Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ohio's Squirrel Hunters

FIRST, read this post from the Legal Genealogist and decide what you want to do to protect your privacy.

NO,  not the kind of squirrel hunters who shoot at the very cute but also
very annoying and destructive little rodents that populate my neighborhood.

During the Civil War, states and cities that formed the border between the North and the South worried constantly about the battle coming into their homes. If you know very much about the Civil War you will know that their worries were justified. Homes in the path of Sherman's March To The Sea, were looted and crops were burned. Some homes in Gettysburg still have bullets lodged in their siding.

In September of 1862, the citizens of Cincinnati Ohio were alarmed when they learned that Confederate leader, General Kirby Smith was headed their way. Martial law was enacted in the city. The governor of Ohio telegraphed each county across the state, calling for armed volunteers to hasten to Cincinnati and defend the border. Men from 65 out of Ohio's 88 counties answered the call. 15,000 in two days. Armed with muskets, shotguns and "squirrel" rifles; hence the name of the volunteers "Squirrel Hunters."

This article from the Medina Gazette in 1935 described how Democrats (Copperheads*) & Republicans forgot their political differences for a time when their state needed them:

Medina County Gazette 9 August 1935, section 2, page 3. Article by P. (Peter) P. Cherry,
a local Medina historian. Cherry inflated the number of troops involved.
The governor ordered that the men should travel by train and the railroad would be reimbursed later. Soon, flour and other food supplies were also on their way to the volunteers.

Image from the Library of Congress of Squirrel Hunters

On September 13th, officials received word that the Confederate forces had retreated from their advance. Rebel scouts had learned of the rally of the citizen soldiers. The volunteers returned home soon after.

In 1863, the Governor ordered that official discharges be printed for every man who came to the defense of Cincinnati. In time, these "Squirrel Hunter" discharges became prized possessions.

In 1908, the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution to grant each "Squirrel Hunter" $13, or the equivalent of one month's pay for a private in the Army.

Very little documentation exists on the "Squirrel Hunters" of Medina County. Only one man lists his participation with the volunteers in the 1881 History of Medina County and Ohio,  p. 777-778. Morris Olds of Hinckley Township answered the call. After he returned home, he was drafted but hired a substitute. Upon learning that the substitute had been killed in action, he joined the 1st Ohio Light Artillery.
No mention of the Squirrel Hunters turns up in the library's books on the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran's organization) or Medina in the Civil War.

A few newspaper clippings, beside Peter Cherry's article, were in The Gazette and The Sentinel:

19 August 1881, p. 7 The Medina Gazette article on the reunion of the
124 O.V.I.

8 May 19087 Medina Sentinel  article detailing the state legislature granting a
stipend for the "Squirrel Hunters."

Medina Sentinel Apr 19 1912 p. 1

The state of Ohio has compiled a roster of the Squirrel Hunters, but the Medina Library doesn't have a copy of it.  The libraries that own copies of the index to the roster are listed on this LINK.

*Copperheads were generally Democrats who opposed the war.

For more information, view these links:
Oberlin Heritage Center

Ohio History Central

Library of Congress

Cincinnati Civil War Roundtable

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a story! I had never heard of the Squirrel Hunters. Congratulations, again, to our local genealogist for her ability to dig out old stories and eloquently share them with her readers. Thanks!