Ohio’s Impact on the War: The Battle of the Crater

by arohmiller - July 28th, 2014

Written by Roger Micker

In March 1864, Grant had made the decision to deploy his troops to force Lee’s entire army into a total “unconditional surrender”. Part of his plan would be achieved by concentrating his eastern forces to deliver simultaneous attacks on Richmond and Atlanta. Success in one or the other would allow both to focus their combined efforts to force a surrender of the remaining city.

According to his overall plans, Grant’s assault on Richmond was to attack Lee’s forces at Richmond from the west, north, and south and cutting him off from his southern supply line by capturing Petersburg. This strategy would be carried out by 48,000 troops under the commanders: Ambrose Burnside; Ben Butler; William “Baldy” Smith; Gouvernour Warren; and Winfield Hancock (plus the availability of 55,000 troops in reserve) against the Confederate consisting of approximately 15,000 men under PGT Beauregard.

On June 14 Grant’s plan was put into motion. After crossing the Appomattox River Butler was amazed to see the fortifications of redans and breastworks of the Dimmock Line. In addition, the outside perimeter of the line was a deep trench filled with felled trees with knife – sharpened branches to discourage enemy charges.

After two days of fighting, the Union army had pierced the Confederate line, gaining approximately a two- mile stretch of land. The next morning Gen. Meade ordered an all out attack on Beauregard’s defense. Only desperate fighting prevented Dimmock Line from breaking. That night Beauregard’s men fell back one mile from their position and, using whatever tools they could find, dug new, higher entrenchments. Beauregard surveyed the situation and said, “Unless reinforcements are sent before 48 hours, God Almighty alone can save Petersburg and Richmond”.

Meade’s all out attack captured mostly vacated trenches. Many refused to continue to charge the new imposing position of Beauregard’s troops. Although 850 of the 1st Maine tried, three fourths would become casualties in thirty minutes. During the next few days, Union cavalry struck and tore up the southern railroad lines, intending to cut off the Confederate supply line.

On June 21 two Union divisions launched an attack and were shattered by A. P. Hill’s men. The blundering efforts, and casualties, brought public criticism on the ineptness of the Union efforts at Petersburg. By the end of June, Burnside proposed a plan to Meade to dig a mine towards the Confederate line. The idea came from Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania. He said, “We could blow that damned fort out of existence if we could run a mine shaft under it.” He envisioned a shaft running 500 feet to a point under a point beneath Beauregard’s line.

Meade approved the plan even though his engineers felt it would be impossible without a proper way to provide ventilation. To solve the problem a fireplace at the mine’s base and a wooden pipe would be used to pull fresh air into the mine and stale air out. Within a month the project was completed. The end of the shaft was 20 feet below the enemy along with a 75-foot long room to store gunpowder. Four tons of powder was arranged in order for the explosion to be vertical. A 100 feet long fuse was attached to the explosives. A combined explosion with an assault by Union troops would lead to the capture of Petersburg, so Burnside predicted.

Burnside’s original thoughts were to have two brigades of black troops, under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero, to lead the attack. Three divisions of white troops would follow. Meade, concerned about public criticism if the plan fails, ordered that the black troops to be positioned last in the attack.

To determine which division would go first, straws were drawn among the other three division commanders. To the dismay of the troops James Ledlie drew the short straw. It was common knowledge among the men that Ledlie possessed a cowardice tendency and drinking issue.

Early in the morning of July 30 the fuse to the 4 tons of powder was lit. Lewis Bisell said, “We witnessed a volcano and experienced an earthquake.” Another described a cannon catapulted over the Union line. The explosion created a 200 feet long crater beneath the Elliot’s Salient. The earth, fire, smoke, and body parts were hurtled into the air. At the same time Union artillery fired away. Ledlie’s men launched their attack through empty trenches towards the crater. Amazed and curious, the men ventured in to it, instead of arching around it.

As Confederate troops ran from the explosion, a 500 yard gap gave Burnside’s men the opportunity to take Petersburg, if they hurried. The first brigades responded as if they were sightseers, funneling themselves into a confused mass in the hole. Their commander was secure several hundred yards behind in a shelter drinking rum and sending orders to push forward. All the while Beauregard started to plug the gap.

Burnside ordered two more regiments into the fray. The situation became even more hopeless, like “shooting fish in a barrel” by William Mahone’s counterattack. As Ferrero’s black troops reached the slope of the crater, many became easy targets, rather than prisoners. “This became Fredericksburg all over again.” (Bruce Catton) The fighting ended when Meade ordered Burnside to withdraw.

Union casualties numbered nearly 4,000. Approximately 300 Confederates were killed in the explosion. Grant said it was “the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war”.

Seeing action in the siege of Petersburg were: 127th OVI (later the 5th Regiment Colored troops); 60th OVI; 13th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry; 9th and 10th Ind. Co. Ohio Vol. Sharpshooters.

For further reading:

Bruce Catton: A Stillness at Appomattox

Shelby Foote: Red River to Appomattox

James McPherson: Battle Cry of Freedom

Ohio Children During the Civil War

by arohmiller - May 19th, 2014

Written by Catherine Wilson

Will, John, and Flora Fudge of Xenia, Ohio.  Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Will, John, and Flora Fudge of Xenia, Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Whether letting off firecrackers on holidays or donating their pennies toward soldiers’ relief, Ohio children were affected by the Civil War in many ways. Some were orphaned by the war, some served as drummer boys, and some worked outside the home. There were good children, and delinquent ones. They played, scuffled, worshiped, did chores, threw snowballs, and went to school much like children of today.

Many orphans were made throughout the course of the war: some completely, like the Lawrie family of Brown County which lost its father at Resaca GA in 1864 and mother one year later, with many more families losing their primary source of income. Applications for the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans Home in Xenia, opened in 1869, tell the stories of these war-torn families – fathers disabled or dead, mothers unable to care for their children, even some parents committed to an asylum.

Children who worked outside the home were generally those from poorer families. Industries that employed children differed throughout Ohio: ropemaking, weaving, newspapers, agriculture, even heavy manufacturing had their bobbin boys, printer’s devils, and mill girls or whatever equivalent terms were used. These were not all family-owned, home-based businesses either, but everything from small shops to large factories.

Mattie (no last name on the photo).  Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Mattie (no last name on the photo). Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Drummer boys were the exception rather than the rule, and usually accompanied an enlisted father. The most famous, Johnny Clem of Newark (1851-1937) was joined by Gilbert VanZandt of Clinton County (1851-1944), as well as a handful of others. The drum was fairly large, making it difficult for a child to carry, much less be able to make it heard over the din of battle, and a drummer like a flag bearer was usually a target for the opposite side. Some of what we might call boys today, the 16 and 17 year olds, could occasionally pass as older and enlist, if there was no signed parental consent. There was also a “position” called Daughter of the Regiment, which was ceremonial and did not entail the little girl going off to the front, but serving as more of a mascot. Often she was the child of the major or colonel commanding.

Young women and girls were often given roles in parades or enlistment events, portraying the loyal states or “Liberty” – many times while dressed in white, with a colored sash bearing a motto. Some helped Ladies’ Soldier’s Aid Societies to make items for the soldiers, such as sewing kits or handkerchiefs, or contributed food to boxes sent off to their home regiment’s camp.

Of course, most children stayed at home during the war. Some joined a Penny Society, generally through a church, which donated money to relief of soldiers’ families, while some organized temperance societies. Many boys played war, some getting hurt severely in the course of their play. Four children in Xenia were burned severely while representing a Panorama of the War with some friends in 1864, accidentally touching off ¼ pound of powder meant to represent the Fort Sumter magazine. Children enjoyed festivities at Christmas, the Fourth of July, and other celebrations, letting off firecrackers, being noisy, and generally being lumped together as “Young America” by the newspapers.

Ohio’s children were not generally a part of the actual fighting during the Civil War, but certainly most of them had a father, brother, uncle, cousin, or neighbor in the service. They wrote letters, sent photographs, and promised the soldiers to be good and mind their mothers. The children of the Civil War grew up to honor their family connections, joining descendants’ groups and marking the graves of the fallen, proudly remembering “my father’s regiment.”

Galloping into the Past: Alliance, Ohio Surgeon Makes Civil WarHistory Come Alive

by arohmiller - May 12th, 2014

Written by Peggy Sexton, Hale Farm & Village Marketing Volunteer

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry gathered outside the Hale House at Hale Farm & Village

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry gathered outside the Hale House at Hale Farm & Village.

New patients to Dr. David Mungo’s office in Alliance, Ohio would be forgiven if startled by the Civil War amputation kit and leg bone from the Battle of Gettysburg in the display case that greets them – not exactly reassuring images in your orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room. But the artifacts aren’t there to frighten, only to educate. And for Mungo, a Civil War enthusiast, it’s all about education.

The Civil War is why he spends his weekends being someone else – a second lieutenant in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, a Civil War reenactment group – all for the sake of telling stories and illuminating the important past of American history.

Being in the midst of a battle reenactment and seeing, hearing, and smelling what history is made of is one of the best ways to educate the public, he believes. And the fact that he gets to ride Buddy, his Saddlebred horse of nine years, into each chaotic battle, is an added bonus. The adrenaline rush that comes along with rattling sabers, firing pistols, and booming cannons, is extremely unique.

“It sounds cliché, but training and instinct take over when things get crazy,” Mungo says. “Riding quickly to the sounds of guns will get anyone fired up.”

Mungo’s passion for the Civil War started after he saw his first reenactment outside of Rochester, New York, where he was attending medical school. After opening his practice in Alliance in 2000, he hooked up with a confederate unit as an infantryman. Two years later, he joined his love of horses with his deep interest in the Civil War and joined the 6th Ohio Cavalry.

Mungo participates in Ohio’s largest annual reenactment at Hale Farm & Village each August. There, he joins over 700 fellow reenactors who put on a show for growing crowds that come to the Cuyahoga Valley to experience the fascination of horses marching in formation and galloping into battle. Last year, Hale Farm & Village received the Ohio Civil War 150 Heritage Award during the 25th anniversary of its annual reenactment. The honor was made possible by the knowledge and passion displayed by the entire reenacting community.

This spring, the reenacting community will once again be honored at Hale Farm & Village during its annual Legacy Award Benefit on May 17. Mungo will be among the group of command staff members accepting the honor, but feels as though his true purpose is to continue to motivate visitors to go and learn about history themselves.

 

Ohio’s Impact on the War: Ohio’s Economy and Industry during the Civil War

by arohmiller - May 5th, 2014

Written by Mark Holbrook

If any state in the country, north or south was prepared to go to war in 1860, it was Ohio. Militarily and politically, Ohio boasted an abundance of experienced, skilled men who would go on to make their mark in history. Ohio also was in a unique position to support the war effort by providing the Union armies and navies the materials they would need to win the war. From uniforms to cannons to rations, the Buckeye state mobilized in virtually every county to support the war effort. That ability was one several decades in the making and its effects would impact the state in to the next century.

In 1850, the combined population of Ohio’s three major cities, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati represented 13% of the state’s total population. In 1860 the rate increased to 14.7% and, in 1870, five years after the war ended, 17%. Manufacturing employees in the state likewise increased significantly leading up to the war. IN 1820, just under 19 thousand Ohioans worked in factories. In 1840, that number grew to more than 66 thousand and in 1860 as the war was approaching, over 75 thousand.

Agricultural advances such as the reaper and threshing machines patented by Ohioan Cyrus McCormick, improved efficiency in farming that enabled more and more Ohioans to look to factories for employment as the war began.

Railroads, especially the Baltimore & Ohio played a vital role in the movement of troops, war supplies and more during the war. Ohio, with more miles of track in 1860 than any other state north or south, became a focal point for the war effort. Troops from the upper Midwest moved south on Ohio rails. Armies made the East-west journey on the B & O several times to meet threats from Confederate armies in Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. Even government officials benefited from the highly efficient railroad system running through Ohio. On more than one occasion, Lincoln’s cabinet members made visits to commanders in the west. Those visits proved valuable to the Union war effort.

Iron ore mining and refining began in Northeast Ohio early in the 19th century, but by 1860, Southern Ohio dominated the industry with 69 iron furnaces producing more than 100,000 tons of iron annually on the eve of civil war. That iron mainly went to an ever-growing industrial complex in Northeast Ohio in cities like Youngstown, Akron and Cleveland. The existence of these mines and factories meant that Ohio was in a position to switch its production from farming equipment and home utensils quickly after the firing on Fort Sumter in April of 1862.

Many of the iron furnaces in the state were fueled by charcoal, an expensive, time consuming energy source that required harvesting of timber throughout the region. Coal began to replace charcoal in the 1850s, providing a more efficient, less costly fuel for the furnaces and factories.

Coal became a viable export with the development of the canal system in the 1820s and 30s, a precursor to increased mining and export when railroads come to Ohio in the 1840s. Much of the development of Ohio’s rail system was a result of the demand by the mining and iron industries for transportation systems to support the growing industries. By the late 1800s, iron production and coal mining helped Ohio emerge as one of the most prosperous states in the country.

It was fortunate that Ohio became a more industrialized state in the 1860s. As the plains states became more populated after the war, agricultural production there increased dramatically and a new source of competition for Ohio’s farm products developed. This competition was offset by an increased demand for Ohio made agricultural products in those western states.

In 1863, a 24 year-old upstart business owner in Cleveland, John D. Rockefeller established an oil refinery in his home town, believing the new demand for kerosene for lighting. Rockefeller joined several other refineries in Cleveland as the city became the center of refining oil being pumped out of wells in nearby Pennsylvania. Rockefeller’s business, to become known as Standard Oil grew to dominate the industry, in large part due to the excellent rail system in Ohio and its proximity to Lake Erie, a major export waterway.

William Procter, a candle maker, and James Gamble, a soap maker, formed the company known as Procter & Gamble in 1837. The two men, immigrants from England and Ireland respectively, had settled earlier in Cincinnati and had married sisters. The two men decided to pool their resources to form their own company, formalizing the relationship on October 31, 1837.

The company prospered during the nineteenth century. In 1859, sales reached one million dollars. By this point, approximately eighty employees worked for Procter & Gamble. During the Civil War, the company won contracts to supply the Union army with soap and candles. In addition to the increased profits experienced during the war, the military contracts introduced soldiers from all over the country to Procter & Gamble’s products. Once the war was over and the men returned home, they continued to purchase the company’s products. Essentially, P & G became one of the United States’ first national brands.

Many Ohioans who served in the war and experienced new places, ideas and ways of thinking would go on to found companies still in existence today. Their status as heroic veterans opening doors and bringing the reputation helpful to succeeding in business. One such veteran was O.M. Scott of the 121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Shortly after the war in 1868, Scott established a seed company supplying farmers with high quality seeds. As America became more industrialized and its citizens began to move to the cities, a land of green lawns and white picket fences emerged. Scott met the needs of these citizens by expanding his business to produce first grass seed and then lawn care products. Today, Scotts Miracle Gro continues to be a dominate company in its industry, employing thousands in Ohio.

The American Civil War had a deep and lasting impact on Ohio’s economy and industry. While both military and political leadership by Ohioans would make the state a prominent force in the future, its industrialists also played a decisive role in the future of the country, impacting every citizens’ daily life. That impact would have been much less had the state not been in the position to meet the challenges of the war and the new, emerging economy of the country.

 

FRIENDS AND DESCENDENTS OF JOHNSON’S ISLAND CIVIL WAR PRISON RECEIVE OHIO CIVIL WAR 150 HERITAGE AWARD AT ANNUAL PARK DAY

by arohmiller - April 22nd, 2014
Bob Minton (right), Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee member presents the 2014 Civil War 150 Heritage Award to Dave Bush, Friends and Descendents of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison chair, during a ceremony on May April 5, 2014 at the island.

Bob Minton (right), Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee member presents the 2014 Civil War 150 Heritage Award to Dave Bush, Friends and Descendents of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison chair, during a ceremony on May April 5, 2014 at the island.

Marblehead, Ohio – The Friends and Descendents of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison are pleased to announce that the Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee has awarded them with the 2014 Civil War 150 Heritage Award. The award was presented at the group’s annual work day on April 5th in conjunction with Civil War Trust’s Park Day.

“The Friends have been working to save this important site for over a decade.” said committee member Bob Minton, Commander of the Army of the Ohio Civil War Reenactors, during the ceremony. “The Civil War 150 Advisory Committee is proud to present this award in appreciation for your ongoing commitment to reintroduce the prison into public memory and continued efforts to preserve Ohio’s Civil War history.”

The Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison formed in 2001 as a non-profit historic preservation organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Johnson’s Island Military Prison Depot. In 2002 the Friends purchased 17 acres of the prison site, permanently preserving this National Historic Landmark. The group was the recipient of the 2012 Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization of the Year Award by the Civil War Trust.

“I am proud that our group was chosen as a recipient of this award,” said Dave Bush, Chair for the Friends. “This award is a reflection of the countless hours our volunteers have spent ensuring that this site affords research, interpretative, and educational use for future generations and is truly a lasting impact.”

Approximately 80 volunteers were on hand to see the presentation during a break in the national Park Day sponsored by Civil War Trust, History™ and Take Pride in America. This is the ninth consecutive year volunteers have helped improve the appearance of this Civil War prison site, located in Sandusky Bay. Volunteers spent the day clearing brush, winter dead fall and developing walking trails across the site.

To learn more about the Friends, visit their website at www.johnsons-island.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David Bush at 419-618-0151.