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100 Years Ago


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The Grand Adventure Begins

After signing up, the soldiers went to a camp to receive equipment and prepare for their new career. Imagine the task of trying to mold a completely untrained group of strangers into a fighting force. In a letter to the "Shelby County Democrat" published on July 3, 1863, one soldier commented: "The 99th is much better today than when first brought into the field. There is not half as much coarseness and vulgarity in the regiment as there was when we were at Camp Lima. Then the men were strangers to each other, had just left their homes, and were wholly unprepared to meet the obligations of soldiers...Soldiering is not a Fourth of July sport, but a laborious and self-sacrificing work."

Private Dwight (shown at right) of the 20th Ohio vividly remembered his first days as a soldier. The brass band in the town escorted the young soldiers to the train for the ride to Camp Chase, near Columbus. As the train pulled away from the station, a cold sweat came over him as he realized what he had done. The first night he slept on the wooden floor of a hut, as there were no cots for the men. The next day the men were informed they had enlisted for three years, much to the surprise of Dwight and the others. Ill-fitting clothes were issued, and the men began the comical act of trying to drill, when none of them had any experience in such an activity.

The new recruits were supposed to pass a physical examination. Private Ruggles of the 20th Ohio recalled the examination by the camp doctor. The doctor told him: "Well, I must see whether you are sound or not. Hold out your hands; work your fingers; touch your hands over your head. Are you ruptured?" Answering the question 'no' meant that Ruggles was in the army.

Officers were often chosen at camp by popular vote without regard to ability.  Private Dwight turned down an opportunity to be commissioned a lieutenant after a bad experience at camp.  An officer of the 42nd Ohio took Dwight's blanket his family had given him under the guise that Dwight would not need it on a military exercise.  The officer then refused to return it.  He was Col. James Garfield (He was later elected president of the United States.) 

Until the spring of 1864, these men fought and lived in the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Mississippi.   They were not in the better known eastern theater engagements such as Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and the Wilderness, but the battles in which the boys from this county took part, with such names as Shiloh, Chicamauga, and Resaca, were every bit as deadly. 

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Private Dwight, 20th Ohio

 

 

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace

 

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