The 70th OVI holds the Union line at Shiloh Church
“The 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry” - Part 1
Written by Ned Lodwick, President, Brown County Historical Society
The 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry formed at Camp Hamer in West Union in October of 1861. The Regiment was made up of 875 men from Adams County and 300 men from Brown County. Most of the officers and non-commissioned officers had served in Mexico with Gen. Hamer.
On December 24th, 1861 they were ordered to move out. The Adams County men marched down Rt. 41 and the Brown County men marched to Decatur and then down Rt. 763 to rejoin the regiment in Aberdeen. Flags flew and crowds cheered along the way. Tables full of food awaited them in Aberdeen. The steamer “Magnolia” carried them to Ripley where they trained until March of 1862.
The 70th was to join four other regiments in Paducah, Ky in March to form Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's first division. By March 14th the 70th was aboard two steamers headed south on the Tennessee River.
Lt. Col. D.W.C. Loudon of the 70th writes to his wife, Hannah, in Georgetown, March 13, 1862; “The river is full of boats as far as you can see up and down the river. The fleet that came up the river is the largest that has moved since the commencement of the war. One gunboat in front and one behind.”
On March 23rd after arriving at Pittsburg Landing , Tennessee, DWC Loudon writes; “The Colonel has found us a lovely place to camp, it starts on Owl Creek and runs up a ridge to a little clearing. In the clearing is a rough little church that the locals call “Chilo”(Shiloh).
Col. Cockerill felt the 70th needed to get out of camp so on April 2, 1862, they took a “Picnic” march about 8 miles toward Corinth, Mississippi. When the Regiment stops to eat, Major McFerren with 7 men go another mile for security. Suddenly a loud voice comes from the woods, “Who comes there?” Major McFerren replies, “The advance guard of the Grand Army of the Republic!” After a moment of silence the voice comes again from the woods, “The Hell you say!!” Then a sudden volley erupts from the woods and the 70th quickly returns to camp. Cockerill reports the presents of Rebel troops in large numbers in front of their lines to Sherman but the volunteer officers are not believed.
Lt. Col. Loudon writes his wife on April 2nd and says; “I have just seen a Lieutenant of cavalry; one of their men was killed on picket duty, run through with a saber. Gen. Grant reviewed our division today. I expect we are sure to have a battle soon”
The next few days the storm continues to build: April 4, 1862, Confederate cavalry capture 8 of 70th pickets; April 5, 1862, Confederate cavalry watch division drill and the 70th are ordered into line of battle for 2 hours until dark; Sunday morning 6 AM April 6, 1862, and the 70th, 48th, 72nd Ohio are again 200 paces in front of their camp in battle line.
No one in the 70th is surprised when at 7 AM April 6th they hear the first ‘rebel yell’ of their service. Their left flank is Shiloh Church. They fought like veterans and held the Union line until 10 AM when the left flank gives away (the 53rd OVI) and the Brigade is ordered by Gen. Sherman to fall back 1 mile to a new defensive line.
At 12 PM Gen. Grant orders the Brigade to once again fall back another mile to a defensive line near the Tennessee River. That line holds against several ferocious Rebel attacks and the Union right flank has held. Those two retreats are the only two times in the Civil War the 70th gave ground under fire.
The Regiment slept on their arms. On April 7th the 70th and the rest of Gen. Grant’s army attack and drive the Confederates from the field.
John Cockerill, son of Col. Cockerill, was a 16 year old musician in the 91st OVI but was recovering from an illness in his father’s camp on April 6, 1862. He helped a wounded Lieutenant to the hospital on the 6th and was separated from the 70th. He helped at the hospital until a wounded soldier from the 70th told him he had seen his father shot from his horse and killed. He then armed himself with a discarded musket and fought with an Indiana regiment. Late on the 7th he returned to the destroyed camp of the 70th. He was told the 70th had gone in pursuit of the enemy. He sat in his father’s empty tent in deep despair. Late that night he heard a commotion and then cheers. He went outside and in his words;
“I saw entering the camp a column of men marching four abreast, it was the 70th! and leading them, Oh, my God, was my father.”
His father’s horse had been killed and the horse and rider had gone down hard. That is what the soldier had mistaken as Col. Cockerill’s death. The 70th after Shiloh is a veteran unit. They have “Seen the Elephant” and done well. They lost 9 killed, 60 wounded, and 30 missing while their Confederate counterparts, the 9th Mississippi, lost 309.
Gen. Sherman writes in the Official Record of the Civil War that; “Col. Cockerill held a larger portion of his command together than any Colonel in my Division, and was with me from first to last.” Unofficially he tells Col. Cockerill that, “Your officers and men are as good as gold”
Lt. Col. Loudon wrote on April 10th from Shiloh Chapel; “On last Sunday morning about 7 o’clock the rebels attacked us in great force. We fought them all day and were driven back slowly, contesting every inch of the ground. The battle raged until after dark. Both armies slept on their arms and the fight was renewed early the next morning …. We drove them back all day, the fighting ended in the utter rout of the rebels. The slaughter was immense.”
For more information see www.ohiocivilwar.com