Department of the Ohio

Presented to the Rosecrans Headquarters Unit on October 29, 2009
by Bill Comisford

The American Civil War

With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, several southern slave states seceded from the Union. 

Then, the American Civil War started on the 12th of April, 1861, when the Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC harbor. 

On the 15th of April, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued a called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days service. 

This call was for the states remaining in the Union (at the time - 25, although a couple of these would soon secede also). 

Keep in mind, when the Civil War began, the Regular Army numbered 16,367 officers and men distributed among: 

·       4 artillery regiments;

·       5 mounted regiments, and;

·       10 infantry regiments.


And, of the 1,098 officers in the Regular Army at the outbreak of the war, 286 of them would resign and join the Confederacy. 

Back to the call for volunteers – the quota for Ohio was 10,153 volunteers.   

This was the 3rd largest quota, behind New York and Pennsylvania. 

The State of Ohio would actually raise 23 regiments by the end of May.

·       22 infantry regiments, and

·       1 artillery regiment

·       A total of 10,566 volunteers

By the end of the war, Ohio would raise nearly 340,000 volunteers:

·       198 infantry regiments;

·       29 artillery regiments;

·       13 cavalry regiments;

·       10 sharpshooter regiments, and

·       8 others – primarily home guards.

So, what was a regiment?  

 Made up of 10 companies, lettered in alphabetical order, from A to K, with the letter “J” omitted.

So, who were these Ohio volunteers?

·       An enlisted man couldn’t be over the age of 45 or under the age of 18
Although, this wasn’t always the case
There’s a good book on the young boys of the Union
“To Young to Die” by a local author – Dennis Keesee

·       Average age was just under 26 years.

·       Average height of the Federal soldiers was put at 5 feet, 8-1/4 inches.

·       And he weighed about 143- ¼ pounds.

Where did these volunteers come from?

·       48 percent were farmers,

·       24 percent were merchants,

·       16 percent were laborers,

·       5 percent were in “commercial pursuits”,

·       3 percent were professional men, and

·       4 percent miscellaneous.

The Department of the Ohio -- Sometimes referred to as the Army of the Ohio

The Dept of the Ohio went through its original organization in 1861 and then a complete reorganizations in 1862 and then latter a third reorganization.

First – the original Organization of the Dept of the Ohio

On the 3rd of May, 1861, the Dept of the Ohio was created as an administrative military district by the United States War Department.

This Department was to embrace the troops from

·       Illinois,

·       Indiana, and

·       Ohio. 

Headquarters were at Cincinnati, Ohio with General George B. McClellan designated as its commander.

Six days later portions of what is now West Virginia and Pennsylvania were added.

These volunteers headed off to Camp Dennison – a site selected by General William S. Rosecrans.

It was close to Cincinnati and the Little Miami Railroad went right down through the middle of the camp – thus it could provide protection for the headquarters.

With not much training. 

Remember most were city boys – most had never owned a gun or even used one.

In less than a month they were on the way to Western Virginia, still a part of Virginia – a Confederate State.

This was in the Eastern Theater of the war, as opposed to the Western Theater (MAP)

The Dept of Ohio’s first action took place – a tiny skirmish called the Battle of Philippi Races, June 3, 1861.

4 Union soldiers and 26 Confederates were killed.

Thus, it became the first major land conflict of the war.

The Department was growing

5th of June, 1861 Missouri was added.

3rd of July, 1861 Illinois was transferred to the Western Department

Battle of Rich Mountain, 11th of July, 1861, Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans led a reinforced brigade by a mountain path to seize the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in Pegram's rear.

After the defeat of General Irvin McDowell and the Army of the Potomac at Bull Run, the end of July, 1861 General George B. McClellan would be propelled to Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

The Battle of Bull Run, referred to as the Battle of Manassas by the Confederates.

The Union named battles after bodies of water near the scene of the conflict,

Whereas, the Confederates named battle after towns.

Back to the Department of the Ohio.

With McClellan leaving, General Rosecrans then become the commander of the Dept of the Ohio.

Then, on the 19th of September, 1861 the Dept of Ohio readjusted again, this time including

·       Ohio,

·       Indiana,

·       Kentucky within 15 miles of Cincinnati, under the command of Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel

Then, on the 9th of November, 1861 it took its final shape during its first existence to include Ohio,

·       Michigan,

·       Indiana, and

·       Kentucky east of the Cumberland River.

General Rosecrans then took command of what would become the Dept of Western Virginia on the 9th of November, 1861, which included the Depts of the West, the Cumberland, and the Ohio.

At this point The Department of the Ohio begins to loose its identity as a stand alone force

General Order No. 97, issued on the 15th of November, 1861 appoints Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, commander of the newly formed Army of the Ohio.

As part of the Army of the Ohio,

General Rosecrans takes command of the Dept of the Mississippi, with remnants of the Dept of the Ohio which now operates as the Right Wing of the Dept of the Mississippi.

Their first major engagement in the west was at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky, on the 19th of January, 1862

Here, only the 1st Division, commanded by Brigadier General George H. Thomas

Then it finally happens, in March of 1862 the Department of the Ohio ceased to exist.

Its divided between the:

·       Department of the Mississippi under the command of General Rosecrans, and

·       The Mountain Department under the command of Major General John C. Fremont.

Why did this happen?

Casualties!  Disease!  Soldiers weren’t replaced within a regiment – new regiments were formed and moved around to where needed.

The Dept of the Mississippi marches to reinforce Major General Ulysses S. Grant on the second day of the Battle of Shiloh, and fought on the 7th of April, 1862, in helping to turn the tide for the Union. 

During this period they took part in:

·       The Siege of Corinth (April 29 – June 10, 1862 in Mississippi)

·       Battle of Iuka (September 19, 1862 in Mississippi)

·       Battle of Corinth ( a bloody 2-day affair, October 3-4, 1862 – Mississippi) 

Drawing critisim, following his victory at the Battle of Perryville in October,1862, General Buell was relieved of his command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Major General William S. Rosecrans.  

It’s estimated that 8 to 10,000 Department of Ohio soldiers deserted during their march to Perryville and 

There were 4,211 casualties at Perryville. 

As a result of some of the events that lead up to the Battle of Perryville, and took place after, a Military Commission of Inquiry was established to review General Buell’s actions. 

General Buell resigned his regular commission on June 1, 1864. 

The Army of the Ohio then became the XIV Corps on the 24th of October, 1862 (and was referred to after that as the Department of the Cumberland.)  An Act of Congress. 

The Battles of Stones River or Second Battle of Murfreesboro, was fought from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863, in Middle Tennessee.

This was perhaps General Rosecrans finest moment and greatest victory.

But costly – 13,249 casualties.

Army of the Cumberland was then split up:

·       Fourteenth Corps – the center,

·       Twentieth Corps – the left wing, and

·       Twenty-First Corps – the right wing.

So between Perryville and Stones River – the Army lost almost 25% of it soldiers.

This force then embarked on the successful Tullahoma Campaign against General Bragg – driving the Confederates out of Tennessee.

Then the Battle of Chickamauga fought September 19–20, 1863.

Second coming of the Department of the Ohio 

Recreated on 19th of August, 1862, under the command of Major General Horatio Wright. 

·       Illinois,
·       Indiana,
·       Ohio,
·       Michigan,
·       briefly Wisconsin and
·       Kentucky east of the Tennessee River. 

By then, troops of the original Army of the Ohio were scattered. 

General Ambrose Burnside assumed command on 25th of March, 1863, became the XXIII Army Corp. 

This Army was involved in the chase of General John Morgan during Morgan’s Raid. 

General Morgan crossed the Ohio River near Brandenburg, Kentucky with a Confederate Cavalry force of nearly 2,400 troopers on 8th of July, 1863. 

They raided in Indiana and crossed into Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. 

They finally caught up with the Confederates on July 19th near Bluffington Island, where the Battle of Bluffington Island took place.


·       Killed 57

·       Wounded 63

·       Captured 700 prisoners

·       360 escaped across the Ohio River with Stovpipe Johnson

·       700 escaped with General Morgan

·       To be later captured near West Point, Ohio on the 26th of July, 1863

So who really were these boys of the Ohio?

 US Presidents:

·       Rutherford B. Hayes. Our 19th US President, age 38, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

·       James A. Garfield, our 20th US President, age 30, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

·       Benjamin Harrison, our 23rd US President, age 27, 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry

·       William McKinley, Jr., our 25th US President, age 18, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry


US Senators and Congressmen:

·       Thomas Stanley Matthews, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, future U.S. Senator and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

·       John Beaty, 3rd OVI

·       J. Warren Keifer, 3rd OVI

·       Archibald Lybrand, 4th OVI

·       James S. Robinson, 4th OVI

·       William E. Hayes, 8th OVI

·       Charles Henry Grosvenor, 18th OVI

·       Robert P. Kennedy, 23rd OVI


Governors of Ohio:

·       Jacob D. Cox, Governor of Ohio 1866 – 1868.

·       Thomas L. Young (1877 – 1878).

·       Joseph Benson Foraker, Governor of Ohio 1886 – 1890.



·       The Fighting McCooks - Two brothers, Daniel and John McCook, and thirteen of their sons. 

-   6 of the McCooks reached the rank of brigadier general or higher.

-   Several family members were killed in action or died from their wounds.

·       9th OVI – all German regiment

·       William H. Lytle, famous poet, attorney, founding family of Cincinnati, 10th OVI, almost all Irish unit, rose to rank of General, killed at Battle of Chickamauga.


First Metal of Honor Recipient – were from the Army of the Ohio

Can anybody tell me who these famous soldiers were?


  • Pvt. Jacob Wilson Parrott, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 18
  • Pvt. William Bensinger, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 21
  • Pvt. Robert Buffum, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 33
  • Sgt. Elihu Harlam Mason, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 30
  • Cpl. William Pittenger, 2nd Ohio Infantry, age 22
  • Cpl. William Henry Harrison Reddick, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 22
  • Cpl. Daniel Allen Dorsey, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 24
  • Pvt. Mark Wood, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 23
  • Pvt. Wilson Wright Brown, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 25
  • Pvt. William James Knight, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 25
  • Pvt. John Alfred Wilson, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 30
  • Pvt. John Reed Porter, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 22
  • Cpl. Martin Jones Hawkins, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 32
  • Pvt. James Smith, 2nd Ohio Infantry, age 18[1]
  • Pvt. John Wollam, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 22
  • Sgt. Maj. Marion A. Ross, 2nd Ohio Infantry, age 30 (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
  • Pvt. Samuel Robertson, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age19 (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
  • Sgt. John Morehead Scott, 21st Ohio Infantry, age 23 (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
  • Pvt. Samuel Slavens, 33rd Ohio Infantry, age 31 (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)


The Great Locomotive Chase – On the 12th of April, 1862 they took part in stealing a locomotive, the General, at Kennesaw, Georgia.  After 87 miles, they were captured.

What happened to them?

·       6 other men, tried and convicted of being spies, were hung in Atlanta.

·       6 men would escape prison and

·       8 would be exchanged for prisoners

Date of Issue: 17 September 1863.

One of the 19 of 22 men (including 2 civilians) who, by direction of Gen. Mitchell (or Buell), penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Ga., in an attempt to destroy the bridges and track between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Army Ranks 

                                Company    =   60 to 65 men                  Captain     
6 to 7 Companies =   Battalion     =   400 men                         Major
2 Battalions          =   Regiment    =   700 to 1,000 men           Colonel
3 to 4 Regiments  =   Brigade       =   2,100 to 3,000 men        Colonel
3 Brigades            =   Division      =   8,000 men                      Brigadier General 

3 to 5 Divisions    =   Corps         =   24,000 to 40,000 men    Brigadier General
                                                                                                or Major General

Battery       =       4 to 6 guns

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