George Washington Williams was born in Howland, the son of Joseph and Melinda Williams residing on Howland Springs Road. George enlisted in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry on Nov. 31, 1861.
On Sept. 1, 1863, he was captured while on patrol and sent to Belle Isle Prison Camp near Richmond, Va.
His father died on June 11, 1863, from a farm accident.
His mother received a letter from the soldier dated Nov. 27, 1863, relating his suffering at Belle Isle, his parole and being sent to the hospital at Annapolis, Md. In spite of being hospitalized, George believed he would recover.
An article in the Western Reserve Chronicle dated Dec. 23, 1863, entitled, "Starving of Prisoners of War at Richmond" related what happened to George.
Frank Shaffer was captured with George. He had been wounded and died later. Shannon Harmond was missing and never accounted for. Both men were from Warren.
At Belle Isle, fellow prisoners took George's blankets and clothing. Quarter rations were given to the prisoners, then this was reduced to one-eighth rations. At first, the prisoners had tents, but the tents were taken, leaving them exposed to cold, rain and snow.
George was paroled Nov. 18, 1863, and immediately sent to the hospital. The letter he wrote to his mother on Nov. 27 was followed by a letter from the nurse saying that he had passed away on the evening of Nov. 27. The Hospital Muster Roll states he died of chronic diarrhea.
The paper used harsh words to describe the treatment of Civil War Prisoners of War. There were two empty chairs for Christmas at the Williams' house that December of 1863. George's younger brother, John Seely Williams, kept the family together and named his first born boy after his brother.
The 6th OVC went on to the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee to Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.
George was brought back and buried in Howland.
Gen. Jacob Cox was on his way to Eastern Tennessee on Dec. 16, 1863. He had longed for a field position. He was aware that because he had no military background and being politically appointed that his advancement must come from the politicians. However, he wanted to accomplish a field command without that political help.
He had been recently called to the defense of Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay. Johnson's Island was the site of a prisoner of war camp. It housed officers and there was strong evidence that Confederates were planning a rescue of the prisoners.
A ship had been procured to take the prisoners to Canada. This caused much excitement and the preparations to counter the prisoners' rescue caused the Confederates to abandon their plans. After this, General Burnside ordered General Cox to Eastern Tennessee.
General Cox did not have the same staff. His friend, Surgeon Holmes, contracted consumption and had passed away. His aide, Captain Christie, died of the same disease, and another aide was appointed colonel of a new regiment. Major Bascom, the adjutant general, Major Treat, the commissary, and Lt. Theodore Cox, aide-de-camp, were all ordered to accompany Cox. The party numbered 20 soldiers and set out by horseback, enough men for protection.
Cox was to spend Christmas with his soldiers, which included the 125th OVI.
Col. Emerson Opdycke wrote a letter to his wife, Lucy, on Dec. 18, 1863. Since his last letter, the 125th OVI had moved to East Tennessee and Virginia Depot. Transported by train, the soldiers had to cut up fences for fuel and even had to push the train up an incline.
Arriving at Strawberry Plains by 6:30 a.m., they expected to meet Confederate General Longstreet's men. However, the Confederates had moved on.
He told Lucy he had met Chaplain Brown, and they ate a sparse meal at Opdycke's log pile, where he had slept the night before. Emerson said Chaplain Brown said grace before the meal, something he had not heard for a long time. He slept again on the log pile and mentioned it was 23 days since they had received mail.
In a letter dated Dec. 24, 1863, Emerson said General Cox rode up two days earlier. "I need not tell you how happy I was to meet him. I had not seen him since he first left Warren to take his seat in the Ohio Senate.
''He is in perfect health, and is looking finely. We talked very fast for the few moments he had to spend with me; he seems highly delighted to be in the field again where I know he is much needed. If he had been in command of this department instead of Burnside, its condition would be vastly better than it is, but I think he will soon renovate things in his own Corps the 23rd.''
Sources: ''To Battle for God and the Right, The Civil War Letterbooks of Emerson Opdycke,'' edited by Glenn V. Longacre and John E. Haas, University of Illinois Press, Urbana & Chicago, 2005.
''Cox: Recollections of the Civil War, Vol 2,'' by Jacob Dolson Cox, Leonaur Ltd., 2007.
George Washington Williams military papers, National Archives and Records Administration.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.