THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
The shots rang out 150 years ago today.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
The Civil War was under way, with the United States of America's future in peril as Confederates scored a stunning victory at Fort Sumter, S.C., in less then 37 hours.
No major battles occurred in Ohio and Michigan in the bloody four years that ensued. Only two minor battles, both a week apart from each other in 1863, occurred in those states.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH/JEFF HINCKLEY Enlarge
Both were in Ohio. One was in Meigs County near what is now West Virginia on July 19, 1863; the other was in Columbiana County near Pennsylvania on July 26, 1863.
Perhaps the greatest contribution from Ohio and Michigan was in the number of soldiers they provided the Union effort, many of whom were generals and other highly decorated officers. Those include Monroe's George Armstrong Custer, who triumphed in the Battle of Gettysburg long before dying in Montana at Little Bighorn, and future President Rutherford P. Hayes, who attained the rank of major general and was severely wounded in battle on Sept. 14, 1862.
Many people may not realize the 319,189 Ohioans who served was the third-highest total from any state other than New York's 448,850 men and Pennsylvania's 337,936.
Three of every five Ohio men between the ages of 18 and 45 fought, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann, Ohio National Guard historian.
State of Michigan government sources claim more than 90,000 Michigan men, nearly a quarter of the state's male population in 1860, served in the war.
Ohio had 35,475 casualties and Michigan had 14,753.
"Other than the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the Civil War is the only battle we've had on our home turf," said Tom Culbertson, executive director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, which is rolling out a new exhibit called Civil War: Battlefield & Homefront with a members-only reception tonight. "An awful lot of people had relatives who participated in the war."
Ohio's first regiment to fight in the Civil War was the 14th Ohio from the Toledo area, which did so on June 3, 1861, at the so-called Battle of Phillipi. That occurred in a western part of Virginia that went on to secede from that state in 1863 to form West Virginia because of its opposition to the Confederacy.
Besides Toledo, the Ohio 14th regiment had men from Bryan, Defiance, Fulton County, Stryker, Napoleon, Antwerp, Wauseon, and Waterville, Sergeant Mann said.
Ohio's most famous Civil War site is the Johnson Island Civil War Military Prison in western Lake Erie's Sandusky Bay near Marblehead.
About 10,000 Confederates were processed into the military prison from April, 1862, to September, 1865.
Ohio and Michigan also were vital links to the Underground Railroad that slaves used to escape to freedom.
"The Ohio River was a huge passageway for slaves to come over to a free state," Sergeant Mann said.
"Economically and politically, Ohio was the geographical center of the United States during the Civil War. It had more railroad tracks than any part of the northern states. It was a giant help for keeping the war effort moving."
Some of the Ohio notables back then included two members of President Abraham Lincoln's administration -- Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase (Ohio's first Republican governor) and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
Sandusky's Jay Cooke, who had an Italian-style summer home with an observation tower on Gibraltar Island near Put-in-Bay, sold war bonds to help Mr. Lincoln finance the Union's victory.
The structure, now known as Cooke's Castle, is owned by Ohio State University.
The exhibit making its debut at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is one of several in northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan paying tribute to the Civil War this year.
It continues through Jan. 29, 2012. Mr. Culbertson said a special emphasis has been placed on family life, such as the 200-plus visits that Mr. Hayes' wife, Lucy, made with him while he was in military camps, one of which resulted in the death of a son.
The exhibit also will have information about 23 known African-Americans from Sandusky County who fought for the Union in the war.
The Civil War was "the great cataclysmic event of the 19th century," Mr. Culbertson said.
In addition to a number of area lectures, re-enactments, and other events, the Ohio Humanities Council and the Ohio Historical Society has a traveling exhibit, Ohio & The Civil War: 150 Years Later, making the rounds to various communities across the state this spring.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6079.