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)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

John Ellen Journal, 23rd OVI, Part 2: "The Rebellion is wicked and hateful..."

Today's post is the second of a three part series on the journal of John Ellen, a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Yesterday, we looked at Ellen's journal entries for late August and the month of September, covering the balance of the Maryland Campaign. Today, the entries begin on October 1st and extend to December 3rd. They cover a variety of topics, mostly the regiments movements. However, Ellen also voiced his opinion on Antietam and the war. He clearly believed that Antietam was a glorious victory, as was the Battle of South Mountain. Ellen's hatred for the Confederate cause is readily apparent in his entries of November 21st and December 3rd. He seemed to be leaning toward favoring a "Hard War" approach when he lamented the ability of Confederates and Southerners to keep their food stores while Union soldiers went without enough food. Ellen also wrote harshly of selfishness in the Union ranks, applying his words specifically to those who simply sought an advancement in rank. As Ellen stated quite eloquently:

Self! Is the rule, and true patriotism the exception.

The rebellion flourishes, and if it is ever crushed it will not be by any other agency than the justness of our cause. The Rebellion is wicked and hateful; the blood it has shed must be atoned for if ruin come to all.

Camp at Mouth of Antietam Creek, Md

Wednesday Oct 1st 1862

The month of September as witnessed some of the most determined fighting of this most unnatural Civil War. The battle of South Mountain Sunday Sept 14th and the Battle of Antietam, Wednesday the 17th are battles to be recorded on the blood pages of our nation’s history. Those battles though terrible in slaughter, added new strength to Republican Government; they were terrible blows to Democratic anarchy, and ambitious demagogism. The rebel army with its whole strength has been driven from the fruitful state of Md. back into the desert of the Old Dominion, made desert by the actions of her degenerate people. The season thus far has been pleasant, if it should so continue through the month of October the rebel capital may be invested and captured, and the war virtually ended. Our Reg’t has been near here since the 22nd of September. Our troops are in good health and condition. Wrote to Uncle S. this p.m.

Friday October 2nd

Camp at Antietam Creek

Our brigade was reviewed today by President Lincoln, Major General McClellan, Major General Burnside, and their staff. The day was pleasant and everything pass off in good order.

Sunday October 5th

The Kanawhaw [sic] Division was visited this P.M. by General Cox and his staff. General Cox is ordered back to Western Va. And it is rumored that his old troops will follow him. No news.

Monday October 6th

Pleasant day, no news. Wrote to E.H.C. and C.A.S.

October 24th

Camp Near Clarksburg Va

Pleasant Fall weather, but little rains this autumn. Co. B., 23rd Regiment were paid by Major Johnson, up to June 30th date of payment to the Reg’t. Appointed treasure Reg’t fund Oct. 22nd.

Monday November 3, 1862

Summerville Va

Left Clarksburg Oct 25th .

Friday November 14th, 1862, Near Gauly Bridge

Crooks Division left Summerville on the 11th inst. Reached there the evening of the 12th.

Camp near Gauly VA

Friday Nov. 21, 1862

The 23rd Reg’t has been on the ground since the 15th inst. We have been transferred from Crook’s to Scammon’s division. We are building winter quarters, and the work drags. There is but few axes to cut the logs, and but few horses to haul them when cut.

The river is so low it is almost impossible to get a supply of forage. The horses are almost starved. Rebel citizens have corn, and then keep it under protection of Union generals. Rebel stock is fat, Government stock is poor—so goes the war. Subduing rebels with sugar plums. A wishy washy, no policy; making them, and us, napoleons. Great generals. What a farce. No news from home; no mail. Wrote to E.H.C. this P.M. I have been ARSM for the 23 O.V.I. since Nov the 10th.

Camp Maskell Va

December 3rd, 1862

We are favoured now days with genuine fall weather—rain and mud. We walk in mud, work in mud, eat in mud, and sleep in mud. The winter quarters are being built, as fast as is possible with the means at our disposal for building will permit. Our field officers are all here: Col. Hayes, Lt. Col. Comly, and Major McGrath [Colonel Hayes refers to Rutheford B. Hayes, the future 19th President of the United States].

I have been in the 2 MD [not sure what he means here, definitely not the 2nd Maryland] twenty three days, long enough, and in this as in every other department of the army it is all wrangle and confusion.

Divisions wrangle with the heads of departments, brigades with divisions, regiments with brigades, company commanders with regiments, and members of companies with their commanders, all trying to get without any apparent desire to do.

The whole military country is in a strife; the government strives to restore its footing and designing men are strong to trip in every move. Generals of Departments strive to make the people believe that they are doing all that can be done, and that they are “the right men in the right place.” Generals of Divisions know how the thing is to be done, and strive to do it and often fail. Commanders of Corps vie with each other in dashing exploits, and are often cut to pieces and routed . Then Brigade commanders strive to gain the position made vacant by the removal of their unfortunate superior (in rank) and know that now is their time. Colonels strive to Generals, Captains to be Colonels, Lieutenants to be Captains, Sergeants to be Lieutenants and Captains, and Corporals and Privates to be Sergeants. Patriotic and disinterested civilians are striving to raise companies and regiments of volunteers; they don’t want drafted men. Drafted men wont fight (all a delusion) All striving soldiers and citizen. The effort is tremendous and I fear the spine of the great body will be so seriously required by the effort that it will finally sicken and die. Self! Self! Self! Is the rule, and true patriotism the exception.

The rebellion flourishes, and if it is ever crushed it will not be by any other agency than the justness of our cause. The Rebellion is wicked and hateful; the blood it has shed must be atoned for if ruin come to all.

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

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