Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Appearing in the Daily Ohio Statesman on August 29th, 1862 was a letter written by "S.W.G.," - Sylvester W. Gale - a member of Company A of the 95th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Gale, who was twenty years of age when he enlisted as a private on August 7th, 1862, would later become a prisoner of war at Brice's Cross Roads. The 95th OVI was organized at Camp Chase near Columbus on August 19th, and would be sent south in Kentucky shortly thereafter, its men never having the opportunity to become proficient in drill nor having fired their newly issued rifles.
The Transit of the 95th Ohio from
Camp Chase to Richmond, Ky.
BY A MEMBER OF COMPANY A.
RICHMOND, KY., August 25, 1862.
Dear sister: I will briefly describe to you our transit from Camp Chase to this place.
FROM CAMP CHASE TO COVINGTON, KY.
We left Camp Chase at about six o'clock on Thursday morning, August 21, for the railroad about a mile distant, with our knapsacks strapped upon our backs, each weighing about forty pounds. After waiting some time, we got on board the cars for Cincinnati, and made the trip in about nine hours! Just before we arrived In the Queen City, it rained tremendously. We were marched through the muddy streets to the river. I have a faint Idea that from this circumstance we must have made a fine appearance.
We were hurried across the river to Covington, Ky. The ladies of that city were very kind to as, having prepared a good dinner on our arrival, and plenty of it, too; for which they received the heartfelt thanks of the boys. At about six o'clock, we were marched to the depot, and found that we were to be transported in freight oars like so many cattle. We piled in, and found benches In the cars, on which we could sit down. I did not sleep scarcely a wink all night long.
FROM COVINGTON TO LEXINGTON, KY.
We left Covington at one o'clock. Friday morning, and arrived at Lexington, one hundred miles distant, at about noon. On the road, we saw where a freight train had been thrown from the track, about forty-eight hours before we passed, and lay at the foot of a steep hill in one mass of ruin - barrels of flour, pork, etc., in one confused heap. The rebels had torn up some rails, and the train was pitched from an embankment ten or fifteen feet high. This was no very agreeable sight, I assure you, and the thought that we might, from a similar cause, be hurled into eternity the next moment, made me shudder.
We passed through Cynthiana and Paris, whither Morgan's guerrillas had penetrated in their late raid into Kentucky, and saw the ground where our men met and fought them. We saw where the rebels had burned houses, and where dwellings had been fired on - the doors of which were pierced with bullet holes.
On our arrival at Lexington, we were marched through the city to Camp Clay, about a mile south. Oar camp ground was owned by James B. Clay, and lay directly opposite the old homestead of the latter.
"ON TO RICHMOND."
We received orders that (Friday) night to be ready to start the next morning at early daybreak for Cumberland Gap. But we did not leave until seven o'clock. We took what they called four days' rations. We were ordered to pack and leave our knapsacks, being told they would be brought along after the regiment.
While we were preparing to leave, two Indiana regiments - the 12th and 66th - passed by; we fell In their rear, and commenced, as we supposed, our long march of one hundred and twenty miles to Cumberland Gap. We marched part of the time at the rate of four miles an hour. When about fifteen miles from Lexington, and just after we had waded the Kentucky
river, we began to ascend a high hill - the highest I remember ever having seen. Our commanders decided to encamp when the top was reached. When about midway up, a messenger came, stating that Colonel Metcalf of the 7th Kentucky cavalry, had been attacked, near Richmond, about twelve miles distant, by the rebels under Scott, and driven back with great slaughter.
Then quickly came the words - " Forward! March!" and the boys rushed ahead with renewed vigor. In order to get along more rapidly, several horses and wagons were pressed into the service, and our sick and worn-out soldiers were placed in the vehicles. While moving forward as fast as possible, we learned that a fight had taken place about sixteen miles beyond Richmond, and that the Union troops had really been driven back. Some of our boys thought we could not possibly hold out to march further than Richmond, and began to linger from sheer weariness. But when we were within about four miles of this place, a messenger came, saying that the rebels were near the town in large force, and had sent in a flag of trace, demanding its surrender within an hour, or the place would be shelled.
The command "Forward! On to Richmond!" was given, and we hurried on at "double-quick." The officers rode along the lines, ordering the men to throw away every thing that impeded their progress. Blankets, haversacks, canteens and everything, except guns and cartridge boxes, were strewn promiscuously along the road - men stumbling over them and falling out of the ranks. But onward we went at "double-quick," and entered Richmond about one o'clock Sunday morning, expecting to have a fight certainly. We were Immediately drawn up in line of battle but not a rebel was to be seen - they having retired about three miles back into the country. Our timely arrival saved the town; for there can be no doubt the rebels would have shelled It, or else it would have bad to surrender.
We lay that night on the pavement without a blanket - all having been thrown away on our
forced march. I came very near freezing, but strange to say, I did not even catch a cold. I do not recollect that I ever slept on the pavement before - it was a pretty hard, I assure you, but having marched twenty-six miles the day before - the latter part of it at "double-quick" - I was very tired, and soon fell asleep in spite or myself.
Yesterday (Sunday) we were drawn up in line of battle three times, expecting the appearance of the rebels each time; but they did not come. We are now encamped within a quarter of a mile of Richmond, ready for a fight at a moment's warning. Last night we slept on our arms, bat were not called out. We will probably leave here to-morrow or next day in pursuit of the rebels. We have been largely reinforced, and now make quite a formidable army - in appearance at least.
Our Colonel has been appointed Provost Marshal, and we are bringing the secessionists up to the scratch. As an instance, one was told this morning to bring in two hundred dollars in money, five hundred pounds of flour and three hundred pounds of bacon within an hour, or he would be shot. Off he went at "double-quick" to fill the order. Others, according to their wealth, are served in a similar way.
It is rumored that our knapsacks and camp equipage have all been burned by the guerrillas. I hope not, for the last present you gave me, dear sister, was in my knapsack. Remember me to all our relatives and friends. Good bye.
S. W. G.