Makers of Web sites about Civil War regiments have many motivations. Mine was to learn more about the Civil War experiences of my great-great grandfather, William Rea, who served with the 45th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry from August 1862 until his capture in the siege of Knoxville in November 1863.
His regiment, at first glance, had an unremarkable war. It did not fight in the most famous battles, suffer the worst casualties or win the most distinguished honors. No one gave it a nickname or wrote its regimental history.
And yet when I did a bit of digging, I discovered that the 45th had at least two distinctions that set it apart from most Ohio regiments, one colorful and one tragic.
On July 19, 1863, the 45th was present at the Battle of Buffington Island -- the only Civil War battle fought on Ohio soil. Federal forces captured nearly 700 of John Hunt Morgan's 2,000 men, while killing 57 and wounding 63. The remaining raiders either crossed the Ohio River into West Virginia -- Morgan's original objective in stopping at Buffington Island -- or escaped with their leader. Morgan continued his raid through Ohio until July 26, when he and his remaining troops surrendered. The 45th, whose men had fought Morgan's forces in one of the first engagements of the raid, sent detachments on this final pursuit as well.
Second, the 45th suffered more deaths in Confederate prisons, 134, than any of Ohio's 315 units, of all branches of the service. Mostly captured in two engagements, one at Philadelphia, Tennessee on October 20, 1863 and another at Holston River, Tennessee on November 15, 1863, prisoners from 45th were first sent to Richmond, Virginia, where 63 perished in the harsh winter months. The survivors were among the first contingents sent to the prison in Andersonville, Georgia, which opened in February, 1864. Sixty-eight never left its gates alive. Altogether three-fifths of the 274 men from the 45th captured during the war died either in prison or soon after their release, from the effects of malnutrition and disease.
After fighting in the siege of Knoxville in November and December 1863, the 45th took part in many engagements of Sherman's Atlanta campaign, including the battles of Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain and Jonesboro. As part of the 4th Army Corps, it joined the pursuit of Hood's army through Tennessee in the waning days of 1864 and engaged the enemy in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. The regiment was mustered out on June 12, 1865.
If you have any comments or information about the 45th that you would like to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you and enjoy!
Mark Rea Schilling
First, it took part in the dramatic pursuit of Morgan's Raiders as they rode raising havoc through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio for three weeks in July of 1863 -- making the farthest northern penetration of any Confederate troops and conducting the longest raid of the war, nearly 1,000 miles from start to finish.