HISTORY OF PERRY COUNTY
REUNION OF VETERAN SOLDIERS.
For a year or two after the close of the war, Reunions of veteran soldiers were very common in Perry county. These, however, were usually originated and managed by ladies, and were mostly held in the country or in the vicinity of small villages. There was, on these occasions, always a good dinner, and in some cases the lay out of eatables was most extraordinary. All the labor and expense was cheerfully incurred by the ladies, in order that the returned veterans might have a good time, and as a manifestation of their good will toward them. After a year or two, however, this style of Reunion gradually ceased, and except for the pinching times that came, as a consequence of the war and an undue inflation of currency, it seemed almost forgotten that a great war had occurred, and that in almost every household, were carefully filed away scores of tender missives from brave boys in blue, whose hands would never write again. As the years rolled away and the ranks of the returned veterans began to thin out by death, military reunions revived, in all parts of the country, and in this county. A few years since there was a Reunion of the ex-soldiers of Perry county, on the County Fair Ground, near New Lexington, during one of the days of the annual County Fair. There was a large attendance of veterans, who formed in front of the court house, under command of Colonel L. J. Jackson, from which place they marched to the Fair Ground, where the entire body was admitted free to the exhibition then in progress. There was not much opportunity for ceremony, speeches, or business, and little was had, but the Reunion was large and successful. The Thirty-First Ohio Regimental Reunion is the only one of this kind ever held in the county; but it was highly successful, and held in September, 1882. The following account of the Reunion is from the New Lexington Tribune, of October 4th, 1882: REUNION OF THE THIRTY-FIRST OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY.--- The Annual Reunion of the Thirty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry was celebrated in this place on Wednesday, September 26th. Many business houses and quite a number of private dwellings were handsomely decorated, as was also the court room, where the Reunion exercises were held. Several pictures of army scenes were hung behind, the Judge's stand, including one representing the charge made by the brigade of which the Thirty-first Ohio was a part, at Stone River. The Veterans formed at the C. & M. V. depot, about 11 a. m., and under the escort of the New Lexington Guards and a fine band of martial music, marched up Water and Main streets to the Court House, where Colonel Moses B. Walker, of Findlay, promptly called the meeting
to order, after which an appropriate and eloquent speech of welcome was delivered by his Honor, Mayor J. E. Johnston. Colonel L. J. Jackson responded in behalf of the veterans in appropriate terms. Then a recess was taken for dinner. Upon reassembling, in the afternoon, the roll of the living members of the veterans of the regiment was called by companies. Every company was represented, though some of them, from the more distant parts, by only a few members. Three of the companies, A D and G, went out from Perry county, commanded respectively by J. W. Free, William H. Free and L. J. Jackson. Licking and Hocking each had a company. The others were from more distant parts of the State. There was one company from Union, one from Clark, and one from Auglaize. Delaware also furnished a company, or part of one. After the roll call, Colonel Walker delivered the Oration, according to programme. It was an able and eloquent effort, and brought out much applause. Walker is a brainy man and eloquent of speech, but he is growing old, as are many of the veterans, and he did not make such a finished and classical speech as he did from the same platform, eighteen years ago, when the Thirty-first was home on veteran furlough, for thirty days. After the regular oration, letters were read from absent members, and then speeches were made by Captain H. C. Greiner, Colonel L. J. Jackson, Major J. W. Free and, Comrade J. P. Frances, of Newark, Ohio. Frances said that Colonel Walker and other speakers had been entirely too modest. He then eulogized Colonel Walker in the highest terms, and asserted that there were in the Thirty-first Ohio, and from this very town of New Lexington and neighborhood, as brave men as ever trod a battle-field in either ancient or modern times. Most of the speakers had amusing or pathetic anecdotes of the war to relate. Two of them are brief, and are here given: Captain Greiner said that on one occasion a cannon ball had gone through a mule, and quick as thought Garrett Hayden, a member of Company A, from Saltlick township, said, “ there was a d---d good place for a window !” At Jonesboro the Colonel of the Thirty-eighth Ohio was shot dead in the battle. Just after the fight, when the body of the Colonel was being taken from the field, and all about was still as death, John Anderson, a private in the Thirty-eighth, half crying, said to a, squad of Thirty-first soldiers, “ That is two young Colonels the Thirty-eighth has had killed, and you have your d---d old Colonel yet.” Major J. W. Free was fixed up for a good speech, and was about to begin speaking of the one hundred and one men of his original company who left this county in August, 1861, when he broke completely down, and could not say another word. The night session was devoted to business affairs principally, but more good short speeches were made and other good army anecdotes related. The committee appointed to report upon a place of meeting for the ensuing year divided, the majority report being for Logan and the minority report in favor of Mt. Gilead. After some discussion, the minority report was adopted, and Mt. Gilead agreed upon as the place for a Reunion, to be held on the second Wednesday of August, 1883. The Reunion was a success in every way. The battle flags of the
regiment had been sent down from Columbus, and were Carefully uncovered and placed around the speaker's stand. They were mute but eloquent historians of the awful conflicts through which the regiment passed. The name of Payton Shields, a private of Captain Bill Free’s company, was received with great enthusiasm. Mr. Shields was one of General Thomas’ most efficient and reliable scouts, and put his neck in jeopardy hundreds of times. He was at one time during the war blown up on a steamboat on the Mississippi, was two hours and a half in the water, floated seven miles, and narrowly escaped drowning. Ever since that dreadful night he has been to a greater or less degree afflicted, and at times has nervous fits, in which he involuntarily strikes with his hands and feet like a drowning man, as he did that dark night in the cheerless water of the Mississippi. Mr. Shields was present, one of the most modest, retiring men in the assembly. It was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to stand up a moment that the audience might see him. Several of the veterans came hundreds of miles to attend the Reunion; one traveled over a thousand miles to get here. The far away States of Kansas and Iowa had their representatives. It was good to see the old veterans meet, shake hands and talk over the old times. It was also painful to see some of them fail to recognize each other, in consequence of the changes of so many years. The Thirty-first left Camp Chase, ten hundred and forty strong, September 26, 1861. It received three or four hundred recruits during the war, and yet was mustered out in 1861; with only two hundred and ten men. It probably did as hard fighting and marching as any regiment in the service. General Walker said he could only speak generally of the dead, yet he must name the intrepid Colonel W. H. Free, who was loved by every man in the regiment, and was as brave as any that ever shouldered a musket or drew a sword. Most of the veterans remained over night and attended the night session. Many ladies graced the Reunion with their presence. The following is the list of comrades present: Officers---President, M. B. Walker; First Vice President, Major J. W. Free; Second Vice President, James P. Frances; Secretary, James C. Walker; Colonel Lyman J. Jackson, C. C. March. Company A---G. Hayden, G. W. Gordon, D. Mariart, S.W. White, Captain H. C. Greiner, M. Barnes, A. D. Hemry, A. J. Gordon, J. A. Grant, Captain W. F. Bennet, J. Powell, H. J. Strait, Asa Harbaugh, J. Shrieves, E. G. Spurrier, Alf Wilson, Samuel Longstreth, Eli Strait, Samuel Stainbrook, P. P. Stotler. Company B---R. C. Kitsmiller, W. H. Martin, Ben Bond, J. L. Rouse, T. D. Wood, D. B. Whitcraft, J. W. Campbell. Company C---Captain W. S. Carlisle, D. C. Henry. Company D---J. F. Whipps, G. W. Watts, W. M. Sanders, L. L. Norris, T. W. Tracy, Payton Shields, A. Brown, J. B. Selby, W. E. Norris. Company E---J. Culver, A. H. Cutter, Joseph Hennis, Captain L. M. Cunard, A. H. Cunard, J. A. Closson.
Company F---H. N. Simmons, Joseph Rice, B. Brown, Dr. Jerome Oatley. Company G---Horatio Sowers, Jacob Carnicour, Charles Hatenfels, David Brown, Captain C. L. Williams, Dick Brown, W. H. Russell, J, Ridenour, H. W. Lasure, George Essington, F. T. Smith, George Nichols, James O’Neal, Isaac Souslin, J. M. Dodd, J. H. Boling. Company H---Theo. Warthen, W. M. Parkinson, D. H. Barrick, William Spence, H. Allspaugh, John Jones, G. B. Woodcock, C. E. Darlington, W. Vanasdal, D. G. Mills, H. C. Burch. Company I---W. W. McDonald, R. Stringfellow. Company K---Captain A. S. Scott. Regimental Band---D. Oblinger, T. H. Battan.