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Two Red-Letter Military Events

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News, January 7, 1934


By Howard Burba


The story of Dayton’s participation in the wars is a part of her history with which her citizens are familiar.  The part she played in the last great Indian campaign in the Northwest Territory, when the site now hallowed by the Log Cabin was the assembly place for those intrepid fighters who gathered here to become a very important part of Mad Anthony Wayne’s forces, is a tale most every school child can tell.  The scene when Dayton’s contribution to the War of 1812 turned their faces to the north, and again in 1846, when they marched to the southwest to challenge Santa Anna has been described, and whole pages have been written and rewritten around local activities at the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion.

            So faithfully have historians of more recent years portrayed the military side of Dayton life during the Spanish-American and the great World War that repetition here would carry little interest and certainly nothing that is new.  But there have been two great peace-time military demonstrations here with which present-day citizens are unfamiliar.  The historian has mentioned them briefly.  Their details have been buried in local newspaper files for more than half a century.

            Sixty-six years have passed since the first of these two red-letter events in Dayton occurred, a great state-wide military celebration on the 82nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and one in which the governor of Ohio and all troops in the state then under arms participated.  Coming as it did so close to the more stirring scenes attending the declaration of war between the states it was lost sight of; it paled in significance when compared with the stirring events recorded three years later.

            It was on the Fourth of July, 1858, that Gov. Salmon P. Chase issued a call to all men bearing arms within the state of Ohio to assemble in the city of Dayton for a “Grand Military Review.”  While it was announced, in explanation of such an order, that military officials of Ohio felt it appropriate to stage the event as a purely patriotic one, there was a general understanding that it carried a deeper meaning.  War clouds were hanging low in the sky.  Threats of secession had echoed up from southern states.  Abolition argument was at fever heat.  That the nation could not be held intact without a desperate struggle at arms was no longer a secret.  So wise old Gov. Chase seized upon the Fourth of July as an appropriate time to take an inventory of the state’s military power.  He sought this method of determining just how vulnerable Ohio would be when called upon to shoulder arms.

            Local newspapers began broadcasting the event weeks before the day sat - July 4, 1858.  For an entire week before merchants and citizens were engaged in decorating their places of business and their homes.  And then on July 5, the day following the grand assembly, we have this picture of it from the pen of a pioneer reporter:

            “Early Saturday morning our citizens were awakened by booming artillery and the incessant clang of fire bells.  Ere King Sol’s rays had illuminated our tallest spires crowds were wending their way to different parts of the city and throng after throng filled our streets, their steps made elastic by the military music heard in every quarter.

            “Soldiers of different companies, decked in glorious pageantry, hurried by with smiling countenances, making preparations to give their brother soldiers from other places a cheerful welcome.  Our citizens also arose enmasse to celebrate this glorious anniversary, and each did his part to give zest to the treat that was to come.  Nearly all the principal buildings were handsomely decorated with flags.  Many flags hung suspended in the streets and several large portraits of the Goddess of Liberty hung upon the front of some of the main buildings.

            “The Sandusky train, which arrived at 8:15 a. m., brought the Springfield Light Artillery with one 12-pounder, Capt. Deardorff and 34 men; Springfield Light Guards with First Lieut. Kersey (Capt. Snyder being sick) and 48 men; Tuttle’s National Band and the Tremont Light Guards, with Capt. Martin and 27 men.

            “The Troy train at 8:30 brought the Troy Blues, Capt. Mayo, and 80 men.  The Cincinnati train at 8:10 brought the Lafayette Guards, Capt. Miller and 40 men; the Yaegers, with Lieut. Smith and 34 men; the Jackson Guards of Butler co., Capt. Bruck and 20 men; Butler Guards, Capt. Vandevere and 30 men; Cincinnati Cadets, Capt. O. B. Farley and 30 men.

            The Western train brought the Clay Guards, First Lieut. Smith Davidson and 22 muskets.

            “About 9 o’clock the corps formed a line of battle on Main st., commanded by Maj. Gen. Speice of the Second Division.  The line was formed by Lieut. Col. D. G. Fitch assisted by the adjutant general of the division, aided by Lieut. Cols. Loury and Mead and Majs. Pease and Loury.  When the column was ready about 11 o’clock Maj. Speice passed command to Maj. Jones of Sandusky, who put the line into motion, countermarching on Main st.  The right of the column halted at Franklin st., where the commander-in-chief and staff passed it in review.  It then took up the line of march in the following order:

            “Commander-in-chief and staff, followed by Maj. Gen. Speice and Maj. Jones with their staffs; Menter’s band from Cincinnati; the Rover Guards of Cincinnati; Lafayette Guards of Cincinnati; German Yaegers of Cincinnati and the Queen City Cadets.  Following these were the officers of the sraff of the Seventh Division., Ohio Militia.  Next the Sandusky Light Artillery and the Tremont Light Guards; Tuttle’s band of Springfield and the Springfield Light Guards; Troy band, followed by the Troy Blues and Troy Light Artillery.  Then the Lebanon and Hamilton bands; the Warren Guards of Lebanon; Butler Guards of Hamilton; Brig. Gen. Vallandigham and staff.  Next came the Dayton band and German Yaegers; Washington Light Guards and National Guards of Dayton; Clay Guards of Clay.; Light Guards, Montgomery Guards, Dayton Artillery and Steuben Light Artillery, all of Dayton; all flanked by Capt., Houk’s cavalry of Dayton. 

            “The column marched to the fairgrounds, maneuvred for awhile and was dismissed.  Rev. d. Winters opened the exercises with an eloquent prayer, followed by an air by Menter’s band of Cincinnati.  Maj. Haines read the Declaration of Independence and then Adjt. Gen. Carrington of Columbus, orator of the day, pronounced a stirring and patriotic address.

            “After the orator the Sandusky band played some airs and then Rev. Winters pronounced the benediction.  The different companies then re-formed and marched back to the city to be dismissed for dinner.  At 4 o’clock they reassembled and marched to the fairgrounds to drill for medals and honors.

            “The medal for light artillery was won by the Dayton Light Guards; for heavy military infantry, the Rover Guards of Cincinnati, while Sandusky won the medal for artillery.  The Sandusky artillery astonished our citizens by taking apart their wagon and firing about eight times per minute.

            “By 7:30 the trials were over and many of the companies left, all satisfied with the day spent with their fellow soldiers in Dayton.

            “After night there was a display of fireworks, finishing the glorious pageant of the day.  Commander-in-chief, Gov. Chase, expressed himself as highly gratified with the exercises.  The governor left in the late afternoon for Columbus, accompanied by his daughter.

            “There were no disgraceful fights to mar the serenity nor brawling of drunken sots.  All seemed to be joined by a band of fellowship and love and each put his best foot forward.  Our hotels and eating saloons did a rapid business and doubtless reaped a gold harvest from their labors.  The number of persons present, including the military, was estimated at from 20,000 to 30,000.

            “Our friend Kenney furnished the splendid equipment for the horses of Gov. Chase and his staff.  It was certainly elegant military equipment, a credit to Kenney and to our city.  Those mounted with Gov. Chase were Adjt. Gen. Carrington, Comm. Gen. Buttles, Surgeon Gen.         McMillen, Engineer in Chief Col. Wood, Quartermaster Gen. A. C. Glenn. Gen. Speice. Cols. Loury, William Lamb, H. G. Cary, O. G. Fitch and B. Mead.  Other prominent military men in line were: Brig. Gen. Vallandingham; Majs. Haines, Craighead and McDaniel; Capts. J. S. Miller and Osborn; Brig. Maj. Mason; Maj. S. Shellenbarger; Maj. Jacob Snyder; Surgeon Dr. Parks; Chaplain W. Boggs; Col. King, Col. Tilton; Maj. M. B. Walker; Adjt. E. A. Parrott; Reg. Paymaster B. F. Eaker; Reg. Quartermaster G. Nauerth.”

            That list turned out to be a roll of honor when, some three years later Lincoln issued his call to arms.  Then the real purpose of the great military review in Dayton was apparent.  It was what we know in this more modern day as “preparedness.”  Every organization, and almost every one of the men composing them, which participated in the military spectacle here in 1858 went to the front at the first call in 1861.

            Another red-letter military day in Dayton, and one which assumed national prominence and came in for considerable first-page space was the visit of President Rutherford B. Hayes to the Soldiers’ Home here in 1877.  Little has been written of it, though at the time it was considered of sufficient importance to attract newspaper correspondents from all over the country.

            Among the publications devoting space to the president’s visit to Dayton was that famous old classic, “Harper’s Weekly.”  An entire page was devoted to the event by “Harper’s” under date of Oct. 13, 1877, and through the courtesy of Joseph Kathrens, of West Milton, the state’s greatest scrapbook devotee, we are reproducing two of the sketches in exact size.  They were made from photographs taken by Mott Brothers, pioneer photographers.

            Commenting on the illustrations, and under the simple single line head, “The President at Dayton,” Harper’s Magazine for Oct. 13, 1877, said:

            “The 12th of September was a great day for the pleasant city of Dayton, O., the seat of the National Home for disabled veterans of the war of the Union.  The soldiers’ national monument was to be unveiled by the president of the United States, and early in the morning thousands of people came crowding in from far and near to witness the interesting ceremony.  The city was gaily decorated with flags and the grounds and buildings of the home were put in holiday trim.

            “Long before the hour at which the procession was to move toward the Home, crowds of people had gathered along the route and around the house of Mr. Charles Anderson, where the president was a visitor, while thousands of others were on their way to the beautiful grounds.  At half-past eight the military companies assembled at the armory and marched to the residence of Mr. Anderson, whence they escorted the presidential party to the depot of the Home Avenue cards, where they took the train for the grounds.  The president and party proceeded to the Home in carriages.

            “They arrived at the north gate at half-past nine, where they were received by the Brown guards and escorted to headquarters, a salute of 21 guns being fired as the distinguished visitors arrived on the grounds.

            “A grand review and inspection of nearly 3000 veterans took place at 10 o’clock, after which the president was escorted to the grandstand where Col. Brown, governor of the home, read a short address of welcome. Gen. Benjamin Fr. Butler, president of the board of managers, then introduced the president, who made a brief address.

            “ ‘My friends’ he said in a few unpremeditated sentences, ‘a little plain soldier talk, is all you will expect.  This monument reminds me, as I mention it, of the first ones erected in 1861.  You will remember what they were.  All who took part in the first battles remember the feelings with which we saw the remains of our dead comrades gathered up by those detailed to bury the dead.  When they had been tearfully, tenderly cared for, we looked about for some mementoes they could leave and they left little fragments of cracker boxes, marking thereon with a pencil the name of the regiment and company of the dead comrade.

            “‘Little did we expect then that instead of the lid of a cracker box for a headboard, a beautiful monument like the one we have seen unveiled today should be erected in their memory. 

How glorious the change!  Does it not remind you of a growth in mankind of a sentiment of gratitude toward the solders?  Now, we know that they saved to liberty and to peace the best hope of the best continent on the globe.  As this work compares with the frail cracker box memorials, so does the work which they have done compare with any conception of it which we then could have had.

            “ ‘Forever hereafter we shall remember the American private soldier as having established a free nation where every man has a fair chance in the race for life.  There was work for the American private soldier.  Let us not forget this lesson, it is a monument to remind us that men are still living of that great army who were veterans of that war.  Some have lost limbs.  Wherever they are let us remember the dead.  Our duty to the dead American soldier can best be paid by the kindness and regard to the living American soldier.’

            “Addresses were also made by Secretary McCrary, Chief Justice Waite and others, after which the audience was dismissed for dinner.

            “At half past 2 o’clock from the platform where the unveiling ceremonies took place, there occurred one of the grandest scenes ever witnessed by those present.  At least 20,000 people were crowded into the space of a city square, among them 2000 ladies, while on the surrounding slopes and knolls for two squares distant were to be seen half as many more.

            “Four military companies in gay uniforms, with flags flying, escorted the president and party to a pavilion that had been erected near the lake, close to the present Lakeside entrance to the institution.  The veterans in the home were massed in front of the lake on a slope, and behind and at each side of them the crowds of visitors covered the grounds as far as they could hear.  Col. Brown welcomed the visitors, and asked the president to step to the front of the platform.  As he did so three rousing cheers were given.  The president had not been expected to make an address, but the reception was too hearty to permit of his refusing the crowd a few words.  He said:

            “ ‘Gov. Brown, comrades and fellow citizens - I do not take this reception for personal compliment.  This large assemblage of disabled veterans of the volunteer army of the Union manifest by this welcome the respect for the office which for the time-being has devolved upon me.  These brave men fought and suffered to restore the union of the states and to make permanent the edifice of constitutional liberty which your fathers built.  Their services and sacrifices will be remembered with affection and gratitude.  Their prayer and ours is that the Supreme Ruler of the Universe will forever have one and all of them in his special care and keeping.’

            “At 8 o’clock President Hayes was presented to the immense concourse and received with great cheers.  He was given the cord to pull the canvas off the statue, but unfortunately it broke, and laughter and expressions of regret followed.  The president remained standing some minutes while a ladder 40 feet long was procured, and the unveiling was completed amid cheers.”

            L. B. Gunckel, one of the orators of the day, and who occupied a place near the president on the platform, stepped forward as the chief executive concluded his brief talk and, raising his hand for silence, said:

            “One more act of usurpation, and I am through.”  He then led Mrs. Hayes, wife of the president, to the front of the platform and introduced her to the vast audience.  Her appearance was greeted with cheer after cheer.

            While the president and board of managers, Mrs. Hayes and some friends were assembled on the reviewing stand a splendid pageant was being prepared for them.  Guards repulsed a crowd that was ardently pushing forward.  Word was sent to the platform that an aged friend desired to see Mrs. Hayes.  “Certainly,” said the wife of the president, “help her to the stand, if you can, through the crowd.  I want to see her.”

            After serious effort an aged and feeble lady, at least 75 years old, was pushed to the front, and half fainting, climbed the steep steps to the platform.  Mrs. Hayes met the venerable lady at the topmost step, and they feel into each other’s arms like mother and daughter, kissing.  “Lucy, do you remember me?”  was heard by a few who were involuntary witnesses.  “Why, my dear Mrs. P., do I ever forget my old friends?” asked the president’s wife, and the two women melted into tears.

            “The good old lady, the widow of one of the Methodist fathers - was happy,’ wrote the newspaper man present.  “She sat down quietly.  Mrs. Hayes tenderly looked to her comfort, and the dear old lady was happy.  It was a pretty and a pathetic incident of the great event.  It was a simple story of a true womanly heart, and not affected by vanity of station.”

            Some are living who recall the visit of President Hayes.  Boys they were then, it is true, but with a deep-seated boyish patriotism that keeps such military events as this one ever green in memory.  None are left who were present at the first one of which we write, the state-wide review conducted by Gov. Chase in 1858.  But that greatest of all histories of a community-the daily press-is keeping it alive for posterity to read and enjoy, and point to as positive proof that this has, since the Northwest Territory was made safe for the white man, been a loyal and a patriotic neighborhood.