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August 26, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Charles Young’s Account of Company B, 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Part 6

The final installment of Young’s account describes the return home after accomplishing the prisoner exchange.

“Our progress northward was very slow; the gunboats could hardly make headway against the current. On the night of the 14-15 we met the second convoy of Confederate prisoners coming down, and Capt. Lazelle left us, turning over the command of the flotilla to me. We were very glad to get rid of him, for he had been anything but agreeable. On the 17th, about six miles above Napoleon, we were fired upon by a secesh picket on the Eastern bank. Their balls did not reach us, but the gunboats shelled them in very lively fashion for about ten minutes, without hurting anybody so far as I could learn. The rascals were in the woods and cleared out very quickly. The next day I received a communication from the Confederate commandant apologizing for this firing on a flag of truce, and promising to punish the offender. On the 18th we met a brigade of Federal troops on their way south. On the 19th we arrived at Helena about noon, turned over the men who were to delivered there, and took on coal enough to take us to Memphis, -all they could spare. Reached Memphis late on the 20th, got rid of the gunboats, landed some men, coaled, and started for Cairo very early on Monday morning where we arrived on Tuesday Sept. 23d in time to discharge the rest of our Federal prisoners, and one or two passengers who had been allowed to come North with us, among them one or two ladies. In the evening we took train at Cairo for Columbus and arrived there on Wed. the 24th. I was so tired and used up after getting through the duties at Cairo that I just curled up on the floor in a corner of the car and slept for nearly twelve hours until we reached Richmond Ind. on the border of Ohio. On the 26th and 27th we were paid off, mustered out, and discharged, and on Monday morning the 29th we started for home. Some of the fellows did not go to Cleveland but went home some nearer way; most of the men however kept with us as far as Cleveland, and scattered from there, not returning to Hudson for a week or ten days. * See Post Script I forget whether we found the College in session, -the catalogue for 1862-3 says ‘First term begins Sept. 18th,’ and perhaps it did so far as the Freshman class was concerned; but Commencement was held in Oct. 15th.

“One amusing thing, - when we first went into camp the boys lost a great many blankets, bayonets, and sometimes guns, stolen by men from the other companies. They vowed they would get even, and they did. When we came to turn over our equipments there was quite a superfluity; the fellows had at least half a dozen extra guns that I knew about, and I imagine some that I had no knowledge of, any number of bayonets, and I don’t know how many duplicate blankets. They had certainly got even with the ‘Egyptians.’

“One thing more: -We were armed at first with old smooth bores, using cartridges loaded with a ball and three buck-shot; a weapon well adapted for Guard-duty. Later, however, we were given Enfield rifles, and for some time we were the only company in the regiment to have them, much to the envy of the rest.

“Well: -you asked for my recollections, and I suspect I have given you more than you know what to do with. Use as much or as little of the material as you like; condense or omit at pleasure.

“Our military service was not very glorious, but I think it was really useful: The boys released for service in the field more than their own number of seasoned soldiers who otherwise would have had to be retained at the camp.

“And I think they saved the College, for very few of them afterwards left the institution, as they would have been likely to do but for their brief experience of soldiering which saved them from the draft in 1863.

“With all best wishes
Sincerely yours
C.A. Young

“P.S. I found this morning a letter of my wife’s which shows that College opened on Sept. 25th and not on the 18th which, as stated in the Catalogue, was the regular date for opening.

“I find also that I was one day wrong as to the date of our arrival at Columbus- it was on the 24th, not 25th. A letter from my wife dated on ‘Wed.’ the 24th & mailed in the forenoon of the 25th, acknowledges a telegram I had sent from Columbus announcing our arrival. - Not a matter of any importance, but may as well be made correct.

“Wed am
May 11th

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August 18, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Charles Young’s Account of Company B, 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Part 5

Last week we left Company B at Centralia on their way to Vicksburg for a prisoner exchange.

“We arrived at Cairo on the 28th (Thursday), and there took on 200 more prisoners from Camp Morton. We had three transports, the Champion, the largest and finest boat on the river, the Chancellor, and I think, the Pringle; but as to the last I am not certain: below Memphis we had another, the Emerald, and I am not certain which, the Emerald or Pringle, started from Cairo. We had lost two prisoners at Cincinnati in the change of cars there in the evening: they violated their parole and, I suppose made their way over into Kentucky; I was told that they lived in or near Covington. From Cairo we were escorted by the gunboats Eastport and Queen of the West.. We all carried flags of truce. We reached Memphis on the 30th, having been much delayed by the Eastport which kept getting aground. My own quarters were on the Champion with Capt. Lazelle of the Regular Army, who had been captured and paroled in Texas with Gen. Wool. Gen. Sherman was at the time in command at Memphis, and I reported to him. We staid there over night. The people were very surly and once as we (Lieut. Cutler and I) were walking through the street a couple of women spit at us.

“Here the Eastport and Queen of the West dropped us and their places were taken by the Louisville and Benton (iron-clads) fresh from Forts Henry and Donelson. The rest of our trip to Milliken’s Bend at the mouth of the Yazoo was without incident, and the whole trip was not uncomfortable except for the heat and mosquitoes. We reached the Bend, about six miles above Vicksburg, on the evening of Sept. 9th, and lay there four days, discharging our prisoners into boats sent up from Vicksburg, and receiving in exchange 350 Federal prisoners to be taken to Helena, Memphis, and Cairo. Here the Benton, I think, left us, thogh I am not sure that she did not go North with us some little distance. At any rate the gun-boat Tylor joined us here, and with the Louisville accompanied us as far as Memphis, beyond which point convoy was not considered necessary.

“The stay at the mouth of the Yazoo proved disastrous to a great many of us. The water was bad, and affected the bowels of more than half the company, causing a diarrhoea that was was very obstinate, and in many cases became chronic for years, and was ultimately fatal to several. As for myself I did not fully recover from it for nearly twenty years.”

Next week: the return trip

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August 12, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Charles Young’s Account of Company B, 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Part 4

Last week’s account described Company B’s Camp Chase duties. Young’s account continues with preparations for their prisoner exchange assignment.

“In August, as the time for our discharge approached, a movement was set on foot to reorganize the regiment for State Service for three years for Guard-duty. Several of our officers, myself among the number were offered the command in case the plan succeeded, but declined it. Finally Lieut. Weber, who had graduated from college in 1861, accepted. It was not found possible to enlist a full regiment, but three or four companies were ultimately filled and organized into a battalion of which he was made Major (after our return from Vicksburg (I think)). Only half a dozen or so of the students went into it, as most of the undergraduates, as well as Professor Cutler and myself, felt in honor bound to return to the college when our enlistment expired.

“In August exchanges of prisoners were negotiated between the U. S. and the Confederates, and after a good deal of discussion Co. B was offered the chance to go as escort to the confederate prisoners at Camp Chase who were to be exchanged at Vicksburg. Although this would delay our discharge a few weeks we were glad to accept the offer, partly because it would give us a good trip after the monotonous grind of camp duty, and partly because it would save us from exposure to the draft which was then threatening.

“On August 26th we left camp 100 strong, the wanting numbers in our company being made up by details of about twenty men from other commands, (our numbers had been reduced by illness and consequent discharge, and by transfer of men to go into active service). We took 1024 prisoners (under parole), and started out with a train of 24 cars from Columbus for Cairo via Cincinnati and Centralia. At the latter place the R.R. agent undertook to be ugly, and to delay us by refusing to furnish us certain cars which were standing on the tracks. I had to send Lieut. Cutler to him with a squad of men, and tell him that if he did not do it immediately I would take possession of them by force, and would take him along with them under arrest and hand him over to the authorities at Cairo to be dealt with there, He wilted.”

Carroll Cutler in 1861

Next week we will continue Captain Young’s account of Company B and the trip to Vicksburg to exchange Confederate and Union prisoners.

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August 04, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Charles Young’s Account of Company B, 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Part 3

Last week’s account of Company B saw them arrive at Camp Chase and their mustering in. Young continues his account by describing their duties in camp.

“Our duty was entirely with guarding the two confederate prisons. As long as the camp was fully manned it was not severe, but when a considerable part of the force was called away it was pretty hard;, some of the time the men were on duty every day right along for nearly twenty days in eight hour watches; (I am not quite sure as to the eight hour arrangement, but it averaged half the time for every man) I was officer of the day every other day. This was in July - Morgan’s raid in Ky. Only 5 companies were left in Camp. Men returned in about a fortnight or three weeks. There was some fear of an attempt of the prisoners to rise; and to give them the impression that there was still a sufficient number of guards the commandant used sometimes to have a great fuss made at guard-mounting in the way of drumming and band music, and now and then the music played as for a new regiment coming into camp. Of course the prisoners could hear but not see. There were several attempts by outsiders to communicate with the prisoners, especially with the officers prison where we had John Morgan’s brother at the time. The method was usually by throwing packages over the high, fence at night, and one or two offenders were caught.

“There were occasional attempts to dig out. One night when I was officer of the day I had to take a squad and go into the prison at midnight to investigate one of the houses in respect to which the commandant had obtained some information, -how I don’t know. We turned the occupants out, and found a tunnel some forty feet long. It had not quite reached the outer stockade, and would have required considerable more work to finish. Then on general principles we overhauled all the houses nearest the stockade in that prison, and found three more mines, one of them almost through to the outside. So far as I know no prisoners escaped Camp Chase that summer by tunnelling.”

Captain Young describes a new duty for Company B next week.

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