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The 144th Ohio Infantry in Howard County

Service at Annapolis Junction, Elysville, and Relay House, 5/30/1864-at least 8/18/1864

Primary Sources
Archival and Secondary Sources

The 144th Ohio Infantry Regiment was mustered in at Camp Chase, Ohio on May 11, 1864 for 100 days of service. The men were recruited from Wyandot and Wood counties in northwest Ohio. On the afternoon of May 12, they marched to the depot of the Central Ohio Railroad and entrained for Pittsburgh.

Their first casualty occurred the next day, while traveling near Wheeling, Virginia. Private Irwin Ostraw [Straw], just 18 years old, fell from the top of the rear train car and was run over by the last car. The 144th arrived in Pittsburgh at 7pm, Friday and were treated to a “bountiful supply of wholesome provisions and good coffee” at City Hall.

The next day the 144th passed through Johnston, Altoona, and Harrisburg before arriving in Baltimore at 10 o'clock Sunday morning. There they marched to Fort McHenry, where a portion of the unit would spend the next 100 days. Two companies, G and K, were sent to the Relay House, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in present day Elkridge, MD. Companies were also sent to Fort Delaware and to Annapolis, MD.

H. S. Chapin, writing from the Relay House a few days later, described their march to the Relay House:

“…a march of thirteen miles, on a hot day, carrying a musket and accoutrements, with twenty rounds of ammunition, a haversack full of rations, a canteen full of water, a knapsack containing a rubber blanket, woolen blanket, overcoat, vest, shirt, pair of drawers, socks, some writing paper, and envelopes, a tin plate, cup, pocket inkstand, knife, fork and spoon, a printers rule, and a 'fine-tooth' comb…”

Companies A, F, D, and H joined companies G and K at Relay House, and occupying the nearby Fort Dix, previously constructed by the 4th Wisconsin and the 10th Maine.

J. Ayres, writing to the Wyandot Pioneer on May 26th described the locality and sustenance:

“Our camp is delightfully situated on the west side of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a few rods north of the Relay House, covering a beautiful spot of ground, gently sloping to the westward, upon which grows large Chestnut, Oak, Ceder, Pine and other trees, affording a delightful shade over the entire camp. We have plenty of substantials to eat, and as for luxuries, all it requires to obtain these in abundance, is a few greenbacks. I had green peas for dinner twice last week and strawberries once.”

On the 27th Company F was detailed further south, to Annapolis Junction, where they camped near the railroad. Company F pitched their tents - four pieces of heavy cloth about two yards square each - raised up in the air two feet using wood left by a previous regiment. Chapin described Annapolis Junction “…this place… is one of very little importance - it containing two hotels, a small store, and perhaps half a dozen residences.” However, just a short distance from the Junction the Government had built the “USA General Hospital at Annapolis Junction”, which would soon be renamed the Rulison General Hospital, after the Surgeon of the 9th New York Cavalry. This hospital comprised over 20 buildings and was designed to hold 290 patients.

Another casualty occurred when Lee Klopfenstien, of Bowling Green, accidentally discharged his musket, shattering his right forefinger, which was amputated. Only one member of the Company, John Barton, was sick, and he remained at the Relay House, which had a small hospital (Rulison General Hospital was used for soldiers who were over their injuries, but still recuperating.)

The rest of May and all of June was spent in the relatively easy duty of guarding the railroad; examining all passengers looking for deserters, guarding switches, cuts, and intersection along the tracks, and attempting to prevent the sale of liquor to the troops. Chapin, along with two companions, received permission to visit Annapolis, where a portion of their unit was stationed. While at Annapolis, they climbed to the steeple of the State House to view the city and country, entered the House and Senate chambers and feasted on beefsteaks, bread, butter, potatoes, eggs, onions, radishes, and strawberries.

Chapin, and the men of the 144th stationed at Relay House began to get glimpses of war. In late June Chapin and 30 members of the unit were sent to the station to pass water to a train full of “walking wounded” from the war. Chapin describes the scene:

“Many wanted cold water poured upon their wounds, and this was done when they requested it. For this purpose, one man uncovered a stump of an arm, only five or six inches of which remained; another, an arm off at the elbow; here you pour water on an arm through which a rebel bullet has passed; then on an arm without a hand; or on a hand minus a finger or thumb, or perhaps both. Yet the poor fellows were patient and cheerful, and one could not help admiring the heroic manner in which they bore their sufferings.”

In June, Leonard Snyder of Company F, died after being unwell for several days. In July, Asa Brayton, the captain of Company D, died of typhoid and was buried with full honors. Elkana Sherman, also of Company D, also died. On the 4th of July, the men of Company F were going through their usual duties when they received an order to hold themselves in readiness to move on very short notice. Accordingly they cooked three days rations and awaited orders.

Company F did not move out, but companies B, G, and I were engaged at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9th. The units suffered serious casualties, with initial reports listing about 50 men injured and killed. Lieutenant Kimberlin and three of his men were routed and had to “take to the woods” to avoid capture. They headed north and eventually ended up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, over 30 miles away.

W. A. Butler, of Company G, was detailed to guard the companies baggage when the rest of the company was ordered into battle. He later wrote the Wyandot Pioneer, “That was the last I saw of our Co.” Forced to retreat with his companions, Butler arrived near the battlefield in time to see his company “flying from the host of demons that was swarming all around them. I will not pretend, at present, to give you even a faint idea of the terrible sight which was presented to the beholder. When I commenced writing, I thought I should, but I cannot.”

The firing during the battle was distinctly heard at Annapolis Junction. Rebel cavalry was reported just a few miles from the Junction. Company F slept “on our arms” and kept strict watch until Tuesday the 12th.

Initial worries about the 144th's casualties during the battle were allayed a few weeks later, as all of the men of Company I had emerged alive, with approximately five men injured, and eight men taken prisoner. Company B had one man killed, three wounded, and four taken prisoner. Company G had similar losses.

In the middle of July most of the 144th marched to Washington and thence to Snickers Gap, back to Washington D. C., to Harpers Ferry, and then to Berryville, Virginia, where they skirmished with Moseby's raiders, losing five killed, six wounded, and sixty taken prisoner. Meanwhile, Company F remained at Annapolis Junction. On August 18th the regiments “100 days” had expired and they returned to Ohio, having suffered 10 men killed in battle, and losing 53 to disease.

144th_ohio_infantry.txt · Last modified: 2019/06/21 17:29 by admin