Wednesday, November 21, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Friday, Nov. 22, 1861

"The Horror of That Night"

Not all the horrors of war occur on the battlefield.

In April, a boyish, beardless Thomas F. Galwey of Cleveland slipped into the ranks of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, although he was only 15 years old. Youthful enthusiasm prompted many under-age boys to join the service; haphazard military examinations allowed it. Galwey’s intelligence and energy quickly won him a sergeant’s rank in the 8th Ohio’s Company B. But the youthful sergeant would confront cruel reality all too soon.

After the 8th Ohio had helped capture the western Virginia town of Romney in late October, the Ohioans were assigned to guard a suspension bridge nearby. On “one gloomy day” in mid-November, as Sergeant Galwey would recall later, the 15th Indiana, on its way to Romney, filed by the Ohioans . Liquor began circulating among the two regiments as they brushed each other and many men of the 8th got drunk. Even some soldiers standing guard became inebriated.

Then things went from bad to worse.

About dark, a party of 15 men crosses the bridge, bound for a shanty where liquor is being sold. Fighting breaks out and a gunshot is heard. A squad is sent to bring the rioters back, and in the dark the party stumbles over a dead body. The body, identified as Pvt. Stephen J. Carr of Galwey’s own company, has been stabbed through the throat with a bayonet.

The murdered private was “a quiet, inoffensive man,” according to Galwey. A soldier will be arrested on suspicion of murder, but he will escape conviction and remain in the army. Years later, Galwey will sigh, “It is impossible to forget the horror of that night.”

>>> In the East, Union warships begin bombarding Confederate installations at Pensacola, Florida.

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