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Captain Jonathan Harrington, Company A, 72nd Ohio


Jonathan F. Harrington was born January 3, 1835 in Erie County, Ohio to Ralph and Anna (Paxton) Harrington. He attended local schools and also spent one year attending school at Detroit, Michigan. Returning home he began his life's work of farming. Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, Harrington enlisted as a private in Company H of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, assisting in the recruitment of the company. In 1862 he was promoted to second lieutenant and later to first lieutenant. He served as Captain of Company A for the last two years of the war, mustering out in September 1865. Harrington fought at Shiloh, Corinth, the Campaign and Seige of Vicksburg, Nashville, Guntown, and at Dauphin Island .

Following the war, Harrington returned to the family farm in Groton Twp. Erie County, Ohio . He married Sarah (Sake) McKesson, the daughter of James and Marietta (Prout) McKesson, January 1, 1868. They were the parents of one daughter, Anne Marietta (Etta) Harrington. Jonathan served several terms as trustee and as clerk of Groton Township, Erie County. He was also a member of the Union Veterans Corps and an officer of the Erie County Agricultural Society. Jonathan died August 14, 1916. His wife Sarah died November 3, 1935.

Below is Harrington's letter (with typed transcription) to his mother following his desperate escape from General Nathan Bedford Forrest's Cavalry following the Battle of Guntown. Two thirds of the 72nd Ohio was killed, wounded, or imprisoned at Andersonville as a result of the Guntown disaster.

Camp 72nd Regt. O.V.V. I.

Memphis, Tenn. June 13th 1864

Dear Mother

it is all luck and chance that I am one of those of our Regt. that was able to Reach Camp Memphis once more. I think when I wrote you last we were in the wilderness beyond Ripley, Miss. You may not get that letter therefore will inform you of our situtation. we Started from memphis Tenn. on the 1st day of June with the intention of drawing the attention of the Rebs to keep them from Reinforcing Johnson w[h]o is fighting Sherman. General Sturgis was in command of our expedition which numbered Eight thousand Enough we thought to whip anything we would be likely to find but owing to Some mismanagement of our General we got badly Demoralized we fought the Rebs on the Guntown Cross Roads our Cavalry were in the advance held the Rebs about two hours untill our Infty could Reinforce them we then Fought about 3 hours the Rebs got Reinforcements and commenced driving us we were ordered to fall Back which was done (but in a rather demoralized condition) at this time the fighting was to its highest our brigade lost verry heavy in killed and wounded our Regt lost but verry few. I think none killed but Some were taken prisoners how many cannot tell. after the Rebs commenced driving us they were to[o] many for us therefore we were obliged to keep falling back and our chances for a Stand was verry poor this was about 5 oclock P.m. we kept up our march all night as fast as our legs would carry us. Reached Ripley a little after day brake a distance of 27 miles the Roads were verry bad and muddy for it had Rained every day Since we left memphis but one and of all the mud I ever Saw this beat all. Stopped to Ripley about 2 hours the Rebs following up our Rear verry close fighting our Rear guard all the way and picking up our Stragglers which were giving out by the hundred I lost five of my men the first night we Started from Ripley at Sunrise for memphis the Rebs attack[ed] us before we left Ripley taking a good many Prisoners. they (Rebs) followed us up all day taking a great many Prisoners about 10 oclock the Rebs got around and fired into our Regt about the center cutting it (the Regt) into the left of the Regt was left behind and Supposed to be taken prisoners and as Co "A" belongs to the left wing of course I was one left behind Sure we expected to be taken prisoners but owing to the bravery Shown by our boys of the left wing held our ground and again advanced but being bothered Some time and those ahead Supposed us to be taken prisoner they took the doubleQuick and we could’nt overtake them again but we marched for dear life. the men falling out verry fast completely tired out the major was with our Squad we had about one hundred men how many the colonel had with him I know not we was making the best time imagineable where the 2nd New Jersey Cav. which was in our Rear got in a panic and Rushed forward Running through our Ranks Scattering our Squad in every direction and it was here that my Company was So [s]cattered that I could’nt get nor couldn’t find but about ten men and those that were left got mules and cavalry horses that were Running in every direction minus their Riders and as luck would Have it I cought a Splendid horse while they were passing me and mounted him hadent gon[e] but a few Rods when I found one of my boys that was give out and took him on behind me we Soon cought up with the maj. and he and I went to find the colonel and to See how many men he had with him Soon found the col. but to our surprise found that he had no men then it was every man for him Self travailed all day and night and the next day untill 9 oclock a.m. when we Reached Colliersville a Small place on the memphis and ohio R.R. about 24 miles from memphis here we rested and awa[1]ted the arrival of the cars to bring in our Sick and wounded and lame Soar footted and fatigued men. Such a Sight never was Seen before it was worse than the battle of Bull Run all owing to the incapasity of our General (Sturgis) who is Responsible for our defeat after he (the Genrl) found out how things were working he cried like a child the fight commenced on friday and we had nothing to eat from friday morning untill Sunday about noon

Mother you need not fret about our Sufferings because it will do no good and My he[a]lth is verry good am Somewhat lame and foot sor and of course feel bad for the loss of my men I had in my company 55 men and got back to camp with 13 my noncommissioned officers were all taken prisoner Co A loss is 41 men but we think Some of them will get in yet if they dont the 72nd Regt never got in Such a fix as they are at the present Commissioned officers missing 11 Enlisted men 230 Billy Woolverton was Color Sergt he is missing I suppose taken prisoner

S.H. Rogers S[t]ayed with me last night he came to memphis while we were out on this (our last) Scout he looks well Sends his Respects to all Mother we marched over 85 miles in 36 Hours after marching all day and fighting about 4 hours you can judge how much time we had for resting. we lost all of our Waggons and artillery the Roads were So bad that they could’nt get along and the Rebs followed us up So close that were obliged to leave them and Saturday the men were obliged to throw their guns away in order to get along they were all ordered to brake their guns before leaving them So the Rebs could’nt use them Mother will close by bidding you a good after noon I got a letter from Lone that was mailed May 31st 1864 Stateing that he was well

Just got the evening Bulletine with a Report of our loss Estimated at 2000 14 Pieces of artillery 200 wagons this I think to be a Small estimate of killed wounded and missing it may not be

I got Pas [?] letter Written June the 4 Saying you were all well we havent been payd off yet and I am out of money

Yours truly