After the fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia in early May 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee advanced his army northward to take the war into Pennsylvania. Lee marched his three corps into the Shenandoah Valley from the site of his previous engagement to use the Blue Ridge Mountains to mask his movements from discovery by the Union Army of the Potomac. Unknowingly, the Union garrison at Winchester, Va. laid in the path of the advancing Confederate columns moving “down” the valley toward the Potomac River. That garrison, otherwise known as Second Division, Eighth Army Corps, was tasked to defend a portion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, but their commander, Major General Robert Milroy, decided to move his division southward to garrison Winchester, Va. in the face of an advancing Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. As a result, Milroy’s Union division was soon surrounded by elements of Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps on three sides. From June 13-15, 1863, the Confederate forces methodically closed in around the Union forces, till General Milroy ordered his men to abandon their positions to escape northward to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Within the Union garrison, the 116th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) was scattered in different positions throughout the works surrounding Winchester, Va. in desperate attempts to stave off the Confederate advance into this vital crossroads. Colonel James Washburn received word early in the morning of June 16, 1863, that the decision was made to abandon Winchester from his brigade commander, Brigadier General Washington Elliott. Washburn was ordered to move his regiment northward after abandoning their wagons and disabling nearby cannon. During the course of the retreat, the Union soldiers were attacked again by a Confederate infantry division that had swung around to the north to cut off their retreat. During the repeated attacks along the road leading to Martinsburg, Va., the Union forces separated into masses of men moving off in different directions to escape the advancing Confederate forces. According to Record of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Regiment, Ohio Infantry Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion written by Thomas F. Wildes (1884), the regiment lost 7 killed, 21 wounded, and 175 prisoners during what is now known as the Second Battle of Winchester, Va. One of the prisoners was Colonel Washburn’s wife, Maria Electa Jewett Washburn, and here is a photograph of her and her husband from the Richland County (Wisconsin) Digital History Room.
Within our holdings here at the State Archives, the Consolidated Morning Report Book of the 116th Ohio Volunteer Infantry is identified as Adjutant General’s Office, Volume 47. Sometime during June 16, 1863, the report book was captured by elements of the Second North Carolina State Troops serving in Ramseur’s Brigade of Confederate Major General Robert E. Rodes’ division. After the last Union monthly report, there was a simple hand written note “Captured June 16.” The abandoned equipment of Milroy’s division was a needed re-supply for General Lee’s veterans during their march northward to Pennsylvania, and the report book was soon pressed into service by the staff of the Second North Carolina State Troops. Beginning in August 1863, the report book served as the Consolidated Morning Report for Second North Carolina until April 29, 1864, when the regiment was ordered on picket duty prior to the Wilderness Campaign. As noted by the regimental adjutant, “From this time no regular report could be made” due to the heavy combat that the regiment was subjected to for the rest of the war.