"61st Ohio defends Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg”
“The 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry”
Written by Ned Lodwick, U.S. Grant Homestead Association
The 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry was formed in May 1862 from across the state to serve three years. Men from nearly every county in the Ohio were recruited into the 61st OVI. Nine companies (900 men) were German speaking immigrants and two companies (200 men) were Irish Catholics. One of the Irish companies was from Fayetteville.
The Regiment fought at 2nd Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mtn., the Atlanta Campaign, March to the Sea, the March through the Carolinas, and at Bentonville, North Carolina. The 61st served the entire war as part of Gen. Oliver O. Howard’s 11th Corp. They began their service with the Army of the Potomac then were transferred to Gen. Sherman’s western armies in September of 1863.
Fayetteville’s Stephan McGroaty, born in County Donegal, Ireland, was Major of the 10th OVI at Carnifax Ferry, West Virginia in September of 1861. He was shot through the lungs while leading a charge. His wound was so severe that he was given up for dead, placed in a tent, and not given medical treatment. Three days later when burial teams entered the tent they found him alive. He had been promoted for bravery to Colonel so he could now command a regiment. He was given a new regiment, the 61st OVI. Most of his command spoke only German and he did not so his orders were translated into German by his officers and sergeants. McGroaty was such a strong figure that another Colonel in his division once said that, “McGroaty was so Irish that he felt like the 61st was an Irish regiment.”
At Chancellorsville in April of 1862 the 61st took the full brunt of “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank attack. They retreated, they did not panic and run as some units of the 11th Corps did. The proof is in the fact that only nine men of the 61st lost their rifles. Scadadelers throw down their weapons. You keep your rifle if you retreat. The Battle of Chancellorsville left a scar on the 11th Corp that the veterans spent the rest of their lives dealing with.
On July 1st 1863 at Gettysburg the 61st were in the first day battle and were in another fighting retreat. This time they were the infantry support for Dilger’s Battery I of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. These combined units fought block to block through the streets of Gettysburg leapfrogging their cannon as they retreated. The 2nd & 3rd days they were also Dilger’s support, this time at the west side of the gate to Evergreen Cemetery on Cemetery Hill. They only had about 200 men at this point. On the 2nd night they were sent to help repel Gen. Early’s assault on Culp’s Hill. After a ferocious fight a 6th Corp soldier said to a 61st man, “If the damn 11th Corp could fight like you fellows we wouldn’t be in such a fix.” The 61st’s man replied, “We are the damned 11th Corp!!!”
On July 3 the 61st‘s Dr. Wm. Moore of Georgetown was killed in the artillery barrage that preceded “Picket’s Charge”. His 20 year old widow grieved in “widow’s weeds” (black dresses & veils) until her death at 68 years old.
In September of 1863 the 61st was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and joined that army in Chattanooga. They were engaged at Tunnel Hill, Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, and Peach Tree Creek. At Peach Tree Creek, north of Atlanta, McGroaty received the 22nd & 23rd wounds of the war. He was shot above and below the left elbow at 8 AM. He refused to leave the field. He strapped his arm to his side with his sword belt and retired only after the fight was over at 6 PM. He was prepared 3 times for amputation surgery but talked the surgeons out of it twice. The surgery was finally done in late October and 6 weeks later he “Marched to the Sea “with the 61st. He died of his original chest wounds in 1870, at 38 years old, when his lungs hemorrhaged while he was asleep.
At Peach Tree Creek the Regiment had five officers wounded, one fatally, over seventy enlisted men wounded, and eighteen men killed. Of all the battles the 61st fought Peach Tree Creek was the fiercest.
The 61st “Marched to the Sea” and through the Carolinas with Gen. Sherman. On March 19th-21st, 1865, the Regiment was engaged in the last great battle of the Civil War at Bentonville, North Carolina. Following the battle, the 61st had only 80 men fit for duty. On March 31, 1865 they were consolidated with the 82nd OVI and thus lost their unit designation but not its record of a strong regiment that could always be counted on.
During their three years of service the regiment lost 7 officers and 68 enlisted men killed in battle and 90 enlisted men killed by disease for a total of 165 lost.
For more information: www.ohiocivilwar.com