When Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 militia on April 15, 1861, Northeastern Ohio and Cleveland were not slow to respond. The Hibernian Guards, an Irish Social club, enlisted as a group for three months and was sworn in On Apr. 29, 1861 as Co. B 8th Ohio Volunteers. While in Cleveland, Co. B drilled at Camp Taylor which was at the corner of Kinsman Ave. and Hudson St. (now E. 105 St.). In June of 1861 the entire regiment was assembled at Camp Dennison, Cincinnati. On the 24th of July 1861 the 3 month men were reorganized and sworn in for 3 years service. Co. 's B and D were assigned to the right and left of the regiment respectively. These two companies were trained as the skirmishers for the regiment and were issued Enfield rifles. The other companies were originally issued smoothbore Austrian muskets but these were replaced as quickly as the ingenuity of the men would allow. From July of '61 until March of '62 the 8th took part in Gen. Geo. B. McClellen's Western Virginia campaign. They skirmished and marched all through the Rich Mt.-Beverly-Grafton-Romney area without being heavily engaged however.
On March 1, 1862 the 8th Ohio moved onto Winchester Va. in the Shenandoah Valley where it was brigaded for the first time with the 4th Ohio, the 14th Indiana and the 7th (West) Va. Other regiments would come and go during the course of the next 2 1/2 years, but these four regiments would form the nucleus of one of the better Western brigades in the Army of the Potomac. Gen. Nathan Kimball, 14th Ind. was named commander of the brigade which became part of Gen. James Shields' division.
While in the Shenandoah the 8th participated in all of the marches and battles of what we now know as Jackson's Valley Campaign. Although the 8th conducted themselves well, very few Northern participants distinguished themselves during this period; other than the somewhat face-saving boast that they were part of the only Union force ever to whip "Stonewall" Jackson in a fight, (Kernstown) most of the accounts left by the men skim over this period.
In July the brigade was detached from Shields' division and sent to the Army of the Potomac, then on the Peninsula between the James and York rivers, arriving on July 2, the day after the battle of Malvern Hill. On July 8, 1862 the brigade was assigned to the division of Gen. W. F. Smith in the Second Corps, the Corps they would serve in throughout the war.
McClellen's army withdrew from its camps around Harrison's Landing on August 16 and began a week long march down the Peninsula, through Williamsburg and Yorktown, to the transports at Newport News which were waiting to carry the troops back to Washington City. Throughout this retreat the 8th served in the rear guard of the army and was one of the last units to quit the Peninsula.
Because of their late departure from Tidewater Va., the 8th missed the battle of Second Bull Run (Manassas), arriving only in time to help the II Corps serve as a reserve and guard the approaches to Washington.
In early September 1862, what had been Kimball's Brigade became the First Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps. Made up of the old comrades-in-arms of the 4th and 8th Ohio, 14th Ind. and 7th (West) Va., this brigade would remain basically unchanged for the next 18 months. The only time these 4 regiments would not serve as a unit was in the upcoming Sharpsburg Campaign. The 4th Ohio was on detached duty and was replaced by the 132nd Pa. Until now, other than the Valley battles in May and June, the regiment had seen little serious fighting. They were about to make up for lost time.
When Gen. Lee invaded the North in September the Union army moved out to stop him, if possible. Due to the losing of an important order by one of Lee's sides, the Southern army was forced to cease its northward movement and consolidate around the small town of Sharpsburg on the banks of Antietem Creek.
At the battle of Antietem the 8th fought in Gen. French's division near the center of the Union line, around the Roulette farm and into the sunken road. After a standoff fight of several hours the divisions of French and Richardson made another effort to drive the Rebels out of their entrenchments in the sunken road, now known as the "Bloody Lane." As the attack developed a gap opened between the two divisions. The Confederate commander on this part of the field, D. H. Hill, not a man to let such an opportunity go by, pushed a force of infantry into the gap. The danger to the Union line was immediately apparent; a Confederate force on the right flank and the prospect of being "scooped up in five minutes."(1)
The 14th Ind. and 8th Ohio, the two right flank companies of the brigade, executed a change of front, left wing forward, to meet this threat. Now facing the attacking Confederates, the two companies laid down a heavy fire, and after a brief but vicious fight, drove them back to their original lines. Gen. Kimball in his official report says of this episode, "The Fourteenth Indiana and Eighth Ohio, in the change of front which saved our right, executed it as veterans and only as brave men could"(3)
After a fierce struggle, during which the 8th was forced to replenish its ammunition from the cartridge boxes of the dead and wounded, Hill's troops were driven from the "Bloody Lane" and pushed back onto the rise behind it. This ended the serious fighting on this part of the field; the Rebel line was too weak to mount an offensive, the Union line too weak to maintain theirs.
Even though the 8th had nearly 50% casualties it fought bravely through 4 hours of heavy action. The entire brigade was given the sobriquet "Gibralter Brigade" by the Corps commander Maj. Gen. E. V. Sumner in recognition of its unwavering fighting at Antietem.
The II Corps stayed on the battlefield until the 22nd of September when it marched to Harpers' Ferry where it remained, resting and refitting, with only minor reconnaissance duty until the 29th of Oct. Leaving Harpers' Ferry then, the Corps marched cross country until it arrived at Falmouth, Va., across the river from Fredericksburg on Nov. 17th. For almost a month the 8th remained in camp across the river from the Confederate outposts while the Army high command waited for the pontoons upon which it could cross the river.
At daylight on Dec. 12, the pontoons having arrived and the bridges built, the 8th crossed the river at the uppermost crossing and spent the day quartered in the town. Before dawn on the 13th the regiment was moved into position along Hanover St. and was sent out -- along with the 1st Delaware and the 4th Ohio -- to act as skirmishers for French's division. As the three regiments reached the edge of town they came under fire from the Confederate skirmishers, (Barksdale's Brigade), posted in a cluster of buildings at a fork in the roads, less than 150 yards in front of the main Confederate line which ran along the base of Mary's Heights. After a few minutes of sniping the 8th raised a cheer and dashed forward, dislodged the Rebel skirmishers and took possession of the buildings for their own use. Settling in, the regiment kept up as much fire as possible and waited for the main body to move up to their position. The problem was, no large body of troops could move with any safety on the plain between the town and the group of buildings where the 8th was pinned down. .
Hour after hour the brigades formed up on the outskirts of town and moved forward toward the wall of fire on the other side of the plain. And hour after hour the men were shot down by the thousands, each line going forward to certain destruction but going ahead just the same. One eyewitness in the 8th wrote, "They pass just to our left, poor fellows, .. shaking good-bye to us with their hats! They reach a point within stone's throw of the stone wall. No father. They try to go beyond but are slaughtered. Nothing could advance further and live."(2)
For the better part of the day the 8th Ohio remained the "high water mark" of the advance on this part of the field. Leut. Col. Franklin Sawyer, commander of the regiment, reported, "During the entire day we were subjected to a most murderous fire of both artillery and small-arms, which swept our position, and the whole interval from our line to the town of Fredericksburg. Our line was too weak to advance further upon the enemy's works, and our position was not passed by any troops up to the time of our withdrawal."(3) Some time after 4 in the afternoon the regiment was withdrawn while still under fire, being completely out of ammunition, and was replaced by men of Hooker's Grand Division. .
Although they fought bravely and withdrew only when relieved, the 8th, in fact the whole army could claim little glory from this badly managed battle. .
After the disaster at Fredericksburg the 8th moved into winter quarters above Falmouth where it settled in for the cold season. Fortunately for them, the 8th missed out on Gen. Burnside's winter excursion, the infamous "Mud March." The rest of the winter passed uneventfully, with only routine fatigue duties to break the monotony of camp live. .
In late April 1863 Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, now commanding the army, set out to flank Gen. Lee out of his strong entrenchments behind Fredericksburg. Crossing the Rappahannock River at United States Ford on the morning of April 30th, the II Corps moved down the U.S. Ford road, past the Chancellor house; by mid-afternoon of May 1st it had moved south of the clearing around the house and was halted to await further orders. In the evening French's division of the II Corps was recalled to the area around Chancellorsville and went into camp for the night. On the morning of May 2nd the division was drawn up in a line which ran generally north and south and faced to the west. This line was at right angles to the main Union line which ran roughly west to east, facing south. .
The division was kept busy during the greater part of the day building some small entrenchments along their front. No one expected to fight here so not as much effort was put into the works as might have been. About dinner time terrific firing was heard on the right. (The right of the main line that is, the 8th was faced so that the battle was actually on its front.) A large Confederate force had reached the right and rear of Gen. O. O. Howard's XI Corps, collapsing his line entirely and sending it flying to the rear. .
French's division formed line, fixed bayonets, and prepared for the assault. What came out of the woods was not a Rebel battle line but the broken remnants of the fleeing XI Corps. Some army staff officers were on hand and they were able to restore some semblance of order among the routed troops. The battle raged furiously in the woods until well after dark; the glare of exploding shells and burning woods lit the night sky with a ghastly fireworks display. .
Throughout the remaining two days of battle the 8th was held in reserve, first north and east of the Chancellorsville crossroads and later in the defensive lines along Mineral Springs Road. Only during the fighting on the 3rd was the regiment engaged with the enemy and then only at long range. The total loss of the regiment in three days of fighting was only 2 dead and a baker's dozen wounded. .
Early on the evening of May 6th the 8th Ohio recrossed the Rappahannock where they had crossed only 7 days earlier and returned to the camps they had so recently abandoned. Although the morals of the army in general was down, the spirit of the 8th remained high, possibly because they had escaped most of the privations of the last battle. .
The 8th remained in camp around Falmouth from about the 10th of May until the 14th of June when it was learned that Lee's army was on the move northward. Marching generally north, the II Corps followed with the rest of the army, always trying to keep between Lee and Washington City. On the 21st of June the 8th Ohio was moved towards Thoroughfare Gap in the Bull Run Mountains to act as forward observers. On the 24th Gen. Alexander Hays was made Division commander. After several more days of marching and counter-marching the regiment reached Uniontown and went into camp.
About mid-morning on July 1st the II Corps began marching towards Gettysburg where heavy fighting had been reported. The regiment slept by the roadside on the night of the 1st, about 3 miles from Gettysburg. Before daylight of the 2nd the corps was on the move again, reaching the rest of the army south of Gettsyburg by 9 in the morning. The 8th was placed in a position facing generally westward, south of Cemetery Hill, along a ridge running nearly parallel with the Emmitsburg Road. The brigade was posted in the grove of trees known as Zieglers's Grove, the right of the brigade touching the Tanytown Road and the 8th on the left of the line.
(It would be just as well at this point to say something about the terrain around Gettysburg in 1863. The area was farm country for the most part. Any land that seemed useable had been cleared either for pasture or crops and the area was much more open than it is now. Landmarks like Cemetery Hill or Little Round Top, which today are overgrown with trees and bushes, commanded a much wider field of view than they do now. Conversely, objects such as men or cannon, which may have been on these hills, made much more prominent targets, visible at greater distances, than they would today.)
About 2:30 p.m. the "Gibralter Brigade" (still the 4th and 8th Ohio, 7th West Virginia and 14th Indiana) was holding its position in and around Ziegler's Grove, the 8th Ohio supporting Woodruff's battery (I, 1st U.S.) in front of the Grove.
Rebel skirmishers had established themselves on a slight ridge on the other (west) side of the Emmitsburg Road and began picking away at the artillerymen as they worked their guns. The 8th was ordered to drive the Confederate riflemen out of this position and put out a skirmish line of their own, out of small-arms range of the main Union line so the cannoneers could go about their business unmolested. Forming up in the grove the 8th came down the ridge on the run, flags flying and the cheers of the artillery men spurring them on. Reaching the fences along the Emmitsburg Road, companies B and D deployed as skirmishers and moved out into fields on the other side of the road. The rest of the regiment followed, driving the enemy skirmish line before it.
The confederates fell back until they were rallied around the Bliss barn where they turned and stopped the 8th's advance. The 8th fell back then, having pushed the enemy skirmishers beyond sniper range of the guns in Ziegler's Grove, and established a skirmish line of their own about 50 yards west of the Emmitsburg Road into which the main body of the regiment was placed. Several attempts were made to dislodge the 8th from their position, but although some severe fighting took place, the Ohioans were able to hang on.
Late in the evening of July 2nd Gen. Jubal Early's division attacked Howard's XI Corps on Cemetery Hill, breaking through his lines and briefly capturing several cannon. The other three regiments of Carroll's "Gibralter" brigade were sent from their position in Ziegler's Grove to help retake the guns. Col. Sawyer, noticing Rebel troops forming up on the edge of town and fearing an attack on his position, sent back to his division commander, Gen. Hays, for re-enforcements. Hays replied that as Carroll had been sent to Cemetery Hill to help the XI Corps, there were no troops to be sent to help the 8th and Sawyer must hold his position at all costs, to the last man if need be; a message that many Confederates would regret on the morrow.
At first light of dawn on July 3rd, after a night of constant sniping, the skirmishers of the 8th were rushed by a force of 3 or 4 hundred Rebels trying to regain the advanced position and higher ground the regiment occupied. Fortunately Col. Sawyer anticipated this type of attack and had Co. B standing by as reserve. Supported by the other companies in the road, Co. B dashed forward with bayonets fixed and drove off the attacking force. After stabilizing the situation Co. B stayed out on the skirmish line sending the wounded to the rear.
After this attack the regiment was left alone except for some desultory pot-shooting from a couple of snipers in a tree by the Bliss barn. The men lay in the hot July sun, trying to keep as comfortable as possible, until 1 or 1:30 in the afternoon when the Confederate artillery opened the bombardment which preceded the attack of Gen. Pickett's division. The cannon fire ranged a little high, however, so the majority of the shells passed over the 8th. The entire regiment had only 2 men killed during the barrage which lasted nearly 2 hours. The sound reached such a thunderous roar that many of the men were lulled to sleep by the crashing monotony of the cannon fire. As the artillery fire slowly diminished, the regiment prepared itself for the infantry assault it knew was coming.
Being out in the open as they were, the men of the 8th were able to assess their situation from almost the first moment the Confederate battle lines emerged from the woodline on Seminary Ridge.
Away to the south (left) and west was the division of Pickett, already taking fire from the Union guns on the Round Tops, but still far enough away as to be of little concern yet. Closer in was the division of Gen. Pettigrew which, as it came into view, seemed to be headed straight for the 8th, but due to adjustments in their alignment on Pickett's division, would pass several yards to the left of the regiment. Directly in front were the brigades of Gen. Pender now under the command of Gen. Trimble. These would be the 8th's first order of business.
As the Ohioans waited for these ranks of gray to close within easy rifle range, they kept a wary eye on Pickett's men who were still advancing across the open fields. As they watched through the dust and battle-smoke, the entire division executed as left oblique, a forty-five degree turn to the left, which closed the gap between the divisions of Pickett and Pettigrew. Out ahead of Pickett's division was a mounted officer (Garnett?) leading the troops up the slope into a flaming inferno of shot at steel. The colorbearers of the 8th suddenly waved their flags in a spontaneous salute to his courage. (One has a secret hope that some Confederate regiment returned the salute in tribute to the small group of blue-coats standing all alone in an open field 200 yards in advance of their own main line, facing nearly a hundred times their number.)
As Trimble's troops came into range the 8th opened up a withering fire backed by the cannon in Ziegler's Grove. These Confederate brigades had been badly shot up in the fighting on the first day of the battle and their stamina was not as great as it would have been under normal circumstances. There were a large number of wounded and rear-echelon troops in the ranks this day. The combined artillery and close range rifle fire was more than they could stand. They advanced as far as their own skirmish line and then broke and faded back toward Seminary Ridge.
Pressured from the front, attacked from the rear, and shelled from nearly every side, the Rebel troops passed the limits of human endurance and broke for the rear. As Leut. Thomas Galwey of Co. B saw it, "They threw away everything --cartridge boxes, waist-belts and haversacks --in their stampede.. As far as the eye could reach, the ground was covered with flying Confederates. They all seemed to extend their arms in their flight, as if to assist their speed."(2)
The survivors of the 8th moved in among the dazed and confused Confederate soldiers, capturing 3 stands of colors and nearly 300 prisoners, almost 3 times their own remaining numbers.
When ordered into battle on July 2nd the 8th counted 209 rifles. After two days of fighting almost a quarter of a mile in advance of the main Union lines, only 107 men were left to gather about their tattered colors. As the shattered remnant of the regiment re-entered their own lines with the 3 captured flags flying and escorting their prisoners, the artillery and infantry posted in Ziegler's Grove gave them a cheer of welcome and the Col. of the 14th Ind. complimented them by having his regiment present arms as the Ohioans passed by.
The next several days were spent in burying the dead, caring for the wounded and making ready for the next move. On July 7th, with the rest of the 11 Corps, the 8th Ohio marched away from Gettysburg taking with it the memory of its brightest contribution of the war.
After Gettysburg the 8th spent several weeks slowly pursuing the retreating Rebels through Maryland and back into Virginia. The regiment suffered greatly during this period due to the hot weather and the fact they were out of touch with any source of supplies. The unit had been on campaign since the 14th of June when it left Falmouth, and was becoming increasingly ragged. By July 23 more than half of the regiment were without shoes, and other supplies were equally lacking.
On the 1st of August the 8th went into camp at Elk Run, Va. and spent the next 2 weeks resting and refitting until orders were received on the 15th to proceed to New York City and assist in putting down the draft riots there. By the time the 8th (along with the 4th Ohio and 14th lnd.) reached New York on the 23rd of August, the riots had been brought under control by army units which had arrived earlier. As a result, the regiment had little to do but enjoy the hospitality of the big city. One account has it that one day Col. Sawyer enjoyed himself so much ".. that Gen. Carroll arrested him and placed Major Winslow in command (of the regiment)."(2) Be that as it may, it seems a good time was had by all and on Sept. 7, the regiment boarded the boats and bade a fond adieu to New York City. By Sept. 16, they had rejoined the II Corps, now commanded by Gen. Warren, and settled in around Culpeper Court House.
For the next several weeks the Corps maneuvered up and down the line of the Orange and Alexandria R.R. skirmishing and feeling out the enemy. After the Mine Run operation in late November the regiment went into winter quarters near Stevensburg, Va. where they remained until the start of the Wilderness Campaign the following spring.
In March of 1864 the Army of the Potomac was consolidated and re-organized with the "Gibralter Brigade" transferred from the First brigade, Third Division, Second Corps, into Third brigade, Second Division, Second Corps. Gen. Hancock resumed command of the II Corps, the division commander was Gen. John Gibbon and Col. Carroll remained in command of the brigade.
At 10:3O on the night of May 3rd the 8th broke camp and marched to Ely's Ford on the Rapidan River, crossing the next morning. The army for this campaign was divided into two wings. The right wing consisting of Gen. Warren's V Corps and the VI Corps under Sedgwick crossed up the river and moved into the Wilderness. The II Corps under Hancock was the right wing and was in charge of guarding the army's supply trains. It crossed the river at Ely's Ford and moved south through the Wilderness toward Chancellorsville.
Continuing down the Ely's Ford Road the 8th Ohio reached the clearing around Chancellorsville, about mid-afternoon on May 4th and went into camp with the rest of the Corps as they waited for the wagon train to come up. On the morning of the 5th the Corps resumed its march, swinging east and then dropping south on the Catharpin Road, the object being to move south and west around the Wilderness coming up onto Gen. Lee's right flank, the Confederate lines along Mine Run running generally north and south.
Gen. Lee, however, preferred not to wait to be flanked out of his strong works along Mine Run and decided to strike the Union army while it was on the march. Moving eastward he struck the right wing of the Northerners just west of the Germanna Plank Road. The rest of the army halted all southward movements and turned to meet this threat.
The II Corps had reached Todd's Tavern at the intersection of the Catharpin and Brock roads when it was ordered to halt and await further instructions.
About noontime on the 5th Gen. Hancock received orders to move his corps to the right (north) by way of the Brock Road to its intersection with the Orange Plank Road. Although the day was exceedingly hot, the march was made in good order, the 8th Ohio reaching the area of the crossroads about 4 p.m.
Almost immediately after forming their line of battle astride the Plank Road the brigade was attacked by Gen. A.P. Hill's Corps. A few hundred yards down the Plank Road were a pair of cannon which had been lost by the VI Corps in fighting earlier that day. These had now been turned by the Confederates and were being used to good effect against their former owners.
The 8th OVI, along with the 7th W.Va., was ordered to re-capture the cannon. The two regiments moved unseen through the dense undergrowth until they had passed the guns then turned and made a dash for them, several men being prepared with drag ropes in advance. The whole mission was accomplished so quickly the guns were safely within the Union lines before the Rebel troops which were supporting the cannon could be re-enforced enough to maintain possession of their prizes. The fighting continued until after dark with no real advantage gained by either side.
During the night the regiment received fresh supplies of food and ammunition and was ready again for action when at 5 a.m. of May 6th the order to advance was given. The unit moved rapidly forward, pushing the weakened elements of Hill's Corps back until it was nearly a mile and a half from it's starting position. After a couple hours of fighting through the dense forest it became virtually impossible to retain any sort of organization and the advance ground to a halt due to its own confusion. Only after a great deal of effort on the part of officers and individuals was any semblance of order restored; the woods here were so thick that no one could see more than a few yards, contact could be maintained almost solely by touch. By 9 a.m. order had been restored and the advance was renewed. The leading elements had nearly broken through the Confederate line, the last line, in fact, between Lee's wagon trains and the near-victorious Union army, when a fresh Corps of Rebel grey came blazing out of the woods. Longstreet had arrived in just the nick of time and spurred on by Gen. Lee himself slowed and stopped the oncoming Yankee's and then drove them in retreat. It was at this time the famous incident of "Gen. Lee to the rear" occurred, The Union troops, nearly out of ammunition, fled before the fresh Rebel re-enforcements, retreating all the way to the breastworks along the Brock Road where they had started from just a few hours before. Only here were Longstreet's cheering soldiers stopped. The opposing lines now swayed back and forth across the log breastworks, which in some places had caught fire from the flash of the guns, the troops shooting at each other through the flames.
The 8th in the meantime had been reformed along with the rest of Carroll's brigade and now waited in reserve.
Soon after 5 o'clock in the evening the Confederates made a fierce attack all along the line. In the flaming forest with the dense smoke laying low along the ground, the battle must have been more terrifying than usual. Several accounts of this fight mention the fierce intensity of the Rebel yell coming out of the woods, which seems to indicate the Union soldiers were more susceptible than normal to the spine-chilling sound.
The Rebels came ahead "cheering and yelling like yahoos."(1) In one area they broke through the lines, rolling up the Federal troops to the right and left, and here was the reverse of the situation of the morning with the Confederates within reach of a real victory; if they could exploit the opening here the Union army would be split in two with the better part of two Rebel Army Corps ready to wedge between the halves.
The call went back for help and once again Carroll's brigade wearily picked up their rifles and headed toward the firing. They hit the Rebels at a dead run and the sound of battle rose to new heights. The woods were afire, the breastworks were burning, and the Brock Road was an inferno of dust, heat, noise, confusion and death. Some men were horribly mangled when they tried to shoot across the burning logs and their rifles exploded in their hands before they could pull the trigger. Finally, after what must have seemed an eternity to the tired fighters, the breastworks were cleared of enemy troops and the lines stabilized once again. The battle was renewed no more this day.
The next day, Saturday, May 7th, the two armies faced each other as if too weary to begin the fight again. The Union army on this day, lay roughly north to south with Sedwick's VI Corps on the right (north), Warren's V Corps in the center and Hancock's II Corps on the left or south, with parts of Burnside's IX Corps plugged in here and there where needed.
Late on the night of May 7th the VI Corps was pulled out of line and started on a roundabout march through Chancellorsville toward Spotsylvania Court House. Hancock's II Corps was designated the rear guard of the army and did not march until morning of the 8th, the 8th Ohio not starting until 9 a.m. The march was long, slow and dusty, part of it was made through woods still burning.
The next few days were a confusing scene of tiring marches, vicious little skirmishes and all too brief halts. The night of May 11th found the regiment camped in a wooded area under orders to light no fires. A steady rain had been falling since early that afternoon; all in all it was a miserable night.
Before dawn of the next morning the 8th was ordered to take arms, fall in quietly and move out. As they moved into a large clearing, a cheer broke out in front of them, followed by the rattle of musket fire. Only then did the men realize they were the second line of attack assaulting the entrenched enemy. This was the attack on the "Mule Shoe" salient of the Confederate lines around Spotsylvania.
The 8th saw what may have been the fiercest fighting of the war here. The reports left by those who were there are mainly a record of confusion, mud, blood, fatigue and a general disbelief in the viciousness of the fighting. Leut. Galwey in command of Co. B wrote, "Nothing can describe the confusion, the savage blood curdling yells, the murderous faces, the awful curse, super human hardihood, and the grisly horror of the melee! Of all the battles I took part in, Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania exceeded all the rest in stubbornness, ferocity, and in courage.. I cannot understand how any of us survived it."(2) The second color-bearer in less than a week was killed from Co. B The fighting by mid-morning had been so fierce that Galwey could find only a dozen men of his company. During the battle Gen. Carroll (he was appointed Brigadier General this very day) was severely wounded, and Leut. Col. Sawyer received a serious, though not fatal stomach wound which knocked him out of the war; the fact is that after the battle there was only one field officer left in the regiment, Maj. Winslow of Co. A. First Leut. Galwey, at seventeen, was the next ranking officer and second in command.
Although the Federals captured nearly half a mile of enemy trench, some 2O or so cannon and upwards of three thousand prisoners, it didn't seem to matter very much. Lee was still between Grant and Richmond, he was still a dangerous enemy, and those facts were all that mattered to the man on the front line.
After the inconclusive attacks of May 12, the army began a program of maneuvering unlike anything the eastern war had seen. In the past, the policy had always been, move south, get whipped, retreat, change generals, re-fit the army and move south again. Now the scene was different. The army had just passed through more than a week of some of the hardest fighting it had seen thus far in the war; not only was retreat never mentioned, the movement continued to be generally to the south. The game of war became a game of chess, played on a massive scale. A feint, a sidestep, a brief flurry of fighting, deadly enough but never quite reaching the full scale pitch of a battle; and always, after every move, Gen. Lee would be there first, "Ol' Marse Robert" to both armies now, blocking, moving, always keeping one march ahead. North Anna, Chickahominy River, Huntley's farm, Pamunkey River, and always Lee was there first.
On June 1st the 8th Ohio moved into the lines in front of Cold Harbor. Although they heard heavy firing to their left, the 8th experienced only light skirmishing along their front. On the morning of June 3rd the regiment participated in the ill-fated assault on the Confederate trenches at Cold Harbor. They were able to carry the first line of works but after sever counter attacks the 8th was driven out with heavy losses. On the day of the battle the 8th Ohio had only three weeks remaining in its enlistment. After the fight the strength of the regiment was down to 329 men, Co. B counted only 29 men left, as it did after Spotsylvania, the army at Cold Harbor settled in for a period, constantly skirmishing and looking for an opportunity to slip around the Confederate right. The II Corps on June 12th, pulled out of the trenches around Cold Harbor and started toward Petersburg. The same day the formal paper work was completed for the 8th's muster out. On the 15th, 16th and 17th of June, the 8th fought in front of Petersburg, driving the Rebels from one line of trenches to another, but never able to make a complete breakthrough. Although the front line soldiers fought bravely, incompetence at both divisional and corps levels negated any gains they made and the Confederates were able to hold their last defensive lines by the narrowest of margins. For the next 5 or 6 days the 8th was kept in the second line of defense about a mile and a half to the rear of the first line, On the 23rd of June, the day before the regiment was to leave for home, the troops in the first line were withdrawn, leaving the 8th Ohio in the front line facing the Rebels once again. At 7 in the morning of the 24th, the regiment's last day of combat service, the Confederate artillery opened up a fierce bombardment which lasted for an hour and a half. Fortunately no one was seriously injured and at 12:OO noon the regiment was withdrawn from the front line, and after three years of war the 8th Ohio had faced the enemy for the last time.
At City Point the regiment boarded a steamboat and sailed for Washington City, arriving on the 26th. They took the cars at Washington and arrived in Cleveland Sunday July 3rd, a year to the day after their gallant stand at Gettysburg. After more than a week of parties and salutes by dignitaries ranging from the governor of Ohio to the president of Cleveland city council, the 8th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry was duly mustered out of service on July 13, 1864.
The number present for muster out was 168. The absent-prisoners, sick and wounded-also mustered out numbered over 200. The original strength of the regiment was 45 officers and 944 enlisted men; total deaths from all causes was 198, officers and men. The 8th saw action in every campaign of the Army of the Potomac from Antietem to Petersburg, acquiring a reputation as one of the best fighting units in the east. After Antietem the brigade of the 4th and 8th Ohio, 7th West Virginia and 14th Indiana was given the nickname of "Gibralter Brigade." After their exploits at Gettysburg some of the army, referred to the 8th as the "Fighting Fools."
The regimental colors were sent to Governor Brough of Ohio to be placed in the state archives ; in the words of Leut. Col. Franklin Sawyer, "There let the battle torn flags remain, emblems of the brave old regiment that so long and so proudly bore them to the front."(1)
(1) A Military History of the Eighth Regiment Ohio Vol. Inf'y. by Franklin Sawyer Leut. Gen.Col.Bvt.Brig.
(2) The Valiant Hours by Thomas Francis Galway 1st Leut. Bvt. Capt. Co. B 8th OVI
(3) Official Records of the War of the Rebellion