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Confederate assistant secretary of war taught at Miami University

Above: Ohio Governor William Dennison, an 1835
Miami University graduate, raised 23 regiments
for Union Army early in war's early days.

Dozens of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War, 1861-1865

Confederate assistant secretary of war taught at Miami University

(This is the second "Dozen of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War." a series of random columns related to brief comments on Butler County’s role in the Civil War, 1861-1865. The columns are in conjunction with the observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, 2010-2015. The reprint edition of Jim Blount’s 1998 book, The Civil War and Butler County, is available at several outlets, or by contacting Books in Shandon, 4795 Cincinnati-Brookville Road (Ohio 126), Shandon, OH 45063, or phone 738-2962 or 523-4005.)

Compiled by Jim Blount

How did the Civil War involve and affect residents of Hamilton and surrounding Butler County in the four years from April 1861 through April 1865. Here is the second of many dozens of facts about the area during those tragic years:

13. Albert T. Bledsoe, a mathematics professor at Miami University in Oxford (1835-36), was assistant secretary of war in the Confederate cabinet. He also represented the Confederacy as a commissioner to solicit assistance from England. Bledsoe, an 1830 West Point graduate; had served on western frontier army duty (1831-82) before joining the Miami faculty.

14. Joseph R. Davis, an 1842 university Miami graduate, was a nephew of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America (CSA). Before the war, he was a lawyer and state senator in his home state of Mississippi. During the war he commanded of Confederate troops in the battles of Gettysburg and the Wilderness and the siege of Petersburg, Va.

15. "Thirteen regiments" -- only two words -- replied President Abraham Lincoln to a query from Ohio’s governor, William Dennison, an 1835 graduate of Miami University. Via telegraph, the governor had asked Lincoln "what portion of the 75,000 militia . . . do you give to Ohio?"

"Great rejoicing here over your proclamation," the 45-year-old Cincinnati native had added in reacting to the president's April 15, 1861, call for 75,000 soldiers to suppress the rebellion that started with the attack on Fort Sumter April 12.
Within a few days of the president's call, Governor Dennison had about 30,000 men to offer for federal service, most of them gathered in Columbus, then a town of 18,554 residents. Only 23 regiments -- or 12,357 Ohio men -- were accepted by federal officials, exceeding Ohio’s quota of 10,153. That number included more than 300 volunteers from Butler County who left their homes within a week of Lincoln's "appeal to all loyal citizens."

16. Hamilton’s town hall during the war years was on the west side of North Third Street, south of Dayton Street, later the site of Ohio Casualty Insurance Co..

17. During the war, there were four firehouses, manned by volunteers with horse-drawn wagons. Hamilton switched to a paid, professional fire department in 1865, the year the war ended.

18. There was no police department in the city during the Civil War. A 10-year crime wave terrorized the city after the war. The Hamilton police department was formed in 1875 after citizens had endured crime and corruption. Until 1875, law and order was supposed to have been the responsibility of city marshals and constables, elective positions. Contemporary observers claim marshals and constables were either powerless or corrupt..

19. Hamilton had five public schools in 1860, including a 10-room structure at the northeast corner of Ross Avenue and South C Street (now the site of Partners in Prime, but not the same building). It housed a few high school students as well as pupils in the lower grades (now the site of Partners in Prime).

The first high school class to complete four years graduated in 1862. The three Hamilton High grads were Laura Creighton (later Mrs. E. E. Palmer of St. Louis); Daniel Millikin (later a doctor in Hamilton); and James E. Neal (later a lawyer in Hamilton and Cincinnati and U. S. consul in Liverpool, England).

20. In 1853, eight years before the war, Hamilton established a separate "colored school" for about 15 African-American children in an unspecified location, probably in a rented room in a church. In 1857, the school board authorized $1,500 to build a one-room "colored school" on the east side of S. Front Street, near Sycamore Street. It was not until late in the 19th century that children of all races attended the same schools in Hamilton.

21. Three weekly newspapers, including one printed in German, were published in Hamilton in 1861.

22. The Jackson Guards of Hamilton were the first Butler County unit to enter service. The militia group, mostly of German ancestry, numbered about 100 men when the volunteers left by train April 18, three days after Lincoln's appeal. Under the command of Captain John P. Bruck, the Guards arrived at Camp Jackson in Columbus the same day -- without arms, ammunition and uniforms. The Guards were designated Company K of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, enrolled for three months of service.

23. One of Hamilton's 1861 connections to the outside world was the Miami-Erie Canal. The canal -- converted in the 1930s to Erie Highway within the city -- was built in the late 1820s. The Hamilton Basin, a lateral canal completed in 1829, extended west from the canal between present High Street and Maple Avenue. Its western end was near the present intersection of Court Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in downtown Hamilton.

24. Three railroads had opened through the city in the 10 years before the Civil War, leading to declines in canal freight and passenger patronage.

The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad opened in 1851. From south to north, CH&D Butler County stops or stations included Muhlhauser, Jones Station, Fairsmith, Schenck, Lindenwald, Hamilton, North Hamilton, Old River Jct., New River Jct., Middletown Jct., Overpeck, Busenbark, Trenton, Middletown and Poasttown. The CH&D eventually connected north to Toledo and Detroit in 1863.

The Hamilton & Eaton Railroad (also known as the Eaton & Hamilton) opened between Hamilton and Somerville in 1852. In 1853 it connected with the Richmond & Miami, which had built east from Richmond, Ind. In 1854, the E&H and the R&M merged under the Hamilton & Eaton name. In 1866 the railroad reorganized as the Cincinnati, Richmond & Chicago RR. From south to north it had county stops or stations at Hamilton, New River (New Miami), Seven Mile, Collinsville and Somerville.

The Junction Railroad -- also was known at various times as the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Indianapolis and the Cincinnati, Indianapolis & Western -- opened between Hamilton and Oxford in 1859. East-west from Hamilton, county stops and stations included Edgewood, Belt Jct., Midway, Hanover, McGonigle, Woods, Ogleton, Oxford, McDonald and College Corner. Indiana points included liberty, Connersville, Rushville and in 1869 Indianapolis. Later it extended west to Dana, Ind., and Tuscola, Decatur and Springfield in Illinois.

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