from the perspective of Pvt. Nixon Stewart
compiled by Bob Stewart, Carson City, NV
At the outbreak of the Civil War, 20-year-old Nixon Stewart enlisted as a private in Company E of the 97th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). On the first of September, 1862, the unit was mustered in at Zanesville, 12 miles from Adamsville. Col. John Q. Lane was commanding officer. The unit was attached to the Second Brigade, First Division, Left Wing, 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
The unit's war service began quickly. On October first it left Louisville in pursuit of Gen. Braxton Bragg's forces in Kentucky. At about 2 p.m. on Oct. 8, near Perryville, Ky., Bragg's forces began a heavy cannonading action, initiating a battle that lasted five hours.
At first the boys of the 97th sat restlessly and listened to the rolling roar of battle sounds. A thick layer of gunsmoke began rolling eastward from the battle, adding the acrid smell to the booming cannons and steady rattle of muskets. The 97th was being held in reserve. Only an hour later the men were called to join five other regiments in support of Gen. Phil Sheridan, whose right was being turned by the Confederates. Col. Wagner, of the 21st Brigade, led the reserves into the battle, and later reported: My advance...attacked [the Confederate's] extreme right, while Cox's battery opened on them an enfilading fire with fearful effect, which brought them to right-about march. At this time a battery, which was about one-half mile to my front, opened on us, their shell bursting with great precision within my lines. I ordered Capt. Cox to concentrate his fire upon this battery, which was soon driven off to a respectful distance. I immediately advanced, the enemy falling back in the direction of Perryville, which position they held until dark....
The troops lay on their arms [through the night], in order of battle, without fires. This position was about one-half mile from the town of Perryville and at least 1 mile in advance of where I first became engaged....
The next morning at daylight, seeing the enemy in retreat, I ordered an advance upon the town, where they had planted a battery to protect their rear. Cox's battery soon drove them off. The troops entered the town, capturing a few prisoners....
Both officers and men acted as cool as if on parade....
Through Christmas, 1862, the 97th was on duty at Nashville, Tenn. After Christmas Day the 97th joined an advance on Murfreesboro, Tenn., and engaged in the five-day battle of Stone's River. The regiment suffered its first combat losses in the protracted fighting; 25 men of the 97th were killed or wounded.
Private Nixon Stewart was not in that battle. As would happen to many soldiers during the Civil War, he had become ill with dysentery. Before war's end, one officer and 160 enlisted members of the 97th would die of dysentery. Nixon was hospitalized in Nashville in November, 1862, suffering from chronic dysentery and a cold.
The following March he was transferred to the hospital in Louisville, where he remained for a month. Then he was discharged with hypertrophy (an increase in size) of the heart.
The 97th Regiment continued operations until the war's end. It was involved in numerous actions, including the Chickamauga campaign and the capture of Chattanooga.
Returning to Adamsville, Nixon resumed a civilian life. During 1863 he was elected to fill a vacancy on the board of trustees of the Fairview Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Adams township militia was a part of every young man's life in mid-1800s Ohio. "Muster days," were held in a field across from W.C. Bell's home. Nixon had recovered,and participated in the drill days with his brother John. In November, 1862, Probably as a result of his brief period of active duty, he was elected Sergeant.
In May of 1864 the Adamsville militia was called up for 100 days of active Civil War duty. The men were mustered in as Company E of the 160th Ohio Infantry on May 12, and then boarded Baltimore & Ohio railroad cars. Arriving in Harpers Ferry, they began a long march south the evening of May 18, to join the Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was commanding the Army of the Potomac. He had just become the first Lieutenant General of American troops since George Washington. Grant included the Shenandoah Valley as a part of his strategic plan. Under Brig. Gen. Franz Sigel, operations in the Valley were to protect the strategic flank of the Union forces as they pressed Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces toward Richmond, and to deny the food and other resources of the valley to the hard-pressed Lee.
Sigel's campaign did not go well. After Sigel was defeated by the Confederate forces of Gen. Jubal A. Early at New Market on May 15, Grant replaced him with Brig. Gen. David Hunter.
On May 22, the 160th Ohio marched into view of the Union's main force in the area of Staunton and Harrisonburg, Va. The rolling meadows of the Valley appeared to be a vast lake, covered with whitecaps by the thousands. The white tents of the Union army were neatly arrayed as far as the eye could see. Reporting the unit as present, the 160th Ohio, under Col. Cyrus Reasoner, was assigned to Gen. Sullivan's First Infantry Division.
That same day the sea of tents began to disappear, Gen. Hunter, who had taken command the day before, had ordered all units to strip themselves of excess gear, in preparation for a fast-moving assault through more of the Shenandoah Valley. Each man's knapsack would carry only 100 rounds of ammunition, four pounds of hard bread to last eight days; ten rations of coffee, sugar and salt, and one extra pair of shoes and socks. The men's blankets were in a roll over the knapsacks. Tents, excess equipment and personal gear would be transported to Martinsburg. The demoted Gen. Sigel was to establish that city as headquarters for the reserve division.
The 160th Ohio Infantry was untested in combat; the men were green, hundred-day troops. They had not been through the thick smoke of a battle, facing the black muzzles of muskets without flinching in the hardened troops would. Gen. Hunter assigned the regiment as escort for the train of 60 wagons carrying the excess material to Martinsburg.
A few days later, while the 160th was still trudging northward, a 16-wagon train with medical and subsistence stores left Martinsburg, headed south toward the front. It was escorted by 83 members of the 15th New York Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. A.I. Root. On May 29 the wagons were attacked by a Confederate force of about 150 men. During the skirmish that ensued, a captain was killed; nine men were wounded, and the Union troops found themselves flanked. Col. Root felt there "was great danger of losing my whole command." The New Yorkers fell back, with the loss of nine missing, and of the wagon train itself.
Col. Root and his men continued south. About a mile along the road they came upon the 160th Ohio and its wagon train. The 160th was quick marched to the site of the encounter, in hopes of recapturing the train, but found that the enemy, knowing of the near approach of the infantry, had fired all the wagons except four, which they had taken with them. A small part of the medical stores, forage, and one wagon was saved. It now being dark, the command went into camp for the night. The following morning the enemy attacked the pickets, killing two enlisted men of the 21st New York Cavalry, and capturing 1 sergeant and 1 corporal of the 15th New York Cavalry.
Left without a wagon train to accompany, the New Yorkers returned to Martinsburg with the 160th.
The Ohio boys were still in Martinsburg in mid-June when Gen. Hunter's force outran his supplies near Lynchburg. The 160th had now been attached to Gen. Sigel's reserve division. Lacking ordnance stores for further battle, Hunter withdrew across the Blue Ridge mountains to the Kanawha River valley.
Gen. Early, commanding the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, saw his opportunity. With most of Hunter's command across the mountains, Gen. Early was, as Gen. Lee reported to the Confederate Secretary of War, instructed, if his success justified it, and the enemy retreated down the Valley, to pursue him, and, if opportunity offered, to follow him into Maryland. It was believed that the Valley could then be effectually freed from the presence of the enemy, and it was hoped that by threatening Washington and Baltimore, General Grant would be compelled either to weaken himself so much for their protection as to afford us an opportunity to attack him, or that he might be induced to attack us.
There was no enemy to pursue; they had crossed the mountains. When Early moved toward Martinsburg on July second, Sigel ordered all the stores [supplies] which could be transported to be removed to Harper's Ferry. The next day he reported that "all stores were sent off on [railroad] cars and the remainder loaded on wagons. ...The exact strength of the enemy I have not been able to ascertain. His cavalry is 2,600 strong."
A Confederate major reported that day that Sigel's forces were forming on the right and left of town. "There are fine positions for artillery to dislodge them," he said. "They are burning stores in town."
Sigel's force consisted of a single battery of four field pieces and two regiments of Ohio guards–one of which was the 160th, under command of Col. Cyrus Reasoner. The guardsmen were untested in combat. There were also about 1,800 Union cavalry in the area. The Union forces abandoned Martinsburg at 2 p.m. on the third. A thick cloud of black smoke rose slowly above Martinsburg as they left. Before abandoning the city, the men had carried out the cold duty of burning stores and the personal goods the 160th had brought from the front, to deny all use to the enemy. Their route was to Shepherdstown, where they would cross the Potomac, and then through Pleasant Valley and up to Maryland Heights, across the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers from Harper's Ferry.
Tragedy struck the 160th during the following day's march. In Pleasant Valley the troops paused for a break. Sgt. Nixon Stewart's brother John took his rest on a rail fence. When he stood up from the fence, the trigger of his weapon caught on a twig on a fence rail, causing the gun to fire. The ball struck him in the neck, below the jaw, killing him almost instantly. There was no time to mourn. Under the watchful eye of his brother, John's body was buried and the site marked. There was no time for mourning. The march continued.
Harper's Ferry had been under attack that day. During the afternoon the Union troops had fled that town and gone to Maryland Heights. Sigel's troops from Martinsburg arrived on the Heights at about 9 p.m. Sigel was frantic. He was facing four divisions and telegraphed Washington for reinforcements: "All disposable troops should be sent here, my troops consisting of over two-thirds of 100-day men." But Washington had no added troops to send.
For three days the rattle of musket fire was always in the background. Early kept Sigel at bay, not attacking, but not withdrawing either. During the night of the July 8 Early's troops silently withdrew, joining the body of Confederates now moving on Frederick.
Early's report of the operations against Sigel was almost jubilant: After driving Sigel's whole force of several thousand men to Maryland Heights and demonstrating against him, I moved on the 8th around his force...and entered Frederick City on the morning of the 9th, driving the enemy's cavalry through the city.
Early moved east toward Washington, encountering major resistance only five miles from the city. President Lincoln went to Ft. Stanton and observe the Confederate troops that were threatening his city. Grant had been required to send reinforcements to the city. Early, having accomplished his mission, withdrew. His westward path avoided the Harper's Ferry-Martinsburg area.
Sigel had allowed Early to threaten Washington without having attempted to stop him. The War Department responded by relieving Sigel on July 8. Brig. Gen. Albion P. Howe was sent from Washington to assume command.
Howe initiated a system of trenches to defend Harper's Ferry. For the next several weeks, the 160th joined other units in digging, and then manning the trenches. It was tedious duty.
When the 160th had served its hundred days, on Aug. 25, it was relieved. The men returned to Zanesville where they were mustered out on Sept. 7.
After the war Nixon returned to Pleasant Valley and retrieved his brother's body. In a memorial statement their company commander, Captain (and the Reverend) S. Seigfred, said that when John "was on picket duty he would walk with his Bible in one hand and his gun in the other." John did have a lighter side. His brother, the Rev. Hugh W. Stewart, recalled in 1876 that "once when a...girl [from the Yerian family was]...going home, John Stewart, then a mischief too, put a sheet upon him and scared the girls so badly that there was no going that road by them after that in the night."
UNION OHIO VOLUNTEERS
Organized September 1st and 2d, 1862, under Colonel John Q. Lane, it entered the field, immediately proceeding to Covington, Ky., during Kirby Smith's raid. In October it joined Buell's army and marched south from Louisville, participating in the battle of Perryville. It again engaged the enemy at Stone River, and in September, 1863, the 97th drove the Rebel sharp shooters from Chattanooga and entered the place three hours before the main army. At Mission Ridge the Regiment fought in Sheridan's Division and lost 156 killed and wounded. It marched to the relief of Burnside at Knoxville, and operated in East Tennessee until May, 1864, when it joined Sherman's Atlanta campaign, fighting conspicuously to the end. At Kenesaw it lost over 100 men in the space of 30 minutes. At the battle of Peach Tree Creek it received special compliments for its gallantry from Generals Howard and Newton. After the fall of Atlanta it followed Hood into Tennessee and participated in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, and joined in the pursuit to the Tennessee river. It remained in Huntsville, Alabama until March 1865, when it moved into East Tennessee and then back to Nashville, where it was mustered out June 12, 1865.
Name, Rank In/Rank Out Egan, George, Captain Hull, George, First Lieutenant/Captain Geiger, Frederick, Second Lieutenant Roff, John W, Sergeant/Corporal Shephard, T. J., Sergeant/First Sergeant Dillon, John Morton, Sergeant Echelberry, Lewellyn, Sergeant/Second Lieutenant Eckelberry, Lewellyn, Sergeant/Second Lieutenant (duplicate?) Cox, Louis L., Ordnance Sergeant/Captain Bailey, J. Wesley, Corporal/Sergeant Bailey, James W., Corporal/Sergeant (duplicate?) Baily, James W., Corporal/Sergeant (duplicate?) Barnell, John, Corporal Berry, Joel M., Corporal Honnold, Henry F., Corporal/Sergeant Shirer, Convers M., Corporal/Died Disease Slaughter, Henry C., Corporal Stewens, William, Corporal/Private Taylor, Enos F., Corporal/Private Wheeler, Newton, Corporal/Sergeant Wheeller, Newton, Corporal/Sergeant (duplicate?) Wheller, Newton, Corporal/Sergeant (duplicate?) Aston, Howard, Private Ault, Andrew, Private Bartholomew, Alvin B., Private/Died Baughman, Joseph, Private Bawden, William, Private Bell, Andrew W., Private/Corporal Bishop, Daniel C. C., Private/Corporal Bowden, William, Private/Died ( Bawden duplicate?) Brill, Samuel A., Private Burtch, David, Private/Corporal Burwell, Charles H., Private/First Lieutenant Carnes, James, Private Cornwell, Benjamin F., Private Davis, Robert, Private Decker, Lafayette F., Private/Musician Decker, Theodore A., Private Doughty, Henry H., Private/Died Edgell, William, Private Erwin, John S., Private/Sergeant Fell, George, Private Forrest, James H., Private/Died Foster, John, Private/Sergeant Fostor, John, Private/Sergeant (duplicate?) Fridoline, George, Private Gleeck, Jacob, Private Griffin, James D., Private Honnold, Amos G., Private Irwin, John S., Private/Sergeant Jackson, Hiram, Private/Sergeant Johnson, George R., Private Joy, Henry, Private/Corporal Keys, Charles, Private/Died Larison, Hiram, Private Larrison, Hiram, Private (duplicate?) Laughlin, Samuel, Private Lhane, John, Private/Corporal Lohrenz, Frederick, Private Lucas, Charles H., Private Lucas, Josiah H., Private Lydig, Josiah A., Private/Corporal McGee, Timothy, Private McNeal, Robert, Private Monroe, Caleb, Private Munro, Caleb, Private (duplicate?) Olden, George W., Private Olden, William H., Private/Corporal Peter, Joseph, Private/Wagoner Phares, Simon, Private Plants, Samuel L., Private Prindle, James W., Private Riggs, John W., Private Robinson, Charles D., Private Robinson, John, Private Ross, David, Private Ross, David A., Private (duplicate?) Ross, Ezra, Private/Died Ross, James, Private Ross, Oliver H., Private Ruse, William H., Private Sandal, Michael, Private/Corporal Sandle, Michael, Private/Corporal (duplicate?) Sandles, Michael, Private/Corporal (duplicate?) Scelover, William, Private Seelover, William, Private (duplicate?) Shifflet, Ira, Private Shuck, Samuel, Private Snerr, John C. W., Private Snurr, John C. W., Private (duplicate?) Stewart, Nixon, Private Sturtz, John J., Private Sunkel, Nicholas, Private Sunkle, Nicholas, Private (duplicate?) Sutton, William, Private/Corporal Sutton, William H., Private/Corporal (duplicate?) Trusler, William, Private/Corporal Trussler, William, Private/Corporal (duplicate?) Watts, George W., Private Waxler, Calvin, Private/Corporal Waxler, John, Private Weaver, William D., Private Wiers, George W., Private Wilhelm, Seth C., Private Wires, George W., Private Wisecarver, Henry, Private Wisecarver, Jacob, Private
Organized at Zanesville and mustered in May 12, 1864. Left State for Harper's Ferry, W. Va., May 12. Detached for duty guarding supply train at Martinsburg. Assigned to Reserve Division, Dept. of West Virginia, May 25. Moved to Woodstock, W. Va. Detached and moved to Martinsburg in charge of supply trains. Newtown May 29-30. Skirmish at Middletown June 7. Operations in the Shenandoah Valley in charge of wagon trains till July. Operations about Harper's Ferry July 4-7. Maryland Heights July 6-7. Duty in the trenches about Harper's Ferry till August 25. Ordered home and mustered out September 7, 1864. Regiment lost during service 1 Enlisted man killed (James Stewart) and 1 Officer and 14 Enlisted men by disease. Total 16.
Sources for this perspective include Dyer's Compendium, the National Park Service Roster of Civil War Soldiers, The Offical Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and various other Civil War Histories.
Last Revised: February 6, 2002