MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861—NOVEMBER 1863
My aim in this book has been to reproduce my own experience in our Civil War in such a way as to help the reader understand just how the duties and the problems of that great conflict presented themselves successively to one man who had an active part in it from the beginning to the end. In my military service I was so conscious of the benefit it was to me to get the personal view of men who had served in our own or other wars, as distinguished from the general or formal history, that I formed the purpose, soon after peace was restored, to write such a narrative of my own army life. My relations to many prominent officers and civilians were such as to give opportunities for intimate knowledge of their personal qualities as well as their public conduct. It has seemed to me that it might be useful to share with others what I thus learned, and to throw what light I could upon the events and the men of that time.
As I have written historical accounts of some campaigns separately, it may be proper to say that I have in this book avoided repetition, and have tried to make the personal narrative supplement and lend new interest to the more formal story. Some of the earlier chapters appeared in an abridged form in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," and the closing chapter was read before the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion. By arrangements courteously made by the Century Company and the Commandery, these chapters, partly re-written, are here found in their proper connection.
Though my private memoranda are full enough to give me reasonable confidence in the accuracy of these reminiscences, I have made it a duty to test my memory by constant reference to the original contemporaneous material so abundantly preserved in the government publication of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Where the series of these records is not given, my references are to the First Series, with the abbreviation O. R., and I have preferred to adhere to the official designation of the volumes in parts, as each volume then includes the documents of a single campaign.
J. D. C.
NOTE.—The manuscript of this work had been completed by General Cox, and placed in the hands of the publishers several weeks before his untimely death at Magnolia, Mass., August 4, 1900. He himself had read and revised some four hundred pages of the press-work. The work of reading and revising the remaining proofs and of preparing a general index for the work was undertaken by the undersigned from a deep sense of obligation to and loving regard for the author, which could not find a more fitting expression at this time. No material changes have been made in text or notes. Citations have been looked up and references verified with care, yet errors may have crept in, which his well-known accuracy would have excluded. For all such and for the imperfections of the index, the undersigned must accept responsibility, and beg the indulgence of the reader, who will find in the text itself enough of interest and profit to excuse many shortcomings.
WILLIAM C. COCHRAN. CINCINNATI, October 1, 1900.
THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR
Ohio Senate, April 12—Sumter bombarded—"Glory to God!"—The surrender—Effect on public sentiment—Call for troops—Politicians changing front—David Tod—Stephen A. Douglas—The insurrection must be crushed—Garfield on personal duty—Troops organized by the States—The militia—Unpreparedness—McClellan at Columbus—Meets Governor Dennison—Put in command—Our stock of munitions—Making estimates—McClellan's plan—Camp Jackson—Camp Dennison—Gathering of the volunteers—Garibaldi uniforms—Officering the troops—Off for Washington—Scenes in the State Capitol—Governor Dennison's labors—Young regulars—Scott's policy—Alex. McCook—Orlando Poe—Not allowed to take state commissions.
Laying out the camp—Rosecrans as engineer—A comfortless night—Waking to new duties—Floors or no floors for the huts—Hardee's Tactics—The watersupply—Colonel Tom Worthington—Joshua Sill—Brigades organized—Bates's brigade—Schleich's—My own—McClellan's purpose—Division organization—Garfield disappointed—Camp routine—Instruction and drill—Camp cookery—Measles—Hospital barn—Sisters of Charity—Ferment over re-enlistment—Musters by Gordon Granger—"Food for powder"—Brigade staff—De Villiers—"A Captain of Calvary"—The "Bloody Tinth"—Almost a row—Summoned to the field.
McCLELLAN IN WEST VIRGINIA
Political attitude of West Virginia—Rebels take the initiative—McClellan ordered to act—Ohio militia cross the river—The Philippi affair—Significant dates—The vote on secession—Virginia in the Confederacy—Lee in command—Topography—The mountain passes—Garnett's army—Rich Mountain position—McClellan in the field—His forces—Advances against Garnett—Rosecrans's proposal—His fight on the mountain—McClellan's inaction—Garnett's retreat—Affair at Carrick's Ford—Garnett killed—Hill's efforts to intercept—Pegram in the wilderness—He surrenders—Indirect results important—McClellan's military and personal traits.
THE KANAWHA VALLEY
Orders for the Kanawha expedition—The troops and their quality—Lack of artillery and cavalry—Assembling at Gallipolis—District of the Kanawha—Numbers of the opposing forces—Method of advance—Use of steamboats—Advance guards on river banks—Camp at Thirteen-mile Creek—Night alarm—The river chutes—Sunken obstructions—Pocotaligo—Affair at Barboursville—Affair at Scary Creek—Wise's position at Tyler Mountain—His precipitate retreat—Occupation of Charleston—Rosecrans succeeds McClellan—Advance toward Gauley Bridge—Insubordination—The Newspaper Correspondent—Occupation of Gauley Bridge.
The gate of the Kanawha valley—The wilderness beyond—West Virginia defences—A romantic post—Chaplain Brown—An adventurous mission—Chaplain Dubois—"The river path"—Gauley Mount—Colonel Tompkins's home—Bowie-knives—Truculent resolutions—The Engineers—Whittlesey, Benham, Wagner—Fortifications—Distant reconnoissances—Comparison of forces—Dangers to steamboat communications—Allotment of duties—The Summersville post—Seventh Ohio at Cross Lanes—Scares and rumors—Robert E. Lee at Valley Mountain—Floyd and Wise advance—Rosecrans's orders—The Cross Lanes affair—Major Casement's creditable retreat—Colonel Tyler's reports—Lieutenant-Colonel Creighton—Quarrels of Wise and Floyd—Ambushing rebel cavalry—Affair at Boone Court House—New attack at Gauley Bridge—An incipient mutiny—Sad result—A notable court-martial—Rosecrans marching toward us—Communications renewed—Advance toward Lewisburg—Camp Lookout—A private sorrow.
CARNIFEX FERRY—TO SEWELL MOUNTAIN AND BACK
Rosecrans's march to join me—Reaches Cross Lanes—Advance against Floyd—Engagement at Carnifex Ferry—My advance to Sunday Road—Conference with Rosecrans—McCook's brigade joins me—Advance to Camp Lookout—Brigade commanders—Rosecrans's personal characteristics—Hartsuff—Floyd and Wise again—"Battle of Bontecou"—Sewell Mountain—The equinoctial—General Schenck arrives—Rough lodgings—Withdrawal from the mountain—Rear-guard duties—Major Slemmer of Fort Pickens fame—New positions covering Gauley Bridge—Floyd at Cotton Mountain—Rosecrans's methods with private soldiers—Progress in discipline.
Floyd cannonades Gauley Bridge—Effect on Rosecrans—Topography of Gauley Mount—De Villiers runs the gantlet—Movements of our forces—Explaining orders—A hard climb on the mountain—In the post at Gauley Bridge—Moving magazine and telegraph—A balky mule-team—Ammunition train under fire—Captain Fitch a model quartermaster—Plans to entrap Floyd—Moving supply trains at night—Method of working the ferry—Of making flatboats—The Cotton Mountain affair—Rosecrans dissatisfied with Benham—Vain plans to reach East Tennessee.
An impracticable country—Movements suspended—Experienced troops ordered away—My orders from Washington—Rosecrans objects—A disappointment—Winter organization of the Department—Sifting our material—Courts-martial—Regimental schools—Drill and picket duty—A military execution—Effect upon the army—Political sentiments of the people—Rules of conduct toward them—Case of Mr. Parks—Mr. Summers—Mr. Patrick—Mr. Lewis Ruffner—Mr. Doddridge—Mr. B. F. Smith—A house divided against itself—Major Smith's journal—The contrabands—A fugitive-slave case—Embarrassments as to military jurisdiction.
VOLUNTEERS AND REGULARS
High quality of first volunteers—Discipline milder than that of the regulars—Reasons for the difference—Practical efficiency of the men—Necessity for sifting the officers—Analysis of their defects—What is military aptitude?—Diminution of number in ascending scale—Effect of age—Of former life and occupation—Embarrassments of a new business—Quick progress of the right class of young men—Political appointments—Professional men—Political leaders naturally prominent in a civil war—"Cutting and trying"—Dishonest methods—An excellent army at the end of a year—The regulars in 1861—Entrance examinations for West Point—The curriculum there—Drill and experience—Its limitations—Problems peculiar to the vast increase of the army—Ultra-conservatism—Attitude toward the Lincoln administration—"Point de zele"—Lack of initiative—Civil work of army engineers—What is military art?—Opinions of experts—Military history—European armies in the Crimean War—True generalship—Anomaly of a double army organization.
THE MOUNTAIN DEPARTMENT—SPRING CAMPAIGN
Rosecrans's plan of campaign—Approved by McClellan with modifications—Wagons or pack-mules—Final form of plan—Changes in commands—McClellan limited to Army of the Potomac—Halleck's Department of the Mississippi—Fremont's Mountain Department—Rosecrans superseded—Preparations in the Kanawha District—Batteaux to supplement steamboats—Light wagons for mountain work—Fremont's plan—East Tennessee as an objective—The supply question—Banks in the Shenandoah valley—Milroy's advance—Combat at McDowell—Banks defeated—Fremont's plans deranged—Operations in the Kanawha valley—Organization of brigades—Brigade commanders—Advance to Narrows of New River—The field telegraph—Concentration of the enemy—Affair at Princeton—Position at Flat-top Mountain.
POPE IN COMMAND—TRANSFER TO WASHINGTON
A key position—Crook's engagement at Lewisburg—Watching and scouting—Mountain work—Pope in command—Consolidation of Departments—Suggestions of our transfer to the East—Pope's Order No. 11 and Address to the Army—Orders to march across the mountains—Discussion of them—Changed to route by water and rail—Ninety-mile march—Logistics—Arriving in Washington—Two regiments reach Pope—Two sent to Manassas—Jackson captures Manassas—Railway broken—McClellan at Alexandria—Engagement at Bull Run Bridge—Ordered to Upton's Hill—Covering Washington—Listening to the Bull Run battle—Ill news travels fast.
RETREAT WITHIN THE LINES—REORGANIZATION—HALLECK AND HIS SUBORDINATES
McClellan's visits to my position—Riding the lines—Discussing the past campaign—The withdrawal from the James—Prophecy—McClellan and the soldiers—He is in command of the defences—Intricacy of official relations—Reorganization begun—Pope's army marches through our works—Meeting of McClellan and Pope—Pope's characteristics—Undue depreciation of him—The situation when Halleck was made General-in-Chief—Pope's part in it—Reasons for dislike on the part of the Potomac Army—McClellan's secret service—Deceptive information of the enemy's force—Information from prisoners and citizens—Effects of McClellan's illusion as to Lee's strength—Halleck's previous career—Did he intend to take command in the field?—His abdication of the field command—The necessity for a union of forces in Virginia—McClellan's inaction was Lee's opportunity—Slow transfer of the Army of the Potomac—Halleck burdened with subordinate's work—Burnside twice declines the command—It is given to McClellan—Pope relieved—Other changes in organization—Consolidation—New campaign begun.
March through Washington—Reporting to Burnside—The Ninth Corps—Burnside's personal qualities—To Leesboro—Straggling—Lee's army at Frederick—Our deliberate advance—Reno at New Market—The march past—Reno and Hayes—Camp gossip—Occupation of Frederick—Affair with Hampton's cavalry—Crossing Catoctin Mountain—The valley and South Mountain—Lee's order found—Division of his army—Jackson at Harper's Ferry—Supporting Pleasonton's reconnoissance—Meeting Colonel Moor—An involuntary warning—Kanawha Division's advance—Opening of the battle—Carrying the mountain crest—The morning fight—Lull at noon—Arrival of supports—Battle renewed—Final success—Death of Reno—Hooker's battle on the right—His report—Burnside's comments—Franklin's engagement at Crampton's Gap.
ANTIETAM: PRELIMINARY MOVEMENTS
Lee's plan of invasion—Changed by McClellan's advance—The position at Sharpsburg—Our routes of march—At the Antietam—McClellan reconnoitring—Lee striving to concentrate—Our delays—Tuesday's quiet—Hooker's evening march—The Ninth Corps command—Changing our positions—McClellan's plan of battle—Hooker's evening skirmish—Mansfield goes to support Hooker—Confederate positions—Jackson arrives—McLaws and Walker reach the field—Their places.
ANTIETAM: THE FIGHT ON THE RIGHT
Hooker astir early—The field near the Dunker Church—Artillery combat—Positions of Hooker's divisions—Rocky ledges in the woods—Advance of Doubleday through Miller's orchard and garden—Enemy's fire from West Wood—They rush for Gibbon's battery—Repulse—Advance of Patrick's brigade—Fierce fighting along the turnpike—Ricketts's division in the East Wood—Fresh effort of Meade's division in the centre—A lull in the battle—Mansfield's corps reaches the field—Conflicting opinions as to the hour—Mansfield killed—Command devolves on Williams—Advance through East Wood—Hooker wounded—Meade in command of the corps—It withdraws—Greene's division reaches the Dunker Church—Crawford's in the East Wood—Terrible effects on the Confederates—Sumner's corps coming up—Its formation—It moves on the Dunker Church from the east—Divergence of the divisions—Sedgwick's passes to right of Greene—Attacked in flank and broken—Rallying at the Poffenberger hill—Twelfth Corps hanging on near the church—Advance of French's division—Richardson follows later—Bloody Lane reached—The Piper house—Franklin's corps arrives—Charge of Irwin's brigade.
ANTIETAM: THE FIGHT ON THE LEFT
Ninth Corps positions near Antietam Creek—Rodman's division at lower ford—Sturgis's at the bridge—Burnside's headquarters on the field—View from his place of the battle on the right—French's fight—An exploding caisson—Our orders to attack—The hour—Crisis of the battle—Discussion of the sequence of events—The Burnside bridge—Exposed approach—Enfiladed by enemy's artillery—Disposition of enemy's troops—His position very strong—Importance of Rodman's movement by the ford—The fight at the bridge—Repulse—Fresh efforts—Tactics of the assault—Success—Formation on further bank—Bringing up ammunition—Willcox relieves Sturgis—The latter now in support—Advance against Sharpsburg—Fierce combat—Edge of the town reached—Rodman's advance on the left—A. P. Hill's Confederate division arrives from Harper's Ferry—Attacks Rodman's flank—A raw regiment breaks—The line retires—Sturgis comes into the gap—Defensive position taken and held—Enemy's assaults repulsed—Troops sleeping on their arms—McClellan's reserve—Other troops not used—McClellan's idea of Lee's force and plans—Lee's retreat—The terrible casualty lists.
McCLELLAN AND POLITICS—HIS REMOVAL AND ITS CAUSE
Meeting Colonel Key—His changes of opinion—His relations to McClellan—Governor Dennison's influence—McClellan's attitude toward Lincoln—Burnside's position—The Harrison Landing letter—Compared with Lincoln's views—Probable intent of the letter—Incident at McClellan's headquarters—John W. Garrett—Emancipation Proclamation—An after-dinner discussion of it—Contrary influences—Frank advice—Burnside and John Cochrane—General Order 163—Lincoln's visit to camp—Riding the field—A review—Lincoln's desire for continuing the campaign—McClellan's hesitation—His tactics of discussion—His exaggeration of difficulties—Effect on his army—Disillusion a slow process—Lee's army not better than Johnston's—Work done by our Western army—Difference in morale—An army rarely bolder than its leader—Correspondence between Halleck and McClellan—Lincoln's remarkable letter on the campaign—The army moves on November 2—Lee regains the line covering Richmond—McClellan relieved—Burnside in command.
PERSONAL RELATIONS OF McCLELLAN, BURNSIDE, AND PORTER
Intimacy of McClellan and Burnside—Private letters in the official files—Burnside's mediation—His self-forgetful devotion—The movement to join Pope—Burnside forwards Porter's dispatches—His double refusal of the command—McClellan suspends the organization of wings—His relations to Porter—Lincoln's letter on the subject—Fault-finding with Burnside—Whose work?—Burnside's appearance and bearing in the field.
RETURN TO WEST VIRGINIA
Ordered to the Kanawha valley again—An unwelcome surprise—Reasons for the order—Reporting to Halleck at Washington—Affairs in the Kanawha in September—Lightburn's positions—Enemy under Loring advances—Affair at Fayette C. H.—Lightburn retreats—Gauley Bridge abandoned—Charleston evacuated—Disorderly flight to the Ohio—Enemy's cavalry raid under Jenkins—General retreat in Tennessee and Kentucky—West Virginia not in any Department—Now annexed to that of Ohio—Morgan's retreat from Cumberland Gap—Ordered to join the Kanawha forces—Milroy's brigade also—My interviews with Halleck and Stanton—Promotion—My task—My division sent with me—District of West Virginia—Colonel Crook promoted—Journey westward—Governor Peirpoint—Governor Tod—General Wright—Destitution of Morgan's column—Refitting at Portland, Ohio—Night drive to Gallipolis—An amusing accident—Inspection at Point Pleasant—Milroy ordered to Parkersburg—Milroy's qualities—Interruptions to movement of troops—No wagons—Supplies delayed—Confederate retreat—Loring relieved—Echols in command—Our march up the valley—Echols retreats—We occupy Charleston and Gauley Bridge—Further advance stopped—Our forces reduced—Distribution of remaining troops—Alarms and minor movements—Case of Mr. Summers—His treatment by the Confederates.
WINTER QUARTERS, 1862-63—PROMOTIONS AND POLITICS
Central position of Marietta, Ohio—Connection with all parts of West Virginia—Drill and instruction of troops—Guerilla warfare—Partisan Rangers—Confederate laws—Disposal of plunder—Mosby's Rangers as a type—Opinions of Lee, Stuart, and Rosser—Effect on other troops—Rangers finally abolished—Rival home-guards and militia—Horrors of neighborhood war—Staff and staff duties—Reduction of forces—General Cluseret—Later connection with the Paris Commune—His relations with Milroy—He resigns—Political situation—Congressmen distrust Lincoln—Cutler's diary—Resolutions regarding appointments of general officers—The number authorized by law—Stanton's report—Effect of Act of July, 1862—An excess of nine major-generals—The legal questions involved—Congressional patronage and local distribution—Ready for a "deal"—Bill to increase the number of generals—A "slate" made up to exhaust the number—Senate and House disagree—Conference—Agreement in last hours of the session—The new list—A few vacancies by resignation, etc.—List of those dropped—My own case—Faults of the method—Lincoln's humorous comments—Curious case of General Turchin—Congestion in the highest grades—Effects—Confederate grades of general and lieutenant-general—Superiority of our system—Cotemporaneous reports and criticisms—New regiments instead of recruiting old ones—Sherman's trenchant opinion.
FAREWELL TO WEST VIRGINIA—BURNSIDE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO
Desire for field service—Changes in the Army of the Potomac—Judgment of McClellan at that time—Our defective knowledge—Changes in West Virginia—Errors in new organization—Embarrassments resulting—Visit to General Schenck—New orders from Washington—Sent to Ohio to administer the draft—Burnside at head of the department—District of Ohio—Headquarters at Cincinnati—Cordial relations of Governor Tod with the military authorities—System of enrolment and draft—Administration by Colonel Fry—Decay of the veteran regiments—Bounty-jumping—Effects on political parties—Soldiers voting—Burnside's military plans—East Tennessee—Rosecrans aiming at Chattanooga—Burnside's business habits—His frankness—Stories about him—His personal characteristics—Cincinnati as a border city—Rebel sympathizers—Order No. 38—Challenged by Vallandigham—The order not a new departure—Lincoln's proclamation—General Wright's circular.
THE VALLANDIGHAM CASE—THE HOLMES COUNTY WAR
Clement L. Vallandigham—His opposition to the war—His theory of reconstruction—His Mount Vernon speech—His arrest—Sent before the military commission—General Potter its president—Counsel for the prisoner—The line of defence—The judgment—Habeas Corpus proceedings—Circuit Court of the United States—Judge Leavitt denies the release—Commutation by the President—Sent beyond the lines—Conduct of Confederate authorities—Vallandigham in Canada—Candidate for Governor—Political results—Martial law—Principles underlying it—Practical application—The intent to aid the public enemy—The intent to defeat the draft—Armed resistance to arrest of deserters, Noble County—To the enrolment in Holmes County—A real insurrection—Connection of these with Vallandigham's speeches—The Supreme Court refuses to interfere—Action in the Milligan case after the war—Judge Davis's personal views—Knights of the Golden Circle—The Holmes County outbreak—Its suppression—Letter to Judge Welker.
BURNSIDE AND ROSECRANS—THE SUMMER'S DELAYS
Condition of Kentucky and Tennessee—Halleck's instructions to Burnside—Blockhouses at bridges—Relief of East Tennessee—Conditions of the problem—Vast wagon-train required—Scheme of a railroad—Surveys begun—Burnside's efforts to arrange co-operation with Rosecrans—Bragg sending troops to Johnston—Halleck urges Rosecrans to activity—Continued inactivity—Burnside ordered to send troops to Grant—Rosecrans's correspondence with Halleck—Lincoln's dispatch—Rosecrans collects his subordinates' opinions—Councils of war—The situation considered—Sheridan and Thomas—Computation of effectives—Garfield's summing up—Review of the situation when Rosecrans succeeded Buell—After Stone's River—Relative forces—Disastrous detached expeditions—Appeal to ambition—The major-generalship in regular army—Views of the President justified—Burnside's forces—Confederate forces in East Tennessee—Reasons for the double organization of the Union armies.
THE MORGAN RAID
Departure of the staff for the field—An amusingly quick return—Changes in my own duties—Expeditions to occupy the enemy—Sanders' raid into East Tennessee—His route—His success and return—The Confederate Morgan's raid—His instructions—His reputation as a soldier—Compared with Forrest—Morgan's start delayed—His appearance at Green River, Ky.—Foiled by Colonel Moore—Captures Lebanon—Reaches the Ohio at Brandenburg—General Hobson in pursuit—Morgan crosses into Indiana—Was this his original purpose?—His route out of Indiana into Ohio—He approaches Cincinnati—Hot chase by Hobson—Gunboats co-operating on the river—Efforts to block his way—He avoids garrisoned posts and cities—Our troops moved in transports by water—Condition of Morgan's jaded column—Approaching the Ohio at Buffington's—Gunboats near the ford—Hobson attacks—Part captured, the rest fly northward—Another capture—A long chase—Surrender of Morgan with the remnant—Summary of results—A burlesque capitulation.
THE LIBERATION OF EAST TENNESSEE
News of Grant's victory at Vicksburg—A thrilling scene at the opera—Burnside's Ninth Corps to return—Stanton urges Rosecrans to advance—The Tullahoma manoeuvres—Testy correspondence—Its real meaning—Urgency with Burnside—Ignorance concerning his situation—His disappointment as to Ninth Corps—Rapid concentration of other troops—Burnside's march into East Tennessee—Occupation of Knoxville—Invests Cumberland Gap—The garrison surrenders—Good news from Rosecrans—Distances between armies—Divergent lines—No railway communication—Burnside concentrates toward the Virginia line—Joy of the people—Their intense loyalty—Their faith in the future.
BURNSIDE IN EAST TENNESSEE
Organizing and arming the loyalists—Burnside concentrates near Greeneville—His general plan—Rumors of Confederate reinforcements—Lack of accurate information—The Ninth Corps in Kentucky—Its depletion by malarial disease—Death of General Welsh from this cause—Preparing for further work—Situation on 16th September—Dispatch from Halleck—Its apparent purpose—Necessity to dispose of the enemy near Virginia border—Burnside personally at the front—His great activity—Ignorance of Rosecrans's peril—Impossibility of joining him by the 20th—Ruinous effects of abandoning East Tennessee—Efforts to aid Rosecrans without such abandonment—Enemy duped into burning Watauga bridge themselves—Ninth Corps arriving—Willcox's division garrisons Cumberland Gap—Reinforcements sent Rosecrans from all quarters—Chattanooga made safe from attack—The supply question—Meigs's description of the roads—Burnside halted near Loudon—Halleck's misconception of the geography—The people imploring the President not to remove the troops—How Longstreet got away from Virginia—Burnside's alternate plans—Minor operations in upper Holston valley—Wolford's affair on the lower Holston.
MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF
THE CIVIL WAR
THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR
Ohio Senate April 12—Sumter bombarded—"Glory to God!"—The surrender—Effect on public sentiment—Call for troops—Politicians changing front—David Tod—Stephen A. Douglas—The insurrection must be crushed—Garfield on personal duty—Troops organized by the States—The militia—Unpreparedness—McClellan at Columbus—Meets Governor Dennison—Put in command—Our stock of munitions—Making estimates—McClellan's plan—Camp Jackson—Camp Dennison—Gathering of the volunteers—Garibaldi uniforms—Officering the troops—Off for Washington—Scenes in the State Capitol—Governor Dennison's labors—Young regulars—Scott's policy—Alex. McCook—Orlando Poe—Not allowed to take state commissions.
On Friday the twelfth day of April, 1861, the Senate of Ohio was in session, trying to go on in the ordinary routine of business, but with a sense of anxiety and strain which was caused by the troubled condition of national affairs. The passage of Ordinances of Secession by one after another of the Southern States, and even the assembling of a provisional Confederate government at Montgomery, had not wholly destroyed the hope that some peaceful way out of our troubles would be found; yet the gathering of an army on the sands opposite Fort Sumter was really war, and if a hostile gun were fired, we knew it would mean the end of all effort at arrangement. Hoping almost against hope that blood would not be shed, and that the pageant of military array and of a rebel government would pass by and soon be reckoned among the disused scenes and properties of a political drama that never pretended to be more than acting, we tried to give our thoughts to business; but there was no heart in it, and the morning hour lagged, for we could not work in earnest and we were unwilling to adjourn.
Suddenly a senator came in from the lobby in an excited way, and catching the chairman's eye, exclaimed, "Mr. President, the telegraph announces that the secessionists are bombarding Fort Sumter!" There was a solemn and painful hush, but it was broken in a moment by a woman's shrill voice from the spectators' seats, crying, "Glory to God!" It startled every one, almost as if the enemy were in the midst. But it was the voice of a radical friend of the slave, who after a lifetime of public agitation believed that only through blood could freedom be won. Abby Kelly Foster had been attending the session of the Assembly, urging the passage of some measures enlarging the legal rights of married women, and, sitting beyond the railing when the news came in, shouted a fierce cry of joy that oppression had submitted its cause to the decision of the sword. With most of us, the gloomy thought that civil war had begun in our own land overshadowed everything, and seemed too great a price to pay for any good; a scourge to be borne only in preference to yielding the very groundwork of our republicanism,—the right to enforce a fair interpretation of the Constitution through the election of President and Congress.
The next day we learned that Major Anderson had surrendered, and the telegraphic news from all the Northern States showed plain evidence of a popular outburst of loyalty to the Union, following a brief moment of dismay. Judge Thomas M. Key of Cincinnati, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was the recognized leader of the Democratic party in the Senate, [Footnote: Afterward aide-de-camp and acting judge-advocate on McClellan's staff.] and at an early hour moved an adjournment to the following Tuesday, in order, as he said, that the senators might have the opportunity to go home and consult their constituents in the perilous crisis of public affairs. No objection was made to the adjournment, and the representatives took a similar recess. All were in a state of most anxious suspense,—the Republicans to know what initiative the Administration at Washington would take, and the Democrats to determine what course they should follow if the President should call for troops to put down the insurrection.
Before we meet again, Mr. Lincoln's proclamation and call for seventy-five thousand militia for three months' service were out, and the great mass of the people of the North, forgetting all party distinctions, answered with an enthusiastic patriotism that swept politicians off their feet. When we met again on Tuesday morning, Judge Key, taking my arm and pacing the floor outside the railing in the Senate chamber, broke out impetuously, "Mr. Cox, the people have gone stark mad!" "I knew they would if a blow was struck against the flag," said I, reminding him of some previous conversations we had had on the subject. He, with most of the politicians of the day, partly by sympathy with the overwhelming current of public opinion, and partly by reaction of their own hearts against the false theories which had encouraged the secessionists, determined to support the war measures of the government, and to make no factious opposition to such state legislation as might be necessary to sustain the federal administration.
The attitude of Mr. Key is only a type of many others, and makers one of the most striking features of the time. On the 8th of January the usual Democratic convention and celebration of the Battle of New Orleans had taken place, and a series of resolutions had been passed, which were drafted, as was understood, by Judge Thurman. In these, professing to speak in the name of "two hundred thousand Democrats of Ohio," the convention had very significantly intimated that this vast organization of men would be found in the way of any attempt to put down secession until the demands of the South in respect to slavery were complied with. A few days afterward I was returning to Columbus from my home in Trumbull County, and meeting upon the railway train with David Tod, then an active Democratic politician, but afterward one of our loyal "war governors," the conversation turned on the action of the convention which had just adjourned. Mr. Tod and I were personal friends and neighbors, and I freely expressed my surprise that the convention should have committed itself to what must be interpreted as a threat of insurrection in the North if the administration should, in opposing secession by force, follow the example of Andrew Jackson, in whose honor they had assembled. He rather vehemently reasserted the substance of the resolution, saying that we Republicans would find the two hundred thousand Ohio Democrats in front of us, if we attempted to cross the Ohio River. My answer was, "We will give up the contest if we cannot carry your two hundred thousand over the heads of your leaders."
The result proved how hollow the party professions had been; or perhaps I should say how superficial was the hold of such party doctrines upon the mass of men in a great political organization. In the excitement of political campaigns they had cheered the extravagant language of party platforms with very little reflection, and the leaders had imagined that the people were really and earnestly indoctrinated into the political creed of Calhoun; but at the first shot from Beauregard's guns in Charleston harbor their latent patriotism sprang into vigorous life, and they crowded to the recruiting stations to enlist for the defence of the national flag and the national Union. It was a popular torrent which no leaders could resist; but many of these should be credited with the same patriotic impulse, and it made them nobly oblivious of party consistency. Stephen A. Douglas passed through Columbus on his way to Washington a few days after the surrender of Sumter, and in response to the calls of a spontaneous gathering of people, spoke to them from his bedroom window in the American House. There had been no thought for any of the common surroundings of a public meeting. There were no torches, no music. A dark crowd of men filled full the dim-lit street, and called for Douglas with an earnestness of tone wholly different from the enthusiasm of common political gatherings. He came half-dressed to his window, and without any light near him, spoke solemnly to the people upon the terrible crisis which had come upon the nation. Men of all parties were there: his own followers to get some light as to their duty; the Breckinridge Democrats ready, most of them, repentantly to follow a Northern leader, now that their recent candidate was in the rebellion; [Footnote: Breckinridge did not formally join the Confederacy till September, but his accord with the secessionists was well known.] the Republicans eagerly anxious to know whether so potent an influence was to be unreservedly on the side of the country. I remember well the serious solicitude with which I listened to his opening sentences as I leaned against the railing of the State House park, trying in vain to get more than a dim outline of the man as he stood at the unlighted window. His deep sonorous voice rolled down through the darkness from above us,—an earnest, measured voice, the more solemn, the more impressive, because we could not see the speaker, and it came to us literally as "a voice in the night,"—the night of our country's unspeakable trial. There was no uncertainty in his tone: the Union must be preserved and the insurrection must be crushed,—he pledged his hearty support to Mr. Lincoln's administration in doing this. Other questions must stand aside till the national authority should be everywhere recognized. I do not think we greatly cheered him,—it was rather a deep Amen that went up from the crowd. We went home breathing freer in the assurance we now felt that, for a time at least, no organized opposition to the federal government and its policy of coercion would be formidable in the North. We did not look for unanimity. Bitter and narrow men there were whose sympathies were with their country's enemies. Others equally narrow were still in the chains of the secession logic they had learned from the Calhounists; but the broader-minded men found themselves happy in being free from disloyal theories, and threw themselves sincerely and earnestly into the popular movement. There was no more doubt where Douglas or Tod or Key would be found, or any of the great class they represented.
Yet the situation hung upon us like a nightmare. Garfield and I were lodging together at the time, our wives being kept at home by family cares, and when we reached our sitting-room, after an evening session of the Senate, we often found ourselves involuntarily groaning, "Civil war in our land!" The shame, the outrage, the folly, seemed too great to believe, and we half hoped to wake from it as from a dream. Among the painful remembrances of those days is the ever-present weight at the heart which never left me till I found relief in the active duties of camp life at the close of the month. I went about my duties (and I am sure most of those I associated with did the same) with the half-choking sense of a grief I dared not think of: like one who is dragging himself to the ordinary labors of life from some terrible and recent bereavement.
We talked of our personal duty, and though both Garfield and myself had young families, we were agreed that our activity in the organization and support of the Republican party made the duty of supporting the government by military service come peculiarly home to us. He was, for the moment, somewhat trammelled by his half-clerical position, but he very soon cut the knot. My own path seemed unmistakably clear. He, more careful for his friend than for himself, urged upon me his doubts whether my physical strength was equal to the strain that would be put upon it. "I," said he, "am big and strong, and if my relations to the church and the college can be broken, I shall have no excuse for not enlisting; but you are slender and will break down." It was true that I looked slender for a man six feet high (though it would hardly be suspected now that it was so), yet I had assured confidence in the elasticity of my constitution; and the result justified me, whilst it also showed how liable to mistake one is in such things. Garfield found that he had a tendency to weakness of the alimentary system which broke him down on every campaign in which he served and led to his retiring from the army much earlier than he had intended. My own health, on the other hand, was strengthened by out-door life and exposure, and I served to the end with growing physical vigor.
When Mr. Lincoln issued his first call for troops, the existing laws made it necessary that these should be fully organized and officered by the several States. Then, the treasury was in no condition to bear the burden of war expenditures, and till Congress could assemble, the President was forced to rely on the States to furnish the means necessary for the equipment and transportation of their own troops. This threw upon the governors and legislatures of the loyal States responsibilities of a kind wholly unprecedented. A long period of profound peace had made every military organization seem almost farcical. A few independent military companies formed the merest shadow of an army; the state militia proper was only a nominal thing. It happened, however, that I held a commission as Brigadier in this state militia, and my intimacy with Governor Dennison led him to call upon me for such assistance as I could render in the first enrolment and organization of the Ohio quota. Arranging to be called to the Senate chamber when my vote might be needed upon important legislation, I gave my time chiefly to such military matters as the governor appointed. Although, as I have said, my military commission had been a nominal thing, and in fact I had never worn a uniform, I had not wholly neglected theoretic preparation for such work. For some years the possibility of a war of secession had been one of the things which would force itself upon the thoughts of reflecting people, and I had been led to give some careful study to such books of tactics and of strategy as were within easy reach. I had especially been led to read military history with critical care, and had carried away many valuable ideas from this most useful means of military education. I had therefore some notion of the work before us, and could approach its problems with less loss of time, at least, than if I had been wholly ignorant. [Footnote: I have treated this subject somewhat more fully in a paper in the "Atlantic Monthly" for March, 1892, "Why the Men of '61 fought for the Union."]
My commission as Brigadier-General in the Ohio quota in national service was dated on the 23d of April, though it had been understood for several days that my tender of service in the field would be accepted. Just about the same time Captain George B. McClellan was requested by Governor Dennison to come to Columbus for consultation, and by the governor's request I met him at the railway station and took him to the State House. I think Mr. Larz Anderson (brother of Major Robert Anderson) and Mr. L'Hommedieu of Cincinnati were with him. The intimation had been given me that he would probably be made major-general and commandant of our Ohio contingent, and this, naturally, made me scan him closely. He was rather under the medium height, but muscularly formed, with broad shoulders and a well-poised head, active and graceful in motion. His whole appearance was quiet and modest, but when drawn out he showed no lack of confidence in himself. He was dressed in a plain travelling suit, with a narrow-rimmed soft felt hat. In short, he seemed what he was, a railway superintendent in his business clothes. At the time his name was a good deal associated with that of Beauregard; they were spoken of as young men of similar standing in the Engineer Corps of the Army, and great things were expected of them both because of their scientific knowledge of their profession, though McClellan had been in civil life for some years. His report on the Crimean War was one of the few important memoirs our old army had produced, and was valuable enough to give a just reputation for comprehensive understanding of military organization, and the promise of ability to conduct the operations of an army.
I was present at the interview which the governor had with him. The destitution of the State of everything like military material and equipment was very plainly put, and the magnitude of the task of building up a small army out of nothing was not blinked. The governor spoke of the embarrassment he felt at every step from the lack of practical military experience in his staff, and of his desire to have some one on whom he could properly throw the details of military work. McClellan showed that he fully understood the difficulties there would be before him, and said that no man could wholly master them at once, although he had confidence that if a few weeks' time for preparation were given, he would be able to put the Ohio division into reasonable form for taking the field. The command was then formally tendered and accepted. All of us who were present felt that the selection was one full of promise and hope, and that the governor had done the wisest thing practicable at the time.
The next morning McClellan requested me to accompany him to the State Arsenal, to see what arms and material might be there. We found a few boxes of smooth-bore muskets which had once been issued to militia companies and had been returned rusted and damaged. No belts, cartridge-boxes, or other accoutrements were with them. There were two or three smooth-bore brass fieldpieces, six-pounders, which had been honeycombed by firing salutes, and of which the vents had been worn out, bushed, and worn out again. In a heap in one corner lay a confused pile of mildewed harness, which had probably been once used for artillery horses, but was now not worth carrying away. There had for many years been no money appropriated to buy military material or even to protect the little the State had. The federal government had occasionally distributed some arms which were in the hands of the independent uniformed militia, and the arsenal was simply an empty storehouse. It did not take long to complete our inspection. At the door, as we were leaving the building, McClellan turned, and looking back into its emptiness, remarked, half humorously and half sadly, "A fine stock of munitions on which to begin a great war!" We went back to the State House, where a room in the Secretary of State's department was assigned us, and we sat down to work. The first task was to make out detailed schedules and estimates of what would be needed to equip ten thousand men for the field. This was a unit which could be used by the governor and legislature in estimating the appropriations needed then or subsequently. Intervals in this labor were used in discussing the general situation and plans of campaign. Before the close of the week McClellan drew up a paper embodying his own views, and forwarded it to Lieutenant-General Scott. He read it to me, and my recollection of it is that he suggested two principal lines of movement in the West,—one, to move eastward by the Kanawha valley with a heavy column to co-operate with an army in front of Washington; the other, to march directly southward and to open the valley of the Mississippi. Scott's answer was appreciative and flattering, without distinctly approving his plan; and I have never doubted that the paper prepared the way for his appointment in the regular army which followed at so early a day. [Footnote: I am not aware that McClellan's plan of campaign has been published. Scott's answer to it is given in General Townsend's "Anecdotes of the Civil War," p. 260. It was, with other communications from Governor Dennison, carried to Washington by Hon. A. F. Perry of Cincinnati, an intimate friend of the governor, who volunteered as special messenger, the mail service being unsafe. See a paper by Mr. Perry in "Sketches of War History" (Ohio Loyal Legion), vol. iii. p. 345.]
During this week McClellan was invited to take the command of the troops to be raised in Pennsylvania, his native State. Some things beside his natural attachment to Pennsylvania made the proposal an attractive one to him. It was already evident that the army which might be organized near Washington would be peculiarly in the public eye, and would give to its leading officers greater opportunities of prompt recognition and promotion than would be likely to occur in the West. The close association with the government would also be a source of power if he were successful, and the way to a chief command would be more open there than elsewhere. McClellan told me frankly that if the offer had come before he had assumed the Ohio command, he would have accepted it; but he promptly decided that he was honorably bound to serve under the commission he had already received and which, like my own, was dated April 23.
My own first assignment to a military command was during the same week, on the completion of our estimates, when I was for a few days put in charge of Camp Jackson, the depot of recruits which Governor Dennison had established in the northern suburb of Columbus and had named in honor of the first squelcher of secessionism. McClellan soon determined, however, that a separate camp of instruction should be formed for the troops mustered into the United States service, and should be so placed as to be free from the temptations and inconveniences of too close neighborhood to a large city, whilst it should also be reasonably well placed for speedy defence of the southern frontier of the State. Other camps could be under state control and used only for the organization of regiments which could afterward be sent to the camp of instruction or elsewhere. Railway lines and connections indicated some point in the Little Miami valley as the proper place for such a camp; and Mr. Woodward, the chief engineer of the Little Miami Railroad, being taken into consultation, suggested a spot on the line of that railway about thirteen miles from Cincinnati, where a considerable bend of the Little Miami River encloses wide and level fields, backed on the west by gently rising hills. I was invited to accompany the general in making the inspection of the site, and I think we were accompanied by Captain Rosecrans, an officer who had resigned from the regular army to seek a career as civil engineer, and had lately been in charge of some coal mines in the Kanawha valley. Mr. Woodward was also of the party, and furnished a special train to enable us to stop at as many eligible points as it might be thought desirable to examine. There was no doubt that the point suggested was best adapted for our work, and although the owners of the land made rather hard terms, McClellan was authorized to close a contract for the use of the military camp, which, in honor of the governor, he named Camp Dennison.
But in trying to give a connected idea of the first military organization of the State, I have outrun some incidents of those days which are worth recollection. From the hour the call for troops was published, enlistments began, and recruits were parading the streets continually. At the Capitol the restless impulse to be doing something military seized even upon the members of the legislature, and a large number of them assembled every evening upon the east terrace of the State House to be drilled in marching and facing, by one or two of their own number who had some knowledge of company tactics. Most of the uniformed independent companies in the cities of the State immediately tendered their services, and began to recruit their numbers to the hundred men required for acceptance. There was no time to procure uniform, nor was it desirable; for these independent companies had chosen their own, and would have to change it for that of the United States as soon as this could be furnished. For some days companies could be seen marching and drilling, of which part would be uniformed in some gaudy style, such as is apt to prevail in holiday parades in time of peace, whilst another part would be dressed in the ordinary working garb of citizens of all degrees. The uniformed files would also be armed and accoutred; the others would be without arms or equipments, and as awkward a squad as could well be imagined. The material, however, was magnificent, and soon began to take shape. The fancy uniforms were left at home, and some approximation to a simple and useful costume was made. The recent popular outburst in Italy furnished a useful idea, and the "Garibaldi uniform" of a red flannel shirt with broad falling collar, with blue trousers held by a leathern waist-belt, and a soft felt hat for the head, was extensively copied, and served an excellent purpose. It could be made by the wives and sisters at home, and was all the more acceptable for that. The spring was opening, and a heavy coat would not be much needed, so that with some sort of overcoat and a good blanket in an improvised knapsack, the new company was not badly provided. The warm scarlet color, reflected from their enthusiastic faces as they stood in line, made a picture that never failed to impress the mustering officers with the splendid character of the men.
The officering of these new troops was a difficult and delicate task, and so far as company officers were concerned, there seemed no better way at the beginning than to let the enlisted men elect their own, as was in fact done. In most cases where entirely new companies were raised, it had been by the enthusiastic efforts of some energetic volunteers who were naturally made the commissioned officers. But not always. There were numerous examples of self-denying patriotism which stayed in the ranks after expending much labor and money in recruiting, modestly refusing the honors, and giving way to some one supposed to have military knowledge or experience. The war in Mexico in 1847 was the latest conflict with a civilized people, and to have served in it was a sure passport to confidence. It had often been a service more in name than in fact; but the young volunteers felt so deeply their own ignorance that they were ready to yield to any pretence of superior knowledge, and generously to trust themselves to any one who would offer to lead them. Hosts of charlatans and incompetents were thus put into responsible places at the beginning, but the sifting work went on fast after the troops were once in the field. The election of field officers, however, ought not to have been allowed. Companies were necessarily regimented together, of which each could have but little personal knowledge of the officers of the others; intrigue and demagogy soon came into play, and almost fatal mistakes were made in selection. After a time the evil worked its own cure, but the ill effects of it were long visible.
The immediate need of troops to protect Washington caused most of the uniformed companies to be united into the first two regiments, which were quickly despatched to the East. It was a curious study to watch the indications of character as the officers commanding companies reported to the governor, and were told that the pressing demand from Washington made it necessary to organize a regiment or two and forward them at once, without waiting to arm or equip the recruits. Some promptly recognized the necessity and took the undesirable features as part of the duty they had assumed. Others were querulous, wishing some one else to stand first in the breach, leaving them time for drill, equipment, and preparation. One figure impressed itself very strongly on my memory. A sturdy form, a head with more than ordinary marks of intelligence, but a bearing with more of swagger than of self-poised courage, yet evidently a man of some importance in his own community, stood before the seat of the governor, the bright lights of the chandelier over the table lighting strongly both their figures. The officer was wrapped in a heavy blanket or carriage lap-robe, spotted like a leopard skin, which gave him a brigandish air. He was disposed to protest. "If my men were hellions," said he, with strong emphasis on the word (a new one to me), "I wouldn't mind; but to send off the best young fellows of the county in such a way looks like murder." The governor, sitting with pale, delicate features, but resolute air, answered that the way to Washington was not supposed to be dangerous, and the men could be armed and equipped, he was assured, as soon as they reached there. It would be done at Harrisburg, if possible, and certainly if any hostility should be shown in Maryland. The President wanted the regiments at once, and Ohio's volunteers were quite as ready to go as any. He had no choice, therefore, but to order them off. The order was obeyed; but the obedience was with bad grace, and I felt misgivings as to the officer's fitness to command,—misgivings which about a year afterward were vividly recalled with the scene I have described.
No sooner were these regiments off than companies began to stream in from all parts of the State. On their first arrival they were quartered wherever shelter could be had, as there were no tents or sheds to make a camp for them. Going to my evening work at the State House, as I crossed the rotunda, I saw a company marching in by the south door, and another disposing itself for the night upon the marble pavement near the east entrance; as I passed on to the north hall, I saw another, that had come a little earlier, holding a prayer-meeting, the stone arches echoing with the excited supplications of some one who was borne out of himself by the terrible pressure of events around him, whilst, mingling with his pathetic, beseeching tones as he prayed for his country, came the shrill notes of the fife, and the thundering din of the inevitable bass drum from the company marching in on the other side. In the Senate chamber a company was quartered, and the senators were there supplying them with paper and pens, with which the boys were writing their farewells to mothers and sweethearts whom they hardly dared hope they should see again. A similar scene was going on in the Representatives' hall, another in the Supreme Court room. In the executive office sat the governor, the unwonted noises, when the door was opened, breaking in on the quiet business-like air of the room,—he meanwhile dictating despatches, indicating answers to others, receiving committees of citizens, giving directions to officers of companies and regiments, accommodating himself to the wilful democracy of our institutions which insists upon seeing the man in chief command and will not take its answer from a subordinate, until in the small hours of the night the noises were hushed, and after a brief hour of effective, undisturbed work upon the matters of chief importance, he could leave the glare of his gas-lighted office, and seek a few hours' rest, only to renew the same wearing labors on the morrow.
On the streets the excitement was of a rougher if not more intense character. A minority of unthinking partisans could not understand the strength and sweep of the great popular movement, and would sometimes venture to speak out their sympathy with the rebellion or their sneers at some party friend who had enlisted. In the boiling temper of the time the quick answer was a blow; and it was one of the common incidents of the day for those who came into the State House to tell of a knockdown that had occurred here or there, when this popular punishment had been administered to some indiscreet "rebel sympathizer."
Various duties brought young army officers of the regular service to the state capital, and others sought a brief leave of absence to come and offer their services to the governor of their native State. General Scott, too much bound up in his experience of the Mexican War, and not foreseeing the totally different proportions which this must assume, planted himself firmly on the theory that the regular army must be the principal reliance for severe work, and that the volunteers could only be auxiliaries around this solid nucleus which would show them the way to perform their duty and take the brunt of every encounter. The young regulars who asked leave to accept commissions in state regiments were therefore refused, and were ordered to their own subaltern positions and posts. There can be no doubt that the true policy would have been to encourage the whole of this younger class to enter at once the volunteer service. They would have been the field officers of the new regiments, and would have impressed discipline and system upon the organization from the beginning. The Confederacy really profited by having no regular army. They gave to the officers who left our service, it is true, commissions in their so-called "provisional army," to encourage them in the assurance that they would have permanent military positions if the war should end in the independence of the South; but this was only a nominal organization, and their real army was made up (as ours turned out practically to be) from the regiments of state volunteers. Less than a year afterward we changed our policy, but it was then too late to induce many of the regular officers to take regimental positions in the volunteer troops. I hesitate to declare that this did not turn out for the best; for although the organization of our army would have been more rapidly perfected, there are other considerations which have much weight. The army would not have been the popular thing it was, its close identification with the people's movement would have been weakened, and it perhaps would not so readily have melted again into the mass of the nation at the close of the war.
Among the first of the young regular officers who came to Columbus was Alexander McCook. He was ordered there as inspection and mustering officer, and one of my earliest duties was to accompany him to Camp Jackson to inspect the cooked rations which the contractors were furnishing the new troops. I warmed to his earnest, breezy way, and his business-like activity in performing his duty. As a makeshift, before camp equipage and cooking utensils could be issued to the troops, the contractors placed long trestle tables under an improvised shed, and the soldiers came to these and ate, as at a country picnic. It was not a bad arrangement to bridge over the interval between home life and regular soldiers' fare, and the outcry about it at the time was senseless, as all of us know who saw real service afterward. McCook bustled along from table to table, sticking a long skewer into a boiled ham, smelling of it to see if the interior of the meat was tainted; breaking open a loaf of bread and smelling of it to see if it was sour; examining the coffee before it was put into the kettles, and after it was made; passing his judgment on each, in prompt, peremptory manner as we went on. The food was, in the main, excellent, though, as a way of supporting an army, it was quite too costly to last long.
While mustering in the recruits, McCook was elected colonel of the First Regiment Ohio Volunteers, which had, I believe, already gone to Washington. He was eager to accept, and telegraphed to Washington for permission. Adjutant-General Thomas replied that it was not the policy of the War Department to permit it. McCook cut the knot in gallant style. He immediately tendered his resignation in the regular army, taking care to say that he did so, not to avoid his country's service or to aid her enemies, but because he believed he could serve her much more effectively by drilling and leading a regiment of Union volunteers. He notified the governor of his acceptance of the colonelcy, and his coup-de-main was a success; for the department did not like to accept a resignation under such circumstances, and he had the exceptional luck to keep his regular commission and gain prestige as well, by his bold energy in the matter.
Orlando Poe came about the same time, for all this was occurring in the last ten days of April. He was a lieutenant of topographical engineers, and was stationed with General (then Captain) Meade at Detroit, doing duty upon the coast survey of the lakes. He was in person the model for a young athlete, tall, dark, and strong, with frank, open countenance, looking fit to repeat his ancestor Adam Poe's adventurous conflicts with the Indians as told in the frontier traditions of Ohio. He too was eager for service; but the same rule was applied to him, and the argument that the engineers would be especially necessary to the army organization kept him for a time from insisting upon taking volunteer service, as McCook had done. He was indefatigable in his labors, assisting the governor in organizing the regiments, smoothing the difficulties constantly arising from lack of familiarity with the details of the administrative service of the army, and giving wise advice to the volunteer officers who made his acquaintance. I asked him, one day, in my pursuit of practical ideas from all who I thought could help me, what he would advise as the most useful means of becoming familiar with my duties. Study the Army Regulations, said he, as if it were your Bible! There was a world of wisdom in this: much more than I appreciated at the time, though it set me earnestly to work in a right direction. An officer in a responsible command, who had already a fair knowledge of tactics, might trust his common sense for guidance in an action on the field; but the administrative duties of the army as a machine must be thoroughly learned, if he would hope to make the management of its complicated organization an easy thing to him.
Major Sidney Burbank came to take McCook's place as mustering officer: a grave, earnest man, of more age and more varied experience than the men I have named. Captain John Pope also visited the governor for consultation, and possibly others came also, though I saw them only in passing, and did not then get far in making their acquaintance.
Laying out the camp—Rosecrans as engineer—A comfortless night—Waking to new duties—Floors or no floors for the huts—Hardee's Tactics—The water-supply—Colonel Tom. Worthington—Joshua Sill—Brigades organized—Bates's brigade—Schleich's—My own—McClellan's purpose—Division organization—Garfield disappointed—Camp routine—Instruction and drill—Camp cookery—Measles—Hospital barn—Sisters of Charity—Ferment over re-enlistment—Musters by Gordon Granger—"Food for powder"—Brigade staff—De Villiers—"A Captain of Calvary"—The "Bloody Tinth"—Almost a row—Summoned to the field.
On the 29th of April I was ordered by McClellan to proceed next morning to Camp Dennison, with the Eleventh and half of the Third Ohio regiments. The day was a fair one, and when about noon our railway train reached the camping ground, it seemed an excellent place for our work. The drawback was that very little of the land was in meadow or pasture, part being in wheat and part in Indian corn, which was just coming up. Captain Rosecrans met us, as McClellan's engineer (later the well-known general), coming from Cincinnati with a train-load of lumber. He had with him his compass and chain, and by the help of a small detail of men soon laid off the ground for the two regimental camps, and the general lines of the whole encampment for a dozen regiments. It was McClellan's purpose to put in two brigades on the west side of the railway, and one on the east. My own brigade camp was assigned to the west side, and nearest to Cincinnati. The men of the two regiments shouldered their pine boards and carried them up to the line of the company streets, which were close to the hills skirting the valley, and which opened into the parade and drill ground along the railway.
A general plan was given to the company officers by which the huts should be made uniform in size and shape. The huts of each company faced each other, three or four on each side, making the street between, in which the company assembled before marching to its place on the regimental color line. At the head of each street were the quarters of the company officers, and those of the "field and staff" still further in rear. The Regulations were followed in this plan as closely as the style of barracks and nature of the ground would permit. Vigorous work housed all the men before night, and it was well that it did so, for the weather changed in the evening, a cold rain came on, and the next morning was a chill and dreary one. My own headquarters were in a little brick schoolhouse of one story, which stood (and I think still stands) on the east side of the track close to the railway. My improvised camp equipage consisted of a common trestle cot and a pair of blankets, and I made my bed in the open space in front of the teacher's desk or pulpit. My only staff officer was an aide-de-camp, Captain Bascom (afterward of the regular army), who had graduated at an Eastern military school, and proved himself a faithful and efficient assistant. He slept on the floor in one of the little aisles between the pupils' seats. One lesson learned that night remained permanently fixed in my memory, and I had no need of a repetition of it. I found that, having no mattress on my cot, the cold was much more annoying below than above me, and that if one can't keep the under side warm, it doesn't matter how many blankets he may have atop. I procured later an army cot with low legs, the whole of which could be taken apart and packed in a very small parcel, and with this I carried a small quilted mattress of cotton batting. It would have been warmer to have made my bed on the ground with a heap of straw or leaves under me; but as my tent had to be used for office work whenever a tent could be pitched, I preferred the neater and more orderly interior which this arrangement permitted. This, however, is anticipating. The comfortless night passed without much refreshing sleep, the strange situation doing perhaps as much as the limbs aching from cold to keep me awake. The storm beat through broken window-panes, and the gale howled about us, but day at last began to break, and with its dawning light came our first reveille in camp. I shall never forget the peculiar plaintive sound of the fifes as they shrilled out on the damp air. The melody was destined to become very familiar, but to this day I can't help wondering how it happened that so melancholy a strain was chosen for the waking tune of the soldiers' camp. The bugle reveille is quite different; it is even cheery and inspiriting; but the regulation music for the drums and fifes is better fitted to waken longings for home and all the sadder emotions than to stir the host from sleep to the active duties of the day. I lay for a while listening to it, finding its notes suggesting many things and becoming a thread to string my reveries upon, as I thought of the past which was separated from me by a great gulf, the present with its serious duties, and the future likely to come to a sudden end in the shock of battle. We roused ourselves; a dash of cold water put an end to dreaming; we ate a breakfast from a box of cooked provisions we had brought with us, and resumed the duty of organizing and instructing the camp. The depression which had weighed upon me since the news of the opening guns at Sumter passed away, never to return. The consciousness of having important work to do, and the absorption in the work itself, proved the best of all mental tonics. The Rubicon was crossed, and from this time out, vigorous bodily action, our wild outdoor life, and the strenuous use of all the faculties, mental and physical, in meeting the daily exigencies, made up an existence which, in spite of all its hardships and all its discouragements, still seems a most exhilarating one as I look back on it across a long vista of years.
The first of May proved, instead, a true April day, of the most fickle and changeable type. Gusts of rain and wind alternated with flashes of bright sunshine. The second battalion of the Third Regiment arrived, and the work of completing the cantonments went on. The huts which were half finished yesterday were now put in good order, and in building the new ones the men profited by the experience of their comrades. We were however suddenly thrown into one of those small tempests which it is so easy to get up in a new camp, and which for the moment always seems to have an importance out of all proportion to its real consequence. Captain Rosecrans, as engineer, was superintending the work of building, and finding that the companies were putting floors and bunks in their huts, he peremptorily ordered that these should be taken out, insisting that the huts were only intended to take the place of tents and give such shelter as tents could give. The company and regimental officers loudly protested, and the men were swelling with indignation and wrath. Soon both parties were before me; Rosecrans hot and impetuous, holding a high tone, and making use of General McClellan's name in demanding, as an officer of his staff, that the floors should be torn out, and the officers of the regiments held responsible for obedience to the order that no more should be made. He fairly bubbled with anger at the presumption of those who questioned his authority. As soon as a little quiet could be got, I asked Rosecrans if he had specific orders from the general that the huts should have no floors. No, he had not, but his staff position as engineer gave him sufficient control of the subject. I said I would examine the matter and submit it to General McClellan, and meanwhile the floors already built might remain, though no new ones should be made till the question was decided. I reported to the general that, in my judgment, the huts should have floors and bunks, because the ground was wet when they were built,—they could not be struck like tents to dry and air the earth, and they were meant to be permanent quarters for the rendezvous of troops for an indefinite time. The decision of McClellan was in accordance with the report. Rosecrans acquiesced, and indeed seemed rather to like me the better on finding that I was not carried away by the assumption of indefinite power by a staff officer.
This little flurry over, the quarters were soon got in as comfortable shape as rough lumber could make them, and the work of drill and instruction was systematized. The men were not yet armed, so there was no temptation to begin too soon with the manual of the musket, and they were kept industriously employed in marching in single line, by file, in changing direction, in forming columns of fours from double line, etc., before their guns were put in their hands. Each regiment was treated as a separate camp, with its own chain of sentinels, and the officers of the guard were constantly busy teaching guard and picket duty theoretically to the reliefs off duty, and inspecting the sentinels on post. Schools were established in each regiment for field and staff and for the company officers, and Hardee's Tactics was in the hands of everybody who could procure a copy. It was one of our great inconveniences that the supply of the authorized Tactics was soon exhausted, and it was difficult to get the means of instruction in the company schools. An abridgment was made and published in a very few days by Thomas Worthington, a graduate of West Point in one of the earliest classes,—of 1827, I think,—a son of one of the first governors of Ohio. This eccentric officer had served in the regular army and in the Mexican War, and was full of ideas, but was of so irascible and impetuous a temper that he was always in collision with the powers that be, and spoiled his own usefulness. He was employed to furnish water to the camp by contract, and whilst he ruined himself in his efforts to do it well, he was in perpetual conflict with the troops, who capsized his carts, emptied his barrels, and made life a burden to him. The quarrel was based on his taking the water from the river just opposite the camp, though there was a slaughter-house some distance above. Worthington argued that the distance was such that the running water purified itself; but the men wouldn't listen to his science, vigorously enforced as it was by idiomatic expletives, and there was no safety for his water-carts till he yielded. He then made a reservoir on one of the hills, filled it by a steam-pump, and carried the water by pipes to the regimental camps at an expense beyond his means, and which, as it was claimed that the scheme was unauthorized, was never half paid for. His subsequent career as colonel of a regiment was no more happy, and talents that seemed fit for highest responsibilities were wasted in chafing against circumstances which made him and fate seem to be perpetually playing at cross purposes. [Footnote: He was later colonel of the Forty-sixth Ohio, and became involved in a famous controversy with Halleck and Sherman over his conduct in the Shiloh campaign and the question of fieldworks there. He left the service toward the close of 1862.]
A very different character was Joshua W. Sill, who was sent to us as ordnance officer. He too had been a regular army officer, but of the younger class. Rather small and delicate in person, gentle and refined in manner, he had about him little that answered to the popular notion of a soldier. He had resigned from the army some years before, and was a professor in an important educational institution in Brooklyn, N. Y., when at the first act of hostility he offered his services to the governor of Ohio, his native State. After our day's work, we walked together along the railway, discussing the political and military situation, and especially the means of making most quickly an army out of the splendid but untutored material that was collecting about us. Under his modest and scholarly exterior I quickly discerned a fine temper in the metal, that made his after career no enigma to me, and his heroic death at the head of his division in the thickest of the strife at Stone's River no surprise.
The two regiments which began the encampment were quickly followed by others, and the arriving regiments sometimes had their first taste of camp life under circumstances well calculated to dampen their ardor. The Fourth Ohio, under Colonel Lorin Andrews, President of Kenyon College, came just before a thunderstorm one evening, and the bivouac that night was as rough a one as his men were likely to experience for many a day. They made shelter by placing boards from the fence tops to the ground, but the fields were level and soon became a mire, so that they were a queer-looking lot when they crawled out next morning. The sun was then shining bright, however, and they had better cover for their heads by the next night. The Seventh Ohio, which was recruited in Cleveland and on the Western Reserve, sent a party in advance to build some of their huts, and though they too came in a rain-storm, they were less uncomfortable than some of the others. Three brigades were organized from the regiments of the Ohio contingent, exclusive of the two which had been hurried to Washington. The brigadiers, beside myself, were Generals Joshua H. Bates and Newton Schleich. General Bates, who was the senior, was a graduate of West Point, who had served some years in the regular army, but had resigned and adopted the profession of the law. He lived at Cincinnati, and organized his brigade in that city. They marched to Camp Dennison on the 20th of May, when, by virtue of his seniority, General Bates assumed command of the camp in McClellan's absence. His brigade consisted of the Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth regiments, and encamped on the east side of the railroad in the bend of the river. General Schleich was a Democratic senator, who had been in the state militia, and was also one of the drill-masters of the legislative squad which had drilled upon the Capitol terrace. His brigade included the Third, Twelfth, and Thirteenth regiments, and, with mine, occupied the fields on the west side of the railroad close to the slopes of the hills. My own brigade was made up of the Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, and Eleventh regiments, and our position was the southernmost in the general camp. McClellan had intended to make his own headquarters in the camp; but the convenience of attending to official business in Cincinnati kept him in the city. His purpose was to make the brigade organizations permanent, and to take them as a division to the field when they were a little prepared for the work. Like many other good plans, it failed to be carried out. I was the only one of the brigadiers who remained in the service after the first enlistment for ninety days, and it was my fate to take the field with new regiments, only one of which had been in my brigade in camp. Schleich did not show adaptation to field work, and though taken into West Virginia with McClellan in June, he was relieved of active service in a few weeks. He afterward sought and obtained the colonelcy of the Sixty-first Ohio; but his service with it did not prove a success, and he resigned in September, 1862, under charges. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 308-310.] General Bates had some reason to expect an assignment to staff duty with McClellan, and therefore declined a colonelcy in the line at the end of the three months' service. He was disappointed in this expectation after waiting some time for it, and returned to civil life with the regrets of his comrades. There were some disappointments, also, in the choice of regimental officers who were elected in the regiments first organized, but were afterward appointed by the governor. The companies were organized and assigned to regiments before they came to camp, but the regimental elections were held after the companies were assembled. Garfield was a candidate for the colonelcy of the Seventh Regiment, but as he was still engaged in important public duties and was not connected with any company, he was at a disadvantage in the sort of competition which was then rife. He was defeated,—a greater disappointment to me than to him, for I had hoped that our close friendship would be made still closer by comradeship in the field. In a few weeks he was made colonel of the Forty-second Ohio, in the second levy.
Up to the time that General Bates relieved me of the command of the camp, and indeed for two or three days longer, the little schoolhouse was my quarters as well as telegraph and express office. We had cleared out most of the desks and benches, but were still crowded together, day and night, in a way which was anything but comfortable or desirable. Sheds for quartermaster's and subsistence stores were of first necessity, and the building of a hut for myself and staff had to be postponed till these were up. On the arrival of General Bates with two or three staff officers, the necessity for more room could not be longer ignored, and my own hut was built on the slope of the hillside behind my brigade, close under the wooded ridge, and here for the next six weeks was my home. The morning brought its hour of business correspondence relating to the command; then came the drill, when the parade ground was full of marching companies and squads. Officers' drill followed, with sword exercise and pistol practice. The day closed with the inspection of the regiments in turn at dress parade, and the evening was allotted to schools of theoretic tactics, outpost duty, and the like. Besides their copies of the regulation tactics, officers supplied themselves with such manuals as Mahan's books on Field Fortifications and on Outpost Duty. I adopted at the beginning a rule to have some military work in course of reading, and kept it up even in the field, sending home one volume and getting another by mail. In this way I gradually went through all the leading books I could find both in English and in French, including the whole of Jomini's works, his histories as well as his "Napoleon" and his "Grandes Operations Militaires." I know of no intellectual stimulus so valuable to the soldier as the reading of military history narrated by an acknowledged master in the art of war. To see what others have done in important junctures, and to have both their merits and their mistakes analyzed by a competent critic, rouses one's mind to grapple with the problem before it, and begets a generous determination to try to rival in one's own sphere of action the brilliant deeds of soldiers who have made a name in other times. Then the example of the vigorous way in which history will at last deal with those who fail when the pinch comes, tends to keep a man up to his work and to make him avoid the rock on which so many have split, the disposition to take refuge in doing nothing when he finds it difficult to decide what should be done.
The first fortnight in camp was the hardest for the troops. The ploughed fields became deep with mud, which nothing could remove but the good weather which should allow them to pack hard under the continued tramp of thousands of men. The organization of the camp kitchens had to be learned by the hardest also, and the men in each company who had some aptitude for cooking had to be found by a slow process of natural selection, during which many an unpalatable meal had to be eaten. A disagreeable bit of information came to us in the proof that more than half the men had never had the contagious diseases of infancy. The measles broke out, and we had to organize a camp hospital at once. A large barn near by was taken for this purpose, and the surgeons had their hands full of cases which, however trivial they might seem at home, were here aggravated into dangerous illness by the unwonted surroundings and the impossibility of securing the needed protection from exposure. As soon as the increase of sickness in the camp was known in Cincinnati, the good women of that city took promptly in hand the task of providing nurses for the sick, and proper diet and delicacies for hospital uses. The Sisters of Charity, under the lead of Sister Anthony, a noble woman, came out in force, and their black and white robes harmonized picturesquely with the military surroundings, as they flitted about under the rough timber framing of the old barn, carrying comfort and hope from one rude couch to another. As to supplies, hardly a man in a regiment knew how to make out a requisition for rations or for clothing, and easy as it is to rail at "red tape," the necessity of keeping a check upon embezzlement and wastefulness justified the staff bureaus at Washington in insisting upon regular vouchers to support the quartermaster's and commissary's accounts. But here, too, men were gradually found who had special talent for the work.
The infallible newspapers had no lack of material for criticism. There were plenty of real blunders to invite it, but the severest blame was quite as likely to be visited upon men and things which did not deserve it. The governor was violently attacked for things which he had no responsibility for, or others in which he had done all that forethought and intelligence could do. When everybody had to learn a new business, it would have been miraculous if grave errors had not frequently occurred. Looking back at it, the wonder is that the blunders and mishaps had not been tenfold more numerous than they were. By the middle of May the confusion had given place to reasonable system, but we were now obliged to meet the embarrassments of reorganization for three years, under the President's second call for troops. We had more than ten thousand men who had begun to know something of their duties, and it was worth a serious effort to transfer them into the permanent service; but no one who did not go through the ordeal can imagine how trying it was. In every company some discontented spirits wanted to go home, shrinking from the perils to which they had committed themselves in a moment of enthusiasm. For a few to go back, however, would be a disgrace; and every dissatisfied man, to avoid the odium of going alone, became a mischief-maker, seeking to prevent the whole company from re-enlisting. The recruiting of a majority was naturally made the condition of allowing the company organization to be preserved, and a similar rule applied to the regiment. The growing discipline was relaxed or lost in the solicitations, the electioneering, the speech-making, and the other common arts of persuasion. After a majority had re-enlisted and an organization was secure, it would have been better to have discharged the remaining three months' men and to have sent them home at once; but authority for this could not be got, for the civil officers could not see, and did not know what a nuisance these men were. Dissatisfied with themselves for not going with their comrades, they became sulky, disobedient, complaining, trying to make the others as unhappy as themselves by arguing that faith was not kept with them, and doing all the mischief it was possible to do.
In spite of all these discouragements, however, the daily drills and instruction went on with some approach to regularity, and our raw volunteers began to look more like soldiers. Captain Gordon Granger of the regular army came to muster the re-enlisted regiments into the three years' service, and as he stood at the right of the Fourth Ohio, looking down the line of a thousand stalwart men, all in their Garibaldi shirts (for we had not yet received our uniforms), he turned to me and exclaimed: "My God! that such men should be food for powder!" It certainly was a display of manliness and intelligence such as had hardly ever been seen in the ranks of an army. There were in camp at that time three if not four companies, in different regiments, that were wholly made up of undergraduates of colleges who had enlisted together, their officers being their tutors and professors; and where there was not so striking evidence as this of the enlistment of the best of our youth, every company could still show that it was largely recruited from the best-nurtured and most promising young men of the community.