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Where's Waldo?

We have met the Eighty-Third Ohio previously on the blog. It was a regiment with men primarily from Hamilton and Butler Counties in southwestern Ohio.


Lawrence Waldo was born in Cincinnati on May 22, 1834, son of eye doctor Frederick Augustus Waldo. In 1850 the family was living in the Fulton area of Cincinnati. Benefiting from a good education, by 1860 Lawrence was a practicing attorney in the Queen City, with an office on 11 East Third Street. On April 17, 1861 Lawrence enlisted as a private in Company D, Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry and would see action near Bull Run on July 21st. Upon the end of the Second's enlistment, Lawrence did not immediately re-enlist, but when President Lincoln issued his summer 1862 call for additional volunteers, Waldo was commissioned a first lieutenant on the staff of the Eighty-Third Ohio Infantry, serving as adjutant.


Waldo would see additional fighting at Chickasaw Bayou and Arkansas Post. On March 8, 1863, he would send a letter to someone only referred as "dear child," perhaps a possible love interest. The following transcribed letter is from the horsesoldier.com website.


Opposite Vicksburg, March 8, 1863

Sunday night

Allow me to assure you, my "dear child," that you have not the remotest idea what splendid thunderstorms this rebellious country is capable of getting up, even at this time of the year. The one which is just "knocking things 'round" at the present moment is a fair sample of what we have had every day or two this blessed winter. About once in two minutes I am terrified be the expectation of having my eyes put out by flashes which seem to be intensified "Drummond lights,” and the top of my unfortunate head (always weak, you know, by reason of the soft spot on it) is lifted about three inches and a quarter from its natural bearings by such thunder claps as would shame out feeble northern electricity out of countenance.[1] On such a night I am satisfied that the pickets will go to sleep in the underbrush, with their india-rubber blankets over their heads; consequently they won’t imagine they see any rebels, consequently they won’t shoot at the imaginary “rebs” as usual, and consequently upon that, there won’t be any alarm, and I shall have a quiet night’s rest after finishing this note, lulled to slumber be the pattering of the rain on my tent, with a heavy basso accompaniment of thunder.

I write this principally to inform you that I did not receive your last letter, which I have reason to suppose was unusually valuable. That reads rather “Irish,” don’t it? Yet it is correct and reasonable. Your letter was sent, with a half a dozen others, from Cincinnati by private hands; the bearer did not come to the army, but gave a large number of letters which he had brought, to some other person at Helena, Ark. Most of them arrived safely, but singularly enough, not one of mine came to hand. The disappointment to me was great, as I had been advised as the same time by mail that they were “en route.” My father had maliciously excited my hopes by mentioning that among them was “one from a correspondent who used to write from Washington, now from Boston, and that if it had not been a lady’s hand-writing on the outside he should imagine sundry photographs were enclosed – but of course I could have no use for feminine photos.” Well – it’s gone, whatever it was; now do tell me what was in it – letter and all. Only, for goodness sake, I trust ‘twas not your wedding card, for in that case I should be driven to desert to the secesh, for the purpose of vengeance on the whole Yankee race. I am dreadfully uneasy about those spruce Boston boys who stay at home and have nothing to do but “make themselves pretty” – if it were an army man, I might forgive you the laceration of my “pheelinks.”

As I don’t copy all my letters to you in the regimental letter-book, and the passage of time is so uneven (sometimes a month flies away, and we scarcely know it, - and again a week seems like a century, as for instance the last “Holiday week”) I have not the remotest idea when I wrote to you last. But I have been too busy since the middle of December to write many – even of my brief letters. Possibly you want to know what I have been occupied with. After our defeat at Vicksburg, 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 honorable distinguished.[2] Sherman’s army, then commanded by McClernand, numbering 17,000 men, with the assistance of gunboats took this strong position, 5,000 prisoners, and twenty guns. The 83d Ohio lost one fifth (or rather more) of the number in action. The night before the storming, 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 – cussem, I say!

Since the battle I have mentioned, we have lain most of the time on the peninsula, in full sight of the coveted city of Vicksburg, which looks very beautiful in the sunlight, but loses much of its attractiveness when examined with a glass. The endless lines of rifle-pits, the redoubts, forts, and batteries, look to me as ugly as anything I ever saw in my life. For you see, I am of a temperament approaching the enthusiastic, love poetry and good cigars; but there is something so dreadfully matter-of-fact about these confounded fortifications that I am not half pleased with them. I was fortunate in being up about daylight a short time ago when the ram “Queen of the West” ran the gauntlet of the batteries, & upon my word, the way the rebels let fly from their abominable big guns was a caution to snakes.[3] The quick succession of flashes along the crests of the hills for miles gave us an inkling of the entertainment prepared for us when all the dogs, big & little together, should commence barking - & biting, too. I am quite inclined to think that the old Mississippian was more than half right, when he told Col. Ellett (who was not captured with his vessel) that “Fredericksburg was rosewater to what Vicksburg will be.”[4] If blood had any value in these days – which it has not – the cheapest plan would be to buy the Empire of China, dig it up by the roots, and let Vicksburg fall through. But I suspect my economical plan will not be adopted, and some of us who dance must pay the piper.

I’m not half through talking to you, but I must go to bed, to be up in the morning. Good night.


Photo from Find a Grave

The Eighty-Third would take part in the ensuing Vicksburg Campaign, seeing action at Champion Hill and Vicksburg proper. Waldo would be transferred from his staff position to Company D on July 1, 1863, then the following month would be promoted to captain of Company B. It was in this capacity Waldo would be mortally wounded and captured at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads on April 8, 1864, clinging to life until April 25th. His father would file for a pension in 1872. He is buried in the Alexandria National Cemetery, Alexandria, Louisiana.

 

Notes


[1] Drummond lights is a reference to the limelight, invented by Thomas Drummond in 1816. These were first used in theater in 1837 and by 1860 were in wide use. Drummond’s light, which consisted of a block of calcium oxide heated to incandescence in jets of burning oxygen and hydrogen, provided a soft, very brilliant light that could be directed and focused.

[2] The fighting from which the army withdrew on New Year’s Day was the battle at Chickasaw Bayou, which had taken place from December 26th to December 29th, 1862. The Eighty-Third Ohio was not heavily engaged. However, at Arkansas Post (also known as Fort Hindman), the Eighty-Third assaulted the Confederate works, and were, by some accounts, one of the first regiments to enter the fort.

[3] The USS Queen of the West was built in Cincinnati in 1854. It was purchased and converted from a commercial steamer to a ram in 1862. It ran the guns of Vicksburg in the early morning hours of February 3, 1863. On February 14th it was captured by the Confederates on the Red River and used by them until attacked and destroyed on April 11, 1863. [4] Waldo is referencing Charles R. Ellet, who was commander of the Queen of the West, who had been initially captured but later escaped with his crew.

 

Sources


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


United States Census, 1850


United States Census, 1860


United States City and Business Directories

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