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Bullet Magnet with a Bad Ass Beard - Obadiah C. Maxwell


Obadiah Craig Maxwell

Marked by a simple stone in Lebanon Cemetery rests Obadiah Craig Maxwell, Brevet Brigadier General. Maxwell had been born on February 2nd, 1837, about two and a half miles southeast of Franklin, Ohio, in Warren County. Prior to the Civil War Maxwell worked as a clerk at his uncle's grain house, then would become a grain dealer. He would then dabble in dry goods, as well as a partnership in a shoe business. Maxwell would marry Rebecca C. Pauly on March 6th, 1860. His was seemingly a peaceful life that would bely his later violent participation in the war.


Maxwell served in the Franklin Greys as ordnance sergeant prior to the war. This unit was a company of local men who were taken into service shortly after the war began. On April 29th, 1861, Maxwell would be commissioned as second lieutenant in Company F of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was sent east and would see some action at First Manassas, mostly near the Stone Bridge over Bull Run during the Federal retreat. By this time Maxwell had been promoted to first lieutenant, second in command to Captain John Kell, another man from the Franklin Greys.


After the First Ohio mustered out of service in August, Maxwell would be commissioned as captain of Company B of the newly formed Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the Second having been taken into service as a three year regiment. Cincinnatian Leonard Harris was at the helm, with Kell serving as lieutenant colonel and Anson McCook as major. Maxwell now had his own company to attend to, and there would be difficult campaigning ahead. The Second Ohio would see action in eastern Kentucky at West Liberty and Ivy Mountain, before being sent to Louisville. Maxwell would be detached from the regiment for service in Louisville and recruiting in Ohio. He would return to the regiment in time for the agonizingly slow movements towards Chattanooga along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, which almost caused his demise in July at the hands of his close friend McCook. The two men had been chatting when McCook fell asleep. Maxwell decided to check the outer posts, and McCook, upon his awakening, went to look for Maxwell while checking several of the posts as well. In the dark shadows caused by a dimly lit moon McCook saw a figure moving, drew and cocked his pistol, and challenged "Who comes there?" As there was no response McCook issued another challenge and threatened to shoot, whereupon Maxwell stepped out from behind a tree, shouting "For God's Sake, Major, don't shoot!"


The capture of Chattanooga would be delayed as the Confederates had moved into Kentucky. The Second Ohio would be force marched with much of Don C. Buell's Army of the Ohio, reaching Louisville by the end of September. Reinforced and refitted, the army would leave Louisville on October 1st, 1862. As part of Leonard Harris' Ninth Brigade, Third Division, in McCook's I Corps, the Second would see heavy action outside a small village called Perryville.

The Second's position at 3:30 (orange oval) - map courtesy Kurt Holman

In the early hours of October 8th, the regiment was marching along dry and dusty roads from the hamlet of Mackville towards Perryville, where the corps would join with Buell's other two corps, and attack the Confederate forces deployed along the Chaplin River. Along the march men dropped from fatigue, heat, and a severe lack of water. Within a few hours the men of McCook's corps could hear the low rumbling of artillery to the south. Arriving on what would be the field of battle a little before noon, the Second Ohio would be deployed along the left portion of what is now known as Loomis' Heights, with the left of the regiment extending into a low swale and nearly reaching the Widow Gibson farm buildings. About 2:00 p.m. the regiment would move by the left to occupy a gap east of the Widow Gibson farmstead, before falling back to the west of the farm buildings when pressured by the advance of the Sixteenth Tennessee Regiment. From 2:30 until 4:15 the regiment would fight in this area, incurring nearly one hundred casualties, before falling back to northwest of the Dixville Crossroads, a position held for the rest of the day. In Company B Captain Maxwell would have a dozen killed or wounded, including Maxwell himself. As Company B was a "flank" company they were used as skirmishers. While east of the Widow Gibson house leading his skirmish line, Maxwell was hit. A ball had fractured the lower third of his left fibula, and he was left between the lines, but was able to be recovered before being captured. Maxwell would never recover from the wound to his leg, however, he would not let this wound prevent him from continued service.


At Stones River the Second was once again in the midst of heavy action. Acting as major for the Second Ohio, Maxwell was hit again, this time by a shell fragment that grazed the front of the cartilage of his thyroid, also contusing his right shoulder, and injuring his head such that Maxwell was unconscious for more than twenty-four hours. He would recover yet again and return to the Second, now as lieutenant colonel. His friend John Kell was dead, killed at Stones River. For an excellent accounting of the Second at Stones River, see Dan Masters' blog post, "Capturing the Flag: the 2nd Ohio Infantry at Stones River."


Maxwell would lead the Second Ohio in battle at Chickamauga. Here he would incur another wound, this time a gunshot to his right chest, the ball passing out his back. This wound would cause hemorrhages for the rest of his life, along with intense pain. It is not clear where Maxwell suffered this wound on the Chickamauga battlefield, but most likely it was along the left portion George Thomas' defensive position on September 20th. Maxwell would be discharged from service for his various wounds on February 1st, 1864 and return home to Warren County. He filed for a pension on June 27th, 1864, but his wounds did not stop him from serving as Warren County auditor.


Maxwell has certainly earned the right to sit out the rest of the war. Wounds to the leg, throat, and chest, along with the occasional bleeding and pain, was enough for any man to have suffered in service to his country. However, on March 14th, 1865 Maxwell was commissioned as lieutenant colonel of the 194th Ohio Volunteer Infantry which mustered into service at Camp Chase, Ohio. The colonel of the regiment was Maxwell's comrade and friend, Anson McCook. The 194th went first to the Shenandoah Valley, but upon Lee's surrender at Appomattox the regiment was sent to Washington City, where it remained on garrison duty until mustering out of service on October 24th, 1865.

After the war Maxwell would return to southwestern Ohio and once again become a businessman. His Civil War accomplishments were not forgotten, and he was one of only five men from the state awarded a medal bearing the appropriate inscription, Imperium in Imperio with the motto of the State of Ohio. John Kell was another recipient of the medal. Maxwell would received a brevet to brigadier general, dated March 13th, 1865. In 1868 President Johnson made Maxwell an assessor in the Internal Revenue Service, which resulted in a move to Dayton, Ohio. By 1870 Maxwell had given up that position and became a partner in Maxwell, Long and Co., filing for a trademark patent on March 8th. On the United States Census of that same year Maxwell is listed as a soap manufacturer, with Rebecca and two children living with him. But hard times fell upon Maxwell - his numerous war wounds caused him great pain which would prevent a full night's sleep, and he suffered from feelings of despondency. What impact this may have had on his business ventures is difficult to ascertain, but on December 5th, 1872 at the Phillips House in downtown Dayton, Maxwell, suffering financially as well as physically and mentally, would take his own life by a revolver shot to the head. Obadiah Craig Maxwell was thirty-five years old.


His wife Rebecca, now destitute with children to provide for, would file for a pension, which would initially be denied by the Pension Bureau who stated that "it is not satisfactorily shown that death is traceable to the wounds incurred in the service." Former Civil War veteran Americus V. Rice would submit bill H. R. 305 asking that a pension be granted. I have not been able to locate any pension payment documents to verify if Rebecca received any funds from the government.


One has to look a bit to find Maxwell's grave in Lebanon Cemetery. The stone not very noticeable, being one of the smaller versions used in the years shortly after the war. There are no cemetery signs indicating his service in the war or as a citizen, and no large family monument graces the Maxwell plot. Yet he was an American whose many wounds did not stop him from repeated service during the Civil War. Suffering from those wounds, which would gives him bouts of insanity, Maxwell is a person deserving of recognition, like so many who served in the Civil War. Heck, Maxwell's beard even made him onto the Bad Ass Civil War Beards website!

 

Sources

  • Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents to the Secretary of Commerce. 1871.

  • Richard Baumgartner, ed. - The Bully Boys: In Camp and Combat with the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment 1861-1864. Blue Acorn Press, Huntington, 2011.

  • The History of Warren County, Ohio. Chicago, 1882.

  • Index to the Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the First and Second Session of the Forty-Fifth Congress. Washington, 1878.

  • United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

  • Reunion of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Seventh Reunion. Cincinnati, 1874.


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