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Noble history, noble cause

Sometimes, the heroes are found right at home

July 3, 2014
By Lisa Swickard - Special to The A-T , The Advertiser-Tribune

The last days of June 1861 were waning when a great comet first appeared in the night sky above Seneca County.

Back then, a comet wasn't necessarily a welcome sight. To the superstitious, it was synonymous with impending doom. Of course, this particular comet became visible just as Seneca County residents were sending their native sons to take up arms against the Confederacy.

To the older folks, the great comet signified that this was going to be a long and bloody conflict.

Article Photos

PHOTO?COURTESY?OF?REMARKABLE?OHIO
This historical marker can be seen at Statler Park near the intersection of Ohio and Clinton avenues in Tiffin.

The first shots of the Civil War had been fired at Fort Sumpter two months earlier, April 12. Within days, Seneca County residents answered the call to duty.

April 17, William Harvey Gibson and Congressman Warren P. Nobel hosted a large war meeting to rally potential volunteers. With them, they carried a telegram from the adjunct general's office, inquiring about the organization of troops in Tiffin and Seneca County. By the time the spirited meeting ended, 33 men had enlisted.

But at the start of the war, not everyone in the county gushed with such fervent patriotism. Even though the Stars and Stripes flew from almost every business building throughout the area, sentiments against the war simmered among many residents, some of whom had family in the South. Those emotions came to a head in a mid-April clash that nearly caused a riot on the streets of Tiffin.

Fact Box

The most noted of those was William Harvey Gibson. In July 1861, Col. Gibson received a telegram from the War Department in Washington, D.C., that stated: "Your regiment has been accepted ... Muster in by companies at Tiffin ..." That regiment was the famed 49th O.V.I. In typical Gibson fashion, he immediately had posters printed to encourage men to enlist:

TO ARMS! TO ARMS!

Rally to Our Flag ! Rush to the Field !

Are we cowards that we must yield to

traitors? Are we worthy sons of heroic

sires? Come one, come all ! Let us march,

as our forefathers marched, to defend the

only democratic Republic on earth!

By Aug. 6, Gibson set up Camp Noble in Tiffin, where the various companies convened to await orders. The first group to arrive consisted of 103 soldiers from Hancock County, and by the end of the month, they were joined by three companies from Seneca County. Gibson's 11-year-old daughter, Ella, ceremoniously was adopted as the daughter of the regiment.

The 49th saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Civil War. It was the first Union regiment to enter Kentucky after Confederate forces violated the state's neutrality, and it saw action at the Battle of Chickamauga, Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Chattanooga, to name a few.

Several other regiments also originated from Seneca County. In September 1861, the 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized in Melmore by John Osborne and Frank Abbott. It was comprised primarily of men from Melmore, Bettsville and Republic.

Companies and regiments continued to be formed during the war years. In August 1862, Tiffin's Judge William Lang was given permission to organize the 123rd O.V.I. Frederick K. Shawhan served as captain, but according to the 1886 "History of Seneca County," "Much indignation was exhibited by all parties when Gov. (David) Tod refused to issue a colonel's commission to Judge Lang."

The homefront remained a busy place throughout the duration of the war. Shortly after the conflict began, the County Military Committee requested area residents provide clothing and blankets to the Township Committees. Those items then were sent to the soldiers in the field. Much of the clothing was made by members of the local Ladies' Military Aid Society.

For the wives and mothers left behind, life was anything but easy. Some had to take over farm duties or businesses. In the majority of households, the men were the breadwinners.

Making ends meet - particularly when there were children involved - often proved to be overwhelming. To help quell the financial burden, in January 1862, the banking house of Tomb, Huss & Co. loaned the Seneca County commissioners $4,500 for the relief of soldiers' families. Military wives without children were paid $1 per week; the guardian of a soldier's minor children also received $1; a wife with one child was entitled to $1.25 per week; a wife with two children was given $1.50; and a wife with three or more children was rewarded a weekly stipend of $1.75.

By the time the Civil War officially ended April 9, 1865, the omen of the great comet four years earlier had come true. Statistics showed that by the war's end, 2,036 Seneca County men had seen battle. Of those, 219 had been killed or died from disease. A total of 153 men had been left disabled.

The conflict had directly touched 576 families in the county.

Near the close of the war, Gibson - who by then had been commissioned a general - addressed his troops and offered an insight shared by many of those who fought for the Union.

"It is an honor, it is glory incarnate to be a soldier standing with bared breast in defense of this magnificent Republic! Heroes of Shiloh and Stone River, would you exchange your places with the stay-at-home partisan cavilers for all the comfort and ease gold and wealth can secure? No, no! my gallant men, I know you would not ..." he told them. "... The Republic will survive this storm!"

Information for this article was taken from "History of Seneca County, Ohio, 1886" by Warner, Beers & Co. and from the Seneca Advertiser.

Above, a photo of Col. William Harvey Gibson; on the following page (from left) are photos of Lt. Col. Albert Blackman, Samuel Chamberlain and Franklin Scott Richards, and Col. Samuel Frazer Gray, all members of the 49th O.V.I.

According to the April 19 Seneca Advertiser: "There was a hostile encounter on Wednesday occasioned by a heated political discussion. Blows were given and returned. A numerous crowd gathered on the street, and intense excitement was manifested, several persons desiring to wade in. All men should now be governed by reason and not actuated by passion."

That day, the mayor of Tiffin appointed 90 special constables to help the regular police force keep peace on the homefront.

Preserving the Union was paramount to most county residents, however, and by April 22, a company that called themselves the Seneca Sharp Shooters left Tiffin to be mustered into service with the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Cleveland.

The scene at the train station was heartrending. The Seneca Advertiser reported "Many tears were shed ... by wives, sisters, mothers and relatives."

Before they departed on a special train furnished by the S.C. & D. Railroad, the group was presented with a silk banner that had been carried in 1860 by the Douglas Gun Squad.

"We believe if our boys should be brought into actual conflict, that their banner ... would be seen in the thickest of the fight, and that they will never surrender it unless the ground on which they plant it is moistened with blood," stated the Seneca Advertiser.

In Cleveland, Col. Depuy faced the Sharp Shooters and asked, "How many of you will enlist for three years of service?" In dramatic fashion, 63 men stepped forward.

Within days, other companies were formed across Seneca County. At that time, anyone with the financial backing who could enlist 100 men for service could form a company that then was attached to a specific regiment. For example, before he became commander of the 49th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, William Harvey Gibson was commissioned a colonel when he organized Gibson's Rifle Co. in April 1861.

Other companies throughout the county included: Tiffin Union Grays, captained by D.F. DeWolf; Clinton Guards, Robert Crum, captain; Fostoria Invincibles, Albert M. Blackman, captain; Village of Republic, Asa Way, captain; and the Fort Seneca Guards, who reportedly were "well uniformed and armed with spears," Mark Harris, captain. The farmers in the Fort Seneca area organized a separate cavalry company, headed by Augustus Hoke. Even Boos' Tiffin Cornet Band formed a company in June 1861.

By Dec. 1 of that year, a force of 1,230 men from Seneca County were serving in either the 8th, 25th, 49th, 55th or 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. A few joined Company I, First Chausseurs, a scouting and skirmishing force known for its elaborate and often colorful uniforms that were patterned after the French Army of the 1700s. Still others became members of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry. At that time, 300 men from Seneca County were serving as officers.

The most noted of those was William Harvey Gibson. In July 1861, Col. Gibson received a telegram from the War Department in Washington, D.C., that stated: "Your regiment has been accepted ... Muster in by companies at Tiffin ..." That regiment was the famed 49th O.V.I. In typical Gibson fashion, he immediately had posters printed to encourage men to enlist:

TO ARMS! TO ARMS!

Rally to Our Flag ! Rush to the Field !

Are we cowards that we must yield to

traitors? Are we worthy sons of heroic

sires? Come one, come all ! Let us march,

as our forefathers marched, to defend the

only democratic Republic on earth!

By Aug. 6, Gibson set up Camp Noble in Tiffin, where the various companies convened to await orders. The first group to arrive consisted of 103 soldiers from Hancock County, and by the end of the month, they were joined by three companies from Seneca County. Gibson's 11-year-old daughter, Ella, ceremoniously was adopted as the daughter of the regiment.

The 49th saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Civil War. It was the first Union regiment to enter Kentucky after Confederate forces violated the state's neutrality, and it saw action at the Battle of Chickamauga, Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Chattanooga, to name a few.

Several other regiments also originated from Seneca County. In September 1861, the 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized in Melmore by John Osborne and Frank Abbott. It was comprised primarily of men from Melmore, Bettsville and Republic.

Companies and regiments continued to be formed during the war years. In August 1862, Tiffin's Judge William Lang was given permission to organize the 123rd O.V.I. Frederick K. Shawhan served as captain, but according to the 1886 "History of Seneca County," "Much indignation was exhibited by all parties when Gov. (David) Tod refused to issue a colonel's commission to Judge Lang."

The homefront remained a busy place throughout the duration of the war. Shortly after the conflict began, the County Military Committee requested area residents provide clothing and blankets to the Township Committees. Those items then were sent to the soldiers in the field. Much of the clothing was made by members of the local Ladies' Military Aid Society.

For the wives and mothers left behind, life was anything but easy. Some had to take over farm duties or businesses. In the majority of households, the men were the breadwinners.

Making ends meet - particularly when there were children involved - often proved to be overwhelming. To help quell the financial burden, in January 1862, the banking house of Tomb, Huss & Co. loaned the Seneca County commissioners $4,500 for the relief of soldiers' families. Military wives without children were paid $1 per week; the guardian of a soldier's minor children also received $1; a wife with one child was entitled to $1.25 per week; a wife with two children was given $1.50; and a wife with three or more children was rewarded a weekly stipend of $1.75.

By the time the Civil War officially ended April 9, 1865, the omen of the great comet four years earlier had come true. Statistics showed that by the war's end, 2,036 Seneca County men had seen battle. Of those, 219 had been killed or died from disease. A total of 153 men had been left disabled.

The conflict had directly touched 576 families in the county.

Near the close of the war, Gibson - who by then had been commissioned a general - addressed his troops and offered an insight shared by many of those who fought for the Union.

"It is an honor, it is glory incarnate to be a soldier standing with bared breast in defense of this magnificent Republic! Heroes of Shiloh and Stone River, would you exchange your places with the stay-at-home partisan cavilers for all the comfort and ease gold and wealth can secure? No, no! my gallant men, I know you would not ..." he told them. "... The Republic will survive this storm!"

Information for this article was taken from "History of Seneca County, Ohio, 1886" by Warner, Beers & Co. and from the Seneca Advertiser.

Above, a photo of Col. William Harvey Gibson; on the following page (from left) are photos of Lt. Col. Albert Blackman, Samuel Chamberlain and Franklin Scott Richards, and Col. Samuel Frazer Gray, all members of the 49th O.V.I.

 
 
 

 

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