What it’s About
The Civil War was a bloody one, and a core experience in the lives of many of our ancestors. Seven Southern states seceded from the United States and formed a “Confederacy” which grew. It’s estimated that 2.75 million soldiers fought in the war. William Henry Spafford and many young men of Ohio joined the effort to preserve the Union. After four years of battle over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died and a great swath of territory was devastated. Many were killed in action or died of wounds, though many were taken by diseases or died in Confederate prison camps.
The causes of the war were complex and have been controversial ever since. This small volume is more about the lived experience of the boys of Battery A, a light infantry battalion from the town of Ravenna in Ohio. The story starts as the election of Lincoln in November of 1860 triggered the secession an all efforts at compromise failed. Northern governors mobilized their militias and men volunteered in great numbers.
The focus of this work is on the experience of William Henry Spafford and his companions. It’s a bottoms up story of war, the expectations of men, and their daily lives in camp. It’s about the men’s respect for the Captain, and yet a lack of communications from leadership in a new kind of war when it was never clear what tomorrow would bring. William managed an artillery cart and it’s team of horses and was badly injured on a nighttime foray protecting his camp from injury following his troop’s entry to the siege at Pittsburg Landing in a devastating battle at Shiloh Church where over three thousand soldiers died, sixteen thousand were injured, and another three thousand were taken as prisoners or were missing. This book more or less exits the field of battle where Spafford had to, and does not follow the troop and its reassignment to different commanders and divisions as part of the Western Campaign.
Spafford had entered service as a volunteer in August of 1861 and was discharged January 12 of 1863 at Cleveland on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. The Battery was replenished with draftees and continued in service until it was mustered out in July of 1865. Following Spafford’s departure the boys of Battery A saw battle at Dog Walk, Kentucky, Stone River, Tullahoma, Hoover’s and Liberty Gaps of Tennessee, Chickamauga, Georgia, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in Georgia were part of battles at Dalton, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree in addition to participating in the Siege of Atlanta. Returning toward home, they took part in Tennessee scrapes at Columbia, Spring Hill, and Franklin before being mustered out at Camp Cleveland.
To all who look back and try to figure out how we got to where we are today and where we need to go next in order to make progress.