This regiment was raised for a term of one year and was recruited in Highland, Fayette, Ross, Clark, Brown, Clermont, Adams, Gallia, and Noble Counties, by Colonel William Trimble. It was intended specially for the defense of the border counties of Ohio.
The regiment, being ready for the field, was ordered on February 8, 1862 to Gallipolis, to guard military stores. On February 25th, the regiment fully mustered into the United States service, and was sent to the field on April 27, 1862. It joined General Fremont's forces at New Creek, in Western Virginia, about that time.
The Sixtieth was placed in a brigade with the Eighth Virginia Infantry, and with Fremont's forces, marched to McDowell, to the relief of Schenck's and Milroy's troops, then threatened by the enemy. The march was a forced one, and from the indiscretion of the commanding-officer of the brigade, Colonel Cluseret, a French officer, many men of the Sixtieth, and other regiments, were totally disabled from further service for months. The enemy was met, after many skirmishes, near Strasburg, and a brisk engagement ensued. In this affair, the Sixtieth Ohio behaved like veterans and won reputation.
The march up the Shenandoah Valley, in pursuit of Jackson, was one of the most terrible ever endured by men. Yet, the brave soldiers of the Sixtieth, and other regiments, bore it without a murmur. At Port Republic, the enemy was again overtaken and engaged. The Sixtieth Ohio once more displayed its good discipline and fine fighting qualities. Ashby's Rebel cavalry figured into this battle, and was almost directly opposed by the Sixtieth Ohio. Ashby was killed, confusion ensued in the Rebel ranks, and in a few minutes all signs of the enemy disappeared.
The pursuit was continued, with more or less skirmishing, and occasionally a determined stand by the enemy. At Cross Keys, the Rebel General Stonewall Jackson made overtures for battle. He was at once resolutely met by General Fremont's army, and after a fierce engagement, lasting some hours, both parties withdrew. The battle commenced at an early hour in the morning and lasted until 4:00 p.m. It was a well-contested affair, in which both the National and Rebel troops displayed the most determined bravery. The Sixtieth Ohio was highly complimented on the field for its firmness and coolness under fire. Its loss in men killed and wounded was severe.
Early on the morning of June 9th, the Sixtieth and Eighth Virginia, forming an extended skirmish-line, swept over the battlefield of the previous day, but without encountering the enemy. He had fled during the night, and escaped across the Shenandoah River near Port Republic, burning the bridge after him. Shield's forces had failed to intercept him. Colonel Carroll's brigade of Shield's division did get into position on the opposite side of the river, but after making a gallant fight was overpowered and driven off.
The National forces did not pursue Jackson's Rebel army. The morning of June 12th found Fremont's army at Mount Jackson, it having fallen back to that position to prevent the Rebel army from getting into its rear and endangering it communications. Here, for the first time during the campaign, the officers and men of the Sixtieth slept in tents. At this point, the Sixtieth Ohio and Eighth Virginia parted, the Thirty-Second Ohio taking the place of the Eighth Virginia. Both of the last-named regiments were assigned to General Piatt's brigade, and made part of General Schenck's division.
The National army moved from Mount Jackson on June 19th, and reached Strasburg on the 22nd. The illness of General Piatt placed Colonel Trimble, of the Sixtieth, in command of the brigade. Leaving General Milroy's brigade at Strasburg, General Fremont moved to Middletown on the 24th, at which point the army, with the exception of Piatt's brigade, remained until July 8th. At this point, General Fremont and staff left the army, leaving it in command of General Schenck until General Sigel, the successor of Fremont, should report.
The National forces moved from Middletown on July 8th, by Front Royal, to join General Pope, leaving a large amount of military stores in and around Middletown, guarded by a force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. While lying at this place, news was received that the Rebel General Jackson had again penetrated into the Shenandoah Valley with 5000 cavalry, and was menacing Winchester. Colonel Trimble, of the Sixtieth, was ordered to take a force from his regiment, assume command on reaching other National forces near Strasburg, the point where Jackson was maneuvering. Two hundred fifty volunteers were selected from the Sixtieth, many of the line officers serving as privates. Thirty mule teams were taken with the expedition for the purpose of expediting the movement and transporting supplies. Middletown was reached before daylight. The enemy still threatening this point, all the Government stores were removed to Front Royal, and the National forces marched into Winchester.
Winchester was held until the night of September 2nd, when it was evacuated by order of the War Department. The defeat of the Army of the Potomac, under General Pope, rendered the move necessary. The Sixtieth Ohio led the column on the night march from Winchester, reaching Harper's Ferry on September 3rd. General White was ordered by Major-General Wool to Martinsburg, and his Winchester command was added to that of Colonel Miles at Harper's Ferry. Then came the disaster to the National forces at Harper's Ferry. The Sixtieth Ohio, under command of Colonel Trimble, resisted successfully the attack of General A. P. Hill's Rebel division on the left flank, in an infantry and artillery engagement lasting from 3:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14th until after dark. It endured, with the balance of Colonel Trimble's command, on the morning of the 15th, until nearly 9:00, the concentrated fire of over fifty guns, which enfiladed the position, making a dangerous cross-fire over every portion of the command. The anxiety of the Rebels to silence Rigby's battery, supported on the right by the Sixtieth, caused a continuous front, flank, and rear fire upon this point. The Sixtieth Ohio remained firm under this severe fire, protected only by a slight breastwork thrown up hastily on Sunday morning. The enemy, though constantly feeling for the regiment, failed to get its range until near the time of surrender. If the men had risen to their feet, they would have been swept from the ground. The Adjutant of the regiment lost his hand by a solid shot early in the engagement. Twelve privates were killed and wounded. None felt more keenly the mortification of surrender than the men of the Sixtieth Ohio.
After the surrender, it marched in the same brigade-organization to Annapolis. General Tyler being placed in command of the paroled troops, reorganized them, with several regiments, including the Sixtieth and some artillery companies, under Colonel Trimble. The Colonel was, shortly after this, badly crippled by being thrown from his horse, and did not join the regiment before its honorable discharge by the Secretary of War, October 10, 1862, at Camp Douglas, Chicago.
Almost immediately after the discharge of the regiment, the great majority of its members re-enlisted into other organizations for three years, and served gallantly until the close of the war, many of them laying down their lives for the cause of their country.
The failure, by General White, to provide in the capitulation for the free colored servants in the command came near proving disastrous to them. Colonel Trimble's anxiety upon this subject, and a great sense of duty to those whose freedom was imperiled by the surrender, caused him to bring the subject to the attention of General Jackson, on his entering the lines with his staff. He was told no provision had been made for them. The appeal in their behalf was met in a generous manner. General Jackson informed him that General Hill would remain in command at Harper's Ferry, and would have control of such questions; but added: "If you have any difficulty with General Hill you can appeal to me." Thanking him, and instructing the servants to keep in close quarters with the regiment, and the officers to protect them till his return, he rode to Harper's Ferry and called on General Hill at his head-quarters. Waiting patiently till D'Utassy finished discussing a claim for five surplus horses, which General Hill very properly refused to allow, he told the General he, too, had lost horses, but had called to present a matter of much more importance. He had learned from General Jackson that no provision had been made in the capitulation for the free colored servants. There was a number in his regiment who had accompanied it from Ohio, and perhaps others in the command. General Jackson had referred the matter to him. General Hill said: "As great numbers had fled from the surrounding country to Harper's Ferry, it would be difficult to decide who was free and who was not; he would, therefore, leave it to the Colonel's honor, and give him passes for whoever he said was free." Thanking the General for his courtesy and confidence, he returned to camp to communicate the glad tidings to men, whose fears for their own safety had been increased by seeing hundreds of men, women, and children, bond and free, driven past; their bowed heads and sad countenances telling the tale of their disappointed hopes. When marching out next day he was detained at General Hill's head-quarters in getting the passes for thirteen colored men connected with the Sixtieth Ohio, by another horse-claim of D'Utassy. On reaching the river he found the regiment halted, a Rebel guard, with crossed bayonets, in front, several countrymen, and a Rebel Major on horseback near the lines, and others on foot, dragging the colored boys from their positions near the officers. He asked what all this meant. Was told in fierce tones, "he was a d----d nigger thief, stealing their slaves, and his command shouldn't pass till every d----d nigger was taken out." He told them they were free -- he had passes for them from General Hill. "They swore they wouldn't regard the order of General Hill in such case." A citizen said: "General Hill's pass ought to be sufficient." The Rebel Major told him to "shut his d----d mouth and attend to his own business." The moment for action had come. The quick, sharp, decisive words: "My men are unarmed -- I am not. I'll sell my life for these free boys. Unhand them! Guards, give way! Regiment, march!" unloosed the grasp of these man-stealers, sent the guards from the front, and the regiment forward over the pontoon-bridge with quick and steady tread. When safe on the Maryland side of the Potomac these men, some of whom had families in Ohio, felt like a new birth of freedom had been vouchsafed them, and every officer and soldier sympathized with them in the joy of their deliverance.
The surrender of Harper's Ferry was investigated by an able Military Commission, of which Major-General D. Hunter was President. It was very severe in some of its findings, but it reported that no blame attached to Colonel Trimble.
Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Her Generals, and Soldiers. Vol. II. Cincinnati, Ohio: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1868.
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Created: 25 Apr 2001
Modified: 21 Jul 2002
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