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"the grandest and most efficient means" - A Voice From the Fifteenth U. S. C. I.

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Born in Newbury Center, Geauga County, Ohio, in 1834, Levi Patchin, Jr., was twenty-seven years old when he joined the Forty-First Ohio Volunteer Infantry in August, 1861. He mentions in his letter below that he was a private, but must not have held that rank for long as the roster of the Forty-First has him enrolling as a corporal. As a member of the Forty-First, Patchin would have seen action at Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and perhaps was involved with the amphibious action at Brown's Ferry. On February 1st, 1864, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in Company G of the Fifteenth United States Colored Infantry. Service in the Fifteenth must have been quite different for the newly minted lieutenant, not only from more responsibilities that come with rank, but also working with an ethnic group that might have been mostly unknown to him. Residing in northeastern Ohio, Patchin might have had encounters with free blacks, but most likely those experiences were few.

The Fifteenth U. S. C. I. organized in Nashville from December 1863 until March 1864. Made up of former slaves from Tennessee and other states, the Fifteenth would see service as a garrison regiment, protecting the railroads in Tennessee. This change of pace must have also been different for Lieutenant Patchin who was used to seeing heavy service with the Forty-First Ohio. But the lieutenant did not regret his decision, as evidenced in this letter, published by The Jeffersonian Democrat on February 5th, 1864:


In Camp at Shelbyville, Tenn.,

Jan. 16th, 1864.

FRIEND CONVERSE: - Thinking perhaps you and the readers of the Democrat would like to hear from a Geauga bot, who has left one of the best regiments in the U.S. service to accept a position in what is generally termed a "Nigger Regiment,” I drop you a few lines, and, if you see proper to publish them, you can do so. I am one of those who left a comfortable home, a wife and child, and, besides these, many friends and a profitable business, to battle for my country.[1] I enlisted in Co. B. 41st Reg. O. V. I., in August, 1861, as a private, after the Co. was full, and officers and non commissioned officers elected in it, asking for no office, expecting none, and wanting none; and I have served in the capacity of private and corporal ever since I enlisted, until Jan. 1st, 1864, being ordered to report at Nashville, Tenn., at that time to take a command in a Colored Regiment, (having been examined previously for promotion. I compiled with the order, and with regret I left the noble 41st on Now Year's Day, stationed at that time near Blane's Cross Roads, eighteen miles above Knoxville, Tenn. Yes, I left them; but all honor to the 41st. I left them veterans. When I left, over three-fourths of them had signed that noble Roll of Honor which makes them veterans indeed, and, not only that, but secures to them four hundred and two dollars bounty and a furlough of 30 days previous to the first of April next. So those who had friends in the 41st may expect to see them soon.

I came by the way of Chattanooga; stayed with the 105th O. V. I. two days; found Col. Tolles in good health and fine spirits, and the health of the Regiment good.[2] I also saw Col. Wiley, who was severely wounded at Missionary Ridge, and had a leg amputated.[3] He is recovering as fast as could be expected. I arrived in Nashville the 9th, after suffering with the cold, (being poorly clothed.) worse than I ever suffered In Northern Ohio. We had no fire on boat or cars, and some froze their foot and ears, and three poor, sick soldiers, just from hospital, going home on furlough, froze to death on the boat that I was on and, if ever I was thankful, it was when I arrived in Nashville, where, paying one dollar, I got a very good supper, a warm room to sit in long enough to eat it, and then, for another Greenback, I got a bed to sleep in, and being broke of my rest so much on cars and boat, I got the worth of my money that night, or I should say that night and the next day, for, when I awoke, it was light, and, when I went below, the first bell rang for dinner.

Orion Alexander Bartholomew

I felt very much refreshed with about eighteen hours' sleep, and, after dinner, I reported to Maj. G. L. Stearns, A. A. G. U. S. V., Commander Organization U.S. Colored Troops - a very gentlemanly officer, and one that has done a great deal towards organizing and officering Colored Troops.[4] I received from him papers assigning me to the 15th U. S. C. T. Col. Downey, formerly a Captain in the 113th O. V. I., Lieut. Col. Bartholomew, of the 70th Indiana, and Maj. Jackson, of the 14th Mich. Vols., are our field officers, and I think, by my short acquaintance, they are gentlemen worthy their position.[5] I am well pleased with both field and line officers now, and hope, by strict attention to duty, to win their confidence and esteem. Our Regiment now numbers about four hundred and eighty men, and recruits coming in daily. I am disappointed, for, instead of the shiftless, lazy, indolent, dirty brutes I have been told they were, I must say I never saw a regiment of white men take more pride, and try to learn the art of drilling and the manual of arms, keeping themselves and their quarters clean, better than do our colored boys of the 15th. I know not what my many friends in Geauga may think in regard to making soldiers of traitors' property, and being an officer over them; but, as for me, I came into the Army of the United States, not for office nor money; neither did I come into the army for distinction, or for making myself popular, but, on the contrary, I came into the army to fight and die, if need be, in defence of the Constitution which my forefathers fought, bled and died to establish for their children and future generations, and to do all I could towards putting down this Rebellion. I have always tried to do my duty faithfully and cheerfully as a private, and, considering it to be my duty to do all I could for my country, and believing I could be of more benefit to my country and suffering humanity, and especially the poor African, I accepted a commission in a Colored Regiment; and, Mr. Editor, I am proud of it, more so, much more so, than I should have been to have received a commission in the 41st, or any other white regiment, for this reason: I consider it the grandest and most efficient means of crushing this Rebellion that the U. S. Government ever adopted, this arming of negroes, and officering them with white officers. These, I say, are my reasons for accepting a commission in the 15th U. S. Colored Regiment. Well, Mr. Editor, fearing I will be too tedious and lengthy for your columns, I close with the promise that you shall hear from me again.

Yours truly, LIEUT. L. P., JR.

Pride Over Prejudice - U. S. C. T. at Nashville - Rick Reeves

Written a week later, but appearing in the same edition of The Jeffersonian Democrat was this letter from Patchin about the status of the enemy in his area, and his plea for respect for the men of the Forty-First:

WARTRACE, TENN., Jan. 23d, 1864.[6]

FRIEND EDITOR: - I write you from this place, having been sent here on recruiting service for the 15th, it not being quite full yet, but fast filling, recruits coming in daily. The weather has been very cold here since New Year's, especially when we consider that we are in the sunny South. I have heard of several soldiers freezing to death on the cars, who were on their way home as veterans, and I never suffered with the cold in Northern Ohio as I have here since the first of January. But the weather has been moderating for a few days past, and it seems more like a May day to-day, than a January one, and, judging by yesterday and to-day, it can be called the sunny South.

No news from the front of importance, except what deserters from Longstreet’s and Bragg’s armies bring in. They all tell the same story of suffering and destitution in the Rebel army, not only as regards shoes and clothing, but they are confined exclusively to one half rations of meal or flour and meat. They say great dissatisfaction exists, and nine-tenths of the men will improve the first opportunity thee have of deserting, and, not only the men, but many of the officers are anxious to accept of the Amnesty Proclamation of the President.[7] All agree in saying, (and I have talked with several,) that the Rebellion is "played out," and that the troops cannot be forced to fight any longer. But time alone can tell how long this war will be carried on, and brother fight against brother, which is often the case, much more so here in Tennessee, than in Ohio. May the time soon come when the prodigals will all return to the Union, and we soldiers be permitted to return to our once happy homes and families, now made desolate by our absence, there to enjoy the comforts and blessings which kind friends, parents, brothers, sisters. wives and sweethearts are ever ready and anxious to bestow upon a care-worn and faithful soldier.

I saw Col. Wiley. Dr. Hart and Capt. McCleary, of the 41st, yesterday, on their way home.[8] They informed me that the 41st were at Chattanooga, had been paid off, and were waiting transportation home, and would be through here in a few days, destined for Ohio; and perhaps, ere this reaches you, you may have the pleasure of seeing some of them, who have battled for their country, endured the hardships, privations and suffering incident to a soldier’s life, for nearly three years, and who have volunteered to serve three years longer, provided the war lasts that long. Hoping that, when they do arrive in your midst they receive the honors due them, I close.

Yours truly, LIEUT. L. P.

Levi Patchin would later be promoted to captain on May 15th, 1865, and muster out of service on April 7th, 1866.



[1] At home in Ohio was wife Eliza, and young son Eugene. Eliza would pass away in 1865, and Patchin would marry her sister Elvira in 1875. Levi Patchin would pass away on August 5th of that same year, and Levi, Eliza, and Elvira are all buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Burton, Ohio.

[2] William R. Tolles. The 105th Ohio was another northeastern Ohio infantry regiment.

[3] Aquilla Wiley of the Forty-First, later Brevet Brigadier General.

[4] George L. Stearns, Assistant Adjutant General, United States Volunteers.

[5] Thomas J. Downey, Orion Alexander Bartholomew, and Cyrus F. Jackson.

[6] Wartrace is located twenty-five miles south of Murfreesboro.

[7] Issued December 8th, 1863. All Southerners except for high-ranking Confederate army officers and government officials would be granted a full pardon. Lincoln also guaranteed Southerners that he would protect their private property, though not their slaves.

[8] Albert G. Hart and James McCleery, captain of Company A, and later Brevet Brigadier General.



American Civil War Research Database

Chronicling America

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