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.

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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 FamilySearch.org. 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.