Brothers in Cumberland’s Iron Brigade
The 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had not seen the elephant. Missing out on Mill Springs (having been left in the rear at Somerset), not present at Shiloh or Stones River, the regiment’s service thus far had been marching, foraging, and guarding railroads, but no battlefield experience. While on the field at Perryville with the rest of the brigade, the 35th arrived so late in the evening of October 8th as to have suffered no casualties, while the brigade only suffered 8 casualties. Therefore, unlike the seasoned Germans of the 9th Ohio, and the experienced men of the 2nd Minnesota, the 35th was still an unknown battlefield quantity. That would change at Chickamauga in September 1863, two years after the regiment was formed.
The 35th was raised from four Ohio counties – Butler, Warren, Preble, and Montgomery. Over half the regiment was from Butler County, two companies from Warren, and one company from Montgomery and a company and part of another from Preble County (where the author’s third great uncle Daniel W. Cooper joined Company G before transferring to Company C as a corporal). The regiment formed at Camp Hamilton at the Butler County Fairgrounds before moving to a more suitable location just north of downtown Hamilton.
When the 35th marched off to war in September 1861, it was to move into northern Kentucky and guard the Kentucky Central Railroad near Cynthiana. Being one of the first Ohio regiments in the Bluegrass State, it did not even have its National colors, something that the few pro-Union ladies of Cynthiana would rectify when they stitched and presented to Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer the 35th’s first National flag.
|Henry V. Boynton|
Serving alongside the 9th Ohio for nearly three years the two regiments formed strong bonds. Even before the 35th had proven its worth there was a camaraderie between the men. Given the fact that approximately fifty men from Butler County were in the 9th, that many of the men in the 35th were of German heritage, and the close proximity between Cincinnati and Hamilton, it is natural that a strong bond would develop. In March 1862 the men of the 9th and 35th were told to arm themselves with clubs and participate in a rabbit hunt. The plan was to drive the rabbits towards the Cumberland River where then the men would be able to capture a great number of them. Things did not go as well as planned, but the 35th apparently captured many more rabbits than the 9th. Good-natured ribbing came about as a result, leading Robert McCook, first colonel of the 9th and now in command of the brigade, to remark to the 35th’s Major Henry Boynton, “That’s quite natural. Your men are a set of darned hounds. Of course you can catch rabbits.”
However, as friendly as the two regiments might have been, courtesies halted when it came to sharing certain delicacies. While near Corinth the 9th’s sutler, knowing full well the proclivities of his unit, had ordered a large supply of sauerkraut and beer for which the 9th planned to use for a celebration. The 9th invited the 35th to share in the sauerkraut, as Benjamin Arnold of the 35th recalled “The Thirty-fifth always stood in with the Ninth, so far as doing duty, fighting, and eating were concerned. But when it came to beer, we were not in the deal. So they gave us a generous share of the kraut, but when it came to the lager, they said, ‘Nein.’”
The 35th supported the 9th during the aftermath of the murder of Robert McCook, killed by guerillas while riding ill in an ambulance. After finding out about McCook’s demise, the 9th went on a rampage, hanging locals that had been pointed out as participants, burning many homes and buildings as well. It was Ferdinand Van Derveer who finally was able to bring order back o the 9th, but being sympathetic to the 9th’s action, would write “The rebels have been made to pay dearly for this, we burned every house within three miles of this place.”
Music was an important part of the soldier life. When the regimental band was discharged in early 1863, there were still enough musicians in the regiment to be given a tent to practice and play. When the 35th’s band wasn’t engaged, music often would come from the 2nd Minnesota’s noted bugle band, or the 9th’s musicians. The 9th even enlisted privates as musicians, and the regiment made up the difference in pay for these men, as musicians were paid more than a private.
|Regimental flag of the 35th presented later in the war|
In the months following Stones River, Van Derveer took the opportunity to drill his men as a brigade, building an identity and a bond for every unit in the brigade. While the 35th and 9th were on friendly terms, the 35th was not as close to the 2nd Minnesota or the later arriving 87th Indiana. This period allowed the individual regiments to become a closely-knit brigade, allowing Van Derveer to state “Mine is acknowledged to be one, if not the best brigade in the Army of the Cumberland—But it won’t do to brag.”
I won’t go into the details of the Battle of Chickamauga but rather refer the reader to David Powell’s excellent trilogy that covers the campaign and battle. But I will mention a few items of note. Van Derveer’s Brigade was heavily engaged on both September 19th and 20th, being part of the defense of Snodgrass hill on the latter date. While there were many heroic efforts made by other Federal brigades at Chickamauga, Van Derveer’s men were used repeatedly to engage the Confederates, and the brigade’s training and comradeship was exemplified through its actions and casualty lists. At Chickamauga the 35th would lose 64 men on September 19th (killed, wounded, missing, and captured), while suffering an additional 84 men the next day, mostly in defense of the Snodgrass Hill area (where the author’s ancestor was wounded). The 35th have seen the elephant, and had risen to the occasion.
The 35th would go on to additional glory at Missionary Ridge in November 1863 where the regiment suffered the loss of an additional 16 men. They would continue to serve through the beginning phases of the Atlanta Campaign, from Resaca to Peach Tree Creek, and then would muster out of service on September 27th, 1864. Men who had joined the regiment later would transfer to the 18th Ohio Infantry.
The legacy of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry lives on in one way – Ferdinand Van Derveer and Henry Boynton were visiting the Chickamauga battlefield after the war, and while walking the ground of the actions, discussed preserving the ground for the future. This idea would morph into the Chickamauga National Battlefield, and Henry Boynton, leader of the 35th at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge (where he would be wounded and earned a Medal of Honor), would serve as a park commissioner and be the leading force on determining where the various monuments would be placed. If there was any question about his pride in the 35th, just look at the prominent location its monument holds on Snodgrass Hill.