"A set of darned hounds" - Brothers in Cumberland’s Iron Brigade
The Thirty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry had not seen the elephant. Missing out on Mill Springs (having been left in the rear at Somerset), not present at Shiloh or Stones River, the regiment’s service thus far had been one of marching, foraging, and guarding railroads, but no battlefield experience other than a skirmish or two. While on the field at Perryville with the rest of the brigade, the Thirty-Fifth arrived so late in the evening of October 8th as to have suffered no casualties, while the brigade itself only suffered 8 casualties. Therefore, unlike the seasoned Germans of the Ninth Ohio, or the experienced men of the Second Minnesota, the Thirty-Fifth was still an unknown battlefield quantity. That would change at Chickamauga in September 1863, a full two years after the regiment had been formed.
The Thirty-Fifth was raised from four southwestern Ohio counties – Butler, Warren, Preble, and Montgomery. Over half the regiment was from Butler County, two companies from Warren, and one company from Montgomery and a company and part of another from Preble County (where the author’s third great uncle Daniel W. Cooper joined Company G before transferring to Company C as a corporal). The regiment formed at Camp Hamilton at the Butler County Fairgrounds before moving to a more suitable location just north of downtown Hamilton.
When the Thirty-Fifth marched off to war in September 1861, it was to move into northern Kentucky and guard the Kentucky Central Rail Road near Cynthiana, sixty rail miles south of Cincinnati. Being one of the first Ohio regiments ordered into the Bluegrass State, it did not even have its National colors, something that the few pro-Union ladies of Cynthiana would rectify when they stitched and then presented to Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer the Thirty-Fifth's first National flag.
Serving alongside the Ninth Ohio for nearly three years the two regiments formed strong bonds. Even before the Thirty-Fifth had proven its worth there was a camaraderie between the men. Given the fact that approximately fifty men from Butler County were in the Ninth, that many of the men in the Thirty-Fifth were of German heritage, and the close proximity between Cincinnati and Hamilton, it is natural that a strong bond would develop. In March 1862 the men of the Ninth and Thirty-Fifth were told to arm themselves with clubs and participate in a rabbit hunt. The plan was to drive the rabbits towards the Cumberland River where then the men would be able to capture a great number of them. Things did not go as well as planned, but the Thirty-Fifth apparently captured many more rabbits than the Ninth. Good-natured ribbing came about as a result, leading Robert L. McCook, first colonel of the Ninth and now in command of the brigade, to remark to the Thirty-Fifth's Major Henry Van Ness Boynton, “That’s quite natural. Your men are a set of darned hounds. Of course you can catch rabbits.”
However, as friendly as the two regiments might have been, courtesies halted when it came to sharing certain delicacies. While near Corinth the Ninth’s sutler, knowing full well the proclivities of his unit, had ordered a large supply of sauerkraut and beer for which the Ninth planned to use for a celebration. The Ninth invited the Thirty-Fifth to share in the sauerkraut, and Benjamin Arnold of the Thirty-Fifth recalled “The Thirty-fifth always stood in with the Ninth, so far as doing duty, fighting, and eating were concerned. But when it came to beer, we were not in the deal. So they gave us a generous share of the kraut, but when it came to the lager, they said, ‘Nein.’”
The Thirty-Fifth supported the Ninth during the aftermath of the murder of Robert McCook, killed by guerillas while riding ill in an ambulance in north Alabama. After finding out about McCook’s demise, the Ninth went on a rampage, hanging locals that had been pointed out as participants, as well as burning many homes and buildings. It was Ferdinand Van Derveer who finally was able to bring order back to the Ninth, but being sympathetic to the Ninth's action, would write “The rebels have been made to pay dearly for this, we burned every house within three miles of this place.”
Music was an important part of the soldier's life. When the regimental band was discharged in early 1863, there were still enough musicians in the regiment to be given a tent to practice and play. When the Thirty-Fifth's band wasn’t engaged, music often would come from the Second Minnesota’s noted bugle band, or the Ninth's musicians. The Ninth even enlisted privates as musicians, and the regiment made up the difference in pay for these men, as musicians were paid more than a private. Sharing music was just one more way the brigade bonded.
In the months following Stones River, Van Derveer took the opportunity to drill his men as a brigade, building an identity and a bond for every unit in the brigade. While the Thirty-Fifth and Ninth were on friendly terms, the Thirty-Fifth had not been as close to the Second Minnesota or the later arriving Eighty-Seventh Indiana. This period allowed the individual regiments to become a closely-knit brigade, allowing Van Derveer to state “Mine is acknowledged to be one, if not the best brigade in the Army of the Cumberland—But it won’t do to brag.”
I won’t go into the details of the brigade at Chickamauga but rather refer the reader to David Powell’s excellent trilogy that covers the campaign and battle. But I will mention a few items of note. Van Derveer’s brigade was heavily engaged on both September 19th and 20th, displaying hard fighting west of Jay's Mill on the 19th, while clearing Kelly Field on the morning of the 20th and being part of the defense of Horseshoe Ridge later that same afternoon. While there were many heroic efforts made by other Federal brigades at Chickamauga, Van Derveer’s men were used repeatedly to engage the Confederates, and the brigade’s training and comradeship was exemplified through its actions and casualty lists. At Chickamauga the Thirty-Fifth would lose 64 men on September 19th (killed, wounded, missing, and captured), while suffering the loss of an additional 84 men the next day, mostly in defense of the Snodgrass Hill area. After two years the Thirty-Fifth had finally seen the elephant, and had risen to the occasion, earning a place of respect among their comrades of the Ninth.
The Thirty-Fifth and Van Derveer's brigade would go on to additional glory at Missionary Ridge in November 1863, where the regiment suffered the loss of an additional 16 men. The regiment would continue to serve through the beginning phases of the Atlanta Campaign, from Resaca to Peach Tree Creek, and then would muster out of service on September 27th, 1864. Recruits who had joined the regiment later would be transferred to the Eighteenth Ohio Infantry.
The legacy of the Thirty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment lives on in at least one way – In June 1888 Ferdinand Van Derveer and Henry Van Ness Boynton were visiting the Chickamauga battlefield, and while walking the ground of the actions, discussed preserving the ground for the future, a western Gettysburg. This idea would morph into the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and Boynton, leader of the Thirty-Fifth at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge (where he would be wounded and awarded a Medal of Honor), would serve as a park commissioner and be the leading force on determining where the various monuments, markers, and would be placed. If there was any question about his pride of the Thirty-Fifth, just look at the prominent location its monument holds on Horseshoe Ridge. Look too where the Ninth's monument is located on the ridge, a testimony to not only the regiment's performance, but the respect that Boynton had for their German komraden. And also consider the fact that the Second Minnesota is the only regiment to have three monuments at Chickamauga, one of the regiments Boynton knew well from nearly three years of service together.
Fugitt, Greg - Fantastic Shadows on the Ground
Keil, Frederick - Thirty-Fifth Ohio. A Narrative of Service From August 1861 to 1864.
Penn, William - Kentucky Rebel Town
Smith, Timothy B. - A Chickamauga Memorial