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Camp & FieldArticles
by Theodore Wolbach
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 75 - May-June-July, 1864
Published in Holmes County Republican
On the evening of May 22d, we put up our shelter tents a mile from the river at the edge of the forest. There was plenty of shade, but the breeze was cut off which made it awful sultry at times. Brush was brought into camp and screens built to shut out the scorching rays of the sun that often sent the mercury up to 100 degrees in the shade. Notwithstanding the enervating heat, camp exercises and guard duties went on with characteristic military promptness. Our mails could again reach us with some kind of regularity, and give the boys other things to discuss than those by which they were surrounded. Various reports were afloat as to what disposition would be made of us. Some said, as we had been engaged in severe active campaigning so much of late, we might expect to do garrison duty during the short period that yet remained for us to serve. So sanguine had some become in talking of this as a future probability, that they ventured to name the places that we were to be located at. New Orleans and Baton Rouge were points hoped for. Had the boys then known that Lawler requested of department headquarters to have his command retained in the field--which was sure to be granted--the luxurious air castles would not have been built. The balance of our three years' service was destined to be spent in the malarial flats of Point Coupee Parish, where the skill of the epicure, the science of medicine, and the rules of hygiene could only modify the dangerous diarrhea emanating from the use of the water drawn from the shallow wells. Where the white of the eye turned yellow and a languer [sic] stole through the system producing an inclination to sleep, but robbing it of its usual refreshing effects. Quinine became a part of our diet, and besides the surgeon's prescriptions liberal decoctions were made from the bark of the sweet gum tree and the root of the blackberry bush, both of which were abundant. The troops camped near the river used river water which was healthier than the well water although it was dirtier. Letting a cupful stand a while a yellow clay sediment would precipitate. I will venture the assertion that while soldiering here the 16th boys often thought of the crystal springs of the distant Cumberland.
A large force of rebel cavalry crossed the Atchafalaya to look us up and annoy us. In this they succeeded. They were energetic, saucy fellows, and needed prompt looking after.
June 5th Gen. Lawler took a force of three brigades of infantry and some cavalry and got after them. Those who participated in this expedition felt assured there was no sluggishness in the movement. There was plenty of ambuscades, bushwhacking and spirited clashes by which both sides lost in killed, wounded and captured. After racing around about forty miles the troops returned without accomplishing anything very gratifying beyond making it hot for the enemy. Soon after, two hundred picked men, under our Lieutenant Colonel were sent out to trap some rebels, but the wily fellows didn't bite. A few days afterward another force from the 19th corps went out to do something, but after putting into practice all the strategy and cunning possible under the circumstances they failed to get any advantage of a foe that was kept so well informed by treacherous citizens of every movement and location of ours.
Morganza Bend was a vulnerable point on the Mississippi River, and before it was well guarded passing boats were often fired into by raiders that, when pursued found a safe refuge in the densely timbered country beyond the Atchafalaya.
The great river running west about ten miles makes a great curve then to the south-east forming a peninsula on the Mississippi side. Several roads through the level country on the Louisiana side terminate at this
great bend, affording good opportunities for speedily approaching the river from the interior. Cotton and corn had been planted by many of the people through here and no one seemed inclined to disturb the young crops, that were growing well under the stimulus of frequent showers and warm sunshine. The cotton in May, just when up, looked like buckwheat plants. When we left in October many of these plants were ten feet high.
On the 14th day of June we again beheld the pale face of Gen. Sickles, who was on a tour of inspection of the soldiers of this department. We had some heavy showers, but the review of the troops took place all the same. Much of the marching was done on the double-quick and the boys cheered lustily.
The paymaster visited us and paid us for two months on the 16th. It was a big boom for the sutlers who had plenty to sell at enormous figures.
The dwindling away in numbers of the regiments had long been noticeable. Death, resignations and sickness had not abated in its work. It was not uncommon for Colonels to command divisions, Captains regiments, and Sergeants companies. No matter how small a regiment had got, the men were unwilling to have the organization broke or to be consolidated with some other. A feeling of regret pervaded the troops when in special orders it was announced to us that the 13th corps as an organization was discontinued and the troops in this department belonging to it were consolidated with the 19th army corps. We were proud of the record of the old 13th and loved its popular commander, Gen. McClernand, who had gone north on sick leave and would undoubtedly never come back to us. In the new organization we belonged to the 1st division, 19th army corps, commanded by Gen. M.K. Lawler.
There was a disposition with many boys to make money. Some gambled; a few bought things and peddled them through camp; others made what they called ginger beer and offered it, finding plenty of buyers. A raid was made on these beer venders one day, barrels knocked in the head and stock destroyed.
A New York regiment, belonging to the old 19th corps, camping below us, got up a theatrical troupe from the histrionic talent of its ranks. A tent and stage was temporarily put up out of the material of the vicinity here. The noisy audience collected and generally had as much to say during the performances as the men on the stage. This New York regiment was principally a rough lot. Had many pick-pockets and bruisers that were ever ready to impose on the soldiers around them, and would have done so but for their unfortunate experiences in such ventures. An antipathy that is to be regretted and should never be between troops fighting for the same cause, existed here between soldiers of the east and the west.
On one of our recent movements through the back country, the 16th was commanded by Captain Wm. Ross. During one of the many halts that were necessary, some of the 22d Kentucky boys came to him and reported that Sergeant Playford, of the 16th, had been arrested by a New York colonel, tied up to a tree and a guard placed over him. Much feeling was manifested by the soldiers of these two regiments that had served so long together and cherished for each other a love as strong as that of Jonathan and David. Men began to congregate preparatory to making a rush to rescue the Sergeant. Captain Ross however prevented a more serious crisis by unceremoniously going to the spot, relieving the guard and cutting Playford down.
On the 4th of July, glorious Independence Day, we moved camp for the last time, going down the river about two miles and pitching tents between the levee and the river. The change was for the better. We could use the river water and bathing facilities were good.
At sunrise thirty-five guns were fired. The same again at sunset. As soon as we had reached the site of our new camp a fellow was on hand putting up a tent expecting to reap a rich harvest with a soda fountain. The boys didn't seem to endorse the
Every boat that came up the river brought lots of water melons that found their way to the camps to further stimulate the diarrhea.
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