FIFTY-THIRD (53rd) OHIO INFANTRY REGIMENT

Ohio Volunteers, September 6th, 1861, to August 11th, 1865

History

Roster

Uniform

Resources

Wells S. Jones
Colonel

Regimental Monument
Shiloh National Military Park

Ephraim C. Dawes
Lieutenant Colonel

History of the 53rd Ohio Infantry

The following is taken from Pages 320 to 324, Volume II of “Ohio in the War. Her Statesman, Generals and Soldiers.” By Whitelaw Reid, ca. 1895.

    This regiment was authorized by Governor Dennison, September 6th, 1861, and the rendezvous established at Jackson, Ohio. The organization was completed in January 1862, and the regiment was ordered to prepare for the field.

    On the 16th of February the regiment embarked on a steamboat at Portsmouth, Ohio, and proceeding to Paducah, Kentucky, reported to General William T. Sherman, and was assigned to the Third Brigade of Sherman's division. The division moved on transports to Savannah, Tennessee, and remaining a day, started on an expedition to destroy the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, near Iuka, Mississippi. Upon their return they disembarked at Pittsburg Landing, and after making a reconnaissance of about ten miles and finding no enemy, went into camp near the Landing, and the next day moved near to Shiloh Church. On account of being confined so long on transports, sickness increased very rapidly, and on April 6th the Surgeon's report showed over three hundred men and half the officers of the Fifty Third unfit for duty.

    The regiment maintained itself tolerably during the battle of Pittsburg Landing, several of the companies keeping in almost perfect order all the time. After the close of the struggle, on the morning of the 8th, it pursued the retreating enemy, and when about five miles from camp was deployed to support a battalion of cavalry. The enemy made a charge, routed the cavalry, and captured many prisoners. The Fifty-Third, in turn charged the enemy, drove them from the field, and rescued most of the prisoners. Here the regiment halted, assisted in destroying the late camp of the enemy, in collecting arms, in carrying off the wounded, and in burying the dead, and then returned to its old camp near Shiloh Church.

    The regiment remained in camp, engaged in drilling, until the 29th of April, when it advanced on Corinth. The regiment suffered much from sickness, and the fatigue duty was very heavy. Mile after mile of earthworks and intrenchments were thrown up, and skirmishes between the outposts were constant, occasionally swelling almost to the proportions of a battle. In everything of this kind the regiment bore its full share, and won the confidence and commendation of its commanding officers. About the 15th of May the Third Brigade was reorganized and placed under the command of Brigadier General J.W. Denver. After the evacuation of Corinth the Fourth and Fifth Divisions of the Army of the Tennessee, under Major General Sherman, started westward along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The march was a very severe one on account of the intense heat and the dusty condition of the roads. The Third Brigade remained a week at Moscow, then moved to Lafayette, then back to Moscow, then to Holly Springs, and, after a short skirmish, occupied the town on the first of July. Remaining about a week the brigade returned to Moscow, and in a few days received orders to march for Memphis, where it arrived on the 21st.

    The regiment camped south of the city, near Fort Pickering, and performed a large amount of fatigue duty on the Fort. On the 26th of November the brigade, with other troops, left Memphis on a tour through Mississippi. Meantime General Denver had assumed command of the division, and Colonel J.R. Cockerill, of the Seventieth Ohio, commanded the brigade. The weather was very unfavorable, as it rained almost continually for ten or twelve days, making the roads nearly impassable, and the creeks and rivers were so swollen that they could not be forded, so that it was necessary to fell and split timber for bridges. They advanced, in spite of all obstacles, as far as Coffeeville, on the Mississippi Central Railroad, where it was learned that Van Dorn had captured Holly Springs, and the command immediately returned to that place (which the enemy evacuated), and then moved to La Grange, Tennessee, which was reached early in January 1863. The regiment remained here some time and assisted in building a fort. On the night of the 4th of March a fire occurred in the Quartermaster's tent, and several boxes of ammunition exploded, burning four men badly, two of whom died, and the other two recovered after a long and painful illness. On the 7th of March the brigade moved to Moscow, and the Fifty Third was engaged in guard-duty and drill from day to day. After a few weeks the country was found to be infested with marauding bands, and the Fifty-Third was mounted and succeeded in putting an end to such annoyances. On the 9th of June 1863, the regiment left camp, and in the afternoon embarked on the steamer Luminary, at Memphis, and proceeded down the river to Young's Point, arriving on the 12th. Hearing here that Joe Johnston was endeavoring to raise the siege of Vicksburg, the regiment at once proceeded up the Yazoo to Snyder's Bluff, and disembarked. The regiment remained here a few days and then moved to Oak Ridge, and on the afternoon of July 4th, 1863, moved against Johnston. The enemy was met at Black River, but after a little skirmishing retired to Jackson. The Fifty-Third assisted in the capture of that city and then returned to Black River on the 20th of July, and went into camp.

    About the 1st of October the regiment embarked on transports at Vicksburg and moved to Memphis. About the middle of October the regiment proceeded via LaGrange to Iuka, thence to the Tennessee River, which was crossed at Eastport, then to Florence, Alabama, and then to Trenton, Georgia. The Fifty-Third was among the first regiments to enter the town and expel the enemy. From here the regiment moved slowly toward the Tennessee River, and on the 24th was in position before Mission Ridge. The Fifty-Third occupied the second line, but so close was it to the front that it was equally exposed to the enemy's fire. The next day the regiment joined in pursuing the enemy, and on the 26th moved for Knoxville via Cleveland Junction, thence to the Holston River, which was crossed at Morgantown, and then on as rapidly as possible to Maryville. Here information of Longstreet's retreat was received, and after a few days rest the regiment returned, by almost the same route that it advanced, to Chattanooga, arriving late in December. In a few days the regiment was ordered to Scattsboro, Alabama, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, which point was reached about the 1st of January 1863. Here almost every man in the regiment re enlisted, and by the last of February the entire regiment was on furlough in Ohio, where it remained till April, and then returned to the old camp at Scattsboro, Alabama.

    On the 1st of May the Fifty-Third moved via Stevenson and Bridgeport, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and about the 5th continued the march through the mountains of Northern Georgia into Sugar Valley, where the enemy was strongly posted, but was soon dislodged. The column then proceeded toward Resaca, and about two miles from town was halted and formed for battle, the Fifty Third being in the front line. On the afternoon of the 13th of May the advance was made, the Fifty-Third being among the first to draw the enemy's fire. As soon as the enemy's position was ascertained a charge was made and the Rebels driven from hill to hill, till nightfall. The next day was spent in skirmishing till sunset, when a charge was ordered, the Fifty-Third rushing forward eagerly and assisting in taking the enemy's works. From this point, the enemy having retreated, the regiment moved to Dallas, where, on the 23rd, they met the enemy in force. Skirmishing ensued until the 27th, when a general engagement took place and the enemy was completely routed. Skirmishing again continued until the 4th of June, when the enemy withdrew, slowly and stubbornly, to Kennesaw Mountain. The-Fifty Third skirmished day after day till it reached the foot of the mountain, and on the night of the 26th of June moved four miles to the right, fronting little Kennesaw. The next day at seven o’clock A.M. it took its place in the brigade, with orders to charge the enemy on Little Kennesaw. The regiment moved up in fine order, driving the Rebels from their works, fighting hand to hand with clubbed muskets. It suffered severely in the engagement, but held the works the remainder of the day under a terrific fire of shot and shell.

    On the 2nd of July the regiment was moved to the extreme right flank of the army, and the next day was ordered to make a reconnaissance to Ruff's Mills, on the Nickajack, two miles from camp. The regiment had only just cleared the picket line when it became engaged, and for an hour was exposed to heavy fire of grape and shrapnel. The division moved out, and in two hours the Rebels were driven from Nickajack Creek. The next day was spent in pursuing and skirmishing, and that night Johnson withdrew from Kennesaw. Two days later the Fifty-Third crossed the Chattahoochie and moved to the Atlanta and Augusta Railroad, at Stone Mountain, followed the railroad to Decatur, and then, meeting the enemy, it drove the Rebel forces to Atlanta. The regiment skirmished continually during the siege of Atlanta, and was closely engaged at Ezra Chapel, and again on the Macon Railroad.

    After the fall of Atlanta the Fifty-Third pursued Hood across the mountains of Northern Georgia, and some distance into Alabama, and then returned to Atlanta. The regiment marched with Sherman for Savannah, meeting with no opposition, till near Milledgeville a few militia opposed them, but they were scattered. The regiment subsisted off the country, and relied upon the Commissary only for sugar, coffee and salt. On reaching the Ogeechee they moved down the west bank till near its junction with the Canouchee, and there forced a crossing with little difficulty. The Fifty-Third assisted in surprising the guard on the Gulf Railroad, in destroying about five miles of track, and returned next day to the Ogeechee, and pushed on to Savannah. The regiment shared in the capture of Fort McAllister, and after remaining on duty in Savannah a few weeks, embarked at the mouth of the Savannah for Beaufort, South Carolina.

    Early in February 1865, the Fifty-Third started on the campaign of the Carolinas, doing no fighting until near Columbia, but performing an immense amount of labor in destroying railroads. At the North Edisto the Fifty-Third, exposed to a heavy fire, marched over low ground, covered with water from one to four feet deep, grown up with cypress and briers, a distance of six hundred yards, and assisted in driving the enemy from his intrenchments on the opposite bank of the river. At the Congaree the enemy again made a stand but was soon driven from his position. The day before entering the city of Columbia the regiment was ordered to silence a battery, which it did effectually by approaching it unperceived, and firing volley after volley till the horses of the battery were either killed or disabled, and the men driven from the guns. At night the regiment retired, and joined the brigade at four A.M. next morning. On the afternoon of the 15th of February 1865, the Fifty-Third entered Columbia. After remaining a few days and utterly destroying everything valuable to the enemy, the command moved toward Goldsboro, North Carolina. At Fayetteville four days were spent in destroying a Rebel arsenal, and in laying a pontoon bridge; and a large amount of provisions which the Rebel authorities had stored here for supplying the army were seized and issued to the citizens.

    On the 19th of March, and when within two days march of Goldsboro, the enemy attacked the advance of the Twentieth Corps. The fight lasted all day, and at night the Fifty-Third was a part of the re enforcements ordered to them. The regiment marched all night in the mud and darkness, and just before day came upon the beleaguered corps. After twenty-four hours marching, without sleep, the regiment was placed in position for attack, but at daylight it was found that the enemy had retreated. After resting a day the regiment moved forward and went into camp at Goldsboro on the 21st of March. The march to Raleigh was resumed on the 10th of April, and after considerable skirmishing the regiment marched into the city on the 13th, and camped on the north west-side, fronting the enemy.

    In about ten days after the surrender of Johnston the regiment marched through Virginia to Washington, D.C., and participated in the grand review. Soon after the review the regiment proceeded by railroad to Parkersburg, and thence on the steamer “Sherman” to Louisville. In June the division, of which the Fifty-Third was a part, was ordered to Little Rock, Arkansas. The regiment proceeded down the Ohio and Mississippi, and up White River to Duvall's Bluff, and then by railroad to Little Rock, where it arrived on the 4th of July.

    The regiment remained here until the 11th of August, when it was mustered out and ordered to Camp Dennison for discharge; having traveled while in the service six thousand four hundred (6,400) miles, having been engaged in sixty seven (67) battles and skirmishes, and having lost in action sixty (60) officers and men killed, and two hundred and sixty four (264) officers and men wounded.

    The misfortunes of the Fifty-Third in its first action (Battle of Shiloh / Pittsburgh Landing), long influenced both its morale and its reputation. Colonel Appler's statement (in his official report which subordinate officers wrote and took to him for signature) was this: “Seeing an overwhelming force of the enemy overlapping the regiment on either flank, I gave the order to retreat, and soon after left the regiment.” General Sherman spoke of its conduct as discreditable. The newspapers said the Fifty-Third and Seventy-Seventh ran without firing a gun, leaving Waterhouse's battery to be captured; although, in point of fact, one section of the battery left before its supports, without firing a gun. The officers claim for the regiment that it maintained its organization throughout both days of the fight (which very few of Sherman's regiments did), that it never refused to obey an order, and never made a movement without orders. Sherman praised the Fifty-Third highly the next day in the reconnaissance (when it really saved him from capture), though, with not unusual inconsistency, he subsequently denied it. But he took pains in his letter about Pittsburg Landing to the United States Service Magazine, in 1864, to say: “I also take pleasure in adding, that nearly all the new troops that at Shiloh drew from me official censure, have more than redeemed their good name; among them that very regiment which first broke, the Fifty-Third Ohio, Colonel Appler. Under another leader, Colonel Jones, it has shared every campaign and expedition of mine since, is with me now, and can march, and bivouac, and fight as well as the best regiment in this or any army. Its reputation now is equal to that of any from the State of Ohio.”

Roster of the 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

    This page and the following company rosters are a constant work in progress and will be updated as more information becomes available, if you have more information or would like to suggest a correction on any of these names or information please contact the webmaster.


Field & Staff
Company D
Company H
Company A
Company E
Company I
Company B
Company F
Company K
Company C
Company G
Regimental Index

Uniform of the 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

James E. Ellison
From Regimental History

William A. Ellison
From Regimental History

Unknown Member
From Lucasville Area Historical Society

More Information on Uniforms of the 53rd Ohio Volunteers To Be Added

Resources

- "A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion." Frederick H. Dyer, The Dyer Publishing Company, Des Moines, Iowa, 1908.

- "History of the Fifty-Third Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, during the War of the Rebellion, 1861 to 1865." John K. Duke; The Blake Printing Company, Portsmouth, Ohio; 1900.

- Pages 134 & 135, Part V (Ohio, Michigan), “Official Army Register of the Volunteer force of the United States Army for the years 1861, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65.” Adjutant Generals Office, United States Army, August 31st, 1865.

- Pages 674 to 706 and 814 to 820, Volume IV (37th-53rd Regiments-Infantry), "Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866." The Werner Printing and Manufacturing Company, Akron, Ohio; 1887.

- Pages 320 to 324, Volume II, "Ohio in the War. Her Statesman, Generals and Soldiers." Whitelaw Reid; The Robert Clarke Company, Cincinnati, Ohio; 1895.

- Uniform of Lieutenant Colonel Ephraim C. Dawes Uniform; Collection of the Dawes Arboretum, Ohio.

- 53rd Ohio Recruitment Poster; Collection of the Ohio History Connection Archives/Library.

- Broadside of Company D, 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Collection of the Ohio History Connection Archives/Library.

- Photograph of an Unknown Member of the Regiment from the Jones/Morgan/McGilligan photo album; Collection of the Lucasville Area Historical Society, Ohio.

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