The 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized on April 26, 1861, just two weeks after President Abraham Lincolns call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion in the South. The men came from Wayne, Stark, Knox, Delaware, Marion and Hardin counties in North-Central Ohio. The regiment organized at Camp Jackson, Columbus and was then transferred to Camp Dennison for training. Before leaving camp, Lincoln called for three-year volunteers came and most of the regiment re-enlisted.
The 4th left Ohio in late June 1861 for its first expedition, heading into what is now West Virginia. Before departure, the regiment received muskets. Companies F and C, the flank companies, were given Enfield rifles. The rest of the regiment, including Co. B, was issued M1842 Springfield smooth bore muskets, which fired a .69 caliber buck-and-ball shot.
The regiment was officially part of The Army of Occupation, commanded by Major General George B. McClellan. McClellan later left for Washington, but the regiment stayed in western Virginia. There, besides their frequent garrison and guard duties, the regiment saw action in numerous skirmishes and a few small battles, namely Romney and Blues Gap, the former in which Company B captured a rebel flag.
The army moved east to join other Union forces to fight Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in the early months of 1862. As part of Major General Nathaniel Banks army, the 4th actively participated in the campaign against Jackson. From there the 4th, along with the remainder of its division, moved to Washington to join McClellan's Army of the Potomac. The regiment was a part of the brigade commanded by General Nathan Kimball. The brigade consisted of the 4th and 8th Ohio regiments, the 14th Indiana and 7th West Virginia, and was designated 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps in July of 1862. The regiment remained with the Army of the Potomac through the term of its service.
In August of 1862 a sickness, characterized by severe diarrhea, swept over the regiment. By the 24th, two-thirds of the regiment was unfit for duty. According to regimental surgeon Harry M. McAbee, every man in the regiment eventually became affected. The regiment was put into camp outside of Washington while it recovered. During this time, the regiment missed the heavy fighting Kimball's brigade faced at Antietam.
The regiment, although still afflicted by disease, rejoined the Army in time to participate in the Battle of Fredericksburg. Deployed as skirmishers, the 4th Ohio and the rest of their brigade were the first to advance past the town and up Maryes Heights. There, they advanced as far as any brigade did against the strong Confederate positions on the stone wall. The regiment lost a third of its engaged strength.
After Fredericksburg, the 4th retreated with the rest of the Army and suffered through Burnside's Mud March. The commanding general was relieved and Joseph Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac. He reorganized much of the force and implemented the famous corps badges to identify units on the battlefield. The 4ths brigade, now under the command of Samuel Carroll, was moved to the Third Division and was distinguished by a blue trefoil, or club.
Hooker prepared to attack Lee and moved toward Chancellorsville. Although the Army was defeated and forced to retreat, Carroll's Gibraltar Brigade and the rest of the II Corps held off Confederate attacks on May 3rd east of Chancellorsville until compelled to retire from lack of supplies and reinforcements. The 4th Ohio lost eighty men in the heavy fighting, but captured the colors of the 14th Louisiana Tigers.
The 4th Ohio met more Louisiana Tigers again almost two months to the day after their fight at Chancellorsville. After missing the first day of battle at Gettysburg, the II Corps defended strong positions along Cemetery Ridge. Most of Carroll's brigade, save the 8th Ohio, was positioned in reserve near Cemetery Hill. Late on the evening of July 2nd, a brigade of Louisiana Tigers had driven away elements of the XI Corps and overrun Union artillery positions on the hill. Carroll's brigade was dispatched to the position and charged the Confederates and drove them back in severe hand-to-hand combat. A second brigade of Louisiana troops heard the cheers of Union artillerymen and Carroll's soldiers and did not move to support their comrades. The 4th was left near this position on July 3rd and saw skirmishing throughout the day, but did not participate in the repulse of Pickett's Charge. The regiment lost 32 men in the battle. On July 4th, the eight companies of the regiment still armed with smooth bore muskets were equipped with M1861 Springfield rifles collected from the battlefield.
After Gettysburg, the 4th saw only minor fighting until the spring of 1864. In that time, the regiment was moved to various positions and guard duties, including a stay in New York City. U. S. Grant was promoted to command of all Union armies and reorganized the Army of the Potomac. The 4th Ohio and Carroll's Brigade were transferred to the 2nd Division of the II Corps.
General Grant set out to crush Lees army and began what became known as the Overland Campaign. At The Wilderness the 4th saw heavy fighting as the II Corps was slowly pushed back by Longstreet's Confederates. Six days later on May 12th the 4th was among the II Corps troops who charged the Mule Shoe Salient at Spotsylvania Courthouse, a battle that is often cited as one of the most horrifying fights of the war. The 4th Ohio's only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Lewis Morgan, captured a flag from the Confederate entrenchments during the charge to earn this honor.
After Spotsylvania, the regiment participated in several minor battles and almost constant skirmishing until its final battle at Cold Harbor. The 4th Ohio was a part of a charge against Confederate entrenchments and without reinforcements, forced to fall back to their own defensive works. On the night of June 5th, the regiment was withdrawn from the front under cover of darkness.
The regiment was moved to Camp Chase near Columbus to be mustered out. The men of the regiment became irritated at the lack of efficiency in securing their discharges. Told that the paymaster could only discharge two companies every day, the veteran soldiers disarmed the camp guards and demanded their pay immediately. They received it, and the 4th Ohio was officially discharged on June 22nd, 1864.
A substantial number of the regiment re-enlisted and was consolidated into a battalion with the 8th Ohio. These men served the remainder of the war and were nearly annihilated. The regiment, during its three years service, sustained a reputation that rivals any unit that fought during the war. Nearly thirty percent of the regiment died during the course of the war. The 4th participated in most of the major battles in the Eastern Theatre. The regiment placed sixteen battle honors on its colors, but fought in dozens of other engagements. Its record of service is admirable, and the 4th Ohio can be considered one of the best units in the Union army during the Civil War.
Kepler, William. History of the Three Months and Three Years Service From April 16th, 1861, to June 22d, 1864, of the Fourth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union. Cleveland: Leader Printing Company, 1886.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Volume XIX, Part I. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1887.
Bailey, Ronald H. The Civil War: Rebels Resurgent- Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville. Alexandria, VA: Time Life Books, 1983.
Bailey, Ronald H. The Civil War: The Killing Ground-The Wilderness to Cold Harbor. Alexandria, VA: Time Life Books, 1983.
Written by: Ryland L. Breeding