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Clarksville Civil War Roundtable’s next meeting is September 19th, 2012

 

The 102nd meeting

Clarksville Civil War RoundtableClarksville, TN – The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, September 19th at the Bone & Joint Center, 980 Professional Park Drive, right across the street from Gateway Hospital. This is just off Dunlop Lane and Holiday Drive and only a few minutes east of Governor’s Square mall. The meeting begins at 7:00pm and is always open to the public. Members please bring a friend or two – new recruits are always welcomed.

The meetings topic is “Redemption: The 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”

The very mention of this regiment should be familiar to those that know Clarksville’s Civil War History.

It was on August 18th, 1862, that Confederate cavalry forces under Col. Adam Rankin Johnson and Col. Thomas Woodward captured the town without firing a shot. The garrison was six companies of the 71st Ohio Infantry (the other four were at Dover, Tennessee).

Under the command of Col. Rodney Mason, of a prominent Ohio family, the regiment added to its notoriety as Mason and most of the company officers were cashiered. The unit had been sent to hold Clarksville after what was supposed to have been a lackluster performance at Shiloh.

But new information from that battle, much of it unearthed at the Ohio Historical Society by our own secretary Karel Lea Biggs as well as other sources and shared with Mr. Stewart while he was writing this unit history, has redeemed the unit’s reputation showing that they did not break in that engagement, but, instead, fell back to fill the gap along a ridge line between John McArthur’s Brigade and the rest of David Stuart’s Brigade, to whom they belonged.

Had they not been there until the general retirement of about 2:00pm the afternoon of April 6th, a Confederate brigade would have broken through the hole in the Union lines, which park historian Stacey Allen stated, would have been about 150 yards wide.

The casualties they suffered at Shiloh were in line with those at the Battle of Nashville in December 1864. That is not the hallmark of a regiment that ran. After the battle the Illinois and Ohio newspapers squared off aiming barbs at each other’s units claiming that these units or those units ran in the battle and this is where much of the controversy began.

Additionally, over 200 of the men of the 71st Ohio were dismissed from duty early on April 6th by the regimental surgeon for being ill from drinking the bad water of the Tennessee River. A post-battle inquiry interviewed a number of the soldiers of the regiment.

All of them loathed Colonel Mason while all stated they fell back to the ridge line from their original camp site and fought until the general retirement of the Union left at 2:00pm. The officer the ranks loved was LTC Barton Kyle, who was killed early in the battle.

For most of the war, the 71st Ohio was a garrison regiment spending most of their time at Clarksville, Dover and Fort Heiman before being moved to Gallatin, Tennessee. While not glory filled duty, as with those regiments in the major battles, holding open the Union supply lines to Nashville was critical to the Union cause.

They rejoined the main army for the latter part of the Atlanta Campaign and fought in the Tennessee Campaign of November/December 1864. They were part of the Union attack on Peach Orchard Hill on that battle’s second day.

After the war, the 71st Ohio, and a number of other Union regiments, was sent to Texas to deal with the threat of the French in Mexico.  After months there, they were finally mustered out and made their way home.

Bringing us the story of the 71st Ohio is Martin Stewart of Troy, Ohio. He is a Miami County, Ohio native (one of the three counties from where the 71st Ohio recruited). After serving four years in the U.S. Navy, he became a mechanical engineer, a career in which he works in Dayton, Ohio today.

He has written and self-published several family histories. His unit history of the 71st Ohio, Redemption: The 71st Volunteer Ohio Infantry in the Civil War, is, in his own words, “his first true book.” He self-published an earlier version two years ago and has now updated the history. Hopefully he will be getting copies from his printer in time for his program in Clarksville!

Please join us for another informative meeting of the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable.


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