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William Chapman Papers: Transcripts - MS 652
Aug.4th. After a great deal of mental conflict I have this day enlisted under Capt. Geo. F. Brady in Co.H, 103d Ohio Vol. Infantry to serve for three years or during the war against the Slaveholders Rebellion. A large number of my acquaintances are going out in the same Company. The war has now been in progress over a year and still the combat deepens. Thicker and heavier loom up the clouds of war in our national horizon and God alone knows what the end will be. Our Reg. is to be commanded by Col. Jack Casement, formerly Major of the 7th O.V.I. and we are assured by those who know him that he will prove a gallant leader. Our Lieut. Col. is Jas. Sterling of Cleveland, a fine genial fellow. Maj. C.C. Howard of Elyria is our 3d field officer. Dr. L.D. Griswold of Elyria is to be our surgeon. Our Co. officers are Capt. G.F. Brady of Elyria, Lieut. John Booth of Carlisle, and Lieut. P.B. Parsons of Elyria.
20. I have been chosen by Capt. Brady as 4th Sergeant in his list of non-commissioned officers.
23. We are still in Camp Cleveland and today we have been visited by his Excellency Gov. Tod, who gave us a fine speech, full of good promises. The governor is loyal to the core. The several regiments in camp were called on dress parade and reviewed by him. Shall go home on leave this evening.
28. This has been a grand gala day on University Heights. Eaton, Carlisle, Ridgeville, and the city of Cleveland have furnished us a grand picnic and the amount of good things brought in was astonishing. But then seasons are not long to be enjoyed by us. Fi is here and we stop tonight at the City Hotel. There are now in this camp about 2300 men.
Sept.3. Left Cleveland this p.m. as we supposed for Camp Dennison with three days rations in our haversacks, but did not stop short of Cincinnati, which we found in a perfect fever of excitement caused by a rumor that 5000 Secesh cavalry were within five miles of the city. Every place of business was closed, bolted, and barred and the only signs of life were the government wagons, crossing the river to the front and the thundering of heavy artillery over the stony streets. All looked gloomy as a funeral. After receiving our Austrian rifles at the Cincinnati Armory and other necessary equipments, we have crossed the river and are encamped tonight (the 4th) in the Covington Market House, lying on its brick floor after being supplied with edibles by the citizens. Recd. our blankets and overcoats here.
Sept.7. Recd. marching orders last evening to move forward to Fort Mitchell on the Lexington Pike. After marching through dust interminable and loaded down with accouterments and heavy knapsacks for 2 1/2 miles, we lay down in an open field to sleep in the neighborhood of the Fort. Our position is now behind a line of trenches, which command the Lexington Pike and up which it is supposed the Rebs will soon make a dash. Several regts. of Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry are around us on the different heights. Fort Mitchel lies on our front from the parapets of which six long 32 pounders frown down upon the Pike, looking as they really are the very dogs of war. If the Rebs attack us in this position they will undoubtedly meet with a warm reception.
This is Sabbath, but we have but little realization of the fact, as our time has been occupied in tearing down board fences and constructing tempory [sic] shanties to protect us from the broiling sun. A man was shot by a sentinel at the fort this p.m. for refusing to halt when requested to. Twelve new regiments have come in today and more are on their way this evening.
10. Two miles to the front on picket duty with the whole of our Co. and Co.E. We were alarmed during the night by the return of our cavalry scouts, whom we thought to be Rebs. They brought us the news that a large body of infantry and cavalry were within 7 miles of us and rapidly approaching. We lie on our arms for the balance of the night.
11. Our pickets were driven in this morning and we among the rest, but not until a cloud of dust was visible and the rebel drums distinctly heard. Capt. Semple's men were fired upon, but no one hurt. When we arrived in camp we found it in a state of intense excitement. Every trench was filled with troops and batteries of artillery placed in commanding positions, all in rediness to let loose the dogs of war. A company of cavalry was sent out to meet them when an exchange of shots took place between them and their advance guard, resulting in the death of one Lieut. of the 101st Ohio and a cavalryman had an ear shot off. These are the first shots I ever heard fired between human beings. Five hundred men were employed all day yesterday in felling timber around the camp and fort to render the coast clear. We sleep tonight in the trenches with our guns in our arms, expecting an attack every moment.
13. Still beside the trenches, where we have lain for the last three days. Rained tremendously yesterday p.m. and considerable during last night and we were obliged to remain out in it all with no covering but our blankets The contents of my knapsack were completely drenched with dirty water. Some of us thought of home during the dreary hours of the night and wished for its comforts. The enemy has made discretion the better part of valor. After skirmishing for two days, they have retreated with a loss of some 15 killed and a number wounded. Our men buried four rebels today who had been left by their heathenish brethren. We leave the trenches tonight. Some 30,000 squirrel hunters are here and about as many soldiers.
Sept.14. In the woods south of the fort on picket duty again, along with the Oberlin Co.F, Capt Hays and we have been enjoying ourselves the "best kinder" if I except sleeping cold last night while lying upon the roots of trees with nothing but overcoats. It is Sabbath again, but how unlike the Sabbath of home. Discharged our pieces and had dress parade this p.m. Prayer meeting in camp tonight led by Chaplain Hubbard.
17. In the woods again with six other companies of our Regt. on picket. We are regaling ourselves on sweet potatoes, apples, tomatoes, green corn, etc., which we have confiscated. The enemy's scouts are around us or have been during the night, crawling like cats along the ground. Capt. Hay's men snapped their guns at two of them but they missed fire. Sanford Carpenter shot off his forefinger on the right hand last night, either on purpose or very carelessly. I took him to the hospital where it was amputated. His soldiering is probably done up.
19. Morning. Marching orders last night. After traveling six miles we camped on the Fairground near Florence. Several thousand men are here, but what their ultimate destination is I am unable to predict. Not having had any sleep for two nights of any account it was with difficulty that I made the march. My bed last night was rather tough for a man nearly on the sick list. Emory, James, and John Warnock we have left behind.
20. Camped last night in a beautiful grove about 14 miles from Fort Mitchell, which had been occupied by a detachment of John Morgan's cavalry not more than two hours previously. They are not far distant now as is indicated by the firing along our picket lines and we may have a brush with them before night. We have several regiments of infantry, 300 cavalry, and two pieces of artillery, with which to meet them. I understand that Kirby Smith's army of 25,000 men is about 10 miles off. If so, we may have a sharp time. The boys are busy this morning cooking port, mutton, turkeys, and chickens by roasting them over a fire on sticks. These luxuries have been confiscated by them from the Secesh inhabitants about here.
21. Sunday morning. Travelled about 12 miles yesterday and passed through the town of Walton and the village of Crittenden where the ladies cheered us and sang the Red, White, and Blue, which put new life into our tired dust-begrimmed battalion, who returned the compliment by singing the John Brown song. Now and then a group of secesh were seen, who by their scowling looks showed their complicity with treason. The Negroes as usual greeted us with smiling faces.
Evening. Very unexpectedly to me we were ordered this morning to return to Camp Mitchell. The reason is probably the scarcity of water, as all the springs and wells in this part of the country are about dry. Our retreat operates unfortunately as the Rebel cavalry have followed us and captured 20 men on our rear. Two of their cavalry in disguise came in under a flag of truce and were afterward found by Major Howard acting as spies and were captured. They are in our camp tonight under a strong guard. They tell us there is room enough in Kentucky to bury all the "damned Yankees". We are now encamped in a piece of woods about 20 miles from Covington.
Sept. 23. Still in our camp in the woods. Nothing of more than ordinary interest has transpired during the last two days, except that a young man belonging to Co.E shot off his thumb accidentally and had to have it taken out by the roots. This is third event of the kind in our Regt. Recd a letter from Fi this morning. There are about 4000 men in this camp.
25. Yesterday I was quite unwell and was excused from duty by the surgeon. I am still unwell, but have been able to drill with my comrades and while out we were alarmed by a volley of musketry on our picket line. Our whole command was immediately ordered into line of battle where we remained until noon, expecting an attack. It turns out that a small body of infantry came up to our lines under a flag of truce pretending to be deserters from the Rebs, but while our pickets gathered round their officers a sudden dash of cavalry was made upon them and about 20 of our cavalry together with 40 of the 18th Michigan Inf. were captured, a trick well worthy of Yankee land. This p.m. our regiment have nearly all gone on picket duty. I am left to take care of our tents and baggage.
26. Last night while alone with the sick, we were all ordered to prepare for an emergency by donning our equipment and sleeping with our guns in our arms, but no foe appeared. Our Co. came in about dusk this evening. While they were out, we who remained were ordered to strike tents, pack tents and everything, load our baggage and prepare to march back to Fort Mitchell, which preparation was no sooner made than by a species of military tactics known only to the initiated, the order was countermanded.
27. During last night sharp firing was again heard on our picket line and we were three times brought out in line of battle, but had no brush with the enemy. Yesterday one of our Indiana men was shot at by two rebel citizens, not 50 rods from their camp. One ball went through his hand, cutting off two of his fingers, the other went through his blouse. It was a piece of blackhearted treachery for only a few minutes previous they had been conversing with him, pretending to be union men. A man shot himself through the head last night with a revolver, probably tired of soldiering. Recd. a letter from Mary & Naomi Sperry, Nellie King and father.
28. Another man in our Co. shot off his forefinger today, either very carelessly or on purpose. We have had Divine service today by our Chaplain for the first time, from 1st Chronicles 28th-30.
30. On picket duty again. Lay last night by the side of Capt. Brady on the bare ground star gazing. At 12 o'clock it became my duty to go the grand round of pickets and a sweet time I had, picking my way in the darkness, over logs & through brush and briers. This has been a lazy day for me, lounging most of the time on the ground listening to Capt. Brady while he related the scenes and adventures of his early life. A member of Co.C shot off his thumb last night. Fingers and thumbs will soon be at a premium in this Regt. at this rate.
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