"Ramblins from Forrests 'Riter"

By Ed Butler, Tennessee Division Heritage Defense Chairman

It is rare that I read anything written by a Union soldier but several months ago a book advertised in a flier I received from a book seller captured my attention. The flier mentioned that the author of the diary had served in the Western Theater of the war and had seen action at Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign, and Mobile. I spent seventeen of the best years of my life in Central Louisiana and have been to all of the places mentioned in the description of this book.

I decided I could afford a Yankee Tale that cost only $5.95. What a bargain! The book is better than many of Mr. Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story" programs. It is a shame that so many advocates of political over-correctness can not afford such a paltry sum for a good education. I suppose they just do not know what they are missing or they would blackmail another large corporation so they could afford this book.

These "advocates of untruths" hope no one will buy a book that relates this much of the thinking of Union soldiers. They have probably never read any of the thousands of written testimonies left by Confederate and Union soldiers. These diaries and letters relate the feelings soldiers had about fighting in the war and relate incidents that often remain untold if they are not published in a book.

Jerry Frey, the author of "Grandpa's Gone", provides an account of Private Daniel Buchwalter's life as a private in the 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He served in the Western Army from 1862 to 1865. The actual entries Private

Buchwalter made in his diary are printed as well as an account of the campaigns he participated in. The soldiers who fought in the Western Theater faced the same challenges as those that fought in the East. They not only had to endure sickness and disease, intense fighting, long marches, and at times a shortage of rations. They endured the heat and humidity of the deep South and were often bogged down in swamps and had to contend with hoards of mosquitoes.

The Emancipation Proclamation issued in January 1863 hit the Western Army like a thunderbolt. Many men and officers thought it actually strengthened the Confederacy. Desertion, which had always been a problem in the Union Army, increased. The entire Army was very much discouraged and disheartened. They realized it was a political and military decision rather than a humanitarian or

economic decision. They thought it was ironic that slavery remained lawful in Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. Lincoln's policy change was unpopular with the troops because it altered the purpose of the war. The author notes that the distinguished historian Dr. James I. Robertson observed: "The north had not gone to war to free the slaves, yet it later resolved to free the slaves so as to win the War." Mr. Frey also includes the thoughts Henry G. White, a private in the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, expressed to his mother in a letter written to her. Private White did not want to fight anymore and was considering desertion. He stated that when his unit was organized there were only six men who favored abolition. After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued no one in his unit wanted to fight to free the slaves.

In January 1864 Pvt. Buchwalter tells of rounding up slaves from plantations near Plaquemine, Louisiana and forcing them to rebuild a levee. He emphasizes the fact that the slaves were not paid for their labor. His unit also had a number of women slaves that cooked and performed other domestic chores. Further details of the duties the women slaves were expected to perform are not given in this account but often they were forced to do many things other than cook and wash.

Mr. Frey who is a 1980 graduate of Ohio State University should be lauded for his accurate description of the capture of Fort Blakley, Alabama. Fort Blakley was built on the Tensas River a few miles north of Mobile. The battle that occurred there on April 9, 1865 was the last major battle of the war.

About 5,000 Confederate troops manned the defenses at Fort Blakley. These defenses were designed to accommodate several times as many soldiers as were present in April 1865. The Confederate soldiers were spread much too thin to be effective. Many of them were young boys that had never shaved. They faced a force that greatly outnumbered them in manpower and artillery but fought with the courage of seasoned veterans. Many did not live long enough to shave that first time.

Several regiments of United States Colored Troops participated in the assault. The Confederates soldiers knew they would not be taken prisoners. Many stood their ground until their ammunition was exhausted and they were shot or clubbed to death. Some jumped in the river where they drowned or were shot while swimming to the other bank. A Confederate soldier who survived the battle, stated that more of them were killed after they




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