Butler County Oposition to the War

The civil war had many opponents in this county, and the first year had not passed without vigorous protests from them. The first burst of enthusiasm had silenced every voice, but in the course of two or three months objectors could again be heard in every part of the county. The Democratic party was divided into two camps, but the peace faction obtained the preponderating influence in the convention, which was duly held on the 2d of August, and they used their power. M. N. MAGINNIS was the leading spirit. He introduced a set of resolutions denouncing the war and reaffirming the principles of the resolutions of 1798, of the most ultra kind. They were warmly received, and were passed. But the sober sense of the party asserted itself afterwards, and the convention reassembled on the 21st, at which the previous resolutions were disavowed, and a more moderate series were passed. Many of those who had not been present previously were on hand, and the yeomanry were also in attendance, and it is safe to say that the latter meeting more thoroughly reflected the feelings of the Democracy than the former one did. There were then two newspapers published in Hamilton which were nominally Democratic, but they really differing as far as the poles. In the one controlled by Dr. McELWEE the most undisguised denunciations of the war, its leaders and the abolitionists, were to be found. To be a friend of the Union, as it was likely to be reconstructed, was bad enough; but to have a sympathy for a man with a colored skin was enough to cause a citizen's name to be written down among the most infamous of the human race. The Union Party, as the Republicans entitled themselves for the campaign, appealed to every patriotic sentiment of the country, and canvassed each township with great spirit, and came very near carrying the election. Two of the ticket were elected, the rest being defeated.


Some of those who were unfriendly to the war formed a Mutual Protection Company, but it did not meet with much favor, and was soon abandoned. Secret political societies for the same purpose flourished.


Citizens of Ross, Reily, Hanover, and Morgan Townships, in Butler County, Ohio, met at the township house in Okeana, on the 17th of July, 1863. The meeting was organized by electing John J. OWENS, president, William KINNARD, vice-president, John W. AGNEW, secretary, and J. B. VANLEW, assistant secretary. The object of the meeting was stated by the president to be for the purpose of organizing a company for the mutual protection of person and property.

The citizens of Whitewater and Springfield Townships, in Franklin County, Indiana, were invited to participate. A committee of one from each township and one from Indiana was appointed to report to an adjourned meeting to be held at Auburn, on Monday, July 20th, at two o'clock, P. M.


The meeting reconvened at Auburn, pursuant to adjournment, and the committee appointed by the former meeting, through the president, reported the following:


"We, the undersigned citizens of the townships of Ross, Reily, Hanvoer, and Morgan, in the county of Butler, in the State of Ohio, and of the townships of Springfield and Whitewater, in the county of Franklin, in the State of Indiana, having been fully convinced of the importance and necessity of protecting persons and property from invasion, by both foreign and domestic enemies of our country, and her laws, do hereby organize ourselves, for the purpose of mutual protection, into an independent company, to be known by the name and style of the Butler County Mutual Protection Company, and to be governed by a constitution and code of by-laws to be hereafter adopted by a majority of those signing this declaration of their determination to protect and defend the rights of our citizens, and to sustain and uphold the supremacy of the laws."


The following named gentlemen were appointed a committee to circulate this paper for signature: John W. OWENS, John G. AGNEW, and John CREGMILE, of Reily Township; C. W. LANE, Washington B. DAVIS, and W. R. COCHRAN, of Hanvoer Township; James GAULTNEY, Joseph DAVIS, and Samuel LLOYD, of Morgan Township; John FROST, Daniel BROSIUS, and A. D. KNOX, of Ross Township; Dr. A. B. JAMES, James BURTONSHAW, and John DAVIS, of Springfield Township, and John HALL, Wm. MITCHELL, and John JACQUES, of Whitewater Township, Franklin County, Indiana.


S. D. LLOYD and W. B. DAVIS the next week wished the newspapers to say that they did not desire to have any thing to do with the "Butler County Mutual Protection Company" for the townships of Hanover, Ross, Reily, and Morgan. They believed that the laws when enforced were sufficient to protect persons and property, and did not care about seeking any new modes of redress under the lead of men known to sympathize with rebellion and riot. "The Constitution as it is, and the enforcement of the laws," was their motto.


Two persons were arrested in Hamilton for opposing the war. One was Dr. MCELWEE, and the other George DONGES. Dr. MCELWEE was the conductor of a newspaper, and in it some violent expressions had been found. DONGES had hurrahed for Jeff. DAVIS. We give the trial of DONGES, who is still a resident of this place:


"Charge. - Publicly declaring sympathy with the rebel enemies of the United States Government, contrary to Department General Orders, No. 38, and violently assaulting a loyal citizen, who reproved such declaration of sympathy.


"Specification. - In this, that on or about the eighteenth day of April, 1863, the said George DONGES, at the city of Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, did publicly huzza for Jeff. DAVIS, and on being reproved for the same by one Peter KREGENHOFER, a loyal citizen, did violently assault said KREGENHOFER, strike him in the face with his fists, knock him down with a slung-shot, and kick him in the face, seriously wounding and bruising him, the said KREGENHOFER.


"To which charge and specification the prisoner pleaded as follows: 'Not guilty.'

"Finding and sentence. - The commission, after mature deliberation on the evidence adduced, find the accused, George DONGES, of Butler County, Ohio, as follows: Of the specification, 'guilty;' of the charge 'guilty.' And the commission do, therefore sentence him, the said George DONGES, of Butler County, Ohio, to four months on Johnson's Island, or such other place as the commanding general shall direct, there to be made to do such hard work as the post commander shall direct.


"The finding and sentence of the court are approved by General BURNSIDE, and he disposed of the case by ordering that


"The prisoners, George DONGES, citizen of Butler County, Ohio, and John MCELWEE, citizen of Jasper County, Illinois, will also be delivered by the military commander of Cincinnati, Ohio, into the custody of the commanding officer on Johnson's Island, who is charged with the execution of their sentence.


By command of


"Lewis RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant General.

"Official, W. P. ANDERSON, Assistant Adjutant General


Upon VALLANDIGHAM's return from the South and from Canada he made his first appearance in Hamilton. His seizure had been a grave mistake on the part of the government, as it made a martyr of him, and his arrest upon his return would have been a still greater error. But the authorities had learned wisdom, and he harangued the faithful to his heart's content without interruption. It was feared that there would be interference by the soldiers, or by zealous Republicans, in which case there would undoubtedly have been bloodshed. Every thing, however, passed off peaceably. The result of the election was an increased majority for the opposers of the war in this county, but through the State no such result prevailed. LINCOLN, and not MCCLELLAN, carried the electoral vote. This opposition to the war was carried on to the end, and for five or six years after its close the local leaders of the party denounced the results. Time has healed these wounds, and most of those who distinguished themselves during the war and the post-bellum period, in violent denunciation of what was done, have accepted the results with equanimity and patience.