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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 314: 'Rain in torrents'

Friday, April 27, 2012

During an expedition or "scout" into Missouri in April of 1862, a battalion of the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry was fighting more than just the Confederate guerrillas or "bushwhackers" (if you are of the northern persuasion.) The second and third enemies facing the "Blue Bellied Billy Yanks" were the torrential spring rains and the mud, mud and more mud they created. Roads became impassible, and if there were no bridges or ferries, the only way rivers and streams could be crossed was by swimming the horses. This was extremely dangerous in a swift current. This expedition stopped in Lamar, Mo., on its way to Carthage and eventually returned to Fort Scott. The following narrative is a continuation of an article that was published in the Fort Scott Volunteer newspaper on April 26, 1862, that was written by a soldier of the 2nd Ohio Vol. Cavalry.
"After refreshing our horses with plenty of "secesh" (Confederate) hay and grain, some of the boys, thinking that they had worked a little too hard to make a supper of hard bread and bacon, started in pursuit of fresh provisions. Woe then to the unlucky sheep or yearling found in the woods. The fact of his being there was taken as positive evidence of bushwhacking propensities, and our boys have only lead and steel for the bushwhackers when the officers are not in sight.
After leaving this camp (near Lamar), nothing of interest occurred, and we entered Carthage the next day about 10 a.m. We encamped on the town and prepared for operations. Next day, Co. C, Lt. Strong commanding, was sent out for forage. They came back with nine wagons well loaded with corn, oats, hay bacon, etc., besides five prisoners and a number of young mules, colts and cattle. On Wednesday, 40 men from Co. I under Lt. Welch were sent out with six wagons to try their luck. They were even more successful than Co. C had been. They brought back grain, apples, potatoes and bacon, all that the mules could draw (pull). They also succeeded in finding a squad of rebels, of whom they captured eight, taking at the same time nine fine horses, three double barreled shotguns and one revolver. Some of the prisoners were identified as old offenders, and it is to be hoped that they may be set at pulling hemp (be hanged) as they deserve. All hands now began to feel as if, after lying idle for nine months, we were at last to be allowed to work. Certainly this part of the country presents a fine field for operations. But, alas! In came a dispatch ordering us back to Fort Scott, and we must leave at once. So next morning we set out for this place, a place we had hoped we had turned our backs upon forever. The very heavens, as if to manifest the displeasure of an angry God, sent the rains in torrents, flooding the roads and raising the streams so that it was only by swimming our horses that we reached camp that night. We pushed on next day intending to reach Fort Scott, but by the time we reached the Drywood (Creek), darkness had overtaken us; and the stream, being swollen, we were obliged to remain on the other side. Our wagons had been left behind at Lamar on account of the (bad) roads and having neither tents nor picket ropes (to tie the horses so they could graze), we fed our horses corn and building a few fires, stood wet and shivering through the long dark night, many of us holding our horses by the bridle until daylight. That night will be long remembered by the boys of the First Battalion, as will also the encouraging looks and words of Maj. Minor and Lts. Welch and Leslie who were the only officers that endured the night with us. There is nothing like the presence of officers enduring the hardships with them to inspire confidence and cheer in the minds of the soldiers at a time like that. Next morning we crossed the river and came to Fort Scott where we remain eagerly awaiting the order which shall send us back to Carthage or some other point where there is work to do."Vic"(soldier's pen name)

The Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment remained in Fort Scott until November of 1862. During that time it participated in additional expeditions into the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) and Missouri and accrued an excellent combat record. In November it was transferred back to the "Buckeye" state where it was reorganized, furnished with fresh horses, new weapons and uniforms and spent the remainder of the war fighting east of the Mississippi River.

Here in the Trans-Mississippi Theatre of Operations the bitter guerrilla war, especially in Missouri, continued with a vengeance; and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches