Monday, May 28, 2012

The Citizen Soldier, by John Beatty

John Beatty, grandson of the former Sandusky Mayor of the same name, wrote a book about his experiences as an officer during the Civil War. The book, The Citizen-Soldier; or, Memoirs of a Volunteer, was published in 1879 by Wilstach, Baldwin & Co. of Cincinnati. John Beatty started his military career as a private in the Third Ohio Infantry. By 1863 he was commissioned as a Brigadier General. Beatty led regiments at Perryville, Stone River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Marion Ridge. After the Civil War, he served as a representative from Ohio in the U.S. Congress from 1868 to 1873.

The Citizen-Soldier was dedicated to John Beatty’s brother, Major William Gurley Beatty, who also served as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. In his introductory remarks, John Beatty states that he wrote his memoirs down so that future generations of the Beatty family would know the “thoughts, fears, hopes, (and) acts” of someone who lived generations before them. He closed his introduction with “Kinsmen of the coming centuries, I bid you hail and godspeed!”

In his book, Mr. Beatty frequently recorded full stanzas of songs that he heard soldiers singing. Through vivid descriptions, Beatty allows the reader to gain a sense of what the day to day life of a soldier was like. In January 1862, he tells about their New Year’s turkey tasting as tough as leather. When a pretty young girl waved the Union flag in the direction of the marching troops,

Beatty said that the loyal girl “captured a thousand hearts” as she raised the spirits of the soldiers.

In March 1862 near Murfreesboro, a Confederate lady by the name of Mrs. Harris, asked General Beatty for protection, as her husband and daughter were absent from home. She insisted that many of the Union soldiers she had encountered were quite rude. General Beatty assigned Sergeant Woolbaugh to stand guard at the Harris home, and to be on his best behavior. It turns out that Sergeant Woolbaugh and Mrs. Harris engaged in conversation in the sitting room long into the night, discussing the current issues between the North and the South.

The horrors of war are also recollected by General Beatty. After the Battle of Perryville, Beatty describes the scene as soldiers dug trenches for fallen soldiers, many of whom they knew quite well: “We hear convulsive sobs, see eyes swollen and streaming with tears, …. as our fallen comrades are deposited in their narrow grave…” One time when the food supply was running short, hungry soldiers cut chunks of meat from horses which had been killed in battle.

General Beatty ends his memoir on January 1, 1864. Before wishing a “Happy New Year” to any future readers, Beatty’s thoughts as he looks out over the land in Mission Ridge, Tennessee are:

“Looking on this panorama of mountains, ridges, rivers and valleys, one has a juster conception of the power of God. Reflecting upon the deeds that have been done here, he obtains a truer knowledge of the character of man, and the incontestable evidences of his nobility.”

Beatty’s book concludes with a narrative of General Harrison Hobart’s capture and imprisonment at Libby Prison.

The Citizen-Soldier; or, Memoirs of a Volunteer is part of the “Local Authors” collection of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. It is also available to be read full-text at Google Books. General John Beatty is buried at Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery.

The Diary of John Beatty, edited by Harvey S. Ford, is found at the website of the Ohio Historical Society.

1 comment:

PalmsRV said...

Thanks for the link(s). I've got to catch up on some Civil War history.