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Military Records at the Archives & Library of the Ohio History Connection

Ohio and the Civil War

Ohioans played an important role in the Civil War effort, supplying 319,189 Union soldiers for at least 29 artillery units, 13 cavalry units, and 198 infantry units. Ohio provided the third most troops, only behind New York and Pennsylvania, and led the Union in troops per capita. There were about 60 military camps established in Ohio, from Athens to Zanesville. Despite divided sentiments throughout Ohio, the state still contributed greatly to the Union victory. A number of prominent generals, including William T. Sherman and future U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, came from Ohio. 360,222 Union soldiers lost their lives during the war, 35,475 from Ohio. Nearly 30,000 Ohioans came out of the war totally or partially disabled.  

For more Ohio Civil War facts, visit the History Blog.

On Ohio in the Civil War, Larry Stevens has compiled a bibliography of known published sources for each Ohio regiment.


Collection Information and Access


Civil War Battle Flags

Below is a an example of a Civil War battle flag found in our museum collections.

Description:  National Colors of the 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  Rectangular flag measures 193 cm high by 187 cm wide, Text on flag reads:  Morgan's Chase through Ky., Ind., and Ohio; Knoxville.  Resacca.  45th Regiment, O.V.I. Kenesaw. Atlanta.  Jonesboro.  Franklin.  Nashville.

The 45th O.V.I. Flag is part of the Ohio Adjutant General's Battle Flag collection maintained and preserved by the Ohio History Connection. More images of the Ohio battle flags from the Civil War era are available on Ohio Memory, a statewide digital library program.

Squirrel Hunters

In the autumn of 1862, Kirby Smith's 6,850 Confederate soldiers threatened to reach the Ohio River. Governor David Tod called upon the citizens of the state to form militia companies to assist with protecting the border. The response brought almost 16,000 men and boys, who came wearing an assortment of different clothing and carrying hunting rifles. It was noted that they looked like squirrel hunters. Since the Confederate army did not reach the Ohio River, the troops were sent home. On March 11, 1863 the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives voted to honor the men with discharge papers in recognition of their patriotism.

 


Black Brigade of Cincinnati

Following the success of Confederate forces in eastern Kentucky and General John Hunt Morgan's raids there in 1862, and Confederate General Kirby Smith's move toward Cincinnati, Cincinnati residents believed that Southern invasion was imminent. Anxious officials ordered Cincinnati citizens to form home guards, but black men willing to volunteer were rebuffed when they attempted to join a defense force. Instead, police serving as provost guards rounded up many and marched them by bayonet to build fortifications in Kentucky. Reacting to the shameful treatment of the blacks eager to support the Union, the commander of the Department of Ohio dispatched Major General Lewis Wallace to command the civilians and to liberate black men forced into service.

Judge William Martin Dickson, who favored enlisting black soldiers in the Union Army, assumed command of the brigade, composed of 800 African American volunteers determined to fight to end slavery. From September 2-20, 1862 they cleared forests and built military roads, rifle pits, and fortifications. Receiving deserved praise for their labor, the unit disbanded when the Confederate forces no longer imperiled the city. Members of the Cincinnati Black Brigade, first black unit with military purpose in the North during the Civil War, later fought with the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which became the 5th United States Colored Troops (USCT), the 54th and 55th Massachusetts and other Black regiments. (From: http://genealogytrails.com/ohio/hamilton/civilwar_blackbrigade.html)  

 

 
The Black Brigade Flag is part of the Ohio Adjutant General's Battle Flag collection maintained and preserved by the Ohio History Connection. More images of the Ohio battle flags from the Civil War era are available on Ohio Memory, a statewide digital library program.
     

United States Colored Troops (USCT)

In 1863, the United States government authorized the formation of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). As the American Civil War continued, the government sought African American soldiers to assist in the war effort. John Mercer Langston, Ohio's first African American Lawyer, helped recruit and assemble Union troops, including the Massachusetts 54th, the first black regiment in the nation. 158 Ohioans joined the 54th regiment, along with 222 Ohioans in the 55th regiment. The 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was formed at Camp Delaware, and was redesignated the 5th United States Colored Troops regiment before moving to Norfolk, Virginia. Other USCT regiments include the 16th, 17th, 44th, 72nd, and 27th, which included over 100 men from Ross and Highland counties. In total, 5,092 Ohio African-Americans served in the USCT. Following the Civil War, the United States military continued to welcome African American soldiers into the ranks, although these soldiers were no longer designated United States Colored Troops. African Americans still served in segregated units, commanded by white officers.


Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission 

The Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission was established by an act of the Ohio General Assembly in 1959.  The Commission's purpose was to coordinate and execute plans for events commemorating Ohio's role in the Civil War submitted to the commission by local, county, and other civic groups.  The most important function of the commission was a sustained program of publications on Civil War topics.  The fifteen booklets published are held in the Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission Publications collection [Ohio Docs 973.7471 B4 no.1-15] in the Library and can be paged for research.  

  • The Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission Collection, 1961-1964 [MSS 1460] features cachet covers, each depicting a scene from the Civil War, and can be paged for research in the Library.

  • Correspondence, 1960-1964 [State Archives Series 1116] contains letters pertaining to requests for information, copies of publications, and correspondence with authors. This collection can be paged for research in the Library.  

  • You can view all Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission library and archives collection records using our Online Collections Catalog.  


Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization of veterans of the US Civil War. The posts were organized by location, much like the posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

We hold the following collections related to the Grand Army of the Republic:

MSS 715 Grand Army of the Republic. Dept. of Ohio records is a collection from the statewide organization of the GAR. It is a large collection of assorted records. It is not a comprehensive record of membership of the local chapters, nor is the collection name indexed.

The military history of Ohio…with histories of its G.A.R. and Ladies' Auxiliary posts, and Camps of Sons of Veterans. 1887. New York: H.H. Hardesty. Although there is not an edition of this book for every Ohio county, the book typically lists the members of the local GAR posts in the county. These are available in the Reading Room of our Archives & Library.

Check out our library catalog for other printed materials about the Grand Army of the Republic. Department of Ohio.

On Ohio in the Civil War, Larry Stevens has compiled a list of Ohio GAR posts by county.

See also: Noyes, Elmer. "A history of the Grand Army of the Republic in Ohio from 1866 to 1900." Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University, 1945.

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Can't Find What You're Looking For?

We do not hold military service or pension records.  That information can be obtained by contacting the National Archives and Records Administration.  Records prior to World War I are located at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. 

You may also wish to read the military records section of the National Archives Genealogy webpage.

If you have questions, please contact us at reference@ohiohistory.org or 614.297.2510.