Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 6 – Howard Forrer (Part A)

“My nephew, H. G. Affleck, who left home so full of patriotic fire and so hopeful, was wounded at the battle of Shiloh on the sixth of April… After his return I visited Sister and was there for a few days before his death… While witnessing these sad scenes, I rejoice in the thought that my only and beloved son Howard, was not in the army. He had wished to go, but I was so unwilling that he gave it up… Since the reverses of our army we cannot hold him longer…”[1]

– Sarah Forrer’s diary, [2 Sept. 1862]

The sad story of Howard G. Affleck was described in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this “Tale.” Now we move on to the second of the “Two Howards.” (I did slip a third – William Howard – in as Part 5.)

Howard Forrer, undated

Howard Forrer, undated

Howard Forrer was born on November 11, 1841, in Dayton, Ohio, the youngest child of Samuel Forrer and Sarah (Howard) Forrer. Howard joined the Forrers’ three surviving daughters: Elizabeth, Augusta, and Mary. Another daughter and a son had been born and died ahead of Howard, making Howard their only son by the time of his birth.[2]

Howard graduated in 1858 from Dayton’s Central High School, where h had been an excellent student, beloved by his teachers. After graduation, Howard became a teacher himself, accepting a position at the Second District School near his parents’ home in downtown Dayton. If the notes he saved from school children and parents are any indication, he was popular as a teacher as well.[3]

Howard Forrer, undated

Howard Forrer, undated

After the Civil War broke out, Howard was inspired to join the cause, most likely due to simple rage militaire (see Part 4) that swept through so many men both young and old at the time. However, due to his mother Sarah’s strong objections to her only son joining the army (especially after seeing what had happened to her nephew!), Howard initially deferred to her wishes and remained safe at home in Dayton, teaching school.

But by the summer of 1862, Howard Forrer’s desire to enter the army could be contained no longer. He became involved in recruiting for a new regiment, as illustrated by this advertisement from the Dayton Journal, August 17, 1862:

Civil War recruitment ad listing Howard Forrer as Second Lieutenant

Civil War recruitment ad listing Howard Forrer as Second Lieutenant

The Dayton Journal printed many other such advertisements at that time, which is not surprising considering the Journal was the Republican paper in Dayton and that recruitment efforts were ramped up into overdrive at that time.

According to the 1889 History of Dayton: “During the entire year 1862, recruitment was continually going on in Dayton. It was the great year of doubt and anxiety as to the success of the national cause… The summer and fall of 1862 witnessed great activity in recruiting men for the war…” (Dayton’s famous 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was formed, under the command of Charles Anderson, in July 1862.)[4]

However, while several regiments (such as the 93rd) succeeded, Howard’s regiment apparently failed to fill up, as Howard’s father Samuel wrote on August 24:

“Howard’s company did not succeed. It was not fully officered until 4 or 5 day[s] before recruiting for new regiments was suspended. He will now not probably have any command or in any manner enter the army. He cannot even be drafted because our ward and indeed the city has furnished its full quota of the active force of the army called for to their time. Howard chafes under failure to get into the army and the more because William Howard has succeeded…”[5]

(Remember: Howard’s cousin William, with whom he had no doubt grown up since they were the same age and both lived in Dayton, had recently aided in the formation of the 17th Ohio Battery (see Part 5).)

But then, you might be wondering: What’s this about a draft? I thought the Union didn’t draft until the Enrollment Act of 1863. It’s true that the Enrollment Act constituted the first Union Army draft at the national level. However, under the Militia Act of July 1862, the federal government required governors (such as Ohio’s governor David Tod) to administer their own drafts as necessary in order to meet their manpower quotas. Thus, if there were not enough volunteers, “little” drafts held on the local level. (Check out Douglas Harper, “The Northern Draft of 1862.”)

Preparations for the first such draft in Montgomery County had begun on August 19, 1862. Formal notice was given on August 22 that drafting would begin on September 3.[6]

Not surprisingly, both the Republican Journal and the Democratic Empire newspapers were all atwitter about the impending draft. For instance, on August 26, the Journal published this interesting article about the calculation of Dayton’s quota.

There were also many ads in the Journal, such as the one below, encouraging men to volunteer before they were drafted:

Recruitment Ad for 1st O.V.I., Dayton Journal, Aug. 29, 1862

Recruitment Ad for 1st O.V.I., Dayton Journal, Aug. 29, 1862

Due to unforeseen events, the draft would be pushed back to September 15 and then again to October 1, and by then, the city wards of Dayton had indeed fulfilled its quota. Only 666 men from the townships were drafted. And even so, these draftees were given the option to enlist “voluntarily,” receive bonuses, and choose their own company. (For example see this ad for the 1st O.V.I., which apparently still needed recruits!)[7] (For a complete list of 1862 Ohio draftees, see State Archives Series 89 – Record of Militia Drafted, 1862; one page of Montgomery County’s list has been digitized on Ohio Memory.)

I have no doubt that Howard’s mother Sarah was relieved by the failure of Howard’s regiment and the fact that he could not be drafted. She speculated that one day Howard would be thankful for it as well: “It is a great disappointment to him now but I think he will live to see the day that he will be glad it happened to him…”[8]

However, Sarah’s relief was to be only temporary, as there were still plenty of other opportunities, and Howard was not giving up.

One such opportunity came a few days later in the form of a letter from Howard’s brother-in-law Luther Bruen, who was with the 12th U.S. Infantry stationed at Fort Hamilton (NY), to Howard’s father Samuel Forrer on August 27:

“I have never been disposed to do any thing to get Howard into the army, because I supposed neither you nor mother approved of it. Had it been otherwise I might have got him a second lieutenancy ere this. As it is, if you are willing he should go & will send him on here to enlist, & get John Howard and other influential friends to write to the Secretary of War, I can get him a lieutenancy very soon. He will be very high upon the list too for we have very few second lieutenants. I can give you the assurance too that I can keep him by me, as I am now in command of the regiment & can make him my adjutant or Quarter Master, as soon as my battalion is organized. Now if you are willing Howard should go into the army, send him on at once & as soon as he has enlisted, let John Howard and all the other influential friends you can command, write to the Secy. of War urging his appointment as a second lieutenant and I think I can get for him very soon – in a short time any how…”[9]

I have found neither a response to this letter nor any reference to it, but in short, for whatever reason, Howard Forrer did not enlist in the regular army with his brother-in-law. As I have the advantage of “foresight” (or really, hindsight) about events that would follow, I wonder how things might have turned out differently if Luther had been able to keep Howard by his side.

On Monday, September 1, “Howard went back to school…with extreme reluctance, he hopes only for a very short time…”[10]

As it happened, Howard’s wish was to be granted in a very short time indeed, for on that very day, a portion of Confederate general Kirby Smith’s army was advancing through northern Kentucky, threatening an attack on Cincinnati, just 50 miles away…

[1] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [2 Sept. 1862], quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 32:4, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. The FPW Collection does not include Sarah’s diary, although her granddaughter Frances Parrott quotes it frequently in the aforementioned article “Sons and Mothers.” To my knowledge, the diary was never a part of the FPW Collection, although it may still exist in private hands. (I would be grateful to anyone who could tell me its whereabouts – via private email – as I would love to see it someday, if it still exists.)

[2] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12.

[3] Howard Forrer: Invitations, Calling Cards, etc., FPW, 6:10.

[4] History of Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889), 292-294.

[5] Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 24 Aug. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[6] History of Dayton, Ohio, 295.

[7] History of Dayton, Ohio, 298-299; recruitment ad for the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Dayton Journal, 23 Oct. 1862.

[8] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 24 Aug. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[9] Luther Bruen to Samuel Forrer, 27 Aug. 1862, FPW, 33:10.

[10] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 2 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

MVAR Recap 2/16/2012

Yesterday was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable, an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. We met at the Airstream, Inc., corporate archives in Jackson Center, Ohio, with archivist Matthew Peek as our host. Over the past few months, Matthew, with the help of archives assistant Andrea Green Burton, has been working diligently to develop the Airstream corporate archives from scratch.

Lisa outside Airstream Inc., Jackson Center, OH

Lisa outside Airstream Inc., Jackson Center, OH

After MVAR chairwoman (and U. of Dayton archivist) Rachel Bilokonsky welcomed us all to the meeting, we began as usual with the institutional reports — where we go around the room and share what’s going on at our institutions and what projects we are working on. I like to take lots of notes — it’s awesome to hear some of the “inside scoop” about the latest projects or what’s coming down the pike from my fellow archivists. Here are some of the shared snippets that seemed appropriate to share in a public forum:

On March 2, 2012, the Wright State U. Public History program will be hosting a Public History Graduate Symposium. The symposium is from 9-4 in the WSU Student Union and will feature presentations from current PH grad students, as well as a keynote by Amanda Wright Lane (a Wright brothers relative). The symposium is free and open to the public, but an RSVP to the WSU Archives (937-775-2092) is requested by Feb. 24th. I can’t seem to locate an announcement for it on the WSU web site, but if you want more information, email me and I will send you the PDF flyer. Oh, and just so you know, yours truly will be moderating one of the sessions. 🙂

In other Wright State news, two very interesting collections are nearly completed in their processing and almost ready for researchers: the Dayton Engineers’ Club Records (MS-420) and the Kettering Family Papers (MS-363). Both of those sound like they will be really great resources!

Wright State Libraries also has several programs this month celebrating the life of African American poet, native Daytonian, and the library’s namesake: Paul Laurence Dunbar. Check out the Dunbar events and the recently redesigned Dunbar web site.

Many Miami Valley archives are kicking into high gear for the forthcoming centennial of the 1913 Flood, Dayton’s worst natural disaster. Some of the folks at WSU are working on creating a traveling exhibit, if their funding comes through. And, in connection with the area’s 1913 Flood centennial steering committee, WSU grad students will be working on creating a web resource that will be a one-stop shop pathfinder to 1913 Flood resources in the Miami Valley.

Judy Deeter of the Troy Historical Society discussed a reformatting project for some oral histories with 1913 flood survivors, as well as a forthcoming project from Scott Trostel that will cover a previously little-discussed area of the flood’s history. Judy also shared that the historical society is working on a new Troy history book in honor of the city’s forthcoming bicentennial in 2014.

Gillian Hill of the Greene County Archives shared that they have moved from their old building on Main Street in Xenia to a newer one on Ledbetter Road, and that they should be all settled in soon.

Betsy Wilson, who writes house histories, shared that she will be giving a program at the Dayton Metro Library about how to research your house. If you are interested in this subject, I definitely recommend it. Betsy really knows her stuff! The presentations will be given: Tues., March 27th, 6:30 p.m., at Dayton View branch; Thurs., April 19th, 6:30 p.m., at New Lebanon branch; and Mon., April 30, 2:00 p.m., at East branch.

Galen Wilson of NARA discussed this year’s OHRAB archives grant opportunity, saying he wanted to point out that this year the grants are open to any records significant to Ohio history, not just government records. Grant proposals are due Feb. 28th (more info).

Natalie Fritz of the Clark County Historical Society discussed a probate records processing project they’ve been working on which was, incidentally, funded by one of last year’s OHRAB grants. (You can read about their project in their reports at the OHRAB web site, under the list of 2011 Awardees.) Natalie also mentioned that the Historical Society will soon be receiving 1,800 original ledgers of historical Springfield school records. That is very exciting and will be really interesting and useful for researchers!

For my own report, I shared that I am (still) working on the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) at the Dayton Metro Library, which, if you’ve been reading the blog regularly, you probably knew, since I am always talking about it! The collection includes materials from several generations of the family of Miami-Erie Canal engineer Samuel Forrer. It is about 20 linear feet and is mostly correspondence between the several family members. Since there is so much “stuff” for each of about 10 people, I am currently in the process of writing detailed biographical sketches of each individual.

During the institutional reports, someone passed around a copy of the Dayton Daily News article “City set to Receive National VA Archive” (Feb. 2, 2012). Apparently, there is a very good chance that the national archive for the Veterans Administration may come to Dayton’s VA Center (formerly the National Soldiers’ Home – see pics from DML’s collection). According to a quote from Senator Sherrod Brown, from the article, “the archive itself would likely employ about 25 people.” So that could mean exciting news for recent and upcoming WSU public history grads who wish to remain in the Dayton area.

After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

Next, we received a tour of the Airstream corporate archives, which was recently organized by archivist Matthew Peek. Matthew showed us the several rooms of the archives, including about 60 linear feet of shelving with boxed materials, file cabinets of subject files, map cases for engineering drawings, and a film room with several reels, negatives, and VHS tapes. As the task of creating this archive was only just undertaken a few months ago, the degree of physical and intellectual control of the materials seemed impressive to me.

After the tour, Galen Wilson gave a short presentation, a PechaKucha talk about errors throughout history, which was very entertaining. Then, our host Matthew showed us a 20-minute film “Trailers Away with Caravan America,” which was recently digitized from a 1970s original.

We enjoyed a lunch of Subway sandwiches, and more great networking and conversation. I just love these MVAR meetings, because whether you work in a large archives or are a “lone arranger” (or somewhere in between, as most of us are), it’s nice to know that you are never really alone.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 5: William Howard

…Howard chafes under failure to get into the army and the more because William Howard has succeeded…[1]

-Samuel Forrer to his daughter Mary, 24 Aug. 1862

 …I sent a letter this morning, telling of Howard’s disappointment. It is a great disappointment to him now but I think he will live to see the day that he will be glad it happened to him…[2]

-Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary, [24?] Aug. 1862


Throughout the summer of 1862, Howard Forrer and his cousin William Howard, both 20 years old, endeavored to join the fight for theUnion. I do not know the specific reasons why each boy desired to enter the service (although I explored possibilities in Part 4).

Howard Forrer recruited for the 112th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment that ultimately failed (more on that later), but his cousin William succeeded more quickly in joining up. Then again, although William entered the war sooner than his cousin Howard, he also left it sooner…


William Crane Howard was born April 24, 1842, in Dayton, Ohio, the eldest child of John Howard, a prominent Dayton attorney who, between the time of William’s birth and the time of our story, had also served 6 years as Dayton’s mayor. In the summer of 1862, William was studying law in his father’s law office.

However, in early August, William began recruiting for a battery regiment, as Sarah Forrer wrote to her husband on Aug. 3rd:

…Willie has had permission given him to raise men for a Battery, and promise of a commission in ten days. I suppose he is sure of it…[2b]

Sure enough (with a couple of days to spare), on August 11, 1862, William enlisted as a second lieutenant in the 17th Independent Battery Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, or 17th Ohio Battery (for short), which was recruited and organized at Dayton by Captain Ambrose A. Blount.[3]

According to Samuel Forrer, the 17th Ohio Battery nearly failed:

William Howard’s 17th Ohio Battery is now encamped on ‘Camp Dayton’. This battery after being fully made up and reported was rejected by Halleck as not being needed and was by order of the Governor required either to enlist as Infantry, or disband and go home. Your uncle [John Howard] and others, however, by much exertion and telegraphing to the authorities at Washington finally succeeded in having the Battery accepted.[4]

And so, the 17th Ohio Battery did in fact succeed at being accepted for service. Within a few weeks, the regiment marched off into action—or the threat of action, anyway—to aid in the defense of Cincinnati, which was believed to be under threat of attack from Gen. Kirby Smith; however, the anticipated attack never actually took place.[5]

Sarah wrote thus of her nephew’s departure:

Sept. 3rd. The 17th Battery was ordered to Cincinnati this morning, or rather they go this morning, they received orders last evening. I went down to see Willie before he went. They were all cheerful, and calm. That is[,] John[,] Willie[,] and Howard were cheerful, ever disposed to jest, and the rest of us by an effort were calm.[6]

Unfortunately, I have found little more about William’s time in the service. There are these few snippets that Sarah Forrer wrote about her nephew:

Sept. 7: “Willie has written once, directly after they arrived in Cincinnati. He said they were very comfortable.”[7]

Sept. 10: “Today John had a dispatch…saying Willie is in the Covington Hospital ill of fever and he dare not go to him because the citizens of Cincinnati are not permitted to go over the river… John went immediately. He said Will had a fever all night before he saw him, but thought he was better. I suppose it is an intermittent and he will bring him home.”[8]

Sept. 12: “John telegraphed, ‘Willie better, take him to Cincinnati today.’…”[9]

William’s illness and his return to Ohio were short-lived apparently, as Sarah wrote on Oct. 15: “John hears from Will almost every day. They are somewhere in northern K[entucky]. He is quite well…”[10]

These are the only manuscript snippets I have of William’s service. I have found some regimental history describing the 17th Ohio’s movements, and as I have no evidence on the contrary, I am inclined to assume that William’s movements during that time frame were essentially the same:

[T]he 17th marched via Lexington, Kentucky to Louisville, Kentucky, where the battery boarded transports for Memphis, Tennessee. On December 1, 1862, the organization accompanied General William T. Sherman’s command down the Mississippi River to the vicinity of Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The 17th assisted the Northern force in destroying a portion of the O. and S. Railroad and also fought in the Union defeat at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou (December 26-29, 1862). The battery next fought in the Battle of Arkansas Post (January 9-11, 1863), before entering winter encampment at Young’s Point, Louisiana.

In March 1863, the 17th moved to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, where the organization joined the 13th Army Corps, and on April 15, 1863, embarked upon Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.[11]

But when the 17th Ohio marched off towards Vicksburg—the 47-day “siege” of which culminated in a Union victory on July 4, 1863, and when combined with the win at Gettysburg the previous day, is often cited as the “turning point” in the war—William Howard did not go with them.

No, he hadn’t died…although I can see why you might think that’s where I was going.

According to the official record, 2nd Lieut. William C. Howard resigned on April 2, 1863.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I was surprised to see the word “resigned.” This Civil War story of the Howard family is the most Civil War research I have ever done in any real detail, with following certain individuals and regiments and troop movements. Sure, I have taken broad courses on the Civil War in general, but many of the fine, specific points still elude me.

For instance, I understand that much of the Civil War was fought by volunteers. But at the same time, men generally signed up for a specific period of time. In William’s case, he had signed up for a 3-year period of service.[12] I guess I just assumed that, while your initial enlistment may have been voluntary, once you signed those papers, you were (legally) committed until your service term ended or the war ended (whichever came first), unless you died or were discharged.

Even this initial entry from the “Record of Events for the 17th Independent Battery” seems to support that line of thinking (at least in the case of this particular regiment, which is really the one I’m concerned with at the moment anyhow):

August 21.—Muster-in roll of Captain [Ambrose] A. Blount’s Company, Seventeenth Battery, Light Artillery Regiment, of Ohio Volunteers, commanded by Captain A. A. Blount, called into the service of the United States by the President from the date of their respective enlistment, August 21, 1862 (date of this muster), for the term of three years or during the war, unless sooner discharged[13]

(So if anyone out there knows how resignations were “allowed” or fit into the grand scheme of volunteer regimental organization/discipline, I’d be interested to hear about it.)

** Update (2/24/2012) : According to Wright State University history professor Dr. Edward Haas (who teaches the Civil War courses), an officer of a volunteer regiment — of which William Howard was one (he was a lieutenant) — could resign at any time. /End Update **

I cannot tell you how or why William Howard resigned from the 17th Ohio Battery. I just know that the official record states that he did so, on April 2, 1863. He wasn’t the only one either; apparently, within the span of 6 months in 1863 (from February to August), three other officers also resigned. The regiment’s original organizer, Ambrose Blount, was among them, resigning on July 2, just two days before Grant’s forces took Vicksburg.[14]

William Howard was definitely not present for the Vicksburg triumph either. Even if I hadn’t found the record of his resignation, I found his June 1863 draft registration: William Howard, age 21, student, white, single, 2nd Ward, Dayton, Ohio.[15]

Indeed, for whatever reason—(not-quite-debilitating-enough-to-get-you-discharged illness or injury? conduct? fear? exhaustion? lost faith in the cause? scandal? We may never know!)—William resigned from the service returned to Dayton, and resumed his studies in his father’s law office.

I wonder how he felt when he read the papers and saw that his remaining comrades in the 17th Ohio Battery had participated in one of the war’s great victories, only a few months after he departed. He too might have enjoyed the honor and glory of victory—or, he might have been one of the several thousand casualties.

Before the war ended, William and his father became partners in the law firm John Howard & Son.[16] In December 1865, William married Anna Keifer, and the couple had four children before Anna died in 1879, two weeks after the birth of their son.[17] William later moved to the Cincinnati area to be a U.S. Clerk and eventually moved to the San Francisco area, where he died on October 30, 1900.[18] William C. Howard is buried near his parents and siblings in Woodland Cemetery (Section 66) in Dayton.[19]

William C. Howard, 1842-1900, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio

William C. Howard, 1842-1900, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio

Of the five men in my story, William Howard’s experience is by far the least traumatic—at least, as far as I can tell. I do not know the circumstances under which he left the service. But as far as I know, he was not captured or seriously injured. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that William Howard was not killed in the Civil War, which is more than I can say for three of my five…

[1] Samuel Forrer to his daughter Mary Forrer, 24 Aug. 1862, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio), 1:10.

[2] Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary Forrer, [24?] Aug. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[2b] Sarah Forrer to her husband Samuel Forrer, 3 Aug. 1862, FPW, 4:2.

[3] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. X (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), 583.

[4] Samuel Forrer to his daughter Mary Forrer, 24 Aug. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[5] “17th Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery,” Ohio Civil War Central, accessed 13 Feb. 2012,

[6] Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary Forrer, 3 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[7] Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, 7 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[8] Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, 10 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[9] Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, 12 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[10] Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary Forrer, 15 Oct. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[11] “17th Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery,” Ohio Civil War Central.

[12] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. X (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), 583.

[13] Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 50 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 483.

[14] Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army for the Years 1861, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, Part V (Washington, DC: Adjutant General’s Office, 1865), 40.

[15] U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[16] Dayton City Directory, 1864-65.

[17] Ohio County Marriages, 1790-1950 (database),; obituary of Anna Keifer Howard in the Dayton Journal, 17 Mar. 1879;

[18] U.S. Federal Census, 1880; U.S. Federal Census, 1900.

[19] Woodland Cemetery Records Database, accessed 13 Feb. 2012, (I have also personally seen his grave there.)

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 4: Why Enlist?

I think if [Howard] and Willie could have seen what has befallen their poor Cousin, it would cure them of all desire to enter the army. He was patriotic and brave, And see, his life has been thrown away, we may say, in that miserable battle of Shilo [sic]…[1]

-Sarah Forrer to her husband, May 15, 1862

As Sarah wrote these lines, her 21-year-old nephew Howard Affleck lay dying; he did not live out the day. Sarah already feared for the lives of her own son, Howard Forrer, and another nephew, William Howard.

And even as she grieved for her older son, Mary Affleck (Sarah’s sister) already feared for the life of her younger son Edward, wishing to send him back to Dayton with Sarah as a distraction:

She is distressed for fear Edward is going to the war. She wishes him to return with me, And go to school, or at least make a visit. She…thinks he would be diverted from going [to war] by visiting us…[2]


All three of these young men – Howard Forrer, William Howard, and Edward Affleck – would eventually enlist voluntarily in Union Army, despite the hopes and wishes of their mothers and aunts (and possibly female companions).

I think that at this point in the story, it would be appropriate to address the following question:

“Why on earth would anyone who had heard/read/saw the tragic (and gruesome) tale of Howard Affleck [see Parts 1, 2, & 3] voluntarily enlist to fight in the Civil War?”

This might seem like a ridiculous question with obvious answers. And maybe it is. But I’m going to discuss it a little bit anyway.

Mostly, I’m going to share some relevant bits from James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. (McPherson is one of today’s premiere Civil War historians, and this particular book is one of my favorite history books.) For Cause and Comrades discusses the categories of soldier motivation first proposed by John A. Lynn:

Lynn posited three categories: initial motivation, sustaining motivation, and combat motivation. The first consists of the reasons why men enlisted; the second concerns the factors that kept them in the army and kept the army in existence over time; and the third focuses on what nerved them to face extreme danger in battle.[3]

Now, I’m not going to discuss every category or every motivation from the book, because that’s not my purpose at the moment. This isn’t a book review. (Although, I did write a review of this book for a graduate seminar; that’s when I read it the first time. That’s also how I knew that I should look over it again for this blog entry! By the way, it’s awesome. If you like Civil War history, you should read it.)

I’ll be pulling out pieces from here and there in McPherson and making an educated speculation about how the point might apply in my tale of the Howard cousins.

(Please note my careful word choices in what follows. Since I have few sources written by the soldiers themselves, I cannot provide concrete explanations of their motives, only educated guesses. Expect a lot of perhaps, maybe, might have, could have, and probably.)


Many enlistments can be traced back to the motivations of patriotism, honor, and duty—and, in some cases, a longing for excitement.[4]

The initial impulse came from what the French call rage militaire—a patriotic furor that swept North and South alike in the weeks after the attack on Fort Sumter.[5]

Howard Affleck almost certainly fell into this category. Lincoln called for troops on April 15, 1861, and by April 18, Howard had enlisted in the 15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private.[6]

Another relevant family member, whom I don’t believe I have yet mentioned in this story, was Luther B. Bruen, Sarah Forrer’s son-in-law. Luther was a 38-year-old Dayton lawyer (and father of three) when he enlisted in the regular army on May 14, 1861. He was commissioned a Major with the 12th U.S. Infantry.[7]

The rage militaire of April and May 1861 eventually cooled. But it flared up again at later points of crisis in the war… Additional Northern volunteers flocked to the colors…after the setback of the Seven Days in June and July 1862.[8]

It just so happens that William Howard and Howard Forrer, both 20 years old, enlisted in the late summer of 1862, but I’m not sure it had much to do with the Battle of the Seven Days. From the sound of Sarah’s letter in May, both boys were already eager to join up.

William enlisted with the 17th Independent Battery Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery (Sarah calls it the “17th Ohio Battery” for short) at its formation in August 1862. He signed up for three years and was made a second lieutenant.[9]

Howard recruited for the 112th Ohio Volunteer Infantry throughout the summer of 1862, and when the regiment failed to fill up, it was eventually combined with the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in November. Howard was Adjutant of the 63rd O.V.I., having enlisted for three years of service.[10]

Recruitment Ad for the 112th O.V.I. in the Dayton Daily Journal, 23 Oct. 1862, pg. 1

Recruitment Ad for the 112th O.V.I. in the Dayton Daily Journal, 23 Oct. 1862, pg. 1

Patriotism and nationalism as enlistment motivations sometimes included reference to the Founding Fathers: “If disunion destroyed this nation, the generation of 1861 would prove unworthy of the heritage of republican liberty.”[11]

A man’s sense of honor and duty was often cited as a reason for serving, also.

The consciousness of duty was pervasive in Victorian America… Victorians understood duty to be a binding moral obligation involving reciprocity: one had to defend the flag under whose protection one had lived.[12]

Furthermore: “Duty and honor were closely linked to concepts of masculinity in Victorian America.”[13] If a man failed at a real or perceived duty, he might appear to have lost some or all of his honor.

Not surprisingly, McPherson points out that women didn’t always “get” the whole duty/honor thing. While a man might feel it was his duty to serve, his wife might argue that his duty to his family was more important.[14]

I think this could be similarly extrapolated to mothers: Most mothers probably care much more deeply for their sons’ lives than their reputations. (I seriously wonder how many of those ancient Spartan mothers really meant it when they said, “Come back with your shield or on it.” Come to think of it, I wonder if any of them ever actually said that, since all those old histories were written by men. But I digress…)

I guess at some point the mothers knew they must just let them go. Sarah Forrer made numerous references in her letters and journal of her aversion to Howard’s army service. But when the time came for him to march off to the front for the first time, she did not fuss:

I feel as great dislike to his going as ever I did, and to his being connected with the Army in any way, but there seemed a necessity, just now, and I could not prevent him if I would. I think too he felt better that I bade him fare well quietly and without manifesting much emosion [sic]. Nothing else would serve him, I hope and trust I shall soon see him again…[15]

Patriotism, duty, and honor were certainly among the reasons that men served in the Civil War. But I think we would be foolish if we presumed that all motivations were pure.

Some men enlisted because they were looking for kicks; they had this idea that war is exciting, glorious, and romantic.[16] What little boy doesn’t like toy soldiers and war stories? So I guess it’s not surprising that when a real war came along, many young men thought it would be an adventure. (I do think the excitement angle probably had some influence over the young men in my story.) Of course, “once they had seen the elephant [a real battle], few Civil War soldiers were eager to see it again.”[17]

I do think the excitement angle probably had some influence over the young men in my story. The way Sarah turns the phrase “cure them of all desire to enter the army” makes me imagine a couple of boys chomping at the bit for war news every morning, watching their friends join up and march off, and moping around that their mommies won’t “let” them go play too.

Or maybe I’m way off base. But that is the way my imagination fills in the gaps—because let’s face it, when you don’t have enough actual facts to paint a complete picture, your imagination tries to fill in some of the gaps whether you meant to or not. (Just remember to keep facts and fiction clearly marked in your head—and, if applicable, your blog!)

There were other motivations for enlisting that weren’t totally noble, and I think that recruitment ads like this one (and the one several paragraphs above, for that matter) illustrate the point pretty well:

Recruitment ad for the Dayton Rangers in the Dayton Daily Journal, 15 Aug. 1862, pg. 2

Recruitment ad for the Dayton Rangers in the Dayton Daily Journal, 15 Aug. 1862, pg. 2

Notice the offer of a bounty and the mention of a potential draft. There were many others very similar to this one—you can see some of them on the Dayton Metro Library “Civil War Misc.” Flickr set. It’s like the ads are shouting: “We’ll give you money, and you can choose to enlist voluntarily, rather than waiting for the dishonor of joining only because you were forced to by the draft!”

There was no large scale national draft in the North until the Enrollment Act of 1863. However, individual states had to come up with quotas of soldiers for the army, and if these quotas weren’t met by volunteer enlistments, there might be smaller scale drafts to fill the empty spaces.

The threat of draft was definitely not the case for Howard Forrer’s enlistment, however. His father Samuel wrote on August 24, 1862:

[Howard] cannot even be drafted because our ward and indeed the city has furnished its full quota of the active force of the army called for to their time.[18]

The Forrers lived in Dayton’s Ward 2, which is the ward that includes most of downtown. Back in those days, many of Dayton’s upper crust folks lived in luxurious homes that were right downtown. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the 2nd Ward had already fulfilled its quota, since many of the early volunteers (often officers) came from upper- and middle-class backgrounds.[19]

These men “had enlisted early in the war from motives—in their own eyes at least—of duty, honor, and patriotism.”[20] Sure, they didn’t need the bounty money if they were already rich. Nor did they need to fear the draft, if their communities were quick to fulfill the quotas. But if a man is already wealthy and influential, what would he worry about more than money? His reputation perhaps? And remember, the honor code was still a pretty big deal in Victorian America.

I think some weren’t just being patriotic or dutiful for the sake of patriotism and duty only. Some probably joined because they felt what essentially amounts to peer pressure: the need to appear honorable, dutiful, and patriotic, whether they really felt that way or not. Even if a man might really prefer to take his chances with the draft, he couldn’t because his high-minded peers “looked down on the conscripts, substitutes, and bounty men who had been drafted or had enlisted for money.”[21] I’m sure he didn’t want to look like a coward either.

Obviously, if the man actually was poor, he might really need the money. Or if he happened to not be concerned about his reputation, he might just wait for the draft. But I have zeroed in on the upper-/middle-class angle just now because all the men in my story were from that group. I don’t think any of them would have been swayed by money as a reason for enlisting: Howard Affleck and Edward Affleck’s father was a doctor; Luther Bruen was a lawyer; William Howard’s father was a lawyer (and William himself a law student); and Howard Forrer’s father was the canal engineer (and Howard had job as a teacher).

In short, what do I propose to have been their reasons then? Well, like I said, I can’t tell you for certain, because I don’t have any letters where each man actually says, “I’m enlisting, and here’s why…” But my guess in the case of the first four—Howard Affleck, Luther Bruen, William Howard, and Howard Forrer—is that patriotism, duty, and the honor code all played their parts. (In the case of the 3 younger men, I think that sense of adventure probably also played some part.)

But wait, I’ve almost forgotten about Edward Affleck. He doesn’t really fit the profile of the big waves of patriotism in 1861 and 1862 (although I’m sure there were little ones). The younger brother of the ill-fated Howard did not serve on the front until 1864. He was 20 years old when he enlisted in the 170th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on May 2, 1864. The regiment was composed of two National Guard battalions, including the 74th from Belmont County (his home).[22] I wonder if he was already a member of it, and if he had been in the Guard long? I wonder if that was a compromise between his mother’s wish for him to stay away from the war and his own wish to join up. Was it for reasons of patriotism, duty, or honor? I hate to even mention the romantic, cliché-sounding idea that he might have been eager to avenge the gruesome death of his brother, but it’s a possibility. After all, award-winning historian James McPherson mentioned that motivation, too:

“The desire to avenge comrades or relatives killed by enemy bullets burned as hotly in Northern as in Southern hearts.”[23]

Then again, I think if he was hot to avenge his brother, he would have marched right up to the enlistment office in May 1862 and not waited two years. (Maybe he did go to back to Dayton with his aunt to go to school? I didn’t find any references to that, though.) Who knows?

That’s really about the only concrete thing I can say to you from this entry (at least, in respect to the five guys in my story): who knows why they enlisted? I really don’t. Even if I did have letters, or even perhaps diary entries, where the men wrote down their reasons, could we trust them? McPherson points out that “the motives of many volunteers were mixed in a way that was impossible for them to disentangle in their own minds.”[24]

If they didn’t even know why (let alone leave a record of it for me to find), how could I? I never promised to figure out the precise enlistment motives of these five men. I just thought it would be an interesting path to wander for a while.

In the next part, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled facts…

[1] Sarah Forrer to her husband Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio), 4:2.

[2] Sarah Forrer to her husband Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2.

[3] James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 12.

[4] McPherson, 14-34.

[5] McPherson, 16.

[6] American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[7] American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[8] McPherson, 17.

[9] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. X (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), 583.

[10] American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; various letters from Samuel Forrer & Sarah Forrer to their daughters Mary Forrer & Augusta Bruen, Aug.-Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10, 4:5; Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. V (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 383.

[11] McPherson, 18-19.

[12] McPherson, 22-23.

[13] McPherson, 25.

[14] McPherson, 23.

[15] Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, 7 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[16] McPherson, 27-33.

[17] McPherson, 33.

[18] Samuel Forrer to his daughter Mary Forrer, 24 Aug. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[19] McPherson, 8.

[20] McPherson, 8.

[21] McPherson, 8.

[22] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), 415, 417.

[23] McPherson, 153.

[24] McPherson, 28.