By Dick Crews
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in the winter of 2002.
Cleveland and Cuyahoga County contributed a large percentage of its manpower to the American Civil War. The federal census of 1860 showed Cleveland’s population to be 43,838. The total Cuyahoga County population was approximately 50,000. The records on the walls of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square, the official record of the county, contain the names of 10,000 residents of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County who fought in the Civil War.
The Cleveland Grays, which has a history back to 1838, provided some of first troops to answer the call of the governor. The Grays were on there way within sixty hours of the governor’s call. They became Company E of the First Ohio Infantry.
A Cleveland battery fired the first shot for the Union. That shot was fired by the First Ohio Light Artillery which went to the front on only two days’ notice. It was commanded by Colonel, later General, James Barnett. It was at Philippi, West Virginia, that the historic first Union cannon was fired in battle. There was the 9th Independent Battery, of which Edwin Cowles, the founder of the Leader (an old Cleveland newspaper), was sergeant and afterwards a second lieutenant. The firing was done by the 19th Battery, familiarly known as Shields’ Battery, and the 20th. Both of these batteries owed most of their members to Cleveland.
Early in the Civil War, area men were mustered into the famous 7th Ohio Regiment. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County furnished the 7th Ohio with eleven field and staff officers and three complete companies. In three years 1800 men served in the 7th. However, following 3-year enlistment expiration, only 300 men remained to bring home the colors.
It is of the 7th regiment that a war historian wrote, “All in all, considering the number of its battles, its marches, its losses, its conduct in action, it may be safely said that not a single regiment in the United States gained more lasting honor or deserved better of its country than the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry.”
The 8th Ohio kept up Cleveland’s reputation by showing exceptional courage at Gettysburg. The gallant 23rd Ohio, containing two future U. S. Presidents and 250 men from the Cleveland area, helped defeat the rebels at the battle of Cedar Creek after Sheridan’s famous ride from Winchester.
Fifteen black men also enlisted from Cleveland. They were members of the 5th United States Colored Infantry, which had the terrible loss of 302 killed and wounded out of a total force of 559.
Even after the disaster of the first battle of Bull Run, Cleveland raised a new regiment, the Ohio 41st. The command was given to Captain Will Hazen. This regiment was followed by the Ohio 24th, the 37th, 58th, 103rd, 107th, and the 42nd, which included future President Garfield as a colonel. The 124th was also from the Western Reserve, and many Clevelanders were with it as officers and privates. Its work at Lookout Mountain was especially noteworthy. Clevelanders also served in the 128th regiment, which guarded Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island.
The 115th and the 169th regiments, which garrisoned Washington in 1864, were also made largely of Cleveland men. Cleveland also contributed largely to the independent companies of sharpshooters which Governor Tod recruited. The 2nd Cavalry, which was made up almost exclusively from Cleveland and the Western Reserve and was noted for the social prominence of its members, had a most picturesque career. It fought Choctaws in Indian Territory, Quantrell’s guerillas in Missouri, and was a large factor in the chase and capture of John Hunt Morgan, the raider. It followed him for twelve hundred miles through three states, marching twenty-four hours a day.
In fact, so pervasive was a strong Civil War spirit in Cleveland that there was not a regiment mustered in the state which did not contain men from the banks of the Cuyahoga.