William Cline Diary
Identifier: MSN/CW 8007
A volume including manuscript diary entries dated from August 1863 to October 1864 written by Civil War soldier William Cline, as a member of Co. B, 73rd Ohio Infantry. The book also includes a 53-page memoir chronicling Cline's service from 1861-1863.
- Cline, William, 1830-1899 (Person)
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Biographical / Historical
William Cline, the son of David Cline (1796-1857) and Elizabeth Delong (1796-1880), was born in Beaver Township, Guernsey County, Ohio on 12 July 1830. By 1850 he was living in Belmont County, Ohio, where he was apprenticed to a blacksmith named Joseph Hall. The 1850 Federal census identifies Cline as a resident of the Hall household in Warren Township. He married Matilda Hayes (b. 1829) on 19 March 1851. By 1860 the couple and their four young children had relocated to Huntington, Ross County, Ohio, where Cline was working as a blacksmith. The 1860 census values his real estate at $300 and his personal estate at $200. It is possible that by September 1862 the Cline family had moved to Waverly, just four miles south of the Ross County line in Pike County. Cline writes that on 12 September, following his capture and subsequent parole in August 1862, "i Reached mi famley ate Waverley and staide with Them till the 6 of october" (3r). Cline enlisted at Waverly on 14 October 1861, and on the 30th of December he was mustered in to Company B, 73rd Ohio Infantry for three years service. Initially a corporal, Cline was reduced on 20 May 1862 to private, and remained at that grade for the rest of his time in the army. He was captured on 30 August 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run. With the 1862 Exchange Cartel in effect, he was paroled the following day and made his way back to Ohio. He did not rejoin his regiment until 3 April 1863, spending much of the intervening time at home with his family. On 8 October 1862, Cline reported to Camp Thomas in Columbus, in accordance with regulations established by the War Department calling for the detention of paroled Union prisoners in "camps of instruction" pending their formal exchange. Soon after receiving his pay, he left camp and again returned home, remaining there until 24 March 1863. On 25 April, after he had rejoined his regiment at Stafford Church, Virginia, he was court-martialed for taking unauthorized leave and docked three months pay. In December 1863, while stationed in Lookout Valley, Tennessee, the majority of the men in the 73rd Ohio reenlisted for a second three-year term. The regiment was formally mustered out of service on 31 December, and mustered in again on 1 January 1864 as the 73rd Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry. On 4 January, 29 officers and 477 men departed for recruiting service in Ohio — the "thirtey Dayes furlow" Cline says was promised as an enticement to reenlist (52v). Only 16 declined to do so (compared with 118 from the 55th Ohio Infantry, a regiment in the same brigade), and Cline was among them (see Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 32, Part I, p. 24-25; and Hurst, p. 106-9). On 5 January, with his own regiment on furlough, he was transferred to the 136th New York Infantry, with which the 73rd Ohio was brigaded. He writes on 19 January that he had been "purmentely atatched" to Co. H, 136th New York (53r), but on 20 March he was transferred back to the 73rd "against mi will" (53v-54r). From January 1864 on, though, he was not with either regiment in the field, having been detailed as a blacksmith and attached to the brigade supply train. There is no record of Cline's service from 8 October to 31 December 1864, but presumably he remained employed as a brigade blacksmith. According to regimental records, Cline was discharged from the army on 31 December 1864, at the end of his term of service (the 1890 Federal census's special schedule for veterans gives his discharge date as 7 January 1865). Following the war Cline returned with his family to Belmont County, Ohio. The 1870 census lists him as the town blacksmith in Barnesville, where he remained until his death in 1899. The 73rd Ohio Infantry was organized at Camp Logan in Chillicothe, Ohio and mustered in to Federal service on 30 December 1861. The regiment left Camp Logan on 24 January 1862, joining a series of Federal expeditions into western Virginia. After five months there, the 73rd was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps, Army of Virginia. Posted on the army's extreme left at Second Bull Run (29-30 August 1862), the regiment was squarely in the path of the Confederate assault that crushed the Union left flank, losing 148 men out of 312 engaged. Following a stint in the Washington defenses, the regiment was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st (later 2nd) Division, of the Army of the Potomac's XI Corps. As part of this corps, the regiment fought at Chancellorsville (1-5 May 1863) and Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863). In September 1863, XI Corps was sent west to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland (the corps was consolidated with XII Corps in April 1864 and re-designated XX Corps). Now assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XI/XX Corps, the regiment participated in the night action at Wauhatchie Station, Tennessee (28-29 October 1863), the battles for Chattanooga (23-27 November 1863), and the almost continuous combat of the Atlanta campaign (1 May - 8 September 1864). Following the capture of Atlanta, the 73rd took part in the March to the Sea and the Carolinas campaign. The regiment was finally mustered out in Louisville, Kentucky on 20 July 1865. Over the course of the war, the 73rd Ohio suffered more combat fatalities (171 killed or mortally wounded) than deaths from disease or other causes (150). As they had at Second Bull Run, the 73rd Ohio lost nearly half its strength in the fighting on 2-3 July 1863. Of roughly 300 men engaged, 143 were killed or wounded, accounting for most of the casualties suffered by the entire brigade. Cline's description of his company's part in the battle is supported by the official reports filed by the 73rd's brigade and division commanders. The regiment arrived on the field just before noon on 1 July 1863, bringing up the rear of XI Corps. The corps' 1st and 3rd Divisions were rushed forward to reinforce I Corps, which was falling back toward Gettysburg. After an exhausting five mile march at the double-quick along rain-soaked roads, "wea ware all aboute give oute," Cline writes, "Bute wea came upe and formed in line of Batel ate 1 oclock" in time to see remnants of the shattered I and XI Corps streaming through the town (15r). The 2nd Division took up a defensive position just beyond the town on Cemetery Hill, with the 73rd Ohio deployed at the base of the hill to cover Union artillery posted on higher ground behind them. Over the next two days, the main Confederate attacks were directed at other sectors, but the regiment was in a terribly exposed position, posted between dueling artillery batteries and subject to a harassing fire from Confederate sharpshooters posted in outlying buildings. According to the battle report of Col. Orland Smith, the 73rd's brigade commander, Our entire front was covered by a line of skirmishers thrown out toward the enemy's lines, the right resting near the town and the left connecting with a similar line of the Second Corps. These skirmishers were more or less engaged with those of the enemy during the whole period from the 1st to the night of July 3. This line was exposed not only to the fire of the enemy's front, but to a fire from the flanks and rear by the sharpshooters posted in the houses in the town. Indeed, the main line, though posted behind a stone wall, was constantly subjected to annoyances from the same source. (Official Records, Series I, Volume 27, Part 1, p. 724) The fighting along the brigade's front seesawed back and forth, as Union and Confederate skirmish-lines alternately advanced and retreated. During the fighting on 2 July, a large contingent of Confederate skirmishers gained a fence line along a low-lying ridge, from which they could fire into the Federal gun crews on Cemetery Hill. Companies B and G, initially sent forward to support two other companies of skirmishers, were ordered to charge the Confederates and clear them from the ridge. As Cline writes, wea Hade . . . note layed there longe till wea was ordered over the fence Ande to charge whitch Dide againste 5 times Hour number a boute 3 Hondred yards Righte in fare view of the Rebels and them poringe in a moste Distruckte ful Fire in this charge William Mcclune ware kilde ande 3 others wounde of Hour copany ande company G loste 6 of his verey Beste men then wea ware ordered to Retreate whitche Havinge to Bea made upe a Hill 5 Hundred yards righte in fare of the Rebel fire the Balls pute me in the minde of trampinge in a neste of BumBelbes neste and them whisteing a Rounde you. (15v-16r) The next day, the entire regiment repeated this exercise. Cline writes that in a later charge "william E. Haynes was mortley wounded i triede to gite Him of Bute Beainge verey Heavey man i coulde note Bringe Him ande in theunder tarkin i loste mi gun" (16v-17r). Company B's losses in two days of fighting were severe; Cline reports that "in those charges ande Repulses" 23 men were killed or wounded out of 42 present (17r). But he could see that the enemy had suffered comparably. From Cemetery Hill on 3 July he and his comrades witnessed the repulse of the Confederate attack on the Union center: "wea saw the Hole of ite was a nice thinge Bute a mitey Blodey one" (18r). Advancing the next morning over abandoned Confederate positions, Cline came across a "sade specteicle men of the Rebels shote in almoste everey posision" (18r). Although he never has a negative word for the Union high command — he mentions no fewer than twenty-five Union generals in the volume, including Grant, Sherman, Meade, and Thomas, and he singles out "olde fightinge Joseph Hooker" for special praise (45r) — Cline harbored particular disdain for his company commander, Capt. Thomas W. Higgins. He accuses Higgins of indifference to the plight of his wounded men at Gettysburg: Hea thoughte no more of a wounded Man than you woulde of a chicken 2 Dayes Olde one time Hea ware cursinge a Boute His company and wanted to know where the Devel they ware one man spocke upe fore Him to gow Righte upe to That fence and Hea woulde finde the Reste whate ware note kilde or wounded ande the Reply ware with a sner is thate sow. (17r-v) Indeed, he attributes Co. B's heavy casualties in the battle to Higgins's eagerness to impress his superiors, arguing that many were lost "juste on the count of 2 leves on a sholder of T. W. Higens and to gite complimented by the colonel" (17r). He is also critical of the performance of his fellow enlisted men, including Richard Enderlin, a member of the regimental band who won promotion to sergeant and a Congressional Medal of Honor for valor at Gettysburg. Apparently embittered that another comrade, Corp. Wilson Riley, had been passed over for promotion, Cline remarks that "the man thate Dose the leaste faires the Beste enderlan never Dide eney Dootey onley Drum alitel and verey litel of thate" (28r).
Language of Materials
The collection is in one folder.
- Diaries Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863 Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Soldiers. Ohio. Diaries. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 73rd (1861-1865) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States. History. Civil War, 1861-1865. Personal narratives. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- William Cline Diary
- George Rugg
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