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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Warren Countian McLean Led Civil War Ohio Brigade

Dallas Bogan on 27 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 185
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From time to time this writer will insert into this column a brief history of a Warren County Civil War participant. This particular article will focus on Nathaniel Collins McLean, the son of Honorable John McLean, of Ridgeville, past Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Nathaniel Collins McLean was born February 2, 1815, near Ridgeville. Graduating from Augusta College, Kentucky, at the age of 16, he went immediately to Harvard College; he attended the senior class as a resident graduate, and then entered law school.
He married, in 1838, the daughter of Judge Burnet of Cincinnati.
While practicing his profession of law, his health failed. Upon the advise of his doctor, he took a sea voyage and visited Europe. His health not fully restored, he decided to take employment in the business field. This decisive action fully restored his health, and after a number of years he resumed his law practice. Not too many months later, his wife suddenly became ill and died, leaving four children. He again married, in 1858, to the daughter of Philip R. Simpson of Louisville, Kentucky.
At the breaking out of the Rebellion, McLean and Colonel Robert Riley, under the authority of General Fremont, commenced the organization of the Seventy-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The Regiment was organized at Camp John McLean at Cincinnati. On September 18, 1861, McLean was commissioned as its Colonel.
In January 1862, under the command of General Milroy, the Regiment was ordered to Western Virginia. This stint fairly hardened the men into what a soldier's life was to be. Their first excursion, after a long trek over the Allegheny and Cheat Mountains, was at Huttonsville, at the foot of Cheat Mountain.
On April 12, 1862, the enemy made a gallant attack against the brigade, but with the 75th in the lead, the Confederates were pushed back with tremendous force. Colonel McLean commanded the regiment personally in all its operations under Generals Milroy, Schenck (Robert C. Schenck from Franklin), and Fremont.
At the battle of Cross Keys, he was promoted to the command of a brigade, consisting of four Ohio Regiments. Colonel McLean was now assigned to General Pope's army in which he commanded his Brigade through all its campaigns in Virginia. With this command, he led his brigade at the battle of 2nd Bull Run, and on the 29th of November 1862, he was commissioned a Brigadier General.
He remained with his command in the Army of the Potomac, under Generals McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker, in which he participated in all the active operations through the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, it being fought May 2, 1863. McLean's Brigade was now part of the Eleventh Corp, the commander being Oliver O. Howard.
During the battle, the Eleventh Corp was completely surprised and overwhelmed by the Confederates and fell back in complete disarray. Yet McLean's Ohio Brigade merited the highest praise under the difficult circumstances. The Seventy-Fifth charged the enemy, but the enemy's fire being too severe, and the odds being too great, the Regiment was forced to fall back to the Chancellorsville House. In the short space of half an hour, the Seventy-Fifth lost one hundred and fifty men killed and wounded.
At this battle, General McLean's Corp commander, Oliver O. Howard, was upset with the General's alleged inability to reorganize his troops promptly after Stonewall Jackson's flank attack. Several weeks later, General McLean was shunted off to the Ohio Valley in a staff position. A year later he was allowed to hold a field command.
He led a brigade in the Atlanta campaign, and again came under fire from General Howard for alleged failures at the Battle of New Hope Church.
The General once again found himself in a rear position. He was later transferred to North Carolina where he served as part of Sherman's Carolina Campaign. General McLean, thinking the war was about over, resigned on April 20, 1865.
During the whole war General McLean was off duty for the space of thirty days, having had leave of absence once for twenty, and again for ten days. After the war he relocated to the State of Minnesota, where he retired to the quiet occupation of a farmer.

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This page created 27 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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