Fallen Heroes: Private John D. Corpman

Battle of Stones River

John D. Corpman (1840-1863) found himself, along with his comrades in the Union Army, marching across Tennessee in the winter of 1862. After a year and a half of service he had luckily managed to avoid serious injury and disease. Unfortunately, his luck would soon run out just northeast of the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.


John was the only son and oldest child of Samuel Corpman (1819-1856) and Elizabeth Anthony (1822-?) of Warwick Township, Tuscarawas County. While John may have been the only son, he was not the only child in the household. Samuel and Elizabeth also had five daughters. The family worked on their modest, 26 acre farm located in northern Warwick Township.

John was 16 when his father passed away and the family had to find a way to take care of the farm without him. Samuel’s will left the farm to Elizabeth, and in the event of her death, divided the farm equally among the six children. As the daughter’s married and left home, John was left on his own to work his mother’s farm. When the American Civil War began, perhaps to support his mother or to escape farm life, John signed up in the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Reference to movements of the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial, 5 November 1861.

The 51st Regiment was organized under Colonel Stanley Matthews in October 1861 at Camp Meigs in Dover, Ohio. The regiment was principally made up of men from Tuscarawas, Coshocton, Darke and Madison counties. This was no short-term enlistment; soldiers were signing up for three years of military service with little chance of returning home until that service ended. Once organized, the regiment was forwarded to the western theater where Private Corpman saw service predominantly in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The regiment did its fair share of marching and countermarching across Tennessee and Kentucky during the spring and summer of 1862. The regiment was part of the Union force that chased Confederate forces under Braxton Bragg across Kentucky, taking part in the Battle of Perryville, before returning to the Nashville area by the fall of 1862. That winter the 51st was part of the force under Union General William Rosecrans sent to oust Bragg from his position at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. That effort led to the Battle of Stones River at the end of December 1862.

Topographical sketch of the battlefield of Stone River. (Source: https://lccn.loc.gov/99474138)

According to a report of the battle submitted by Colonel Samuel Beatty, who was commanding the left wing of the Rosecrans’ third division, the 51st was among the regiments in the first line on January 2, 1863. This line was attacked around 3:00 pm that day by what appeared to be three Confederate regiments. The 51st, and the other units making up the front line, received incoming fire from Confederate artillery as the enemy regiments attacked at the charge. After the 51st “fought gallantly until the enemy were within a few yards”, they were forced to retire.

Eventually the Union force, through the addition of reserves and the force of their artillery, was able to drive the Confederate forces off the ground they had gained from their advance. Colonel Beatty reported that he was “proud to say that the colors of the 19th Ohio, 9th Kentucky, and 51st Ohio were the first to recross [sic] the stream after the enemy’s check.” Unfortunately, John D. Corpman was one of the 100 privates in the 51st Ohio wounded that day.

The nature of John D. Corpman’s wound is unknown, but it proved fatal. Unlike many of his fellow soldiers who died that day and who would eventually be interred at the battlefield, John D. Corpman was sent home for burial. Private John D. Corpman is buried at Mud Run Cemetery in Tuscarawas County.

John D. Corpman’s headstone, Mud Run Cemetery, Tuscarawas County. (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/97336399/john-d-corpman)

© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.

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