Participate in the “Ohio Village Soldiers’ Aid Fair: A Civil War Sanitary Fair”

by arohmiller - March 12th, 2014


The Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee invites you to participate in a reconstruction of 1864 history. In keeping with our theme of “The Home Front,” the Ohio Historical Society is planning an “Ohio Village Soldiers’ Aid Fair: A Civil War Sanitary Fair” at Ohio Village on Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25 2014. There will be a period-correct fair in the Village itself, and inside the Historical Center will be a place for counties, regions, historical societies, Civil War Roundtables, and others, to “show their stuff.”

The 1860s Sanitary Fairs, sponsored by the United States Sanitary Commission, collected money and goods for the troops in the field, the hospitals, and the Soldiers’ Home in Cincinnati. Two Sanitary Fairs were held in Ohio: at Cincinnati in December 1863-January 1864, and in Cleveland from February-March 1864. Booths from church groups, Soldiers Aid Societies, Union Clubs, and school groups featured handmade items, clothing, toys, floral arrangements, and more. Some were intended for display only, some for sale or raffle, with the money going toward relieving the wants and sufferings of the soldiers, and to cause them to feel that their sacrifices and labors were appreciated, and to let them know they were still within the circle of home affection and sympathies.

How can your group participate? If your society or group has any or all of the following:

• A Civil War era relic, letter, photograph, &c.;

• A tabletop display about your county, society, or group;

• A representative sample of hand-work, such as quilting or embroidery;

• A display of Civil War flag preservation or fund raising for a monument;

• Anything about your non-profit group that will reach a great many people!

There will be no charge for a display table unless your group is selling items, in which case Ohio Historical Society must charge a vending fee. These displays will be indoors, therefore protected from weather and locked up at night. Half and full tables are available for both Saturday (10-5) and Sunday (12-5).

The general theme for this re-imagined Sanitary Fair is Ohio: The Home Front, which can include such [subtexts] as “Greene County in the Civil War” or “Presbyterians of Jefferson County” or “Oberlin Students in Wartime” – the field is open. Let’s represent all sections of our great state and show the world that we treasure our history, and that we commemorate Ohio’s key role on not only the battlefields, but also at home! If you would like to participate, please contact Amy Rohmiller at or 614.297.2609 with your information and indicate which size table (half or full) you would like to reserve.


Ohio’s Impact on the War: Supplying the Military

by arohmiller - December 23rd, 2013

Written by Catherine Wilson

Ohio’s manufactures, transportation systems, regiments of troops, and financial assistance helped the North to win the war.  While reading about the state’s political impact, I noticed several authors who said that Ohio was a microcosm of the entire country; it combined north and south, east and west, rural and urban, foreign and native, manufacturing and agricultural interests; and made them work together successfully.

Manufacturing was concentrated primarily in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, with a few other counties contributing.  By 1850, explains Stephen Maizlish in The Triumph of Sectionalism, Ohio was first in the country in corn production, and second in wheat.  Eighty percent of all pork products in Ohio were processed in Cincinnati, which was 27 percent of all meat products of the West.  In 1853, Ohio exported more agricultural products to the rest of the country than the United States exported overseas, if cotton and tobacco were excluded.  None of this was produced with slave labor either; however, cotton and tobacco were grown in Ohio, in limited quantities.

Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati was an inventor and industrialist, who transformed his factory into a “virtual arsenal,” according to Carl Becker in For the Union.  He was the only contractor in the West to supply cannon to the government; other Ohio foundries produced artillery shells and case shot, as well as rifles and black powder.  Greenwood also pursued innovation in his big guns, such as breech loading and using iron for casting cannon rather than bronze.  The Miami Powder Company, at Goe’s Station in Greene County, manufactured black powder during this time; according to rumor, the factory supplied its products to both sides in the conflict.

Transportation was another of Ohio’s “pluses.”  Of course the natural waterways, such as rivers and Lake Erie, were always useful, as far back as settlers started arriving. Starting in the 1820s, canals were a manmade source of transport; these were mostly supplanted by railroads in the 1850s.  By 1860 Ohio had more miles of railroad track than any other state.  Cincinnati was just behind New York and Philadelphia in manufacturing output according to the 1860 census; Cleveland’s industrial development was behind this at the time of the Civil War, but was coming into its own as a shipment point as well as for shipbuilding.  Both were well connected by natural and manmade networks, to markets and resources, to raw materials and finished products.

Ohio supplied the third most troops of any state, behind New York and Pennsylvania.  There were almost 320,000 men (and likely a scant number of women) serving in 230 cavalry and infantry regiments, plus 26 light and 2 heavy artillery batteries and 5 sharpshooter companies.  Several more Ohioans served in regiments from other states, such as Kentucky, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and Kansas.  In 1860, the total male population in Ohio between the ages of 15 and 49 was 582,201; adding the males between 50 and 59 makes this pool of potential soldiers 645,745 strong.  The ones not off in the field were likely in agriculture or manufacturing, both major sources of supply for the troops.

Other tangible and intangible supplies for Ohio soldiers included news from home, supplied by relatives, friends, and local newspapermen, or packages of “home comforts” like food or blankets.  Ladies’ Soldier’s Aid Societies all over Ohio were a major source of civilian contributions to hospitals and camps throughout the Western theater.  Supplies could take the form of direct benefits such as these, or infrastructure items such as rail track that transported them to various fields of battle and raw material for weapons from steel mills and iron furnaces back home in Ohio.

Quartermasters: Supplying the Military

by arohmiller - December 16th, 2013

Written by: Roger Micker

After April 14, 1861 the logistics for the U.S. Army changed dramatically. Following the attack on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln’s call for enlistments, the number of troops swelled from 16,000 to 500,000 over the next two years. Significant responsibility for the success, or failure, of a campaign could be determined by the operations of the Quartermaster. Generals who led campaigns into enemy territory in earlier wars had to take into consideration the time and distance between their positions, target, and supply depots. For example, one of Napoleons chief concerns was how to remedy food spoilage and its consequences.

Through 1860 and the start of the war the Quartermaster Department was plagued with issues such as: an inefficient chain of command, fraud, shoddy uniforms and equipment, and broken down horses. After routine drilling and marching, uniforms and brogans would fall apart at the seams. Most tents provided little shelter from rainfall. The quality of materials purchased by the Army went unchecked. The Quartermaster General who oversaw expenditures of over $35 million in 1861 was expected to provide depots for the army to fight a campaign effectively. With the increasing size of the military that figure would increase by approximately $100 million in 1862.

According to the Guidelines for The Quartermaster Department, 1861, the quartermaster is responsible for: “… transportation by land and water for all troops and war material; supply tents, camp, and garrison equipage, forage, lumber, and all materials for camps; constructing or repairing roads, bridges, and railroads; construct barracks, hospitals, wagons, ambulances; provides harness, builds or charters ships and steamers, docks, and wharves; and clothes the army.”

Soldiers were requisitioned a uniform and accoutrements from the quartermaster. Each army of the military was generally assigned 3,000 wagons and 600 ambulances along with 50,000 horses and mules. Each animal, valued around $110, consumed 25 pounds of feed per day. When necessary the cost for public modes of transportation by rail or water had to be included in the department’s expenditures.

For transportation fuel, the quartermaster’s annual purchases would normally be for over half a million bushels of coal and about 20,000 cords of wood. According to the Guidelines “… at least 200 miles of fencing … to make bunks, cots, and coffins” were needed. Additional expenses were necessary for: officers’ “mileage”; buildings; burials; veterinarians; mechanics; laborers; and salaries for contrabands working as teamsters, cooks, or laundry workers.

Clerks (who could make up to $100 a month), police, spies, scouts, and corps quartermaster fell under the responsibility of the Quartermaster General. White workers were paid $25 a month, contrabands $10 a month. At the request of the quartermaster, payments for goods, services, and supplies were made by the Treasury Department.

The Commissary Department provided the rations for each soldier and laborer. The food was procured by public contract and transported under the guidance of the Quartermaster General. On the average, each soldier was expected to receive 3 pounds of food per day. A ration generally could consist of various amounts of: pilot bread (hard tack), pork, bacon, salt, beef, coffee, peas, and vegetables. The cost for a single ration was 20 cents. In one month, it was estimated that one army consumed 20,000 bushels of potatoes. The preserving and preparation of food was considered so valuable that a good cook could be worth 10 physicians.

The Quartermaster General position was established in 1775. Prior to the appointment of Montgomery Meigs to the position, the department was at the mercy of many unscrupulous contractors. Compounding the problem of fraud, contracts for domestic and foreign for tens of dozens of various types of arms were fulfilled.

Ohio’s industries and agricultural centers provided necessary goods for the military. Since 1844 Goodyear produced soldiers’ gum blankets. In Steubenville, tailors sewed depot jackets and trousers. Bakeries in Cincinnati were one of the chief sources for providing pilot bread. (The Henry Varwig bakery produced 3 million pounds of hard tack). The contract (for soap) with Proctor and Gamble helped that company to survive.

Imagine being in Meigs’ position in 1862 when he was faced with the prospect of sending, and supporting, McClellan’s 100,000 plus Army of the Potomac on its Peninsula campaign. The failure of the campaign could not be blamed for a lack of supplies and transportation.

For Further Reading:

Second Only To Grant: Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs by David Miller.  The Quartermaster Review, 1928.


Ohio’s Impact on the War Series: Why Th

by arohmiller - November 26th, 2013

Written By: Sfc. Joshua Mann, Ohio Army National Guard

Why did Civil War soldiers fight? What made them endure the hardships of Army life, the terror of battle and the loss of friends? Over 300,000 Buckeyes served during the Civil War, and if you could travel back in time and ask each of them why they chose to serve you might get that many different answers.

When the war began certainly the overwhelming majority of men who enlisted where caught up in the patriotic spirit of a nation which had just been attacked. “TO ARMS! TO ARMS!” Read one recruiting poster in northwest Ohio, “Rally to our flag! Rush to the field! Are we cowards that we must yield to traitors? Are we worthy sons of heroic sires? Come one, come all! Let us march, as our forefathers marched, to defend the only democratic Republic on earth!”

The patriotic spirit would soon be overcome by reality. While many soldiers wrote home bravely seeking a scrap with the enemy, their tone soon changed after “seeing the elephant” for the first time. “The horrors of the battlefield on Tuesday, I would not wish to convey to your mind, if I could – I would rather banish it from my own.” wrote Captain Albert Langworthy of the 49th Ohio after the battle of Shiloh.

Many men left their homes in the hope that the Army could provide a better way of life. Not unlike today’s military, the thought of financial rewards in trade for a few years of service were worth the risk to many men. An enlistment or reenlistment bonus, along with the idea of a steady pay check, was intriguing to many men trying to start a life or support a family. One such recruit in January 1864 was Peter Neiderkohr from the Seneca County village of Berwick and my great-great-great-great uncle. A married father of a young son, Peter could not speak a word of English. His brother in law, John Youngpeter was already serving in Company D, 49th Ohio, and he hoped the bonus money given to him for signing up would better his young family. He would not get the chance to have that better life, as he was killed at the battle of Pickett’s Mill just four months later.

While the financial benefit and the patriotic spirit brought many men into the Army, the friendships and brotherhoods the men developed with their fellow soldiers kept them going. The terror of combat certainly bonded them, but the routine duties of a soldier’s life cemented that bond. These men marched together, shared tents together, cooked together, prayed together, sang songs together, and stood on picket duty together. They did this in the heat and cold, rain and snow, the brightest of days and darkest of nights. “Fight over cards and rotgut whiskey, but share the last drop in their canteens,” although a line by John Wayne’s character Captain Kirby York in the 1948 movie Fort Apache, it is a fitting description of the brotherhood that develops while in the military.

In January 1906, Martin Riegle, of Bluffton and a veteran of the 49th Ohio, wrote his old comrade James Gilpin of Garber, Oklahoma. The letter explains itself and shows the devotion of comradeship during the Civil War and after. “When I think back to the 27th of May 1864, when you so kindly, and at the risk of your own life a thousand times or more as you know, the bullets, grape and canister were sweeping everything before them, yet you took me off the bloody field, while nearby me lay poor Dory Jackman, whom you also so nobly helped, but alas you could not rescue both of us. … James I won’t forget you. No, not while my memory survives me right. … I thank you for your kindness and hope our friendship will last us through this life and help to know each other in the great beyond, which is only just a little way before us. God bless you dear comrade and yours, write me when you can, good bye. Martin Riegle.”


Ohio’s Immigrant Soldiers in the Civil War

by arohmiller - October 28th, 2013

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

The 1861-65 American Civil War changed the political and public nature of the country. Immigration and assimilation of immigrants into the American “melting pot” were among major changes The population of the United States in 1860 was 31.4 million people with four million immigrants in that total.

Foreign born soldiers serving in the Union Army significantly contributed to the war effort. About 200,000 Germans served in the Union Army. About 144,000 men born in Ireland served. Their patriotic fervor and combat valor helped gain both ethnic groups acceptance into the mainstream of American society.

CW-Pic-Lincoln CU-5 NA In Cincinnati Feb. 13, 1861, concerning ethnic groups in America, President-elect Abraham Lincoln stated, “In regard to the Germans and other foreigners, I esteem them no better than other people, nor any worse.” In his July 4, 1861 first message to Congress, President Lincoln stated concerning the War of the Rebellion: “This is essentially a people’s contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men . . . .”

Sixty percent of Ohio’s men between the ages of 18 and 45 served in the Union Army and naval services. The ranks of Ohio’s 260 Civil War units – - mainly 195 Infantry regiments, 38 artillery batteries, and 13 Cavalry regiments – - included men of many nationalities. Of the Buckeye State’s approximately 320,000 Union Army, Navy, Marine, and Revenue Cutter Service volunteers, about one-fourth were born in foreign lands. Former residents of Canada, England, France, Holland, Italy, Poland and other nations served in Ohio units. The majority, however, were immigrants from Ireland and the several German States.

The 1845-52 potato famine motivated more than a million Irish to emigrate to America while more than a million stayed behind and died. For many Irish immigrants, the Civil War provided an opportunity to feed their families, rise above poverty, and to prove to native-born Americans their equality as human beings and fellow citizens.

The Irish-American Boston Pilot newspaper of Jan. 21, 1861 summed patriotic motivation for Irish-Americans by ARTICLE-OHS-Irish-American Cigar Labelexhorting: “Stand by the Union; Fight for the Union; Die for the Union.” Echoing the sentiment, the editor of the Galway American urged Sons of Erin to: “… rally around the Stars and Stripes . . . for the preservation of the Union will be the salvation of Ireland” and then added, “the breaking of the great republic would be a fatal blow to the cause of freedom all over the world.” More than 8,000 Ohioans born in Ireland proved their patriotism through Civil War military service.

Ohio’s German-Americans were also highly motivated to serve their new nation. As noted in the book Melting Pot Soldiers, “Germans were natural lovers of freedom and fighters for good causes.” During the 1840s and 1850s, 1.4 million residents of German States emigrated to the United States. Many of them, well educated and veterans of military service, did so following failure of the 1848 Revolution in their homeland. At least one-third of Cincinnati’s 1860 population of roughly 70,000 people was German. Many Ohio Germans were strongly opposed to slavery and willing to fight to end the institution. During the War Between the States, ten percent of Union Army soldiers were born in the German Empire.

The German Heritage Guide to the Greater Cincinnati Area documents: “The 9th, 28th, 106th and 108th Ohio Volunteer ARTICLE-Immigrants-Die Neuner HistoryInfantry (OVI) Regiments were composed of Cincinnati Germans. . . . Other Ohio regiments with Cincinnati Germans in their ranks included the 100-day and all German 165th OVI, and the half German 47th OVI. The Irish 10th Ohio Volunteer Infantry recruited in Cincinnati included two companies of German-Americans in its ranks.”The Ninth OVI was known as “Die Neuner” and its soldiers as “The Dutch Devils.” When the Ninth began recruiting for federal service in 1861, 1,500 Queen City Germans “rallied to the Colors” in three days. The unit was activated for military service in April 1861 with about 1,000 officers and men plus 24 musicians. An original member of the unit, Prussia-born Major August Willich, noted military service would enable Germans to “really prove they are not foreigners, and that they know how to protect their new republican homeland against the aristocracy of the South.” On June 16th, the Ninth departed for combat service. Their battle history includes Carnifex Ferry, Shiloh, Perrysville, Nashville, Chickamauga, and Resaca.

Cincinnati’s Irish were mainly laborers. They believed in rights and freedom for all men, but viewed slaves in the Southern States and elsewhere as competition for basic labor jobs needed to better their own existence. That said, they in general also strongly believed in “The Union” and that their destiny and future prosperity was tied to sustaining the “United States” as an entity. The Cincinnati “Irish Regiment” was the 10th OVI, nicknamed the “Bloody Tenth.” When the unit’s green silk regimental flag was presented, their commander, Colonel William H. Lytle, remarked: “. . . there is not a man in these ranks who will not shed his heart’s blood like water beneath these colors.” The unit’s battle credits include Carnifex Ferry, Perrysville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the Atlanta Campaign, and Resaca.

ARTICLE-Immigrants-Photo of MoH Recipient Edward Welsh 54 OVIAmong foreign born Union soldiers from Ohio who received the Medal of Honor were: William Campbell, 30th OVI; John P. Murphy, 5th OVI; George W. Tyrell, 5th OVI; plus Jacob Swegheimer and Edward Welsh, 54th OVI. One Ohio officer who distinguished himself in the U.S. Army was Major General August Kautz who led troops, and wrote manuals on the duties and customs of military service. He was born in Baden and grew up in Brown County, fought with the First Ohio Infantry in the Mexican-American War 1846-48, and graduated in the class of 1852 from the U.S. Military Academy. Major General Phillip Sheridan, officially recorded as born in Albany, N.Y. and raised in Somerset, Ohio, is rumored to have actually been born on an immigrant ship in transit from Ireland. Sheridan served in the War Between the States with great distinction and in 1888 became commanding general of the U.S. Army.

For additional information, recommended readings include:

Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union’s Ethnic Regiments; William L. Burton; Fordham Univ. Press 1998.

True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army; Martin Öfele; Praeter Press 2008