First Wave of Volunteers From Butler County

Thirty names responded to the call for members to the company, after which the meeting [in the third week of April 1861] ordered a copy of the minutes to be furnished the Hamilton papers, with a request that they be published, and adjourned to meet the next Monday evening for organization of a military company.

 

In the mean time the volunteers had not been slow in coming forward. Companies sprang into existence all over the State. The first from this county that reached Columbus in time to go into the first regiments was the Jackson Guards, Captain J. P. BRUCK. This was company K, First Ohio, and the regimental organization was made on the 18th of April. There were no arms, ammunition, or clothing, but it was determined to hurry the men on to Washington, where they could be provided for. Its earliest action was at Vienna, and it covered the retreat at Bull Run, afterwards being reorganized for the three years' service.

 

Captain ROSSMAN immediately organized the Hamilton Guards, and left for Columbus on the 21st. An immense congregation assembled at Beckett's Hall on Sunday, the 20th, to hear a discourse by the Rev. William DAVIDSON. The sermon was able, patriotic, and eloquent, and was listened to with earnest attention, and often with deep emotion. He spoke of the cause in which the loyal States were engaged as just and righteous, and said that if the war of the Revolution was holy, this was thrice holy, if that was sanctified this was thrice sanctified. History left no record of any war where the people were called upon more imperatively to take part in its prosecution than this people in defense of their government against the traitors who were then in array against it. If they were not subdued our government was a nullity, and anarchy would reign supreme. At the conclusion of the sermon Mr. RICHARDSON made a few pertinent remarks, followed by a brief address from Mr. MC MILLIAN. Miss Kate EMMONS presented one the volunteers with a Bible and a revolver, and Mr. Ezra POTTER, on behalf of the citizens of Hamilton; presented Captain ROSSMAN one hundred dollars to be expended at his discretion for the benefit of his company.

 

The previous day the young ladies of this city presented the guards with an elegant silk flag. The ceremonies took place in the public square, and were opened by an impressive and earnest prayer by Rev. Mr. LOWERY, after which Miss Kate CAMPBELL presented the flag with the following appropriate address:

 

"Hamilton Guards,--Your country demands your services, and you are promptly honoring her call. Traitors have made war upon our government and seek to overthrow our noble institutions secured to us by the wisdom, the toils, and the blood of our venerated forefathers. Your sisters can not share your dangers in the field, but their hearts will go with you. They present this banner as a token of their earnest sympathies with you, and with the sacred cause of freedom and justice in which you go to fight. It is the same emblem of constitutional liberty under which Washington and all our national heroes fought and conquered. Stand by it with your lives, if necessary. Let no rebel hands bring reproach upon its honored folds; let its stars ever remind you of your duty to the Union, and its stripes keep you thoughtful of the punishment due to fratricidal traitors. Take it, soldiers, and carry it on to victory. And my the God of battles watch over and protect you; and may he preserve our country and our Constitution to be the protectors of the oppressed of all lands to generations yet unborn." (Photo courtesy of the Liljenquist Family Collection) 

 

Captain ROSSMAN received the flag on behalf of the guards, and responded as follows:

"Young Ladies of Hamilton,--Our country, which for so long a time has been the home of peace and liberty, is now rocking in the storm of civil war. Armed desperadoes have insulted our flag and defied our government. Men have been found in this country base enough to strike the mother who reared and protected them. The wounded government demands reparation. In obedience to that call we shall soon march to the scene of war. Going out from you, we desire to take with us this work of love and patriotism at your hands, and if the ardor of the company can be augmented I can only wish that their patriotism may be as bright as the stars, and their loyalty as unfading as the colors of the flag which has been so handsomely presented. We accept this flag, and in the coming contest, if one little band can do aught to maintain the honor of our government, what man in the Hamilton Guards but will, in that contest, strike with renewed ardor by the remembrance of this day's honor? We shall plant it on the outer wall, and its post shall be to us the post of honor.

 

"Some, perchance, in this company, in defense of that flag, may fall. Some of us, whose hearts beat high with proud hopes, and who are emulated to do deeds of glory, will return no more. But if a sacrifice from the guards is demanded to procure constitutional liberty and our Union, that sacrifice shall be cheerfully given. Yet they will not die; but from their ashes, as from the ancient phoenix, will arise their names, and in letters of living light will they be enrolled on a page of an immortal history. We accept this flag, and we promise to bring it back with no lost laurels, no tarnished fame. Its symmetry may be destroyed by the elements and by the strife, but these, in your estimation, will be but honorable scars.

 

"In conclusion, ladies, all that strong arms and stout hearts can do to maintain it, all that your patriotism can infuse into our hearts to defend it, all that the high hopes and good wishes of this city can stimulate us to vindicate, all the courage of a righteous cause, and of truth and liberty can give us to protect, all these shall, we trust, nerve every arm and heart in this company to vindicate the high confidence reposed in them by the young ladies of Hamilton, in the compliment to their patriotism and readiness to defend their country, signified in the presentation of this flag to the Hamilton Guards."

 

After Captain ROSSMAN had concluded John W. WILSON, one of the company, made an earnest and eloquent appeal in behalf of the cause in which they were engaged. His remarks were full of the true Revolutionary fire, and were loudly cheered by the multitude on the ground. When he sat down a company of amateur musicians, under the lead of Mr. BOYNTON, sang the Star-spangled Banner, after which ex-Mayor SMITH called for three cheers for the flag, three for the volunteers, and three for the young ladies, which were all given with a will, and the assemblage adjourned. The soldiers left home on Monday, a large crowd being at the depot to see them off.

 

A company of volunteers form Oxford passed through Hamilton on Monday, the 22d. A large number of the students volunteered, and the school was almost broken up. A list of those who served in the war, who had previously been in that college, may be found under the head of Miami University.

 

Two military companies were ready to march from Middletown that week, and another full company of volunteers was ready in Hamilton. The following were the officers: J. W. C. SMITH, Captain; John SUTHERLAND, 1st Lieutenant; L. M. LEFLAR, 2d Lieutenant.

An enthusiastic Union meeting was held at Collinsville on the 25th of April, which was addressed by Isaac ROBERTSON, C. K. SMITH, and Rev. Mr. DAVIS. Another meeting was held in Okenna, on the 4th of May, 1861, which was addressed by Isaac ROBERTSON.

David W. MC CLUNG, who is now surveyor of the port in Cincinnati, was appointed quartermaster at Camp Dennison.

 

The following companies were speedily accepted from Butler County:

Hamilton-Jackson Guards, Captain BRUCK; Hamilton Guards, Captain ROSSMAN; Butler Pioneers, Captain SMITH; Infantry Company, Captain HUMBACH; Hamilton Rifles, Captain MILLER.

 

Outside of Hamilton-University Rifles, Oxford, Captain DODDS; Infantry Company, Middletown, Captain HILT; Infantry Company, Middletown, Captain MCCLELLAND.

In addition to these, forty Germans of Hamilton attached themselves to a Cincinnati Company, and were at Camp Harrison. These went out on the 18th of April. They were known as Company B, 9th Ohio. (Photo courtesy of the Liljenquist Family Collection)

 

Some of these companies were very large, as for instance Captain DODDS's, one hundred and fifty-two men, and Captain ROSSMAN'S, one hundred and eleven men.

 

Two other companies were forming in the city, a cavalry company by Minor MILLIKIN, and an infantry company by John S. EARHART, the latter to be composed of men of five feet seven inches and upwards in height, together with an infantry company at Princeton, and an artillery company at Middletown. Add to these a company of home guards for each of the three wards of the city.

 

Henry C. CAMPBELL, George CAMP, James WILLIS, James WHITTAKER, Albert WHITTAKER, and H. H. ADAMS, were honorably discharged on the 27th of April, by order of Captain W. C. ROSSMAN.

 

Twenty-five families of those who had volunteered for the country's defense 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.

 

There were then in the camp three companies form Hamilton, one from Middletown, and two companies from Eaton. Captain HILT's company from Middletown had left. While there a presentation of a flag was made to the Butler Pioneers, and also to the company of Captain HUMBACH.

 

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

 

The Butler Pioneers, after spending a week in the hotels of Hamilton, and being drilled in the streets, removed to Camp Hamilton, or the Fair Grounds, on the 23d of April. They were the first troops there. The ladies of Hamilton had presented them with a splendid flag, accompanied with an eloquent and patriotic speech from Mrs. RYAN. Captain J. W. C. SMITH made an appropriate response.

 

On arrival at camp they found the change any thing but pleasant. The first two or three nights were very Cold for that season of the year. They had but little straw for bedding, and but few of the soldiers were so fortunate as to have blankets of their own. The unfortunate shared with the fortunate, and it was laughable to see a half dozen trying to sleep under one blanket. The consequence was a great deal of shivering, only a little sleep, and a great deal of catching cold. They were not forgotten by the ladies of Hamilton, lending blankets and supplying a shirt to each, and the farmers brought in immense quantities of straw. The halls and cattle stalls of the Fair Grounds were suitably fitted up for sleeping apartments, and after this the volunteers rested well. The eating department was conducted by Straub, Reutti & Co., for thirty-five cents per day, and tables were put up so that four hundred could eat at a time.

 

This was a three-months company, and as the complement had been filled it did not go out to the war. Many of the men afterwards served in the three-year regiments.

Colonel W. H. MILLER, commandant at Camp Hamilton, issued the following orders on May 9th:

 

"Sentinels will pass out no soldier without a written pass from the commandant, and such pass will not be given except upon the statement of the captain that the absence is necessary.

"Citizens will be permitted to pass out at any time by sentinels, if known to be such; otherwise not permitted to pass without the orders of some commissioned officer in the camp.

"Persons connected with the subsistence department are exempted from this order, and will be passed in and out without delay.""

 

The following officers were detailed for duty: Captain Thomas MORTON, of the Eaton National Guards, to act in the absence of the commandant; Samuel L'HOMMEDIEU, Hamilton Rifles, Adjutant; N. T. PEATMAN, Butler Pioneers, Sergeant; Major John SUTHERLAND, Butler Pioneers, Quartermaster; J. W. SATER, Eaton National Guards, Assistant Quartermaster; James MC CLELLAND, Middletown Veterans, Surgeon; W. Palmer DUNN, University Rifles, Secretary of Commandant.

 

In an order of Colonel H. B. CARRINGTON, Adjutant-general of the State, organizing the militia, he assigns fifteen companies as the necessary quota from Butler.

 

The Eleventh Regiment and the right wing of the Third Regiment were ordered to Camp Dennison on Monday, the 29th of April. The train had thirty-three cars, and was cheered in every village or hamlet it passed through. Flags and handkerchiefs were waved from every farm-house along the road, showing the sentiment of the people.

 

At half-past one, says one of the volunteers from the Third Regiment, the train stopped in the midst of a level tract, surrounded by high hills. This they were told was Camp Dennison. There was no tent or hut, and not even a board of which to make a shelter-nothing but corn fields and wheat fields. There were no shade trees, not as much as a hickory sprout in a fence corner. Reluctantly leaving the cars, they formed and marched through the plowed field. Soon after a lumber train arrived, and the soldiers were told to take off their coats and carry boards across a twenty-acre field, there to build their quarters. The crowd reached the cares, and there was a struggle for a place. The more modest were disposed to hold back, until they thought of the night soon to come. One young theological student, who understood human nature, mounted the cars, took plank after plank, crying the name of his company at the top of his voice. Numbers of them were soon by his side, and before long all were sufficiently provided. The men were tired and hungry; they had had nothing to eat since morning, and the commissariat broke down, as it always does in new organizations.

 

It began raining before sleep reached them, but the next day all was fair. On Friday it rained all day long. Over four hundred buildings were put up in all-seven to one of the companies from Butler County. The fare was not exactly the kind to please epicures. Bread, rice, beans, salt pork, and coffee constituted the table. As one grim humorist remarked, three-fourths of the pork was pure fat, the remainder all fat. Still the soldiers enjoyed themselves. They laughed and cracked jokes, and met the situation with good humor. Their friends at Hamilton did not neglect them, and sent forward bountiful supplies of provision and clothing. (Photo courtesy of the Liljenquist Family Collection)
 
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 first 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.
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