Monday, July 13, 2020

Blog Update

Due to the fact I am now involved with a new website/blog (The Western Theater in the Civil War), my posts here will be far and few between as I focus more on this new endeavor.  It has been a fun ride here, and I will still post on occasion, but most of my blog posts, as related to the Western Theater, will be on the new site.  Stop by there when you can, and one can leave comments there as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Its Impact on the Civil War - Part II

Some additional notables who served in the First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Mexican War.

August V. Kautz - West Point 1852.  Colonel 2nd Ohio Cavalry, later brigadier general and led a division in the Army of the James.  Major general of volunteers.  Served on the board that investigated the Lincoln assassination conspirators.

Ferdinand Van Derveer - Colonel of the 35th OVI, later brigadier general.

George P. Webster - Major in the 25th OVI, Colonel of the 98th Ohio, and killed in battle at Perryville.  Ancestor of former FBI director William Webster.

Carr B. White - Colonel of the 12th OVI.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pioneer Cemetery

Close by to where I now work is Cincinnati's oldest cemetery.  Known variously as Columbia Church Baptist, Columbia Pioneer, and Pioneer Memorial, it is the final resting place for 180 people, including Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War veterans.  Maintained (poorly I might add) by the Cincinnati Parks Department, the cemetery is located across from Lunken Airport.  It has honeysuckle invading the fence lines, garlic mustard in patches, stones that need to be reset, other stones that need to be cleaned, and a regular and effective mowing schedule.  I have reached out to the parks three times now to suggest a friends group be formed, but no reply from our beloved city employees.

There are also newer veteran stones at the cemetery, placed in a plot near the walkway leading to the steps.  This was a project done by a local young man, who also was able to designate two parking places for wounded veterans.  Alas, two of the stones have incorrect information, and they are just placed on the ground, and there is a larger memorial stone with information about the groups involved in getting these newer stones placed.  After three attempts to reach out to them about the plan for these stones and this plot, and the fact that two of them are incorrect, I finally received a very non-committal reply about how they did the research (poorly as the men with incorrect stones are listed correctly on their older veterans stones, and a check of the rosters verifies this, as well as their graves registration cards), and nothing about the plan for the stones.  Terrible.

There will be more posts on this cemetery as I work on trying to get more awareness going and try to create some sort of support organization.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Its Impact on the Civil War - Part I

During the Mexican-American War Ohio raised five infantry regiments along with fifteen companies, as well as provided troops for the 15th United States Infantry and the Mounted Riflemen.  Reading through the various rosters is like a Who's Who of minor Civil War personalities, but perhaps none more so than the First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  I might surmise that this single regiment of volunteers may have had a legacy unlike any other volunteer unit from the Mexican War.

Here are a few of the men who had an impact during the Civil War.  More in Part II.

James P. Fyffe - Colonel of the 59th OVI, led a brigade at Stones River.

James George - Colonel of the 2nd Minnesota.

Thomas L. Hamer - While Hamer did not survive the Mexican War, he did leave a lasting legacy.  It was Congressman Hamer who nominated one Hiram Ulysses Grant to West Point.

James F. Harrison - Colonel of the 11th OVI.  West Point 1845.  Was with President William Henry Harrison when he died, as well as William H. Lytle when he was mortally wounded at Chickamauga.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Mexican-American War Fish Story

Flag of Company D, Edward Hamilton, Captain.
In doing some research for the First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry today, I came across two accounts of a fight that took place between the volunteers from Ohio, and their comrades in arms, but not apparently comrades in fish, from Baltimore.  From the Niles National Register we have first the story from the Marylanders' point of view:

The following letter is from the camp of the Baltimore volunteers on the Rio Grande:

Camp Belknap, August 2, 1846.

Our battalion is joined to one from Ohio, which forms a regiment, and this in connection with two other regiments from Ohio, comprises a brigade. There are also regiments from Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, quartered at this same camp, which is situated on a high bluff of land, from which we can see thousands of tents, and hear the drums beating the reveille.

Yesterday, Lafayette Hands, Andrew Metteer, and some of our boys went over to Barita, and returned in rather high spirits. As they were returning home, some one gave Andrew Metteer a catfish, which Col. Mitchell, of Ohio, who is Colonel of the whole brigade, claimed as his own, and ordered three of his men to take it from him. On the men seizing him, in compliance with the orders of their commander, Metteer drew a dagger and stabbed two of them. Colonel Mitchell then rushed on Metteer with a drawn sword and inflicted several severe gashes on his head, from the effects of which he fell as if dead. Layafette Hands then seized the Colonel, wrested his sword from him, and chased him with it for some distance around the camp, until another sword was handed him, when they had a regular sword fight, lasting some minutes, until the Colonel's sword broke, and he again ran, finally escaping to his own quarters. He then gave immediate orders for his men to turn out, armed with ball cartridge, when out Captain gave similar orders, and marched the Chesapeakes down to meet them. When we arrived, Captain Stuart, who in the absence ordered out the battalion, and we were all full of fight, and I verily believe that our 600 Baltimorians could have whipped the whole 2 500 Ohioans. Dan Wells had taken dead aim at the Colonel, and would have blown him sky high, had it not been for Charles Ehrman, who struck his musket. The Colonel then claimed the command of the whole brigade, and ordered us to out camp, which order we were compelled to obey. Colonel Watson was at Barita, where we immediately sent after him, and on his arrival he started for the camp of Colonel Mitchell, to demand an exploration of his conduct. On his arrival there, however, he was told that the Colonel had started for Matamoras to report to Gen. Taylor, but Colonel Watson is now after him, and I do not know how the spree will end.

And the perspective of one Buckeye:

The Ohio State Journal publishes the following letter from one of the Ohio volunteers in the army in Mexico:

Dear Brother:

Be not the least surprised if you should see me in Cincinnati in the course of six weeks.  When I volunteered it was to fight, and not to be idle for a year.  But I now find the regulars are to be able to defend any post of danger.  Gen. Taylor says that one regular is worth five volunteers, and that he only wants volunteers for a stand-by.  It would seem that we are kept merely to do the drudgery; and such is the case.

We had quite an affair a short time since.  Colonel Mitchell as commandant of this post, ordered a volunteer from Baltimore to bring him something.  The volunteer pained no attention to his order.  Our colonel then commanded him a second time to perform the service.  The volunteer turned upon his heel, and replied that "he would see him d--d first."  I was close by doing duty, when Col. M. ordered me and five other cadets to arrest the Baltimorean.  He immediately placed himself in a defensive position, and drew a knife, swearing at the same time that he would cut the first man that dared to come near him.  Lieut. Col. Weller then approached and ordered us to "stand back"when all party got to fighting.  So you see we have had one fight at least.

Our whole regiment and the Baltimore regiment were then all ordered out.  But as we had but sic men on the ground, and as the colonel's tent was about two miles from our encampment, out colonel was disarmed and carried to the ground by a superior number of stout fellows, where they laid him down.  Two of them were about to stab him, when I backed by our boys, jumped into the melee and released our commander from the ruffians.  By this time the field was full of soldiers and the Baltimoreans left.  I presume the case will undergo investigation.

Affectionately your brother,
A. Moss

Fish story aside the First Ohio did become involved in battle of Monterey, sans fish.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Fighting Kautzs - Albert

Albert Kautz in 1870
While not as famous as his brother August, Albert would serve with some distinction during the Civil War and beyond.

Albert Kautz was born in Georgetown, Ohio on January 29th, 1839, one of seven children of Johann Georg and Dorothea and the youngest son.  When Albert was five, the family moved to Levanna (near Ripley, Ohio) where they grew grapes on the hills for wine and tobacco on the river bottoms.

Albert entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland at the age of fifteen in 1854 and graduated as the Civil War began in the spring of 1861.  He received a leave and returned to Brown County to visit family and friends.  While home some local families asked Albert to teach their daughters how to properly use firearms.  Being so close to the Ohio River and the slave state of Kentucky many people thought everyone should be able to defend themselves and their property.  Kautz became enamored with and later married one of the ladies he was teaching, Mary Ester Hemphill, of Ripley.  She was the sister of Joseph Hemphill who would also become an admiral in the U.S. Navy.

On June 20th, 1861, Kautz was serving on the USS Flag.  The Flag was part of the naval blockade off the coast of Savannah, Georgia.  The Flag captured the Confederate blockade runner Hannah Balch and Kautz was ordered to sail her to Philadelphia as a prize of war.  On June 25th, the Hannah Balch was in turn captured by the more powerful Confederate privateer, CSS Coffee.  Albert and his six crewmen were taken as prisoners of war and held until November of 1861.  Only 22 years old at the time of his capture, Kautz developed a system of exchange that would allow the return of Union prisoners for Confederate prisoners and vice versa.  He received a parole and had talks with the leaders of both sides, including Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln.  He eventually put in place the exchange policy that would free thousands of prisoners throughout the war.  In his case, Kautz was released with 368 enlisted men and two other officers for the similar number of Confederate prisoners.  One of the other Union officers was Lieutenant. John L. Worden of USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia fame.

Kautz's next duty was aboard Admiral Farragut’s flagship the USS Hartford in the Gulf of Mexico.  Kautz took an active part in the attack and surrender of New Orleans. He was part of the landing party when Farragut ordered the mayor (John Monroe) to lower the Louisiana state flag from the top of the Customs House roof.  Monroe refused, citing fear of the angry crowd as his reason.  Kautz volunteered to remove the flag and with the escort of marines pushed their way through the ‘howling crowd’. Once atop the Customs House, Kautz lowered the Louisiana flag and replaced it with the United States flag.  In Kautz’s words, “The crowd grew more active and as our landing party only numbered three officers, fifteen sailors, and a dozen marines we were victorious but retreated hastily to the Hartford.”

Kautz was given his own command and promoted to lieutenant commander shortly after the New Orleans adventure.  As master of the steam sloop Juniata he captured the much larger British steamer Victor off Havana, Cuba on May 28th, 1863.  The Victor was carrying supplies bound for the Confederate Army.

His next promotion was as the commander of the USS Winooski.  The Winooski was in Farragut’s fleet that attacked Mobile Bay on August 5th, 1864.  

After the Civil War, Kautz continued climbing through the ranks at several naval installations and aboard several ever increasingly powerful warships.  In 1898 he was a rear admiral in the Pacific Fleet and was in command of the American forces in the Samoan Islands.  He was instrumental in suppressing the insurgent forces under the native leader, Mataafa, and securing a lasting peace on the islands.  Kautz’s success in Samoa propelled him to his promotion to Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet with the battleship USS Iowa as his flagship.  He served in that position from early 1900 until his retirement in 1901.

During his many years of service his wife lived in her family home, the brick Hemphill House, which still stands on Front Street in Ripley.  Albert returned to that house when on leave but upon his retirement the couple moved to Florence, Italy.  The admiral died on February 6th, 1907, and in March of that year the cruiser USS Baltimore returned his ashes to the United States.  Rear Admiral Albert Kautz is buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside his wife, his brother August, and their close friend, Phillip Sheridan. 

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