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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Ohio's Squirrel Hunters Defended Cincinnati

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 27 July 2004
Source:
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 188
  Roster of Squirrel Hunters from Warren County
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The Squirrel Hunters were Ohio's salvation of the State. They were so named for their dress and mannerisms. These Civilian soldiers were called up in response to Governor Tod's plea for a defense of Cincinnati.
On August 29-30, 1862, Confederate General E. Kirby Smith and his army completely destroyed a segment of the Union army at Richmond, Kentucky. Not until late Saturday night, August 30, did Cincinnati receive word of this defeat. News spread to this northern city that Smith was to invade and distress signals rang out. Ohio's Governor Tod issued this proclamation:
"Our southern border is threatened with invasion. I have therefore to recommend that all the loyal men of your counties at once form themselves into military companies and regiments to beat back the enemy at any and all points he may attempt to invade our State. Gather up all the arms in the country, and furnish yourselves with ammunition for the same. The service will be of but a few days duration. The soil of Ohio must not be invaded by the enemies of our glorious Government."
There was no defense of Cincinnati pertaining to a large force. The only obstacle in the Confederate General's way was a few unmanned guns in back of Covington and the crossing of the Ohio River. Volunteers anxious to preserve their part of their Union answered an immediate response through the State. Men of all walks of life answered to the call of the defense of Cincinnati. Laborers, farmers, mechanics and many other occupational skilled men were to drop their labors and heed to the call. A total of 15,766 men responded from the Buckeye State. Warren County had a total of 436.
"From morning till night the streets resounded with the tramp of armed men marching to the defense of the city. From every quarter of the State they came, in every form of organization, with every species of arms. The 'Squirrel Hunters,' in their homespun garments, with powder- horn and buckskin pouch.
"Half-organized regiments, some in uniform and some without, some having waited long enough to draw their equipments and some having marched without them; cavalry and infantry; all poured out from the railroad depots and down toward the pontoon bridge. "The ladies of the city furnished provisions by the wagon-load; the Fifth Street markethouse was converted into a vast free eating saloon for the Squirrel Hunters; halls and warehouses were used as barracks." (Taken from Reid's, Ohio in the War.)
The battle fatigued Smith and his army were recuperating and regrouping. A prolonged delay of about two days allowed the Squirrel Hunters to gather under their General Lew Wallace. Cincinnati was swelled to the brim with all types of men who were very well mannered and were fully acquainted with the martial law that had been activated. Governor Tod insured Secretary Stanton that Smith's force would be met and indeed turned away. The Little Miami Railroad was protected as far away as Xenia.
The surrounding communities and counties were, because of their geographical location, the first to respond to the call of the "Seige of Cincinnati." Preparing for war was the upbeat attitude of the Squirrel Hunters. Molding bullets, cleaning rifles and a general all-out readiness was the spirit the men had. Let them come, we're ready, generalized the feeling. Where were they?
The men had built a pontoon bridge across the Ohio and had taken a position below Covington and Newport. Still no General Smith. Had Smith heard of the defense of Cincinnati and turned away or was this just a big scare? Beginning to recognize the happenings that were not visible, the town's people of Cincinnati demanded that martial law be lifted.
After two days of this peculiar situation, many restrictions were lifted. Certainly Cincinnati could not be taken now. On September 10, 1862, General Smith's army moved close enough to the Covington outposts to actually feint an attack. With this move, Cincinnati was again in a panic. However, just a few skirmishes occurred and the real threat was the appearance of General Smith's army. Totally outnumbered, Smith's army retreated. Governor Tod wired Secretary of War Stanton, September 13, 1862, stating:
"The minute-men or Squirrel Hunters responded gloriously to the call for the defense of Cincinnati. Thousands reached the city, and thousands more were enroute for it. The enemy having retreated, all have been ordered back. This uprising of the people is the cause of the retreat. You should acknowledge publicly this gallant conduct. Please order Quartermaster Burr to pay all transportation bills, upon my approval."
Warren County's list of Squirrel Hunters is not complete. Many of the participants did not list their name with the Adjutant General's office. (A roster of the Squirrel Hunters can be found in this writer's book, "Warren County's Involvement in the Civil War.")


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