"The reb was throed over the yank's Head and was told that would be the way they would all be served"Union Soldier Corporal Frank Ashley (64th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment) Archive, consisting of over 125 letters, most from Corporal Ashley to his wife, Celesta, and dated between March 8, 1861, and November 11, 1865 (over ninety are from Frank-all dated between March 8, 1861, and November 11, 1865-and over thirty letters are from Celesta to Frank-all dated between October 16, 1864, and November 9, 1865). Frank included many details of battles in which he participated, including grisly details. He also writes a fascinating account of a wrestling match between a "yank" and a "reb." The letters have been very well cared for, though they contain the usual original soiling, folds (a few with separations), and age toning. Many of the letters come with their original transmittal envelopes.
Frank Ashley enlisted as a twenty-six-year-old in the 64th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company "H", at Camp Buckingham in Mansfield, Ohio, on November 4, 1861, under the command of Colonel James W. Forsyth. (The 64th had briefly been under the command of John Sherman, until he resumed his duties as U.S. Senator from Ohio.) Ashley served as a private until his promotion to corporal on May 1, 1865. The regiment fought in numerous battles, including important battles under General William T. Sherman during the latter part of the war, such as the Atlanta Campaign and the Franklin-Nashville Campaign.
Frank included in some of his letters gruesome details of the results of battle. While in pursuit of General Braxton Bragg's army shortly after the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862), Frank informs Celesta from Louisville, Kentucky, on October 17, 1862, that "The Boys told me that the road was strewed with dead Rebels for 8 miles that had lain for 5 or 6 days and the intention was to leave them there on account of having the facility of buriing them they lain so long that it is impossible for any body to be about them." Months later at a "Camp Near Murfressboro Tenn" on January 11, 1863, (eleven days after the Battle of Murfreesboro), Frank writes, "The army took theirs [New Year's holiday] on the battle field near the town of Murfreesborough there was a hard battle fight on that day one long to be remembered by many who got legs and arms shot off many a poor fellow lay on the battle field for the last time some of them froze to death they were not aloud to have fire on the field. . . . There was 23 killed in our regt. 34 wounded." One incident proved more fortunate for one soldier during "picket fighting" when "the ball struck the Belt plate which [only] scared him" (June 13, 1864).
At the "Battlefield Near Marietta Ga." on June 23, 1864, Frank writes of the confidence "his boys" had of General Sherman: "We have been having a long campaign . . . and driving the rebs before us they have a strong position they have fortifications on 2 high hills so you see they have the advantage but Sherman is flanking them and coming on their works. . . . it would be instant death for them to raise their heads above their works. . . . Sherman provides well for his boys also has the confidence of his boys."
Days later on July 1 at a "Camp Near Marietta Ga," Frank writes an interesting account of unsanctioned trading between Union and Confederate soldiers, which ended in a wrestling match between two soldiers: "The boys have their own times on picket traid [trading] coffee for tobacco and change[ing] [news] papers and this morning a corporal of the rebs came out and taunted a corporal to rasel [wrestle] and said that he would show the yanks what the rebs could do the reb was grattified by a corporal but the yanks was to much for him the reb was throed over the yanks Head and was told that would be the way they would all be served." As his regiment continued toward Savannah with General Sherman, Frank Ashley wrote many more letters with very good content about the numerous skirmishes and battles in which he participated.
Many of Frank and Celesta's letters are related to the Maximillian Affair in Mexico, an affair which began in 1861 when Mexican President Benito Juárez declared an end to all interest payments made on European debts owed by Mexico, angering Great Britain, Spain and France. Since the United States was in the midst of the Civil War, the path was clear for France to intervene and set up the puppet monarchy of Emperor Maximilian in 1864. In 1865, with war in the States all but ended, President Johnson sent 50,000 U. S. troops to the Mexican border in an effort to threaten the French with force.
In early 1865, Celesta is hopeful that Frank will be returning home soon. In a letter dated April 3, 1865, she informs Frank that word has reached Ohio from Virginia that "Grant had in his posession Richmond Petersbugh and also had captured Lee. . . . I think the Rebs Leaders is about played out they are conquered and they know it." She fears, however, that her husband may be sent on campaign in Mexico during a period known as the French Intervention. Frank, stationed in New Orleans at that time, writes home on June 9, 1865, believing he is headed to Texas: "it will not be long before we will leave but what for I cannot tell but it is thought that it is a campaign in Mexico." By the 21st of July, his chances of entering Mexico seem to be growing: "the corps has all gone to Indianolia texas . . . it is doubtfull [sic] when we leave the 2nd Brigade Head Qrs . . . yet the place where we will go is on the line of Mexico & texas. . . . Maximilian has given up those guns . . . but it is in the paper that our govrnment [sic] has ordered France not to land any more troops in Mexico."
His wife remained hopeful that he would not be among those sent across the border since there was some opposition to U. S. intervention within the ranks of the army's top brass: "July 24, 1865 . . . how willing you all were to aid our bleeding country . . . by twice volunteering . . . to risk all its defense and after four years of hard strugling . . . now to think that some men want to almost force you in the God forsaken service of Mexico. . . . W[illiam] T[ecumseh] Sherman is the only man that expresses dissatisfaction about the way you have bin treated . . . and in a speech he made a few days ago . . . [he said] leave Mexico alone." Her worry, however, was for naught. On August 6, Frank wrote home that "I have very little nuse to write excepting that . . . it is reported here that the French are leaving Mexico." The Second Mexican Empire lasted until 1867, when Emperor Maximilian was executed and Benito Juárez was restored to the presidency. Corporal Frank Ashley was mustered out at Victoria, Texas, on December 3, 1865.
Also included are four letters from other family members, including one from Frank's brother Jerome, who also served in the Union army. Other items are included, such as a post card featuring an image of what is likely a veterans' gathering circa 1900; receipts; and other miscellaneous manuscripts.
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