26th Ohio Veteran
              Volunteer Infantry
            
Condensed Regimental Summary
On April 22, 1861 ( just 8 days after the surrender of Fort Sumter), companies of what was to become the 26th
OVI, began organizing themselves and drilling.  Two days later, they were informed that Ohio's quota of the
President's initial call  for 90 days service men had been filled, and that there were services were not yet needed.
They were told to disband.  Undeterred, the companies  reorganized themselves as " minute men " for the Ohio
Governor Dennison, and continued to recruit, drill and organize themselves.  Their perseverance was rewarded as
on May 12, 1861, they received word of their acceptance as the 26th OVI, and were ordered to report to Camp
Chase, located west of Columbus, Ohio.

The 26th OVI was officially organized and mustered in at Camp Chase (Columbus) Ohio from June 8 to  
July 26, 1861.
The soldiers enlisted from Delaware, Morrow, Marion, Champaign, Madison, Mahoning, Guernsey,
Butler, Richland, Scioto, Hamilton, and Ross counties.   The 26th was organized under Colonel Edward P. Fyffe;  
Lieutenant Colonels: Ephraim R. Eckley, William H. Young, William H. Squires, William Clark; and Majors:  
Christopher Degenfeld, Norris T. Peatman, James A. Spence.   The 26th was one of the first to answer President
Abraham Lincoln's call for troops to defend the Union.  Ohio Governor William Dennison made the challenge to
Ohioans that " Ohio must lead throughout the War!", and the soldiers of the 26th answered that challenge.

Ohio's involvement in the War was key not only to preserve the Union, but also to safeguard the state's citizens and
property.   Ohio shared 436 miles of common border with the slave states of Virginia and Kentucky, separated only
by the Ohio River.  Even though Kentucky decided to stay officially neutral, many Kentuckians fought for the
Confederate cause and Kentucky's governor was outspoken in his support of the Southern cause.  Virginia seceded
from the Union and was a major state in support of the Confederacy, including, but not limited to serving as the
home for the Confederate capital at Richmond.  Thus, the need to protect the state's border was a key consideration
for Ohio from the very onset of the War.

Thus,  it was not surprising that the first service for the 26th was with the United States  Army  with the  
occupation of Western Virginia with the Kanawha Brigade.  This occurred from August 1861 to December,  1861.  
Many of the 26th died here ( most dying at Gauley Bridge ).  Two companies of the 26th Ohio were engaged in a
brief ski
rmish at Boone County Courthouse ( present day Madison) on September 1, 1861.   The 26th was primarily
heavily involved in Fayette County, western Virginia, around the Gauley and Fayetteville towns and in the Hawks
Nest area.  The regiments first serious action took place on Sept 2, 1861 at the Battle of Big Creek ( present day
Chimney Corner), and subsequently present at the engagement at Sewell Mountain, Horseshoe Bend ( New River
Gorge), and the s
iege of Gauley Bridge in early November, 1861.  The 26th OVI encamped at several locations
including above the New River, just off the Lewisburg Turnpike near Miller's Ferry.    

One item of interest is that the 26th OVI was sent to Western Virginia wearing gray uniforms that had to be
borrowed from Indiana.  Due to the rapid influx of enlistments and the mustering in of regiments during the Summer
of 1861, the regulation uniforms were not available.  This presented some mis
-identity problems, and the soldiers of
the 26th considered this a slight.  This situation was remedied by having the 26th OVI maintain a forward position
with the army until such time that they regulation uniforms could be obtained.

The action in western Virginia was taken, in part, to move the Confederates position from just across the Ohio River
to east of  the Allegheny Mountains.  The action pushed the Confederates out of Virginia's 34 most western
counties.  Subsequently, the regiment was moved to the  District of Kanawha still with the Department of Western
Virginia.  
This action was instrumental in providing the Unionist in Western Virginia the support and
protection they needed to meet in Wheeling and set forth the state constitution of what was to be known as
the State of West Virginia.  
While in Western Virginia, the regiment saw action at Big Chimney ( just east of
Gauley Bridge), Gauley Bridge, ( marched with Colonel Rutherford B Hayes ( soon to be President Hayes) on a
scouting expedition towards Raleigh Courthouse ( present day Beckl
ey),  and was with General William S.
Rosecrans in front of Robert E. Lee's forces on Sewell Mountain.

With western Virginia firmly under the control of the Union forces, several regiments ( including the 26th) were
transferred to Kentucky to address growing uncertainty over the continued neutrality of this key border state.

To appreciate how crucial was Kentucky to the Union war effort , one only needs to recall President Abraham
Lincoln's witty, but poignant admission:
" God may be on my side, but I must have Kentucky."

In January, 1862, the 26th OVI joined the newly formed Army of  the Ohio under the command of  Lt General Don
Carlos Buell.  The regiment was assigned to the 4th division, 15th Brigade.  In March, 1862, the regiment was
assigned to the 6th Division, 15th Brigade.  
It was during this time, that it was present at the end of the battle
of Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.
The regiment, as part of the 15th Brigade, was not directly
involved in the action arriving late the evening of the 7th after a strenuous, forced  60 mile march from
Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  The 15th Brigade had been ordered by General Thomas J Wood to Lawrenceburg to
confront Confederate Cavalry that was threatening the supply wagons of the Army of the Ohio.  The 26th saw
action at
Lawrenceburg, TN on the 4th and 5th of April, 1862.  The 15th Brigade was commended for its strong
effort to arrive at the Shiloh battlefield and for its desire to further assist the Union cause.

The regiment was also involved in the occupation of Cornith, Mississippi, a key east-west railway terminus,
and was among the first regiments to enter this key transportation city.
The 26th was one of the first
regiments to enter Cornith.

In May, the 26th OVI, along with the rest of the Army of the Ohio began the march eastward from
Cornith
, Mississippi with the intended target of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The march was very difficult, owing to
the swampy terrain in hostile territory, the need to constantly repair the railroad, and the successful Confederate
raids on the Army's supply lines.  These raids forced the soldiers to subsist on half rations.

In August, 1862, the 26th fought Confederate calvary under command of Confederate General Bedford
Forrest  nine miles west of  McMinnville, Tennesse
e ( east of Murfreesboro).   Quoting from Van Horne's Army
of the Cumberland
,

" On the 30th, he [Forrest] suffered a fourth defeat.  Passing to the left of General Wood's camp toward Woodbury,
... he was soon roughly handled by Colonel E P Fyffe, whom General Wood had sent with his regiment, the
Twenty-sixth Ohio, to meet him.  Colonel Fyffe attacked him when in line of battle, at the intersection of two roads,
nine miles west of McMinnville, and by the suddeness and impetuoisty of his attack, routed him without losing a
man."
( page 132
)

This was just before the two armies began the infamous forced marches to see who would first get to Louisville.  If
the Confederate Army of the Tennessee got there first, they could not only seize the town, but take over control of
the Ohio River, and plan for possible military advancements into Union territory.   If the Union Army of the Ohio got
there first, they would protect Louisville, the Ohio River, and thwart any attempts to move the war northward into
Union states.  Even though the Army of the Ohio started several days behind, the Union Army of the Ohio won the
race; but just barely, and primarily due to Bragg's Army turning eastward toward Frankfort.  Crittenden's Corps led
the Army of the Ohio into Louisville,to the grateful cheers of the citizens.  The march was taken under great duress
owing to the hot, dry weather that made food and clean drinking water a premium.
In October, the regiment was
minimally engaged in the Battle at Perryville, KY while being with Crittenden's Second Corps on the right
flank.

The regiment remained with the Army of the Ohio until November, 1862 when it was reassigned to the newly
formed Army of the Cumberland, in the left wing, 14th Corps, 1st Division, 1st Brigade.  The  14th Corps
Commander was Thomas  Crittenden.  1st Division Commander was General Thomas J. Wood .  1st Brigade
Commander was General Milo Hascall.  The Regiment was led by Major William H. Squires.
During this time, the
regiment fought in the battle at  Stones River,  (Murfreesboro), Tennessee.

On December 28, 1862, the 26th OVI led General Hascall's Brigade in advancing towards and taking control of the
town of
LaVergne, Tennessee ( southeast of Nashville on the way to Murfreesboro).  The regiment was heavily
engaged in this battle and suffered considerable losses
.

At Stones River,
the 26th saw its first major action in a major battle.  On December 31, 1862, the 26th was one of
several regiments that held firm  their ground  in the center along the Nashville Pike and McFadden's Lane at an area
known as the Round Forest; even while the right flank of the federal army had given way.  The 26th formed the
apex of a convex line of battle that General Bragg's Confederate Army of the Tennessee could not break.
( Note:  Go
to the Stones River Major Battles page for details regarding the regiment's actions during the regiment's first large
involvement in battle.
)

In January, 1863, the regiment was reassigned to the 21st Corps, still with the 1st Division, 1st Brigade with the
Department and Army of the Ohio and the Cumberland.

When the Army of the Cumberland finally began its advance in the Summer of 1863, the 26th as part of the 21st
Corps advanced from Murfreesboro to McMinnville.  From August 16 to September 4, 1863, the regiment advanced
southward through the Sequatchie Valley, arriving at Shellmound, TN on September 4th.  The 21st Corps advanced
eastwardly along the Tennessee River, around the north terminus of Lookout Mountain, arriving in Chattanooga on
September 9th.  The 21st Corps took over possession of this key strategic city without a single loss of life as the
Confederate Army had retreated southeast
wardly into Northern Georgia.  The next day, the 21st Corps marched into
Northern Georgia in pursuit of what they believed to be a still retreating Confederate army.  The 21st Corps split into
two sections, one section advancing southward to the area near Lee and Gordon Mills, and the other advancing
southeastwardly towards Ringgold.

When it became clear that the Confederate army was no longer retreating, and that the Army of the Cumberland was
too spread out, the Army became to merge back together with the 21st Corps reuniting at Lee and Gordon's Mills,
on the west bank of the Chickamauga River.  The 26th OVI disbursed Confederate cavalry at the Red House bridge
near Lee and Gordon's Mills.

The regiment fought at the Battle of  Chickamauga, Georgia  in September 19 &20, 1863.  The 21st Corp
s Commander was General Thomas Crittenden.  The First Division Commander was General Thomas J. Wood.  Th
e regiment was led by Lt Colonel William H. Young.  The Brigade commander was General George Buell.    Th
e regiment suffered it most severe losses of the war at the Battle of Chickamauga on the afternoon of September 19
, 1863.  At 3 pm that day, the regiment marched on the double quick north toward the
Viniard fields to support
General Jefferson Davis' division which was heavily engaged at the time. It formed on the east side of the Lafayette
Road, which was to be the southern part of the battlefield.

Soon, the brigades of Heg and Carlin were driven back out of the woods in confusion and ran literally over and
through the 26th OVI.  The 26th tried to withstand the Confederate onslaught, but needed to fall back as over
one-half of the regiment was either killed, wounded, or captured.    The fighting was often hand to hand, and the
battle surged back and forth over the Viniard fields.  Finally, rallying in a ditch on the west side of the road, the 26th
OVI, charged again eastward and drove the Confederate troops back, retaking and maintaining its original position
east of the Lafayette Road.   
(The 26th OVI regimental monument is located at this place on the battlefield.)

That cold night, the 26th rested on their arms in the field until 3 AM when it was ordered to  move to a position
further northwest first on the Dry Valley Road near Vidito's House  and due west of the Widow Glenn's cabin
( General Rosecrans' headquarters, and then eastward to the woods located just west of the Brotherton cabin.

The next day at Chickamauga, the 26th Regiment was ordered to the front and assigned to a position vacated by th
e 21st OVI, west of the
Brotherton's Field.  The 26th remained there exchanging skirmish fire with Confederate
skirmishers to the east.  At 11:30 am,  along with the rest of the 1st Brigade and the entire 1st Division under the
command of General Thomas Wood, the 26th OVI was ordered by General Rosecrans to vacate its position
southwest of the Brotherton cabin and double quick northward to fill a supposed gap in the Union line that did not
exist.  Unfortunately, by doing so, this  created a real gap in the Union line that was immediately assaulted by a
massive Confederate force under the command of General
James Longstreet. The result was the caving in of the
center right flank of the Union line that led directly to the Confederate victory at Chickamauga.

The 26th OVI was pushed northwestward into the
Dyer Field by the Confederate troops.  The 26th OVI regrouped
init
ially at the southeast corner of Dyer Field , formed battle line, and tried to make a stand.  The overwhelming
Confederate forces pushed the 26th further northwestward.  The 26th OVI then regrouped and took a heroic stand
on the slope of a hill on the west side of Dyer Field just below Federal artillery.
( A granite tablet was placed on this
slope by the State of Ohio to commemorate the brave action of the 26th that fateful morning against overwhelming
odds.
) For a time, it assisted in checking the Confederate advance, but the Rebel numbers where just too
overwhelming, and their position was soon out flanked..

After being overpowered and outflanked, the 26th OVI, fell back again and tried to regroup on another hill 200 yards
in the rear. This was most likely the southwest section of
Horseshoe Ridge that was connected to Snodgrass Hill.  
After becoming further separated from other Union forces, some of the fragmented elements of the 26th retreated
to  McFarland's Gap.  It is highly likely that  some of the regiment managed to move northeastward and join the
remaining union forces that valiantly held Snodgrass Hill, under the field command of General George H Thomas,
the "Rock of Chickamauga". This is known as it is documented that fragmented elements of Buell's Brigade fought
to defend Snodgrass Hill that afternoon.

According to Lt Col Young's Official Record summary of the regiment's 377 men who fought at Chickamauga, 213
were either killed, wounded, captured or missing in action , or 56% casualty rate those two days.  (
note: Go to the
Chickamauga Major Battles page for a detailed summary of the Regiment's actions during this major battle.
)

In October, 1863, the regiment was transferred to the 4th Corps (under the command, of Major General Gordon Gr
anger) , 2nd Division (under the command of Major General Philip H. Sheridan), 2nd Brigade, under the command of
General George D. Wagner and remained under this organization until June, 1865.
During this time, the
regiment  ( led by Lt Col Young) endured the s
iege at Chattanooga, and was part of the right center in the
historic scaling of and victory at Missionary Ridge.

At Missionary Ridge,
the 26th scaled the middle section of the 600 ft high,  very  steep ( 60 degree grade) ridge
while under constant artillery and musketry assaults from the Confederate forces occupying the crest of the ridge.  
The 26th captured 50 prisoners and 2 cannons, and was part of General Sheridan's force that pursued the fleeing
Confederate forces.

By the end of 1863, the regiment had been reduced from over 1,000  to less than 200 soldiers.  Yet on  January 1,
1864, at Blain's Cross Roads, Tennessee, nearly every remaining soldier reenlisted at the expiration of their initial th
ree year term.  In recognition of this continued devotion to their country, the 26th OVI was given the esteemed des
ignation as the  26th Ohio Volunteer
Veterans Infantry ( 26th OVVI).  This act was most significant for the success
of the Union cause, as it was imperative that the veteran regiments ( " the Boys of 1861' ) remained in the army to
provide the experience and guidance for the younger recruits
.

The regiment then  participated in several decisive Northern Georgia battles that lead to the fall of Atlan
ta, most notably, Kennesaw Mountain.
During this time, the 26th was under the supreme command of  General
William Tecumseh Sherman  who commanded the Military Division of the Mississippi.  The 26th was part of the
Army of the Cumberland under command of Major General George H Thomas, 4th Army Corps under command of
Generals Oliver O Howard, and David S Stanley, Second Division commanded by Brigadier General John Newton,
2nd Brigade commanded by General George D Wagner.  The 26th was led at this time by Lt Col William H Squires
following the resignation of Lt Col Young.
( Note: go to the Georgia Battles page under the Major Battles site for Lt
Col Squires Official accounting of the regiment's involvement.
)

In August, 1864, the regiment was assigned to General Thomas and subsequently fought at the Battles o
f Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, Tennessee, in the successful repulse of Confederate General John Bel
l Hood's attempt to regain control over Middle Tennessee.   
At Spring Hill, the 26th OVI guarded the east side
of the town and fought off General Forrest's Cavalry assault, thereby keeping the Columbia Pike open for the Army
of the Cumberland to escape entrapment and advance towards Franklin.   At
Franklin, the 26th was part of two
divisions placed in salient (advance) position  of the main federal force to retard the assault from the larger
Confederate forces.  The 26th performed admirably.  As noted in the
Army of the Cumberland :

" Their resistance...was excellently gallant...displayed the highest qualities of soldiers in confronting in actual
conflict an army of three corps, and deserve mention in history as brave and heroic, under circumstances of extreme
trial and peril."  ( p 478)

Following the defeat of Hood's Army of Tennessee at Nashville, Tennessee, the 26th advanced with the 4th Corps
on the retreating Confederate forces until the ordered to halt.  The 4th Corps then encamped for the 1864-1865
winter in
Huntsville, Alabama with the intent to prevent any Confederate reinforcements  from the west reaching
either the confederate forces in the east.

When Spring, 1865 came, the 26th OVI was sent to mountains of eastern Tennessee ( east of Knoxville) and
ordered to begin moving towards Virginia, and all the while repairing the railroad.  It was in this area, that the
regiment learned of Lee's Surrender to Grant and of President Lincoln's assassination.  In May, the regiment
returned to Nashville with the high expectation of being mustered out soon thereafter.  However, the 26th OVI
service to the United States was not quite completed.

In June, 1865, the regiment, as part of the 4th Corps was transported to southeastern Texas via New Orleans to
help present a strong United States front to discourage any possible interest by France to attempt to seize any
territory in this region. The regiment saw no battle action, spending several months in hostile environment of
southeastern Texas.  
The regiment was officially  mustered out at Victoria, Texas on October 21, 1865.

During the time of the regiment's life, a total of 6 officers were killed, 116 enlisted men killed and another
116 enlisted men died of disease, accidents or other causes.  The losses put the regiment among the top
27% of 3 year regiments of both armies.

One last item of interest...Why was the 26th OVI nicknamed affectionately the Groundhog Regiment? The answer is
contained in the Roster of Survivors of the 26th OVVI, 1888:

"...from the facility with which the regiment could bury itself with a bayonet and half a canteen, or a spoon, and the
expedition with which it could construct a line of more elaborate field works, and the frequency with which it was
called upon to do so, caused the boys to liken themselves to groundhogs and finally to call the regiment, with some
pride, the "Groundhog Regiment".  At first glance many who are not acquainted with this little animal may think it a
queer fancy, and not at all complimentary in its nature...they would find that the regiment that has all the
"soldierly"qualities of this little fellow, is a good one."  (p. 5
)

( Sources:  Noe, Engle, Prokopowicz, Official Record,  Reid, Cozzens, Foote, McElroy, Van Horne,
McDonough, Kelly, Cole, Roster of Survivors)
Back to home page
 Song on this page:  The Drinking Gourd
" The Groundhog Regiment "