanied an enlisted father. The most famous, Johnny Clem of Newark (1851-1937) was joined by Gilbert VanZandt of Clinton County (1851-1944), as well as a handful of others. The drum was fairly large, making it difficult for a child to carry, much less be able to make it heard over the din of battle, and a drummer like a flag bearer was usually a target for the opposite side. Some of what we might call boys today, the 16 and 17 year olds, could occasionally pass as older and enlist, if there was no signed parental consent. There was also a “position” called Daughter of the Regiment, which was ceremonial and did not entail the little girl going off to the front, but serving as more of a mascot. Often she was the child of the major or colonel commanding.

Young women and girls were often given roles in parades or enlistment events, portraying the loyal states or “Liberty” – many times while dressed in white, with a colored sash bearing a motto. Some helped Ladies’ Soldier’s Aid Societies to make items for the soldiers, such as sewing kits or handkerchiefs, or contributed food to boxes sent off to their home regiment’s camp.

Of course, most children stayed at home during the war. Some joined a Penny Society, generally through a church, which donated money to relief of soldiers’ families, while some organized temperance societies. Many boys played war, some getting hurt severely in the course of their play. Four children in Xenia were burned severely while representing a Panorama of the War with some friends in 1864, accidentally touching off ¼ pound of powder meant to represent the Fort Sumter magazine. Children enjoyed festivities at Christmas, the Fourth of July, and other celebrations, letting off firecrackers, being noisy, and generally being lumped together as “Young America” by the newspapers.

Ohio’s children were not generally a part of the actual fighting during the Civil War, but certainly most of them had a father, brother, uncle, cousin, or neighbor in the service. They wrote letters, sent photographs, and promised the soldiers to be good and mind their mothers. The children of the Civil War grew up to honor their family connections, joining descendants’ groups and marking the graves of the fallen, proudly remembering “my father’s regiment.”

Galloping into the Past: Alliance, Ohio Surgeon Makes Civil WarHistory Come Alive

by arohmiller - May 12th, 2014

Written by Peggy Sexton, Hale Farm & Village Marketing Volunteer

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry gathered outside the Hale House at Hale Farm & Village

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry gathered outside the Hale House at Hale Farm & Village.

New patients to Dr. David Mungo’s office in Alliance, Ohio would be forgiven if startled by the Civil War amputation kit and leg bone from the Battle of Gettysburg in the display case that greets them – not exactly reassuring images in your orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room. But the artifacts aren’t there to frighten, only to educate. And for Mungo, a Civil War enthusiast, it’s all about education.

The Civil War is why he spends his weekends being someone else – a second lieutenant in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, a Civil War reenactment group – all for the sake of telling stories and illuminating the important past of American history.

Being in the midst of a battle reenactment and seeing, hearing, and smelling what history is made of is one of the best ways to educate the public, he believes. And the fact that he gets to ride Buddy, his Saddlebred horse of nine years, into each chaotic battle, is an added bonus. The adrenaline rush that comes along with rattling sabers, firing pistols, and booming cannons, is extremely unique.

“It sounds cliché, but training and instinct take over when things get crazy,” Mungo says. “Riding quickly to the sounds of guns will get anyone fired up.”

Mungo’s passion for the Civil War started after he saw his first reenactment outside of Rochester, New York, where he was attending medical school. After opening his practice in Alliance in 2000, he hooked up with a confederate unit as an infantryman. Two years later, he joined his love of horses with his deep interest in the Civil War and joined the 6th Ohio Cavalry.

Mungo participates in Ohio’s largest annual reenactment at Hale Farm & Village each August. There, he joins over 700 fellow reenactors who put on a show for growing crowds that come to the Cuyahoga Valley to experience the fascination of horses marching in formation and galloping into battle. Last year, Hale Farm & Village received the Ohio Civil War 150 Heritage Award during the 25th anniversary of its annual reenactment. The honor was made possible by the knowledge and passion displayed by the entire reenacting community.

This spring, the reenacting community will once again be honored at Hale Farm & Village during its annual Legacy Award Benefit on May 17. Mungo will be among the group of command staff members accepting the honor, but feels as though his true purpose is to continue to motivate visitors to go and learn about history themselves.