Notice in the June 7th 1862 “Ripley Bee”
Written by Ned Lodwick, U.S. Grant Homestead Assiciation
“The 160th Ohio Volunteer Infantry”
During the years before the Civil War there was no greater honor for a young man than to be a member of the local militia, they were the rock bands of the day. Aberdeen, Decatur, Fayetteville, Georgetown, Higginsport, Ripley, and Russellville all had infantry companies that drilled regularly. Higginsport and Ripley had artillery batteries and Higginsport, Russellville and Ripley had cavalry companies. These units were usually uniformed, armed, and well drilled. They drilled on the town square or at the town fair grounds. When Ulysses Grant returned Brown County on a leave from West Point he took time to drill the Russellvile Infantry Company at the Russellville Fairgrounds.
When the war clouds began to form before the war, Governor Chase sought to better organize these scattered companies into a true statewide force. The sound of the guns firing on Ft. Sumter had barely silenced when most of the men in the militia units volunteered for federal service and the Ohio Militia fell into utter neglect.
A few Confederate regiments of infantry or cavalry could have swept into Ohio and cause alarm bells to ring throughout the state with few troops to respond to the warning. Confederate General Kirby Smith’s march towards Cincinnati in 1862 and General John Hunt Morgan’s raid through Ohio in 1863 were prime examples that were not lost on then Governor Tod. In the fall of 1863 the Governor called for a reforming of the Ohio Militia that was to be made up of men from 18 to 45 and uniformed and armed by the State of Ohio. Before the year ended the Ohio Militia numbered nearly 200,000 men ready to respond in a period of days to any enemy threat upon to State of Ohio.
Brown County had 3,861 men in her six companies that made up the 40th Battalion of the Ohio Militia. One company was from Jefferson Township, one from Sterling, and three from Union. The Union township companies were called the “Magnolia Guards”, the “Pet Lambs”, and the “German Company” (I said they were the rock bands of the day).
On May 2nd 1864 the Ohio Militia was Federalized by Brown Countian U.S. Grant and re-designated as the Ohio National Guard. They were to enter Federal service for a period of one hundred days. These troops were to be used as garrison troops in “safe’ areas so that troops more suitable for combat could be sent to the front lines. On May 12th the 40th Battalion reported to Zanesville. They were to be stationed at Martinsburg, Virginia to guard the B&O railroad.
Company B of the 40th objected to being sent to Virginia. They said that they had signed papers that said that their service was to protect the borders of the State of Ohio and refused to leave the confines of the State. The Army said that was all well and good but that they were now Federal troops and that agreement was no longer in effect. Company B continued their refusal to be deployed and were court-martialed and found guilty. They were sent home with dishonorable discharges and never again permitted to vote, run for public office, or hold a public job such as teacher, mail carrier, etc.
Once the 160th OVI was formed it was sent immediatly to Harper’s Ferry by train. Its first duty was to guard a supply train to Martinsburg. The regiment then continued that duty for several weeks. On one trip the train was attacked by Moseby’s Guerrillas and the “hundred day boys” fought like veterans. They were cool and determined under fire. The Rebels lost fourteen killed and more than double that number wounded while the 160th suffered only a few wounded.
From that time until they mustered out on September 7, 1864, the Regiment was subjected to continual marches and counter marches through the Shenandoah Valley. They were continually in skirmishes while on this guard duty and always served with distinction. The Regiment lost 1 enlisted man killed and 1 officer and 14 enlisted men to disease.
For more information see www.ohiocivilwar.com