In August, 1862, William L. Aughinbaugh, a resident of Delhi Twp., Ohio, enlisted in Company E of the 5th Ohio Infantry, which was initially assigned to guard duty at the Provost Marshal's office in Cincinnati, helping to enforce martial law. As an ideologically motivated, optimistic soldier, Aughinbaugh greeted with pleasure the news that the 5th Ohio had finally been assigned to duty in the eastern theatre in November, 1862.
That winter, Aughinbaugh's optimism began slowly to erode under the weight of the chronic inactivity of the Army of the Potomac and crushing military defeats at the hands of the Confederates. The dismissal of McClellan and the resignation to defeat that he saw among Union soldiers at Fredericksburg were particularly important factors in altering Aughinbaugh's opinion of the Army as a noble institution. He described how troops fighting at Fredericksburg seemed to accept and even welcome their defeat because they believed that it would lead to the reinstatement of McClellan. Following this battle, he began to entertain doubts about the competence of his commanders, and his frustration with camp life increasingly spilled over into a disgust with Virginians, whom he found to be stupid, dirty and backward. He even wondered about the supposed greatness of George Washington: could anyone raised in such a terrible place as Virginia really be great?
The 5th Ohio fought under Hooker in the Chancellorsville campaign in May, 1863, where Aughinbaugh was taken prisoner. He remained at Castle Thunder, Richmond, for only a few days before being returned to the North under parole. He remained in parole camp until August, when he rejoined the 5th Ohio.