Friday, October 23, 2009

Answering His Country's Call:
George D. Newcomer

George Debolt Newcomer was born April 15, 1844 in Holmes Co., Ohio. When George was only a few weeks old, his parents, John & Naomi (Debolt) Newcomer, moved to what is now Fulton Co., Ohio, and settled on land that is now part of the City of Wauseon. It was in this context of a pioneer family of the Old Black Swamp that George grew to manhood.

On April 12, 1861, just before George's seventeenth birthday, Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter. The next year, on May 28, 1862, at the age of 18, George enlisted in the Ohio Infantry 85th Regiment, Co. G, for a 3 month enlistment. This organization never reached full regimental status, and from time to time different parts of the regiment were detailed to other units. What existed of the regiment did guard duty at the prisoner of war camp compound at Camp Chase, near Columbus, Ohio.

We have a record of George transferring from the Ohio 85th to the Ohio 87th Infantry, Co. D, in June 1862. George may have latter regretted that transfer. The Ohio 87th was at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia when General Stonewall Jackson (CSA) came to visit in September 1882. The Confederate troops commanded the heights around the town, and the Union troops were soon forced to surrender. George was now a prisoner of war. At this point in the Civil War, prisoner exchanges were more common then in the latter part of the war. A day or two latter George was among those exchanged. It also helped that the term of enlistment for the 87th Regiment had already expired. I always joke with my friends that George had been a "guest" of Stonewall Jackson's for a day.

This event may have been the seed of an erroneous family story from my boyhood. The story was that George had been a prisoner of war and keep at the infamous Andersonville Confederate prison in Georgia. He did do prison camp duty at Camp Chase while with the 85th. He was a prisoner of war at Harper's Ferry, but not detained.

On June 16, 1863, about 8 months after mustering out of the 87th, George signed up for a 6 month enlistment with the Ohio 86th, Co. H. At that time the Confederate Brigadier General John Morgan was raiding through the southern parts of Indiana and Ohio. Under the command of Colonel Wilson C. Lemert, the 86th took part in the pursuit of Morgan.

Co. H of the 86th O.V.I. was from Fulton Co. One of the men in the 86th O.V.I. from the Fulton County area was Thomas Mikesell, son of William and Margaret (Bayes) Mikesell. Thomas had a first cousin, Malinda, that was to become George D. Newcomer's second wife, and mother of Guy Vernon Newcomer, my Grandfather. Another Fulton Co. pioneer family represented in Co. H was the Bayes family.

After Morgan's capture, the 86th was sent to Cumberland Gap as part of a Union force to take control of the Gap from the Confederates. At that time 3,000 Confederate prisoners were taken. The 86th stayed at Cumberland Gap for the remainder of its enlistment time. George mustered out in February 1864. We went through Cumberland Gap in 1993. At the Cumberland Gap National Park, you can still see some of the old gun emplacements up on the mountain. It is a very beautiful spot.

On August 12, 1864, we find George enlisting in the Ohio 182nd, Co. B. for a 1 year enlistment. While in the 182nd he reached the rank of Sergeant by appointment of Col. Lewis Butler on October 27, 1864, and in May 1865 reached the rank of 1st Sergeant.

It was in this regiment that George took part in one of most significant events of his military career. In November 1864, the 182nd was sent to Nashville, Tennessee where Major General George Thomas (USA) was waiting for General John Bell Hood (CSA) to come calling. General Hood was desperate. He wanted to divert Sherman's attention from his march through Georgia to the sea. Hood wanted to bust through Thomas' forces to the Ohio River, then swing east to join up with a beleaguered General Robert E. Lee in Virginia.

In the meantime, Thomas, who happened to be from Virginia, but was a staunch Unionist, was coldly calculating the destruction of Hood's army. General Sherman had confidence in Thomas, but President Lincoln and General Grant were less sure. Thomas wanted more mounted units, and was scrounging the country side for horses. Hood kept coming on, even after being mauled at the battle of Franklin and letting Schofield get away to join up with Thomas at Nashville.

Then the weather turned bad. There was an ice storm. Further delay on Thomas' part caused Grant to seriously consider replacing him. In fact the orders for doing so were on there way when on December 15, Thomas loosed the Union forces on the Confederate positions. The result was what General Sherman called the most decisive battle in the whole war. Union forces opened the battle with an attack on the Confederate right wing. The main Union assault was then made on the Confederate left flank, and it was there that the Confederates were overpowered and routed from the field. Hood's Army disintegrated under the Union onslaught. What was left of it was sent staggering back to Alabama with Union troops in hot pursuit. The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceased to exist. Hood tendered his resignation, and Thomas' place in history was secured.

Sgt. George Debolt Newcomer was there. We are told concerning the 182nd that, "The 182nd took a prominent part in the ensuing battle of Nashville, and behaved handsomely. It did not participate in the pursuit of the enemy, but was retained in Nashville, where it performed guard and provost duty up to the 7th of July, 1865." (Ohio In The Civil War, Larry Stevens' Internet WWW pages). It is not entirely clear to me if the 182nd actually faced the enemy under fire.

In my mind, George stands out among our ancestors. He was a participant in one of the most momentous, watershed events in the history of our nation. What did the young Northwestern Ohio farm boy think of when he heard about the slavery and states rights debate? News of events such as the Lincoln - Douglas debates, the Dred Scott decision, and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, with the aid of the telegraph, would have gone all over the country in only a few days. How much of his perspective came from his Methodist upbringing? Did he go to war out of a sense of patriotism and concern for the Union, or was it more of a chance for a farm boy to get away from home and see some of the world? Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there are no surviving letters to home, or recorded memoirs. What a find for our family if such were to be found.

George DeBolt Newcomer went home and farmed. December 28, 1869 he was married to Clara Poorman. The fruit of this union was one son, Frank Melvin, born Oct. 28, 1870. Clara died May 6, 1875.

On December 19, 1875, George married Malinda Mikesell, daughter of Adam and Mary (Jones) Mikesell. The children from this marriage were; Susie Ethel, born Sept. 24, 1878, Guy Vernon, born Aug. 17, 1879, and Mary I., born July 6, 1886.

George was active in his community as well. He was a Fulton County Commissioner for seven years, and also served as a trustee for Clinton Twp. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic, Masons, and from 1890 to his death was member of the Episcopal Methodist Church. He passed away on November 3, 1931. The Wauseon Republican announced his passing in a front page article titled:

Fine Pioneer, Brave Soldier
Kind Citizen Dead
Faithful Public Official


History of Fulton County (Ohio); Vol. I; Frank H. Reighard, Editor; Lewis Publishing Co., NY; (1920); photocopy of pages 203-205

Family Records Found in the Family Bible of John Newcomer (1809 - 1890); A two volume set of the "Cottage Bible" owned by John Newcomer & his descendants.

National Archive Records of George Debolt Newcomer, collected and copied by John M. Newcomer, Great grandson of George D. Newcomer.

Synopsis of Regimental histories of the Ohio units were taken from Larry Stevens' Internet WWW pages Ohio in the Civil War (

Local men who fought in early American Wars ; "Digging for your roots"; Jana Sloan Broglin; The Toledo Blade; May 1997; Toledo, Ohio

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years And the War Years, Carl Sandburg, Reader's Digest, 1970

Obituary of George D. Newcomer; Wauseon Republican; November 6, 1931; Wauseon, Ohio

Compiled and written by Bill Newcomer, great-grandson of George D. Newcomer, October, A.D. 1997. Copyright © 1997 by J. William Newcomer. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment