The Long Road Home,
Ten Thousand Miles
By Private Myron B. Loop, 68th Ohio
The 68th Ohio Infantry in the Battle of Champion Hill
The campaign, the object of which was the reduction of Vicksburg, thus far had succeeded admirably, and Gen. Grant was well pleased, as he had planted his army between Pemberton's and Johnston's armies. Meanwhile Gen. McClernand's command in our rear was making noisy demonstrations to deceive Pemberton, in Vicksburg, as to Grant's real intentions until Johnston's force could be disposed of This program was carried out to the letter. Johnston's army was badly whipped and driven from the field, the city of Jackson captured and wholly destroyed as a military depot, and our noble chieftain was now ready to cultivate the acquaintance of Pemberton.
For 14 long days we had kept our backs to the Mississippi River, but on the morning of May 15 all was hurry and bustle in making ready for a rapid march toward Vicksburg, 40 miles away. The day after the battle of Jackson rain came down in torrents, until every gully and ravine was a raging flood. The country was broken and the soil a sticky clay that clung to the feet of the men, making it hard marching. Still, we pressed forward, and late in the day came up in the rear of Gen. Hovey's Division of the Thirteenth Corps, and went into camp in the woods about three miles east of what afterward became known in history as Champion Hills.
A short distance from our camp was a large farmhouse, which the writer, armed with a camp-kettle, visited for the purpose of getting water to make coffee. Back of the house was the well where a number of my comrades were busily engaged in drawing water. But being of an inquisitive turn, and anxious to learn more of my surroundings, I soon found my way into the house, which to all appearances had been abandoned upon the approach of the Yankees. The rooms were bare save for a lone covered wash-tub, which of course must bear investigation, when my curiosity was rewarded by finding it nearly full of honey, a portion of which was hastily conveyed to my camp-kettle. I then started for camp, when my attention was called to a number of boys who were sampling the contents of a barrel containing an elixir that makes a fellow forget his trials and remember his misery no more. My kettle, half full of honey, I filled with the liquor and hastened away to join my comrades, whom I found in a much-disturbed state of mind because of my being gone so long. After the facts were made known coffee was dispensed with in our mess, as my preparation of "aqua vitae" and honey answered all purposes.
Early on May 16 we formed in line and
rushed to the relief of Gen. Hovey's command, which had engaged the
enemy at Champion Hills.
The Battle of Champion Hill as sketched by Theodore Davis, St. Nicholas Magazine, 1889
Our enemy's hearts must have sunk with fear as they saw from the heights above us that solid phalanx, with our grand old flags proudly floating in the early morning breeze.
Logan's Division rapidly moved to the right of the Jackson road and crossed a wide field of bottom land, gaining a position near the edge of timber skirting the high grounds in our front. We were hardly in position on the right of Gen. Hovey's command before the enemy made a furious assault, uttering their wild rebel yell.
DeGolyer's battery had gone into position near our regiment, and from the moment the enemy came from cover hurled shot and shell, to which was added a storm of leaden hail from the 68th and its companion regiments. Great gaps were made in the enemy's ranks, yet on came the living toward the position we held. We saw that compact mass of gray come out of the timber; saw them as they reached a rail fence in our front; saw the rails fly as they threw it down. Volley followed volley in quick succession.
One of Logan's staff at this moment
galloped up and shouted: "Logan commands you to hold your position and
we will bag the whole of Pemberton's army," which command was answered
by a withering volley from the muskets of Leggett's men that threw the
enemy into confusion and drove them to cover. Gen. Grant had dispatched
an aide-de-camp to inquire of Logan, "How goes the battle?" To which
Logan replied: "Tell the General that my division can't be whipped by
all the rebels this side of hell. We are going ahead, and won't stop
till we get orders."
Battle of Champion Hill from Frank Leslie's Illustrated
But, hark! a terrific cheer followed by another and still another assailed our ears as coming from our right, accompanied by volley upon volley of musketry and the groaning and thundering of heavy guns. What did it mean? Had a heavy force of the enemy assaulted our flank and were they sweeping on with irresistible fury? We looked at each other and grasped our muskets more firmly. Again that wild confusion reached our ears. There was no mistaking the long drawn-out Union cheer from the rebel yell, Wah-hoo. The intrepid Logan had hurled one brigade of his division upon the enemy's left flank, crushing it with a single blow and capturing a battery of artillery. Co. F, 32d Ohio, afterward manned this battery.
This charge by a portion of Logan's division started the enemy on the run, and the battle of Champion Hills was over. A great victory was won; the road to Vicksburg was now open. We took up the pursuit and rapidly moved over the western spur of the hills and joined the rest of our division near where it had made the charge and captured the battery.
About this time DeGolyer's boys came up, and as the battery was moving into line to give the enemy a parting shot, Thos. Lang, formerly a member of our regiment, was violently thrown from a caisson and fatally injured.
The battle of Champion Hills began about
9 a.m. and raged with fury until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when
the enemy broke in the wildest confusion, leaving cannons, wagons and
guns in our hands, besides the killed and wounded. Our regiment suffered
a loss of 11 killed and 47 were wounded. A large percent of our wounded
comrades remained with the regiment.
The Long Road Home
Originally published in The National Tribune, Campaigning with Buckeyes. Ten Thousand Miles with the 68th Ohio. M. B. Loop. September 27, 1900, October 4-25, 1900, November 1-29, 1900, December 13, 1900.
When the arrow was adopted as official badge for soldiers of the 17th Corps. Army of the Tennessee. Gen. Frank P'. Blair Jr. quipped that it symbolized "their swiftness, the point their firmness whenever they strike. and the feathers their liking for chickens."
Pvt. Myron Benjamin Loop would have agreed, knowing well his own regiment's predilection for long. hard marching, fighting and foraging. He belonged to the 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a veteran 17th Corps organization that saw nearly four years' service during the Civil War, much of it under Grant, Sherman, McPherson. Logan and Howard in the Army of the Tennessee.
Observant and steadfast in keeping a daily wartime diary. Loop later relied on it heavily to compose a memoir that was serialized in 21 issues of The National Tribune. His regiment's entire field service was traced. from Fort Donelson and the Hatchie river in l862. Raymond, Champion Hill and the trenches of Vicksburg in 1863 Atlanta and Savannah in 1864, to closing scenes in 1865 in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Along the way the 6Sth Ohio trawled nearly 10,000 miles through the Confederacy, as Loop proudly pointed out: "We were on the soil of every Southern state except Texas and Florida." The journey was indeed a long one, at times fraught with hardship, sickness and boredom, at times with intense combat and celebration of victory.
In July 1865, with the war over and Union soldiers facing muster-out, Loop reflected: "Our last evening together ... was rather less cheerful than many others covering a period of months and years, realizing something akin to pain, knowing that on the following day we must part, perhaps forever. While we all rejoiced in the thought of returning to the homes and friends we had left in 1861-62, yet we knew too well that the ties of comradeship which were forged around our campfires could not be sundered without many a sigh of regret."
Because an official 68th Ohio history never appeared in print, The Long Road Home doubles as a useful substitute. For this Blue Acorn Press presentation, historian and editor Richard A. Baumgartner has supplemented Loop's narrative with letter and diary excerpts written by 40 other regimental officers and enlisted men, and added 22 photographs and engravings.
Blue Acorn Press
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