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Hamilton Hydraulic and bridge builder victim of disease daring Civil War

William Dean Howells, above, who had spent his boyhood
in Hamilton, wrote a campaign biography of Abraham Lincoln in 2860.

Dozens of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War

Hamilton Hydraulic and bridge builder victim of disease daring Civil War

(This the third "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

Why were Butler County residents concerned about Kentucky political decisions at the start of the Civil War? How was a Kentucky native treated by local voters in the 1860 presidential election? Answers are in the third of many dozens of facts about the area during those tragic years:

25. During the 1860 presidential campaign, William Dean Howells, a young writer who had spent his boyhood in Hamilton, produced what was claimed to be the "authorized version" of Abraham Lincoln's life. His book was one of more than a dozen Lincoln biographies published before the 1860 election.

26. Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky native, visited Butler County only once and not as president or a presidential candidate. He spoke briefly in Hamilton between major political speeches in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati on behalf of 1859 Ohio Republican candidates. Saturday, Sept. 17, 1859, about 1,000 persons crowded around the CH&D depot, then at South Fourth and Ludlow streets, as Lincoln's southbound train arrived.

27. In the 1860 presidential election, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas won 56.2 percent of the Butler County votes. He had 4,109 votes, and prevailed in 10 of 13 townships. Republican Abraham Lincoln (2,867) captured only 39.2 percent of the county votes, winning in Oxford, Liberty and Union (now West Chester) townships.

Other Butler County totals were 184 for John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party and 156 for John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democrat Party. Lincoln carried Ohio by 44,380 votes over Douglas.

In Hamilton, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas had a 261-vote advantage while Abraham Lincoln collected only 37 percent of the ballots. Douglas campaigned in Hamilton Sept. 26, 1860. He delivered a 45-minute speech at the Butler County Courthouse. Lincoln didn’t visit Butler County during the campaign.

28. Much of Hamilton’s industry obtained power from the Hamilton Hydraulic, a privately built waterway. It took water from the Great Miami River north of Hamilton, and channeled it along North Fifth Street before turning west along Market Street. The water fell 29 feet along the course. The hydraulic drained into the river between the present sites of the former Hamilton Municipal Building and the Courtyard by Marriott. The hydraulic -- which also had channels along N. Monument Avenue -- had opened in 1845.

29. John S. Earhart left a successful career as a civil engineer to accept command of Company C of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the summer of 1861. He was educated in Hamilton schools and at Farmers College in College Hill (now a suburb of Cincinnati) before joining his father, George, in engineering turnpikes and other projects in the area. Father and son designed and built the Hamilton Hydraulic in the early 1840s.

John, the son, supervised construction of the Junction Railway from Hamilton across the Great Miami River and through Oxford to the Indiana State line at College Corner. That job included building a bridge over the river and erecting a connecting stone viaduct through the lowland of Hamilton's West Side. Earhart's viaduct -- which has been called "a masterpiece of engineering skill" -- still serves an active railroad (CSX).

Earhart's professional skills were soon recognized and he was promoted to topographical engineer for the Army of the Cumberland. His promising career ended Aug. 10, 1863, when he died of disease at Decherd, Tenn.

30. The agenda of the U. S. Congress included more than war matters. In 1862, Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. Miami University sought all or part of Ohio's $340,000 share of the measure that granted public lands to states for the support of agricultural and mechanical colleges.

Ohio legislators decided to spend the money on a new college, not Miami. The Ohio Agricultural College opened in 1870. Later it would be renamed Ohio State University.

31. The status of Kentucky, a slave state, was important to farmers, businesses and industries in Southwestern Ohio. Would the state remain in the Union, or join the Confederacy? Besides trade questions, what would be the fate of shipping on the Ohio River if Kentucky left the Union. What happened in Kentucky would have a direct economic impact in Ohio, especially areas close to the Ohio River.

Welcome news came to Butler County farmers and industrialists May 20, 1861, when Gov. Beriah Magoffin proclaimed Kentucky neutral, which was meant to keep Kentucky open for trade to and from loyal states north of the Ohio River.

32. Kentucky’s neutrality proclamation didn’t satisfy William Dennison, Ohio’s governor. May 24, 1861, four days after the Kentucky decision, Dennison, an 1835 Miami University graduate, recommend states north of the Ohio River seize Louisville, Columbus, Paducah, Covington, Newport and other Kentucky river towns to protect northern states and stop trade to Confederacy through Kentucky. His bold plan was rejected by the governors of Indiana and Illinois.

33. Nov. 20, 1861, some Kentuckians demonstrated their southern sympathy. Although the border state never withdrew from the Union, some citizens met at Russellville, Ky., to form a Confederate state government. Their choice for governor, George W. Johnson, was killed in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. The Confederate Congress admitted Kentucky Dec. 10, 1862.

34.More Kentuckians fought for the Union than the South. Records show more than 75,000 men in Union units, according to the Kentucky Department of Libraries. That doesn’t include about 12,000 who served in state forces or those who joined home guards and other independent units. The KDL says "between 25,000 and 40,000 Kentucky volunteers served in the Confederate army."

35. Humphrey Marshall, an 1827-28 Miami University student and 1832 West Point graduate, was a Confederate brigadier general. He led a CSA force into Eastern Kentucky in September 1862. He was a Kentucky representative in the Confederate Congress, 1864-65, although he had favored Kentucky neutrality in early 1861.

Before the war, the Frankfort native was a colonel during the Mexican War, 1846-47; served in the U. S. House of Representatives 1849-52; resigned his seat become U. S. minister to China, 1852-54; and returned to the U. S. House, 1855-59.

36. "ATTENTION VOLUNTEERS!" said an advertisement in the July 11, 1861, edition of the Hamilton Telegraph. "Three months volunteers, and others who are willing to sustain the laws and prove that we have a government, are invited to meet at the Courthouse in Hamilton on Saturday, the 13th instant, at 3 o'clock, to form a company or companies to join the regiment now organizing in this and adjoining counties," the ad said.

That was the start of what became the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known later as "the Butler Boys" because the majority of the 900-plus volunteers resided in the county or had Butler County roots.