Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005
Early Civil War POWs granted paroles
By Jim Blount
Figures vary on the number of prisoners taken by both sides during the Civil War. A safe estimate is at least 674,000 men captured between the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861 and the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. As challenging as determining an accurate count is composing a realistic description of the typical experience of captives.
For some soldiers, being a POW was merely an inconvenience or embarrassment. For others -- especially those captured late in the war -- it was likely to be a death sentence. Many variables decided the fate of prisoners.
When hostilities began in April 1861, neither side was prepared to accept large numbers of prisoners. Little or no thought had been given to such details as guarding, transporting, feeding, housing and caring for detainees.
If the Civil War had been a short conflict -- as some people on both sides believed -- the problem would have been minor, if not resolved, by just two or three months of fighting. Instead, the war stretched on, saddling both sides with thousands of POWs over four years.
For example, when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant won victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson early in 1862, he was burdened with about 10,000 prisoners. As soon as possible, he sent them north to such places as Camp Chase in Columbus and Camp Morton in Indianapolis.
Early in the war, a partial solution was a system of parole and exchange that avoided much of the expense and burden of transporting and holding prisoners. Military leaders liked it because it freed more men for fighting instead of guarding enemy captives.
"I swear that I will not take up arms against the United States or serve in any military capacity whatsoever against them until regularly discharged," said one of the oaths of parole available to southern soldiers captured by Union forces.
Later, those on parole, could be exchanged, "man for man and officer for officer," according to a February 1862 agreement.
First Lt. George H. Phillips was among the Butler County soldiers who benefited from the system. He was commander of Company C of the 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment when captured and paroled in Lexington, Ky., in October 1862.
After capture by Confederate forces, Phillips and other Union captives -- although ordered not to leave town -- were permitted to roam the streets of Lexington. After a few days, instead of being herded to a southern prison camp, the parolees were told to report to Union military officials in either Cincinnati or Columbus.
They were on their own to find transportation. Not even the Union army provided assistance. Some POWs started north on foot, or begged rides from civilians. Some rode worn-out horses left behind by the Confederates; others paid as much as $10 to ride in farm wagons; and still others stole horses and food along the way.
Phillips was formally exchanged in November 1862. Except for the problem of finding his own way back to Ohio, being a POW was relatively painless for Phillips. He returned to his family in Hamilton and took a job with the Cosmopolitan Arms Company, manufacturer of carbines for the Union army.
Of about 211,400 men captured by the Confederates throughout the war, about 16,700 were paroled. Union leaders paroled at least 247,700 of about 462,600 southerners prisoners before the system was abandoned.
Not as fortunate as Phillips were Butler County soldiers captured in the war's final years. A future column will report on their fate and more details of the ever-changing Civil War POW situation.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005
Fate of Butler County prisoners hinged on rank
By Jim Blount
In the spring of 1863, as Major-General Ulysses S. Grant's army struggled to take the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Miss., overlooking the Mississippi River, he authorized raids into nearby southern states. One of the Civil War thrusts involved Butler County men in the seasoned Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In April 1861, Captain William C. Rossman had organized the 111-man Hamilton Guards, who became Company F in the Third OVI.
The regiment was part of a risky mounted raid led by Colonel Abel D. Streight. He was ordered to advance "to the interior of Alabama and Georgia for the purpose of destroying the railroads and other rebel property."
Instead of horses, Streight was given mules, but not enough to mount all his troops, who were supposed to total 1,700. As he launched his raid April 21, 1863, from Eastport, Miss., about 300 of his 1,550 men were on foot.
Soon his hastily-formed expedition was slowed by rain and mud, and more men were forced to walk because of the loss of mounts for various reasons. He also lacked ammunition. As he neared Rome, Ga., one of his assigned objectives, Streight discovered he was opposed by an enemy force three times larger than his poorly-mounted, ammunition-starved contingent.
Sunday, May 3, after covering only 150 miles in 12 frustrating days, Streight surrendered his brigade to Confederate Brigadier-General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Streight's loss totaled 12 killed, 69 wounded and 1,466 missing or captured.
Among the captives were Captain William C. Rossman and Private Daniel H. Hensley, a Hamilton resident after the war, who was a member of the 73rd Indiana Infantry Regiment.
Their respective ranks -- captain and private -- had much to do with their ability to survive Confederate captivity. Both men were sent to Richmond, Va., the Confederate capital, where the officers were confined in Libby Prison. The men in the ranks were held in the open on Belle Isle, but for only a few days.
May 15, under terms of prisoner exchange, the enlisted men in the Third Ohio and other regiments were paroled and returned home.
For many of the Third OVI's officers -- including Rossman -- it was a long and difficult confinement. In July 1863, their hope of exchange faded as Union and Confederate POW policies changed and toughened. Under new terms, captured officers became political pawns.
Conditions at Libby Prison -- a warehouse before the war -- worsened in the hot summer of 1863. After Rossman's arrival, the prisoners had been issued good flour, bread and salt pork. They also could purchase apples, eggs, corn, sugar and molasses to supplement the Confederate rations. But soon the food started to decrease in quantity and quality. Medical services also were poor, and sanitation problems threatened the lives of men held in Richmond.
Feb. 9, 1864, some officers took matters into their own hands. Prisoners had dug a 57-foot tunnel to a shed near the prison. That night 109 officers, including Rossman, crawled to freedom through the tunnel. Rossman was among 48 Union officers recaptured before reaching safety. The former clerk in the Rossman Dry Goods Store in Hamilton, nearly 29 years old when he tried to escape, remained a prisoner until the end of the war in 1865.
When released, his health was broken. He was appointed postmaster of Hamilton, but never confirmed because his nomination became entangled in the politics of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Rossman died July 11, 1867 -- 19 days before his 32nd birthday -- of ailments attributed to his two-year imprisonment.
Meanwhile, another member of Streight's expedition was relocating in Hamilton. He was Daniel Hensley, a native of Logansport, Ind., captured May 3 as a member of the 73rd Indiana. He had been exchanged after only 12 days as a prisoner on Belle Isle and rejoined the army.
Hensley came to Hamilton in 1866, at age 22, to accept a position as a teacher. He moved to New Albany, Ind., briefly, but was back in Hamilton in 1867, this time to be married and begin a new career. He was the secretary of the Hamilton Gas Light and Coke Company for at least 20 years. In March 1890, Hensley became postmaster of Hamilton, the same post that years earlier had been denied Captain Rossman for political reasons.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Dec. 21, 20005
U. S. 27 bypass has evolved into Oxford connector
By Jim Blount
A proposed Oxford bypass -- a road that would take U. S. 27 around the city and away from the campus of Miami University -- is an idea that has been around for more than 40 years. It has resurfaced every 10 to 15 years and within a year or two has faded into the background. Now there is optimism with passage in July of the Transportation Equity Act (TEA) of 2005, the federal highway act.
The most recent concepts -- including seven options -- emerged from the Northwest Butler Transportation Study, a 39-member committee formed in 2000. The study covered 125 square miles, including the City of Oxford, the villages of Seven Mile, Millville and College Corner and eight townships: Oxford, Milford, Morgan, Ross, Reily, Hanover, Wayne and St. Clair. In addition to U. S. 27, it has looked at Ohio 73, Ohio 177, Ohio 732 and other roads, spotlighting dangerous and outdated intersections.
NBTS alternatives presented in 2003 included the usual range of proposals: changes to existing roads, an eastern bypass, a western loop, relocation of U. S. 27 over existing roads and the option that has prevailed for more than 40 years -- do nothing.
Those choices were narrowed to a new concept -- an Oxford connector instead of an Oxford bypass. It would connect Ohio 73 east of the city, U. S. 27 to the southeast and Ohio 732 to the southwest of Oxford. Unlike previous proposals, it doesn't directly link U. S. 27 southeast and northwest of Oxford on new alignment.
Earlier this year the federal government appropriated $4 million to start the project. July 29, when Congress approved highway spending for a six-year period, TEA earmarked $14 million for the two-lane Oxford connector, thanks to support by Sen. Michael DeWine.
In February 1963, Village Manager Leonard Howell was optimistic in telling Oxford council that a U. S. 27 bypass is "almost certain" to go east and north of the village. Based on discussions with state highway officials, the manager said the new road is "four or five years in the future." He said the bypass would run "800 to 1,000 feet east of the bridge on Ohio 73." Howell had sought the bypass information from the state highway department because the village was revising its long range plan.
A newspaper report in 1963 said "Miami University recently announced that its athletic plant one day will move eastward across Tallawanda Creek, but still west of the proposed Route 27, which would be the main route over which football crowds would come." Miami built new football and basketball venues within 20 years while the Oxford bypass plans gathered dust.
Millett Hall -- at Bonham Road, Tallawanda Road and Sycamore Street -- opened Dec. 2, 1968. The $7.5 million structure also hosts concerts, lectures, convocations and commencement exercises. Millett Hall replaced Withrow Court -- nearby on Tallawanda Road -- as the home of Miami basketball.
Yager Stadium -- a 25,183-seat football stadium on Bonham Road -- was dedicated Oct. 1, 1983. It replaced 14,900-seat Miami Field, home of Miami football teams from 1896 through 1982. That field was at the northwest corner of Patterson Avenue and High Street.
Hope of road improvements in the Oxford area were revived in 1971 as part of a regional highway plan. The Travel Projections and Recommended Transportation Plan was developed by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments and a consulting firm.
One proposal was a northwest extension of the Colerain Freeway. It would have rebuilt U. S. 27 from Cincinnati to near the Indiana line as an interstate-type highway. "Serving the northwest corridor between I-75 and I-74, the facility would begin with an interchange at I-74 in the Millcreek Valley and extend northward through Hamilton and Butler counties to a point north of the City of Oxford," planners explained. It was to have a minimum of six lanes in Hamilton County and narrow to at least four lanes in Butler County.
OKI held meetings in Oxford and Millville in November 1974 to consider at least eight options for improving or relocating U. S. 27 from south of Millville to northeast or northwest of Oxford. Proponents argued that improvements were needed for several safety reasons, to encourage economic development, reduce excessive truck noise and ease the flow of local traffic. Opponents pointed out environmental concerns, the possible negative impact on downtown business and the loss of farmland.
In 1971, the OKI bypass recommendations were achievable, but the prospects were dimming by 1974. Several 1970s changes dashed hopes for a network of roads designed to handle 1990s traffic in the region, including an Oxford bypass. Obstacles included (1) passage of new federal environmental laws that radically complicated and increased the paperwork and cost of highway projects, (2) a reduction in federal road funds and (3) the U. S. oil shortages of 1973 and 1979.
Now the challenge is to maintain political and financial support for the Oxford connector, supplement federal funds with local money -- and avoid placement on the shelf and another coat of dust.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005
First Ohio State-Notre Dame game in 1935 filled with football lore
By Jim Blount
When Ohio State and Notre Dame collide for the fifth time in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2, 2006, it will have little resemblance to the regular-season game they played Nov. 2, 1935, in Columbus. That first football meeting was billed as "the game of the century" and, later, as "the greatest game ever." When football writers were polled in 1950, it was voted the game of the century. It was a contest filled with college football lore.
The 1935 classic drew 81,018 people, then a record for Ohio Stadium. There was no television, but radio coverage was intense in the middle of the Great Depression. All the major radio networks carried the game with a listening audience that went beyond faithful Irish and Buckeye fans.
"The Notre Dame-Ohio State football game," reported the Journal-News, "not only caused business to be at a standstill in Columbus, but had the same effect in Hamilton and other cities" between 2 and 4:30 p.m. that Saturday. The newspaper said a "prominent West Side groceryman reported that he might as well have closed his store" -- usually busy on Saturday afternoons -- because "less than six customers visited his store during the broadcast."
There were no Hamilton players on the Ohio State squad. Bob Wilke, a Hamilton Catholic High School graduate, then a Notre Dame junior, played briefly as a reserve.
Notre Dame was coached by Elmer Layden, part of the 1924 Fighting Irish backfield labeled the "Four Horsemen." At 162 pounds, he had been the heaviest of the foursome. Layden was in his second season as head coach at South Bend and was reviving Notre Dame football which had suffered after the March 31, 1931, death of Coach Knute Rockne in a plane crash.
Ohio State also was coached by a football legend -- Francis A. Schmidt, whose nickname was "Close the Gates of Mercy." That monicker was attributed to the high-scoring reputation of his teams, including previous coaching stops at Tulsa, Arkansas and Texas Christian.
Schmidt is credited with coining a familiar football quote. "Those fellows are human; they put their pants on one leg at a time," he told his OSU squad in 1934 before they whipped Michigan, 34-0.
His wide-open offense was described as "razzle dazzle" with many trick plays from several formations. His Buckeyes became known as "the scarlet scourge" while he compiled a 39-16-1 won-lost-tied record in seven seasons at Ohio State, including 25 shutouts.
Some football historians credit Schmidt -- not Bill Walsh, formerly of the 49ers -- as the architect of what is now called the pass-oriented West Coast offense. Instead, it was the co-captain of the 1933 OSU team, who began his coaching career as an assistant under Schmidt. He was Sid Gillman, later head coach at Miami and the University of Cincinnati and in the NFL. Gillman is recognized as expanding Schmidt’s wide-open attack into the passing offenses that have dominated college and professional football in recent decades.
The 1935 game was played under a substitution rule in effect since 1922. Players taken out of the game in the first half couldn’t return until the start of the second half. Players replaced in the second half couldn’t reenter the game -- a restriction that would be a factor in the game.
Passing rules had been liberalized the previous season. The ball was reshaped and easier to throw; a five-yard penalty for more than one forward pass in a series was eliminated; and an incomplete pass in the end zone no longer meant loss of the ball, except on fourth down.
Both teams were undefeated entering the Nov. 2, 1935, meeting in Columbus, but OSU was a heavy favorite. The Buckeyes led, 13-0, as the second half began with Notre Dame reserves on the field, Layden resting his starters for insertion later in the game.
After a scoreless third quarter, Notre Dame scored twice in the fourth quarter, making it 13-12. Schmidt replaced some starters in an effort to block the potential tying point after kick, which failed. That forced OSU to play the remainder of the game with some subs, causing criticism of the coach.
"The Irish have put on many a great finish, but none more electrifying or more dramatic than the drive that finally overcame Ohio State with only 10 seconds to go," said a Journal-News report. A 19-yard touchdown pass from William ("the Bard of South Bend") Shakespeare, a Cincinnatian, to Wayne Millner gave Notre Dame the 18-13 upset.
Some writers suggest that Shakespeare’s desparation throw was the original "Hail Mary Pass" -- not the 1975 Roger Staubach-Drew Pearson connection for the Dallas Cowboys in Minnesota, or the 1984 Doug Flutie-Gerard Phelan play for Boston College against the University of Miami.