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.

4 responses to “A Tale of Two Howards, Part 6 – Howard Forrer (Part A)

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards, Part 8 – Howard Forrer (Part B) | Glancing Backwards

  2. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards, Part 13 – Howard Forrer (Part E) – Final Installment | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: Sure it’s genealogy; it’s just not mine! | Glancing Backwards

  4. Pingback: They all add up | Glancing Backwards

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