ERIE COUNTY & THE CIVIL WAR
Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, when Confederates firing on Fort Sumter launched a war that lasted from 1861 to 1865.
The Erie County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission — a local committee of museum officials, tourism promoters and historians — formed to play up the local connection. Members of the Commission, the Erie County Historical Society, the Sandusky Library, and others have contributed articles recognizing the importance of the war and the roll that Erie County played in the war that tore this nation apart.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
November 9, 1859 – “UGRR doing a Prosperous Business – The branch of this road running through Detroit is doing a fine business, as we learn from the Advertiser. That paper says that one morning last week a cargo of live freight, consisting of 26 ‘chattels’ all the way from Missouri, arrived in Detroit and were safely landed in Canada. Their conductor was a gentleman well known for his exploits in Kansas, and his connection with certain exciting events in Missouri. They were taken through Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois to Chicago, and then to Detroit. The gentleman who escorted the processing to Detroit, had about $50,000 worth of property stolen from him, or destroyed, in Kansas by the Border Ruffians, and he is now practicing the law of retaliation upon his plunderers. He informs the Advertiser that a perfect panic has seized the slaveholders of Missouri, and that they are hurrying the slaves down South by the hundreds. Between the stampede South and their escape into Kansas, he says Missouri is to be a free State much sooner than the most sanguine have hoped. Several border counties have already been almost depopulated of slaves, and still the ‘irrepressible conflict’ is going on!”
Letters from a slave This article provides a link to Horace Harper Bill, born in 1842 in Sandusky. His story is told in letters sent from the front that are part of the library’s archives. One of his letters home, sent to his father in April 1862, describes his experiences in battles in and around Winchester, Va.
Underground Railroad history In 1853, fugitive Robert Blackburn boarded a train in Cincinnati early one morning, departed Sandusky late that night aboard a ship bound for Detroit, and then traveled to Amherstburg, Canada. If one overlays Thomas Cowperthwait’s 1855 Ohio Railroad map, found in the Sandusky Library archives, atop Wilbur Siebert’s 1896 Ohio Underground Railroad Map, one observes numerous Underground Railroad routes duplicated the railroad tracks.
Sandusky was a station stop on the Underground Railroad, and the maritime industry played a large role in helping runaway slaves escape to Canada long before the great Civil War. The city’s importance on the route to freedom became especially important after Congress approved the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and it remained a key stop until about 1861, when the number of escaping slaves dwindled.
Tradition links a onetime Sandusky resident with the clandestine operation’s eventual moniker, the Underground Railroad. An often repeated story, originating in Ripley, Ohio, tells of runaway Tice Davids diving into the Ohio River from the Kentucky shore. After his master located a skiff and reached the opposite side, his quarry had vanished. The frustrated slaveholder complained his slave “must have gone off on an underground road.”
THE WAR BEGINS
Erie Co. goes to war – Locals answered President Lincoln’s call to arms – On April 18, 1861, Sandusky community leaders announced an evening gathering at the courthouse to consider the country’s impending danger. Attracted by the Jäger band’s martial music — and engulfed with injections of patriotism — a swelling crowd forced the gathering to adjourn outside. Cheers erupted during rousing speeches from Oran Follett and Joseph Root, further inspiring men to defend the flag. With company rosters filled, troops prepared for their April 24 departure.
The Civil War was a period of great and lasting change in the field of medicine and nursing in the United States. Medical schools were founded, and doctors had to be better trained for their jobs. Knowledge of disease transmission and prevention also saw advances. The U. S. Sanitary Commission was founded to improve conditions in the field, and nursing became a recognized profession, with women allowed to enter the field.
The war touched Sandusky and Erie County profoundly. In the most immediate way, about 125 men from the area died in the war. There is a marker in Veterans Park in Sandusky that lists the names of the men who died serving in the Union’s army and navy. Ohio played a pivotal role in the Civil War. About 315,000 Buckeyes served in the Union forces, and 35,475 paid the ultimate price (the second highest mortality rate behind New York). There are 127 Ohio soldiers resting in the federal cemetery at Gettysburg, including the grandfather of President Richard Nixon, but there are many thousands more resting in federal cemeteries and in countless unknown graves, in places like Shiloh, Chickamauga, Atlanta and Vicksburg.
Lincoln elected During the Civil War era, residents of Erie County and the State of Ohio went to the polls to decide perhaps the two most important Presidential elections in our history. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was the event that drove the Southern states to succession and the start of the Civil War. The re-election of Abraham Lincoln in 1864 ensured the war would not end until the Union was made whole again.
Sanduskian unlikely hero – The Beecher House. “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War.” This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln as he greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe in the White House on Nov. 25, 1862. Read about Harriet Beecher’s surprising ties to Sandusky.
Funding the Civil War-Tax, Borrow or print – the Union scrambled to cover costs – The Legal Tender Act in February 1862 authorized the issue of paper currency, printed with green ink. These “greenbacks” were actually non-interest-bearing treasury notes, to be accepted as legal tender for all public and private debts. The act also suspended specie payment, the redemption of notes with gold and silver. Opponents claimed the Constitution permitted state governments to mint only gold and silver coin as legal tender, thereby making a case for the federal printing of paper money unconstitutional.
THE JOHNSON’S ISLAND CONFEDERATE PRISON
A visit to the Johnson’s Island Prison while it was under construction – In December 1860, Kelleys Islander Wm. S. Webb visited the mainland and took a side trip to the new prison facility at Johnson’s Island, which was already under construction. Webb walked through the grounds and described what he observed. Construction at the prison began quickly considering the location survey was only completed in October. The Army leased 40 cleared acres on Johnson’s Island and the depot was in operation from April 1862 to September 1865.
A history of the Johnson’s Island confederate Prison. In the fall of the first year of the Civil War, orders were issued to locate a site on a Lake Erie island suitable to hold captured Confederate soldiers. Officials eliminated the Bass islands and Kelleys Island because their proximity to Canada invited escape or rescue. Supply and transportation could also pose a problem in the winter, plus the islands’ prosperous wine industry could inhibit the garrisoned soldiers’ discipline. Johnson’s Island became the logical choice.
The Government Investigates Confederate Prison Sites – October 1861 – Lieut. Col. William Hoffman was directed to investigate suitable sites for the location of a depot or prison for Confederate soldiers. Of the locations considered: NORTH BASS residents were not willing to give up their farms for any reasonable rent. MIDDLE BASS has similar objections to it, besides having no suitable cleared land upon it. PUT-IN-BAY aside from various difficulties, the presence of the soldiers there would ruin all the vineyards on the island. There being only 20 to 30 families living there who could offer no resistance to the depredations of lawless men. On KELLEY’S ISLAND he found two locations however, he feared they would be too great a temptation to the guard to be overcome by any sense of right or fear of punishment. BULL’S ISLAND or JOHNSON’S ISLAND was finally selected.
USS Michigan defended the Confederate prison on Johnson’s Island – A history of the U. S. S. Michigan and the role it played in the plot to release the prisoners on Johnson’s Island near the close of the Civil War.
Base Ball & the Johnson’s Island Prison. The Civil War was actually the instrument that promoted the game throughout the entire nation, as returning veterans taught the game to their neighbors and friends. One prisoner noted in his diary a player had been injured when a bat flew out of a batter’s hands and struck him during a game of ball. Another player was banned for injuring several players of the other team by throwing excessively hard. Discover the history of Base Ball.
Hoop skirts – In Civil War era, skirts became exaggerated. Nothing typifies Civil War ladies’ fashion more than the shape of an exceptionally full-skirted dress. Women desired the look of a small waist without the discomfort of a tightly-laced corset. As a result, skirts became extremely exaggerated. By the mid-1850s, fashionable women, especially those from larger cities, were wearing up to six petticoats to achieve a full, round silhouette.
1862 Counterfeit money – In an era when governments backed their paper currency with precious metals, the South sorely lacked gold and silver reserves. Cotton, their primary source of collateral, now remained stored in Southern warehouses. The South’s financial woes continued as they began printing their own currency.
February 1862 – A day in the life of a soldier in camp – James Quinn of the 3rd Ohio cavalry describes a soldier’s life in camp.
1862 Jay Cooke Financier – Jay Cooke is mainly known for his role in financing the Union war effort during the Civil War. But he was also instrumental in the building of what became the Northern Pacific Railway. Cooke was one of the wealthiest men in America. The phrase “as rich as Jay Cooke” was part of the common vernacular.
1862 Music Popped – Have you ever wondered how “pop” music in America rose to its current heights? Amazingly, some of the origins are rooted in the American music of the 19th century.
September 17 1862 – The Battle of Antietam – Over the course of 12 hours, the nation’s costliest war produced the bloodiest day in American history, along Antietam Creek in western Maryland. At the end of the day, more than 23,000 Americans — in both blue and gray — had been killed, wounded, or captured. In comparison, about 6,500 Americans died on D-Day in 1944. The battle stopped the first attempt by the South to invade the North.
September 1862 – Antietam – A Soldier Is Not Dead But Captured – John Woodford (3rd Ohio Cavalry) was captured, but not injured; however, another soldier with a Kelleys’s Island connection, Robert Tweedney, was reported killed in action. He wrote to his uncle to assure him that he was not felled at the Battle of Antietam the previous September.
September 1862 – John Woodford is captured at the battle of Bardstown – In May, John T. Woodford, 3rd Ohio Cavalry, was so ill he was sent home with little hope of recuperation. By October he was back with his regiment. The Battle of Bardstown, Kentucky was fought on October 4th as Col. Zahm moved his men up the Salt River to Shephardsville. Unfortunately, this fight has been mostly forgotten, overshadowed by the larger Battle of Perryville just four days later. This is a first-hand account.
1862 December – Hospitals & Soldiers – While many of the soldiers were recuperating in their tents, Emmett Lincoln (101st Ohio), from Kelleys Island, was confined to the hospital because of measles. He wrote to his a friend about the many sick under care there. He also mentioned their delight in receiving boxes of grapes. In order to see how the sick and wounded soldiers fared, an island lady, probably Emeline Huntington, visited the West End Hospital in Cincinnati and gave this first hand, detailed description of conditions.
1862 December – A Day In The Life Of An Infantry Soldier At Camp – Simon Huntington, of Kelleys Island, wrote a letter describing a day in the life of a soldier in the infantry. It was hardly the glamorous life the young men expected. He describes roll calls, drills, food and their new orders. “Some say we are to go to Memphis. When you hear from the ‘Bloodless hundred and first’ again your correspondent knoweth not. 101st Reg. OVI Col. Stern, Brig. Gen Cartan, 31st Brigade, 9th Division, Maj. General Jeff. C. Davis 14th army corps. Gen Rosecrans commanding army of the Cumberland.”
THE BATTLE OF STONE RIVER ALSO KNOWN AS THE BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO
1862 December – How the soldiers are faring – Simon Huntington of the 101st Ohio, talks about soldiers’ health as many are ill, the food, and where the regiment will go next.
1862 Christmas Day – On Christmas Day, the 101st was stationed near Nashville TN and Simon Huntington of Kelley’s Island writes home sharing stories about picket lines, a forage train, Springfield rifles, illness, and the expected fight at Murfreesbro.
December 1862 – The Battle Commences and a list of Killed, Wounded and Missing – Gen. McCook was not able to hold the position ‘They turned with a horrible dying; From the heights they could not gain. And the few whom death and doom had spared, Went slowly back again.’ This dreadful carnage lasted about 20 minutes in which time the 24th lost all her field Officers, Col. Jones, Lieut. Col. Terry and Major Weller.” On December 27th, Col. Zahm noted in his report: “My command behaved nobly, both officers and men. The Third Ohio Cavalry had the advance, and did the principle part of the fighting; there was no flinch to them; they moved steadily onward and finally made the charge through town.” Reports of the killed and wounded appear.
December 1862 – The Battle & The Horror On The Field (101st Ohio) – The 3rd Ohio Cavalry and the drive to Stone River began on December 25. Col. Zahm later noted that “This was the first battlefield, in the West at least, where the Union cavalry had been used in large bodies.” It was in this battle that one island man, Simon Huntington, was mortally wounded. The heartbreak of burying fallen comrades in a mass grave is described.
1863 January – Erie County Men Fought at Battle of Stones River – Among those serving at that time were the men of the 101st Ohio Infantry. The regiment was composed of volunteers from Sandusky in Company B, and men from Berlin, Florence and Groton Townships of Erie County in Company G, along with other companies filled with men from Tiffin, Bucyrus, Upper Sandusky, and other north-central Ohio communities. In the first few days of January a third of the soldiers, nearly 25,000 men, would be killed, wounded or missing.
January 13, 1863 – A Soldier Describes the Battle Of Murfreesboro – John Monaghan of Kelley’s Island, 3rd Ohio Cavalry wrote from Murfreesboro.” The battle lasted five days and the rebels were bound to gain it but they failed. Our regiment stood the best of any of the Cavalry, 4,000 of the rebel cavalry made seven charges on them. They came down yelling, but our Regiment did not stir. I tell you, we untied the Rebel’s saddles. They went back and came again and were drove back with a heavy loss.” He describes the battle and the fate of his comrades.
January 1863 – Kelley’s Island Soldier Simon Huntington recounts the battle and how he was wounded. – Dear Folks. Well here I am, not in camp of the 101st OVI as heretofore but in hospital No. 4 flat on my back so helpless that I can scarcely kick, bite or scratch. After hitting me twice without hurting me much, the Rebels succeeded in throwing an ounce of lead plum through my left leg below the knee, cutting the largest of the two bones in two. After lying on the cold and wet ground for 12 hours, the Secesh took me in a government wagon to our hospital…
January 17, 1863 – A soldiers last letter – “Since writing my last I have been in a pretty severe engagement which resulted in having my left leg amputated (above the knee)…I was wounded two weeks ago last Wednesday morning. The rebels were very good to me while I laid on the battle field.”
January 1863 – Conditions in a Nashville Hospital – A First-Hand Account – “Having been requested by numerous friends to give my experience in hospital life, I now will try and do so…. I will therefore, give as brief a description as is possible to convey an outline of hospital life on the frontier, both as to the Soldier and Nurses. The first will be from sight and hearing, the latter from an experience.
January 20, 1863 – Simon Huntington Dies From His Wounds From Stones River – On Monday morning, January 20th, Emeline learned that her son had died. “Yesterday by telegraph from Erastus [her son] at Nashville I received the melancholy news of Simon’s death and that his brother was bringing his remains home. It is very uncertain when he will get here, perhaps not this week.
March 1863 – Funerals, war news, 25-cent oysters – Erie County vital at the Midpoint of the Civil War – It is late March 1863. Almost two years have passed since the April 12 bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. As history, the Civil War is fast approaching its midpoint, but of course the people living along the shore of Sandusky Bay in 1863 do not know that. Here is how Erie County soldiers and residents have fared.
March 1863 – The war that has been raging for the past 20 months has been the cause of taking from our numbers over 40 of our young men. Nearly every family has a representation in the person of some near relation in the army, or if not a relative, an old friend, and thus all have the doubts, fears and uncertainties of a soldier’s life constantly before them by the love they bear those who have gone to fight our country’s battles. One of those brave heroes has laid down his life for us and the cause for which he was fighting and we have but recently followed his form to the grave. Thus has the war affected us as a community…The country is passing through an ordeal of fire and water and we believe will come out of it with a health and vigor before unknown in the history of nations. It had before been proven sound against an outside pressure. We have now to see how one from within will affect the machination and intrigues of hundreds of thousands of traitors…And we therefore believe they have expended their greatest strength and that the Union is safe.
Fall 1863 – The Cedar Point Battery – Construction on the Cedar Point Battery began in the fall of 1863. Most of the work was done by soldiers of the 124th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, popularly known as the Hoffman Battalion, named after William Hoffman, the Commissary-General of Prisoners.
July 25, 1863 – Volunteer Militia – Importance Of Them – There are already five companies of volunteer militia organized in this County – two in Sandusky, one in Marquetta, one in Oxford and Groton, and one on Kelly’s Island. Together they constitute an effective force of half a regiment. Whether other companies are organizing in the county or not, we do not know. It was expected some time ago that eight companies would be organized in the county, and that expectation may yet be realized for aught we know to the contrary.
For two of the companies organized, the arms have already been received, and arms will also be provided immediately for the others. The importance of the volunteer militia organization cannot be over estimated. In the case of the Morgan raid, had they been organized, they would have been immediately available and effective. In the event of any future attempt of the kind, they will constitute a sufficient force immediately available. So in the case of any disturbance, though we do not anticipate any in Ohio from resistance to the draft, they would be on hand at the right place and at the right time.
July 1863 – Turning Point Of Civil War – If the Union victories of July 1863 had instead become Confederate victories, there is a good chance the United States we know today would be under at least two flags. Twin Union battlefield victories in the third summer of the Civil War at Vicksburg and Gettysburg put the first nails in the coffin of the Southern Confederacy. There was a third and often-forgotten campaign in Tennessee that summer, the Tullahoma Campaign.
September 1, 1863 – Douglas O. Kelley is Captured and Sent to Libby Prison – Douglas O. Kelley, of the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was the son of Julius Kelley (38th Ohio, Co. B), met S. P. Davis, was wounded as another soldier crossed the Dead Line, and describes the conditions in the prison.
Cooperheads of Erie County – Copperheads were a group of Democrats who opposed the war and desired an immediate peace settlement with the Confederacy, including the acceptance of slavery in the South. The leader of the Copperhead movement was two-time Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham, who believed in state’s rights, including the right to secede from the Union.
November 1863 – Thanksgiving declared national holiday during the Civil War – A little history about Thanksgiving, a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale deserves recognition for the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863.
1864 – Frederick Douglass – On March 16, 1864, noted abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass spoke to the citizens of Sandusky at the Norman Hall on West Water Street. The Douglass lecture, “The Mission of the War,” sought to reclaim waning support for the war effort in the North. Find out how became a critical cog for North.
1864 Sandusky played role – James Risque Hunter is sent to the Johnson’s Island prison for the second time on April 1, 1865. Their home had a Sandusky connection.
April 28, 1864 – The National Guard and Kelley’s Island – “Beautiful Effects of Calling Out the National Guard! – By the late order of the Governor, calling out the National Guards, the “State of Kelley’s Island” will be left “perfectly lawless.” The following show how. It takes — 1 – The Postmaster; 2 – The only Justice of the Peace; 3 – Three Trustees; 4 – Township Clerk; 5 – Assessor; 6 – Eight out of nine School Directors; 7 – Two out of three Board of Education; 8 – Two out of three Road Commiss’rs; Leaving one constable, one Treasurer, one School Director, who is also a member of the Board of Education, and the Supervisor of Highways. It is ascertained, on a careful enumeration, that there will be just enough left to fill the vacancies; but, like Othello’s, “their occupation will be gone,” as there will be no one to do business with.”
May 1864 – How the National guard was housed in Sandusky: The Kelley’s Island company went to Sandusky on May 2 on “the Island Queen on State and United States Service. Capt. W. S. Webb, Lieut. G. P. Bristol and H. Lange; O. S. [Sergt.] Erastus Huntington and in all, 65 officers and privates to go to Erie Co. rendezvous at Sandusky to await orders. Takes Jerry [Dean] out of the store, so same left alone in my glory.” The city was not quite ready to house all the volunteer companies and the ladies of the city volunteered to cook meals for the soldiers. One reporter made the rounds of the National Guard quarters of the 13th Battalion in Sandusky. “They were uniformly in good order, well cleaned up and in soldierly condition. Some of the Companies were more eligibly situated than others and of course had the corresponding advantage.” Co. D (Capt. James) were put in the Salt Loft of the Pierson Mill building. The company from Ottawa Co. (Capt. Steadman) went to the old Aetna Mill. Co. B (Capt. Wilson) had a comfortable location in the Hall of Lea & Moss near Norman Hall. Co. F (Capt. Penfield) had several rooms at the Court House, while the court room was occupied by the two companies from Geauga County. From the Island, Captain Webb’s Company E “were located in the Mayor’s office and rooms near by, and had everything in fine order, though their quarters were not convenient for drill.”
September 20 1864 – A soldier is captured – Those who did not re-enlist were sent back to Nashville, Tenn., to be mustered out of the service, the time of enlistment having expired. Jacob Rush (3rd Ohio Cavalry) tells how he was accused of being a spy and was interviewed by General Forrest. A month later he arrived at Cahawba, Alabama where he was imprisoned until the close of the war.
October 13, 1864 – A Soldier at Cahaba Prison – At just 19 years of age, Jacob Rush (3rd Ohio Cavalry) was sent to Cahaba Prison, a prisoner of war. There he would live through eight months of the most brutal mistreatment found in a southern prison. Rush and Dr. Jesse Hawes tell the story. After a failed escape attempt, the prisoners were charged with conspiracy by the prison commander, Col. Samuel Jones and Capt. Hanchett was executed.
The Johnson’s Island Prison Plot – This ambitious plan called for releasing Confederate soldiers from northern prisons. Camp Chase, in Columbus, held as many as 9400 prisoners. In Indianapolis, Camp Morton confined over 5000. Johnson’s Island at one time incarcerated 3250 officers, which proved very appealing. The first phase was Camp Douglas and Chicago, not only because of the 12,000 rebel prisoners, but more importantly, because the city would serve as the site for the 1864 Democratic National Presidential Nominating Convention.
The Confederate plot to free Johnson’s Island prisoners unfolds – Plans continued to free the Johnson’s Island’s prisoners. Charles Cole led the plan to use the battleship Michigan as a floating fortress, turning its weaponry on Johnson’s Island, and forcing the Union garrison to surrender. The task of supplying Cole much of the manpower fell to John Yates Beall. If the 2,500 vengeful Rebel prisoners, eager to lay waste to the peaceful city of Sandusky, before rejoining their comrades to the south had been freed, the outcome of the war might have been different.
Johnson’s Island plot foiled – A crisp, clear morning greeted passengers as they boarded the Philo Parsons in Detroit on Sept. 19. Twenty Rebel operatives, dressed as laborers and lugging an old trunk, supposedly containing workman’s tools, joined the other passengers boarding in Detroit. The Island Queen was seized, Cole was captured and the Michigan remained secure.
Johnson’s Island – Prisoners did escape – Records indicate only one man attempted to escape from Johnson’s Island before late 1863, but the number of attempts increased with worsening conditions. Before the war ended, many more attempted, with 12 men actually reaching freedom from the island compound.
The Nation is left bloodied – Troops from the city of Sandusky and Erie County as a whole were involved that month in every theatre of operations in 12 different combat units. The 72nd Ohio was involved in operations in Mississippi. The German immigrants of the 107th Ohio operated in Florida after the mauling they received at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg the previous year. The 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery was stretched across Tennessee guarding railroads. The 8th Ohio was heavily engaged at the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia as a part of General Grant’s Overland Campaign. The majority of Erie County men were involved in General Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign spread amongst the 3rd Ohio Cavalry, and the 7th, 24th, 55th, 64th, 65th, and 101st Ohio Infantries. In May 1864, the 8th Ohio Infantry’s Company E and the Huron and Erie County Men of Companies A, C, D, and I of the 55th Ohio suffer the most severe losses.
Christmas was well-established during Civil War – How did people celebrate Christmas 150 years ago? Did they have Christmas trees and household decorations? What did they eat for dinner? And did Santa look then like he does today? Were stockings hung for Santa to fill?
January 1865 – One Soldier Is Still Imprisoned At Cahaba Prison – Jacob Rush describes conditions at Cahaba Prison.
April 9, 1865 – Re-enacting Lee’s Surrender – Attending a re-enactment of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses Grant, effectively ending the Civil War, and the recent commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. This would be the commemoration of Lee’s surrender, culminating with the deaths of nearly three quarters of a million soldiers over the four-year war, although sporadic fighting in other regions would continue.
April 14, 1865 – Lincoln’s death mourned in Sandusky – Lincoln was shot April 14, 1865, and died the next day; it was one of the most significant events of the 19th century. It took 24 different locomotives to carry President Abraham Lincoln to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. The trip took 15 days and covered 1,600 miles. The train did not travel through Sandusky; however, a number of Erie County residents traveled to Cleveland to view Lincoln’s body on Public Square.
April 27, 1865 – The Sultana disaster – Several Erie County men died in the sinking of paddle wheeler. It was the worst maritime disaster in American history. Some 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers and crewmen aboard the Sultana died in the disaster, 300 more than the death toll on the more famous Titanic. Almost all were prisoners released from Cahaba and Andersonville prisons.
April 29, 1865 – Terrific Steamboat Explosion – Cairo, April 28 – The steamer Sultana, from New Orleans on the evening of the 21st, arrived at Vicksburg with boilers leaking badly. She remained there thirty hours repairing and taking on 1,996 Federal soldiers and 35 officers, lately released from Cahawba and Andersonville prisons, arrived at Memphis last evening, after coaling proceeded about 2 a.m. When about 7 miles up the river, blew up, immediately taking fire and burning to the water’s edge. Of 2,156 soldiers aboard, not more than 700 have been rescued. 500 rescued are now in the hospitals, 2 or 300 uninjured at the soldier’s home. Captain Mason of the Sultana, supposed lost. At 4 o’clock this morning the river in front of Memphis was covered with soldiers struggling for life, many badly scalded. Boats immediately went to their rescue, and are still engaged picking them up. General Washburn immediately organized a board of officers to investigate the affair. They are now at work doing so. No further particulars received.
The Tragedy of the Sultana – A first-hand account – A first-hand account – “About 3 o’clock I was suddenly awakened by a heavy jar and a shower of hot steam on my face. Springing to my feet I understood in a moment that the boilers of the steamer had exploded.” Jacob Rush of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry described the explosion, his jump into the water and the harrowing trip downriver to safety.
Rescue Comes to the Sultana survivors – But Too Late – Jacob Rush’s thrilling tale continues. “After swimming a short distance, I looked back. The boat was one flame and still many could be seen rushing to a watery grave, making that their choice. …”“By the next day noon all the bodies that could be found were brought to Memphis. Out of 2,251 persons on board, but 550 were rescued, and of that number, 150 died within 24 hours afterwards from injuries and exposure.” “Out of eight of us belonging to the Third Ohio Cavalry, four were saved, namely – Marion Hawk, Co. D; Charles Green, Co. L; Charles McWorthy, Co. M, and myself. Lieutenant Lewis, Co. M, and three others whose names I cannot give, were among the lost. Also James Clary, formerly from Sandusky, is one of the lost. Nearly all the prisoners had been confined from one to two years, most of them at Andersonville.”
The Prisoners Have a Long Road to Freedom – A soldiers describes his arrival at the point of exchange. “The next morning we left for Vicksburgh, where we arrived on or about the 12th of April. Words could not express our joy when the head of our column came in sight of the Stars and Stripes. They were hoisted on a signal station on the bank of the Big Black, eight miles from Vicksburgh.”
Coming home – Civil War veterans returned from battle to face many problems – During the latter years of the Civil War, veterans returned to their homes with injuries, amputations, diseases, mental problems and addictions. In Ohio, members of the Grand Army of the Republic and others felt it would be better for these veterans to live in a single home where they could share their experiences and receive the medical care they required. In 1889, the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home opened in Sandusky with 17 residents.
Several Union Soldiers Served After The War – Erie County’s Civil War Heroes – While many believe the whole story ends with Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant followed by the assassination of President Lincoln in April of 1865, nothing could be further from the truth. Of the nearly dozen regiments that had at least a company recruited from Erie County to fight in the Civil War, eight were still in uniform and serving two months after Lee’s surrender in June of 1865. The majority of those regiments would muster out and return home at some point in June and July, with a few staying later.
Civil War remembered with six monuments in Erie County – Ohio has 270 Civil War monuments. The largest is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square in downtown Cleveland. There are six Civil War monuments in Erie County, located in Castalia Cemetery, Veterans Park in downtown Sandusky, the Village Square in Milan, and at the Ohio Veterans Home.
Peter Knapp’s Burial is History – Civil War veteran with Sandusky roots finally buried – Fight puts Knapp in Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon.
Lincoln prepares for Reconstruction – President made plans to reunite nation – He committed himself to draft the blueprint for reconstruction rather than to allow congress to grab the political football and run, wherever it might lead. He did realize with his wartime powers ceasing with peace, he would need to recognize the legislators’ wishes to some degree. The president moved forward intent upon placing emancipation on a firm foundation, there needed to be a U. S. Constitutional amendment passed.
Johnson Failed In Wake Of Civil War – Lincoln Paved Way For One Of The Nation’s Worst Presidencies – One of our greatest presidents paved the way for arguably our worst president to attain the nation’s highest office. Andrew Johnson’s administration is judged primarily on reconstruction following the Civil War. One only needs to look at Mississippi today and recognize that it failed miserably.
January 31, 1865 – The 13th Amendment – With 11 Confederate states still absent from the United States Congress, one would assume the 13th Amendment would quickly pass and be forwarded to 25 Northern states for ratification. It finally passed by a vote of 119 to 56 on Jan. 31, 1865, 40 days before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse and 45 days before John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln.
The Grand Army of the Republic – In 1866, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Stephenson publicly formed the first Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post, in Decatur, Ill. This fraternal organization sought to replace the camaraderie of the campfire and also serve as a vehicle to provide benevolent relief to Union veterans.