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Report of General George H. Wood on the Dayton Flood of 1913
Part Two - April 1st to May 6th, 1913


On Tuesday, April 1st, the machinery of the waterworks having been gone over carefully and placed in running condition, the water was again running through the city mains, but in limited quantities. A general order was issued from these headquarters directing that this water must be used for domestic purposes only and boiled before using, as the medical department reported it not fit for drinking purposes without boiling.

On the afternoon of April 1st, I visited Miamisburg and found the situation there very bad. The entire business section of the town had been torn to pieces, both railroads completely crippled and all bridges gone from over the river.

The civil courts being crippled, and, as under the rule of martial law some kind of a court became a necessity to take cognizance of offences against martial law, a military commission was appointed by General Order No. 19 composed of the following:


Captain Karl I. Best, Third Ohio Infantry.

Captain Arthur S. Houts, Fifth Ohio Infantry.

Lieutenant Charles H. Milton, Fifth Ohio Infantry.

Captain Hubert J. Turney, Fifth Ohio Infantry, Judge Advocate.


The same officers were further detailed to sit as a Special Court for the trial of any military offenders.

By General Order No. 20, Captain Hubert J. Turney, Fifth Ohio Infantry, was detailed as Provost Marshal for the Territory included in the Dayton Military District, and the many serious questions involving salvage of property were placed in his hands. Unless a person saw with his own eyes the amount of property of all kinds scattered over the submerged district, it would be impossible to appreciate the immensity of the salvage question. As a conservative figure I would say that between $150,000 and $200,000 worth of property was salvaged under the direction of the Provost Marshal and returned to the rightful owners.

Provost Marshal Turney was directed by me to organize a detective bureau for the greater security of life and property, the chief danger arising from the great number of men attracted to Dayton by the high price of labor during the reconstruction period. Many of these men were earnest workers, but others were from the flotsam and jetsam of the criminal classes of Chicago, from whence most of the number came.

He proceeded to Cleveland and obtained, by courtesy of Mayor Baker of that city, the detail of detectives John T. Shibley and James Moore, who rendered highly efficient services in the Provost Marshal's department throughout the tour of duty.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 2nd, you, accompanied by the State Flood Commission, Brigadier General John C. Speaks and staff, arrived in the city of Dayton, and were met by the General, Commanding, and taken to the National Cash Register, where an important conference was held covering the general situation in the Dayton Military District.

On the following morning the Governor and party were escorted all over the city of Dayton and given an opportunity to see the terrible work of destruction.

In the Enquirer of April 3, 1913, there appeared an article stating that seventeen men had been shot the night before under order of "Drumhead Court Martials," several of the executions being located on the steps of the Callahan Bank Building. The story was without the slightest foundation. I sent a personal wire to the managing editor of the Enquirer, which was published by them the next morning, denying the whole story. In this connection I would say that not a single person was shot and killed by any of the National Guardsmen, or by any one else, during the period of martial law in the city of Dayton, although there seemed to be quite a disposition on the part of enterprising newspaper correspondents to invent fictitious tales of drumhead courts martial. Drumhead courts martial are purely creatures of fiction and not known in American military law.

On April 3rd, the city of Dayton suffered from very violent and heavy rains and the river rose rapidly, and, unfortunately, the town was filled with many sensational  rumors as to breaking of reservoirs, etc. About midnight of April 3rd, being alarmed at the general situation. Colonel Talbott, Chief Engineer, and myself, made a tour of the levees in a driving rain storm, and found them safe, although the water in one or two places was very close to the top. In this connection I wish to add, to the credit of the Guard, that through the awful storm and rain of that night we found them alert in all parts of the city, and in several incidences on guard at the danger spots of the levee, this being a most unpleasant and trying kind of guard duty.

On the morning of April 4th, you having returned the previous evening from a visit of inspection at Hamilton, left with your party for Piqua.

The river continued rising on April 4th, but, fortunately, did not break through the levees. The breaks in them had been partially filled in by the Engineer Department, although it was impossible in the limited time since the flood to completely restore the levees.

On April 5th the rain ceased and the river began to fall, which was a most fortunate circumstance, as the nerves of the people of Dayton had been wrought upon for over a week to a terrible tension and they could not stand much more strain.

On Saturday, April 5th, Senator T. E. Burton visited the city of Dayton and was escorted over the entire city by Colonel Talbott and myself. Senator Burton's position in Congress, as expert on rivers and harbors, rendered his visit to Dayton a matter of great importance, and we desired to give him a full idea of the situation in the city.

On April 6th, Senator Pomerene also visited the city and was in like manner escorted to the various parts thereof.

On April 5th Major H. H. Snively, Second Ambulance Company, 0. N. G., and a greater portion of the Ambulance Company and Hospital Corps, 0. N. G., were relieved from duty and returned to home station.

On April 4th Captain W. R. Hughes was relieved from the command of the Miamisburg district and Colonel E. S. Bryant, Second Ohio Infantry, was placed in command thereof, and on the same day general Order No. 23, on account of increased daylight was issued, extending the hour of curfew one-half hour, making the time 6:30 P.M.

On April 6th General Orders No. 26, 27 and 28 were issued reading as follows:

"Notice is hereby given that farmers and hucksters coming into the city for the purpose of selling and delivering food supplies will not be pressed into service. Such produce must not be sold above regular prices. Those charging exorbitant prices will be subject to arrest and confiscation."

"Notice. Salvage is the property, not of the finder, but of the lawful owner. Without passing upon the rights of persons saving and preserving salvage, for compensation by the owner thereof, notice is given that persons having in their possession the property of another, whether saved by them or brought upon their premises by the action of the elements, should seasonably report the fact to the owner, if known, or if the owner be unknown, to the Provost Marshal, or the Military Commander within the zone where the property is situated, or the Commander-in-Chief. Persons having saved property have not the right to convert it to their own possession or to sell it. It is neither proper nor safe to assume that the owner of damaged goods has elected to abandon them, nor to take them away, convert them, or sell them under such an assumption. The legal owner is the sole judge of their value and of the question as to whether he desires to regain possession of them, or to abandon them."

"No person, not a merchant of Dayton on the 25th day of March, 1913, may open a new retail store within the district, governed by martial law during its continuance, without first obtaining a permit from this office. No expense will be attached to the issuance of such a permit and no fee charged; but no such a permit will be issued with-out the most searching investigation into the good faith and permanent character of the proposed new enterprise."

General Order No. 28 was issued because it came to the knowledge of the General Commanding.. that certain fly-by-night merchants from Chicago had leased store rooms in Dayton, and intended to take advantage of the condition of the Dayton merchants. As a result of this order no such stores were opened, and only two applications made for new stores, both of which were refused.

On Monday, April 7th, the ten day bank holiday ordered by you having expired, the banks in the city of Dayton opened for business, and, at their request, guards were placed in their banking houses who remained there during banking hours.

On Monday, April 7th, the situation in Dayton having materially improved, the following organizations were relieved from duty and directed to report to home stations:


Company A, 9th Infantry, Springfield.

Company C, 9th Infantry, Dayton.

Company A, Ohio Signal Corps, Toledo.


On April 8th, Colonel Vollrath and the companies of the Eighth Ohio Infantry, and Colonel Bryant and the companies of the Second Ohio Infantry, were relieved from duty and directed to report to home stations, Colonel Vollrath's command of the first military zone being assumed by Captain L. E. Smith, Third Ohio Infantry.

The citizens of Dayton were very much exercised over this withdrawal of troops and protested very vehemently on the subject, but I was of the opinion that sufficient troops were left in the city of Dayton to properly handle the situation, and the result showed that my opinion was correct.

By this time both the electric light and gas companies had re-established portions of their service and parts of the city were again in normal condition, as far as street lights were concerned, and this naturally reduced very materially the guard duty of the troops.

Colonel Bryant, having been relieved from command at Miamisburg, Lieutenant J. M. Fitzpatrick, Company K, Unattached Infantry, 0. N. G., was placed in command.

On April 8th, after a conference with the Police Department of the city of Dayton, it was determined to begin the transfer of territory from the patrol of the National Guard back to the police department; and by G. 0. No. 34 and Special Order No. 12. Paragraph 11, all territory lying south of Mad River, and east and south of the general line of Detroit Street to LaBelle, Richard Wayne, Oak, Brown and Apple to the Miami River was turned over to the Police Department, and they also were placed in charge of the traffic duty in the central part of the city. At the same time the territory covering Riverdale north of the flooded districts and Dayton View was turned over to the Police Department, as was the territory west of the submerged district in Miami City and Edgemont.

On Friday, April 11th, Major Allen and three companies of the Fourth Ohio Infantry, on duty in Dayton and that portion of Company K, Unattached Infantry, still on duty in Dayton, were relieved from duty and ordered to report to their home stations. This was rendered more easy by the police assuming control of certain sections of the city as mentioned above.

On Friday, April 11th, natural gas also was turned into the mains of the city. This was a great assistance to the people of Dayton, who had difficulty for the preceding two weeks and a half in heating their houses and cooking food, a large proportion of them relying entirely upon natural gas.

During the first four days of the flood and before the arrival of any considerable portion of the Ohio National Guard, many citizens of Dayton volunteered their services and were sworn in as special deputies. To show a proper appreciation of their services and to free them from any possible further demands on their time, General Order No. 37 was issued April 12th, reading as follows:

"All obligations incumbent upon volunteer guards, special deputies, and citizen police sworn in as such, since March 25, 1913, are hereby released and all appointments as such are void.

"Special thanks and commendations are extended to all citizens who have so given their time without compensation for the public good in any such capacity for the meritorious services rendered in these regards."

On April 13th Lieutenant Fitzpatrick and the detachment of Company K, Unattached Infantry, were relieved from duty at Miamisburg and Hon. W. A. Riter was appointed Provost Marshal.

During all of this time the work of cleaning the stores and houses of the city of Dayton was progressing at what seemed to most of the citizens at a very slow rate; but when the amount of deposits from the water and the ruined buildings, pavements and property of all kind scattered over the streets is considered, it is probably that wonderful progress was made in this work.

One of the greatest helps in the work was found in the use of flat cars run in on the city street railway lines which handled the hauling away of the debris in much larger quantities and much more quickly than could have been done by wagons.

On Tuesday, April 15th, Lieutenant-Colonel John R. McQuigg and the Engineers Corps left for their home station and this district was turned over to Captain D. J. Hapner, Company F, Third Ohio Infantry.

On April 15th it being apparent that it would be necessary to continue troops in the Dayton Military District for some time and, it not being the wish of the Brigadier-General Commanding to work any hardship on the enlisted men, Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Davis, Fifth Ohio Infantry, was directed to organize a provisional battalion of four companies from the Fifth Ohio Infantry and Colonel H. G. Castrow was directed to organize two provisional battalions from the Third Ohio Infantry of men willing to remain indefinitely on military duty in the city of Dayton, Companies A and C, Third Ohio Infantry, having reported for duty in Dayton after completion of tour of duty at Piqua.

On April 16th, General Order No. 40 was issued reading as follows:

"On account of the increasing length of the time of daylight the hour of Curfew is changed to read from 7:00 P. M. to 4:30 A. M. amending General Order No. 5 and General Order No. 23."

On Thursday, April 17th, through the great courtesy of the Winters National Ban!;, City National Bank, Dayton National Bank, and the Dayton Savings and Trust Company, the Brigadier General Commanding borrowed 865,000, the only security required being the deposit of the pay rolls, and paid off all troops in the city of Dayton up to the day of payment. In justice to the other banks of the city of Dayton, the General Commanding desires to say that the first four banks from whom this favor was asked granted it, rendering it unnecessary to go any further.

On Friday, April 18th, I relieved and ordered to home stations, all the officers and men of the Fifth Ohio Infantry, not included in the provisional battalions made up from this command, and the officers and men of the Third Ohio Infantry, not included in the two provisional battalions, and Battery A, Ohio Field Artillery, reducing the Dayton garrison to practically one regiment. On the same day I increased the territory covered by the police to all of that portion of the city of Dayton lying west and north of the river and south and east of the submerged district. This practically reduced the territory covered by the troops to a very limited space, being the business, and that portion of the residence section of Dayton lying west of Main Street and south and east of the river. At the same time curfew was extended to 7:00 o'clock P. M. in the evening.

On April 21st, by your authority, General Order No. 42 was issued:

"By authority of the Governor of Ohio, the order issued March 27, 1913, directing that all saloons in the city of Dayton be closed, which was afterward extended by order of March 28, 1913, to cover all saloons in Montgomery County, is hereby modified as follows:

"Ail saloons in Montgomery County are hereby permitted to be open from the hours of 8:00 A. M. to 6:00 P. M. All saloons in Montgomery County must be closed on Sunday. No intoxicating liquors to be sold to be carried from the premises. No intoxicating liquors to be sold to an intoxicated person. The provisions of the Greenlund License Law are hereby made a part of this order and the violation of any provision of this law will be reported to the License Commission in addition to having their places closed."

This order went into effect April 22nd, and while there were two unfortunate disturbances and quite a number of citizens celebrated their month's drought by imbibing too freely, the day passed fairly peacefully.

On Wednesday, April 23rd, the Provisional Battalion of the Fifth Ohio Infantry, were relieved from duty and directed to report to home station. On the same day I had a conference with the Citizens' Relief Committee and told them that there was no more necessity for martial law in the city of Dayton, and that the city ought to take care of its own police duty and civil government, to which the members of the Committee did not agree. I telephoned you, giving you my views and requesting that martial law be suspended, and all troops remaining in the district be relieved and returned home, but you stated that as the Relief Committee had unanimously requested that martial law be continued you would grant then request for the present and relieve no more troops.

On April 24th, under orders from you, I proceeded to Hamilton to investigate the situation in that city. I met and discussed the situation with the Citizens' Committee, and found conditions there very similar to the conditions in Dayton. Martial law was not then needed in any sense of the word but, owing to the fact that the citizens seemed to have no confidence whatever in the civil government, which had been replaced by the military arm, they insisted that martial law should continue. In fact they seemed to be willing to have martial law continue until the general election in November, 1913.

On April 25th, all territory in the city of Dayton, outside of that bound by the river, canal and railroad, was turned over to the civil authorities. On the same day Companies B, D and M, Third Ohio Infantry, were relieved from duty and directed to report to home station.

On April 25th, Captain Turney was relieved as Provost Marshal, and his assistant, Second Lieutenant Mills Matthews was appointed Provost Marshal in his place.

On Sunday, April 27th, you visited the city of Dayton and held a lengthy conference with the Citizens' Relief Committee, going into the question very thoroughly of the necessity for martial law in the Dayton Military District, returning to Columbus the same evening.

On April 28th, Companies C and L, Third Ohio Infantry, were relieved from duty, and the hour of curfew changed to read 11 o'clock P. M. to 4:30 A. M., and the hour of closing the saloons extended to 6:30 P. M.

On April 27th, by General Order No. 47, a Board composed of Colonel H. G. Cat-row, Captain Cyrus E. Mead and Captain William V. Knoll, Third Ohio Infantry, was appointed to pass on and audit all claims or alleged claims against the State of Ohio, arising out of the service of the Ohio National Guard in the Dayton Military District from March 25th, 1913.

The services of this Board were afterward used by the American Red Cross and the Citizens' Relief Committee and the Board became a general clearing house for all kind and description of claims arising out of the flood situation in the city of Dayton.

On April 28th, Company A, Third Ohio Infantry, was relieved from duty and ordered to report to home station, and Major R. L. Hubler, Third Ohio Infantry, directed to form a Provisional Battalion of the three companies for duty in the Dayton Military District; the idea being to keep only those men whose services would not be a hardship on them or their employers.

On April 29th, under orders received through the Adjutant General's office, I proceeded to Washington, D. C., Colonel H. G. Catrow assuming command during my absence.

On May 2nd, I returned from Washington and again assumed command of the Dayton Military District.

On Saturday, May 3rd, I held a conference with the Citizens' Relief Committee and, after a great deal of patient argument, convinced them that martial law was no longer necessary in the city of Dayton and they prepared and passed a resolution asking you to suspend martial law and relieve the troops from duty in the city of Dayton. This was communicated by me to yourself by telephone and you authorized me to take steps to relieve the troops in Dayton, Tuesday, May 6th, stating that a proclamation would be issued by you lifting martial law. This was done under your hand Monday, May 5th, and at 8 o'clock A. M. Tuesday, May 6th, by General Order No. 50, all officers and troops in the Dayton Military District were relieved from duty and directed to report to home stations.

At 8:00 o'clock on the morning of May 5th, I personally called on the Director of Public Safety of the city of Dayton, and notified him that I had relieved all guards and patrols from duty and that the city of Dayton was again fully in the charge of the civil authorities.

On relinquishing command of the Dayton Military District, I issued General Order No. 51, as follows:

1. "Martial law having been suspended in the County of Montgomery by the proclamation of Governor James M. Cox, at 8:00 A. M., Tuesday morning, May 6, 1913, and the County of Montgomery having been formally turned over by the Brigadier-General Commanding to the Civil Authorities, the Dayton Military District is hereby disbanded. The General Commanding desires to express his appreciation of the conduct of the officers and men of the Ohio National Guard, who served in the Dayton Military District. The work during the first few weeks of this tour of duty was arduous and difficult. The city was in complete darkness, doors were open, windows were without glass and property of all kinds was unprotected. In spite of all these facts, no authenticated case of looting by troops has been brought to these Headquarters.

2. The Ohio National Guard has shown what training and discipline can do, and it is the hope of the General Commanding that. they will in the future maintain their present high standing and keep the confidence and good will of the citizens of the State."

The work done by the National Guard in the city of Dayton was of such a high character that the General Order quoted above is but a poor appreciation of their services. They came to a city crushed down, submerged, and dark, with the civil government gone. They started the work of re-creation and they did their work well. Both officers and men alike, under the most disagreeable and painful surroundings, were vigilant, watchful and cheerful. I wish to especially comment upon the patrolling done by the enlisted men. On streets covered with debris, without a ray of light, on many nights in drenching rain storms, they marched their posts, and many citizens of Dayton have since then told me that the step of the Guards patrolling the streets was the sweetest lullaby they had ever heard.

It would be unjust to conclude this military report without alluding to the magnificent work done by the Citizens' Relief Committee, Colonel John H. Patterson, Chairman, Mayor E. T. Phillips, Colonel Frank T. Huffman, Adam Schantz and John R. Flotron. In connection with the Red Cross Society they had charge of all relief work and co-operated with Dr. Devine, local manager of the American Red Cross, in handling the vast bulk of business that passed through its hands.

The Relief Committee also most cordially supported all military measures taken by me, and by their personal acquiescence in obeying the law set an example to the other citizens of Dayton.

I also most heartily commend the untiring efforts of Mr. Mays Dodds, Director of Public Safety of the city of Dayton. From Tuesday morning, March 25, 1913, when the waters were descending upon our unhappy city, until May 6th, when I turned over the city to him, there was never the slightest friction between his department and the Military Government. We worked in perfect unison for the saving of life and property, the guarding of the city and the common benefit and good of all citizens.

Major Thomas L. Rhoades, V. S. A., whose services were kindly given to the State of Ohio by the War Department, performed the duties of Chief Sanitary Officer in a most satisfactory manner and a deep debt of gratitude is due from the citizens of Dayton to Major Rhoades and the Secretary of War.

To the members of my staff, all of whom displayed great zeal and faithfulness in the performance of their duty, I desire to express my sincerest appreciation for the good work.

Colonel Vollrath, Colonel Zimerman, Colonel Bryant, Colonel Howard, Colonel Catrow and Lieutenant-Colonel McQuigg, during their service in the Dayton Military District, carried out most cordially all orders looking to the rehabilitation of the city of Dayton and maintained in every way the high standard of the Ohio National Guard.

But I feel that my deepest debt of gratitude is to you for your hearty and consistent support in the arduous task which you placed on me. In the early days of the flood, when the problems were most vexatious and difficulties greatest, you were on duty at every hour of the day and night and the very feeling that you were in hearty sympathy with the work done made our labors easier and our responsibilities lighter.


Brigadier-General, Commanding Dayton

Military District.


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