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The Camp & Field Articles
by Theodore Wolbach
Cpl. Theodore Wolbach

Cpl. Theodore D. Wolbach

Web Author's Notes:

The following image represents one of a series of articles written by Cpl. Theodore D. Wolbach, Company E, titled "Camp and Field" and published, by chapter, in the Holmes County Republican newspaper from February 24, 1881 to August 17, 1882. The articles tell the story, in great detail and color, of the 16th OVI, from the inception of the 3-year regiment in October, 1861, through all its camps, battles and marches until it was disbanded on October 31, 1864. The first 35 chapters, also presented on these pages, were obtained from a book in which the articles, clipped from the newspaper, had been pasted over the pages, believed to have been done by a descendant of Capt. Rezin Vorhes, Company H. All the remaining chapters (36 through 78), except chapter 60, were recently found in a Holmes County library by researcher Rob Garber who obtained copies, performed the transcriptions and provided to this website and which are also presented here, thus providing the complete work by Theodore Wolbach.

Throughout these articles click on the underlined white text for additional details.

The webauthor thanks 16th Ohio descendant Rob Garber for his excellent research on the Camp And Field articles and for performing the tedious digital transcription of those articles found on each page. The transcriptions were made to reflect the original articles verbatim, misspellings and all. Rob is the 3rd great nephew of Capt. William Buchanan, Company F, 16th Ohio, who served in the 90-day regiment as a private, re-enlisting in the three year regiment, and eventually making the rank of Captain of Company F. Thanks Rob!

Chapter 53 - May, 1863

Camp and Field

Published in Holmes County Republican
February 23, 1882


The 16th, badly reduced in numbers by the Chickasaw disaster and subsequent sickness, entered the campaign in slender force. No field officers being present the command of the regiment devolved on the senior captain present, Eli W. Botsford, of Co. C, a patriotic veteran of the Mexican war. He discharged the duties of this important and dangerous position with commendable ability and energy until the arrival of Major Milton Mills, June 3d.

On the night of the 20th, the 49th Indiana Infantry put into practice a trick that was a good sell on the Jonnies and furnished a little extra excitement for our part of the line. The Indianians, being on the skirmish line that night, suddenly raised a savage yell as if making a charge. The enemy supposing this to be the case opened a furious fire that went harmlessly over the heads of our men. This game was repeated by our boys afterward during the seige [sic] but the rebels smelt a mice and didn't fire much. In the darkness there was frequent hooting back and forth--the remarks exchanged were mostly of a taunting character. At some of the extremely critical points pickets were posted after dark and withdrawn at break of day. The boys hated this duty as they had to lay low and keep very quiet. We were nightly prepared to give the enemy a hot dose if they attempted a sortie. On the time-clouded screen of memory we can yet see by the weird light of exploding shell, the dim outlines of that formidable army crouching behind ridges or prostrate on the ground, ready to close with the enemy if he only ventured from the cover of his rifle-pits. The men in the extreme front, wrestling with sleep in the quiet hours of night, often fancied they saw moving objects. There is an instance in the writer's recollection of a squad that retired from an important post because they imagined the rebels had come out of their works and were advancing in force. The alarmed fellows were ordered back to their post by the officers in charge of the pickets; they reluctantly obeyed. Shots were often fired at objects that only existed in the soldier's imagination.

At the beginning of the seige our right wing had opened communication with the Yazoo, and supplies and reinforcements were coming to us by a route that led over the Chickasaw battleground. Some of the 16th boys went up to the scene of our last winter's fight, and viewed the place from a new standpoint and under more agreeable circumstances.

Deserters from the rebel garrison, that crept out at night, informed us that the citizens of Vicksburg were burrowing in caves dug in the hillsides to escape the dangers of the bombardment.

A number of buildings in the higher part of the city were in easy view of our lines, and at the mercy of our artillery. The upper part of the court house, with its belfry supported by four wooden pillars, was a tempting target for our gunners. The building was spared but one of the pillars spoken of was shot off.

The deepening shades of evening at the close of our third day before the works found our front line vigilantly watching the sterile slopes that were to be strewed with bloody corpes [sic] and helpless bodies on the morrow.

O how solemn is the subject
On which I now wish to write,
'Tis the fatal charge on Vicksburg,
Far more dark than ebon night.
Like a mighty surging billow,
As this sacred spot I tread,
So deep thoughts came rolling o'er me,
Here among the mighty dead.
Here lies husbands, lovers, brothers,
Sons and fathers in the tomb;
Far from loved ones they lie buried,
'Neath this deep and silent gloom.

In looking back to the stirring episodes of that battle month, the 22nd of May, with its memorable and appalling work, recurs to the memories of the surviving participants with the clearness of some deep implanted dream.

The sun of the 22nd rose clear and seemed to indicate the beautiful day that followed. Skirmishers were busy on both sides with the most firing by the Federals. Our entrenched batteries planted their shots

languidly into the enemy's lines. The troops were officially informed of the general assault that was to be made that day. Subordinate officers were posted on the signals to be given. About midday our land batteries began to be worked rapidly. The roar of the simultaneous discharge of many pieces, supplemented by the explosion of numerous shell, was deafening. The mortars and heavy gunboat ordnance above DeSoto point beyond the doomed city joined the mammoth bombardment; but only at rare intervals could we hear this firing that sounded much like the echo of the cannonading near us. Clouds of dirt, fragments of timber and other material flew up from the rebel works, but to all this savage demonstration came no reply from the Confederate thousands that crouched low in their well-built rifle-pits. Suddenly the firing ceases and twenty thousand men, at the word of command, rise from behind ridges and out of ditches and other places of concealment and start forward. Instantly the works in front are fringed with butternut and gray, and blazing with a musketry fire that has never been surpassed in the annals of war. The line faltered a moment, then broke, taking to cover in the advanced position gained, or falling back to the starting point. Repeated attempts were made to gain advantageous positions, but every effort was met and defeated by a fierce fire that was delivered with fatal accuracy. All along that lurid front, from McClernand's extreme left to the swamp lands of the Yazoo, the battle raged with sublime fury. From the summits of those long lines of yellow earthworks and forts which Gen. Sherman has since pronounced stronger than the works at Sebastopol, the stubborn Confederates poured their shotted, life-consuming flame on the exposed Federals who were facing obstacles that no human valor could surmount. In a very short time four small brigades of the 13th corps had about a thousand men shot down.

The blue-coats fought with the will of men,
They charged the strongworks again and again,
And answered back to the rebel yell,
And clung to the ground where their comrades fell,
'Till the arid slopes were covered with dead,
Then abandoned the ground that with blood was red,
And fled to cover behind the crest,
But no Confederate followed or bared his breast.

The men devoted the night of the 22nd to removing and burying as many of the dead as were safely accessable [sic] from our lines and without too seriously jeopardizing more lives.

Our army had boldly attacked and was severely repulsed. This no doubt improved the morale of Pemberton's men, who now felt assured that they had brought their victorious foe to a standstill and could prevent them from gaining any signal advantage under present circumstances. The only success (if in this case is a proper term) that had been gained along the whole line, was by some of Carr's men, who gained temporary possession of a large lunette. As this was commanded by other works from the rear, almost every man that entered it was shot down.

Sergeat [sic] Joseph Griffith, with marvelous pluck and presence of mind, compelled a rebel Lieutenant and thirteen men to surrender and marched them rapidly out into our lines. A colored sergeant of Lawler's brigade stuck his flag on the top of the lunette and with a few men stayed on the outer slope until night, when they retired under cover of darkness.

The 2nd brigade, 9th division, 13th army corps, bore a conspicuous part in the bloody work and the courage displayed by them when they approached the rim of that fiery crater, in that holocaust of death would have done honor to Napoleon's veterans.

The 22nd Ky., 114th, 42nd and 16th Ohio, with their diminishing and bleeding ranks, reluctantly did what every Federal organization along that fiery front was compelled to do that day--give up the idea of carrying the works by storm and settle down to regular seige [sic] operations. Although we had been foiled in an attempt of unsurpassed magnitude and lost many noble men the earnest willingness to perform the hazardous duties of a beseiging [sic] army yet remained. Before the capitulation the many perforated heads inside the beleagued [sic] lines bore grim testimony of the keen watchfulness and accurate firing of the western riflemen.

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