Ohio’s “Grand Army Men” Help Garner Veterans’ Pensions

by arohmiller - July 24th, 2015

Written By Fredric C. Lynch, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

pension group 1Upon their return following the War Between the States, parades and speeches welcomed home Ohio’s surviving veterans of U.S. armed forces service. Following previous conflicts, the care of homecoming veterans was viewed as a family and community responsibility, not one of the federal government. With the passage of time, the Civil War’s aging “Old Soldiers” – - some on crutches, many long-term ill, others missing limbs – - grew increasingly discontent that the national government generally showed indifference towards assisting them cope with the consequences of their military service. Those consequences for the “Boys in Blue 1861-65” often included limited employability due to disfigurement, constrained physical ability, and mental health issues.

During the war, state and federal leaders from President Lincoln down promised to care for “those who have borne the battle, and for his widows, and his orphan.” But, immediately postwar, there was little political motivation or effort to see the promise kept. In time, to promote self- and group-interests, the veterans formed regimental associations, organized reunions, and established veterans’ organizations.

GAR Medal

GAR Medal

Founded in 1866, foremost among the groups was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established upon principles of “Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty.” The GAR was a nationwide organization for all veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marines and U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served during the American Civil War. By 1890, 409,489 veterans of the War of the Rebellion were members of the GAR. In the 1890s, there were over 750 community GAR Posts in Ohio with 49,011 members throughout the state’s 88 counties.

The high profile national, state, and community organization wielded great political influence. The GAR was among the first organized advocacy groups to become directly involved in American politics. Among successful efforts, they supported voting rights for Black soldier and sailor veterans, promoted patriotic education, helped make Memorial Day a national holiday, and placed United States flags in schools. The GAR founded soldiers’ homes and orphanages. Five members were elected President of the United States. For decades, reportedly, it was nearly impossible to be nominated for a major political office as a Republican without GAR endorsement. And, using their influence, GAR members passionately lobbied the United States Congress to establish and fund pensions for Civil War veterans, their widows, orphans, and surviving children.

Research statistician Benjamin Gould documented in an 1869 study: “During the Civil War there were roughly 860,000 casualties incurred by the nearly 2.5 million members of the Union Army. About 250,000 were fatalities.” In 1862, the U.S. Government began providing pensions to soldiers who could provide proof of time spent in the military and of a “total disability” that precluded them from performing manual labor. Under the program, pension money could be collected from the date of discharge if claims were filed within one year of that date. However if claims were filed after a year, pension payment began effective date of application. Also, the law did not enable all veterans to receive compensation for war service-related disabilities, or a pension directly in recognition of their wartime service.

The GAR’s political influence and unceasing efforts by the late 1870s successfully garnered government paid financial benefits for all disabled veterans with passage of the Arrears of Pension Act of 1879 which allowed all Union veterans previously turned down to reapply for pensions, and to receive back payments to the date of their discharge regardless of when they may have first applied. By 1900, providing pensions for Civil War service became the United States government’s first largescale program for disabled veterans. The program was among the largest government benefits provided citizens until the advent of Social Security in 1935.

GAR tactics to achieve objectives were aggressive. For example, in 1892, the GAR initiated one of the largest mass mailing campaigns in American history to that time. Hundreds of thousands of letters were sent by the GAR to members nationwide.The letters urged all veterans to demand Congress support increased pensions for soldiers, widows, and children. Even the mailing envelopes were part of the effort. Printed on them was an advisory that instructed postmasters, many of them GAR members, to give the letter inside to “some soldier of the late war” if not deliverable to the addressee.

Isaac Sherwood

Isaac Sherwood

Two Ohioans, both “GAR Men,” were prominent orchestrators of the political maneuvering that established a pension system for Civil War veterans. Congressman Isaac R. Sherwood, a former Civil War officer, was editor of the Toledo Daily Commercial newspaper and active in Ohio politics. He later was elected to seven terms in Congress. He was known as “Dollar a Day Sherwood” for his efforts fighting for that sum to be paid veterans. Equally associated with the lengthy and persistent campaign for veterans’ pensions is John McElroy, a Civil War veteran and editor of the Toledo Blade newspaper before moving to Washington D.C. to edit the National Tribune, official newspaper of the GAR. Both were prominent and persistent advocates for the care of all Civil War veterans and their families.

In 1890, a revision to Federal pension law occurred, the Dependent and Disability Pension Act, following extensive lobbying by the Grand Army of the Republic. The statute removed the link between pensions and service-related injuries. Any veteran who had served honorably could qualify for a pension if he at any time became disabled for manual labor. Proof of at least ninety days service in the Union military forces, an honorable discharge, and that the disability was not due to “vicious habits” that prohibited the veteran from the performance of manual labor qualified a veteran for a pension ranging from $6 to $12 per month. By 1893, 41.5 percent of federal revenue was spent on Civil War soldier pensions. Civil War pension benefits at that time were limited to disabled veterans and their widows.

John McElroy

John McElroy

Later, the criteria for pensions became more liberal. Rules allowed veterans who could trace their disability to wartime service to receive more for the same disability than those who could not. In 1900 a pensioner who could trace his disability to the war was entitled to a monthly sum of $30 for incapacity to perform any manual labor, $24 for a disability equivalent to the loss of a hand or foot, $17 for the loss of one eye, and $6 – $10 for a single hernia. His counterpart who could not trace their disability to the war received $12, $10, $6 and $6, respectively, for the same injuries or ailments.

Beginning in 1892 women who were employed as nurses by the government also became eligible for pensions. By fiscal year 1909, Civil War veterans or their widows or their orphans were collectively receiving about $47 million dollars in monthly checks. That sum amounted to the largest single expenditure in the federal budget at the time. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order prescribing that old age rather than disability justified a Civil War veteran pension. Accordingly, at age sixty-two, veterans were deemed 50 percent disabled, and at age sixty-five 75 percent disabled. At age seventy any veteran became entitled to $12 a month, a benevolent “security net” as the national per capita wage was about $490. In 1910, half a million veterans received an average pension of $189 a year. Just before World War I, the top pension was $30 a month. A veteran’s widow could receive $25 per month.

With passage of the Service and Age Pension Act in February 1907, Congress officially recognized age as sufficient qualification for a pension. Provided documentation conditions of the 1890 law were met, veterans aged sixty-two to sixty-nine received $12 per month, those aged seventy to seventy-four $15 per month, and those seventy-five years and older $20 per month. This act did not increase the total number of pensioners, but led a significant number of them to switch basis for their compensation from the 1890 law to the 1907 law as the latter granted a greater sum in many cases.

In order to file for a pension, a veteran would fill out a form entitled “Declaration for Pension.” Upon this form he would indicate name, age, place of birth, residential address, current occupation, when and in what regiment and company or companies he had served, and his height, complexion, hair color, and occupation at enlistment. If he was claiming disability by disease or injury, he had to specify the malady, and, if it was war related, how and when incurred. When he filed for an increase in his pension, a veteran had to provide supporting documents. The overall application as a package required signed statements from the claimant, neighbors, employers, doctors, and men who served in the same company. With time, nearly every Civil War veteran qualified for a pension.

pension agencyAs more applications were being submitted, and the rules associated with applications evolved, many “Old Soldiers” recognized they needed help beyond that available from GAR Comrades in the local Post. A new type of service business emerged, that of ”Pension Attorneys” and “Claim Houses” to assist veterans preparing their claims and sending them to the U.S. Government Pension Bureau.

In general, pension claim agents rendered valuable service. As confirmed by the Pension Bureau itself: “Attorneys who are familiar with the pension laws, rulings, and decisions are a valuable aid to claimants by presenting their cases in an intelligent and painstaking manner.” For a fee, pension agents – - many of them sincerely motivated veterans themselves, but some best described as “shady characters” – - facilitated writing paperwork and tracking processing by the U.S. Pension Bureau. The Bureau itself eventually was housed in the largest brick government office building of its day in the world. Use of a Claims Agent, however, did not always help applicants obtain favorable pension outcomes because those who hired them often had weaker claims, questionable military records, or could not provide acceptable information to justify a pension.

GAR membership was limited to Union veterans of the War Between the States. In August 1949, due to the aging of members, bad health and death, GAR membership was 16 elderly men, only six of whom were able to travel to Indianapolis for the groups 82nd and final national encampment that year. The last verified Civil War veteran and GAR member, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at age 109. The last widow of a Civil War veteran, Gertrude Janeway, died in 2003 at age 93. As of May, 2014 the last living child of a Civil War veteran, Irene Triplett age 84, still received a monthly federal government pension of $73.13 for her father’s military service in the American Civil War. With the death of “The Grand Army Men, during the first half of the 20th century, the political influence of the GAR ended. However, the efforts and legacy of the “Boys in Blue 1861-65” provided national recognition and monetary compensation for veterans, and set legal and binding precedents still honored today by the United States Government and Department of Veterans Affairs “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

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Recommended additional reading concerning issues related to Civil War veterans and history of the GAR include:

The Civil War Veteran: A Historical Reader edited byLarry Logue and Michael Barton; ISBN-13: 978-0814752043

Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War by Brian Matthew Jordan; ISBN-13: 978-0871407818

Grand Army Men: The GAR and Its Male Organizations by Robert J Wolz; ISBN-13: 978-0977852833

Ohio Widows and Orphans of the Civil War

by arohmiller - June 1st, 2015

Written by Catherine Wilson, Executive Director, Greene County Historical Society

With the themes of this final year of the Ohio Civil War 150 commemoration being Coming Home and Legacies, we must not forget those whose soldier husbands or fathers did not come home. There were women who lost their husbands to disease or wounds in battle; there were children whose fathers were never the same after coming back.

Widows

During the war, many towns instituted relief efforts for not only soldiers’ aid, but also for deprived families. “Wood processions” by local farmers brought in fuel for their homes, primarily in winter months. After the war, many widows were provided with sacks of flour free of charge: a tradition that still continues. Wheeling Gaunt, a free Black man who came to Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the 1860s, provided a clause in his will for widows in town to receive flour (and now sugar too) every December.

Claim agencies sprung up in the latter part of the war, to take care of soldier claims to pensions, and most of them specifically stated that “Pay for the wives, the mothers (when widows) and the children of prisoners of war in the South, [are] promptly collected.”

The 1890 special Federal census of Civil War veterans and widows is only available for the states of Kentucky (incomplete) through Wyoming; it suffered the same fate as almost the entire Federal census from that year, lost in a 1922 fire in the Department of Commerce. There is an index of Ohio pensioners, whether veteran, widow, or child. Pension files are a great source for family history also; these are held by the National Archives. A sample listing for 1890 could have “Lucinda Davis, widow of Matthew Davis” plus his service record and disability; or “Lucinda Davis, widow of Matthew Baldwin” if she had remarried. There were some, like in my family, who lost their father to war and mother to disease within the space of a year. My great-great-grandfather was taken in by a neighbor family, as were his brother and sister, and raised by them; there was no official adoption that I have seen, and they kept their original surname of Lawrie.

Children

Rev Peter C. Prugh, German Reformed minister in Xenia, who headed the appeal for funds to get the OS&SO Home started

Rev Peter C. Prugh, German Reformed minister in Xenia, who headed the appeal for funds to get the OS&SO Home started

Refugee children were sometimes removed from war-torn areas in the South; whether or not they had family near home was apparently ignored. Rev. C. C. Tracy, an agent of the New York Children’s Aid Society, showed up in Xenia on a Saturday in May 1864 with twenty-three children from East Tennessee. On Sunday at 4 PM, there was a meeting at the German Reformed church of Rev. Peter C. Prugh, and a collection was taken up for the children amounting to $52. On Monday contributions of clothing &c. were sent in, and “the Ladies, God bless them, took the poor things, washed them, dressed them in new clothes.” By the time 2 PM came, “most if not all of them were provided with good homes, and will be made comfortable and happy and eventually become good members of society.”

Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home

If the veteran or widow had minor children, sometimes the surviving parent made application to the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio.   Founded in 1869 by the Grand Army of the Republic in downtown Xenia, the state of Ohio took it over in 1870 and moved the Home to a farm called “Poverty Knoll.” Sometimes the basis given for applying to the OS&SO Home was that the second husband (or wife) could not or did not want to take care of the existing children.

Previously, children had stayed with parents in various institutions such as the county infirmary or poorhouse, or even at an asylum for the insane, if a parent was an inmate there. The Central Branch, National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton OH was founded in 1865 (changed from Asylum to Home in 1873), and some children followed their fathers there. A law passed in Ohio in 1866 authorized counties to levy a tax to support children’s homes, probably in response to the many orphaned by the war just past. There was a state soldiers’ relief fund during the war to help provide for families of deceased or disabled veterans, but by 1865 $800,000 had been removed from that fund to pay off other debts the state faced (in modern dollars, that’s over $12 million).

Chaplain George W. Collier, 34th OVI, who suggested to the GAR that a state soldiers' orphans home be started.

Chaplain George W. Collier, 34th OVI, who suggested to the GAR that a state soldiers’ orphans home be started.

In 1869, Chaplain George W. Collier, a veteran from the 34th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, had been named agent for the project of a state home for soldiers’ orphans, “visiting various parts of the state and agitating the matter among the people.” Of course, Xenia put itself forward as an ideal location, being on several railroad lines and having advantages of healthy and beautiful scenery. By December 1869, the Home was in its temporary location in downtown Xenia; children and contributions were arriving from all over the state. The first two were from the National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, with Portsmouth, Yellow Springs, Steubenville, Ironton, and Wooster being represented within a week. The newspaper stated “They are between the ages of 3 and 13 years, and from 26 to 95 pounds avoirdupois.” Twenty-five more children had arrived by the next week: more from Dayton, plus those from Toledo, Ravenna, Batavia, and Baltimore in Fairfield County.

Collier Chapel on the campus of the OSSO in Xenia still stands today.

Collier Chapel on the campus of the OSSO in Xenia still stands today.

Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Governor and CW vet Rutherford B. Hayes, was intimately involved in the OS&SO Home’s beginnings, as was General J. Warren Keifer of Springfield. Education and vocational training were always part of the Home. Local ministers were asked to hold services for the children. Someone supplied the Home orphans with 5 dozen packs of firecrackers for the 4th of July celebration in 1870, when the place was still on East Main Street – one can only imagine the noise. Doctors took duty “on rotation” to deal with medical issues until a Home physician was appointed. Measles were a problem in 1870, with the first death of a student occurring in March; she was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Xenia. A cemetery was established on the Home campus after Collier Chapel was built in 1872. Many students who died in the 1887 diphtheria epidemic are buried there.

Original cottages on the OSSO campus.

Original cottages on the OSSO campus.

In May 1870, a newspaper article entitled “Xenia Orphans’ Home” appeared, in which the writer discussed problems with other locations in Ohio for the OS&SO Home. White Sulphur Springs did not have enough room, “even were they in possession of the entire property,” and the Trustees of the Reform School for Girls at Delaware would not “vacate the premises now occupied by them.”  So all that the citizens of Greene County had to do was raise an amount that would purchase for the Board of Managers “by donation or bequest, a suitable tract of land of the number of acres required by law, at a convenient and accessible point, with the necessary buildings and equipments thereon, for the accommodation of not less than 250 orphans, and upon such acceptance, open and establish a home for Ohio soldiers’ and sailors’ orphans as is prescribed by law.” By August 1870, the children had moved out to the farm location. School was set for the first Monday of September (remember, no Labor Day yet).

The Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home stayed open until 1995; in 1978, the name was changed to the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home, since fewer and fewer of the students were actual orphans. Its records are kept by the State of Ohio, and there is a museum on the old campus, keeping its legacy alive.

The Growth of Public Education in America

by arohmiller - May 15th, 2015

Written By: Carl B. Westmoreland, Historian, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Education is a vital resource to people of all races and all world countries. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines “Education, discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various nonformal and informal means of socialization (e.g., rural development projects and education through parent-child relationships).”

We are told that teaching and learning occur in most settings with which we come in contact during our formative years starting with the home, the temple, the mosque, the church as well as the lessons that we learn from our parents and our community. We are reminded that teaching and learning have occurred in all societies, and the educational process has been used to pass knowledge along from one generation to the other in every country, on every continent. In Timbuktu, Mali, West Africa Muslim scholars pursued many of the same intellectual tasks of those performed by Chinese and Greek scholars in mathematics, history, and philosophy, and in the process expanded man’s knowledge base and enabled the world’s population to improve its domain. The University of Bologna in Italy is credited as being Europe’s oldest, and like the University of Karueein in Morocco North Africa those institutions which have existed for over 1,000 years in places with which most Americans are unfamiliar, underwrote through study, research, and scholarship what we have come to call “civilization.”

At the time of the European entry into the America to which today’s generation was born, there was no formal educational infrastructure, and there was a wide disparity of access to educational resources on the part of the working White yeoman class, and none for enslaved people of African descent, and little for those who were free.

William Berkley, the first governor of Virginia, and a graduate of Oxford University in England, understood that education was power, and those who possessed it had begun the first meaningful step toward achieving a degree of freedom through intellectual development. Governor Berkley and other members of his social, educational, and political standing were opposed to the education of the masses, and in 1642 Governor Berkley left us with the following,

“I thank God, we have not free schools nor printing;
and I hope we shall not have these hundred years.
For learning has brought disobedience,
and heresy and sects into the world;
and printing has divulged them
and libels against the government.
God keep us from both!”

 

Access to public education developed at a faster pace in the Northeastern United States (New England) than in the rest of America. The first steps toward government supported education in America dates back to 1642 when “Puritan Massachusetts passed a law requiring that every child be taught to read. The law required every town of 50 or more families to establish an elementary school and in every town of 100 or more families to maintain a grammar school as well.”[1] New England would again lead the public education pursuit for ordinary people by adapting what we have come to know as the Kindergarten that is still not an educational opportunity available to many children in America. The earliest schools in New England were inspired by those who became familiar with the creation of the Kindergarten. The German educator, Friedrich Wilheim Froebel (1782-1852) is considered the “Father of the Kindergarten for Children.” Johann Friedrich Herdart was also a pioneer in developing an early learning system which enabled 4 and 5-year olds “to learn to read, write, and count.”[2] America would come into its own educationally in the minds of many with the movement toward state-supported free schools for all children. By 1837 Massachusetts established the country’s first State Board of Education. Other states would follow in Massachusetts’ footsteps, and “by the end of the 19th century the common school system was firmly established.”[3]

The pioneering work that allowed ordinary children—at first white males—to obtain basic education enabled working class students to make tangible contributions as adults to the development of “industrial” capitalism and by 1861, 73 subjects were being offered by Massachusetts Public Schools. The curriculum had advanced from one that focused initially on basic Reading and Writing to one “that was top heavy with scientific instruction.”[4]

In the American South the economic model that focused on agriculture and the philosophy of people like Gov. William Berkley, Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun limited access to learning opportunities for children of the White working class and in to the 20th century all but eliminated schooling for the children and grandchildren of the enslaved.

In St. Helena, South Carolina in 1862 the first organized effort at educating people of African descent was started at Penn Center by the American Missionary Society led by Laura Towne. The educational and teaching efforts of Ms. Towne and her mostly White female staff were met by resistance and violence from the very beginning led by South Carolina planters and the Klu Klux Klan. 100 years later the efforts of Ms. Towne and those who had been formerly enslaved resulted in residents of Clarendon County, SC joining in the Brown v Board of Education suit that resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that would reverse the Plessey v Ferguson decision of 1896 which permitted segregated public facilities if they were of equal quality, but the children of Clarendon County and the children of too many places in Black America read from books with missing pages, sat in unheated classrooms, and few of them had the benefit of Kindergarten.

The teaching efforts of people like Laura Towne and the good will of some church leaders, both Black and White, North and South, provided an educational opportunity for a Black Edgefield, South Carolinian, the son of a sharecropper, who would become president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who challenged us to remember “We today, stand on the shoulders of our predecessors who have gone before us. We, as their successors, must catch the torch of freedom and liberty passed on to us by our ancestors. We cannot lose the battle.”

Dr. Mays, the father of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Jesse Grant, of Georgetown, Ohio, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius and all of the parents of the world have come to understand and worked toward creating places of learning because they understood, in the words of Epictetus, “ONLY THE EDUCATED ARE FREE.”

 

[1] http://history-world.org/history_of_education.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

From Battlefields to the Whitehouse: Ohio’s Civil War Presidents

by arohmiller - February 16th, 2015

Written by: Mark Holbrook

Ohio’s contributions to the Civil War are well documented. 325,000 soldiers and sailors, 229 Union generals, members of Lincoln’s cabinet, extraordinary efforts on the home front and countless stories of courage in uniform and at home. Ohioans’ status as leaders during the war no doubt impacted the nation’s decision making in the coming years when electing presidents. Seven times U.S. citizens chose a former soldier from the Buckeye state from 1868 to 1896. They represented everything from the most famous general of the war to established politicians to the grandson of a former president from Ohio. Five veterans of the war lead our country during a period not dominated by a single state since the early years of the republic.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Flush from his victory over Robert E. Lee and the end of the Civil War, it was not long before Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant was being recruited as a candidate for the presidency in the 1868 election. Times were not good as Reconstruction had not gone well under former vice president Andrew Johnson. The country and Congress were looking for someone they could trust, and the immensely popular Grant was an obvious answer. Born in Point Pleasant, Grant had never entertained the thought of becoming a famous general, much less the president. He did not even want to attend West Point Academy, but deference to his father’s wishes kept him there. Through a tumultuous early life, Grant was down on his luck at the beginning of the war, but quickly rose to a prominence that would carry him to the White House. During his two terms in office, Grant worked to sooth the nation’s wounds by supporting amnesty for former Confederate leaders and the protection of African American rights. While in office, he signed legislation establishing Yellowstone National Park as our first national park.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes followed Grant as our 19th president. Born in Delaware and a resident of Fremont when elected, Hayes was elected to Congress in 1864, but did not take his seat in the Capitol until the war was over. He began his Army career as the major for the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, rising to the rank of major general by 1865. While beginning his third term in Congress, he was nominated as the Republican candidate for president. The results were close, so close that a special commission chosen to sort out disputed electoral votes declared Hayes the victor. Serving one term as president, Hayes signed the bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court. Hayes initiated civil service reform, doing away with the common practice of making appointments for political favors. Hayes often expressed concern for minorities, the poor, and immigrants and worked to bring about changes in policy to address those concerns.

James A. Garfield's memorial in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

James A. Garfield’s memorial in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

James A. Garfield was the last of what were called the ‘log cabin’ presidents. Born in Cuyahoga County in 1831, Garfield would go on to serve nine terms as a congressman from Ohio, the first starting in 1863 when his election caused him to resign from the Union Army with the rank of major general. As the 1880 elections neared, Garfield worked tirelessly to get his friend and fellow congressman John Sherman of Lancaster nominated at the convention. The effort failed and Garfield became the nominee on the 37th ballot and the dark horse candidate in a race against former Union general Winfield Scott Hancock. Garfield continued Hayes’ efforts to end patronage appointments in government, going to battle with powerful factions controlling the port of New York. On July 2, 1881 at a Washington railroad station Garfield was assassinated by Charles Julius Guiteau, an attorney who had been turned down by Garfield for a political appointment. Mortally wounded, Garfield would linger until September 19, leaving us to wonder what kind of presidency he would have had if he had survived. Garfield’s vice president Chester Arthur finished the term, and Grover Cleveland occupied the Whitehouse for the succeeding four years.

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison

Born in 1833 on a farm by the Ohio River below Cincinnati, Benjamin Harrison attended Miami University in Ohio and read law in Cincinnati. He later moved to Indianapolis where he lived when the war broke out. The presidency of the country was something Benjamin was familiar with, his grandfather William Henry Harrison had served as our ninth president. As colonel of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Benjamin Harrison fought in the western theatre of the war, and he and his regiment accompanied General William T. Sherman on his march to Savannah, Georgia. In the presidential election of 1888, Harrison opposed the incumbent Grover Cleveland. While Harrison lost the popular vote by 100,000, he won the Electoral College vote 233-168. Harrison’s most notable act as president came on July 2, 1890 when he signed in to law the Sherman Antitrust Act. The act, named for Ohio Senator John Sherman was the first measure passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts.

William McKinley

William McKinley

After a return to office by Grover Cleveland in 1893, the last of the five Civil War veterans from Ohio would take office. Nineteen year-old William McKinley of Niles enlisted in the 23rd Ohio at the beginning of the war. Rising to the rank of major by war’s end, McKinley returned home and began a law practice, eventually getting elected to Congress and then two terms as governor of Ohio. Winning the election in 1896, McKinley took office amid a time of prosperity in the country. But war would be most remembered as a part of his legacy. While preferring a neutral stance to Spain’s imperialism in the Caribbean, McKinley led the country into a 100 day war that destroyed the Spanish fleet outside Santiago harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines, and occupied Puerto Rico. The result was the annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Hawaii. In 1900, McKinley faced the democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan for a second time and defeated him again to win the presidency. On September 14, 1901, while standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition, McKinley was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. The 25th president died eight days later.

In a period spanning 1869 to 1901, five Ohio Civil War veterans were elected to the presidency seven times. Of varying backgrounds, they all held in common their service to their country and the preservation of the Union.

Faithful and Ready: Black Service in the Ohio Army NationalGuard(Part III)

by arohmiller - February 13th, 2015

Written by: SFC Joshua Mann, Historian, Ohio Army National Guard

From the formation of the Northwest Territory Militia in 1788, until the termination of racial segregation in the Ohio National Guard in 1954 and service since, black Soldiers from Ohio have distinguished themselves in service to their country even in the face of difficult race, social and political barriers.

Reorganization of the Ohio National Guard following the war saw 2 segregated units on the rolls of the state; the 372d Infantry Battalion and the 137th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion. Although President Truman had barred racial segregation of the armed forces on July 26, 1948, the order did not affect National Guard units not in federal service. Additionally, many leaders of the 2 units made a concerted effort to keep their battalion segregated, fearing that the two-edged sword of integration would block promotions and key assignments for black Soldiers.

Officers and noncommissioned officers of the 137th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, 37th Infantry Division, look over a map while training at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1952. The all-black battalion was called into federal service in January 1952, serving two years on active duty before returning to Ohio. (Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections)

Officers and non-commissioned officers of the 137th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, 37th Infantry Division, look over a map while training at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1952. The all-black battalion was called into federal service in January 1952, serving two years on active duty before returning to Ohio. (Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections)

Brig. Gen Kenneth Cooper (right), 37th Division Artillery commanding general, presents the guidon for Headquarters Battery, 137th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion to Captain Grady T. Smith at Camp Perry, Ohio on 23 July 1954. The ceremony marked the return of the colors and guidons of the 37th Infantry Division from active duty.

Brig. Gen Kenneth Cooper (right), 37th Division Artillery commanding general, presents the guidon for Headquarters Battery, 137th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion to Captain Grady T. Smith at Camp Perry, Ohio on 23 July 1954. The ceremony marked the return of the colors and guidons of the 37th Infantry Division from active duty.

The 137th got its first taste of integration when it was ordered into federal service in January 1952 for the Korean War. It returned to Ohio in January 1954, just months before Governor Frank Lausche issued Executive Order No. 39, which fully integrated the Ohio National Guard. Both units continued, fully integrated, until a 1959 state wide reorganization that ultimately disbanded the battalions. The lineage of both organizations continues at various company level units around the state. The battalion lineage of the 372d Infantry is perpetuated today by the 237th Support Battalion, who also wears the distinctive unit insignia of the former organization.

Maj. Gen Dana Stewart, Ohio adjutant general, swears Eyvonne Turner in as the first black female in the Ohio Army National Guard in January 1973.

Maj. Gen Dana Stewart, Ohio adjutant general, swears Eyvonne Turner in as the first black female in the Ohio Army National Guard in January 1973.

Major General Richard C. Alexander became the first black general officer and the first black adjutant general in Ohio National Guard history when he was selected by Governor Richard Celeste for the post in 1988.

Major General Richard C. Alexander became the first black general officer and the first black adjutant general in Ohio National Guard history when he was selected by Governor Richard Celeste for the post in 1988.

Since integration, black Soldiers have continued to serve with great distinction in the Ohio Army National Guard. Wilbur Jones became the first black command sergeant major in 1968. Evyonne Turner was sworn in as the first black female in January 1973. And Major General Richard Alexander became the first black general officer and the first black adjutant general in Ohio National Guard history when he was selected by Governor Richard Celeste for the post in 1988.