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The Civil War in Ohio

In the 1860’s, Ohio was the third most populous state in America. Because of its size and central location in the northern half of the United States, the Buckeye State played an important role in the American Civil War.

More than 300,000 Ohioans served in the Union Army, among that number were some of the most noteworthy Union generals, including Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, George Armstrong Custer, George McClellan and James A. Garfield. Some Ohioans also served on the Confederate side, including Generals Bushrod Johnson, Robert H. Hatton and Charles Clark.

While no major battles were fought in Ohio, the state did see some action. In September 1862, Brigadier General Henry Heth led Confederate forces through northern Kentucky and threatened Cincinnati. Heth's forces turned back after encountering strong Union fortifications south of the Ohio River.

The following July, another Confederate force of about 2,000 soldiers led by Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan entered Ohio from the Indiana border. Morgan's soldiers traveled throughout southern Ohio, heading East along the Ohio River. On July 12, 1863, Ohio Governor David Tod issued a proclamation ordering the Ohio militia into action against Morgan's raiders.

Six days later, the Confederate soldiers came across their first major opposition in Ohio- a group of Ohio militiamen defending a small earthwork. The militiamen retreated, but this gave the Union cavalry enough time to catch up with Morgan's forces. Morgan and his troops attempted to cross the Ohio River near Buffington Island. However, they were outnumbered by the Union forces, who received support from gunboats patrolling the river.

Anywhere from 52 to 120 Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded during the battle, with Union soldiers capturing at least 800 of Morgan's raiders. Twenty-five Union soldiers died during the battle.

Some of Morgan's men broke through the Union lines and continued moving north along the river. Several hundred crossed before Union gunboats arrived, leaving Morgan and his remaining soldiers to retreat westward. However, they were surrounded at Salineville, in Columbiana County, by Union Cavalry under the command of Major W.B. Way and Major G.W. Rue.

During the war, Ohio was also home to the site of a prisoner-of-war camp. Johnson's Island, a 300-acre island located on the coast of Lake Erie, three miles from Sandusky was the only Union prison exclusively for Southern officers. More than 15,000 men were incarcerated on Johnson's Island in a three-year span.