56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (1861-1865)

Also Known As: Fifty-sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Updated: January 15, 2014

In the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.

In the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.

Infantry regiments formed in Ohio became known as regiments of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. They served for varying lengths of time, averaging one hundred days to three years. The 56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry mustered into service as a three-year organization at Portsmouth, Ohio in mid-December 1861. The regiment remained at Portsmouth for the next two months. Measles rampaged through the organization, with several men perishing from this illness.

On February 12, 1862, the 56th departed Portsmouth for Paducah, Kentucky. Four days later, the regiment participated in its first engagement, the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, helping additional Union forces to capture this garrison and thirteen thousand enemy soldiers. Following this battle, officials brigaded the 56th with the 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On March 17, 1862, the brigade arrived at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The 56th originally encamped at Crump's Landing, Tennessee, before moving to Adamsville, Tennessee in late March. The regiment was encamped at this location for the beginning of the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). The 56th saw no combat on the battle's first day but did stop stragglers from engaged units from leaving the field. On the engagement's final day, the regiment helped drive the Confederates from the battlefield.

In late April and May 1862, the 56th joined the Union advance on Corinth, Mississippi, participating in the siege of the city's Confederate garrison. Following the Northerners' occupation of Corinth, the regiment's division marched to Memphis, Tennessee, arriving at this location on June 13, 1862. At Memphis, officials ordered the 56th's Company B to guard a train that carried supplies to engineers repairing a bridge destroyed by enemy forces. On one return trip, the train derailed due to Confederate sabotage. The enemy captured several members of Company B, including the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Peter Kinney, in this incident.

On July 24, 1862, the 56th departed Memphis for Helena, Arkansas, where the organization spent the autumn and winter fortifying the city, especially working upon Fort Curtis. The regiment also participated in several forays, especially along the White River into the interior of Arkansas. On one such expedition, the 56th routed a force of Confederate cavalry, capturing the enemy’s arms and equipment. On another march to Eunice Landing, Louisiana, the regiment captured a wharf-boat, which they brought to Helena for use. At Helena, illness again rampaged through the 56th, killing approximately fifty men, including Assistant-Surgeon N.H. Fisher.

On April 11, 1863, the 56th departed Helena and joined General Ulysses S. Grant’s advance upon the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Marching to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana and then to Gulf Port, Louisiana, the regiment boarded ships and waited to directly assault Vicksburg from the Mississippi River. Northern artillery failed to silence the Confederate cannons defending the city, prompting officials to call off a direct assault from the river. The 56th proceeded down the west bank of the Mississippi River and crossed the river at Bruinsburg, Mississippi.

On April 30, 1863, Grant’s army advanced against Vicksburg from the south and from the east. On May1, 1863, the Battle of Port Gibson occurred. In this Union victory, the 56th captured two artillery pieces and 125 prisoners, while having forty men killed or wounded. On May 16, 1863, at the Battle of Champion Hill, the regiment again performed bravely, losing 135 soldiers killed, wounded, or captured in this Union victory. The 56th next joined the Union’s siege of Vicksburg, culminating in the North’s seizure of the city on July 4, 1863.

Immediately following Vicksburg’s capitulation, the 56th joined General William T. Sherman’s assault on Jackson, Mississippi. The Northern force drove General Joseph Johnston’s Confederate army from the city, and the 56th returned to Vicksburg. In mid-August 1863, the regiment marched to Natchez, Mississippi, before officials reassigned the command to the Department of the Gulf at New Orleans, Louisiana. The 56th rested at New Orleans for a few weeks, before embarking upon the Teche Campaign on September 13, 1863. The Union force proceeded through the Louisiana communities of Opelousas, Berwick Bay, Franklin, New Iberia, and Vermilionville, before returning to Opelousas. Despite numerous attempts to engage the Confederates in battle, the Union force was unable to do so, until the Southerners attacked the Northern rear at Bayou Cotto. The enemy briefly held a Union camp, but the 56th soon arrived and reclaimed the lost ground. The Union force next returned to Vermilionville and went into camp, still trying to entice the Southerners to attack to no avail. The Confederates did capture five of the 56th’s members, while these men were on a foraging expedition. Seeking vengeance for the capture of these men, the regiment attacked a Confederate camp one night, capturing 110 rebels.

On December 17, 1863, the 56th departed Vermilionville for New Orleans, where the command went into camp at Algiers, Louisiana. On January 22, 1864, the regiment with the rest of its division crossed Lake Pontchartrain to Madisonville, Louisiana, where the Northerners spent several weeks constructing fortifications.  Following this excursion, the command returned to Algiers, before moving into New Orleans itself on March 1, 1864.

On March 7, 1864, the 56th embarked upon the Red River Campaign. The Union force detailed on this campaign finally confronted a Southern command at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads on April 8, 1864. The Confederates soundly defeated the Union army in this engagement, with the 56th alone having forty men killed, wounded, or missing. The Northerners retreated to Mansfield, Louisiana, where the men constructed breastworks and prepared for a Confederate attack. The Southerners assaulted the Northern position on April 8, 1864, but the Union soldiers repulsed the enemy soldiers. Despite winning this engagement, the Northerners withdrew to Grand Ecore, where the command protected Union gunboats and constructed fortifications. After this battle, the 56th’s commanding officer issued the following report:

HDQRS. FIFTY-SIXTH OHIO, VET. INFY. VOLS., Grand Ecore, La., April 14, 1864.

LIEUT.: I have the honor to respectfully submit the following report of the part borne by this regiment in the action of the 8th instant: My command, numbering 224, rank and file, effective men, marched from Natchitoches with the brigade on the 6th instant, arriving at Pleasant Hill on the evening of the 7th.

On the morning of the 8th, marched 12 miles to a point 7 miles distant from Sabine Cross-Roads, and encamped. About 3 p.m. the regiment, with the brigade, was ordered to the front, where the Fourth Division was already engaged with the enemy. We arrived on the battle-ground about 4 o'clock, and immediately took position in line on the right of the brigade, and immediately on the left of the Mansfield road, and then moved forward to the edge of the timber, when the enemy opened a terrific fire from their batteries and infantry. But, notwithstanding the galling fire they were receiving, the regiment steadily advanced to a point in the open field, about 150 yards distant from the wood, which position we held about two hours, when the cry arose, More ammunition!" I immediately sent an officer to the rear for supplies, but before they could reach us we were forced to retire before a superior force of the enemy, who were pressing us closely on either flank and on our center. The regiment, however, did not give way until we saw that the whole line on the left had been flanked and forced back, leaving us alone on the open field. In obedience to orders, fell back to Pleasant Hill the same night. Our loss was 40 killed, wounded, and missing. My command now numbers 251 present, 122 of which are armed and equipped; the remainder are sick or wounded, on extra or daily duty, and unarmed.

Attached find a list of killed, wounded, and missing.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

M. MANRING, Capt., Cmdg. Fifty-sixth Ohio Vet. Vols.

Lieut. C. B. BRADSHAW, Acting Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

Officials eventually ordered the 56th to report to New Orleans to embark upon a thirty-day furlough at their homes in Ohio for those men who had reenlisted in the Union military. In January 1864, three-fourths of the regiment’s members had reenlisted. The 56th boarded the steamer John Warner at Alexandria, Louisiana to sail down the Red River to New Orleans. On the trip, a Confederate battery and two infantry regiments opened fire on the ship, disabling the vessel and setting it on fire. Two Union gunboats sent to help also burst into flames when hit with Confederate cannonballs. The regiment disembarked from its own ship and proceeded to march down the Red River towards the Mississippi River.  The Confederates killed or captured approximately fifty Ohioans in this incident. Twelve miles down the river, the 56th came across a Union gunboat, which ferried the organization to the Red River’s mouth. The regiment boarded transports and sailed the remainder of the way to New Orleans.

On May 22, 1864, the 56th sailed from New Orleans on the steamer Cahawba to New York, New York, where the command traveled by train to Camp Chase at Columbus, Ohio, before returning to their homes on furlough. Following this brief respite, the regiment returned to New Orleans, performing guard duty for the Civil War’s duration. In November 1864, the soldiers who did not reenlist returned to Ohio and mustered out of service. The remaining soldiers stayed at New Orleans until March 1866, when officials mustered the men out of service and sent them to their homes in Ohio.

During the 56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry's term of service, fifty-eight men, including three officers, died on the battlefield. An additional 158 men, including two officers, succumbed to disease or accidents.

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"56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry," Ohio Civil War Central, 2021, Ohio Civil War Central. 20 Sep 2021 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1171>

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"56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry." (2021) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved September 20, 2021, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1171

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