Above: Artist's conception of Fort Sumter under fire
Dozens of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War, 1861-1865
No draft in county because volunteers exceeded quotas
("Dozens of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War" is the first in 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
The Civil War was the consuming event for residents of Hamilton and surrounding Butler County from April 1861 through April 1865. The war was fought elsewhere, but the Hamilton area was threatened twice. In September 1862 a Confederate invasion into Kentucky caused alarm. In July 1863 a southern cavalry raid across Indiana and Ohio swept along the line between Butler and Hamilton counties.
The Civil War ranks with the 1913 flood, the Depression of the 1930s and the World War II years, 1941-1945, as the most traumatic period in local history.
Here is the first dozen of many facts about the area during the tragic years that divided the nation:
1. About 4,444 Butler County men served in the Union cause, according to the research of James E. Campbell, a local Civil War veteran who became Ohio’s governor. 1890-92. He estimated there were 6,544 men of military age among the county's 35,840 residents at the start of the war. That meant two out of every three men in that age group in the county served at one time or another.
Campbell, writing in 1915, emphasized that most of the Butler Contains were volunteers, not draftees. "The counties of the state had furnished, on an average, 35 percent of their enrollment" when the first draft was held Oct. 1, 1862, he said. But Butler County "had sent to the field over 42 percent . . . being 337 men more than her full quota up to that time. She was, therefore, one of the 13 counties [out of 88] in which no draft was ordered."
Campbell said Butler County men were in more than 650 engagements. They served in 86 Ohio units and 19 regiments of the regular army. In addition, Butler County soldiers were in the ranks of regiments and batteries from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York, according to Campbell's research.
2. The Civil War started April 12, 1861, when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, an incomplete brick garrison about 300 by 350 feet with 40-foot walls on a shoal in the harbor off Charleston, S. C. About 75 Union soldiers and officers and 43 civilian workers occupied the fort, commanded by Major Robert Anderson. Casualties were two killed and one wounded. Stephen D. Cone, a Hamilton newspaper editor and historian, recalled Hamilton’s reaction.
"The news [of Fort Summer's fall] flashed over the country like wild fire. The patriotic heart of the great North was stirred and thrilled to its innermost depth. When the news was received in Hamilton, the bells of the old Neptune Fire Co. of the First Ward were rung by John R. Vaughan and Samuel Schofield, calling the citizens of Hamilton together. The excitement was at fever heat and is well remembered by one whose fortune it was to participate in the ever memorable events of the day."
3. April 14, 1861, two days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson of the U. S. Army surrendered the incomplete fort to southern forces commanded by General Pierre G. T. Beauregard. Major Anderson’s brother, Charles Anderson, was an 1829 Miami University graduate. Charles, commanded the 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the war until disabled in combat. Charles became governor of Ohio in 1865 at the end of the war.
4. Ohio's largest city in 1860 was nearby Cincinnati (161,044). Others in the top five were Cleveland (43,417), Dayton (20,081), Columbus (18,554) and Toledo (13,768). Ohio’s 1860 population was 2.3 million.
5. Butler County and its components were much smaller on the eve of the Civil War. There were 35,840 people in the county, according to the 1860 federal census. Hamilton at 7,223 inhabitants and Middletown at 2,070 were the most populous communities in 1860.
6. Hamilton's southern boundary was just south of Sycamore Street -- on an east-west line parallel to the Junction Railroad (now CSX). About 2,900 people resided in the Second Ward that extended from the Great Miami River east to South Seventh Street, and from High Street south to the railroad and Sycamore Street.
More than 2,100 people lived in the Third Ward that reached north from High Street to Heaton Street, and east from the river to North Sixth Street.
Hamilton's First Ward -- west of the Great Miami River -- had about 2,250 residents. It had been Rossville until 1855, when it merged with Hamilton. First Ward boundaries were Wayne Avenue, two blocks north of Main Street, on the north; D Street on the west; Arch Street and the railroad on the south; and the river on the east.
The entire city, from north to south, was no more than seven blocks. At its widest point from east to west, Hamilton was just 10 blocks.
7. In 1861 there were more than 40 saloons in Hamilton, according to a city directory. Churches numbered about a dozen.
8. More than half of Miami University's 1860 graduating class served in the Union armed forces. Among the 34 graduates, one died before the war. Of the 33 remaining, 18 performed a variety of duties. Two didn't survive the war. One casualty was a Hamiltonian, Major David C. Beckett. He participated in the several battles before falling June 22, 1864, as he led the 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Kenesaw Mountain, Ga.
9. The Miami University Class of 1860’s 18-man contingent who served in the war included a Butler County native who later became governor of Ohio. Andrew L. Harris, born near Darrtown in Milford Township and later a resident of Eaton in neighboring Preble County, governed the state from 1906 until 1909. During the war, Harris rose from captain in the 20th OVI to colonel in the 75th OVI.
10. Hamilton was united by two wooden covered bridges in 1861. At about the site of the present High-Main Street Bridge was the privately-owned Miami Bridge, a toll span, that had opened in 1819. The Columbia Bridge, which had opened in 1859, was free, but inconvenient. It was about half a mile south of the town on the west side, but close to breweries on the east side. Brewery owners sponsored the bridge to gain better access to barley harvested in western Butler County.
11. The war is believed to have been the reason for a dip in barley production in the county. Farmers had planted 17,383 acres in barley in 1858, but acreage dropped to 6,211 in 1862. It rebounded to 14,179 acres in 1865, the final year of the war. By 1880, Butler County barley acreage was up to 23,693, and the area was a leader in supplying breweries from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee.
12. A Butler County community changed its name during the Civil War. Symmes Corner, then in Fairfield Township, was around the present intersection of Nilles Road and Pleasant Avenue (U. S. 127) in Fairfield. A post office had been established April 10, 1843. During the Civil War, Symmes Corner was renamed Union Corners from May 31, 1861, until Jan. 28, 1864.
Turbulent days of 1860-61
Nov. 6, 1860
-- Abraham Lincoln elected president of the United States.
Dec. 20, 1860
-- South Carolina is the first of 11 states to secede from the United States. Other slaves states that seceded before Lincoln’s inauguration: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Feb. 4, 1861
-- Confederate States of America (CSA) organized at Montgomery, Ala.
Feb. 18, 1861
-- Jefferson Davis inaugurated president of the Confederacy at Montgomery, Ala.
March 4, 1861
-- Abraham Lincoln inaugurated president of the United States in Washington, D.C. Other slave states that seceded after Lincoln’s inauguration: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.
April 12, 1861
-- The Civil War started when Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter off Charleston, S. C.
April 14, 1861
-- Major Robert Anderson of the U. S. Army surrendered Fort Sumter and his 75 men to CSA forces commanded by General Pierre G. T. Beauregard.
April 15, 1861
-- President Lincoln called for 75,000 men, including more than 10,000 from Ohio, to serve for three months.
April 18, 1861
-- The First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, including the Jackson Guards of Hamilton, formed in Columbus.
June 3, 1861
-- Skirmish at Philippi, Va. (later W. Va.), involving mostly Ohio troops, considered the first Union victory of the war.
July 21, 1861
-- First major battle of the war -- fought at Manassas, Va. (Bull Run), south of Washington, D. C. -- won by Confederates.
July 22, 1861
-- President Lincoln called for an additional 500,000 volunteers, including more than 67,000 from Ohio.