Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Leftover Random Thoughts on "We Shall Conquer or Die”

My actual review of this book is here, but I had a few other thoughts, comments, and reactions that I felt were better in a separate post. They concern the book but are more “personal" than material for a formal review, so I created this second post. 

I was reading this book because it is a Civil War book that I had been hearing about for a while, and I thought I could enjoy and learn about a topic that was not overly familiar to me. I have not done a whole lot of reading lately, and this one sounded like a nice one to try, especially with its subject including Kentucky. 

As I started reading it, however, it really surprised, even shocked me, not for the quality, as I have seen Derrick's writing on his blog and other websites, but because of how it adds to my understanding of my own research. None of my personal work deals with partisan warfare or western Kentucky, yet on the first page of the introduction, marked as page “x,” not even to the traditional "real" numerals yet, I saw a mention of James Shackelford, colonel of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry (USA) that referred to him as a “guerrilla hunter.” I recognized his name (but not his story) because one company of that unit had been partially recruited in Campbell County. A quick online search turned up more details on Shackelford too. This was quite the first impression.

Next came a mention of the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry (USA). Once again, one company in this regiment had been formed with several men who joined in Newport. I had not noticed their introduction to war was against Nathan Bedford Forrest. Now, I notice that a request for a leave of absence I found was written from "Camp Crooks" which I'm guessing was named for Colonel John Crooks of the 4th Indiana Legion, who was among the main Union military men discussed in this book.

They actually became co. H of the 3rd Ky. Cavalry, under captain Lewis Wolfley 

Additionally, the book discusses the 71st Ohio Infantry and its performance at Clarksville, Tennessee. I was familiar with this unit's reputation, due to Shiloh and Clarksville, because two of my favorite Campbell County stories are of men in company K of this regiment. The book also mentioned harsh comments about its colonel, Rodney Mason, in a Cincinnati newspaper that I had not seen before. 

Yet again, I was caught off-guard when this book mentioned the steamboat USS Fairplay, on which at least two Campbell County men served. Even after the previous surprises, this stunned me a little bit. The book even includes a picture of this ship.

Another unit mentioned, even if briefly, was the 100th United States Colored Infantry. Three men with Campbell County connections were in this regiment.

The author also explains how “mounted infantry” differs from cavalry. One unit I’m studying that had dozens of Campbell County men, the 53rd Kentucky, was often called “mounted infantry,” though not consistently so, but I understand their service a bit better now, especially since part of their service record indicates that they guarded parts of Kentucky against guerrillas. (Why I had not looked up how that type of unit differed from infantry and cavalry, I do not know.)

My research, of course, focuses mostly on individual soldiers/sailors, a basic understanding of their service and a look at their entire lives, but not the details of the everyday military service of their units. Perhaps I mention the most famous battles or campaigns some of the units joined, but the mentions of these regiments and the ship in this book and the smaller fights and skirmishes, they fought have given me a better understanding of their service, and perhaps have showed me ways to improve my research of these and other men, some of whom I just learned were "guerrilla hunters."

I never expected to find anything like those connections to my project in this book. Not at all. Both the title and subject seemed completely different than anything I’m doing, but i guess that’s why I should not judge a book by its cover, or perhaps even by its title, LOL. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Book Review: We Shall Conquer or Die: Partisan Warfare in 1862 Western Kentucky

By Derrick Lindow 
Copyright 2024
Savas Beatie

The Civil War provides many avenues for discussion and study - battles, generals, politics, technology, and social issues, among numerous topics frequently explored.

One which I have never particularly thought of often was partisan warfare, particularly in western Kentucky.


In this fine book, still hot off the press, Derrick Lindow weaves a fascinating tale of this lesser-discussed style of war in an area not widely known for its role in the war. He describes this type of fighting and what a "partisan ranger" is, comparing it to the more well-known and popular term (especially among Union officials at the time), "guerilla.” He also introduces the readers to some of the Confederate irregular warriors, including a man with one of the more unusual nicknames of the war, Adam "Stovepipe" Johnson, as well as his partner-in-war Robert Martin, and some of their opponents, such as John Crooks and Gabriel Netter.

This type of fighting was much smaller in scope than the most famous battles associated with the Civil War, but even these smaller fights and skirmishes resulted in a number of deaths, men whose demise did make the news back home and affected their comrades-in-arms and families. This fighting and its effects were just as real as any “major battle,” as this book so ably shows.

As Lindow describes how this type of fighting in this area played out, it became reminiscent of ow cavalry usage and fighting in the war overall developed. The partisan war began with the Confederates having a significant advantage at first, as their forces attacked the enemy in ways (and places) the Federals did not expect or fully understand, and the Federals struggled to adapt to this style of war, to have enough men in the right places to meet the enemy, and even, at times, to find leadership courageous and skillful enough to combat the Confederates. As time went by, however, Union leadership and strategy improved, more troops were employed, and the understanding of both this style of fighting and the enemy progressed, all of which naturally led to better fighting by the bluecoats. Confederate victory was no longer as certain a result as it had been earlier in 1862.

This is simply a terrific book. 

More specifically, it is a terrific book for those who enjoy reading about the Civil War or this style of fighting, but especially so for people studying Kentucky’s role in the war. In a state in which politics and the general sentiments of the people were often divided, unclear, confusing, and frequently changing, this style of warfare - fairly described with similar adjectives - symbolized the state’s situation, and the author addresses that, showing how such uncertainty filtered through that region of the Commonwealth, especially for Union leaders trying to defend Union loyalists in a  state that included so many Confederate supporters who were more than willing to help the Confederate fighters. Which people in which towns or counties were on which side, and even on which day? Those were not easy questions to answer, yet the Union leaders (and even the southern forces) needed to understand the people they were dealing with and could or could not trust. 

The writing style is clear, easy to read and understand, and the length of both the book and the several chapters is suitable. It is a quick read, is based on research from many primary and secondary sources and uses well-thought-out analysis of those sources to bring this story together. The several maps and photographs are also helpful and appropriate. 

I gladly recommend this book.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Ely Ralls: Veteran of the Mexican-American and Civil Wars

A man of uncertain origins, Ely (or Eli) Ralls was born in March of 1829, but records differ on where he was born, with Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana all appearing as his birthplace on various census records.

Some parts of his life, though are more certain.


In the late 1840s, as the age of "Manifest Destiny" was in perhaps its prime years, he served as a private in company L of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry during the Mexican-American War. On February 22 and 23, 1847, this unit was involved in the Battle of Buena Vista, a victory for the United States that brought fame to General Zachary Taylor, perhaps contributing to his future election as United States President.1 (His decision to join that regiment might suggest he lived in central Kentucky at the time.)

At this battle, “Jefferson Davis’1st Mississippi Rifles, the 2d Kentucky Rifles, the 2d and 3d Indiana, and the 3d Ohio volunteer regiments united in a supreme force.” (Davis, of course, was the future Confederate President.) 

“Never had the salutary effects of combined discipline and leadership of American citizen-soldiers been more convincingly demonstrated than in that desperate two-day struggle.2 That struggle was part of the American victory in that conflict, a victory that brought a significant amount of land into the United States, an acquisition that only added to the questions about how that land - and the territory already part of the nation, should be governed.

Ely survived the war with Mexico and married Hiley Ann(a) Keethler (possibly Kirchler) in 1849.


By the time of the 1860 census, he lived in Brown County, Ohio, in a full household including his wife and their six children. He worked as a blacksmith.


After the start of the Civil War, at least partially due to the unsettled questions that the acquisition of land from Mexico had stirred up into the public's attention, Ely remained at home for more than a year and then enlisted as a private in company E of the 7th Ohio Cavalry on September 2, 1862. On September 27, he was promoted to farrier (a person working with a horse’s hooves and shoes, obviously a vital position in a cavalry unit, and a good use of his blacksmithing experience) and officially mustered in on October 26. 


                                                                        photo from    

The 7th Ohio Cavalry had organized at Ripley, Ohio in October of 1862, but, “before the 7th's members were mustered into the service, a detachment of Confederate cavalrymen occupied Augusta, Kentucky, burning much of the town. Company E of the 7th crossed the Ohio River and traveled the few miles downstream to Augusta, driving the enemy from the community without suffering a single casualty.3”

 Ely was in company E and probably with the unit, ready to use his blacksmith and farrier skills if needed, but likely not in the actual combat.


View up the Ohio River along Augusta, author’s photo


In the following weeks, 25 men from that company joined a battalion from the regiment and scouted in the area, winding up in Falmouth, Kentucky, which other Union troops were already occupying.4 

In 1863, the regiment participated in the Union pursuit of Confederate General John H. Morgan and his forces in Morgan’s “Great Raid,” and was present at the Battle of Buffington Island, when many of those Rebels became Union prisoners on July 19.


The men of the 7th Ohio Cavalry moved south to the eastern half of Tennessee and joined in the Knoxville Campaign. On November 6, some of the men of the opposing armies met in a contest known as the Battle of Rogersville or the Battle of Big Creek.


During that fight, the Confederates captured several hundred Union soldiers, including Ely.5


The 1890 Veterans Schedule claims that he spent 18 months in Libby Prison, but that was probably a mistake, as no other reports mention that facility. Also, Libby Prison generally housed Union officers, and Ely was not an officer.


Other records do show that he was a “possible prisoner” at Andersonville.6 


If so, he was lucky to survive that dirty, crowded camp.


The first prisoners arrived at Camp Sumter in late February 1864. Over the course of the next few months approximately 400 prisoners arrived daily. By June 1864 over 26,000 prisoners were confined in a stockade designed to house 10,000. The largest number of prisoners held at one time was 33,000 in August 1864.

The Confederate government was unable to provide the prisoners with adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care, Due to the terrible conditions, prisoners suffered greatly, and a high mortality rate ensued.

When the war ended, Captain Henry Wirz, the stockade commander, was arrested and charged with "murder, in violation of the laws of war." Tried and found guilty by a military tribunal, Wirz was hanged in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 1865.7

One military record on shows that Ely was paroled but provides no date or other details. If accurate, this could mean he did not spend any time at all in Andersonville (or any other prison) as being paroled meant the Confederates had physically released him on his world of honor not to fight again until he was officially exchanged for a Confederate soldier of similar rank.

Some soldiers did ignore their promises and immediately returned to their regiments, but the lack of details for Ely makes it impossible to know if or when he was exchanged and returned to the regiment.


After the action at Rogersville, the 7th Ohio Cavalry remained in the service and in 1864 saw action at contests like 2nd Cynthiana in Kentucky, various battles in the Atlanta Campaign, and both Franklin and Nashville in Tennessee. 

They also joined in General James H. Wilson’s Raid into Alabama and Georgia in early 1865, as the bloody war was finally nearing its end.


Whether Ely had been present for any or all of the unit’s 1864 battles is unclear, but he did muster out of the service with his company on June 30, 1865, per the regimental roster. 


 In 1870, Ely, Hiley, and their eight children resided in Brown County, Ohio, where he worked as a blacksmith. 


In 1880, he lived in Cincinnati with the family of his daughter and her husband, along with four more of his children and a woman named Ivlanan, which may have been a bungled recording of his wife’s name. He worked as a fisherman. 


He lived on the southern bank of the Ohio River in Dayton, Kentucky in 1890, and remained there in 1900 with his wife and grandson. He still listed blacksmith as his occupation but had been unemployed for all twelve months in the previous year. He was able to read and write.


Ely Ralls passed away at age 78 on November 15, 1907, in Bellevue, Kentucky and was buried in nearby Evergreen Cemetery, where hundreds of his fellow Union veterans also lie at rest.









Sunday, March 17, 2024

Richard Stamper, 7th Kentucky Infantry: An Ancestor who Perished in the War

One of my interests in the war has been finding out about family members who served in the war. As this separate page shows, I have found several few relatives who served on the Union side (no Confederates have turned up in my searches yet) but until recently, I had not found any relative that had died during the war, at least until a cousin forwarded me this name.

Richard Stamper was born in about 1840 in Breathitt County, Kentucky, and enrolled in company D of the 7th Kentucky Infantry on September 3, 1861, in Booneville, Kentucky, in neighboring Owsley County. He officially mustered in on September 22 at Camp Dick Robinson.

His grandfather Richard Stamper Sr. was my 6 times great-grandfather, making this Richard Stamper my 1st cousin, 6 times removed. 

That is obviously a distant relation, but he was a relative. He was on my maternal side, part of my family that had so many members come from the hills of eastern Kentucky, especially Breathitt County. (One of these other relatives was Nimrod McIntosh, a 3-time great-grandfather of mine, who was in the same company as Richard.)

Richard was mortally wounded during the early part of the Vicksburg Campaign, falling victim at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou in Mississippi in the last days of 1862, before passing away on January 8 of the new year. 

This battle was an early attempt by William Sherman to capture the Confederate stronghold on the hills along the Mississippi River. This attack failed badly and ended in Confederate victory, with the Union suffering many more casualties than the Rebels. This meant that further attempts to capture the important city would be necessary and many other men on both sides would become casualties of war in the area.

The 7th Kentucky in this battle was a part of Colonel Daniel W. Lindsey's 2nd Brigade of Brigadier General George Washington Morgan's Third Division of Sherman's 13th Corps. 

Last year, I read and enjoyed Donald Miller's fine book Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign that Broke the Confederacy, but now I want to go back and read the section about this battle again. It will have a bit more meaning to me.

About two months after this, ironically, Nimrod McIntosh fell ill at Young's Point, Louisiana, and ended up hurting his back and transferring to the Veterans Reserve Corps, so both of my ancestors in this campaign ended up being casualties, though in different ways. (Nimrod survived the war and drew a pension for his disability.)

I see no evidence (yet) that Richard and Nimrod were related, but their presence in the same company almost assuredly means they knew each other, but how closely? Were they friends or just acquaintances? Perhaps they had met before the war, too, but those are genealogy questions for another day and platform.

Thank you for your sacrifice, cousin. Rest in peace. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ramblings on Campbell County in the War

 For the past few years, of course, I have been researching individual soldiers/sailors who ever lived, died or are buried in Campbell County and finding their stories, hopefully to share them some day.

I have shared a few in posts on here and am still working on a couple more, with other ideas in store, but I have also started looking more at the county as a whole in the war. One person had suggested that as a topic for a book, and though I am not sure about that, recent discoveries have really opened my mind to exploring that angle of the war and writing some on the county home front during those years. I kind of figured that was a bit out of my league and too much to do, but some "exciting new developments" in recent weeks might have me rethinking what my project should be. Or if "project" should become "projects." 

I recently completed a story on James Guthrie, who was in charge of the fatigue forces in northern Kentucky during the "Siege of Cincinnati." I discovered a lot of details about that time period that I had not seen before, such as orders he had given about watercarts, impressing horses, and trouble having enough volunteers to fill the positions. His story in this time provides some very good insight into Campbell County and the area as a whole in that timeframe.

Some of his orders went to Henry Gassaway, the Provost Marshal of the county, and his story - including his arrests of numerous county citizens for disloyalty (one story mentioned 38! Campbell County residents being sent to Camp Chase at one time) and his dismissal from the position, after which a newspaper called him a tyrant - surprised me. I never thought I would read about a "tyrant" in this little place, so far away from the major fighting and the largest political factories. His story also shows new aspects of the county's war experience that I had not known of before. 

As often as I've heard or even talked about the "Siege of Cincinnati," especially in the halcyon days of the Ramage Museum, I still just learned quite a bit of information about the day-to-day operations that was new to me. It's almost embarrassing that I did not know some of this until now. Why didn't I research this period more ten or fifteen years ago?

Another man, a Connecticut born lawyer and politician, George P. Webster (not the same George Webster who died at Perryville) was a fervent Union supporter during the war, attending many meetings and giving quite a few speeches to round up support for the cause. He adds a layer of understanding to the political side of the county, and accounts I find about him in the newspapers often mention other names of prominent Union men in the area. Again, this is a new area of studying for me. 

These are just three men, but their stories, and the other names and stories to which they are connected just open more doors for exploration and study. I have gathered quite a bit of information on both Union and Southern supporters in the county. I have seen a few of the same names in several stories where I did not expect them, helping me connect these men and their causes together. Their actions did not happen in a vacuum. It can be confusing at times, but also clarifies just how complicated the county's situation was.

I also learned about two controversies over the status (free or slave) of African-American men in the county one in 1860, the other in 1861, both of which tie in the county's struggles to the nation's as a whole. One was mentioned on a local genealogy site that I frequently check, yet I had never seen it, and while researching this story, I found another similar situation. Webster was involved in these cases, but in my early research into them, I found a possible example of corruption by at least one county official, with it perhaps extending even into a minor conspiracy, though I need to research that and think about if I want to make that accusation based on what I've found, or just relate what I know to be true and not try to create a story that I cannot prove. 

Just these three stories by themselves have given me a lot of information about the effects of the war in this county and on its citizens. Studying the individual soldiers also did that, of course, but these three have provided so much more of what was happening right here on Campbell County soil during that time, instead of what county citizens were experiencing elsewhere. 

It really is eye-opening about what happened and just how many areas of exploration are out there and just how little I know. There is just so much more than I ever imagined or had heard. I wonder if anybody in the county has ever realized all of this. Has somebody else done this work but I've just not ever seen it? I feel like I'm covering new ground (and obviously am to myself) and that's a bit exciting too. Even if none of this becomes a book or website, at least I can share some of it on social media and give information to the local historical society where others might see it. My "attempted book" under its original format is now over 200,000 words, which blows my mind, and that's just focusing on the individual stories, not the county's home front. Who knows how much more I will write, as I have plenty of ideas of what else to explore and to ponder. 

Kentucky, of course, was a border state, and Campbell County, along the Ohio River at the northernmost part of the state, was a border county. As I read about some of the activity in Newport, the phrase "border town in a border county of a border state" has stuck with me and will probably be one of the themes I try to explore further. Only a few places in the nation were more on the "border" than this county and its residents, and I'm learning more and more about the strong Union patriotism that existed alongside quite a bit of Southern support. I had always thought that described Kentucky as a whole, but to find specific examples on both sides here in my home county has surprised me. I guess I just never looked at the right places and explored the right issues before. That's too bad, but better now than never.

I also just found an account of soldiers from a USCT unit shaking a resident's apple trees to get apples. The person's wife was at home and told them there were enough apples on the ground, but they yelled at her and called her names. Something like that won't affect my overall project at all but was pretty neat to find and is a reminder that daily life did go on outside of pure military or political activities. (A colonel of a regiment wrote a quick note that steps had been taken to stop such depredations, but I have not found any specifics. I doubt any still exist.)

The more I research, the more fascinating and fun this project gets. I am quite lucky in that regard. This is truly enjoyable, and though my reading and studying of the war in general has slowed down in these recent years, my knowledge of the local situation during that time is much better. The several Cincinnati newspapers of the time provided a lot of coverage.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

A Letter from Camp Pope in New Haven, Ky.

A long letter appeared in the December 22, 1861 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, printed with permission by the unnamed person to whom it was addressed, a rare piece of wartime correspondence from a solider who had been in Campbell County.

This soldier, William Halpin, had been raising a company for the 50th Ohio Infantry, but withdrew it from that unit and moved the men to Camp Webster in Jamestown, Campbell County, where he was “desirous of procuring a few more recruits” per the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer of October 20, 1861, which stated that additional enlistees would be “sure of a month’s pay in advance, and clothing as soon as their names” were officially on the  company rolls. These men, and others recruited there, eventually became part of the 15th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, which officially formed in New Haven, Kentucky, from where Halpin wrote this missive about the trip from Campbell County to this camp and a few other observations he made. He became captain of Company K of that regiment, eventually being promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel.

After the war, Halpin continued to fight, working for Irish Independence. This link - and others easily found with a basic internet search - provides more details of his adventures and troubles after his fighting in the American Civil War.

A few words were illegible in the scanned image of the newspaper, and in one section, it appeared the paper folded over on itself, making a couple of lines impossible to read. I have noted those areas, but the vast majority of the document was readable.

Camp Ham. Pope

Nelson County, KY. December 17, 1861

It is nearly time that I should write you a line, saying where I am and how located. I presume you want a history of “our” marching, pipe claying, and illegible and such other incidents of military life as occucrred to us since we left the sunny side of Cincinnati. Here follows the story as briefly as I can state it. We left “Camp Webster” on a wet and very inauspicious day, got on board of a boat, whose name I fortunately forget, for between you and me and the gate post, I have no particular desire to recollect it; although she bore us bravely along the turbid waters of the Ohio, until somewhere “among the wee illegible-smallhours” when the pugnacious thing thought it proper to run into the starboard side of the mail-boat Telegraph. There was consternation for a moment or so among the passengers, and hearts that would not quite before the best manned battery of Southern Jeff. throbbed fast and loud at the prospect of a watery grave. Fortunately, there was no damage done, and we went on our way rejoicing that our time had not yet come. 

We reached the wharf at Louisville and found our old stern-wheel moored alongside the boat that contained the Sixth Ohio Regiment. I won’t tell you the trouble I had during the night to prevent the bombardment, not of a Southern citadel, but of a small corner of the ship’s cabin, where Paddy’s eye-water was dealt out to thirsty travelers at a dime a jigger. The boys had a dime of their first month’s pay left, an as they were going to be “kilt” the next day, considered the best way to rid themselves of such unnecessary incumbrances was to exchange it for as much strychnine as would drown “dull care.” Entreaty and remonstrance wee alike unavailing; they were “on the ocean wave,” with death below, above and before them, and they would have their way. Guards were placed around the sanctuary to prevent the impetuous men of Mars from indulging in the baneful cap; but morning came, and the illegible of the venerable deity who presided over the flowing nectar told more plainly than words could say that he reaped a silver harvest during the silent hours, which honest men devote to the wooing of Somnus. 

From the wharf we marched through the city to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot, where a substantial breakfast was prepared for us by the citizens, which we enjoyed with a keen relish. It was on this occasion that my camp knife, which friend Merns presented before I left the Queen City, was first brought into requisition. A few hour’s ride brought us to Camp Hamp. People, about 45 miles south of Louisville, in the midst of a drenching rain. Our quarters were any thing but inviting, and this, coupled with the fact that Colonel Artsman was to have no place in the regiment, disconcerted the men, and they instantly formed illegible to march back to Jamestown. They (page folded, so a couple lines and several words not legible) quarters with the illegible … next day; but as soon as they illegible (got to meet?) with Colonel Pope and his field officers, they changed their notions, and are since contented and happy. It would be impossible to be otherwise, for a finer set of officers than the field and company commanders it would be very difficult to meet.  

Colonel Pope is a wealthy citizen of Louisville, a graduate of West Point, and a fine military commander. He could live in ease and affluence, but when his country called for aid from her sons, he generously abandoned the endearments of private life, left wealth and hoe and family, and, like a true patriot, buckled on his sword to defend the glorious star-spangled banner. He is a true type of a generous, whole souled Kentucky gentleman, in whose presence the humblest man or boy I the regiment feels at home. The company officers are of the same stamp, and the men who compose the Fifteenth Kentucky are as fine and orderly a set of fellows as I ever saw in any camp. There is a fine company of Irishmen, commanded by Captain Spalding, of Louisville, who, the day of our arrival, learning that most of our company venerated the shamrock, invited us to supper, and, like generous Gauls as they are, actually cooked for us their own rations. If ever John Bull shows his teeth to Brother Jonathan, these brave and generous fellows, will not be the last to enter the army that will cross the Atlantic to wipe out the last traces of British rule in the old camp island of their fathers. 

It would surprise any of the old acquaintances to see the improvement in the Camp Webster men. The healthy location of the camp and the exercises they have daily, contribute materially to this result; but chiefly, the absence of the ardent, which can not be had hereabouts, for “love or money.” I would not change the life of a soldier for any I have yet experienced. The fun around the camp fire, the merry joke, the blithesome laugh and patriotic song of the light-hearted soldier, win one in sensibly to love the camp, with all its toils and privations. 

I regret to relate that our usual joy has been lately turned into grief by the demise of a brother in arms. On Saturday, the 4th inst., the grim old King of Terrors whetted his scythe, entered our camp and claimed Patrick Goffing (he meant Patrick Gaffney, who actually died on December 14 after becoming sick while on guard duty at Camp Webster a couple weeks earlier) as his own. Poor Goffing wrecked his constitution in the cellars and garrots of Cincinnati; he caught a cold at Camp Webster, that fastened on his lungs, and finally cut the ligature that bound his shattered frame to earth. He had been in hospital since we came here and knowing that his end was near, prepared himself for his long journey. He received all the rites of the Catholic Church and died in the bosom of her who had closed the eyes of his fathers for fourteen centuries. His remains were borne to the Catholic cemetery at New Haven, on Sunday afternoon, by his comrades, and buried with the honors of war. 

Never was I more impressed with the beauties of the Catholic ritual, and the solemnity of the ceremonies used in thee burial of the dead. In the fashionable thoroughfares of large cities, and even in the pillared aisles of the grand Cathedrals, where artificial music greets the ear, and the painted belle in gorgeous plumage attracts the eye, one is apt to forge tat the ceremonies of religion were meant for heaven, or think they were more than a fleeting earthly show; but here, in the midst of the primitive forest, to use the white robed minister of God follow to the tomb the poorest of the children of the Church, with the same care and solicitude as if he were a sceptered monarch, is a sight to impress the heart with the liveliest feelings of gratitude to God for providing a religion that ministers alike to all His children, and cares for the humblest as well as the most exalted, from the cradle to the grave.To see the aged and venerable successor of the apostle, bent with age, yet filled with fervor, march from the church to the graveyard, with uncovered head, reciting the beautiful psalmody proper for the occasion, was a sight so full of grandeur as to strike the beholder with astonishment, and draw from the lips of unbelievers an acknowledgement that the creed that taught such earnest simplicity was indeed of divine origin. Words can not express the satisfaction it was to poor Goffing to know that while his grave should be made by stranger hands, far away from his home and kindred, that a requiem would be sung by the appointed mister of the Most High.

We expect to move soon to Elizabethtown, where we are to join three Ohio regiments, including the Tenth. I learned tonight that Colonel Lytle will be our Brigadier General, and the boys are wild with joy over the news. On Saturday last General Nelson’s brigade passed here and encamped about seven miles further south. There is no doubt of an early forward movement, but in what direction I am unable to say. The Thirty fourth and Thirty Sixth Indiana were encamped alongside of us until Saturday last, when they moved off to see old Buckner. The Sixth Ohio and Colonel Stanley Matthew’s regiments are with General Nelson. We are provided with all the equipments except wagons, and as soon as they are furnished, off we go. Until then, farewell. I am at a great loss for the Enquirer – can’t you send me an occasional copy?

Yours truly, 



The 15th Kentucky did end up in brigade under Colonel Lytle, including during the hard fighting around the Bottom House at Perryville.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Thoughts on My Ongoing Research and Learning

I know I haven’t posted much lately, other than occasional items in Facebook, but I am still researching and writing about local Civil War soldiers, and have been surprised by how much I’m learning, especially recently.

A few weeks ago, I started two stories in a pair of men whose stories seemed potentially intriguing. That intuition proved correct and it now appears my work on each will surpass5,000 words, which is high composted to most of my other writings.

One of these men is James Abert, who was a topographical engineer and explorer in the years and decades before the war, then a staff officer during most of the conflict  A quick Internet search turns up plenty of information about him, more than I had imagined, so perhaps my story is unnecessary, but I like to try to use my words to tell of such lives and I think my use of a combination of information from these sources as well as local newspaper reports will create something different than the others.

I also try to use direct quotes from him to add his voice to this work. sometimes I think I use too many quotes (from other articles and stories as well), but I do like how this piece is coming together. I’m really close to calling it finished and focusing on other stories.

However it ends up, his life story has been enjoyable for me to study and I’ve learned a lot about him and his role in the exploration of western territories, his part in the war, and his involvement in society in and around Campbell County.

I am, however, curious about how he pronounced his name. His grandfather had come to North America from France during the American Revolution. Did the family kept a French prononciation, such as “Ah-bear” or had they anglicized it and said it how it looks to modern Americans, i.e. rhyming with pray-bert? I doubt I’ll find any paperwork resolving that.

In a similar vein, James Guthrie was an officer whose name I came across on a piece of ephemera I purchased. I don’t know why I had not examined his career before, but he organized the 1st and 2nd Kentucky Infantry regiments (in Ohio, while Kentucky was “neutral” early in the war), but then he was in charge of the fatigue forces during the ”Siege of Cincinnati.” I’ve heard and shared the story of that episode many, many times, especially when the Ramage Museum was open, and even on here, but I’m finding out many smaller details about the day-to-day operations of the military locally during those few weeks, such as orders that leaders like Guthrie issued and problems they faced. The larger overview of the story is that tens of thousands of people willingly lived under martial law and worked to defend the area as the Confederates neared, but it was not so simple or ideal. I’m learning about some issues that arose  and I’m almost even embarrassed that I had not done this kind of research earlier. This story has truly fascinated me and significantly increased my understanding of the reality of that “siege.”

Studying Guthrie has also helped me find stories of some southern sympathizers in Campbell County. I still plan to focus on Union troops right now, with so much information already gathered, but I now have a couple more and much better leads about the other side of the story, or at least about Union officials taking political prisoners. I have seen a couple of letters from citizens and some oaths of allegiance some men took. I have not told that story much, but now am much more prepared to do do, because of information I’ve found while looking into Guthrie’s story, which led me to Henry Gassaway, a Provost Marshall who made some of those arrests and created some controversy in the county.

I’ve also taken a bit of a break from simply researching and writing about these soldiers and returned to my original idea of confirming names/information about local soldiers. I have found and confirmed several more names, but also a few more questions such as one man whose obituaries state he was a soldier, (one even states he fought at Shiloh under General McClellan, LOL), but do not mention a unit. Doing this kind of research again has been fun, though still challenging as I still have a lot of partial names I have not confirmed. Still, the progress I have recently made has been satisfying.

That said, I did start on a couple other stories that I thought would be shorter or “easier” than the Abert and Guthrie ones, but both have turned out to be different than I expected, one because his grandfather was a Revolutionary War soldier (as were a pair of his grandfather’s brothers) and Campbell County  pioneer, and the other because some records indicate he had a brother (or two?) in the Civil War, while other records don’t show those additional names. Figuring out what really happened will be a task, plus his father was a local businessman and politician for years and a Home Guard soldier, so it may turn into a family story, instead of a quick tale of one soldier.

That’s a little bit frustrating, but it is also good. I believe there are interesting and important stories to write and  these latest two might be prime examples of that, especially from a county history perspective. Nothing as noteworthy as him being captured or killed during the war makes his story an obvious one to share, but other pieces of their lives do. A person/soldier/family need not be famous in order to be an important piece of the county’s past. I hope I can do these men and families justice and help others understand better Campbell County history overall and in the war.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Minister Herman Grentzenberg, 12th Missouri Infantry

Many of the men who fought in the Civil War saw their lives cut short, whether by bullet or disease, during those four long, blood-filled years, but among those who survived, some lived extremely long post-war lives. 


One man who lived much longer than expected was Herman Grentzenberg.  


He was born in Danzig, Prussia on October 18, 1836 and arrived in the United States about 1860. He was working as a barber in Dayton, Ohio in that year. 


One year later, he was in St. Louis, Missouri, part of a maturing nation that was about to face its toughest challenge, which started on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired on United States troops in Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, igniting the Civil War.


Grentzenberg supported the national government in his new homeland, joining what became the 12th Missouri Infantry (U.S.A.). In this regiment, he originally was a 2nd Lieutenant in company A before promotions to 1st Lieutenant and, in September 1863, to captain of company B.  He also had previously been in unofficial command of companies C and D of the regiment, even though he was on furlough for illness for much of the spring of 1862, after the fight at Pea Ridge. 


The 12th Missouri remained in the Western Theater of the war, starting in the Missouri and Arkansas area, including the Union victory at Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 7 and 8, 1862.


These men also took part of the Union thrusts that eventually captured Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863.


According to Herman’s obituary, “it was during the second onslaught on the heights of Vicksburg, under General Grant, that… (he) became inspired to be a minister, and after serving three years in the war, did so.”1


During the rest of the war, he fell ill again, as diarrhea and an intermittent fever forced him to go on furlough away from the army in September and October of 1863, just after his rise to captaincy. 


He was apparently back with the unit by the time they fought in the battles around Chattanooga in late November of that year. 


A few months later, the 12th Missouri took part in the Atlanta Campaign led by William T. Sherman. On May 28, 1864, Grentzenberg became a casualty of war near Dallas, Georgia, suffering a “slight” wound in his left foot, apparently so slight that it did not cause him to miss any more time.


He mustered out of the army in November of 1864, and proceeded with civilian life. In 1874, he married Margaret Von Tschudi (possibly Tschudy), with whom he had three daughters and three sons.


He also answered the religious call he had received, pursuing a career as a minister at churches in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and other midwestern cities.2  


In Cincinnati, his church was the Third German Methodist Church; he also worked as an assistant editor of a German Methodist newspaper called The Apologist.3 Some of his editing work occurred in the early 1890s, when he lived in Newport.

In an interesting bit of trivia, Herman “and the late James N. Gamble were the two oldest representatives attending the dedication ceremonies of the opening of the Western Hills viaduct two years ago.”4


That James Gamble was the son of one of the founders of consumer goods corporate giant Proctor and Gamble, and was also the chemist who created what became known as Ivory soap.5


His work as a minister continued until his retirement in 1910, after which he was a member of the Auburn Avenue Methodist Church.6


He was also a member of the George H. Thomas post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a post-war fraternal organization of Union veterans.7 The GAR also became involved in politics, earning itself the nickname “Grand Army of the Republicans.” 


His post-war life was much longer than his antebellum years, lasting until his death on May 8, 1934. His six children survived him, and like so many of his comrades, he was buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery. 


Herman Grentzenberg lived an extremely long life, in two countries, on two continents, and survived the deadly battlefields of the American Civil War. Living until age 98, he was, perhaps, the longest-living former Civil War soldier associated with Campbell County. 


1Cincinnati Enquirer May 9, 1934




5, Accessed October 9, 2022

6Cincinnati Enquirer May 9, 1934




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