Historical Essays

Please enjoy these articles written by our CWRT members through the years.

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1cwrt18A Double Sacrifice

On occasion, it is still possible to uncover a story of unusual interest from apparently nondescript images. Early in 1987, a friend presented me with two unidentified soldier CDVs. With no names and not even a backmark, there was little hope of finding the story behind the images. On inquiry, however, the donor advised that he found them in the attic of an abandoned house, where they were part of an album. Read more…


1cwrt19Commutation: Democratic or Undemocratic?

The enthusiasm characteristic of the first months of any war must eventually ebb. In Ohio the ardent response to Lincoln’s call for volunteers in 1861 was proof of the fierce patriotic spirit that swept the North. Yet, within two years the threat of conscription was needed to stimulate volunteering, and by the spring of 1864 conscription itself was  instituted under the “Act for Enrolling and Calling Out the National Forces,” commonly called the Conscription Act. Read more…

 


800px-McKinleyBrady_1865Biography of William McKinley

William McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio, in 1843; he was one of nine children. McKinley’s father, who worked in the iron industry, moved the family to Poland, Ohio, known then for its excellent schools, when McKinley was eleven years old. McKinley was educated at the Poland Seminary, where he excelled (particularly in oration and debate). He briefly attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, but returned to Poland when he became ill. In Poland, McKinley took a job at the local Post Office. Read more…


1cwrt20.jpgSgt. George Harlan, 65th Ohio Infantry

Shortly after the completion of the fall harvest of 1861, a 19 year old Columbiana County, Ohio man named George Washington Harlan – the oldest of five children and his father’s right-hand man on the family’s 100 acre farm – enlisted in a brigade being raised by U.S. Senator John Sherman. Harlan and his neighbors from the area adjoining Alliance and Salem would eventually be designated as Company B, 65th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Read more…


1cwrt21David Hamilton Morton, 149th Pennsylvania Infantry

One volunteer lucky enough to be assigned to the 149th Pennsylvania was David H. Morton, a 19-year old from the village of Bethel, Allegheny County. On August 22, 1862, Morton signed the roll presented to him by Captain James Glenn. Glenn’s recruits became Company D of the 149th.

Read more…

 

 


Image_David_Tod,_Abbots_History_of_OhioGovernor Tod to the People of Ohio

The State of Ohio, Executive Department, Columbus, July 26, 1863.
To the People of the State: The exciting and important events which have transpired within the past two weeks, make the present moment a fitting one for the Chief Executive to address you. Late in the night of the 12th instant I received reliable information that a well organized rebel force of cavalry and artillery, supposed to exceed five thousand in number, under the lead of the notorious John Morgan, was about to enter the Southwestern portion of our state. Read more…


800px-Gen._John_Morgan_(cropped) (1)Biography of John Hunt Morgan

John Hunt Morgan was born 1 June 1825 in Huntsville, Alabama. He was the first of ten children born to Calvin and Henrietta Hunt Morgan. His parents’ choice of the name John Hunt, after his maternal grandfather, was a distinct break with the southern tradition of naming the first son after the paternal grandfather, the second after the maternal grandfather and the third after the father.1 This break with tradition was the beginning of an orientation toward the Hunts that was to influence every aspect of John Morgan’s life. Read more…


 

two cavalrymen A Waud LOCGeorge Washington Williams, Ohio 6th Volunteer Cavalry: My Life for My Country

George W. Williams was born in March 1836 in Howland Township, son of Joseph and Melinda Williams, Howland-Springs Rd. On the 1860 Census his occupation was listed as a Sawyer. His father Joseph was a carpenter-farmer so George probably helped saw wood with his father. He entered service in the 6th Ohio Vol. Cav. in Co. G. (Capt. Richart’s) on November 31, 1861, enlisting for 3 years service. He was appointed Corporal on Feb. 25, 1862. Read more…


1cwrt22Col. Charles S. Wainwright’s Account of Cooper’s Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery on East Cemetery Hill: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

On the late afternoon of July 2, 1863, as Confederate forces attacked the Federal left in the area of Devil’s Den, Little Round top, the Wheatfield, and Peach Orchard, another action was occurring on the right flank of the Federals on East Cemetery Hill. This was the artillery duel between the batteries of Col. Charles S. Wainwright’s and Maj. Thomas W. Osborne’s Federal First and Eleventh Corps’s artillery brigades and the guns under the
command of the Confederate “Boy Major” Joseph W. Latimer located on Benner’s Hill to the northeast. Among the batteries under Wainwright’s control was Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, commanded by James H. Cooper. This artillery duel has often been overshadowed by events taking placer on the Federal left. Read more…


 

1cwrt23Harvey, Yankee War Dog

Students of the Civil War are occasionally reminded that some of the notable participants in that conflict weren’t of the human species. References to these four-legged veterans are tantalizingly incomplete. Official records are almost universally silent, and only the letters and recollections of their human comrades, embellished by extraordinarily rare photographs, preserve their individual histories. One canine “volunteer” who attracted
considerable notice during his service was Harvey, a bulldog who went to war with the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the late summer of 1862. Read more…


1280px-Little_Round_Top_view_Edwin_Forbes“I Will Take The Responsibility”: Strong Vincent Moves To Little Round Top: Fact Or Fiction?

It can be described as panic time. Two armies were facing off for what each knew was to be a decisive conflict on the afternoon of July 2. Just moments before, Maj. Gen. George Meade, the Union commander, had discovered that his left flank was not positioned as he had ordered. On the south end of his line, the Third Corps had moved forward well over a half mile, disconnecting from the corps to its right and creating a major break in the line. The Confederate advance was underway. There was no time to reposition the Third Corps and close the gap. Meade ordered Maj. Gen. George Sykes’ Fifth corps, being held in reserve, to move at once to the left front to prevent the threatened breakthrough. Read more…


AbierceThe Civil War and the Unraveling of the American Renaissance

My thesis is that the civil war, a turning point in U.S. history, further caused a stark reversal in the contour of American Literature; an ascendant heroic literary spirit came to be replaced by a local, private, soul-searching spirit; and a transcendent national literary heroism came to be replaced by a sectional, flawed literary protagonist chained to the narrow confines of personality, heroic in degrees, but fundamentally flawed in its total humanness. Although the dominant literary form of the entire 19th century is
Realism, the ascendant heroic realism before the civil war came to be replaced by the focused realism of the local colourists and naturalism after the war. The civil war itself produced such transition. Read more…


800px-Little_Round_Top_1863“They are firing at the flag.” Vincent’s Brigade on Little Round Top

Twenty-five years after the fighting on Little Round Top, a detailed account of the movement and fighting of Colonel Strong Vincent’s Brigade (Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps) in the late afternoon of July 2nd was prepared by a man at the focal point of the action. Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler and color bearer, wrote a 15-page letter relating what he saw and heard while serving at Vincent’s side. Norton continued writing on the subject over the next thirty years and exchanged letters with other veterans of that blood-soaked rock pile , the extreme left of the entire Union line. Read more…


1280px-Little_Round_Top_Edwin_ForbesOne and A Half Hours: Time on Little Round Top

On the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the Third Brigade of the First Division, Fifth Corps, moved across the low ground north of the Wheatfield Road in a southwesterly direction. The brigade was led by its recently appointed commander, twenty-six-year-old Col. Strong Vincent. Less than four years earlier, this civilian-turned-soldier had finished his studies at Harvard and returned to his home in Erie, Pennsylvania, to begin his law practice. The division was halted as the head of the column reached a small rise at the lane south of the J. Weikert farm buildings. Colonel Vincent demanded the orders of the officer that raced to the division looking for Brig. Gen. James Barnes. Read more… 


800px-MckinleyWilliam McKinley Speech, Transcription (Speech 1)

My Comrades and Fellow-citizens: I respond to your call with special gratification. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to meet at my home my comrades in the Civil War. The ties of fraternity and friendship grow stronger and dearer as the years recede, and the old guard one, by one, is called home. Your presence revives many patriotic memories; it recalls many stirring and glorious events. How vividly they rise before us, and what an inspiration for the right they always are! Read more…


800px-Battle_of_Cedar_Creek_by_Kurz_&_AllisonCedar Creek Battle Report

I HAVE THE HONOR TO REPORT THAT ON THE MORNING OF THE 19TH INSTANT THE DIVISION UNDER MY COMMAND HAD ABOUT 2381 MEN FOR DUTY; OF THAT NUMBER 287 WERE ON PICKET, ONE LARGE REGIMENT OF THE 2ND BRIG—91ST OHIO—NUMBERING 378, WERE ABSENT GUARDING CATTLE BELOW
MIDDLETOWN, AND ONE REGIMENT, 9TH WEST VA VOL. INFT. WAS CAMPED NEAR BREASTWORKS WHICH THEY WERE THROWING UP ABOUT THREE FOURTHS
OF A MILE SOUTHEAST OF MY CAMP, LEAVING IN CAMP ONLY ABOUT 1445 MEN.  Read more…


McKinley_last_photoTO HIS OLD COMRADES. Mr. McKinley Responds in Words of Burning Eloquence to Survivors of the Twenty-third O. V. I. (Speech Transcription)

“Captain Ellen and my comrades of the Twenty-third Ohio—This call of the surviving
members of the old regiment with which I served for more than four years at my home is a most gracious act upon their part, and brings to me peculiar and special gratification.
“As I look upon this little body of men assembled about me, and remember that this is but the remnant of the old Twenty-third that thirty-five years ago had 1,010 sturdy young men on its roll ready for duty, and that it was twice recruited to the total number of nearly 2,200; that here is gathered possibly less than 100, and that is one-fourth of the surviving members of our glorious old regiment, I am vividly reminded how rapidly the years are passing, and with them are passing our old associates of the war. Read more…


1cwrt24Morgan (Monument) Rides Again

An article from Salem News showing Civil War history in our local community. Read it here…

 

 


1cwrt25Murder in Dayton: The Death of Lieutenant Waterman

All too frequently, “Killed in Action” is the official epitaph for Ohio’s Civil War volunteers. Perhaps even more tragic than lives cut short in battle is the singular fate of a promising young officer slain by the hand of a fellow Ohioan. The young man was sacrificed in a drama played out against the backdrop of bitter political controversies that threatened to divide the state as they had already divided the nation. Read more…

 


1cwrt26Sunshine to Greenbacks: An incomplete history of Ohio photographer Emmor Crew

Collectors of Ohio images regularly find cartes-de-visite with the backmark of “E. Crew,
Alliamce, Ohio.” Alliance, a small city in Stark County, northeastern Ohio, contained the junction of two railroads, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago and the Cleveland & Pittsburgh. The Civil War brought heavy military traffic to the city as regiments were
transported to training camps or to the front. Partly in response to this traffic, Alliance catered to its temporary visitors with at least two photographic studios that are known to have operated there during the war years. The more prolific of these studios was that of
E. (Emmor) Crew. Read more…


800px-James_Barnet_Fry_-_Brady-HandyThe Administrative Organization of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau in Ohio, 1863-1865

By placing his signature upon the “Act for Enrolling and Calling Out the National Forces,”
commonly called the Conscription or Enrollment Act, Lincoln assumed for himself and hisAdministration the responsibility of executing the first Federal draft, if state volunteering proved unable to fill up the thinning ranks of the Union Armies. Almost certain that a draft would soon be necessary in most areas, the machinery for enforcing conscription and taking the first census of this country’s manpower was quickly created. Read more…


1cwrt27Pvt. Abashe Cowen, Company L, 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry

On July 4th, 1861, Secretary of War Simon Cameron granted authority to Attorney Samuel W. Black of Pittsburgh to recruit an infantry regiment for three years service. Black, who had served with distinction during the Mexican War, completed his recruiting by the end of August. Most of the men, with the exception of a handful of Ohioans, came from Allegheny County. One of Black’s recruits was a 23-year old glassblower with the unusual name Abashe Cowen, a member of Company L. Read more…


1cwrt29Saltwater Buckeye: Lt. Cmdr. John J. Cornwell, U.S.N.

A recent MI article described the 1866-1867 trans-Atlantic voyage of the double-turreted
monitor Miantonomoh, a mission intended to impress European powers with New World
naval technology. [Swan Song,” by Jerry Harlowe, July-august 1999.] One of the Miantonomoh’s officers, a man born far from the scent of the sea, was fated to lose his life on the diplomatic voyage. His body would be laid to rest in French soil, far from his home in eastern Ohio. John J. Cornwell was born in new Lisbon, Ohio, in 1834. Read more…


Strong_VincentEulogy of General Strong Vincent: Erie Cemetery, Erie, PA – May 21, 1995

We are gathered here to honor General Strong Vincent, the man and the soldier. Strong Vincent can be claimed by Waterford, where he was born and spent his earliest years, and by Erie, where he lived most of his life, first as a student at the Erie Academy, and later as a teen-aged iron molder and clerk in his father’s foundry. He left Erie to enter Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, at the age of 17. Two years later he entered Harvard College and graduated from that school in 1859. He returned to Erie to study law with Attorney William Lane, was admitted to the Erie Bar in 1860, and practiced law until he entered the Army in 1861. His character and ability were known to all around him as he rose in rank, becoming the Colonel of his regiment, the 83rd Pennsylvania, in June of 1862, and being named commander of the brigade in early 1863. Read more…


1cwrt30The Walking Artillery

During the summer of 1862, after the failed Peninsula campaign, President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more volunteers was soon echoed by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin’s call for 21 new regiments of infantry. One of these new units was the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, organized in the rural western counties of the state. The new recruits, like most volunteers of that time, were eager to be armed, equipped, and sent to the front. Read more…