John M. Graybeal
Born on March 27, 1845 in Huntsville, Logan County, Ohio, John M. Graybeal became an orphan at the age of eleven when his parents, who had a farm in Huntsville, and a sister died of typhoid fever. He went to live with an uncle in a neighboring county until he was old enough to join the army.
Graybeal enlisted for three years as a private in Company D of the 45th OVI on August 4, 1862, at Bellefontaine in Logan County, Ohio. He was seventeen years old, stood five feet, eight inches tall, and had a dark complexion, gray eyes and dark hair. He was a farmer by occupation. He reported to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, where the 45th Ohio regiment was being organized, and, together with the rest of his unit, was mustered into the Union Army on August 19, 1862.
Graybeal served with the 45th until October 20, 1863, when the regiment, as part of Wolford's brigade operating in Philadelphia, Tennessee, became surrounded by a large force of Confederate cavalry that was clearing the way for General James Longstreet's advance on Knoxville. The command was able to cut itself out, but many men were killed, wounded or captured. Graybeal was one of those taken prisoner. ( He later told his daughter Lola that his horse had been shot from under him.) On November 1, 1863, he began his stay as a prisoner of war in Belle Isle Prison, located on an island in the middle of the James River at Richmond, Virginia.
After a harsh winter of winter of sleeping in makeshift tents made from blankets, with insufficient food and medical supplies, Graybeal was admitted to Hospital #21 in the Pemberton Building with acute bronchitis on March 9, 1864. He spent his nineteenth birthday there. During his hospital stay the healthier prisoners from the 45th were being transferred to Andersonville prison, where more than ninety percent would die before the end of the war. If he had not been so ill, Graybeal would also have been sent to Andersonville .
Because of his poor condition, Graybeal was exchanged on April 16th at City Point, Virginia. He weighed only 89 pounds, according to his daughter Lola. Two days later he was admitted to Patterson Park Convalescent Hospital in Baltimore with "debility" (i.e., dysentery and scurvy).
On May 11, 1864, he was released from the hospital and, on June 14th, re-joined his regiment as it was approaching the Kennesaw Mountain battle area. Because of his run-down condition he was made a company cook and served in that capacity until sometime in September.
John M. Graybeal, age 20
(Nashville, Tenn., 1865)
Together with his regiment, Graybeal participated in the Atlanta campaign, until the fall of Atlanta on September 2. He then took part in the pursuit of General George Hood's Army of Tennessee, as its marched through Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee in its attempt to capture Nashville, the main supply center for the Union armies in the west. On November 29, 1864, while Hood was advancing northward toward Nashville, the 4th Corps, of which the 45th was a unit, was nearly surrounded by Hood's army at Spring Hill, Tennesseee. The next day Hood's army hurled itself against the dug-in 4th and 23rd Corps in the hard-fought Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Confederate casualities in the ensuing slaughter were the worst of any single-day battle of the entire war.
Two weeks later the 4th and 23rd Corps engaged Hood in a two-day battle in front of Nashville that resulted in a decisive defeat for the Confederates. After following what was left of Hood's army in its retreat south across the Tennessee River, the 4th Corps went into winter camp at Huntsville. Graybeal was promoted to Corporal on March 25, 1865.
In April 1865, the 4th Corps was ordered to Bull's Gap in East Tennessee near the Virginia border to block the path of retreat for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Shortly after Lee's surrender at Appomatox, the 45th Ohio regiment returned to Nashville from Bull's Gap and was mustered out of service on June 12, 1865, at Camp Harker, Tennessee.