Tag Archives: 16th OVI

Willliam McCabe Anderson Home From War

William McCabe Anderson

William McCabe Anderson

William McCabe Anderson, born in Pennsylvania, knew Ohio as his home from the time he was a toddler. He probably expected nothing more from life than to grow crops and livestock and build a legacy for his own children as his father had done. Travel and adventure came to other people.

William Becomes a Soldier

But he  became a soldier fighting for the Union at the age of twenty when he joined the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  As I wrote earlier, (follow the link for the story) Will was luckier than so many of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War. As a soldier, he saw more of the country and had more adventures than he could have dreamed of. But mostly, he was lucky because he survived.

The young man, no doubt hardy from working on his father’s Ohio farm, toughened up even more as his company marched for weeks and fought in two disastrous battles. His luck seemed to give out at the Battle of Chickasaw when he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for nearly a year.

His mother, Isabella McCabe Anderson named him for her brother William McCabe. Perhaps he inherited the toughness of his Scots-Irish McCabe forebears, along with the middle name of William McCabe Anderson. For whatever reason, Will survived when many of his fellow prisoners died from the harsh conditions in their unique prison in an old covered bridge.

The Soldier Comes Home

In November 1864, he returned to his mother and father, John and Isabella McCabe Anderson in Monroe Township, Holmes County Ohio. It would have been a joyful reunion, tinged with sadness. Will’s oldest half-brother, Erasmus, did not survive the war, and his next oldest half-brother, John, who may have joined on the same day as Will, if so, had not yet have returned, per Ohio Soldier Grave Registration. (I have a research mystery here because of a conflict between the Grave Registration information and other reference materials. And then there are the many John Andersons from Ohio in the Union Army)

Those waiting to greet Pvt. William McCabe Anderson, besides his parents John and Isabella Anderson, included his older sister Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell, and Margaret Anderson Lisle, both now married and living nearby. Younger sisters Amy and Caroline, close as two peas in a pod, were still living at home on the farm, as were young brothers 16-year-old Joseph (to become my 2x great-grandfather) and 12-year-old Frank.

Three and a half years later, Will married Eliza Armstrong (Elizabeth J.) who lived on a neighboring farm. Her father came from Ireland, as did William’s ancestors the Andersons and the McCabes.

William the Farmer

The Agriculture non-Population schedule of the 1870 Census of Monroe Township in Holmes County Ohio shows that Will wasted no time in establishing one of the outstanding farms of the area.  By that year, he and Eliza had two children, one-year-old Effie and two month old Olive.  William was farming a 117-acre farm, with more than half of that in “improved” fields.  The value of his farm stood at $3500.

It is clear from the schedule that he cultivated sheep rather than dairy cows, although he owned nine head of cattle and six “swine” (probably for family use).  He grew corn and winter wheat and some oats, but he sheared his sheep and sold 200 pounds of wool.  Forty bushels of potatoes and three tons of hay completed the output of the farm with an estimated value of sold products $703.

Ten years later (1880), the agricultural schedule asks slightly different questions, but we see that he estimates that his total value of the farm has risen by $2000, and total acreage reported decreased slightly, due to the loss of 27 acres of woodland and gaining ten acres of tilled land. Unlike 1870, when he appeared to do the work by himself, he now hired people over an eight week period at a cost of $100.  Will values total products sold at $400.

On the farm, he has added 100 pounds of butter to products sold, and his sheep birthed 40 lambs. He sold ten sheep and slaughtered one.  The sheep yield more than twice as much weight of wool as in 1870, and his herd of swine increased from six to twenty-one.  Poultry was not counted in 1870, but in 1880, he has 56, and has gathered 200 eggs.  His production of corn stays steady with ten acres being devoted to corn, six acres to oats, with the harvest increasing form 40 to 225 bushels and twelve acres to wheat.

Potatoes harvest stays about the same, and fruit, which wasn’t asked on the previous census seems to be an important crop. 100 apple trees and 25 peach trees take up five acres.

During this decade when farming takes most his time, life events occupy his attention as well. In 1972, his brother John, just 36 years old, dies from a fall from an apple tree on his nearby farm.

William Loses Family Members

The following year, Will and Eliza had a son, Gilmore. Son John Edward (called Edward) came in 1873. Another son, William,  born in April 1875, died five months later.  Then in February 1877, William’s wife, Eliza, died.

Eliza, just thirty-two when she died, left William with four young children from five to ten years old.  His mother Isabella, now a widow, moved in with him to help with the house and the children, and is listed as the housekeeper in the census taken on June 5, 1880. However Will is ready to have a second wife, and on June 24 he married Mary Jane Cox (called Jane).

Another terrible blow came to the family in 1881 when Will’s oldest daughter, Effie died at eleven.

In 1883, his brother Joseph (my  great grandfather, died (as the result of injuries suffered in a fall from a tree–like his older brother John). Despite the tragedies that struck the family, and despite his war-weakened health and hard work on the farm, William found time for civic duty. He  served both as a Township Trustee and as Treasurer of Monroe Township.

In 1890, the census Veteran’s report identified Will. (The 5th line down)  William Anderson; Private; Company B; Name of Regiment 166 [16th] O [Ohio] Inf [Infantry]; Date of Enrollment 12 Dec 1861; Date of Discharge 13 Oct 1864 Length of service 3 years 1 month and 19 days.

1890 Census Veteran's Schedule.

1890 Veteran’s Schedule of the Federal Census for Monroe Township, Holmes County, Ohio.

Honored at the End of Life

Will and Jane had been married for twenty-two years when he died at the age of sixty-one.  He had survived the Civil War and his time as a Prisoner of War to become a respected member of the community. The county newspaper, The Holmes County Farmer, published his obituary on June 26, 1902 on page one.

William McCabe Anderson obituary

Holmes County Farmer, June 26, 1902. Front page obituary for William McCabe Anderson.

In 1985, the editor of a history of Holmes County wrote about the effect of William McCabe Anderson’s wartime experience.

“Being housed in a damp barn so weakened his lungs that he was affected the remainder of his life, a contributing factor towards his death…..His widow collected $91 monthly in a government pension stemming from his Civil War service.”

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, who is the son of
  • Joseph Anderson, who is the son of
  • John Anderson and Isabelle McCabe Anderson, the parents  of
  • William McCabe Anderson

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township.

United States Federal Census Non-Population – Agriculture Schedule, 1870 and 1880, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township. Census Place: Monroe, Holmes, Ohio; Archive Collection Number: T1159

(1870)Roll: 38; Line: 25; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

(1880)Roll: 67; Line: 1; Schedule Type: Agriculture.  Both accessed at Ancestry.com

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, 1867 Marriage License of William  Anderson and Eliza J. Armstrong, Holmes County, Ohio. Image from Family History Library film number 000477145. Accessed at Ancestry.

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, 1880 Marriage License of William Anderson and Martha J. Cox, Holmes County, Ohio. Image from Family History Library film number 000477146. Accessed at Ancestry.

Obituary of William M Anderson: (Picture used came  from Margaret Anderson Lisle’s scrapbook containing family information.) Newspaper: Holmes County Farmer, Newspaper Date: 26 Jun 1902, Newspaper Page: 1 Column: ; Repository: WAYNE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY (WOOSTER, Ohio)

Find a Grave.com, William M. Anderson

United States Federal Census Non-Population – Veterans Schedule, 1890, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Number: M123; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Record Group Number: 15 Accessed at Ancestry.

Holmes County (Ohio) Republican, series entitled Camp & Field, by Capt. Theodore David Wolbach. Published Feb 24, 1881 to August 17, 1882.  Accessed at the website dedicated to the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 

Holmes County Ohio to 1985, Holmes County History Book Committee, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1985, Millersburg, Ohio.  page 7 William Anderson  Out of print.  (Accessed partial article from a family tree on Ancestry.)

The End of the Erasmus Anderson Story

Vicksburg 2nd Siege

Vicksburg 2nd Siege. Thure de Thulstrup, titled “Siege of Vicksburg”, dated 1888. From MKWE.com, who believes it shows the 2nd Siege of Vicksburg

Erasmus never returned to the farm to graft those cherry trees, or plant the starts of Southern sweet potatoes he loved, or taste a big can of peaches. He never got to hug his wife Suzi and his two little boys.

Instead, on May 22, 1863, a Confederate sharp-shooter painted a target on his chest and he dropped on the muddy, bloody ground of the Vicksburg battlefield. Erasmus was carried to a field hopspital, but was declared dead on the same day–escaping the fate of so many who suffered long and angonizing deaths from chest wounds, or lay on the field for two days before their troops were able to retrieve them.

It seems appropriate, as we approach Memorial Day, that I talk about one of the very few of the many veterans in our family that gave his life in battle.

After the day of rest and refueling that I described in the last episode, the morning of the 22nd, a beautiful day, saw cannon fire and then soldiers advancing.  An account by Private Frank Mason of the 42nd Ohio, tells the story that probably includes the last minutes of Erasmus Anderson.

“At ten o’clock, the Brigade, headed by the Sixteenth Ohio [Erasmus’ Regiment], moved up the valley to the assault. Rounding the clump of willows at the bottom of the ravine, the column was met by a terrific fire, but pressed on to where the shape of the ground afforded partial protection. It was arranged that the Sixteenth Ohio should mount the hill to the left at the head of the ravine, the Forty-Second should take the center, the Twenty-Second Kentucky the right, while the Forty-Fourth Indiana should act as support, and reinforce promptly whichever regiment should first cross the parapet. From the nature of the ground, the Sixteenth, as brave a Regiment as ever marched, having the shortest distance to go, reached the point of attack first. Its skirmishers quickly climbed the hill, and made a dash for the ditch. Their appearance was the signal for a terrific volley from the Confederates. The skirmish line was swept away in a moment. The head of the regiment appeared over the crest of the hill, but was literally blown back. The whole surface of the ridge up to the ditch was raked and plowed with a concentric fire of musketry and cannister at pistol range. No man, no company could live to reach the ditch. The few survivors of the skirmish line took refuge in a rugged gorge cut by the water, and held that position. They could neither advance nor retreat.” 

“The assault, which at several points was renewed in the afternoon, failed along the whole line. The enemy’s works were of immense strength, the difficulties of approach were too great for any courage or discipline to surmount, and the garrison, if we had but known it, was almost equal in numbers to the assailants. It only remained, therefore, to hold what ground had been gained and conquer Vicksburgh by siege.”

The Southern soldiers had proved more resistant than General Grant had hoped, and he now set about to starve the city of VIcksburg after  the attacks on 20th and 21st of May and this one on May 22, which would precede a 47-day period of “waiting them out”

The soldiers and citizens of Vicksburg were reduced to a diet of mule meat and rats before their final surrender on July 4, 1863.

The Vicksburg campaign is hailed as the turning point in the war, but also is known as the series of battles that cost the most lives. As in most wars, the majority of them were young. My great-grand uncle Erasmus Anderson, however was a mature thirty-three, married with two young children–two and four years old when he died.

His sister, Margaret, in her book of remembrances, kept a lock of E’s hair and his printed obituary when he died. Margaret was mentioned more than once in his letters, and apparently wrote to Erasmus while he was away. My cousin Bonnie who now owns the remembrance book, says the hair is a deep red color. (Red heads were common among our Scottish-derived Andersons.)

Erasmus obituary and lock of hair

Erasmus Anderson obituary and lock of hair from a family Death Book

Four years after Erasmus died, his wife Susanna married George Reed, a neighbor who had four children. The lived in Millersburg until George died in 1891. She apparently lived in Florida for a time, but died in New Canton Illinois. They had three children together.

So far, I have been unable to trace the two children of Erasmus and Susannah, Frank and James, and therefore any possible cousins that might be descended from Erasmus. Frank Anderson became a medical doctor and when Susanna died in 1903, was living in Waycross Georgia.  James Anderson lived in Russelville Illinois in 1903.

Erasmus is now buried in the National Cemetery at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Section G, Grave 5177.

Vicksburg cemetery

Vicksburg cemetery. Photo by Bonnie Gibson

I’m sorry about the canned peaches and the sweet potatoes, E.



Notes: This entire series on Erasmus Anderson in the Civil war would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity of a descendant of Erasmus’ widow and her second husband. He provided me with transcriptions of Civil War letters from “E”  which I use with his permission. I am deeply grateful for permission to share the letters.

Other sources include:

  • A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War. That site is the source for Cpl. Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” report which was published in the 1880s.
  • Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors and the people that Erasmus mentions.
  • The painting comes from Michael K. Wood’s site on the 16th OVI, linked above.
  • The photograph and information on burial come from a site devoted to the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery. 
  • The image of the obituary and lock of E’s hair were sent to me by a cousin who owns the remembrance book of Margaret Anderson Lisle, Erasmus’ sister.


From Battle to Battle: E Marches on to Vicksburg Siege

We left the 16th O.V.I. and Pvt. Erasmus Anderson spending the night at Edward’s Station, 151 years ago today They had engaged the Confederates at the battle of Champion Hill, after days of marching and skirmishing. They were tired. Rations meant for three days stretched for almost a week. The clouds of smoke and sounds of gunfire were constant. They were at last engaged in the Vicksburg siege.

Now, on May 17th, Grant’s Army continued to pursue the retreating “Rebs.”

Big Black River Station

A Civil War scene with mule train on left and down the hill, a railroad train loaded with soldiers. At the Big Black River. Photo from mkwe.com

Not far down the road from Edward’s station, they came to a bridge across the Big Black River.  The Confederate troops had burned the bridge behind them, and fought ferociously trying to slow the progress of the Union troops.

Big Black River Bridge Remains

Big Black River Bridge Remains. Photo from mkwe.com

Wolbach reports in “Camp and Field” that many members of the 16th regiment were killed and wounded; however, the South had lost this battle–some soldiers fleeing and 1800 surrendering.  That made the Battle of Big Black River Bridge decisive in the Vicksburg siege because the South lost so many men and Grant’s army now surrounded Vicksburg. And once more, Erasmus had survived.

A few days later, Wolback mentions the sad state of the 16th. “The 16th, badly reduced in numbers by the Chickasaw disaster and subsequent sickness, entered the campaign in slender force.”

The Union army now marched to within three miles of Vicksburg and prepared for the first assault on the southern city. Since the 16th was southeast of Vicksburg, along with the rest of McClernand’s forces, and Sherman and McPherson covered the north, northeast and approaches to the river on the northwest, and the Union gunboats blocked all traffic on the Missisippi,  the Confederate army had no escape route. Grant thought the rebel troops would give up. He was wrong.

Vicksburg Battle Map

Vicksburg Battle Map. The red star indicates the location of the 16th OVI. Map from mkwe.com, originally the National Park Service. Note that North is at the bottom and south at the top in the orientation of this map. The 16th was coming from the south.

Wolback describes the approach to Vicksburg by the 16th OVI and says that after they had marched two miles from the previous nights camp, they saw in the distance the yellow earthworks that had been thrown up around the city.

Puffs of smoke indicated where the artillery was and as they approached the constant firing became extremely noisy. The Union forces piled down into ravines and up the other side to face the Confederate cannons. The two sides fired at each other from mid day until it became to dark to see. At night, dodging random shots, Grant’s army gathered their wounded and dead from the field and dug trenches to shield their cannons.  The Union had lost 1000 men in the first Vicksburg siege, and Erasmus no doubt lost many friends, but his luck held.

Vicksburg First Siege

Vicksburg First Siege. This is an idealized painting by H. Charles McBarron, Jr., showing the First Battalion, 13th U.S. Infantry, fighting its way up a steep slope to engage Confederate lines at Vicksburg, Mississippi. From mkwe.com

Field hospitals were established around a large white house that Company E (Erasmus’ company) had marched by.

The men had been marching without enough rations and with no stop to really rest. Grant had decided the South was not going to surrender easily, and he needed a full-fledged attack. For that he needed rested, well-fed troops. So as they made camp, supplies arrived–food, shoes, clothing, soap–by the wagonload, enough for 20,000 men.

Southern deserters reported that the citizens of Vicksburg were “burrowing in caves dug in the hillsides to escape the damages of bombardment.” Despite the fact they they were “resting” until the appointed hour of the second Vicksburg sidege on May 22, the sharpshooters found opportunities to pick up opposing soldiers hidden in the woods. On both sides, these farm boys who had been shooting squirrels and rabbits since they were twelve, had deadly aim.

Erasmus Anderson must have wakened feeling renewed on the beautiful morning of May 22. Enough to eat–including the much desired coffee and real bread instead of hardtack–a good wash and fresh clothing.  But it was to be a gruesome day.

O how solemn is the subject

On which I now wish to write,

‘Tis the fatal charge on Vicksburg,

Far more dark than ebon night.

Like a mighty surging billow,

As this sacred spot I tread,

So deep thoughts came rolling o’er me,

Here among the mighty dead. 

Here lies husbands, lovers, brothers,

Sons and fathers in the tomb; 

Far from loved ones they lied buried,

‘Neath this deep and silent gloom.” 

Poem included in Camp and Field by Theodore Wolbach

At ten a.m. the artillery boomed …and boomed and boomed. There was no answering fire, as the south saves their ammunition.  Then the firing stopped. Deathly silence for a moment before 20,000 men surge forward. As Wolbach reports, “Instantly the works in front are fringed with butternut and gray and blazing with a musket fire that has never been surpassed in the annals of war.”

The second Vicksburg siege has begun.

To be continued…

This account is an extension of the set of twelve surviving letters sent to his wife by my great-grand uncle Erasmus Anderson. I am extremely grateful to the owner of those letters for permitting me to use them. The last letter we have was written April 27,1863 but Erasmus went on with the Union Army into the Vicksburg siege.
As I follow the actions of E Company, 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, I depend heavily on the reporting at the website of Michael K. Woods. Quotations from Theodore Wolbach’s Camp and Field, which appeared in a Holmes County newspaper in the 1880s, come from Wood’s website, as do the pictures and maps used here.