82nd Ohio Infantry at the Battle of McDowell, May 1862

By the Liberty Rifles Research Committee

 

INTRODUCTION

The following research regarding the 82nd Ohio Infantry at the Battle of McDowell is the newly formed Impression Research Committee’s first attempt at focusing the scope, so to speak, on the various impressions that we as an organization endeavor to portray. It is our earnest hope that the evidence provided should act as a guide, rather than an order. The fun thing about history is that we can all look at the same picture or account and have different thoughts and theories as to what it tells us. That being said, we have collected and compiled what evidence we could find in reference to what the 82nd OVI was wearing, carrying, and eating during the action at McDowell and intend to lay it out for you in the following article. If you disagree with our conclusions, you are by all means welcome to wear, carry, and eat what you see fit. Additionally, any constructive criticism would be welcomed and a great asset to our group and is highly encouraged. Note: some of the images referenced are not be displayed here due to the owner's wishes. Thanks and see you at McDowell!

 

UNIFORMS

The recommended uniform impression for the 82nd Ohio at McDowell will be Federal Issue enlisted frock coats, Federal Issue dark blue trousers, and Federal Issue forage caps.

In looking at images of the 82nd, as well as the 55th OVI who were brigaded with the 82nd up to and at McDowell, I think the best photographic evidence and accounts supports this. Vests would also make a nice touch as a large number of the images collected, some of which are unable to published, show a lot of them on the enlisted men. The second option would be a sack coat if you do not have a frock, and sky blues if you do not have dark blues.

Pvt. Abraham Burgner – Much time was spent with the service records trying to match up dates of promotions, wounds, or deaths to try and narrow down some of the time frames and date the images. Unfortunately, like most, Burgner could not be nailed down with a date, but despite this, we feel strongly that this image is early war, pre-McDowell. A private, posing with his wife, in a studio, wearing dark blue trousers, frock, and vest, all of which appear to be fresh out of the box, seems more likely to be late 61 or early 62 before the regiment left for the field rather than mid or late war. His enlistment date is November 15, 1861 and he doesn’t muster out until December of 1864.

Another nice image of dark blue trousers and a frock coat can be found on a man of the 55th OVI, who as previously stated, were in Schenck’s brigade leading up to and during the action at McDowell. Private Clay Holtz of Co. H, in an undated photograph, is wearing a similar uniform to Pvt. Burgner. Again, despite being undated, given what he is wearing and the condition of said items, this appears to be an early war studio shot. Being brigaded together is by no means a sure bet that they were wearing the same thing, but given the limited amount of photographic evidence and accounts, we feel that if an assumption must be made, this is a fairly reasonable one.

Pvt. Abraham Burgner and wife, Co. I, 82nd Ohio. (Richard and Alma Fink Collection)

 

Private Clay Holtz of Co. H, 55th Ohio.

Looking through the small collection of photographs that we were able to locate, there are a few that show men in Sack Coats. As most of these images are undated, it is difficult to definitely say that the 82nd was wearing Sack Coats at McDowell. The general condition of the sack coats, as well as the men wearing them, give the impression that the images were taken during the middle part of the war or later.

Pvt. Joseph Chadwick, Co. I, 82nd Ohio. Enlisted Nov. 5, 1861, Mustered out July 24, 1865. Wounded at New Hope Church, May 25, 1864. Wounded at Kolb's Farm, June 22, 1864. (Richard and Alma Fink Collection)

 

1st Sgt. Henry Seas of Co. D, 82nd Ohio. Enlisted Nov. 20, 1861. Wounded at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Died July 17, 1863. (Richard and Alma Fink Collection)

Pvt. Ephriam Hutchinson (Co. D, 82nd Ohio) offers some further insight into what the 82nd OVI was likely wearing at McDowell. On February 14, 1862 from Camp Todd, Graften Western VA, he stated:

“they [the 82nd] were soon in the hollow with thousands and thousands of bullets whistling over their heads cutting their caps and cloths,” and, “some of the boys throwed off their coats and caps.”

Sgt. Horace Smith, 82nd Ohio.

Both of his descriptions refer to caps. Additionally, Hutchinson refers to coats, rather than jackets. There will likely be a desire from some, to wear “Ohio” State Jackets, as there usually is when an Ohio unit is portrayed. In conjunction with Hutchinson’s description of coats, rather than jackets, we were unable to locate any evidence of the 82nd wearing anything similar to the “Ohio” shell jackets prior to or at the time of McDowell. The images of jackets that we do have do not bear much in common with the “Ohio” State jackets being reproduced today.

An image that can be found in Buckeye Blood: Ohio at Gettysburg shows a young Sgt. Horace Smith in a dark blue shell jacket, dark blue trousers, and a forage cap. His promotion to Sgt. has been dated to July of 1862, nearly three months after McDowell. This jacket could possibly be a state issue jacket, or private purchase, but it does not bare much of a resemblance to currently reproduced “Ohio” State jackets.

 

MARCHING ORDER

In regards to marching order, there is a small rub. The reenactment calls for us to portray a garrison situation on Saturday, with a public battle. Then we are to retreat from the town, leaving it to the rebels. The evidence we have located strongly suggests that the 82nd was in LIGHT marching order. Schenck’s men undertook a forced march to arrive at McDowell just in time to be thrown into battle

Our recommendation is to bring knapsacks and whatever other equipage you may care to tote for the garrison portion of the weekend. However, for the battles we suggest dropping packs under guard and going in as the 82nd did, in very light marching order.

“This [dispatch from Milroy] was received at 3 o’clock, and at a place some 22 miles from McDowell.  Gen. Schenck ordered on some 1,500 men, with the cavalry and DeBeck’s artillery, determined to reach McDowell, to take part in the fight, if he could not relieve Milroy. There is something very impressive in a night’s march.  The solemn tramp of the silent men, made musical by the regular click of the canteen, as it strikes against the bayonet; the ugly, obstinate rattling of the artillery, as it jolts along, as if conscious of its power, and scorning to be quiet; the dim outlines of hills on either side, between which the masses move on; all go to make up a scene one does not readily forget. Hour after hour wore on, without interruption, other than short rests on the roadside, or the dashing by of staff-officers carrying commands or encouraging the men.  These last were in light marching order. The heavy knapsacks had been laid aside, and the good fellows stepped regularly along as if fatigue were impossible.  At daylight they were within ten miles of McDowell, and by 10 a.m. entered the town.” –New York Tribune correspondent

“Our regiment with 3 or 4 others marched to McDowel[l], the distance being 36 miles from here…they made it in one afternoon and the next forenoons march, although the night previous to their arrival the[y] left their knapsacks and blankets with the teams and all soilders that were not fit for a forced march.” –Pvt. Ephriam Hutchison (Company D, 82nd OVI), February 14, 1862, Camp Todd, Graften Western VA

"The force detailed for this purpose consisted of portions of four regiments of infantry of his brigade-- the Seventy-fifth, Twenty-fifth, and Thirty-second Ohio and the Third West Virginia--  and the Eighty-second Ohio, of mine, the latter regiment gladly receiving the order to Join in the enterprise, although the men were exhausted with the long march from which they had just arrived, with want of food, sleep, and rest." –Col. James Cantwell, 82nd OVI, upon receiving the order to make a reconnaissance of the enemy.

 

WEAPONS

We are recommending that the primary choice of weaponry be the Enfield Rifle, with ’61 Springfields being the secondary choice.

"Ohio Executive Documents, Annual Report of the Quartermaster General to the Governor of the State of Ohio for the year 1862. Columbus, Richard Nevins, State Printer, 1863. Total arms issued to Ohio troops: 82nd OVI - 980 Enfield rifle muskets" –Report of the Superintendent of Arsenal

"We are armed with Enfield Rifles." –Pvt. Ephriam Hutchison (Company D, 82nd OVI), February 14, 1862, Camp Todd, Graften Western VA

"The infantry consists of part of the Potomac Home Brigade, the Fifth Virginia, and the Eighty-second Ohio Volunteers; arms mostly smooth-bore muskets and Enfield rifles. The cavalry is armed with sabers and revolvers, but have no carbines." –W.S.Roscrans. (Series 1, volume XII/3 Correspondence, orders, and returns relating specially to operations in Northern Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland from March 17 to September 2, 1862.)

 

FOOD

The ration issue will be a combination of standard Federal rations, supplemented with a variety of foraged items such as beef, “milch,” etc. in accordance with the following:

"[After the engagement] our men were withdrawn at half past eight or nine o'clock and we at once prepared to fall back toward re[i]nforcements.  We found it necessary to burn a quantity of "hard bread" and ammunition." –an unnamed soldier corresponding for the Cincinatti Commercial

 As the Confederates moved into town after the battle...

"We expected to renew the fight the next morning, but the bird had flown, leaving behind at McDowell all his camp equipage, a large quantity of ammunition, a number of cases of Enfield rifles, together with about 100 head of cattle, which they had stolen, being mostly milch cows." –unidentified Confederate account

"Upon May 7 I was first advised by my scouts and spies that a junction had been effected between the armies of the rebel Generals Jackson and Johnson, and that they were advancing to attack me at McDowell. Having the day previous sent out a large portion of the Third West Virginia and Thirty-second and Seventy-fifth Ohio Regiments to Shaw's Ridge and upon Shenandoah Mountain for the purpose of protecting my foraging and reconnoitering parties, I immediately ordered my whole command to concentrate at McDowell, and, expecting re-enforcements, prepared for defense there." –Report of Gen. Milroy, May 14, 1862