|A Brief History of the
121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Monument of the 121st Ohio on Snodgrass Hill, Chickamauga and
Chattanooga National Battlefield Park. It is flanked by the company's
reproduction flags. It was here that the 121st redeemed their tarnished
reputation by helping to save the Army of the Cumberland.
|"The battle-flag I am proud to receive and deposit in an appropriate room, as a trophy of the
heroic valor and patriotism of your gallant command. Please, convey, Colonel, to your brave
officers and men my profound admiration for their glorious achievements on that desparate
field, and the heartfelt thanks of all Ohio's loyal people."
Ohio Governor David Tod to Lieutenant Colonel Henry B. Banning, commanding 121st Ohio, at
the reception of the flag of the 22nd Alabama, which was captured September 20, 1863 at the
Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia.
The 121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry was recruited in mid-August 1862 from the counties of Delaware, Hardin, Knox, Logan,
Marion, Morrow, Richland, and Union and offered to Governor David Tod for service. The 958 officers and men, under the
command of Colonel William P. Reid, gathered at Camp Delaware on September 3 to organize. On the 11th, it was quickly
mustered into United States service and shipped to Cincinnati to defend the city from Rebel Major General Edmund Kirby Smith's
forces. After Smith stalled at Frankfort, Kentucky, the 121st was sent to Louisville, where it joined Major General Don Carlos
Buell's Army of the Ohio. On October 8, it went into the Battle of Perryville with next to no training and poor weapons, half of
which could not fire. The regiment broke and ran, with several small portions rallying to continue the fight. After the battle, it
garrisoned various posts in Kentucky, where it trained and received Springfield Rifled Muskets. After Christmas, the regiment
unsuccessfully pursued Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan's cavalry when he raided through central Kentucky.
In February 1863, the regiment was transferred to
Franklin, Tennessee, under the command of Major
General Gordon Granger. Here, sickness and lack of
discipline and leadership nearly destroyed the unit. In
late March, after the resignation of the popular
Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Irwin, the line
officers requested that Lieutenant Colonel Henry
Blackstone Banning of the 125th Ohio Volunteer
Infantry be assigned to command. Banning had a
solid reputation, known for his bravery, strict
discipline, and effective leadership. Within a short
time, Banning had transformed the 121st into an
effective fighting force. In late May, Banning was
officially transferred to command of the regiment and
later was promoted to colonel.
On June 11, it fought a small skirmish near the town
of Triune against Brigadier General Nathan B.
Forrest's cavalry, holding the line long enough to allow Union cavalry to form and counterattack. Also in June, the regiment was
transferred to Major General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland and occupied the pro-Union town of Shelbyville on
July 4. In mid-August, it marched alone to the town of Fayetteville, dealing with local guerrillas.
Brevet Major General Henry
Blackstone Banning commanded the
regiment from April 1863 to October
1864, transforming it into a fierce
On September 20, 1863, the 121st went into battle at Chickamauga in northern Georgia as
part of Granger's Reserve Corps, holding the extreme right of Major General George H.
Thomas' Snodgrass Hill defense. They made three bayonet charges to hold the only road of
retreat open and captured the flags of the 22nd Alabama Infantry and, circumstantial evidence
suggests, the 10th South Carolina, but the latter was lost in the retreat. They suffered through
the siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee, rushing to assist the XII Corps in a battle along the
Wauhatchie River in late October. At this time, the 121st, and its brigade (the 2nd), was
transferred to the 2nd Division, XIV Army Corps, where they remained for the rest of the war.
After the breaking of the siege, the regiment pushed back the Confederate rear guard and then,
under Major General William T. Sherman, marched to the relief of Knoxville, which was
besieged by Rebel Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Returning to Rossville, Georgia for the
winter, it received about 200 recruits and prepared for the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.
On May 4, 1864, the 121st Ohio marched off with the rest of Sherman's army, and on May
8, three companies, B, G, and I, assaulted Buzzard's Roost Gap, taking the position. It
remained in reserve during the Battle of Resaca and marched with the 2nd Division to take the
town of Rome, being the first to enter the city on May 18. They rejoined the main army near
Dallas and pursued the rebels back to their Kenesaw Mountain stronghold, where they were
involved in almost daily skirmishing and under heavy artillery fire. On June 27th, the 121st
unsuccessfully assaulted what later became known as "Cheatham Hill," in the Battle of Kenesaw
Mountain, losing 146 men in about fifteen minutes, the majority from the left wing, with three
captains killed and Major John Yager, commanding the wing.
The regiment fought at Peach Tree Creek and in and around Atlanta, taking some outer
works on August 7. The 121st led the XIV Corps in the advance on Jonesboro, assaulting the
works on September 1, helping to take and
operate a rebel battery. Atlanta surrendered
the next day.
The regiment pursued General Forrest's
cavalry out of northern Alabama, before
returning to the main army in time to join it
on Sherman's famous "March to the Sea." It
was now under the command of Major
|"We formed ourselves in the front line and were among
the first to reap the fruits of that brilliant charge, the
impetuous gallantry of our brave Colonel impelling him
forward disdaining to be behind, and where he led my
men never faltered."
Captain Aaron B. Robinson, acting major, about the
Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia, September 1, 1864.
Aaron B. Robinson, Colonel Banning having left in protest
over being demoted because the regiment's size did not
warrent a full colonel. After the fall of Savannah, the
121st marched up through the Carolinas, fighting at
Lexington, South Carolina, in February, 1865 and a
skirmish at Averysboro, North Carolina the following
month. It fought its final battle at Bentonville, North
Carolina on March 19, being overwhelmed and forced to
retreat and reform, and holding its position the two
following days. It was stationed at Goldsboro with the
army until Rebel General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered
on April 24, 1865.
The final leg of its journey took the regiment north
through Virginia, passed the burnt remnants of the former
Confederate capitol, to Washington, D.C., where it
participated in the Grand Review of the Armies on May
25. It was mustered out of service on June 8, 1865 with
244 officers and men and was transported to Camp
Chase, Columbus, Ohio, where it was paid off and
Private Otway B. Cone, Company A,
wears the one of the uniforms that the
regiment was issued in September of
1862. He wears a frock coat (minus
the decorative piping on the cuffs and
collar, dark blue trousers, and a
forage cap. The 121st wore their
forage caps in a unique way; instead
of allowing the top of the flimsy hat to
slope forward, they wore them sitting
straight up. Unit brass insignia was
placed just above the brim of the hat,
instead of on top. (His brass "121"
can be barely seen in the picture.)
Private Cone was a 22 year old
Marysville school teacher when he
enlisted with his two brothers, Stephen
and James, on August 15, 1862. He
was wounded in the left hip on June
27, 1864 in the Battle of Kenesaw
Mountain, Georgia. He died July 21,
1864 in a hospital at Chattanooga,
discharged on June 12. The 121st Ohio had fought in eight major battles, eight miltiary campaigns, and numerous skirimishes,
captured an enemy battle flag and battery and suffered through nearly three years of bloody civil war.
Victory Belongs to the Brave!
"Wipe Out Perryville!"
121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry