Joseph Aplin Martin was only nineteen when he joined the ranks of Company B of the Ninety-Seventh Ohio Infantry as a private on August 11th, 1862. The Ninety-Seventh would be mustered into service on September 2nd at Camp Zanesville on the former site of the Camp Goddard along the road to Newark. Aplin, as he was known to friends and family, must have made a favorable impression within the company as the young man was promoted to corporal on April 8th, 1863.
Aplin Martin wrote and received a series of letters from family members during his service. His writing was filled with run on sentences and misspellings, but he successfully conveyed his thoughts and feelings to his loved ones back in Ohio. This letter, dated two days after the assault on Missionary Ridge, is one of the few letters written by Martin to discuss the ebb and flow of a battle. It was written to Martin's mother, Eleanor Kelley, who was living in Claysville, Guernsey County. I have slightly edited the letter, adding some punctuation and corrected spelling as needed but have left much of the original as written.
Chattanooga, November 27th, ‘63
I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am safe. I suppose that you will have heard before this reaches you that we have been fighting here. We left camp Monday about noon and formed our lines and throwed out our Skirmishers. They Moved on the Rebel Pickets but the Reb Retreated firing as they went. There was Cannonading all that afternoon, our Regt was on Picket that night. We moved back the next Morning behind some Breastworks that our Men Erected During the night. We done no fighting that day on our part of the line but there was very heavy fighting done in Lookout Mountain and they Succeeded in Driving the Rebels out of the Mountain or the part of the Mountain next to town, that was Tuesday. On Wednesday the fighting commenced on our left next to the River and they Shelled us some. About 10 or 11 o'clock we started forward just after dinner, the Rebs throwed Shells at us until we got pretty near to the foot of the Mountain, we then laid down then the Shells went over our heads, and some Struck in front of us. The 15th Ind[iana] was on our left, their Major set on his horse all the time that we was laying down. There was a cannon ball Struck the Ground in front of him and bounced, it went over his horses neck. Captain Tinney of Wagner's Staff was Riding up toward the 15th and a shell struck the Ground just at his horse's heels and throwed dirt all over him, he never turned his head.[i] He is a brave man, but the shells come so thick that it was no use to Dodge. The 26th Ohio was in front of us. They Started up the hill but was ordered to fall back. We then got orders to move forward and Support them. We Double quicked about 100 yds and got in some works that the Rebels had Erected. The Shells went Whizzing over our heads while we was in them. We Staid there about 5 Minutes and was ordered forward again. We went about 100 yds farther and was at the foot of the Mountain or Missionary Ridge as it is called. One of Loyd Stevenses boys was shot through the leg just before we Stopped that time.[ii] He was the first Man hurt in our Co. We waited about 5 Minutes and were ordered up the hill. Just was we got up on our feet Brady was wounded in the leg.[iii] We went a few feet farther and there was one man of our co. Killed, his name is Conrad Clinesmith.[iv] He was the only man killed in our company. We Charged up the Hill and Drove the Rebels out of their works and Captured Several pieces of Artillery. We then formed our lines again and turned their Artillery on them. They made a stand on the next hill but they had to leave. I believe that as heavy fighting as they done was on the Second hill. There was not as much Artillery firing but the Musket Balls came as thick as I want to See. Then we counted off after we got up that hill and found that we had lost 10 Men but there was some of them left back to take care of the wounded. There was 6 Wounded in our co. besides Brady and one killed. There was several [that] got little Scratches but did not hurt them much. I will give you the names of the Wounded: John W. Perry, flesh wound not Dangerous;[v] William Barnes, shot in the leg not dangerous. I believe he was from Cumberland or Sandersville; George Stevens, Shot through the thick part of the leg; Brady was shot just below the knee; Elias Delarue, Struck with a piece of Shell on the leg; Andrew Hanna, Shot through the Shoulder; George Boetcher, Slightly in the Shoulder;[vi] Conrad Clinesmith was killed Dead, he was shot through the head. We came back about ½ Mile after we Drove them off the Second Ridge and got our Suppers. We had just got to bed when we were ordered up to Draw Rations and be ready to March immediately. We went out about 2 Mile and Stacked Arms. We got a lot of Corn Meal and Baked Some Corn Dodgers then laid down and Slept till Morning. We captured 2 or three hundred bushel of their Corn Meal the night before. About 10 o'clock we went 2 Mile farther to Chickamauga River and Staid till afternoon then we came back and are now in our old camp. I was down in town this Morning to See Perry he is not badly wounded, and I think will be well in a few days. I expect that his folks will be uneasy about him, but they need not be. I saw two or three thousand prisoners down in town this Morning and the Report is that our men have Hardee’s Corps Surrounded and are likely to take them all Prisoners. We can hear them fighting this Morning but not plain as it is several Mile from here. I think that our Division will not have to go out any more. The paper that I am writing on was captured from the Rebels. I am sending a few lines to Mr. Perry you can give them to him. I got your letter of the 15th and the likeness
I only Drained 88 Dollars but I had some left from the other day ___ more ____ wanted as I sent 45- Dollars I send the receipt for this
Aplin wrote several more letters to his family in the following months, the last being on May 3rd, 1864. Martin would die at Tullahoma, Tennessee on July 2nd, 1864 of wounds incurred in one of the opening battles of the Atlanta campaign. He is buried at Stones River National Cemetery.
[i] Illinois-born Captain Henry C. Tinney. Tinney was a second lieutenant in the Tenth Indiana Infantry (three months service) before being promoted as first lieutenant in the Fortieth Indiana. He would be assigned as an adjutant on May 27th, 1863 and promoted to captain that same day. [ii] George Stephens, one of three brothers in Company B. Daniel had died of disease in January 1863, and Aaron, who joined the regiment in 1864, would be wounded at Kennesaw Mountain. [iii] John I. Brady, first lieutenant, who would resign his commission on May 5th, 1864. [iv] Clinesmith was thirty-eight when he enlisted in the Ninety-Seventh. He is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery. [v] Perry would continue to serve in the Ninety-Seventh, being promoted to corporal on February 28th, 1864, before being discharged for disability at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati. [vi] William Barnes, Elias J. DeLarue, Andrew Hanna, and George Boetcher would continue to serve in the Ninety-Seventh until mustering out of service at Nashville in June 1865.