Pvt. William H. Earhart

william h_ earhart

William H. Earhart enlisted into the 40th Indiana Regiment on October 25, 1864 at Wabash, Tippecanoe County, Indiana The new member of Company C was born on August 31, 1845, Venango, County, Pennsylvania. There were many recruits and draftees being gathered during this time period as veteran regiments were trying to fill their depleted ranks after suffering heavy losses of killed and wounded during the Atlanta Campaign. In the “History of the 57th Indiana Vols.,”  it  is recorded that there were large amounts of new recruits arriving in November, 1864. The new men, including Pvt. Earhart, were not going to have much ‘break in time.’ William would be thrown into his first action around Spring Hill, Tennessee, as the  army was racing to Nashville ahead of a perusing  Army of Tennessee.

After escaping Spring Hill, the Federal Army stopped at Franklin, Tennessee and started building breastworks in order to slow the Confederate pursuit. General Wagner’s men were place forward of the main works acting as skirmishers, there was little cover in this location. On November 30, 1864, massive lines of Confederate infantry unfolded before the eyes of Wagner’s men. To this day it is not fully understood why Wagner, a man with a solid battlefield reputation, did not bring his men into the main works. This would be the downfall of Wagner. Never the less, one can only wonder what was going through the mind of William Earhart and the rest of the recruits. As the Confederates approached, Wager’s men tried to make a stand and were soon overwhelmed by a Confederate attack larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The veteran troops as well as the new recruits soon broke and ran for the main line of their works, with Confederates in close pursuit. There were many men killed and captured during the flight, the stragglers also had to avoid friendly fire as regiments in the works started firing, trying to stem the gray tide that was coming. William did make it into the works, and would be fighting in the works well into the night. After the fighting ended, there was no time for rest , the army was immediately on the march seeking security in Nashville.

After making it safely to Nashville, William would have some time to reflect on the nightmare he had just lived through. On December 15-16, 1864, the Federal Army under General George H. Thomas, would leave their works and attack the remnants of the Confederate Army encircled  around Nashville. The battle of Nashville would be William’s third major combat during his first two months of service. After defeating General John B. Hood’s Confederate at Nashville, the Union Army pursued the routed Confederates into Alabama. The major fighting was over in this theater of the war, but not William’s service. He would go into Texas with the regiment, because there was still work to be done. William Earhart  Mustered out of the 40th Indiana on October 24, 1865. He had seen a lot during one year of service and probably felt lucky to be alive. He returned to his life in Indiana after the war.  Private William H. Earhart died on October 6, 1937, Markle, Huntington, County, Indiana.

Scott Busenbark

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