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John Jefferson Parsons Papers - MMS 1826
Camp Grant, Virginia
April 5, 1864
From our various homes in Wood, Lucas, and Fulton Counties, on the 24th and 25th of March assembled at Toledo the veterans of the old 67th- many of its members then about to start for the third time to the field since the out breaking of the rebellion. With some delay and anxious waiting at the depot, under the command of Major Butler, we took the cars at about 1 p.m. for Cleveland at which place we arrived at 9 o'clock. The next thing to be done was to shoulder knapsacks and march to camp, a distance of about two miles back from the city, where we were assigned barracks for the time. Most of us having enjoyed to good advantage our furloughs, hardly knew how to come down to the cold side of a pine board; but lessons long since learned told of us of no appeal. Remaining here two days, most of us took up with old traits and once more made ourselves quite at home in the camp.
On the morning of the 28th, we took the Cleveland and Pittsburgh cars and passing through Zanesville and other interesting cities, arrived at Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m. The citizens learning of our arrival at once illuminated the City Hall and prepared us for a supper, which did us a heap of good. Crackers, bread, cheese, pickles, apples, and plenty of good hot coffee were spread in profusion before us. The question of "Who wouldn't sell his farm and go soldiering" was one of prominence among those well satisfied with their reception. Here we changed cars and taking the Pittsburgh and Baltimore road, we passed through Harrisburg at 6 p.m. on the 29th and arrived at Baltimore on the morning of the 30th. Here it commenced to rain and after marching through town we took quarters in a large three story brick building in the now unfrequented part of the city. Finding plenty for us to eat at the Union Relief Association, every one tried to do himself justice. At 5 p.m., we were stowed onto freight cars (second class), 40 in each car and after several jerks, jams, and bruises, we arrived at Washington City-the great National capital. Remaining here over night, on the day following we started for camp, a distance of six miles, crossing the river and moving up and down hills for about three hours, we at last arrived at the encampment called Camp Grant. And thus after a few restless days and sleepless nights, the old 67th is comfortably encamped before Washington, not far distant from the well famed "All quiet" river in the neighborhood of which the General of the Mackerel brigade made so many strategical movements.
Many of the boys are afflicted with severe colds and the general coughing and barking is enough to confuse the most self-possessed. Private Dallas Ralston was taken quite sick and sent to the hospital. Private Frederick Hartman is confined to his bed with the lung fever. Private David Hartman has the measles but is doing well. Private Orlando Evers has been quite unwell but nothing considered dangerous. Most of the sickness is from unusual exposure and severe colds.
It has been raining almost constantly since we came here and the men are in consequence confined to their quarters. This is termed a camp of distribution and as none of us have learned, we do not yet know where or to what portion of the army we will be assigned.
Yours & c.
Jeff and Company
Camp Grant, near Washington, D.C,
April 23, 1864
Once more it becomes very gratifying to your humble servant to address a few lines to your paper, but owing to the scarcity of news, in connection with other circumstances, my letter must be short. It is quite customary with letter writers of the present day to express themselves to the public, to spin out a long and needless string of words, many of which had recently been taken from Webster, that the writer himself loses sight of the object in view, and with many sentences and phrases tells but little. I would shun this as much as possible and in language that children can comprehend, tell my story from time to time.
Our regiment (the 67th) is now encamped on the Virginia side of the Potomac about equal distance between Washington and Alexandria and our position at present is truly a delightful one; and being where supplies can be easily obtained, nothing but plenty is looked for and enjoyed, while the men are generally in good health and spirits.
Since arriving here, however, we have been brought around the soldier's grave. Four of our regiment have died- two of them were of Company H, viz.: Dallas Ralston and Orlando Evers. Ralston died of intermittent fever on the 8th of April, and Evers of typhoid fever on the 18th. Both were buried with the honors of war-the former by a detachment from Company I, and the latter by a detachment from his company, conducted by Corporal James Lyman Pope (Ed. Note: killed in action three weeks later May 10, 1864 at the Battle of Chester Station). While we sympathize with the bereaved friends of these our departed comrades, we will gladly bear record that with what little acquaintance we have had with them as soldiers (their being recruits), we speak of them in the highest terms.
Orlando was the second son fallen in his country's defense, over whom a truly patriotic father is again called to mourn while a third has been severely wounded and then incarcerated for several weeks in one of those wretched and filthy dens of Richmond. (Ed. Note- See MMS 1715 for the letters of Corporal John J. Evers, Orlando's brother who served with the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was killed at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia on August 9, 1862. The third brother referred to as being wounded was Private Charles W. Evers who served in Company H of the 2nd Kentucky Volunteer Infantry where he was wounded at captured at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He was the only of the three brothers to survive the war.)
One the 10th inst., we were visited by the following gentlemen: ex-Governor William Dennison, Judge Swain, and General James A. Garfield, all Ohioans, and each one favored us with a few timely remarks. One the 22nd we were also visited by Secretary Salmon P. Chase with Governor John Brough- each of whom spoke to us. Their presence and remarks were highly appreciated by all. Long live their names in the hearts of this American people.
More in time.
Camp of the 67th Regiment, O.V.I.,
In the field, (near Chester Station, Virginia)
May 11, 1864
On the evening of the 3rd of May we received orders at Gloucester Point to be ready to move at 4 o'clock on the next morning. The morning of the 4th came and with it came to the Point about 50 transports; the forces were busily embarking during the whole day and as fast as each boat became loaded it would move a few yards up the river and cast anchor until the entire fleet was ready to sail. This was accomplished sometime during the night and at about 2 a.m. of the 5th, all of the boats moved down the York and passing Fortress Monroe, moved cautiously up the James River and at sun set landed about 2 miles above City Point, where the troops were landed as speedily as possible. About 9 a.m. on the 5th, all things being ready, we took up march, reaching the camp at 3 p.m., our forces consisting of the 10th and 18th Corps. On the 7th some of our division, three or four regiments in all, advanced to the railroad running from Richmond to Petersburg, striking it some three or four miles from the latter place and succeeded in tearing up about a mile of the road and cutting the telegraph wire in several places. I do not know what our loss was on the 7th but the skirmishing was very heavy.
The 8th being Sunday, no fighting took place but in the evening at 11 o'clock, we received orders to be ready to march at 4 in the morning with two days cooked rations in our haversacks and at 6 a.m. of the 9th, our brigade moved forward meeting the enemy's skirmishers about two miles from our camp. When we struck the pike running between the two cities above mentioned, a part of our regiment was halted and the companies of the right wing were deployed as skirmishers and sent forward, at the same time a section of artillery was planted on the pike just in advance of our reserve. We also had one company of smoked Yankees in advance of our skirmishers. About 3 p.m. the enemy made a charge on the cavalry driving them in past our lines in utter confusion, but just as the enemy were coming in sight of our line of skirmishers, the above mentioned section of guns opened on them, when they immediately dispersed. In the evening our skirmishers were called in and Companies F and G were sent out for the night. During the night our position was held by our regiment and one company of cavalry, but during the night it was ascertained that the enemy were feeling our position pretty closely, having passed entirely around us with some of their cavalry and supposing that they would make an attempt in the morning to capture us, it was deemed expedient to send for reinforcements and at 1 o'clock at night Major Butler mounted his horse and at day break had us supplied with about 500 more men and another section of artillery. The whole at this point was under the command of Colonel Alvin C. Voris during the day, and never was better ground selected for a fight or a greater and better display of a few troops as was on the 9th by Colonel Voris.
After we had made our coffee and eat our hard tack, we commenced taking our several positions in order to try the enemy. Two guns were taken about a half mile beyond the pike and planted in the road running perpendicular to the pike near a large farm and but a few rods in front of its buildings. The guns were to be used in defense of our left wing and was supported by Company H and a part of Company D, while the balance of Company D and Company I were sent forward as skirmishers. In a few moments, a force was discovered in front and the two guns opened on them and kept up a steady fire for about an hour, varying their shot from right to left over a space some 40 rods each side of the road, while the enemy seemed to be maneuvering in out front and desired that we should make the next move. The enemy placed a gun with a howitzer from our left but from the right of the enemy; soon after this gun opened, there were two guns directly on our right that opened on us, placing us under a cross fire and each party having complete range on our two guns.
About this time, our guns ran out of ammunition and moved to the rear for a new supply, but at the same time the other section came up and opened fire. This section had fired but a few shots when we were ordered to move forward and assist the skirmishers as the rebels column was becoming too strong for our few men in advance to resist. We immediately started on the double quick, but by the time our company had advanced three hundred yards, we were fully in reach of their musket shots. Company I was on the left, H next, and D on our right. The other companies were engaged but as the three above named companies were all that I could see owing to the dense brush on our right, it is not in my power to describe their movements, however, every company engaged fought like tigers. As of Company H, of which I am a member, I must say that with the exception of one man never did the men fight better and with more coolness, every man taking deliberate aim before he fired. We had not been advancing under fire but a few yards till our brave boys began to fall, yet not a single man flinched. We soon reached a rail fence in a hollow, behind which our boys took shelter for a few moments, but kept up a continual and deadly fire, resting their guns on the rails and each man drawing a bead on his victim before discharging his piece. From this point our fire was so effective and sure that they were compelled to give way notwithstanding that they outnumbered us ten to one. On seeing them fall back, our men sprang over the fence and gained the ground held but five minutes before by the graybacks.
Here our men continued to do their duty as men worthy of the highest credit; until we received more reinforcements and then when ordered to fall back, did so in the best of order. During the time that we were falling back, the enemy presented a bold front and advancing toward us in line of battle from our right to the left and holding a heavy reserve of mounted men in their rear. Seeing their movements we halted our line and being strengthened by the 6th Connecticut V.V.I., all joined in giving them a "sweet home" in the way of a complete volley of not less than 1,000 minnies and at the same time the two sections of artillery at our rear opened with grape, canister, and shell with great accuracy and rapidity, but this proved too much for them and before they reached their first position were compelled to give way, breaking in confusion.
They were undoubtedly maneuvering to take the guns which we were supporting for at the time we fell back, we were under a cross fire from three of their batteries. Up to this time our companies had been under fire for over four hours and many of our boys were out of cartridges, having one into the engagement with 60 rounds each. Several incidents took place during the fight, showing the fidelity and determination of our men. In our first charge, Private Perley P. Pope was shot through the right thigh near the body and fell forward on his face in the sand. After we had passed him some 50 yards and were under the hottest of the enemy's fire, First Lieutenant Franklin Briggs remarked to me- look at Perley, and as I looked around I saw him waving his cap and cheering on his comrades. (Ed Note. Pope died of this wound on May 22, 1864)
Private Edward Pennell of North Ridge, a recruit, received a flesh wound in the left arm above the elbow just after discharging his piece the first time but continued loading and firing for over one hour when at last his arm became so lame that he came to me and asked the privilege of going to the rear. Private William H. Handy of Fulton County, a recruit who enlisted on the 15th of April, who deliberately loading his gun when a ball passed through his coat sleeve near the shoulder, not cutting the flesh but causing it to sting. Handy sprung up and at the top of his voice cried out to the man shooting at him, "I'm your Yankee son of a ---, shoot if you dare!" At another time, he passed a wounded rebel who asked him for a drink of water, but Handy replied "no, not a drop, don't you remember Fort Pillow?"
After having received a sufficient number of reinforcements, our regiment was relived and permitted to return to camp, reaching there about 8 in the evening. A flag of truce was sent in by the enemy requesting the privilege to bury their dead, and two hours was given them. As the weather was very warm and dry and the most of the land covered with leaves and dry pin, both very combustible, fires were set in almost every place where a gun was discharged, the most of the country was burned over, but as the wind was in favor our wounded were all saved from the flames while most of the enemy's wounded were burned to death. The fire added the greatest horror to the battle field. When gathering up their dead, the enemy acknowledged their loss to be heaviest. Ours was the victory and we held the field, as we were the party receiving the flag of truce. The following is a list of the killed and wounded in the 67th (list deleted).
Camp 67th Regiment, O.V.V.I.
In the field, (near Bermuda Hundred, Virginia)
May 31, 1864
Permit me to make a few brief statements today concerning ourselves who are a few among the many boys who are just now seeing what we have concluded is termed hard times and active service: but we trust that Uncle Sam is not asking si much duty and fatigue of us for any little purpose.
After the battle of Chester Station which was fought on the 10th, and of which I wrote in my last letter, we the 67th were stationed as outpost pickets for four successive days and then returned within the breastworks. On the evening of the 16th after having very heavy fighting near Drury's Bluff, our men, that is the 18th and 10th Corps, excepting one division, fell back and on the morning of the 17th were all within our present strong fortifications. We did at that time and still sustain a strong picket line in front of our works, which requires one brigade every 24 hours. The enemy's line and ours are but a few yards apart and talking is distinctly heard from each other. But each is secure from the other by a complete line of rifle pits in which the men can hide themselves from view. On the evening of the 18th we were sent out as pickets, but when we were near the line the enemy opened a hot fire which lasted about one half hour during which time we gained the few rifle pits that were then dug and the men relieved, returned to camp. During the most of the night, our men were engaged in digging new pits in order that each man might be secure as soon as daylight should appear. Shovels were scarce but those of our men who could not obtain one went readily to work with the use of nothing but their hands and bayonets by the first appearance of morning.
On the evening of the 19th we returned to camp and lay behind the breastworks on our gum blankets during the night. About 1 p.m. on the 20th, the enemy made a dash from our picket line and took from the rifle pits and about 3 o'clock, Colonel Howell, commanding our brigade, was sent out with his command to retake them and in a few moments we were on the move. When within 600 yards of the line, we found that the 9th Maine were the chaps who had played the coward and with but very little resistance had given up their line to a few bold grays and fallen back and hid themselves behind trees or skulked into camp. When we had formed into line, which was done as soon as possible, and commenced firing on the enemy who were very boldly holding their new position, some of those poor frightened sons of Maine, over whom we were as a matter of course shooting over at the enemy looked up and in much fear cried out don't shoot here, you are shooting your own men!
We soon found that we were opposed to a strong force and must fight well or be driven back and as the command forward was given and sent along the line, every man made a dash for the pits, loading and firing as he moved forward and amid cheers and hurrahs leaped into the pits, while the enemy were driven from before us. At dark we again returned to camp.
We had another heavy loss in this engagement, but as it has been some time since and you all have seen the list of killed and wounded of that day in many places before this, I shall not give it. Since coming here many of our brave boys have fallen and many others have been wounded and left, thus making our number at present rather small.
Things have been quiet for the last two or three days. Very heavy firing was heard all day long yesterday on the other side of the James and appeared to be near Malvern Hill. Last evening about 5 o'clock while our regiment and two or three others were relieving the pickets, the enemy opened at brisk artillery fire on our works, but was very promptly replied to by ours, the 1st Connecticut doing splendid work. There is but one company of said artillery here but at the same time we are well supplied with others undoubtedly as good. The firing lasted about an hour. Casualties were one man in the 1st Connecticut killed. Some time in the evening, a musket was accidentally discharged in camp, wounding Private Daniel Wilcox of our company severely in the left hand. We have just received word of the death of Perley P. Pope, one of our noble boys of Company H, who being severely wounded in the right thigh and having his leg amputated, died at Hampton hospital on the 22nd inst.; thus three of my nearest neighbors, two of them brothers, have fallen. May the Lord sustain the bereaved at home. Hoping to write to your excellent paper often should my letters be acceptable.
I remain as ever,
First Lieutenant John "Jeff" Parsons never had the opportunity to send any further letters to his hometown newspaper, the Perrysburg Journal. His 1864 letters were written while he served in Company B, but he was transferred back to Company H and promoted to First Lieutenant on August 11, 1864. Just five days later while leading Company H in a desperate charge against Confederate breastworks at the Battle of Deep Bottom Run, Parsons was killed in action. His regimental commander Major Lewis Butler wrote that Parsons fell mortally wounded and died in a few moments, "another noble sacrifice from the 67th to the cause of our country." Principal Musician Benjamin Franklin Stem noted in describing Parsons in a letter home that, "as a soldier, a braver man never wore the uniform of Uncle Sam."
A few weeks after his death, Lieutenant Parsons' comrades in the 67th Ohio composed the following tribute and resolutions:
Headquarters, 67th Regiment, O.V.V.I.
Before Petersburg, Virginia
September 9, 1864
At a meeting of the officers of the 67th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, held at the headquarters of the regiment near Petersburg, Virginia, September 8, 1864, Colonel Alvin C. Voris presiding, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted, viz.:
Whereas, an all wise providence has seen fit to take from among us our fellow officer Lieutenant John J. Parsons while nobly leading it in the assault on the enemy's works at Deep Run, Virginia on the 16th ult., therefore,
Resolved, that in the death of Lieutenant Parsons there is lost to each of us a loved comrade in arms and a faithful friend, to our government a gallant officer and brave defender, and to the world a pure patriot and a Christian.
Resolved, that we who went through three long years have witnessed his patient endurance of a solder's trials, who in our darkest hours have been animated and strengthened by his words of cheer, who have so often seen him undaunted face the storm of battle, have learned to cherish for him the sentiments of highest esteem; and that we will ever hold in grateful remembrance his gallant deeds as those of one who rested in the knowledge of his own deserts, not sought the confirmation of the world.
Resolved, that we tender to the bereaved family and friends our deepest sympathies in their afflictions, and that while we mingle our tears with theirs we have had the consolation that his spirit rests in peace and we mourn not as those who are without hope.
Resolved, that these resolutions be sent to the friends of the deceased and copies to the Perrysburg, Toledo, and Cleveland papers for publication.
Rodney J. Hathaway,
First Lieutenant and Adjutant, 67th O.V.I., Secretary
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