Capt. John H. Rhodes, 43rd OVI, Company K

Capt. John H. Rhodes

Capt. John H. Rhodes

After the April 1862 resignation of Capt. William Walker, John H. Rhodes became captain of Company K, 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a position he held for virtually the rest of the war. When Company K Private Edwin Lybarger was promoted to 2nd sergeant, he began studying military tactics., and Rhodes sketched him in the act.

Battle of Corinth, Oct. 4, 1862

Company K and the 43rd OVI fought in the Battle of Corinth on the second day, Oct. 4, 1862, in fiercely fought defense of Battery Robinet. Edwin was severely wounded, but recovered and rejoined Company K the following January. Eight other Company K men died of their wounds at Corinth. The injury affected Edwin for the rest of his life, according to his son Harry Swayne Lybarger: “A minnie ball went through Father’s knee, and while he was able to return and finish the war, he was always slightly lame, and as a boy, I could always outrun him. From the time I first knew him he carried a cane frequently.”

Battle memories still vivid after 50 years

John Rhodes wrote to Edwin on Oct. 4, 1914:

My dear old comrade: I don’t forget fifty-two years ago to-day – nor will you or any other of our comrades who participated with us in that fierce little battle of Corinth, Miss. Not as large as many other battles of that war but few of them excelled it in close contact and fierceness. Hand-to-hand fighting at the right of our regiment at battery Robinet but I don’t remember that it extended to the left as far as our Co. K. I do remember that it looked at one time as if it would reach us and changing my sword from my right hand to my left I got a little Colt revolver I had carried into my right to be ready but I don’t think I fired a shot. I have no recollection of the revolver since. That Oct. 4 was…a nice bright warm day I remember, perhaps not as warm as to-day, it was certainly hot enough while the engagement lasted.

 

Dr. Rose saved great-grandfather’s leg

Special thanks to Jim Schmidt for his guidance in matters of Civil War medicine, Army surgeons and nursing. 

Francis M. Rose, Surgeon, 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Francis M. Rose, Surgeon, 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Dr. Francis M. Rose, surgeon of the 43rd OVI, saved my great-grandfather Edwin Lybarger’s leg, if not his life, after he was shot by a minie ball at the Battle of Corinth on Oct. 4, 1862.

Dr. Rose was assistant surgeon to the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry from late 1861. By April 1862, two months after the regiment left Ohio to fight in Missouri, he became the head surgeon, and served in that capacity for the duration of the war. He mustered out with the 43rd on July 13, 1865. After the war, my great-grandfather included Dr. Rose’s photograph in his album.

The 43rd OVI and three other regiments of the Ohio Brigade defended Battery Robinet at Corinth, Mississippi. Edwin was shot in the knee at 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 4, 1862. His diary records that he was soon taken from the field to an Army hospital in Corinth. The immediate attention of Dr. Rose helped to save Edwin’s leg from amputation. Spared any deadly infections, Edwin spent two months in a Paducah, Kentucky hospital convalescing and rejoined his regiment in early 1863. Although my great-grandfather’s life was spared, the other eight Company K men wounded at Corinth all eventually died of their wounds.

The Western Army’s medical department, under the direction of Dr. A. B. Campbell, Surgeon, was well-organized in advance of the battle for treating wounded soldiers as soon and as efficiently as possible near the battlefront. Robert E. Denney’s 1995 Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded, includes excerpts of Dr. Campbell’s reports:

“In anticipation of an engagement with the enemy on October 3d . . . I selected the large building recently constructed for a commissary department, as the place best protected by the nature of the ground and the safest for hospital purposes. The men furnished by the quartermaster worked expeditiously, and everything was prepared, medicines, instruments, costs and buckets of water were ready before the first wounded man was brought in.

Oct. 3, 1862:
It became evident, in a short time, that the building, although a very large one, would be altogether too small for their accommodation. I then took possession of the Tishomingo Hotel and of the Corinth House . . . All of the surgeons worked diligently . . . and by six o’clock the wounded were all comfortably disposed of and their wounds dressed.

Oct. 4, 1862:
At three o’clock in the morning I was ordered to remove all the wounded to Camp Corral, and by six o’clock a.m. they were all collected into the new hospital. The ambulances then went to the scene of the action to bring off those recently fallen . . . I found upon the railroad platform a large number of tents, which I took and used. The battle ceased just before noon, and by night all the wounded were under shelter, provided with cots, and their wounds dressed.”

“No regiment had a hotter place than the 43rd Ohio at Corinth.”

The 2nd Battle of Corinth, Oct. 3-4, 1862

On Oct. 3rd, Col. John Fuller’s Ohio Brigade, including the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, arrived at Corinth, Mississippi after fighting had ceased for the day. They waited all night on the hill surrounding Battery Robinet for the battle to resume at daylight. The Confederates, amassed in the woods at the bottom of the hill, opened artillery fire before first light.

The fierceness of the battle on Oct. 4th was vividly summarized in Col. Fuller’s official report of his brigade’s impassioned defense of Battery Robinet: “…and every rebel who showed his head above the parapet of the fort, or attempted to enter it by the embrasures, got his head shot off.”

The battle was searingly remembered 52 years later by participant John H. Rhodes, then captain of the 43rd’s Company K, writing to Edwin Lybarger, then a sergeant in Company K. Shot in the knee, Lybarger was one of nine Company K men wounded that day, and the only one to survive his wounds.

“No regiment had a hotter place than the 43d Ohio at Corinth.”

At the reunion of Fuller’s Brigade held at Marietta, Ohio on Sept. 10, 1885, Edwin Lybarger delivered an address recounting the battle and the brigade’s role in the Union victory:

The battle of Corinth, fought Oct. 3d and 4th, 1862, was perhaps one of the most sanguinary, as well as one of the most decisive, battles in which the Ohio Brigade participated.

Our line of battle covering the town on the morning of Oct. 4th was that of a semi-circle, protected on the right flank by Forts Powell and Richardson and on the left by batteries Robinet and Williams. The 43rdOhio was on the left of Fuller’s Ohio Brigade, with the right resting against Robinett and the left extending to the railroad cut under the guns of battery Williams, and almost at right angles to the main line of battle.

Before daylight on the morning of the 4th the enemy opened fire with shell and shot from a field battery in front of Robinet and not more than three hundred yards distant. This battery was soon disabled, or at least silenced by our heavy guns, and one of the pieces subsequently hauled in by the 63d Ohio. After which everything was quiet until about 10 o’clock a.m., when the enemy made an impetuous and almost simultaneous attack along our entire line with the evident expectation of carrying every thing before him.

The 43d Regiment was so situated, the ground descending to the right, that we could look over the whole field. The left and center of the enemy emerging from the woods before and a little in advance of his right we had the opportunity, for a few minutes, of witnessing one of the most terrific scenes of blood and carnage that it was my lot to behold during the war.

The rebel lines massed in columns, moved forward with the steadiness, if not the precision of regiments at drill, whilst one of the most destructive and terrible fires over delivered on the field of battle, was being poured from artillery and musketry straight into their faces. The shell and shot from our batteries plowed through their ranks, making great gaps, literally mowing men down by hundreds, still their formation was preserved, their broken ranks quickly closed up, and on, on they come! But we who had been watching this scene from the left had not long to gaze upon so grand a panorama of war, for our attention was soon called to our immediate front. A desperate charge was coming and a determined effort to capture Robinet immediately followed.

The 43d changed front, on first company by a right half wheel, and gained the crest of the hill before the enemy, and poured a most effective and destructive fire into the advancing columns. It was the 43d and 63d Ohio that received the severest shock of this fierce onset, which was so promptly met and handsomely repulsed by the Ohio Brigade. The enemy was hurled back at this point into the woods in disorder only to reform and renew the attack with still greater vigor and determination.

The second assault was led by a brigade of the steadiest infantry of Price’s army, commanded by the brave and impetuous Col. Rogers, of Texas, who at the head of the assaulting column waving his word and encouraging his followers, fell dead under the very mouths of the guns of Robinet. I have always regretted that so intrepid a soldier, though a dangerous enemy, was doomed to die; and I doubt very much indeed if ever greater bravery or daring was displayed upon the field of battle by any Field Marshal of France, under the eye of the great Napoleon than was exhibited by Col. Rogers in his assault on Robinet, not excepting McDonald at Austerlitz, or the indomitable Ney, whose heroism attested on a hundred hard-fought fields, earned for him the proud distinction of “the bravest of the brave,” and who led the Old Guard in its last charge at Waterloo.

The fighting in front of Robinet was desperate in the extreme. Many of the gunners from the 1st Infantry were disabled, and when the canon ceased to belch forth its leaden hail, it was soldiers from captain Spanglers’ Co. A, 43rd Ohio who sprang into the fort, and assisted in manning the guns until the close of the struggle. It was during this last assault, and near its close, that the gallant 11thMo. Went into action and rendered such material aid. The terrific fire delivered from our musketry and the deadly missiles hurled in such rapid succession from our heavy guns soon settled the matter. No human courage could long withstand such fearful carnage as our guns were making, and again the enemy was compelled to fall back; this time in utter rout and disorder.

The loss of life on our side at this point, if not as great as that of the enemy, was very severe. The 43d Regt., according to my own diary, lost ninety-seven men in killed and wounded, but according to Comrade David Auld (now of Cleveland, Ohio) was one hundred and twenty-three. Comrade Auld was on the field from the beginning to the close of the engagement in the capacity of stretcher-bearer, and claims to have made an actual count of our loss, and his statement I consider entitled to great credit.

Among the gallant souls who fell that day was the accomplished and lamented Col. J. L. Kirby Smith, “whose sword shone as brightly and whose plume waved as proudly” on the field of battle as that of any soldier of the Army of the Mississippi.

The contest was sanguinary and raged fiercely on every part of the field. So terrific, indeed, was the onslaught on the right and center that our first line appeared to waver and give back and the elated rebels pressed forward, entered the suburbs of the village where they were promptly met by the reserves who sent them staggering to the rear. Being thus met and repulsed at every point, the enemy retired from the contest and retreated with his torn and bleeding columns, and decimated ranks, leaving his dead upon the field, and victory perching upon the stars and stripes.

Such is the idea I then had, and still have, of the battle of Corinth, without regard to historians or information from any source except my own diary; and whilst I would not knowingly detract one iota from the glory that belongs to every regiment that composed the Army of the Mississippi, I nevertheless, most confidently assert, that no regiment of that magnificent army had a hotter place, or maintained its position more courageously and heroically than the 43d Ohio at Corinth, nor was there any regiment of Stanley’s division whose casualties were half as great, except the 63d Ohio whose loss exceeded ours.

Edwin Lybarger’s Civil War photo album

After the Civil War, my great-grandfather Edwin L. Lybarger compiled a portrait album of the Union Army commanders and friends he admired. The album has a tooled, hard leather cover and measures 5″ wide, 6″ high and 2″ thick, latched with two elaborate gold hinges. The album contains one carte de visite per page, each in its own gold-edged pocket. A numbered index identifies most of the photographs, although some need no introduction.

Page 1: Abraham Lincoln

Edwin Lybarger was a staunch Lincoln supporter. From his diary:

Nov. 8, 1864: In camp near Marietta, Ga. Election day. Voted for “Ole Abe.”

From Wisconsin soldier Ed Leving’s diary: “A soldier who votes for McClellan, is looked upon by his comrades as an ignoramus or a coward & wants to get out of the service & so votes for McClellan.”

The former Union general of the Army of the Potomac was the Peace Democrats’ candidate, and veteran soldiers wanted nothing to do with him or his party. President Lincoln was re-elected with the vote of 86% of the soldiers, and 55% of the total vote. Within a week, Sherman led his army on the March to the Sea. (from The March to the Sea and Beyond by Joseph Glathaar, 1985)

Page 3: Gen. William T. Sherman

In his diary, Edwin records the night of March 5, 1865 in Cheraw, South Carolina, when he met Gen. Sherman face to face and was impressed by the general’s “colloquial powers.”

Page 4: Brig. Gen. James McPherson

During the Union’s Atlanta campaign in 1864, McPherson took command of the Army of theTennessee, reporting to Gen. Sherman.

From Lt. Edwin Lybarger’s diary:

June 22, 1864: Moved from Roswell Ga.to the front. The Army of the Tenn. attacked by the rebs. Gen. McPherson killed. The enemy repulsed with terrible slaughter. Our Brigade (Sprague’s) driven out of Decaturwith a loss of 254 men. The 43rd came up too late to participate.

June 23: Marched in to Decatur found the enemy had left. Buried our dead and brought off our wounded. Tore up the railroads for twenty miles towards Augusta Ga.

Page 5: Col. John W. Fuller

From Aug. 1861, Fuller was colonel of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment with six month’s experience in the field by March 1862, when Edwin’s 43rd OVI left Ohio for the first time and arrived in Missouri. Gen. Pope, commanding the Army of the Mississippi, banded the 27th Ohio, 39th Ohio, 43rd Ohio and 63rd Ohio into a brigade. In July 1862, Col. Fuller, formerly a book publisher in Toledo, Ohio, was given command of the Ohio Brigade.

Page 10: Col. Joseph L. Kirby Smith, 43rdOhio Volunteer Infantry (1862)

Colonel Smith, a West Point and Pennsylvania man, was the first colonel of the 43rd OVI, greatly admired by the Ohio men in his command. At the second Battle of Corinth, on Oct. 4, 1862 he was shot in the head and fell from his white horse while rallying the regiment. Amid the hard-fought battle, word swept the regiment that Smith had been killed. Lt. Col. Wager Swayne filled the breach to rally the stunned regiment and successfully defend Battery Robinett, helping the Union win the battle. To the regiment’s relief, Col. Smith had not been killed on the field, but sadly succumbed to his moral wounds on Oct. 12, 1862.

Page 11: Col. Wager Swayne, 43rdOhio Volunteer Infantry (1862-1865)

A lieutenant colonel in the 43rd OVI during the second Battle of Corinth that mortally wounded Col. Smith, Swayne became its colonel after Col. Smith died. On Feb. 3, 1865, Swayne was severely wounded while crossing the swampy Salkahatchie River in South Carolina. While helped to an ambulance wagon, he kept repeating, “The Lord sustains me.” He was successfully evacuated to New York City, losing his leg but surviving.

My great-grandfather admired Swayne more than any other officer, as evidence that he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger. Family documents include a letter from Swayne to Edwin and his first wife Sophronia after the war, assuring him that he’s very much looking forward to meeting “little Wager,” presumably an infant son who was his namesake. But little Wager must have died in infancy; the  family has no other evidence or information about him. Edwin and Sophronia had no other children before her death in 1882.

Harry Swayne Lybarger, born in Spring Mountain, Ohio, was Edwin’s only child with his second wife, Nancy Moore, born when she was 44 years old and Edwin was 48. Years later, Harry wrote: “I met the great Colonel Swayne once at Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1897, when he came from his law office in New York City to attend the Grand Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic of Ohio, the year my father was its commander.”

Page 12: Col. Horace Park, 43rd OVI (1865)

Park began the war as captain of Company F in the 43rd OVI, from Oct. 1861, an indication that he helped to raise the company (100 volunteers). He was the regiment’s lieutenant colonel when Col. Swayne was wounded in South Carolina, assumed command and was promoted to colonel. He mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.

Page 14: Lt. Col. John H. Rhodes, 43rd OVI (and former Co. K captain)

John Rhodes began the war as a sergeant in Company B of the 43rd regiment, then became captain of Company K in early 1862, after the illness and resignation of the first (and recruiting) captain, William Walker. Rhodes was a lieutenant colonel of the regiment by the end of the war, and mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.

A sketch of Sgt. Edwin Lybarger reading an Army manual is signed “J.H.Rhodes.”

John Rhodes and Edwin Lybarger remained lifelong friends.

Page 16: Dr. Francis M. Rose, Surgeon, 43rd OVI (1862-1865). Dr. Rose probably saved Edwin’s life and leg after he was wounded at the 2nd Battle of Corinth in 1862.