Author Dan Masters has been actively engaged in Civil War research for the past 18 years. With a focus on Ohio infantry regiments and documenting the thousands of letters contained in Ohio's newspapers during the Civil War, he founded Columbian Arsenal Press in 2017 with the mission of ensuring that these incredible accounts were made available to a wider audience.
My personal journey of discovering the Civil War began with the receipt of my great-great-great grandfather's discharge certificate more than 20 years ago. Private James Morrow of Co. H, 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry served three years with the Army of the Cumberland- the more I learned about his service, the more I became intrigued about how it was that the ordinary foot soldiers of the Civil War actually fought the war. Generals and admirals may direct battles, but it is upon the extrordinary endurance and courage of the men in the ranks that battles and wars are won.
I view my role as a writer as introducing the reader to the main characters of the scene, providing context to what occurred, and then letting the participants describe their experiences in their own words. The fact is that none of us alive today have a true living knowledge of the Civil War experience; we rely on the recorded word of those that were there to impart some sense of the times and events.
General William Tecumseh Sherman may have said it best in 1865 when he told a rapturous crowd in Columbus, Ohio "I can tell you nothing new about the war, can describe no new scenes in our long campaigns for, from Columbus to Portsmouth, from the Ohio River to Lake Erie, you will find in every house and every hamlet a bluecoated boy who marched and has told the story better than I can do it, because he saw it inside and outside."
By giving voice to the common man, we ensure that their sacrifices are remembered, honored, and given their due place in our history. Our mission at Columbian Arsenal Press is to give voice to those long silent voices who saw the war "inside and outside."
Mother, father, brother, sister, wife, sweetheart, keep that bundle sacredly! Each word will be historic, each line invaluable. When peace has restored the ravages of war, and our Nation's grandeur has made this struggle the most memorable of those conflicts by which ideas are rooted into society, these pen pictures of the humblest events, the merest details of the routine life led in winning national unity and freedom will be priceless. Not for the historian's sake alone, do I say, keep those letters, but for your sakes who receive them, and ours who write them. The next skirmish may stop our pulses forever, and our letters, full of love for you, will be our only legacy except that of having died in a noble cause. And should we survive the war, with health and limb uninjured or bowed with sickness or wounds, thos letters will be dear mementos of dangers past, of trials borne, or privations suffered, or of comrades beloved.
Sherman's Praetorian Guard is a collection of fascinating Civil War letters from Captain John McIntyre Lemmon of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Capt. Lemmon served for nearly fours years, first with the 90-day 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, then for the remainder of the war with the 72nd Ohio. Enlisting as a Private in Co. B, Lemmon kept up a regular correspondence with the Fremont Journal, carefully documenting the service of his regiment as it fought under Gen. William T. Sherman for much of the first two years of the war. The regiment saw its first action at Shiloh where it earned its sobriquet as "Sherman's Praetorian Guard," then took part in the Vicksburg campaign. Left behind to garrison Memphis, Tennessee, the regiment re-enlisted in January 1864 and faced its greatest challenges in the final year of the war, campaigning against Forrest in northern Mississippi, Price in Missouri, and Hood in Tennessee. Capt. Lemmon left an incredible account of his experience, the letter below being one fine example.
Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tennessee November 24, 1862
The quiet of the army of the district of Memphis is broken. The same old scenes of hurry, bustle, and confusion are being reenacted on a grand scale. Everybody is getting ready to move- we know not where. Orders have been repeatedly read to us to the effect that ‘all troops in the district of Memphis should immediately prepare for field service.’ To that end, baggage must be reduced to the amount limited in the order from the general in chief; the number of teams must be cut down to six to each regiment; and particular attention paid to the condition of the arms and accoutrements of the men.
But all the time the 72nd was kept busily at work putting up barracks for winter quarters; hence we flattered ourselves that we were to remain for the winter at Fort Pickering. Latterly a large force of troops has been assembling at this point which, with the old regiments of Gen. Sherman’s division, were reorganized into new brigades and divisions and Sherman becomes a commander of a corps de armee of the divisions. The First, commanded by Brig. Gen. Denver, the Second by Brig. Gen. Smith, the Third by Brig. Gen. Lauman. The Fifth Brigade, composed of the 72nd Ohio, 93rd Indiana, the 93rd and 114th Illinois, and the 32nd Wisconsin regiments is commanded by Col. R.P. Buckland and forms part of the Third Division. Our orders are to be ready to march early Wednesday morning (November 26), the three divisions by as many roads but all going the same general direction. Our destination we do not know and it’s useless to guess. Suffice it to say that we are entering upon an active winter campaign under able and skillful leaders. We confidently expect to rid the great valley of traitors and armed insurrection. We know our enemy and have learned how to deal with him. He shall feel us in the future as he has not felt us in the past. We move onward with the utmost confidence of success and complete victory. The move in light, marching order, the sick and those who are unable to march are left here in the hospital or on garrison duty. There is little doubt that it will be vast benefit to the morale of the troops to leave the vicinity of Memphis, for the city presents about as full a hell of vices and crimes as any city under national control. Drunkenness has become, among the class who have latterly infested the city-soldiers, sailors, boatmen, and civilians- the general condition, and sobriety the exception. It is a thing of little moment in Memphis if a man be shot or stabbed on the street. Thieving and plundering are matters for emulation. Law and order are made a mockery. Crime triumphantly defies punishment. But the worst feature of city evils, as connected with the camp, is the facility with which liquor may be obtained. Nothing, either, will so swiftly and surely demoralize an army. What can be expected, when half the officers of the regiment nightly hold high carnival over the intoxicating glass? Officers who have not the manhood to refuse strong drink in excess but will revel in the delirium of daily drunkenness, are very certain to soon lose control of their men, to neglect all their duties, and thus to create by their own violations of law and order, a total disregard for discipline. Here then, where officers have very many of them acted thus criminally, it is not strange that one should hear wishes expressed by private soldiers that the army might leave the place and by so doing, cure a monstrous evil.
There is a novel race for Congress going on in this, the 10th Congressional district of Tennessee. How many candidates there are I cannot exactly state. I saw five only clambering for one stand last night. One run for the Rebel Congress last summer and was beaten; another was a staff officer in the Rebel service; still another was employed by Isham Harris in gathering up rifles and shotguns to arm Rebel soldiers. They are now amusing themselves by abusing one another for having been Rebels and aiding the Confederate cause. It is flattering, no less than gratifying, to notice that orders are issued that horses and mules, wagons and forage, shall be seized as the army advances for the use of the national forces. They are receipted for by brigade quartermasters and when the owner shows that he was a true Union citizen, a loyalty voucher is given him and he will get pay for his property. It is probably, needless to say, that there will be few whose property will have to be paid for by government, as loyalists are few. There appears to be a feeling of enthusiasm among the troops at the prospect of more active service and all are ready and cheerful for the work before them. The readers of the Journal shall be informed of our operations as speedily as I can transmit you the news. They must remember, however, that on a march, the facilities for writing and sending letters are few.
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Camp Drake, Murfreesboro, Tennessee April 6, 1863
I must apologize to you for not answering your letter sooner. In fact, I had not over two hours per day to myself to do so, and those two hours were taken up by me in the enjoyment of the various pastimes which abound so plentifully in camp at the convivial gatherings subsequent to an army pay day!
We have at length recovered some from the saddening scenes of the battle of the cedars on Stone River; no longer is the fierce booming of the cannon heard, or the direful rattle of musketry, no longer do the fiery war horses gallop past in mad fury, and no longer do panic stricken soldiers with distended eyeballs skedaddle over the corn and cotton fields from insatiate Seceshdom; no longer is heard the hoarse voices of the great captains and giant colonels urging on us on to glory and renown, the victory or death. Scenes of blood no longer meet out gaze; the bloody wounds, the gaping gashes and distorted visages, the livid and ghastly countenances of the unburied dead, the gory pools of clotted gore have all passed away and now a serene tranquility and calm repose marks the spot where so many yielded up their souls to God and reddened with crimson tide the sanguine field of Murfreesboro.
Moved back from our advanced position on the Shelbyville Turnpike, and we are now snugly ensconced in the immediate front of the breastworks and fortifications commanding this noted and historic town. The entire Army of the Cumberland, an army that has never yet experienced defeat, is stretched along for miles in three parallel lines so that when reveille’s shrill bugle notes arouses us from slumber in the morning, three living walls of bristling bayonets present a formidable barrier to any force the grease-encased chivalry can hurl at us. In all my knowledge as a soldier or citizen, in all the various incredible spectacles which have met my sight the last few years, there is none equal to our line of battle these fine, balmy, and refreshing morns of spring. Imagine, Jack, a line of battle on an open plain of which you can see neither beginning nor end, then conceive that line three deep of armed impetuous hosts willing and anxious for the next grand battle in which they see the solution of our country’s troubles. The whole capped off by thousands and thousands of snow white tents and cedar groves and you can form some estimate of the awful grandeur, sublime beauty, and grimaced paraphernalia of the moving panorama each day enacted in this locality.
Our company and regimental parade grounds are kept as clean as any business house in Lancaster, the debris has all been removed and were it not that we know that a few miles further on death awaits many a poor soul, we would think ourselves fairy spirits of a brighter realm on a brief visit to the ‘vale of tears.’
Notes of preparation are, however, beginning to be heard; the signs of the time augur important events. Convalescents are coming to their regiments; citizen soldiers are taking the places of soldier clerks and confiscated contrabands the places of teamsters; all detailed men are ordered to their companies while straggler and deserters come pouring back to us on every train. In the meantime, hard bread, bacon, beans, sugar, coffee, rice, and salt form a perfect tower near the railroad depot and if it is not quite as high as the Tower of Babel, it must be nearly so while I am confident that confusion of tongues is no better. Here in one conglomerated mass can be seen in the course of an hour English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, Prussian, Russian, Polish, Swedes, Persians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Germans, and Hollanders together with the indomitable progressive Yankees, all vying with each other as to who can make the most noise, make and render confusion still yet more confounded. This babelism is confined, however, to the dark browed sons of Ethiopian nativity and eastern Tennessee refugees whom the government has employed at the military depot of supplies.
Light battalions have been formed in various brigades of this department to be composed of three of the very best men in each company of a regiment of each brigade. Charley Grandlienard, Billy Heberly, and George Myers received the honor, by ballot of their comrades from our company- a compliment to them and us. I was placed in the battalion as quartermaster sergeant by Major Stafford, but Hooker saw Langdon, Langdon saw Parrott, Parrott saw Johnson and the result of their combined seeing was that I was ordered back to the regiment and tomorrow I report for duty to Colonel Applegate of General Hooker’s staff!i
How is your wound getting Jack? When will you be back to the regiment? It will be our pride and delight to clasp you once more by the hand and welcome you back to your country’s service, knowing as we do, that the blows you strike are struck from patriotic feelings-not that dastardly love of country seen only in the almighty dollar.
And now in conclusion, dear Jack, let me hope that the beams of peace may shed their heaven-lent rays on us all before the pass of another month and that you and I and the many other impulsive hearts that have stood with their breasts to the foe to guard our country from irretrievable ruin may meet around the social boards at home to rejoice over the dispelling of war’s alarms and a Union made more stout and refined by having passed through the ordeal of fire and blood.
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Saturday morning, July 9, 1864, dawned with a balmy sky following the night’s rain. The fertile Maryland countryside with its rich pastures and wheat fields awoke that morning to the presence of two armies heading for a collision along the meandering banks of the Monocacy River. The weather of late had been abnormally hot and dry, which helped the local farmers pull in the season’s wheat crop. The temperature quickly hit 90 degrees, where it remained the rest of the day. However, a bracing breeze from the west helped take some of the edge off the oppressive heat and humidity.
That same refreshing breeze brought the ominous sounds of Early’s men and wagons moving into Frederick. At his headquarters near the Junction, General Lew Wallace finalized his dispositions for the fight he was sure was coming later that morning. Late on July 8th, Wallace had been reinforced by two brigades of Ricketts' division and was awaiting the arrival of a third. Perceiving the greatest threat as being on his left, and lacking the cavalry to effectively guard all of the fords, he placed the bulk of his veterans to cover his left and left center. He sent a portion of Clendenin’s 8th Illinois Cavalry to guard the Worthington McKinney ford, while other portions were sent out to cover points farther south. With the ultimate aim of covering the Georgetown Pike, which he was now convinced was Early’s objective, he posted Colonel William Truex’s 1,750-man brigade about a mile south of his headquarters at the Junction, facing west with its left anchored on the Araby farm. At his center, he placed Colonel Matthew McClennan’s 1,600-man brigade along the east bank of the Monocacy, extending from the Georgetown Pike bridge to just short of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad trestle facing to the northwest.
The ground in the front of both brigades was hidden by dense brush and undergrowth on the banks of the river, with high corn along the bottomland obscuring a clear view. Three 3-inch rifled cannon from Alexander’s battery were placed between the two brigades on a knoll overlooking the bridge. Continuing north, Wallace placed his lone 24-lb. howitzer atop a ridge near the eastern blockhouse behind the iron Baltimore and Ohio railroad trestle and concentrated his reserve force of the 11th Maryland and three companies of the 144th Ohio along the ridge. Under General Erastus B. Tyler’s direction, the remaining three guns of Alexander’s battery were placed just beyond the ridge. Three companies of Colonel Charles Gilpin’s 3rd Maryland Potomac Home Brigade were placed at Crum’s Ford about midway between the Junction and the Jug Bridge on the north.
To constitute his right, Wallace sent the green 149th Ohio to guard the Baltimore Pike (National Road) crossing, while the 100 mounted men of the 159th Ohio were sent to Hughes Ford on his extreme right. General James B. Ricketts expressed some concern that Tyler’s largely untried force was given the important assignment of covering the army’s line of retreat, particularly the stone bridge. Wallace replied that he had confidence both in Tyler and his men. “Tyler is a man of intelligence and brave. He has been in the war from the beginning and understands the need for the bridge to us as clearly as we do. I rely upon him.” The front was a broken line extending about three miles, but both major avenues across the Monocacy were well covered and Wallace was certain that he could delay Early at least until midday.
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I will also be making a presentation at the Sandusky Historical Society on Sunday November 19th at 2:30 P.M. The topic of the talk will be the 72nd Ohio at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads. More details to come soon.
"Alfred E. Lee's Civil War" is scheduled to be released on January 29, 2018. More news to come soon.
I will be delivering a presentation "Alfred E. Lee and the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville" to the Fort Meigs Military Roundtable on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 7 P.M.. Copies of "Alfred E. Lee's Civil War" and my previous titles will be available for purchase.
I am scheduled to deliver the "Alfred E. Lee and the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville" presentation to the Johnson's Island Civil War Roundtable on July 22, 2018.
Author Dan Masters was a guest on Fred Lefebvre's morning show on WSPD 1370 AM Toledo on Thursday May 25th at 8 A.M. Here are the links to the podcast of this interview:
The third edition of No Greater Glory featuring an improved layout, additional photos and research, a regimental roster, and index was released Friday, November 3rd, 2018.
Longer term, we are working on two projects: Alfred E. Lee's Civil War which is collection of letters and articles from Captain Alfred Emory Lee of the 82nd Ohio Infantry covering his regiment's service from the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862 through the Atlanta and Carolinas Campaigns, ending with the Grand March in Washington. Anticipated release date is January 29, 2018.
The second project still in the preliminary stages is a regimental history of the 57th Ohio Infantry. This unit, like the 72nd Ohio, got its start in Sherman's Division at Shiloh but remained with the Army of the Tennessee all the way to the end of the war.Goal is to have this work ready for sale in time for the May 2018 Civil War Show in Mansfield. Excited about both of these projects and will continue to update once the timeline is more defined.
Original regimental battleflag of the 72nd O.V.I. This flag was captured at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862.
The study of the Civil War is a neverending but most pleasant journey through the libraries, historical societies, museums, cemeteries, backroads, and forgotten spaces of America. I'll recount a few highlights of this experience as time permits.