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17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry


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. They served for varying lengths of time, averaging one hundred days to three years. The 17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry mustered into service as a three-year organization at Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio on August 30, 1861. The 17th Regiment had previously organized for three months service, but officials requested that the regiment's members reenlist for three years service. The soldiers that did reenlist became the nucleus of the new 17th Regiment.

The 17th spent the organization’s first month at Camp Dennison, engaging in drill. On September 30, 1861, officials ordered the regiment to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky. The 17th reached this location on October 2, 1861. The command soon moved to Wild Cat, Kentucky, where an engagement occurred with a Confederate force. The 17th had seven men wounded in this engagement, but the Union soldiers drove the Southerners from the field. While at Wild Cat, officials brigaded the regiment with the 31st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and with the 38th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

In early January 1862, the 17th and its brigade advanced to Mill Springs, Kentucky, where the Battle of Mill Springs occurred on January 19, 1862. Following this Union victory, the 17th marched to Louisville, Kentucky, where the organization boarded ships for Nashville, Tennessee, reaching this location on March 3, 1862. In late March and early April 1862, the regiment escorted supply trains to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee with the Army of the Ohio. The 17th did not arrive at Pittsburg Landing in time to participate in the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), but the command did join the Union advance against Corinth, Mississippi. In this campaign, the 17th participated in the Siege of Corinth and engaged Southern forces on several occasions. During the siege, Company B of the regiment drove in some Rebel pickets and broke through the Confederate line with just seventy men. These Ohioans held the position for two hours, before Confederate reinforcements forced the Northerners to withdraw.

Following the Union’s occupation of Corinth on May 30, 1862, the 17th joined the pursuit of the retreating Confederates as far as Booneville, Mississippi. The organization returned to Corinth and entered camp. Officials ordered the regiment to Iuka, Mississippi and then to Tuscumbia, Alabama, reaching the final location on July 1, 1862. The 17th remained in camp at Tuscumbia until late summer 1862, when the Army of the Ohio, including the regiment, marched in pursuit of Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, which was advancing through Kentucky towards Ohio’s southern border. On October 8, 1862, the Army of the Ohio engaged Bragg’s command at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. The 17th Regiment was present for the battle, but officials held the organization in the rear, preventing the Ohioans from engaging the enemy. The regiment was within range of Confederate artillery, and the Southerners did fire upon the unit.

Following the Union victory at the Battle of Perryville, the Army of the Ohio, including the 17th, advanced through Danville and Lebanon, Kentucky, eventually encamping in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee. At this last location, the regiment conducted period forays into the surrounding countryside and performed garrison duty within the city. In late December, the Army of the Ohio advanced against Bragg’s Confederates at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. On the march to Murfreesboro, the 17th helped drive Confederate General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry from Lavergne, Tennessee, recapturing nearly two hundred Union wagons that the Confederates had seized the previous day and freeing a beleaguered Union force in the town. The regiment also participated in the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863). On the engagement's first day, the 17th joined a Union assault, driving the Southerners from their line. The Northerners killed or captured 150 Rebels, while the 17th had just twenty men wounded.

Following the Union victory at Stones River, the 17th entered camp at Murfreesboro. In late June 1863, the regiment embarked upon General William Rosecrans's Tullahoma Campaign (June 24-July 3, 1863), a Union advance through southern Tennessee and northern Alabama. During the campaign, the 17th engaged the 17th Regiment Tennessee Infantry at Hoover's Gap. Despite a Confederate battery and an infantry brigade firing directly into the Ohioans' left flank, the 17th Ohio drove the Tennesseans from the field. Upon the campaign's conclusion, the 17th Ohio remained in the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, before advancing with the rest of the Army of the Ohio against the South's Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga, Georgia in early September 1863. At the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863), the 17th initially was in position in the center of the Union line. The Confederates attacked the regiment and succeeded in flanking the Ohioans. The regiment's members fled in disarray except for Company B, which rallied approximately two hundred members of the 17th approximately three hundred yards behind the command's original position. The rallied members attacked the Confederates, but the Southerners, outnumbering the Northerners ten to one, drove the Ohioans back. In this Union defeat, the 17th entered the battle with approximately 250 men. At the engagement's conclusion, the regiment had only fifty-two men available for duty, and several of these men even had slight flesh wounds.

The defeated Union army withdrew from Chickamauga on the night of September 20, retreating to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Confederacy's Army of Tennessee besieged the Union's Army of the Cumberland inside the city from late September until late November 1863. The 17th Ohio participated in several engagements, as the Northerners tried to end the siege. At the Battle of Brown's Ferry (October 27, 1863), Union forces, including the 17th, opened a small but vital supply route for the besieged Northerners. The regiment also participated in the final engagement of the Chattanooga Campaign, the Battle of Missionary Ridge, on November 25, 1863. The 17th began this battle in the rear of the Union attackers, but the regiment quickly moved to the front, driving Confederate forces from Missionary Ridge. At the top of the ridge, the 17th seized a battery of Southern artillery and turned the guns on the retreating Southerners. This Union victory brought the Siege of Chattanooga to an end. At the conclusion of the Chattanooga Campaign, the 17th's commanding officer issued the following report:

HDQRS. SEVENTEENTH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY, Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 30, 1863.

SIR: On the 25th day of November, 1863, about 4 p. m., Maj. Butterfield, of my regiment, fell badly wounded at the foot of Missionary Ridge. I, being the ranking officer present, immediately assumed command, formed the regiment in double column at half distance, and charged up the ridge. I continued the charge to within about 75 yards of the rebel breastworks in my immediate front. The rebel lines gave way, keeping under cover so that I could not deliver a fire that would be effective. I crossed the breastworks in battle line in good order and moved about 200 yards farther to the front, and then made a left half wheel, halted, and engaged the enemy about 150 yards to my front, trying to get away with two guns. My regiment killed the horses hauling the guns. The enemy made a stubborn resistance for about fifteen minutes, trying to save his guns, when he fled in confusion, leaving several of his dead and wounded with two pieces behind. About dusk, finding that I had become separated from my brigade, and being in advance of the general line some 200 yards, I moved back to crest of the ridge, ascertained where the brigade was, and joined it, and reported to brigade commander for orders, when I received orders to move down to the front on the level, make fires and get supper, which being done, returned by order to the west side of the ridge on the level, and bivouacked for the night. Received orders to move at 7 a. m. on the 26th, and then moved to the front about 4 miles, when I received an order to send one company on a scout. I sent Company C, Capt. Inskeep, who was gone about two hours, when he returned, having taken 16 prisoners. I then moved with my regiment with the brigade to Ringgold, in Georgia, and returned to this camp on the evening of the 29th instant, without anything of note occurring, my command being very tired and worn down.

My officers and men obeyed all orders promptly and behaved bravely.

Respectfully submitted.

B. H. SHOWERS, Capt., Comdg. Seventeenth Regt. Ohio Vol. Infantry.

Capt. CURTIS, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

The 17th remained encamped on Missionary Ridge for the duration of 1863, although the organization did conduct periodic forays into the surrounding countryside to forage for food and also to drive off Confederate forces. In January 1864, 393 members of the 17th reenlisted. On January 22, 1864, the re-enlistees received a thirty-day furlough to their homes in Ohio. These men returned for duty on March 7, 1864, with the organization now boasting over four hundred men available for duty thanks to new enlistees.

In early May 1864, the 17th embarked upon William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. During the campaign, the regiment fought in the Battles of Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church, Pumpkin Vine Creek, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, and Jonesborough. The Union's occupation of Atlanta, Georgia on September 2, 1864 brought the campaign to a victorious conclusion for the North. During the Atlanta Campaign, the 17th Regiment's commanding officer issued the following reports:

HDQRS. SEVENTEENTH REGT. OHIO VET. VOL. INFTY., Atlanta, Ga., August 17, 1864.

SIR: In obedience to your verbal order to me of the 15th instant, I have the honor to report the military operations of my command since it left Ringgold, Ga., up to the 6th instant.

On the 7th day of May last I was ordered to move, and did move, from camp into the active campaign, in which we are still engaged, leaving behind me, under orders, most of the regimental baggage. On that day we reached the neighborhood of Tunnel Town, and on the next moved in front of Buzzard Roost, where it was found the enemy was strongly posted. Skirmishing continued all day actively and for several days afterward. On the 12th we moved off to the right, passing through Snake Gap and gaining the rear of Dalton. On the 13th we groped slowly and cautiously, mostly through dense woods, the skirmishing still continuing all day and most of the night. During the morning of the 14th we skirmished our way to the front of the enemy's breast-works on Camp Creek, in the neighborhood of Resaca, on the Dalton and Atlanta Railroad. At about 1 o'clock on this day an assault was made on the enemy's works along much of the line. I was ordered by Gen. Turchin, then in command of the brigade, to allow Hascall's brigade, in Judah's division, of the Twenty-third Corps, already formed in two lines of battle in our rear, to move over us to the assault, and I was ordered to take command of my own and the Twenty-fourth Illinois Regiment, and sustain the charge as though supporting our own division. Hascall had one deployed line and one in column. My line was deployed and the Twenty-fourth Illinois was in column to my rear. It was from half to three-quarters of a mile to the enemy's works. We had to move through dense woods and underbrush and up quite a steep hill till we reached the brow of the hill skirting Camp Creek. We had heavy skirmish lines thrown out, and as we advanced the enemy's skirmishers were driven into their works. Judah's division moved impetuously to the charge, and we had to follow at rapid pace. Our advance was assailed by artillery fire, which, however, did us little harm until we reached the brow of the hill. By the time the men reached that they were exhausted by fatigue. The brush was almost impassable. On starting up the hill I had been ordered to close my line into column. I perceived on reaching the top that Judah's division did not halt under cover of the hill to rest the men and organize the attack, but were pressing over into the open ground near the creek, and right under the guns of the enemy. Understanding my orders required me to follow, I moved on at supporting distance, having first deployed my front line. On emerging into the open field I found we were under a murderous fire of artillery and infantry at from 300 to 400 yards distance. Judah's lines were giving way to the left, and most of them retiring from the attack. Putting my men into double-quick we moved to the creek, were we were sheltered to some extent by a fringe of underbrush and trees, as well as the depression of the ground. Here I perceived that we were almost entirely unsupported, for we had become, by the retirement of Judah, the front. Some of his men had taken refuge in the low ground on my left; and some of our own brigade were in on my right. I found it impossible to advance, and retained my position in the ravine for an hour and ten minutes. I sent back to advise the brigade commander of my position, but the woods were so dense that for a long time he could not be found. In the mean time, through an aide, Gen. Judah had sent word he meant to renew the assault. At last Gen. Turchin was found, and he ordered me to withdraw into the woods behind the crest of the hill. This we did as cautiously as possible and in tolerably good order. Our position had been within about 200 yards of the enemy's works, but it was impossible to advance farther unless sustained by a whole line of attack. My regiment lost in killed and wounded 32, as will be hereafter stated in detail. Though afterward, under straggling fire, we were not again seriously involved during the engagement. On the 16th, the enemy having abandoned his works and crossed the Oostenaula, we joined in the pursuit, marching by the way of Calhoun and Adairsville to Kingston, where we arrived May 19, but passing through we took position several miles to the left, near Cartersville, where we remained till the 23d. The enemy disputed our advance all the way.

On the morning of the 23d our march was renewed, and we crossed Etowah River and continued to advance toward Burnt Hickory till the 26th, when we were, with the rest of the brigade, sent back to Kingston to guard a wagon train. We continued upon this duty till the 7th of June, when we reached Acworth and were relieved. On the morning of the 10th we joined the march to the front and advanced toward Marietta. We continued to advance as the enemy was pushed back by our column, my regiment being only in occasional skirmishing, until the 18th, in the neighborhood of Kenesaw Mountain. On that day, under a drenching rain, we groped through the woods and advanced, in connection with the rest of the line, upon the enemy's works. Having reached the edge of a field some 300 or 400 yards distant, we halted, poured a deadly fire upon the enemy, compelling the infantry to keep behind their breast-works and almost silencing the artillery, while we, under the point-blank range of their guns, dug rifle-pits in the open field. The fight lasted all day, but my regiment lost only 11 men in killed and wounded; but so effectual was the assault of our army that during the night the enemy abandoned his works and moved nearer the mountain. Our lines followed, and from this time till the evacuation of Kenesaw, though constantly involved in heavy skirmishing, there is no need to detail the monotonous operations of my regiment.

On the 3d of July the enemy evacuated Kenesaw and fell back to the Chattahoochee, to which place our army immediately followed. Heavy skirmishing, but no regular combat, took place; one corps after another crossed the river, my regiment crossing with its brigade on the 17th of July. We skirmished slowly and steadily toward Atlanta, being always under fire, but not involved (except slightly on the 20th) in any of the heavy engagements around the city. The most notable of our combats occurred on the 5th of August, when we were ordered to support the skirmish line while we threw forward our intrenchments nearer the enemy's works. We were subjected to the heaviest shelling we have endured during the campaign, though, fortunately, our caution in throwing up the works saved us very heavy loss. This report is, perhaps, already too much in detail. I refer with great pride to the general bravery, coolness, good conduct, and skill of my officers and men. Though one of the most laborious, as well as brilliant, campaigns of the war, they have for more than 100 days dared and endured all the dangers and hardships, glories, and privations of the sternest war, with disciplined obedience, and, at the same time, enthusiastic courage. To all, officers and men, I gratefully acknowledge the devotion and kindness shown me personally, painfully suffering as I have been from my old wound. Deeply as I regret the fall of my comrades in arms to the humblest, I cannot refrain from making special mention of First Lieut. Lyman W. Barnes. He was a brave soldier who had risen from the ranks. In the dark hour of Chickamauga I saw him in the thickest of the fight till I fell, and after that he stood by the colors till the last moment. He was a brave and efficient officer, and he died as a gallant soldier dies.

DURBIN WARD, Col., Cmdg.

Capt. W. B. CURTIS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., 1st Brig., 3d Div., 14th Army Corps.

Appendix.–The effective force of the regiment when it left Ringgold was 544; it is now 413; loss, 131. Of these 66 have been killed or wounded in action, and 65 have left the ranks from death, sickness, details, and other causes.

HDQRS. SEVENTEENTH REGT. OHIO VET. VOL. INFTY., Atlanta, Ga., September 9, 1864.

SIR: In obedience to verbal orders from brigade headquarters of yesterday, I have the honor to report the operations of my command since my report of the 6th of August last.

On the 8th of August last I was ordered to the left of the position I then occupied into some field-works which had been previously constructed. We were in very close proximity to the enemy, and my adjutant was shot dead in my tent. On the 11th we were moved still farther to the right than we had yet been, and there remained within 150 yards of the enemy's line until the 27th day of August. On that day my regiment moved in common with the corps to the right, taking part in the general movement upon Jonesborough. We continued to move, as ordered, cautiously to the right till the 31st of August, when we attained close proximity to the enemy. On that day my regiment supported the Ninety-second Ohio, and skirmishing forward in advance of the general line, the two regiments moved across the headwaters of Flint River and took possession of the Atlanta and Jonesborough road before noon, near Seaborn Smith's house. Subsequently the rest of the division came up. We executed this movement with little opposition. In the afternoon Capt. Grosvenor, assistant inspector-general of the brigade, asked me for a detail of 100 men and 3 officers to make a scout toward the Atlanta and Macon Railroad. This detail was furnished, Capt.'s Noles and Inskeep accompanying it, and Adjt. Angustus Ward as a mere volunteer. This daring party pushed three miles beyond the general line, and during the afternoon driving off a small body of cavalry, were the first to seize and hold the railroad till re-enforcements could be sent. On the next morning, September 1 instant, my regiment moved with the rest of the corps upon Jonesborough, and were in reserve supporting Este's brigade in the brilliant charge of that day. We were advanced to within a little over 200 yards of the enemy's works, but they being carried in our immediate front by the impetuous charge of Este, we did not become actively engaged. We were constantly under fire from musketry and artillery, but being somewhat sheltered by the ground, we had no casualties except that First Lieut. Edward M. Champlin and 1 private were wounded. As I have ever had to report, my men bore themselves gallantly, and without claiming credit for anything brilliant, I can proudly say they did, as they always do, their duty. I cannot omit the honorable mention of the lamented Adjt. J. M. Ruffner, who met his untimely fate on the 9th of August. He was the soul of true manhood and amongst the "bravest of the brave." To all my subordinates in command I am under many obligations for efficient aid in the arduous campaign through which we have just passed.

Respectfully submitted.

DURBIN WARD, Col., Cmdg.

Capt. W. B. CURTIS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., 1st Brig., 3d, Div., 14th Army Corps.

The 17th Ohio remained in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia until mid-November 1864, when the regiment joined General Sherman's "March to the Sea." The ultimate goal of this campaign was for the Union military to seize Savannah, Georgia. For the most part, the 17th saw limited combat–just a few skirmishes–until reaching Savannah, where the command participated in the siege of this city. The Union military occupied Savannah on December 21, 1864, with the 17th entering camp in the city.

In January 1865, the 17th Ohio embarked upon General Sherman Carolinas Campaign. The regiment saw limited military action in South Carolina but did engage Joseph Johnston's Confederate army at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina on March 19-21, 1865. In this engagement, Sherman's army defeated Johnston's command. Following the battle, the 17th's commanding officer issued the following report:

HDQRS. SEVENTEENTH REGT. OHIO VET. VOL. INFANTRY, Goldsborough, N. C., March 28, 1865.

In obedience to your order I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my regiment in the campaign that has just closed:

The regiment had present when leaving Savannah, Ga., January 20, 501 enlisted men and 16 commissioned officers, and had when reaching this place on the 23d instant 491 enlisted men and 15 commissioned officers.

Gained and lost during the campaign as follows: Gained-1 recruit from depot; 4 colored under-cooks; 3 enlisted men returned to duty; 1 commissioned officer returned to duty. Lost-2 enlisted men died of disease; 1 enlisted man killed accidentally; 1 enlisted man killed while foraging; 2 enlisted men captured while foraging; 1 enlisted man mustered out of service; 1 commissioned officer resigned; 11 enlisted men sent to hospital sick; 1 commissioned officers sent to hospital wounded.

The regiment has been under the enemy's fire but once during the campaign, which was on the 20th instant in a reconnaissance of the enemy's position made by Brevet Maj.-Gen. Baird, in which Maj. W. G. Clark was severely wounded in the left hip as rifle-ball from one of the enemy's sharpshooters.

I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

B. H. SHOWERS, Lieut. Col., Cmdg. Seventeenth Ohio Vet. Vol. Infantry.

Col. M. C. HUNTER, Cmdg. First Brig., Third Div., Fourteenth Army Corps.

Following the surrender of Johnston's army in late April 1865, the 17th marched to Washington, DC, where the organization participated in the Grand Review on May 24, 1865. The regiment proceeded to Louisville, Kentucky, where the command mustered out of service on July 16, 1865. The 17th's members traveled to Ohio, where officials discharged the men from service.

During the 17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry's term of service, seventy-seven men, including six officers, died on the battlefield. An additional 155 men, including one officer, succumbed to disease or accidents.

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