COLUMNS

As it Were: Newer weapons made difference for C.C. Walcutt in Civil War

Ed Lentz
Guest Columnist
C.C. Walcutt is seated second from the right with his staff in 1864.

This is a story about a remarkable leader in the war and how technology sometimes can make a big difference on the battlefield.

The message of this story is that brave men can do remarkable things if they have a better weapon and a faster way to use it. 

First, let's take a brief look at the faster way of getting around. 

Ed Lentz

Charles Carroll Walcutt was born in Columbus in 1838.  

His father was a cabinetmaker and builder of chairs for home and business. A graduate of the Kentucky Military Institute in 1854, Walcutt returned to Ohio and became Franklin County surveyor in 1858 and married a local woman named Phoebe Neill in 1860. The Walcutts had three children. 

And then the American Civil War came to Columbus. In 1861, C.C. Walcutt, as he came to be called, helped organize the 46th Ohio Infantry and in time rose in rank to become colonel by 1862. In a long letter, he later recalled how he had come to move his men along a little more rapidly. 

“Much was depending on me then, too, as I was to make an extensive raid across northern Mississippi to capture horses to assist in remounting (Benjamin) Grierson’s cavalry, before his making his famous raid through that state. We were successful in our raiding, and, becoming somewhat successful with a mounted command, I sought to have it permanently mounted, which I succeeded in doing for a short time.” 

Then Walcutt began to look at the weapons of war. 

“Among the regiments of cavalry stationed near us was the Second Iowa, commanded by Colonel Edward Hatch. … This regiment was equipped with the Colt revolving rifle, a magnificent, effective and handsome weapon. As my regiment was to be mounted and I to seek glory with it, I naturally fell in love with these rifles. How to get them was the next question, and I thought of my good friend, General George Wright, then Quartermaster General of Ohio … in my old home of Columbus. 

“A quick answer came to me from General Wright, which said he was unable to get the Colt revolving rifle, but suggested that he could get me a new gun called the Spencer repeating rifled musket, which he thought was a better gun than the Colt, and would get them for me if I would send him a requisition. … General (William Tecumseh) Sherman signed it, but under protest, saying some fool contractor was trying to take advantage of the government. 

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“They were beautiful guns, simple in construction. … The enemy soon learned what the Forty-Sixth Ohio was and heartily feared their destructive qualities. … The gun did most effective service in more than 20 battles on the Atlanta Campaign. The music of these guns became very panic striking to the enemy. … At the Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia, Nov. 23, 1864, … we met the enemy who had come out from Macon on that morning, 10,000 strong with a battery of eight guns. I had only 1,300 muskets and two pieces of artillery.

“We fought them for nearly half a day, though General Woods, who commanded our division, advised me to retreat. We whipped them most terribly, killing over 600, wounding and capturing more than a 1,000. It was a most remarkable fight and too much credit cannot be given to the Spencer rifles, handled as they were by the brave and gallant Forty-Sixth for the great success of the day, for without them the battle could not have been won. … 

“With the Spencer rifles, the men knew they always had seven loads, and when the gun was discharged it cleaned itself; never could get hot, for when the cartridge was removed and discharged, it cleaned out the barrel of the gun clear and cool. … The Spencers … together with my brave men, helped me to the bars that decorate my shoulders.” 

Walcutt ended his Civil War career with the rank of brevet major general. That rank was later made permanent by an Act of Congress. Walcutt served briefly with the 10th  Regiment United States Cavalry but then decided to leave the military. He returned to Columbus and worked for a time as the warden of the Ohio Penitentiary. Turning to local politics, Walcutt served two terms as Columbus mayor and was active with local veterans organizations. 

Walcutt had been seriously wounded twice during the Civil War.  

In an early battle, he was wounded in the shoulder and carried the inoperable bullet for the rest of his life. Later, during the Atlanta Campaign, he had been wounded in the leg and the damage from that wound was long lasting, as well.  

Returning from a trip to Mexico, his aggravated war wounds caused his death in 1898. Walcutt was 60 years old. He was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery with full military honors.  

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.