LETTERS FROM THE
8TH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
PUBLISHED IN THE TIFFIN TRIBUNE
This work may not be used in any form without permission.
Researched by Stephen J. Hartzell
A descendent of Harrison W. Hatzell
8TH OVI, CO. I
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June 20, 1862
From the Eighth Regiment
We have been permitted to make an extract from a letter written by a member of Co. B, 8th Ohio, to his wife in this city. The letter is dated Luray, June 7, and the writer says; "We have been on the march since the first of May, and I can assure you we are nearly used up. We have traveled over 400 miles and we are still on the move. We have only one days rest and leave again tomorrow. I stand it very well and do not find fault, for my health is good. I am burnt black as an Indian. Five days of our marching it did nothing but rain, and we had to ford streams and creeks without number. Our brigade had one fight at Front Royal last Sunday. Our regiment was in the advance. We captured three hundred and twenty prisoners, twelve wagons and teams, one ambulance, two cannon and lot of commissary stores. Seven men were killed on our side. The loss on the rebel side was much greater. We released a number of Banks men that had been captured by the rebels and a more thankful set of men I never saw.************We have had no mail for ten days, so you can tell how far we are from any railroad post. About half the time we are on short rations, but we have plenty now.
Luray is the county seat of Page County, Va. It lies some distance south of Front Royal, is near the south fork of the Shenandoah, and is on the pike to Harrisonburg, from which it is distant about thirty miles. The Eighth Ohio is in the First Brigade of Shields Division."
October 10, 1862
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
Letter from Capt. Ogle.
CAMP ON BATTLEFIELD, NEAR THE
Potomac, Sept. 18
Mr. A. V. Ogle;
I set down to give you a short history of yesterdays fight. Our regiment (the 8th) is one of General Kimbals Brigade, Frenchs Division, of Sumners Corps, was led to battle by Lieut. Col. Frank Sawyer. Yesterday the Waterloo of America was fought. It was the greatest battle of the rebellion, and we whipped them. The line of battle was twelve miles long. The battle opened at daybreak, and musketry and cannon was kept up constantly all day till nine at night. I can put no estimate on the number killed and wounded, I was over part of the battlefield this morning, perhaps a mile of it, and it was the most frightful sight I ever beheld. We mowed them down in large numbers, then we were mowed down likewise, but not so bad as they were. There were three distinct lines of dead rebels, lying on a little 10 acre field. I counted on this field 350 dead rebels, 30 horses and 12 smashed cannon. They laid in a horrid mangled condition. Some lay side by side touching each other; others lay in mangled piles.
We charged upon them and they charged upon us, and were only 200 feet apart, but we got the first fire, and the way they lay there was truly astonishing. We killed all of the first line, and the next line came out of the woods just as we reloaded, and they too were laid like the rest. On we went and met the North Carolina line of troops. These troops let us come up and the 10th fire, the 14th North Carolina surrendered to the 8th Ohio. It was Kimbals Brigade that broke their line and drove them into two flanks or wings and thus the day was ours.
Frenchs Division went into the fight with 4800 men, and came out with a loss of 2000, killed and wounded. The 8th Reg. went in with 324 men and had 169 killed and wounded. Company A went in with 38 men, and had in killed and wounded, I here give you a list of them as follows;
Wm. H. Richardson
Sergeant David J. Goodsell, slight in hand
Private William Newson, in leg
Private Edward T. Naylor, slight in head
John Redd, slight in hand
Joseph Sopher, left arm shot at the elbow
Wm. H. Pochmire, in the leg
E. Jones, slight in the wrist
Nicholas Watcher, slight in the left cheek
Henry Hieserman, slight in the hand
Abel Smalley, slight in the head
My 1st Lieut., Geo. S. Smith got his left eye shot out, and his left cheekbone shot
away, there is some hope of his recovery.
Lieut. Barnes, of Company D, was wounded in the top of the head, and I think will get well, but some doubts. Also Lieut. Harper Bill, of Company K was shot dead. Lieut. Thompson of Company F, had both eyes shot out, I think he will die. He is from Fremont, Ohio. Many other officers were wounded, also many of the different companies of the 8th, which I have not the time now to give their names.
There is a few of my company was not touched, or hurt in the least. George Baugher was through all the fight, and came out without a scratch, he fought like a tiger, and was one of the lucky ones. Our Hospitals are piteous sights, so many wounded and are laying there in agony.
We have sent to Washington and Frederick to get shovels to bury the dead. The secesh dead are none of them buried and they make a horrid scent; too bad to stand. We are so near the battle ground, and the smell of the dead is almost suffocating. The number is so great that it will be three days yet before the secesh are all buried. None of them are yet buried, and the stench of them and the horses is horrid. One whole battery is killed, 22 horses, just above us, and in every direction you go dead secesh are piled up.
I cant give you the number of their loss or ours, but it is immense. Fighting on a line 12 miles long and 200,000 on a side. Supposed to be the greatest battle yet fought.
I cant write any more at present, so good night.
Yours, & c.,
B. F. Ogle
October 17, 1862
FROM THE 8TH OHIO
BOLIVAR HEIGHTS, VIRGINIA
Near Harpers Ferry, Sept. 25
It has been some time since we have had the pleasure of looking over your dear old sheet; in fact we have not had a mail for more than a month. We have not communicated to you, since we left the valley of the Shenandoah. However, communications in detail of hard marches, privations and skirmishes, are so common that the reader feels no interest, and letters furnishing facts where rivers of blood drench the land, now prove only interesting, and ere I close I may find some material interesting to your readers.
August the 15th we evacuated that mire of filth, Harrisons Landing, which was done in the most quiet order. Not a gun was fired and the steep and heavy entrenchments, encircling the "sly little nook," where rested the strong army of the Union, was left, picketed with effigies under arms, wooden guns and various other devices, that the rebs were not aware of our evacuation, until two days after it was completed. All the invalids and quasi-invalids, that were unable to march and fight, were shipped to Fortress Monroe- Sumners corps was assigned the rear guard. The weather was excessively hot and the dust was intolerable.
We crossed the Chickahominy in the night, upon a pontoon bridge. The river is about one half mile wide, at this point, and has about a four foot tide. We remained a few days at Newport News- one of the most delightful spots in America.
August 25th we embarked on the steam ship, "Cahawba" for Aquia Creek, and arrived there the same evening, marched two miles into the country and encamped. Dispatches were received that communications were cut off between Pope and Burnside, followed by an order for us to re-embark for Alexandria, where we arrived the next morning. We were then ordered to march to Port Corcoran on Arlington Heights, opposite Georgetown- distance eleven miles- and when we arrived at the latter place, we were ordered to Centerville, and to "report ourselves" at the earliest possible moment, distance thirty miles. The incessant roar of cannon, indicated that a heavy battle was being fought. This stimulated the men, and we were upon the battlefield at Centerville in 26 hours from the time we left Alexandria- distance, 41 miles.
But before we arrived, the tide of the day had set against us. McDowells wing had been turned and the ground occupied by the enemy, yet the brave Burnside had turned the enemys right, and was resting upon his grounds. McDowells wing was in entire confusion and the universal cry was -- wheres McClellan! This was soon answered, When the young Napoleon was seen riding from wing to wing, welcomed with the deafening cheers, by every regiment and company, and soon the desperately confused masses were gathered in rank, and six lines of battle were drawn, flanks protected and reserve columns.
McClellan arrived at a critical moment. Should the enemy have dashed upon us before McClellan arrived, in our confused state, the defeat would have been terrible. We advanced about two miles, and the enemy fronted us with nothing but skirmishers and a number of batteries of artillery. Our flanks were ordered to be immediately reconnoitered. We found the enemy in force on our right flank, and passing in the direction of Fairfax C. H. Immediately the brave Kearneys division was ordered to Fairfax, to engage him. Sumners corps fell in his rear in the night. Kearney had a fierce engagement with him early in the morning, and drove him back. In this sharp engagement, this distinguished and valued General fell. He moved up to Fairfax and remained there during the day.
The enemy was reconnoitered and still found moving to the right, and threatening the chain bridge, four miles above Georgetown. We took up our line of march for that place, where we arrived the next day. Several batteries on our right opened upon us on our way, but when we offered them fight they fell back. We crossed the chain bridge and camped for two days, when we heard of the raid of Jackson in Md. We immediately took up our line of march towards Darnstown -- took Frederick city on the 12th Sept., with but a picket skirmish, the enemy having fallen back to North Mountain.
The citizens of Frederick county received us with great joy -- some with shouts and some with tears. Every imaginable kindness was extended to us, and as the long column passed through the main street of the city, the banner of liberty floated from the top of every house, spire and steeple, windows and doors, bouquets of flowers were thrown into the ranks by fair hands, old men welcomed us with tears of joy, and the little children were congregated, with flags in hand, exhibiting their joy, by singing National Airs, and as the poet says -- "There was joy unconfined, & etc."
The rebel hordes of Jeff Davis were met with a cool reception in this county, even by avowed secessionists. Whilst they occupied Frederick City, all the stores were closed, even those of the heretofore rabid secessionists, they resigning the cause to the uncurrency of the confederate script. All the supplies they took away was pillage and extortion. Small quantities of supplies was purchased with coin -- so very small as to amount to nothing. It was too apparent that pretendent ranting secessionists here, turned a cold shoulder to their "butternut" brethren further south. -- Making use of the expression of a captured rebel officer, "Jacksons advent into Maryland was a desperate failure." We pursued the retreating enemy in the direction of Hagerstown, over North Mountain and through Middletown. At the foot of South Mountain, on the 14th inst., they gave us battle. The extent of the lines was from Hagerstown road to Harpers Ferry -- a distance of 14 miles.
Hooker, Reno, Franklin and Burnsides corps were engaged. The position of the enemy was most advantageous, having the most perfect enfilade from chosen points of advantage, on the ridge of mountains. The fight lasted from 2:00 p.m. till after dark. -- Their line of infantry was posted upon the top of the mountain, and for our infantry to make a successful charge up the steep and stony acclivity, under the fire of their musketry and canister, was thought to be doubtful. Several unsuccessful charges had been made, at different points, with heavy loss on our side. Orders were given for the whole line to charge simultaneously, late in the evening, and it resulted in the most bloody affair the world has ever known. The lines wavered and fell back at different points but were rallied and sent on their errand.
A Wisconsin Brigade reached the top of the ridge under the most galling fire of musketry and artillery, and then for one half hour, poured in their deadly shots of musketry, and drove the rebs, piling them upon the ground in heaps, and charging upon and capturing two batteries. This has been one of the most successful charges incident to this war. History boasts of the successful charge at Waterloo, and so it may; but that bloody field witnessed no more daring, hazardous or difficult a feat than the charge of this brigade, up that steep and stony acclivity, for one half mile, in the face of a withering shower of iron and lead.
This turned their left flank. I said turned! They even shot down batteries captured, just enough left to run away and tell the tale. Their whole line gave away and we were in possession of the mountains. It was here that the brave Reno fell. Our loss was heavy. The rebs acknowledged a loss of seven thousand.
Two officers who came in the next day, under a flag of truce, for the body of General Garland, killed at this battle, made the acknowledgment. We took about seven thousand prisoners, and twenty pieces of cannon. The next morning at daylight we pursued them on the road towards Hagerstown. At Boonsboro they took the road to the left, and towards the Potomac. Large numbers of their dead and wounded were strewn along the road. We moved on to Keedysville that evening.
The enemy was in force upon the Heights along Antietam Creek, reaching from a point near Hagerstown, to a point near Harpers Ferry, a distance of nearly 12 miles. The next day was passed in skirmishes and artillery duels, reconnoitering the enemys position and strength and arranging the plan of the ensuing battle. The shelling of each others camps continued until 9 oclock p.m., when all became still and quiet, the sounding of the tattoo seeming to be the signal for the cessation of all hostile demonstrations, and soon thereafter the camp was wrapped in quiet sleep, and the embraces of the dream God, luring pleasant fancies of home, friends and happiness in the breasts of the thousands who on the morrow, should behold the last rising of the sun. On the morning of the 17th, the men arose fully conscious of the impending struggle and its importance, full of confidence and determination, having been flushed with success the previous day.
It was one of those clear, serene , sunny mornings, and the sun had never looked down upon a more beautiful landscape, dotted with cottages and quiet little homes and farms, where fields and orchards were laden with fruit and grain, the bounty of beneficent heaven, so soon to be drenched in the best blood of the Nation. Oh! that God had stayed this desperate slaughter and that rebel men might see the fallacy of their cause. The artillery of the enemy opened fire early in the morning, and their shells came whistling and bursting in our ranks, along our whole line.
Burnside commanded our left, Sumner the center, with the commands of Franklin and Hooker on our right. The lines impetuously dashed forward to their desperate work, within close rang of each other, and the sharp crack of musketry shut out the terrible roar of artillery and the screaming of shells. The enemys artillery was posted upon the bank of the Antietam, and in strong position. Our infantry lines dashed forward across the creek, under cover of the most terrific fire of our artillery on the heights in our rear. The hissing and screaming shells passed over our heads, and those of the enemy falling and bursting in our ranks. Our three lines of battle shoved up to within two hundred yards of the enemy, and massed in an orchard, and the descent of the ground gave us advantage enough to fire from the three lines over the heads of the front. Here the work of death commenced, and after an hours fire the front line was so completely decimated and what few there was left had shot away all their cartridges, they were ordered back, and our line ordered to charge, which was successfully done, driving the enemy over a hill and into a lane, so washed by the rains as to form a natural breastwork, in which they crowded and were reinforced by fresh troops who poured into us a most deadly fire.
Our brave boys, so decimated as were our ranks, never wavered or shrank an inch, but stood up to their work with undaunted courage. In the meantime our artillery had crossed the creek, and was reinforced by a battery of flying artillery, and took a post upon the high ground in our immediate rear. The hottest fire of the day was at this point, which lasted about two hours, at a rang of less than three hundred yards. During this fire -- at a point of low ground, and from the woods, there came out a strong line of infantry on our right flank. (I am speaking of our Brigade.) As we had driven those in front of us some distance, they were nearly at our rear. General Kimball ordered the 8th Ohio and 14th Indiana to change front and charge upon them, which was most successfully done, driving them back through the woods and then resumed our old position in the line.
The remainder of our brigade had suffered desperately in our absence, from the galling fire of the enemy in the lane. Here it was seen that something must be done, as our sixty rounds of cartridges was well nigh exhausted and the enemys fire as fierce as ever. With our then thinned ranks the day looked gloomy. -- But orders were given to charge upon this strong-hold and dislodge them, at all hazards. Oh God! Who could come out safe to tell the tale. But onward the line dashed in the face of so many concealed rifles and fierce belching cannon. The struggle was terrible, but thank God, we gained the point. This so effectually broke their center that they were compelled to fall back undercover of their artillery and sharp-shooters, and now and then a line of infantry made a stand at some advantageous point. At this point we were in full possession of the battlefield in our immediate front.
Burnside on our left wing was thundering away, and the enemy still held his position on the opposite side of the creek. Hooker and Franklin were moving the enemy -- as it were -- by inches. At 10 oclock they fell back and crossed Antietam Creek, and the day was ours. Their whole line was in retreat, covered by artillery and sharpshooters. This was kept up until nightfall put an end to the caratage.
We ventured to visit the battlefield the next morning, but of its horrors I will say but little. Suffice it, that heaps of mutilated corpses and piteous wounded, slaughtered animals and broken caissons and dismounted cannon, were strewn over the ground in every direction, presenting but a revolting scene.
Our regiment, (the 8th O. V. I.) went into the action with three hundred and twenty men, of that number thirty-two were killed and one hundred and thirty-nine wounded -- making a total of 171. -- Of the thirteen commissioned officers, who were with the regiment on the field two were killed and seven wounded.
This fatality, extending to all the regiments composing Kimballs Brigade, is pretty good evidence of the active part we took in this great battle.
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