|1865- Tennessee to Texas Campaign|
|The regiment remained encamped in the Huntville, Alabama area from January 7, 1865 until March 15, 1865.
While at Huntsville, Capt. Kelly wrote many letters home, several excerpts were printed in The Ohio Soldier.
In one letter, he helps clarify the myriad of changes in the commanders as follows:
" Ja. 25  ...When General Granger, commanding corps, was relieved by General O. O. Howard, General Phil. Sheridan left our division about the same time, and General John Newton took his place. [ this would have been at the start of the Atlanta Campaign, May 1864], When McPherson was killed Howard took command of the Army of the Tennessee, and General Stanley of the Fourth Corps. Shortly after, Newton left, and Wagner, our brigade commander, too command of the division, and Col. Lane, of the 97th Ohio, the brigade. At the battle of Franklin Wagner is said to have disobeyed orders, was retired, and General Elliott took command of the division. General Stanley was wounded at Franklin and General Wood has since commanded the corps." Later, Capt. Kelly notes that Colonel Lane has been relieved of the command of the brigade by Gen. Vanderveer."
While in camp at Huntsville, the 26th was not immune from growing tensions and frustrations that would show itself in violence towards one another. For example, Capt. Kelly notes that in Feb., 1865, he had to prefer charges " against two of company F, one for stabbing Hiram Thorckmorton, of company E, and the other for furnishing the knife and urging the other on to do the deed. They were both drunk. The wound in the left arm, not dangerous, but severe."
In March, Capt. Kelly wrote a letter where in he predicted, "...I think this war will be over in six months. There may be some outlaw bands still in existence, but their army organization will be gone."
At that time, the regiment as part of the 4th Corps moved to East Tennessee by rail via Chattanooga and Knoxville, to Bulls Gap. The regiment then participated in repairing the railroad northeast towards Richmond, Va. At Greenville, Tennessee, the regiment received word of Lee's Surrender to Grant. Captain Kelly recounts how the regiment responded to this news:
"...That night was spent hilariously cheering and singing that old familiar piece, "Go Tell Aunt Rhoda the Old Gray Goose is Dead. The following morning I doubt if there was enough ammunition in the cartridge boxes of the men in our division to have made a respectable skirmish." ( p.39)
After Johnston's surrender to Sherman in late April, 1865, the 4th Corps was ordered by rail to Nashville, Tennessee. The soldiers were elated as they expected to be mustered out at that time. On May 9, 1865, the regiment passed in review before General George H Thomas and received his congratulatory order. Capt. Kelly wrote home on May 10, 1865 and gave this account:, "...We had a grand review of the corps yesterday. While it is rough on the participants, it is a grand scene for the spectators, of which there were many yesterday..." He optimistically, then related that he thought he would be home by the 4th of July.
However, as the weeks passed it became clear that the regiment was not going to be mustered out yet, but rather, there was still yet another mission for the Groundhog regiment. In early June, 1865, it became clear that the regiment, as part of the 4th Corps was to be moved to the Mexican frontier in the area known as southern Texas.
Officers and soldiers alike objected to this new mission. They felt they had fulfilled their tour of duty and it was time to go home.
The command moved to Johnsonville, Tennessee, and then by steamboats down the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. While being transported on the steamboat, Longworth, on the Mississippi, they stopped at Island 60 for the night of June 19, 1865. According to two complaint affadavits, some members of the 26th OVI and the 125th OVI departed the steamboat , and allegedly, entered a Freedmen's Camp located on the island. They broke into a sutler store owned by Asa Dean, and stole various items including: shirts, canned fruits, snuff, shoes, hats, cutlery. Mr. Dean, in his complaint, estimated loss of around $1,000. Attempts to halt the pillaging were met with resistance. After two hours, the bugle sounded and the regiment members returned to the steamboat and continued on the journey. There is no information, what, if any action, was taken against the regimental members who broke into Mr. Dean's store. The only justification offered for this criminal behavior was that "the men were mad because they had to come down the river".
( Affadavits signed by Asa Dean and Charles Sherman, Ohio Historical Society, VFM 2848)
The Regiment arrived in New Orleans, LA, on June 16, 1865. Shortly thereafter, the regiment was transported by ocean steamers to the Matagorda Bay, landing at Indianola ( Port Lavaca), Texas.
The regiment was then involved in a 120 mile long , hot, insect infested, and arduous march from Port Lavaca to San Antonio, Texas. The regiment was stationed in the San Antonio and Victoria area for the rest of the summer and into October, 1865. No combat action occurred, and the day was spent doing guard duty, dress parades, and fatigue duty.
Capt. Kelly wrote on August 4, 1865, "... Camp Irwin, Texas. I am now seated at the old desk fighting mosquitoes, and trying to write you a few lines." He notes in a letter later that month that on the first of August, the 4th Corps officially ceased to exist anymore. Now, the 26th OVI was assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division, Middle District of Texas. The commander of the Texas district is General Wright.
He continues to complain about the mosquitoes noting, "...Mosquitoes are very numerous here, and three times as large as those in Ohio. We all have mosquito bars to sleep under in ths country...Centipedes are the most fatal of the posionous family in this locality."
The Union presence in Texas (after the Civil War was generally considered officially over ) was likely due concern that France might attempt to expand the foothold it had gained in Mexico during the War to the more less populated areas of the United States. The United States wanted to send a clear message of its intention to not have any of its border states nor territories infringed upon.
On Oct. 6, 1865, Capt. Kelly wrote from Camp Irwin, Texas, "... Our order has come; the Twenty-sixth Ohio is to be mustered out. Look for us home in three weeks from the date ou receive this..."
The 26th OVI was finally mustered out of official service on October 21, 1865 at Victoria, Texas, and three days later, the regiment started the journey home. Even the journey home was an ordeal. Due to storms and an unfit ocean vessel, they sought refuge in the harbor at Galveston, and had to remain there for four days until a safer ocean vessel could arrive. The regiment then went up the Mississippi River on the steamboat, Ruth, the largest vessal plying the river at the time. They arrived in Cairo, Illinois, and then were transported by freight cars to Indianapolis. For the final leg of the journey to Columbus, Ohio, they were afforded the luxury of being in passenger rail coaches. On November 16, 1865, the soldiers received their pay and discharges at Camp Chase in the same barracks they built when they mustered in 54 long months ago.
|Sources: Ohio in the War, Vol II W.Reid, 1868, Lest We Forget, Walden Kelly; Ohio Historical Achives, "Day by Day with the Army of the Cumberland", The Ohio Soldier, 1898.|