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Letters from Soldier in the 6th OVI

[The 6th OVI was formed at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati in June 1861. They were first sent to what is now West Virginia and at Cheat Mountain they were the first Union troops to face Robert E. Lee in battle and actually came away with a minor victory. After this they were sent west and spent the rest of their service in Tennessee and Georgia. They were involved in several key battles over the next two years including Fort Donaldson, Shiloh, 1st occupation of Nashville, Stone's River, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. They were involved in Sherman's Atlanta Campaign when their enlistment expired. During their service they lost 4 officers and 82 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 officers and 56 enlisted men to disease. The letters were written by Christopher Columbus Bowen, a private in Company E.  N. Elvick]

Camp Near Nashville, Feb. 26th, 1862

James Harper—Sir:
     Having an opportunity to send you a letter, I thought I would give you a few items concerning our march from Camp Wickliffe and entree into the Capitol of Tennessee. We left Camp Wickliffe and marched to West Point at the mouth of Salt river, Ky., where we embarked on the fleet of steamboats, the Diana being the flag boat, with General Nelson and staff. We arrived at Evansville in the evening of the 18th. We were ordered to the mouth of Green river to await further orders. Orders came in the morning to report to Paducah, but before we got to Evansville the order was countermanded and the fleet, all except the Diana, turned up the river, but had not proceeded far until the order came to turn back. Then the Diana had to overtake the boats and turn them back. We overhauled the last boat at Cannelton, Ind. We then proceeded to Paducah and laid [sic] there 24 hours awaiting further orders; they came in the morning, 23rd, to proceed to Nashville. We arrived at Fort Donelson in the evening, but did not stay there very long. It being dark, I did not see the late battle ground. No doubt before you receive this you will have the full account of the taking of Nashville. I will give only some few incidents which perhaps will not be mentioned by the principal papers.
     We arrived in Clarksville in the morning of the 24th; here we saw the beginning of the destruction of property by slippery Floyd and his thieving followers. They burned the railroad bridge which crosses the Cumberland there, but the bridge can be rebuilt in a short time. We steamed up within about six miles of this place, where we overhauled the gunboat, which was being towed by the Secesh steamer Iatan. We laid by until 5 o'clock yesterday morning, when we steamed on up about two miles, where we saw a battery of four guns, which had been evacuated. Presently we rounded the point in sight of Nashville. As soon as we came up to the lower part of the city, groups of citizens were seen who, upon hearing the band playing the Star Spangled Banner, made the welkin ring with deafening shouts and cheers for the Union. We landed and formed in line on the wharf. When the gallant old flag was carried ashore the deafening shouts went up again. One woman in particular, came along the line, and with tears in her eyes, exclaimed—"God bless you, my dear Union friends; how can I express my gratitude! How can I make manifest my happiness! We have been oppressed for the last six months, but thank God our deliverers have come. We are again free!" There was more than one soldier that tried to restrain tears of joy. But there were some that looked gruff, that did not appear to recognize the old flag, and did not like the old tune, "Yankee Doodle," which was played by the band.
     We then marched up to the Capitol, headed by Nelson and staff, to the tune of "Dixie;" arriving at the Capitol, our flag bearers carried the colors and banner to the top and hoisted them, one on the dome, the other on the flag-staff, then went up three rousing cheers. One very obstinate Secesh accused one of the citizens of treason. Said that he had always before cheered the Stars and Bars, and if he was a little smaller, he (Secesh) would thrash him. The Union man turned around and coolly said—"perhaps sir, you would fight with pistols, if so I will fight you any way." One old gent went home and brought the Stars and Stripes which he had sewed between two blankets and had it concealed for eight months; he said, "I want to hoist this flag and never see any other wave over that State house while I live." His flag was run up and still waves over the Capitol. We found a rebel flag in the Capitol. It was soon riddled by our boys. I send you a small piece.
     The money in Nashville is Tennessee shinplasters of five, ten, fifty cents, and one dollar. Goods are very high; common calicoes are from 50 to 75 cts. per yard; coffee one dollar per pound, and a great many things equally high. The stores had all been closed since the battle at Donelson. We are encamped two miles from the city. Mitchel's division crossed the river yesterday by steamboats, Floyd having burned the railroad and wire suspension bridges before leaving. The best information we can get is that the rebels are going to make a stand at Murfreesboro, thirty miles from here. My hands are cold, I will close.
      My love to all,
      C. C. Bowen.

The Gallipolis Journal
March 13, 1862

[The battle described in this letter was the Battle of Shiloh, in western Tennessee. It was a hard fought Union victory. The carnage was terrible. 23,746 total casualties, 13,047 for the Union and 10,699 Confederate.]

Letter From the 6th Ohio, Wargrove Battle Ground, April 10, 1862

Mr. Harper:—Sir:
     Forgetting to acknowledge the receipt of the Journal which came to hand before I wrote you last, I now thank you for the compliment conferred, and will give you some items concerning the battle, of which I was a participant. I cannot, however, describe many of the important maneuvers, but will begin with the first. After marching four days from Nashville, we came to Duck River at Columbia. The rebels had burned the bridge here. Gen. McCook halted to build a temporary one, but Nelson would not stop, forded the river and pushed forward on to the Tennessee river, reaching it at Savannah, ten miles below this place. We arrived there Saturday and pitched tents for the night. Early Sunday morning, the firing being heard, all was anxiety to hear whether it was an attack or not. It was not long before the news came that Beauregard and Johnston had surprised Grant's forces and were beating them back to the river. Orders came for us to move immediately to Pittsburg landing.—We started at 2 o'clock P.M., Ammon's brigade being in the advance, composed of the 6th and 24th Ohio and 36th Indiana. We arrived at the landing about 6 o'clock, but did not get across until seven. The Secesh were within four hundred yards of the landing. The gun boats A. O. Tylor and Lexington were giving them broadside after broadside with 32 and 64 pounders, shell and grape. When we arrived at the top of the bluff, Gen Nelson rode in front of our line and said: "6th Ohio, I send you forth and expect a good report of you." We then fixed bayonets and made a charge; the enemy gave way and retreated back about two miles to Grant's camp, taking the tents to sleep in.
     We stood all night in battle line, the rain pouring down all the while. If we had been one half hour later Beauregard would now have possession of nearly all of Grant's army. At day break our division started down or rather up the river, Nelson commanding the left wing, Ammon's brigade leading the left wing, with orders to advance steadily until we met the enemy. Our skirmishers began to fire, driving the rebels before them for three miles, when we came suddenly upon their full force. Here we halted until the 22nd brigade, composed of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 20th Kentucky, came up. Our skirmishers kept peppering the rebels. About seven o'clock the firing opened in the centre [sic] in earnest, and gradually drew around to the left. On came the Secesh yelling, being flushed with the success they had attained on Sunday. Nelson rode up and ordered the 1st and 2nd Kentucky to charge, which they did brilliantly, driving the yelling Secesh back across an open field into the woods. The firing changed again to the right wing, where the rebels met the same rebuke. Our regiment was waiting for a sight at the butternuts. Presently they came again in a charge on the left. Nelson was there, cool as usual. Riding up, he said: "6th Ohio, charge them from their cover," which we did with a willingness, they taking to their usual habit of running, left I suppose on suspicion. We were then ordered to protect Terrell's famous battery, which was then unsupported. We took position about twenty paces to the rear of the battery, lying down on the ground. But this was not the best place in the field, although it was musical enough. The shell, grape and canister came whizzing and crashing through the limbs above our heads, and some uncomfortably close. Five men fell at one of the guns and one horse. Captain Terrell called for 12 men to man a gun; they were taken from Company A. Every time the Captain sighted one 12-pounder he would pull off his hat and cry, "fire, and away with them." One of the shells struck immediately under one of Bragg's rebel guns and killed five men, six horses and dismounted the piece. From 6 o'clock A.M. Monday, the 7th, to 6 p.m., the roar of cannon and musketry was terrific, without one moment's interruption. Sometimes the rebel and Union lines were within 30 or 40 paces of each other, and the blaze was continual, one perfect sheet of flame.The battle line from the extreme right to the extreme left, was near four miles long, and [in] the centre and right of the left wing, the undergrowth was literally mowed off, strewing the ground with the dead.—The bombs set fire to the leaves, burning the bodies, and making the scene terrible.
     It would be impossible to relate the many strange sights of this battle field. Some were lying on their backs with their arms in the position of a man in the act of shooting. The most that I have seen were shot through the head. Some soldiers that fought at Ft. Donelson and Manassas say that both combined would not make such a battle as this. In some places I saw as many as thirty dead on as many square yards of ground. They have been burying for three days, and still they are thick enough to keep them burying one or two days more. I would put the killed at two or three thousand for a low estimate, and for ten miles the cavalry followed the rebels and strewed the ground with the dead. I suppose the loss will never be ascertained. General A. S. Johnston fell in the evening of the second day's fighting. Provisional Governor Johnson of Kentucky, is wounded and brought in a prisoner, and I understand that Bragg of "a little more grape" notoriety, was also a prisoner.
     I came across an acquaintance of mine from Franklin, St. Mary's Parish, La., among the wounded. He told me that they (the rebels) had 110,000 men in the battle, with Jeff. Davis, Beauregard, Johnston, Hardee, and Ruggles, their best Generals. They gave their men whiskey and gunpowder, and the men not having had any for some time, it made them crazy.—They made some desperate charges, but shot too high, both with musketry and artillery, while our men made every shot tell. Our regiment lost five men. The mail is going to start soon and I must close. This is a sheet that was found on the ground.
     My love and respects to all.
     C. C. Bowen

The Gallipolis Journal
April 24, 1862

[The Battle of Stone's River (Murfreesboro) was just a few days off, which would be another battle with very high casualties (total 23,000 for both sides). After this there would be a lull for them until September when they would meet the rebels at Chickamauga in northern Georgia. N Elvick]

Nashville, Tennessee Dec. 24, 1862

Mr. Harper:—Sir:
     After a long and fatiguing march, and a few weeks in camp with but little rest since our arrival here, I take my pen to write you a short history of our travels.—When I wrote you last we were at Athens, Alabama, in camp. The Tenth Brigade was ordered to march to Murfreesboro, via Nashville, just after Forest captured the garrison, the particulars you are no doubt familiar with. We moved from Murfreesboro to Minnville, and made the trip there and back six times [missing words, fold in paper] into Kentucky. But to be brief, we found ourselves eight miles from Nashville three days after leaving Murfreesboro. Here we halted for three days, while Bragg was near Gallatin. Then we started for Bowling Green; when we got there, Bragg had arrived at Munfordsville, and had gobbled up the little garrison there. We all expected a hard battle at Green river, but Buell did not want to trouble his brother in principle on his holy mission, so we stopped here until Bragg had gained a safe distance ahead, when we slipped by him and arrived safely at Louisville.      We stayed there three days, then started again in pursuit of the rebels. We came up with them at Perryville; here Buell again showed his great Generalship (as the Louisville Journal pleases to call it). We were drawn up in battle array, within two miles of Perryville, and listened to the booming of the cannons which was [sic] slaughtering our comrades who were bravely contesting the ground against twice their number, while two Corps-de-Arme were looking on with a strong desire to go in. Now old D. C. pretends to say that he was ignorant of the fact that there was anything more than a skirmish going on. The next morning we started after the rebels, and followed them to camp Wild-Cat, having an occasional skirmish with their rear guard. Our Brigade followed them 22 miles beyond Wild-Cat, then about faced and took up our line of march to Nashville, arriving here on November 10th. We get no more rest now than we would on an active campaign; we either go on picket guard, foraging, or a reconnoisance [sic] every two days.—
     Forage is getting very scarce in this immediate vicinity; we take every particle that we can find, receipt for it, and return leaving the old gent, who was in possession of said forage looking over the top of his spectacles at the little slip of paper, and cursing the ingenious Yankee who first introduced this mode of liquidating debts. This morning we have orders to move Camp, rumor says to Gallatin. Some say that the 6th, 24th, and 3rd Ohio, and 9th Indiana Regiments, are going to garrison the town of Gallatin. If we do, John Morgan had better be careful how he attacks us, for we will always be wide-awake; yet if he should catch us asleep, I think we could get up and whip him easy. There is a rumor in camp this morning that the rebels have left Murfreesboro, but nothing certain is known.
     There is a deep depression of spirit among the soldiers of this Brigade, which is a fair sample of the Army here. They all believe that this is the darkest hour of our country's trial, when the non-combatants at home are quarreling among themselves, withdrawing their support from the Administration by word and deed, and the Grand Army making strategic movements which ends in a tragedy; discord in the Cabinet, and a general division of sentiment in the whole North, will yet break up with the recognition of the Southern Confederacy, if something great is not done soon; then good-bye once proud and prosperous United States. We are willing to suffer and fight eighteen months more to save the Union. If it must fall, then I wish every Vallandighamer and every cowardly Union man that gave his vote to that clique, will sink into the hottest corner of P_____y the next moment. I would as soon go into a war to exterminate them, than to fight the Southern rebels, for they are men who dare to maintain their rights while these poltroons of the North are afraid to claim theirs at the ballot box. As we journey, I will write occasionally.
     C. C. Bowen

The Gallipolis Journal
January 15, 1863

Transcribed by Eva Swain Hughes

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