Private John Northrop Diary
103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Originally published in June 2016 in the Surgeon’s Call, Volume 21, No. 1
The 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry heeded the call of President Lincoln to come to the defense of the Union in the summer of 1862. Over the course of their service, they would experience some of the harshest deprivations of war, experience a warm welcome by Unionists in East Tennessee, and sustain heavy losses in engagements from Kentucky to Georgia.
In our collection, we have a special diary written by Private John Northrop. The diary begins January 1, 1863, and is kept faithfully until November 23, 1863. Throughout the diary, Private Northrop notes his thoughts on his family, friends and his faith. He misses home, but he is committed to the cause of preserving the Union.
“I feel contented for I cannot see my country on the Brink of ruin about to reel and totter without making some effort to rescue it from the Hand of the Destroyer” (Northrop, January 5, 1863).
John Northrop, along with his brothers Madison, Albert, and Henry, enlisted in the 103rd in August of 1862. The brothers enlisted for three years, but John was not destined to serve out his enlistment.
During an engagement with General Longstreet that lasted several days, the 103rd was caught off guard on the hill. While the officers had moved off to plan the movement of the troops, Confederate forces made their way up the hill and began firing on the resting Union soldiers.
Taken by surprise, the Union troops grabbed whatever weapon they could reach and began to return fire while being backed against the edge of a ravine. With no leadership available, an unknown Private shouted “with all the lung power he possessed Forward! Charge bayonets! Forward boys!” (One Hundred and Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 237). Private Northrop is listed among the wounded after the Battle of Armstrong Hill (One Hundred and Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 239).
John Northrop went home to Ohio after he was discharged on March 17, 1864 with a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability (One Hundred and Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 420). There is one last entry in the diary which records what happened to him during the battle. After a gap from November 23, 1863, to April 20, 1864, he writes:
“We are at Wellington Ohio. Left off at Nov’r 23rd 1863 on the account of my being out on the skirmish line before the enemy at Knoxville East Tenn. On the 25 I was wounded severly in the right arm between shoulder & elbow about 3-oclock in the afternoon. Went to the Bell House Hospital on Main Street Knoxville. My arm was Resected. The bone taken out for the space of 4 inches. Very skillfully done by Dr. Coggswell of the 9th Army Corps. Now at my sister’s in Wellington, Lorain County…The day has been very pleasant and I have enjoyed myself well” (Northrop, April 20, 1864)
On mustering out with the Company on June 12, 1865, most of the men of the 103rd OVI stayed in touch. To facilitate yearly reunions, the veterans purchased land and built living quarters. Today, the descendants of these soldiers operate a museum on the property and still organize yearly reunions. These dedicated family members remain thoughtful stewards of the gift of history, and preserve the legacy of the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry to share with all.
Private John Northrop died on March 7, 1872, and was interred at Oberlin Westwood Cemetery in Loraine County, OH.
For further information about the 103rd OVI and their descendants, please contact Deborah Wagner, Museum Curator, 103rd OVI Civil War Museum, Sheffield Lake, OH 44054.
Northrop, John. (1863). Personal diary. Donation by Paul Urban. (2015).
Northrups/Northorps/Gallops & Families. (2015). Retrieved at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=rnorthorp&id=I35855
One Hundred and Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. (1900/1984). Personal reminiscences and experiences: Campaign life in the Union Army from 1862-1865. Oberlin, OH: News Printing Company.