Editor's note: This article was
originally published in The Charger in the Spring of 2001.
|Battles of the
The 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
was formed from the Dover/New Philadelphia area of Ohio in October
of 1861. After training, the unit was sent to Louisville,
Kentucky. Their first casualty was a private who fell off the
steamboat and drowned in the Ohio River. The 51st was at the
Battle of Perryville but saw no action.
On November 9, 1862, the regiment
and its brigade, under Colonel Stanley Mathews, were sent out on a
foraging expedition, and at Dobson’s Ferry, Stones River, met and
defeated Wheeler’s Rebel cavalry, who had by some means got in their
rear. The fight was made by five companies of the 51st Ohio, and
five companies of the 35th Indiana, led by Colonel Mathews.
The 51st lost thirteen men wounded, three of whom subsequently died;
and the 35th Indiana lost its Lieutenant-Colonel (severely wounded),
its Adjutant (killed), and a number of men. Colonel Mathews, while
in the thickest of the fight, was thrown from his horse and severely
injured, but kept the field and command until the troops arrived
safely in camp.
On December 26, 1862 the regiment
moved out on the Murfreesboro Turnpike, with Brigadier-General Van
Clove’s division of the Twenty-First Army Corps, marching toward
Stones River. Nothing of interest occurred until the 31st of
December, when the regiment, having been thrown across Stones River
on a reconnaissance, found the enemy in force.
Army Pay Rates/Month
Officer pay included allowances for additional
ration, forage and fuel. A Union colonel's
pay, for example, included the cash value for six
human and three horse rations a day, which came to
Salaries: All ranks of CSA generals received
the same base pay - CSA army regulations recognized
only one grade above colonel. However, Generals holding
different commands earned additional allowances for rations, fodder, fuel, quarters and
seniority. Generals commanding an army in the
field also received an additional $100. Robert E. Lee's salary in 1864 totaled $604/mo.:
$301 in base pay plus $108 for rations, $32 for fodder,
$63 seniority pay and $100 for being an army
Received $10/mo. for most of the war, of which $3
was deducted for clothing allowance. This
deduction was abolished in September, 1864.
On January 1, 1863, the 51st O.V.I.
again crossed the Stones River and took position, four companies
being thrown out as skirmishers. Advancing half a mile, they met the
enemy and skirmished all that day and night, and part of the next
day. On the afternoon of the 2d of January, Gen. John C.
Breckinridge's Rebel division made a charge, and flanking right,
swept it to the west side of Stones River. The 51st left thirty-two
of its number dead on the field, one hundred and five wounded, and
forty-six captured. It was at this juncture that Union General
William Rosecrans massed his artillery, and settled the fortunes of
the day by almost literally blowing the Rebel column of attack into
and across Stones River.
On the morning of the 4th of
January, 1863, the enemy having disappeared, the army marched into
and took possession of Murfreesboro. The army lay in Murfreesboro
until the 24th of June, 1863, when it moved on the Tullahoma
campaign. The route of the 51st O.V.I. and its division was by the
way of McMinnville, crossing the Cumberland Mountains into the
Sequatchie Valley; thence to Point Lookout, near Chattanooga, and
from there to Ringgold. At the latter place, on September 11th,
Wheeler’s Rebel cavalry was met, defeated, and driven to Tunnel Hill
On the 12th the regiment marched to
Lee & Gordon’s Mills; on the 13th it made a reconnaissance to
Shield’s Gap, and on the 14th went into position at Crawfish
Springs. From that time until the opening of the Battle of
Chickamauga the members of the regiment feasted on roasting-ears and
On the evening of the 18th of
September the 51st O.V.I., being relieved by the 6th Ohio, marched
back to Lee & Gordon’s Mills (Chickamauga), where it went into
position, and lay upon its arms all that night. On the morning of
the 10th the regiment met the enemy and drove him back a quarter of
a mile; but in doing so lost eight men killed, twenty-five wounded,
and as many captured. The enemy, receiving re-enforcements, in turn
drove the regiment back to its former position, where it lay on its
arms for the night.
On September 20th the regiment was
marched to the left to reinforce General George H. Thomas’s
(Chickamauga) column, and on arriving at its position it took part
in the effort to stay the enemy in his attempt to get into the rear
of the Federal forces, through a gap left in the lines. The regiment
struck the Rebel General Adams’s division, wounded and captured its
commander, and drove it pell-mell. The 51st was then brought back
and again formed on the extreme left of General Thomas’ command.
In this Battle of Chickamauga the
51st lost twelve men and one officer wounded, and thirty captured,
including Colonel B. W. McLain (commander of the 51st), Lieutenants
Rittelley, McNeil, and James Weatherbee and Assistant-Surgeon Wing.
On September 21st the Union army
retired behind entrenchments to Chattanooga, and was there besieged
by rebel forces until the latter part of the following November,
when the siege was raised.
On November 24th of 1863, the
regiment participated in the storming of Lookout Mountain, and on
the 25th took part in the taking of Rossville Gap, through Mission
Ridge. Its loss in these two affairs was one killed and seven
January 1, 1864, the 51st Ohio re-enlisted, and on February 10th
arrived at Columbus on veteran furlough of thirty days. During the
Atlanta campaign. Gaining the distinction of becoming the 51st Ohio
Veterans Volunteer. It was engaged at Resaca, and on the 20th of
June at Kennesaw. At the first-named place it lost one officer and
ten men wounded and one man killed. At Kennesaw it lost two officers
(Captain Samuel Stephens and Lieutenant Workman) killed, and ten men
killed and thirty wounded. From this time until Atlanta was taken
the regiment was almost hourly engaged with the enemy.
On September 1st of 1863 the
regiment was at Jonesboro, Georgia, and took part in that
engagement; and on the 2d pursued the enemy to Lovejoy’s Station.
Here it lost ten men wounded. It then fell back to Atlanta, and on
the 8th of September entered that city.
The 51st remained in Atlanta until
the 3d of October, 1864. Then it marched toward Chattanooga, passing
through Cassville, Kingston, Rome, Resaca, and Snake Creek Gap. This
march was made in consequence of the Rebel General John Bell Hood’s
movement to the rear of Atlanta, and the consequent return of
General Hood’s army. At this time a series of arduous marches were
made in pursuit of the enemy through Tennessee and Alabama.
The 51st O.V.V.I was falling back
with General Thomas’ command to Columbia, Spring Hill, Franklin, and
Nashville. It was engaged at Spring Hill, but in the battle of
Franklin it occupied a position not involved in the fight. A number
of its men were, however, engaged as skirmishers.
On December 14th and 15th of 1865
the regiment took part in the battle of Nashville, with one man
killed and fifteen wounded. It joined in the pursuit of the enemy up
to Alabama. This march was difficult in the extreme, the roads being
almost knee-deep in mud and water.
After Nashville the 51st O.V.V.I.
as with many other regiments, was so small it was combined with
three other Ohio regiments. Following the conclusion of the Civil
War, the 51st was sent to Texas under the command of Maj. Gen.
Philip Sheridan to watch the French in Mexico.
On October 3, 1865, the regiment
was mustered out at Victoria, Texas by Captain Wm. Nicholas,
Commissary of Musters of the Central District of Texas, and on the
4th was on its way to Victoria, Texas where it arrived on November
1, 1865. It was discharged at Camp Chase, near Columbus, Ohio after
a long and faithful term of arduous service honorably performed.
A sad sidelight on the 51st was
that several men captured at Chickamauga were released from
Confederate prison camps at the end of the War, only to die on the
Sultana steaming up the Mississippi to Ohio.
on the Sultana, resulting in the deaths of 1,600
people, remains the largest ship disaster in United States
history, exceeding the death tolls of both the Titanic
(1,500) and Lusitania (1,198).
Note the extreme overcrowding on deck illustrated in the