Ohio in the Civil War

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Ohio in the American Civil War

Ohio and the Civil War (1861-1865)
Ohio (1861-1865), part 1

Ohio Civil War Flag, The Buckeyes in Battle
Ohio Civil War Flag.jpg
Soldiers took great pride in their battle banners, such as the 47th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry

In common with her sister states of the north, Ohio was to a
great extent unprepared for the shock of the Civil war, when the
rebellious guns in Charleston harbor sounded a suspension of
national peace and gave the signal for the fearful struggle that
was to follow the attack upon Fort Sumter. The militia organ-
izations that had been so efifective in the pioneer days, guarding
the frontier against the attacks of a savage foe, had, after the
disappearance of that menacing danger, gradually disintegrated,
and during a long period of profound peace the inhabitants of
the Buckeye State had followed vocations and given their atten-
tion to matters entirely foreign to warlike tendencies. Some of
her leading citizens, however, foresaw the inevitable conflict,
and efforts were made, but with little success, to establish a
militia system within the state. Several years prior to the open-
ing of hostilities, Salmon P. Chase, then governor of Ohio, at-
tempted to arouse interest in military organization and drill, un-
doubtedly because he anticipated an appeal of the great political
questions to the high court of war. He was far from a military
man himself, but he sought to make the state capable of meeting
any emergency. Ellsworth, at Chicago, had shown that militia
might be interested in something more than the manual of arms,
and Chase, with some legislative support, encouraged similar
companies of Zouaves in Ohio. These were fancy French drilled
companies and proved to be failures in actual war. A new arsenal
was established, new arms were received from the government,
and such was the interest finally excited that a convention of
nearly two hundred officers assembled at Columbus to consult as
to the best means of developing and fostering a militia system ;
and in 1859, Governor Chase had the satisfaction of reviewing
nearly thirty companies. But these were a mere bagatelle and can
hardly be dignified by being called the nucleus of the grand
array of fighting men that Ohio contributed as her quota to the
support of the Union cause in the great conflict which was then
so near at hand, but little anticipated by the people in general.
Thus, while materially prosperous and progressive, enjoying
the benefits of fraternal relations with her sister commonwealths,
Ohio was suddenly aroused from her dream of peace, and the
nation's defenders which she supplied were drawn from the dif-
ferent walks of life. Professors and plow-boys, merchants and
mechanics, lawyers and laborers, were the ones who answered
the call to arms, and in the service of their country caste was
obliterated. They all marched and fought as equals — defenders
of the flag.

The sentiment of the state was conservative and in complete
accord with the ideas of Abraham Lincoln whose election the
voters of Ohio had so emphatically favored. The prevailing
sentiment was that anything within reason should be conceded
to the South, excepting the one great principle for which the
campaign of 1860 had been waged, and upon which issue the
presidential election had been won — slavery must not be extended
over more United States territory, or into new states formed
therefrom. In the Congress of 1859-60, memorable for the long
and bitter and finally successful contest of the Southerners
against the candidacy of John Sherman for speaker of the house,
Thomas Corwin had secured the preliminary adoption of an
amendment to the United States constitution, guarding slavery
forever from interference, provided it remained within the limits
then established. In this action Corwin had the support of his
constituents, as was evidenced later by Ohio's legislative endorse-
ment of the proposed amendment, but this exceptional action was
the manifestation of a strong desire for national peace, and had
the true sentiment of the people of Ohio even then been expressed
it would have been an emphatic disapproval of the institution
of human slavery and an earnest demand for its utter annihila-
tion. So, when the Gordian knot had been cut by the initiative
of the South, and an appeal to arms had been taken in its effort
to establish The Confederate States of America, the first and
only attempt ever made to organize a nation solely based on the
principle of eternally perpetuating human slavery, Ohioans no
longer felt the necessity of restraint, and enthusiastially respond-
ed to the call from the national government for aid in suppressing
the sectional uprising. Ohio, at this critical period, had a
population of 2,343,739, and as this was fully one-eighth of the
people of the states that might be expected to unitedly support
the national government, and, with about 500,000 men of military
age within her borders, it was to be expected that the state would
play an important part in the conflict. And that such expecta-
tions were more than realized a history of the bloody struggle
gives abundant proof.

South Carolina passed the first Ordinance of Secession Dec. 20,
1860, and four other slave states followed before Lincoln was
inaugurated and the Confederacy was formed at Montgomery,
Ala., Feb. 8, 1861. The seceded states and the Confederacy
as soon as formed seized United States forts and arsenals, arms,
ammunition and military supplies, capturing and paroling United
States troops, also of the United States mint and its contents of
gold and silver and also custom houses, etc., until there remained
only a few spots in the South Atlantic and Gulf states where the
Stars and Stripes were flying.

The Ohio legislature met on the first Monday of Jan., 1861,
amidst the general pervading excitement growing out of these
events, and the members thereof were keenly alive to the im-
pending exigency in national affairs. On Jan. 12, they passed
a series of joint resolutions, of which the following is a synopsis:

1st. The people of Ohio believe that the preservation of this
government is essential to the peace, prosperity and safety of
the American people.

2nd. The general government cannot permit the secession
of any state without violating the bond and compact of Union.

3d. The power of the national government must be main-
tained, and the laws of Congress enforced in the states and
territories, until their repeal by Congress, or they are adjudged
to be unconstitutional by the proper tribunal. All attempts by
state authority to nullify the constitution and laws of Congress,
or resist their execution, are destructive of the wisest govern-
ment in the world.

4th. The people of Ohio are opposed to meddling with the
internal affairs of other states.

5th. The people of Ohio will fulfill in good faith all their
obligations under the constitution of the United States, according
to their spirit.

6th. Certain offensive laws in some of the states are rendered
inefficient by the constitution and laws of the Federal govern-
ment, which guarantee to the citizens of each state the privileges
and immunities of the several states. The several state govern-
ments should repeal these offensive laws, and thus restore confi-
dence between the states.

7th. All Union men condemn the secession ordinances.

8th. We hail with joy the firm, dignified and patriotic message
of the president, and pledge the entire power and resources of
the state for a strict maintenance of the constitution and laws
by the general government, by whomsoever administered.

9th. Copies of these resolutions shall be furnished to the
senators and representatives of both houses of Congress.

Yet there was a constant restraint exercised in Ohio as else-
where, imposed more particularly by the attitude of the border
states and the hope that in some way means could be found
whereby an honorable peace could be maintained without the
surrender of principle or the dissolution of the Union. At the
peace conference, called at the suggestion of the border states,
and which was held in Washington in Feb., 1861, Ohio sent
as delegates Salmon P. Chase, John T. Wright, William S.
Groesbeck, Franklin T. Backus, Reuben Hitchcock, Thomas
Ewing, Valentine B. Horton and C. P. Wolcott. Crafts J. Wright
of Ohio was secretary of this peace conference. They deliberated
upon various plans to preserve both peace and the Union, the
central idea of each scheme being the perpetuation of slavery
in the South and its limitation by definite boundary lines. But
the conference was altogether futile, and the change in adminis-
tration of national affairs, on March 4, following, put the reins
of government in the hands of those who heartily endorsed the
sentiment expressed by Jackson in the words: "The Union of the
states must and shall be preserved!"

On April 12, 1861, an act to enroll the militia of the state be-
came a law. The following is a synopsis of it:

1st. Assessors to prepare lists of all persons subject to military
duty, and file the lists with the auditor, who shall furnish a copy
to the adjutant-general, and an abstract shall by him be forwarded
annually to the war department at Washington before Jan. 1 in
each year. There shall also be a militia of the reserve; when 40
or more persons enroll themselves, the adjutant may issue com-
missions. When public service requires more force than "the
active militia," this "militia of the reserve" shall be called into

On the same day was passed an act to secure the safe keeping
of arms in the hands of volunteer companies. It provided that
each man should receive $5; that the commanders should report
lists of members; that the commanders should report all delin-
quencies in the company; that delinquents should be marked off
by the adjutant-general, and the delinquents were not to receive
the $5; that the aggregate should not exceed 6,000 men.

On the 13th the following law was passed to amend the militia
law of 1859. It provided for carrying into effect the new military
division of the state. The amendment was as follows:

Sec. 5. That the commander-in-chief may, if he shall deem
the same advisable, order a camp of instruction to be held, once
a year, for four days, during the period of legal encampments,
at which time the officers of the volunteer militia, or the officers
and all other members of said militia, shall be drilled in the school
of the soldier and the details of their respective duties; and sec-
tion 3 of the act entitled "an act for the further discipline of the
militia and volunteer militia, passed March 23, 1859," and pro-
viding a camp of instruction for officers only, is hereby repealed.
These laws became inoperative in the presence of the immediately
succeeding war.

But a more striking proof of the conciliatory disposition which
possessed the legislature was to be given. The proposed consti-
tutional amendment, which has been mentioned, and which was
carried through Congress by the efforts of Thomas Corwin, was
submitted to the legislatures of the several states for ratification;
and before the beginning of actual hostilities in Charleston harbor,
it was apparent that, carrying the effort for conciliation to the
furthest extreme, the legislature of Ohio meant to give (as it did)
the sanction of Ohio to this irreversible guarantee to slavery in
the fundamental law of the land. Before its place on the Ohio
senate calendar was reached, however, came the bombardment of
Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861, the surrender of that fort and the
call of the president to "maintain the honor, integrity and exist-
ence of the National Union." On April 15, the State of Ohio was
wild with excitement over the receipt of the news of the call to
arms. On the next day troops began to arrive in Columbus in
answer to the president's call, and the feeling, if possible, was
even more intense. The telegraphs and mails were burdened with
exhortations to the legislature to grant money and men to any
extent, and the hot haste of the people to plunge into war seemed
to cause the very air to become laden with the clamor. Notwith-
standing the pulse of the people, however, and as a last effort at
conciliation, the state senate adopted the Corwin constitutional
amendment, and only eight members out of the whole body op-
posed it. Maryland was the only other state in the Union that
ratified the Corwin amendment; even the southern states scorned

Although in this manner the representatives of the people
signified their desire for peace, they also promptly took all the
necessary preliminary steps in preparation for war. The presi-
dent's requisition for 75,000 men having been received, Gov.
William Dennison issued the following proclamation:

"To the People of Ohio: — You are called upon to meet the
gravest responsibilities, and it may be sacrifices, to preserve your
free institutions and your national independence.

"The attempt of your government to supply a beleaguered
garrison with provisions, has been met by open war, and the re-
duction of the garrison by force of arms. Your national flag
has been insulted, and the constitutional authorities of the Union
treasonably defied.

"At such an hour, rising above all party names and party
bias, resolute to maintain the freedom so dearly purchased by
our fathers, and to transmit it unimpaired to our posterity, let
the people assert their power.

"Your voice will be heard, your actions, giving hope to the
overawed and oppressed in the rebellious districts, will strength-
en the hands and animate the hearts of the loyal thousands in
the border states, and will bring back peace and order to the
nation, with a new assurance of the perpetuity of its priceless
blessings. The general assembly, by acts just passed, opens to
you the method of testifying your devotion to our beloved state,
to the Union as it is, and those free institutions which have
been alike the foundation and pledge of our national and individ-
ual prosperity.

"The general orders issued through the proper department
assert that method, and invite your response. Let us all be
thankful to Almighty God for past mercies, imploring His par-
don for our many shortcomings, and trusting with Him the
destinies of our country, forget all but the pressing duty to cast
aside the distinctions that have been the basis of transient differ-
ences, and demonstrate to the world that we are worthy sons of
great ancestors, fit to be intrusted with the liberties we inherit."

On April 16, within less than 24 hours after the president's
call for troops had been received, the state senate had matured,
carried through the several readings, and passed a bill appro-
priating $1,000,000 for placing the state upon a war-footing, and
for assisting the general government in meeting the shock of
the sectional uprising. Some days earlier a bill had been intro-
duced appropriating $100,000 for war purposes, but on a hint
from the governor that perhaps other and more important meas-
ures might be deemed advisable, action was delayed. Then the
$1,000,000 war bill was introduced, in response to a message
from Gov. Dennison, in which he announced the call from
Washington, set forth the necessity of defending the integrity
of the Union, and concluded as follows:

"But as the contest may grow to greater dimensions than is
now anticipated, I deem it my duty to recommend to the general
assembly of this state to make provisions proportionate to its
means to assist the national authorities in restoring the integ-
rity and strength of the Union, in all its amplitude, as the only
means of preserving the rights of all the states, and insuring the
permanent peace and prosperity of the whole country. I ear-
nestly recommend, also, that an appropriation of not less than
$450,000 be immediately made for the purchase of arms and
equipments for the use of the volunteer militia of the state. I
need not remind you of the pressing exigency for the prompt
organization and arming of the military force of the state."

State of Ohio in the Civil War : The Buckeye State
Ohio Civil War Battles.gif
Map of Ohio Civil War Battles and Battlefields

The debate which preceded the passage of this war-appro-
priation bill illustrated the melting away of party lines under the
white heat of patriotism. As the members opposed to the insti-
tution of slavery in any locality had shown their willingness, in
the interest of peace and national union, to support a constitu-
tional amendment that would preserve and protect it in a re-
stricted territory, so did those who were opposed politically to
the national administration bury their partisan feelings and unite
in the support of a measure which was to unmistakably reflect
Ohio's attitude in the impending crisis. Senator Orr, of Crawford
county, was opposed to the war, and even to the purposes of
the bill, but he said he would vote for it as the best means
of testifying his hostility to secession. Judge Thomas M. Key,
of Cincinnati, the ablest Democrat in the state senate, and who
was subsequently colonel and judge-advocate on Gen. McClel-
lan's staff, said that he, too, was in favor of the bill. Yet he
then seemed to regard the measure as an unwarranted declara-
tion of war against seven sister states. He entered his solemn
protest against the line of action announced by the executive,
and declared the preparation for war was a usurpation by the
president, in whom and in whose advisers he had no confidence,
and the beginning of a military despotism. He said he firmly
believed it to be the desire of the administration to drive off the
border states, and to permanently sever the Union. But he was
opposed to secession, and in this contest he could do no other
way than stand by the Stars and Stripes. The bill passed by
an almost unanimous vote, one senator alone voting against it,
but under the terrible pressure of public condemnation, espe-
cially in his own district, that gentleman shortly afterward asked
leave to change his vote. The bill was then sent to the house,
and the vote in that body, after its members had waited a day
for public opinion, was unanimous, and in the speeches made
there were unreserved expressions of national spirit. Mr. Flagg,
a Democrat of Hamilton county, said he was "ready for peace
for the Union, or war for it, love for it, hatred for it, everything
for it." He was glad that delay had produced unanimity. But
he had been of the number that had favored instant action. He
said he was ready for immediate action because "Jefferson Davis
had shown no hesitation in suspending the rules and marching
through first, second, and third readings without waiting to
hear from his constituents." He had ever advocated peace, but
always a peace for the Union. Mr. Andrews, of Auglaize coun-
ty, who had denounced the excitement on the subject of war as
crazy fanaticism, heartily supported the bill. He said: "The
act of South Carolina towards the Democrats of the North was
a crime for which the English language can find no description.
* * * It has forever severed the last tie that bound them together."
Amid such displays of patriotic feeling the bill was passed and
became effective on April 18. It appropriated $500,000 for the
purpose of carrying into effect any requisition of the president
to protect the national government; $450,000 for the purchase
of arms and equipments for the militia of the state; and the
remaining $50,000 as an extraordinary contingent fund
for use under the direction of the governor. The commission-
ers of the sinking fund were authorized to borrow the money,
at six per cent, interest, and to issue certificates therefor which
should be free from state taxation.
In the passage of other war measures all semblance of fac-
tious opposition was noticeably absent. Under the leadership
of William B. Woods, ex-speaker of the house and a Demo-
cratic leader, who subsequently rose to the rank of colonel of a
three years' volunteer regiment and brevet major-general of
volunteers, a bill passed exempting the property of those who
enlisted as soldiers from execution for debt during their serv-
ice. Then, as it became evident that far more troops were press-
ing for acceptance than were needed to fill Ohio's quota of
thirteen regiments, the legislature acceded to the sagacious sug-
gestion of the governor that the surplus should be retained for
the service of the state. The bill authorized the acceptance of
ten additional regiments, provided $500,000 for the payment of
such troops, and $1,500,000 more were appropriated to be used
in case of invasion of the state, or the appearance of danger of
invasion. On May 10, an act was passed, by which a tax of
half a mill on the dollar of taxable property was levied, to be
applied to the relief of families of volunteers, the relief to be
continued one year after the death of the volunteer if he died
in service. A bill defining and punishing treason also became a

On April 26, an act was passed "To provide more effectually
for the defense of the state against invasion." The appropria-
tion in this act amounted to $2,000,000, to meet which, the com-
missioners of the sinking fund were empowered to borrow the
amount. The same act authorized the governor to call out nine
regiments of infantry and eight of cavalry. At this juncture,
however, a constitutional inhibition seemed to present itself, and
those opposed to the act made the most of the situation. The
constitution of the state, Sec. 1, Art. VIII, limited the power of
the state to contract debts to cases of "casual deficits or failures
in revenues, or to meet expenses not otherwise provided for,
but the aggregate of such debts, direct and contingent, whether
contracted by one or more acts of the general assembly, or at
different periods of time, shall never exceed $750,000." But
section 2 of the same article provided that "In addition to the
above limited power, the state may contract debts to repel in-
vasion, suppress insurrection, defend the state in war, or to re-
deem the present outstanding indebtedness of the state." The
loan authorized by the act of April 18, 1861, was clearly within
the powers granted by the constitution, but the one authorized
by the act of April 26, was one of graver character, not only in
the amount but in the circumstances which would bring it with-
in the powers conferred by the constitution upon the general
assembly and the commissioners of the sinking fund. The con-
stitution, however, did not specify who should decide on the
question of danger of invasion, and hence the difficulty was
overcome by the governor assuming that prerogative and de-
ciding that "Ohio is in danger of invasion," and therefore that
the debt was within the restrictions of the constitution.

On April 10, 1861, after there had been an actual condition of
war on the southern coast for many weeks, though not official-
ly recognized, the people of Cincinnati had shown a recogni-
tion of the actual state of affairs by stopping the shipment of
arms through that city to Arkansas. And among the enactments
of this session of the legislature was one providing against
shipments of arms through the state for disloyal uses. Other
measures were adopted organizing the militia of the state; pro-
viding suitable officers for duty on the staff of the governor;
requiring contracts for subsistence of the volunteers to be let to
the lowest bidder; and one authorizing the appointment of addi-
tional general officers. In concert with Gov. Dennison the pre-
paratory war legislation was completed, and when, within one
month after the first note of alarm from Washington had been
sounded, the general assembly adjourned, the state was on a
war footing for the first time in its history-. The legislature
had made a grand record, and it reflected the patriotism which
actuated its members, individually and collectively. And now
some of them were to enter other fields of usefulness in the
service of their country. Before the final adjournment the act-
ing speaker had resigned to take a command in one of the regi-
ments starting for Washingfton; two leading senators had been
appointed brigadier-generals; and large numbers of the other
members had in one capacity or another entered the military

The conduct of the governor and the members of the legis-
lature in their official capacity received the hearty approval and
enthusiastic endorsement of a large majority of the citizens of
the state. Before the bombardment of Fort Sumter had ended
all restraint was removed, the spirit of war was abroad, and
twenty full companies were offered to Gov. Dennison for im-
mediate service. The response to the governor's proclamation
was so generous that when Gov. Magoffin telegraphed that
"Kentucky would furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of
subduing her sister Southern states," Dennison telegraphed to
Washington, "If Kentucky will not fill her quota, Ohio will fill
it for her." There was no hesitation in the response to the call
for troops in Ohio. Three months before, Lorin Andrews,
president of Kenyon college, had offered his services in case of
war, and he now set about forming a company. He is men-
tioned here as a type of the men who enlisted or encouraged
enlistment. As soon as the president had called for troops,
telegrams came to the governor from various towns, tendering
companies. Cincinnati, Dayton and Cleveland offered thou-
sands. James Barrett Steedman, of Toledo, who had been a
delegate to the Charleston Democratic convention, pledged a
regiment in lo days. Prominent men in every quarter, without
regard to party, offered their services and asked what they
could do. The militia system was, as has been stated, worthless
and of no avail in the emergency. There were a few companies
of volunteer infantry, armed and trained, and a few one-gun
squads of artillery. The best known of these companies imme-
diately offered their services. It is interesting to note that Lu-
cius V. Bierce, the invader of Canada in 1838, was among those
who raised companies, largely at his own expense. Later he
was made assistant adjutant-general of volunteers, under the
national government, and was engaged for two years in the
mustering of volunteers at Columbus.

The Lancaster Guards arrived at Columbus on April 15, close-
ly followed by the Dayton Light Guards and Montgomery Guards,
and on the morning of April 18, two regiments were made up of
the companies that had reached the capital. The ist included the
Lancaster Guards, the Lafayette Guards, and Light Guards and
Montgomery Guards, of Dayton, the Grays and the Hibernian
Guards of Cleveland, the Portsmouth, Zanesville and Mansfield
Guards, and the Jacksons of Hamilton. In the 2nd regiment were
the Rovers, Zouaves and Lafayettes of Cincinnati, the Videttes
and Fencibles of Columbus, the Springfield Zouaves, the Coving-
ton Blues (of Miami county), one Steubenville and two Pickaway
companies. The men elected their own officers, and Edward A.
Parrot was made temporary commander of the ist, and Lewis
Wilson, chief of police of Cincinnati, colonel of the 2nd. With-
out uniform and without arms, they started by train the next day
under the command of George W. McCook, a Mexican war vet-
eran, to defend the capital founded by the father of a united
country. The ist was mustered into the U. S. service at Lan-
caster, Pa., by Lieut. Alexander McDowell McCook, a New Lis-
bon, Ohio, boy, who had been educated at West Point. He was
then made colonel, and Parrot lieutenant-colonel. The 2nd was
mustered in at the same place and Wilson retained in command.
Both regiments, after some delay, reached Washington, and were
assigned to a brigade under the command of Robert C. Schenck,
of Dayton, Ohio, who was made a brigadier-general of volun-
teers and later became a major-general of volunteers.

The quota of Ohio, in the call for 75,000 men, was 13,000, and
after 2,000 had been sent to meet the most urgent demand, there
remained the work of organizing eleven regiments from the hosts
that poured into Columbus, where there was no proper shelter
for them, no tents, no supplies, nobody with experience to take
care of the men and organize them. Gov. Dennison established
Camp Jackson in the woods, naming it in honor of the old Dem-
ocratic patriot, and the members of his staff, Adjt.-Gen. Henry B.
Carrington, Com.-Gen., George W. Runyan, and others, did the
best they could under the circumstances, embarrassed by the
usual disparaging comment that accompanies the organization
of armies. To command the troops the governor wanted Irvin
McDowell, who was then on the staff of Gen. Winfield Scott,
U. S. A., but upon the urgent request of Cincinnati friends he
selected George B. McClellan and he was forthwith commissioned
a major-general. For brigadier-generals of volunteers Newton
Schleich, a Democratic leader in the state senate, Joshua H. Bates,
of Cincinnati, and Jacob D. Cox were selected and each was com-
missioned for three months. Presently the governor's staff was
reinforced by the addition of Catharinus P. Buckingham, adju-
tant-general; George B. Wright, quartermaster-general; Colum-
bus Delano, commissary-general; and C. P. Walcott, judge-ad-

See also
Source: The Union Army, vol. 2


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