Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Posted September 11, 2013.

             In memory of John Fletcher Sosman, of the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 1842-1862. The letters and diary excerpts copied below the photograph are part of a collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society. *

[letter home]

I believe I never had anything to weaken me so much in so short a time as this diarrhea has.  On last Saturday a train of our wagons was captured.  Sergeant I. C. Nelson was wounded in four places by the “bushwhackers” who captured the train.  Nelson and ten others only were guarding the train of twenty three wagons loaded with provisions, and while going through a narrow defile they were fired upon by the rascals, wounding Nelson and another one of our company, some of boys said it was Frank Eskar, but I don’t know as I have not seen any one yet that knew.

When Nelson was shot he dropped on his face throwing one hand on the back of his head where he was shot, when he fell a rebel ran up to him and took his pistol, and after probing him with his bayonet left him for a dead “yankee” but in that he was badly mistaken for as soon as he was gone Nelson got up and walked through the woods until he came to a creek when he cut a stick to wade it, but just as he was starting in, a darkey with a horse came along and took him to McDowell where he has been ever since.  He is improving rapidly now.  A few of the teamsters escaped with a horse or two, but very few.  On the following Monday Gen. Milroy sent out a scouting party from our Regt. consisting of about two hundred and fifty men, with orders to kill every secesh that’s big enough to piss against the wall.  It is  hard sentence, but is no matter for them they have had it to easy during this war.  It wont last much longer with them though I think judging from the war news the latest of which is that New Orleans has been taken and burned: also Yorktown, Charlestown, Savannah, and Corinth.  The report this evening is that the rebels are preparing to evacuate Staunton, which will be a very good movement for them unless they want a good thrashing which they will be sure to get if they dont leave soon.  The 75th & 73rd Regts. Have gone to McDowell leaving all of their sick here.

Capt. Hurst came yesterday with about seventy men who had been left at Weston and other points along the road.  He was very well and hearty.  He left this morning for the Regt. taking with him several men from the hospital.

We will all be taken over tomorrow (Sunday) as there is nothing left here for us to eat.  (Sosman letter, 5/3/62)


I visited Sergeant I. C. Nelson this morning.  He is improving finely.  He was shot in six places, through the back of the head, through his right hand, twice through his left leg, and twice through his p—s,  the last two being made by one ball:  besides all that his clothes were completely riddled with bullets.  Frank Eskar who was walking a short distance behind was wounded in four places, once through the lungs, once in the shoulder, and I believe twice in the foot, or once in his foot and once in the let, I forget.  It seems as though it could not be possible either of should escape instant death when the rascals were not more than thirty yards off, some of them being yet a great deal closer than that, and so many of them too.  But just wait the day is coming when they will receive their just dues.  (Sosman letter, 5/5/62)

The Citizens

One of the obstacles facing the Federal troops in Western Virginia was the attitude of the citizens towards them.  Some were loyal Union folk while others were only loyal as long as the troops were in their town.  Still other folk were openly hostile to the men.  Abner Royce wrote to his parents recounting a less than cordial encounter between an officer and some ladies of the town.  “I am told that the ladies in Romney are very saucy.  One day one of the Capts. Of Cav. was passing down street & on meeting a couple of ladies he saluted them civily when one of them spit in his face. he drew up and took here right between the eyes with his fist droping her flat in the mud.” (Royce letters, 4/12/62)

Forage teams had a difficult time of their task as they were forced to go out farther from the main body of the army in search of supplies.  One detailed account tells the fate of a rather large team of wagons from the 73rd Ohio who were ambushed at Williamsport, several miles from McDowell.   John Sosman, ill in the hospital, was present when the wounded Sgt. Nelson was brought in and had an opportunity to talk to the man first hand.  What follows is a combination of his diary and an excerpt from a letter home to his sister.   The reactions of the men, appalled and tired of the foraging teams being attacked, is interesting to note.  Milroy’s reaction is of special note as word of this did get out to the Confederates and ultimately to General Jackson.

[diary entry] Saturday, April 26.

Not much better to day, very weak.  Sergant I.C. Nelson was shot to day by the “bushwhackers” near Williamsport while guarding a train of wagons with nine others.  He was shot in four different places.  He fell as soon as he was shot, a rebel ran up to him when another asked him if he was dead whereupon the stuck with a bayonet and said he was they then  proceeded to the rear leaving Nelson who was in advance as dead capturing the train with all the guards but one and a teamster.  Nelson after he had been left crawled into the bushes where some one found him and brought him to McDowell.  (Sosman diary, 4/26/62)

[diary entry] Monday April 28.

A part of the 73rd Regt. About two hundred and fifty started out this morning for McDowell with orders from Gen Milroy to destroy every thing they came across and to kill every Secesh that was big enough to - against a wall.  It is generally believed that the citizens of Williamsport a small place beyond McD. were the persons who captured the train of wagons, as the bullet marks showed that they were all squirrel rifles.  As they were going through the town on their way for the forage the citizens told them that they would not get back to camp again.  When they came back to the town they were told that they could not cross the river at the ford, as it had swollen very much by the late rains, but that they would have to go over the mountain.  They started that way and had gone some distance when they were ambuscaded at a place on the road where it was very narrow with a thicket of laurel on each side, the laurel being so thick that it was impossible to see more than a rod through them.  The Rebels had cut a great deal of it making a sort of blind of it a few feet from the road.  When they were fired upon one of the teamsters cut one of his horses loose escaping to McDowell by the other road, crossing the river at the ford finding it in good condition being only “belly deep” to his horse, instead of being deep enough to swim the horses as the rebels had told them.


* Title:
Sosman Family Papers
Western Reserve Historical Society
Phone: 216-721-5722
Sosman Family
0.40 linear feet (1 container)
George A. Sosman was a farmer in Chillicothe, Ohio. John F. Sosman served in the 73rd Ohio Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Frank A. Sosman was a clerk and bookkeeper in Chillicothe. Collection consists of letters to George and Lucretia Browning Sosman (1835-1845) from Wesley and Phebe Browning, concerning religious conferences in the Midwest and manual-labor schools among the Shawnee and Choctaw Indians; diaries of George Sosman (1853-1859), with comments on his farming activities; letters of John F. Sosman from Virginia during the Civil War; and diaries of Frank S. Sosman (1867-1869).
MS 555
closed stacks
The records are in English

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