James Hook Civil War Service
As already noted, the Hook and Eller families were both active
in the Revolutionary War. Among the direct ancestors of James and Virginia
were-a captain, a sergeant major, a chaplain, and several privates, all of whom
served with honor to their country and themselves. Other near kin were also
No direct ancestor was engaged in either the War of 1812 or the Mexican War. The
generations seemed to be out of step with both of these conflicts in that their
members were either too young to enlist, or that they had young families to
support. The War of the Rebellion was different, however, when not only James
himself enlisted on the side of the Union and served throughout the struggle,
but also four of his brothers, two of whom did not survive. Two of Virginia's
brothers were veterans of the Union forces, both first sergeants. Three of her
Eller uncles were in the Confederate Army and two of them lost their lives. A
Vannoy uncle also lost his life in the Confederate cause.
The Eller family as a whole was divided on the Civil War. Those who remained in
North Carolina fought for the cause of the Confederacy; those who moved to Iowa
and Nebraska remained loyal to the Union. Virginia's father always claimed that
his disbelief in slavery was one of the two causes which made him leave his
native state, the other cause being the liquor traffic that was allowed such a
free reign in the mountain regions of North Carolina.
Both James and Virginia were born on farms as their parents and grandparents and
great grandparents before them had been. James was born in Carrol County, Ohio,
on September 30, 1839. Virginia was born in the heart of the Blue Ridge
Mountains in Wilkes County, North Carolina, on October 18, 1845. Both were
children of ardent Christian parents who believed in the church and in schools
and all those things that go for good in any community. It was in this
environment that they grew to manhood and womanhood. They attended such schools
as existed near their homes, and on Sunday went to Church and Sunday School. In
the evenings around wide consuming fire-places they were tutored in practical
subjects by their parents. On Saturdays, and before and after school on week
days, they had work to do on the farm. This accomplished, they were given time
for play, and so well was their home life regulated, that there was never a
thought of shirking or neglecting their regular duties in order to have more
time for play. Work was a necessity, play was incidental, but they always
claimed that they had plenty of both.
James was only five years old when his parents moved from Carrol County to
Vinton County, Ohio. This was in 1844. He attended school until he was sixteen
years old, after which he attended only irregularly and at periods when he was
not needed by his father on the farm. He was an apt student and much interested
in school problems. In 1859 and until he entered the army, he taught school near
Allenville and during vacations clerked in a general store in the village. He
was a powerfully built lad, not so tall as his father, but stockier and
stronger. He was quite the best athlete in the neighborhood and according to
accounts of neighbors, held the record among his associates in high and broad
jumping, running and wrestling. He was also a great reader and student, and
spent much of his time tutoring his companions and debating current questions
with various groups in the neighborhood. His popularity was long remembered by
old residenters in and about Allenville.
On April 20, 1861, eight days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, he
volunteered his services in the Union cause and was enlisted in Company D of the
18th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Four days later the regiment was mustered into the
service at Camp Putnam, Marietta, Ohio. In was ordered to Parkersburg, Virginia,
where regimental organization was perfected on May 29th. Here it remained during
its three months tenure of enlistment guarding the B. & O. Railroad between
Parkersburg and Clarksburg, escorting supply trains and building a telegraph
line to Rich Mountain where McClellan's forces had gone. In the middle of
August, the time of enlistment being completed, the regiment was ordered to
Columbus, Ohio, where it was mustered out of the service on August 28th.
James remained at home all winter teaching on week days and clerking in a
village store after school hours and on Saturdays. When the winter term was
ended he and his father visited his brothers William and Stephen and sister Mary
Ann Clark in Wapello County, Iowa, where they had moved some six years before.
Upon his return to Ohio he found his friends much concerned over the trend of
the War. General Bragg was threatening to invade Ohio from the south. On August
25, ?862 Governor Tod ordered the 7th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry to be recruited for
service on the northern bank of the Ohio. It was to be known as the River
Regiment and was to remain close to the Ohio border, and keep the enemy from
obtaining a foothold on the Ohio.
James enlisted in Company G of this regiment on September 9th, 1862, and never
left it even on furlough until he was mustered out\ of the service on June 22,
186 at Raleigh, N. C. He was in the hospital for several weeks at Cincinnati
with smallpox and rheumatism early in 186, but aside from this was continuously
in the service, first in the Hospital Corps and later as dispatch carrier. In
the latter service he came in contact with many of the great generals of the
War, including Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Schofield, Hooker, Rosecrans, Ewing and
Howard. In later life he told thrilling stories of his experiences in carrying
messages for miles through hostile territory from one command to another.
The regiment operated almost alone for the first eighteen months, first on the
north bank of the Ohio and then in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. It was in
many sharp skirmishes, some of which for bitterness equalled those of the main
armies. It was sent in pursuit of the Morgan Raiders, was engaged in the battles
of Carter's Station, Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, Dutton Hill, Kentucky, and
Cumberland Gap, where it distinguished itself in resourcefulness, courage,
daring and discipline.
When Burnside's forces were besieged at Knoxville, Tennessee, in the latter part
of 1863, General Grant, then at Chattanooga, desired to get word to Burnside
that he had dispatched Sherman with a strong force to attack the besieging army.
The message was sent to Colonel Garrard of the Seventh Ohio Cavalry with
instructions to get it to Burnside at all hazards. The Seventh at that time was
menacing the enemy's lines of communication east of the besieged city. Garrard
asked for volunteers to undertake this hazardous adventure. Sergeants Little and
Davis, and James Hook who was an experienced and trusted dispatch carrier,
volunteered and after many thrilling adventures succeeded in penetrating the
Confederate Lines and delivering the dispatch. James often told the story of
this adventure to his children. He and his companions entered the enemy lines at
dusk. All night long they crept on hands and knees past the enemy camps, in and
out past the sentries, and finally succeeded in reaching the Union Lines. The
welcome message was immediately delivered to General Burnside who complimented
the bearers warmly on their fidelity and courage and promised to mention their
names to General Grant.
In the early part of 1864 the regiment had an experience comparable to that of
the soldiers who suffered at Valley Forge. The whole country in which it had
been operating was devastated of supplies and clothing, and food for the army
had not been received. For several weeks the half naked and half starved
soldiers kept themselves from freezing by crudely constructed huts and
campfires. A half bushel of corn meal was a day's rations for a whole company.
Some of the men were without trousers and nearly all were without shoes. Many
wrapped their feet in strips of tenting and pieces of blankets to keep them from
freezing. James often told of this experience and expressed wonderment at the
fortitude of human nature to endure such torture. After supplies were received
the regiment moved into Knoxville where it remained until spring.
On July 4th, 1864 the regiment was ordered to join Sherman at Atlanta. It
started from Nickolsville, Tennessee, the same day and reached Sherman's Army on
July loth. It was engaged in all of the important battles on the outskirts of
that city until September 2, 1864 when Hood by masterful strategy escaped by the
only road left open by the encircling army.
The following letter of James Hook written at this time throws some light upon
that great campaign
Army of the Ohio, Near Atlanta, Ga.,
PA : July 31, 1864.
You request me to give you my opinion of matters, so I will go at it. We are now
very near Atlanta, so near that I have seen the city myself. Our line of battle
extends around three sides of the city, having possession of the two railroads,
the one running east, the one running north. The one running west has been
destroyed some distance from here, only leaving the enemy one way to get out,
and that to go south. We have had three very hard battles here at this place,
one on the loth of the month in which the enemy lost five thousand in killed,
wounded and prisoners. Two thousand were left dead on the field which our men
buried the next day, and three thousand were taken prisoners. Of this number one
thousand were wounded. On the 22d the enemy massed their forces in order to
press back our left wing. They attacked us about eleven o'clock, after which a
dreadful battle followed which lasted 'til late in the evening. The enemy
finding that it was impossible to brake our lines, fell back leaving many of
their dead and wounded on the field. I am unable to state the number of killed
and wounded on either side, as I have not heard the official report of the
engagement, but do know that it was a day that will long be remembered by many
of us as it was the day that General McFerson was killed. He was a noble man and
a good general, just such a man as we need in command of our army. Now for
another battle. The greatest battle that we have had came off on the 28th on our
extreme rite. Directly after the battle which I have just been writing about,
the front of our army was changed. The three corps; namely, the 15th, 16th and
17th, which were on the left wing were sent on the extreme rite. After they
found a suitable position they fortified themselves some distance from the
enemies' works. This was on the 27th of the month, and on the 28th the 16th
corps made a false charge on the enemies' works. They charged up near their
works and then fell back as though they were repulsed. The enemy seeing them
falling back raised up out of their works and raised a yell and made a charge.
Our men fell back to their works where the I5th and 17th corps were and the rebs
charged rite up to our works. Then the Yanks went for them and if they didn't
give them their own rights its strange to me as we captured nearly the last one
Sherman's official report says that we killed and wounded ten thousand of them,
besides capturing a great many guns. Our loss was three thousand, killed and
wounded. Now it is true that the rebs still have possession of Atlanta, but I am
just as certain that we will whip them out of it as I am living, although they
are well fortified and it may take us some time yet, but sooner or later it must
fall. Deserters acknowledge that they are whipped, a prisoner being asked the
number of men they had said that he thought they had about two days killings
yet, so you may know they are whipped. Now my opinion is that we will make a
clean sweep of this end of the southern confederacy, and if Grant is only
successful in taking Richmond, the gig is up with them, and I hope I live to see
the day when the leaders of this unholy rebellion will have to submit and yield
to Justice and Truth.
I will close, write soon, Yours, After the fall of Atlanta, Sherman began his
famous march to the sea, leaving Thomas with the 4th and 23d Army Corps under
Generals Stanley and Schofield to pursue Hood.
The campaign of General Thomas following the parting of the two armies at
Atlanta is to the writer's mind without parallel in the whole history of the
Civil War, if indeed it has been matched by any General in history.
The Seventh Ohio after the fall of Atlanta went to Decatur, six miles east of
that city, and until October 4, 1864 was engaged in scouting for supplies. It
then marched north with General Schofield. It was engaged at the battle of
Franklin, Tennessee, which for casualties in proportion to the forces engaged,
was one of the bloodiest of the whole Civil War. The Seventh Ohio operated on
the right of Schofield's Army where it held its position. James often described
this bitter fight. He told of the dense wood and the position of the Union Army
on a side hill and the advance of Hood's Army. The Union forces had constructed
breastworks behind which were three lines of infantry. The advancing army was
not fired upon until it was near enough to be easily seen through the trees,
whereupon the first Union Line fired and immediately fell behind the third line.
The second line immediately fired and f ell back to the third position as the
first line had done. The original third line raised and fired and the whole
operation was repeated. When the battle ended, James declared that one could
have walked all over the field in front of the breastworks by stepping from one
dead or wounded Confederate soldier to another.
After the battle the victorious Union Army started for Nashville to join the
main army under Thomas. After reaching Nashville it was engaged in scouting,
picketing and skirmishing until December 13th when Thomas took the offensive
that resulted in the destruction of Hood's Army. The detailed story of the
overwhelming defeat of the retreating army of Hood is thrilling, and considering
the fact that the attacking army often engaged detachments double in numbers, is
When Hood's Army was pushed beyond the Tennessee River, the Seventh Ohio went
into winter quarters at Gravelly Spring, Alabama.
On March 22, 1865 General Wilson, with an army of I8,000 of which the Seventh
Ohio was a part, started to further invade the Confederacy. The object was to
destroy all railroad communications and divide the rebel armies of the East and
West. It destroyed the Iron Works at Ely-ton and the Shelby Iron Works at
Monticello, and marched to Columbiana and destroyed the iron works there. The
pursued army made a stand below Columbiana and was badly defeated. The Seventh
Ohio was ordered to pursue the retreating Confederates along the Andersonville
road. The pursuers were in full gallop after the enemy when the latter displayed
a flag of truce. The armies halted and were informed of the surrender of Lee at
Appomattox and the end of the War. The opposing armies so lately in bitter
contest joined hands and bivouacked on the same field.
The regiment remained in Macon until May 15th to prevent the escape of Jefferson
Davis. After the latter's capture the Seventh guarded his removal to Augusta,
Georgia, after which, with the exception of Company G which marched to Raleigh,
North Carolina, it was sent to Nashville, Tennessee, where it was mustered out
of the service July 4, 1865. Company G, including James Hook, was mustered out
at Raleigh, North Carolina, June 22, 1865.
Including recruits, 1,400 men actually saw service in the Seventh during the
War. It mustered out 840 men, showing a loss of 560 by casualties of war.
During the winter and early spring of 1865, James was stricken with smallpox and
rheumatism and was sent to the Army Hospital at Cincinnati for treatment. He
remained here until the middle of April when he returned to his regiment.
Many of James' letters written while in the service of his country have been
preserved. That he sent a portion of his monthly pay to his parents is shown by
some of them. While at Pulaski, Tennessee, in the latter part of 1864 he and his
brother John, who was in the 65th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, chanced to meet. They
wrote a joint letter home. There are other letters of varying interest, one
dated April 12, 1865 in Cincinnati, telling of the great celebration there over
the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. Four days later came another letter in quite
a different tone referring to the assassination of President Lincoln.
April 16, 1865.
This will inform you that I am on my way to the Regiment. We arrived here
yesterday morning and will leave here at five this evening for Cairo, Ill.,
after which we will go to Mobile. I left Cincinnati last Friday noon. They were
having a great time there, every one rejoicing over the success of our armies.
Little did any one think of the danger that was hovering over us. Little did we
think that the close of that day would bring to our ears the startling news of
the murder of the President of the United States, one of the blackest crimes
that ever was committed, or found in the pages of history. Just to think that
one of the best men in our government, one who has used every exertion in his
power to suppress this infernal rebellion and restore peace to the people was
murdered, cruelly murdered by an imp of Satan, who I hope will soon be caught
and sent to report to his Superior Officer in the lower pits of Hell.
I believe I have written enough so I will close. I will write whenever I am
favored with an opportunity. I don't expect it is worth your while to write to
me until you hear from me again.
So good by