The extant portions of the Civil War diaries of Cyrus Marion Roberts begin two years into the war. The following notes are added to provide background and context for the diaries.
31 October 1861 Cyrus Marion Roberts enlists in the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private.
23 December 1861 Promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, Company E, Camp Gilbert, Zanesville, Ohio.
11 February 1862 78th O. V. I. Departs from Camp Gilbert.
16 February 1862 78th arrives at Fort Donelson.
7 April 1862 Battle of Shiloh: 78th in reserve on the right.
20 August 1862 Lt. Roberts is detailed to serve on Court Martial of Corporal Hubert Henry, Co. F, 78th O.V.I., Bolivar, Tennessee. Corporal Henry is found guilty of forging a pass on August 9, 1862 at Bolivar,Tennessee and is “reduced to the ranks, with a reprimand . . .” (General Order No. 11, 78th O.V.I., Col. M. D. Leggett).
28 August 1862 “On last Monday morning, at two o’clock A.M., Companies A and E went on a foraging expedition, having thirty wagons in our train. We went about eighteen miles, stopped at a plantation, ordered dinner, and then made an attack upon corn cribs, watermelons and peaches while dinner was in process of preparation. Three young ladies discoursed us interesting music upon the piano. They were good singers, and sung us secesh songs by the dozen . . .
After passing a few pleasant hours, we made preparations to leave. One of the young ladies spoke to me privately about some of our Lieutenants — told me to let it be known that our company was very acceptable and would be so again, provided certain Lieutenants came without train and men.
We then left with about two hundred bushels of corn. We went to a neighboring plantation, about two miles distant . . . We met quite a number of women and young ladies here, decidedly the most intelligent and handsome we have met in Tennessee. Their education was of the highest caste. But they were secession all over and entertained the most bitter feelings toward the Yankees . . .
One of the young ladies, unsurpassed in beauty of person and appearance, as well as in every accomplishment of a prepossessing nature, made about as deep an impression upon the Second Lieutenant of Company E as he did upon one of the ladies of the former plantation, and went so far as to tell him if he would come and superintend the servants and the work upon the plantation, he should have whatever he asked.
But all this interesting attachment was cut short when, in a few minutes afterwards, the Lieutenant was sent with a guard to search the house for arms. This he did with some embarrassment. The ladies thanked him for the gentlemanly manner in which he did his duty. We all left for camp, the boys delighted with the days enjoyment. We reached camp about two o’clock next morning.” (Capt. Thomas M. Stevenson, Co. E., 78th O.V.I.,Morgan County Herald, Friday, 12 September 1862).
30 August 1862 Engagement at Spring Creek (near Bolivar), Tennessee. While on a reconnaissance patrol commanded by Col. Leggett two companies from the 20thOhio and companies C and E of the 78th Ohioencountered a large rebel force, engaged the enemy and retreated. The companies from the 20th Ohio were captured, but companies C and E successfully made their way back to the 78th regiment.
“The two companies of the Seventy-Eighth Ohio were nearly surrounded, but by the dexterity of Colonel Wiles, then Captain of Company C, were saved by wading a swamp and passing through cornfields, piloted by one of the faithful colored men who was acquainted with all the ravines and places of retreat between that and Bolivar.
Toward evening companies E and C, supposed by all to be taken prisoners, returned to camp and were received with many cheers; only one was missing, and he returned next morning (Stevenson 1865:172).
Col. Leggett wrote in his official report: “Lieutenant W. W. McCarty and Second Lieutenants Roberts and Seales . . . are deserving of the highest praise for their personal valor, and for their skill in extricating their companies when entirely surrounded by the enemy” (Stevenson 1864: 177).
“Mr. Adair: — I hereby transmit to you the names of the members of Company E under my command in the fight near Bolivar on the 30th of August, and who distinguished themselves for coolness and bravery seldom equalled by more experienced soldiers: . . . Second Lieutenant Roberts of Co. E, whose name appears in Col. Leggett’s official report, rendered me material aid on the occasion, and is well deserving all the praise ascribed to him in that document” (Lieut. William Washington McCarty, Co. E, 78th O.V.I., Morgan County Herald Friday, 10 October 1862).
18 November 1862 Lieut. C. M. Roberts announced as Aid de-Camp to Col. M. D. Leggett, Commanding the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, in camp near La Grange, Tennessee (General Order No. 6, Col. M. D. Leggett).
8 February 1863 Lt. Cyrus M. Roberts “detailed in Signal duty” reporting to Capt. O. H. Howard, Chief Act’g Signal Officer, at Memphis, Tenn. (Special Orders No. 14, Maj Gen’l McPherson, 17th Army Corps).
10 February 1863 “To-day Lieutenant Roberts left us to join the Signal Corps, which is being re-established in Grant’s command. Ever since we left Lagrange he has been acting as Aid on Colonel Leggett’s staff, and was missed by Company E very much, for he was always considered an efficient officer by all the company, and made a No. 1 Lieutenant . . .” (Typo., Camp near Memphis; Stevenson 1865:210).
14 February 1863 Roberts promoted to First Lieutenant.
15 February 1863 Roberts reported on Signal duty at Memphis, Tennessee.
15 April 1863 Roberts reported on Signal duty near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
“During the march of the army from Port Gibson to Rocky Springs [Mississippi], the officers of the corps were constantly on duty, reconnoitering the country in front and reporting the result of their observations to commanders to whom they were assigned. Lieutenants [Cyrus M.] Roberts and [Jacob P.] Sampson, with General Logan . . . are entitled to notice for zeal displayed and services rendered during this time.
. . . the officers reconnoitered the country as far in advance of the army as possible, and established stations of observation upon such points as were suitable for that purpose. . . .
At the battle of Champion’s Hill the officers were active, and rendered very efficient service. Lieutenant Roberts was engaged in signaling while he could do so, and afterward served on the staff of General Logan, and was complimented by that general for his activity and bravery” (Capt. O. H. Howard, Acting Chief Signal Officer, Hdqrs, Signal Corps, Dept. of the Tennessee, Vicksburg, Miss., august 25, 1863).
Brown, J. Willard
1896 The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion. U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, Boston.
Stevenson, Thomas M.
1865 History of the 78th Regiment O.V.V.I., from its “Muster-in” to its “Muster-out” . . . Hugh Dunne, Zanesville, Ohio.