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REMINISCENCES OF CINCINNATI IN THE WAR TIME.
Cincinnati up to the outbreak of the rebellion sympathized with the stave-holders so far as to deprecate any restrictions upon what was termed “their rights under the laws.” Many of the leading families by blood and kindred were connected with the South: indeed largely came from there. Through trade with the South its citizens had been greatly sustained. “The establishment of an anti-slavery newspaper had resulted in its destruction by a mob, in which were some of the most prominent citizens and the driving of its editor Mr. BIRNEY to a distant city. The quarters of the negro population at times were subject to attacks from the scum of the city, aided by the rabble from the Kentucky side of the Ohio. Free speech if it took the form of public protests against the continuance of slavery, was dangerous. Wendell PHILLIPS was driven from the stage at Pike’s Opera House, and waited for in the streets to be hung up by a howling pro-slavery mob, the mayor refusing to allow the police to suppress it. At the same era Mr. YANCEY, of Alabama, was allowed therein to utter the most bitter disloyal tirade, with threats against the North without a whisper of dissent from an audience of three thousand.
With the firing upon Sumter, April 12, 1861, a spirit of vengeance for the insult to the flag seemed one to take possession of the entire population. All thoughts of trade and money-getting were swept completely from the minds of the people as in any Northern city. These incidents illustrate the conciliatory temper of the public just prior to this event. On April 5th three cannon from Baltimore were allowed to pass through the city en route for Jackson, Mississippi, marked for the “Southern Confederacy” and on the very day before a slave was remanded into the custody of his master by a United States Commissioner in Cincinnati.
The first authentic despatch of the bombardment reached Cincinnati Friday evening, the 12th, and was posted on the bulletin boards. The fact was a sur-prise to multitudes. Up to that very moment they had believed the South was not earnest. It was all bluster; there would be no war. What is note-worthy, the large German population of the city believed differently; among them were many old soldiers who had been engaged in the German revolution of 1848, and they felt war “in the air.” And it was the same with the officers of our army. We remember meeting on the street a valued acquaintance, in a Captain of the Topographical Corps of Engineers, on the reception of the news of the fall of Sumter. He greeted us with sadness and in tones of anguish exclaimed: “It is terrible—it is terrible; there is great suffering in store for us all; it is to be a long and bloody struggle. God only knows how it will end,” With that he drew in his breath between his closed teeth in his agony of emotion and walked away. This officer was a member of the Cincinnati Literary Club. In a paper read before the club in the preceding fall on the subject of “Forti-fications,” he criticized the policy of President BUCHANAN in unsparing terms; for this he was arrested to be tried by court-martial. His strong Union sentiments and his boldness of denunciation early made for him implacable enemies. He did excellent service in the war and is known in history as General John POPE. He was a rather short man, then it his prime, very handsome too, with full chest, sparkling black eyes, pearly teeth, dainty hands and feet, his figure just beginning to round into that fullness which at a certain time of life often overtakes both sexes, and when reached by some specimens of the gentler sex is sometimes happily expressed by the agreeable sentence, “fair, fat, and forty.”
At the Gazette office a man had a sentence in favor of the South
an egg striking him fairly in the open mouth, when amid the jeers of the crowd this egg receiver disappeared. Before night the city was gay with the Stars and Stripes. Never had the flag seemed so beautiful in the eyes of the American people. Until that moment they had no conception of the strength of their patriotism. Everywhere throughout the land it fluttered in its glory and was such an insignia of love for the Union, that even the lukewarm as a defense against the stigma of them more loyal neighbors felt compelled to display it. A comical incident on the outskirts of an Ohio city, where a family of lukewarm proclivities were alarmed by a cry in the street. She called out to her son, “John, they are calling out to us, ‘Secesh, secesh;’ ‘run quick
and put out our flag or we shall he mobbed.’’ John thereupon obeyed. It was subsequently ascertained the cry had proceeded from a peddler, who going by in a wagon was proclaiming his wares, “fresh fish.”
The week that opened with Monday, the 15th, with the news of the fall of Sumter, and the call of Mr. LINCOLN for 75,000 troops, was one of intense activity all over the State. The legislature appropriated $1,000,000 to arm and equip the 10,000 men. These Gov. DENNISON telegraphed the President were subject to his orders; Cincinnati also voted by its Council $200,000 to aid in equipping the troops. These sums were then thought to be sufficient in view of the prediction of Mr. SEWARD that the “ war would be over in ninety days.”
Large and enthusiastic meetings were held in the city, participated in largely by leading Democrats, and every voice rang clear in support of the Government. The attitude of Kentucky at this time was alarming, and the citizens at one of these meetings amid a whirlwind of applause adopted resolutions signifying hat it was too late to draw nice distinctions between armed neutrality and open rebellion——that both were alike rebellion—that those who did not sustain the Government in the present crisis were traitors. As Whitelaw REID expresses it, “From the first day that the war was open, the people of Cincinnati were as vehement in their determina-tion that it should relentlessly be prosecuted to victory as the city of Boston.” The attitude of Kentucky was indeed at this time peculiarly alarming. Her Governor Beriah MAGOFFIN, in response to the call for troops had declared—” I say emphatically Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.” Whereupon Governor DENNISION telegraphed to Wash-ington, “If Kentucky will not fill her quota, Ohio will fill it for her.” He more than kept his promise. Some of the first Kentucky regiments, so called, were almost entirely composed of Ohio men and commanders. Sixteen days after the President’s call, Ohio had volunteers offered enough to fill the full quota for the nation, 75,000 men.
What made the position of Cincinnati at this trying era especially interesting was that no large Northern city was so exposed, so inviting to attacks from its location and great wealth. If Kentucky should secede the city would have to be defended from her own hills instead of from those on the south side of the river. By wise management Kentucky was saved, but multitudes of her young men from her rich slave-holding centres enlisted under the banner of Secession.
General Henry M. CIST, in his article in the “ Magazine of American History” entitled “ Cincinnati with the War Fever,’’ says “During the first week after the fall of Sumter, active work was done in recruiting and drilling companies and in perfecting regimental organizations. Thursday, April 18th, heartstrings of mothers, relatives, and dear friends received the first strain of war. When the three companies of Rover Zouaves and Lafayette Guards left the city under order to report at Columbus to take their place in a regiment en route to the defense of Washington, these companies were escorted to the depot by the Guthrie Grays and the Continentals, and there amid the tears and farewells of friends the soldier boys started, all aglow with martial ardor, for the fields of glory. During the week four regiments were
started in the city, and recruiting was so active that it became a question who was not to go. The Germans turned out with a magnificent soldierly body of men, over 1,000 strong, the regiment known as the famous 9th Ohio.
This was called the Turner Regiment. It paraded the streets as we
in the white garb of the Turner Society, of which its members were
com-posed. It became one of the most effective of regiments and had the
distinguished honor of making at Mill Springs the first bayonet charge
of the war. It proved an unhappy punching to the enemy, who, not
relishing that kind of tickling broke and ran. There were,
composed of “poor whites” and armed mainly with shot-guns.
This regiment was commanded by Co1. Robert L. MC COOK. He was a large-hearted man with a frank, open, laughing manner; a lawyer and a partner with the eminent German lawyer, J. B. STALLO. He so hated pretense and show of any kind that he most unwillingly submitted to the requirement of wearing a military dress. On the occasion of this parade he was mounted on horseback clad in citizen’s dress with stove-pipe hat, his only military insignia a sword buckled to his side. We lately met a lady who, when a child, was a school-mate with MC COOK and she tells us that he at one time got into a quarrel with another boy and on being separated and reprimanded by the “school-marm,” answered, “It is all right—you are a woman—you don’t know anything about war.”
MC COOK, who was idolized by his men, was murdered in the summer of 1862 while riding, sick and recumbent, in a Spring-wagon, attended by a small escort of cavalrymen, who all but one cowardly galloped off as the guerillas appeared.
The Irish element in Cincinnati was not far behind the German in their alacrity to spring to the cause of the Union, and, says CIST, “The well—known regiment, the Tenth Ohio, that did splendid work under Col. William H. LYTLE, the ‘Soldier Poet,’ was ready for camp. The Fifth Ohio, with Col. J. H. PATRICK, with many of the most promising young men of the city as members, formed during the week; and the ranks of the Guthrie Grays—the Sixth Ohio— were well filled, over one thousand strong, with the most prominent young men in all branches of society and business in the city, under W. K. BOSLEY. The latter part of the week orders were received by General LYTLE to establish a camp of instruction, which was done at the Cincinnati Trotting Park, some six miles north of the city, and named Camp Harrison. To this camp these regiments marched with the music of hands and the waving of flags and amid the applauding cheers of vast crowds lining the streets and bidding them God-speed.” A little later Camp Dennison was established sixteen miles out on the Little Miami Railroad and became the great rendezvous for Ohio in the war.
None of those early city regiments at this time were in Federal uniforms. The German regiment was in the white clothing of the Turner Society with short white roundabout jackets of linen; the Sixth Ohio in the uniform of the Guthrie Grays; and the Fifth Ohio in red flannel shirts, making a gorgeous display as they marched down Sycamore Street, one thousand strong in platoons stretching from curb to curb.
In a very few days more, just at the edge of evening, the First and Second Indiana regiments disembarked at the Fifth street depot and marched through the city, the whole length of Fourth street, en route for Western Virginia. Oliver P. MORTON, the Governor of Indiana, a man of extraordinary executive as well as oratorical ability, had regiments mustered into service in a surprisingly short space of time. A stigma of cowardice cast upon the conduct of Indiana troops at Buena Vista by Mr. Jefferson DAVIS during the Mexican war had rankled in the hearts of the Indiana people and they were eager for vengeance. These regiments, on departing from Indianapolis for the seat of war, had kneeled before the State Capitol and with bared heads had taken an oath to “Remember Buena Vista.” Later they doubtless sang with unwonted gusto, in the war-song of the time,
“Well hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple-tree.
These Indiana regiments were the first regiments the Cincinnati people had seen beside their own, and they greeted them with great enthusiasm. They were two thousand strong, a tight body of bright young men, and splendidly equipped, with knapsacks slung and like all the early Indiana regiments attired in gray. Regiment after regiment of Morton’s gray-attired men soon followed them. One of these, the Seventh Indiana, was reviewed a few weeks later by Major ANDERSON of Fort Sumter fame, from the residence of his brother, Larz ANDERSON, on Pike street. The major was a sedate-appearing gentleman and looked care-worn and dejected, the result it was said of the excessive mental strain put upon him by his experiences at Charleston.
The sudden change from the avocations of peace to those of war made the city seem as another place and the people another people. Under the excitement of a great overpowering emotion of patriotism all classes mingled with a surpris-ing degree of friendliness and good feeling; even strangers greeted each other and neighbors that had been estranged for years forgot their petty jealousies. Their fathers and sons touched elbows as they marched away under the old flag and their tears and prayers. The spirit of self-sacrifice and generosity largely dis-played tended to increase one’s love of his kind and it came, too, often from those who had been reputed to be hard and selfish. The angel in their natures came out smiling but blew no trumpet. One whom we knew, still know, and never can get rid of; neither in this world nor in any other, said to his landlord, “These are strange times; my business is dead and now I have this great house of yours on my hands and no income to meet the rent; I shall have to move out and find some humble shelter for my family.” “That,” replied he, “will do me no good.” “Stay where you are and take care of my property; no matter about rent.” These are the times spoken of in Scripture when the hand of the father is against the son and brother against brother. We must help each other. If I get out of bread and you have it, I will call upon you; and if you get out and I have it, come to me and I will divide the last crust.” The dough for that last crust was never kneaded.
War was a matter about which the people were as ignorant as babes. The spirit of humanity, and not of ferocity and blood-shedding, was their natural characteristic. But for years blood-shedding was the great business of the city; its industries were shaped to that end and supported its population. In those be-ginning days the public meetings were intensely exciting. Two or three of these we distinctly remember. One, about the very first, was in Pike’s Opera House. It was packed from pit to dome, tier above tier. The venerable Nathaniel WRIGHT attempted to read some spirit-spiriting resolutions and failing for want of voice they were passed over to Mr. Rufus KING, when every syllable went forth in clear ringing tones to the ears and hearts of that packed, enthusiastic mass. Mr. KING to this day we are glad to say has that magnificent voice in sound work-ing condition; a voice that always goes out only for what is good. It was in that very hail later on, on an October evening, 1864, that James E. MURDOCK for the first time “Sheridan’s Ride,” that fine descriptive poem of Buchanan read, a Cincinnati production, conceived and born on that very day wherein genius in song illustrated genius in war and time hearts of the nation heat in unison with the music.
A meeting of gentlemen and ladies was held at Smith and Nixon’s Hall to learn from 0. M. MITCHELL what he knew about the war. He was an object of pride with the Cincinnatians. Through his exertions they had the honor of having established the first observatory, built by the contributions of a people, on the globe. He was a small and ordinarily silent man, dark complexion, erect in figure, his face strong, keen with its expression of thought. The little man
Judge Bellamy STORER was another of Cincinnati’s fiery, enthusiastic orators, and like MITCHELL was overflowing with patriotism united to the religious instinct. The more sublime flights of oratory can never be reached without an infusion of the latter.
At a meeting in Greenwood Hall Judge STORER gave one of his fervid appeals, calling upon the young men to volunteer. As he closed, he drew his tall, impos-ing form to its utmost height and spreading out his arms exclaimed, “I’m an old man, rising of sixty years,” then with a look as though about ready to spring into a fight, added, “and I now volunteer.”
A few days later our eyes were greeted with the sight of a company of old substantial citizens called the “Storer Rifles,” clad in handsome uniforms, marching through the streets to the sound of drum and fife—old, mostly wealthy, gray-headed men, Some of them very obese, with aldermanic protuberances; they were splendidly equipped, each at his own expense, and were named the “ Storer Rifles.” Among them was the Judge himself; bearing his shooting-piece and evidently as around of his trainer clothes as any school-boy.
This company was organized to act as Home Guards for the protection of the city and to stimulate “the boys “ to enlist for time war.
After a little it seemed as though the entire three of able-bodied men were drilling, and, where not for the army, to act as Home Guards. Within a week from the fall of Sumter at least ten thousand men were drilling in the city. The vacant halls were used as drill-rooms and the measured tramp of the recruits and the cries of the drill—sergeants, “left, left’, arose from all over the city. The town wag of the time was Platt EVANS, a tailor who had his shop on Main street, just below Fourth. Numberless were the stories told of his witticisms. He was a rather short, red-faced man, advanced in life, with a coarse complexion but of artistic tastes. Withal he stammered in speech, and this defect often gave a peculiar pungency to his wit. On being solicited to act as a captain of a company of Home Guards be blurted out., “ you foo-fools if-if I was m-m-m-marching you down B-B-Broad-Broadway, you all would be in the r-r-river b-b-b-be-fore I could ca-call ha-ha-halt!”
The famed Literary Club, converting, their rooms into a drilling hall, formed into a military company. They were largely young lawyers, their business for the time crushed and they had no resource for occupation but to turn from law to war, from courts to camps. Some sixty went into the service, almost all became officers and some distinguished generals, as R. B. HAYES, M. F. FORCE, Ed. O.NOYES, etc. Mr. R. W. BURNET volunteered to drill the club. He was a dignified, quiet gentleman of about fifty years of age, a son of Judge BURNET, and had been educated at West Point. On taking charge he made a short address, in which he said his first military experience on graduating was as a young lieutenant in the nullification times of 1832, when he was sent with his company by Jackson to Charleston to throttle its rebellious citizens if they attempted to execute their
treasonable threats. “And now,” said he, “I can but reflect that it is these same pestilential people that have so wickedly plunged the country into cruel unnecessary war, and I am again in service against them.”
Finding himself, after the lapse of thirty years, somewhat rusty in his tactics, Mr. BURNET resigned and his place was supplied by a drill sergeant from the Newport Barracks. He was a coarse, rough, ignorant foreigner, and occasionally forgetting himself at some exhibition of awkwardness, would let slip an oath, “d—n you there, on the left, hold up your heads!” Then, remembering where he was, he would let bow himself and in tones of great humility say, “I ask your pardon, gentlemen.” Then, a minute later, again flying into a passion he would let slip another oath, to be in like manner followed with another I ask your pardon, gentlemen.” And thus it was the Literary Club was initiated into the school of the soldier by oaths alternated with expressions of humility.
Cincinnati was especially prominent for the large number of eminent characters she supplied for the cabinet and the field—Hon. Salmon P. CHASE, the great war secretary, and two of Ohio’s war governors, DENINSON and BROUGH, and many of the distinguished Union generals, as Major—Generals ROSECRANS, MC CLENNAN, MITCHELL and Godfrey WEITZELL; Brevet Major-Generals R. B. HAYNES, August WILLICH, Henry B. BANNING, Manning F. FORCE, August V. KAUTZ and Kenner GARRARD; Brigadier—Generals Robert L. MC COOK, William H. LYTLE, A. Sanders PIATT, B. P. SCAMMON, Nathaniel MC EAN, M. S.WADE and John P. SLOUGH and Brevet Brigadier-Generals Andrew HICKENLOOPER, Benjamin C. LUDLOW, Israel GARRARD, William H. BALDWIN, Henry V. BOYNTON, Charles B. BROWN, Henry L. BENNET, Henry M.CIST, Stephen J. M ROATRY, Granville MOODY, August MOORE, Reuben D. MUSSEY, George W. NEFF; Edward F. NOYES, Augustus C. PARRY, Durbin WARD, and Thomas L. YOUNG; also Joshua. L. BATES of the Ohio militia. A host of other Cincinnatians served in various civil and military capacities. Especially useful were its medical men; more than half the entire number of “United States volunteer surgeons” were from this city; they entered the service independent of special commands. Among the medical men were William H. MUSSEY, George MENDENHALL, John MURPHY, William CLENDENIN, Robert FLETCHER, George H. SHUMARD, etc. After the bloody battles of Fort Donaldson and Shiloh the Cincinnati surgeons went down to the fields in streams, attended to the wounded and their transportation to hospitals in the city, a number of buildings being im-provised for the purpose. A very efficient citizen of that era was Miles GREENWOOD, an iron founder, who cast cannon, rifled muskets and plated steamboats with iron for war purposes.
The Cincinnati branch of time United States Sanitary Commission was particu-larly efficient; an outline of their work is given on page 190. Alike efficient was the local branch of the United States Christian Commission. It was under the management of A. B. CHAMBERLAIN, .H. Thane MILLER, with Rev. J. F. MARLAY Secretary, and B. W. CHIDLAW general agent. It distributed stores and money to the amount of about $300,000, the contributions of Soldiers’ Aid Societies and Ladies’ Christian Commission, mainly from the patriotic men and women of Ohio.
The most marked events in the war history of the city were what has
been termed the “Siege of Cincinnati” in 1862 and time raid of John
in the following year.
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