Dec. 7 also memorable date for local Civil War soldiers
(This is the second in a five-part series honoring the Civil War veterans who promoted building the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, a Hamilton landmark. The monument was dedicated 100 years ago, July 4, 1906. The centennial will be observed this year at noon, preceding Hamilton's Fourth of July parade.)
By Jim Blount
Dec. 7 is a significant date in U. S. history. On that date in 1941 Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the nation into World War II. It also was the date of an earlier surprise attack -- at Hartsville, Tenn., during the Civil War. In that engagement, the targets included Butler County soldiers in two inexperienced regiments guarding an important railroad line.
The 106th and 108th Ohio volunteer infantry regiments were recruited in the summer of 1862 from German residents. There were at least 20 Butler County men in the 106th and 40 in the 108th, some with previous war experience. They were part of a brigade that also included the 104th Illinois Infantry Regiment; the 2nd Indiana Cavalry; Company E of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry and a section of the 13th Indiana Artillery. The 2,300-man brigade was led by Colonel Absalom B. Moore of the 104th Illinois.
Saturday morning, Dec. 7, 1862, the brigade was surprised and overwhelmed by Confederates under the leadership of John Hunt Morgan, already esteemed as a clever and daring cavalry commander.
The only thing certain is that it was one-sided. Reports disagree on what caused the embarrassing defeat. Claims range from poor leadership and soldiers who lacked courage to Morgan's enterprise.
One report said the brigade wasn't prepared for an attack and Colonel Moore had failed to scout the area. Confederate reports said vigilance could have prevented surprise because Morgan's force took seven hours to ferry across the Cumberland River five miles away. Moore said some Confederates wore blue federal uniforms, deceiving Union guards. Another report said Moore had assigned guard duty to men claiming to be refugees who wanted to join the Union army. Later some of these men were believed to be among the rebel attackers.
Confederates listed 1,400 men in the attack; Moore claimed 5,000 to 6,000 in Morgan's force.
There were indications that orders were confused or never delivered — particularly to the 106th and 108th. It wasn't clear if Moore ordered a charge or a retreat. Men in the two Ohio regiments said Moore surrendered while they were still fighting.
Officers investigating the Hartsville setback didn't understand why two other brigades only nine miles away didn't provide assistance.
Casualty figures seem to support the claims of the 106th OVI and the 108th OVI that they tried to make a stand. The 106th OVI lost 22 killed and 41 wounded while 429 were taken captive. The 108th had 10 killed and 30 wounded and 413 men were captured. In the entire Union force there were 58 killed, 204 wounded and 1,844 taken prisoner.
Morgan held the captives only one day. They were paroled after taking oaths that they would not take arms against the Confederacy again until officially exchanged. They were exchanged Jan. 12, 1863, rejoined their regiments, and returned to the war in March 1863, three months after the Hartsville debacle. .
Until June 1865, the 106th OVI had menial duties, mostly guarding railroads and supply depots, including a year guarding the Louisville & Nashville Railroad against guerrillas near Hartsville, Tenn.
The 108th OVI redeemed itself while campaigning through Georgia and the Carolinas. The morning of March 19, 1865, at Bentonville, N. C., the 108th OVI met and repulsed a desperate attack in the largest engagement of Gen. William T. Sherman's final campaign.
Major Frederick Beck, then its commander, said the 108th was "ordered to throw up breastworks, which we did in a short time, and when we had them finished the enemy came on in full force and charged our works." Beck said "a terrible battle ensued, which lasted for some two hours, when the enemy retired, leaving many dead and wounded on the field." The 108th, wrote Whitelaw Reid, a historian of Ohio in the war, "saved the day by a heroic resistance." The 108th suffered the loss of only one man killed and five wounded at Bentonville while capturing 11 Confederates.
Names of the Butler Countians who served in the 106th and 108th regiments are included in more than 4,300 carved into the walls of the Butler County Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
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Butler County blacks fought in Civil War
(This is the third in a five-part series honoring the Civil War veterans who promoted building the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, a Hamilton landmark. The monument was dedicated 100 years ago, July 4, 1906. The centennial will be observed this year at noon, preceding Hamilton's Fourth of July parade.)
By Jim Blount
The slavery debate and the related issue of states rights led to the Civil War, but African-Americans played only supporting roles during the first two years of the four-year internal struggle. Blacks were excluded from the U. S. military until 1863. Two years later, at the end of the war, about 300,000 had been enrolled in the Union Army, including more than 2,700 who lost their lives.
At least 40 African-American men from Butler County volunteered, most of them in units formed in 1863 and 1864, according to names on the walls of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument in downtown Hamilton.
A few units formed in 1862, but official enlistment didn't start until President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863. A total of 166 black regiments were formed.
In 1863 there were different pay schedules for white and black soldiers. The monthly pay for white soldiers ranged from $13 for a private to $21 for a sergeant major, plus $3.50 clothing allowance. For blacks it was $7 a month, regardless of rank, and a $3 clothing allowance. In June, 1864, the inequity was erased and soldiers of both races were paid the same.
Unfortunately, not much is known about the black soldiers from Butler County, except their names. After the Civil War (1861-65), county histories and other publications documented the service records of their white comrades, but failed to provide details on African-American volunteers.
What is known is that most of the dozen regiments that included Butler County blacks had outstanding battle records -- despite obstacles.
Some Civil War experts believe black units had fewer opportunities in battle because of the prejudices and fears of some white commanders. Other leaders were reluctant to send blacks against the Confederates for fear they would be killed if captured.
Black regiments were trained and led by white officers — including some commanders who regarded black men as laborers in uniforms, not soldiers.
Based on names on the walls at the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, the black units with the most Butler County soldiers were the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment (nine local men) and the 16th U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment (eight). The 54th is mistakenly identified as the 45th Massachusetts on a monument wall.
The 54th Massachusetts — which included several Ohioans — boasted of being "the first colored regiment of the North to go to war." Its exploits were dramatized in the popular 1990 movie, "Glory."
The 54th was mustered into service May 13, 1863 — before Ohio began forming its own black regiment.
The 54th had a distinguished fighting record, a reputation established in its first battle experience — an assault on Fort Wagner on Morris Island, S. C., July 18, 1863. The regiment had been two nights without sleep and two days without rations and had marched all day through sand and swamps when ordered to initiate the charge on the Confederate position. The 54th's there included 84 killed and 146 wounded.
When its service ended Aug. 20, 1865, deaths totaled 270, including 109 in battle and 161 by disease.
The first black regiment recruited in Ohio was the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, later renamed the Fifth U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment. At least one Butler County man — Joel Brandenbaugh — was a member of the regiment.
The 16th U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment was organized in Nashville, Tenn., starting in December 1863. Much of its initial duty was in Chattanooga, Tenn., the supply base for Gen. William T. Sherman's 1864 sweep through Georgia.
In December 1864, the unit fought in the decisive Battle of Nashville, where a last-minute Confederate offensive was stopped. The 16th was mustered out in April, 1866, more than a year after the war ended.
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Monument pays tribute to women's war service
(This is the fourth in a five-part series honoring the Civil War veterans who promoted building the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, a Hamilton landmark. The monument was dedicated 100 years ago, July 4, 1906. The centennial will be observed this year at noon, preceding Hamilton's Fourth of July parade.)
By Jim Blount
Only men could vote on the issue on a countywide tax levy Dec. 7, 1899,. Women weren't entitled to vote when more than $71,000 was approved for constructing a memorial to "perpetuate the memory of the soldiers, sailors and pioneers of Butler County."
The three-year levy generated $71,267.25 to build the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument dedicated in 1906. Construction cost $71,266.73 -- leaving a 52-cent surplus in the fund..
There had been talk about building a memorial since the Civil War ended in 1865. About 4,400 Butler County men had served in the Union army or navy -- a sizable portion of the county's 35,840 residents -- men and women -- when the war started in 1861.
In July 1897 the campaign for a county memorial was renewed by members of Wetzel-Compton Post, Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization. Within two years, the committee won the support of the City of Hamilton, and county and state government.
The monument was promoted by local men. Its funding was approved by local male voters. The walls include names of men who served in the Civil War and other wars. Its crown is a statue of a male soldier.
But the monument is unique among Civil War memorials because it also commemorates the service of women during the 1861-65 conflict. Two large, dominant windows -- one facing High Street, the other the Great Miami River -- honor women's contributions during the war.
The window on the river side features women and children rolling bandages and preparing lint for the use of doctors on the battlefields. The High Street window depicts nurses helping a wounded soldier.
War necessities opened nursing as a new profession for women. The Civil War was just beginning in August 1861 when authorities in Washington realized that men would be needed in large numbers for fighting. That month, Congress authorized women as nurses in the Union army. Within the next four years, about 3,200 women answered the call.
There are no known records of Butler County women who accepted the challenge, but there is strong circumstantial evidence. The most tangible proof of local participation is the monument window.
One local woman known to have been a Civil War nurse, according to her obituary, was Mrs. Elizabeth Willsey McCreadie of Millville, who served for three years.
There were no provisions for training nurses during the war, and the standards for enlistment were tough and unflattering. They included:
1. Be over 30 years old and healthy.
2. Be "plain almost to repulsion in dress, and devoid of personal attractions."
3. Not allowed to wear colored dresses, hoops, curls, jewelry or have flowers in their bonnets.
4. "Look neat themselves and keep their boys [patients] and wards the same."
5. Read and write for the patients -- but not from any book or newspaper. (Apparently letters were the only acceptable reading matter.)
6. Be in their rooms by 9 o'clock at night.
7. Must not go to any place of amusement in the evening.
8. Must not be accompanied by a patient or officer, except on business.
9. Must spend part of their daily pay for the welfare of their patients.
The pay was small by modern standards. A nurse earned 40 cents a day, plus one meal. That compared with 50 cents a day allowed a cavalryman for feeding his horse.
On a monthly basis, a Civil War nurse was paid about $12, or a dollar less than a soldier at the start of the war. The difference widens with deduction of that part her pay spent daily for the benefit of her patients.
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Earlier 'Great Generation' won U. S. Civil War
(This is the last in a five-part series of honoring the Civil War veterans who promoted building the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, a Hamilton landmark. The monument was dedicated 100 years ago, July 4, 1906. The centennial will be observed this year at noon, preceding Hamilton's Fourth of July parade.)
By Jim Blount
"The Greatest Generation," said TV news anchor Tom Brokaw in his 1998 book bearing that title, is the American men and women who served and sacrificed during World II (1941-45). James E. Campbell, had he lived in that era, probably wouldn't challenge that claim. But he would contend that the previous century also had an extraordinary generation -- those who fought in the Civil War (1861-65).
Campbell, 18 years old when the war began, was qualified to make such a judgment. After service on a Mississippi River gunboat during the Civil War, the Middletown native resided in Hamilton, where he spent most of his professional and political career. Before his death in 1924, he witnessed the end of the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War and World War I.
His perspective also was based on two terms as Butler County prosecutor, three consecutive terms in the Ohio House of Representative and two years as Ohio's governor. (1890-92). His gubernatorial achievements included bringing the secret ballot to Ohio.
After leaving the statehouse, Campbell continued his law practice in Columbus and remained active in the state Democratic Party. He also was president of the Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society (now the Ohio Historical Society).
Because of his military experience and interest in history, Campbell's legacy to his home county is a detailed study of Butler County participation in the Union forces during the Civil War.
At least 4,444 "patriotic sons of Butler County offered themselves to their country during the four tragic years of Civil War," Campbell said in a 1915 speech.
"In this estimate [4,444] no account is made of an improvised regiment of 'Squirrel Hunters' which marched into Kentucky in September 1862 to defend Ohio against invasion by Kirby Smith's army; nor of the 1,200 men who assisted in accelerating John Morgan's rapid raid through the state in July 1863," he explained.
The former governor put that conservative estimate of 4,444 volunteers in perspective. "In 1861 Butler County had 35,848 inhabitants," he continued, "and the enrollment of men of military age numbered 6,544; so that over 12 per cent of her entire population, and more than 66 per cent of her eligible soldiery, were found in the ranks."
By comparison, the 1940 federal census counted 120,249 residents in Butler County a year before Pearl Harbor. More than 16,000 men and an unknown number of women left the county to serve in World War II, including 15,267 who were drafted. That response was estimated at about one out of every four male inhabitants.
In the first two years of the Civil War, volunteers had filled the ranks of Union forces. But in August 1862, President Abraham Lincoln asked the states to sent additional men. The president authorized governors to draft men in states that failed to meet their quota with volunteers.
"Oct. 1, 1862, the first draft for compulsory enlistments was resorted to," Campbell recalled, and Butler County had sent "337 men more than her full quota up to that time."
"She was, therefore, one of the 13 counties [among Ohio's 88] in which no draft was ordered; and no county had exceeded her," Campbell boasted. In some states, including Ohio, the draft met violent resistance.
He said "this comparison is not intended to be an invidious reflection upon the other counties, for the patriotism of the people in all of these counties was beyond praise; the figures are given simply to show how superbly Butler County responded to her obligations at every stage of the war."
"Surely no one, through whose veins there courses a drop of patriotic blood, can contemplate this glorious record without a quicker heartthrob and a glow of honest pride," Campbell reflected.
With two out of three men of military age volunteering, Butler County's Civil War soldiers and sailors surely are candidates as the "Greatest Generation" of the 19th century.