Editor’s Note: The following article is the second of a six-part series by Marysville resident Eric Demchak about one of Marysville’s forgotten war heroes. The series describes the career of Col. Joseph G. Hawkins, a resident of Marysville who organized a local company of soldiers to fight for the North in the Civil War. It details the role that he and his men played in what became known as the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee in late December of 1862 and early January of 1863. Unfortunately, no photographs of Hawkins could be found, but we feel that Demchak’s exhaustive research will provide interesting reading.
by ERIC DEMCHAK
The Civil War touches everyone and everywhere. The village of Marysville and Union County were no exceptions.
In Major Joseph G. Hawkins’ 13th regiment, soldier C.C. Hurly succumbed to disease at Camp Dennison. Ransom Reed of Company F was the first man from Union County killed in action. It happened at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in West Virginia. Large crowds awaited the return of his remains in October of 1861.
The following summer, services for Cyrus Thompson, Delmore Robinson and two brothers of Henry Crist were held in the First Presbyterian Church of Marysville.
By the war’s end, more than 130 men from Union County would die in battle. Four hundred would perish from disease, many of them buried in the South, never to return home.
Some were lucky and were only wounded. Several hundred would recover from their wounds.
Over 140 soldiers would survive the deathtraps of southern prisoner of war camps.
Of the more than 3,000 men that Union County furnished for the entire war, nearly 1,000 — one-third — would become casualties. The final human cost would be enormous. 1861 faded into 1862 and by the end of the Civil War’s second year, the glorious parades, patriotic speeches and fervor that once pervaded the air had disappeared. They were replaced by funeral processions, eulogies for the dead and bitter denouncements of the tragedy of war.
December 2, 1862, was a cold day as the 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment stood at attention. Hawkins stood beside his veteran group as they were reviewed as a part of Brig. Gen. Horatio Van Cleve’s Third Division.
Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans had recently replaced Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell as commander of the Federal Army of the Cumberland and Van Cleve’s division, which included Hawkins’ regiment, part of that army.
Hawkins had been promoted earlier from major to lieutenant colonel and now was colonel of the regiment.
Buell had been an uninspired and vacillating commander whose disinclination to engage the Confederate Army of Tennessee cost him his job. Few tears were shed when Buell left. On the other hand, the men grew to love Rosecrans who looked after their needs, wants and safety.
Hawkins had known Rosecrans when the 13th was part of his command a year earlier during the West Virginia campaign. As Rosecrans rode past on his horse, he recognized the regiment and gave them an excellent compliment on their soldierly conduct. He stopped to talk and reminisce about their previous association in the war.
The 13th was camped in the area around Nashville, Tenn., the first rebel state capital to fall. The city was a kaleidoscope of human tragedy. Once cultured and refined, the city was transformed into a refugee camp of 80,000 people.
The city became a military base for the North’s Army of the Cumberland. The supply line north to Louisville was tenuous at best.
Rosecrans noted, “the enormous superiority in numbers of the rebel calvary kept our little cavalry force almost within the infantry lines and gave the enemy control of the entire country around us.”
Rebel cavalry roamed at will across Kentucky and Tennessee, so it was important that supplies be stockpiled in Nashville for the next campaign. Rosecrans wanted to strike into the Confederate heartland and then on to Chattanooga, a prime Union objective.
In his way was Gen. Braxton Bragg’s 37,000-man Army of Tennessee, based about 30 miles southeast of Nashville around the town of Murfreesboro.
The Southern unit included the command of Gen. William J. Hardee on the left wing at Triune to the west, Gen. Leonidas Polk’s corps in Murfreesboro and Gen. John P. McCown’s Division to the east at Readyville. Bragg’s troops covered any approaches the Union Army might attempt to take.
Bragg, thinking the federal army was going into winter quarters, unleashed his two best cavalry units on the Union supply line. He sent Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan to harass Rosecrans’ rear.
In addition, Bragg was ordered to relinquish a division of infantry under Carter Stevenson to Vicksburg to counter a Union threat there.
Unwittingly, Bragg had given Rosecrans the opportunity to advance, and the Union general seized it.
The third part of this series will appear in Saturday, June 12th edition of the Marysville Journal-Tribune.