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150 years ago this month

Register • Mar 10, 2014 at 3:49 AM

By John Hildebrandt

Special to the Register


Though no one knew it at the time, the Civil War was 75 percent complete in the spring of 1864.

In another year, in April 1865, it would be all over.

As is often the case in war, however, the worst of it came at the end.

The blood-letting reached its peak in the spring and summer of 1864, especially in Virginia, as Grant and Lee fought each other to a stalemate, finally ending in the 10-month siege at Petersburg. The two main armies were in constant contact and losses mounted. More than 55,000 Union soldiers were casualties in less than a two-month period.

The North was in shock at these losses. Northern morale plummeted to its lowest point in the war, and Lincoln was convinced he would not be re-elected. Ohio-born General William Tecumseh Sherman saved the day for Lincoln by capturing Atlanta in September, a huge boost to Northern morale.

But this was all in the future, and hardly pre-ordained, as Sandusky and Erie County moved from winter to spring.

The draft had come to Erie County. On March 28, the Register published the quota of men needed for Erie County, broken down by township and city. Perkins needed to supply 11 young men; Margaretta 20; Oxford 13, Berlin 17; and the city of Sandusky 45.

Unlike the drafts of the 20th century, in the Civil War you could buy yourself out of the draft for $300, or provide a substitute.

Kelleys Island, the paper noted at the time, had already filled its quota. Margaretta Township offered to pay a Bounty of $100 to each recruit who volunteered for service.

On March 25, the Register reported Lt. A. Homer, from the 101st OVI, had reached home from the front with word that all the Sandusky boys were in “good fighting condition”

The Register also reported “The Lieutenant is looking fine”

On the same day, the Register also reported Capt. J. W. Chamberlain, an Erie County officer, was among the released prisoners who arrived in Annapolis, Md., on March 24 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Three days later, the Register carried a report from a soldier in the 8th OVI, who gave the address for those who wanted to write a letter to one of the Erie County soldiers in his regiment. He noted Company E had 24 enlisted men on its rolls, and “not a single one of them absent on account of illness.” This was a big deal in a war where two-thirds of all deaths were from illness.

Smith concluded: “Our term of service expires on the 25th of June next, and if the Johnny Reb bullets don’t get us down before that time, we will probably arrive in Sandusky about the 4th of July.”

In June that year, the Register wrote: “It will now be but a few days before the remnant of Company E 8th Ohio will be discharged and return home. Possibly there will be a dozen members of the Company in all. We hope our citizens will make timely arrangements to give them some kind of an appropriate welcome. They deserve it, even though there should not be more than a half dozen of them.”

On March 26, the paper reported “ice was softening on the bay” and ships were beginning to venture out on the lake.

The paper also noted that Mr. T.J. Drake, of Sandusky, “who recently went to Martinsburg for his son, George B. Drake, of the 123rd Ohio, who was wounded at the late battle near New Market, reached this city yesterday with his son. Corporal Drake endured the journey well. We doubt not, now that he is at home, he will rapidly recover from his wounds received in defense of his country”

On March 28, the paper noted approvingly that Henry Cooke — brother of financier and Sandusky native Jay Cooke — had provided a quantity of books to the Soldiers’ Libraries of all the hospitals in and around Washington, D.C.

The Register carried ads for patent medicines of all kinds, with promises of all kinds. One large ad warned soldiers home on leave or recuperating from illness not to return to the war without a bottle of Dr. Strickland’s Anti-Cholera Mixture. The copy noted: “For many have died from Diarrhea and Dysentery in your regiment”

Sadly, this was probably true of any regiment, North or South.

There was a large ad in the March 24 Register for Drake’s Patent Artificial Legs, Hands, and Arms. Although farming and industrial accidents also created a need for artificial limbs, the Union Army conducted approximately 30,000 amputations during the Civil War. Some were done on Erie County boys.

In March, The Register carried a story from the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper, headlined, “A Very Positive Man”

It read: “Hospital, 2nd Division, Army of the Cumberland, Resaca, Georgia, May 28, 1864: To the Editors of the Commercial: I see my name reported in the list of deaths at this hospital. I knew it was a lie as soon as I saw it. Hereafter, when you hear of my death, write to me and find out if it is so before you publish it”

Hopefully, the paper never had to write to this soldier.

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