Commentary by LBM

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As soon as it was known in the Fall of 1860 that Lincoln was elected, there were roomers of secession of the slave states, and all during the Winter of '60 and '61, the papers were full of accounts of military preparations in the South, with talk of war, while at the North there seemed to be an incredulous apathy that served to justify the South in the belief that the North would not fight, but when Sumpter was fired on, it seemed to electrify the people. I well remember the speeches and the feeling at a meeting I attended that evening at the old court house in Norwalk. We all felt and knew then that there was to be war. War? How little we knew what war was! The South had much the advantage in preparedness,-- in military organizations, in arms, and, as time proved, in military leaders. Northern arsenals had been stripped, our little navy scattered and rendered nearly useless. After an irrestable conflict in Congress for scores of years, now an attempt was to be made to start a new nation, a new Confederacy, the cornerstone of which was to be human slavery, and traitorous hands had thus laid the plans for success. The South thought the North too busying money to stop for wart cowards, incapable of military achievement, while the North considered their numbers, resources, and the justice of their cause, felt that they could easily Whip the South into obedience to law and thus each erred in despising his enemy. It seems that a little more force --a little more generalship on either side at the first battle at Bull Run, might have ended the war, but after that we all felt and saw that it was to be a long and bloody war. I then began to think of enlisting, but being an only son end much needed at home, I hesitated. Seeing that our army did not fill up as it Should, I began talking in earnest to father and mother about going into the army. On Sept. 13., 1861, I enlisted as a private in Co. D, 55th Reg., Ohio Vol. Inf. If at the first rumors of war, I had studied military matters, tactics, etc., it would have been much to my advantage, but I knew nothing of such things yet was appointed 3rd Serg't. in the Co. were stationed at "Camp McClellan- on the Underhill farm just west of Norwalk till the latter part of Dec., recruiting our numbers and drilling --and how they did drill us. As officers, both line and staff , were as green as the men, and seemed to think the more they kept us in harness the sooner we would become soldiers. After leaving Norwalk ( which was a great and tearful occasion you may know) our first stop was at Graft on, Va., then soon went to New Creek where we stayed several weeks, our first march being over to Romney and back. We came back in one day,


A note by Ronald Mesnard: Luther was the first Mesnard of his line to go to war. His grandfather did not serve in the War of 1812 and his g-grandfather did not serve in the Revolution. The Mesnards were extremely pious and held to the Ten Commandments. He was probably only allowed to go to war to carry out God's work. He thought slavery was a great sin. Fortunately for me, Luther did not leave his safety completely in the hands of God.


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short-cut, over mountains, crossing one creek more than 20 times, and then on top of mountain tramping some miles through mealy snow, the men I tiring out and straggling very badly. We could see our campfires when eight miles away on the hillside. Some got into camp at 10 P.M., some not till 12 or later. We thought it awful end wrote doleful letters home. In fact it was bad management by green officers.


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One night we bivouacked in a very compacted form near White Sulfur springs when suddenly we were awakened by an awful noise. "A cavalry charge" seemed to be whispered through the air, every man sprung to his feet with a crazy "panicky" feeling, but just then Col. Lee's clear voice rang out "Steady , 55th Ohio", and every man within hearing seemed to recover his senses. A runaway mule had set 10,000 mules to braying, which with the yelling and swearing of teamsters, wakened several thousand men suddenly from a sleep known only to tired soldiers. The incident was remarkable, only, as showing the effect of a sudden night alarm, but made a deep impression on me as some of our men were actually crazy for a few minutes, and it was so with thousands of others.


See how John Paul Jones corrected a serious mistake in recruiting on page 22 of the diary.

The John Paul Jones

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Our chaplain at this time ,-,as a Rev. Wheeler of the M. E. church, a very good and popular man. A few of us, about a dozen at most, held a prayer meeting once a week most of the winter, but there was very little religious interest in the army. While the religious men were generally known as such and there was no tendency to ridicule or make light of such matters, the circumstances, the surroundings, the atmosphere was quite unfavorable to any warmth or earnestness in such matters. Army life reveals character. There is little hypocrisy. Everyone shows out just what he is. Gen. Hooker was very popular with the army, having taken special pains to provide good and abundant rations, the best of equipment and in general had shown a great zeal in looking after the wants of the army, and someway he seemed to be around among us. A civilian has little idea of the great work of providing for an army. The thousands upon thousands of mules and wagons necessary and the immense quantity of provisions and forage required. We built many, many miles of corduroy roads. I was out day after day with a squad of say 20 men, falling small pines some 8 to 12 inches in diameter, trimming and cutting into sixteen feet lengths and carrying into a roadway --often a new roadway --and then brush placed on top, and earth thrown from side ditches at ends of logs onto the brush, making quite a nice road at first but after a few days use, by a constant string of six mule teams often going both ways, there would be nothing left but the logs, which,though a hard road to travel, was a great improvement on the terrible mud-holes which come where there was no corduroy. Mudholes sometimes ten rods

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across in either direction and deep enough to drown a mule. I have counted eleven dead mules in one mudhole. Dead mules were very common along the roads everywhere about the army, and soon became very offensive to the smell if not buried. As we pass one some fellow remarks, If the fellow who takes more than one wiff of that is a hog.


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We were placed. along a road branching off from the "plank road", and leading off to the southwest (?) past the Wilderness. Tavern. We loitered around nearly all day. Toward noon I was near corps headquarters and could see through a glass. The rebel army was moving southward and rumors were rife that Lee's army was falling back and was retreating toward Richmond. About two o'clock when some of our boys came in from the skirmish or picket line, there were rumors that the Rebs were massing on our right. I my-self, heard one of the men say that he could hear the artillery rattle or rumble as it moved over the roads, could hear the commands of the rebel officers as the troops were moved into position. In our front the ground was clear, while to our right there was timber, it being about 10 rods from where I was to a brush fence along the edge of the timber. In our rear across the road there were low scrubby pines somewhat open. About four o 'clock I went down to the extreme right some thirty rods. There were slight breastworks thrown in from of our troops, a tree or two fallen into or across the road, but the woods were so dense I could not see off to the flank but a few feet. The rebel calvery were in the timber to our right and these "Blinkers" - germans not being good skirmishers had no pickets out down the road. Some scouts sent out from the 25th by Col. Richardson went out to our right flank and saw infantry and artillery in there and so reported. and Cols. Richerdson and Lee, with Gen. McLene went to Gen. Deven and Howard with these scouts to try for the third or fourth time to convince Howard that our flank was to be attacked and to make disposition accordingly. From these and a score of other warnings, Gen. Howard had ample warning of a flank attack. The


A note by Ronald Mesnard: Luther was consistently critical of the 'Blinkers', Germans or PA troops. These were the PA Dutch. I believe this is the only war they served, again doing God's work. I have noticed massive casualties of PA troops at Gettysburg just by reading the markers. I guess Luther compaired them with himself, another pious man of peace who was primarily a farmer who was also a surveyor and school teacher. The 55th was manned mostly with farmers. I think the difference was that the 55th had a highly competent leader and some of the officers had military training. Even though Luther was critical of the leadership calling them 'green' on page 2 they promoted wisely building a competent unit.


While the rebel army suffered quite as heavy losses as our army at Chancellorsville, yet the moral effect was that of defeat, when it Should have been an overwhelming victory from all human probability. The battle

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was to be lost. Human slavery had not been atoned for. "God was marching on. Tramping out the vintage where the Grapes of wrath are stored." A loss of about one-third of our regiment in killed and wounded (loss -153) left many vacancies in our ranks and much sadness as we settled down to camp life again at our old quarters at Brooks Station.


I remember that at Goose Creek a branch of the upper Potomac, we waded the stream about waist deep and went into camp, dried our clothes and the next morning I secured a sort of fishing tackle and caught three nice eels when some of the other boys came around and accused me of fishing on Sunday which I think was my only experience in that line, but the eels were very good eating for our mess just the same.


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At this time came orders that if the veterans would enlist for three years more, the balance of the lst three years bounty would be paid and a thirty days furlough would be given, and where a majority of the regiment enlisted, the regiment could go home as an organization. This was a wise move on the part of the government, as this retained a veteran army in the field at a future time when most needed. In fact, probably saved the nation. It was the furlough which decided the matter. Every man but one, present with our company reenlisted, and nearly all in the Regiment. We started home on Veteran furlough toward the last of January 1864. Were paid off at Louisville and crossed the Ohio River and stopped in a little town some forty miles north in Indiana, and while waiting for a train our boys bought out the town, and not only had full canteens but were mostly full themselves, and during the night rids to Cincinnati, I, as first Sergeant of the Company had an awful time. The officers all rode in a car by themselves.

We hoped the regiment would fill up with recruits, I was much interested as I had been recommended for a commission, which I expected as soon as there were members enough to muster more officers. I had carried a musket over 3000 miles, and felt ready for a commission. Ten days before my furlough expired at the request of some boys at home I took a recruiting commission for "one of the thirty new companies" ordered by Ohio's Governor. Well I rustled around lively, and every man I enlisted set to work picking up others. And while other recruiting officers, (being commissioned officers from the army sent home to recruit men) got hardly a man, I enlisted and mustered fifty two men, in ten days.


I had at first a company of 101 green men, in a veteran regiment, notedas hard fighters, and a tough lot of fellow and I was very

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anxious about the standing of my company in the regiment. Taught my boys from the first to keep their places, mind their P's and Q's and allow no one to tread on their toes. That they might better be in Purgatory than become the butt of that regiment. I drilled the men very little - very few hours compared with the drilling I had in my early service. I had non commissioned offers schools, etc.. The drills were short and sharp - the boys young, intelligent and quick to learn. Toward fall were inspected by a regular army captain and surgeon, General Hammond. The Colonel, Nat. Haughton, had been up to see me twice about my preparing for this. I said little but made sure that everything was right. When the day came the 1st Sergeant detailed for guard the awkward or ill shaped men, and about nine o'clock some half dozen officers rode into camp in style. The Colonel thought I should go out and see to the Company, but I was quiet, saying to the inspecting officers, wheresoever they wished it the Company would be formed. At the orders of the first Sergeant the Company fell in in a way I was proud of, and as the Sergeant saluted - "Sir the Company is formed," I took charge, and put them in shape for inspection. The first two files were six feet two inches in height, and models of perfection. The Captain as he took the gun of the first man never looked at it, but admiringly ran his eye over the man, Henry Benson, one of the finest men physically, I ever saw and every inch a soldier. Well he examined every man, every gun, every button in the company, but not a speck of dirt or dust, not a button or thread was wrong and the way the boys handled those guns and themselves made me feel proud of them.

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Then the Doctor or Surgeon inspected them, and when the boys "unslung knapsacks" and opened them up it was like a machine, every man rose or straightened up at the same time, I never saw another company that could do it as they did that day. And those knapsacks! Everyone had the same clothing in sight, clean shirt, drawers and socks, nothing else. The blankets all rolled the same, and all in allignment. All the men had their hair cut, ears and neck clean and answered all questions about rations, camp equipage and duties, right up plain. While the officers looking on said "That's fine", "I never saw it done better" At dinner later, the old surgeon say's to me, "Captain I have a compliment for you. You can feel proud of it as long as you live." I said "I shall be glad to receive it Sir." He said "I have been in the regular army many years and inspected many thousand men, and I say to you, you have the finest company of men, I ever saw I want to know where they raise such men." I said, "Up in the northern Ohio on the western reserve." The Inspecting officer spoke, "I think General there is much in the way those men have been handled." I said, "Thank you." And now after nearly forty years I still feel proud of those boys. The Colonel was greatly surprised and pleased.

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About February 1st, 1865 we started toward Charleston and had plenty of fighting, marching and skirmishing. Our regiment the 25th Ohio, was one of the best, in fact the best fighting regiment in the "Coast Division," and
actually did most of the real fighting, making some very bad marches, often wading streams or baoyus waist deep.

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