History of the 126th Ohio Volunteers
By John H. Gilson
Dogwood blossoms scented the warm air as blue columns threaded through the Virginia countryside early in May 1864. Among the marching soldiers was a 23-year-old private named John H. Gilson. His regiment, the 126th Ohio Volunteers, wore the blue 6th Corps cross of Gen. James B. Ricketts' division, but had seen little fighting during the previous year and a half. As the Ohioans deployed into line through thickly tangled underbrush south of the Rapidan River, their fortunes quickly changed.
The following fortnight was simply remembered as "an awful experience" of hellish hardship and bloody sacrifice. Two days of vicious combat in the Wilderness reduced the regiment's ranks by 40 percent. Four more days of incessant fire at Spotsylvania whittled away another 23 percent. Gilson himself became a casualty on May 12 when he was struck in the face by a spent ball, which destroyed his left eye. Despite the severe injury, he eventually returned to the regiment in time to witness the final days of trench warfare at Petersburg and Confederate surrender at Appomattox.
Eighteen years later Gilson published this account, using his wartime diary and the letters, journals, official reports and reminiscences of a dozen other comrades. The narrative chronicles 34 months of active service, encompassing 26 battles and skirmishes. After the nightmarish ordeal of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, the 126th moved with its division to repel Rebel Gen. Jubal Early's Maryland invasion in July 1864. At the Monocacy River 35 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., the Buckeyes lost 74 officers and men, before joining Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's forces in the Shenandoah Valley. They played important roles in the successive battles of Opequan, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek --- at a cost of 111 casualties, including regimental commander Lt. Col. Aaron W. Ebright, killed on September 19, 1864.
Gilson's work features an annotated roster and nine biographical sketches of officers who lost their lives in battle. A new index and 52 photo portraits, most of them recently discovered, further enhance Blue Acorn Press' edition of this rare Ohio regimental history.
Hardcover with dust jacket, 330 pages illustrated with 58 photographic and engraved portraits, roster, index. ISBN 1-885033-26-5.