From The Archives - "I Beg You to Remember This . . . ."
Preparations for U.S. Grant’s 1864 “Overland Campaign” included the activation of state militia units called out for 90 days’ duty and the recruitment of a number of short-service volunteer units for four months’ service, to help man the defenses of Washington and other posts from which more seasoned troops were being transferred to the field armies.
One of these short-service units was the 166th Ohio Infantry. Mustered into federal service on May 13, 1864, the regiment was assigned to garrison several forts in Alexandria, Virginia. The troops never actually engaged Confederate troops, and were mustered out on September 9, 1864, having lost 39 enlisted men to disease.
Given that record, one could say that the regiment had not performed any important service. But that’s not the way Abraham Lincoln saw things. On August 22, 1864, the President addressed the regiment, one of several to which he offered his thanks at the time.
I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright---not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.
FootNote: “Dedicated” Installments of “CIC”. Normally “CIC” is a rather eclectice collection of longer or shorter items of military historical interest, drawn from all ages and all parts of the world. On three recent occasions recently, however, we’ve devoted an entire “issue” to a single subject, World War II in Europe, the Second Punic War, and now the Civil War. If reader response is favorable (or at least not unfavorable), we’ll continue doing this from time to time.