William Leontes Curry papers  1857-1868 (bulk 1861-1864)
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Curry, William Leontes, 1839-1927

Rank : 1st Sgt.; 2nd Lieut. (1862 June 16); 1st Lieut. (1862 December 31); Capt.

Regiment : 1st Ohio Cavalry Regiment. Co. K (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 September 1-1864 December 30

On September 1st, 1861, 22 year old Will Curry was mustered into the armed forces at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, only a few miles east of his home in New California. As a sergeant of Co. K, 1st Ohio Cavalry, Curry was enthralled with the military, and enjoyed the commotion of camp and the comic scenes of men fending for themselves at the cook stove. "If anyone has patriotism," he wrote to his sweetheart, Martha Jane (Mattie) Robinson, "this is a glorious time to make them feel like fighting. I believe I will like the excitement of military life first rate" (1861 September 11). Although Curry felt the flush of patriotic fervor, the regiment was slow to fill its rosters, and it was not until December 6th that the 1st Ohio Cavalry were ordered on to Kentucky.

Though never idle, Curry's first winter at war continued in the leisured pace set at Camp Chase. For two months, the regiment played cat and mouse with Confederate forces, resulting in some minor destruction of materiel, but few casualties on either side. These comparatively calm months, however, were critical in providing the regiment experience in living in the midst of "civil" war and in the varied means of appropriating supplies from "secessionists," always with impunity.

In February, 1862, the pace of life began to mount, as the 1st Ohio was assigned to Gen. George Henry Thomas' 1st Division of the Army of the Ohio. Moving south through recently captured Fort Donelson, and delayed by floods along the Duck River, Tenn., and by skirmishes with Confederate cavalry, they arrived at Pittsburgh Landing the day after the Battle of Shiloh had ended. Joining immediately in the pursuit of retreating Confederate forces toward Corinth, Miss., the 1st Ohio performed valuable service along the flanks of the Union lines, engaging Confederate cavalry units on several occasions. On June 23, however, two days before his 23rd birthday, Curry was hospitalized, possibly for a malarial infection, and was unable to return to his regiment for almost a month. Absent from a major engagement at Booneville, Curry rejoined the ranks on July 14, in the midst of some very active campaigning, scouring the countryside for illegal weapons and hidden telegraph lines. At Courtland, Ala., on July 25, Curry was captured during a minor skirmish, and was taken for processing to the nearby county seat at Moulton. Held for only two days, Curry and 131 other commissioned officers were released on parole and sent to Tuscumbia, Ala., and from there, to cushy quarters at Camp Chase to await exchange. As Curry said of his experience, it was "Quite a comparison from hunting 'Butternuts' to measuring tape for the ladies" (Journal 2: 1862 September 18).

Although officially assigned to command Co. C of the "1st Battalion of Cavalry of paroled prisoners," the reality of life at Camp Chase was boredom and idleness. Although able to take in entertainment (including the panorama of Dr. Kane's Arctic expedition, featuring the "great Eskimaut singing dog Yyouk") or to visit the city, friends and family, Curry still yearned to spend his time profitably, though he spurned Mattie's and his sister's suggestions that he resign his commission. The inactivity of parole camp showed in the behavior of the men in camp: "Men are becoming very much demoralized here with no duty to do," according to Curry. "Prize fights and black eyes are all 'the go' now" (Journal 2: 1862 October 30). On another occasion he reported, "Boys have been playing the Devil generally. Burn the guard house. Whip all the officers who show their heads" (Journal 2: 1862 November 6). For the first time, even Curry's morale was affected. Frustrated and still awaiting exchange in late December, he declined to speculate on what might come to pass in new year, but added that he was certain that "many more lives will be sacrificed, for naught but to gratify a few political Demagogues who are striving for power. One year from to-day, & many more homes will be made lonely & desolate & yet we will be no nearer to the end. Would that it could otherwise yet I cannot believe it" (Journal 2: 1862 December 31)

Finally, on March 18, 1863, Curry was exchanged and rejoined the 1st Cavalry in Lavergne, Tenn. Curry had hardly a chance to catch a breath before the regiment was thrown into the Tullahoma Campaign and, still under Gen. Thomas, the Chickamauga Campaign. Crossing through Stevens' Gap, Ala., Curry was part of the force assaulting the center of Bragg's forces at Chickamauga. Although not engaged on the first day of the battle, they saw of the most intense fighting on the second day, losing their colonel and 21 enlisted men. After being forced to withdraw to Chattanooga, Curry took part in rear line maneuvers during the Chattanooga Campaign of October and November, 1863, and disdainfully watched his comrades pay a drunken trip to Nashville in December to retrieve supplies. Curry suggested he was glad to get out of town with the "sober part of his command, most them could see ten feet ahead with good glasses." Clearly impressed, he added "I take a terrible oath never to visit Nashville on an expedition of this kind again. Very happy to get off without getting my head busted..." (Journal 4: 1863 December 19).

In February, 1864, Curry was sent home on recruiting duty -- and possibly also on 30 day reenlistment furlough -- discovering upon his return in mid-March that he had been elected to the captaincy of Co. K. Active as always, the 1st Ohio moved out along Pulaski Pike into Alabama on May 22, entering the early phases of the Atlanta Campaign, and were engaged at Decatur, Ala., on the 26th, the next day at Courtland, and Moulton on the 29th. Very energetic throughout the month of June in the vicinity of Allatoona, Ga., Curry led his company at Noonday Creek on June 15 the Battle of Lovejoy Station on August 20, and in several smaller scrapes during the Atlanta Campaign.

Ordered to serve as regimental Quartermaster pro tem on September 12, 1864, Curry experienced a considerable change in the conditions of his service. His regiment was largely removed from an active combatant role for a period of time, instead performing guard duty and other tasks in northwestern Georgia. At the end of October, the regiment was transferred to Tennessee, where they were ordered to turn their horses in to Kilpatrick's Division, and in mid-November, they regressed further, to Louisville, where they were issued new horses and equipment, remaining in the rear, overseeing wagon trains. Many of the officers of the regiment mustered out at the end of November, 1864, leaving Curry feeling lonely and bored.

On December 21, 1864, Curry was thrown from his horse and seriously injured his hip. He mustered out of the service on the 30th, officially as a result of the injury sustained in the fall. He returned home to Union County, Ohio, and exactly one year later to the day, he married his long-time sweetheart, Mattie. The couple survived to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, surrounded by their children Ivaloo (and her husband, Lorin Hord) and Lucile, with her husband, Frederick C. Jeannot and their children Mary, Martha and William Jeannot. Throughout the remainder of his life, Curry was an active participant in veterans' organizations, and wrote frequently about the war.