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A Tale of Two Howards, Part 13 – Howard Forrer (Part E) – Final Installment

“Who will survive is known only to Him who ruleth all things well.”[1]

*****

I began this “tale” with the story of Howard Affleck, a bright and promising young man from Bridgeport, Ohio, who, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago today (May 15, 1862), died from wounds he received at the Battle of Shiloh (Parts 1, 2, and 3). He was the first of the “Two Howards.”

We have traced the stories of Howard’s relatives in Dayton—William Howard (Part 5), Luther Bruen (Part 9), Howard Forrer (Parts 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11)—and his younger brother Edward Affleck (Part 12). Two—William and Edward—survived the war, living to old age. Three died as a result of the war: Howard Affleck died of his wounds after returning to his parents’ home (Part 3) and was subsequently buried in his hometown. Luther Bruen, also wounded in battle, died in a hospital at Washington, D.C., and his body was shipped home promptly for burial (Part 9).

But Howard Forrer…was killed instantly, July 22, 1864, on the battlefield atDecatur,Georgia. His regiment, which was retreating at the time, was unable to retrieve his body immediately, and by the next day, the townsfolk had already buried him.

Because of the ongoing war, even his family was unable to go and retrieve his remains. His mother later wrote in her diary: “We were obliged to leave him a year in Georgia…”[2]

Time marched on. The war continued. The Forrers’ new house in HarrisonTownship(near their daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Peirce at Five Oaks) was almost complete.[3]

Howard Forrer’s remains would not come home toDaytonuntil November 1865, nearly 16 months after his death.

In the meantime, the Forrer family commemorated Howard by having his portrait painted from a photograph, at cost of about $125 (about $1,700 in today’s money). Several letters from Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary in September 1864 dwell upon which photograph should be used, the precise shade of blue of Howard’s army coat, and the color of his hair and eyes.[4]

Based on Sarah’s descriptions and her mention of retrieving the photo negative from Cridland’s photography studio[5], I believe this may the photograph from which the portrait was painted:

Howard Forrer

Howard Forrer

In these letters about the portrait, Sarah frequently refers to her son as “dear Howie,” rather than “Howard,” which was what she nearly always called him in all of her writings prior to his death (all that I have seen and read, anyway).[6] Having read so many of Sarah’s letters, I noticed the change immediately. I’m no psychologist, but I couldn’t help forming a theory about the change in how she referred to her son:

I suppose a nearly 23-year-old army officer might have insisted that his mother treat him like a man and refrain from calling him by a childhood nickname. Sarah had often written of putting on a brave face for her son, playing the patriotic mother and pretending to be fine when truly she wasn’t. I imagine she still saw him as a child, as many mothers see their children even after the children are adults. When he died, he could no longer defend his adulthood; so in Sarah’s mind, he reverted ever more back to being her baby, her beloved little boy, “dear Howie,” whom she would never see again.

The Forrers of course continued to seek information about how they could retrieve their son’s body.

Samuel Forrer apparently wrote to A. C. Fenner, the Acting Assistant Adjutant General of Howard Forrer’s brigade, asking for his assistance with the matter. It seems that the state of the roads and railroads near Atlanta—not to mention Sherman’s March to the Sea and general “total war” on the South—greatly contributed to do with the inability to retrieve poor Howard’s remains.

A. C. Fenner wrote to Samuel Forrer on January 11, 1865:

…The R. R. was also broken up so that trains could not pass to Atlanta… Nov 15 the Army started on the recent campaign so that no opportunity has been afforded me of visiting Decatur Ga. Or getting any information from there since I was in Dayton. The troops who occupied it last[,] the 23d Corps[,] are as you have observed in Tenn. The R. R. south of [Chatt.?] Is all destroyed South of Kingston.

Of course all prospects of visiting the place is now out of the question until the Road is rebuilt which will not be probably till after the war.

I am extremely sorry it never was in my power to render such services in this case as know would greatly gratify you. My personal relations alone with Howard prompted me if it had been possible to have done all you had desired but the stern circumstances of war interfered…[7]

The Civil War finally ended with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Although certainly relieved that the war was over, many on both sides still mourned what the war had cost. Among them were the sisters Mary Affleck and Sarah Forrer, both of whom had lost sons—the “two Howards” of this tale’s title: Howard Affleck and Howard Forrer—in the war. Mary’s letter to her sister Sarah on June 18, 1865, and the accompany poem, “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble, illustrate the what a bittersweet victory it was:

…it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own…

Has thee ever read “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble? I think it one of the grandest things I ever read, and will bear reading again, so I have copied it for thee…[8]

The poem was as follows:

“The Hour of Northern Victory”[9]
By Fanny Kemble

Roll not a drum, sound not a clarion-note
Of haughty triumph to the silent sky;
Hush’d be the shout of joy in ev’ry throat,
And veil’d the flash of pride in ev’ry eye.

Not with the Te Deums loud and high Hosannas,
Greet we the awful victory we have won,
But with our arms revers’d and lower’d banners
We stand—our work is done! 

Thy work is done, God, terrible and just,
Who lay’dst upon our hearts and hands this task,
And kneeling, with our foreheads in the dust,
We venture Peace to ask. 

Bleeding and writhing underneath our sword,
Prostrate our brethren lie, Thy fallen foe,
Struck down by Thee through us, avenging Lord,—
By Thy dread hand laid low. 

For our own guilt have we been doomed to smite
These our own kindred Thy great laws defying,
These, our own flesh and blood, who now unite
In one thing only with us—bravely dying. 

Dying how bravely, yet how bitterly!
Not for the better side, but for the worse,
Blindly and madly striving against Thee
For the bad cause where thou hast set Thy curse. 

At whose defeat we may not raise our voice,
Save in the deep thanksgiving of our prayers,
‘Lord! We have fought the fight!’ But to rejoice
Is ours no more than theirs. 

Call back Thy dreadful ministers of wrath
Who have led on our hosts to this great day;
Let our feet halt now in the avenger’s path,
And bid our weapons stay. 

Upon our land, Freedom’s inheritance,
Turn Thou once more the splendor of Thy face,
Where nations serving Thee to light advance,
Give us again our place. 

Not our bewildering past prosperity,
Not all thy former ill-requited grace,
But this one boon—Oh! Grant us still to be
The home of Hope to the whole human race. 

Mary’s letter continued:

I have been looking over on the island [Wheeling Island], which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.[10]

By the time Mary Affleck wrote that letter, her son Howard had been dead for three years (Part 3). Her son Edward had been spent many months in a POW camp but had finally returned to her (Part 12).

In the summer of 1865, the anniversary of Howard Forrer’s death came and went, and the Forrers still had not been able to retrieve his remains, despite the war finally being over.

On September 25, 1865, over 14 months after Howard had been killed, Maj. Genl. Thomas granted the necessary permissions to Samuel Forrer:

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer's body, 1865

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer’s body, 1865

Permission is hereby granted to Mr. Saml. Forrer to disinter the body of Lieut. Howard Forrer now buried at Decatur Georgia & to remove the same by Express or otherwise to Dayton Ohio, provided the disinterring is made at once after Oct. 15, 1865, & the body is shipped in a metallic coffin.[11]

Samuel Forrer inquired immediately about the cost of train fares and metallic coffins, apparently writing to Genl. Gates Phillips Thruston, a Daytonian stationed at Nashville, on October 1. Thruston wrote back on October 13, stating that the fare from Daytonto Atlantawould be about $30 (about $425 today), and sending a price list for coffins.[12]

While Samuel Forrer was making his arrangements to finally retrieve his son from Atlanta, the U.S. Treasury Department forwarded the balance of Howard’s back pay to his father: $797.89. The pay was for the time period of December 31, 1863, through Howard’s death on July 22, 1864.[13] Apparently, he had not received any pay for several months, which was not uncommon.

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

That $797 in back pay amounted to about $11,000 in today’s dollars.[14] However, it most certainly did not amount to much of anything to the Forrers, compared with the loss of their only son Howard.

Samuel Forrer and his brother-in-law John Howard finally made the journey in November 1865 to bring Howard Forrer home toDaytonat long last. It was a bittersweet relief. The son they remembered was of course not the son they brought home. Sarah wrote of it a few years later:

…And then dear Husband and our dear, kind Brother John went and brought him home… There was nothing left but dry bones and some parts of his clothing, one piece showing his name written in indelible ink by me. They took a case with them and put the dear remains in and packed it with sweet pine boughs that it might carry safely. And so he came who left in health, radiant, enthusiastic… Oh, so lovely!![15]

The Dayton Journal published a notice on November 14, 1865, announcing that Howard Forrer’s remains had finally come home, as well as the funeral arrranagements:

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The remains of the lamented Howard Forrer arrived here yesterday, in charge of the venerable bereaved father, Samuel Forrer, and John Howard, Esq. Lieut. Forrer was killed during a charge upon our lines near Decatur, Ga., on the 22d of July, 1864. He was truly an estimable and talented young man, and a gallant soldier. We cannot too highly honor the memory of the noble young men who offered up their lives for their country. The funeral of Lieut. Forrer will take place at the family residence, near Tate’s Mills, northwest of the city, at 2 o’clock to-day, and his remains will be interred at ‘Woodland.’[16]

On November 14, 1865, Howard Forrer was finally laid to rest inWoodlandCemeteryin his home town ofDayton,Ohio.

Howard Forrer's grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

Howard Forrer’s grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

The tombstone inscription reads:

Howard, son of Saml. & S. H. Forrer. Adjt. 63rd Regt. O.V.I. Fell in Battle at Decatur Ga. July 22, 1864, in his 23rd year.

Young, lovely, brave, and true. He died a pure offering to duty and patriotism.

*****

I think that a story like this one—not my retelling of it (I’m not that vain), but the original story itself—brings history to life, into focus, into appreciation and understanding. It’s not just names, places, and dates. It’s full of people (just like us!) and their choices, actions, emotions, triumphs, and tragedies.

This story began to unfold for me last summer, when I first started arranging and describing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood manuscript collection (frequently cited in the “Tale of Two Howards” series and available to researchers at the Dayton Metro Library). After months or reading and researching this family, I had this story writing itself in my head, as I went along. And I just had to share it.

I have tried my best to write this “Tale” as both a good history and a good story, and I hope I have managed to do so.


[1] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 6:12, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton.

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 2 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6. A photo of the Forrers’ completed home can be found in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 96a.

[4] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[5] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 12 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6.

[6] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6.

[7] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[8] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[9] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3; Fanny Kemble, “The Hour of Northern Victory,” in The Spectator: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature, Theology, and Art (London: John Campbell), vol. 38 (1865), 6 May 1865, 497. The date of the original publication was May 6; the date of the poem was April 25.

[10] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[11] Maj. Gen. Thomas to Samuel Forrer, 25 Sept. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[12] Gates P. Thruston to Samuel Forrer, 13 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12; Will T. Hale, A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913), accessed 15 May 2012, http://files.usgwarchives.net/tn/davidson/bios/thruston307nbs.txt; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[13]U.S. Treasury Department to Samuel Forrer, Certificate # 192284, 23 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[14] Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[15] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[16] “The Lamented Howard Forrer,” Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865, pg. 2.

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A Tale of Two Howards, Part 12 – Edward Affleck

A Dayton paper this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured…[1]

-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864

*****

While the Forrers of Dayton mourned the tragic deaths of two of their own—Luther Bruen and Howard Forrer—in the late summer of 1864, the Afflecks of Bridgeport were anxiously awaiting news of the whereabouts of Edward, their youngest and only remaining son.

*****

Edward Tullibardine Affleck was born August 23, 1843, in Belmont County, Ohio, the youngest son of Dr. John G. Affleck and Mary (Howard) Little Affleck. Edward, or “Ned,” as he was sometimes called in the family, was 18 years old, when his older brother Howard returned home the bloodbath at Shiloh, sick and injured, suffering horribly until his death on May 15, 1862 (see Parts 1, 2, & 3). Even as she grieved for the loss of one son, Howard and Edward’s mother Mary began to fear for the life of the other, her sister Sarah wrote:

Howard left us about ten this morning… Mary…is distressed for fear Edward is going to the war…[2]

Mary wished for Edward to return to Dayton with her sister Sarah Forrer, to attend school, visit, and otherwise take his mind off thoughts of enlistment. It is unclear whether Edward actually did this.[3] Nevertheless, much to Mary’s relief (I’m sure), Edward stayed on the home front—and not the war front—for the next two years.

Edward Affleck. Photo courtesy of the Martins Ferry, Ohio, Historical Society. Used with Permission.

Edward Affleck. Photo courtesy of the Martins Ferry, Ohio, Historical Society. Used with Permission.

However, Edward did join the Ohio National Guard, and in September 1863, his mother Mary wrote to her sister about it:

Edward came home from Newark a week ago today, where he had been eight days in camp, drilling. He is Adjutant in one of the state volunteer militia regiments, but is not to be called into active service unless the state is invaded. I don’t think there is much danger of that—from the rebels, but am afraid we will have trouble at the time of the election next month, there is so much bitterness of feeling between the Republicans and Democrats. Truly we have ‘fallen upon evil times’ and I am beginning to despair of peace in our day…[4]

In late April of 1864, the family received news that Edward’s Ohio National Guard regiment, the 74th Battalion, would be called up for active service. The 74th Battalion was combined with the 78th Battalion of nearby Harrison County to form the 170th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, organized in mid-May 1864.[5] Mary Affleck was quite upset when she learned that this was to take place. She wrote of the news to her sister Sarah on April 28, 1864:

I am heartsick and remain at home to brood over my troubles. It does seem as though they are never to end. Now my only remaining son is to be taken from me. The National Guard is ordered to leave next Monday and I cannot prevail upon [Edward] to send in his resignation, as he says it would not be accepted. Mr. Patterson will also be obliged to go unless he can procure a substitute. He is furious, and declared he will not go, and there is some talk of his brother going in his place.[6]

The “Mr. Patterson” to whom Mary refers is probably her son-in-law Benjamin C. Patterson. Incidentally, his name appears nowhere in the roster for the 170th O.V.I., although there is a George Patterson (the name of B.C.’s brother), although the age is about 8 years off. Who knows! Maybe it’s a completely different George Patterson, and B. C. procured a substitute instead; nevertheless, Benjamin C. Patterson did not serve in the 170th O.V.I.[7] Edward Affleck did go with the 170th O.V.I., though. His official enlistment date is recorded as May 2, 1864, although obviously he was in the National Guard before that, per Mary’s letter above (from late April). Edward served as a first lieutenant and adjutant for the regiment. His term of service was 100 days, the same as the rest of the men in his regiment.[8] The 74th Battalion, Ohio National Guard, was just one of many battalions that were called up for federal service in May 1864:

Over 35,000 Ohio Guardsmen were federalized and organized into regiments for 100 days service in May 1864. Shipped to the Eastern Theater, they were designed to be placed into “safe” rear area duty to protect the railroads and supply points thereby freeing regular troops for Grant’s push on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia…[9]

Edward’s particular regiment, the 170th O.V.I., was first assigned to duty in and around Washington, D.C., arriving about May 22, and leaving for a new assignment in Sandy Hook, Maryland, on July 4.[10] Edward was apparently enjoying himself on his “safe” adventure, according to a letter his sister Harriet wrote on June 5:

We received a letter from Edward last Wednesday and expect another today or tomorrow. He was well and enjoying himself very much. Mother is afraid he will enjoy himself so well, that he will not be willing to come back.[11]

Edward happened to be in Washington during the same time that his Dayton relative (by marriage), Major Luther Bruen, was a patient at Douglas Hospital there, attempting to recover from wounds he had received in the Battle of the Wilderness (see Part 9). Edward apparently visited Luther at the hospital and wrote home about it to his mother Mary, who later wrote thus to her sister Sarah (Luther’s mother-in-law) on June 19:

I am very glad to hear there is a fair prospect of the Major’s recovery, and am much obliged to thee for sending me Augusta’s letters. I received one from her a few days ago, also one from Edward, from both of which I learn that his health is still improving. Edward has yet seen nothing but the “poetry of war,” and seems to be enjoying it greatly. I am afraid he will find it so fascinating that he will not be willing to return at the end of the hundred days—if[,] which I scarcely dare to hope, they are thus permitted to return.[12]

Two days after this letter was written, Luther died. And it seems odd that, even after visiting a maimed family member in the hospital (Luther’s leg had been amputated)—not to mention whatever other atrocities he might have passed between the hospital threshold and Luther’s bedside, that Edward could still see only the “poetry of war.” Perhaps Mary was referring to whether or not Edward had participated in any actual battles, which at that time, he probably still had not. Unfortunately for Edward Affleck (and his worried family), things were about to get very real and very un-poetic. Despite the intended (relative) safety of the National Guard units’ positions, many soon found themselves in not-so-safe locations after all:

…As events transpired, many units found themselves in the thick of combat, stationed in the path of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s veteran Army of the Valley during its famed Raid on Washington. These Guard units participated in the battles of Monacacy, Fort Stevens, Maryland Heights, and in the siege of Petersburg.[13]

The 170th O.V.I. left Washington, D.C., on the night of July 4 and headed for Sandy Hook, Maryland, where they joined with other regiments in the defense of Maryland Heights.

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. View of Maryland Heights, [1865]. (Photo by James Gardner. Library of Congress)

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. View of Maryland Heights, [1865]. (Photo by James Gardner. Library of Congress)

The following multi-part letter (July 17-25) from Edward’s mother Mary to her sister Sarah tells a little of Edward’s experience at Maryland Heights:

For more than a week we have been in a state of the most painful uncertainty respecting Edward. The last letter we received from him was dated July 3rd. He was then, with a portion of his regiment, at Ft Sumner, and the probability was, that they would remain there till their term of service expired. We have heard that they were ordered to Harpers Ferry the next day, but can hear nothing from them, and know not what has become of them.[14] 24th. This letter, as thee will perceive by the date, was commenced a week ago, but I was interrupted and could not finish it then. We have since received two letters from Edward, one written on the 8th at Maryland Heights, where they had been skirmishing several days with the rebels. None in their Reg’t were killed or wounded, though he says a ball grazed his sleeve, and another struck a tree just behind him, and ‘if it hadn’t been for the tree, his carcass would have stopped the ball’! The other was written on the 13th at the camp near Petersville. They were expecting to move every day. I have since heard that they have gone to Leesburg, where it is expected there will be more fighting. Several of the boys had a ‘sunstroke’ at Maryland Heights… [About July 18th] is the last we have heard from them, and are waiting in the most intense anxiety for what may come next, an anxiety that is shared by the whole neighborhood, as a husband, son or brother has gone from almost every family… There are but three weeks of the hundred days remaining, and I am beginning to hope, if the rebel bullets spare him, that we shall have him back with us before the summer is quite over, though generally my fears are stronger than my hopes. Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them. I rec’d a letter from Joan last week. She had seen a notice of Major Bruen’s death and requests me to say to you when I write, that they all sympathize deeply with you in your affliction…[15]

That part gives me chills. Note the date: July 24. She asked about Howard, not yet knowing that Howard Forrer had been killed in the Battle of Atlanta two days earlier. For that matter, Sarah Forrer did not know about her son’s death yet either. The Forrer family learned of Howard’s death from the July 29 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette (see Part 10). July 24 was a day of great consequence for Mary’s son Edward, also, though she did not yet know it. A week or two previously, the 170th O.V.I. had been attached to the forces of Gen. George Crook’s Army of the Kanawha, which met Jubal Early’s Confederate Army of the Valley near Winchester, Virginia, on July 24, in what was later known as the Second Battle of Kernstown [Virginia].[16]

Monday, 25th. We have just heard that the 170th were in the fight at Snickers Gap [Virginia] on the 18th. There were two killed and nineteen wounded in the regiment, but Edward’s name was not among them. It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[17]

Indeed, Atlanta was taken. And Howard Forrer died in the effort. Mary learned this before she wrote her next letter to her sister on August 4:

A Dayton paper [probably the Aug. 2 Dayton Journal article] this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured. The last letter we received from him was written on the 21st. They were then a few miles from Snickers Gap, where they had been in a fight and were driven back. After that he was in the battle at Winchester [Second Battle of Kernstown] on the 24 or 25 and we can hear nothing of him since. There too they were driven back, and nearly all the 170th Reg’t succeeded in reaching Harpers Ferry. Several of them have written home, but can give no account of Edward. They all think he is either killed or captured. Capt. Robinson writes that he was with him on the field of battle, and that they did not hear the order to retire till nearly all the other regiments had gone, and the rebels were close upon them. In the confusion of the retreat he was separated from his men, and when he got to the train (a wagon train I presume) he saw two men riding Edward’s horse, that he put them in a wagon and took the horse himself on which he escaped. When I heard of it I felt almost certain he had been killed, for I thought if he had been captured, they would have taken his horse also, but yesterday one of our boys came home who says he was not on his horse during the battle[,] that he left it in the rear with one of the boys who was sick, and that he fought by his side till they were ordered to retreat, and that they were together till just as they were entering Winchester, when Edward who had complained of not feeling well, told them he was unable to keep up with them, but for them to save themselves, and that was the last they saw of him. This gave me a little hope, for I knew his father had a brother and two or three sisters living in Winchester, and I thought it probable when he found he could not keep up with the others that he had taken refuge with them. When I mentioned it, the man said he recollected hearing Edward say when they were at Snickers Gap that he wished they were going to Winchester, for he had some relations there that he would like to see. He said, moreover, that as they were passing through W. the day before the battle Edward had inquired of someone where somebody lived, and had called at a house in town. This is the only hope I have for him, if he is not with them, it is not probable we shall ever know his fate. His father would go on, and try to find some trace of him, but this morning’s papers say the rebels have their headquarters in Winchester, and all communication is cut off—so we can only wait, and hope—though it is a very faint hope at best, and this suspense is terrible. I sometimes think I cannot bear it much longer—but still try to struggle on for the sake of the few that are left…[18]

The good news was that Edward Affleck was not killed. The bad news was that he did not escape to his relatives’ home in Winchester; he had indeed been taken prisoner by the Confederate army during the battle at Kernstown on July 24.[19] (Incidentally, Edward does not seem to have even been counted in the official “Return of Casualties” for the battle, which tallied only 2 enlisted men—and 0 officers—from the 170th Ohio as “captured or missing.” Edward, as the regiment’s adjutant, should have been counted as an officer.[20]) Eventually, it was realized that Edward Affleck had indeed been captured by enemy forces, and this news was relayed to his family. It’s not clear to me exactly how it was ascertained that Edward was in fact among those captured. Did the two sides exchanged lists of prisoners? Or were prisoners perhaps allowed to write letters? Because, from the sound of this letter written by Edward’s sister Harriet on August 28 1864 (a month after his capture), it sounds like they expected to hear from Edward personally:

We have been waiting for good news from Edward (before writing again), but as yet have heard nothing, except that he had been sent to Richmond, instead of Americus. Mother thinks she would rather he had gone to Georgia…[21]

The Civil War prison at Richmond—the infamous Libby Prison—was infamous even then for the “overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept.”[22] Remember, Edward was an officer: an adjutant, nothing too fancy, as far as officers go, but an officer nonetheless. Perhaps that is why his mother “would rather he had gone to Georgia.” I assume that by Americus, Georgia, they are referring to the Civil War prison better known as Andersonville, which was about 15 miles from the town of Americus. While Andersonville Prison was still obviously a horrible place, it does not seem to have had the reputation of officer abuse that Libby Prison did.[23]

Richmond, Virginia. Libby Prison, North side, Apr. 1865. (Library of Congress)

Richmond, Virginia. Libby Prison, North side, Apr. 1865. (Library of Congress)

(Actually, according to the Martins Ferry Historical Society, Edward was at Camp Asylum in Columbia, SC, and not brought to Richmond until months later.[24] But then why would his mother believe he was at Richmond?) Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter continued:

The report is that the prisoners taken before the first of Aug are to be exchanged soon—if it was only true what a burden it would lift off our hearts. Still as you say—we know that he lives and that is so very much of a comfort. Our trouble would seem worse if we had not you and yours to think about…[25]

Bad news about the prisoner exchange. Unfortunately, Edward had picked a bad time to get captured—a really bad time. Okay, so he didn’t pick the time, but it was a bad time, nonetheless. This was about the time that General Grant decided to halt all prisoner exchanges. Grant wrote on August 18, 1864:

It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners in the North would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here.[26]

Edward would have to wait months before being considered for an exchange. The last part of Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter stated:

The 170th Regt will be home today—some of them came home yesterday and brought Edward’s trunk and sword. It gratifies us very much to see how much he is beloved by them all. In his trunk we found a short letter to cousin [Lida?] not sealed—containing his photograph. I do not know why he had not sent it. Mother says if he never comes home she will send it to her but will wait and see what he says if he does come…[27]

Indeed, Edward only had about 17 days left on his 100 days of service when he was captured. If he had not been taken prisoner at Winchester, he, too, might have been coming home on August 28. (The majority of the regiment was mustered out on September 10.) Or, on the flip side, he might have been one of whose who died of heat exhaustion or skirmishing somewhere between Winchester and home.[28] In February 1865, Edward was still imprisoned, and his mother wrote of her unsuccessful attempts to write to him, although apparently he was able to send letters out:

I have been waiting for news from Edward before writing to thee but have waited in vain. The latest was Dec. 9th though a week or two ago three or four letters came, written in November. He had rec’d none of ours but was confident many had been written, and asks us to send money and clothes to him. It is very disheartening to know that all our efforts to relieve him have hitherto proved ineffectual… I am anxiously watching the Exchanges, and think if he is still living that he will certainly be at home before long—but that terrible if still haunts me night and day, and the anxiety and suspense are almost insupportable… In Edward’s letter of Nov. 6th he says “Give my love to all our relatives in Dayton and tell them I am coming to pay them a visit some day—when this cruel war is over.” I wish some of you would write to him and send via Vicksburg, and perhaps among all our letters he may get one. He says he has never heard a word from any of us since the latter part of June, when he was in Washington…[29]

(Edward’s use of the phrase “some day” makes me think maybe he never actually did go to Dayton for a visit, previously.) Edward Affleck was finally released from Confederate prison in March of 1865. He was paroled at Coxes Wharf, Virginia, on March 10, and honorably discharged shortly thereafter.[30] Edward returned to his family in Bridgeport, Ohio. When Mary Affleck wrote to her sister Sarah again in June, it seemed that things were finally getting back to normal, with the war over, and her youngest son home safely:

[Edward] was gone ten or twelve days to Washington and Winchester, and is very busy just now, did not come up last night as I expected. He generally comes on Saturday evening, and stays till Monday morning, and then, with Harriet and the children here, it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own… I have been looking over on the island, which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.[31]

The last letter from Mary Affleck during this time period indicates that, as Edward settled back into his old life, he got busy working (probably in a position as a clerk at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the job he had held just before his military service):

Edward does not talk so much about a trip to Dayton as he did when he first came home. He has so much to do at the depot that he does not get up to see us very often, and when he does come, seldom stays more than an hour or two. It is a disappointment to [his younger sister] Mary, who had quite set her heart upon going…[32]

I wonder if Edward ever did manage to make that trip to Dayton? In the years after the Civil War, Edward Affleck had several occupations, including railroad clerk, wholesale coal dealer, bank cashier, and vice president of a dairy. In 1871, Edward married Laura Walkup, and they had four children. They named their oldest son after Edward’s brother: Howard Gladstone Affleck, II. Edward Affleck died January 27, 1911, in Toledo, at the age of 67.[33]


[1] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 35:3, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.
[2] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2.
[3] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2; Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 18 May 1862, FPW, 1:8.
[4] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 20 Sept. 1863, FPW, 35:3.
[5] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866 (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), vol. IX, 415.
[6] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 28 Apr. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[7] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415-430.
[8] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417.; American Civil War soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; U.S. Civil War Soldier Records & Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition. (The U.S. Civil War Soldiers database gives an enlistment date of Feb. 5, 1864; the other two sources state May 2. This is borderline irrelevant, though, because Edward was in the National Guard earlier than either of those dates, and his “enlistment” was a result of his ONG regiment being called up for active duty.)
[9] “Ohio Army National Guard,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_Army_National_Guard.
[10] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415.
[11] Harriet Patterson to Sarah Forrer, 5 June 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[12] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 19 June 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[13] “Ohio Army National Guard,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_Army_National_Guard.
[14] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 17 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[15] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[16] “Second Battle of Kernstown,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Kernstown; Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415; Report of Gen. George Crook, 27 July 1864, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 37, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 286.
[17] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 25 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[18] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[19] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417.
[20] [Return of Casualties at Kernstown, July 24-25], in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 37, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 288.
[21] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[22] “Libby Prison,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libby_Prison.
[23] “Andersonville National Historic Site,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andersonville_National_Historic_Site.
[24] Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm.
[25] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[26] Gen. U. S. Grant to Gen. Butler, 18 Aug. 1864, quoted in Holland Thompson, “Exchange of Prisoners,” in Francis T. Miller, ed., The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 4: Soldier Life and Secret Service, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.civilwarhome.com/prisonerexchange.htm.
[27] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[28] Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 56 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 270-271.
[29] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 15 Feb. 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[30] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417; Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm.
[31] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[32] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 30 July 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[33] Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; U.S. Federal Census, 1850-1910.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 11 – Howard Forrer (Part D)

His grave is made ‘neath southern sod;
His feet no more will roam,
His soul stands at the bar of God;
But oh he’s missed at home.[1]

-Lizzie Morton, 1864

I have not written, I could not write…until now. We never saw dear Howard again!… The dear, dear son was killed instantly at Decatur, Georgia. I am almost destroyed by this great loss…[2]

-Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867

How many hearts shall this war prepare for heaven by transferring all they loved to the far-off but beautiful land where the good dwell![3]

-Quincy [war correspondent], 10 Aug. 1864

 *****

The Forrers first learned of the death of their beloved son Howard via the Cincinnati Gazette’s July 29, 1864, issue (see Part 10), which reported that the Adjutant of the 63rd O.V.I. had been killed in the Battle of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia, on July 22. At first they held out hope that the news report might be mistaken, but alas, it was not.

Battle of Atlanta and death of Gen. James B. McPherson

Battle of Atlanta and death of Gen. James B. McPherson

Within a few days, Samuel Forrer received a letter from Benjamin St. James Fry, chaplain of the 63rd O.V.I., giving a detailed account of Howard Forrer’s death. Although the original letter was not included with the manuscripts in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, it was reprinted in the Dayton Journal on August 2, 1864:

We were attacked atDecatur, on Friday, the 22d, after dinner, by [Joseph] Wheeler’s whole force, at the same time that an attack was made on the left of our whole army, and were compelled to withdraw temporarily from the town. The attack was furious, and we lost many in prisoners, as well as by wounding.

Howard was engaged with Colonel [Charles E.] Brown and Major Pfoutz [sic] [John W. Fouts] in making a charge on our right. They had driven back the rebels, checking them, and were returning to their position, which was a good one, when Howard was killed instantly by a wound in the neck, for the rebels were coming forward in great force again. We could not get off his body, but when we returned on Saturday morning the citizens had buried him on the spot where he fell…[4]

The chaplain’s explanation of events refers to the attack of Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry upon the Union’s 2nd brigade, 4th division, 16th Army Corps, commanded by then-Col. John W. Sprague (he was promoted to brigadier general a week later for his actions in the battle). Wheeler’s men were attempting to capture a wagon train of supplies. Although the Union troops were pushed back, the wagon train was preserved.[5]

Maj. John W. Fouts (of the 63rd O.V.I.) wrote the following in his official reports of the battle:

July 22, took part with the brigade in the engagement at Decatur, Ga. Two companies of this regiment by a charge upon a superior force of the enemy saved from capture a section of the Board of Trade Battery and a large wagon train of the Fifteenth Army Corps. The enemy attacked on all sides with a very superior force, and, after two hours’ hard fighting, we were finally driven out of the town with the loss of 1 commissioned officer (Adjt. Howard Forrer) killed, 4 wounded, and 1 wounded and taken prisoner…[6]

In a more detailed report on the July 22 battle at Decatur, Fouts wrote:

…The enemy advanced in greatly superior force and it became necessary for the battery to retire. While retiring the battery became entangled in a heap of old iron and was in danger of being captured. In order to save the battery[,] Company G, which had formed on the left of [the] battery, and Company H fixed bayonets and made a determined charge on the advancing line of the enemy, causing it to fall back to the railroad and giving the battery time to get off, and giving a large wagon train of the Fifteenth Army Corps time to leave the field, which, but for this charge, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy. These companies, under command of Lieut. Col. Charles E. Brown, then fell back in good order to court square. Adjt. Howard Forrer was killed during this movement. The other companies of this regiment coming in at this time were rallied and formed on south side of court square with part of the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry, and held the ground until completely flanked on right and left, when we were ordered to fall back to ridge north of the town. In rallying the regiment at this point Lieut. Col. Charles E. Brown was severely wounded and carried from the field. The enemy continuing the attack with a much superior force in front and on both flanks obliged us to fall back to the cover of the woods, and we took position with the balance of the brigade…[7]

A war correspondent called “Quincy” submitted not only some gory details regarding Howard’s death, but also a touching, “beautiful tribute” to the young man, in a way that could only have been written by a fellow soldier who had known him well. (Personally, I suspect A. C. Fenner, Acting Assistant Adjutant General of the brigade, whom Howard had mentioned on more than one occasion in his diary. I have seen Fenner’s name on reports, as well as at least one letter to Samuel Forrer. However, “Quincy” might just as easily have been someone else in the 63rd O.V.I.; I have no real proof it was Fenner…just a guess.)

Whoever he was, Quincy’s “Beautiful Tribute” read thus in the Western Christian Advocate, Aug. 10, 1864:

Our commanding officer lies near me as I write with an amputated limb, maimed for life, and yet we are happy that his life is spared to us, and hope and pray for his restoration to health again. The Adjutant of our regiment [Howard Forrer], stripped by rebel hands, lies buried on the spot where he fell in instant death, his brain shattered by an unhappy bullet. There are but few men in the army whose death could affect me as his has done.

Howard Forrer, 1841-1864

Howard Forrer, 1841-1864

Young, intelligent, carefully trained in virtue by parents of Quaker profession, not a stain had come upon the fair promise of his youth, and the future was a brilliant prospect, inviting him to advance and obtain the reward of honorable, energetic action. He was so brave that no one questioned his courage, yet so far from the recklessness of youth that you perceived at once it was moral, not physical, bravery that animated him. His character bore so plainly the graceful and tender teachings of female influence that you would suspect he was an only son, the youngest of the family, the idol of a devoted mother, and the pride of sisters. I dare not look toward the quiet home in the most beautiful town in Ohio, where he lived. But a few weeks ago in one of those fierce contests of the Army of the Potomac that initiated the campaign, a son-in-law [Luther Bruen, see Part 9], whose character, I have been told, was singularly fair and graceful, was wounded, and died in the hospital at Washington City. Now a second stroke, and a nearer one, flashes out of the war clouds, and I stop my ears to shut out the cry and groans of stricken hearts. At such times there is no refuge for one but in God. The mysteries of His providence lose all their terror and perplexity in the tenderness of His grace and love. How many hearts shall this war prepare for heaven by transferring all they loved to the far-off but beautiful land where the good dwell![8]

To Sarah Forrer and her family, I’m sure that all the touching tributes in the world could not hold a candle to the devastating reality that Howard Forrer would never come home to Dayton alive.

But even though Howard had died, he still could not yet return home. Remember what the chaplain wrote:

…We could not get off his body, but when we returned [the following] morning the citizens had buried him on the spot where he fell…[9]

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location in Decatur, Georgia

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location in Decatur, Georgia

Howard was buried on the property of Benjamin F. Swanton, near the spot where he had been killed. (This property is southwest of the county’s old courthouse—now a home to the DeKalb County History Center—and the town square.) At the time, the Swanton house was being used as Headquarters for Union Gen. James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee (which, incidentally, is probably the only reason the house—which still exists and is the oldest building in Decatur—did not meet the same fiery fate that many other area buildings did).[10]

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location

As if to add insult to injury, as if the Forrer family had not already suffered enough for one year—with the loss of son-in-law Luther Bruen in June and now the loss of son Howard in July—they could not even bring Howard’s body home for a proper burial, because the war was still raging.

His mother recalled: “We were obliged to leave him a year in Georgia…”[11]


[1] Lizzie Morton, “Lines Suggested by the Death of Ajt. Forrer – July 22, 1864,” Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 6:12, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton. (Miss Morton allegedly witnessed the death of Howard Forrer, although it seemed later that she had him confused with one of the other soldiers who died nearby. Nevertheless, these lines ring true.)

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Quincy [war correspondent], “Beautiful Tribute,” 10 Aug. 1864, Western Christian Advocate, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[4] Benjamin St. James Fry to Samuel Forrer, [circa 22 July-1 Aug.] 1864, published in the Dayton Journal, 2 Aug. 1864, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[5] “Battle of Atlanta,” Wikipedia, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Atlanta; “Wheeler’s Cav. at Decatur,” Historical Marker Database, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=8887; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), Series I, Vol. 38, Part I-Reports, 74; The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part II-Reports, 854.

[6] J. W. Fouts, official report, 5 Sept. 1864, in The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part III-Reports, 519.

[7] J. W. Fouts, official report, 26 July 1864, in The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part III-Reports, 517.

[8] Quincy [war correspondent], “Beautiful Tribute,” 10 Aug. 1864, Western Christian Advocate, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[9] Benjamin St. James Fry to Samuel Forrer, [circa 22 July-1 Aug.] 1864, published in the Dayton Journal, 2 Aug. 1864, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[10] “Swanton House,” Historical Marker Database, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=9364; “Benjamin Swanton House,” in “Preservation,” DeKalb County History Center website, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.dekalbhistory.org/dekalb_history_center_preservation_historic-complex.htm.

[11] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 10 – Howard Forrer (Part C)

Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them… It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[1]

-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864

When Howard Forrer left his family to return to his position as adjutant of the 63rd O.V.I. on February 13, 1864, it was the last time his mother ever saw him alive.[2]

Howard headed to Camp Chase in Columbus to meet up with his regiment, and from there, they headed for Decatur, Alabama, on February 18, where the staff of the 63rd was stationed until the end of April.[3]

Howard kept a diary during his last campaign. It contains mostly notes on troop movements, weather conditions, and anecdotes about interactions with the locals. Unfortunately, it contains virtually nothing of his personal thoughts or feelings about the war (or anything else). Here is a sample, from his first few entries:

Left Camp Chase, Columbus, Little Miami RR (weather very cold) at 12 N Feb 18th 1864, arrived at Cincinnati at 8 PM. Quartered men in 6th St Barracks. I stayed at the Gibson House. Left Cinti 12:45 PM 19th on C&M RR very poor accommodations on cars, weather cold. Arrived at Jeffersonville, Indiana, opposite Louisville 5:45 A.M. 20. Crossed on ferry boat to Louisville at 7:15 AM. River full of floating ice, weather much warmer. Saw Kate McCook and the General at breakfast table at Louisville at Galt House. Left Louisville on L&N RR at 2:50 PM. Saturday 20th arrived at Nashville 3:50 AM 21st— Quartered in [seminary?] barracks Capt. E. C. Ellis 93rd Ohio of Dayton commanding—visited Dr. McDermot at the field hospital near Nashville—went to theatre Monday and Tuesday nights.[4]

Howard Forrer's Civil War diary, first page, Feb. 1864

Howard Forrer's Civil War diary, first page, Feb. 1864

His description of the trek to Decatur, Alabama, continues:

Left Nashville on cars at 8 A.M. Wednesday 24th Feb. Traveled finely until we reached a point five miles north of Linville station, which is 1-1/2 miles from Linville [Lynnville, TN]—where the cylinders of the engine had the head burst out. This occurred about 2 P.M.—The train was taken to Linville at three trips—arrived at Linville station at about 5 P.M. and [illegible] for the night—I slept at the house of one Lt. Col Gordon formerly of the C.S.A. wounded at Donaldson [Donelson] now peacable at home. The regiment started on the march about 5:30 A.M. 25th. I stopped at Linville to get breakfast. The woman at whose house I took breakfast informed me that Col. Dan McCook burned the best houses in the town because his regiment had been fired upon from it.

The Col. Q.M. & I got into a spring wagon & rode to Pulaski [TN] ahead of the Regt arrived at N. Regt arrived at 1.30 P.M. Camped 2 miles south of town. Left this camp at 5:30 A.M. 26th and arrived at the old camp of the Regt at Prospect [TN] (the Col. & I riding ahead of the Regt 3 or 4 miles) about 11 AM. Left Prospect 7 A.M. 27th arrived at Athens [AL] 1.30 P.M. Camped about a mile south of the town. Left camp at 6.30 A.M. 28thCloudy– The Col and I left the regiment about 2 hours after we started and rode ahead to the camp of the 43d Ohio at a place called Decatur Junction [AL], where the Decatur branch R.R. comes in. It had commenced to rain in the meantime. We selected a camping ground & conducted the regiment to it—camped in a corn field because it was the only place where water was convenient. Monday, the 29th and the 1st and 2d of March were spent making out returns, and brining up the papers of the regt… Decatur [AL] is on rather high ground and seems to be quite a pretty place…[5]

At the end of April, Howard’s regiment received orders that they would be joining Generals William T. Sherman and James B. McPherson on what would later be known as the Atlanta Campaign. Howard wrote of the news in his diary on April 24 and 25:

24d… We received an order this morning issued to the army of the Mississippi by Gen’l Sherman directing the troops to be prepared to move in light marching order. This order is very strict and is only preliminary… 25’ Received McPherson’s order preparatory to a move—it is a little less stringent than Sherman’s.[6]

On May 1, 1864, Howard’s regiment (and several others) left Decatur, Alabama, and began marching towards Georgia.[7]

The final entries in Howard’s diary, dating from late May, follow:

17’ Laid in camp all day until 6.30 P.M. (illegible) moved by moonlight (foggy: but light) over the mills & camped the 2 brigades at 12 o’clock P.M. in a pasture field—Country much better than any we have passed through since we left Chattanooga—travelled 9 miles.& are 2 miles from Kingston. 18. Left Camp at 9.15 this a.m. Moved about 10 miles & stopped an hour or two giving me time to get over a slight chill & fever—then moved forward about a mile to where we are now (at 5.20 PM). We have been waiting for the 15d Corps to take the road ahead of us—They have been moving since yesterday on a road to the West of us. Hooker’s The other corps have been in sight moving parallel with us on the East side of the valley—We are said to be advancing in five columns—Our corps is on the direct road to Adairsville—started again at 10 PM & move about 8 miles in camp at 4 o’clock a.m. 19’ very hard & tiresome march—19d moved at 10 a.m. for Kingston 8 miles camped within one mile of it at 4 P.M. having moved 7 miles. [illegible] yesterday a little skirmishing this a.m.—(beautiful spring). J. C. Davis took Rome yesterday & two trains of cars & report says 2500 prisoners. 20d Laid in Camp—received orders to be ready to move on 23d with 20 days rations.[8]

Howard Forrer final diary entries, May 1864

Howard Forrer final diary entries, May 1864

The manner in which Howard dated his diary entries—usually omitting the month—made it a little difficult to follow, especially when trying to skim for a particular date. At first glance, I had thought the final entry on the 20th was from a few days before his death, but when checking his timeline against the official Record of Events for the 63rd O.V.I.—see Hewett, pp. 277+—as well as looking up when Rome, Georgia, was captured—it was clear that the activities he described took place in May.

It’s not clear why Howard decided to stop writing in his diary. Perhaps he suddenly found himself too busy. (Hewett’s Record of Events refers to a lot of “marching” and “skirmishing” after the 63rd joined Sherman in May.) Or perhaps he simply tired of keeping a diary; he does not seem to have kept one at any time previously—or, if he did, it seems that neither the diary (nor any reference to it) have survived.

Whatever kept him from continuing his diary may have also kept him from writing home to his mother, who wrote on June 20:

We have had nothing from Howard and I almost fear to hear, I wrote to him yesterday but did not close it, and wait till I see how it terminates, or…when time, to him, is no more, I have written as cheerfully to him, as possible, and hope I shall not depress and unnerve him worse when he needs all the energy possible, Dear dear child! If we can only have him with us again![9]

As you have probably noticed in previous installments of this story, Sarah Forrer worried about her son quite a bit while he was away—not that anyone could blame her. She had also worried about her son-in-law, Luther Bruen. And, as discussed in Part 9, Luther was seriously wounded in May 1864 and by June 20 lay dying in a Washington, DC, hospital; he actually died the next day (June 21). This certainly must have breathed new life into all of Sarah’s fears for the safety of her son Howard, whom she had not heard from and was still out there, somewhere. 

I already knew the fate of Howard Forrer when I read the following letter from Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, dated July 24-25, 1864, and it absolutely gave me goose bumps:

Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them… It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[10]

A Union victory had indeed been won in Atlanta (really, Decatur), Georgia, a few days earlier. The July 29 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette carried an account of the battle, as well as a partial list of casualties.

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864, courtesy of Cincinnati Public Library

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864, courtesy of Cincinnati Public Library

The blow they’d all been dreading came when the Forrer family read that article in the Gazette, which included the following:

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864

Lieut.-Col. Brown, 63d Ohio, was wounded. The Adjutant of the regiment and Capt. Thorn were killed.[11]

Even though the adjutant’s name was not given, the Forrers knew that there was only one adjutant of the 63rd Ohio—and it was their own precious Howard.

This was how the Forrers first learned the fate of their only son: they read it in the newspaper. (Not being a Civil War scholar, I have to wonder: Was that common? To learn of the death of your son or husband from the newspaper report, rather than an official dispatch sent to directly to you? How awful!)

And yet, the article didn’t explicitly say “Howard Forrer.” What if a mistake had been made? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that a newspaper published inaccurate information, even in the casualty lists.

These two scraps of correspondence from Samuel to his wife on the day the family first saw the report in the Gazette illustrate the frantic urgency and desperate hope they felt on that day:

Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, after July 29, 1864

My dear wife, Bro. John has already telegraphed to the Editor of the Cin. Gazette to learn the name of the Adjt. No answer yet. Will wait here for answer and telegraph to Col. Sprague and others. Robt. Steele called on me and voluntarily said most sympathetically that he did not believe the statement. Odlin doubts its truth. Every body says if true we must have heard it before this time. Hope for the best. Wm. Howard says [“Ero”?] is Chamberlain of the 81st and classmate of theirs—believes he is mistaken. I will be out at 2 o’clock. S.F. Bro. John has some hopes as I have that it may be untrue for the same reason as others.[12]

“Bro. John” was John Howard, Sarah’s brother, a prominent Dayton lawyer and former mayor. And even if the family didn’t already have enough clout to warrant the attention of the Gazette editors in regards to their inquiry, let’s not forget that Samuel’s son-in-law Luther Bruen, who died a few weeks earlier (see Part 9), had previously been one of the proprietors of the Gazette. So I’d like to think the newspaper would be willing to show a little extra respect and consideration to his family.

“Col. Sprague” refers to John W. Sprague, who had commanded the 63rd O.V.I. since 1862 (when Howard joined it). By July 1864, he was in command of the entire brigade—2nd brigade, 4th Division, 16th Army Corps—in which the 63rd included. (Sprague was actually promoted to brigadier general and awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Atlanta.) And, according to an earlier letter, Samuel apparently knew Sprague from somewhere before the war, so it’s not surprising that he felt comfortable contacting him directly.[13]

“Odlin” must refer to James Hunter Odlin. I recognized the name from earlier letters referring to “Hunter Odlin” as another officer (Major) who served with Howard in the 63rd O.V.I. At first I was confused: Wouldn’t he be in Atlanta, too? How did Samuel ask Odlin about this? But according to the Official Roster, Odlin had resigned from the regiment in 1863, so I suppose he was probably back in Dayton in 1864.[14]

Robert Steele was a prominent Dayton educator who, as far as I know, had no particular ties to the war. William Howard was Samuel’s nephew who had served in 1862-1863 (see Part 5). “Ero” probably refers to the pen name of the war correspondent. There was a William H. Chamberlin who was a captain in the 81st Ohio, which was also in the 16th Army Corps at Atlanta.[15]

A few hours later, Samuel wrote a follow-up message:

Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, after July 29, 1864

No answer from Cincinnati yet. Genl. McCook told Charles Anderson that He did not believe the statement in the Gazette in regard to Howard’s death. Charley says that he does not believe it. But I confess that I have but little hope although [not] entirely without hope. 2 o’clock. S.F. Will come out as soon as things are in train.[16]

Charles Anderson was lieutenant governor of Ohio. It’s not really clear which General McCook he’s talking about—there were several of the “Fighting McCooks”—although I suspect he meant Alexander D.[17] Notice, Howard actually mentioned a few McCooks in his diary entries above, too.

The Forrers obviously had ties to many prominent individuals and others whom they thought might have the correct intelligence on their son. Then again, even if they didn’t know some of these people (but they did), I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a father going to great lengths—including calling upon perfect strangers, if he thought it would help—in order to learn the fate of his child.

Not surprisingly, many people were in shock, disbelief, and perhaps denial about the fate of Howard Forrer. “It can’t be true,” they said; they wanted to believe.

But within a few days, that devastating news report was confirmed, and Sarah Forrer’s worst fear since the war began had come true. Her only son Howard was dead, killed in the Battle of Atlanta.

Special thanks to reference librarian Elizabeth C. of the Cincinnati Public Library for locating the relevant article from the Cincinnati Daily Gazette, July 29, 1864, page 3. I had no title or citation, only the information from Samuel’s two notes, telling me that he had obviously read his son’s death in the newspaper – and Samuel mentioned the “Cin. Gazette” – and an approximate date range of about 2 weeks. I am sincerely grateful for Elizabeth’s help in finding the article in question, with the limited clues I was able to give her.


[1] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 35:3, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 14 Feb. 1864 and 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Howard Forrer’s diary, 18 Feb.-2 Mar. 1864, FPW, 6:13; Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 65 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 277.

[4] Howard Forrer’s diary, 18-23 Feb. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[5] Howard Forrer’s diary, 24 Feb.-2 Mar. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[6] Howard Forrer’s diary, 24-25 Apr. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[7] Hewett, 277.

[8] Howard Forrer’s diary, 17-20 May 1864, FPW, 6:13

[9] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 20 June 1864, FPW, 4:2.

[10] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.

[11] “The Army Before Atlanta: The Battle of the 22d,” Cincinnati Gazette, 29 July 1864.

[12] Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, [after 29 July] 1864, FPW, 1:8.

[13] 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; “John W. Sprague,” Wikipedia, accessed 10 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Sprague; Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[14] 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; Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[15] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. VI (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 478, 469; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 38, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 107.

[16] Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, [after 29 July] 1864, FPW, 1:8.

[17] “Charles Anderson (governor),” Wikipedia, accessed 11 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Anderson_%28governor%29; “Alexander McDowell McCook,” Wikipedia, accessed 11 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_McDowell_McCook.

A Tale of Two Howards – Part 9 – Luther Bruen

These are indeed dark, sad days, not only to you and to us, but to thousands of others who are mourning the loss of husbands, sons and brothers, or awaiting in agonizing suspense the result of these impending battles.[1]

-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah, 5 June 1864

…All will, I have no doubt, go well with us; nor do I sympathize with the Major and Augusta for the fate of the Nation. I believe our armies will before long set matters right …[2]

-Samuel Forrer to his daughter Mary, 9 Nov. 1862

Luther Barnett Bruen was a 38-year-old Daytonlawyer when he enlisted in May of 1861. He was commissioned a Major with the 12th U.S. Infantry. He was born in 1822, and in 1853, he had married Augusta Forrer, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Forrer and older sister of Howard Forrer. Luther and Augusta had three children already, and before the war ended, they would have a fourth.[3]

Luther B. Bruen, undated (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File, photo #1766)

Luther B. Bruen, undated (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File, photo #1766)

Luther enlisted with the regular army, accepting a commission as a Major with the 12th United States Infantry. He was first stationed at Fort Hamilton, near the harbor in New York City, where he was in charge of recruiting for his regiment. He remained at Fort Hamilton through most of 1862 and 1863.[4]

There was some fear in late summer of 1862 that Luther would have to go to the front:

I am grieved that Luther goes (if he does but perhaps he may not be ordered away). Tell Augustato keep up her spirits and hope for the best. If he should go she and the dear little ones must come to us…[5]

However, as far as I can tell from the records available, Luther did not go to the battle front until January 1864. His wife Augusta did return to Dayton fromNew York sometime in 1863, probably because she was pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, not necessarily because Luther had actually been ordered away.

Luther made a short visit home to Daytonto see his family, including his new baby daughter, whom he had never met, between December 1863 and February 1864.[6]

After Luther departed, his mother-in-law Sarah Forrer wrote in her diary in February 1864:

Luther…came, but his visit was so short he had hardly time to get acquainted with Baby. Still, though short, his visit was a great comfort to his family and to us all.[7]

In January 1864, Luther took command of the First Brigade, Second Division, V Corps (under the direct command of General G. K. Warren), in the Army of the Potomac.[8]

The V Corps, including Luther Bruen, participated in the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse inVirginia, in May 1864.

Battle of Spottsylvania--Engagements at Laurel Hill & NY River, Va. ... May 8 to 18, 1864.

Battle of Spottsylvania–Engagements at Laurel Hill & NY River, Va. … May 8 to 18, 1864. (Library of Congress, Public domain)

On May 13, 1864—which, by the way, was a Friday—Luther was wounded during a battle near Laurel Hill, Virginia, receiving a shell fragment in his knee. He was transferred to Douglas Hospital in Washington, DC, where after 10 days, his leg was amputated above the knee.[9]

Douglas Hospital, Washington, DC, May 1864

Douglas Hospital, Washington, DC, May 1864 (Library of Congress photo # LC-DIG-cwpb-04242, public domain)

One Miss Ransom, a young artist from Cleveland, happened to be visiting theWashington hospitals frequently about that time, and she encountered Major Bruen on at least two occasions, about which she wrote home in a letter, which was later printed by a Clevelandnewspaper. The letter illustrates Luther’s disposition while at the hospital—both before and after his leg was amputated:

I passed to the others who had neither sister, wife, nor brother, to cheer them. I found a Major of theU.S.A., from Dayton,Ohio, shot through the leg, but cheery and gay. Gazing at the flowers in my bonnet—which are blue Pansies—he said, “I found some of the most beautiful wild violets on the battlefield I ever saw, and pressed some of them. You love flowers and beautiful things I know, and I will give you one of my violets.” This broke the ice between us and a most entertaining chat ensued, resulting in a promise to call again next day.

Have just returned from Douglas Hospital, after an absence of three days. The chatty Major had his leg amputated yesterday—is very much changed in the last three days—looks feverish and so weary. I fanned him awhile, saying all the comforting things I could think of.—He has telegraphed his wife to come. I hope she will come quickly.[10]

Indeed, Augusta Bruen did go quickly toWashington.

Augusta and her mother Sarah Forrer kept Sarah’s sister Mary Affleck apprised of the situation, as these letters from Mary indicate:

Mary Affleck wrote on June 5, 1864:

I hope some of you will write as soon as possible and let us know if any hopes are entertained of the Major’s recovery. From thy account I fear the worst. These are indeed dark, sad days, not only to you and to us, but to thousands of others who are mourning the loss of husbands, sons and brothers, or awaiting in agonizing suspense the result of these impending battles. Please let us know in which day’s battle he was wounded, and whether he was cared for immediately or left for hours to suffer on the field. What a fearful trial it must be to Augusta! I think of her constantly and dread the effect it may produce, but hope she will not sink under it for her children’s sake—for all your sakes. [Augustatold me] that the wound was not considered dangerous, and he expected to be at home in a couple of weeks…[11]

Mary wrote again on June 19, having heard that Luther seemed improved:

I am very glad to hear there is a fair prospect of the Major’s recovery, and am much obliged to thee for sending me Augusta’s letters. I received one from her a few days ago…from…which I learn that his health is still improving.[12]

Even if Luther might have seemed somewhat improved, nevertheless, the stress and worry was clearly wearing on the Forrer family. In fact, son-in-law Luther was not getting better at the hospital in DC, and God only knew where their son Howard even was, traipsing around the South with General Sherman. As if Samuel and Sarah Forrer did not have enough to worry about—did I mention they were also building a new house, in the midst of worrying about their family members on the war front?—they started to worry about each other.

Samuel was obviously growing quite concerned about the mental and physical health of his wife Sarah, by June 19, when he wrote thus to her:

…And now my dear wife let me entreat you to try to feel more hopeful in regard to the health and safety of our dear absent ones. I need not say to you that the more cool and equable in temper you may be the better you will be prepared to do your part to our dear children. When your own health and comfort depend so much on a cheerful temper of mind! You are killing yourself—Aye! committing suicide, utterly regardless, of the value we all set on your life. Have you really come to the conclusion that your life, so dear to us all, is of no value? Don’t you see how necessary you are even to our dear eldest first-born [Elizabeth F. Peirce] surrounded with comforts as she is? Then think how necessary to the happiness, and comfort of poor dear [daughter] Augusta in her great present distress. Of dear [daughter] Mary and [son] Howard yet with us [under?] the paternal roof. And last of all, think how much of happiness may yet be in store for yourself and for me [if?] a little more care for your health, and how soon all hopes may be [illegible] just for the want of an effort to live more hopefully. God bless you my dear, dear good wife…[13]

In a similar vein, Sarah was worried about her husband overworking himself, writing in her response on June 20:

Dear Husband, do not fatigue thyself this hot weather, We are likely to lose too many of our valued ones, and are by no means prepared to add thee to the number…[14]

Not surprisingly, in the same letter, Sarah also expressed her growing distress about the whereabouts of their son Howard:

We have had nothing from Howard and I almost fear to hear… I have written as cheerfully to him, as possible, and hope I shall not depress and unnerve him worse when he needs all the energy possible, Dear dear child! If we can only have him with us again![15]

By June 20, 1864, Luther Bruen had taken a turn for the worst. Luther’s sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. R. G. Corwin had planned to come to Washington to see him, but by June 20, Augusta had apparently told them: “He cannot live 24 hours, don’t come.”[16]

Nonetheless, the Corwins went to Washington, and so too did Augusta’s brother-in-law Jeremiah H. Peirce. These, along with Luther’s wife Augusta, were at his bedside when he breathed his last on June 21, 1864, a little more than 5 weeks after he was first injured. He was 41 years old.[17]

On June 23, the group returned to Dayton with Luther’s body. He was buried June 28 in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.[18]

Bruen family plot, section 102, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio

Bruen family plot, section 102, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio

Bruen tombstone, section 102, Woodland Cemetery

Close-up of the cross atop the gravestone (above) and Luther’s inscription (below), although very difficult to read, even in person:

Luther B. Bruen tombstone inscription, Woodland Cemetery

Luther B. Bruen tombstone inscription, Woodland Cemetery

The Cleveland newspaper that published the anecdote about the pressed flower that Major Bruen gave to the young lady at the hospital poetically likened him to such a flower:

The pressed wild violet, which the dying soldier gave our fair correspondent, will be typical of him: plucked just in its brightest bloom, in the early summer of hope, and joy, its form of beauty shall remain a keepsake for surviving friends, reminding them that from hero graves goes up to heaven the rich odor of duty done to God.[19]

The Dayton Journal offered the following eulogistic account in the obituary of Luther Bruen printed on July 23:

Major Bruen was a very affectionate husband and father, and a devoted friend. He was in easy circumstances, and he became a soldier, and gave up the pleasures of a home from a sense of duty.

Not long since, in conversation with a friend, he said that “he had gone into the army in obedience to his sense of duty—not from necessity, nor because he liked the trade of blood; and whatever should be his fate, he would try to meet it without a murmur.

He was an honest and just man, a brave soldier and a true patriot. We shall long remember our true hearted friend with sorrow and with pride.[20]

Death of a Gallant Officer, Dayton Journal, 23 June 1864, pg 2

Death of a Gallant Officer, Dayton Journal, 23 June 1864, pg 2

Augusta and her children had stayed with her parents Samuel and Sarah Forrer for much of the time that Luther was in the army, and they stayed for many years after Luther died. Augusta eventually moved to Bristol, Connecticut, where her son Frank lived.[21]

No doubt the first few years were the hardest, though. On the first anniversary of Luther’s birthday after his death, Augusta wrote to her mother:

This is dear Luther’s Birthday, and I have been unable to keep up my spirits, so this letter will not be very lively I fear…[22]

Augusta Bruen survived her husband Luther by 43 years, about four times longer than the number of years they were actually married.

After Augusta died, a family friend confided to Augusta’s niece Sarah:

Augusta said to me once – that she hoped her husband would wait for her but that she sometimes feared he would progress so far ahead of her that she should never reach him.[23]

Augusta Bruen died on October 18, 1907, at her home in Bristol, Connecticut, at the age of 74. Augusta was buried beside her husband Luther in Woodland Cemetery on October 21.[24]

Augusta Forrer Bruen and Luther Barnett Bruen, foot stones, Woodland Cemetery

Augusta Forrer Bruen and Luther Barnett Bruen, foot stones, Woodland Cemetery

I like to think that Luther was waiting to greet her at the Pearly Gates—maybe wearing his army uniform.


[1] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 5 Jun 1864, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 35:3, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

[2] Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[3] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 129, 132; 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[4] U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Luther Bruen to Samuel Forrer, 27 Aug. 1862, FPW, 33:10; Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, [several letters in 1862], FPW, 4:5; “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary), Dayton Journal, 23 June 1864, reprinted in Bruen, Christian Forrer, 132-133.

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

[6] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 29 Dec. 1863 and 14 Feb. 1864, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[7] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 14 Feb. 1864, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[8] U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[9] Miss Ransom to unknown, [May/June 1864], reprinted by a Cleveland newspaper as “The Dying Major and the Wild Violet,” [June 1864?], with the article being reprinted in Bruen, Christian Forrer, 130-132; “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary).

[10] Miss Ransom to unknown, “The Dying Major and the Wild Violet.”

[11] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 5 Jun 1864, FPW, 35:3.

[12] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 19 Jun 1864, FPW, 35:3.

[13] Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 19 June 1864, FPW, 1:8.

[14] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 20 June 1864, FPW, 4:2.

[15] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 20 June 1864, FPW, 4:2.

[16] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 20 June 1864, FPW, 4:2.

[17] Miss Ransom to unknown, “The Dying Major and the Wild Violet”; “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary); U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[18] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Luther is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

[19] “The Dying Major and the Wild Violet.”

[20] “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary).

[21] 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition; 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition; [Various letters], FPW.

[22] Augusta Bruen to Sarah Forrer, 14 Sept. 1864, FPW, 33:1.

[23] Laura Vail Morgan to Sarah H. Peirce, 7 Nov. 1907, FPW, 17:10.

[24] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129-130; “Sister of Mrs. J. H. Peirce Dies in Bristol” (obituary), Dayton Herald, 19 Oct. 1907, reprinted in Bruen, Christian Forrer, 130; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 8 – Howard Forrer (Part B)

…I think Howard will be at home soon though he has not said so. The 112th it is said, has been consolidated with the 63rd which is at Corinth, and pretty fully officered. If this is the case there will be no chance for Howard and I do hope he will return and settle down to some business, in civil life…[1]

-Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary, 4 Nov. 1862

It is Howard’s birthday, the eleventh November, 1862. He is twenty-one years of age. It seems but yesterday he was in my arms. And now, where is he?…[2]

-Sarah Forrer’s diary, 11 Nov. 1862

After Howard Forrer went with the Squirrel Hunters to Cincinnati in early September 1862 (see Part 7), there was no stopping his momentum to join the army. He remained in northern Kentucky with the 112th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or, the group of men who were hoping to be the 112th O.V.I. – their regiment had not yet been filled) until the end of September 1862.[3]

On October 1, 1862, Howard and a detachment from the 112th returned to Dayton to continue recruiting, hoping to fill their regiment. Sarah Forrer was thrilled to have her son close to home again (and safe).[4] She wrote on October 5:

…we have him home every night, and though it is but little, we are very thankful for this nightly visit. He is very well, growing fleshy, and seems cheerful, though so uncertain as to his future prospects. I cannot but hope something will ‘turn up’ to prevent his going away…[5]

About three weeks later, the 112th was sent to Camp Mansfield to continue recruiting. Sarah wrote:

The 112th received orders to go to Camp Mansfield, and they went yesterday morning. Howard said he would go, and if things are not arranged to suit him he will leave and return to us, I hope he will…[6]

It is clear from his family’s correspondence—we have little written by Howard from this time period (or at all, really)—that Howard had his heart quite set on being an officer, particularly the adjutant.

By early November, the 112th regiment was still not full, and so it was consolidated with an existing regiment, the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which needed fresh recruits. At that time, Howard was commissioned as a full first lieutenant.

Howard Forrer in his First Lieutenant uniform, undated

Howard Forrer in his First Lieutenant uniform, undated

[Notice in the above photograph, that Howard has one bar on his uniform’s shoulder boards, indicating a first lieutenant’s rank. While recruiting during the summer of 1862, Howard had been considered a second lieutenant (see Part 6 or this ad in the Dayton Daily Journal, 17 Aug. 1862) and wore these shoulder boards, which had no bars.[7]]

On November 9, 1862, Howard’s father Samuel Forrer wrote of Howard’s situation, which was still a bit undecided:

Howard…is on his way to take the detachment of 112th regiment (of which he was adjutant) to Corinth. The 112th is consolidated with the 63rd Ohio V. I. [with] Col. [John W.] Sprague commanding… It will be a pleasant trip over a region of country new to your brother. And we hope he may return, probably as soon as you or soon after. And yet we must not be disappointed if he should spend the winter in that region. This he will not do unless he is made the adjutant of the 63rd Regt. Older Lieuts. may claim that place, and if so will and ought to have it. Do not[,] my dear child[,] let this piece of intelligence give you a moment’s uneasiness. All will, I have no doubt, go well with us… I believe our armies will before long set matters right, whatever may be done by the administration or by the miserable democracy coming into power…[8]

Howard’s mother Sarah wrote her thoughts on the recent turn of events in her diary on November 11, 1862, Howard’s twenty-first birthday:

It is long since I wrote anything in this book. I have been too busy and my heart has been too full to write. Nor do I feel better now. Yet I will write. It is Howard’s birthday, the eleventh November, 1862. He is twenty-one years of age. It seems but yesterday he was in my arms. And now, where is he?…

The 112th regiment was never full and after staying at Camp Dayton a few weeks they were ordered to Mansfield with a hope they could there recruit in sufficient number to fill the regiment. They did not succeed. And they were consolidated with the 63rd, now at Corinth, Mississippi. This regiment suffered greatly in the recent battle, and the 112th will supply the places of those who have fallen… Howard retains the adjutancy until they reach Corinth. And perhaps after that. As he wishes it I hope he will have it.[9]

Howard did receive the adjutancy of the 63rd O.V.I. and was evidently well-suited to the job. Several months later, Sarah wrote in her diary: “I hear from several sources that he is popular and makes a good officer.”[10] But her November 11, 1862, entry continued:

But it is all grief to me. I had hoped something would happen to keep him at home, and after every battle my first thought was, “Howard is safe at home.” Now the thought that he is indeed gone comes between him and me like a stone wall, a great barrier, shutting out, I had almost said, hope itself…[11]

As a historian living nearly 150 years later, I have the advantage of hindsight, and I can say with certainty that the year 1863 held no major tragedies for the Forrer family. But at the time, the family of course had no such knowledge, as things were just unfolding.

And back then communication was much slower and more difficult than today. They did have the telegraph, but that wasn’t cheap, easy, and convenient; a soldier couldn’t use Skype or a cell phone to call home from halfway around the world, like we can today! People wrote a lot of letters (as you’ve probably noticed from the contents of these blog posts!)—and read the newspapers. Both of these methods might already contain outdated information by the time they were read, too. And newspaper reports weren’t usually specific enough to confirm the safety or whereabouts of a particular person anyway, so it was hard to ever really to know for sure if your loved one was safe or not.

I can only imagine the anxiety, waiting for the mail—hoping to receive good news, or, failing that, at least being relieved at not receiving bad news—or half fearing to open the newspaper every morning, afraid you might read the reason for your son’s (or husband’s, or whoever’s) lack of correspondence, right there in the newspaper. All those fears seem perfectly understandable, though like I said, being from “the future,” I can “cheat” and say that, no, nothing of the sort would happen to the Forrers in 1863…

However, not knowing this, and having not heard from her son in over a month, Sarah Forrer was getting worried in mid-January 1863. (She worried a lot, as you’ve probably noticed, though what mother wouldn’t in her place?)

We have not heard from Howard since the ninth December… We see by the papers that his regiment, the 63rd O.V.I., was in the fight with Forest at Cross Roads. But we have not heard from our dear one. I am anxious about him, wish to hear from himself that he is safe, and also how he felt during the fight…[12]

[She was referring to Confederate General N. B. Forrest and the Battle of Parker’s Cross Roads, fought December 31, 1862, in Henderson County, Tennessee.]

A few days later, Sarah’s anxiety was temporarily relieved by news from her son:

At last, after a silence of over a month, I have heard from Howard… He says of the fight with Forest, “I am pretty well satisfied with myself under fire.” I had not a doubt of his bravery… Oh! That he was safe at home!…[13]

Howard Forrer and the 63rd O.V.I. spent much of early 1863 in Corinth, Mississippi. In one of few letters I have seen written by Howard himself, he described Corinth to his niece Henrietta, in February:

You have often noticed the name “Corinth” in the papers and have read of the battles that have been fought in and around it. Well that is the place near which we are at present encamped; and a most mean, insignificant little place it is, to be the center of so much glory—Earthworks thrown up by one party, or the other extend for miles in nearly every direction from the town—The forts are in and near the town—It has rained nearly every day since we came here; consequently the frog ponds which are almost innumerable about here at this season, are all full, and their occupants are in high glee if singing is any sign of mirth…[14]

In March, Howard was still in Corinth. He wrote to his brother-in-law J. H. Peirce, thanking him for some money had had sent, for Howard had not received any pay since about the time he first joined the 63rd in November:

If you only knew how much good it did me, to see my pocketbook wax fat with ‘green backs.’ I think you would feel amply repaid for your generous and timely aid. The Gov’t is indebted to me for nearly four months, and a half pay; and there is no telling when I shall receive it…[15]

Howard and the 63rd remained at Corinth until about April 1863. From May to August 1863, the 63rd was stationed at Memphis, Tennessee. Howard wrote another letter to his niece Henrietta from Memphis:

Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 9 June 1863 (snippet)

Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 9 June 1863 (snippet)

(Transcription of the above image:)

We live here very quietly for soldiers—The only excitement we have, being the news, that we get by the papers, the reception of the mail every morning; and an occasional local affair of temporary interest…[16]

Howard went on describing three such incidents, one of which involved the apprehension of a female spy. He signed the letter:

Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 9 June 1863 (signature)

Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 9 June 1863 (signature)

Howard returned to Ohio in August 1863 and seems to have remained in the state for most of the next several months, recruiting in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Marietta. (Meanwhile, the rest of the 63rd O.V.I. was in Tennessee and Mississippi.[17])

The main source I have for Howard’s being in Ohio most of late 1863 is Sarah Forrer’s diary, as follows:

August 9, 1863:

Howard came home very unexpectedly, and much to our joy. He stayed with us a few days when he was taken with chills and fever and was sick near a week. He was with us two weeks. I see little or no change in him. Perhaps he is a little more staid than before he left home, more serious. I would be glad to keep him with us. I think one year for our only son quite enough. But he says, “No, not at this stage of the game.”

[I imagine this comment probably had something to do with the two major victories the Union had just won in July 1863: Gettysburg and Vicksburg.]

He is now at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, waiting for drafted men to fill the 63rd. We still hope for more of his company before he leaves the state.[18]

September 2, 1863:

Howard returned last month, and he has been with us till this evening. He has apparently recovered his health. And this short visit has been a great blessing to us… Howard is to go to Marietta [to recruit] and left us this evening for that place. He thinks he will be with us before he leaves the state again…[19]

November 25, 1863:

Thanksgiving. The excitement of the electioneering campaign was great and distressing. It seemed likely at one time that the Democrats would carry the state and elect Vallandingham. Howard was permitted to return home to recruit. Here is his home, and here he cast his vote against Vallandingham. I was overjoyed to have him with us, and glad he could give his vote in favor of the Administration…

[The Democratic candidate Clement Vallandingham, leader of the Copperheads and hated by pretty much everyone who supported the war effort, was defeated by the Republican candidate John Brough, in the 1863 Ohio gubernatorial election.]

Sarah continued her Thanksgiving, 1863, diary entry:

[Howard] has been expecting to go to his regiment soon for some weeks, and a few days since received orders to report, with his men, at Columbus… He left us at midnight… After a few days we received a dispatch which led us to believe he would leave for his regiment the next day. I thought I must see him once more, and Husband and I went to Columbus. He had just been detailed for office work by the provost-marshal. I was glad, but he did not seem pleased and thinks by absence he will lose his place as adjutant. I hope not if he returns to his regiment. I do hope peace will be declared and that he will not have to go again. The news is very good today.[20]

December 29, 1863:

December 29th. We have had a pleasant Christmas. Howard came Christmas Eve and staid till next evening… Christmas a year ago he was far south… Where will he be a year hence?… He was much delighted with our bazaar. Says it is much finer than the Columbus one was.

We hope to see Luther soon. I am glad for Augusta’s sake. He has never seen Baby and she is now six months old. Sad. Strange times we have fallen upon…[21]

Luther, as you may recall from Part 4, was Sarah’s son-in-law Luther B. Bruen, who enlisted in the regular army – 12th U.S. Infantry – in May 1861. In a way, it is thanks to Luther that I have many of the primary sources I used in telling Howard’s story during the year 1862, for Sarah wrote many letters to her daughters Augusta (Luther’s wife) and Mary, who were in New York City, along with Luther, who was stationed there at Fort Hamilton. Augusta and Mary apparently returned to Dayton in 1863, and in June of that year, Augusta gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, daughter Mary Bruen, who (according to grandmother Sarah Forrer) was over six months old before her father ever laid eyes on her.

On Valentine’s Day, 1864, Sarah wrote:

Yesterday dear Howard left us again to join his regiment. I do feel his loss… Luther…came, but his visit was so short he had hardly time to get acquainted with Baby. Still, though short, his visit was a great comfort to his family and to us all.[22]

All things considered, the year 1863 had been fairly calm for the Forrers, with son Howard Forrer spending most of the year either in camp or in Ohio recruiting, and son-in-law Luther Bruen spending most of the year as the commander of Fort Hamilton (New York), far behind Union lines.

However, when Howard and Luther left Dayton in February 1864, they were both ultimately headed for less safe assignments: Luther had been given command of one a brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Howard was headed for Decatur, Alabama, returning to the adjutancy of the 63rd O.V.I. (much to his relief, I’m sure, as he had feared he might lose the position, being away so long). In May, the 63rd would join Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

Sarah Forrer was not particularly diligent about keeping her diary on a regular basis. There were apparently large gaps in its coverage. After writing that February 14, 1864, entry, she did not write another for almost four years. But when she finally did write in her diary again, the entry began as follows:

Dec. 27, 1867. I have not written, I could not write…until now. We never saw dear Howard again! And never saw Luther alive!…[23]

*****


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

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 11 Nov. 1862, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 32:4, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton.

[3] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 24 Sept. 1862-2 Oct. 1862 [several letters], FPW, 4:5.

[4] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 28 Sept. 1862-23 Oct. 1862 [several letters], FPW, 4:5.

[5] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 5 Oct. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[6] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 23 Oct. 1862, FPW, 4:5.

[7] Howard Forrer’s second lieutenant shoulder boards, [1862], FPW, 6:14.

[8] Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

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

[10] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [late July] 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

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

[12] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 12 Jan. 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[13] Sarah Forrer’s diary, [Jan. 1863], quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[14] Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 21 Feb. 1863, FPW, 6:9.

[15] Howard Forrer to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 17 Mar. 1863, FPW, 6:8.

[16] Howard Forrer to Henrietta Peirce, 9 June 1863, FPW, 6:9.

[17] Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 53 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 277.

[18] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 9 Aug. 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[19] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 2 Sept. 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[20] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 25 Nov. 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[21] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 29 Dec. 1863, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[22] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 14 Feb. 1864, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

[23] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in F. I. Parrott, FPW, 32:4.

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.