Not All Ohioans Fought for the Union: Gen. Roswell Ripley, CSA

Roswell Ripley

Brig. Gen. Roswell Sabin Ripley, CSA. Photo taken from Ohio Historical Society marker, Nov. 2009.

When you think of Civil War generals from Ohio, the names Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan often come to mind. Roswell S. Ripley also was a general, yet he is rarely (if ever) mentioned in Ohio classrooms. Why? It’s probably because he was a general in the Confederate Army.

Ripley was born in Worthington, just north of Columbus, in 1823. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1843 and served in the Mexican-American War. He resigned his commission in 1853 while stationed in South Carolina.

In April 1861, his forces at Fort Moultrie fired artillery onto Fort Sumter, the first volleys of the Civil War.

He was appointed a brigadier general in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and was wounded in the throat at the battle of Antietam. He directed the improvement of defenses around Charleston as was later dubbed ‘Charleston’s Gallant Defender.’

He died 29 March 1887 in New York and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.


Celebrate Ohio Statehood Day with These Resources

Today is Ohio Statehood Day. Happy 208th Birthday, Ohio! (You don’t look a day over 207!) What better way to celebrate than by checking out some great resources for Ohio research. Here are some of my favorites, including some that are rather off the beaten path:

  • Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953 at Digital images of death certificates — gotta love ’em. You do need to be logged into FamilySearch to see the images. (Registration is free.)
  • Ohio History Central. An online encyclopedia of Ohio history. Remember — you need to learn the history of an area to begin to understand the people.
  • Ohio Memory. Digital images from collections all across the state.
  • Ohio Cemetery Locations by The Ohio Genealogical Society. The free version gives the township and county. OGS members can log in and get much more detailed information, including GPS coordinates, alternate names, condition, etc.
  • Roster of Ohio Soldiers at OGS’ Ohio Civil War Genealogy Center. This is data from the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. However, this search is much more flexible. Unlike the CWSS site, here you can search by Soundex. You can also get an entire regiment or a specific company in a regiment.
  • Remarkable Ohio. Searchable database of more than 1,300 historic markers around the state. They even have an app for iPhone! (I’m still waiting for them to come out with a version for Android.)

There’s an interesting footnote to Ohio Statehood Day. Ohio considers 1 March 1803 to be its “official” statehood date, as that is the date that the state’s General Assembly first met. It’s the date you’ll see listed in virtually every resource. However, there is a pretty convincing argument that statehood day should actually be February 19, 1803, which is when Thomas Jefferson endorsed the legislation approving Ohio’s admission to the Union. What would Ohio be without a little political controversy? :)

Where I Was: The Space Shuttle Challenger

“Hey, did you hear the space shuttle blew up?”

It sounded like the first line of a very bad joke. But as we found out later, it was all too real.

I was standing in line buying typing paper (yes, typing paper) at the Columbus Technical Institute bookstore. A guy came in and asked the girl in front of me if she’d heard the shuttle blew up. She and I both dismissed him, but he said he’d heard it on the radio. We told him he must have heard it wrong; it couldn’t possibly have blown up. There must have been a small fire and the reporter made it sound worse than it was.

I bought my paper and went to class. As soon as I walked in, I knew something was wrong. The instructor — who was the definition of professionalism and punctuality — wasn’t in the room. She was always in the room. I took my seat and waited…  and waited… and waited…  Finally, about 5 minutes after class was supposed to start, she came in the room with tears streaming down her face. Being the professional that she was, she apologized for being late. That’s when she broke the news:

“The space shuttle exploded and everyone was killed. I’ve been watching the news coverage.”

The typewriters that had been clicking away were suddenly silent. No one knew what to say or what to do. All we could do was look at each other in disbelief.

My instructor, ever the professional, went to her desk and pulled out the exercises for that day. Yes, she went on with class. I don’t remember any of it.

Typing was my last class that day. I drove home, listening to news on the radio, trying to comprehend what had happened. It wasn’t until I got home that I first saw those awful images. Even then, it didn’t make sense. In some ways, it still doesn’t.

Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery. Photo taken by Amy Crow, 2009.

Celebrating the 2nd War for Independence

While celebrating Independence Day this weekend, think about not only the American Revolution but also the 2nd War for Independence: the War of 1812.

Although England agreed to withdraw her troops as a condition of the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolution), British troops remained in territory claimed by the United States. Most were positioned near and around the Great Lakes, in places such as Detroit and present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh was successful in forging a pan-Indian confederation which worked with the British against the Americans. War was finally declared in 1812.

Ohio was key in the War of 1812. Not only was it the site of the pivotal American victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, but she also supplied numerous troops to aid the U.S. effort.

Surprisingly, the National Archives has never microfilmed the War of 1812 pension files. They are among the most-often requested records, with approximately 3,000 of them requested every year.

Preserve the PensionsRecently, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced a program — Preserve the Pensions! — which seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize these 7.2 million pages. The files have been prepared and the digital cameras are ready to roll. The only thing the National Archives needs is the funding.

You can help. Each dollar donated to Preserve the Pensions will digitize two pages of War of 1812 pension files. Further, FGS has reached an agreement with the National Archives so that the digitized images will be freely available on the Internet — not “trapped” in a website that you need to pay for.

So as you’re celebrating Independence Day, celebrate both of the wars for Independence and consider making a tax-deductible donation to Preserve the Pensions.

Our Military Heritage – An Update

You are probably familiar with the fantastic genealogical collection at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. What you might not be familiar with is their growing collection of databases available on their website.

One section of the website is “Our Military Heritage,” which is a collection of digitized books, photographs, letters, diaries…  anything that pertains to military service. There are resources for military engagements from the colonial wars all the way through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve written about this collection before, but my how it has grown!

The World War II collection has some fascinating resources, including four large collections of letters. “Another Side of War: Soldiers Letters to Miss Ann Adang” includes digitized images of the hundreds of letters sent by twelve soldiers to Ann Adang of Fort Wayne. It is very interesting to read the similarities and differences of the soldiers and sailors from different backgrounds serving in different parts of the world. “Letters of Glenn and Ellen Baker and Letters from Home, World War II” includes the letters exchanged between a husband and wife separated by war.

There is an extensive Civil War section, including unit histories, GAR publications, and pension/service records. One of my favorite resources on this site is Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that a copy of my senior honors thesis “With Diplomas of Patriotism: African American Civil War Veterans in Ohio” is also available on this site.)

Some of the resources are quite lengthy, while others, such as the WWI military record of Nicholas J. Martin, are a single page.

Printed materials have been run through an OCR program and are full text searchable.

A Way to Honor Your Military Ancestors

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library offers you the opportunity not only to research your military ancestors, but also to share your military resources. If you would like to contribute letters to and from service personnel, diaries of military ancestors, copies of pension and service records, pictures of medals and citations, discharge papers, military burials and the like, please contact Curt Witcher [CWitcher@ACPL.Info or 260.421.1226] or simply send digital copies of the military documents (scanned at 300 dpi) to:
The Genealogy Center, Attn.: Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Ft.Wayne, IN 46802.

Melvil Dewey and the Winter Olympics

I have always enjoyed the Winter Olympics. I enjoy the grace of figure skating, the thrill of the Alpine events, and the absolute insanity of bobsledding and luge. As a library student, it was a pleasant surprise to find a strong connection between the Winter Olympics and Melvil Dewey, developer of the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey founded a camp in New York for librarians, scholars, and social workers. The club? The Lake Placid Club. Dewey’s son Godfrey took charge of expanding the sporting venues. By the time of the selection of the site of the 1932 Winter Olympics, no other place could compare. Since that time, Lake Placid has been a world-class center for winter athletes. Lake Placid was also the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice.”

Dewey was not without criticism for his handling of the Lake Placid Club. Although originally founded as a resort for those of more modest means, it was not an egalitarian club. The club excluded anyone to whom any member had an objection. This resulted in the exclusion of Jews and other minorities. In 1905, Dewey was forced to resign his post as New York state librarian at least in part because of the club’s exclusionary practices.

Dewey died in December 1931, just weeks before the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.


  1. “Melvil Dewey” on American National Biography Online.
  2. Small Town, Big Dreams: Lake Placid’s Olympic Story.”

The Ohio Historical Society has just launched a new website to raise awareness of Ohio’s role in the Civil War: The site features:

  • Digital collections, such as Ohio regimental battle flags
  • A timeline of Civil War events
  • News about upcoming events
  • Discussion forum
  • A section for teachers

I am looking forward to watching this site grow as we get closer to the sesquicentennial in 2011. (Is that really only a little more than a year away?!)

Lincoln Collection at the Allen County Public Library

Ever since the announcement that the documents from the Lincoln Collection at the former Lincoln Museum would move to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, I’ve been anxious to see just what treasures are in the collection. If the first round of digital images are any indication, the collection is beyond “cool.”

When the Lincoln Museum closed, the Lincoln Financial Foundation gave the artifacts to the Indiana State Museum and the records to the Allen County Public Library. Work has begun on digitizing the records and posting them online. The images that they’ve posted so far are rather tantalizing. My favorite is an undated note written by Lincoln: “Let Master Tad have a Navy sword. A. Lincoln”.

Although not part of the Lincoln Collection, the Genealogy Center at ACPL also has posted an image of a silk ribbon commemorating Lincoln’s death. As they note on the website, it is a rare glimpse into life in Fort Wayne at the time, as the newspapers from April 1865 have been lost.

A recent article in the Journal Gazette has some behind-the-scene photos and more detail about the Lincoln Collection at ACPL. It will be interesting to watch as more and more images are posted on the Lincoln Collection website.

Student History Conference at OSU-Newark Today

I am soooooooo far behind in my blogging that I’ve neglected to mention something I’m very excited about: presenting at the Student History Conference at Ohio State University – Newark today! I’ll be presenting two papers. The first is “For the Benefit of the Private Soldiers: The History of the Grand Army of the Republic in Ohio,” which was my research paper for History 310 (Ohio History) last fall. The second paper is a portion of my senior honors thesis. I’m a bit nervous about that one as (1) so many of my friends have told me they’re going to that session and (2) I’ve had to use just different sections of the thesis because the whole thing it too long to present. I hope what I present makes sense!

If you happen to be in the area this morning, stop by the Reese Center on the OSU-N campus. There are 3 sessions: 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30. There are also two presentations this afternoon: one by a history prof at Denison talking about local history (yea!) and the other by an author talking about historical fiction.

Tombstone Tuesday: Daniel Lewis, fireman

Capt. Daniel S. Lewis, Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus. Photograph taken by Amy Crow, August 8, 2008. All rights reserved.

Capt. Daniel S. Lewis, Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus. Photograph taken by Amy Crow, August 8, 2008. All rights reserved.

This impressive monument is in Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus. The imagery on the stone immediately tell you it is the grave of a firefighter — the hydrant with the hose that outlines the stone, a helmet, a ladder, an axe, and a lantern. The inscription reads:


In Memory Of

Capt. Daniel S. Lewis

Born May 15, 1854

Entered the Service

Oct. 18, 1881

Gave his life to the city

April 26, 1903

Lewis, captain of Engine Company No. 11,  was killed fighting a fire in the Brunson and Union Company buildings at the corner of Long Street and High Street in downtown Columbus.  According to a newspaper account, he was killed when a wall collapsed and fell on him. “His body was cremated in the ruins.”

“The fire was attended by many exciting incidents, the most thrilling being the rescue of Philip Nation, a grocer, from his apartments on the fourth floor of the Brunson Building where he had been hemmed in by flames. The fire started in the Brunson Building and its progress was fanned by a brisk wind from the north. This building was occupied on the ground floor by the Walkover Shoe Company, Tallmadge Hardware Company, and Bott Brothers’ saloon. The upper floors were occupied mainly as living apartments, the exceptions being the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union rest room and the art studios of Maurice Hague and H. P. Hayden. 

“Smoke was first seen issuing from the basement under the saloon. The fire smoldered for half an hour and the firemen thought they had it under control, when the flames suddenly burst from an upper story”


The New York Times, April 27, 1903, p. 1. Available online at