On October 3, 1862, my great-great-grandfather, Francis Gaume, enlisted under the name Frank Gaume, at the age of 17, as a Private at Mansfield, Ohio, in Company “I” of the 19th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). During this time, the state of Ohio was in a panic over the possibility that Confederate forces would soon invade. The Governor of Ohio had offered a bonus for volunteers and several communities in Ohio, in addition, offered added bonuses. Additionally, the bonuses ranged from less than a hundred dollars to as high as $500. Well-to-do young men wishing to avoid service were allowed to pay stand-ins to take their place in the draft. This was to be the first of two enlistments for Frank Gaume. He became what was known during the war as a “repeater.”
Frank’s first enlistment, which lasted from October 1862 to the end of July 1863, would take him hundreds of miles from his home in Louisville, Ohio, south of Cleveland, through Louisville, Kentucky, to the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, and then deep into the heart of Dixie to the outskirts of a town southeast of Nashville known as Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In the military records of the Confederacy, the action is known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, but to Union historians, it is known as the Battle of Stones River.
This battle, fought in freezing rain and mud-clogged roads from December 31, 1862 to January 3, 1863, had the highest percentage of killed, wounded, and missing/captured of any major battle in the Civil War; higher in absolute numbers than the infamous bloodbaths at Shiloh and Antietam earlier that year.
Recently, I searched available newspaper archives to see if I could find any more details on my great-great-grandfather’s unit beyond what I had already documented in my book Gathering Leaves. While I was able to find detailed reporting in the New York Times and other newspapers of that era, it did not add to the information I found in the sources that I used in the book, specifically A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frank Dyer (1890) and No Better Place to Die: The Battle of Stones River by Peter Cozzens (1991).
Here’s a firsthand account from the regimental commander, Major Manderson, of the events of the first day of the battle:
“About 10 o’clock we were ordered to recall our skirmishers and re-cross the river, which being done we moved by the right flank across the open space between the railroad and pike, amidst the greatest confusion of retreating batteries, men, teams, and ambulances. At this point General Rousseau ordered the regiment to move across the turnpike, and form line in the woods, skirting the west of the pike. From this position we were immediately ordered by Colonel Beatty to march by the left flank back to the railroad, and then by the right flank back to our former position in the last-named woods, under a fire by which we lost several men. This scene was one of disorder and panic: regiment after regiment swept through our lines in the greatest confusion but through it all our men preserved an unbroken front, and, when the pursuing enemy came within seventy-five or one hundred yards, and our front was clear of the retreating and broken columns, at the order to fire by file, poured most destructive volleys into the foe, breaking his lines into disorder.”
Seeing that the units of the First Brigade were making progress against the rebels, Rosecrans ordered his troops to advance. Manderson continues his report on the events of the 31st:
“Major General Rosecrans, who was in the rear of the right of the regiment, cheering our men with his presence and words, then ordered a charge, and our regiment, with fixed bayonets, supported by the 9th Kentucky volunteers on our left, and the 79th Indiana volunteers in our rear, drove the foe in splendid style for about one-fourth of a mile, when our ammunition running low, the front, line wheeled into column, and the 79th Indiana volunteers passed through to the front.”
Running low on ammunition, the 19th OVI fell back towards a wooded area that has been dubbed “Hell’s Half-Acre” in some histories, allowing the other units of their brigade to move forward. This wooded area is shown on the map above is marked as “dence cedar grove.”
The lithograph shown above illustrates troops of Beatty’s brigade, Van Cleve’s division, marching to reinforce the Union right. Col. Beatty’s brigade consisted of the 19th Ohio, and the 9th and 11th Kentucky regiments.
Twenty-six years after the battle, an Ohio newspaper devoted an entire page to a history of Stones River written by one of the union commanders present at the battle. C D Bailey, a former lieutenant colonel in the Ninth Kentucky infantry, wrote, “There is nothing more gallant in the annals of the war of the rebellion than the conduct of the three regiments of the reserve – the Nineteenth Ohio, Ninth and Eleventh Kentucky – in their advance in the face of the ‘machine in gray’ and the manner in which they stood their ground and fought overwhelming numbers until the hostile lines were blended.”
Following the Battle of Stones River, the 19th OVI was on duty at Murfreesboro until June and participated in the Middle Tennessee or Tullahoma Campaign from June 22, 1863, to July 7, 1863. The unit saw action at Liberty Gap June 22-24. On July 22, 1863, Francis Gaume was honorably discharged at McMinnville, Tennessee on order of the War Dept.
While on duty at Murfreesboro, a member of the 19th Ohio Regiment sent a letter to an Ohio newspaper. I found this letter, originally sent to the Mahoning Register, published on the front page of the March 18, 1863, edition of Western Reserve Chronicle (Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio). The letter presents a resolution which was unanimously accepted by all officers and soldiers of the Nineteenth OVI:
As will be seen by the following letter to the Mahoning Register, the gallant 19th Ohio Regiment utters its voice, in unison with the great army of the West, in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and of meting out a merited doom to traitors and conspirators:
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, February 28, 1863,
Editor Register: – That your readers may know the sentiments of the officers and soldiers of the 19th Regiment relative to the all-absorbing topic of the times, I submit the following for publication:
At a meeting of the commissioned officers of the 19th Regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, held February 23, 1863, Major Manderson presiding the following resolution was presented by Capt. James M Nash and unanimously adopted.
Resolved, that the officers and soldiers of this Regiment are unalterably fixed in their devotion to the American union, and determined in their opposition to any and all schemes which may eventuate in a contraction of its boundaries; that they are ready and willing – as more than one hard-fought field, crimson with the blood of their comrades, will demonstrate – to peril their lives in its defense, until all its foes, of whatever party, sect or creed, north or south, east or west, shall have met the merited doom of traitors and conspirators against the best and most sacred interests of our common brotherhood; until the blessings of a uncompromised peace shall again visit every village and hamlet in all our broad land; until the operations of its wise and beneficent laws, and the edict of our legitimately chosen authorities, shall meet with no obstructions, but find a willing obedience in a truly loyal and undivided people, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the utmost extent of our southern borders to the northern line which marks the present limits of the great and powerful American Empire.
This resolution was subsequently presented to the whole Regiment while on parade and was adopted without one dissenting voice. In compliance with the proposition of our gallant major, the boys then made the welkin ring with three long and hearty cheers.
It is needless to enlarge on this subject. This certainly should be sufficient to convince any unprejudiced mind that we, soldiers, are willing, if necessary, to fight until the last drop of blood is shed to preserve the Union with all its benign institutions.
The letter to the newspaper was signed with only the initials TLS.