25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Company B
Diary Excerpt from the diary  (1864) of
Capt. Luther B. Mesnard, commanding,
Source:  Civil War Archives, U.S. Army Military History Institute
THE BATTLE OF HONEY HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA
 

At this time came orders that if the veterans would enlist for three years more, the balance of the lst three years bounty would be paid and a thirty days furlough would be given, and where a majority of the regiment enlisted, the regiment could go home as an organization.  This was a wise move on the part of the government, as this retained a veteran army in the field at a future time when most needed.  In fact, probably saved the nation.  It was the furlough which decided the matter.  Every man  but one, present with our company reenlisted, and nearly all in the Regiment.  We started home on Veteran furlough toward the last of January 1864.  Were paid off at Louisville and crossed the Ohio River and stopped in a little town  some forty miles north in Indiana, and while waiting for a train our boys bought out the town, and not  only had full canteens but were mostly full themselves, and during the night rids to Cincinnati, I, as first Sergeant of the Company had an awful time.  The officers all rode in a car by themselves.

We hoped the regiment would fill up with recruits, I  was much interested as I had been recommended for a commission, which I expected as soon as there were members enough to muster more officers.  I had carried a musket over 3000 miles,  and felt ready for a commission.  Ten days before my furlough expired at the request of some boys at home I took a recruiting commission for "one of the thirty new  companies" ordered by Ohio's Governor.  Well  I rustled around lively, and every man  I enlisted set to work picking up others.  And while other recruiting officers, (being  commissioned officers from the army sent home to recruit men) got hardly a man,  I enlisted and mustered fifty two men, in ten days.  Went to Columbus, was assigned to the 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry.  Was commissioned and mustered as Captain of Company B, therein March 16th, 1864.  Sent to Washington via New York City.  Was at Camp Distribution a few days, then by boat to Hilton Head, S.C.,  where the regiment was stationed at the inland site of the island.  My Company  was first at Popes Plantation for a few days, then stationed at the "upper" post, Spanish Wells, opposite May river, and in sight of the spires of the Savannah.

Most of the time there were two other companies from other companies from other regiments there, but I had command of the post all the while.  We had  three saddle horses and two ambulance horses, three row boats and a sail boat, were visited every day by a steamer to bring rations etc..  A small gun boat patrolled the  channel nights, and a man of war lay about a mile off  toward  Fort Pulaski.  I visited the man of war and Fort Pulaski and received frequent calls from the navy officers, as well as from the officers from our regiment.  Could ride over to the dock or town of Hilton Head seven miles, when I chose, also anywhere on the Island.  The summer of 1864 was the picnic of my army experience, as we could get nearly every thing to eat at reasonable rates, and my duties especially as post commander were very light and pleasant.  The climate of course was hot and unhealthy, and many of the boys were sick.
 
I had at first  a company of 101 green men, in  a veteran regiment, noted as hard fighters, and a tough lot of fellow and I was very anxious about the standing of my company in the regiment.  Taught my boys from the first to keep their places, mind their P's and Q's and allow no one to tread on their toes.  That they might better be in Purgatory, than become the butt of that regiment.  I drilled the men very little - very few hours - compared with the drilling I had in my early service.  I had non commissioned offers schools, etc..  The drills were short and sharp - the boys young, intelligent and quick to learn.

Toward fall were inspected by a regular army captain and surgeon, General Hammond.  The Colonel, Nat.Haughton, had been up to see me twice about my preparing for this.  I said little but made sure that everything was right.  When the day came the 1st Sergeant detailed for guard the awkward or ill shaped men, and about nine o'clock some half dozen officers rode into camp in style.  The Colonel thought I should go out and see to the Company,  but I was quiet, saying to the inspecting officers, wheresoever they  wished it the Company would  be formed.  At the orders of the first Sergeant the Company fell in in a way I was proud of, and as the Sergeant saluted - "Sir the Company is formed," I took charge, and put them in shape for inspection.
The first two files were six feet two inches in height, and models of perfection. The Captain as he took the gun of the first man never looked at it, but admiringly ran his eye over the man, Henry Benson,  one of the finest men physically, I ever saw and every inch a soldier.  Well he examined every man, every gun, every button in the
company, but not a speck of dirt or dust, not a button or thread was wrong and the way the boys handled those guns and themselves made me feel proud of  them.

Then the Doctor or Surgeon inspected them, and when the boys "unslung knapsacks"  and opened them up it was like a machine, every man rose or straightened up at the same time, I never saw another company that could do it as they did that day.  And those knapsacks!  Every one had the same clothing in sight, clean shirt, drawers and socks, nothing else.  The blankets all rolled the same, and all in allignment.  All the men had their hair cut, ears and neck clean and answered all questions about rations, camp equipage and duties, right up plain.  While the officers looking on said "That's fine", "I never saw it done better"  At dinner later, the old surgeon say's to me, "Captain I have a compliment for you.  You can feel proud of it as long as you live."  I said "I shall be glad to receive it Sir."  He said "I have been in the regular army many years and inspected many thousand men, and I say to you, you have the finest company of men, I ever saw I want to know where they raise such men."  I said, "Up in the northern Ohio on the western reserve."  The Inspecting officer spoke, "I think General there is much  in the way those men have been handled."  I said, "Thank you."  And now after nearly forty years I still feel proud of those boys.  The Colonel was greatly surprised and pleased.

All the forces on the Island were soon after assembled at Hilton Head, where we had battillion drill and my boys were among the best, and at officers school, evenings, the Colonel was greatly pleased to find me "up" on everything. We had a grand review of all the forces and soon started on a campaign leaving tents, etc., behind.  Were to have left the harbor at daylight to go up Broad River. At nine o'clock we were still in the harbor, on transports mostly aground as the tide was out, but finally got off and just before dusk landed a few miles up the river and marched some six miles inland, camping near a church.  Some firing in front.  Next morning turned to the right past the church toward Honey Hill, went a mile ormore.  Some firing in the front all the time.  Some artillery shot coming down the road as we march along the side in the open timber.  Soon four guns of ours whirl
past us, and a few rods ahead unlimber and open on the rebs.  A shot takes the captain's leg off, and knocks a wheel off one of our guns.  The Captain is carried back past us,  his leg dangling by a chord, his life blood  spurting in jets as we cross to the other side of the road.    My boys had been under fire but once before and then at long range when at Spanish Wells, and not worth mentioning, and now, they were much affected.  Two or three vomited from sheer fright, while all, even the old veterans, looked very solemn.  We deployed and were in the second line of battle, as we advanced.  It soon became hot and the colored regiment in front hesitated,
and I suggested to Colonel Haughton that we take the advance which we did through dense timber and bushes, whre we could see nothing.  It was hot, the shell over head and the bullets like hail, and soon a line of rebs seemed to rise in front of us, give us a volley and run.  This staggered my Company and one or more companies to our right.

As the men started to the rear I jumped ahead of them and started them forward again. I passed my former 1st Sergeant now Lieutenant Guthrie mortally wounded.   I tookhis hand a moment, and this is the only time I ever remember of feeling bad in battle.

The 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment was at our left my company being on the left of our regiment.  The rebs had artillery (some seven pieces we have since learned) in a redout in our front, with breast-works for their Infantry, but owing to the timber we could see nothing.  We had driven a line of battle which they had in front of,
and below the fort or redout, back, some of my men being so close that the powder marks were about their wounds.  The right of our regiment seemed to reach beyond their line, while still to our right was a full colored regiment - a lot of raw niggers, who would not advance, though scarcely under fire except artillery shot, mostly over head,and to the right of them were several hundred marines, who did not lose a man.  The
54th Massachusetts on our left extended to the road or center of our line, but did notadvance as far as we did by about eight rods.  We halted and held this line nearer the enemy than any other troops.  Getting short of ammunition I ran back to the flank of the colored regiment and got a thousand rounds box and distributed among myboys, and some twenty minutes later a colored soldier brought us another box, and
we held our own, but it was an awful hot place.  We used all the ammunition as byrapid firing we kept the rebs down and as our fire slackened theirs increased.  TheColonel then ordered us to fall back a few rods to a little cross road we had passed, which we did bringing the wounded.  The day was hot, and I sat down with my back
to a pine tree some six inches in diameter when a shell cut the tree off some twenty feet where I sat.  The boys said I could jump farther and quicker from a sitting posture,than any other man. We lay in this position perhaps a half hour and then the whole forcefell back, marching clear back to the landing.  There were about two-thousand rebs sentout from Savannah, by  General Hardee, and about eight-thousand of us, under command
of General Hatch.  The loss in my company was five men killed or wounded and twentyman wounded, a loss of fifty per cent of the men engaged.  Loss of our regiment 126, killed or wounded, including Major and Adjutant killed.  This was about one third  of the entire loss on our side.  Many of our troops were "white glove soldiers" who had done garrison duty only, and did not like the smell of powder.  The 156th New York in the left wing lost heavily and did good fighting.  Our troops were badly handled, no generalship, strategy or tactics.  As a diversion in Sherman's favor the fight may have amounted to a little, but nothing to what it would have if we had brushed the rebs away and cut the Savannah and Charleston Rail Road, as we could have done under
an efficient commander.  When I saw the awful loss in my company, the useless sacrifice of noble men it seemed too bad.  Lieutenant E. A. Guthrie, Sergeant Moses D. Grandy, Sergeant Henry Benson, that model soldier and others, gone forever. - Battle of Honey Hill, S.C. November 30th, 1864.

We lay at the landing a day or two.  I was somewhat disabled.  A ball, at Honey Hill, having torn away my boot just below my ankle, bruised my foot so  as to lame it.  An expedition was started up the river; being unable to walk, I wasleft in charge of the camp, but some ugly rumors coming back, I took the first boat and joined my company before night, about the time, Marsh of my company waskilled by a cannon shot, the only loss in the company that day.  Our position thenat Deveaux Neck was near and within sight of the Rail Road and near enough to the rebs to have some fighting every day.  Our regiment cut a swath through a strip of timber to give our artillery a better chance and had some brisk fighting onDecember 6th and 7th.  We heard from Sherman's army here, and soon the rebsevacuated their strong position along the Rail Road including a couple of strong
forts, and we moved up to Pocataligo, where I heard from and saw some members of my old regiment, the 55th Ohio then with Sherman's army.

About February 1st, 1865 we started toward Charleston and had plenty of fighting, marching and skirmishing.  Our regiment the 25th Ohio, was one of the best, in fact the best fighting regiment in the "Coast Division," and actually did most of the real fighting, making some very bad marches, often wading streams or baoyus waist
deep.  I remember one day my company, as usual, was on the skirmish line and had driven the enemy some miles, finally at "Indian Hill" they made a stand, laying down a rail fence and lying down behind the rails and earth thrown up.  We fired at them a while and I sent a squad to the left to flank them and was about to charge up the hill as I know we could drive them, a rear guard only, and yet four to ten times the number in my company, but somehow I was nervous, was afraid, that's the word. I never was more so in my whole army experience.  I did.......(pages on order from Army War College).

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