A Tale of Two Howards, Part 7 – The Squirrel Hunters

…in these stirring times I suppose it would be too much to ask of a young man of spirit to sit in the house teaching…while most of his companions are in the field…[1]

-Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary, 3 Sept. 1862

 Note: This article is not intended as a history of the Squirrel Hunters but as a framework for sharing the stories of two particular Squirrel Hunters from Dayton, Ohio: Howard Forrer and Eugene Parrott. For more general history of this episode, check out Panic on the Ohio! from Blue & Gray Magazine (Apr/May 1986).

On September 1, 1862—the same day that Howard Forrer reluctantly returned to teaching a classroom full of students at the Second District School after his efforts to join the army had so far failed—a meeting was called at Dayton’s Armory Hall to discuss the city’s defense needs, in light of recent intelligence that a portion of Kirby Smith’s army under Brig. Gen. Henry Heth was advancing through northern Kentucky to threaten Ohio, following a victory at Richmond, Kentucky.[2]

As a result of the September 1 meeting, it was resolved that

in view of the impending danger of invasion of the State, all able-bodied men should enroll themselves for military discipline and drill, and hold themselves in readiness to go to the front at the call of the governor…[3]

The call of the governor did indeed come, the very next day. On September 2, Ohio Governor David Tod issued the following call for men to defend Ohio’s borders:

Our southern border is threatened with invasion. I have therefore to recommend that all the loyal men of your counties at once form themselves into military companies and regiments to beat back the enemy at any and all points he may attempt to invade our State. Gather up all the arms in the country, and furnish yourselves with ammunition for the same. The service will be but a few days. The soil of Ohio must not be invaded by the enemies of our glorious government.[4]

H. Eugene Parrott, a 23-year-old bachelor who would later marry into the Forrer/Peirce family, wrote of the excitement in his diary on September 2:

Our city has been a state of excitem’t today on account of the proximity of the rebel army in Ky. Our forces were compelled to evacuate Lexingtonby Gen. Kirby Smith with 20 men, & there apparently nothing to prevent him from advancing to Covington& into Ohio. Cincinnatiis under martial law & in a great panic. At a meeting of citizens this eve’g, “to prepare for the defense of the MiamiValley,” it was resolved that all able bodied men should hereafter close their places of business at 4 P.M. & spend 2 hours in drilling. We are to meet at the polls of the several wards tomorrow & organize into companies & regiments…[5]

On the evening of September 2, Howard Forrer informed his parents that he would be answering the governor’s call. His mother Sarah wrote:

[Howard] told me this evening that he has the place of Post Adjutant at Camp Dayton. Since he will go, I suppose it is best he should have some place…[6]

The next morning, Howard’s cousin William Howard departed for Cincinnati with the 17th Ohio Battery (see Part 5), and Howard himself reported to Camp Dayton. Howard’s mother Sarah wrote to her daughter that morning:

Howard goes to Camp Dayton this morning to take the place of Adjutant. I do not know whether it is anything that will last long, but he is resolved at all [illegible] to go from the school… Howard goes to Columbus tonight with a recommendation from Col. [Tr.?] to the Gov, for the place of Post Adjutant. He may not [receive?] it, and may not keep it long if he does. It is uncertain whether there will be a Military Post there long. But Howard thinks it would be a stepping stone to something else perhaps the Adjutancy of the 112th.[7]

In her diary entry for the same day, Sarah wrote:

…it is very hard for me to feel willing to give up my only son, even for the defence of the country… He feels so injured by my continual opposition to his wishes that I must be silent… I suppose it is too much to ask of a young man of spirit to sit in the house and teach, in these stirring times, when most of his friends are in the field.[8]

According to Eugene Parrott, the men who turned up for the defense of Dayton on September 3 constituted “a disorganized mess,” as he wrote later that day:

Our city has been in a state of great excitement today. All the stores were closed at 4 P.M. & every body turned out to form ward companies & drill, a disorganized mess that would be little value as soldiers I think for a long time but it was encouraging to see the willing spirit manifested by such a wholesale turn-out. The news is better this eve’g; it is even said that Kirby Smith is south of the Ky river, & the story of his advance on Cin was only invented in order to have the city entrenched & fortified as it ought to be.[9]

On September 4, 1862, the following address, imploring men to volunteer to defend Dayton and indeed the state from Confederate invaders, appeared in the Dayton Daily Journal on September 4, 1862:

"The Enemy at Our Front Door," Dayton Daily Journal, Sept. 4, 1862

"The Enemy at Our Front Door," Dayton Daily Journal, Sept. 4, 1862

The result of the governor’s call, the “Enemy at Our Door” article and similar efforts throughout the state, was that

from all parts of the State, men came to the front with all kinds of arms, shot-guns, rifles, pistols, anything that came handy, and dressed in any kind of attire that happened to suit the occasion. So variously were they dressed, and so variously were they armed, that they received the name of ‘Squirrel Hunters’…[10]

On the afternoon of the September 4, there was quite a bit of excitement, as Sarah Forrer wrote in her diary on the day afterward:

Yesterday there was an alarm. All the bells in the city rang violently. I was writing. On going out I learned all who were able were expected to go to Cincinnati. The rebels are said to be coming in force. The city is all excitement. In a few minutes a very fine-looking young man gave me a note from Brother John [Howard] saying, “Give this man, Mr. J___, your rifle.” Mr. J___ said Mr. Forrer would be at home soon and would mould some bullets. I gave him the Rifle and he left, saying he would return. Husband [Samuel Forrer] came and began to mould bullets, and I to mend the old shot pouch to carry them in, and some other things, as patches, bullet moulds, etc. Husband quit his work, saying there was enough. I thought not and moulded more. Then Betty came and moulded till Mr. F. insisted she should stop. We put the old rifle in good condition. After an hour Mr. J___ came and said he did not need it, that Mr. Howard would lend him an army gun. I saw him afterwards with his outfit. The old rifle is in my chamber. It came very near seeing two wars. It was in the war of 1812…[11]

Howard Forrer was still in Columbus when the alarm was sounded on September 4. However, he had seen similar excitement during his time in Columbus. “You ought to have seen the men going with [their] squirrel guns[,] old long rifles,” he told his mother upon his return to Dayton on the 5th. She replied, “Oh, I said, I brushed up one myself today.” He asked, “Were you frightened here too?” [12]

In recounting her answer to Howard in a letter to her daughters, Sarah added a few more details than what she had written in her journal:

I said while I sat writing, about three o’clock the all bells in the City rang violently, and on inquiry I found there was a dispatch from the Gov. telling us to send everybody down that we could arm, and all were to assemble at the Court House to make arrangements. I heard the door bell ring, and on going to the door was met by a good honest working young man, with a note from Brother John, saying give this man your Rifle. I went immediately gave it to him, but told him, there were no bullets. He said he would be back in a minute or two and Mr. Howard said Mr. Forrer would come soon and mould bullets. In a moment Father [Samuel Forrer] came with some lead. As soon as he opened the door, he asked was not that my Rifle. I met out here, I told him, yes, I supposed thee told John to send the men here for it. He said to me, I told him Howard and I would want it. I said Howard would not use the Old Rifle if he was here, and thee can’t go, there is no use in talking about it; it is better the young man go, let him have it, so he went to moulding bullets…[13]

Samuel Forrer was then 69 years old, so it was probably well that his wife forbade him to join the Squirrel Hunters!

After the alarm on September 4, Eugene Parrott resolved that he too must answer the call to arms, despite his father’s wishes that he remain at home. (Eugene’s older brother, Edwin A. Parrott was already gone with the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and his father wished his youngest son to stay at home and help with the business.) Eugene wrote of the day’s excitement and his decision:

The enemy is reported today 16 miles fr Cinti & nearly every young man in town went down tonight with a gun. I have this afternoon endured agony in yieldg to my father’s entreats, but I cannot stay, my country calls, tomorrow I go.[14]

Sarah wrote in her diary September 5 that many troops had departed for Cincinnati:

Yesterday [Sept. 4] and today [Sept. 5] the troops and farmers, mostly the latter, pass by carloads, and many thousands have gone down. Part of a regiment in CampDaytonleft. Howard went as adjutant. I scarce allowed myself to think he was going, but made ready for him with as little delay as possible. After he was gone and evening came on I was quite exhausted. All were out and gone home, and I sat alone on the little back porch to rest my weary self. But I dared not think of Howard.[15]

She wrote of Howard’s departure in slightly more detail in a letter to her daughters on September 7:

Howard had the Post Adjutancy here ‘till further orders.’ And he was detailed with Hunter Odlin as Capt. To take 500 troops to Cin[cinnati]. They went Friday evening [Sept. 5]. Some think they will not be needed, and will be sent back, as they are raw troops, to drill here inCampDayton. I hope so…

I was prepared to see Howard go when he returned from Colum[bus]. And I think he was very much relieved to find me composed, and manifesting no great excitement…

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 for they are quite green, and if they can be spared I think they will be sent home to prepare themselves better for service. I try not to think much about it. And I want you to do the same. It is a matter beyond our control…[16]

In her diary that same day, she added a note of describing how she already missed her beloved only son: “It is even worse than I had anticipated. I go into Howard’s room and everything tells me he is gone…”[17]

A few days later, Sarah was pleased to receive word that, so far, Howard was safe:

Received a short note from Howard, written in great haste at Camp King, three miles below Cincinnati on the Ohio river, on the Kentucky side. He is well. For this I am thankful. I knew they had no tents, and I feared the exposure would be too much for him, unaccustomed as he is to that kind of life…[18]

Eugene Parrott was among the many Daytonians, including Howard Forrer, who headed to Cincinnati on September 5, to join a force of about several thousand so-called Squirrel Hunters.[19]

Eugene’s diary entries for those days help bring the experience to life:

September 5, 1862:

Left home after a hasty tea armed & equipped, a soldier of the Union. As soon as I got away & felt I was certainly going I felt I was in the right course, pursuing my highest duty. Our train got off amid the cheers of the people, at 8 P.M.; reported at Chamber of Commerce at midnight; were marched to 5th St. market space for supper, & returning turned in on the floor at 3 o’clock.[20]

September 6, 1862:

At 5 A.M. having got about an hour & a half’s sleep there was a noise commenced enough to awake the seven sleepers, so rose feeling pretty well on short rest. Breakfasted at Burnet with Charlie Clegg. Everybody said the call was a ‘hum,’ so got a discharge, but heard about dinner the attack was about to commence, so reported again at Mer Exch. My company had been ordered off so I fell in with a Dayton squad and we were detailed for Harrison’s Body Guard, & ordered to North Bend, where the enemy was expected to cross the river. Didn’t get a train till six P.M. Got to North Bend& found no enemy, apparently a false alarm. [Illegible] tonight by the river side.[21]

September 7, 1862:

Rose at 5 A.M. quite refreshed by my first night’s sleep on the ground. [Illegible] out with part of the squad foraging for breakfast. Fared pretty well at the Thirteen Mile House. We went into camp today on our regimental parade ground, which is on Gen Harrison’s homestead, just in front of where his house stood. There was board yard here on the river which the men used for putting up very comfortable quarters.[22]

September 8, 1862:

Rose at 6 A.M. after a broken night’s rest—waked up at midnight by mosquitoes & kept up by the fun of the [squad?] until 2, then on guard until 4. The Guard made a forced march onCleves, about a mile distant where we had ordered breakfast, & a good one we got from mine host Kennedy. The impression seems to be that the danger is about over now, & as my business is too imperative to admit of my staying to play soldier I got a pass fromCol.Harrison & leftNorth Bendat 2:50 P.M. Reached home at 8, went to the office & looked over the business. Home at Ten. Our Guard was ordered down to the river on a scouting expedition this morning—going down on one of the river gun boats, & taking a [train?] intoKentucky, the enemy’s country. When we got orders, Young & I who were going home, determined to go on the scout, even if we missed our train, but having to go back to camp after my ammunition, from Hd Qrs, I found on my return our Guard was about a quarter of a mile down the river, I went after them ‘double quick,’ but when I got within about a hundred yards of the boat she shoved off, leaving me very much discomfited.

Last night about 5 o’clock, it was telegraphed to Hd. Qrs. from CampTippecanoe, 5 miles below here, that the enemy was in sight, & for a short time, we confidently expected a fight. We were ordered under arms ready to march, & supplied with ammunition. The Col.went down to see about the matters & returning in a few hours informed us that it was a party of our own men who had been foraging in Ky & were returning, which caused the alarm. Our boys seemed quite cool at the prospect of a fight, for myself I felt no apprehension, for I knew I had come out to fight & led by high & conscientious motives & if I fell it would be in a sacred cause. My greatest anxiety was for father, who I knew would sorely miss me in the business if I should fall.[23]

(Ouch! He thought his father would only miss him in the business if he were killed? Perhaps Thomas Parrott was not the most affectionate dad.)

Howard Forrer wrote his version of the events of September 7 and 8 to his mother, which she summarized briefly in a letter to her daughters a few days later:

I received both of your letters today, and one from Howard this morning. I had a short note yesterday, and a letter of 8 pages today. The first was dated Sept. 7th, Camp King, Ky., 3 miles below Ci—i [Cincinnati]. The one today at Camp 13 miles beyond Covington dated 8 Sept. In his first he said they had two calls to arms soon after entering the encampment, but they both proved false. They were ordered to march, and had a long hot march to their present camp. Some of the men dropped with fatigue and heat. Howard said he was well, and pretty near rested when he wrote…[24]

On September 9, Eugene Parrott was back in Dayton, according to his diary:

Busy in the office part of the day, the other part fighting my battles (?) o’er on the street & telling about that ‘gay & festiverous’ corps, the ‘Body Guard.’ Slept at Aunt Margaret’s tonight, the family wanting a protector during Charlie’s absence.[25]

However, on September 10, all the Squirrel Hunters were called back to Cincinnati. (This was probably in response to a skirmish that took place at Fort Mitchel that day; the skirmish was the closest the Squirrel Hunters actually got to any real action.[26]) Eugene wrote of the call back:

Another alarm from Cinti today. The Governor calls all the minute men back. As soon as we got the news I came home & got ready to go back, feeling if there should be a fight, I ought by all means to be with my company. We had a dispatch the eve from Joe, say’g that the enemy was in sight & they expected to hear their guns every minute, but having had some experience in Cinti scares, & not being in a condition to leave home except in a great emergency, I concluded to wait until tomorrow.[27]

Also on September 10, Sarah shared some additional Squirrel Hunter news with her daughter:

Did I tell you Fin Harrison has command of a Regiment or in some way, I do not know how he has got to be a Brigadier, and is in command of our Dayton volunteers, and I suppose some others, at ‘North Bend’, his grandfather’s old home. Joe Peirce and Brit Darst went to join his command today…[28]

Apparently, Joe Peirce and Brit Darst were also friends of Eugene Parrott, because the three went to Cincinnati together, but on September 11, not the 10th:

I woke this morning uncertain whether I ought to go back to North Bend or not, but Munger & Joe Peirce came into the office about eleven o’clock, & said they would go if I would, & not feeling willing to keep three men from the field when possibly we were much needed I consented to go. Left at 4 P.M. with Peirce & Brit Darst. Munger couldn’t get ready. Reached Ludlow about six, & got off intending to go across the country to the river, & thereby avoid red tape in Cin, as we feared if a fight was in progress we should have difficulty in getting out on the O&M Rd. Couldn’t get a horse for love or money, & couldn’t learn that there was any road except through Cin, so we laid around until the next down train, nearly midnight. Darst and I took possession of a bench at the depot with our knapsacks for pillows, got two or three hours of very comfortable sleep. Went to bed at the Burnet House at 1:30 A.M.[29]

A “great battle” was apparently expected to take place on September 12, Eugene wrote:

Rose at 4 & took the 5 o’clock train for Camp Harrison. The morning papers say that Kirby Smith was last night reinforced by 10,000 of Bragg’s troops & there will certainly be a great battle today. Got to camp in time to go with the ‘Guard’ for one of Kennedy’s good breakfasts. Fell easily into the routine of camp life, slept, smoked, eat, & speculated on the approach of the enemy. Our scouts inform us there were 300 rebel cavalry last night at FrancisvilleKy.2 miles only from our Hd. Qrs., but they don’t show themselves on the river. The news comes to us from Cin that Smith is retreating this afternoon, & Col.Harrison talks of taking his Brig tomorrow across the river, to hang on the enemy’s rear & pick up stragglers.[30]

No great battle between Kirby Smith’s army and the Squirrel Hunters ever took place:

…whether Kirby Smith’s soldiers would have been as easily brought down at the crack of their [the Squirrel Hunters’] rifles and shot-guns as squirrels had frequently been on previous occasions, was never demonstrated, as they [the Confederates] retreated southward without testing the valor of the Squirrel Hunters.[31]

On September 13, Eugene Parrott and many of the other Squirrel Hunters returned to their homes. The men returning to Dayton were apparently met with much fanfare, despite the fact that they had not participated in any actual combat:

Today we end our bloodless campaign. The Cin papers & the Gov’s proclamation say the danger is over & the minute men will be discharged. Tho’ we have done nothing in the way of fighting, we came with willing hearts to do it, & probably after all it is the militia have saved Cin. The hosts of them that lined the banks of the Ohiowould have made the crossing of the river a very severe undertaking. It has been a glorious sight to see; almost worth a man’s life time, the great outpouring of the citizen soldiery, politicians & legislators in the ranks, & stout yeomanry from all quarters of the state with their squirrel rifles & blankets over their shoulders have been pouring into Cin by thousands & tens of thousands. It has not been so seen since Bunker Hill. Got home at eight o’clock—found a crowd at the depot & as much fuss made over us as if we were really blood stained heroes.[32]

 *****

Howard Forrer was not among those returning to Dayton on September 13, however. He stayed in northern Kentucky with his newfound regiment, the 112th. On the 15th, Samuel Forrer traveled down to Kentucky to visit his son at camp. In one of the few surviving letters written by Howard Forrer himself, he tells his sister Elizabeth how pleased he was by the visit:

Father came to see me yesterday and besides the delightful surprise of his own presence he brought his carpet sack full of good things from home, good in themselves and doubly good as reminders that I am not forgotten by the loved ones at home…[33]

Howard was stationed at Camp Shaler, one of the fortifications built up on the Kentucky side for the defense of Cincinnati. (Camp Shaler, or Shaler Battery, is now part of Evergreen Cemetery in Southgate, Ky – see photo.) Sarah conveyed news of Howard’s activates at Camp Shaler, as well as his regiment’s recruitment situation, to her daughters on September 21:

I had a very kind and pleasant letter from Howard from Camp Shaler or Taylor as they sometimes call it. He was well and seemed to enjoy his situation, since they are settled in this Camp, which is a pleasant place, in the Cemetery, only a few miles over the river. I did not mean to say he endured all the privations and hardships of a private. He has a horse, and was not so fatigued with the long, hot, unnecessary march as the poor men were, but he felt indignant on their account, and he too was much fatigued. We are trying to get them home to finish recruiting the regiment, but Gen. [Horatio G.] Wright says he has been sending so many away, that at present he cannot spare them. Mr. Odlin is making [exertions?] for them, in the way of recruiting, having obtained authority from the Gov. He intends to have Hunter for Lieutenant Col. Who they will have for Col. I do not know. They wish to get some one who will give [character?] to the Regiment and in this way aid in enlisting. Father says he does not think they will succeed[,] the time is so short. If they do, he thinks Howard will be the Adjutant. For my part, if the want of success is the means of disgusting Howard with the service, I hope they will not succeed… I hope he will be disgusted and leave…[34]

Unfortunately, Sarah did not get her wish.


[1] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 3 Sept. 1862, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 4:5, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

[2] History of Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889), 296; David E. Roth, “Squirrel Hunters to the Rescue,” Blue and Gray Magazine 3, no 5 (Apr./May 1986), http://www.cincinnaticwrt.org/data/ohio%20in%20the%20war/1862%20Defense%20of%20Cincinnati/iii_squirrel.pdf.

[3] History of Dayton, Ohio, 296.

[4] David Tod, 2 Sept. 1862, quoted in Roth.

[5] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 2 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[6] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [2 Sept. 1862], quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[7] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 3 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[8] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [3 Sept. 1862], quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[9] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 3 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[10] History of Dayton, Ohio, 297.

[11] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 5 Sept. 1862, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

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

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

[14] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 4 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[15] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 5 Sept. 1862, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

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

[17] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 7 Sept. 1862, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[18] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [?] Sept. 1862, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[19] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 5 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[20] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 5 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[21] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 6 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[22] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 7 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[23] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 8 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

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

[25] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 9 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[26] Roth.

[27] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 10 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

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

[29] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 11 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[30] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 12 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[31] History of Dayton, Ohio, 297.

[32] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 13 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[33] Howard Forrer to Elizabeth (Forrer) Peirce, 16 Sept. 1862, FPW, 6:8.

[34] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, 21 Sept. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

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3 responses to “A Tale of Two Howards, Part 7 – The Squirrel Hunters

  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: Bio Sketch: H. Eugene Parrott (1839-1933) & Henrietta (Peirce) Parrott (1848-1919) (& family), early residents of Oakwood, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

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