Prior to October, 1864 the north–south rail line from Nashville to Decatur, Alabama, the Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroads, aka the Nashville & Decatur Railroad, was protected by Union Cavalry, including the 7th Pennsylvania and the 9th Indiana (also known as 121st Indiana Regiment), and others. The latter was organized in the winter of 1863, mustered in during March and left the state for Pulaski, TN on May 3, 1864. It remained there until November participating in protecting the rail line and against the movements of confederate Generals’ Wheeler and Forrest. The 121st suffered numerous casualties during this service, including 196 in a battle at a trestle in northern Alabama against Forrest’s men.
The 175th Ohio, which was organized and led by Captain Dan McCoy, had arrived in Columbia, Tennessee on October 20th and was ordered to the 4th Army Corp. The regiment’s Chaplain, J.P. Schultz, described the 175th as “a happy regiment – a jolly crew.” While the 175th Ohio was later instrumental in the Union’s success at The Battle of Franklin the worst peril that many of them faced was far to the south and weeks before they were called upon at Franklin.
The sight of their arrival at Columbia was of great relief to the commander of the Columbia garrison manned by the 121st. Upon their arrival he and his weary troops departed and Dan McCoy would become de facto post commander. Soon many of his men were scattered along the lonely rail tracks which wound through the Tennessee hills. The rail line had been repaired by Federal troops in 1863 and was important as a supplier of flour and lumber for the army in the state and companies of troops were employed along the line in gristmills and sawmills.
For the men of the 175th Ohio work began in earnest at Blockhouse #13 (Culleoka, eleven miles south of Columbia) and #14 (near Lynnville). Men from Companies E and G were sent to occupy the two houses respectfully. In some cases these “houses” were simple camps with rifle pits or stockades; in others they were well built houses with 360 degree views of the area. For purposes of simplicity the descriptions herein are interchangeable.
Some men from Co. B moved further south to #15 (at trestle #3 on Richland Creek, about 10 miles north of Pulaski) and men from Co. D went even further south to #16 (at trestle #4 on Richland Creek). No. 16 had been surrendered to, and burned by, Forrest in September and was not only isolated but had been unoccupied.
Additionally, other troops from the 175th held duty at various other blockhouses. Men from Co. A were at #12, men from Co. K at # 14 and men from F at #13. Other men held duty at blockhouses north of Columbia, like Co. C, who were at #5 at Carter’s Creek which is near Spring Hill.
As these men familiarized themselves with their new duties the war, in all its fury, was headed directly at them. In a letter home, Pvt. Hinshaw wrote “we hear Hood is coming.”
Hood crossed the Tennessee River mid-November and on the 21st struck north as snow fell about them. At the same time, General Thomas continued his efforts to get as many troops as possible in place. A race had begun, with Hood pushing well north with plans to cut off and isolate Federal troops at Pulaski and Thomas countering with movements of his own. Action changed into a race to Columbia as Union troops began to pull away to the north. However, some of the men were caught to the south on the rail line. In Hood’s rush north some 62 or more men of the 175th Company’s B, D, E and G were captured. War had come to the jolly crew. At nearly the same time a hospital train left Columbia, northbound, with three dozen men from the 175th Ohio. Articles in the Cincinnati paper and the Highland County Weekly News, had listed names of troops wounded at Columbia.
The day of Nov. 28 was also a very active one for the 175th. In the morning orders were given for most of the regiment “to pull out in the direction of Nashville and take with them their own wagons as well as the post’s train and about 50 rebel prisoners.” However, men of the 175th that were posted at four Blockhouses over Rutherford Creek just north of Columbia were to remain at their posts, but would soon join their unit as it moved north toward Franklin and a meeting with Gen. Hood’s Army.
A copy of a modern day map(s) of Maury and Giles counties has been marked with the locations, or approximate ones, and posted in the photo page of this blog. In general, about 20 to 25 men from each company were posted at most of twelve blockhouse locations from Carter’s Creek, near Spring Hill, to Pulaski. As Hood advanced north from Alabama his army was led in advance by Nathan Forrest’s Cavalry. Some of the locations were quite isolated and those few men stood little chance if they were attacked.
It is not really possible to put exact numbers to these events; however my best effort would yield the following: about 350 were posted over a five week period, roughly half the company; about 100 of them would become casualties and over fifty of those were captured and died in prisons, or aboard the Sultana going home from imprisonment.
Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp, in their book Baptism of Fire, describe some of the detail they were able to identify and without barrowing to heavily from them the following will assist you in searching for the whereabouts of your ancestor, particularly if he is listed as captured or listed as wounded at Columbia. Most of the casualties will have happened at these locations, particularly at numbers 14, 15, and 16. Men at #13 narrowly escaped capture.
#5 Company C
#8 Company E
#11 Company G and H
#12 Company A and H
#13 Company E and I
#14 Company G and K
#15 Company B and E
#16 Company D
Lynnville Station Company F