72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (1861-1865)

Also Known As: Seventy-second Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Updated: January 08, 2014

In the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.

In the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.

Infantry regiments formed in Ohio became known as regiments of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Soldiers of Ohio infantry regiments served the Union for varying lengths of time, ranging from one hundred days to three years. One of the three-year regiments was the 72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Volunteers from Erie, Medina, Sandusky and Wood Counties formed the regiment, with Sandusky residents comprising eight (Companies A, B, C, D, E, F, H and I) of the organizations ten companies. The command organized at Fremont, Ohio between October and December 1861.

In January 1862, the 72nd departed Fremont for Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, arriving on January 24, 1862. At this time, the regiment had only nine hundred men, too low of a number of recruits to be sent to the front. Company K was especially understaffed, and officials dispersed these men to other regiments. The 52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry eventually provided the 72nd with an additional company of men, which became the new Company K. Once the 72nd was at operational level, officials assigned the regiment to a brigade, consisting of the 72nd, the 48th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and the 70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

The brigade departed Columbus in late February 1862, arriving at Fort Henry in Tennessee the following month. The 72nd next was ordered to Eastport, Mississippi, where the organization was to destroy portions of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Heavy rains prevented the operation from occurring, stranding the regiment and the rest of its brigade on steamers. After two weeks, the ships arrived at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where the regiment entered camp with the rest of General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee. The damp conditions and close quarters caused a wave of illness to strike the 72nd at this location.

On April 3, 1862, the 72nd's brigade participated in a reconnaissance, during which a small skirmish with Confederate forces occurred. On the following day, Companies B and H of the 72nd served  picket duty, when Southerners launched an attack. Confederates captured Major Leroy Crockett of Company H and two or three enlisted men, with each company also having several men killed. The remaining companies of the 72nd rushed to the scene and drove off the Southerners.

Two days later, on April 6, the Confederates launched a surprise attack, and the Battle of Shiloh erupted. Fighting began early in the morning, when the Union forces withstood three consecutive Confederate assaults. The Northerners held their line for two hours, before General William T. Sherman ordered his division, including the 72nd's brigade to withdraw. On the next day, the 72nd participated in the final movement of the battle, sweeping the Confederates off the field. The regiment pursued the fleeing Southerners as far as Monterey, Mississippi. The 72nd had two officers and thirteen men killed in the battle. An additional six officers and 115 enlisted men were wounded or missing at the engagement's conclusion.

During May 1862, the 72nd participated in the Union's Siege of Corinth, Mississippi. The regiment suffered few casualties on the battlefield, but disease rampaged through the organization. Following the North's occupation of Corinth, the 72nd traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, where the regiment arrived on July 21, 1862. Assigned to Fort Pickering, the Ohioans performed ordinary camp and garrison duties. Officials also reassigned the 72nd regiment to the First Brigade, Third Division, with the 32nd Regiment Wisconsin Infantry, 93rd Regiment Indiana Infantry, 93rd Regiment Illinois Infantry, and 114th Regiment Illinois Infantry.

On November 23, 1862, the Third Division troops marched to Wyatt, Mississippi on the Tallahatchie River to engage a Confederate force. During the march, the Confederates retreated, and the Union division began the return march to Memphis. Officials countermanded this order however, sending the force to Moscow, Tennessee on the Wolf River. Here, the division guarded a bridge across the river, driving a guerrilla band from the area.

On January 9, 1863, the 72nd departed Moscow for Corinth, arriving on January 16. Officials reassigned the regiment to the Sixteenth Corps, before ordering the command to White Station, Tennessee, nine miles from Memphis. The 72nd reached White Station on January 31, 1863 and entered winter encampment.

On March 13, 1863, the 72nd boarded steamers at Memphis and sailed down the Mississippi River on General Ulysses S. Grant's campaign against the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The regiment arrived at Young's Point, Louisiana on April 2, 1863 and began work on a canal that would allow Union ships to sail around Vicksburg out of reach of the Southerners' cannons. In early May 1863, the 72nd crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg, Mississippi. As Grant's command advanced towards the rear of Vicksburg, the 72nd participated in the Battle of Jackson, Mississippi on May 14, 1863 and arrived at Vicksburg four days later. The regiment participated in the Union's assault on Vicksburg on May 19 and May 22, 1863, before implementing a siege of the city. On June 22, the 72nd left the siege lines with other Union forces and marched to the Big Black River, where the Northerners were to prevent a Confederate army under the command of General Joseph Johnston from aiding the besieged Southerners at Vicksburg.

On July 4, 1863, the Confederates at Vicksburg capitulated. The 72nd, still stationed at Big Black River joined General William T. Sherman's advance against Johnston's Southerners, who were now located at Jackson, Mississippi. The regiment participated in the Battle of Jackson, driving the Confederates from the city. The 72nd also fought in a skirmish at Brandon, Mississippi, before returning to the Big Black River. After this movement, the 72nd's commanding officer issued the following report:

NEAR MARKHAM'S, July 30, 1863.

COL.: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this regiment, which composed a part of the brigade under your command, in the expedition to Brandon, Miss., July 19, 1863:

Making no mention of the march, I would state that the part taken by the regiment was unimportant. When the line of battle was formed, and skirmishers thrown forward from the Eighth Iowa and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois, I was ordered forward to support those regiments on the left of the road. The ground over which my command had to advance in battle order was very rough and traversed by deep cuts, yet the advance was in good order and my line was not once broken. After advancing in support for about 1 mile, I was ordered to fill the interval between the Eighth Iowa and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois, when the line again advanced, but met no enemy, he having taken advantage of a hard rain-shower to retreat. Upon arriving at Brandon, my regiment was thrown forward to support the skirmishers in the eastern limits of the town, when we bivouacked for the night.

On the following day, the 20th, in accordance with your orders, I proceeded to the railroad depot, and took part in destroying the track. The march back to Jackson was very severe on my men, as it was made in the heat of the day and was very rapid. Officers and men of my regiment all behaved nobly and did their duty to the letter. There were no casualties in this regiment.

I have the honor to be, colonel, your very obedient servant,

SAML. A. J. SNYDER, Capt., Comdg. Seventy-second Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Col. J. L. GEDDES, Eighth Iowa Volunteers.

The 72nd principally remained in the vicinity of Vicksburg for the remainder of 1863. Late in the summer of 1862, the regiment moved to Oak Ridge, Mississippi between Vicksburg and the Yazoo River. In September the organization participated in an expedition to Mechanicsville, Mississippi, before joining General James McPherson's movement towards Canton, Mississippi. The 72nd returned to Vicksburg, staying at this location until mid-November 1863, when the organization marched to Germantown, Tennessee. The Ohioans were to protect the Memphis and Charleston Railroad from Confederate guerrillas.

On January 2, 1864, many of the men of the 72nd reenlisted. This same month, the regiment relocated to Memphis and, in February 1864, participated in a foray to the Tallahatchie River. Officials designed this movement as a diversion for General W.S. Smith's cavalry expedition. Both of these advances were part of General William T. Sherman's wider Meridian Expedition, a Northern advance into central Mississippi.

On February 23, 1864, the 72nd's soldiers who reenlisted received a thirty-day furlough to their homes in Ohio. The men arrived in Fremont, Ohio on February 28, receiving a warm welcome from the citizens. The men reassembled on April 5, 1864 and moved towards Cleveland, Ohio.

The soldiers next traveled by train to Cairo, Illinois, arriving on April 10, 1864. Officials quickly sent the command to Paducah, Kentucky, to assist other Union forces against Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalrymen. The 72nd participated in a small skirmish at Paducah, before setting sail on April 22, 1864 for Memphis. The regiment arrived at this new location the next day.

One week after reaching Memphis, officials ordered the 72nd to the Wolf River, thirty-eight miles east of Memphis, to tray and drive Forrest's Confederates from the region. The regiment next marched to Bolivar, Tennessee in pursuit of the Rebels and, then, to Ripley, Mississippi. Finding no Confederates, the 72nd returned to Memphis, arriving on May 9, 1864.

On June 1, 1864, the 72nd joined an expedition that included twelve regiments of infantry and a single regiment of cavalry. The expedition's purpose was to attack, to displace, and to conquer General Forrest's horsemen. The Union force located the Confederates at the Battle of Tishomingo Creek. In this engagement, the Northerners lost most of their supplies and fled from the battlefield. In the battle and the resulting pell-mell retreat to Memphis, the 72nd had just nine officers and 140 men return to Memphis unscathed, while losing eleven officers and 237 men to death, capture, and wounds. After this movement, the 72nd's commanding officer issued the following report:

HDQRS. SEVENTY-SECOND Regt. OHIO VET. VOL. INFTY., Memphis, Tenn., June 18, 1864.

SIR: In compliance with Special Orders, No. 39, headquarters First Brigade, First Division, Sixteenth Army Corps, dated Memphis, Tenn., May 31, 1864, this regiment, as part of the infantry force commanded by Col. W. L. McMillen, reported at the Memphis and Charleston depot at 6 a. m. June 1, 1864. From the depot we were transported by rail to a point about three miles east of Collierville, a from whence we proceeded by slow and easy marched to our camp on the side hill, about four miles north of the Hatchie bottom, where we arrived the evening of June 9. The march of the command, of which the Seventy-second Ohio formed a part, from Collierville to this camp, was slow on account of rainy weather, muddy roads, and being encumbered with a train of some 250 wagons. At 6 a. m. June 10 we moved from this camp, marching at a good pace for about nine miles, when I was notified by Capt. Buckland of Col. McMillen's staff, that the cavalry command was engaged with the enemy in front, and that it would be necessary for me to hurry up my regiment. Accordingly I moved my regiment at a very rapid pace some three miles to the battle-field, where we arrived between 2 and 3 p. m. The day being extremely hot an sultry, quite a number of my men fell out before we arrived there, being overcome with heat and fatigue. Upon arriving at the battle-field, by order of Col. W. L. McMillen, commanding Infantry Division, the Seventy-second Regt. was stationed on the left of the line to support Mueller's battery, which was immediately on its right, and cover the road to the rear. The battery was stationed on a hill in front of a log house, the right of the Seventy-second resting near the battery, and the regiment extending to the left nearly to the foot of the hill. In front of the Seventy-second, about 250 yards, was another hill, m on the top of which were stationed a few rebels, concealed by bushes and rail fence. The space between the Seventy-second and the rebel line was an open field, giving us a good opportunity to see any advance on the part of the enemy. I had five companies deploy as skirmishes to the front and to the right. They kept up a little skirmishing with enemy for about an hour and a half, when Col. Wilkin, commanding brigade, ordered me to withdraw my regiment from the position on the left of the line, and to form it in line, so that the left would rest about one hundred yards to the right of Mueller's battery. Col. Wilkin informed me that the object of this movement was to protect the cavalry while they should retreat across the bridge to the rear. Accordingly I withdrew my regiment, with the exception of the five companies which had previously been deployed as skirmishers, but had not arrived at the position where I was ordered to establish my regiment before the five companies deployed as skirmishers were heavily engaged with the skirmishers of the enemy. I suggested to Col. Wilkin the propriety of moving my regiment back to its former position, for the reason that if the enemy should drive back my five skirmish companies it would enable him to possess the road to our rear, thereby cutting us off from retreat in case of disaster, and also enable him to destroy the large train of ammunition and commissary stores. Col. Wilkin, seeing how much damage the enemy could do by forcing back the left o our line, consented to my returning to my first position. As soon as my regiment arrived at the first position a heavy line of the enemy's skirmishers, which extended quite a distance beyond the left of my skirmish line, was seen advancing across the open field. I formed my command so as to give the men a good range of that part of the enemy's line of skirmishers which extended beyond the left of my line of skirmishers. A few volleys fired by my command caused the enemy to withdraw. Just at this moment I discovered that the whole infantry command, with the excepting of my regiment, was retreating. In a very few minutes Col. McMillen, in person, ordered me to hold my position until all of the regiments should have crossed a creek and swamp to our rear, to the end that they might have time to form a new line of battle about half a mile in the rear. By the time the last regiment had crossed the enemy was advancing from the right, left, and front of my position, and it was almost by chance that my regiment escaped being captured. After crossing the creek and swamp Col. McMillen ordered me to march my regiment along with the train, keeping the right-hand side of the road. This I did until I arrived at a house on a ridge about half a mile to the rear of the battle-field, where Gen. Grierson suggested that I should station my regiment behind a rail fence to protect the train until it should all have passed this point. This suggestion I considered a good one, and immediately formed my regiment in line on the right side of the road, where I remained until the last wagon had passed. Again I moved my command to the rear, keeping the right-hand side of the road as directed. We had gone but a few rods when the teamsters, near the middle of the train, began to destroy their wagons by setting them on fire, thus blockading the road so that all the wagons in the rear of those destroyed had to be abandoned. Seeing that no new line of battle was established and that all the rest of the command were continuing to retreat, and receiving no orders from my superiors in command, I continued the march to the rear until I arrived on the hill on the north side of the Hatchie bottoms, where I ordered my regiment to halt, intending to allow the men a rest of about an hour, as they were getting very much fatigued, having marched about eight miles from the battle-field with-out rest. The regiment had hardly halted when an aide to Gen. Sturgis, in the name of the general, ordered me to keep up the retreat still farther to the rear. In obedience to these orders I again moved my command to the rear, until I arrived on the ground where my regiment had bivouacked the night previous. My men, overcome by fatigue, having marched some twelve miles from the battle-field with-out rest, I ordered a halt, intending to remain until I should receive orders from some of my superiors in command. About half an hour afterward Col. Waring's brigade of cavalry came up, and the commanding officer ordered me to move my command to Ripley. I inquired by what authority he gave me such orders. He replied, "By order of Gen. Sturgis." Again I moved my command to the rear, and came creek about six miles south of Ripley, which I did, arriving there at 5 o'clock the following morning, having in twenty-three hours marched a distance of thirty-eight miles, and engaged the enemy two hours.

At a little before 7 o'clock Col. McMillen sent an aide (Lieut. Livings) ordering men, as the senior officer of the brigade then present, to immediately move the brigade on the Salem road, following the cavalry, with instructions to have the armed men organized so as to be available at a moment's warning. Only three regiments were in motion before Col. D. C. Thomas, Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, came up and assumed command. After marching about two miles, Capt. Fernald, of Col. McMillen's staff, ordered me to keep well closed up on the cavalry, which was the last order I received that day from any of my superior officers. About eight miles from Ripley the enemy fired into the center of the regiment from the left-hand side of the road, which caused a slight delay of the left companies, thereby forming quite a gap between the fourth and fifth companies. The cavalry in advance began to march at such a rapid pace that it became utterly impossible for infantry to keep closed up with them, but the organization of my regiment was still kept up, keeping as close to the cavalry in front as possible. After marching about two miles farther the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, which was acting as rear guard to the whole command, suddenly made a rush to the front, riding through the ranks of my regiment, causing the men to scatter in all directions to avoid being ridden over. At the same time the enemy made an attack on the rear. My men, being wholly out of ammunition, and seeing that it was absolutely necessary to rid themselves of all incumbrances in order to avoid being captured, broke their guns and destroyed their accouterments by cutting them in pieces. They then pressed rapidly forward, with the intent of keeping up with the cavalry and saving themselves, if possible; but the majority of them, being overcome by the excessive heat of the day and the long and rapid march, were compelled to leave the road and to seek safety in the woods. However, 143 men of my command kept pace with the cavalry and arrived at Collierville about 8 o'clock the following morning, having marched a distance of nearly ninety miles in forty-eight hours. After resting part of the day at Collierville these men became so stiffened as to require assistance to enable them to walk. Some of them, too foot-sore to stand upon their feet, crawled upon their hands and knees to the cars.

When I left Ripley in the morning my command had 320 guns and averaged about eight rounds of ammunition to a man. Eleven officers and 255 enlisted men have not yet returned to Memphis. They are, most of them, undoubtedly prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy. Of the officers and men under my command I have just reason for feeling proud. Not an officer nor a men did I see who failed to do his whole duty, and none of them surely are responsible for any part of the disaster.

C. G. EATON, Lieut. Col., Cmdg. Seventy-second Regt. Ohio Vet. Vol. Infty.

Lieut. O. H. ABEL, Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., 1st Brig., 1st Div., 16th Army Corps.

At Memphis, the 72nd joined the First Brigade, Mower's Division, Sixteenth Corps.  On June 22, 1864, the Sixteenth Corps advanced towards Tupelo, Mississippi, encountering a Confederate force on July 11, 1864 near Pontotoc, Mississippi. The Northerners continued their advance towards the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at Tupelo. When the Union command was just two miles from this Mississippi city, Forrest's soldiers attacked. The 72nd took the brunt of the assault. Instead of fleeing, the Ohioans rushed their attackers, driving the Confederates from the field.

On the return march to Memphis, the 72nd, marching at the rear of the Union column, again faced an attack, this time at Tishomingo Creek. The Northerners drove off their attackers, but Major E.A. Ransom, the 72nd's commanding officer, perished in the fight. In the entire campaign, the regiment had two officers and nineteen enlisted men either killed or wounded.

On September 1, 1864, officials ordered the 72nd's division to Arkansas to confront a Confederate force under the command of General Sterling Price. On September 2, the division boarded steamers and sailed for Duvall's Bluff, Arkansas. Unfortunately for the command, Price had withdrawn northward before the Union force arrived. The 72nd and its division launched a pursuit of the Confederates. On this expedition, the Northerners marched 350 miles and crossed four rivers. Upon reaching Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the Union force boarded river transports and sailed to St. Louis, Missouri. The command then marched to Jefferson City, Missouri, just missing Price's force. Price began to withdraw from the region, retreating to Little Santa Fe, Missouri on the Kansas line. Upon reaching Little Santa Fe, the Union army ended the pursuit and returned to St. Louis, arriving on November 16, 1864.

The 72nd next traveled up the Cumberland River to Nashville, Tennessee, where the regiment joined General George Thomas's command. On December 7, 1864, the 72nd participated in a skirmish with Confederate General John Bell Hood's command. The regiment had eleven men killed or wounded in this engagement. During the first day of the Battle of Nashville (December 15 and 16, 1864), the 72nd helped capture 350 Confederates and six pieces of artillery. On the second day of the engagement, at Walnut Hills, the regiment and its brigade, numbering 1,200 men, seized two thousand prisoners and thirteen pieces of artillery. The brigade had just 160 soldiers killed or wounded in this assault.

After the Battle of Nashville, officials ordered the 72nd's division to Eastport, Mississippi, where the command entered winter encampment. In February 1865, the 72nd moved to New Orleans, Louisiana before boarding the Empire City, a steamer. The men sailed to Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Alabama, arriving on March 3, 1865. The goal of this mission was to assist other Union forces in capturing Mobile, Alabama. The regiment soon landed on the mainland and joined the Union effort to capture Spanish Fort. The Northerners besieged the fortification from March 27, 1865 to April 8, 1865, seizing the installation on the final day. On April 9, the 72nd advanced with additional Northern regiments against Fort Blakely, taking the fortification the following day.

Over the next month, the 72nd moved from Fort Blakely to Montgomery, Alabama and, then, to Selma, Alabama, arriving at this last location on May 14, 1865. On the following day, officials ordered the regiment to Meridian, Mississippi. Here, the Ohioans performed garrison duty. In June 1865, officials ordered that all of the 72nd's members whose term of service was to expire before October 1, 1865 be mustered out. Under this order, forty-one men returned home. In September, the regiment's remaining moved to Corinth and then to Vicksburg, where they mustered out of service on September 11, 1865. The regiment traveled to camp chase at Columbus, Ohio, where officials discharged from military duty.

During the Civil War's course, sixty men, including four officers, from the 72nd Ohio died from wounds received on the battlefield. An additional 238 soldiers, including two officers., died from illness or from other causes.

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"72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 19 Nov 2017 <http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1136>

APA Style

"72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved November 19, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1136

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