Henry Steinkamp’s Civil War

Ohio and Indiana, 1862.

This Thanksgiving our stepmother Carolyn gave me copies of the letters of her great granduncle Henry Steinkamp. Carolyn’s father’s paternal grandmother, Angelina Magsig, was born Angelina Steinkamp in 1858. She was three years old when her older brother Henry enlisted in Company D of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in October 1861.

Henry Steinkamp was born on April 7, 1842, in Woodville, Ohio. His parents, Margaret and Frederick Steinkamp, were born in Germany and as young adults emigrated to the United States and settled in Woodville. Henry was their oldest child.

The 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized in Fremont, Ohio in the fall of 1861, six months after the start of the Civil War.  Nineteen-year-old Henry Steinkamp was an early recruit.  The first few months the regiment spent at Camp Croghan, near Fremont, Ohio. In January 1862, they moved to Camp Chase outside Columbus.

Steinkamp describes the journey in a letter to his parents:

Camp Chase 16th Jan 1862

Dear father and mother I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we all arrived well at Camp Chase yesterday afternoon about 4 o’clock  we did not get along very fast on the road at first when we started the horse was not stout enough to pull up that hill on the other side of fremont bridge  we tried it twice but it was all in vain we had to go back and wait for an other engine  So we had two engines to pull us till clyde were we stopped about an our and then we started again with only one engine and it went first rate till about four miles from tiffin before they found out that we was lost behind.  We had to wait about an hour before they came back  it went very slow till we came to urbana were we stoped and made three trains of one and took the other road to Columbus  we arrived at Columbus at two oclock in the after noon where we got out of the cars with the knapsack on our back.  We marched four miles and a half to the camp  this was a hard march for the little boys

We found good shanties  our shanties are about 14 feet long and are warm  we have plenty of room  it is not very cold here  there was no snow here yet this winter  we only had dress parade to day and the chaplan prayed for us

I like it beter here then I did in camp Croghan   we have beter water here  there are four regiments here now and anoter regiment is expected tomorrow  this is a very large camp but it was very mudy yesterday

There are three hundred and fifty secessionists here as prisoners and it takes forty gards every day and three or four hundred more are coming from the South in two or three day

This is all i know at present  I give my best respect to father mother Brother Sister and friends

My address is Henry Steinkamp  Camp Chase Com D  Captain N 72 regim

A month later the regiment was on the move again, moving by train and then boat to Paducah, Kentucky:

Camp Buckland

the 24th feb

Dear father and Mother

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we all arrived safe at Paducah the 22nd day of feb at about 4 oclock in the afternoon and we stayed on the boat till yesterday morning and then we went into camp about ten rods from the river  we found a nice place for our camp  our camp is about a quarter of a mile from town  there are about 14000 men here at present  day before yesterday when we came here there were about thirty thousand here  Sixteen Steam boats loaded with Soldiers left here yesterday morning  they were all a going to Nashville in tenisee  we Supose that they are a fighting there to day and i will tell you that [they]our men took Columbus yesterday  they fetched a Steamboat here last night that they took there. Columbus is about forty miles from here  there are Soldiers coming in every day by thousands  Paducah is a nice city  the rebels have all left this place  about half of the houses are deserted  a great many of them are occupied by the Soldiers  i can not tell you yet how long we are going to stay here  we Started from Camp chase the 19th early in the morning and we got to Columbus at about ten oclock and then we got in the cars and rode all day till about 8 oclock in the evening we arrived at cincinnati  it rained and snowed all day till night and when we got out of the cares it was very dark and we had to march about a half a mile down to the boat and it was about ten oclock till we started and we run till 4 oclock in the morning when something of the engine broke  So we had to stop at madison indiana where we stoped about 6 hours and we went as fare as louisville where we stopped and got into an other boat  we had to march about 3 miles till we got to the other boat  Paducah is about 6 hundred miles from cincinnati

this is all i know at present

give my best respects to you all

i am truly your effectionate son

Henry Steinkamp

Regimental records indicate that a few weeks after the move to Paducah, the 72nd Ohio moved again to Savannah, Tennessee, near the Mississippi border, and a few days later, to Pittsburg Landing. It was here that the Confederates attacked the camp on April 6; the attack grew into the Battle of Shiloh. When the battle began Henry was one day shy of his 20th birthday. His story was recounted in a letter to Henry’s parents by his friend, Louis Ruppert:

Camp Shiloh, April 10th, 1862

My Friend Steinkamp:

I must write you instead your son Henry. Last Sunday morning 25,000 Rebels attacked our camp. Our regiment with a few others was called to the front. The battle lasted from Sunday 8 a. m. until Monday 4 p. m. Three regiments, the 48th, the 70th, and the 72nd which is ours, fought hard to keep the Rebels from the camp, but our force was too small.

Now my dear friend what I want to write about is your dear son Henry. We fought valiantly and also Captain Nuhfer’s company fought with us like men. After the battle had lasted about one and a half hours, Henry and I fought from behind a large tree. When Henry’s gun was made useless by a Rebel bullet, he threw it away and ran to camp to get another. He soon returned and stood with me behind the tree.

The Rebels had spotted our tree as a strategic point to be taken. Henry loaded his gun and while aiming a Rebel bullet pierced his left lung. He cried out “O good Lord, I am wounded.”

Being able to run he returned to the camp and layed down in our tent. When I arrived his clothes were red with his blood and he said “See, Louis, I am wounded, please write to my parents.” I promised and bandaged his wounds as good as I could, placed him on a blanket and brought him to the doctor who immediately attended to him. Then I helped him out of the turmoil to get to the steamer which was to take him to Savannah.

The bullet went through his chest and came out at his spine. I do not know how he is now as I did not see him since Sunday. I will try to find out about him and write you later; so, I cannot say whether he is living or dead. I have very little hope that he will survive. He was wounded a valiant hero for his country who fought to the last minute.

George Albert also is wounded under his left arm, but his is able to go about. We won a glorious victory in that two day battle and fully destroyed the force of the Rebels. I hope that it was the last battle as we have seen enough dead and wounded. The last battle brought 24,000 dead and wounded in both armies.

George sends greetings; he will write you soon.

Kind greetings from L. Ruppert, Saddler.

Henry Steinkamp died of his wounds on April 10, 1862.

Louis Ruppert survived the war, leaving the service as a first sergeant. He died in Illinois on April 13, 1923, 61 years after recounting the death of his friend Henry Steinkamp. George Albert also survived long after the war ended, dying outside Toledo, Ohio in 1921.

Henry Steinkamp’s Civil War lasted six months and ended in his death. His family cherished his memory, saving his letters and honoring his service and sacrifice.


This presentation maps Henry Steinkamp’s journey from his home in Ohio to his final days in Tennessee, using contemporary maps by Alvin Jewett Johnson: http://prezi.com/b38sekknoaja/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

In the presentation, click on the > key to move from one screen to another, and the icon with arrows pointing away from each other to go to a full-screen version.

About Pat Tully

Librarian exploring effective leadership, local history and community service.
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