1862: Jacob Ruch to his Sister

Headstone of Jacob Ruch

This letter was written by Pvt. Jacob Ruch (1840-1920) of Co. F, 19th Ohio Infantry. Jacob was the son of Jacob Ruch (1800-1876) and Magdalena Batsche (1810-1870), emigrants of Switzerland who settled in Ohio in the mid 1830s. Jacob later married Matilda (Messner) Bringger [or Brinker] (1849-1925), the widow of Jacob Bringger (1842-1873) who had been a musician in the 4th Ohio Infantry. Jacob was enumerated in the household of his parent’s farm in Paint township, Wayne county, Ohio, in 1850. He is buried at Mount Eaton, Wayne County, Ohio.

The identity of this soldier was not immediately realized given that his signature looked like “Jacob Bush” but a careful reading of the movements of his regiment revealed that he belonged to the 19th Ohio Infantry which was in the 11th Brigade of Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden’s 5th Division. The 19th Ohio was the only Buckeye regiment to be transported by boat from Savannah to Pittsburg Landing in the early morning hours of April 7th, arriving at the Shiloh Battlefield in time to participate in the second day’s action. The roster of the 19th Ohio shows that “Jacob Ruch” was a private in Co. F. He survived three years of war and mustered out at Marietta, Georgia, in October 1864.

The nagging inconsistency remaining with this identity is that the author mentions in the final paragraph contributing money for his father’s “coffin” — or at least that is how I initially transcribed it. Of course I took this to mean that his father had died in 1862. A search of genealogy records, however, revealed that Jacob’s father did not die until 1876. A closer examination of the word “coffin” reveals that it may actually be “cabbin” [cabin] and so I have changed the transcription. I mention it here in the event I have made an error — you be the judge. There was a John Ruch who died on 24 March 1862 in Tiffin, Seneca county, Ohio (b. 1787 in France) but I cannot see any connection to this Wayne county, Ohio, family.

"Plenty of Fighting Today": The 9th Illinois at Shiloh
Keith Rocco’s Painting of the Fighting at Shiloh


Pittsburg Landing
April 10, 1862

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present — all [except] the diarrhea and we have it the most of the time.

I have been in one battle and I am satisfied now. I got out safe. Thomas was not in this fight. He was back with the wagon and he did not get up for a week. It was a hard fight today. It commenced on Sunday morning [April 6th]. The rebels come on our men unexpected [when] they were eating their breakfast. Our men had not time to form a line of battle before the rebels were firing on them. They was obliged to run back to other men. Some of the men got lost from their regiment and [wandered] about lost. The fight was hard all day. The rebels almost drove our men in the river but the gunboats commenced to play on them which drove them back.

I was not in the fight on Sunday. We was not there yet. We was on the road. We heard the cannons a roaring [as] we marched on for this place. We did not get here till nearly morning. We got to Savannah about midnight. We then got on the boat and come up to this place. It was then nearly daylight. We stayed on the boat until it was daylight. Then we got off the boat. The firing had all commenced. We march[ed] out and fought like men till we gain[ed] the day and made them run. They fought hard and so did we. It was the hardest fight that has  been fought yet. It was in the woods — that was the reason it lasted so long. It was [an] awful sight to see dead men and horses shot and crippled. It was an awful sight to see.

You [said you wanted] me to help to pay for father’s cabin. Great God [?], you take that due bill on Mr. Hibbert and go to him and tell him that you would like to have the money and take it [to] pay on the cabin. I am very sorry that I did not get [it] to father. Take good care of my notes. If I don’t die, I expect to come home soon and if I ever get back again, I hope you and Ellen will take good care of yourselves. Thomas sends his best respects to you all.

— Jacob Bush


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