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Letters from Soldiers in the 60th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

[There were two regiments called the 60th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In February 1862 the 60th was organized in Gallipolis for a one year enlistment. The second letter details an escape by Sgt. Sprouse. About two months later the rest of the regiment was taken prisoner at Harper's Ferry, Virginia and subsequently parolled. When this letter was written the writer, Anselm T. Holcomb, may have actually been a civilian. He is listed as a private in the 173rd which was organized in Gallipolis in September of 1864, well after this letter was written. The third letter, further down the page, was another regiment, organized at Cleveland and Columbus in the spring of 1864, and sent to Virginia where they fought at Spotsylvania, Wilderness and Cold Harbor before spending the last several months of the war at the Seige of Petersburg. N. Elvick]

Mt. Jackson, June 15, 1862

Mr. Harper:
     I am not in the habit of writing very much for the papers, but thinking perhaps the citizens of Gallipolis would like to hear of the 60th Regiment once more, I concluded to send you a short letter. We are encamped half a mile south of Mt. Jackson on the Shenandoah river, (North branch) as the rear guard of the Pathfinder's army. Our pickets are placed immediately on the river brink [sic] to give warning of the enemy's approach from towards Harrisonburg.
     I suppose you have already a detailed account of the battle of last Sunday at Cross Keys. The 60th Regiment lost in the battle, killed, 1st Lieut. Vance of Capt. Willard's company, three privates—Bowmen and Garrett of Capt. Gore's company, and Dodds of Capt. Gardiner's company, and three wounded—Sergeant Irwin of company A, Capt. Hill; Huggins of company B, Capt. Rothrock, and Logan. We were in the fight between eight and nine hours, coming off the field the last and posting the advance pickets on the right centre. We are sorry to see the praise due our Brigade taken from us and bestowed on another, who had no opportunity of firing a gun, except from their artillery. And we hope in the course of time to be placed before the public in our proper light. Giving us only our just dues, and this I think will be done before long. Col. Clazaret is the Brigadier General commanding the Brigade, consisting of the 8th Virginia, Colonel Lossier, and 60th Ohio, Col. Trimble, with a small corps of Cavalry under Capt. White. On Monday we skirmished down to the river bank at Port Republic, and had the honor of firing the last shot at Jackson with musketry. The 8th had the right centre, the 60th the left centre. On Thursday we commenced the backward movement, arriving here on Thursday night last. Our future destination is totally unknown to all.
     The 60th sends compliments to (the) fair ones of Gallipolis.
     Orderly E.

The Gallipolis Journal
July 10, 1862

ADVENTURES OF A GALLIA BOY; Vinton, June 20, 1862

Mr. Harper:
     Sergeant Jas. Sprouse, of Co. K, 60th Ohio Regiment, arrived at this place on Thursday afternoon of the 26th inst., and gives the following account of his capture by and escape from the rebels. On the morning of Tuesday, the 17th inst., Col. Trimble moved his camp about half a mile West of Mount Jackson; on the Shenandoah river, Virginia; the men stacked their arms and commenced putting up their tents, when he left the camp and went back to town, to a sutler, to purchase some paper, not finding any there he went down the road about a mile and a half to another sutler where he met with no better success. He then started back to camp across fields and a piece of woods. On getting over the fence out of a wheat field into the woods, he found himself in the presence of two rebel spies who were viewing his camp through a glass. These spies took him prisoner and marched him some 400 yards, where three other spies were awaiting their return with horses. The spies mounted, two leading and two following after him. They marched on this way, inquiring of him about the army, officers &c., two or three miles, where they fell in with a company of guerillas, about 75 in number. The spies then asked him for his money; he gave them all he had, being only three dollars and a gold pen; they turned him over to the guerillas, who were on foot, and took another way. The guerillas were also very inquisitive about our army, inquired the number engaged at the battle of Cross Keys, the names of officers, the number killed, wounded, &c. They said they were going to Franklin, in Pendelton county. Night came on and they slept in the woods without tents; they were short of provisions, but divided with him. Next morning (Wednesday) they commenced their march for Franklin, and arrived in the neighborhood of it at dark, and lay down in a small field for the night, placing a guard over him. He kept watch over the guard until about two o'clock, when finding him asleep he crawled off to the woods. He then took to the mountain, not knowing whither he went. At daylight he thought he would take the course for New Creek Station on the North Potomac. Shortly after he was fired at by a bushwhacker, the ball whistling by him; he instantly changed his course, and running through the brush lost his cap. He ran off the mountain, crossed the valley and another mountain, and so on, mountain after mountain; night coming on (Thursday), he found himself in sight of a hut, but lay on the mountain until morning, when seeing no men about, he went to the house and asked for bread, which the woman at first refused him, but on his telling her that he was very hungry and would have some if it was about the house, she gave him half a loaf; this done [sic] him that day and the next. He traveled on that day and the next, avoiding roads, farms, and villages, but ignorant of where he was, or whither he was going, rubbing out and eating wheat at night, and occasionally getting onions from gardens. He kept on in this way, wading a river and several small creeks until Tuesday, the 24th, when after watching a house for some time and finding no men about, he ventured up to it and asked the lady for something to eat; she gave him both bread and meat, which he took along with him, not caring to stay long with his hostess. Of her he inquired for New Creek Station, the railroad, the Potomac and the army; the lady said she knew nothing of any of these places or things; he then inquired how far it was to a river; she told him they called it about fifty yards or sixty miles to the "Kanawha."—This was the first knowledge he had of the waters he was navigating. He then kept down the valley all day, carefully avoiding little farms and huts, and at night slept on a mountain. This day (Tuesday) he waded a river. Next morning (Wednesday 25th) he took his course rather down the valley but kept pretty well on the mountain, when at about 4 o'clock P.M., he came to the Kanawha river, five miles above Charleston, where he was furnished with provisions and a hat. A small boat was to leave for Gallipolis at dark, he applied to the Captain for passage who readily granted it and brought him to Gallipolis on Thursday morning.—He walked home the same afternoon, in good health, but tired and sore.
     He has written to Col. Trimble informing him of his adventure and whereabout [sic]; and to Governor Tod for means of transportation to his Regiment. As soon as he gets a return from Governor Tod, he will leave for his Regiment, where he will do his country good service, as he did at the battle of Cross Keys.

The Gallipolis Journal
July 3, 1862

[The 60th was involved in the notorious mine explosion at Petersburg in July 1864. After digging an underground tunnel they planted an explosive and blew a gap in the Confederate lines. The rebels recovered quickly and counterattacted and repaired the breech and there were heavy Union losses. They then had to settle in for eight more months of trench warfare in the Seige of Petersburg. Petersburg and Richmond finally fell on the same day, April 2, 1865. The 60th planted the Union flag at the courthouse. It was only one week longer before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. In the last paragraph below, the booming cannon was signaling the impending surrender of Confederate General Joseph Johnston in North Carolina to General Sherman. This letter was written just two days before Lincoln's assasination. N. Elvick]

In camp, 60th O.V.I., 21 miles S.W. Petersburg, Va., April 12, 1865

Editor Gallipolis Journal:
     Four years ago to-day, the traitorous hands of "Southern Chivalry" first gave a stab at the Government of the United States, which they intended as a declaration of war against that Government, which had nourished them in their infancy, and gave them strength in their riper years. Four years ago, they were violent, insolent and full of malice and contempt of the old Government, which their leaders have endeavored, by the most daring effrontery and artful lying, to deceive us and the rest of the world, into the belief that such was the feeling of the great body of the Southern people, up to within the last few days, when General Grant by his master strokes of military science, coupled with the efforts of one of the finest armies ever known, placed this same boasting, ranting chivalry in a position which has clearly proved, that this vaunted "Confederacy" was nothing but an empty shell, held together with the worst kind of despotism—that of a guarded soldierly [sic]; and to-day they stand forth in their true character, Davis, Cabinet, and rebel Congress, like all braggarts, cowards, flee their conquered capital, and betake themselves to find that "sequestered spot" which the rebel Senator Foot sighed for, at the time he discovered the "beginning of the end" of their lofty conceived Confederacy. But I commenced this letter more for the purpose of referring to the events of the last twelve days in which a few of the Gallia boys bore no unenvious part.
     On the 29th March the campaign was fairly opened by an attempt of the rebels in front of the 2d Brigade, 1st division, 9th corps to accomplish the same feat they did on the 25th, the capture of Fort Steedman [sic], but which resulted so disastrously for them. On this second attempt they did not find our boys willing to allow them to pass our entrenchments without the countersign, for we sent them back howling before they gained our abattis [sic]. On the 30th and 31st ult., everything was extremely quiet in front of the 9th corps, but further to the left Sheridan, Wright, and Warren, were maneuvering their combined commands in order to open the ball in earnest on the 1st inst. In the morning, Gen. Hartranft, who commands the 3d division 9th corps, which was in reserve, attacked and carried Fort Malione [sic], the strongest rebel work on the lines south of the Appomattox river, and about two miles to the left of that stream. Simultaneously Wright and Sheridan attacked on the extreme left, the cavalry being far around to the southwest of Petersburg. Wright done [sic] all that he was ordered to do, but the cavalry was driven back at first to within a mile and a half of Dinwiddie Court House. Here the 5th corps, Gen. Warren, came to Sheridan's assistance and in turn, the rebels were driven back beyond their former works, and kept moving, so that only for night intervening they would not have gotten any rest until we carried the South side rail road, which was done the next day.
     On the 2d Grant ordered an attack along the whole line, so as to prevent Lee from sending troops to the assistance of their right (our left) which resulted gloriously. Early in the morning our brigade charged the rebel works by regiments, but failed to make a lodgement. Our regiment went into the work gloriously, and considering the nature of the ground and every thing, we lost very few men. In my company, I, two Gallia county boys were wounded, Thurman Phillips, through he thigh, and Conoway G. Boggs, through the ankle. As our regiment was in the intrenchments [sic] nearest to Petersburg, we were the first to enter the "blockade city," which was done early in the morning of the 3d inst. The 1st Michigan sharpshooters led the way, and the 60th Ohio followed.—We found the city on fire in several places, caused by the rebels burning public stores, bridges and tobacco warehouses. The city was soon alive with Uncle Sam's "blue birds," and I certainly never seen [sic] troops, under similar circumstances behave themselves better. Private property, what little was left, was respected; and you could see on all hands the Union soldiers giving their rations to this half-starved chivalry, who four years ago were so defiant, proud and haughty. Not only the "white trash" were reduced to taking hard tack from our boys, but dainty-fingered ladies—real bona fied [sic] ladies—condescended to nibble them in order to keep soul and body together.
     Our division and brigade were selected, for their good conduct, and being the first to gain the city, to garrison it. After staying two days, the General–Wilcox–asked to be relieved and put into field service. Accordingly we are now, not exactly in field service, but out of the Provost service, guarding the south side railroad; for before we were relieved, the 2d, 5th, 6th and 24th corps, together with Sheridan's cavalry were far on toward Lynchburg, making the final blows toward the extinguishment of the grandest failures of modern times—the Southern Confederacy. Their task was soon finished for Gen. R. E. Lee, the greatest and best of their leaders has already surrendered the remnant of the "Army of Northern Virginia" left him by the gallant Sheridan; and while I write here in the solitude of a Virginia pinery, I hear the booming of cannon telling us plainly that Johnston has profited by his example. Therefore before the 4th day of July, I expect to greet you in pro pria personae [sic ]. Until then, I am,
     Truly Yours, &c.,
     Geo. E. Koontz, Co. I, 60th O.V.I.

The Gallipolis Journal
May 4, 1865