More First Hand Accounts of the Reality of War
Civil War Diary of Cpl.Thomas Dunn, 25th Ohio, Co. K, Killed in Action at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Volunteering for service in June 1861, Thomas Dunn was assigned to duty with the 25th Ohio and sent to West Virginia. Dunn's regiment took part in some of the earliest campaigns in the region, including the Cheat Mountain Campaign where Robert E. Lee conducted his first offensive operations as a Civil War commander -- and where he was first driven off by stubborn federal defenders. Dunn described the build up to Cheat Mountain in his diary "3 day Of September we was surrounded by the enimey we laid on our arms 5 days and nights without any sleep there was one man in our company shot himself accedently. there was one company of the 13th indinia regiment got cut up pretty bad the rebels got in the rear of them and attacted our wagons and one half of a company drove one thousand and killed several of them and then we went back to the sumit again with the rest of our regiment and then our Company had to go on picket every other day and it rained the most of the time." The results at Green Brier one month later, however, were somewhat less auspicious: "we fought the rebels 4 hours with the artillery and the rebels got some more reenfoursment so we had to fall back to Cheat mountain again we got back about 8 o clock in the evening all tired out and feet sore we had 27 men killed wounded."During the fall and winter, the 25th Ohio conducted several small expeditions and engaged in a few skirmishes, including the fight at Hunterville in January, where they burned the town, and then the Battle of McDowell:"there was an arlarm that the seesh had attacted our advance and were driving them it was the 32 Ohio regiment and part of hymans Battery was the advance so we was all drawn up in the line of battele on the side hill about 3 hours and at night our regiment was ordered to go on picket and one battery of artillery to surport us it was virg. boys battery. and on the morning of the 9th we was taken in to support jonsons battery the sceesh were scermishing with us all day and there was tring to plant some battery to work on us so the 29 and 75 Ohio was ordered to go up on the mountain to se what the rebels was doing so we went up and fought them 3 hours and at night our regiment run short of cartridges and then we was supported by the 82 and 32 Ohio we had 6 men killed in our regt so then we fell back to rest and we got some coffey and hard Bread and the rebels was so strong for us we had to fall back to franklin so the night of the fight we started with every thing we had and we had to burn up considerable stuff that we couldent get away we had about 8 thousand men and 9 battreys of artillery and it toock to days and one night to go to franklin the rebels followed us up and they attacted us the same day we got to franklin."More or less a draw between the Union and Confederate forces, but followed by Union withdrawal, McDowell was a signal of things to come. The 25th Ohio was one of the regiments charged with the unfortunate responsibility of countering Stonewall Jackson during the ensuing Shenandoah Valley Campaign, filled with long, hard marches and a frustrating lack of success. Dunn's account of the march from Franklin to Strasburg is fascinating and gives the perspective of the average union soldier of the give and take of that campaign: "June the 1st we toock up our line of march and when we had gone about 9 miles our advance commenced fighting the rebels throwed shells at us about 3 hours and then Old Jackson began to retreat there was to regiments sent out that night and they followed them up through strawsburg."June the 2nd our regiment had to get up at 6 o clock in the morning to go out on picket and we stayed out until daylight and then we came in and cleaned up our guns and we then toock line of march again the rebels ahead of us all. Our calvery was ahead of us fighting all day we marched through strawsburg and we toock to hundred prisnors that day we drove them through Woodstock and then we stoped and it rained all day and night we toock 2 pieces of artillery from Old Jackson it was a very pretty country through the Shenandoah valley. "June the 3rd we started again and went about 5 miles to a place called Edensburg and there we had to stop and build a bridge that the rebels burnt down when they were retreating and then we started on again and by that time our calvery had caught up to them again and they drove them through a town called mount Jackson and we drove them over the river and the rebels burnt the bridge they planted their cannons on the other side and kept our Calvery back until they se the bridge on fire and by that time our artillery got up to them and we throwed shells into them and they fell back. they killed one of our men and we recaptured 30 of our men back that Jackson had taken we had to stay there and camp that night so as to build a bridge and it rained all the time the water became so high that it washed the bridge away once." After a brief description of the Battle of Cross Keys and the exhaustion that followed, Dunn reported that next "we started out all determined to bag Old Jackkson but in the night he retreated back and shields attacted him in the rear but after all Old Jackson made his escape through and got across the river and then he burnt the bridge and by the time our fource got up we could see the rear of Jacksons train at fourt republic." Jackson, for one of many times, slipped the noose. In August, the 25th Ohio left the Valley and joined the larger scale fights in northern Virginia. They arrived too late to play a significant role at Cedar Mountain, but they were full participants at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Dunn's account is memorable: "Jim smith brought us some beef earley in the morning and the fighting commenced about 8 o clock in the morning on the right wing and about 3 o clock in the afternoon the fight commenced on the left there was what was called hard fighting our right was cut up pretty bad and the rebels flanked us on the left and drove us back Our whole brigade surrounded and we fought our way out again and our troops all fell back to Centerville and there we stayed for the night. Our Division was on the left wing. general schenck was wounded in the arm in two places he lost his arm above the elbow. we were rienfoursed by general Mclelens men and they stoped the rebels from advancing any further. August the 31st. the roads was gust lined with ambulances and coaches from Washington city they came after the wounded there was new reinfoursment coming in all day and some going out it rained mostly all that day that day there was a little cannonading that was all September. the 1st we laid in Centerville resting some of our men went out with a Flag of truse that day to bury the dead and to get the wounded that was left on the battle field and about 3 o clock we got orders to march the rebels was trying to get around us to cut of our wagons. and we had a very hard fight with them about 12 miles from Fairfax Court house general stevens was killed and general kelenney was killed the same time and several wounded we marched to Fairfax court house that night and stoped."The remainder of Dunn's diary provides details of the various assignments undertaken by the 25th Ohio as they were moved about northern Virginia, taking part in small expeditions, the Mud March, and performing guard duty. Dunn's diary ends on April 20, just before the Spring campaigns heated up, although Dunn added a list of his regiment's killed and wounded at Chancellorsville, a complete list of battles involving his regiment, and lists of men from his company who had been killed in action, taken prisoner, or who had deserted, with the instructions "please mother to keep this Boock for me until I get home." She apparently did; Dunn was killed on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Dunn's small (about 4 x 5"), leather-bound diary shows its age with the wear and tear of an object carried through the mountains of West Virginia, the galloping engagements of the Shenandoah Valley and the Second Bull Run Campaign. His spelling is rough, but legible, and gives an immediate sense of the experience of an average young soldier in some of the most strenuous engagements of the Civil War.