A Hero, as Defined by Lt. Col. Mervin Clark


See new post Sept. 2017






What Were You Doing at Fifteen?

Where were you and what were you doing at age fifteen? Personally? Let’s see; I was in the 9th grade, Rock & Roll was in its infancy, even in its place of birth, Cleveland Ohio. Baseball was my game and my music tastes, which would soon change, was Glenn Miller music. Parental influences were pushing against the teen in me. They weighed heavy and kept me safe despite myself.

William Wesley Gist, born in 1849, volunteered for service with the Union Army in 1864. Fifteen. What were you doing at fifteen?

William was born on February 28th in Starr, Hocking County, Ohio. Bears, and other like wildlife, probably outnumbered humans in this county southeast of Columbus, Ohio. In 1864 his older brothers Nathan and Cornelius were serving in the army and it can be assumed William wanted to join them; be part of the excitement. In March of that year he lied. Said he was eighteen and joined the 26th Ohio Volunteer Regiment. He was assigned to Company D and served until the regiment mustered out in August, 1865.

What were you doing at fifteen?

Young William was quickly introduced to battle, serving with Sherman’s Army from May to September during the Atlanta Campaign. Brother Cornelius was in Louisiana with the 114th O.V.I., but I wonder if William was, at the time, aware that brother Nathan was also in Georgia and Atlanta with the 31st O.V.I.? Both regiments participated in numerous major battles before Hood’s Confederate Army left Atlanta behind and Sherman began his march east.

The 26th had been formed during the early summer months of 1861. During the summer of 1864, while in Georgia, the three-year enlistments of the original volunteers ended. They were mustered out and headed back to their Ohio homes. What remained after Atlanta, about 120 men, (have also read about 200) was assigned to Lane’s Brigade, Wagner’s 4th Corps Division. The Corps was part of an army charged with defending Nashville from Hood’s Army. Hood, indeed, had plans.

Soon, this now small regiment would be tested again at Franklin, Tennessee.

During the preparations that preceded the Battle of Franklin, General Wagner made a huge error and with it put two divisions in harm’s way, isolated in open fields against Hood’s 20,000 man army. When the Confederate Army advanced on Franklin, the men of the 4th Corps out in those fields ran for their lives. The finish line in their run was the Union Army’s main works and the only path to those works was Columbia Pike. As William and the 26th Ohio crossed the finish line and passed beyond the works the rebels were only 50 yards behind. Within seconds they breached the main works at the pike and were in battle with an advancing Union Regiment, the 44th Missouri. One of the heroic regiments on that November afternoon, the 44th found new company. A fifteen year old and his brothers of the 26th had melted into their company and were also in combat with the enemy. In that situation it was only the color blue that mattered. David Bragg and John Worley were captured, and Joseph Kern went missing in the melee. William would later write:

“I jumped over the works just east of the locust grove near … the Carter house. Finding the works practically empty, we stopped, and as soon as our men seemed to be in we began to fire as rapidly as possible. The batteries on both sides began to fire with great rapidity into the advancing ranks. Soon a cloud of smoke hung over us and nothing was distinct in front. …

 “Some of the Confederates were on the opposite side of the works from us. When a lull would occur, some of these would offer to surrender. We would cry out, ‘Drop your guns and climb over.’ This they did, and this was repeated a number of times. Some of them crossed the works so close to me that I could have touched them with my hand.

“In the part of the line where I stood were men of many commands…….

Well, that is the short story of a longer one about a fifteen year old Ohioan in Tennessee in the year 1864. Later William Gist would contribute many newspaper accounts, magazine articles, and a book about the actions of the 26th Ohio at Franklin. Visit http://www.ohiocivilwar.com  and in the reference list of the written word about the regiment there are many listed. I found that if I google the title portion of those articles many of them are available online. Also visit http://26thohioinfantry.com  a website dedicated to the regiment.

Gist William Wesley Gist (photo from Chris Burson and find-a-grave)

In 1876 William Wesley Gist married Lillian Jeanette Hurlburt of Ashtabula, Ohio. He was a teacher and school superintendent in Willoughby, Ohio; a professor of English literature at Coe College , Cedar Rapids, Iowa; a pastor of the Congregational church of Marion, Iowa and then of the Congregational church of Osage, Iowa; a member of the faculty of Iowa State Teachers College at Cedar Falls, teaching English literature, rhetoric, and Bible. He was elected Commander of the Department State of Iowa, G.A.R. at Fort Dodge on June 6, 1923, dying two days later at his home in Cedar Falls.

William and Lillian had eleven children and they and four of their children are buried at Oak Shade Cemetery, Marion, Iowa. For more details, particularly about Lillian, see www.findagrave.com

Teachable Moment – Civil War “Impressed” Blacks

“Impressed Laborers” – by definition this is simply taking men into service by force,

with or without their consent. Spend time, read the names, listen to their stories.

During the Civil War the Union Army’s supplies were delivered by rail and water. Not unlike our highways fueling our economy today, the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers’ were highways fueling Grant, Sherman, Thomas and other Union Generals in our country’s mid-section. A recent post was about the Union Supply Depot at Johnsonville, Tennessee (see; Josiah Meigs and the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery, Battery “A”). The Nashville-Northwestern Railroad was the connecting road from that depot on the Tennessee River to Nashville and railroads to Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Decatur (AL).

When the war started 24 miles of rail had been completed from Nashville to Kingston Springs to the west. It would be the Union Army that would complete the line to the Tennessee River.

Federal troops camped at Johnsonville oversaw the construction. Much of the labor came from free blacks and escaped slaves joined by Irish immigrants. Many of the black laborers became members of the United States Colored Troops and some stayed behind after the construction to guard the railroad.

The paragraphs above is the story, quite compressed, taken from articles written to document the building of the railroad and the place it and Johnsonville had during the Civil War. Much more compelling to the actual events and people are original documents from the period. I must confess that despite the passion to learn, I am quite short on the technical ability to (literally) inset a document here and must lead you to complete the task of looking at, and appreciating its historical value, a treasure found online.


  • Go to “Zoom To Engagement”
  • Down arrow and go to Johnsonville (11/4/1864)
  • On the detail panel to the right open the document “N&NWLabor_1863.pdf”

Fifty-seven (57) “impressed blacks” names written onto this Roll of Negros Impressed for Service on the North-Western Railroad, the majority from Montgomery County and Clarksville, TN.

Spend time, read the names, listen to their stories.

Finding Their Footprints – Nashville and Decatur Railroad

Ed. Note – This post is as much about the maps as it is about the detail behind them. Eric and Richard don’t need me to retell stories.

Where did your ancestor walk?

One of my later life thrills has been being able to walk where my Civil War ancestor walked 150 years ago. Think of where you stand at this very moment. Who stood there before you; a president, a Native American, your great-grandfather? Our (my wife’s and my) great-grandfathers’ were in Columbia, Tennessee in 1864 and one of them, with the 175th OVI Co. K, may well have been assigned to help protect an important Union Army supply railroad in middle Tennessee. We find that if he was so assigned he was able to come out from that duty assignment to continue on with his regiment and their future assignments. What of your great-grandfather?

No official records exist regarding the Blockhouses, camps, and, or stockades that were built and manned to protect the Nashville to Decatur Railroad before and after Hood’s Tennessee operations. General Grenville Dodge had been put in charge of building these defenses prior to 1864. Records that he kept with locations and a series of corresponding numbers do not match up with what we now know. The latter is, in large part, attributed to Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp and their exhaustive research for their book Baptism of Fire. Thanks to them we are able to better follow our ancestor-soldier’s foot-steps through Tennessee’s landscape.

Apparently there were as many as thirty-six of these posts manned between Nashville and Decatur, twenty-five in the state of Tennessee. For the purpose of this article we concentrate on those between southern-most Pulaski and Spring Hill to its north. Again, thanks to Eric and Richard for doing what they do so well; telling history.

When the 175th Ohio Volunteer Regiment arrived in Tennessee in October, 1864 they were immediately tasked with helping protect Columbia and some of those rail-line posts nearby. The following is what we know, or don’t – the names listed are known to have been at these locations. Obviously they are but a small few of those that were actually there. History, in most cases their deaths’ or capture, has written their names into its pages.

#5, Carter’s Station; On Oct. 1, 1864, in a raid by Nathen Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry the blockhouses at #5, 4, and 3 were burned to the ground.* Soon after Forrest withdrew and men from the 175th Co. C were assigned to #5, replacing Pennsylvania’s 7th Cavalry there. Google Map address 2998 Carters Creek Station Rd., Columbia Tennessee. The old blockhouse, saw mill and water tank were at this intersection, likely near the creek. Cross the railroad tracks and Carters Creek is at the small bridge…..Pvt. Garner Hinshaw.

*report A. Kramer 68th NY Regt. Or. Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp 507-508

#6 Carter’s Trestle; Thirteen men from the 175th Co. G were posted at #6 in April, 1865. Located north of Columbia where Carter’s Creek crosses the rail-line – there are about four such locations so the exact place cannot be determined. Google Map address 282 Carters Creek Pike, Tennessee and you are at one of the intersections – the southern-most and most likely….Lt. Samuel Jolly (it seems that Lt. Jolly was in charge of at least #6 and #8).

#7. Unable to determine and not mentioned. Again there are about four track crossings that could be the location.

#8. Unable to determine, but somewhere near #6, and before the Rutherford Creek posts #9 through #12 that follow. Again, there are a few possible locations. Thirteen men from the 175th Co. E, along with men from Co. G, were posted at #8 in April, 1865….Lt. Samuel Jolly, in charge, Pvt. Silas Wardlow (Co. G).

#9. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted at #9, #10, #11, and #12. In some cases the companies are not known. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of these Blockhouses which were located north to south on the four twists of Rutherford Creek where they cross the rail tracks…..Capt. William P. Wolf, age 35, of Co. G was put in charge of these four posts. William mustered in as a Private with Co. A and was promoted to Captain in September.

#10. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted at #10. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the creek (Rutherford Creek) where they cross the rail tracks.

#11. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted here before and during Hood’s operations in Tennessee. Also, Capt. William Wolf’s headquarters was here at #11. Then on Dec. 28, 1864 “what remained of” the 175th Co. G was sent here for duty. Also at some time after the main battles in the area were over men from Co. H were also posted at #11. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the creek (Rutherford Creek) where they cross the rail tracks.

#12. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted here before and during Hood’s operations in TN. Also after, on Dec. 27, 1864 Capt. Jon Hill took thirty-eight men from the 175th Co. H and occupied #12. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the Rutherford Creek where they cross the rail tracks. It was also here that the 44th Missouri and 183rd Ohio Regiment unloaded upon arriving near Columbia on Nov. 28, 1864.

Duck River Station, Google Map 915 Tennessee 7, Columbia, Tennessee. Looking west toward the industrial complex we are as close as we can get to the spot where the old station was, assuming it was even on the river.

Lynnville Station; Lt. George W. Henderson and thirty-nine of his men from the 175th Co. F were posted at a stockade built to protect the rail station there. Google Maps address Church Street / Tennessee 129, Lynnville, Tennessee.

  • Here, a paragraph of “exasperation” is in order. As mentioned earlier, there exists confusion over the locations of some of the posts we are writing about. The author admits some confusion here despite Eric and Richard’s hard work. There is mention of four “blockhouses” south of Columbia, the first through the fourth of many more to the south. The names were Harris, Culleoka, Graces, and Robertson. If I am to take these names in order north to south and also apply some other research I am unable to locate Harris. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. A were assigned to Harris. There is mention of a post “just south of Lynnville Station” and it is possible that is Harris. There is also mention that this post was at Robertson Trestle – barely one-quarter mile south of Lynnville is a crossing of the rail and Robertson Fork Creek. Possibly the list should read south to north, which would make #15 Harris. I will continue to look and hope that I can find Company A someday.
  • It has been established that the four above mentioned locations were not blockhouses, but in fact all were camps of other sorts.

#13. Also identified as Culleoka, twenty-two men of the 175th Co. E were posted here on Oct 25, 1864. Google Map address Columbia Highway / Milky Way Rd., Pulaski, TN. Just to the east #13 is located where the creek and rail track cross. Just to the south of that is #14, where again the cross…..Pvt. Lee Carl Donley, Zeno Donley, Jacob Lafery (wounded and possibly later died). The men here were barely able to escape capture.

Fifty-four men from the 175th Co. I were also assigned to #13.

#14. Also identified as Graces, twenty-two men from the 175th Co. G were posted here on Oct. 25, 1864. Google Map address Columbia Highway / Milky Way Rd., Pulaski, TN. Just to the east #13 is located where the creek and rail track cross. Just to the south of that is #14, where again they cross. On Nov. 25, 1864 these 22 men plus a wagoner named Cusick were all captured……..Lt. William Barrere, Sgt. Matthew Van Eman, Cpl. Perry Hoss, Cpl. Joseph E. Winters and Private’s Benton B. Badgeley, Alva Laymen, Courtland C. Cusick, James H. Shank, Pvt. George W. Eakins, John W. Eakins, Norman Bercaw, George W. Boyd, James H. Burroughs, James Casto, Edward Crossen, Carey Easter, Morris Greeley, James Hudson, Benjamin Monce, Stacy Morris, William H. Oliver. Israel Sidles, Trimble Strain .

Twenty-seven men from the 175th Co. K were also assigned to #14.

#15. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. B were assigned to #15. On Nov. 24 thirteen of the men were captured and taken prisoner. Also men from the 175th Co. E were assigned there and six of them were taken prisoner. Google Map address 5662 Columbia Highway, TN. Just to the west #15 is located where the rail-line crosses Richland Creek……..Co. B; Lt. Thomas J. McKeehan, Sgt. Joseph Tener, Pvt. Lewis Fry, Pvt. Sommers Conover, Pvt. George W. Conover, Cpl. William Beekman, Cpl. Luther McClelland, Pvt. Henry Butler, Pvt. William Earhart, Pvt. George E. Mattox, Pvt. Charles Moberly, Pvt. Jacob R. Slagle.

From Co. E; Private’s John Barnes, Thomas J. Gray, John Marconette, Thomas Easton Hemings*, John Moore, and George H. Washburn were captured. Pvt. Lee Donley was able to escape.

*Thomas Hemings grandmother has been identified as Sally Hemings who lived at Jefferson’s Monticello. A story for another time. (E, Jacobson – Baptism of Fire)

#16. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. D were assigned to #16. We are unable to determine exactly where, but the post is “a few miles south of Pulaski at Richland Creek Trestle.” The railroad seems to now run parallel with the creek here. Google Map address 1195 U.S. 64, Pulaski, TN and follow the rail-line and Richland Creek as they run south. Commended by Lt. Francis M. Harover, the post was very isolated. At least twenty of the men were captured and taken prisoner on Nov. 24, 1864……Harover, Cpl. Jerimiah Paul, Pvt. James Reed, Pvt. John Hetherman, Pvt. Lawrence Schlitz, Pvt. James D. Howard, 1st Sgt. David Flagher, Sgt. James Graham, Cpl. Timothy Pancoast, Privates’ James Bayne, Benjamin Botts, William Carroll, Samuel Holmes, William Little, Timothy Mahaney, John Rains, William J. Richmond, William Shelton, Joseph C. Sroufe, Othello Timmons.

Josiah Meigs and the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery, Battery “A”

A couple months ago a photograph traveled the Civil War web-site and blog scenes. There were captions, but never a story that told more. The captions were things like “colored artillery,” “Battle of Johnsonville,” or 2nd Light Artillery.” I looked upon that as a challenge; here is the rest of the story, but first, of course, the photo.

 The camp of the Tennessee Colored Battery, pictured during the Siege of Vicksburg at Johnsonville, Tennessee, in 1864.

Johnsonville, TN. Camp of Tennessee Colored Battery – Library of Congress

A report by Col. R. D. Mussey, Commissioner for the Organization of Colored Troops, dated October 10, 1864, stated “Josiah V. Meigs, a native of Tennessee, received permission in January to raise a battery of Light Artillery at this place (Nashville). This is Battery A, 2nd U. S. Colored Light Artillery.” The report continued “The battery is full, and has been stationed here. It has but recently gotten horses. The men are pretty well advanced in the school of the piece and have had a few mounted drills.” See the end of this article for the short, but full, report.

During its service it performed garrison duty at Nashville and in Middle Tennessee, until January, 1866 and was at the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864. It was mustered out January 13, 1866. At Nashville it was assigned to Steedman’s Brigade on the far left of the Union’s lines. They were posted near the rail-line to Chattanooga and during battle were pitted against Smith’s Brigade, led by Col. Olmstead and his Georgia troops.

All but a few of the black volunteer units that served during the Civil War belonged to the United States Colored Troops. One hundred thirty-seven infantry regiments comprised the bulk of these black troops, but they also included 6 cavalry and 13 heavy (or foot) artillery regiments, along with 10 light artillery batteries. More than 25,000 black artillerymen, recruited primarily from freed slaves in Confederate or border-states, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. “Remember Fort Pillow!” became a battle cry of the U.S. Colored Troops. Combat for the black artillerymen, in this case heavy artillery, was rare, but four companies from the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery were serving at Fort Pillow, Tennessee in April 1864, when Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest attacked. The ensuing “massacre” of almost two-thirds of the black soldiers, many of them after they had surrendered, was decried in the North, and “Remember Fort Pillow!” was born – from Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War One by Roger D. Cunningham

On Nov. 1, 1864 a call from the quartermaster forces at Nashville called for volunteers to go to the reinforcement of Johnsonville. Listed as part of the force that volunteered was “one section Battery A, Lt. Meigs, two Napoleon guns, 30 men.” Col. Mussey reported: “the behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. A section of Meigs Battery made excellent practice, dismounting one of the guns of a battery placed by the rebels on the opposite shore, causing the battery several times to move its position.”

The Battle of Johnsonville was without doubt a Confederate “victory,” however it barely altered events that were about to follow. During the evening of November 3, 1864, Confederate General Bedford Forrest’s Artillery positioned their guns across the river from the Federal supply base at Johnsonville. The base was a transfer point for Union boats and the rail line that connected Nashville to the east. Forest was intent on disrupting Sherman’s Atlanta supply line. Forest’s guns bombarded the Union supply depot and the 28 steamboats and barges positioned at the wharf. All three of the Union gunboats were disabled or destroyed. The Union garrison commander ordered that the supply vessels be burned to prevent their capture by the Confederates. Forrest observed, “By night the wharf for nearly one mile up and down the river presented one solid sheet of flame. Having completed the work designed for the expedition, I moved my command six miles during the night by the light of the enemy’s burning property.” (Wikipedia)

During his bombardment of the base Forrest caused enormous damage at very low cost. He reported only 2 men killed and 9 wounded. He described the Union losses as 4 gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of property, and 150 prisoners. One Union officer described the monetary loss as about $2,200,000. An additional consequence of the raid was that the Union high command became increasingly nervous about Sherman’s plan to move through Georgia instead of confronting Hood and Forrest directly.

Josiah Meigs 

Josiah Meigs was born in June, 1840 in Tennessee. He was the son of Return J. and Sarah Love Meigs. Josiah married Eugeina B. Shaffer on Dec. 20, 1864 in Nashville, Davidson County. Quite incidentally, Dec. 20th is immediately after the Union Army defeated Hood at Nashville where Josiah’s men where garrisoned. The roster of his regiment lists Josiah and his younger brother Fielding as Captains of the unit. The family moved to Massachusetts where Josiah later died in 1907 of A Cerebral Hemorrhage. He is buried at Lowell Cemetery and his death certificate was signed by his son, Josiah “Joe” V. Meigs, M.D.

His obituary states that Josiah invented firearms and ammunition and invented steam powered elevated monorail. Army pension records recorded the family’s residence as 22 Cordis Street, Boston, Mass. Cordis St. is a stone’s throw from the Bucker Hill Memorial Monument and Park. As I say below I am unable to make family tree connections, but this fact alone tells me much about the man and his ancestors.

Meigs Family Connections

Try as I might I am unable to confirm these connections, although there seems little doubt. It might appear that our Josiah is the son of Return J. Meigs III. The following from Wikipedia;

Return Jonathan Meigs, born Dec., 1740, died January, 1823, was a colonel who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, was one of the founding settlers of the Northwest Territory in what is now the state of Ohio, and later served as a federal government Indian agent working with the Cherokee in Tennessee. His son Return J. Meigs, Jr. became an Ohio governor and U.S. Senator. A grandson, Return J. Meigs IV, married Jennie Ross, daughter of principal Cherokee chief John Ross, and immigrated to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

Return J. Meigs, Jr. did not have a direct male heir, but two of his younger brothers, John and Timothy, each named a son Return Jonathan Meigs. The first of these, Return J. Meigs III passed the bar in Frankfort, Kentucky, commenced law practice in Athens, Tennessee, and became prominent in Tennessee state affairs before the Civil War. He moved to Staten Island, New York, however, at the time of Tennessee’s secession from the Union in 1861.

Of further interest, particularly to Nashville history; the current Meigs Magnet School is housed in the Meigs Building on Ramsey Street. The building was the location of the first African-American High School in Nashville and James L. Meigs was Superintendent of Schools at the time.

Report of Col. Reuben D. Mussey, One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, relative to action at Johnsonville. HDQRS. COMMISSIONER ORGANIZATION U. S. COLD. TROOPS, Nashville, Tenn., November 14, 1864. CAPT.: ~ ~ ~ The behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville, Tenn., during the recent attack upon that place was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. A section of Meig’s battery, temporarily there, made excellent practice, dismounting one of the guns of a battery placed by the rebels on the opposite bank of the river and causing the battery several times to change their location. The rebel battery devoted its attention to this section, shelling it furiously. The men stood their ground well. Some of the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who were at Johnsonville, were upon the river-bank as sharpshooters, and armed with the Enfield rifle, and did good execution. The affair was slight, but it has gained credit for the colored troops. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. D. MUSSEY, Col. One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, Commissioner Organization U. S. Colored Troops.      OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, p. 868.

A Brother Made of Iron; The USS Carondelet

Brothers in war, the USS Carondelet and Bissell’s Missouri Engineers of the West worked together to bring about Union victories and free Union passage along the Mississippi River. It is important to note that the travel taken by the ship down the river was preceded by Bissell’s Engineers who cleared the timber and flooded the swamps, or built fortifications, that provided safe passage past, or into victorious battles with Confederate batteries and forts along the way. See my previous post “A History of Bissell’s Missouri Engineer Regiments.”

The story of this great ship starts with the end of her life. Even in the depths of a river or ocean a ship can find new life; such a story is that of the submarine H.L. Hunley. The Carondelet’s fate was not as heroric or historic.


After her service in the Civil War the Carondelet, a Union Army ironclad river gunboat, was decommissioned in June, 1865 and sold at auction in November. By 1870 she wound up as a wharf-boat on the Ohio River at Gallipolis, Ohio. Just before she was going to be demolished for the iron in her hull, the Carondelet was swept from her moorings by a flood in the spring of 1873. Her hulk was carried 130 miles down-river where she grounded at the head of Manchester Island, about 60 miles southeast of Cincinnati. That was the last record of the Carondelet.

In May 1982, Dr. Clive Cussler of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, went to Cincinnati to hunt for the famous ironclad ship. There is not a good ending to Clive’s trip and search. The following passage is from his account.

“As it turned out, we were right on the money. We were also two days too late. As our boat rounded the eastern tip of the island, there sat the biggest (deleted) dredge boat we’d ever seen in our lives. The thing was four stories high-and she had recently dredged her way directly over the grave of the Carondelet. We didn’t even bother dropping the gradiometer, but headed straight for the dredge where we tied up and talked to the superintendent. He showed us some old wood and rusty hardware his crew had retrieved out of the dredge buckets. They thought they had simply dug over an old barge. They were stunned when I told them they had demolished one of the most famous Civil War ships that ever sailed a river.”

What little remains of her lower hull lies about two hundred and fifty yards east and slightly north off the eastern tip of Manchester Island in the Ohio River. And a hundred and twenty yards off the Ohio shore.

The USS Carondelet was a 512-ton Cairo class boat built in Carondelet, Missouri (now incorporated into Saint Louis) for the U.S. Army’s Western Gunboat Flotilla. She was built by James B. Eads & Co. at Union Marine Works (AKA Union Iron Works or Marine Railway). The works was south of St. Louis near Jefferson Barracks (and the new Missouri Civil War Museum) at what is now the River City Casino.

Commissioned in January 1862, it wasn’t even a month before the ship, one of fourteen Eads’ ironclads he built, would prove its effectiveness, aiding General Grant in the taking of Confederate Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, and again in the taking of New Madrid and Island No. 10. This was followed by operations against Fort Pillow and Memphis, Tennessee. The Carondelet then spent much of the following year in the long campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. On 15 July 1862 she was badly damaged in an engagement with the Confederate ironclad Arkansas on the Yazoo River.

In April 1863, Carondelet was a member of the ironclad force that ran past Vicksburg and later bombarded Grand Gulf, Mississippi. In May she participated in the extensive bombardments of Vicksburg, part of the combined Army-Navy operations that led to that fortified city’s surrender on July 4, 1863.

In Conclusion, the greatest engineer in the world; James Buchanan Eads was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on May 23, 1820. He came to St. Louis when he was 13 years old. In 1842, Eads developed a partnership with Case & Nelson boat builders. Their business involved rescuing wrecked boats and cargo from the Mississippi River. In 1857, he retired from the wreck recovery business because of his poor health.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Eads bought the Carondelet Marine Railway Company and used it to build seven gunboats and seven monitors for the U.S. Navy, as well as for conversion and repair work.  The yard was located at the foot of Davis Street in St. Louis, on the site later used by St. Louis Ship.

Mr. Eads died on March 8, 1887, and the headline in the Augusta Chronicle read “The Greatest Engineer in the World Is Dead.”

Sources for this story include: clivecusslershipwreaks.com and blogger Jennifer Koester at blueblazingohio.blogspot.com

A History of Bissell’s Missouri Engineer Regiments


Bissell’s Engineer Regiment of the West and

 The First Missouri Engineers Regiment


Compiled by Bob Werner – 2013

Many Thanks to Ira Woods Ancestor’s

Renee Jensen and Les and Sue Holmes

The following condensed history has been compiled from the two-unit’s general assignments and service records and then by inserting details found in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, which you too can view at http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/   and  An Illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th  written in 1889 by one of the regiments surgeons Dr. William A. Neal. This book is available free via http://books.google.com

As a matter of a short introduction; one of my great-grandfathers and one of my wife Donna’s great-grandfather’s fought in our country’s Civil War here in Tennessee. I recently came across a picture of a man named Ira Melanchton Woods on Facebook and noted that he also saw duty here in Tennessee. After a short search regarding his service I immediately became interested in the role of engineer regiments in the war and came to the conclusion that their story must be told. In so many obvious ways, our grandfathers would not have been able to fight their battles without the engineers, and as you will read, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea would have mired in mud; likely to fail.

Further to that last observation; not at all unlike our WWII engineers who cleared Pacific islands for air landing strips while Japanese troops camped on them, Bissell’s Engineers worked in a “foreign” land, one camped on and held onto as hard as they could by their enemy.

If you have a connection to the two regiments please feel free to copy and use it in any way you see fit to tell your family about their ancestor’s story. In a matter of editorial honesty, be aware that some of the reports submitted by commanders that are used herein are edited for clarity and more important, to keep them brief and to the point.

Bob Werner – 2013


An Artificer

First, this about Ira M. Woods; Ira and his twin brother Asa were born Feb. 28, 1835 in Madison County, NY. They were the sons of Asa Woods, also a twin, and Mary Wilford. Ira married Hannah Amanda Davey (b.1845) on Jan. 10, 1866. He was a farmer and he and Hannah had seven children; Fannie Caroline (’66), Mary Allena (’69), Alta Bell (’71), Walter Wellington (’73), Elda Grace (’76), Frank Ray (’78) and Emma E. (’81). The children were all born in Greenbush Twp., Warren County, IL. Ira died Oct. 10, 1925 and is buried at the Avon Cemetery in Avon, Fulton County, Illinois.

The regiment that would become known as Bissell’s Engineer Regiment of the West was originally organized in the summer of 1861. The first officers were Col., J. W. Bissell, Lt. Col., Charles E. Adams; Maj., M. S. Hasie. Ira Woods volunteered for the unit and mustered in 10/31/1861 and was assigned to Company C. Later, when this unit was reassigned as part of the First Missouri Engineers in February 1864, Ira was given an official rank fitting his skills formed with Bissell, that of Artificer. An Artificer is “a skilled worker or craftsperson.” In a consolidation of regiments on Oct. 31, 1864 at Atlanta, Georgia, Ira was re-assigned to Co. B. That consolidation formed a battalion of five regiments, each with roughly 135 members. It appears that Ira’s so called re-assignment was the Army’s way of keeping the old and new company records intact, since Artificer Woods was actually discharged on expiration of his time and mustered out 9/14/1864, before the date of consolidation, and close to his three year term. Ira left his regiment in Atlanta and headed home.

 Ira M. WoodsIra Woods, age 90 7 (2) Ira Woods Artificer Woods

Photos Courtesy of Renee Jensen

Bissell’s “Missouri” Engineers were, in reality, Bissell’s Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois Engineers. Organized at St. Louis, Mo. Company “A” mustered in July 20, 1861. Company “B” was organized at Paris, Edgar County, Ill., and mustered in August 5, 1861. Company “C” was organized at Prairie City, Ill., and mustered in August 19. Company “D” was organized at St. Louis and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “E” was organized at Adrian, Mich., and mustered in August 23, 1861. Company “F” was organized at Dubuque, Iowa, and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “G” was organized at Cape Girardeau, Mo., and mustered in September 17, 1861. Company “H” was organized at Paris, Ill., and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “I” was organized in Iowa and mustered in October 31, 1861, and finally Company “K” was organized at Burlington, Iowa, and mustered in, October 31, 1861.


 Bissell’s Engineers Attached to Department of Missouri

The regiment was fully mustered in at St. Louis by October 31, 1861, but companies A, B, and G had already been assigned duty. A and B were ordered to East St. Louis, August 6, 1861 to load ordnance onto ships and then the next day to Cape Girardeau to build forts and defenses and to perform fatigue duty there until March, 1862 when they rejoined a full regiment at New Madrid, Missouri. Fatigue duty is not one of glory for anyone who volunteered for hard work or a fight. The duty would be construed as necessary to camp life, like digging sinks, gathering wood, or policing the camp.

In November Company G, still at East St. Louis, was assigned to Bird’s Point, near Cairo, Illinois to build military works until March, 1862.

The remaining portion of the regiment that was already mustered in, moved from St Louis, Mo. on Sept. 19, 1861 to Lamine Bridge on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The Lamine Bridge on the river of the same name is located in central Missouri. The river is formed near Otterville and flows into the Missouri River. They built railroad bridges and fortifications until they were forced into winter camp.

Winter camp would be near Sedalia, Mo. and the regiment moved there on Oct. 26th and was soon joined there by the last regiments to muster in. On Dec. 11th the regiment moved to Otterville, Mo. and wintered there. However, Company I remained at Sedalia until Jan. 1862 helping construct government buildings before rejoining camp on Jan. 29th. Company F also remained in Sedalia until Feb. 7, 1862 building a saw mill.

While in winter camp more than a dozen men died from a measles outbreak.

The regiment left winter camp early in March, 1862. The full regiment arrived in New Madrid from their duties by Mar. 18th.  They participated in siege operations against New Madrid on March 8-15 and then operations against Island No. 10 March 15 to April 8. During the travel to New Madrid Companies A and B were engaged by the enemy at Mt. Pleasant, Mo. on Mar. 3, 1862.

On the 16th of March Major General Pope received a dispatch directing him to ascertain if it were possible to construct a road through the swamps opposite Island #10 and erect batteries. Pope wrote that “I sent Col. Bissell and he reports the road impractical but a canal could cut through the swamps. At New Madrid the regiment constructed the New Madrid Canal, allowing passage of Gunboats through the swamps to rear of the of Island No. 10. In a report dated Apr. 9, 1862 Major General Pope wrote that “the canal across the peninsula opposite island #10 was completed by Col. Bissell’s Engineer Regiment and four steamers were brought through on the night of the 6th. Of Col. Bissell’s Engineers I can hardly say too much. Full of resource, untiring, and determined, they labored night and day, and completed work which will be a monument of enterprise and skill.”

On May 2nd in another report Major General Pope adds that the work performed by Col. Bissell and his regiment of engineers was beyond measure difficult and its completion much delayed beyond my expectations. The canal is 12 miles long, 6 miles of which is through heavy timber. An average 50 feet wide was made through it by sawing off trees as large as four and one-half feet and underwater. 19 days the work was prosecuted with untiring energy and determination under exposures and privatations very unusual even in the history of warfare. It was completed on the 4th of April, and will long remain a monument of enterprise and skill of Col. Bissell, Engineer Regt., and his regiment I can hardly say too much. Untiring and determined, no difficulties discouraged them and no labor was too much for their energy. They have conducted and completed a work which will be memorable in the history of this war.

In his detailed campaign report of activity Col. James Morgan 10th Ill. Infantry wrote “I hereby report the part taken by my brigade at the trenches before New Madrid on the night of the 12th and on the 13th.   I received orders to march my brigade……then under the direction of Col. Bissell, chief of engineers, assist in erecting such works as they thought proper. We arrived at 9:00 p.m. when the 10th Illinois, by order of Col Bissell, was thrown forward as skirmishers to secure the line of proposed operations, in securing which we reached the outer line of the enemy pickets, who fired and withdrew. Six companies of the 16th Ill. And the remaining 8 companies of the 10th Ill were detailed as working parties under direction of Col. Bissell, serving the entire night, officers and men working with a will. By daylight four siege guns had been place and trenches and rifle pits constructed.”


 With the Army of the Mississippi, Unattached, to June, 1862

From New Madrid the regiment traveled to Fort Pillow on the banks of the Mississippi River in Tennessee on April 12-14. The Union Army fought a battle there as the regiment was on its way. From there they traveled back north to the Ohio River, then south on the Tennessee River to Hamburg, TN north of Corinth, Alabama during April 14th to the 22nd of the month. By now newspapers across the country were writing about Col. Bissell’s accomplishments. He and his men were cheered from the banks of the Ohio.

Along the route Companies A and I was detached at New Madrid to build a magazine, take inventory of ordnances, and remove heavy guns from detached batteries. As the rest of regiment neared Hamburg Companies D and F were detailed to build a bridge across a deep creek, which they did over that night. On April 25, 1862 the regiment moved six miles inland from the river.

The regiment moved to Corinth, Miss. on May 8, 1862 and was there during the siege of Corinth April 26th – May 30th. As the siege was about over, Bissell, with 300 men, accompanied the Union’s advance, at one point being fired upon by fleeing troops. The engineers cut away the timber felled to obstruct the road and occupied the ground with sharpshooters that night. Soon after they took to repairing a damaged bridge so Union troops could cross a creek.  Inn a report to Gen. Stanley on May 28 Pope said “if by waiting for the 30 pounder Parrott Cannons you can silence the battery, wait, and don’t attempt to storm.” Meantime he put Bissell to work preparing for the Parrotts. After the siege they went to Tuscumbia Creek in Alabama, near Corinth.

On May 27, 1862, while on a trip into Vicksburg, Col. Bissell resigned his command and while waiting for action on his papers he obtained a leave of absence from the regiment. His resignation was officially accepted on July 10th.


Attached to Engineer Brigade, District of West Tennessee, Dept.

of the Tennessee and the District of Columbus,

Kentucky June, 1862 to October, 1862

For a short period of time, the regiment was under the command of the District of West Tennessee and then rather seamlessly moved to the command of the District of Columbus, Kentucky. It is either that, or parts of the regiment were with the two depending upon their duties.

On May 30, 1862 the enemy evacuated Corinth and the Union Army was sent in pursuit. The Engineer Regiment was first ordered to march with them. About dark of the first night the Tuscumbia River was reached where the bridge was destroyed by the fleeing enemy. They had placed a battery on the opposite side and as the engineers approached there was a brief confrontation. After the enemy fled doctors attended to several wounded men while the others began to rebuild the bridge.

After the bridge was completed the regiment was ordered to Jackson, Mississippi to open the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. They headquarter at Jackson on June 6th and began work. They engaged in clearing obstructions and building bridges and trestles over the many rivers and swamps along the line. The regiment remained there through October and among their duties they were in charge of the Saw Mill, built government buildings, and even built a rail car.

On July 21st a detail of 65 men from various companies was sent on a wreaking operation on the Mississippi River to the north. They dismantled a confederate battery on a small island, took ammunition and guns to Memphis and then moved further north back to Island #10 to remove confederate guns. They remained there until Oct. 20th and their last duty was to take apart a wreaked steamer. During their time at Island #10 they saw a familiar face. After his resignation from the regiment Col. Bissell was sent to chart the river in that area. The detachment was even assigned to do some work with their old commander.

In early October there was another battle at Corinth, Alabama. The whole of the regiment was sent by rail to assist the army there. They did not arrive in time to participate, but about one-hundred of the regiment was detached under Captain Tweeddale to join in the pursuit of the enemy. They accompanied the army as far as Ripley, Ms., building a few bridges along the way. The rest of the regiment started their return to Jackson.


With District of Columbus, Ky., 13th Army Corps (Old), Dept. of the

Tennessee, to January, 1863 and Unattached, Engineers’

Dept. of the Tennessee, to February, 1864

 Beginning in November the regiment would participate in General Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign. On November 8th the regiment was issued marching orders to accompany General Grant’s expedition to Grenada, Ms. and then further north to Moscow and Grand Junction, Tennessee, just east of Memphis. Their duties were repairing, finishing, and building bridges in addition to repairing rail lines. On Nov. 17, 1862 Col. Bissell returned to the regiment as commander.

On Jan. 10, 1863 Grant sent the following to Rear-Admiral David Porter, commanding Mississippi Fleet; “I send Col. Bissell of the Engineer Regiment of the West to report to you for the purpose of surveying the ground and determining the practicability of reopening the canal across the tongue of land opposite Vicksburg.” In a message on Feb. 5th to Maj. Gen C.S. Hamilton District of West Tennessee, General Asboth reported that “the rebels were handsomely whipped at fort Donelson” and that Bissell, then in Memphis, was sent back to Island #10 to collect 72 guns with carriages and other ordnances to be shipped to Memphis.

In general, the duties continued in and around Memphis, Tennessee until February 11, 1863. At that time 632 of 804 men were on active duty.


Unattached, Engineers’ Dept. of the Tennessee, to February, 1864.

On Feb. 8, 1863 Gen. McPherson sent Grant a message that read “Bissell has just shown me an order requiring him to move, with Logan’s Div., with his regiment, pontoon train, train, tools, etc., and I have given Graham orders to assign him to a boat, which is now landing.” They would now become part of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.

During February 11 to 14, 1863 the regiment moved down river to Young’s Point, La. General McPherson wrote Brig. Gen I.F. Quinby commanding 7th Division “You will disembark your command at Grand Lake and push rapidly out to the westward across Bayou Macon and then down the western side of the bayou 6 or 8 miles. Col. Bissell will deliver this to you, will indicate the road you are to take, and will throw pontoon bridges across the bayous or streams. There is a regiment of rebel cavalry scattered along the west side of Bayou Macon and an organization of home guards, which you will have to look out for.

Further repots tell exactly what Bissell and his men were tasked to do. On Mar. 5th “Bissell is at work cutting a levee near Arkansas line and I will know in two or three days whether we can get boats through to Bayou Macon at that point.”

“On Mar. 10th “Col. Bissell came down to Lake Providence last night and reported that he could take boats in from the Mississippi River to Bayou Macon. I accordingly went up to see and do not think the route is practical yet, though there is no doubt that in five or six days, when the back country gets filled with water it can be done.  The water is now rushing like a torrent through several crevasses he has made……”  During their time at Bayou Macon the “home guard” had indeed found some of Bissell’s men, wounding one of Co. H’s men. During March various regiments, working alone or in pairs, also performed duties nearby at Baxter Bayou and Lake Providence. On Mar. 31st Grant’s campaign report states 12 officers and 278 men were on duty; total present 641 of 800.

Early in April, 1863 Companies B,C,E,G,H,K were ordered to Memphis, Tennessee and were engaged in opening Memphis & Charleston Railroad to Corinth. Before departing though the whole regiment made an expedition to retrieve commissary supplies. During their trip aboard a large coal barge they were once again engaged by the enemy.

At Memphis Bissell encounter trouble opening and keeping the rail lines open. Local men working in groups caused trouble whenever they could. Bissell would gather the residents of towns and warn them that he would respond to such activity by destroying their properties. He would tell them that if they wanted to fight they could and he would fight back, but that they must not touch the rail or telegraph lines.

In early May this partial regiment moved east to Pocahontas, Tennessee and settled in at that place until late August. There they rebuilt destroyed bridges and, after an accident on the rail line, they were detailed to inspect and repair all the small bridges and trestles in that vicinity.

In late August they moved back to Memphis until Oct. 3, 1863. In a report submitted to Major John Rawlins back in Corinth about their duty in Memphis it said “engineers constructing four magazines in connection with the fort. Bissell has brought down an immense amount of shot and shell, but a smaller amount of gun powder. He delivered heavy guns and carriages suited to the work. ……Bissell is now operating along the river with the 52nd Indiana Engineers.  He is so energetic and full of zeal that I have not checked him, though I fear he may cause the very thing we fear, viz, firing on boats. We must be careful not to render ourselves too harsh or they will naturally seek revenge. He has just destroyed some houses at Hochelrode’s, below, and as soon as he gets back up I will make a report and I’ll send it to you. He brought up on his last trip some Negro woman and children. I doubt the policy of burdening ourselves with such as we can give them no employment and idle Negroes are of no use to us in war. We had over 1300 Negros in the fort, now down to 800.”

Another report to Grant mentions Bissell’s activity; “Fort Pillow is now occupied by Federal troops, and there is no gunboat there. You ordered all ordnance stores to be moved, and I suppose that by today that it has been done under the direction of Col. Bissell. I am informed that there are still at the fort several guns spiked – I know not how well – and gun carriages. There are many guerrillas in that section of Tennessee; they probably will take possession of the fort….”

Later in October, 1863 they returned to Corinth, Mississippi, remaining in that area until December 26th. The primary object of the expedition was to open the Memphis & Charleston Railroad east from Corinth in advance of Sherman’s march over that line to assist Grant at Chattanooga. On Oct. 28th they had proceeded as far to the east as Sherman required and they returned to Corinth where they quartered until late December.

During all their recent assignments beginning in April they were confronted by guerilla activities. Bissell said “the worst class of people with whom we came in contact was the stay at homes in Northern Mississippi along the border of Tennessee. They had been small slave owners before the war and took their loss more at heart than did the large planters further south.”

On December 26th they left Memphis on the Steamer America and reported for orders at Cairo, Illinois. Ordered to Nashville the travelled the Cumberland River is harsh winter weather. When they arrived at their destination it was -4 degrees and it had been colder as they came down river.

Meanwhile Companies A, D, F, and I were headquartered near Vicksburg, Mississippi. They engaged in fatigue duty in that vicinity until April 30, 1863. They built a bayou drain at Richmond, Louisiana in May and continued similar duties in the area until May 25th when they moved to Haines’ Bluff to build fortifications until July 1st.

In May Lt. Col. Tweeddale received a letter that read “ General Sullivan directs me to say that the energy and perseverance manifested by the engineer regiment in the construction of the road from Sherman’s Landing to Bower’s Landing deserves highest commendation and should not be allowed to pass unnoticed.

Vicksburg was surrendered to the Union on July 4,1863and they held duty there until January 15, 1864 building fortifications. On Oct. 4, 1863 General Thomas wrote to Grant “the time is approaching when the plantations on this side of the river held by the government will have to be released. It is important that the cuts (drains), including the one known as the Bissell Cut be re-filled” (rewritten for clarification purposes). So, it appears some of their duties there would be to undo what had been done by them upon arrival, many months earlier.

On the 15th of January they were ordered to Nashville, Tennessee to rejoin the regiment, which they did on February 2, 1864.


First Missouri Engineers Assignments and Service

 On February 2, 1864 the regiment was consolidated with the 25th Missouri Infantry to form the First Missouri Engineers and they moved into camp together. The new regiment was led by Col. Henry Flad and among his staff was Lt. Col. Tweeddale. The organization had 939 veterans plus 192 new recruits, a total of 1187 men.

They were assigned duty on the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad from Nashville to the Tennessee River. They left Nashville on Feb. 18th and marched about seventy miles west to Waverly and Johnsonville, the latter on the Tennessee River. Their march was in “very disagreeable weather” which was cold and snowing. In camp limbs fell from the trees on and among their tents. Because of constant snow their rations were cut to one-quarter of their allowance as a precaution.

There they built railroad, warehouses, and side tracks and on May 7, 1864 they completed the rail line. On May 10, 1864, they were attached to the defenses of Nashville & Northwestern Railroad, Dept. of the Cumberland. During the months of July and August they were broken up into squads and engaged in building blockhouses along the rail-line and protect it from guerrilla activity.

About this same time three-year terms were beginning to expire and some veterans were leaving for home.

In his campaign report Orlando M. Poe, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Chief Engineer, regarding operations July,1 to Oct. 1, 1864…….”The operations connected with the march of Gen. Sherman’s army extends over a great portion of the Southern States…On the 1st of July, I was on duty as chief and there were in the military division the following; First Michigan and First Missouri engineers, the latter along the important rail line from Nashville to Johnsonville on the Tennessee River, engaged in completing that work . On Aug. 31st it was reported to me by Capt. Reese that the First Missouri Engineers, which were transferred at my request from the Army of the Cumberland to the Army of the Tennessee, had just joined forces in the field.

On Aug. 15th the regiment was ordered to go to the front reaching the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta on Aug. 25th. The consolidated regiment was broken into two battalions. The First Battalion traveled by rail and the Second marched overland. A couple assumptions can be made, but I would have assumed that there were parts of the two old regiments in each battalion. However, the fact the one travelled overland tends to lead us to think that most of the old Bissell’s Regiment, with its cumbersome equipment, was now the Second Battalion.

As they neared Atlanta it was apparent that it was in the midst of a heavy battle. They made a hasty march, at one point marching for 48 hours without sleep and camped near Jonesboro just south of Atlanta.  On the 3rd of September they heard heavy explosions and soon realized that the Confederate Army had abandoned the city and that their ordnance stores were being destroyed.

Ira Woods was discharged on September 14th having served his three year enlistment. He departed Atlanta and headed home to Illinois.

After the battle and through the months of Sept. and Oct. the regiment engaged in destroying rail track and building earthworks. These would be difficult weeks as the only rations were hard bread and fresh beef. In addition there was no feed for the horses and cattle. In general it was unsafe to venture out of camp.

In a report dated 10/24/1864 it does make mention that at some point the First Missouri, led by Lieutenant John Murphy, with 10 wagons, was sent out from Atlanta with over five-hundred other wagons to collect corn and other food stores. The wagon train traveled for three days.

Late in October some five-hundred terms expired and the regiment was reduced to about 650 men. It was consolidated into five companies and was no longer those two battalions and well over one-thousand men.  On November 15, 1864 the new regiment, under Lt. Col. Tweeddale, left Atlanta with Sherman’s Army and the March to the Sea and Sherman’s Carolina Campaign.


 The Army of the Tennessee,

Sherman’s March to the Sea

 In a report from the Military Division, Chief Engineer’s Office in Savannah “early in November the preparations for the march to Savannah were completed. Under directions from the Major-General commanding, engineer orders were issued making proper assignment of engineer troops and bridge trains. Meanwhile damaged trestle bridges were re-laid from the pontoon trains. The engineer organization was as follows….First Missouri Engineers Lt. Col. Wm. Tweeddale in charge of the pontoon train with the right wing of the Army of Tennessee with five companies, about 500 men. The Missouri Engineers had a much smaller tool train which was somewhat mixed up with the pontoon train of which they had charge. They carried 500 shovels, 500 axes, also an assortment of carpenters and blacksmith tools. For pontoon trains and the pontonniers of the Right Wing the First Missouri’s strength is 530 men, 28 canvas covered pontoon boats, 28 boat wagons, 600 chesses, 15 chess wagons, 196 claw balks, 1 forge, 1 battery wagon, 2 tool wagons, 7 forage wagon, and the length of bridge 580 feet.”

If you are at all confused as I; it appears the regiment was about 120 men with the tool train and 530 with the pontoon train, both part of the right wing. As we’ll later see Sherman’s Army was grouped in three wings. The writer’s great-grandfather was with the Center Wing. Incidentally, the name Pontonnies dates to Napoleon’s France and means bridge-builders.

Sherman’s Army marched 300 miles to Savannah; 60,000 men, 2500 wagons, and 600 ambulances crossed rivers and swamps where there had been no bridges or roads. The First Missouri Engineers built two 275 foot-long bridges over the Ocmulgee River east of Atlanta; a 236 foot-long bridge over the Oconee; a 231 foot-long bridge over the Ogeechee. The enemy had destroyed the bridge over the 700 foot-long Ogeechee, on the Darian road, commonly known as the King’s Bridge. It was rebuilt by the Engineers under direction of Capt. Reece. These were just a few of their accomplishments, many done in cold and snow – so cold that the wagon wheels froze into the mud during the nights.

The 15th Corps crossed King’s Bridge on the 15th of December and moved to Fort McAllister where it silenced the guns that had disrupted Union attempts from the sea. On the 22nd the engineers entered Savannah and found that the enemy had abandoned it. At Savannah they built fortifications until new orders came on Jan. 25, 1865.


The Army of Tennessee and the Campaign of the

 Carolinas January to April, 1865.

On Jan. 25, 1865 the engineers left Savannah behind and moved with the army, first to Columbia, SC then toward Raleigh, North Carolina. Many, or most, ended this war in Washington, D.C. marching in front of their Commander, William Sherman.

On the 25th they traveled by water to Beaufort, South Carolina and began their march north from there. Writing a detailed story about the march and their duties along the way would simply be to repeat events and change the locations as they moved.

They built bridges; they corduroyed roads (road made by placing sand covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a swampy area); they ferried troops across rivers; they laid pontoon bridges and took them up after men had crossed; they repaired rail lines; they destroyed rail lines. First they went through the Salkehatchie River Swamps, S.C., February 2-5. Then they crossed the South Edisto River February 9th and the North Edisto River February 12-13th. They marched through Columbia as it burned around them and then crossed Lynch’s Creek February 26-27th. In a report; “Feb. 27, 1865, by this time the cavalry had passed through Lancaster, SC and the Right Wing was at Tillersville, in the vicinity of which it crossed Lynch’s Creek, after almost incredible labor in building bridges and corduroying roads.”

On Mar. 12th, near Fayetteville, North Carolina they ferried troops across the Cape Fear River and laid bridges. A short time later, camped at Deadfield, seven miles from Bentonville, they heard the cannon during the Battle of Bentonville, NC, Mar. 19 to Mar. 21, which was one of the last significant battles of the war.

From Bennett’s House on April 26th Bvt. Brig. Gen. Orlando Poe, Corps of Engineers, Chief Engineer wrote his campaign report to headquarters in Washington D.C.  –  “The campaign from Savannah to Goldsborough, NC from Jan. 25, 1865 to Mar. 22, 1865: Engineer troops on duty included the First Missouri Engineers, Right Wing, pontoniers and pontoon trains: Troops and trains were transported by water to Beaufort, South Carolina and moved thence by land. Owing to the season and the nature of the country demand for labor was constant. The heavy rains which fell just as the movement commenced greatly impeded the march of the column, which crossed the Savannah at Sister’s Ferry. A pontoon was thrown across Whale Branch, and fully one-quarter of the road thence to Pocotaligo, SC was corduroyed. The pontoon train of the Right Wing was pushed forward toward, and all the infantry of the entire army were put to work destroying the railroad. This was effectively done, all wood-work was burnt, every rail was twisted…to include the Edisto Bridge and Williston, and partially destroyed between Williston, SC and Johnson’s.

The Right Wing moved direct upon Orangeburg, SC and three pontoon bridges built, one on the main Orangeburg road. The 17th corps occupied Orangeburg and destroyed the railroad. The Right Wing now directed its march toward Columbia and arrived opposite the city after meeting resistance on their march.  On February 17th a pontoon bridge was built three miles above the Columbia and the Right Wing crossed to the north bank and occupied the city, the greater part of which was burned during the night. Many reasons are given for the flagrant violation of Gen. Sherman’s orders, but, as far as I could judge it was principally due to the fact that the citizens gave liquor to the troops until they were crazily drunk and beyond control of their officers. One thing for certain, the burning houses, lighting up the faces of shrieking woman, terrified children, and frantic, raving, drunken men, formed a scene which no man of the slightest sensibility wants to witness again.”

In a report by Col. Geo. Stone, 25th Iowa Infantry – “On February 16th I received orders from Brevet Major-Gen. Woods to have my command in readiness to cross the Broad River in the boats of the pontoon train at a point designated by Col. Tweeddale of the First Missouri Engineer, the point of crossing about half a mile above the wreak of the bridge and about two miles above the city of Columbia. We expected by daylight, but the current of the river was so strong the engineers did not succeed in getting the lines across until 3:00 in the morning. At 3:50 I sent over two loads of sharpshooters.”

The First Missouri Engineers laid bridges across the Neuse River on Mar. 21st and were present for the occupation of Goldsboro from March 24th to April 10th, and they participated in the advance on Raleigh April 10, 1865. “During the march from Savannah to Goldsboro the Right Wing built 15 pontoon bridges, full length of 3720 feet.”


 The Army of Tennessee

Final Orders, Final March

 After the surrender of Johnston and his army, while camped at Raleigh, time was taken to repair damages. Beginning April 29, 1865 about 3000 men began the war’s final march; this one to Washington, D.C., via Richmond, VA. Gen. Sherman held a grand review in Washington May 24, 1865 and most certainly some of “Bissell’s” Engineers were among them. After all, the trains with equipment were moved there and who else would command their trains?

The regiments final orders read; “To Lieutenant Colonel Tweeddale, commanding First Missouri Engineers near Washington, D.C., you will at once move your command to the cars on Maryland Ave. near Seventh St. embarking them under the direction of Capt. Howell and proceeding to Louisville, KY. What baggage you are to take will at once be dispatched to the Government depot near H St. Your men will be supplied six days rations – by order of Bvt. Gen. John Corse. The engineers mustered out July 22, 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky and for most they likely took ships to St. Louis. During their service, both as Bissell’s Engineers and as the First Missouri Engineers, 16 enlisted men were died or were mortally wounded. They also lost one officer and 146 Enlisted men to disease. A total of 163 men did not muster out.