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32nd 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. 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 32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Volunteers began to form the company at Camp Bartley near Mansfield, but officials eventually dispatched the regiment to Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio, to complete the command's organization. The 32nd formally mustered into service on August 31, 1861.

As with many of Ohio's earliest regiments, the 32nd was poorly equipped. Due to shortages, officials provided the organization with few supplies and outdated weapons. Despite these difficulties, on September 18, 1861, officials ordered the 32nd to western Virginia (modern-day West Virginia) to help drive Confederate forces from this region. On October 3, 1861, the regiment engaged in its first battle–the Battle of Greenbrier River. General Joseph Reynolds led the Union in an inconclusive battle with Confederate General Henry Jackson. After the Southerners withdrew, the 32nd remained in the Greenbrier area throughout the rest of the autumn.

On December 13, 1861, the 32nd participated in the Battle of Camp Allegheny in Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). Confederates under Colonel Edward Johnson attained victory over Union General Robert Milroy's command, including the 32nd. The Northerners retreated to Beverly, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia), where the regiment entered winter encampment.

The Ohio men next participated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, advancing via Buffalo Gap into the valley. Confederate forces under Thomas Jonathan "Sonewall" Jackson drove the Northern command from the gap to McDowell, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). The Battle of McDowell erupted on May 8, 1862. Despite greatly outnumbering the Northerners, the Southerners did not attack. Union commanders ordered the 75th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and the 25th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry to assault the Confederate line. Fighting raged until nightfall, when the Union retreated. In this engagement, the 32nd had six men killed and fifty-three more wounded.

The Northerners retreated to Franklin, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia), where the soldiers joined General John C. Fremont's command. Jackson's Confederates engaged the Union soldiers for ten days, as the Southerners attempted to breach the Northerners' line. Failing in their objective, the Rebels returned to the Shenandoah Valley.

Fremont's command, including the 32nd Regiment, followed the Southerners into the valley, and engaged a Confederate force at Cross Keys, Virginia on June 8, 1862. In the ensuing Battle of Cross Keys, the Union lost a significantly larger number of men killed, wounded, or captured, but the Southerners withdrew the night of June 8. The 32nd eventually arrived at Winchester, Virginia, where the organization performed garrison duty for the remainder of the summer of 1862.

In September 1862, officials dispatched the 32nd to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). The regiment participated in the Battle of Harper’s Ferry (September 12-15, 1862). In this engagement, Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's command captured the town and nearly twelve thousand Union soldiers, including the 32nd Ohio. After stripping the men of their supplies, Jackson paroled the men.

Officials charged Colonel Thomas Ford, the 32nd Ohio's commanding officer, with dereliction of duty for his performance at Harper's Ferry. Authorities arrested the colonel and imprisoned him at Washington, D.C., until his trial occurred before the Military Commission. The commission's members found Colonel Ford guilty and dismissed him from the service on November 8, 1862.

Demoralized by their defeat and the treatment of Colonel Ford, many of the 32nd's members went on “French Leave,” or leave without official permission, in the months following the Battle of Harper's Ferry. At one point, the regiment contained just thirty-five men available for duty. With the regiment in disarray, Ohio Governor David Tod promoted Captain Benjamin Potts to Lieutenant-Colonel, replacing Ford as regiment leader. Within ten days, Potts increased the size of the regiment to 835 men.

Despite the improvement in regimental numbers and morale, the difficulties from the Battle of Harper's Ferry did not end quickly. United States Secretary of War and fellow Ohioan Edwin Stanton prosecuted several of the regiment's officers for inciting disaffection and revolt among the men of the regiment. Stanton ordered that the officers be dismissed from the military, which occurred on December 23, 1862.

In January 1863, officials ordered the 32nd to Memphis, Tennessee, with the regiment arriving at this location on January 25. At Memphis, the organization joined General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee and embarked upon Grant's Vicksburg Campaign in late April 1863. In this campaign, the 32nd participated in the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, 1863 and the Siege of Vicksburg from May 25, 1863-July 4, 1865, which culminated in the Union's seizure of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

After the fall of Vicksburg, the 32nd entered camp in the city. In August 1863, the regiment joined an expedition to Monroe, Louisiana and then participated in a second foray with General James McPherson to Brownsville, Mississippi. From February 14-20, 1864, the men participated in General William T. Sherman's Meridian Expedition. The Union seized Meridian, Mississippi and destroyed some railroad track, before returning to the vicinity of Vicksburg. In December 1863 and January 1864, roughly three-fourths of the regiment had reenlisted. These men received a furlough to their homes in Ohio from March 4, 1864 to April 21, 1864.

On June 10, 1864, the 32nd Ohio embarked upon General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. The ultimate goal of this mission was the Union occupation of Atlanta, Georgia. In the campaign, the 32nd fought in the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Nicojack Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, and Jonesborough. The campaign came to an end on September 2, 1864, when Union forces occupied Atlanta. The regiment had more than one-half of its members killed or wounded during the course of the campaign.

Following the Atlanta Campaign, the 32nd briefly entered camp in the city. The regiment soon joined the Union pursuit of Confederate John Bell Hood's army, which was advancing through northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and southern Tennessee in the direction of Nashville, Tennessee. The 32nd advanced into northern Georgia, before ending its search for Hood. On November 15, 1864, the 32nd embarked upon General Sherman's "March to the Sea." The command engaged in no noteworthy battles or skirmishes on this march to Savannah, Georgia, until reaching the city. On December 10, 1864, the regiment was among the lead Northern units that drove the Confederate garrison into the confines of Savannah The 32nd then entered the Union's siege lines. Upon the Union's seizure of Savannah on December 21, 1864, the 32nd entered encampment within the city's confines near Fort Thunderbolt.

In January 1865, the 32nd joined General Sherman's Carolinas Campaign. The regiment spent most of the expedition through South Carolina foraging, corduroying roads, and marching, seeing limited combat. The 32nd and the 13th Regiment Iowa Infantry wee the first two regiments to enter Columbia, South Carolina. Upon entering North Carolina, the organization participated in several engagements. A portion of the regiment mounted on horseback helped drive Confederate General Wade Hampton's cavalry from Fayetteville, North Carolina on March 10, 1865. Six days later, the Union, including the 32nd, engaged enemy forces; in a skirmish at Averysboro, North Carolina, with the Northerners slowly forcing the Confederates from the battlefield. The 32nd also participated in the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina (March 19-21, 1865), the final full-scale battle between General Sherman's army and Confederate General Joseph Johnston's command. On March 23, 1865, Sherman's command advanced to Goldsboro, North Carolina, and on April 13, 1865, the regiment helped secure Raleigh, North Carolina for the Union, occupying the city without a struggle.

The 32nd was present when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his forces to the Union in late April 1865. The regiment soon marched to Washington, D.C., where the organization participated in the Grand Review on May 24, 1865. The 32nd remained near Washington until June 8, 1865, when the organization moved by train to Parkersburg, West Virginia and then by boat down the Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky. The Ohioans encamped at Louisville until mustering out of service on July 20, 1865. The 32nd proceeded to Columbus, Ohio, where officials discharged the men on July 26, 1865.

During the 32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry's term of service, 104 men, including five officers, died on the battlefield. An additional 145 men, including two officers, succumbed to disease or accidents. When the regiment first mustered into the military in late August, 1861, the organization had 950 soldiers. During the course of its service, the regiment received more than 1,600 additional enlistees. When the soldiers finally mustered out, the regiment had only 565 men. It is believed that The 32nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry lost and recruited more men than any other regiment in Ohio during the American Civil War.

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