Greyhounds at the Post

Updated: Jan 14

As we all delve deeper into studying the War of the Rebellion, we come across certain stories or units that may resonate with us more than others. It could be because we have discovered an ancestor who served within a particular unit, or perhaps a regiment that was formed or recruited within our hometown. For my more than passing interest in the Eighty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, it was the discovery that many of the men were residents of Hamilton County (where I reside) and Butler County (where I spent my youth), and that the regiment had an interesting moniker, the Greyhounds. The name Greyhounds was given to the regiment by the Twenty-Third Wisconsin. From the History of the Eighty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry: The Greyhound Regiment, written by Thomas B. Marshall, who would serve as first sergeant of Company K, we learn about the Greyhound nickname:


Monument at Vicksburg - courtesy Andrew Miller

While on the march, each regiment took turns of being at the head of the column. The one at the head one day, took the rear the next, and gradually worked forward to the front again. On this last day, the Eighty-Third had the lead, with sixteen miles to go. Colonel Moore determined to show some things to the rest of the brigade. During this march it had been the custom of the other regiments to roll up their clothing, blankets and such heavy-weights, in their tents and have them hauled in the wagons. This left them in light marching order, and made it easy work. This caused a kick by the Eighty-Third and consequently an order was issued from headquarters that this practice was to stop, and every soldier was to carry his own traps. As said before, we were to lead the column.

We filed out in the road and made eight miles without a halt. We were a long ways ahead when we stopped to rest. Just as the brigade came up with us, we started and rapidly marched away from them. These tactics we kept up all the time, giving the other regiments no rest until we reached Louisville.

By records of October 19th, repeated October 29th, we had been given the name of "Greyhounds." With the Twenty-Third Wisconsin, we had formed the nucleus of the Brigade, and that regiment had given us this name, because of our beating them in the rapidity of our marching, the name dating from near October 1st. This last day's march into Louisville, November 1oth, confirmed the name in the entire Brigade as then completed.

Meanwhile, the rest of the brigade were cursing us for a lot of "greyhounds," and from that day to this, the name has stuck to us. All of our literature has this imprint and the monument at Vicksburg has the same in enduring granite. We were pretty well done up when we reached the city, and every inequality in the cobble paved streets was felt through our thick soled shoes. The roads traveled were hard macadam, and at the end of each day our feet would be covered with blisters. As we had been marching several days, our feet were particularly tender on this our "trial day."

More than two years after this episode, Dr. Cassidy. who was then our surgeon, said 'that days' work of foolishness had cost the lives of several men." We covered the sixteen miles in three hours and fifty minutes actual marching time, being an average of over four miles an hour. Of course we carried our arms and accoutrements.

Closeup of monument showing greyhound - courtesy Andrew Miller
Colonel Frederick W. Moore

Formed in August and September of 1862 at Camp Dennison, the Eighty-Third was initially commanded by Frederick W. Moore of Hamilton County. Of the regiment's ten companies, seven were mustered in at Camp Dennison, two in northern Kentucky, and one in the field - the three latter companies being those from Butler County. Along with their greyhound moniker the Eighty-Third might called a unit of Micks, as there were fifty men with last names starting with Mc in the regiment, including three McKees, three McLaughlins, and three McMurrys. The regiment, part of Lincoln's call for 300,000 more, first served as part of the defenses of Cincinnati in response to threats to the Queen City by Confederate forces under command of Henry Heth. Once this threat was no longer a consideration, the regiment would see additional service in Kentucky before moving to Mississippi where it was under fire at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou in late December, 1862. However, the Eighty-Third would become true veterans in mid-January, 1863 at Arkansas Post, where it would claim to be the first Federal regiment to plant its colors on the Confederate works and lose about one-fifth of its strength as a result. The Ohio legislature noted the regiment's bravery with an unanimous vote of thanks. At Arkansas Post the Eighty-Third was within the First Brigade (Stephen G. Burbridge), Second Division (A. J. Smith), First Army Corps (George W. Morgan), Army of the Mississippi (John A. McClernand).

Blue oval shows the Eighty-Third's January 11th position at Arkansas Post

Writing about the evening before the battle, regimental adjutant and second lieutenant Lawrence Waldo would later pen in a letter:


After our defeat at Vicksburg (Chickasaw Bluffs), from which we withdrew on New Year’s day, we made up in some degree for that failure by the Capture of Arkansas Post, in which my regiment was honorably distinguished….the night before the storming of the fort, the rebel batteries were guilty of a meanness which I never knew to be practiced before—they threw shells in the dark, when we could not see to dodge, and although they afforded us a very pretty specimen of fireworks, their pyrotechnic charms were destroyed by our knowledge that the practice was quite unsafe to the spectators—one might almost pronounce it dangerous. Shells in the day-time I don't object to—in reasonable quantities; but at night—cuss ‘em, I say!


On that clear Sabbath morning, the Federal forces were arrayed in a shallow horseshoe formation. At 1:20 p.m. the gunboats opened fire, followed shortly by the Union artillery. For about one hour the bombardment raged, and then the infantry was ordered forward. Clinton W. Gerard, a sergeant in Company E, would write of the battle:


The morning of January 11th found us in line of battle, while the artillery from the rear and the gunboats from the front were doing heavy work. The troops and gunboats entirely surrounded the fort. Our regiment went well to the right and near the line of a clear field, on the other side of which were the enemy's works. In this position we were actively engaged in the fight until 12 o'clock noon, when the whole line was ordered to charge on the fort. The 83rd being in advance, went in this open field under a terrific fire. Directly in our front was a house and several out-buildings; these were utilized by the enemy, who poured volley after volley into our ranks from the doors, windows and other openings of the infant fortress, which sheltered them from our fire. But the whole of our line about the front was suffering terribly from the enemy's fire; shot, shell and minie balls were fairly showered upon us from the fort, and I think I may truthfully say, that in all the battles of the war in which we participated, the regiment was never under heavier fire, than for a few hours on this day. The enemy seemed determined to "Hold the fort." The men in the ditches fought like so many tigers, and it was was like running against a stone wall to attempt to drive them out. After almost a life and death struggle, our regiment, with some others, fell back to the woods, which afforded a shelter from the storm of bullets which whistled about us. Our lines having been repaired, another dash was made across the field. This time we went further than before, and by lying flat on the ground, held our position under a furious fire. Little by little we kept advancing, all the time keeping close to the ground, until we had made a good headway towards the fort. We were about out of ammunition and none could be gotten to us. The 96th O. V. I. and 77th Ill. came to relieve us, but the three regiments were so badly mixed up, that no one could tell one from the other, and no commands could bring order out of chaos.

This may not be understood by those who never saw a real battle but have formed ideas of them from pictures which put the soldiers all in line. In modern warfare such a line would be cut down like grass before the scythe.

When the real battle is on while all try to keep together yet everyone looks out for himself. A stump or tree is always made use of, and under a heavy fire one of the best points about a good soldier is to be able to save himself while he fights and kills the enemy.

This terrible fighting did not cease until 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when, without any warning, white flags were hoisted above the works of the enemy.

In a moment the firing ceased, and a shout which made the very earth tremble went up along our whole line. Our entire force made a rush for the works, and when once in found about 7,000 prisoners, a large number of heavy guns and several thousand small arms. Destruction and death were to be seen all over and throughout the works. The artillery and navy had done their work well, and that of the infantry was visible everywhere. Our men, while sickened at the sight before them, were of course in high glee. The victory was a decisive one. The 83rd lost eight killed and eighty-one wounded, several of the latter dying later from the effects of their wounds. The number killed and wounded was one-fourth of all of our regiment who were able to and did take part in the fight. Our regimental flag had eleven holes in it made by bullets, and nearly every other flag along the line was found to be in the same shattered condition....

The Surrender of Arkansas Post - by William R. McComas, a member of Company A

Clinton W. Gerard, a sergeant in Company E of the Eighty-Third, would write of the battle:


The morning of January 11th found us in line of battle, while the artillery from the rear and the gunboats from the front were doing heavy work. The troops and gunboats entirely surrounded the fort. Our regiment went well to the right and near the line of a clear field, on the other side of which were the enemy's works. In this position we were actively engaged in the fight until 12 o'clock noon, when the whole line was ordered to charge on the fort. The 83rd being in advance, went in this open field under a terrific fire. Directly in our front was a house and several out-buildings; these were utilized by the enemy, who poured volley after volley into our ranks from the doors, windows and other openings of the infant fortress, which sheltered them from our fire. But the whole of our line about the front was suffering terribly from the enemy's fire; shot, shell and minie balls were fairly showered upon us from the fort, and I think I may truthfully say, that in all the battles of the war in which we participated, the regiment was never under heavier fire, than for a few hours on this day. The enemy seemed determined to "Hold the fort." The men in the ditches fought like so many tigers, and it was was like running against a stone wall to attempt to drive them out. After almost a life and death struggle, our regiment, with some others, fell back to the woods, which afforded a shelter from the storm of bullets which whistled about us. Our lines having been repaired, another dash was made across the field. This time we went further than before, and by lying flat on the ground, held our position under a furious fire. Little by little we kept advancing, all the time keeping close to the ground, until we had made a good headway towards the fort. We were about out of ammunition and none could be gotten to us. The 96th O. V. I. and 77th Ill. came to relieve us, but the three regiments were so badly mixed up, that no one could tell one from the other, and no commands could bring order out of chaos.

The Eighty-Third would have attacked from right to left across the ground in the center of this drawing. View of Fort Hindman with the Union gunboats drawn by Clarence Fendall, U. S. Coast Survey.

This may not be understood by those who never saw a real battle but have formed ideas of them from pictures which put the soldiers all in line. In modern warfare such a line would be cut down like grass before the scythe.

When the real battle is on while all try to keep together yet everyone looks out for himself. A stump or tree is always made use of, and under a heavy fire one of the best points about a good soldier is to be able to save himself while he fights and kills the enemy.

This terrible fighting did not cease until 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when, without any warning, white flags were hoisted above the works of the enemy.

In a moment the firing ceased, and a shout which made the very earth tremble went up along our whole line. Our entire force made a rush for the works, and when once in found about 7,000 prisoners, a large number of heavy guns and several thousand small arms. Destruction and death were to be seen all over and throughout the works. The artillery and navy had done their work well, and that of the infantry was visible everywhere. Our men, while sickened at the sight before them, were of course in high glee. The victory was a decisive one. The 83rd lost eight killed and eighty-one wounded, several of the latter dying later from the effects of their wounds. The number killed and wounded was one-fourth of all of our regiment who were able to and did take part in the fight. Our regimental flag had eleven holes in it made by bullets, and nearly every other flag along the line was found to be in the same shattered condition....


At Arkansas Post the regiment was commanded by William H. Baldwin. Again from the History of the Eighty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry: The Greyhound Regiment, we have this about the commander:

William H. Baldwin

William. H. Baldwin, the second in command of the Greyhounds, came of a long line of military men reaching back to Bunker Hill. They were prominent in many engagements during the Revolutionary period, and the record is one of which anyone might be proud.

Baldwin was born in New Sharon, Maine. He graduated from Union College, New York in 1855, and from the law department of Harvard in 1858. He was for a time a student of civil law in the Universities of Berlin and Munich, in Europe. He was with General Garibaldi in 1860 in most of his important movements from Naples to Capri.

On learning of the outbreak of our civil strife he returned to the United States and was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to the Eighty-Third Ohio. He participated in the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, commanded the regiment at the Battle of Arkansas Post as shown by the official reports and where our colors were the first on the enemy's works.

He was present during the siege of Vicksburg and was in command at the siege and capture of Jackson, Mississippi. He was in command of the brigade which brought up the rear of Banks' army on the retreat from Sabine Cross Roads. He also had various commands while the regiment lay encamped at Morganza Bend. He was in command during the siege and assault of Blakely, Alabama, and made a good record there, receiving the surrender of General Cockrell as our infantry swarmed over the works.

For his gallantry in this engagement he was brevetted as Brigadier General. He remained with the regiment until its final muster out on July 24th, 1865, at Galveston, Texas.

After the close of the war, he returned to the practice of his profession which was a large and important one in the U. S. Courts, especially in land cases.

He was an active member of the Loyal Legion and was the first Commander of George H. Thomas Post of the G. A. R., Department of Ohio. In the National Organization, he was at one time Judge Advocate General, and a member of the Council of Administration.

He married Isabella, daughter of Jonas Butterfield, an old citizen and merchant of Cincinnati.

He had four children, but at this writing there is no knowledge of them, further than that one of them died at an early age. The family resided in Norwood, a near suburb of Cincinnati, where he died on June 11. 1898.


The Greyhounds would go on to see service at Champion Hill, Big Black River, Vicksburg, and Jackson. It would then spend over a year in Louisiana, including the action at Sabine Crossroads, before ending their fighting at Fort Blakely, near Mobile, Alabama.

 

Sources

Civil War Times Illustrated - The Battle of Arkansas Post, 1969.


Gerard, Clinton W. - A diary: the Eighty-third Ohio Vol. Inf. in the war, 1862-1865


Highland Weekly News, January 29th, 1863.


Marshall, T. B. - History of the Eighty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry: The Greyhound Regiment. Cincinnati, 1912.

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