Sunday, December 16, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1861

“We bear it with patience”

Early in September, two young farmers from Huron County in north central Ohio had travelled more than 50 miles to enlist for three years in the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 21st was organizing in Findlay, a small town in northwest Ohio.

Why they travelled so far from their own area to join a regiment of northwest Ohio men may have had to do with the reputation the 21st had established in its earlier incarnation as a three-month regiment. Instead of remaining in camp as some three-month regiments had, the 21st had seen some serious action in western Virginia, but lost only four men in battle. Re-born as a three-year regiment, it retained the same colonel (Jesse S. Norton) and lieutenant colonel (James M. Neibling) as before. To adventure-hungry young men, the “new” 21st sounded like a good outfit.

The 21st was composed of men primarily from six northwestern Ohio counties, Hancock and Wood counties most of all. The two brothers from Huron County—Alfred Searles, 27, and Addison Searles, 21, were assigned to Company H, made up mostly of men from Wood and Seneca counties. One of the Wood County men was Liberty Warner (pictured above), another fresh-faced farm boy, who had joined over the misgivings of his parents.

Warner’s letters home give a glimpse of life in the early days of the three-year version of the 21st. The regiment had filled quickly in Findlay during September, received its arms at Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, on October 2, and--still green as grass--was rushed out the same day to Kentucky. In that disputed border state, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was growing frantic over apprehensions the Confederates would attack and overwhelm him.

Young Liberty Warner, son of a minister, was dismayed by what he found at first in camp in Kentucky: “This is a hard place,” he wrote his parents. I have been fully disgruntled with the profanity and vulgarity of the soldiery and do not fall in with it.”

Addison Searles has slightly different take. Today he writes his father (original spelling retained):

We are within 8 miles of the rebels line and they hav [been] arond evry day. This 8 mils is won camp on both sides of the rode. And for 2 or 3 mils behind us our trops is a crosing the Green River evry day and in a few days we shall go to see old Buckner [Confederate Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner]….and I no not who is to fall from our company, but I hop that it will be some of them.

Ar commender Mitchel [Brig. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, the “astronomer-soldier” from Cincinnati, commander of the 3rd Division of the Army of the Ohio, led by Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, another Ohioan]…was here to make us a visit this evening. While on dress praid and he spoke a few words to us. He says that with the help of us and the help of God that he …must hav the best division in the hole union.

We ma stay here fore days and we ma not stay 4 hours. This is all that we can tell of our life. We no not what moment we shall be cald upon to fight. Tho we bare it with pations, for we think God will help us to fight it through and we shall com out victorious in the end and come home to you all agane, if God is wiling that we should.

Well, tell all to rite to me and father pleas escuse my bad spelling and rite soon.

To Mr. E.G. Searls from his son Addison Searls
Good by all, if I hear I will rite to all agan.
So good by to all of the children.

Remember well and bare in mind
A constant friend is hard to find
And when you get one kind and true
Don't change an old one for a new

In less than two years, Addison Searles will be dead. In less than three, both his brother Alfred and Liberty Warner will die as well.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS: President AbrahamLincoln reviews plans to connect Washington to forts as far south as Key West, Florida, by underwater cable. Secretary of State William H, Seward interrupts President Lincoln and friends at tea to report that Great Britain regards the Trent affair, in which a U.S. Navy ship stopped a British vessel and forcibly removed two Confederate envoys, to be a violation of international law.

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