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Eagle and Shield Title: George Duncan Forsyth Letter

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Published in the Toledo Daily Herald and Times June 12, 1861 (page 2). George Duncan Forsyth was born in Maumee, Ohio and enlisted in the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment for 3 months’ service. Following muster out Forsyth returned briefly to civilian life. In the summer of 1862 he enlisted as a lieutenant in the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In September of 1863, only a short time before the battle of Chickamauga, Forsyth and a number of men of the 100th OVI were captured at Limestone Station in Tennessee. Forsyth spent his final months as a prisoner of war at Richmond’s Libby Prison. He was killed when a guard’s gun accidentally discharged, the bullet striking Forsyth in the head. His body was returned to Toledo where he was buried at Forest Cemetery. The first GAR Post organized at Toledo was named in his honor.

George Duncan Forsyth had an older brother who was a West Point graduate and made the army his career. His name was James Forsyth, and during the Civil War served on Phil Sheridan’s staff in the Shenandoah Valley. After the war he gained notoriety as the man who commanded the massacre at Wounded Knee.

From the 14th Regiment.

We have been permitted to publish the following letter from G. D. FORSYTH, a member of the Toledo Guards, 14th Regiment, O. V. M., to his brother ALLEN FORSYTH, in this city, dated

June 5th, 1861.

DEAR BROTHER:--We've had a battle, taken a town, and all of us escaped unhurt. I wrote a few days ago from Clarksburg, telling you that we expected to pursue an army of rebels who were committing depredations upon the people of Virginia. Sunday afternoon we left C. on a transport train, and proceeded up the R. R. about 20 miles, to a town called Webster. There we disembarked about 5 o'clock. We were accompanied by the 7th, and part of the 6th Indiana Regiments, in all, about 2,000 men. We stood under arms about two hours, and took up the line of march for this place in a pelting rain, the 7th Indiana Regiment in advance, two pieces of artillery following them; our Regiment in the center, and the 6th Indiana bringing up the rear. The road, during the whole distance, was up hill and down, through an immense wilderness, occasionally relieved by a solitary farm house. The rain continued to pour down in torrents all the time. We were wet through, and numbers of men were overcome by fatigue, and lay down by the roadside. Some threw away knapsacks, havelocks, canteens, blankets, in fact all their accouterments but their arms. We marched at a half run. My feet bled profusely, and the officers had to ride up and down the lines constantly, to inspire the men with courage and fortitude to endure the fatigue and continue the march. We came upon a picket guard of the enemy about 3 A.M., Monday morning, shot one, but the rest escaped. This rallied the men, and we passed forward with renewed speed, and soon gained sight of the town. The whole army then halted and threw aside everything that would impede us in a charge, and started forward. The artillery horses were put in to a gallop, and they took a position on a hill commanding the town, and opened the battle with grape and cannister. The round of the cannon was immediately followed by the roll of musketry from the hills on the opposite side of the town.--This proceeded from the 1st Virginia and the 16th Ohio Regiments, who started from Grafton at the time we left Webster to intercept the retreat of the rebels, and make a simultaneous attack upon the town upon a run, but before we crossed the river that separated us from them, we beheld the foe running like a flock of frightened sheep. They escaped by a road that was left unguarded by some over sight, and but 30 or 40 of them were killed, and 6 or 8 captured.--We took two Confederate flags, and our company alone captured some $6,000 worth of booty, among which were 500 stand of arms, about $500 worth of tents, camp equipage, provisions, army stores, powder, clothing, pistols, swords, &c. and many other things too numerous to mention. We also took 30 or 40 horses, seven wagons, three of which were loaded with clothing. Before we got into the town, we could hear the rebels shouting "Run! run! there is a million of them!" As I was completely wet through, I only looked for some underclothes. I soon put these on, and then lay down in the middle of one of the streets, right in the mud, and with a stick of wood for a pillow, and my musket in my arms, fell asleep in a moment. I was so overcome with fatigue that I could not have walked a square to have saved my life.

After the town was entirely occupied, we were marched back to the hill where the artillery was posted, and there we have been encamped since. We had nothing to eat but crackers (or hard bread) and raw ham. We slept that night on the ground, and although we had tents, the rain beat in, and we again got wet, blankets and all. My feet bled so during the march that my stockings were saturated with blood as well as water. I threw away my boots at Clarksburg, and got a pair of kip brogans from the Quartermaster. I wear woolen socks and No. 6 shoes.--I don't think we will stay here long, although we have been threatened with an attack by those whom we have so recently routed, reinforced by several thousands. Unless Harper's Ferry fall before the Federal troops soon, we will go there, I think, to assist in the siege.--Col. Kelley, of the lst Va. Union Regiment, was shot by an Orderly Sergeant of one of the enemy's cavalry companies, just below the right shoulder, and for a few hours his life was despaired of, but he is now considered out of danger. One of the rebels, a first Lieut. of a cavalry Co., was shot in the act of saddling his horse to escape, a grape shot striking him in the leg; it was amputated, but he bled to death that evening.

The Indiana Regiments behaved like barbarians. They plundered private houses and private city residences indiscriminately. Our Co. took possession of the jail, and there was where we found most of our booty. A good many of our boys came out dressed in the uniforms of officers in the Confederate- Army, the next day. I have a piece of a secession (bag?), a bible, (with James McLung's name written in it,) some underclothes, socks, and a fancy red flannel shirt, but an hour or two before the taking of the town, the property of one Wilson, an officer in an infantry Co.--I was one of the first in the jail and found the jailer here, frightened almost out of his senses. I asked if he had any one in his custody; he said, "two--one an insane man." I then asked if the other was a Union man; he said, "yes," and I brought my musket to an infantry charge, and told him that if he did not release the man in 5 minutes, I would bayonet him. He started off for the cell in a hurry, I assure you. When he opened the cell door, the poor prisoner trembled like a leaf, thinking, I suppose, that his last hour had come, for they intended, as they told him, to hang him, but I soon undeceived him. He was so overcome with joy that he could hardly speak. All the inhabitants had left the town the day before we got there; so it seems we were half expected. The place is a notorious secession hole, only a few Union men being in the county. It is very muddy in our camp ground, it being a newly cleared piece of land, covered with stumps and logs. I cannot yet tell you where I could receive a letter from you. You might write one, telling all the news, and direct to Company A, 14th Regiment, Col. Steedman, commanding, stationed in Virginia. Don't put any thing private in it, lest it should not come to hand.


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