Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"But while it is necessary, let us be soldiers"

I think it is fitting to provide an explanation as to why I chose the title I did for this blog. As I have posted above (just below the photograph), the title comes from a quote that I found in the diary of Albert Champlin, a private with the 105th Ohio Volunter Infantry. Champlin's diary is among the Alfred Mewett Papers at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. I came across it while doing research for my master's thesis, which, after 7 months and countless hours of research and writing, was accepted just last week.

The focus of my master's thesis was the experiences and motivations of Ohio soldiers during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign in 1864. Why this topic with this group in this campaign? Well, I chose this as my topic because first and foremost, it was something I had a desire to learn more about. Despite growing up and living in Northeast Ohio, I had previously known very little about my home state's contribution to the Union cause. When searching for topics on which I could write, I came across several Ohio regiments with companies hailing from Lake County, where I have lived my entire life. I hadn't previously known anything about these men or their stories, so I decided to do a little investigating work. It turns out that a great many regiments from this region of Ohio were a part of Sherman's forces during his Atlanta, Savannah, and Carolinas campaigns. I am quite fascinated with Sherman, making this an excellent subject for me to research and write about. Because Sherman's March to the Sea is the much more popular older brother to the Atlanta Campaign in Civil War lore, I decided to pick the road less travelled and study the four month struggle that took place in Northern Georgia during the summer of 1864. In the course of the research into soldiers' letters and diaries, I discovered many fascinating quotes and anecdotes, and several of them were in the diary of Albert Champlin.

Champlin's diary provided a detailed and daily account of many interesting facets of the Atlanta Campaign. While he did not see much combat, his observations on army morale, current events, and even the daily weather provided a wealth of information that enabled me to understand daily life for Union soldiers during this time. The complete quote, of which the quote above is just one sentence, is quite remarkable. Champlin's Christian faith is on full display, as he looks to God to end the current conflict and allow him to return to the comforts of civilian life. Yet, Champlin's resolve to see the conflict through to its rightful ending is readily apparent as well:

“Oh, that our work may still be blessed of God, that the time of its completion may not be far distant, the time when rebellion shall have been put down to be known no more in our land and when quiet, civil pursuits shall have taken the place of the stern duties of the soldiers in the field, and Sabbath and sanctionary privileges the place of military necessities. But while it is necessary, let us be soldiers. And may an Overruling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice to many has long prevailed, and finally, peace quiet and harmony out of this terrible confrontation and our country’s fiery ordeal.”-- Albert Champlin, June 19, 1864

I think Champlin's words speak for themselves in their sincerity. They weren't written with thoughts of future publication in mind; rather, they were Albert's testament to God and to himself concerning his faith and his determination to see his cause succeed. I don't know about you, but I find his words quite remarkable in the depth and conviction they display. They provide fitting context concerning what it is that Champlin and others like him felt about their efforts during the summer of 1864. I couldn't think of a better title for this blog that spoke to its purpose than these words of Albert Champlin. They represent how the fighting man of the Union army saw the struggle in which he was engaged.

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