He was sorry he wrote "Dixie"

Listen to variations of DIXIE:

Emmett’s original lyrics (recorded 1916)

sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford:

Confederate version of Dixie

Union version of Dixie

Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904) wrote the song Dixie while he was a member of Bryant’s Minstrels, a troupe of white musicians performing in blackface, a popular performance style (by whites) in minstrel shows in the 1850’s. They performed Dixie for the first time at Mechanics’ Hall in New York City on April 4, 1859.

Dixie tells the story of a freed black slave pining for the plantation of his birth, the lyrics written in an exaggerated version of African American vernacular, intended for comic effect. “If I had known to what use they [Southerners] were going to put the song,” Emmett later said, “I will be damned if I’d ever written it.” After the South began using the song as its anthem, Emmett and George G. Bruce wrote the fife and drum manual for the Union Army (1862). Abraham Lincoln liked the song, and had it played at the announcement of Lee’s surrender in 1865.

Emmett had joined the U.S. Army in 1828, at age 13 (lying about his age), and became an expert fifer and drummer at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. After discharge from the Army in 1835, he toured with circus bands and learned the technique of Negro impersonation, playing the banjo and singing in blackface. Between 1843 and 1869, Emmett wrote more than fifty songs. In the 1943 Paramount musical biopic titled Dixie, Emmett was portrayed by Bing Crosby.

Emmett was 82 years old in 1897 in Mount Vernon, Ohio, “a little old man with a cane,” when my grandfather, Harry Swayne Lybarger, was introduced to him by his father, Edwin L. Lybarger, a Civil War veteran. Harry was 8 years old and attending the Grand Encampment of the GAR the year Edwin was the Grand Commander of Ohio.

Additional sources: Dan Emmett and the Rise of Negro Minstrelsy, by Hans Nathan (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962).

Did he fight at Lookout Mountain or dine with the colonel?

The Lybarger family legend about my great-grandfather’s experience at Missionary Ridge in 1863 makes an exciting story — but what really happened is even better.

In the 1990s, my aunt wrote a “Biographical Sketch of Hon. Edwin Lewis Lybarger,” recounting his service in the Forty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, and his many accomplishments after the war. Presumably from the stories her father told her about her grandfather, she wrote:

Lybarger participated in the battle of Missionary Ridge in the Chattanooga campaign. He notes in his diary that those in his company knew the battle of Lookout Mountain (the “Battle Above the Clouds”) on November 24, 1863, was in progress across the valley. They could hear it and see the smoke, but the clouds were so thick they could not tell whether the Union troops were succeeding or failing. The next day, under General Grant’s command, they stormed the heights and took Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863.”

A decade later, in a box of Civil War papers and memorabilia unopened for years, I discovered the first clue that this account might not be true: a 4″x6″ thin, single sheet of paper with a handwritten invitation from Col. Wager Swayne, commander of the 43rd OVI.

Headquarters 43rd O.V.I., Nov. 25th 1863

Lieutenant, Will you do me the favor to dine with me tomorrow at 2 P.M.

Very respectfully, Your obedient servant

Wager Swayne, Co. 43rdOhio

I knew that my great-grandfather revered Col. Swayne, since he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger, and they corresponded for years. But why would he keep a dinner invitation for the rest of his life?

The letter was written from “Hdqts, 43rd OVI,” on Nov. 25, for a dinner to be served on Nov. 26, a Thursday. The fourth Thursday of November.

I remember shivering with the thrill of discovery — that this date was the first official Thanksgiving Day. The colonel was gathering the regiment’s officers to comply with President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving, issued Oct. 3, 1863. I felt like I was almost touching a paper that Lincoln had touched.

But if the 43rd OVI was calmly in headquarters in Prospect, Tennessee planning a Thanksgiving dinner, it couldn’t have been in battle the next day, 300 miles away in Chattanooga.

Entries in Edwin Lybarger’s daily journal for 1863 confirmed my conclusion:

Nov. 17: In camp at Prospect, Tenn. Heavy details at work repairing rail road bridge.

Nov. 18: Nothing of importance going. Have plenty to eat and nothing much to do but write letters and study logic.

Nov. 25: Two years in the service today. Received in invitation to dine with Col. Swayne tomorrow. Accepted.

Nov. 26: “Thanksgiving day.” Dined with Col. Swayne together with all the officers of the 43d. & Col. Fuller our brigad[e] commander. Had a splendid dinner, served up in good style, to which I think I did ample justice.

I don’t know if my aunt heard the Missionary Ridge story from my grandfather, or read it in another account of the war. In any case, Edwin Lybarger participated in numerous Civil War battles, but not the one on Lookout Mountain.

In a biography for his children, my grandfather Harry Swayne Lybarger wrote:

“My father never said much about his war experience, but he kept a diary in four little books, which are in the safe and should never be destroyed. They are very matter of fact and he didn’t seem to yield to any literary flaire. He did not hate the South but he felt pretty keenly the injustice of the war that the south began, and never visited it again.”

Late in life, my aunt remembered the diaries, but not where they were, perhaps loaned to someone and never returned. By accident, cleaning out her closet, I found four small black books lying in the bottom of a cardboard box. Eureka. I also found my aunt’s start at transcription, unfinished. Grumbling that my great-grandfather’s a’s and o’s all looked like u’s, and that the crossing of a T never matched the upright, I nevertheless managed to transcribe all four diaries. I think I must have been the only member of the family to actually read every entry. And I loved the discovery that when he published “Leaves from my Diary,” containing his account of the March to the Sea and war’s end, he edited out any disparaging remark he made about the conduct and discipline of fellow soldiers.

Advice from an Old Soldier

Four veterans of Company K, 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Photograph taken @ 1900. From left: EDWIN L. LYBARGER (enlisted 11/25/61 at age 21), JAMES DIAL (enlisted 11/4/61 at age 26), FRANCIS LOGSDON (enlisted 11/1/61, age 20), LEO BLUBAUGH (enlisted 12/12/61 at age 18). These Ohio veterans enlisted together at Camp Andrews (near Mount Vernon, Ohio) in late 1861, in a Knox County company being raised by William Walker, who served as captain until spring 1862. Company K joined the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and left Ohio in Feb. 1862. With 3 other Ohio regiments, they formed the “Ohio Brigade,” commanded by Col. John Fuller. They served for the duration of the war, mustering out together on July 13, 1865.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

The following letter was published in the New York Times the month the war began in 1861, written by a veteran soldier who remained anonymous. 

April 24, 1861

To the Editor of the New York Times:

Allow an old soldier who has seen service to offer a few practical suggestions to our men who are marching South.

Avoid drinking water as much as possible while marching. When you feel dry rinse your mouth with water, but do not swallow it. Water alone should not be drank, but mixed with vinegar; or a little cold coffee is the only wholesome beverage in a campaign.

While marching or on sentry never sit down for a second-bear up! The change of posture will affect your powers more than the actual marching.

Have plenty of buttons, needle and thread, rags of linen and some strong twine in your knapsack — you will all want it.

White linen gaiters over brogans are the best, boots offering too much reflection to the sun’s rays. The gaiters are made white and shiny again by applying a mixture of common chalk and water with a rag or sponge, and let the gaiter get dry under the air or sun.

If you have a long march in warm weather before you, cut off the body of your pantaloons to the middle of the thigh and sew the legs to your drawers, fastening the suspenders to the drawers, it will relieve you greatly. Drawers are essential.

Keep a vial of sweet oil and every night rub your gun with a rag dipped in oil. In the morning, or when starting, rub a cream, it is the best way to preserve it from rust and keep it in working order. When not using it put a piece of cork or something else in the mouth of your gun to keep out the dust, rain, &c.

When marching, put some of the weight you have to carry on your breast — for instance, part of the cartridges, so as to relieve and counterpoise the weight to be carried.

Have some lard in a small tin box to grease your boots or shoes with, to keep them smooth and sort, particularly in wet weather or passing through a swampy country.

When on the march never let a weak comrade get behind the company — assist him in carrying on load. When once left behind he is at questionable mercies of the rear guard, and may perish before the ambulance comes up.

Finally, avoid spirituous liquors as you would poison.

Portraits of heroes

After the Civil War, my great-grandfather Edwin L. Lybarger compiled a portrait album of the Union Army commanders and friends he admired. The album has a tooled, hard leather cover and measures 5″ wide, 6″ high and 2″ thick, latched with two elaborate gold hinges. The album contains one carte de visite per page, each in its own gold-edged pocket. A numbered index identifies most of the photographs, although some need no introduction.

Page 1: Abraham Lincoln

Edwin Lybarger was a staunch Lincoln supporter. From his diary:

Nov. 8, 1864: In camp near Marietta, Ga. Election day. Voted for “Ole Abe.”

From Wisconsin soldier Ed Leving’s diary: “A soldier who votes for McClellan, is looked upon by his comrades as an ignoramus or a coward & wants to get out of the service & so votes for McClellan.”

The former Union general of the Army of the Potomac was the Peace Democrats’ candidate, and veteran soldiers wanted nothing to do with him or his party. President Lincoln was re-elected with the vote of 86% of the soldiers, and 55% of the total vote. Within a week, Sherman led his army on the March to the Sea. (from The March to the Sea and Beyond by Joseph Glathaar, 1985)

Page 3: Gen. William T. Sherman

In his diary, Edwin records the night of March 5, 1865 in Cheraw, South Carolina, when he met Gen. Sherman face to face and was impressed by the general’s “colloquial powers.”

Page 4: Brig. Gen. James McPherson

During the Union’s Atlanta campaign in 1864, McPherson took command of the Army of theTennessee, reporting to Gen. Sherman.

From Lt. Edwin Lybarger’s diary:

June 22, 1864: Moved from Roswell Ga.to the front. The Army of the Tenn. attacked by the rebs. Gen. McPherson killed. The enemy repulsed with terrible slaughter. Our Brigade (Sprague’s) driven out of Decaturwith a loss of 254 men. The 43rd came up too late to participate.

June 23: Marched in to Decatur found the enemy had left. Buried our dead and brought off our wounded. Tore up the railroads for twenty miles towards Augusta Ga.

Page 5: Col. John Fuller

From Aug. 1861, Fuller was colonel of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment with six month’s experience in the field by March 1862, when Edwin’s 43rd OVI left Ohio for the first time and arrived in Missouri. Gen. Pope, commanding the Army of the Mississippi, banded the 27th Ohio, 39th Ohio, 43rd Ohio and 63rd Ohiointo a brigade. In July 1862, Col. Fuller, formerly a book publisher in Toledo, Ohio, was given command of the Ohio Brigade.

Page 10: Col. Joseph L. Kirby Smith, 43rdOhio Volunteer Infantry (1862)

Colonel Smith, a West Point and Pennsylvania man, was the first colonel of the 43rd OVI, greatly admired by the Ohio men in his command. At the second Battle of Corinth, on Oct. 4, 1862 he was shot in the head and fell from his white horse while rallying the regiment. Amid the hard-fought battle, word swept the regiment that Smith had been killed. Lt. Col. Wager Swayne filled the breach to rally the stunned regiment and successfully defend Battery Robinett, helping the Union win the battle. To the regiment’s relief, Col. Smith had not been killed on the field, but sadly succumbed to his moral wounds on Oct. 12, 1862.

Page 11: Col. Wager Swayne, 43rdOhio Volunteer Infantry (1862-1865)

A lieutenant colonel in the 43rd OVI during the second Battle of Corinth that mortally wounded Col. Smith, Swayne became its colonel after Col. Smith died. On Feb. 3, 1865, Swayne was severely wounded while crossing the swampy Salkahatchie River in South Carolina. While helped to an ambulance wagon, he kept repeating, “The Lord sustains me.” He was successfully evacuated to New York City, losing his leg but surviving.

My great-grandfather admired Swayne more than any other officer, as evidence that he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger. Family documents include a letter from Swayne to Edwin and his first wife Sophronia after the war, assuring him that he’s very much looking forward to meeting “little Wager,” presumably an infant son who was his namesake. But little Wager must have died in infancy; the  family has no other evidence or information about him. Edwin and Sophronia had no other children before her death in 1882.

Harry Swayne Lybarger, born in Spring Mountain, Ohio, was Edwin’s only child with his second wife, Nancy Moore, born when she was 44 years old and Edwin was 48. Years later, Harry wrote: “I met the great Colonel Swayne once at Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1897, when he came from his law office in New York City to attend the Grand Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic of Ohio, the year my father was its commander.”

Page 12: Col. Horace Park, 43rd OVI (1865)

Park began the war as captain of Company F in the 43rd OVI, from Oct. 1861, an indication that he helped to raise the company (100 volunteers). He was the regiment’s lieutenant colonel when Col. Swayne was wounded in South Carolina, assumed command and was promoted to colonel. He mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.

Page 14: Lt. Col. John H. Rhodes, 43rd OVI (and former Co. K captain)

John Rhodes began the war as a sergeant in Company B of the 43rd regiment, then became captain of Company K in early 1862, after the illness and resignation of the first (and recruiting) captain, William Walker. Rhodes was a lieutenant colonel of the regiment by the end of the war, and mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.

A sketch of Sgt. Edwin Lybarger reading an Army manual is signed “J.H.Rhodes.”

John Rhodes and Edwin Lybarger remained lifelong friends.

Page 16: Dr. Francis M. Rose, Surgeon, 43rd OVI (1862-1865). Dr. Rose probably saved Edwin’s life and leg after he was wounded at the 2nd Battle of Corinth in 1862.

650 Buried Here

CAMP LAWTON, near Millen, Georgia, a Confederate prison camp for Union soldiers

October – November, 1864

When Sherman’s 17th Army Corps arrived at Camp Lawton in early December 1864, eager to liberate Union prisoners, they discovered the camp abandoned. In a long trench, they found a plank with the inscription “650 Buried Here.” Sherman’s order to burn the railroad station and government buildings in Millen was reportedly in retaliation at this news.

From the diary of Lt. Edwin L. Lybarger, 43rd OVVI, Mower’s Brigade, 17th Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee:

Dec. 1, 1864: On the march; the 1st and 4th divisions of the 17th A.C. [Army Corps] tearing up railroad; camped on Jones’ plantation, said to be one of the finest in the state.

Dec. 2: On the march; camped at Millen, Ga., where we had a slight skirmish. The railroad and all government property destroyed.

Dec. 3: Marched to a station numbered 7. Encamped for the night. Forage plenty, soil sandy, affording abundance of sweet potatoes; we didn’t take any, no, not any.

From The Colonel’s Diary, by Col. Oscar Jackson, 63rd OVVI:

Dec. 1, 1864: Move east at the usual hour. We are tearing up the Georgia Central Railroad. Our division today destroyed from the 95th to the 91st mile post from Savannah and went into camp on Judge Cook’s plantation, seven miles from the camp of last night.

Dec. 2:  My company on forage duty today. Getting to the head of the column before it reached the town of Millen, Georgia, I asked permission to enter in advance of the troops to see what I could find, which condition was granted by the General in command on condition that I would keep my company well together and be cautious as I was told that the enemy had been there a few hours previous and it was not yet known that they were gone…While I was occupying the town, the enemy ran a train down near town and raised a little excitement for us…Millen is one of the noted pens the rebels have been keeping our prisoners in. The stockade is north of the town where, it is said, they did have twenty thousand. They have been removed to Savannah, the last train load only being got off this forenoon before I got into town. The railroad from Augusta intersects the Georgia Central here and there are find depot buildings, but the town, I should think never had over two thousand inhabitants, and it was completely sacked after our troops occupied it.

Dec. 3: Our corps is burning the depot, destroying the railroad, etc. General Sherman is around watching how it is done. He is a very plain, unassuming man and today is in undress uniform but has that big shirt collar on as usual. His order to General Blair this morning was to make the destruction “tenfold more devilish” that he had ever dreamed of, as this is one of the places they have been starving our prisoners. Reach camp this evening near station number 7, Scarborough, some eight miles from Millen.

from Sherman’s March by Burke Davis, Vintage Books (1988):     

“[Division cavalry commander Hugh J.] Kilpatrick turned to his assignment to rescue Federal prisoners in the filthy pens at the crossroads settlement of Millen–where many survivors of the now abandoned Andersonville prison had been taken. The cavalry was too late As his riders on the banks of the Ogeechee, Kilpatrick saw the last of the prisoners being herded into boxcars by Confederates on the opposite side of the stream…

Chaplain Bradley climbed to one of the guard posts and looked down on the huts and holes where prisoners had lived: ‘It made my heart ache . . . such miserable hovels, hardly fit for swine to live in.’     He saw the shed where prisoners had been punished with stocks for seven men, ‘and they appeared to be well worn.’ Bradley heard men cursing Davis and the rebels as they left the place…

Captain Storrs of the 20th Connecticut, who drank some of the ‘very bad-tasting water’ from the stream, thought the rebels had chosen the swampy site to hasten the deaths of prisoners from malaria: ‘I am afraid if the soldiers generally could visit this pen there would be no quarter given beyond here.’

John Potter of the 101st Illinois wandered over the ground in a vain search for souvenirs: ‘It was the barest spot I ever saw. The trees and stumps and roots to the smallest fiber had been dug out for fuel, not a rag or a button or even a chip could be found.’

Alex Downing, almost sickened by the sight of the pen, was one who helped to destroy it: ‘We burned everything here a match would ignite.’ Not long afterward, some of Slocum’s men burned most of the village of Millen, including the hotel, depot and other buildings. They also burned a plantation house on the outskirts, and shot a pack of bloodhounds they found there.”

The colloquial power of Gen. Sherman

In his diary of March 5, 1865, my great-grandfather Lt. Edwin L. Lybarger, 43rd OVI, recorded an evening in the company of Gen. Sherman:

“Headquarters 43rd at a Mr. Woodwards in Cheraw, who had a letter from Gen. Hardee recommending the family to the clemency of Gen. Sherman. Sherman called in the evening and we had the pleasure of hearing the colloquial power of Gen. Sherman. He conversed for half an hour in an easy manner with Mr. Woodward and his Mother-in-law, but showing in every thing he said, his implacable hatred of the rebel cause.”

He said among other things that he did not want the South to come back in the Union, for we could drive them out and people the country with a better race. That all the men, women and children in Charleston ought to have been killed and the city destroyed when they fired on Sumpter and [we] would have had no war and that he should pursue his vocation with perseverance while the war lasted. When asked where he expected to go next, he replied, “I have about 60,000 men out there and I intend to go pretty much where I please.”

The 17th Corps crossed the great Peedee and camped on the East bank.”

Col. J.L. Kirby Smith, "a born soldier, lost too soon"

Remembering Joseph L. Kirby Smith (1836-1862), first colonel of the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 1861-62. From “Our Kirby Smith” – a Paper Read before the Ohio Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, March 2, 1887 by Companion John W. Fuller:

Col. Smith’s service in the field covered merely eight brief months and he was but twenty-six years old when he fell in battle. So young, that only a few could realize that a born soldier had been lost; so soon, that only his kindred and a few who loved him would keep his memory green.

West Point, class of 1857

Our Kirby was born in Syracuse, N.Y., on the 25th day of July, 1836. He entered the Academy at West Point in 1853. He had less than the usual trouble in conforming to the discipline of the school, as he had long been taught both the propriety and the necessity of obedience. That other attribute, without which we should have no true soldier, viz., loyalty, was born in him. He graduated sixth in his class in 1857.

Offered command in 1861

When command of the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was offered to him by Ohio Governor Dennison, he promptly and gladly accepted. On reaching Camp Chase, near Columbus, he found a mere squad of men. He removed headquarters to Mount Vernon[Camp Andrews]. Speedily the ranks were filled, and so thoroughly were the men drilled, that the 43rd was soon known as one of the finest regiments Ohio sent into the field—and this is saying a good deal.

New Madrid, Missouri, Feb. 1862

It was about the last of February, 1862, when I first met Colonel Smith. He, with his regiment, joined the Army of the Mississippi at Commerce, Missouri, where General Pope was organizing his forces preparatory to the movement upon New Madrid. Smith’s regiment and mine both belonged to the First Division of that army, commanded then by General Schuyler Hamilton.

I did not see Smith during the first day’s operations at New Madrid, when the enemy’s gunboats made so much noise, as his regiment was held in reserve; but General Pope soon after gave him an order to make a reconnaissance with his regiment, to learn more of the enemy’s strength and position. He discharged this duty very satisfactorily to General Pope, and he did it in such a fearless manner as to attract the enemy’s attention; for when we captured the Rebels, some weeks thereafter, some of them inquired particularly after the officer who that day rode the white horse, and were loud in their commendations of his gallantry.

The Ohio regiments that originally formed the First Division became the First Brigade of the First Division by April 1862. In July, Col. Fuller became the brigade commander.

The Battle of Corinth

On Oct. 2, 1862, Colonel Smith was ordered with his regiment and a section of artillery to Kossuth; but during the night, Gen. Rosecrans, now satisfied that Corinth was Confederate Gen. Van Dorn’s objective, ordered everything to concentrate there.

Oct. 3, 1862

[On the night of Oct. 3], Colonel Smith’s regiment was formed on the left of Battery Robinet, facing to the west; the other regiments of the Brigade (27th, 39th and 63rd Ohio) were to the right of the Battery facing to the north, [to await the next day’s battle.] During the night, I called Colonel Smith to accompany me while making the rounds, to suggest anything which might have been overlooked, to guard against any surprise. The chat we had together that night was the last I enjoyed with him. He was cheery as ever, and joked in low tones with as much unconcern as though the Rebels were miles away. “Colonel,” he said, “where did you get forage for your horses to-night? I don’t know whether mine smells the battle afar off, but he keeps singing out, ‘Hay! Hay!’ and I think he made a remark about oats.”

Oct. 4, 1862

[Amid the battle], an enemy column which advanced along the west side of the road got close to Battery Robinet, and the men of the 43rd, sheltering themselves behind stumps and logs, were firing sharply.

“Those fellows are firing at you, Colonel,” said one of the 43rd’s men.

“Well, give it to them,” answered the Colonel, and immediately thereafter fell from his horse.

While I was bringing up the 11thMissouri, glancing over my left shoulder, I saw some men picking up a wounded officers whose face was stained with blood. I did not then know  it was Col. Smith…That regiment seemed dazed, and liable to confusion; but Lt. Col. Wager Swayne immediately galloped up just in time to help.

In Gen. Stanley’s official battle report, he stated, “I have not words to describe the qualities of this model soldier…The best testimony I can give to his memory is the spectacle I witnessed myself, in the very moment of battle, of stern, brave men weeping like children, as the word passed, ‘Kirby Smith is killed!’”

It was nearly an hour after he was shot when Smith became conscious, and word came to us from the hospital that his wound was not mortal. I jumped upon a fallen tree in rear of the Forty-third and sang out to them that Col. Smith was not killed, but would recover. This was repeated by Swayne and the cheer which followed, taken up by the men of other regiments also, would have gladdened Kirby’s heart.

After the battle

That evening I went with Gen. Stanley to the hospital. It will be readily understood that the nature of Kirby’s wound prevented speech; but as soon as he saw us he indicated a desire to write. I took out a memorandum book and pencil, when he immediately wrote: “How did my regiment behave?” Gen. Stanley commenced to write a reply, when a quizzical look of the Colonel’s reminded us he could hear well enough, and Stanley answered, “Most gallantly.” This seemed to please Smith greatly and he at once acknowledged it with one of his graceful salutes.

The 43rd OVI suffered 25% casualties on Oct. 4, 1862 at Corinth.

I sat down at Kirby’s side. Would he like to have me write to his mother? A nod said “yes.” Was there any one else he wished me to write? He made no sign in response, but seemed hesitating about something he felt loth to drop, and kept looking at me with a steady gaze.

“Shall I write to Miss –?” naming the lady to whom he was betrothed. A pleasant smile and nod together was his answer, and I said I would do the best I could.

During the eight days we were absent, frequent letters advised us that Col. Smith was better, walking about the room a little, making people laugh at the quaint things he wrote, and the comical gestures he made; in short, seemed like himself again.

When the Brigade returned, I rode to the house where the Colonel was lying, and saw, almost at a glance, that all hope of his recovery must be fast fading out. I was greatly surprised to find him so feeble, so cold, so drowsy. I could hardly suppress my disappointment. Poor Kirby, however, did not observe much. He put out his hand before I could reach his cot, and grasping mine, made a feeble effort to shake it. In response to my question, “How are you, my dear fellow?” he took a pencil and in my memorandum book slowly scrawled two words, “Utter exhaustion.”

Just after supper that evening, Col. Swayne came to my tent and said Col. Smith was worse. We rode over to see if, in any way, we could contribute to his comfort. We were too late. As we entered we noticed that the room had been freshly swept, and we saw a white sheet covering something on the cot, now moved back against the wall, which told us that he was gone.

Col. Joseph L. Kirby Smith died of his wounds on Oct. 12, 1862.

43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Col. Joseph L. Kirby Smith, 1st colonel of 43rd OVI (1862)

Col. Wager Swayne, 43rd OVI (1862-65)

The 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized at Camp Andrews in Mount Vernon, Ohio from September 28, 1861 through February 1, 1862. The regiment mustered in for 3 years service under the command of Colonel Joseph L. Kirby Smith, and served in the Army of the Mississippi’s “Ohio Brigade,” under Col. John Fuller, with the 27th, 39th, and 63rd Ohio regiments. The 43rd transferred to the Army of theTennessee in late 1862. In late 1863, the majority of the regiment re-enlisted for 3 years.



Battle of Island No. 10

Siege of Corinth

Battle of Iuka

Second Battle of Corinth

Atlanta Campaign

Battle of Resaca

Battle of Dallas

Battle of New Hope Church

Battle of Allatoona

Battle of Kennesaw Mountain

Battle of Atlanta

Siege of Atlanta

Battle of Jonesboro

Battle of Lovejoy’s Station

Sherman’s March to the Sea

Carolinas Campaign

Battle of Bentonville


The 43rd Ohio Infantry lost a total of 256 men; 4 officers and 61 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 2 officers and 189 enlisted men died of disease. The regiment mustered out of service at Louisville, Kentucky on July 13, 1865.

43rd OVI Itinerary:


Feb. 21: Left Ohio for Commerce, Mo.

Mar. 3-14: Siege operations against New Madrid, Mo.

Mar. 14-April 8: Siege and capture of Island No. 10, Mississippi River, and capture of McCall’s forces at Tiptonville, Mo.

Apr. 13-17: Expedition to Fort Pillow, Tenn.

Apr. 18-22: Moved to Hamburg Landing, Tenn.

Apr. 29: Action at Monterey.

Apr. 19-May 30: Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss.

May 8: Reconnaissance toward Corinth.

May 30-June 12: Occupation of Corinth and pursuit to Booneville.

June 13-Sept. 11: Duty at Clear Creek until August 20, then at Bear Creek.

Sept. 19: Battle of Iuka, Miss.

Oct. 3-4:Battle of Corinth.

Oct. 5-12: Pursuit to Ripley.

Nov. 2, 1862-Jan. 12, 1863: Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.


Jan. 12 – April: Duty at Corinth.

Apr. 15-May 8: Dodge’s Expedition to northern Alabama.

Apr. 22: Rock Cut, near Tuscumbia.

Apr. 23: Tuscumbia.

Apr. 28: Town Creek.

May-Oct.: Duty at Memphis, Tenn.

Oct. 1863-end of year: Duty at Prospect, Tenn.


Jan.: Home furlough

Jan-Feb: Duty at Prospect, Tenn.

May 1-Sept: Atlanta Campaign.

May 8-13: Demonstrations on Resaca.

May 9: Sugar Valley, near Resaca.

May 13: Near Resaca.

May 14-15: Battle of Resaca

May 18-25: Advance on Dallas.

May 25-June 5: Operations on line of Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church, and Allatoona Hills.

June 10-July 2: Operations about Marietta and against Kennesaw Mountain.

June 27: Assault on Kennesaw.

July 2-5: Nickajack Creek.

July 3-4: Ruff’s Mills.

July 6-17: Chattahoochie River.

July 22: Battle of Atlanta.

July 22-Aug. 25: Siege of Atlanta.

Aug. 25-30: Flank movement on Jonesboro.

Aug. 32-Sept. 1: Battle of Jonesboro.

Sept. 2-6: Lovejoy’s Station.

Sept. 29-Nov. 3: Operations against Hood in northern Georgia and northern Alabama.

Nov. 15-Dec. 10: March to the Sea, in Georgia.

Dec. 9: Montieth Swamp.

Dec. 10-21: Siege of Savannah.


Jan.-Apr.: Campaign of the Carolinas.

Jan. 20: Reconnaissance to the Salkehatchie River, S. C.

Feb. 2: Skirmishes at Rivers and Broxton Bridges, Salkehatchie River.

Feb. 3: Actions at Rivers Bridge, Salkehatchie River.

Feb. 9: Binnaker’s Bridge, South Edisto River.

Feb. 12-13: Orangeburg, North Edisto River.

Feb. 16-17: Columbia.

Mar. 3: Juniper Creek, near Cheraw.

Mar. 19-20: Battle of Bentonville, N.C.

Mar. 24: Occupation of Goldsboro.

Apr. 10-14: Advance on Raleigh.

Apr. 14: Occupation of Raleigh.

Apr. 26: Bennett’s House.

Apr. 29-May 22:  Surrender of Johnston and his army. March to Washington,D.C., via Richmond, Va.

May 24: Grand Review of the Armies.

June: Moved to Louisville, Ky.

July 13: Regiment mustered out of service.


The regiment was attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Mississippi, to March 1862. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Mississippi, to April 1862. 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of the Mississippi, to November 1862. 1st Brigade, 8th Division, Left Wing, XIII Corps, Department of the Tennessee, to December 1862. 1st Brigade, 8th Division, XVI Corps, to March 1863. 4th Brigade, District of Corinth, Mississippi, 2nd Division, XVI Corps, to May 1863. 3rd Brigade, District of Memphis, Tennessee, 5th Division, XVI Corps, to November 1863. Fuller’s Brigade, 2nd Division, XVI Corps, to March 1864. 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, XVI Corps, to September 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, XVII Corps, to July 1865.

Stealing men’s hearts

In 1909, my great-grandfather Edwin Lybarger and his wife Nancy (Moore) traveled from Warsaw to Newark, Ohio for the GAR Encampment of Civil War veterans. They stayed with Uriah Brillhart and his wife Ida (Severn). The Brillhart family had lived in Spring Mountain, and Uriah would have been a young boy when Edwin returned in 1865 at the end of the war.

Among his papers, Edwin kept this old newspaper clipping:

“Capt. E. L. Lybarger at last is the possessor of a pretty little maltese kitten. For several years the Captain has been the lover of beautiful cats but could not keep them in his possession. He has bought them, had them given to him by the dozens but something happened to each of them, they either died or strayed away to some other place.

Capt. Lybarger was attending the G.A.R. encampment at Newark, Ohio this week and one day he was visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Uriah Brillhart. The Brillharts owned a little maltese kitten which as soon as was seen by the captain captivated his heart. The Captain told Mr. Brillhart of his luck with cats and said that if he had any way of taking the kitten home with him that he would steal it. The conversation was then turned to other topics and the subject was dropped.

When the Capt. And Mrs. Lybarger were getting aboard their train for home Friday, Mr. Brillhart handed the general a small box saying that it was a souvenir of the encampment. After the train pulled out the box was opened and there snuggled up within the box was the baby cat. The captain carried the kitten home with him and it is now drinking milk and eating strawberry short cake.”

~ ~ ~ ~ 

Abraham Lincoln loved cats and could play with them for hours. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln replied, “cats.”

President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point,Virginia in March of 1865. The Civil War was drawing to a close and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, yet the President made time to care for three orphaned kittens. Abraham Lincoln noticed three stray kittens in the telegraph hut. Picking them up and placing them in his lap, he asked about their mother. When the President learned that the kittens’ mother was dead, he made sure the kittens would be fed and a good home found for them.

Col. Wager Swayne, 43rd OVI

From the journal of Harry Swayne Lybarger, son of Edwin L. Lybarger, 43rd OVI:

“[My father’s] first Colonel Smith, a Westpointer, was killed in action. His next colonel, Wager Swayne, he probably thought more of than any man living, so much so that he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger.

Col. Swayne lost a leg from a cannon ball shot, crossing a bridge, on a charge ordered by General Mower, which my father always said was unnecessary. I met the great colonel once at Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in 1897, when he came from his law office in New York City to attend the Grand Encampment of the GAR while my father was Grand Commander of Ohio.”

Oct. 4, 1862

(2nd) Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Oct. 4, 1862

After days of hard marching, on Oct. 3, 1862 the Ohio (Fuller’s) Brigade arrived in Corinth, Mississippi late in the day on Oct. 3 after the Army of the Mississippi’s fight with the enemy had come to a stop for the night. One of four regiments in the brigade, the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was commanded by a West Pointer, Col. J. L. Kirby Smith, and Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, an Ohio man.

In 1887, John W. Fuller recounted the battle in “Our Kirby Smith,” an address to Ohio Commandery of the GAR (Union veterans):

“The Ohio Brigade was ordered to the crest crowned by Battery Robinet, to resist any further advance of the enemy. Col. Smith’s regiment was formed on the left of Battery Robinet, facing on the west; the other regiments of the Brigade (63rd, 27th, 39th Ohio) were to the right of the Battery facing to the north…As soon as it was light enough to see, our own batteries drove the Rebels back…As the Ohio Brigade occupied the crest of a ridge near the center of Rosecrans’ line of battle, we had a magnificent view of the enemy as he came out of the woods, in fine style, and marched over and through the obstructions with such noticeable gallantry. Our guns were all turned in that direction…[Col. Smith was executing the order to ‘change front forward’ to face the advancing enemy.] An enemy column which advanced along the west side of the road got close to the battery, and our men sheltered themselves behind stumps and logs and fired sharply.

‘Those fellows are firing at you Colonel,’ said one of the 43rd’s men. ‘Well, give it to them,’ answered the Colonel and immediately thereafter fell from his horse…I saw some men picking up a wounded officers whose face was stained with blood. I did not then know it was Col. Smith…[Amid shouts that their colonel was shot], the regiment seemed dazed and liable to confusion; but Lt. Col. Wager Swayne immediately began to steady the ranks…”

Fighting was fierce. In his official report, Fuller described the brigade’s impassioned defense of the battery: “…and every rebel who showed his head above the parapet of the fort, or attempted to enter it by the embrasures, got his head shot off.”

Stunned by the loss of Col. Smith, the 43rd rallied behind Lt. Col. Swayne. The Ohio Brigade held Battery Robinet, and Gen. Rosecrans’ Army of the Mississippi won the battle. The 43rd had 25% casualties, the 63rd had 50% casualties. Swayne gained command of the 43rd OVI and the rank of colonel.

Nov. 25, 1863

An invitation to the first national Thanksgiving dinner

Col. Swayne wrote a letter to Lt. Edwin Lybarger, on Nov. 25, 1863, inviting him to dine the following day, Nov. 26. My great-grandfather kept that dinner invitation for the rest of his life, and it took nearly 150 years to find out why. See Lookout Mountain or dinner with the colonel

Feb. 3, 1865

The Bridges, on the Salkahatchie in South Carolina

From Edwin Lybarger’s journal:

Feb. 1, 1865: The Army of Sherman being now in readiness to move started for some point, Sherman and God, only know.

Feb. 2, 1865: The enemy found in our front, harasses us all he can and seems determined to dispute every inch of ground. We lose several in killed and wounded during the day. Notwithstanding the resistance we made about ten miles.

Feb. 3, 1865: The enemy more stubborn than yesterday. Col. Swayne has his right leg carried away by a cannon ball. The first division ordered to cross the Salkahatchie river and drive the enemy from his strong position. Sprague’s Brigade, the 43rd, in advance took the main road, with a deep swamp on either side. Two rebel batteries were in front completely commanding the road for a distance of half a mile. There were eleven bridges to cross with plank torn off. The last one about 60 yards long over the river and not more than 150 yards from the enemy’s main line. The 1st and 3rd brigades were to effect a crossing higher up stream. Two companies of the 43rd were armed with boards to plank the bridges. Ten men were to carry axes, to cut away the Arbutis, whilst the remainder of the regiment with fixed bayonets were to charge over the bridges, and river, and if possible take the forts. At the same time, the 1st and 3rd Brigade were to charge the enemy in front and rear. The 43rd behaved exceedingly well under most trying circumstances, marched up the only road that was passable under a heavy fire of shot and shell, under which some 20 of our brave soldiers fell. The 63rdOhio following lost equally severely but the enemy’s works were taken.