Written by Ned Lodwick, US Grant Homestead Assoc. Georgetown, OH
Two unknown soldiers of the 34th Ohio with their colors. One in Zouave dress and one in a traditional uniform.
The 34th OVI formed at Camp Lucas (the old Olive Branch Fairgrounds) in Clermont County in July and August and then moved to Camp Dennison near Milford until they went to West Virginia on September 14, 1861.
Abraham S. Piatt of Clermont County was the first Colonel of the regiment. He was bold and confident man with a bit of flare added in. He formed the 34th as a Zouave regiment. The Zouaves were the fiercest of the Algerian soldiers in the French Foreign Legion and several regiments, both Union and Confederate, dressed in Zouave costume in the first year of the war. The 34th wore powder blue pantaloons, baggie white shirts, a powder blue vest with silver trim, and a fez.
Company B was formed from southern Brown County, especially Union Township. Captain C.W. Boyd was the company commander. The women of Ripley presented the 34th with a regimental flag. Twenty four members of Co. B are buried in the Pisgah Ridge Cemetery.
The first year of the war was mostly garrison duty in various places in West Virginia. At one of these towns, Fayetteville, West Virginia, the 34th and 37th were together (800 men) at an outpost protecting the town. On September 10th 1862 they were attacked at dawn by Confederate Gen. Loring’s force of 10,000 men. Part of the time the 34th fought in the open fields outside of the breastworks. The position was held until midnight when the fort was abandoned and the remaining troops fell back to Cotton Mountain. The 34th lost 130 men and half of their officers.
In May of 1863 the men of the 34th were issued horses and traditional blue uniforms and were transformed into mounted infantry. They moved to a battle faster than by marching but when they reached the battle they dismounted and fought as infantry. In this manner the 34th participated in the Saltville Raid, the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, and the destruction of the New River Bridge.
The 34th was dismounted in May of 1864 and transferred to the Shenandoah Valley under Gen. Sheridan. They met Confederate Gen. Early’s forces in a hopeless defense at Monocacy, Maryland on June 21st and were pushed aside with heavy losses, but cost Early precious time that allowed Union forces to re-enforce the Washington D.C. defenses and prevent a Confederate attack on the Capital.
The Ohio 34th was in the third, fourth Battles of Winchester, Virginia on July 20th and 24th 1864. The Union forces were defeated in both battles by overwhelming forces but on September 19th they played a key role in the fifth Battle of Winchester. It was the third time the regiment fought over the same ground and this time they were not to be denied. They suffered terribly in the victory, losing six color bearers, wounded or killed, in short succession. The flag was eventually carried through safely by a seventh bearer, George Rynals. After the battle Gen. Sheridan sent his famous dispatch, “I am moving up the Valley tonight.”
During the fall of 1864 the 34th and the “Valley Army” did just that with successive victories at Martinsburg, Opequan, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. Sheridan’s dire prediction that he would devastate the Valley so that, “a crow, in passing over it, would be compelled to carry his rations with him” was now a fact.
By February 22nd 1865 the 34th had only 300 men fit for duty and were merged with the 36th OVI to form the 36th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry. During the war the 34th lost 10 officers and 120 enlisted men in battle and 130 enlisted men from disease.
For more information see www.ohiocivilwar.com