The Army of the James
On December 19, 1864, with the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley effectively over, the entire 1st Division of Crook's 8th Corps, which included the 116th Ohio, was transferred to the 24th Corps, part of the Army of the James, manning the siege lines outside of Richmond and Petersburg.
The Army of the James had been formed in April 1864 and was originally composed of the Union 10th and 18th Corps under the command of General Benjamin Butler. During the summer of 1864, they staged attacks against the Richmond defenses from the south and east as part of General Grant's overall strategy of applying pressure on the Confederate capital from all directions. As General Grant's Army of the Potomac swept around Richmond during the summer of 1864, gradually encircling and beseiging Richmond and Petersburg, the Army of the James was incorporated into the siege lines in front of Richmond. Their only major success in 1864 was the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, or Newmarket Heights on September 29-30, in which they captured Fort Harrison and a portion of the outer Confederate defenses north of the James (including Camp Holly on Newmarket Heights, where I.N. and the 116th Ohio were to be posted).
In early December 1864, the Army of the James was reorganized, with the white troops of the 10th and 18th Corps organized into the 24th Corps and the black troops into the 25th Corps. On December 13, a division of former 10th Corps troops (now the Second Division, 24th Corps) was dispatched under General Butler to invade Fort Fisher on the North Carolina seacoast. Fort Fisher was the primary defensive position protecting Wilmington, N.C., the last remaining open port within the Confederacy. It was this Fort Fisher expeditionary force that the First Division of the 8th Corps was transferred from the Shenandoah Valley to replace. They were redesignated an Independent Division of the 24th Corps and placed under the command of General John Turner.
(After heavy shelling by the navy and the detonation of a gigantic bomb-boat offshore, the Fort Fisher expeditionary force attacked on December 24 but ran into heavy resistance. The attack was called off on the 27th and the expeditionary force returned to Virginia. A second assault, reinforced by another brigade of former 10th Corps troops from the First Division, 24th Corps, and now led by the former 10th Corps commander General Alfred Terry, was ultimately successful on January 15, 1865).
The journey from the Shenandoah Valley to the Richmond-Petersburg front was by rail from Harpers Ferry to Washington (in unheated boxcars and open cattle cars), then by sidewheel steamers (in extremely rough weather) down the Potomac, along Chesapeake Bay, and up the James River to Deep Bottom. They then marched a few miles north to their new quarters, Camp Holly. The 116th Ohio was the first regiment in the division to move out, and the first to arrive at Camp Holly, on Christmas Eve 1864.
On January 1, 1865, General Butler was relieved of command of the Army of the James, and General Ord was promoted from command of the 24th Corps to replace him. General John Gibbon replaced General Ord as commander of the 24th Corps. The 24th Corps now consisted of 42 regiments of infantry, or about 18,000 men. The 25th Corps consisted of another 32 regiments of infantry and 1 regiment or cavalry; about 13,000 men. Also, on January 1, I.N. resumed his journal in a new 1865 Diary. He learned in a letter from his brother Wesley that his father was quite ill. This news that his father's health was very poor was repeated in a letter from his sister Nannie that I.N. received on January 2.
The first weeks at Camp Holly was spent setting up the camp and preparing for winter. The 116th Ohio, having been first to arrive and more skilled in construction than many of the Eastern regiments, apparently did more than their fair share of camp-building. There was also renewed contact with the enemy; skirmishing, picket activity and frequent bombardment.
Camp Holly was about 2 miles from the James River at Deep Bottom, the northern-most point of a loop in the James (Jones Neck). Upstream from Deep Bottom was another long loop in the river, part of which passed through Rebel-held territory and represented an obstacle for Union vessels attempting to steam upriver. This loop was separated at its narrowest point by a small piece of land, Dutch Gap, which since the summer of 1864 had been held by Union forces. General Butler saw the advantages of digging a canal across Dutch Gap, bypassing the loop with its Rebel defenders and advancing Union control of the James further towards Richmond, the Confederate capitol, about 10 miles upstream. After months of excavation, the final section of the Dutch Gap Canal was blasted open by a massive explosive charge on January 1, 1865, but it was not passable even for small craft until heavy rains raised the level of the James a few weeks later. Construction continued over the following months but the war ended before the canal was complete. Throughout the construction of the canal, Rebel gunners attempted to impede progress by bombarding Dutch Gap, which is about 5 miles from Camp Holly. This bombardment is presumably what I.N. is referring to in his diary entry for January 3. On this day, he also built a door for his colonel's house.
Although life in winter quarters could be uneventful (on January 4, I.N. reported that 'nothing of any interest transpiered worthy of note I believe'), the orderly to a brigade commander could also have a very interesting day. On January 5, it was Col. Wildes turn to be Corps Officer of the Day, and I.N. 'had to go along'. They rode along the entire length of the front line manned by the 24th Corps, including Forts Harrison and Brady ('two of our best forts'), at times within 400 yards of the Rebel pickets. The following day, January 6, they also made the tour of the lines; although they saw 'plenty of Rebels', fortunately 'all was quiet'.
It snowed on January 7 and I.N. made stool out of a box he was given by the quartermaster. January 8 was a beautiful day; 'nothing particular occurred' but I.N. spent some time reading, cleaning up some and daydreaming about home and 'how they are there'. January 9 was another 'Splendid day indeed', and I.N. and blacksmith Billy Deland ground their axes. He also 'went to the 17th NY Battery Afternoon Made a mantlepiece & fixed up things'. This was also the day they received orders to furlough 10 percent of the command; 'I think I shall try for a furloug' he wrote. The weather took a turn for the worse on January 10; 'Oh! what a Stormy day this has been It has Rained almost Continuously for the last 24 hours' and 'the Little Streams have been up So high we Could hardly get to Divis Head Qtrs'. Also, 'The usual Shelling has kep up at Dutch Gap'. January 11 was pleasant again and I.N. received two letters from home 'All Well Exept Father Who is quite poorely'. Gravelled walks were made and shrubbery got out, and I.N. made a door fastening. He took the mail and 'Got Emersed in the Run', apparently still high after the rains of the day before; 'Horse went in all over' he said. On January 12 he wrote that 'I have been quite Busy asisting to put up a Cook house. did not get it done' and that the James was very high and apparently damaged or carried off the pontoon bridge.
On Friday, January 13, the Colonel was again Corps Officer of the Day, and again I.N. accompanied him on a tour of the lines. They 'found everything all right', although they 'saw the Johnnies quite plain'. On January 14 I.N. visited Corps headquarters and did some shopping on his way back. He also helped the cook with his shanty, presumably the one they hadn't finished the other day. Meanwhile, the Colonel inspected the 123rd Ohio. On January 15, I.N. visited Division headquarters and later took a warm bath. He also reported 'It is Stated On pretty good authority that Vice President Stephens has passed in to Our Lines to Make piece'. January 16 was very pleasant and I.N. again helped John the cook fix up his cook house. 'Health good weather fare & Every thing is Lovely & the Grace heaps high' he wrote. They finished the cook shanty on January 17 and I.N. cleaned his saddle. Also on that day the officers of the brigade apparently got together in the Colonel's (and I.N.'s) quarters 'to get up a petition in Regard to & Exercise of pay'. I.N.'s reaction: 'I think they get pay enough it is more in proportion than the private Gets'.
January 18 was 'rather cold'; I.N. went to Division headquarters to take some mail and dispatches and then returned to put some teams to work hauling logs for a corduroy road. That day they also heard of the capitulation of Fort Fisher (on January 15); 'Good for that & Other Blow at the Rebellion', I.N. wrote. On January 19 I.N. accompanied the Colonel, General Harris and several other officers to view Dutch Gap. On January 20 he took his coat to a tailor with the 123rd Ohio to have pockets put in and papered their house. He received a letter from 'my Deare Old Father who is fast On the decline. I feer I shall never See him a gene'. January 21 was story again and I.N. spent the time reading and thinking of home. On January 22 the Colonel went to inspect the brigade. I.N. and another orderly went to bring back their horses. He also picked up the coat he had the pockets put it. Col. Wildes was Corps Officer of the Day again on January 23, and I.N. reported that he had 'quite a long ride', presumably accompanying the colonel on an inspection of the lines (in stormy weather). He also reported that four men had deserted to the Rebels that day, and that there was an increase in picket and artillery fire across the James.
On January 24, I. N. again made the rounds of the 24th Corps perimeter, this time to 'show the route' to Col. Kellogg of the 123rd Ohio, who was apparently substituting as Corps Officer of the Day since Col. Wildes was unwell. This was also the day that the Confederate Navy attempted an early morning raid down the James against the Union fleet at City Point. Three ironclads, the CSS Virginia, Richmond and Fredericksburg, and several other vessels succeeded in running past Ft. Brady in the fog, cutting the chain and bypassing the other obstructions at the lower end of the Dutch Gap canal. However, three of the attackers then grounded in the shallow water and the attention of the others was diverted to attempting to free them. As dawn approached, all but one, the wooden gunboat Drewry, was refloated and escaped back up the river, while the Drewry was blown up by Union shellfire. Had the Rebel navy succeeded in reaching City Point, it could have caused havoc with the unarmed transports lying off the base, and even the base itself. The Army of the James, isolated on the north side of the river, could then have been routed by a determined Confederate assault.
As I. N. noted on January 25, the troops anticipated an attack in support of the naval raid, or possibly a repeat of the raid the following night. However, neither an attack nor a second naval raid occured. Instead, the 116th was inspected by General Harris. Col. Wildes reported that as a result of this inspection, the 116th was declared the best regiment in the division and excused from fatigue and picket duty for two weeks. I.N. spent part of the day at the headquarters of the 116th Ohio with Quartermaster Sgt. Walker, his foraging companion from Shenandoah Valley. On January 26, I.N. reported that the colonel had put in a request for a furlough on his behalf, and he already imagined himself 'gliding up the beautiful bay on my way home'. On January 27 I.N. helped John the cook with some cooking, went to Division headquarters to get the mail and cleaned his revolver.
The furlough request came back disapproved on January 28; apparently it had to be submitted by his company commander, not the higher-ranking brigade commander that he was actually serving under. I.N. complained about his furlough again on January 29; 'My furlow Came back last night disparoved because it was not put in wright I will try it a gane'. This 19th century army snafu was particularly unwelcome after letters from home on January 30 indicated that his father was 'fast hastening to the tomb'. There was also a 'scare' in the evening resulting in orders to be 'ready to march in a moments notice'.
Col. Wildes was Corps Officer of the Day again on January 31 and I.N. 'had to go along'. I.N. also mentioned reports that the Rebel cabinet and Vice President Stephens passed through the lines on their way to Washington to make peace. In fact, the Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, President pro tem of the Senate Robert M.T. Hunter, and Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell had been allowed to cross the Union lines to attend a peace conference aboard the steamer River Queen at Hampton Roads on February 3. This conference grew out of fanciful suggestions that the warring sides should negotiate a settlement and then join forces for an attack on Maximilian, who had been installed as Emperor of Mexico by the French army while the United States was distracted by civil war. The Confederate delegates were met by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward and by President Lincoln himself, who had decided to attend at the last moment. There was never any serious basis for negotiation; the Confederates sought peace between 'two countries', Lincoln was only willing to discuss how 'one common country' might be reunited. His conditions were that the Confederate armies must disband, the secessionist states return to the Union, and the slaves be emancipated. Meanwhile, there would be no armistice. He did suggest that some compensation may be available for former slave-owners, and that Confederate leaders would be treated generously. After their exchange of views, the two sides returned to their respective capitols to concentrate on deciding the issues on the battlefield.
February 1 was one of the 'prettiest days' they had had that winter. After resuming the patrol of the perimeter with Col. Wildes at 5 AM, and reporting to Corps headquarters at 9, I.N. went in the evening to regimental headquarters to do his business and visit his friends (Quartermaster Sergeant Ezra) Walker, (Commissary Sergeant William) Patterson and (Frank) Pickering.
On February 2, I.N. reported that the Colonel got his leave and would depart in the morning, and that he was a little disappointed that he did not get to go along 'as I was promised that I should'. The Colonel did leave the next morning, February 3, at 4 AM, and I.N. found himself lonesome with the 'shanty' all to himself.
I.N.'s loneliness was relieved on February 4, when Lt. Colonel Potter 'came down with his things' and 'made a cheerful afternoon'. Lt. Ballard, who I.N. described as Divisional Adjutant, and Lt. Jull (Assistant Adjutant) came down later in the evening. Lt. Col. Potter was apparently standing in for Col. Wildes, and eventually succeeded him as brigade commander. The following day, February 5, I.N. reported that Lt. Col. Potter held a brigade inspection.
February 6 was very stormy. I.N. went to Division headquarters to deliver and receive mail, tinkered around some, finished a chair he had begun and took a little ride on the Colonel's horse John. On February 7, I.N. reported that it 'snowed & sleeted all day' and he stayed in the house wondering when 'this cruel war' would be over. He also noted that the Colonel should have arrived home that evening, and supposed that he was 'engaging his wife's fancy & having a good time in general'.
I.N. went to division headquarters again on February 8 and 'took & brought the mail'. A letter from his sister Nannie stated that his brother Wesley would be married on the '10th instant' (10th of this month; i.e., in two days). Lt. Col. Potter was Corps Officer of the Day on February 9, and I.N. had to 'go along & show him the way' on his tour of the Corps perimeter. Col. Kellogg (123rd Ohio) also went along. They found everything 'all right', 'cold & disagreeable' but 'very quiet all day not a sound at all'. However, he guessed 'that will not last long'.
As usual for the morning after a circuit with the Officer of the Day, I.N. again 'went the rounds' with the Lt. Colonel at 5 AM on the morning of February 10. They learned that three of their men and two 'Jons' ('Johnnies'; rebels) had deserted over night. In the afternoon, he 'took a little ride' up to the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry to get some revolver cartridges, presumably a precaution for these long patrols near the front lines. The next night, February 11, he was awakened by a 'sudden discharge of musketry and a cheer', which was repeated 'and then the band commenced to play', but was unable to learn the cause of this disturbance. February 12 was 'very quiet a long the lines'. On February 13 he went to Division HQ for mail and received a letter from home advising him that his father was no better.
Apparently Col. Potter not only assumed Col. Wildes's duties as brigade commander while he was on leave but also had moved into the shanty or tent that I.N. had shared with Col. Wildes. On February 14 I.N. reported that Col. Potter was away to Corps HQ nearly all day, and on February 15 he was away all day so 'I had the tent all to my selfe' and 'finished coppeying my Old Diary'. On February 16 Col. Potter was Corps Officer of the Day again but I.N. informed him he couldn't accompany him since he had to attend to Col. Wilde's horses. There was stormy weather and more cannonading on the left on February 17, but I.N. spent the day reading and writing letters. On February 18 I.N. reported that two deserters from the 10th Connecticut were hanged about 1 1/2 (miles?) away. (This is confirmed in a list of Union soldiers executed during the war; another diary, by Hiram Ketchum of the 67th Ohio, also reported the hanging but said that the two were hanged for attempted murder). On February 19, a beautiful Sabbath day, Col. Potter was away all day and I.N. took a ride on Col. Wilde's horse and on his own.
On February 20, in the forenoon, I.N. went to Division HQ for the mail and received two letters from home in which he learned that his father was not any better. In the evening, they received news that Charleston, South Carolina, had been captured (actually it had been evacuated by the Confederates on February 17 as Sherman's army moving north from Savannah threatened to cut off the defenders). The following day, February 21, after writing a letter to his sister Nanie in the forenoon, they 'went on review' before their divisional commander General Harris in the afternoon. I.N. reported that he had the honor of carrying the colors of the brigade. The following day, February 22, was Washington's birthday, 'the father of our country'. I.N. added the poetic note that 'The Thundering Peales of Our Cannon Giv the Rebls to understand that we Honor that day Yet'. This was also the day his regiment got payed, but for some reason he reported the following day, February 23, that he had not been paid, but that 'I will get the more next time'. He did go to Corps HQ in the forenoon and Divisional HQ in the afternoon. On the evening of February 24 they received orders to be ready to move at a moments notice, but apparently did not move out. It was also 'officially announced' that Wilmington, North Carolina, had 'gone up', captured in the continued advance of the Fort Fisher expeditionary force that I.N.'s division had replaced in the Army of the James. The following day, February 25, Col. Potter was again officer of the day but his own orderly accompanied him on his rounds of the perimeter so I.N. didn't have to. February 26 was 'a nother Sabath in the Army of the many I have already spent in the same way' and another beautiful day, and I.N. went to division headquarters for the mail.
February 27 'seemed the most like Spring of any we hav had this Winter' according to I.N. 'The swamps seamed to be a live with Frogs Cherping from under Every Root'. Nevertheless, I.N. also reported being lonesome and said he spent part of the day looking for the Colonel, who was apparently expected back from leave. He went to the landing each of the next four days to wait for the mail boat and meet the Colonel but he still did not appear. On February 28 he apparently saw several French ships and on March 1 he got a gallon of oysters. March 2 was stormy and on March 3 the mail boat was late and again the Colonel did not come, but he did see General Grant's headquarters boat there and reported some firing in front after dark.
Col. Wildes's continued failure to return was finally explained on March 4 when I.N. received a letter explaining that the colonel had accepted the colonelcy of the 186th Ohio infantry and wanted I.N. to take his horse to Nashville. I.N. wrote that he felt quite badly over losing him. The next day, March 5, was another 'long lonesome day' in I.N.'s words, but on March 6 Generals Ord (commander of the Army of the James) and Gibbons (commander of the 24th Corps) carried out a review of the Division and I.N. reported that he carried the colors for the Brigade, presumably quite an honor. I.N. also noted that although his diary entry for this day was datelined 'Camp Holly Va Head Qtrs 1st Brig' that he expected to go to regimental headquarters soon, presumably because he no longer had the status of orderly to the brigade commander. His diary entry for the next day, March 7, duly noted that he had 'changed posiss this morning' to 'Head Qtrs of the 116th' and felt that he had 'lost my best friend by the loss of Colonel Wildes'. His diary entry for March 8 ('Head Qtrs 116th OVI') reported that the regiment went up to division for inspection and 'everything was very dull'. On March 9 ('Head Qtrs 116th Regt') he sounded bored; 'I hardley know what we will do if we stay here untill summer'.
I.N.'s 30-day furlough finally came through on March 10 although he didn't plan to leave for a couple of days since he would have to lay over in Washington, D.C. He paid a visit to Company B on March 11 while getting everything ready for an early start the following day. On March 12 he departed camp at 4:30 AM, arrived at City Point at 10, boarded a packet there at noon and stopped briefly at Ft. Monroe at 6 PM. After sailing all night he arrived in Washington at 8 AM on March 13 but found that the train to Parkersburg had already left, so he had to lay over in Washington after all. He spent the time looking over the capitol and the patent office. The train left Washington at 6:30 AM on March 14 and arrived in Grafton, WV about 2 PM, where they again had to lay over another night. The next leg of the journey began with a 6:30 AM departure from Grafton on March 15 and arrival at Parkersburg, WV about 1 PM.
From Parkersburg, I.N. apparently took a side trip to Athens, Ohio before continuing his journey home. He took the 'connection boat' for a short distance upriver to Marietta, OH, arriving at Pt. Harmar in Marietta about 9 PM. He stayed overnight at the Harmar house and in the morning of March 16 took the Marietta & Cincinatti Railroad to Athens, arriving about noon. There, I.N. says he 'took the baggage to Mr. Beane's took dinner there & then went to Aunt Leises' before returning to Parkersburg in the evening, presumably on the M & C RR to Marietta and the connection boat to Parkersburg. On March 17, I.N. resumed his travels home, taking the Mattin Roberts (Martin Roberts?; an Ohio River boat?) for Longbottom, an Ohio River town about 5 miles from his home on the East Branch of the Shade River in Chester township. However, he apparently disembarked at Hockingsport, another river town upstream from Longbottom where he 'took foot for the planes' (began walking to Tuppers Plains, 7 or 8 miles from Hockingsport?), where he first heard of his father's death, and then walked on home, another 4 or 5 miles, where he arrived about 5 PM.
I.N.'s diary is blank for the next three weeks, although presumably there was a funeral and burial for his father at the family cemetery adjoining their farms on the Shade River. However, while I.N. was away in Ohio, things back on the Richmond/Petersburg front were finally heating up. The siege of Petersburg had begun as General Grant's drive from the north against Richmond in the summer of 1864, continually parried by General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, had diverted to the east around Richmond, crossed the James River and attempted to outflank the Confederates by taking Petersburg and its strategic rail lines to the south. The initial attempts to capture Petersurg had also failed in the summer of 1864 and the two armies had settled into static positions in an arc around the eastern side of the entire Richmond/Petersburg area. As the months went on, systems of trenches, underground shelters and forts grew up on both sides. The Union army even developed a seaport at City Point and a military railroad to supply their lines. Frontal attacks against the rebel defenses had not been effective, so the Union strategy was to extend their lines further south and west, with the aim of cutting off rail lines connecting Petersburg to the rest of the Confederacy and eventually encircling Petersburg in the west. This strategy had been gradually succeeding and by the end of March, 1865, Grant was poised for a final push to cut the last remaining rail line to Petersburg and make the continuing defense of Petersburg untenable.
When the 116th Ohio and other infantry units had been transferred from the Shenandoah Valley at the end of 1864, General Sheridan had remained behind with his cavalry divisions and by March 1865 had finished destroying Confederate General Early's remaining forces and returned to eastern Virginia by a circuitous route north of Richmond. General Grant's plan was to move Sheridan from the far right to the far left of his lines to lead an attack around the Confederate right. However, before Grant could put his plan into effect, General Lee surprised him with an attack of his own. In the predawn hours of March 25, nearly half of the available troops in the Confederate lines were concentrated for an assault on Fort Stedman, a Union strong point, with plans to continue on through the Union lines and destroy or disable the Union army. Although the attack was well organized and met its initial objectives in and around Fort Stedman itself, the advance was soon contained and the attackers forced back into their lines with serious losses, further weakening the Confederate position.
General Grant responded to the attack on Fort Stedman by applying pressure all along the weakened Confederate lines, acheiving some advances, especially on the western end of the lines. Also, Grant put his plans for General Sheridan, and the 116th Ohio, into effect. Sheridan's position on March 25 was north of Camp Holly, on the wrong side of the Chickahominy River and swamp. The 1st (Independent) Division (Turner's) of the 24th Corps, Army of the James, which included the 116th Ohio, was ordered to meet Sheridan's force with pontoon bridges to facilitate their passage around Petersburg. The division broke camp and marched northeast along the White House Road and then followed the Charles City Road to the Chickahominy to set up the bridge. The next morning, March 26, after the cavalry had crossed the Chickahominy, they followed them to the James River where they spent the night at Deep Bottom while Sheridan's cavalry crossed the James at James Landing. On March 27, after 'stripping for battle' and discarding everything that was not absolutely necessary, they also crossed the James on pontoons after sundown and began marching towards Petersburg, crossing the Appomattox River below Point of Rocks and halted at 4 AM on the front. After sleeping a few hours, on March 28 they continued along the lines about 15 miles and went into camp after crossing the Weldon and the military railroads. The following morning, March 29, after a short march, they took over the positions of the 2nd Corps at Humphreys Station as the 2nd and 5th Corps shifted to the left and joined with Sheridan's cavalry in their attempt to turn the rebel right flank. On March 30, the division moved a little further to the west, crossing Hatchers Run, amid increasing skirmishing. On March 31 they drove in the enemy pickets and set up their own picket line within a few hundred yards of the enemy works. The 116th Ohio suffered 2 killed and 9 wounded in these actions; one of the wounded was from Company B.
Finally, on April 1, General Sheridan in command of his four cavalry divisions and the three infantry divisions of the 5th corps on the left wing of the Union army attacked the strategic crossroads of Five Forks, described as the key to the entire Confederate position, and by the end of the day had driven out the Confederate defenders under General Pickett. The cavalry, including General Custer, continued to pursue the rebels while the infantry maneuvered into position for a final assault along the entire Peterburg front.
In the general attack on Petersburg ordered for April 2, the 24th Corps was positioned along Hatchers Run facing the Boydton Plank Road with the 6th Corps on their right. The attack was spearheaded by the 6th Corps, who opened a major gap in the rebel defenses by early morning then turned aside to allow the 24th Corps to exploit the breakthrough. In front of the 24th Corps were two formidable Confederate forts, Fort Whitworth and Fort Gregg, and the Confederate defenders of these forts had been ordered to hold them at all costs. First Foster's division and then Turner's, including the 116th Ohio, were thrown into an attack on Fort Gregg that has been compared to a Confederate Alamo. Much of the fighting was hand to hand, with many of the casualties wounded by bayonets. Eventually Fort Gregg was subdued, and then Fort Whitworth, but the desperate rebel resistance has been credited with delaying the complete collapse in the defense of Petersburg and allowing the bulk of the defenders to evacuate after nightfall. In the assault of Fort Gregg, the losses of the 116th Ohio exceeded those of any other regiment; 15 killed and 33 wounded. Four of the dead and four of the wounded were from Company B. Fourteen men received the Medal of Honor for their actions at Fort Gregg, including two from the 116th Ohio, Corporal Freeman C. Thompson of Company F and Joseph Van Meter of Company H.
General Lee did order a general evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond that night and the Confederate armies began retreating westward toward the Richmond and Danville Railroad. Lee had ordered much needed supplies to be delivered by rail to Amelia Court House and then intended to use the railroad to link up with the other significant Confederate army under General Johnson in North Carolina. With Lee in retreat toward the west, the Union army strategy was to both press the retreating forces and to attempt to get in front of them to prevent their resupply and escape. While the 6th, 2nd and 5th Corps pursued the rebels, the 24th Corps was part of the column attempting to get between them and Danville, with Turner's division, including the 116th Ohio, in the lead.
Beginning on April 3, the division marched to Sutherlands Station on the Southside Railroad, then along that railroad to Wilsons Station where they camped. They resumed the march along the railroad to Blacks and Whites and Nottaway, and arrived at Burkeville, the junction of the Southside and Richmond and Danville Railroads on April 5, effectively blocking Lee's escape route to Danville. A small force composed of the 'right wing' of the 116th Ohio regiment was detached from the main body at Burkeville and sent south on the Danville Railroad to Meherrin Station to block any supply trains which might be sent from Danville to General Lee. Although the 'right wing' did encounter and almost capture a train, they did not participate in the remainder of the Appomattox campaign, rejoining the 'left wing' of the regiment on April 20. This detachment was under the command of Captain Mann of Company C and was composed of 4 companies, so it can be surmised that Company B would have been included (Co.s A, B, C, D?).
With the railway to Danville blocked, General Lee now headed toward Farmville, further west on the Southside Railroad where it would still be possible to receive supplies from Lynchburg in the west. The 24th Corps, including the 'left wing' of the 116th Ohio, moved toward Farmville to head them off. The advance units of both armies met at Rices Station on the Southside Railroad on April 6 and skirmished inconclusively, with the 116th Ohio losing 1 dead and 4 wounded. Earlier the same day (April 6) a detachment from the 24th Corp including the 123rd Ohio under Col. Kellogg and a number of 'pioneers' from the 116th Ohio had been sent forward along the railroad to attempt to secure or destroy the High Bridge by which the railway crossed the Appomattox River to prevent Lee from crossing. In this they failed, with 10 members of the 116th Ohio being among the 800 or so taken prisoner, including Col. Kellogg. In the meantime, the Confederate armies had become spread out along the road and the pursuing Union column including the 6th, 2nd and 5th Corps cut off the rearmost units at Sailors (or Saylers) Creek and inflicted a major defeat, capturing thousands including several generals. The survivors crossed the High Bridge that evening. On the morning of April 7, Union forces captured the High Bridge before it could be destroyed and continued the pursuit so closely that the rebels could not take advantage of the supplies awaiting them at Farmville.
The next available resupply depot along the Southside Railroad was Appomattox Station, where again supply trains were waiting. However, Union cavalry under General Custer rode up to Appomattox Station on the evening of April 8 and captured the supply trains and a number of guns, then moved to block the road to Lynchburg and any further Confederate advance. Cavalry alone would not have been sufficient to hold back the rebel army but the infantry of the 24th Corps also arrived at Appomattox Station late on April 8 after a march of 38 miles from Farmville and after resting briefly deployed behind the cavalry in the early hours of April 9. The Confederates attempted to break through the calvalry blockade on the morning of April 9 but were then confronted with the infantry, led by the 'left wing' of the 116th Ohio. With the 6th and 2nd Corps behind them there was now no escape and General Lee was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. With the surrender of its most important army and general, the evacuation of its capitol and the flight of its president and cabinet, the Confederacy was doomed and the Civil War was effectively over.
With the Civil War was on the verge of ending and the 116th Ohio in the thick of the fighting, I.N.'s furlough also came to an end . His diary resumed with an entry on April 7 that he had left home for the front. His brother Wesley took him to Longbottom where he apparently visited a Miss Hattie before paying $1.00 for passage on a steamer. Apparently the steamer arrived at Parkersburg about midnight and at about 7:30 on April 8 he 'took the cars' for the east, arrived at Grafton about 1 PM feeling sleepy and tired, then ate supper and left again about 5:30, arriving at Cumberland at midnight. The next day was April 9, the day General Lee surrendered to General Grant and effectively ended the Civil War, but I.N. was on a train which stopped for water at Sandy Hook. In Washington the following day, April 10, I.N. reported that Johnson had surrendered and Lee also, and that 'the cannon are thundering away over the good news' (actually Johnson had not surrendered, and would not for over two weeks). However, he continued on board a steamer to City Point outside Petersburg. After running all night they arrived at Ft. Monroe about 8 AM on April 11 and then arrived at City Point at 1 PM. I.N. went on to Petersburg and arrived at 5 PM where he paid 50 cents for a bed at Jeretts Hotel. Since there were no trains going to the front, he stayed at Petersburg April 12 and finally took a train overnight for Burkeville, arriving about noon on April 13. 'Left there on a hand car for the right wing of the regt. who were down on the Danville RR' he reported. This would be the detachment, presumably including Company B, which had been sent to block the Danville Railroad at Meherrin a week or so earlier and had missed the remainder of the campaign. He left the Danville RR at 7 AM on April 14 and apparently walked to Farmville, a distance of 18 miles, arriving that night. Along the way he met a 'greate many of Lees Soldiers going home'. On April 15, a stormy day near Farmville, I.N. started at daylight 'went a bout 5 miles & stopped for breakfast at a house it raining very hard'. Later he says he got dinner and stayed the night at a large plantation, 'Their Names are Wald The Young Lady Entertained me by Playing & Singing on the Peeano'. He had a good night's rest and a good time with the young lady. On April 16 he passed through Appomattox Court House and out on the Lynchburg road about 5 miles where he stopped and waited for the regiment who he said all appeared to be glad to see him. They camped near there.
Now reunited with his regiment, or at least the left wing of it, I.N. wrote on April 17 that he marched about 20 miles the next day toward Farmville, and that on the previous evening they had heard that President Lincoln was shot and killed. 'It is a great Calamity indeede', he said. On April 18 they passed through Farmville and camped near Burkes Station. They marched again on April 19, to Burkes Station, where again they camped. I.N.'s final 1865 diary entry is for April 20, from 'Camp Neere Berk Station', where he reports that it has 'been quite warme today. hav been Lying a Round all day' and then trails off with 'went to Divis Head Qtrs & to . . .'.
In fact, there wasn't much more to write about. The right wing rejoined the regiment on April 20 and they marched out of the Burkesville area on April 22 for Richmond, crossing the James River on pontoons and entering the city on April 25, one month after leaving Camp Holly. The 3rd Division of the 24th Corps, which had been left behind at Camp Holly and occupied Richmond upon its evacuation on April 2, received them with 'cheering, presenting arms and bands playing' and accolades as the 'heroes of Appomattox' according to Col. Wilde's Report. They remained in Richmond, with some changes of camp, until mustered out on June 15, less than 2 months later. They were put on a boat and sailed down the James River, passing the now silent fortifications of both sides. According to Col. Wildes' Report they could see Camp Holly; 'There were our log huts yet, but no smoke arose from their chimneys, and none of the signs of busy camp life were anywhere visible in the company streets or on the well trodden parade ground. It was a deserted village, indeed.'
1865 Diary Contents