Butler County Home Front

Twenty-five families of those who had volunteered for the country's defense [in April 1861] were being supported by the citizens of Hamilton and the surrounding country. The store house was directly opposite the court house, and contributions were received by D. D. CONOVER, chairman.


Port Union sent up a liberal supply of good things to the relief committee for the benefit of the families of volunteers.


Monroe was not behind the other towns in its patriotic acts. It sent a large number of young men in the Middletown company-nineteen on the fist call-and supplied them with blankets, shirts, pocket money, and so on. They requested the commissioners to levy a tax for the aid of the families of volunteers, and raised by subscription over a thousand dollars to meet pressing necessities. The home guard there numbered over one hundred men, who drilled from four to six nights per week.




The following important resolutions were passed Monday evening, November 17th:




"Whereas, The attention of this council has been called to the fact that considerable suffering now exists among the families of our soldiers in the service of their country from this city, and still more suffering is apprehended from the rigors of the approaching Winter; and


"Whereas, We are further advised that the county commissioners assert that they have no means at their Command from which to grant the necessary aid that should be immediately rendered to such families; therefore,


"Resolved, That we hereby tender to said county commissioners, to meet the want above indicated, a loan of the sum to two thousand dollars, from the funds now in the city treasury, for such time as may be required, not to exceed fourteen months, and upon payment of six percent interest for the use of the same.


"Resolved, That the city clerk furnish to said commissioners a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions at this earliest convenience. Also, a resolution granting to Messrs. LONG, BLACK and ALLSTATTER the pump of the old fire-engine Water Witch, to be fixed up at their manufactory for fire purposes." (Image Birds-eye View of Hamilton in 1855 courtesy of the Butler County Historical society)


By an arrangement of the commissioners the families of such volunteers from Butler County as had been sworn into the public service could obtain relief by application, as follows: Those living in the townships of Morgan, Reily, Oxford, Milford, Hanover, and Ross apply to J. J. OWENS; in Wayne, Madison, Lemon, Liberty, and Union, to William DAVIDSON; in St. Clair and Fairfield Township, and in the city of Hamilton, to James GIFFEN. (Image of Oxford in 1851 courtesy of the Butler County Historical Society)


From Hamilton several families sent more than one member to the army. Among them were four sons of James WHITTAKER; three sons of Mrs. CASTATOR; W. H. H. KIMBEL and two sons; J. HOUSER and two sons; L. W. MORRIS and two sons. Henry S. EARHART had two sons in the army.


As a means of aiding the soldiers, fairs were held almost everywhere. The one in this county was very successful in 1863. The two grand novelties of the week were the wood procession and the exhibition at Sohn's Hall.


The wood procession was made a principal feature of the fair. The appeal to the farmers in the county had been general, and the response was glorious and honorable to old Butler. The weather was bad. A storm of sleet and rain set in early in the day, but at ten o'clock the teams began to straggle in and deposit their contents in the vacant lot adjoining Beardsley's hat store, where the Opera House is now. Soon after ten a procession from Reily, not less than four squares in length, came down High Street, and St. Clair, Morgan, Milford, Hanover, Ross, and Liberty added their delegations, till the lot was packed with wagons, and the new arrivals began unloading on High Street, filling both sides of the street with huge ricks of wood nearly a square in length. As a drenching rain fell during the whole time, there was no music or ceremony, but the citizens mounted the wagons, helped unload, and hurried the donors off to shelter. A fine dinner had been prepared in a room of Sohn's building, where a sumptuous dinner was served. After a pleasant time at dinner the wagons began to rattle out of town, and at dusk there was no sign of the wood procession but the huge piles, which almost blockaded High Street.


Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the ladies, nothing daunted, began pressing their preparations for the Soldiers' Air Fair, with a vigor worthy the patriotic cause. The subscriptions were, in many instances, remarkable generous. Some poor persons, in the depth of their gratitude to the brave and suffering soldiers, gave almost their last dollar. Some remarkable instances occurred when even little boys had given the pennies in their savings-banks, amounting to more than some wealthy persons owning splendid farms had given.


An encampment was held in Hamilton in August, 1863, which for more than a week made the town alive with the sounds and paraphernalia of war. It was held on the grounds north of town, between the railroad and the Miami River. No spot could have been found in the State better adapted for the purposes. It was a square tract of land of sixty acres, bounded on all four sides with running water, and with a level plain in the center, well adapted for the purposes of drilling and parade. The camps of the various regiments were pitched on the lower grounds along the sides, and the various head-quarters placed conveniently on higher ground.


The number in attendance was very large. Five regimental organizations were complete; the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Sixty-first, and eight companies of the Thirty-fourth, and two companies of the Sixty-fifth, also two companies of cavalry. The officers and sergeants of the reserve militia were out in large force, and occupied the ground on the east side of the square. The volunteer organizations occupied the north and west side of the square.


The camp was under command of Colonel Len. A. HARRIS, and under his supervision the discipline and drill of the camp progressed rapidly. Up till Monday evening the officers and sergeants of various organizations were massed into companies, and thoroughly instructed by competent drill masters. The programme of each day was as follows: Guard mounting at seven A. M.; company drill from nine to eleven A. M.; battalion drill from three to five P. M.; dress parade at six P. M. On Sunday the company drill was omitted, and divine services held at ten A. M. and three P. M.; battalion drill followed at four P. M. that day, and the usual dress parade. Monday afternoon the men of different regiments began pouring in, and that night the entire ground of the camp was specked with their shelter tents and their gleaming camp fires. Tuesday morning the drilling began at five o'clock and continued with short intermissions all day. At three P. M. battalion drill was held; and at five P. M. a grand review. For the purpose of review the regiments were organized into two brigades, with Colonel FISHER of the Eighth in command, and reviewed by the commander of the post. The brigades were arranged in two lines on the east side of the grounds, facing west, and when passing in review marched entirely round the square. The music of several brass bands, and of many field bands, the neat uniforms of most of the men, the gleaming of arms, made the review a fine scene. Most of the marching was well done, and several army officers present expressed surprise at such correct marching and evolutions after so brief a drill. Many of the companies were unarmed. The Seventh Cincinnati bore the palm in marching and in the manual of arms, as the regiment was an old and thoroughly drilled one. Much was said in praise of the Butler County volunteers, especially of Companies A, of the Sixty-first, and A, of the Sixty-fifth. Taken altogether the review was a grand success, and satisfied the immense crowd that came to see it.


In the third year of the war conscription was used to fill up the wasted ranks of the Union forces. The following officers were appointed to carry out the draft: Captain John MILLS, of Dayton, Provost Marshal; M. P. ALSTON, of Fairfield, Commissioner of Enrollment; Dr. SCHENCK, of Franklin, Examining Surgeon.


After these meetings had been held, a local writer indulged in the following observations:

"The medical examiner, and other members of the board of enrollment, have had a busy time in the last three weeks, prescribing for a new and singular malady. Hardly new, either, as it swept over portions of this State a year since, but its present visit has been unparalelled in violence and extent. It very singularly spared old men, women, and children, and wreaked its violence on males between the ages of twenty and forty-five. The patients were seized with a strong desire to overhaul the dates in old family Bibles, to rub up and irritate old scars and other bodily ailments, to practice hollow coughs, to have fits, blindness, deafness, and every malady known in medicine, and some not found there. Its universal characteristic is paleness, and shuddering at the mention of swords, guns, or battle-fields.


"The crowd of afflicted throng to the office, and are only kept at a respectful distance by the bayonet. The surgeon is compelled to make short work of most cases, although occasionally giving a few words of explanation to some applicant who is disappointed to learn that he is not as ill as he might be. Most are cut off with a brief 'that will do, sir; next.' Perhaps 'next' is a great stalwart fellow, who begins with a long string about ailments beginning before his birth, but is stopped with, 'I don't care, sir, what happened before you were born; what is the trouble now?' When he drawls out, 'That was what I was going to tell you; when my mother came to this country she got skeered at the shootin' of guns when we landed, and I never could stand shootin' since.' 'That is no ground for exemption.' 'They exempted me before, doctor.' 'I can't help that; next.' 'But, doctor, what shall I do? I never can stand shootin'.' 'You have heard of Rarey, I suppose. When he found a horse that couldn't stand firing he so placed him that he could easily manage him, and then shot over him till he got used to it, and he never minded it afterward. We'll Rarey you - place you in the front rank, with a few bayonets behind you, and after you have been shot at a while, you will get over your nervousness. That will do; next.'"