A Sharpshooters Letter - A Wedding at Stones River

Not much is heard about the various companies of Ohio sharpshooters that were raised during the Civil War. Ten independent companies were formed in Ohio throughout the course of the conflict, but how they were used in their sharpshooting role is rarely mentioned in accounts of battles and skirmishes. Three of these companies were assigned to the 66th Illinois, which had been Birge's Western Sharpshooters earlier in the war, Birge's regiment being one of the more noted Federal sharpshooter units in the Western Theater. The other independent companies of Ohio sharpshooters were normally assigned to various Ohio infantry regiments, but at times were also formed into ad hoc battalions.


In September 1862, the Fourth Ohio Independent Company Sharpshooters, also known as Flegle's Sharpshooters, were formed, mustering into service on the 29th of that month at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati (158 years ago to the day this post was published on the site). They were to be also assigned to Birge's unit, but due to their rigid method for recruiting skilled riflemen organizing the company was delayed. Their first captain was Jacob Flegle, a 43 year old from Clermont County. Like many other companies raised during the war there were several brothers and cousins within the ranks, but unlike many companies the men were an older lot, with the average of the men of the Fourth being twenty-seven years of age. There were several men in their 30s and 40s within the company. The company was later assigned as Company K of the Seventy-Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Indeed of those men whose graves I have visited who have veteran gravestones indicates they were a member of Company K of the Seventy-Ninth and nothing about their service in the Fourth.


By May of 1863 the company was stationed near Murfreesboro, Tennessee as part of General William Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland. It was from Murfreesboro that a letter was written by a "J.D.C." and published on May 21st in the Highland Weekly News in Highland County, Ohio. J.D.C. was most likely John DeGuermore Collins, who would later become a corporal in the company.

Camp 1st Battalion Ohio Sharpshooters,

near Murfreesboro,

May 12th, 1863


Friend Boardman: Perhaps you were not aware that many of your readers have friends and acquaintances in Capt. Flegle's company of Sharpshooters, but such is the fact. This company was recruited last fall, just previous to the draft, so we, have but very few substitutes or ''three hundred dollar" men, as the boys term them, within our ranks. Most of the men were recruited in Clermont County, but Warren, Clinton, Highland, Brown and Hamilton are also represented.

M1841 - from the collection of Phil Spaugy

We were armed with the Harper's Ferry target rifle (editor - the M1841 Mississippi Rifle, Harper's Ferry alteration), and left Camp Dennison on the 19th of December, with orders to proceed to Nashville, and report to Gen. Rosecrans for duty; but on our arrival at Mumfordsville (ed. - Munfordsville), Ky., the conductor received a dispatch to proceed no further with the train, as Morgan was making a raid into the State along the line of the L. & N. R. R. (ed. - Louisville & Nashville Rail Road) We were consequently compelled to stop at that place, and were ordered by Gen. Boyle to remain there until further orders. It will be remembered that Morgan passed around to the east of that place, and made his famous raid on the railroad higher up, in the vicinity of Elizabethtown. We spent a very quiet and pleasant winter at Mumfordsville, and on the 16th of March received orders from Gen. Rosecrans to get transportation and proceed to Murfreesboro without delay and report to him. Upon our arrival at this place we found three other companies of Sharpshooters from Ohio, which were raised pursuant to the order of the Governor for the raising of ten independent companies. They were temporarily formed into a Battalion, and we were ordered to join them, making the fourth company, and I presume the organization will become permanent.

I omitted to say that we were originally raised with the design of being attached to the 89th Regiment, but it being full and sent into the field before we had men enough to be mustered as a company, we were assigned by the Governor to the 79th Ohio, as the tenth company. The Captain and his men being greatly dissatisfied with this arrangement appealed to have the assignment broken, which was done, and we were sent into the field as an independent company.

Spencer Rifle

Since coming here we have exchanged our guns for the Spencer Repeating Rifle, the same as the other companies have, and said to be the best arm in the service. It shoots a metallic cartridge, seven times without reloading, and has a range of a thousand yards. - Friday, the Major ordered all the well men to put one ration in their haversacks and fill their canteens with water, and be ready to march outside the lines for the purpose of practicing target-shooting. We crossed over Stone River out to the famous battle-field - saw the spot where the gallant Colonel Jones, of the 24th Ohio, was killed. - But it is not my purpose to give a description of the battle-field, but of what happened during the day. After we had selected our ground, and got fairly commenced in our practice, two or three officers came riding up, and informed us there was to be a wedding on the grounds we occupied, precisely at 12 o'clock. Of course the idea of witnessing a marriage ceremony on that battle-field of Stone River was something novel and romantic; and we were not kept long in suspense, for very soon the party came driving up, consisting of some fifteen ladies and twice as many gentlemen, mostly commissioned officers, among whom were Generals Crittenden, Thomas and McCook. The groom’s name was Joseph A. Hamilton of the 15th Indiana Regiment, and the bride Miss Francilia A. Bean, from Ohio. The spot selected for them to stand while the marriage ceremony was being said, was a flat rock on the ground where the regiment did its hardest fighting, and near where Mr. Hamilton was wounded. They were married by the Post Chaplain, Rev. John H. Lozier, of the 37th Indiana Regiment, permission being granted him by the Provost Marshal. The whole scene was pleasing, interesting and romantic. We returned to camp believing ourselves well paid for the trip. More soon. J. D. C.

American Battlefield Trust map showing location of 15th Indiana at Stones River
  • The raid mentioned is Morgan's Christmas Raid

  • More information on Frederick Jones can be found on the Ohio at Perryville blog.

  • Joseph Hamilton would be discharged on July 3rd, 1863, hopefully being able to enjoy his recent marriage to Francilla.

  • I have been able to locate the final resting places for 63 out of the 98 men of the Fourth/Company K 79th O.V.I. Most are buried within southwestern Ohio. You can see this list on Find A Grave.

Sources

American Civil War Research Database

Library of Congress Chronicling America

Ohio in the Civil War

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