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September 2011

Thomas H. Fisher

Memoir of Civil War Service with the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 1890

Thomas A. Fisher, Civil War Service, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Fremont, Ohio, August 23, 1908

Thinking that in years to come, it might be of interest, I desire to leave this statement of my present recollections of some of the happenings and instances of my life.

I was born in Jackson Township, Sandusky County, Ohio, December 10, 1836. My fathers name was William Fischer; my mother’s name before her marriage with my father, was Mary McCulloch, and she was of Irish descent; my father was of German descent. His people were from somewhere in Virginia, and my mother’s people, as I now recall, came from the Old Country.

My father was married twice, having a family of six children by his first marriage; and ten children by the second marriage, six boys and four girls.

My father died in 1872, being nearly eighty-four years of age. My mother die3d in 1861, at the age of about sixty years, the record of her birth being burned, and I cannot remember her exact age; my father said he thought she was about sixty years of age.

Belinda, wife of D.C. Miller, was the oldest of my sisters. My sister Sarah married Sylvester Klotz, and is now living in Constantine, Mich. She was the twin sister of my brother, Peter Beaugrand Fisher, who, I think, is now dead, as I have heard nothing from him since he was in Phoenix, Arizona. My sister, Flora, married a man in Illinois, and they afterwards moved to some place in Pennsylvania, where she died, and I am not able at this time to recall her husband’s name; I think she had two or three children. My sister Nancy, died, unmarried, at about the age of twenty-five years, and is buried in the graveyard at Washington Chapel in Washington (______), Sandusky County, Ohio.

My half sisters were Harriet, Margaret, and Elizabeth. arrHa Harriet married Norton Skinner, and after his death, married George Feught. Margaret married Christian Hummel. Elizabeth married James Hufford. All are now deceased. One other child of my father by his first marriage died in infancy.

My half-brothers were James and George. James went to Denver in about 1860, and engaged in mining; I never saw him after he went West, but have heard from him. He died, leaving several children. George W. Fisher resided in Bellville Township at the date of his death, and practically all his life. He was the father of John C. Fisher, Frank Fisher, Mrs. Herbert Hathaway, and Melissa Smith.

The names of the boys born of my father’s second marriage, were William Travis Fisher, Thomas H. Fisher, John C. Fisher, Austin T. Fisher, Sardis Birchard Fisher, and Peter Beaugrand Fisher. William died a few years ago at Fort Scott, Kansas; he was a lieutenant in Company B, 72nd O.V.I.; He was never captured or put in a rebel prison, and was out something over a year with the regiment, when we was taken sick and sent home. He afterwards drifted West and was engaged in some kind of store keeping in Prescott, Kansas, and was postmaster at that place for several years. He afterwards moved to Fort Scott where he died shortly after, which was some seven or eight years ago. He went out with the regiment in 1861, and after recovery from sickness, he returned to Memphis, where he was engaged in store-keeping for two or three years. He afterwards moved to Kansas where he married, having family of three children, all girls, I think.

John C. Fisher died, unmarried, belonged to Company B, 72nd O.V.I., and elisted in that regiment after same was in the field; he veteranized in 1864, by enlisting again for three years, and shortly thereafter was captured at the Cuntown Rain, or near Ripley, Miss., June 10th, 1864, and was taken direct to Andersonville where he remained until 1865, when he was finally exchanged. He was put on the boat, Sultana, which was afterwards blown up on the Mississippi River on its trip from Vicksburg to Cairo, Illinois. The doctor would not allow him to go aboard the boat as he was too suck, and the boat was overcrowded. My Brother William was in Memphis, Tenn., at the time the Sultana was blown up, and we all supposed that our brother Austin had been killed in that disaster. I afterwards met him in Columbus, Ohio; I was sitting there reading novel one day on the steps, and he came along and whispered to me: “ Is that a pretty good book you got?” We were all sure he was dead, and I told him “ By golly, I expected your funeral was preached long before you got home.” When he came home he was so weak he could not speak above a whisper, and died a few months after he arrived home, and is buried at Washington Chapel. He was the best educated one of the whole family, and the most quiet by a good deal.

Sardis Birchard Fisher belonged to the 169th O.V.I., and mustered with the regiment when it was formed, and stayed with it during the time it was in service, and was mustered out in Columbus. He afterwards went West and I never saw him after that. He died, unmarried, in Denver about fifteen years after the war. He generally taught school for an occupation as long as I knew anything about him, and I think he followed that occupation after going West.

Peter Beaugrand Fisher was the twin brother of Sarah Klots. He was a member of the 169thO.V.I., and after the close of the war, went West and engaged in mining. I think he is now dead, though I am not sure, as I have heard nothing from him for about twenty years.

I was married to Mary Ann Thierwechter at Fremont, Ohio, in March, 1861, by Rev. Henry Lang, and went to housekeeping in Sandusky Township on the Crowell farm, in that same year, and resided there at the time I signed the muster roll of the 169th Regiment, O.V.I. We had two children at that time, and we were possessed of very little property, and my wife was left almost totally upon her own resources while I was absent in the army.

I first went to Sandusky where we drilled for a week or so, and then to Toledo where the same actions were repeated; and being anxious to see actual service, if I were to be separated from my family, and concluding that the 169th would hardly see actual service, and not having been regularly mustered into service, I left the 169th an went to Sandusky and was again examined and enlisted in Company B, 72nd O.V.I. I then went to Columbus, Ohio, to Todd’s Barracks, where I stayed for probably a week, and from there was sent to Memphis, where I went with perhaps fifty to sixty other volunteer soldiers, who were going to fill various regiments. Our crowd pretty much went with the same regiment. We arrived in Memphis and found a portion of the regiment. The members whose first term’s enlistment had nearly expired and had not re-enlisted, were camping at Memphis till the regiment got back from home.

John M. Lommon of Clyde, was captain of our Company B; Joy Winters was 1st Lieutenant, and I think we had no 2nd Lieutenant at that time.

We stayed at Memphis about two or three weeks, perhaps, before we started on the Guntown Raid. General Sturgis was in command at that time; I don’t know where Sturgis was from, or to what regiment he belonged. General Buckland was the general of our regiment, but for some reason did not go with the regiment on its trip from Memphis.

We arrived in the neighborhood of Ripley, Mississippi, about four o’ clock in the afternoon, after travelling twenty-four hours as steady as any body of men could travel. I was more tired that I ever had been before in my life, or since. We went down there to keep up a railroad, but they tore us up. There was one of the worst marshes there that I ever saw in my life; I guess it was a mile across, and we crossed that marsh instead of going around good roads. I crawled over a good many dead horses that night, and I drank water out of that marsh, too.

The fight began about four o’clock in the afternoon of June 9th, and we kept up the fight until the next day, when I, with a number of other soldiers, was captured at about four in the afternoon; perhaps a hundred and fifty were captured at that time, and about eleven hundred were captured and taken back to camp.

When I was finally captured, I had all my equipment with which I started, and when the rebel demands of me my gun, I throw it into a mud-hole and said to him, “ When you get that gun, it will do you lots of good”. Many of the boys struck their guns around trees and against rocks and bent them, but the place where I disposed of mine, was in a pretty deep mud-hole where I felt there was no chance of them getting it. If I had not been foolish and would have kept my gun and cartridge belt, I might have stood a better chance of escaping capture. After being captured, the rebels took us back perhaps a mile and a half, where we camped the first night. We were not searched as we had not received our pay and had no money to speak of, and I don’t remember seeing a single man who had his gun after being captured.

We were fed the first night on what we had ourselves, so if we had nothing, we got nothing. When our train retreated, they threw off a lot of cracker boxes and the boys took what they could get hold of. I had nothing the first night, and probably none the second, and very little the third, and so on.

We were moved the second day to a point along some railroad where we were loaded onto freight cars principally, with about five or six guards on each car. We travelled in this way into Andersonville, where we were unloaded and marched to prison, where out names were taken by the rebels. We were then turned loose in the prison stockade, and a place was soon afterwards assigned to us for our habitation; our location or hole in prison, was along the west side of a drain that ran through the stockade. At the time we were penned up, there were perhaps eleven thousand other prisoners at the same prison.

The water we had to drink, we procured from the ditch or stream on which we were camped, We had to procure our own firewood if we desired to do any cooking, and was there were no trees then standing inside the stockade, wood was an extremely scarce article; all stumps had been or were being taken away as fast as they could take them.

My equipment, after reaching prison, consisted of a tin cup which I used to drink from, and also for a pillow.

After being there some time, my clothing, as a matter of fact, needed some repairs, and by careful maneuvering I managed to make myself a shirt from two pairs of old underdrawors, one of my own, and a pair that some comrade kindly gave me for that purpose. The work upon this shirt was accomplished solely by myself, with some little assistance of Mark Crowell, who now lives near Castalia, Ohio.

I had a pretty good white had when I went into prison, which was against the orders to wear anything but the regulation army cap; however, shortly afterwards, while I was sleeping, some fellow took the objectionable white hat and when I awoke I had over my face a dilapidated rebel hat which I had to wear or go bareheaded.

After we were in there some several weeks, the numbers became so great that the water supply was all but exhausted, and we were all suffering for want of water to drink, much less to wash in, until some time in July when Providence Spring broke through within the stockade, but inside the dead line, and was between the stockade and the dead line where we could not get to it. There was finally a trough built to convey the water from the spring outside the dead line where we could get it, as the spring only ran a stream as big as your arm, and there would be perhaps a thousand or so in line taking their turns to get into the water. There was no digging or other change being made in the surface of the ground where this spring broke out, and as the same seemed to have been already an act on the part of Nature, it was called by us “Providence Spring”, and I believe has always kept that name. It was always looked funny to me that this spring broke out so far up the bank; there was quite a hill there and it broke out quite a way up toward the top of the bank.

After several months in prison, the prisoners elected their own officers and tried men for crimes committed within the stockade; they would be permitted to go outside to hold their trials, but all sentences were carried out inside the stockade. At one time they tried six prisoners for murder which had been committed in stealing from other prisoners; the six men were found guilty outside the prison, were returned inside, a scaffold erected and in the afternoon all of them were hung on the East side on the bank if the stream in the open for the purpose of a warning to others within the stockade.

I frequently saw Captain Wertz, the commander of the Andersonville prison, who was a little short, fat, freckle-faced, red-headed Dutchman. I was present when we returned the six men who were hanged, inside the prison to be executed, or done with as they pleased. We had lawyers inside the prison, and had picked our jury, and they had a fair and impartial trial. I knew some of the men who were on that jury; they belonged to the 114th Illinois. And after the execution of these six men who were called “ Raiders” there was no more stealing within the prison while I was there, that I ever heard of, but before that time there was a cry of “Raiders” almost every night.

Finally, after being in Andersonville about three months, I was transferred with a lot of other soldiers, to a little town by the name of Rough-and-Ready, where Sherman had captured about three thousand rebel prisoners, and was willing to exchange, but he desired to exchange prisoners who were of his immediate army, and I not being of his army, was rejected and sent back to prison at Macon, stayed there about two weeks an d was taken to Millen, where I was confined in prison for some two months and a half. This prison was not as bad as Andersonville, not being so many there and we had a good deal of wood but the food was just the same, however, as in Andersonville; we had no building there to stay in, and during the time I was in prison there was no building there to stay in, and during the time I was in prison there was no building except when I was at Macon for a short time.

During the time I was a prisoner, and while wewere being transforred from Rough-and-Ready to Macon, I escaped with two other soldiers, Hiram and Isaac Overmyer; we escaped one night by crawling through a hole in the bottom of the car and dropping down onto the outside of the rails on the end of the ties, where we lay quiet until the train passed on over us, when we arose and struck out through the country we supposed to be direct toward our line. We went perhaps only a mile that night when we lay down and slept until morning. We then took turns in begging at negro cabins, for something to eat, and we most always got it, too, probably not very much, but in a little better shape than we had been getting in prison. The second night we again slept in the woods. We attended one negro wedding, which they had out on the open ground. That night we stayed in one of the negro’s master’s barn.

We were out twelve days before we were again captured, and then were discovered by a rebel soldier who was home on a furlough. Our capture came about thus: I was to stay with a man who said he had a brother living about a mile or so away, and would take the other soldiers on to his brother’s, as his brother was also a good union man, which I guess he was but he had a son in the rebel army who happened to be home on a furlough, and he reported us, and they got the dogs after us and run us down about four o’clock in the afternoon. Together we attempted to escape from the rebels. We did not know we had been reported until we heard the dogs about a half hour before they got us. When we heard the dogs we went up trees. They had perhaps twelve or fifteen dogs in their pack, and about that many men, mounted. Their horses were all lather, and when they caught up with us one rebel wanted to know of me what I would have done with the dogs if I had had a gun, and I promptly informed him that I would have shot them as fast as they came up, if I had ammunition. They said if we had killed one of those dogs, they would have killed all three of us. I was pretty mad, and the other boys wouldn’t say a word, and that made me worse. The rebels made us come down out of the trees and march ahead of them while they rode on horse-back. They took us to a farm-house where they got some applejack, and also gave us a good drink, the first I had in three months. They kept us over night in some man’s house and guarded us, and the next day they took us to Macon.

These twelve days that I was absent on this escape, were the other days that I was out of prison for about six months. I was in no particular battles during my service in the army, other than skirmishes and the Guntown Raid. When I was leaving Macon four or five rebels on each car guarded us, and I asked them: “ What do you think of one Johnnie whipping two or three Yanks?” and “ they guessed they would come out all right yet “, and I said: “ I tell you there are five Johnnies and I can lick all five of you in a fist fight if you will come out here.” By golly, I guess they were all pretty near scared to death.

I don’t know what became of my tin cup. While I was in Andersonville, I cut some trinkets out of bone, that I know I couldn’t do here; out letters in then and put red sealing wax on the inside. I had them in my pockets and when I was parolled and got on the boat, I had to change clothes and throw the clothes overboard, and I never thought of the trinkets. I would like to have fetched some of them along home because I don’t think I could ever have cut them out here.

I had a knife, a fork and spoon, all combined, that I bought; I guess it cost me a dollar; that was before I went to prison. I traded with a rebel and got a good deal better knife than I had, and got fifteen dollars in confederate money, to boot. I got three plugs of tobacco with the fifteen dollars, and I bet you in an hour I didn’t have any left; the other prisoners came and I couldn’t refuse them. Many times in prison I traded beef that I got for a day’s rations, for a chew of tobacco. We were furnished no tobacco by the rebels while in prison, and our fare of cornmeal mush, peas with bugs in them, and once in a while we would get a little rice. There wasn’t enough for one meal that a well man would eat, that we got in three meals.

From Millen there was a call for so many thousand sick men to be exchanged, and I was taken from Millen to Atlanta, and sent by water to our own line at Annapolis, Maryland, where we were returned within our own lines. In a month or so I got back home, and I never went back to the army again.

I would go back to Camp Chase at Columbus, Ohio, and sty four or five weeks, and then home and stay four or five weeks, and so on, until about the 10th of June, 1865, when I was called to Columbus and paid off at Camp Chase, and mustered out.

Thomas. H. Fisher