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100 Years Ago

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Stones River

The 20th, 99th, and 118th Ohio regiments had witnessed firsthand death and destruction at Shiloh but none of the units had suffered extensive casualties. That would change when the Union forces found Confederate General Braxton Bragg's army camped along Stones River a mile from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 30, 1862. That night was spent with the two armies camped only several hundred yards apart. The bands from the armies competed with each other, the soldiers joining in, singing throughout the cold, dark night.

The rebels attacked at dawn. The 99th and the 15th Ohio were in the thick of the fight. Ken Burns in his book "The Civil War, an Illustrated Story," related that the fighting was some of the most fierce of the war. battleofstonesriver.gif (74374 bytes)The artillery was so thunderous that the men stopped fighting and picked cotton to stuff in their ears. Schultz's Battery (Battery M, 1st Ohio artillery), composed of German-speaking Shelby County boys, was heavily involved in this activity.

The result was a standoff. The 99th Ohio, however, suffered its most severe losses of the war. Eighty-seven men were either killed, wounded, or captured. From Shelby County, the casualty list included 99th Ohio soldiers Dudenick Dearbolt, Simon Dumsbarger, James Luckey, James Murphy, and John Swander, while Lucas Borer and John Charity of the 15th Ohio died.

Lt. Ben LeFevre, a Salem Township native, was an officer in the 99th Ohio. He would later enter politics and represent Shelby County in Congress. For his leadership at Stones River, he received a battlefield promotion to the rank of major. In a letter to Ohio Governor David Tod a few days after the battle, which was reprinted in the Sidney papers, the commander of Lefevre's division said: "No officer in this corps displayed more valor, coolness and bravery, and no one under my command is more entitled to promotion than Lt. LeFevre."

ltbenlefevregroup.gif (48136 bytes)
Lt. Ben LeFevre is seated at the far left in the front row.

Dr. Albert Wilson was assigned to the division hospital immediately after the battle. In a letter to brother Henry on February 5, 1863, Wilson reported he was still in Murfreesboro, caring for "...many poor fellows (who) were too seriously injured to admit being moved even a short distance."

Dr. Wilson told admiringly of a local plantation owner, William Smith, who gave up his home for the care of the Union wounded. "His entire family took quarters in a Negro hut. He claims that he asserted his influence as long as it was safe to do so for the Union and would be glad to have peace restored with the Union."

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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