“Nothing nice to eat, and nothing good to drink.”

Edwin Lybarger’s Civil War diaries make frequent reference to food, sometimes disparaging the Army’s rations, or half-rations, sometimes rejoicing in abundance, especially from foraging.

Union soldiers cookingApril 5, 1862: In New Madrid, Miss, received orders to cook three days rations & get ready for a march against night. The order countermanded.

May 5, 1862: In camp at Corinth cooking & drying our clothes.

Sept. 18, 1862: Marched all day through the rain & camped at 9 P.M. near Jacinto, Miss. Crackers & coffee.

Hard tackSept. 22, 1862: Called in to line at daylight, marched until 12 P.M. with out any breakfast. Drew rations & went to cooking.

Dec. 25, 1862: In St. John’s Hospital Paducah, K.Y. Ate a Turkey roast for dinner and oyster supper at night.

Jan. 9, 1863: Found the 43d Regt. At Bolivar, Tenn. Boys all well but living on half rations.

Mar. 11, 1863: Camped at Ft. Hooker, Tenn. Have nice log houses to live in get plenty to eat such as eggs, butter, milk, chicken, & fruit.

Nov. 4, 1863: Crossed the Tenn. River at Eastport, Miss.and went into camp on the Alabama side. The boys killed and brought in one deer and several wild turkeys.

Union soldier foragingNov. 7, 1863: Resumed the march about 12 M, marched until after dark, and camped in the open field near Florence, Al. Forage every thing we see.

Nov. 9, 1863: Resumed the  march at daylight. Passed through Lexington Ala. Foraged heavy on the country. Marched twenty miles & went into camp. Had plenty of chicken for supper and sweet potatoes in abundance

Nov. 12, 1863: Resumed the march after breakfasting on stewed chickens, boiled sweet potatoes, corn bread, and the usual ration of coffee & sugar. Went into camp near Prospect, Tenn.

Nov. 18, 1863: Nothing of importance going. Have plenty to eat and nothing much to do but write letters and study logic.

Nov. 25, 1863: Two years in the service today. Received in invitation to dine with Col. Swayne tomorrow. Accepted.

Nov. 26, 1863: “Thanksgiving day.” Dined with Col. Swayne together with all the officers of the 43d. & Col. Fuller our brigad[e] commander. Had a splendid dinner, served up in good style, to which I think I did ample justice.

Mar. 26, 1864: Left for Pulaski, Tenn. early and went into camp at 12 P.M. Had aplenty of eggs to eat.

Apr. 13, 1864: At Decatur. All quiet. Have a plenty to eat, viz. soft bread, meat, butter, canned peaches, tomatoes & etc.

May 13, 1864: The army in motion at 5 A.M. in fighting trim. Encountered the enemy near Resaca. Drove him steadily back with severe loss. Morgan Ulery killed. Our batteries get in position and silence the rebels’ guns. Laid on our arms all night. No blankets and nothing to eat but hard tack and sow belly.

June 1, 1864: McPherson retires his right by falling back some three miles northeast of Dallas. The rebs having caused something by their … charges & repulses, do not attempt to crowd us as we fall back. Hooker moves to the left. The soldiers on short rations. Our “grub” not of as fine a quality as I have eaten.

July 3, 1864: In the officers’ hospital near Rome, without any accommodations … Get a few berries & some sweet milk. The citizens as a general thing gone.

July 4, 1864: In hospital. Rome, Ga. No guns fired nor nothing else done to commemorate the day. Left Rome at 7 P.M. for Chattanooga. Arrive at Kingston and remain for the night. Fed by the sanitary. [U.S.Sanitary Commission].

Nov. 16, 1864: Marched towards McDonald, Georgia. Find abundance of forage in the country, and we have no scruples about taking it.

Dec. 3, 1864: Marched to a station numbered 7. Encamped for the night. Forage plenty, soil sandy, affording abundance of sweet potatoes; we didn’t take any, no, not any.

Dec. 13, 1864: In front of Savannah; news received that Hazen’s division of the 15th Army Corps has taken Ft. McAllister at the mouth of the Ogeechee river. Out of provisions and living on sweet potatoes and rice.

Jan. 1, 1865: The 43rd on the Ogeechee Canal, 15 miles from Savannah with nothing nice to eat and nothing good to drink.



On Nov. 26, 1863, did the 43rd OVI dine or fight in Tennessee?

Battle of Lookout MountainThe Lybarger family legend about my great-grandfather’s experience at Missionary Ridge in 1863 makes an exciting story — but what really happened is even better.

In the 1990s, my aunt wrote a “Biographical Sketch of Hon. Edwin Lewis Lybarger,” recounting his service in the Forty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, and his many accomplishments after the war. Presumably from the stories her father told her about her grandfather, she wrote:

Lybarger participated in the battle of Missionary Ridge in the Chattanooga campaign. He notes in his diary that those in his company knew the battle of Lookout Mountain (the “Battle Above the Clouds”) on November 24, 1863, was in progress across the valley. They could hear it and see the smoke, but the clouds were so thick they could not tell whether the Union troops were succeeding or failing. The next day, under General Grant’s command, they stormed the heights and took Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863.”

A decade later, in a box of Civil War papers and memorabilia unopened for years, I discovered the first clue that this account might not be true: a 4″x6″ thin, single sheet of paper with a handwritten invitation from Col. Wager Swayne, commander of the 43rd OVI.

Headquarters 43rd O.V.I., Nov. 25th 1863

Lieutenant, Will you do me the favor to dine with me tomorrow at 2 P.M.

Very respectfully, Your obedient servant

Wager Swayne, Co. 43rdOhio

Col. Wager Swayne, 2nd colonel of 43rd OVI (1862-65)
Col. Wager Swayne, 2nd colonel of 43rd OVI (1862-65)

I knew that my great-grandfather revered Col. Swayne, since he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger, and they corresponded for years. But why would he keep a dinner invitation for the rest of his life?

The letter was written from “Hdqts, 43rd OVI,” on Nov. 25, for a dinner to be served on Nov. 26, a Thursday. The fourth Thursday of November.

I remember shivering with the thrill of discovery — that this date was the first official Thanksgiving Day. The colonel was gathering the regiment’s officers to comply with President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving, issued Oct. 3, 1863. I felt like I was almost touching a paper that Lincoln had touched.

But if the 43rd OVI was calmly in headquarters in Prospect, Tennessee planning a Thanksgiving dinner, it couldn’t have been in battle the next day, 300 miles away in Chattanooga.

Entries in Edwin Lybarger’s diary confirmed my conclusion:

Nov. 17: In camp at Prospect, Tenn. Heavy details at work repairing rail road bridge.

Nov. 18: Nothing of importance going. Have plenty to eat and nothing much to do but write letters and study logic.

Nov. 25: Two years in the service today. Received in invitation to dine with Col. Swayne tomorrow. Accepted.

Nov. 26: “Thanksgiving day.” Dined with Col. Swayne together with all the officers of the 43d. & Col. Fuller our brigad[e] commander. Had a splendid dinner, served up in good style, to which I think I did ample justice.

I don’t know if my aunt heard the Missionary Ridge story from my grandfather, or read it in another account of the war. In any case, Edwin Lybarger participated in numerous Civil War battles, but not the one on Lookout Mountain.


Leyenbergers Travel to America in 1739

Sources include The Lybarger Descendants and the Pennsylvania German Research Guide 1727-1808.

As early as 1677, William Penn visited the Rhineland (now Germany), urging people to seek peace and security in the Province of Pennsylvania. After obtaining a royal charter in 1681, Penn and his agents actively recruited settlers to Pennsylvania, which had principles of religious toleration and a climate and soil similar to the Palatinate (a region of the Rhineland).

Ship from 1700sBetween 1727 and 1775, over 300 ships carried thousands of emigrants away from the ongoing warfare between princes, high taxes to support the monarchy, and marauding armies. Passenger lists exist for only 138 of these ships, usually listing only males over 16 years old because they were required to swear allegiance to the British Crown when they landed in the British Colonies.

Benedikt Leyenberger was born in the Palatinate in the Rhineland @ 1670. His son Nicholas Leyenberger (@1707-@1765) and Maria Catharina [maiden name unknown] married in 1727 in Brenschelback in the Saarland in the Palatinate, in the Hornback Reformed (Lutheran) Church.

1st phase of voyage to Pennsylvania: down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, NetherlandsComing to America: Down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, Netherlands

In 1739, Nicholas and Maria emigrated to the British Colonies in America. Passage cost about $175, payable to the sailing ship’s captain upon arrival either in cash, or by indentured labor.

Rotterdam to Deal, England Coming to America:  From Rotterdam to Deal, England

The arduous journey had three parts and each could take several months. Many passengers, especially young children, did not survive the trip.

Spelling being variable in the 18th century, Nikolaus Leyenberger is probably the “Nikolas Leyberger” listed as a passenger on the Snow Betsy that arrived in Philadelphia from Deal, England on August 27, 1739.

Atlantic crossing from England to PennsylvaniaComing to America:  Crossing the Atlantic to Pennsylvania

Nikolas Leyenberger was in his early 30’s and accompanied by his wife and their two young sons, Nicholas and Ludwick. Years later, great-grandson Elijah F. Lybarger was told by his grandfather that Nicholas and his wife had come on the “indenture plan” and worked three years to pay it off, in either Virginia or Maryland.

Nikolaus and Maria Catharina and their 2 sons moved west to farm in York County, Pennsylvania. A third son, John George Lybarger, was born in 1841. The positive characteristics of Pennsylvania Germans were described by Benjamin Rush (a Pennsylvania physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence) as a model for all citizens in the new country.