History of the 18th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
|18th Ohio Regimental Colors|
In September 1861, the men of the original 18th Ohio Volunteer Infantry split up. The men choosing to remain in the unit and the new recruits were enlisted in various Southern Ohio towns and were organized at Camp Wool, Athens, County, Ohio. Unlike those in the Three Months Service, the men of the new unit were not necessarily from the same local vicinity. Some companies however did have at least a flavor of hometowns in various counties. The men of Company K seemed to be predominately from Meigs County. Company I was made up of a large
By the 15th of November, they were camping in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Camp Haycraft, just outside Elizabethtown, was described as a beautiful and healthy camp. While there, they were brigaded with the 37th Indiana and the 19th Illinois under Col. John Basil Turchin as brigade commander. They were now known as the 8th Brigade (Turchins), 3rd Division (Mitchels), 14th Army Corps (Buell's), Army of the Ohio. Colonel Turchin, a rather interesting character, whose real name was Ivan Vasilovitch Turchinoff, had served previously in the Czar of Russias Imperial Guard. Turchin, commanding officer of the 19th Illinois, was an obvious choice to be the Brigade Commander due to his Russian service in the Crimean War. His wife, Nadine or Natalie, the daughter of his former commanding officer in Russia, accompanied him into the field. It is assumed that this caused a certain amount of consternation within army circles. Turchin's experience and stern discipline did not seem to bother the men as they report being very proud to serve in his brigade.
The month at Camp Haycraft was spent in marching and drill. Opportunities were found to give the men a chance to fire their muskets. It is also reported that numerous false alarms caused the men to lose sleep as nervous pickets fired at stumps, pick handles, and various other shadows. On December 18th, the Brigade left Haycraft for Camp Stanton seven miles further down the road.
In early January, the brigade moved to Camp Jefferson located close to Bacon Creek, Kentucky. The 24th Illinois was added bringing the total strength to four Regiments. Camp Jefferson appeared to be a poor choice for a place to set up camp. At first, the 18th had a period of healthiness while other regiments close by were devastated with measles, mumps, and rubiola.
February 13th found the brigade heading for Bowling Green, Kentucky in a heavy snowstorm. On Valentines Day, the men marched 27 miles in six hours to find the bridge into Bowling Green burned. The 18th had to wait for a pontoon bridge to be built and the other two regiments to cross before proceeding into Bowling Green. It was daylight on the 15th when they crossed to find the depot burnt and military stockpiles destroyed. Breakfast was had in the homes of local citizens whether union supporters or not.
The rest of February, March and beginning of April was spent marching around Kentucky, Tennessee and into Alabama. On May 1st, the 18th found itself in the heart of Rebel country at Athens, Alabama. During the night, a strong force of the 1st Louisiana Cavalry, under command of Colonel John Simms Scott, moved up and attacked the sleeping men in their camp. Confusion reigned and the men made a hasty retreat leaving all their camp gear and baggage train to the enemy, all the time suffering the insult of the derision being heaped upon them by the local citizenry. Company G had the pleasure of Gen. Mitchel's presence when they decided that retreat was the best option available to them. When reinforcements arrived in the form of the rest of the Brigade and the 4th Ohio Cavalry, they turned around and started back to Athens, Gen. Mitchel in the lead. By then, it was too late and their equipage was missing. Several of the men of the regiment were captured and later paroled. The soldiers were reasonably upset at their misfortune in losing valuable camp equipment and personal items. Thomas Wells in particular lamented the loss of his letters he had been storing sent by his female friend, Lizzie Drake. Some of the men requested a show of force to remonstrate the townspeople of Athens. It is reported that Col. Turchin said, "I shut mine eyes for one hour." One soldier said, "we tore up the town some," and another reported that "a certain amount of valuables changed hands." Thus begins an act which was viewed as an atrocity against the citizens of Athens and widely reported in Southern as well as Northern newspapers.
A cloud of infamy hung over the regiment. General Buell became enraged at the behavior of the brigade at Athens and ordered court-martials of the officers in charge. General Turchin was presented with charges and resigned rather than submit to the recommendations of his court-martial, only to have his wife plead his case before President Lincoln and be reinstated to the Army of the Cumberland as a General officer later. Colonel Stanley and Colonel Carter Gazlay of the 37th Indiana were also court-martialed, but exonerated. Needless to say, the men held General Buell and the other Staff officers in low esteem. Many openly wished for his capture so that a more reliable General would take his place. Widespread resignations were tendered by many officers. Some were accepted, while others could not find reason enough to get their resignations acted upon. The brigade was ordered to stand down and not take part in any further action until changes could be made. In August, the 18th Ohio, along with the 37th Indiana, was brigaded with the 69th Ohio and 11th Michigan to become the 2nd Brigade (Stanley), 2nd Division (Negley), 14th Corps (Mitchell), Army of the Cumberland (Buell).
Movements and countermovements were the order of the day for the rest of the summer until the end of August. On the 29th of August, the fighting spirit and abilities of the Ohio men would be put to the test. While guarding the Manchester and McMinnville railroad, two companies of the 18th, Companies "A" and "I", and Company "D" of the 9th Michigan were attacked by a strong force of Confederates under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Colonel Wharton of the famous 8th Texas Cavalry, more commonly referred to as the "Texas Rangers." General Forrest had at his disposal approximately 1600 men and 500 civilians to attack a force of less than 100 men. The Confederates, believing the stockade being built as yet unfinished, made the assault with about 700 men. A race to the stockade was won by the 18th and a withering fire met the Confederates who left some 40 on the ground as dead or severely wounded. Letters home from members of the 18th stress the feelings of pride for how well the men had behaved in a tight situation.
Because the Federal army had moved beyond its ability to protect the supply lines, and because the Confederate army had raised a sufficient force to jeopardize future actions, a general withdrawal was ordered. General Buell moved his army out of Tennessee to deal with the threat now being made by Rebel forces in Kentucky. Negleys Division remained at Nashville to support Governor Andrew Johnsons claim that he would never surrender Nashville without a fight. Negleys Division soon found itself surrounded. Union forces now under the command of General Rosecrans, who had replaced the unpopular Buell, were unable to continue offensive operations until a stockpile of supplies could be obtained, which did not happen until late in the year of 1862. An advance on Murfreesboro at the end of December led to a large scale confrontation with General Bragg and his army. The Battle of Stones River took place on December 31st and lasted until January 2nd. The 18th was in the middle of the fight. Upon awakening on the morning of December 31, the men were hastily called into line and prepared to meet the advance of the enemy. They could hear the sharp clash of the units to their immediate right. Those units not able to withstand the assault began to crumble and make their way off the field. To its credit, the regiment did not give an inch to the enemy until forced to make a fighting retreat in order to secure the unit's right flank. Unfortunately, an ill-advised move by General Rousseau of a neighboring brigade caused the death, wounding, and capture of a number of the 18ths men. This action took place in front of and close to the place now known as Hazen's Stand. Many wounded and dead were left on the battlefield.
Although a Union victory, both sides retreated to regroup and reorganize. The Union army fell back on Nashville again. Further movements forward were delayed until units could be brought up to full strength once more. Foraging parties sent out to comb the countryside for provisions were attacked by Confederate units and local bushwhackers. The problem of bushwhackers seems to have been the worst. Mention was frequently made to the events of these foraging parties in letters sent home to loved ones. In the spring, a forward movement was once again made and marches and countermarches seemed to do little to disturb the balance of power in Tennessee. Neither army appeared to be ready to meet again in large-scale battle as had been seen at Stones River. Skirmishes and clashes were usually limited to small units or foraging parties. Late in the summer, information received gave a clear picture of the intentions of Bragg. One letter writer wrote home describing Bragg as "a bad man." Of interest is the men's faith and trust in General Rosecrans. They felt he was more than capable and were proud to serve in his army and under the command of Brigadier General James Negley in the 2nd Division. One soldier described "Old Rosie," as a "load." The culmination of the summers campaign found Bragg once again threatening Rosecrans army. A major clash was expected at any time and at any place. The 18th under Negley made strong demonstrations upon Confederate forces in the Davis Crossroads area of Northern Georgia. A vicious little skirmish broke out between the 18th and their old nemesis Nathan Bedford Forrest. Seven days later, the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-21, opened when both armies appeared ready to annihilate the other. Once again, the 18th found itself in the very middle of a major battle. As in all battles, a certain confusion reigns supreme and movements of the 18th seem to reflect it. While part of the right wing of Rosecrans army was collapsing, the men of the unit continued to hold their ground and gave as good as they received. Many men were left wounded, dying, or in the hands of the enemy as prisoners of war.
Forced to fall back or suffer further disintegration of his forces, Rosecrans ordered his units to Chattanooga. The 18th, seriously, depleted in manpower, began to resurrect themselves. The siege of Chattanooga has been called the "Cracker Line," because the Union army, surrounded, had little to eat but the soda crackers, called hardtack. A Confederate Steamer, "The Paint Rock," was raised from the watery depths where she had been scuttled and put back to use by the Union Army. Company K under the direction of Captain McElroy was placed in command because many of the men had been riverboatmen before the war. Frequent excursions up the Tennessee River were made bringing vital supplies to the besieged army. The Paint Rock, heavily sandbagged, was taken under Confederate fire the entire trip. Luckily, the Rebels did not have a cannon. Colonel Stanley and the men of the 18th were responsible for handling the fifty-two pontoon and flatboats that carried the troops of Colonel William Hazen's Brigade across the Tennessee at Brown's Ferry. Caught by surprise, the Confederates were forced to retreat and the siege was broken.
November, 1863 found the unit engaged in engineering or pioneer duties supporting the assault on Lookout Mountain. Successfully completing operations in the Northern Georgia area, the 18th was ordered back to Chattanooga and place on one form of duty to another. While not engaged in construction as engineers, the unit was given provost duties in Chattanooga and was responsible for maintaining order while other troops engaged the Confederates in Northern Georgia.
Early 1864 is characterized by the unit's river operations. They constructed two steam ferry boats, were in charge of a swinging ferry, and mounted many excursions to cut and raft logs in the construction of many store houses. While little information is available, it would seem logical to assume that the spring and summer found the men continuing in this capacity.
In October, 1864, the 18th once again picked up their guns to continue action against the enemy. However, the enlistments of many of the men were up. After three years of military duty, most had had enough of army life and wanted to return home and continue civilian pursuits. The proud 18th Ohio was reorganized as the 18th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry. Other units finding themselves with only a small portion of men willing to re-enlist, were transferred to the 18th. Each company was made up of men primarily from the 1st, 2nd, 18th, 24th and 35th Ohio Infantry.
The men choosing not to re-enlist were mustered out of the army at Camp Chase, Ohio on November 9, 1864.
(Updated 4/18/2006 by Glenn Davis. The author takes full responsibility for the accuracy of this unit history. Questions or comments may be directed to the author. All material is under copyright restrictions. Please do not copy or reproduce without permission and credit.)