Paroled - Leaving Camp Ford - Arrival at Four-Mile Spring -Maj. Bering and Lieut. Srofe on Their Way Back to Prison - Journey to Grand Ecore - Camped at Alexandria - Arrival at the Mississippi - Exchanged - The Old Flag - New Orleans - Col. Dwight - Natchez - Provost Guard - Consolidated with the 83d Ohio - Home on Veteran Furlough.
AFTER numerous reports of exchange, at last the paroling officer, Capt. Birchett, arrived with orders from the Commissioner of Exchange to parole about seven hundred and fifty prisoners, and take them to the mouth of Red river for exchange. He selected the 19th Ky. and 48th Ohio regiments, and a number of small squads and individual members of different commands. We signed the parole on the 30th of September, 1864. The condition of the parole was not to bear arms against their government until duly exchanged.
The next day, Oct. 1st, we left Camp Ford for Shreveport, one hundred and ten miles distant, where we arrived after five days' weary march, foot-sore and tired. We camped at Four Mile Spring one week, waiting for boats to take us down Red river. While here we were granted the freedom of the camp, with the warning, that if anyone was found over one hundred yards from camp he would be sent back to prison. A few days after our arrival, we learned from Capt. Birchett, rebel paroling officer, that Maj. Bering and Lieut. Srofe had been recaptured and were at Shreveport, on their way back to prison. In a few days they passed us, with about two hundred others, on their way back to Camp Ford. They received their letters, which had arrived at Camp Ford during their absence, and proceeded on their way, looking sad and weary. But they had the sympathy of the whole Regiment, and there was many a regret that they could not accompany the Regiment on its way to freedom, instead of returning back to prison.
On the 11th of October, about half the prisoners started on foot to Grand Ecore; the other half went by boats. From there all went by steamer to Alexandria. Here we disembarked and camped until Oct. 22d, when we were again ordered aboard and taken down the stream to within a few miles of the Mississippi. Here we remained until Sunday evening, the 23d, when the boats started with us for the Mississippi, which we entered at 4 P. M. Passing down a short distance, we landed under the "stars and stripes" once more. With light hearts we stepped off the, rebel craft, and were turned over to Col. Dwight, our Commissioner of Exchange. He ordered us on board the St. Mary's, where a band of music from New Orleans, and a number of ladies - wives of Union officers - were awaiting our arrival.
We immediately boarded the vessel, and proceeded to the upper deck. The old flag was torn from its place of concealment, (Capt. Gunsaulus' blouse) and hastily tied to a staff prepared for the occasion. At this signal the band struck up the "Star-Spangled Banner," and the old flag of the 48th was unfurled to the breeze, with waving handkerchiefs and amid the wild shouts and deafening cheers of the released prisoners and groans of the rebel guards. But no words of "tongue or pen" can convey the emotions of that hour. It was an inspiring scene, and one that never will be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The flag was afterwards placed in the flag-room of the State-House at Columbus, Ohio, where it now remains.
The rebel Assistant Agent of Exchange, Capt. Birchett, on his return to Camp Ford, related to the prisoners how the flag of the 48th Ohio, in his presence, was torn from the coat of one of the officers, after they were exchanged at the mouth of Red river. He said it was one of the most exciting scenes he ever witnessed, and that the Regiment deserved a great deal of credit for preserving their colors during their imprisonment.
Soon after boarding our boat the musty corn bread and tough salt beef was thrown away, and we eagerly partook of our regular rations once more.
In the evening the rebel boats came alongside the St. Mary's, and their Commissioner of Exchange, Col. Szymanski, and Capt. Birchett, paroling officer, came aboard, to arrange with Col. Dwight for the next exchange. Here they were feasted on the best the boat afforded, by the officers of our Regiment, in the hope that they would keep their promise and include Maj. Bering and Lieut. Srofe in the next exchange, but it was all in vain; the promise was never fulfilled.
The rebels returned up Red river, and we proceeded to New Orleans, where we arrived the 24th. After disembarking, we were sent to the parole camp, by way of the back streets and alleys, being too ragged to be seen. Here the prisoners were furnished with new clothing, after which passes were issued, and they were allowed the freedom of the city.
The Paymaster, who had paid the remnant of the Regiment at Natchez, a short time previous, very kindly paid the officers two months' pay, which enabled them to obtain a change of clothing.
Here, with regret, we parted with the 19th Kentucky, a regiment with whom we had been associated for nearly two years. The friendly feeling which had existed between the two regiments, was manifested on all occasions. During that time we had stood side by side in every siege and battle; sharing alike victory and defeat, until now we bade them adieu. Great praise is due to such brave and patriotic men, who stood up for the Union, in the dark hours of our National existence. Although from a slave State, and many of them owning slaves, they did not hesitate to rally round the old flag at their country's call.
Shortly after the prisoners arrived at New Orleans, the officers were invited by Col. Dwight, our Commissioner of Exchange, to visit him at his office. We accepted the invitation, and met the Commissioner, who gave us a hearty welcome, After partaking of refreshments, we passed the evening in relating to him the details of our prison life in Texas. The Commissioner explained the difficulties he had encountered in making the exchange, but thought he had effected an arrangement whereby another lot of three or four hundred would be exchanged soon. He also informed us that all the exchanged prisoners would be granted a prison furlough of thirty days.
Most of the 48th were veterans, who were still entitled to their veteran furlough of "thirty days in the State," and the time of those that were not veterans had expired, therefore none of our Regiment availed themselves of the prison furlough, but remained at New Orleans until November 2d, when we were ordered to Natchez, Mississippi, where Col. Parker, with the remnant of the Regiment, was on provost-guard. We arrived on the 3d, and were welcomed back by those who escaped our fate.
Col. Parker, who had rejoined the army at Grand Ecore, shortly after the capture of the Regiment, was put in command of the remnant of the brigade during the retreat down Red river. They were finally sent to New Orleans, where the Colonel, in the latter part of July, obtained furloughs for the veterans of the Regiment who had escaped capture, and those who had rejoined from sick-leave and detached duty, and took them home. Before leaving, they procured quite a gay uniform, in which they made a handsome appearance. Upon arriving at Cincinnati they were paraded through the streets to the Fifth Street Barracks, where they were quartered.
The following editorial appeared in the Cincinnati Times, of August 4th, 1864:
"This noble Regiment, all that is left of it - ninety-four men - arrived in the city yesterday morning, and marched to the Fifth Street Barracks. They come home as re-enlisted veterans, to enjoy their thirty days' furlough, and then return to the field of strife. Three years since, the 48th left Camp Dennison, 960 strong. It returns to us ninety-four men, all the rest being wounded, prisoners, or among the gallant dead. During the late Red River Expedition, this Regiment lost 190 of its few remaining men, and every one of its commissioned officers, with the exception of its Colonel, one Captain and one Lieutenant. Previous to leaving New Orleans, the furloughed men fitted themselves out with an elegant and peculiar uniform. They leave to-day for their homes. Col. J. R. Parker, who commands this organization, has good cause to be proud of it."
While at home, they obtained eighty new recruits, and on their way back to New Orleans, their boat was fired into by guerrillas, which mortally wounded W. H. Osborn, of Co. B, and S. H. Raper, of Co. K. This occurred a short distance above Vicksburg. They were left at the hospital at that place, where they died soon after.
Upon arriving at New Orleans, they were assigned the duty of guarding the rebel prisoners, who were confined in the cotton presses. They were relieved from this duty by the remnant of the 77th Ills., and moved up to Natchez, Miss., on the steamer "Jennie Rogers," where they arrived on the 14th of October. They relieved the 29th Ills., who were on provost-guard, and occupied the Court House as quarters, when we rejoined them at Natchez. The Reg't. remained on provost-duty, occasionally going out on picket, until Nov. 19th, when the 48th Ohio, 97th Ills., 69th Ind., and 26th Ohio Battery, under command of Col. Parker, were ordered on a scouting expedition, on the Woodville road.
Rainy weather set in, and the roads becoming impassable for the artillery to proceed, the expedition was abandoned after a few days absence, and we returned to camp, bringing all the forage the teams could haul.
After two unsuccessful attempts to obtain our veteran furlough, at last the necessary papers were forwarded to Memphis, Tenn., for the approval of the Commanding General.
On the first of January, 1865, we received orders from Gen. Canby, through Gen. Brayman, Commander of the Post, consolidating our Regiment with the 83d Ohio, The following is a copy:
"HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION,
WEST MISS., NEW ORLEANS, LA.,
December 26, 1864
"Special Orders, No. 224.
* * *
"VI. Under the provisions of General Order No. 86, series of 1863, War Department, Adjutant General's Office, the following named regiments will be consolidated, viz: 48th Ohio Vet. Vol. Infantry; 83d Ohio Vol. Infantry.
"VII. The Battalions of the 48th and 83d Ohio Volunteer Infantry will be consolidated into ten companies, to be designated as the 83d Ohio Volunteer Infantry. All supernumeraries, commissioned and non-commissioned officers, will be mustered out as of date of the consolidation. Brig. Gen'l. Brayman, Commanding District of Natchez, is charged with the execution of this order. * *
"By command of MAJ. GEN. CANBY.
"C. F. CHRISTENSEN, Lt. Col. & A. A. G."
This order did not take effect until the 17th of January, 1865. The ten companies of the 48th Ohio were consolidated into four, and those of the 83d Ohio into six companies. The field officers of the 83d were retained, mustering out of service the following officers of the 48th Ohio: Col. J. R. Parker, Lieut. Col. J. W. Lindsay; Captains Cyrus Hussey, James Sowry and Thomas Montgomery; Lieut. H. W. Day, Hospital Steward Jos. H. Gravatt, and Serg't. Maj. W. A. Pratt, and all supernumerary non-commissioned officers of each company. Maj. J. A. Bering was included in the muster-out, but being confined in prison, he was not mustered out until after his release, June 16, 1865. The companies lost their identity after the consolidation.
This order of consolidation was an act of injustice to the Regiment, for we were promised the continuation of the organization through the war on account of two thirds re-enlisting, and the officers and men regarded it as showing bad faith on the part of the Government.
Company E, which had been the color company during the entire service, delivered the flag of the Regiment to Col. Parker, who brought it home and retained possession of it until his death, which took place December 5, 1865. Mrs. Parker, upon the request of the members of Company A, delivered the flag to E. T. Rayburn, of New Lexington, Highland county, Ohio, where it still remains.
On the 5th of January, 1865, the prison veterans received their long-promised
furlough, and started on the first steamer for home. We arrived at Cairo
on the evening of the 10th, and Cincinnati at 4 A. M. on the 12th, after
an absence of over three years. Upon receiving transportation, the members
of the Regiment separated for their respective homes, where the old Veterans
received a merited hearty welcome from their friends, which was one continued
feast and ovation until they returned to active service again.