Steve's Place

Boys of Battery A

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During the excitement early in the year, the general expectation was that the Civil War would be over with in a hurry, though it’s not obvious why voluntary enlistments were for only a three month period. By the time the soldiers mastered the manual of arms and became familiar with military movements, the three month enlistment period was over. Spafford, like many of the men returned home when their enlistment was up, though William signed back on for three years in September of the year. While many of the men joined infantry troops, Spafford and others joined Battery A of the First Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery Regiment.

A Return to Service – Camp Chase

By the time Spafford returned to service in September, Battalion A had moved from Camp Taylor to at Camp Chase. Here were as many as 5000 troops parading and drilling outside Cincinnati. This was a more serious military installation with several hundred rebel prisoners. Not many of the artillery soldiers had guns. They’d have had to bring their own if they wanted to be armed past the large cannons they were learning to manage. Some anticipated that revolvers might be issued later, while others remained personally unarmed for the rest of the war.

[Figure 7: Troops]

As groups awaited supplies and provisioning, they continued drills and parades. They lived in tents of eight to ten men with very little baggage. Most had a single change of clothes and a couple pair of woolen socks, a couple of pair of drawers. Some men had what they called ‘reinforced’ pants while others wore wool — most wore the same boots they’d left Ohio with for the duration of the war — some had large overcoats with capes. Bedrolls consisted of one issue blanket wrapped in a sheet of oilcloth. Often that wasn’t sufficient to keep them dry in flooded tents where they slept on the ground. The boys used the same oilcloths as shields against rain. They saw plenty of rain from that Fall through the next Spring.

Camp Chase was so full that battalions often had difficulty finding turns on the limited fields set aside for drilling. Before long, the men found camp life no longer new; it had become monotonous and dull. By Spring, they wanted a change of climate and scene and were glad to hear that they’d soon be boarding a large mail boat for a cruise down to Louisville. Rattling wagons were off marching overnight from Columbus all the way to Cincinnati with its stony streets and docks on the Ohio River. They’d marched from five in the afternoon until two o’clock the next day without a meal and had good appetites for the bread and meat they were dished up upon arrival.

Off to Louisville

With a component of nearly eighty men and six officers — another sixty privates and two officers soon to be added, Battalion A got aboard the 300 foot long mail boat, “Major Anderson”. With them were plenty of supplies and provisions, though uniforms, ammunition, and rifles had yet to be acquired. They boarded 130 horses to the boat — more than they could count among themselves.

[Figure 8: Louisville Kentucky ca1855]

In letters home, the men described a joyful trip down this three-quarters of a mile wide river. Those who were armed had fun shooting ducks, geese, and even dogs as they went along. They thought Cleveland, the Ohio city closest to home, to be the prettiest of the spots they saw along the way, but were impressed on the way to Louisville with the vast cornfields from a hundred to fifteen hundred acres, and they enjoyed cheering the women waving handkerchiefs along riverbanks.

This was territory where folks were sometimes conflicted in their loyalties. Many owners had abandoned their homes. Some had gone south with rebels; others could be recruited to join the Union cause. Some soldiers slept on deck overnight and one went missing — whether having deserted or been drowned nobody was sure. Though getting late in the year, the weather was good with some nights chilly and some mornings foggy. Good weather held up in camp at Louisville as the men stayed drilling and waited for supplies and orders to move south.

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