The 70th OVI rallies around her flag at Bald Hill
“The 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry” Part 2
Written by Ned Lodwick, U.S. Grant Homestead Association
After Shiloh the 70th takes part in the advance and capture of Corinth, Mississippi. They then march to Memphis and in the late fall of 1862. The 70th are on the march to Vicksburg, Ms. during the Central Mississippi Railroad Campaign. On December 20th 1862, Gen. Grant’s supply depot at Holly Springs is destroyed by Confederate cavalry and his entire army is forced to return north and forage for food along the way.
George Washington Walker was a 20 year old farmer from Eckmansville who had left his wife, Nancy, and 18 month old daughter, Laura, to save the Union. Private Walker was a member of the 70th. On December 23rd he wrote to his wife;
“We are making these southern folks suffer. This time we take what corn and hay we want for our teams and all the fresh pork we want to eat and sweet potatoes, cabbage, turnips, sugar and molasses. We have plenty to eat and will have as long as we stay about here for Union citizens is very scarce here…… Kiss Laura for me.”
By December 25, 1862 the 70th is in winter camp in Memphis, Tenn. On Christmas Day, Col. Cockerill addresses the Brigade and says;
“With the bold 70th Ohio Regiment, the fearless 90th Illinois and 53rd Ohio, the never flinching Bouton Battery and the daring Chicago battery, I would follow the Rebels to the gates of hell and there give them battle!”
The soldiers were often worried more about day to day matters than battles. From winter camp at Ft. Pickering in Memphis George Washington Walker writes;
“I am cook today and I am cooking beans. We have quite a variety to eat. We have bread (hard tack) & coffee for breakfast, coffee & bread for dinner and it swells and we don’t need any supper.”
The 70th are in Memphis until June 1863 when they are moved to Hane’s Bluff, just north of Vicksburg along with three divisions to form Gen. Grant’s rear guard, about 7,000 men. Their orders are to repel any attempts of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s Army of 25,000 men to reinforce the Confederates at Vicksburg.
Pvt. George Washington Walker wrote again to his wife, Nancy, from those Union lines at Vicksburg, Miss. June 30, 1863
“You wouldn’t recognize me. My face and hands are black. I haven’t washed for nearly a month. The wells that weren’t ‘spoiled’ by the rebs are now dry. We have to haul water from the Mississippi River. We get a cup a day and cannot waste any to wash.”
Vicksburg surrenders on July 4th 1863 and on the same day the 70th receives orders to march to Jackson, Miss., Pvt. George Washington Walker from the lines at Jackson, Miss. July 21, 1863
“I’ll tell you about one fight. It was not much to compare with Shiloh but our skirmishing was pretty warm. For five days our division was the closet to the rebel works of any along the line. Our regiment skirmished one day and we laid under fire of the rebel cannon two days but we were very lucky for we only had one man wounded in the skirmish and one killed by a cannon ball but I tell you they got pretty close some times. We have pretty well cleaned out this part of the country and we hope they will lay down their arms and go home for we are making awful destruction here.”
The 70th‘s next engagement was on November 23rd-25th, 1863 at Tunnel Hill and Mission Ridge at Chattanooga, Tennessee. From the history of the 70th Ohio, Sgt. T.W. Connelly writes;
“Following the battle the 70th led the pursuit of the rebels and as the sun began to fall Gen. Grant rode up to our regiment and in a strong voice asked, “Boys, are you tired?” Every voice replied, “Yes sir, we are!” Our native commander returned, “Well, just file right, march out there in the woods go into camp” Without waiting for other orders we marched off the road and soon our campfires were kindled and water found for coffee.”
The 70th Ohio Regiment was to take part in the advance to Atlanta by “Uncle Billy” Sherman’s Army of over 100,000 men from May1 – July 17, 1864. They would attack and defeat successive defensive positions held by Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnson’s Army of 80,000 at Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, and Peach Tree Creek.
On July 22, 1864 the 70th took part in the 1st Battle of Atlanta (Bald Hill). The Confederates attacked at dawn without notice and in large numbers. The regiments to the left and right retreated after a desperate fight. The 70th were now fighting on three sides and running out of ammunition. Major Brown, in command of the 70th that day walked calmly along the line and in a bull-like voice told his men;
“I will walk knee deep in Rebel blood before I will surrender a single man.”
The regiments on either flank counterattacked at just that moment and Bald Hill was held. Atlanta was now ready to be taken, but not without a fight.
Next week in Part 3, the 70th helps Gen Sherman take Atlanta and “make Georgia howl”.
For more information see http://www.ohiocivilwar.com