An Ohio English Teacher Went to Fight in the Civil War. And Got His First True Taste of Battle

On Might 20, 1863, Thomas L. Evans, a lieutenant within the 96th Ohio Infantry, lamented in a letter to his brother: “We’re nonetheless stationed right here guarding this submit whereas the military is taking Vicksburg.” The “right here” was Louisiana’s Sommerset Plantation, which belonged to ardent secessionist John Perkins Jr., a member of the Accomplice Congress. Evans’ regiment was a part of the pressure indifferent at Sommerset whereas the majority of Maj. Gen. John McClernand’s thirteenth Corps pressed on towards Vicksburg. Fearful he would miss the seize of the Mississippi River bastion, he felt “exceedingly assured that it should fall in a day or two if it’s not already ours. So we won’t be within the combat.” His optimism for a fast finish to the siege was untimely.

After two makes an attempt to batter by way of the Vicksburg defenses had been bloodily repulsed on Might 19 and 22, Union commander Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant knowledgeable his corps commanders to “instantly begin the work of lowering the enemy by common approaches.” To conduct the siege section of his marketing campaign to seize the town and open the Mississippi River, Grant wanted to collect all his forces. Evans and his comrades moved to affix the remainder of their brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Stephen Burbridge, already within the siege strains going through the town. The regiment arrived in early June; not solely had Evans badly miscalculated how lengthy the Confederates would maintain out, he was additionally there to witness—and report—the give up.

This {photograph} of Thomas Evans is undated, nevertheless it was seemingly taken throughout his 12-day keep at Camp Delaware after he joined the 96th Ohio in August 1862. (The Decatur Herald)

A native of Marysville, Ohio, Evans had turned 23 on April 17, 1861—simply three days after the give up of Fort Sumter—however he determined to enter educating moderately than combat. In 1861, he earned a level from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, a progressive college that opened its doorways in 1847 as a coeducational establishment and was on a cease alongside the Underground Railroad. In August 1862, nonetheless—the end result of the conflict nonetheless doubtful—Evans joined Firm C of the 96th Ohio Infantry as a second lieutenant.

In the course of the regiment’s 12-day keep at Camp Delaware, the spiritual Evans reported, with obvious reduction, that his “fellow officers are certainly not very pious however they’re actually ethical and hooked on no vices which is certainly very lucky for me and you could all relaxation assured that after I return, I’ll nonetheless be the identical boy, no less than I hope no worse.” Selecting up dangerous habits from his comrades can be the least of his worries throughout his practically three years of service.

After the temporary keep at Camp Delaware, the regiment was despatched to Kentucky in response to offensives by Accomplice forces commanded by Normal Braxton Bragg and Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Though the 96th didn’t partake within the main preventing in Kentucky, specifically the Battle of Perryville, it was a part of the Union forces left within the state throughout the fall.

Like many Civil Battle troopers, Evans grew to become sick shortly after the regiment started its prolonged encampment, most likely with dysentery. Since most Civil Battle deaths had been the results of illness and never battle wounds, his mother and father will need to have been distressed to learn, “I’ve tasted nothing however medication for 48 hours and ate however little for 2 or three days earlier than [that] so I get fairly weak.”

To assuage his mother and father’ considerations, he penned a brief word two days later, promising to jot down usually, “no less than until I get proper stout once more so you needn’t have any uneasiness about me.” By the following day, he was in a position to eat full meals and stroll about camp for as much as 1 / 4 mile at a time, information that actually reassured his mother and father. Though he was on the mend and can be out of the hospital inside two days, he shared information that many others weren’t so lucky: “[T]right here is a great deal of illness in camp now [and] a lot of it very critical.”

Evans was totally recovered when the 96th marched out of their encampment in mid-October, urgent to catch Accomplice forces below Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall close to Lexington. Though the Ohioans didn’t confront Marshall’s forces, they did collect up Confederates who grew to become separated from Smith’s and Bragg’s retreating columns. In the course of the the rest of the autumn, Evans encountered rising numbers of slaves who freed themselves when Union forces arrived. “A few of them,” he advised his sister, had been “fairly shiny trying and effectively sufficient dressed, others ragged and forlorn trying beings.” Being in one of many slave states that had not seceded positioned Union officers in a tough place concerning these slaves who fled, one thing Evans and his comrades noticed firsthand. Some “homeowners went to the Col. [Joseph W. Vance] and needed him to hunt them up for them however he advised them he didn’t do this sort of work nor enable some other man to go looking his camp”; nonetheless, he did inform the slaveowners “the place they may discover them.”

Regardless of having encountered principally secession supporters throughout his first months in Kentucky, he and his comrades appreciated the reception they acquired in Paris in late October. There, regardless of arriving after darkish on a cool mid fall evening, “The city was effectively illuminated and [United States] flags waved in all places and shouts for the union arose from each level however the coloured inhabitants was the extra quite a few and the extra exultant half.” They noticed “heads out of the higher story home windows and candles earlier than their face exhibiting a broad grin that appeared to say Outdated Abes proclamation [the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation had been issued on September 22] is made good. (The military says Amen to that.)” The regiment remained in Kentucky till mid-December, at which period the regiment boarded the transport Hiawatha for switch to Louisiana.

Union Brig. Gen. Stephen Burbridge (left)—Evans’ first brigade commander—and Accomplice Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall. The Kentucky natives had been engaged within the commonwealth within the fall of 1862. Marshall was not at Vicksburg; Burbridge served in John McClernand’s thirteenth Corps. (Library of Congress; Nationwide Portrait Gallery)

It’s unlikely native White residents had been as receptive to the Union forces because the supporters in Kentucky after they reached Youngs Level, La.—throughout the Mississippi River from Vicksburg—in late January 1863. The Ohioans remained throughout from the fortified Confederates, watching, for 3 months earlier than being despatched north to Milliken’s Bend in mid-March. Used primarily as a reserve pressure, the 96th spent a month there earlier than transferring to Perkins Plantation, the place it remained for one more month.

The 96th continued to sit down on the sidelines as Grant remoted Vicksburg in late April and Might by way of a sequence of battles in Mississippi at Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, and Champion Hill earlier than encircling the town. With the siege lastly at hand, Evans and his comrades bought the possibility to affix the entrance strains.

In his first letter dwelling after the 96th reached the Vicksburg strains, Evans regaled his father with an outline of the bombardment of the town: “It’s certainly lovely to see the shelling and can be extra so had been it not so moonlight. To see the mortars throwing the shells up up up so excessive then rool [sic] down and when close to the bottom the short shiny flash adopted by a roar that appears to cross with one continued sure from one rugged hill to a different and earlier than it dies away adopted by others and grand as we sit on the hills or within the rifle pits and watch them.”

Major engagements during which the 96th Ohio served are listed on its regimental flag—from Fort Hindman (Arkansas Submit) in January 1863 by way of the Siege of Vicksburg to Alabama’s Spanish Fort, a part of the 1864-65 Cell Marketing campaign. (Ohio Historical past Connection)

With greater than a bit of satisfaction, he additionally boasted he and his comrades “have virtually stop dodging on the crack of a cannon or whiz of a shell.”

Arriving on the siege after Grant’s Might 19 and 22 assaults on the Accomplice defenses, Evans and the remainder of the 96th Ohio spent the following month engaged on their strains, making them “a lot stronger by making enhancements in our rifle pits and planting cannons alongside them,” and watching the systematic destruction of the Accomplice positions by Union artillery. Whereas few males round him had been misplaced to Accomplice hearth, the warmth and humidity of the Mississippi summer season started to take a toll. Though he withstood it, “fairly plenty of the boys have the chills and fever.”

Grant’s resolution to settle right into a siege meant Vicksburg was subjected to heavy and frequent bombardment. On June 20, “at 4 o’clock the weapons alongside our complete line opened on them till 10 o’clock it was one steady roar of cannon from the little 6 pound discipline piece to the 220 pound mortars.” To Evans, it appeared “like it might not be a really wholesome place to stay,” nonetheless “the rebs didn’t say stop as soon as so we simply stored on till we bought drained and stop of our personal accord.”

After practically a month holding their positions within the heart of the Union strains, sweltering within the warmth, one monotonous day after one other, Evans lastly bought the possibility to take part within the motion. On June 26, he wrote his father “We went as much as the entrance 200 yards from the reble works and laid there from three o’clock till 5,” when “the rebles opened on us.” The Union forces responded and “in 5 minutes there was an ideal roar of musketry and cannon all alongside our strains for miles from the river above to the river beneath….The shells had been bursting over them thick and our troops had been firing quickly with their muskets.” The firing stored up till darkish, at which period his command returned “to camp with not a person harm.”

Regardless of the pyrotechnics, Evans and his comrades had been a part of the secondary entrance. The day earlier than, Grant’s sappers exploded a mine below an earthen fort often called the Louisiana Redan, on the northern shoulder of the Accomplice defenses, a number of miles to the suitable of the 96th Ohio’s place. The mine was detonated at 3:30 p.m., lifting clouds of earth and destroyed gear into the air and protecting the sphere in smoke and mud. Nevertheless, it didn’t have as devastating an impression as Grant had hoped. The Accomplice commander within the redan had realized Union sappers had been tunneling below the fort, pulled the Louisiana males out of the fortification, limiting the mine’s impression. Union troops rushed into the breach however had been turned again after a expensive 36-hour wrestle.

After the autumn of Vicksburg, two photographers touring with Ulysses S. Grant’s military—D.P. Barr and J.W. Younger—established a gallery on the town to {photograph} outstanding landmarks in addition to troopers and officers, together with Grant and his chief of workers, John A. Rawlins. Within the {photograph} right here of Grant, taken in August or September 1863, the rising star wears his new shoulder boards. Grant had been promoted to a serious normal on July 7, 1863, and Rawlins to brigadier normal on August 11, 1863. Maybe to commemorate the promotions, the 2 visited the photographers, possibly even collectively.

For unknown causes, Barr and Younger ended their partnership the next yr. In June 1864, Barr purchased out Younger’s portion of the Vicksburg studio, and it seems the 2 engaged one another with a aggressive spirit thereafter. Younger opened his personal gallery, the Washington {Photograph} and Ambrotype Gallery, on the third flooring of the Odd Fellows Corridor. He marketed his store as “Assured to Give Satisfaction” and made certain to notice that he had employed J.E. Joslyn, previously of Anthony & Brady’s Galleries of New York, to “execute work in probably the most lovely and fascinating method.”

Barr opened his personal Vicksburg studio, “Palace of Artwork,” and a second one in Paducah, Ky. On June 11, he introduced within the native newspaper that he had the whole curiosity within the agency previously often called Barr & Younger, and was able to make images “of each description with neatness and dispatch.” He additionally famous that “all negatives made by the late agency are in my possession.” Barr marked his CDVs, “D.P. Barr, Military Photographer, Palace of Artwork, Vicksburg, Miss.” —Melissa A. Winn

With Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton’s males firmly holding a line of defense past the crater, most of Grant’s pressure, together with Evans and his comrades, returned to their monotonous each day routine. For Evans that meant, “The work of digging rifle pits close to the reble forts continues to be progressing.” The sapper items, nonetheless, stored busy digging tunnels beneath the Accomplice place going through the crater left by the June 25 explosion. On July 1, Evans knowledgeable his sister that he anticipated being ordered out on an assault earlier than the tip of the day, at the side of the following detonation. Whereas the mine was exploded, the assault by no means materialized. Grant selected to keep away from a repeat of the massacre of the twenty fifth. Evans was relieved when no assault order got here, admitting, “I’m not very anxious to maneuver towards Vicksburg till the rebs in that course grow to be a bit of extra tame.”

Though Evans didn’t understand it, the siege was practically over. On July 3, he witnessed the start of its final day when Accomplice Maj. Gen. John Bowen and Lt. Col. Lewis M. Montgomery, one in all Pemberton’s workers officers, approached the 96th Ohio’s strains below a flag of truce. Luckily, Evans recorded what transpired in a letter to his mom:

Battle Subject close to Vicksburg,

July third, 1863

Pricey Mom:

The climate has been very heat the previous two or three days & issues have been very monotonous as ordinary about camp however the monotony was damaged this morning. About 8 o’clock this morning the cry was there’s a flag of truce coming.

In a couple of minutes we had been up on the rifle pits and all of the reble works & ours had been coated with males. They lined up out of the pits & got here into sight as if by magic.

In a couple of minutes right here got here Gen. Bowen & Col. Montgomery Reble bearers of dispatches from Gen. Pemberton to Gen. Grant. They handed us every blindfolded and led by a Federal officer.

They the Rebs remained on their works whereas we remained on ours in lots of locations just a few yds aside however no conversations was allowed. Nevertheless they’d stray off from each side and get collectively & we’ve some curious specimens of dialog between them. Curiosity was on tip toe now. What was up? Did the rebles need to give up? A thousand rumors had been afloat not one in all which was believed. Thus issues remained till about midday when the dispatch bearers returned to their very own works & Each Armies Hunted their holes, as we are saying right here that’s all of them disappeared in the identical manner that they seem[ed] within the morning. In about an hour we obtain the next word

“The rebles today provided to give up Vicksburg on circumstances however Gen. Grant refuses something however an unconditional give up.” As this was official we all know it’s so however after all know nothing of what the circumstances are. That was about three hours in the past. Now there’s one other flag of truce over and the Reble Officers are in session with Gen. Grant at his Head Quarters. Thus factor[s] stand & tomorrow is the 4th & I shall wait until then to complete.

July 4th Vicksburg is ours. That’s all I can say No different phrases can specific my emotions.

Greater than six months in the past we left Memphis to take Vicksburg & now it’s ours & although it has value terribly we will now rejoice in triumphant success. What would I not give to day to whisper in your ears Vicksburg is ours. However earlier than you get this you’ll know the reality.

After six months equivalent to we’ve spent effectively could we rejoice. However of the 80 of us who left Memphis solely 40 are right here to witness our success & after we go searching for our pals & miss them our pleasure is mared by their absense. However they’ve fallen in a very good trigger & not in useless. Thus we’re deeply impress[ed] with the conflicting feelings of pleasure & sorrow pleasure for our success & sorrow for the fallen.

The 4th of July has a brand new that means to me now. I’ve rejoiced & spent many pleased hours on the 4th However by no means earlier than felt as I did after I noticed the rebles hoist the white flag on the row of forts in our entrance at ten o’clock this morning. The phrases of give up are unconditional [actually, Grant did assent to a few concessions] and the small print are organized between the generals. Quinbies [Brig. Gen. Isaac F. Quinby’s] Division of the seventeenth Military Corps are to enter city & take cost of the prisoners. The place we are going to go or what we are going to do after all we all know not. There’ll of cours be a pressure left right here to carry the plase. The place the remainder will go I do know not. Some could [think] so to Port Hudson some North & some after Jackson in our rear hear. I’d moderately go to Port Hudson than keep right here. If all of the folks within the North had been loyal & would rejoice with us, and rush to our help and crush Lee’s forces within the East now could be the time to crush this Rebel, speedily and successfully but when the North are divided and stand nonetheless and let Lee go on as he has began I can see no finish to this conflict – nothing however a continued conflict from yr to yr however I nonetheless place confidence in and depend on the loyalty of the North.

My well being continues good and the well being of the Co. has improved. With like to all I stay

Your affectionate son,


Tright here was little time for Evans and the remainder of Smith’s division to savor the nice victory. After simply someday, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman headed east to assault Accomplice forces below Gen. Joseph Johnston, gathered at Jackson. The transfer to seize the Mississippi state capital proved costlier to Evans than had his time within the siege strains at Vicksburg. Throughout an preliminary assault on the town on July 10, teenager Ashbury Turner—“among the best boys we had and nearly as good and courageous a soldier as ever lived”—was hit by a strong artillery shot. “He fell with a shriek,” Evans wrote. “His left hip and leg shot off with a cannon ball and bowels gushing out.”

Federal sharpshooters, equivalent to these in Battery Hickenlooper, close to the Shirley Home, had been used to harass their Insurgent counterparts, charged with killing members of labor events working within the Union trenches. (Peter Newark American Image Archive/Bridgeman Photos)

Though Evans wished he might stay with the dying boy, he knew he needed to catch as much as the advancing regiment because it closed on the Confederates. This assault, and a bigger one two days later, failed to hold the Accomplice works. Realizing he couldn’t endure a siege and that his escape would quickly be reduce off, Johnston deserted Jackson on July 16. After serving to to tear up railroad tracks, the regiment, together with a sick Evans, returned to Vicksburg on July 24, remaining there for a month.

The marketing campaign to seize the important thing Mississippi River port metropolis had ended, however Evans had two extra years of energetic service forward of him. These years proved more difficult than the primary along with his regiment. After a fall spent in Louisiana and a winter in jap Texas, Evans subsequent participated within the early phases of the Pink River Marketing campaign. He was captured on the April 8, 1864, Battle of Mansfield, La., the place his regimental commander, Colonel Vance, was killed. Finally the Confederates pressured the Union prisoners captured at Mansfield to march 125 miles to Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas.

Three weeks after being captured, he warned his mother and father, “We could also be exchanged in a month or two and should not for a yr so it’s uncertain you’ll hear from me.” It was neither; his alternate came about on October 23, 1864. After processing, he returned to his regiment, now with the rank of captain. The next spring, he served throughout the give up of the important thing Accomplice port metropolis, Cell, Ala., on April 12. The 96th remained in Cell till June, then disbanded. Evans was mustered out on July 7, 1865, in Decatur, Ailing.

Fortune discovered Abraham, a slave used to dig countershafts as a protection towards Union mine efforts. In a single mine explosion, he was actually blown into the Union strains—and freedom. (Nationwide Portrait Gallery)

As soon as mustered out of the Military, Thomas Evans returned to Marysville, the place he married Anna E. Childs lower than six months after his discharge, on January 3, 1866. He returned to the training discipline, first as a principal for quite a few faculties in Lafayette, Ind., earlier than finally transferring to Illinois to assist set up a highschool within the city of Paxton, roughly 110 miles south of Chicago. In 1880, he left Paxton to grow to be principal of the general public faculty in Sangamon, a place he held for six years, earlier than being elected to 1 time period because the superintendent of all Sangamon County, Ailing., faculties. Defeated for reelection, he instantly returned to Paxton as superintendent, the place he remained till stepping down in 1904. The couple had two youngsters.

Evans died Might 10, 1916, practically 53 years after he sat outdoors the rifle pits at Vicksburg, watching two Accomplice officers cross, blindfolded, to provoke the give up of the town. 


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