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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Augustus T. Ward, Co G, 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

It was 1861. Augustus Ward was “fired with indignation with the insults the (Union) flag received from the traitors of the South.” But he did not enlist on the first call of President Lincoln. His parents encouraged him to remain at home with them on the farm in Fearing Township. He was 20 years old, born in 1840, the fourth child of Robert and Lucy Ward. He described his occupation as a farmer.

When the President made a second call for 300,000 more men, he felt that “his country needed his services.” He enlisted on August 12, 1861 in a company of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry being formed at Lower Salem. He was first appointed drummer of the company. Before fighting began, he was promoted to Sergeant, then First Sergeant of Company G of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Augustus wrote a four page letter to his family dated September 25, 1862, after major actions at South Mountain and Antietam Creek in Maryland. A copy is preserved in the Marietta College Library Special Collections.

What follows are some of his observations. All quotes are from his letter. His descriptions of the countryside there and the military actions are rather matter of fact. There is only scattered detail of the military actions and the devastation on the battlefield. He says nothing about his personal situation or emotions. Perhaps this was his nature; or maybe he chose not to disturb his family with too much detail, especially regarding the danger he was exposed to. However, his passion for the Union cause and against the rebels is obvious.

Company G of the “36th” encountered the rear of confederate forces in Frederick, Maryland on September 12, 1862. They were ordered to affix bayonets and move “Forward.” There were several obstacles in their march – a rail fence, picket fence, a field of corn. Then they came upon a “gentleman’s fine residence with neat white paling (picket-type fence) around the front yard & everything nice.” The owner of the property and a young lady watched from an upstairs window as Co. G approached. “With a “rush – a shout - a hurrah for the Union - a curse on the rebels – and a tender look at a gal in the window – Co. G dashed at the fence and down it went with a crash.” His wording about the residence, the owner, and lady in the window suggests possible empathy mixed in with the bravado of troops on the march.

An example of the pastoral nature of the area in Maryland: Wise Farm at Fox Gap, one of points of conflict at Battle of South Mountain

On they went into town (Frederick or Middletown?)…” all was boisterous excitement, ladies cheering and waving kerchiefs.” Enemy had left, "having given leg tail towards Harpers Ferry.” This may have been General Lee’s deliberate splitting of his force. It was “a pretty nice town, has been in times of peace a beautiful place. It is situated on one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen.

Federal soldiers in Middletown MD marching to the South Mountain battlefield, courtesy

They camped the night of September 13, 1862, by a creek. On Sept 14 they received orders to pile knapsacks and leave the sick men to guard them. “This we took as an omen of the coming fight.” The 36th marched out at 6 am. He observed that an large wheat crop was being sown, fields having been cleaned and plowed. He also noted that fruit was in abundance – apples, peaches, pears, and quinces. “I expect I get more apples here than at home.” His notation of the farming and fruit likely reflects his interest from farming at home – and could be his way of expressing homesickness. They marched on National Pike, then diverged to the left to South Mountain “which the enemy has possession of.”

Order was given to "charge bayonet"! “It would have done you good or scared you to death to hear the yell we gave as we charged up the hill. As we came up the brow of the hill, they fired a volley at us and wounded 20 or so - and then (they) fled precipitously. They could not bear the idea of cold steel so near their persons.” He also mentions that two Union soldiers in his division "turned tail like an ignoble hound."

“We got possession of the mountain and placed batteries on it. The enemy made two charges but were repulsed with loss. Started at 4 pm, lasted an hour. 100 rebels killed. Our boys lay on the edge of the woods. Enemy came within 75 yds, but our fire was so hot that they could get no access. When the fight was over, we went to look over the field. The carnage - for so small an action - was fearful.” That ended the Battle of South Mountain, a prelude to the Battle of Antietam. See another first hand account of South Mountain fighting at

Fighting at Crampton’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain (Harper’s Weekly, October 25, 1862; A. R. Ward, artist; NPS History Collection

The 36th next faced the rebels on September 17 at Antietam Creek and “took a stone bridge after severe loss and crossed over a made a charge.” His one line mention of the battle at Antietam vastly understated the ferocity and human cost of the contest. September 17 has been reckoned the bloodiest day in American military history. Augustus reported in his letter that after the battle “the enemy has retreated into Va. again.”

”Battle of Antietam,” lithograph by Kurz and Allison, 1888, showing the fighting around Burnside Bridge (Library of Congress)

He served 4 years, having been promoted several times, serving as captain when he was discharged July 31, 1865. I admire Augustus for serving the full duration of the war. His service besides South Mountain and Antietam included actions at Lewisburg, Hoover’s Gap, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Cloyd’s Mountain, Berryville, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek.

He was fortunate to have lived through the experience, apparently without disabling injury. The casualty (killed, wounded, captured, or missing), rate for active duty Union soldiers was about 1 in 3. Many more died of illness, disease, and poor nutrition. A total of 620,000 died in active duty from all sources on both sides. Union and Confederate soldiers alike endured difficult conditions from battle, disease, lack of pay, sometimes inadequate clothing and equipment, short rations, bad weather, separation from loved ones, and long periods of boredom in camp between military actions. Many soldiers on both sides deserted or did not reenlist. Those who persevered, including Augustus Ward, deserve credit for their bravery and sacrifice.

Augustus records the end of his service in a postwar autobiographical summary: "After his discharge he retired at once to farm in his native township."

Well done, Capt. Ward.

Monday, October 13, 2014

1964 Flood in Marietta

My future wife Suzanne and I launched a canoe near the Red Cross office on Wooster Street. The river level was that high in March of 1964; water covered the downtown. The canoe was an old birchbark canoe - could have belonged to Rufus Putnam - probably not fit for flood water exploration. But we were young and decided to suspend the use of common sense for this outing.

It was exciting on the open water drifting past flooded buildings, traffic lights, and vehicles. It was also eerily quiet. The first stop was the Monument to the Start Westward in Muskingum Park. I was a photo bug and editor of the Marietta High School yearbook that year. The quest was to capture the monument, which included a boat, as if it were afloat. Clever, huh? Click, click. Done.

Next we cruised down front street and took more pictures. Water lapped at the Post Office steps. The river had crested and was starting to fall. We discovered the hydrological effect of this when we passed Butler Street. A strong current of receding water pushed us alarmingly to the right toward the buildings. Quick! - Row hard, real hard! Whew, past the intersection, the current subsided.

We reached Greene Street and hit more strong current. In a panic, we realized (duh: blinding flash of the obvious) that we were near open water with no immediate shelter from the current. The canoe lurched to the right as we tried to turn the corner to head east on Greene. Adrenaline surged - how can we escape this angry river. A long unscheduled trip downriver seemed quite likely. But at the right time we neared a parking meter. I grabbed that meter head and managed to swing the canoe around enough so that we could get away from the current. We dodged behind some buildings and breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the trip was boring by comparison.

The flood was the highest in some time. It flooded my parents jewelry store on Putnam Street, Baker & Baker Jewelers. I saw first hand the elaborate system which many downtown businesses had for coping with periodic "high water," the term locals use for floods. In the store, all of the display cases could be wheeled out. Wall shelving was unbolted from the walls and removed. Walls and floor were smooth concrete - easier to clean up when the water receded. No basement to contend with - it was filled in. The store was a three story building. Upper floors were used to store the inventory, displays and shelving. An electric lift moved the larger stuff up to the third floor. Dad hired a couple of strong (that left me out) high school kids for the heavy lifting. There were also family and friends who helped.

These photos show the street, the electric lift, and interior on the 3rd floor

Volunteers include my brother Joe's buddies Bill LaBarre, Jim Lallathin, and an unidentified person pretending to be busy.

Left photo is exterior view, on right is view from inside of third floor. Worker is Dave(?) Wilcoxen, then from Belpre.

Many local businesses had similar systems to allow for quick removal of inventory and fixtures. Prior to flood control reservoir systems, implemented mid-20th century, serious flooding was a frequent occurance. Floods created havoc even in Marietta's early days. Thomas Walcutt records a flood episode in his journal in February, 1790: On February 17, he observed that "the rivers continue to rise exceedingly fast." The next day water rose so quickly that "before we could get our breakfast done,the water rose so fast that the floor was afloat and we stood in water up to our buckles..."

Life is definitely disrupted with flooding, but people recover and move on - stiff upper lip and all that. Such is is life along the rivers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

W. P. Snyder Jr Sternwheeler leaves for Louisville

It was a blustery, cold morning on October 4 as the W P Snyder, Jr. Sternwheel rested at her moorings waiting for transport to Louisville. There she will be part of the Festival of Riverboats. See for more information. Thousands of attendees will have a chance to see and tour the W. P. Snyder Jr., the last surviving sternwheel workboat.

Ready for move. Notice retracted smokestack

From 1918 to 1954, she functioned as a towboat, mainly moving barges of coal for Crucible Steel (and other previous owners) in the Pittsburgh area. In 1955 the Snyder was donated to the Ohio Historical Society to be moored at the Ohio River Museum. On September 16, 1955 the W. P. Snyder, Jr arrived at Marietta under her own power, smoke billowing from the stacks and the steam whistle echoing through the valley.

W. P. Snyder, Jr. with coal barges in the Pittsburgh area in the late 1940s

On this morning in 2014, the Snyder is being readied for the move. The crew of the towing company secure bulkhead doors, retract the smokestacks and flagpole, and loosen the spar poles anchoring the boat to the shore. A few dozen onlookers watch, chat quietly, and take lots of photos and videos.

Soon the towboat Dale Taylor edges up to the Snyder's towing knees - the support structures on the bow where barges were pushed by the Snyder in her operational days. She is secured to the Dale Taylor towboat and soon they are under way.

Moving the Snyder requires careful orchestration of details, including monitoring the weather, river conditions, and the turning of the Historic Harmar Bridge. Huh? Turning a bridge? Yes, and here is the background.

The Historic Harmar Bridge (HHB) is a railroad bridge originally built in 1873, replacing a covered bridge on the same piers. Below is a drawing showing the spans and a photo of the bridge. The span on the right with the circular base in the middle of the span is the swing span. It can be moved 90 degrees to allow boats to pass through. The span is turned by a hand operated crank. The HHB is the last railroad bridge in the country with an operating swing span.

The HHB had to be rebuilt more than once due to flood damage. The most recent was the 1913 flood which destroyed spans 1,2,and 3. The swing span survived. The bridge was rebuilt and was used for trains until 1962 when the railroad line was abandoned. In 1987, the bridge was modified with a pedestrian walkway. Pedestrians use the bridge and enjoy a more direct route between Harmar Village and Marietta downtown, not to mention the scenic views of the rivers.

Historic Harmar Bridge - Swing span in foreground in closed position.

Swing span is opened for the W. P. Snyder and towboat Dale Taylor to pass underneath

Moving the Snyder requires opening the swing span on the HHB. It takes 10-12 strong people to open and close the span. As the Snyder approaches the Putnam Bridge, the last of the volunteers scurries onto the bridge swing span to help with the turn. They begin pushing the turn lever and span responds. Soon it is fully open. A stiff, gusty wind and rain squall suddenly blows up, complicating the maneuvering process.

The Dale Taylor pilot skillfully navigates the W. P. Snyder, Jr. through the narrow opening, blows the whistle, and powers up. The locals assembled clap and cheer, seeing that the Snyder is safely through and on its way.

The start of this voyage highlighted two valuable historic assets in Marietta - the
W P Snyder, Jr. sternwheel towboat and the Historic Harmar Bridge. Today they worked together.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Every Child Deserves a Chance: the look back at the Washington County Children's Home

Suzanne and I, and our Old English Sheepdog Abby, were breathing hard after the steep ascent of the hill behind the old Children’s Home buildings in Marietta. We lived at the time on nearby Rathbone Terrace. On top, it is a serene setting. There are views up the Muskingum River valley. A stand of tall oaks offers shade.

We noticed a mowed clearing with a chain link fence around it. A bronze plaque explained that the area was a burial ground for 77 children who died while residents of the Children’s Home. The plaque had been erected in 1982 by the Washington County Children Services Board.

It was a poignant reminder for me of what the Children’s Home did in decades past- and what Washington County Children Services does today - providing a good home to neglected, abused, or orphaned kids. “Every Child Deserves a Chance” is the tag line for the current levy campaign to fund prevention efforts for at-risk children.

The tradition was begun by Catharine A. (Fay) Ewing (1822 - 1897). She was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, and in 1835 moved with her parents to Marietta. Catharine attended the Marietta Female Seminary and at age of 20 became a missionary among the Choctaw Indians in the west. While there, she learned that an orphan child died from being thrown down stairs during an alcohol fueled domestic argument. “The distress of mind I suffered over this sad affair so affected my health, that I was obliged to leave my work among the Indians, and return home; but the desire and purpose had arisen in my heart to have a home where I might care for such orphaned and homeless children. After this every effort was directed toward that object, every dollar laid up with miserly care.”

She moved to Kentucky to teach and save money for her project. After two years, she returned to Washington County and with savings and a modest inheritance purchased several acres of land in Lawrence Township near Moss Run. There was a two room cottage on the property which became the first “Children’s Home.” She convinced the infirmary trustees to provide $1.00 per week for expenses, pay half the medical expenses, buy new clothes for each child, and pay burial expenses when needed. She pledged to take care of the rest. On April 1, 1858, she took in 9 children under 10 years of age who had been housed in the county infirmary alongside alcoholics and mentally unstable adults.

Her initial efforts were applauded by many. But others, especially neighbors, were suspicious and even hostile. Some believed that her “charity” was simply a money-making scheme. Others did not want “paupers” and presumed misfits mingling with their kids. This prejudice lead to threats and vandalism at the home.

School officials tried to block her from sending her kids to the local schoolhouse. When she brought the children the first time, the teacher sent them home. Later a group of men blocked their entrance. They feared for the safety of the other students and objected to the local school having to bear the cost of educating orphans from the entire county. She finally succeeded in enrolling the children but the next year hired a teacher to educate the children at the home, a practice which continued until 1962.

The first few years were difficult. Finances were strained. She had limited help to manage the kids. In 1858 Construction was finished on a new house for the children. They rejoiced at having sufficient living space. Several times illness swept through the house – diphtheria, scarlet fever, influenza. Several of the children died from illness.

The diphtheria outbreak in June of 1860 was particularly challenging and lasted for 5 months. She became ill first and could not care for the kids. Her two hired women left. No others would work there for fear of contagion. Catharine herself explains: “All the help I had in caring for these 23 children, 8 of them sick, was the aid the children themselves could give me, though Mrs. Clogston, a neighbor, did the washing and ironing for me as a favor.” The hardest time came one evening when she thought one of the sick children might not survive the night. One of the boys sought help from a neighbor who refused, saying Catharine “was paid for taking care of the children” and should do it herself. Despondent, she was comforted by one of the children who hugged her and said “God can take care of us.” Their prayers were answered when a short time later Dr. Beckwith and his wife appeared to help out.

She credits the Lord who she says "wonderfully provided for us" and "helped me through with it all, and gave me strength according to my day. Many kind friends He raised up for me, who by gifts of money, donations of clothing, and provisions helped me to supply our wants." Help often came just when things looked the darkest for her - in the form of volunteer help, donations, encouragement, and advice.

Following the Civil War, many additional children of soldiers killed while in service were in need of support. She soon had 35 such orphans at her home. This increased expenses beyond the resources that were available. She realized that additional government funding was critical. She also wanted the Children’s Home to be separate from the County Infirmary, so it could focus solely on the children’s welfare. And she explained: “So many of (the children), too, were soldiers’ children, and these I felt deserved something better of their country than what had been provided.”

Catharine worked with government officials to address the situation. Due to her initiatives, the Ohio legislature passed a law in 1866 providing for the public support of homes for orphaned children in Ohio. It is said to have been the first legislation of its kind in the United States. Catharine later observed: "…the plan which had thought of only as a relief for our own Children's Home, became in God's good providence the means by which such institutions have been multiplied all over our state." She could have added “and all over the country,” as other states adopted similar laws and public Children’s Homes.

Washington County took the lead in establishing a true public Children’s Home. William R. Putnam was elected chairman of the newly appointed trustees. A new Washington County Children's Home building was constructed on a 100 acre farm just outside Marietta on Muskingum Drive. In 1867 33 orphans from Catharine's home were transferred to the new facility.

Photos circa 1900

Ironically, Catharine herself was not involved with the new home. She had been offered the position of manager but balked when the trustees refused to hire her husband Archibald Ewing to manage the farm. Ann Guthrie Brown became the first superintendent of the Children Home. Catharine and her husband moved to Marietta, where they operated a boarding house for college students. Still interested in aiding the needy, Catharine led the effort to establish the Washington County Woman's Home, a facility that provided a home for aging females. Catharine died on April 4, 1897, and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Over the years successive Children’s Home superintendents, staff members, and trustees provided a safe home environment for “their” kids. Goals for each child went beyond basic care and included education and becoming useful citizens. The Century Review of Marietta publication noted: "...the entire premises are made as home-like as possible. Homes to good families are found for the children as fast as practicable and constant watch is kept over each to insure their proper treatment to the end that they may grow up to be useful citizens. The managers have constantly in view the real objects of the home and endeavor to make the children feel that this is a large family and true home...this home is an honor to the state and one in which the people of Washington County take pride." This may not have been a totally objective assessment, but it expressed the good intentions and reputation of the Children's Home over the generations.

Photo circa 1900

Later reports suggest that the home had as many as 100 residents at one point. There was also success in finding good homes for other children. A 1966 report stated that over 3,100 children had resided in the home since its inception in 1867.

The home closed in 1976 when placing children directly into foster homes or adoption became a preferred method for serving these children. But the tradition of supporting children in need continues through dedicated work of Washington County Children Services agency. Aunt Katie Fay, as she was known, would gratefully approve of progress since her first home and agree that “Every Child Deserves a Chance.”