Henry Beebee Carrington.

Ohio militia and the West Virginia campaign, 1861. Address of General Carrington, to Army of West Virginia, at Marietta, Ohio, Sept. 10, 1870 (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryHenry Beebee CarringtonOhio militia and the West Virginia campaign, 1861. Address of General Carrington, to Army of West Virginia, at Marietta, Ohio, Sept. 10, 1870 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Ihe West Virginia Campaign


With Supplemental Notes








To Army of \A^est Virginia
At Marietta, Ohio, Sept. 10, 1870




30 Bkomfif.ld Stkkf.t

£RRATA. — Page 9, thirteenth line from bottom, should read
" Noah H. Swayne." He became Justice of the U. S. Supreme
Court, and his son. Colonel Wager Swayne, who lost a leg in the
war, became as eminent at the law as his father was distinguished
on the bench. Aaron F. Perry, who accompanied Mr. Swayne
to Washington, afterwards removed to Cincinnati, was elected
to Congress, and attained high distinction both as citizen and

Hen H- O. Lodge




Responsive to" request of the Society of the Army of West Virginia, that a full
statement of the part borne by the Miliiia of Ohio in the rescue of West
Virginia in i86r, be furnished by Col. Henry B. Carrington, U. S. A., at the
Reunion of the Society, at Mariefa, Ohio. Sept. 19, 1879."

Comrades of the Army of West- Virginia :

It is well to save for some future historian the record of all facts
which marked the outbreak of the American Rebellion. There are
times when noiseless work does much to prepare and ensure that
more visible and emphatic action which fixes the destiny of a nation
or race. Your society aims to secure and record all facts which gave
to West Virginia its independence. The national record deals chiefly
with the Federal call upon the States for troops and the conduct of
those troops. The rescue of West Virginia from the first grasp of
invasion has less distinctive mention, because the troops which first
entered the field were not originally on the Roll of United States
Volunteers, but were Militia of Ohio. They did indeed quite gen-
erally re-enlist in the national service, and the government eventually
recognized their early organization ; but there was a brief period of
grave and determining value, in which.their action was as significant
as.when the campaign of 1S61 matured and became a grand factor
in the operations of the war.

With all credit to those who have compiled the Ohio war record,
it is not strictly true that the war burst upon Ohio without either
warning or preparation ; nor that the excitement of the hour so con-
fused her State officials that an excess of accepted troops embarrassed
the real issue. The very organization of a force beyond the limits of
the call rendered possible its ultimate movement into West Virginia
before the United States Volunteers could be armed and equipped
for active service. Neither was the pressure greater than in Indiana, of
which its ofificial historian writes: "The Governor, finding it impos-
sible to restrain the tide of volunteers within the narrow limits of the
three months' call, tendered additional regiments. Companies came
without orders, or rather in defiance of orders, in the hope that they
could be received, or that a second call would be at once made. At
that time communication with Washington by telegraph had been
cut off."

Neither Governor Dennison nor the Adjutant General of Ohio could,
under the urgency of the first call, work up fully the enormous detail
of labor immediately involved, and so promptly divide and classify it
as to act upon a settled War Department System. Twenty-four hours
was not time enough for a day's work. A volume of Regulations and
Tactics had been published by that otftcer, under legislative sanction,
but this assumed the ability of the General Government to furnish
arms and equipments for any emergency, and assumed the use of
blank forms to save penmanship. The office of Adjutant General,
upon the peace establishment, had very limited executive authority,
but his immediate action, approved by the Governor, was to order all
the active militia companies to report for service. Hence it was that
twenty companies, already organized, but recruited to full strength,
were started for Washington within sixty hours after receipt of Presi-
dent Lincoln's call. Simultaneously with this official appeal to the
organized militia, there necessarily came to the Governor himself a
demand for commissions and authority to raise companies, and even
regiments, from all parts of the State.

The prompt response of the militia and the offers of the people,
as in Indiana, outnumbered the demand. It was not designed that
full regiments should be accepted upon individual offers; but when
the Adjutant General established Camp Taylor at Cleveland, and
found that Toledo had placed in that camp ten full companies, under
James B Steedman, he accepted the organization as a regiment, and
that action was endorsed by the Governor on the following day. It
was deemed more important to secure immediate organization than
to wait for a logical distribution of the force over the State at large.
The necessity for some peremptory limit to the acceptance of com-
panies compelled the earliest practicable sub-division of the work,
and applications for assignment were soon dealt with upon a basis
absolutely impossible during the first alarm, when men and com-
panies boarded trains without authority, and understood a telegram,
" Await instructions" to mean ''Come along soon."

The historian of "Ohio in the War," in the main just, overlooked
the fact that when, in May, 1861, the Adjutant General was appointed
to a Colonelcy in the Regular Army, he was directed, at the request
of the State authorities and with the approval of the War Department,
to still act as Adjutant General until July i, 1861, and until General
C. P. Buckingham, his nominated assistant and ultimate successor,
could organize the State Commissary Department upon a practical
basis. By that time twenty-six regiments had been organized. His
active assistant was Captain Calvin Goddard, afterward Colonel, and
a brilliant member of the staff of General Rosecrans. Captain L. S.
Sullivant, Captain Thomas Donaldson and Mr. H. T. Miller rendered
efficient service in recording assignments and other matters of detail.

On the 27th of April, the Secretary of War telegraphed to the
Adjutant General : " I would tender to you, as I have already to His


Excellency, the Governor of Ohio, the thanks of this Department for
the promptness and energy with which you have met the call of the
Government. I regret that, according to the plans adopted and
under which this Department is acting, we can only accept for the
present the quota first called for from Ohio. You will do well,
however, in organizing and drilling other regiments, so as to be pre-
pared to meet any emergency that may arise."

The policy which led the Adjutant General to summon the organ-
ized militia to arms was vindicated when the two regiments started
for Washington ; but, more emphatically, when it enabled him to
place a six-gun battery of that militia on the Ohio River more than a
month before a single regiment of Ohio or Indiana Volunteers had
been mustered into the United States service. That policy was not
from the inspiration of the crisis alone. The firing upon Sumter did
not begin the war. War already existed, and it is only just to the
memory of the dead, to place on record, in this very connection,
some facts which placed Ohio in a position to act at once when open
violence began the struggle for national life.

The inaugural message of Governor Dennison stated the condi-
tion of the State Militia, and urged that the Report and earnest
recommendations of the Adjutant General receive careful attention.
That officer had, under legislative authority, prepared plans and
caused the erection of a State Arsenal from proceeds of sales of old
State property ; but the Militia proper had received no pecuniary ad
from the State. Governor Wise of Virginia took occasion to ridicule
the poor exhibit of Ohio Militia, which Governor Dennison's message
presented, and with keen irony deprecated the possible " invasion of
Virginia by the Ohio Army of twelve hundred men in uniform." And
yet both Steedman and Barnett were prominent officers of that Militia,
and their antecedent preparation was vindicated by their subsequent
career, when with less than 1,200 Ohio Militia they marched from
Parkersburg to Grafton.

The Report of the Adjutant General for 1858-9 had submitted
for the action of the Legislature a statement of the support which
other States rendered to their Militia, and had given the organized
companies as one hundred and fifty, with a nominal strength of four
thousand men. The result of personal visits to New York and Mas-
sachusetts, during their Division, Brigade and Regimental manceuvers,
had also been fully stated, and when Governor Dennison entered
upon office, he heartily seconded the efforts which had been made by
his predecessor to place the State Militia upon a permanent basis.
A brief history of its organization will show that the contingency
which came so suddenly in 1861 had not been wholly unanticipated.'

Governor Chase began a systematic organization in 1857, by
appointing a full staff, requiring them to uniform ; and obtained for
his own use the proper equipage. Arms were not issued until com-
panies uniformed strictly in accordance with State regulations, and


offtcers of every rank throughout the State were required to furnish
themselves with a complete service outfit, and full horse-equipments
for all who were mounted.

An incident occurred during the summer of 1857, which stimu-
lated the zeal of Governor Chase in this direction. In connection
with the Green County case, under the Fugitive Slave law, a confiict
of jurisdiction had arisen between the Federal and State authorities.
He sent the Judge Advocate General, afterwards Adjutant Gen-
eral, to Washington, to present the issue to President Buchanan and
Secretary Cass, and to arrange for a personal interview with himself.
Governor Chase afiHrmed that " he would vindicate the State author-
ities in the exercise of legitimate jurisdiction, once acquired, if it took
every man in the State to do it ; while ecjually respecting Federal
process where it rightfully acquired first jurisdiction." To the
remark of Mr. Cass, '• Why, this may involve civil war," the answer was,
" No ; but if the South forces these petty demands for fugitives upon us
much longer, gaining nothing, but mortifying self respect and bring-
ing reproach upon all free institutions, they will force a war of sec-
tions, or, worse yet, bring about an eventual war of races among
themselves." The cases were settled by the coinpromise of general
dismissal of the personal suits : but Governor Chase at once decided to
foster the Militia to the extent of his influence and authority.

On the 19th of January, 1858, he presided at a Stale Convention
of nearly two hundred officers who had complied with orders to fully
uniform, and that body embraced such names as *Lyttle, *Steedman,
*Bates, *Beatty, *Jones, King, Parrott, Barnett, McMillen, *Frizell,
*Tyler, and many others who, upon the first call to arms, were found
prompt and ready. Those indicated * were General officers of the
Militia, and attained the same rank during the war. C C. Walcott
and Theodore Jones, successively captains of the Columbus Videttes,
a company which marched with the first two regiments, also became
distinguished General officei^s. On the 3d of July, 1858, Governor
Chase reviewed the State Militia at Dayton, Ohio, where seven
brigades were represented by two or more companies each, and
where thorough inspection and contest for a silver medal took place.
Every company there present responded to the call of the Adjutant Gen ■
eral in 1S61.

Another fact of previously unwritten history will illustrate the
idea of Governor Chase in his earnest purpose to encourage the
Militia, and it is kindred in element to that which transpired in 1857,
when, upon the fine and imprisonment of Langston and others at
Cleveland, under the Fugitive Slave law, the question of their righl-
•ful imprisonment was raised upon the issue of a writ of habeas corpus
by the State Supreme Court, and he ordered the Militia companies at
Columbus lo be silently placed under arms for the purpose of sustain-
ing such action as the Court might make in the premises. The
parties were remanded by the Court to the custody of the United

States Marshal, and the Militia were relieved from duty. Mr.
Wolcott, the attorney who argued the case for the State, subsequently
became the Judge Advocate General of Governor Dennison, emi-
nent for valuable service to the State early in the war, and became
Assistant Secretary of War.

These facts furnish a key to that persistent endorsement of the
Militia on every proper occasion, which sometimes drew forth sneers,
as if all were mere fuss and show, when in fact his purpose was to
prepare a fit body of men for possible duty in behalf of the State
or Nation. His convictions did not diminish when transferred to
the United States Senate. In a letter to the Adjutant General of
Ohio, dated February 7th, 1861, he wrote : " Our most sober thinkers
and those best informed, as well as conservative men from the South,
predict war. Our Militia should be officered by the wisest and best
men. How soon they may be needed no man can tell." Secretary
Cass, in a subsequent letter to the same officer, wrote : "We have
indeed fallen upon evil times, when those who should preserve seem
bent upon destroying the country." (See Note H., page 15.)

It was, therefore, not without some reflection, that before the
attack upon Fort Sumter, the Adjutant General felt impelled to assert
in a public address, deemed wild by some, that " a war was impending
which would outlast a presidential term, would cost hundreds of
thousands of lives and thousands of millions of money."* By many
that appeal was classed with the demand of General W. T. Sherman,
that two hundred thousand men should be placed in Kentucky. It
is, however, a fact that such convictions had their influence, when
Ohio, with her Militia organization, was called to take part in real

The work so well begun by Governor Chase was followed up by
Governor Dennison with animation and hopefulness. On the loth of
September, i860, a formal parade took place at Cleveland, on the
occasion of the Perry Monument celebration, in which Barnett's full
battery, the first organized in any State of the Union, as a Light
Battery, not excepting that of Rhode Island, gave evidence of that
discipline which it subsequently displayed. One section, under com-
mand of Captain David L. Wood (Quartermaster General of Ohio
under Governor Chase, and until May, 1861, under Governor Denni-
son), had been specially complimented by General Scott, both at
Niagara Falls and Auburn, several years before.

With this introductory statement, it is not to be denied that the
want of legislative appreciation and support was fast wearing out the
patience of the Militia just when the summons came for action, and
when the previous neglect of the State to foster its Militia was fully
exposed. The history of regiments regularly mustered into the

*NoTK. — "The Crisis, the Peril and the Duty." First delivered at Columbus,
Ai^ril II, 1S61, and again on the 17th, upon the written request of Senators
Garfield, Cox and fifteen other senators.


United States service is fully unfolded in public records. The rtgi-
ments of Ohio militia which made a surplus o\er the first call lor
troops, w^re put in the field under every embarassment which could
attend a condition of affairs, when even blank Rolls were poorly
supplied, when armed men were wanted at once to protect the Ohio
border, and when mere presence at the front was of more value than
prolonged instruction in camp.

Formal shape had been given to the organization of t!:e United
States three months troops, under a provision of the State Militia
laws which authorized the Governor to fill vacancies in the rank of
Brigadier General, until an election could be ordered. Several of the
Brigade Districts had but one company. The old Act of Congress
provided that when the Militia were called into the service of the
United States, they should be commanded by officers of that Militia.
Senators Cox and Schleich (the latter Captain of an excellent Militia
company at Lancaster, Ohio), were appointed Brigadier Generals of
Militia by the Governor. General J. H. Bates was already in com-
mission at Cincinnati. Prompt legislation left the general command
to some citizen of Ohio, at large, and General McClellan was en-
trusted with that command, and was also commissioned as Major
General in the Regular Army. Camp Dennison was established as
the rendezvous for the United States Volunteers, and all other troops
were concentrated at Cleveland, Columbus, Zanesville, Lancaster and

The State accepted the surplus regiments for State defense, and the
work of clothing and equipment began, with absolutely no assurance
that the (General Government could render such timely aid as would
make them effective troops for the immediate emergency. Hurried con-
tracts for board took the place of rations proper, and the difficulties
were the greater in proportion as the capacity of Camp Dennison made
its demands imperative, and it seemed as if it would take months to
grade, arrange, and supply water there.

The Federal authorities lacked system, under the great pressure,
hardly less than did those of the State ; and State authority had to
bear much of the responsibility for discomfort at the Federal camp.
Twice the Adjutant General (once with Governor Dennison) went to
that post to influence to greater haste. It was in this emergency that
a double question forced itself forward for solution, ist. How can
the State troops be armed ? 2d. How can the State troops be best
employed ? The border counties of Ohio were nervous and anxious.
The people were willing to do their part, but felt the need of organ-
ized support and wanted artillery. It was useless to send guns with-
out ammunition and men accustomed to their use. Colonel Barnett
had for more than a year previously reported his battery as fit for
real service, and it had been fostered as the pride of the Ohio Militia
system. With the despatch of twenty companies to the East, which
embraced some of the best Militia companies of Cincinnati, Dayton,

Sprnigfield, Cleveland and Columbus, there was no suitable infantry
force to send to the border. All companies proper were being
merged in the new organizations, Federal and State.

On Saturday, the 20th of April, the following telegram was sent :

Columbus, Ohio, April 20th, 1861.
• Colonel James Barnett, Cleveland, Ohio.

Report your six pieces, caissons, and full battery, including the Geneva Com-
pany, at Columbus, forthwith — Monday, if possible. You can hire liorses for the
guns here, or at your point of service. Bring harness and everything else. Twenty
men to each gun. You retain Colonels' rank.

By order,

H. B. Carrinuton,
, Adjutant General.

Early on Sunday morning, April 21st, Mr. John Hall, an elder of
the Second Presbyterian church, and director of Ambos & Co.'s
foundry, was informed that cannon balls were needed. Two hundred
round shot were made before midnight, powder was expressed from
Springfield, fiannel was purchased, and on Monday evening, when
Barnett reached the depot he was supplied with ammunition, sealed
orders, and sent forward to the border. A committee of citizens
from Marietta came from Loveland on the cars, for cannon, and
admired what they supposed to be an United States battery. They
were easily persuaded to accompany the train, and the guns were in
position at ^larietta, Ohio,' opposite Parkersburg, West Virginia,
Tuesday evening, April 23d, little more than a week after the fall of
Fort Sumner.

The organization of all the regiments was hurried. Besides
('amp Jackson, just north of Columbus, Camp Chase was established
four miles westward, for the formation of four additional regiments,
the 23d, 24tb, 25th and 26th. It seemed as if arms could not be pro-
cured even for the regular volunteers, and this was eventually done
through the personal efforts of the Governor, Colonel Wolcott and
others, as fully set forth in " Ohio in the War."

A discussion as to whether the first campaign should be aggres-
sive or defensive was constantly held. Prominent citizens, Noah H.
Snaggs and Aaron F. Perry, as is well known, volunteered to make
their way to Washington while direct communication was cut off, to
impress upon the Government the necessity for its prompt action ;
but it was not until May 24th that the Federal authorities and General
McClellan were brought to a full accord and appreciation of the
necessity for initiating active movements.

The Adjutant General had previously visited General Wool at
Troy, and at once addressed him a letter setting forth the condition
and movement of Barnett's battery, the want of arms for the State
regiments, and his theory of the crisis. The following is an extract :

"It will be thu policy of the Governor of Virginia to occupy the line of the
( ihio river and make the free State.s the theatre of war. This will seal that river
as a channel of Federal transportation, expose the rich counties of southern Ohio


to easy attack, furnish ample supplies for rebel troops and threatens all central
lines of communication, East and West. The mountain ranges of western Virginia,
only traversable through gaps, and easily defended, will give the enemy an
advanced, if not an impregnable base; while all offensive operations will be at the
expense of the free States adjoining, northward. Behind this mountain range,
the interior railroad lines afford peculiar facilities for rapid reinforcement of each
assailed position. The rebel right will then menace Maryland and Pennsylvania,
while the left will absolutely control Kentucky and Tennessee. With Maryland so
uncertain, this movement will command the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, so that
a comparatively small force can successively attack five hundred miles of border

" By every principle of strategy the execution of some plan similar to this, must
be the policv of the open rebellion. Whatever may be the effect of a movement
upon Washington and the blockade of the Mississippi, it is vital to their success
I hat Ohio be paralyzed, that Kentuckv be secured and that the West and North
west be cut off from their intimate relations with the East. West Virginia is an
entering wedge to be held promptly and offensively by the North, since thereby
Federal troops will threaten the left flank of all movements out of Richmond, and
embarrass or counteract all rebel operations behind the mountain ranges as far as
Kentucky and Tennessee."

An extract from General Wool's reply is worthy of record :

Troy, 4th June, 1861.
My dear General:

I tender you many thanks for your several communications and especially for
your last, the 9'h of May. I am made happy to know that Ohio approves of my
conduct in relation to our once prosperous and happy country. In the recent
appeal to save the capital from falling into the possession of the rebels, I did what
I could to arm Ohio. . . .

Most ttuly your friend.
Gen. H. B. Carrington, John E. Wool.

Adjutant General of Ohio.

Notwithstanding the opinion above expressed was shared by
Governor Dennison, Messrs. Garfield and others, it was not certain
that the rebellion would begin a general offensive war ; and the tem-
porary danger of the capital so embarrassed the government as to
crowd aside, for a time, less immediate issues. Governor Dennison
believed and insisted that the thirteen regiments called for by the
President would be, as really transpired, so wholly subject to Federal
authority as to be of little practical avail for State defense, and in
the necessity of putting the State regiments in condition for that

The crisis in West Virginia was indicated by a telegram to
Governor Dennison from Mr. Carlisle, then at Wheeling, of May
20th, stating that rebels had occupied Grafton, and would break up
the convention summoned for the second Monday thereafter unless
troops were furnished. It was at this juncture that the arms were
received from General Wool. Powder had to be purchased and car-
tridges fabricated. A lathe was purchased for riding the bronze guns
of the State, and James projectiles were ordered from Rhode Island.
At this work (Quartermaster General Wood was in his element, and

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Online LibraryHenry Beebee CarringtonOhio militia and the West Virginia campaign, 1861. Address of General Carrington, to Army of West Virginia, at Marietta, Ohio, Sept. 10, 1870 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 3)