Sherman's Bodyguard


1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Oct 10, 2012
Mt. Jackson, Va
In the Fall of 1862, the State of Ohio undertook to raise ten independent companies of sharpshooters, to serve on special duty, without field officers. Capt. Gershom M. Barber raised a company which was largely composed of residents of Cuyahoga county, and which was demonimated the Fifth Independent Company of Sharpshooters. The Sixth and Seventh companies were also recruited in this county; the captains having free access to the large camp of drafted men at Camp Cleveland. A portion of their men were actual resident of the county, though generally credited to other counties in which the captains resided. On the companies being completed, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh were organized in a battalion, and Capt. Barber, as the senior officer, was placed in command. The men were all picked with reference to their physical ability, and before being mustered each was required to make a "string" of not exceeding twenty-five inches in five shots, at one hundred yards off-hand or at two hundred yards at a rest. Their uniform was the same as that of the infantry, except that the trimmings were green, and they were armed the Spencer Repeating Rifles. They remained at Camp Cleveland, drilling as infantry and also practicing at the target, until March, 1863, when they joined Rosecrans' army at Murfreesboro, and were attached to the general's headquarters for special service. The battalion was never brigaded, but remained permanently attached to the headquarters of the Army of the Cumberland throughout the war; being detailed on special duty whenever necessary. The battalion was there joined by the Fourth and Eighth Independent companies; the whole being under the command of Capt. Barber. They were designated as the Ohio Independent Volunteer Sharpshooters.
At the Battle of Chickamauga, two companies were in charge of Rosecran's headquarters. On the third day of the fight, under orders to join Gen Rosecrans, and while in rear of Gen. Jefferson C. Davis' division, there was a general break along the Union lines, and that division retreated; leaving the sharpshooters directly in front of the enemy. Unable to join Rosecrans, Capt Barber reported to Davis who ordered him to fall back four hundred yards and form line of battle. He did so, and Davis attempted to rally his division in the rear. It broke, however, and a similar order was again sent to Capt. Barber and obeyed. Four times the sharpshooters formed in line and engaged the enemy's advance; thus covering the retreat of Davis' division, and at length following it from the field.
At Missionary Ridge the sharpshooters were held in reserve. After that, they were at headquarters most of the time till the first of May, 1864, though they were engaged in a protracted scout between the hostile lines in February, and the Fifth and Eighth companies were located forty miles up the Tennessee, to protect Union citizens, during part of March and April. From about the first of May until the first of July the battalion manned a gunboat in the Tennessee, to keep the banks and vicinity clear of rebel guerrillas and raiding parties.
Below - two images of the Seventh Ohio Independent Company ( the only known images of the Ohio Independent Sharpshooters ) nicknamed Sherman's Bodyguard. On the rear of the photo it contains Sherman's personal thank you, dated July 17th, 1865 from St. Loius, and his wishes; "...for their long and valuable services, near his person, in the eventful campaigns beginning at Chattanooga on the first of May, 1864, and ending with the War. He commends them as a fine body of intelligent young Volunteers, to whom he attributes his personal safety in the Battlres, Marches, and Bivouacs, in Georgia and the Carolinas. He wishes them long life and a proud generous welcome back to the old homes in Ohio."


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