I would like to thank Peter and Judy Hritsko for graciously supplying documents, personal letters, and photographs for this project. They were so kind in helping me and were glad that a young person took such an interest in Peter Hritsko’s great-great grandfather. It would not have been possible to share First Lieutenant Elijah Hayden’s story without their support.
I am also grateful to Bill Pieszak, former Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide, for speaking with me about the 8th Ohio at Gettysburg and for lending me his binder of notes on Elijah’s regiment. Special thanks to Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Gar Phillips for helping me to envision the 8th Ohio’s positions on the battlefield, and also to Barb Lingafelter for providing several documents related to Elijah and Ella Hayden.
Erica Uszak ’22
Humble Beginnings View of Broad Street in downtown Elyria in the 1860s. Image courtesy of Elyria Bicentennial, https://www.investelyria.org/bicentennialhistory.html.
Elijah T. Hayden was born in New York to Thomas and Deborah Hayden in 1830. He was the second of eleven children born over the next two decades. He had an older brother, William (b. 1826), and Lydia (b. 1831) and Mary (b. 1833) followed Elijah. After Mary was born, the family moved from New York to northeast Ohio, settling in the town of Black River, in Lorain County, where Hannah (b. 1835), Orrin (b. 1838), Elizabeth (b. 1840), Laura (b. 1842), Frances (b. 1845), Helen (b. 1848), and Isabelle (b. 1850) joined the family. Between 1840 and 1850, the family transitioned to the nearby town of Amherst, where Elijah’s father toiled away as a carpenter and joiner to support his extensive family. According to the 1850 census, his real estate valued only at $150, equal to about $5,000 today, and in the 1860 census, his personal estate valued at a mere $100. While Elijah’s father struggled to make ends meet, he and his wife clearly saw the benefits of education, as many of their sons and daughters attended school.
Elijah followed in his father’s professional footsteps, himself taking up carpentry and joinery, and departing the household by 1850. He had fallen for Deborah Phipps, a young woman about two years his junior. Elijah and Deborah were married in August, 1849. The newly wedded couple moved to Elyria, a small town of 1,613 residents. Elijah worked long hours for meager pay, as Ohio carpenters worked an average of 60 hours per week. In 1860, the average daily wage of an Ohio carpenter and joiner was $1.39, with a total weekly income of about $10. While Elijah’s pay supported the bare necessities of married life, he and Deborah likely did not have any luxuries. They valued their faith and were members of the Elyria Methodist Episcopal Church. In October of 1850, they welcomed their first child, Ella. Two years later, they welcomed another child, Frank, in November of 1852. Elijah and Deborah ensured that both children attended school. Elijah believed in the value of education for his children, which he would later emphasize to Ella in his wartime letters.
By the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, tensions between the North and South had reached a tipping point. The Cleveland area was noted for its support of abolition and predominantly Protestant population. When Election Day finally arrived in 1860, more than 60 percent of Elijah’s county voted for Lincoln. One can reasonably assume that Elijah was included in this percentage, as, in the immediate aftermath of the firing on Fort Sumter that April, he quickly responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers and enlisted as a Corporal in Company H of the Eighth Ohio on April 20, 1861 for a three month term. At the time of his enlistment, his children were still very young; his daughter, Ella, was 10 years old and his son, Frank, was 8 years old. However, despite the needs of his young and growing family, Elijah cast his lot with the Union army. Like many other Union soldiers who linked the causes of Union and emancipation with the long-term interests of their own families and communities, it is probable that Elijah enlisted early due to his sense of duty to both his country and his family.
He was sent to train at Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio, a camp that seemed shockingly unequipped for military use amidst the sudden onset of war. When the 8th Ohio arrived at Camp Dennison in the midst of a torrential downpour, they discovered that no shelter had been built for them to keep dry. Disgruntled and cold, the men had no choice but try to sleep on the muddy wet ground as rain fell on their faces. The camp lacked other key features for the soldiers; the 8th Ohio had no uniforms until early June, and before the men were equipped with Enfield rifles, they practiced drilling with cornstalks and wooden imitations of rifles and swords.
The coarseness of camp life and the demoralizing lack of organization and professionalism likely shifted Elijah’s expectations of soldiering and made him long for his distant family. Elijah already felt the pangs of homesickness while at Camp Dennison as he struggled to balance his dueling responsibilities to home and to his country. On May 31, Elijah apologized to his daughter, Ella, for “neglecting you so long” in responding to her letters, explaining that “I have had so much writing to do to your mother that it has taken about all of my spare time and paper.” Elijah’s wife, Deborah, clearly missed him dearly, as she wrote to Elijah so often that he struggled to find the time to answer hers as well as his two children’s letters amidst the rigors of camp drill. As for many soldiers, maintaining frequent correspondence with loved ones surely helped to bolster Elijah’s spirits and reinforce his commitment to his military duties. Still, Elijah could not help but long for his beloved family. “I wish that you were here and your Mother with you,” Elijah wrote wistfully. But then, reflecting upon the rough camp life, he concluded, “It is a very poor place for Women and Children though there is some of them here.” He hoped to see his family again soon, predicting, “I expect that I shal be at home next week and then I will tell you all about the soldiers life.” Elijah was promoted to Sergeant on June 8, and around the time of his promotion, news reached the camp that many of them would be encouraged to re-enlist for a three-year term of service.
The term “Union” exerted a powerful hold on the enlisted Ohioans. For them, the Union stood as symbol of a democratic republic and freedom for all, as many northeast Ohio residents shared antislavery and abolitionist views. While Elijah’s letter demonstrated that he missed his wife and children dearly, he chose to place duty to country above the immediate fulfillment of personal, familial desires and re-enlisted on June 24, as soon as the three-month regiment was mustered out. His choice reflected the cultural tenets of 19th-century sentimentalism, which stressed patriotic duty over individual interests, and thus infused personal suffering with higher meaning. Had he guessed of the hardships ahead of him? Had he at all an idea that he would never see Deborah, Ella, or Frank again? He likely pondered those questions as the regiment dutifully set off for West Virginia.
Photos of First Lieutenant Elijah Hayden and Deborah Phipps Hayden. The photo of Elijah (above) was taken from this photo of Frank Hayden and his family (below), and Elijah’s photo can be seen in the upper left hand corner. All photos courtesy of Peter and Judy Hritsko.
“What We See Now Looks to Us Like Systematic Killing:” First Encounters with Combat The 8th Ohio monument “on the south side of the Sunken Road” at Antietam, which reads at its base, “On this field, Ohio’s sons sacrificed life and health for one country and one flag.” Image courtesy of Steve A. Hawks, stonesentinels.com, https://antietam.stonesentinels.com/monuments/ohio/8th-ohio/.
Elijah and his comrades soon grew accustomed to aching feet and a hard life of marching in West Virginia. They first encountered Confederates on September 23, skirmishing with enemy troops at Romney, West Virginia, a significant town due to its location in the South Branch Valley and connection to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The 8th Ohio helped capture the town on October 25. The regiment remained in West Virginia until March 1862, when the 8th Ohio marched over to the Shenandoah Valley. Elijah was promoted to Second Lieutenant on March 11. Exactly why he was promoted so quickly remains unknown but he clearly came to command a deep respect from his men, many of whom were members of his community. Men often respected officers who demonstrated selflessness and humility, who listened to their grievances, and who led them bravely through the harshness of camp life and perils of the battlefield.
During the Shenandoah Campaign, the 8th Ohio clashed with the troops of “Stonewall” Jackson, first defeating Jackson’s forces at the battle of Kernstown on March 23. Defeating the formidable Jackson surely boosted the Ohioans’ spirits, as the 8th Ohio’s Lieutenant Colonel, Franklin Sawyer, would later proudly remark, “This was really our first battle, but veterans never behaved better than our men in this short and severe conflict.” The men were proving their mettle, Elijah included, and on April 26, Elijah was promoted again to First Lieutenant. The Ohioans had won a victory and Elijah had won both his men’s and his superiors’ confidence; these triumphs undoubtedly lifted his spirits as he looked ahead to the next engagement, hoping to bring the Confederacy to its knees.
On July 2, the 8th Ohio moved to Harrison’s Landing, Virginia to join the Army of the Potomac. The men of the 8th Ohio found themselves in an insufferable, hot climate, made worse by mosquitos, flies, dirty water, scurvy and diarrhea. Elijah was one of the many unfortunate men who fell ill under the horrid conditions. Because of the hot summer environment and extensive number of mosquitos, soldiers stationed on the Virginia Peninsula often found themselves struggling against outbreaks of various diseases. Confronted by constant bouts of illness, soldiers often practiced self-care and tried to make the best of their environment in an era where germ theory had not yet been understood. Such self-care practices involved the use of cleaner water, addition of fruits and vegetables to their diet, and other ways to live healthier lifestyles in their environments. However, not even these practices could save the health of weary soldiers. Additionally, homesickness and periods of low morale further plagued soldiers and added to their burdens. They attempted to avoid the feelings of “nostalgia,” or deep-felt homesickness that often made them feel physically ill as well. It was also imperative that ailing soldiers maintained a positive outlook to help them become well again. When the 8th Ohio moved out of their camp in mid-August, Elijah was placed aboard a transport ship with the sick, too ill to march alongside his regiment. By September, he had recovered, rejoining the regiment as the men marched into Maryland. Unionist residents greeted them and offered lemonade and fruit, as well as words of comfort, to the weary soldiers. The transition to friendlier territory surely bolstered the morale of the Ohioans, encouraging them in their exhaustion.
September 16, 1862 began with a grisly, foreboding sight: That morning, a shell ripped apart the regiment’s color bearer. His violent death must have deeply unsettled his comrades as they witnessed the man who bore their treasured flag—the physical representation of their political ideologies, their homes, and their country– ripped into bloody shreds. However, the men pretended to carry on as if nothing had happened, giving no sign that they felt shaken by what they had seen. They were not unfamiliar with death at this point and perhaps some men were already hardened to such violence. Elijah, too, would have had to stifle any reaction to the color bearer’s death, as his men looked to him as a source of calmness and strength. The Ohioans stuck close to their rifles and waited, wondering when they would be ordered to join the action; but they weren’t. Later that night, one member of the regiment, Thomas Galwey, observed the uneasy silence among the men, noting, “Everything became terrifically quiet. For the quiet that precedes a great battle has something of the terrible in it.” Elijah and his men knew they had to sleep, which was no easy task, knowing that the terribleness of battle, with all of its misery, awaited them the next day.
The next morning, the 8th Ohio marched out under Brigadier General Kimball’s command. Two brigades had already been repulsed by the Confederates in the Sunken Road. Nevertheless, Kimball ordered his men to advance forward, with the 8th Ohio and 14th Indiana on the right and 7th West Virginia and 132nd Pennsylvania on the left. As the Ohioans ran on flat, open ground towards the Sunken Road, they surged forward, “heads downward as if under a pelting rain” of bullets, as Galwey described it. Elijah likely took charge in urging his men onward, rallying them, as bullets flew all around them. The 8th Ohio’s men suffered terribly from Confederate fire in the cornfield and the Sunken Road, prompting Galwey to shakenly admit, “We had seen a great deal of service before now; but our fighting had been mostly of the desultory, skirmishing sort. What we see now looks to us like systematic killing.” When the Ohioans rushed to the Sunken Road again, they stood aghast at the bodies stacked in the road. Decades later, when the Ohioans would return to dedicate their monuments at Antietam, one officer, Captain Noyes, would recall seeing the Confederate dead “lying in ranks so regular that death, the reaper, must have mowed them down in swaths.” The 8th Ohio took several hundred North Carolinians, mainly wounded, as prisoners.
By 2 PM, the weary Ohioans withdrew to the Roulette barn. More scenes of carnage confronted them, as the barn teemed with the crying, groaning wounded. Already sickened by the number of friends who had fallen at their side, Elijah and his men likely wanted desperately to escape the misery surrounding them. But there still was more work to do, more friends to care for, more friends to bury. Because the brigade fought the Confederates for an exhausting four hours, the Second Corps Commander, General Sumner, designated Kimball’s brigade as the “Gibraltar Brigade;” like the Rock of Gibraltar, Kimball’s brigade had held out strong. However, the 8th Ohio was badly bloodied and had lost many brave men. Of 341 men engaged, 32 had been killed and another 129 had been wounded in battle. The Ohioans, along with the rest of the Second Corps, were faced with the solemn ordeal of burying their comrades. They buried their friends in Roulette’s orchard, making sure to note the names of the brave individuals on their gravestones. Appalled by the smell, the men did the work with a grim revulsion, trying not to look too hard at the blackened, swollen bodies. It was a sight none of them would forget.
The burial duty and mass slaughter likely prompted the men to think of their own mortality and wonder if they, too, would die hundreds of miles away from their families, their graves marked by a simple wooden board, if at all. Even though they took great pride in their hard-fought victory, how did the Ohioans continue to push on after the horrific experience at Antietam? Despite the horrific costs of the battle and sensory affronts of its aftermath, they knew that they had a higher obligation to their country and families, as well as to the dead, to keep going and secure a Confederate surrender. After paying their respects to the fallen and writing letters to widows and family members of the dead, the Ohioans would have found some solace in the belief that their comrades had not died in vain. Their comrades’ sacrifices demanded that they keep pressing onward; the Ohioans could not pause now, after so many had died for the Union cause. Additionally, the ultimate victory at Antietam had provided President Lincoln the opportunity to officially issue the preliminary draft of his long-awaited Emancipation Proclamation. For northeast Ohio soldiers who commonly held antislavery views, the proclamation brought a deeper meaning in the fight for the Union that promised liberty for all.
Times of Trial This 1861 Currier and Ives Lithograph pictures a soldier dreaming of his happy return home, something Elijah deeply longed for. Image courtesy of City University of New York, “Visual Culture of the American Civil War, ” American Social History Productions, 2012. https://civilwar.picturinghistory.gc.cuny.edu/presentations-about-visual-media/prints/the_soldiers_dream_of_home/i/37/.
The 8th Ohio eventually moved into Harpers Ferry and established a camp on nearby Bolivar Heights by the end of October. Weakened by relentless marches and recent combat, Elijah became severely ill around November or December and faced a long struggle to recovery. he remained sickly that winter and was unable to lead his men in the battle of Fredericksburg in December. Elijah’s wife, Deborah, may have visited him in his time of suffering, as one of Elijah’s comrades recorded her visit to the camp in the fall. If she did visit at such a crucial time, her presence must have been a comfort to her beloved husband, stricken with pain and misery.
However, amidst the chaos that fall and the enormous administrative burdens that plagued both sides during the war, Elijah was erroneously marked as absent without leave since November 1, 1862. When he rejoined his regiment on January 26, 1863, he was confronted about his absence. One can imagine his surprise and frustration at being named absent without leave and being subjected to the threat of a court martial after a long battle with his health. Being accused of leaving his post also was a direct attack on his manhood, his courage, his personal honor, and his ability to successfully lead his men. Elijah told his superiors about his illness and inability to rejoin the regiment because of it. His illness had even been reported to the local papers, as one member of the regiment wrote to The Daily Cleveland Herald on January 5, 1863, noting that “Lieutenant Heyden [sic] is also absent, undoubtedly still unwell.” Nevertheless, on January 27, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sawyer asked for a court of inquiry to investigate Elijah’s absence.
In the process of this inquiry, Elijah wrote again to his daughter on February 15, 1863, likely feeling more distraught than ever. His second sentence was strikingly forlorn and melancholy, as he wrote, “It had been so long Since you wrote to me I began to think that you had forgotten me entirely,” adding, “but I suppose that you thought the Same of me but it is not so.” Ill once again, he continued, “I am not very well to day so I will have to write Short letters.” This was the only reference to his own welfare, as he soon focused attention away from himself and all on his “little girl.” He wanted to help bolster his daughter’s morale and wished to avoid telling her of his personal burdens. Trying to ease his daughter’s worries, and likely striving to conform to Victorian tenets of manhood and paternalism, Elijah sought to maintain the appearance of a brave, stoic father. He encouraged her to focus on her schoolwork and to keep her mother’s spirits up. He tried to maintain a cheerful tone in his letter, writing, “I hope to be at home now in a few days to see you all once more [.] I intend to bring you Something when I come.” He dearly missed his two children, and appears to have felt guilty for forsaking his familial duties to his wife and family for so long. His distress was evident in his confession that neither he nor his daughter had exchanged letters lately and that he thought she might have “forgotten” him “entirely.” He needed that lifeline to home to sustain him; he needed to know that he had his daughter’s support behind him, and he needed his daughter to know that she was never forgotten, but always at the forefront of his mind.
On February 23, Elijah testified that his illness had caused his absence and insisted that he had “made all proper efforts to be mustered into service without effect” as there were no mustering offices or opportunities available to do so. Although he was cleared of the charge of being absent without leave, Elijah’s time of hardship continued. On April 25, Elijah requested a 15-day leave of absence from Lt. Col. Sawyer. He emphasized three reasons for a leave of absence, carefully outlining each point in Roman numerals. His first reason was the one most important to him—to be reunited with his family for the first time in two years. His second reason was to “attend to business of the utmost importance to myself and family” in relation to his father-in-law’s death. In his third point, he emphasized his fulfillment of his duty, asserting that he had never “tried to shirk the responsibilities that rested upon me as an officer or soldier.” Despite his polished letter, his request for a leave of absence was denied. Elijah’s hopes were crushed. He was torn between his practical obligations to his family and his ideological duty to his country. Careful reading of his letters suggests that he sorted through his torn feelings by asserting a higher duty to the Union. Although he clearly missed his wife and children, he put aside his emotions to fulfill his patriotic duty to his country and his comrades. However, he kept the hope of a return home burning at the back of his mind, a hope that kept his spirits from drooping.
The 8th Ohio was not heavily involved in the battle of Chancellorsville that May and emerged with few casualties. One month later, on June 7, Elijah wrote to Ella, assuring her of his health and expressing concern for her recent bout of illness. “Oh now that I [am] away I can think of a great many things that I wanted to Say to you and Frankie,” Elijah lamented, “but I suppose I will have to wait until I come again which I hope will not be very many months and when I come again I hope to remain with you.” The run-on, wandering sentence reflected Elijah’s emotional state, his eagerness to come home, and his haste to assure his lonely wife and children of his quick return. Ella had described the apple trees on their property in a previous letter, and Elijah assured her that he would return to enjoy the apples in the fall. His letter reflected a strong, sentimental longing to be back in his cherished home, back to Ohio and away from the hot, foreign land of Virginia. However, true to 19th-century tenets of stoic paternalism, Elijah’s letter to Ella avoided mention of his own struggles, instead voicing concern for his daughter and family. He felt that his absence should not throw the family into despondency, reminding Ella to “be cheerfull and happy and you will make others So.” By instructing Ella to keep others happy, Elijah reminded Ella that she, too, had a higher duty: Just as Elijah prioritized his men and country over his emotions, Ella had to learn to place her feelings of loneliness aside to help her family, for the sake of her country.
In mid-June, the 8th Ohio headed for Pennsylvania. Their brigade was now commanded by Colonel Samuel Carroll and was comprised of the 8th Ohio, 4th Ohio, 14th Indiana, and 7th West Virginia. It would be a long, hard march for the Gibraltar Brigade, and the men had already encountered some Confederates on the way. On June 21, Elijah stopped to jot down a quick letter to Ella from Gainesville, Virginia. Tension was already in the air, as they had “expected to have a fight here but did not.” The Ohioans had heard the boom of cannons nearby and the brigade’s men on picket duty had clashed with Confederate troops. However, by the time Elijah’s regiment arrived at the scene, no rebel soldiers were to be found. Elijah concluded the rebel soldiers had been “nothing more than a few cavelry that come down to see if they could [determine] how Strong our force was here.” But, Elijah noted with proud satisfaction, “I guess they found that we was to[o] strong for them and then retired.”
The regiment had recently passed through Manassas, where they were met with uncovered skeletons and dead soldiers who had never been buried. Elijah described in horror that “Some of them had one hand Sticking out and Some of them one foot or head” showing above the ground. Elijah blamed the Confederates for the hastily dug graves and unburied corpses, as the Confederates “of course had possession of the Battlefield and they are responsible for this inhumanity.” Declaring that he had never seen Union troops neglect the dead, Elijah hoped other Union soldiers would remember that they stood “for the Side of Justice of [sic] and humanity.” Here he clearly distinguished for Ella the Union cause and Union soldiers as morally superior. He could use the Confederate’s treatment of the dead to support his own ideas about morality in what distinguished a Union soldier from an unethical rebel.
He also mentioned that he was sending her a picture of a little girl about Ella’s age, the daughter of another soldier he knew in the regiment. His fellow soldiers, especially the patriarchs of the family, also knew the dual burdens of taking care of their loved ones and serving their country. Clearly the little girl’s picture reminded him of his own daughter, whom he had not seen in two years, thus only increasing his longing for home. He instructed Ella to get an album so that he could send his picture and pictures of other officers to her. While he didn’t explicitly state why he wanted his daughter to do so, the photographs served as tangible and sentimental links between the home front and battlefield. Wanting his young daughter to see for herself the courageous men from their community and to deepen her appreciation for his and his comrades’ sacrifices, Elijah also likely wished to honor their memory and bravery in an album. Perhaps he also foresaw a distant future where he would look back on the war and would have the photographs to remind him of his service and his strong bond with his comrades.
Despite the long trek ahead of them, Elijah promised that he would “write everyday if I can while this excitement last[s].” Feeling the sting of his daughter’s absence, Elijah insisted, “I want you to write very often to me and I will answer your letters.” With the “excitement,” or tension within the Union ranks, Elijah knew there would likely be a battle ahead. With that in mind, he knew he would need emotional support to his daughter and the rest of his family. Their letters would provide him with peace of mind as he and his regiment headed towards Gettysburg.
“To-day We Must Whip Them:” The 8th Ohio’s Stand Against Pickett’s Charge According to Lt. Col. Sawyer, Elijah grasped this flag on July 3 and urged his men onward against Pickett's Charge. Image courtesy of The Ohio History Connection. "National Colors of the 8th O. V. I." https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/flags/id/158
By the time the 8th Ohio, along with the rest of the Second Corps, approached Gettysburg on July 1, Elijah and his men were extremely worn down by the intensity and length of their journey. Marching via the Taneytown Road from Uniontown, Maryland, the boom of artillery ahead put the men on alert and reminded them that their comrades in Gettysburg desperately needed them at their side. Elijah and other officers urged the men towards the town, prompting them, “Hurry up boys!” When they finally arrived that evening, the men were greeted by all-too-familiar sights: Ambulances carrying the groaning wounded and dead officers passed them. One ambulance transported the body of General John Reynolds. The horrifying sight of the well-respected general’s body brought a hush amongst the men. The Ohioans listened to mixed accounts of the first day of battle, undoubtedly wondering how bloody the following day would be as they laid down their belongings for a brief rest on Powers Hill, one mile behind Cemetery Ridge.
Bright and early the next day, at four in the morning, the regiment received orders to quickly march to their new position. Unhappy about the early wake-up call, one Company H member, T. S. Potter, complained that there was “no time to eat a mouthful or even to buckle our straps!” Elijah and his regiment hurried over to Ziegler’s Grove. There the 8th Ohio faced north, standing in an orchard with Woodruff’s Battery to the left of them and the Taneytown Road to the right. Here they had a good overview of the battlefield, overlooking both Cemetery Hill and part of the town, as well as the outline of Culp’s Hill. When they turned to face Seminary Ridge, they caught glimpses of the enemy’s position. As Col. Franklin Sawyer remembered, “For several hours everything seemed unusually quiet.” Several of the men fell asleep, utterly exhausted and deprived of rest. Meanwhile, others wrote letters home, thinking of loved ones they left far away in their beloved Ohio. Other officers and men bustled around, rushing around in a frenzy to set up their positions before a Confederate attack.
Farther down the line, General Sickles had decided to advance his men from the Union’s 3rd Corps off their initial position and out into the Peach Orchard, creating a dangerously exposed and thinly fortified salient in front of the main Union line that made up the Federals’ “fishhook” position, stretching from Culp’s Hill along Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge, and ending at Little Round Top. Soon after, Confederate troops from Longstreet’s Corps attacked Sickles’ position in the Peach Orchard. The familiar sounds of battle in the Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den, and Little Round Top startled the Ohioans. With fierce expressions of determination, their muscles tensed, the Ohioans prepared themselves for the enemy troops that would come their way.
Confederate troops (perhaps Posey’s Mississippians) had entrenched themselves in the sunken Emmitsburg Road, lying hidden between the stake-and-rider rail fences as they took aim at Union artillerymen on Cemetery Ridge. Eager to scatter the Confederates, the 8th Ohio turned to the west around 4 p.m. and quickly ran to the fence line along the road, breaking away from the rest of the Union line on the ridge. Trapped between the two fences, the panicked Confederates scrambled to find an escape, as the Confederate skirmish line, comprised of Mahone’s Virginians and Thomas’s Georgians, lay farther away from the Emmitsburg Road. After taking about fifty prisoners, the Ohioans quickly disassembled the fence and adapted it into a makeshift barrier against another attack. Several companies of the 8th Ohio were sent about 250 yards ahead of the road, where a housing development currently stands, to set up their skirmish line. The Confederates, likely from Thomas’s and Posey’s units, tried once again to overtake the Ohioans, as Confederate officers shouted for the rebels to “push on and clean out those yanks.” The remainder of the 8th Ohio, back at their position in the road, ran to join their comrades at the skirmish line. The unified 8th Ohio forced the Confederates to make a hasty retreat.
When darkness fell, Confederate rifle fire near the 8th Ohio generally ceased. A few companies stood on alert at the skirmish line while the remainder of the 8th Ohio was stationed in the road. Hungry and exhausted, with the wounded left to care for, the 8th Ohio hoped to be relieved of their position. However, they were ultimately forced to remain on their own, as their division commander, General Alexander Hays, explained that “no assistance could be afforded” to the 8th Ohio and that they would have to hold their position; the rest of the Gibraltar Brigade was off fighting Confederates on Cemetery Hill. Forced to stay put, the Ohioans filled their empty stomachs with food taken from the Confederate wounded and dead, which the Confederate prisoners claimed they had been given by “Quakers.” (More likely, the Confederates had taken it forcefully from a nearby community). Since the 8th Ohio was cut off from the rest of the army, the men knew little of how the day had unfolded elsewhere on the battlefield. With their small force isolated from their brigade and the remainder of Union forces on Cemetery Ridge, the soldiers anxiously took up their posts, exhausted and paranoid that Confederates lurked nearby. Colonel Sawyer believed that in the dark, Confederate soldiers attempted to estimate the strength of their position. Listening for signs of nearby enemy soldiers, the 8th Ohio remained on alert, stifling yawns and looking about anxiously. In the dark, a soldier on horseback almost passed unnoticed until he greeted them and asked, “[W]ho are you?” “Yanks,” replied an Ohioan, to which the soldier on horseback exclaimed, “Well, I’m a reb, by —-” and he scrambled to leave. The startled Ohioans fired a volley after him and prompted the Confederates on picket duty to briefly resume fire. Much to their relief, not long after the incident, Elijah’s company was relieved at midnight and the men were able to grab a few more hours of desperately needed rest. At the start of the battle, the 8th Ohio had 209 officers and men. By the end of July 2, the regiment had lost 40 men.
The regiment was alerted to Confederate troops in the early morning hours of July 3. Confederate troops, likely skirmishers, rushed towards the 8th Ohio’s skirmish line, bayonets raised threateningly. Shaking off the fatigue of sleep, their adrenaline pumping, the 8th Ohio fired back at the Confederates and countered their advance, taking several prisoners. Sawyer noted that those prisoners, once realizing the extent of the 8th Ohio’s force, “became greatly disgusted to find that we had no reserve or supports” and added that the prisoners swore that “ ‘they could have knocked h—l out of us.’ ” The Confederates did not try to attack again that morning, but some Confederate sharpshooters in the Bliss barn continued to harass them with occasional pot-shots. However, another Union regiment soon addressed their menacing foe by setting the barn on fire, driving out the Confederates.
After a quick breakfast of coffee and hardtack, Elijah’s company came together to prepare for further battle. Although physically worn down by the demands of the battle, Elijah summoned his energy, determined to rally his exhausted comrades. His short speech greatly encouraged his men to muster their remaining strength to overcome the rebels, as one member of the regiment still remembered his words almost two decades later. The speech was greatly needed at that moment. The men were physically exhausted and mentally weary. They had been up at odd hours, endured thirst and hunger, sweated in the scorching summer heat, and had no hope of assistance anytime soon. They had witnessed their comrades fall beside them and had cringed at their exposed position, expecting to be struck themselves. As these thoughts likely ran through his comrades’ minds, Elijah turned to his men and declared, “Boys! To-day will probably decide the battle. We have held them pretty well so far, and to-day we must whip them.” Likely pausing for a moment, he emphasized his last point, repeating, “Yes, I say we must whip them.” Elijah went as far to add, “I would rather be killed right here, than that they should whip us.” His vehement insistence inspired his men to summon their courage and “whip” the rebels, as Elijah’s unflinching resolve showed the kind of masculine fearlessness that all other men sought to emulate.
At noon, Elijah’s company went out to the picket line where they waited, determined to repulse the rebels once again. Standing alert at their position, tasting the dryness of their mouths under the unforgiving July sun, the Ohioans stared out at Seminary Ridge, bearing the stifling heat and awaiting a Confederate attack. At one o’clock that afternoon, the relative quiet ended. The Ohioans heard Confederate artillery come to life with a jarringly loud start, prompting the Union artillery to fire back in response. The 8th Ohio lay precariously in between the two, the men standing their ground amidst the ear-shattering, ground-shaking artillery exchange. The artillery halted abruptly. The 8th Ohio looked anxiously towards Seminary Ridge. Then they saw a long line of enemy troops surging forward, initiating the infamous “Pickett’s Charge.”
Elijah started at the sight. As Elijah’s comrade, William Clough, recorded shortly after the battle, Elijah “jumped up and clapped his hands, shouting, ‘[H]urrah my boys, they are coming, now be steady boys!’ ” The 8th Ohio’s men anxiously watched the enemy advance, wondering how their small force of about 160 men would fend off such a large attack. Col. Sawyer later commented that “an order just then recalling the Eighth would have been to us very pleasant. None came.” There would be no retreat—they would hold their ground, surrounded by friends and comrades whom they trusted to support each other. They prepared to attack the brigade closest to them, on the left of the Confederate line– Col. Brockenbrough’s Virginia brigade, which had temporarily fallen under the command of Col. Robert Mayo. Brockenbrough’s command, described as a poorly led brigade, had started out late in the attack and had to march double-time to keep up with the rest of the division.
According to Col. Sawyer, Elijah seized the 8th Ohio’s flag from the color bearer and urged his men onward. It was a bold act for Elijah to take as, being an officer, he already would have been a target for the rebels. The regimental flag symbolized everything to the men: Their nation, homes, and fallen comrades all were reflected in that prized symbol . Spurred on by the brave example of their First Lieutenant, many men moved alongside him. Forming a single line, the 8th Ohio fired on Brockenbrough’s brigade, inflicting great damage to their front at a close range of about 100 yards. Brockenbrough’s brigade wavered from the 8th Ohio’s rifle fire and Union artillery fire from the front. The Virginians quickly retreated in terror back to Seminary Ridge, unable to withstand the intensity of the attack.
With the retreat of Brockenbrough’s brigade, the 8th Ohio caught sight of the command that had marched beside Brockenbrough, Davis’s brigade of Mississippians and North Carolinians. Captain Miller, in command of Elijah’s company, yelled, “Come on, boys!” Colonel Sawyer ordered the 8th Ohio to do a left wheel. To complete this maneuver, the last soldier on the left pivoted in his place while the rest of the line swung around, their line becoming parallel with the fence line. Men from the 125th, 126th, and 111th New York joined them, adding about 100 more soldiers. However, most of the force came from the 8th Ohio, with their strength at about 160 men. Their line fired into the left flank of Davis’s brigade, causing the Confederates to falter from fire coming toward their front and flank. Sawyer witnessed the rebels being torn to pieces, watching in horror as “hats, guns, legs, arms, and mutilated carcasses” flew around the panicked Confederates. The 8th Ohio continued to wheel to the left, firing into the rear of those Confederates who advanced towards Cemetery Ridge, ultimately turning to face the Emmitsburg Road. Davis’s men scrambled in different directions, attempting to retreat to Seminary Ridge or finding themselves prisoners of the Ohioans. The triumphant but bloodied 8th Ohio took about two hundred prisoners and captured three battle flags, a huge blow to the Confederates’ morale. The Ohioans’ small force divided in two and marched the prisoners in between the front and rear of the regiment. As their time of hard fighting drew to a close, the 8th Ohio started to withdraw from the battleground.
Elijah, along with a few other members of his company, lingered on the battlefield, insisting upon ensuring that all of the enemy troops had left the field before he himself retired. Captain Miller and another officer, Lieutenant Strange, had fallen wounded, prompting Elijah, as First Lieutenant, to take temporary command of Company H. Satisfied that the ground was finally secured by Union forces and that all able-bodied Confederates had retreated, Elijah rejoiced in the hard-fought victory. Elijah swung his sword over another officer in the regiment and declared, “[H]urrah, we have whipped them, they have got enough.” Elated with victory and proud of his men’s bravery under fire, Elijah turned to withdraw with the 8th Ohio. Just then, a bullet, allegedly fired by a sharpshooter, struck him in the spine. Elijah cried out, “[O]h!” and fell to the ground dead. He had lived to see the Union forces emerge triumphant, but had little time to take joy in the victory. It was tragic that just as victory was in his grasp, Elijah was struck lifeless, and in the back, of all places. Antebellum notions of battlefield deaths often portrayed a romanticized demise, with an exuberant hero dying with his face to the enemy. Bullets to the back, however, were often perceived as a reflection of cowardice. Nevertheless, in his actions and leadership of his men at Gettysburg, Elijah had proven himself, without question, to all around him that even in taking a bullet to the back, he had indeed fulfilled his role as the masculine, valiant hero that all Civil War soldiers aspired to be. Yet, because Elijah was felled so suddenly, there was no opportunity for him to achieve the idealized “Good Death,” as there was no time for reflection, no final thoughts or confessions, no time to write goodbye letters to his beloved wife and two children. How would his family and comrades come to grips with his sudden death?
Mourning a Beloved Officer, Friend, Husband, and Father Final Resting Place of First Lieutenant Elijah Hayden and his wife, Deborah P. Hayden Ropp in Ridgelawn Cemetery, Elyria. The gravestone reads, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” Image courtesy of Peter and Judy Hritsko
In reflecting upon the 8th Ohio’s role in the battle two decades later, T.S. Potter, a member of Elijah’s company, remembered Elijah’s July 3rd vow: “I would rather be killed right here, than that they should whip us.” “Poor fellow,” Potter lamented, “Were his words prophetic? Before night he was killed.” After the 8th Ohio had withdrawn from the field, the commander of the brigade, Colonel Carroll, who had been stationed on Cemetery Hill during July 3, approached Colonel Sawyer. According to Company C’s captain, D. S. Koons, Colonel Carroll worriedly asked, “Where is Captain Pierce? Where is Captain Nickerson? Where is Captain Miller?” to which Sawyer replied that all had been wounded. “Where is Lieutenant Hayden?” Carroll asked. “Dead on the field,” Sawyer reported. Upon realizing the tragic loss of the brave men of the 8th Ohio, an overwhelmed Carroll then “cried like a child.” In a society that frequently discouraged men from showing unrestrained outbursts of emotion, Carroll’s response revealed the strength and depth of the emotional bonds that often formed between soldiers, as well as how much soldiers and officers had come to depend upon each other to survive the duress of war.
Forced to wait to retrieve Elijah’s body until the wounded had been carried off the field, one of his comrades determined to recover Elijah’s possessions before a greedy bystander got a hold of them. Unfortunately, the dead were often robbed of their possessions. Not only did such pillaging dishonor the dead, but it made it difficult to identify them and left the dead soldier’s grieving family with little material effects to remember them by. Nineteenth-century Americans found it inconceivable that the dead would be treated with such a manner, as pious civilians believed that the body would be resurrected in the afterlife and thus needed to be treated with the utmost respect. It was dark by the time the comrade reached Elijah’s body, but to his horror, he discovered that Elijah’s watch had already been stolen. Fortunately, he was still able to recover most of Elijah’s possessions and handed his revolver to Elijah’s comrade, William Clough. However, at some point after the battle, someone took Elijah’s revolver from Clough. The rest of Elijah’s possessions were reportedly sent to Elijah’s wife, Deborah.
In the morning, some of the men from the 8th Ohio set off on the tragic task of burying their beloved officer and friend. They wanted to send Elijah’s body home right away but there was almost no way to do so, as Clough explained that there weren’t any railroads nearby to transport him or any available wagons to carry his body off the field. So they resigned themselves to giving Elijah as proper of a burial as they could. After selecting a suitable spot to inter him, they washed the blood and grime off of his body and his uniform and carefully wrapped a blanket around his body. Then they buried Elijah near a walnut tree on Catherine Guinn’s farm on the Taneytown Road (the marker for the Catherine Guinn farm has been removed, but the spot is directly adjacent to the park ranger station near the National Soldiers Cemetery). Elijah’s comrades marked his name, rank, and company on his headboard, thus affording him critical elements of the “Good Death” and avoiding anonymity in death. There he lay beside eight other brave men in his regiment who also died during July 3. The men built a rail fence around the grave site, marking it off as a resting place where the fallen would not be disturbed and so loved ones and comrades could easily find the graves. The care that his comrades took in burying Elijah showed the deep respect and emotion they felt for their dear friend and leader. However, the men still felt that Elijah deserved to be sent home, to be buried in the presence of his family and not to be buried hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania.
As Elijah’s men searched for a way to bring his body back to Elyria, Elijah’s comrade, William Clough, decided to confront another difficult task—writing to Deborah, Elijah’s wife, about his death. He felt personally responsible to tell her of the tragedy; apparently when she had visited camp briefly in the fall of 1862, Clough had promised to tell her if anything happened to Elijah. Now the task of writing her seemed nearly paralyzing as he struggled to somehow ease the harshness of Elijah’s death. He gave her a short description of the regiment’s positions and how Elijah had been killed so as to help her “bear witness” to his death. In telling her of his death, he demonstrated that Elijah had acted bravely and dutifully in battle, had seen through the Union victory, that his death was quick, and he had not suffered. He tried to soothe her anxieties and grief by telling her of how they buried Elijah. He painted a peaceful picture of Elijah’s resting place, writing, “Our Colonel had selected a beautiful knoll, shaded by a walnut tree, as a burial place for the dead.” His sentimental picture of a “beautiful” resting place reflected his earnestness to assure her that Elijah had received a proper burial and comfort her that “if you ever wish to get his body, you would not have much trouble” finding the grave site. Clough confessed a bit of his own grief, writing, “I think you will meet him in that better land where cruel war does not sever the fond ties which unite us in this cold world.” He continued, “Your husband fell a sacrifice on the altar of love for his country” and told her to take comfort in his vow that he would rather be killed than allow the Confederates to triumph. Because the Union forces had emerged victorious, Elijah was at rest.
Clough ended the letter by addressing Elijah’s children, Ella and Frank. “You have lost a kind father, who often spoke of you and hoped to again pass many a happy day with you,” Clough wrote. Elijah’s letters to Ella always mentioned his heartfelt hope to soon be reunited with his family. “But,” Clough lamented, “No more on this earth will you see your father. But do not mourn,” reminding the children that Elijah was in heaven. Like Elijah had written Ella in previous letters, Clough bade them to “Be good children.” He urged them to “Give your love to your poor mother, for she needs it now,” reminding them to their duty to help their grieving mother. Ella was 12 years old and Frank was 10. The children had not seen their father in two years and day after day, like their mother, had waited expectantly for him to walk through their door. Now he was gone. Yet, they, too, still had duties to fulfill.
A member of Company I, Charles Parmely, brought Elijah’s body back to Elyria on July 25. The men of Elijah’s company and Elyria townspeople helped pay for the costs for the transport home and burial of Elijah’s body at a large sum of $125, equal to about $2,550 today. This detailed care that Elijah’s comrades showed for the remains of their fallen comrade and officer once more highlighted the strength of the bonds that the war forged between soldiers, both in camp and on the battlefield. When his funeral was held at the Elyria Methodist Episcopal Church on July 26, the reverend praised Hayden’s valor and commended him for exhibiting “the character of a Christian soldier.” Victorian religious culture during the war often evoked the causes of religion and nation, emphasizing that soldiers would be rewarded in heaven for their patriotic sacrifices.
The reverend claimed that Elijah had been shot down as he called for “his men to stand firm” during Pickett’s Charge. The reverend’s memorial speech echoed the sentimental idea of “The Good Death,” in that Elijah had died as a true Christian soldier, brave until the very end defending his country. However, his claim differed from the account of William Clough, who had witnessed Elijah fall as the Ohioans were starting to leave the field. Hayden’s death would be recorded differently throughout the years, especially by Colonel Sawyer. Sawyer, too, recounted Elijah as being struck down in the midst of the charge. In his immediate official report of the battle, however, Sawyer only wrote that Elijah had been killed “while cheering his men to the conflict.” In A Military History of the 8th Regiment Ohio Vol. Inf’y (1881) Sawyer wrote that Elijah was killed in the exchange of fire with Brockenbrough’s brigade, before the regiment turned a left wheel. But in 1887, at the dedication of the 8th Ohio’s monument, Sawyer told his fellow veterans that Elijah had died in the countercharge, the colors in his hands. Perhaps Sawyer was trying to honor Elijah in depicting a more heroic death, emphasizing Elijah’s bravery by portraying him as falling with the colors. Despite the revision of Elijah’s death, if anyone had any doubts about Elijah’s character or courage, they were dispelled when the commander of the regiment drew attention to Elijah’s heroic actions during the battle.
Elijah was put to rest in the Elyria Ridgelawn Cemetery. His men honored him years later, in 1896, by naming the Elyria Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 49 after him. Their dedication of the post showed the deep respect Elijah’s men maintained for him even decades after the war and how devoted they were to preserving for posterity Elijah’s memory and his brave reputation. In 1888, a monument was unveiled in Elyria to commemorate the town’s fallen, with an inscription dedicating the monument “To Her Heroes Who Fought and Her Martyrs Who Fell That the Republic Might Live.” Another monument featuring an eagle was unveiled in Ridgelawn Cemetery. Noting the physical absence of courageous “martyrs” like Elijah, the community felt compelled to honor their bravery and place the townspeople’s losses within a national context.
With the death of Elijah, his wife, Deborah, struggled against a wave of emotions and financial burdens. Perhaps she relied on her faith and came to accept Elijah’s death as a part of God’s will. Perhaps she took comfort that Elijah was now at rest because he had helped the 8th Ohio “whip” the rebels and had died fulfilling his duty. Deborah likely found some peace in her ability to visit her husband’s grave in Elyria regularly; he had not, like so many other soldiers, remained buried hundreds of miles away in Gettysburg. Still, Deborah had to put aside her own anguish to take care of her children. Her savings were dwindling rapidly without Elijah to support her and the family. She decided to secure a local attorney to apply for a widow’s pension. As she applied for the pension in August 1863, there is little doubt that she did so during a particularly poignant and painful time, as it would have been their 14th anniversary of their marriage on August 19. As she struggled to come to terms with Elijah’s death, the thought of their wedding anniversary likely loomed over her.
Deborah ultimately received a pension of $17 a month, with $2 for each of the children per month until they reached the age of 16. $21 a month, or about $430 today, was still not enough to live on for a family of three. Elijah, as a First Lieutenant, was paid $105.50 per month, although much of that money was allowances for additional rations, clothing, and other items only officers had to pay for, so Deborah probably never received anything close to the $105.50 per month. Deborah tried to make the best of the pension, but in 1873, she applied for an increase to her pension with her sisters-in-law signing off as witnesses; however, it is unclear whether she actually received that increase. In the 1870 census, she was recorded as “keeping house” with Ella, while 17-year-old Frank worked in a carriage shop. Her real estate was valued at $2,000 and her personal estate at $300, so they were living relatively modestly. In April 1875, Deborah was re-married to Jerome Ropp, a harness-maker eleven years her junior who served in the three-month term of the 8th Ohio in 1861. Perhaps Ropp had known Elijah in the 8-month regiment, or perhaps Deborah sought financial stability and emotional support that a marriage to Ropp might provide in the wake of Elijah’s death. It is interesting to note, however, that although she was married to Ropp, Deborah ultimately chose to be buried alongside Elijah when she died in 1905. The war had prevented their reunion in life, and so she chose to be reunited with him in death.
Ella took her father’s words to heart and worked diligently in her studies at school. In 1869, she became certified to teach and received high marks in her qualifications to teach orthography, reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and geography. About a year later, Ella left the house to marry Edward F. Smith, five years her senior, who had served as a bugler in the 2nd Ohio Cavalry in the war. She had a large family of eight children and died in 1927.
(Pictures from top to bottom) Ella Roselfa Hayden Smith and husband Edward F. Smith in later life, and Edward F. Smith pictured when he was in the 2nd Ohio Cavalry. Photos courtesy of Peter and Judy Hritsko.
Frank was a musician and became a member of the Union Sons of Veterans, feeling the need to continue to honor his father’s sacrifice and to keep it alive in joining the Sons. Like Ella, he remained in Elyria and worked as a carriage trimmer and upholster. He married his wife, Celestia, late in life in 1898 and had one daughter, Zepha. Frank died in 1925, and like his mother and father, was also buried in Ridgelawn Cemetery.
From left to right are pictured: Frank Hayden, his daughter Zepha Hayden, Frank’s wife Celestia Hayden, and Celestia’s mother (sitting in tan blouse and dark skirt) Susan (Barefoot) Life. Elijah’s picture is hung on the wall in the upper left hand corner. Photo courtesy of Peter and Judy Hritsko.
From left to right are pictured: Frank Hayden, his daughter Zepha, and his wife Celestia Hayden. Photo courtesy of Peter and Judy Hritsko.
The 8th O.V.I. Returns to Gettysburg The 8th Ohio veterans stand next to their monument at the 1913 reunion at Gettysburg. Photo courtesy of John Heiser, Gettysburg National Military Park Historian, photo found in Lewis Beitler, esc., Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Report of the Pennsylvania Commission, December 31, 1913 (Harrisburg, PA: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1915), 74-75.
After Gettysburg, the 8th Ohio tried to catch the retreating Confederate army but with limited success. In August 1863, the regiment was sent to New York City in response to the July draft riots, which was somewhat of a break from the hard fighting and marching they had recently endured. The regiment served in a minor battle at Bristoe Station in October 1863. In 1864, the Ohioans fought bloody battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and ended their service on June 25, 1864 at Petersburg. The 8th Ohio had started out with 993 men in June 1861. By the time the regiment was officially mustered out in July 1864, 198 men had died either from combat or disease, 62 had been transferred out of the regiment, and 340 men had been discharged for promotion, wounds, or disability. 42 men had transferred to the 4th Ohio Battalion, which was a mix of recruits and veterans from the 8th Ohio and 4th Ohio who continued their service until July 1865.
On September 14, 1887, the veterans of the 8th Ohio, along with the other Ohio regiments, reunited at Gettysburg. The day had started with a national salute at Cemetery Hill, and throughout the day, at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, there were songs and speeches delivered. In the afternoon, a small ceremony of the 8th Ohio’s veterans and relatives gathered at the base of the 8th Ohio’s monument, which had not yet been finished, on the Emmitsburg Road, not far from the present-day General Pickett’s Buffet. The brigade commander, Colonel Carroll, spoke briefly and the regimental commander, Colonel Sawyer, was the main speaker at the event, giving a detailed account of the 8th Ohio’s role in the battle and praising his men’s bravery. At 7:30, the Ohioans held a camp fire upon Cemetery Hill, bringing their day to an enjoyable end, as they reminisced with their comrades about their shared experiences. The reunion would have offered a way of healing as well, as some veterans found that they could not tell their civilian relatives about some of the horrors they witnessed. Given the number of reconciliation gestures between North and South, the Ohio veterans also would have likely reflected upon the moral righteousness of their cause and the hardships they endured to fight for the Union and emancipation.
There was some controversy over the 8th Ohio monument’s placement and design. Some veterans argued that it stood in an incorrect place, but Lieutenant Colonel Sawyer affirmed its position. Apparently John Bachelder, an historian and leader in the park’s creation, had dismissed the 8th Ohio’s claims to their advance position beyond the Emmitsburg Road. A veteran had relayed to Sawyer that Bachelder had caustically insisted that “we could not have been there, and would have been of no use there, and that ‘Col. Sawyer was reeling drunk and did not know where he was’ &c.” In a letter to Bachelder in October 1885, Sawyer angrily pushed back against his claims, asserting, “Now every word of that is false, which I can prove by every surviving member of my regiment who was there.” Sawyer then added, “I was amazed at such a statement. Your own series of maps gives me the position as I claim it.” After affirming the 8th Ohio’s position during the battle, Sawyer haughtily wrote, “As for being drunk, the charge is wholly untrue. I drank no liquor,” Sawyer declared and added, “nor do I believe I ate a mouthful while we were at that point, and I must say Colonel that I think you did me a great wrong in making the charge.” To Lieutenant Colonel Sawyer, Bachelder had made a grave mistake in attacking his character and in trying to attack the credibility of his account of the 8th Ohio’s brave stand on July 2 and 3.
The statue originally chosen for the monument was of a soldier “at rest” and was put into place in February 1888. However, by August 1889, the statue had been removed, as the veterans had taken issue with it, finding it “unsatisfactory.” Perhaps they found the statue to be of poor quality or found some issue with its form. The statue was replaced by a bronze knapsack and blanket roll, drum, cap, cartridge box, and a canteen. No reason was given for why the veterans settled on the new design, but perhaps those items, beyond showcasing a soldier’s necessities, were showcased to remind visitors that once all of the soldiers had passed, their material possessions, symbols of their bravery and endurance, would remain as tangible reminders of their service. The statue, with brief captions describing the regiment’s role in battle and the war, as well as the regiment’s losses at Gettysburg, was inscribed on the front side with the words, “Ohio’s Tribute” and a picture of the state seal.
First Lieutenant Elijah Hayden fell on the battlefield of Gettysburg, knowing that victory was at hand and that he had done his duty. Elijah had dedicated his life to defending “the Side of Justice of [sic] and humanity,” as he wrote in his last letter before Gettysburg. He believed in the moral superiority of his cause and lived out his life as an officer attempting to follow the Victorian code of honor, martial masculinity, and patriotism. When his tiny regiment was isolated from the rest of the Union line at Gettysburg, Elijah did not shrink with fear over the possibility that his command might be overrun, or his personal safety compromised. Instead, he jumped at the sight of Confederate troops surging forth from Seminary Ridge and rallied his men into the fray. Like many soldiers, he found himself navigating between dual obligations to his family and to his country, and often longed to be reunited with his wife and two young children. However, he knew that, only in helping to preserve his nation could he secure the future that he always envisioned for his family. Thus, by giving his life at Gettysburg, Elijah played a meaningful part in securing a victory that was at the same time undeniably national, and yet intimately personal. His ultimate sacrifice inspired the same from hundreds of thousands of others whose collective bloodshed ultimately ensured that no Union soldier’s death, before or after, would be in vain.
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“Teacher’s Certificate to Ella R. Hayden.” State of Ohio, Lorain County, April 10, 1869, document courtesy of Barb Lingafelter and Peter and Judy Hritsko.
Tucker, Phillip Thomas. Pickett’s Charge: A New Look at Gettysburg’s Final Attack. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2016.
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Narrative and map by Erica Uszak, Gettysburg College