Saturday, July 1, 2017

Enoch Milton Detty and the 73rd Ohio: Civil War History and Local Connections

Jim Detty of our own Lucasville Area Historical Society has a direct tie to the most significant battle in the American Civil War. Jim is a relative of Union Private Enoch Milton Detty of the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a soldier who has a very unique place in local and national history. In order to understand Enoch's story, we must consider the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg is known as the battle that bolstered Union morale and proved that the seemingly invincible General Robert E. Lee could be defeated. It effectively ended the Confederacy's last full-scale invasion of the North.

During three days of fighting at Gettysburg, July 1 –3, 1863, nearly one-third of the total forces engaged became casualties. George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac lost 28 percent of the men involved; Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia suffered over 37 percent. Of these casualties, 7,058 were fatalities (3,155 Union, 3,903 Confederate). Another 33,264 had been wounded (14,529 Union, 18,735 Confederate) and 10,790 were missing (5,365 Union, 5,425 Confederate).

After the battle, however, Gettysburg would forever be seared by the memories of the slaughter. In the battle’s immediate aftermath, corpses outnumbered residents of the village of just over 2,000 by four to one.

Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania visited the battlefield on July 10. Shocked at the sight of the battlefield dotted with so many makeshift graves, Curtin made arrangements with David Wills, a local attorney, “...for the removal of all Pennsylvanians killed in the late battles, furnishing transportation for the body and one attendant at the expense of the State.”

John W. Busey & David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg. (Highstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), pp. 239 & 275; Frank l. Klement, The Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address: Aspects and Angles. (Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing, Co., Inc., 1993), p. 4 (hereafter cited as Klement”); Adams Sentinel, July 28, 1863; Gettysburg Compiler, July 27, 1863; Encyclopedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania, Vol. III. (New York: Atlantic Publishing & Engraving Company, 1898), pp. 44-47.

On July 24, 1863, Wills wrote to Curtin that “Mr. (John F.) Seymour is here on behalf of his Brother the Governor of New York to look after the wounded on the battlefield and I have suggested to him and also the Rev. Cross of Baltimore and others the propriety and actual necessity of the purchase of a common burial ground for the dead, now only partially buried over miles of country around Gettysburg.” Other northern states eventually joined with Pennsylvania in this project to establish the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg.

Wills to Curtin, Curtin Letterbooks, Executive Correspondence, 1861 1865, Pennsylvania State Archives (Copy at GETT File V10-5); Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA, August 4, 1863; Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, August 10, 1863

Removal of the dead from the battlefield to the cemetery commenced on October 26,and the process gained speed during the next week with favorable weather. Adams County papers reported that the contractor “had been removing about sixty bodies daily. It is done with the greatest care, and under the strictest supervision, so as to avoid the possibility of an error in the marked graves.”

Wills to Curtin, November 7, 1863, Adams Sentinel, November 10, 1863.

The 73rd and Enoch Detty

The 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, known as the “Chillicothe Grays,” was organized by Captain Orland Smith (a railroad official) who then accepted the rank of colonel, and Jacob Hyer of Greenfield, Ohio (an abolitionist who used his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad) who rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the new regiment.

The two accepted the positions and immediately started the task of recruiting and organizing.
A month later the recruiting of new volunteers had begun. The “Seventy-Third Ohio Volunteer
Infantry” (named as such because it was the 73rd infantry organization formed in Ohio since the war started) recruited men from Ross, Highland, Pickaway, Jackson, Pike, Athens, and Washington Counties. Company encampments were set up in Hallsville, Clarksburg, and Massieville, and soon all men were ordered to rendezvous at Camp Logan near Chillicothe.

Location of the Detty farm

One new recruit who decided to risk everything and walk away from his safe family farm in Ross County in order to help save his Union was 20 year old Enoch Milton Detty. The 73rd and Enoch Detty participated in the Battle of Gettsburg with particular distinction on the all-important Cemetery Hill.

The Confederates never took Cemetery Hill. If they had, the position could have easily changed the outcome of the battle, and quite possibly the outcome of the entire Civil War. Among the many casualties of those defending that hill, was Enoch Detty. Taking everything into account that is currently known, it can be assumed that Enoch Detty was wounded at Cemetery Hill by Confederate gunfire either on July 2 or the battle’s final day of July 3, 1863.

For many of the wounded soldiers, Camp Letterman would be a brief stop until their conditions were stable enough for transport. Unfortunately for others, Enoch Detty among them, Camp Letterman, the U.S. General Hospital on the York Road, would be their final stop.

Estimates put two out of every three deaths during the Civil War attributable to disease. While recovering from his wounds, Detty contracted one of the many illnesses that ran widespread and nearly uncontrollable. Over 3 ½ months after he was wounded, he never becoming stabilized enough for transport. Enoch Detty passed away on October 26, 1863 at Camp Letterman from among other ailments- dehydration resulting from chronic diarrhea. He was only 22 years old.

But, this is not the end of the account. We must consider the final resting place of Enoch Detty and what President Lincoln said in his famous address of November 19, 1863, known as the consecration of the Soldiers' National Cemetery, to realize Detty's historical importance. Let us reflect upon the president's eloquent words at Gettysburg before exposing the rest of the story:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

While most of the initial reburials in the cemetery were unidentified soldiers who fell in the first day’s fight, the very first identified burial was Private Enoch M. Detty, who was buried in the Ohio Plot, Row A, grave #1 the next day. (130 of his comrades are there, twenty-three of whom were from the 73rd Regiment.)

Of Detty's burial, Daniel Brown, the agent representing Ohio during the project, wrote to Governor David Tod:

“After dinner I went out to the Hospital to attend the funeral of Enoch Detty, Co. G, 73rdO. V.I. this being the first of Ohio’s braves deposited in the portion of the National Cemetery apportioned to our State and was conducted with military honors, the first military funeral at the cemetery. This last resting place of the most beautiful as well as most appropriate places that could have been selected.”

All the dead were buried in wooden coffins supplied by the Quartermaster Department, three feet deep, and with the heads pointing toward the center of the half circle and to the future site of the Soldiers’ National Monument.

Daniel Brown to Governor Tod, October 28, 1863, MSS 309 David Tod Papers, 1862 –1864, Box 1, Folder 6, Ohio Historical Society; Cincinnati Daily Commercial, Cincinnati, OH, November 23, 1863; John W. Busey, The Last Full Page 54 Measure: Burials in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1988), p. 100.

By pure chance, Private Enoch Milton Detty was the very first identifiable soldier buried in Soldier’s National Cemetery. Eventually, 130 additional soldiers from Ohio killed at Gettysburg would be laid to rest with him. Ironically, the location of Gettysburg National Cemetery and Detty’s grave are only yards from Cemetery Hill, the very hill where he fought his final battle.

(Jim Detty. “The Story Of Enoch M. Detty And The 73rdOhio Volunteer Infantry During The Civil War.” 2015.)

So, this is the story of one of those who gave his last measure of devotion in the American Civil War. I hope that those who study local history, that war, and the most famous battle of that war will remember this connection to the small towns of Ohio. And, Mr. Lincoln, time has proven that the dead did not die in vain. Enoch Detty and so many other locals gave their lives so that “a new birth of freedom” could become a reality. For that, we must all be grateful.

Members of the Ohio 73rd at Gettysburg National Cemetary

Section A

1 Enoch M. Detty G 73rd

Section B

2 William Williams I 73rd

6 Sgt Caleb Dewees F 73rd

7 Ai Maddox G 73rd

9 William Whitby H 73rd

10 Joseph R. Blake I 73rd

11 Andrew Miller I 73rd

13 Cpl James H. Lee H 73rd

14 William E. Haynes B 73rd

15 Allen Yaple A 73rd

Section C

4 George Nixon B 73rd

6 Elisha L. Leake G 73rd

10 Cpl George B. Greiner G 73rd

11 Jacob Swackhammer G 73rd

12 Isaac J. Sperry G 73rd

17 Sgt Thomas H. Rice B 73rd

18 Joseph Barrett G 73rd

25 Nathan Heald H 73rd

Section D

11 William M'Vey H 73rd

Section E

14 William Overholt I 73rd

Section F

1 Sgt Jasper C. Briggs G 73rd

6 Sgt Isaac Willis G 73rd

7 Daniel Palmer D 73rd

8 James Ray G 73rd

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