A Buckeye Meets a Gator

As Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal army marched inland from its victory at Port Gibson in May 1863, Charles A. Willison of the 76th Ohio marveled at the most unusual roadkill he had ever seen. As a Buckeye, he wasn’t used to the southern swamps. “Aside from the extreme fatigue and hardship of this tramp,” he wrote “I retain no distinct recollection except a novel scene in passing around a bayou shortly before reaching Grand Gulf. . . .

This bayou was fairly teeming with alligators. Our road skirted the bayou and these ugly creatures were crawling everywhere, many of them on the roadway, and were run over by the artillery and baggage wagons. There were all sizes from a foot or so long to quite formidable dimensions, but did not appear to be at all dangerous or vicious, and created no disturbance.

Willison’s account appears on page 52 of his memoir Reminiscences of a boy’s service with the 76th Ohio, in the Fifteenth Army Corps. You can read it free online at Archive.org.

3 Responses to A Buckeye Meets a Gator

  1. Thanks for this. The 76th OVI was formed from companies recruited end of 1861 and combined together just prior to the Siege of Fort Donelson… where they served in a brigade commanded by Colonel John Thayer of Nebraska; part of Lew Wallace’s new Third Division. After success at Fort Donelson, the 76th Ohio took transports up the Tennessee River to Crump’s Landing. During the Battle of Shiloh, the 76th OVI accompanied Lew Wallace on his seven-hour march to the battlefield Day One; and participated in repelling the Rebels on Day Two. The 76th Ohio was held in reserve with the rest of Lew Wallace’s Division during the subsequent Halleck campaign against Corinth; and set to work rebuilding railroads in western Tennessee (and having them torn up again by Rebel cavalry belonging to W. H. Jackson) when sixteen year old Charles Willison enlisted in the regiment on account of a recruiting drive in August 1862. Before departing the West for his new role as Commander in Chief of the Army, Major General Halleck had Major General U.S. Grant send “spare” units across the Mississippi River from Memphis into Arkansas… and so the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was at Helena when Private Willison arrived in theatre late in 1862. And with Lew Wallace sent away, and his Third Division “busted up” by U.S. Grant, the 76th Ohio shortly became one of the founding regiments of Sherman’s 15th Army Corps… But first, in October 1862 Private Willison and his 76th Ohio Infantry were sent to Pilot Knob, Missouri. And Willison’s fascinating remembrance begins…

  2. I am from the Cleveland metro area. A Civil War camp in the Tremont area within CLE municipal limits was the site for training of a number of the OVI units. Recently some local groups have added signs to mark the location of the camp. I can assure you that no alligators would have frequented the camp!

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