Journal-News Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005
Local Civil War soldiers experienced "the fog of war"
By Jim Blount
"The fog of war," a common phrase in recent years, is traced to Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), a Prussian officer and military theorist. It also was the partial title of a reflective book by Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense during the Vietnam War. "War is so complex," McNamara said. "It is beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables." Hamilton Civil War veterans recalled "the fog of war" as they prepared to revisit Chickamauga battlefield 50 years after the fight.
The local men had been among more than 58,000 Union soldiers and about 66,000 Confederates engaged there Sept. 19-20, 1863.
"A soldier in action sees but little of a fight," said James Fitton, formerly of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, when interviewed by a reporter in 1913. "He is simply a cog in a machine, going forward when so ordered, reversing when so ordered, halting when ordered and under orders all the time."
"You never have time to think of danger or take much notice of what is going on around you. The impulse is to always face the front and advance until circumstances make it imperative to fall back," said Fitton, one several veterans asked for battle recollections as they prepared to attend the 47th national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The 1863 battle was fought along Chickamauga Creek in North Georgia, then about 12 miles southeast of Chattanooga. The city was a strategic target for the North because it was a railroad and transportation center for the Confederate states.
Jacob Jackson, also of the 35th OVI, remembered events before the battle and the death of a comrade, but noted "that we were glad when night came and we had a chance to rest on our arms."
"There's no man living that can tell the true story of that second day's fight," Sept. 20, 1863, said J. W. Boatman, another veteran of the 35th OVI. "You couldn't hear the musketry for the roar of the cannon. We had it hottest down near what afterward became known as Bloody Pond for the reason that its waters became red from the blood of the dead and wounded which flowed into it."
Casualties, according to one source, were 1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded and 4,757 missing, totaling 16,170 in the Union force. The Confederates had 2,312 killed, 14,674 wounded and 1,468 missing, a sum of 18,454. Combined, the casualties topped 34,600.
"We were constantly being swung around," said B. F. Stead of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, "part of the time in our saddles, partly on foot leading horses, leading the skirmishing or taking part in a charge in the main engagement." He said "we never saw what was going on, except what was immediately in front of us."
"While the enemy were trying to turn our right and left, we broke their center and we sure had a deuce of a time doing it," recalled Reuben Ogg of the 93rd OVI.
"In that first day's fight at Chickamauga, I think there were more men killed in 15 minutes than there were during the entire Spanish-American War," Ogg said. "The field was filled with the dead and wounded."
Ogg's comparison may not have been a slight exaggeration. According to a department of defense list, there were 4,108 U. S. dead and wounded in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Only 385 were killed in combat or died of battle wounds while more than 2,000 died of disease or in accidents. More than 3,900 men -- Union and Confederate -- died in two days at Chickamauga.
"But I can't tell you much about the fight," Ogg continued. "No one soldier can. We couldn't sleep, had little or nothing to eat and had to steal our drinking water at the risk of our lives."
Gen. Braxton Bragg's Confederate army attacked the Union force led by Gen. William Rosecrans as Union troops were trying to flank the southern army. The Confederates won a decisive victory at Chickamauga, driving the northern army back to Chattanooga. The 35th OVI -- mostly Butler County soldiers -- was part of a rear guard led by Major-Gen. George H. Thomas that protected and saved the Union army as it left the battlefield.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005
State highway numbers changed to avoid confusion
(Highway improvements have always been a priority in Butler County. This is the fifth in a series on road developments in the area between the 1890s and the 1950s.)
By Jim Blount
Wisconsin is credited as the first state to replace inconsistent trail signs with numbers. Legislation in 1917 required uniform guide and warning signs for state highways. Ohio is believed to have instituted its first highway numbering system five years earlier -- in 1912 -- but it was for administrative purposes only. The "inter-city highway" numbers weren’t posted along the Ohio routes for the benefit of drivers.
A state numbering system to guide travelers began in 1924 with the lowest numbers assigned to what were then considered the most important roads. In this corner of the state the Dixie Highway (Michigan to Florida through Butler County) was Ohio 6 and the Three-C Highway (linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland) was Ohio 3.
When national highway numbering went into effect in 1926-27, it created some confusion. A few federal roads within Ohio duplicated numbers used in the state highway system. To avoid chaos, state officials revised the two-year-old Ohio scheme to eliminate duplicate numbers.
Trying to follow pre-1926 Ohio directions or maps today is a challenge because of the numerous changes in state routes in 1926 and the addition of federal numbered highways in 1927, plus periodic additions, deletions and alterations to both systems. Examples are the 13 state highways serving the county.
The original Ohio 4 ran from Delaware through Columbus and Chillicothe to Portsmouth. When that route became U. S. 23 in 1926, the state switched the Ohio 4 label to the road connecting Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown and Dayton and points north to Sandusky. The Cincinnati to Middletown portion had been part of the original Ohio 6 that reached north to the Ohio-Michigan line.
Ohio 63 -- from the center of Lebanon in Warren County west 12 miles to LeSourdsville in Butler County -- had been Ohio 125 until 1926.
Ohio 73 -- now 137 miles from Oxford southeast to Portsmouth -- has always had that number, but its route has been lengthened several times. Franklin was the original western terminus. It was extended to within two miles of Middletown in 1926, to U. S. 127 north of Seven mile in 1934 and to Oxford in 1936.
Ohio 122 also has retained its original number. It covers 43 miles in Preble, Butler and Warren counties -- from Indiana 122, nine miles west of Eaton to Ohio 48, three miles east of Red Lion. The original 122 ended at Middletown until extended to three miles east of Red Lion in 1938. Another four miles were added on the eastern end in 1947, but that section was decertified in 1986,.
Before 1926, Ohio 126 was the designation for Old Oxford Road from north of Hamilton to McGonigle and from McGonigle through Oxford to the Indiana line at College Corner. In 1926, the Ohio 126 designation was reassigned to a route from the Indiana line at Scipio through Okeana, Shandon and Ross in Butler County, then east across the northern part of Hamilton County to Milford, a distance of 44 miles. Most of Ohio 126 through Butler County remains unchanged, but the Hamilton County segment has been altered several times.
Ohio 129 -- now extending west from the Indiana border at Scipio to I-75 in Liberty Twp. -- also adds to the confusion. The original Ohio 129 went from Scipio through Okeana, Shandon and Ross and then south to Cincinnati. The road from Scipio through Millville to Hamilton was Ohio 127.
In 1926, the original Ohio 129 was renumbered Ohio 126. Ohio 127 had to be changed to avoid confusion with U. S. 127 (Cincinnati, Fairfield, Hamilton, New Miami and Seven Mile). It assumed the Ohio 129 designation. It was extended east to Princeton in 1938. In 1999, the eastern leg of Ohio 129 was relocated and extended to I-75. That interstate-type addition has been known as the Butler County Regional Highway, the Michael Fox Highway and Butler County Veterans Highway.
The five-mile Ohio 130 between Ohio 177 (Main Street) and U. S. 27 (McGonigle) hasn't changed since 1926. Previously, Ohio 130 ran from the Indiana line at Harrison to Cheviot in Hamilton County, a road renamed U. S. 52 in 1926.
Also unchanged since 1926 is Ohio 128, that extends 20 miles south from Hamilton through Ross and Miamitown to U. S. 50 at Cleves, paralleling the Great Miami River.
Ohio 224 became Ohio 177 in 1934 without a change in its course. The 24-mile Ohio 177 goes northwest from U. S. 127 in downtown Hamilton to the Indiana state line.
Four county routes were added to the state system in 1938: Ohio 748, from Shandon six miles north to near Millville; Ohio 747, from Ohio 4 in Glendale 12 miles north to Ohio 4 in Liberty Twp.; Ohio 744 from U. S. 127, a mile west of Somerville, to Ohio 122, two miles east of Jacksonburg; and the longest, 30-mile Ohio 732 from Ohio 129, three miles south of Reily, to U. S. 127 in Eaton..
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Journal-News Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005
Brooklyn baseball celebration has Butler County connection
(This is the first of a three-part series on Walter Alston, a Butler County native who became one of baseball’s most successful managers .)
By Jim Blount
They’ll celebrate a World Series victory in Brooklyn in October -- not the 2005 title, but a baseball championship won 50 years ago. The Dodgers then played in the New York borough, not Los Angeles. Brooklyn had been in the series seven times between 1916 and 1953, always a loser. The 1955 Dodgers’ series triumph was a franchise first -- and also a first for the Walter (Smokey) Alston, the Butler County native who managed the team.
In 22 off-seasons, Alston retreated to Darrtown, also his home in retirement. It was his base for many other interests -- including bridge, oil painting, pool, photography, woodworking, horseback riding, hunting and trap shooting. He won fame in New York and Los Angeles, but was most comfortable at home in Darrtown. Despite his success, around his native Butler County, he is remembered for his humility.
Alston was born Dec. 1, 1911, on a farm near Venice (Ross). He died Oct. 1, 1984, age 72, in McCullough-Hyde Hospital, Oxford. The 1983 Hall of Fame inductee is buried in the Darrtown Cemetery.
In 1955, Alston’s second season as manager, the Dodgers took four of seven games from the New York Yankees, winning the final game Oct. 4. The Dodgers repeated as National League champs in 1956, but lost to the Yankees in the World Series, four games to three. In 1958, the franchise moved to Los Angeles and in 1959 Alston's Dodgers won another World Series, capturing four of six games from the Chicago White Sox. Alston directed the Dodgers to another series title in 1963, besting the Yankees in four straight games. In his fourth World Series victory in 1966 LA beat the Minnesota Twins in four of seven games.
Alston's Dodgers won National League pennants in 1966 and 1974, losing four straight to the Baltimore Orioles in the 1966 series and dropping four of five to the Oakland A's in 1974.
In 1976, Alston announced his retirement and was replaced with four games remaining in the regular season with the Dodgers 10 games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds.
His major league record was 2,040 wins and 1,613 losses, a .558 winning percentage. His teams finished in the first division 19 times in 23 seasons. He was the Associated Press manager of the year six times and won the United Press International honor five times. In eight all-star games, he was the winning manager a record seven times.
When he retired, his 2,040 major league wins had been topped by only four managers -- Connie Mack, John McGraw, Casey Stengel and Bucky Harris. His seven NL pennants were exceeded only by McGraw.
Baseball writers emphasized that Alston adapted his managing to his talent. His Brooklyn teams emphasized power hitting. In Los Angeles he often won with strong pitching, and other times with speed. He also was able to blend veterans and young talent.
A Baseball Hall of Fame profile describes Alston as a "soft spoken, low-profile manager." A writer called him "a quiet, dignified leader," capable of handling temperamental players. Another recalled Alston's "quiet, but forceful leadership and his basic human decency." Pee Wee Reese, who played for Alston and later coached under him, said "if you did something wrong, he would tell you about it quietly and would not embarrass you."
Peter King, writing in 1983, said Alston "is one of this planet's gentler men. He's also one of the nicest. He became one of baseball's best managers ever because he is a good man," King said. "A fighting man, but an impeccably fair man, an honest man, a simple man, a man who wanted only two things in his life: to win, and to live with his family on six acres in the placid countryside of Darrtown, Ohio."
"I learned from him that in order to be a manager, one of the prerequisites is that you've got to be patient. That was his trademark; he was a patient man," said Tommy Lasorda, his successor as Dodgers manager. "He made you feel at ease and never made you fell uncomfortable. Those are the qualities that make a good manager," said Lasorda, who had been a player and coach under Alston.
When asked to summarize his managerial philosophy, Alston said: "Look at misfortune the same way you look at success. Don't panic. Do your best and forget the consequences."
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Journal-News Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005
Walter Alston called Smokey before leaving Butler County
(This is the second of a three-part series on Walter Alston, a Butler County native who became one of baseball’s most successful managers .)
By Jim Blount
Walter Emmons Alston was a well-known athlete in Butler County decades before he earned Baseball Hall of Fame induction for 23 seasons as manager of the Dodgers. He was called Smokey before leaving the area, although reports on the origin of his nickname vary. Some say he acquired it before graduating from Milford Township High School in Darrtown because of how hard he threw a baseball. Others report he earned it as a college player at Miami University. His pitching led observers to say "he's got a lot of smoke on it." Later, Alston settled it, explaining it began when his dad urged "a little shaver" to "put some smoke on the ball, son."
Alston was born Dec. 1, 1911, on a farm near Venice (Ross) in Butler County. Later, his parents resided on a Preble County farm, between Camden and Morning Sun, before moving to Darrtown.
In 1929 he was graduated from Milford Township High School where he had been an outstanding athlete. He had spectacular scoring sprees in the Butler County Class B basketball tournament, including 26 points in a 50-6 win over Hanover in 1928 and 23 in a 49-19 victory over the same school in 1929.
At Miami -- a few miles from his Darrtown home -- Alston played basketball and baseball while paying his own tuition. He played shortstop and third base and occasionally pitched. He was graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1935. Before leaving Miami, Walter married Lela Alexander, who he had met during their high school years.
He took a job as a science, physical education and industrial arts teacher and basketball coach, later just coaching basketball between baseball seasons. This included seven years at New Madison High School in Preble County and eight seasons at Lewistown, near Bellefontaine. Alston enhanced his baseball reputation in Sunday leagues in Hamilton in the early 1930s.
In 1935, he signed a professional baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and was sent to their Greenwood, Miss., farm team in the Class C East Dixie League. His first salary was $125 a month.
In 1936 at Huntington, W. Va., Alston switched from third base to first base and led the Mid-Atlantic League with 35 homers. That earned him a place on the St. Louis roster at the end of the 1936 season, appearing in the last game for the second-place Cardinals.
He continued to play in the St. Louis minor league system -- Rochester and Houston, 1937; Portsmouth, Ohio, 1938; and Portsmouth and Columbus, Ga., 1939. In 1940, Alston became a player-manager for the Cardinals at Portsmouth, Ohio. He led the Mid-Atlantic League in homers (28) as his team finished sixth. The next two years at Springfield, Ohio, he led the same league in homers and runs batted in. He moved up, as a player only, in 1943 and 1944 to Rochester of the International League, but was released by the Cardinals in 1944.
July 28, 1944, Alston was signed as player-manager at Trenton of the Interstate League, starting a 33-year career as a manager in the Dodgers' organization. Alston continued playing for two seasons at Trenton, N. J., one at Nashua, N. H., and one at Pueblo, Colorado, where he ended his playing career at age 36.
He managed two seasons at St. Paul, Minn., winning the Junior World Series in 1949. That earned promotion to Brooklyn's top minor league club, Montreal. During four seasons in Canada, guiding many of Brooklyn's future stars, Alston's Royals never finished below second place.
Brooklyn fired Manager Chuck Dressen Oct. 14, 1953, nine days after the Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees in a six-game World Series. Nov. 24, 1953, Alston was hired to direct the team.
His 1954 Dodgers finished second (92-62 won-lost record), five games behind the New York Giants, who beat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.
Fifty years ago, in his second season, the Dodgers started fast, winning 10 straight, going 22-2 in the first month and coasting to a final 13 ½ game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Braves. Brooklyn won its first World Series, beating the New York Yankees in the seventh game Oct. 4, 1955.
In 23 seasons, 1954-76, in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Alston led the Dodgers to seven National League pennants and four World Series titles. In 1983 the Butler County native was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y.