Fraternity link earned Civil War POW favorable treatment
By Jim Blount
Granville Moody Flenner tried to join the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861. Because of his age, 17, he was sent home. His parents believed enrolling him in Ohio Wesleyan University would keep their son out of the Civil War. He had other intentions and in the summer of 1862 enlisted in a new regiment, the 93rd OVI. Aug. 12, 1862, Flenner entered Company D, known as Captain Dan Bowman's Company for the Middletown man who commanded it.
About 275 to 300 of the 968 officers and soldiers in the 93rd were Butler County residents, mostly in companies C, D and F. The regiment organized at Camp Dayton under Colonel Charles Anderson, a Kentucky native and Miami University graduate who had practiced law in Cincinnati and Dayton.
The 93rd -- inexperienced and partially trained -- was rushed into service when Confederates forces advanced into Kentucky. The August 1862 offensive threatened Cincinnati and Louisville and alarmed authorities in Ohio and Indiana.
Flenner -- born near Flenner's Corner in Liberty Township June 29, 1843, a son of John and Mary Jane Peake Flenner -- was in Kentucky only a few days after joining the 93rd.
"We were sent to Lexington," he explained later, "to reinforce [Gen. Don C.] Buell's army in an attempt to check the advance of [Gen.] Kirby Smith's Confederates. Defeated in battle at Richmond, Ky., the Union forces retreated to Lexington, thence to Frankfort and Louisville."
Not all of the 93rd regrouped in Louisville. Flenner, either ill or wounded, was among those who didn't make it. "At Frankfort, with several of my company who were exhausted by the long march," he said, "I was made a prisoner [Sept. 1] and taken back to Lexington where Gen. Smith had established his headquarters.
"Arriving at the picket line, we were halted by a major of cavalry and questioned;" Flenner recalled, and "when told that I had recently attended Ohio Wesleyan, he said he had graduated from that institution four years before and asked if I was a member of any of the fraternities. When I told him I was a Sigma Chi, he gripped my hand and in an undertone said, 'I will see that you are taken care of.' "
It wasn't an idle promise. As the major rode away, he ordered a guard to take Flenner to the Phoenix Hotel. "Arriving there," Flenner said, "we found him [the officer] waiting at the curb and he requested me to leave the carriage and follow him into the hotel. He took me to a room that he had been occupying and gave instructions that I should be given every possible care and attention."
Flenner said the unknown Confederate "called to see me several times during the day and at the end of the second day he said he would have to say good bye as his regiment had been ordered to march, but he had provided for me by securing this parole from General Smith and had arranged with Dr. Bell, a prominent Union physician of the city, to take me into his home and care for me until I was able to travel."
Flenner's good fortune continued at the doctor's home. There, he said, "I found another patient, also ill, whom the doctor had taken in and was caring for, my brother-in-law, major of my regiment" [apparently Major Alfred A. Phillips of Hamilton].
"Through the kind attentions of the doctor, and the gentle ministrations of his lovely 16-year-old daughter, Lottie," Flenner said, "I was nursed back to health."
He was allowed to leave Lexington and return to Hamilton. He rejoined the 93rd OVI, serving until wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga Sept. 19, 1863. He was discharged Dec. 16, 1864.
The former Seven Mile Academy student married Ann P. Rust Nov. 29, 1865. He was in the hardware business in Hamilton until 1888. That year he moved to Peoria, Ill., and operated a wholesale farm implement business. He returned to Hamilton in 1919 after the death of his wife.
Flenner never forgot the Confederate Sigma Chi. He contacted Ohio Wesleyan University in an attempt to identify the sympathetic officer, but to no avail. He died in Hamilton June 9, 1932, never knowing the Civil War fate of his benefactor or having an opportunity to thank him.
Recent queries to Sigma Chi and Ohio Wesleyan archivists confirmed much of Flenner's account, but didn't uncover the name of the southern major who had attended Ohio Wesleyan.
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Lebanon Normal School taught skills of teaching
By Jim Blount
Normal schools -- a familiar term into the 20th century -- formerly trained teachers for the nation's public and private schools. Several operated in Ohio, including one with a prestigious name, the National Normal School.
The institution in Lebanon in Warren County had several names between 1855 and 1934. During that period some of its graduates found jobs in Butler County. Its students included an Ohio governor, Myers Y. Cooper (1929-31) and Albert B. Graham, founder of the 4-H program.
Another former student was Cordell Hull, the 1945 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Hull, from Tennessee, was elected 11 times to the U. S. House of Representatives, served a brief stint in the U. S. Senate before being appointed U. S. secretary of state (1933-44) and was known as "the father of the United Nations."
Hull, who attended other schools, recalled participating "in the strenuous discussions held by the school's debating societies" at Lebanon. "I studied higher mathematics, including calculus, advanced rhetoric which covered all the best phases of literature and some of the sciences. I also read law books," he wrote in his memoirs.
The normal school movement began in the 1820s in the U. S. They differed from colleges that taught classics to students entering medicine, law or the ministry. Connecticut law said a normal school's purpose was to train students "in the best methods of teaching and conducting common schools."
James G. Carter, "the father of the American normal school," believed many teachers, although well educated, lacked knowledge of teaching skills. The 1820 Harvard graduate, as a writer on education and a Massachusetts legislator, worked to improve public schools. His reforms emphasized training prospective teachers and led to creation of normal schools, based on a French concept of model schools.
Normal schools evolved into normal colleges, independent of those with the classical curriculum. Later, universities added normal colleges and some normal colleges expanded to other disciplines.
The Lebanon institution opened in 1855 as Southwestern Normal School in the former Lebanon Academy that had started in 1844. The normal school was directed by Alfred Holbrook (1816-1909), who remained as principal or president until 1897. Southwestern Normal enrollment -- 256 in the first year -- reached 375 by 1859-1860.
The name changed to National Normal School in 1870. Five years later it enrolled 1,576 students with 18 faculty members. NNS had the largest enrollment of the seven normal schools in Ohio that year. In addition to training teachers, by the 1870s it had departments of medicine, law and photography.
In 1872, the school advertised student "expenses $4 per week, including tuition, books, room rent, table board, bedding and bed washing." It also said "12 boarding houses are owned and controlled by the principal" and "comfortably furnished." The ad said trained teachers were in demand and graduates were receiving "wages from $2 to $5 per day."
It became the National Normal University in 1881. The next year, a newspaper said it occupied 20 buildings in Lebanon, including six dormitories and a 1,200-seat chapel.
At various times, several communities -- including Hamilton and Middletown -- attempted to entice the school to relocate.
Although enrollment reached 2,000, NNU faced financial problems through the 1890s. In 1906, when the school filed bankruptcy, the entire faculty resigned. It was renamed Lebanon University in 1907. When it closed in August 1917, records were transferred to Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio.
At an unknown date, an Alfred Holbrook College opened in a former normal school building in Lebanon and operated until 1934, when it moved to Manchester, Ohio. That school closed in 1941.
Holbrook -- a Connecticut native educated in Massachusetts -- had started teaching at age 17. He taught in Connecticut and New York before moving to northern Ohio in 1840. He was superintendent in the Marlboro and Salem schools before taking the helm at the new normal school in Lebanon in 1855.
He also was an education author, including two books, Normal Methods and School Management.
The 1882 history of Warren County said Holbrook "has had under his direct instruction not less than 30,000 persons, a number equaled by very few teachers in our country. It has been remarked by those best acquainted with his work that no student has ever left any institution of which he had control morally worse then when he or she entered it."
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Did prehistoric enclosure have tunnel leading to river?
By Jim Blount
Known as Fort Butler to early Butler County residents and later to archeologists as the Hine Mound and Village Site, a formidable hill in Ross Township was reputed to have been "a final stronghold of the redskins when the white man came to America."
According to a local legend recalled by a newspaper writer in 1921, "one of tribes which made its home here was able to hold out against the white man for a long time after all other Indians had been driven out of the country."
"The story goes," said the writer, "they were able to supply themselves with food and water because of a tunnel which they had built from the top of the hill to the bank of the river. Through this tunnel they went to obtain water and fish" while they defended their land."
The tale was revived in 1921 when archeologists spent 10 days examining the remains of Fort Butler, given that name decades earlier, because it resembled a smaller version of Fort Ancient in neighboring Warren County.
Heading the research team was Henry C. Shetrone (1876-1954), who that year was named the first director of the Ohio Historical Society. Shetrone, a self-educated archeologist, became the expert on Ohio mound building cultures. His early work was summarized in his 1930 book, The Mound-Builders.
"A search for the fabled [Fort Butler] tunnel will be made," the newspaper said, "although it is doubtful whether or not anything will be found of it."
When Shetrone and William C. Mills, also a mound builder scholar, wrote their report on the Hine site in 1923, they didn't mention the legendary tunnel. They found remains of prehistoric cultures, not historic Ohio tribes, on George Hine's farm, described as on the Venice Road about five miles south of Hamilton. Residents of the "strategic position" they said, left the site many decades before white men came to the area.
Hine, who had resided there about 50 years, was the second generation to farm the land. Shetrone and Mills said, before their excavations, "at least 100 skeletons have been dislodged by the plow, many of which were accompanied by pottery vessels."
"Since the prehistoric occupation of the site," the archeologists said, the Great Miami River "has changed its course and now occupies a new channel a mile or more to the eastward."
The 1921 dig appears to have been at the same location described in J. P. McLean's 1879 book, The Moundbuilders: Archeology of Butler County, Ohio. McLean said the site had been examined and surveyed by James McBride in 1836.
McLean called it the largest of "three important enclosures, all near the river," in Ross Township. His maps locate it on the Bittener and Garver farms in section 12. That places it between present Hine and Smith roads and Hamilton-Cleves Road (Ohio 128).
"The hill," said McLean, "is the most elevated of any in the vicinity, and constitutes a spur, the summit of which is about 250 feet high. It is a short distance from the river, and surrounded on all sides, save a narrow space at the north, by deep ravines." He said "from the line of fortification the hill is sloping, but before reaching the bottom of the ravines it becomes steeper, and in places presenting almost inaccessible declivities."
"On the north the descent is inconsiderable, making it easy of access. The embankment, composed of a stiff clay mingled with stone, and having a height of five feet by 35 feet base, skirting along the brow of the hill, and generally conforming to its outline, encloses an area of a little over 16 acres, the interior of which gradually rises to the height of 26 feet above the base of the wall."
He found four gateways -- each about 20 feet wide -- in the embankment that surrounded the summit. One gateway, he said, "opens upon a natural parapet." McLean also charted embankments and stone mounds within the enclosure.
"That it was constructed for purposes of defense is beyond all question," he wrote. "The position it occupies is naturally strong, and the artificial defenses exhibit a great degree of skill. Every avenue is strongly fortified."
An enemy that penetrated a gateway, McLean believed, would "meet with a complex system of walls calculated to mislead and bewilder."
McLean didn't mention any evidence of a tunnel leading to the river.
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Ohio soldiers voted absentee in Civil War election
By Jim Blount
Ohio was one of 11 states that permitted Civil War soldiers serving outside the state to vote in the 1864 presidential election. More than 150,000 troops from those 11 states cast absentee ballots.
The presidential contest was between extreme opposites. Incumbent Abraham Lincoln ran on a Republican platform pledged to continuing the war until objectives were achieved. His rival was Democrat George B. McClellan, a former general and commander of the Army of the Potomac. The Democrat platform urged ending the war and emphasized failures of the Lincoln administration war policies.
Weeks before the election, postponing or canceling the election was considered because of the difficulties and risks expected in conducting a national vote while the nation was divided by the war. Lincoln was among those opposing a delay or cancellation. "We cannot have free government without elections," the president said, "and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us."
Absentee soldier voting was favored by both parties, both believing it was to their advantage. A rationale for the system was that the war was being fought by citizen soldiers who hadn’t relinquished their right to vote by being in the military, or serving in other states.
Some soldiers, including Ohioans, voted twice -- in state elections in October, and for president in November. Buckeye soldiers voted directly for state candidates in October and for electors pledged to presidential candidates in November. It wasn't the first time Ohio soldiers had been allowed to vote absentee. It had been done a year earlier in the 1863 gubernatorial election.
In 1864, the Ohio secretary of state sent tally sheets and other documents to army camps, supply centers, hospitals and other military facilities. Printed tally sheets were completed, listing the unit and its location and showing the names of electors for the presidential tickets and the number of votes cast for each elector.
Each tally sheet was signed by two clerks and three judges. Also sent to army clerks were specially printed envelopes, marked "Presidential Election" and self-addressed to the clerk of courts in the proper Ohio county. The completed soldier tallies were mailed to Ohio where their totals were added to the local results in the respective counties.
Furloughs were granted to soldiers from some states -- including neighboring Indiana -- that didn’t permit absentee ballots. Leaves allowed the men to return to their home states to vote.
The absentee voting system had a few critics. Some soldiers claimed they were ordered by officers to vote for specific candidates. Some officers believed the quickly organized system favored one party over the other.
Recent Union military victories and results of the Oct. 11 state election left little doubt about the presidential contest. Ohio Republicans (or Unionists) captured 17 of the 19 congressional seats in October, a drastic change from 1862 when Democrats won 14 of the 19 elections. The soldier vote was believed to have determined the winner in two Republican districts in 1864.
In November 51,434 Ohio soldiers voted absentee as Lincoln won the state by 60,055. He had 56 percent of the total vote, including 53 percent of the ballots cast by civilians and 81 percent of the soldier count.
Soldier vote totals aren't available for Butler County, the only county in Ohio's southwest corner to favor McClellan (58.6 percent). He beat Lincoln, 3,787 to 2,676, including a 142-vote edge in Hamilton, 838 to 696. Lincoln prevailed in five surrounding Ohio counties (Hamilton, Clermont, Warren, Montgomery and Preble).
Nationally, among 154,045 troops who cast absentee ballots, Lincoln won 119,754 votes and McClellan 34,291.
In the Electoral College, Lincoln amassed 212 votes to 21 for McClellan, who early in the war had been popular with the troops he led. He had been relieved of command by Lincoln.
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Newport Barracks replaced Ohio frontier forts
By Jim Blount
When the 1790s Indian wars ended in the Northwest Territory and Ohio approached statehood, the primitive frontier forts of Generals Arthur St. Clair and Anthony Wayne were outdated. Fort Hamilton was vacated in 1796, and Fort Washington at Cincinnati was recommended for abandonment in 1799. But political and military leaders believed a military presence was still needed in the region.
Despite recent peace treaties, Indians remained a threat. In addition, there was suspicion about the intentions of Great Britain, whose troops remained in northern parts of the territory. France and Spain also retained interest in North America.
A new military installation, it was assumed, would be on the Ohio River, the quickest and most efficient way to transport troops and supplies. Contenders west of Pittsburgh were Cincinnati and Louisville.
When the decision came, it was neither city, although the chosen location was opposite Cincinnati. James Taylor, proprietor of the developing town of Newport, Ky., offered land he owned at the mouth of the Licking River, which flowed north into the Ohio River.
In 1803 the army chose the five-acre site and retained Taylor to build Newport Barracks. He was paid $60 a month and reimbursed for materials and labor.
Newport Barracks was an arsenal and ordnance supply center for about 15 years. Periodically it was an assembly point for recruits and for detachments combined for service in the South and West.
During the War of 1812 (1812-1815) against the British and Indians, the post sent men and supplies to General William Henry Harrison's army fighting in the Toledo-Detroit area and in Canada. Some British prisoners of war also were held in Newport.
During the Mexican War (1846-1848) it was an induction and training center.
. An 1851 publication said "it is estimated that over 1,000 recruits are annually received at this post, drilled and then sent off to augment the various regiments in service. The number of soldiers under drill . . . at one time is about 150."
Among those serving at the post was Philip H. Sheridan, an Ohioan who was destined to be a successful officer and general in the Civil War and Indian wars.
"After the usual leave of three months following graduation from the Military Academy [West Point], I was assigned to temporary duty at Newport Barracks, a recruiting station and rendezvous for the assignment of young officers preparatory to joining their regiments," Sheridan noted in his memoirs. "Here I remained from September 1853 to March 1854."
Newport Barracks performed many duties during the Civil War (1861-1865). Some Union soldiers were sent there to recover from illness, injury or wounds. It also confined some Confederate prisoners, military and civilian.
Several army units trace their origin to Newport Barracks, including the 11th and 15th Infantry divisions. Their service stretches from the Civil War through both world wars to recent service in the Middle East.
Newport Barracks provided limited defense for Cincinnati during Confederate advances into Kentucky. Perimeter defensive positions were built a few miles away in the hills surrounding Northern Kentucky.
Newport Barracks continued in varied, but reduced service after the Civil War, including an induction center for troops involved in Indian wars in western territories.
By the 1880s, its aging buildings were neglected. Floods were a recurring problem. Scarce army money paid to cleanup and restore the post each time the Licking and Ohio covered the lowland site. In 1890 the army declared it an unhealthy location.
The army donated the land and buildings to the City of Newport in 1894. It was transferred to the city in January 1895, and eventually became James Taylor Park.
The army abandoned Newport Barracks, but it didn't leave Northern Kentucky -- a topic for a future column.