Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Columbus During The Civil War, Part Two

The newspapers debated the ins and outs of war with the South until the firing on Fort Sumter. Then, Columbus was literally swarming with volunteers from all over the state. Goodale Park became known as Camp Jackson. Lincoln Goodale complained about the use of his lovely park.

Camp Jackson was moved to the site of the racecourse and renamed Camp Chase (in the present Sullivant Avenue area.) By 1862 Camp Chase received rebel prisoners (over eight thousand; one-fourth of them would die there, their graves are still well-tended.)

Stockbreeders in Columbus profited by the demand for war horses. Much of the war work (manufacture of cannonballs, caissons, battery wagons, forges, and woolen cloth) was performed by contract labor in the Ohio Penitentiary. One firm employed one hundred females who made one hundred twenty-five overcoats per day. The one hundred women soon became a thousand. Ladies’ Societies held bazaars and picnic excursions to raise money for the war effort.

Many militiamen were ordered to Camp Chase when the South’s “Morgan’s Raiders” threatened Ohio. Morgan’s chief of staff was a prisoner at Camp Chase. Columbusites rode the horse-drawn streetcars to Camp Chase to watch for possible skirmishes. But the Raiders went far to the south.

Later, Morgan and his aides were captured and placed in the Ohio Penitentiary. The spectacular escape of Morgan and his men on Nov. 27-28, 1863 made such a splash in the minds of locals that Morgan’s personal effects and those of his men were auctioned off in January, 1864.

Another troop camp was erected in the vicinity of the present Olentangy Village; Camp Thomas. Dress parades were familiar on High Street. Camp Lew Wallace, Camp Tod, and Tod Barracks were also nearby. The army camp for African-Americans was a mile from the town of Delaware. The “Anti-Slavery” Baptist Church on Gay Street had offered the services of a company during the threat of Morgan’s Raiders.

Ohio was the scene of abundant partisan political contention during the War. Stephen A. Douglas made spirited pro-war speeches in Columbus in 1861, and then died of typhoid fever a few weeks later. The election of 1861 brought Democrat David Tod of Youngstown into the Ohio governorship. Governor Tod supported the War while many of his fellow Democrats did not.

Some Lincoln critics were jailed, and in the case of Samuel Medary, his Crisis newspaper office was destroyed. The “Copperhead” (Peace Democrat) movement headed by governor-candidate Clement L Vallandigham, took hold in Columbus. (Vallandigham was so dogged, he found temporary exile in Canada during his campaign in 1863.) The Union Democratic party had their own candidate, John Brough.

Vallandigham won in Franklin County, but Brough won the governorship. Salmon P. Chase addressed a large gathering in the Union League headquarters. Brough became governor on Jan. 11, 1864.

The Unionists sought Chase as the presidential candidate, rather than President Abraham Lincoln for a second term. Much to the chagrin of Medary, the Democrats met in March and the peace element of the platform was ignored. Lincoln was advocated.

Medary became ill while speaking from the courthouse steps and died soon after. By the autumn of 1864, military victories caused much hope and many political party rallies. In Chicago, General George McLellan was nominated to run against Lincoln. Lincoln carried Ohio, but Franklin County went for McLellan.

After Congress, in February, 1865 passed the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, it was ratified by large majorities in both Ohio houses. This was followed by the firing of two hundred guns in the Ohio State House yard, just a taste of the future celebrations on April 9 after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender had become known in Columbus.

Soon, joy turned to grief, as word came of President Lincoln’s tragic death. On April 29, the body of the President, en route to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois, was viewed by thousands in Columbus’s Capitol.

Christine Hayes

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