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)

Friday, December 21, 2012

John Ellen Journal, 23rd OVI, Part 3: "Thousands of true men have paid the debt of nature..."

Today is part three of a three part series of posts containing the journal entries of 2nd Lt. John Ellen, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On Wednesday, we looked at Ellen's posts for late August through September. Yesterday, we saw Ellen's posts for October, November, and early December. Today, we will look at just two entries: one for December 21, 1862, 150 years ago today, and the other for January 6, 1863.

In the entry written 150 years ago today, Ellen laments the recent Union defeat at Fredericksburg. He is quite gloomy when considering the prospects for the war and the country, almost on the point of declaring that the war will never end. Considering his comments on December 3rd (seen in yesterday's post) regarding the inefficiency of the Government and the army, Ellen seems to lack faith in the government to do what is necessary to win. In the second entry, dating to January 6, 1863, Ellen comments on the Emancipation Proclamation and the recent Union victory at Stones River (Murfreesboro).

Camp Maskell, VA

Dec. 21, 1862

Sunday night; received a letter from E.H.C. and have answered it; all well. Prospect gloomy, wet lowering weather; disagreeable. Burnside’s defeat casts a gloom over all. The General is whom the people looked for great achievements as the successor of McClellan, with a powerful army under his command, has committed a great blunder, and suffered a ruinous repulse. Thousands of true men have paid the debt of nature, and thousands of hearthstones are made desolate. Everything does seem to indicate the establishment of a Southern Confederacy. Inneficancy [sic] in the Government Departments clogs the movements of a million soldiery. The strife will never be ended by the sword. Madness must cease, and reason assume the sway, else all will be ruined.

No bread to issue in the morning, all out, none at Piatt. No clothing to be had in our Division (2nd, Kna). No pay to troops in six months; very cheery prospects for the foreboding class of the army.

No news later than the 17th.

Camp Reynolds, VA

January 6, 1863

The name of our camp is changed from “Maskell” to that of “Reynolds”, Col. Hayes [Rutherford B. Hayes, future 19th U.S. President] made the in honor of Eugene Reynolds, the Sergeant Major of the 23rd killed at the Battle of South Mountain. The tribute is a good one. Eugene was a splendid soldier—intelligent, brave, and prompt.

The new year 1863 ushers in one important (maybe) event; the President’s Proclamation of Emancipation of the slaves in the rebellious states. It is possible to work some good, and probably (very) some evil. So I think.

Gen. Ewing has left the “Valley” with four Reg’ts; the 47th, 30th, 37th OVI and the 4th VA VI. Destination Kentucky.

The news of the 3rd inst. Report a severe battle at Murfreesboro, Tenn. Rosecrans in command of the Union forces, and Bragg of the Confederates. Reported Union success.

No letters from E.H.C. in two weeks.

Have been to Piatt and Fayette, this month.

Source: John S. Ellen Journal, Western Reserve Historical Society, Mss. 3502.


  1. Thanks for posting these. I have always enjoyed reading diaries and letters from the American Civil War. I hope you find the time to post more from Lt. Ellen in the future. He is not afraid to put his thoughts on paper!

  2. Thanks for the comment and for checking out the blog, Steve. I hope to read more of Ellen's Journal the next time I make it to the Western Reserve Historical Society.