CIVIL WAR LETTER

The 152nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was a Darke County unit of the Ohio National Guard that was mobilized for service in the Civil War for 120 days, May through August, 1864. This letter was written by Charles W. Viets on July 17 and describes their activities up to that point. Wes Viets, the second name at the end of the letter, was John Wesley Viets, Charles Viets' younger brother. They were both privates in Company I of the 152nd OVI. (This is a transcription by a distant cousin of an original letter that I have not seen.)

Bruce McCrea (great, great grandson of John Wesley Viets)

                                                                        Sunday Morning

                                                                        Cumberland, Maryland

                                                                        July 17, 1864

 

Friend Delaplane,        

Permit me to converse with you for a few moments through the silent medium of pen and paper. To give you a full history of the trials, temptations and privations that the boys of the 152nd Ohio National Guard have gone through since they left Old Darke, would take more time, paper and ink than I can possibly get at present. Therefore I shall give you a short sketch of the principal incidents as they occur to my mind. Skipping over the first month of our time which you no doubt are already aware that we visited two different camps, policed and cleaned them up and moved to the third by the 31st of May, where we expected to remain till ourhundred days were up but we scarcely had pitched our tents and got them in a manner that we could lie down and rest till we were called on to guard a wagon train through the Hampters Army supposed to be at Stanton, a distance of 114 miles from Martinsburg, the place where we were encamped.

Saturday, June the 4th, the expedition consisting of the 152nd Ohio, five companies of the 161st Ohio, two pieces of artillery and one company of the 15th New York Calvary, a train of over 200 wagons with Colonel Putt, Commander, started 10 o'clock a.m., marched 10 miles and encamped at Bunker Hill for the night. The next day, Sunday, June 5th, started 4 o'clock a.m., passed through Winchester 10 o'clock a.m., a town consisting of from 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants, mostly women and over half of them were dressed in black mourning for their friends who has fallen in the rebel army. Reached Newton 5 o'clock p.m. where we encamped for the night marching a distance of 21 miles.

Monday, June 6th, left Newton at 4 o'clock a.m. and reached a point beyond Strausburg 16 miles distant. Strausberg is a secesh town and is noted for being a locality of several battles. A little incident occurred here that I must call your attention to. At 5 o'clock p.m. the advanced guard commenced running into camp, the rear being two miles back heard several guns fired and supposing an attack had been made on the front were drawn up in line of battle where they remained in that position till a messenger came informing them that the alarm was caused by a lot of cavalry boys who wanted some fresh meat and were shooting hogs.

Tuesday, June 7th, traveled 17 miles making several bridges on the way. The rebels have destroyed the ones formerly used. Passed through Woodstock, Edinburgh and several smaller towns and encamped for the night at Mt. Jackson. The men were considerably fatigued. Captain Mochelle and five privates of the 15th New York Cavalry ventured too far in advance of the other guards and were captured by some reb scouts that were laying in the mountains.

Wednesday, June 8th, left camp at 4 a.m. Marched through New Market 10 o'clock a.m. Made a march of 16 miles and encamped for the night by a large spring called Lacey Springs.

Thursday, June 9th, marched 20 miles and encamped 8 miles beyond Harrisonburg at Brooks Mills. Harrisonburg is a very pretty place. The train was stopped and a private prisoner who was captured a few miles before reaching this place was allowed an interview with his mother. A rebel captain was picked up by our scouts while asleep in a wheat field. His name was Siebert.

Friday, June 10th, (my birthday by the way), marched 14 miles. Reached Stanton 2 o'clock p.m. Found that Hunter had advanced with his army in the direction of Lexington, Virginia. Made a quick march of 6 miles and rested one hour for supper. Made a forced march of 12 miles and reached Hunter rear guard at 6 o'clock a.m. Saturday morning.

Saturday, June 11, went into camp this morning and rested until 11 o'clock a.m. Marched to Lexington 18 miles distance and encamped on the bank of the north branch of James River at 9 o'clock p.m.

Sunday, June 12, the main army crossed the river at 6 a.m. and took possession of the town while the 152nd and 164th remained in camp and were lookers on. By order from General Hunter the Virginia Military Institute with the adjoining buildings and other very fine residences, several factories, foundries, mills and with the private residence of Governor Lectors were burned. A Miss Lector stood by viewing the destruction of the old family mansion immoved. A reg. were encamped on a high hill and had a grand view of the conflagration. The mills were not set on fire until in the evening. They made a splendid illumination which will be long to be remembered by all who witnessed it. From the Military Institute the command took a fine statue of General Washington (weighing 4200 pounds) erected by order of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1788. The 152nd had the honor of transporting it safely to Grafton where it is to be put on the cars and sent to West Point. Stonewall Jackson is buried at this place. The rebel women run up a flag over his grave every morning and take it down every night. As we passed by the grave I took a small chip out of his flag staff which I want to bring back with me to Jefferson. That day the 152nd with the 5 companies of' the 161st Ohio received orders to return to Martinsburg with a train of sick and wounded with a lot of rebel prisoners and drew three days rations for to start.

Monday, June 13th, from information at headquarters it appeared that there was a rebel force in the rear of our reg. Since it was necessary to revoke the order and Colonel Putman was ordered to report his command to General Sullivan commanding the 1st Division of General Hunter's army and was by him assigned to the First Brigade commanded by Colonel Wells. Crossed river at 3 o'clock p.m. Reported and went into camp with the army at 4 o'clock p.m. "Here the boys begin to think they were doing garrison duty like the old woman keeping tavern in Indiana."

Tuesday, June 14th, marched with Hunter's army to Buchanan 24 miles. Did not go into camp till 2 o'clock Wednesday morning. The men were very much fatigued and came near falling in their tracks. Passed within 3 miles of the natural bridge.

Wednesday, June 15th, the main army started at 6 o'clock in the morning. The 152nd remained until 2 in the afternoon and camped the rear guards. Started across the Blue Ridge. Traveled until 9 o'clock p.m. when it became so dark that the teamsters could not drive their teams with safety. Hence they were halted in the road and waited until morning. We formed our beds on the side of the mountain where it was so steep that we had to brace our feet against a rock to keep us from rolling down. The advanced guards were encamped 5 miles ahead at the foot of Peaks of Otter, the highest points in that range of mountains. The scenery here was magnificent. From these peaks the men could see Lynchburg 35 miles distance. Our signal corps was stationed on the highest of them that night. Our advanced guards caught a man cutting trees across the road to keep them from traveling. They shot him dead in his tracks and he was left lay where we all could have a view of him as we passed by.

Thursday, June 16th, with a poor night's rest and a scanty breakfast we continued our march over the mountain. Reached Liberty (26 miles from Buckhannon) at 4 o'clock p.m. -- the train was full of hospitals filled with sick and wounded rebels -- two days before a portion of Hunter's cavalry had been there and burnt the depots and destroyed the Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Went 5 miles beyond the place and camped in Otter Creek.

Friday, June 17th, Colonel Putman received orders this morning relieving him of rom duty in Hunter's army. Was put in command of the 152nd and 161st Ohio again to guard a train of 120 wagons (mostly loaded with sick and wounded from the different commands of Hunter's army and 142 rebel prisoners) through to some post where he could report them to some commander of a post. At 8:00 a.m. we started with just 3 days rations. Passed back through Liberty taking the Beverly road and camped at Buford's Gap for the night.

Saturday, June 18th, the 152nd destroyed a splendid railroad bridge over a large stream, also a railroad depot with 75 stand of arms. Recrossed the Blue Ridge and passed through the old town of Fincastle at 4 p.m. Colonel Putman allowed no property to be destroyed, the citizens having sent out a flag of truce asking protection of private property. Encamped at night on the farm of Mr. Breckenridge, a cousin of Rev. R. J. Breckenridge. The farm was one of the finest in Virginia and Mr. B. lived in fine style. We had just laid our weary bones down and got into a good slumber when we were again called to our feet by the beating of the long roll. We fell into line on double quick and from the firing of our pickets we thought the rebs were coming sure. After waiting a few minutes and the rebs not making their appearance Company A was detached to go out in the direction of the firing and ascertain the cause of the alarm. In an hour they returned reporting everything quiet, when we were relieved from our present position to lie down with our cartridge boxes on and our guns by our sides. We found out in the morning that the alarm had not been false for a sergeant of the 161st had been captured by a quad of rebs while he was on the grand rounds, but at the firing of our pickets they skedaddled with their prize and made their appearance no more.

Sunday, June 19th, a detail was made from the 152nd of 15 men to proceed to the Grace Iron Works about 8 miles from the main road in the mountain. These works are connected with the Tredegart Works at Richmond and was owned by Jeff Davis and Company. The expedition met with no obstruction in the way and succeeded in burning of the property consisting of numerous warehouses and other buildings, about 2 tons of bacon, 50 wagons, several hundred weight of flour and corn meal and ran off 100 horses and mules used in transporting the ore from the mines. A large amount of store such as nails, cloth, harness, was also destroyed and 18 stands of arms and a lot of ammunition was captured and brought away. The white men connected with the works ran away at the approach of our men but over 100 negroes followed the men back to the regiment. They were gone only 5 hours. We marched 16 miles and encamped for the night on the farm of Widow Scott.

Monday, June 20th, this day was without incident. Marched 16 miles and camped at the Sweet Springs where there are several splendid buildings erected at the cost of a small sum of $250,000.00.

Tuesday, June 21st, our train had just got strung out and were moving on slowly when one mile from the Sweet Springs when it was attacked by a force of 75 or so rebs secreted in the brush on the mountainside, the first fire killing 2 horses. Company I and Company C of the 152nd Reg. being the real guards were ordered to their rescue on double quick. After double quicking it for one half mile, they started up the mountain under a heavy fire from the rebs, but like old veterans they rushed up until they got sight of them and then commenced pouring it into them. But the rebs could not start and face the music. They ran the first fire was made on them. The only damage was one man wounded and that was B. C. Griffis. In one hour the train was righted up and proceeded to the White Sulphur Springs 17 miles distance, a noted summer resort for men in delicate health, formerly a magnificent place but now fast growing to decay. At these last two places mentioned we foraged to some extent and at the Sweet Springs we took possession of a mill and ground all night for the regiment.

Wednesday, June 22nd, although our 3 day rations gave out on the 21st, we had been marching through a country where there were a good of deal of foraging. But everyone could not get to forage as he would like to, therefore, while a portion got a pretty good supply to eat, the rest were beginning to complain of their living. From the morning of the 22nd we were told to cheer up for 10 more miles would bring us to Lewisburg where we would get supplies. We started off in good heart and marched 6 miles when we were fired into by the rebels, leaving Company I and Company F of the 152nd Reg. in charge of the prisoners. The balance of the reg. were sent to the advance to see how the land lay. They finding the road blockaded and strong fortifications on the side of the mountain that it was necessary for us to turn back and take another road leading over a large mountain through a wilderness and coming out on the Beverly Road 40 or 50 miles below Lewisburg. Imagine our feelings when we turned back knowing that it would take us at least 3 days to get to where we could get something to relieve our hunger. Solders, however, we turned back, passed through by the Sulphur Spring and took the road leading to the mountain, marched to the foot of it and camped for the night. One-half pint of meal to a man was allowed for our supper and breakfast.

Thursday, June 23rd, left camp this morning at 3 o'clock. Marched until 3 p.m. Found that the horses and mules were giving out for the want of feed. An order was issued to burn 50 of the poorest wagons and double team on the balance. This was done and we then marched until 9 p.m. Rested until 12 o'clock, parched a little corn and started on again. Marched until 8 o'clock of the 24th where we halted for 2 hours, giving us a chance to parch a little more of our only sustenance corn and give our mules a little grass and water, the only thing they had seen for 3 days.

Friday, June 24th, started 10 a.m. Crossed a portion of Cheat Mountain and camped in a small valley, name not known.

Saturday, June 25th, left camp 5 a.m. Traveled until 10 a.m. and halted at a large spring one hour to graze our mules. We made a little coffee. I will just state here that this is one of the finest springs I ever saw. Started at 11 a.m., crossed a large mountain, camped at a place called Tiger's Valley.

Sunday, June 26th, got an early start, traveled 12 miles when we were overjoyed by meeting 3 wagon loads of hard tack, coffee and sugar. Stopped 2 hours by a small stream, made some coffee and had a good dinner of hard tack and coffee after which we marched 10 miles and camped near Huttonsville.

Monday, June 27th, left camp at 4 A.M. and reached Beverly at 12 o'clock where we remained until June 29th.

Wednesday, June 29th, left Beverly at 3 p.m., traveled 10 miles and camped at the foot of what is called the Big Hill.

Thursday, June 30th, traveled all day and camped at Phillipi.

Friday, July 1st, started 4 a.m. and reached within one mile of Webster at 9 a.m. Here we got orders to fire off our guns which we did and went into Webster at 11 a.m. There we turned our fire arms and sick and wounded over to the military post and went into camp to wait for the cars to come. Cars came at 6 p.m.. and at 7 p.m. we were on the road to Cumberland.

Saturday, July 2nd, reached Cumberland 10 a.m. Here the 152nd went into camp and the 5 companies of the 161st went on to join the rest of their reg which was at Martinsburg. I should have told you that a portion of our reg was left at Martinsburg under the command of Captain Burch. Captain Putt telegraphed for them to join us at Cumberland and on Sunday, July 3rd, they were here and a lucky escape they made, for some of them did not leave Martinsburg till 2 o'clock on Sunday morning and at 11 o'clock on Sunday the town was captured by the rebs.

After a long and weary march of 29 days we were in hopes that we would get a few days rest and Sunday, July 3rd, found us washing and cleaning up to prepare for the 4th, but alas it only proved to be one of excitement. At 8 a.m. an order was sent in for a reg to furnish 200 men to go and drive a force of rebs from a bridge which they were going to burn. 20 men were detached from each company to go on double quick. An hour longer brought an order for 5 more from each company. They were sent also and at 12 o'clock the town was all in an uproar running all their stores out as fast as the cars could carry them. At 2 o'clock we were ordered to pack everything we could carry and be ready at any moment for an attack. In this way we were annoyed the whole day. However, the forces that were sent down managed to keep the rebels back till Hunter's forces commenced pouring down and since that everything has been quiet. The boys all returned safe and sound after being gone 8 days. Frank Mores called to see us the other day. He has been relieved from Tuppeng staff. He is going to his company which is stationed at Beverly. Albert Hecker passed through here yesterday. A man from the 15th New York Cavalry was hung here for shooting his captain on the 11th. Our reg was called up to form a hollow square as guards. It was an awful sight, but such is war. He died like a soldier and when his time came to be hung he threw out his chew tobacco and walked up like he was going to his dinner.

For fear I wear your patience, I shall wind up this letter by saying that the boys are all enjoying themselves fine and are all enjoying their health as well as can be expected. I would be happy to read a letter from you and hear how you are making it round the old fort. Give my love to all inquiring friends, if any such there be. I should like to have written to a good many of the boys around there but we have been kept on the move so much that I could not do it and our time is so near out now that I am almost ashamed to open correspondence with them now. This date finds me enjoying good health and hope this may find your enjoying the same blessing. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain you friend and well wisher,

Charles Viets or Wes Viets

To Delaplane Decamp

Fort Jefferson

Darke County, Ohio

Direct to:            Cumberland, Maryland

Company I, 152nd Reg.                                                                                             
Ohio National Ovng

Tell my wife that I am all right, C.V. Old Enoch is all right side up with care. He don't care whether the school keep or not so he gets plenty to eat.

Login Form

add article

Go to top