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Class Year

2009

Abstract

On April 10, 1850, a sixteen year-old from Xenia, Ohio named Samuel Sexton copied a stanza of Epes Sargent’s poem, “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” into his notebook:

A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep!

Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!

Like an eagle caged I pine, on this dull unchanging shore.

Oh give me the flashing brine! The spray and the tempest roar!

Before his death in New York City, July 11, 1896, Sexton would serve as the Assistant Surgeon of the Eighth Ohio Volunteers, his entire service in the field so strenuous that he was obliged to rest after the second year of combat. Arduously contending with the wounds and emotions of the wounded and dying from Romney to Winchester, Fredericksburg to the Peninsula, and South Mountain to Antietam, Sexton acquired an emotional connection to the regiment. This would generate a lifelong correspondence with Lt. Col. Franklin Sawyer, who would command the unit from May 1862 and pen its regimental history. The Civil War would metamorphose Sexton’s mundane Ohio shore, the “flashing brine” of the trials of the Eighth his vessel.

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