While Southern civilians lived in constant dread of battles in their backyards during the Civil War, the people of the North were, for the most part, spared this fear. One exception was the Ohioans who lived along the Ohio River. In 1861, upon hearing that Virginia had seceded from the Union, Julia Cutler of Washington County grimly noted, "This places us on the border & we must look the monster Secession in the face." Warnings of Rebel invasions and threats of towns being burned were frequent, but usually just rumors started by Confederate sympathizers. In the summer of 1863, however, the approaching thunder of Rebel cavalrymen was all too real. The diaries, letters, and essays of Julia Perkins Cutler, held by Marietta College Library's Special Collections, describe how a farm house full of women rose to the occasion during Morgan's Raid.
|Julia P. Cutler|
By the next day, however, Julia's attention was absorbed by the news of a battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Although she celebrated the Union victory with her neighbors, Julia trembled with anxiety for her nephew, Rufus Dawes, who had taken part in the bloody confrontation with Confederate forces. It was nine long days before the family was assured of his safety and learned of the key role he had played during the struggle.
While Julia waited for news of her nephew's fate, she and the other women of the neighborhood were kept busy in the hot, humid farm kitchens, cooking for the extra hands who were getting in the hay. The air along the Ohio River during the early part of July was ominously stagnant. "Everybody speaks of the singular state of the atmosphere," wrote Julia. "The sun does not shine, even when there are no clouds - and when dark and cloudy no rain falls. The air is damp and wheat molds in the shock." A thick layer of smoke and haze obscured houses only a mile away, and Julia wondered, "Is it the battle cloud wafted westward?" Thus consumed with thoughts of the Gettysburg battle and the onerous labor in field and kitchen, she and her neighbors were slow to notice the rising threat of a band of Rebel marauders.
|The Old Stone House of the Cutler Family at Constitution, Ohio, painted by Sala Bosworth. The original is held by Dawes Arboretum.|
On Wednesday, July 15, Julia noted that "the sun shines to-day, the first time for a week, and the men are making hay & getting it into cocks." Before the day was over the men had gone from the fields, called by the Ohio governor to capture a Confederate foe. "It was in the midst of harvest," Julia later reflected, "but the farmers threw down the scythe and the hoe, leaving the hay uncut, wheat unstacked, and corn unworked, to hasten to the defense of their homes."
|General John Hunt Morgan, from Morgan and His Captors, by F. Senour, 1865.|
The commissioned captain of the militia at Constitution was Loring Cole, reputed to be a Copperhead, or anti-war Democrat, and the Union supporters in the community were unwilling to serve under him. An independent militia company of about 80 men was quickly organized, with Thomas Watson Moore for captain, Augustus Stone Bailey for lieutenant, and William D. McClure for orderly sergeant. This unit rendezvoused at Camp Marietta with similar militia companies from all over Southeastern Ohio. As many as 12,000 men were assembled, most of them unarmed.
|William Parker Cutler|
|Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Voris) Cutler|
On Saturday, July 18, the women watched as most of the men of Constitution, under the leadership of Colonel Moore, passed by on a train. They were bound for Buffington Island, near Meigs County, Ohio, where Morgan and his men were expected to re-cross the river. Two additional train cars of militia, along with a steamboat and barge, all passed by the Cutler's stone house on the way to intercept Morgan. Dispatches were received that a skirmish with the raiders had occurred at Berlin Heights in Jackson County, and when rumors placed the enemy's scouts at Coolville, less than 20 miles away, the ladies' afternoon tea party was "thrown into quite a little flutter of excitement." As soon as their guests left, the Cutler women hustled about, hiding a shotgun and burying the family silver and valuable papers. A neighbor boy was hired to move their horses to a remote pasture out of Morgan's view.
About sundown 45 soldiers from Marietta were sent to remove all the boats along the river. Anxious to be of assistance, the women "cut up and buttered four loaves of bread and gave them, with six or eight pies." Not long after the soldiers' departure, Julia Cutler was walking in her flower garden when she noticed a "sun-browned" man in a linen duster, traveling up the river road on a "fine grey horse." The man did not go far and "was seen returning & heard galloping by in the dusk of the evening, taking the Hocking road." The stranger was thought to be one of Morgan's scouts.
|Map of Washington County, Ohio, from History of Washington County, Ohio, H. Z. Williams & Bros., 1881|
On July 19, the usual Sabbath stillness was broken by the arrival of a company of cavalry, the Governor's Guards from Columbus, who stopped at the Cutler's well for water on their way to "hunt Morgan." Not long after, "Col. Hill" (probably Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Hill of the 145th O.V.I.) and his assistant, Captain Werter W. Madeira of Chillicothe, were ushered into the house by a neighbor, Bennett C. Bailey. These officers had come to examine maps and consult with William Cutler regarding the probability of Morgan fording the Ohio River at a nearby island. As William was still in Athens, they discussed matters with Kate Dawes and Julia, and determined that the ford must be defended. Later in the morning, a traveler from Parkersburg, West Virginia (the new state had been admitted to the Union June 20th), came in with the announcement that there was fighting 35 miles away at Buffington Island.
|Sarah and Annie Cutler|
As the twilight deepened, fires were lighted and all the lanterns in the neighborhood pressed into service to expedite the work. Every six hours a relief party came down from Camp Putnam on the cars and took the places of those who had performed their tour of duty and were returned to camp on the same train that brought the relief. No rations were sent here. The tired & hungry soldiers were to go back to town for food. A militia force gathers all. There were lawyers, doctors, ministers, merchants & clerks as well as mechanics & farmers. To those who were unaccustomed to manual labor the service was a severe one, many almost fainted under it. We endeavored to give some refreshment to all who came, if it were no more than a cup of tea or coffee & a slice of bread & butter. The poor fellows continued coming to the house until long after midnight and Kate, who did not go to bed until two o'clock in the morning, rose three times afterward to attend to them. About midnight we heard the measured tramp of men coming down the river road. It was Col. Brown's Ross Co. Regiment going down to Crooked Creek, three miles below here, which position they were to hold as a kind of advance post, while the intrenchments were being dug here. As they halted a few minutes before the house, in the darkness, some sang snatches of song - some quoted Shakespeare . . .
On Monday, July 20, the men continued their drudgery in the rifle pits, which stretched "all the way from river road to the point of the hill." Julia discovered that among the laborers was the Honorable James R. Morris, United States Congressman from Monroe County, a Copperhead who had defeated her brother William in the last election. Morris had slept in the Cutler's barn the night before.
Trouble from the local Copperheads was anticipated, and several had been placed under arrest. One particularly notorious Warren Township resident, John Sharp, had been taken into custody after "ammunition enough for a whole company was found concealed in his house and a sixteen shooter was taken from his person." Among the incriminating evidence was Sharp's correspondence with John Hunt Morgan.
|Marietta Register, July 24, 1863|
The women focused their energies on preparing food for the soldiers and called for more help in the kitchen. Nancy Carlin, the hired girl, "stood at the table making pies &c. from morning till night." Soldiers "came to the house by hundreds for food," and were given gingerbread, pies, biscuits, cake, tea and coffee. In addition to the men in the trenches, the military officers and staff who sat at the Cutler's table also had to be fed. The women were impressed with the ranking men's gentlemanly conduct:
Col. Lynch himself is from Circleville, where he has for twelve years superintended the Union Schools. He is an educated man, very modest and has the reputation of being a brave & accomplished officer. He has served under Grant and participated in some of the most desperate fighting before Vicksburg. Mr. Drum, a teller or cashier of the Circleville bank, seemed to be the most intelligent and efficient man on "the staff." Mr. Turney, a fat good natured gentleman, said to be the richest man in Pickaway Co. had left 1000 acres of wheat uncut to come and "head off Morgan" or catch him if that might be.
At this point "all was uncertain anxious suspense," as the results of the battle at Buffington were still unknown. News eventually came that 100 of Morgan's men had been killed and perhaps 1,000 captured by Union forces. Morgan himself, along with 700 or more men, escaped to continue their ride. It was believed that the Rebel band would now seek out the upper fords on the Ohio River, and the officers encamped at Constitution began to seriously discuss the possibility of a battle, hoping to fight Morgan on that very spot:
They say to us "we are sorry to spoil your beautiful place here." Mr. Drum says "Your house is in an unfortunate position in case of a battle at this ford," but Col. Lynch thinks "the house is shell-proof." This sounds warlike to our unaccustomed ears. Mrs. W. D. Bailey, our near neighbor, inquires "will it be safe to stay in our houses?" We compare ideas among ourselves. Kate says she will not go away in any event. She wants to see the fight and aid the wounded. Some of the more timid would prefer not so near a view, and the capabilities of the cellar to accommodate inmates is discussed. Finally we decided to abide the event, and act according to circumstances. This (Monday) evening the Colonel reported to Col. Runkle "After six o'clock this P.M. we can hold this position against 20,000 men."
By Tuesday, July 21, several rows of rifle pits zigzagged from the river road, back to the railroad, then up the hills behind Constitution. The work was continuing when a dispatch arrived by train reporting the surrender of more of Morgan's men on Kyger Creek in Gallia County. Once again, however, Morgan and several hundred of his followers had escaped and were fleeing northward. As the news was relayed to the men in the trenches, "they made the welkin ring with their shouts."
William Cutler and his niece, Lucy Dawes, arrived at the farm about noon, just as Colonel Lynch and his men were preparing to board a train. They were leaving the Old Stone House and heading up the Muskingum River in pursuit of Morgan. Assessments were made for damages to the fields, but Cutler refused remuneration, saying "he did not want a farm unless he could have a government." The women of the neighborhood thought it now safe to come out of their houses and inspect the rifle pits. The Cutlers congratulated themselves that they had come relatively unscathed through Morgan's Raid. But the excitement was not over yet.
|Diary of Julia Cutler, July 22, 1863|
On the morning of Wednesday, July 22, William Cutler left the house early to check on damages the Raiders had inflicted on the railroad. About 9:00 a.m. the women had another visit from Captain W. W. Madeira. He was on his way to Crooked Creek to order Colonel Brown's Ross County regiment upriver to Constitution, where they would take over the rifle pits left by the previous crew. Military officials thought it best to be prepared in the event that Morgan and his remaining men should turn their flight in that direction.
About noon the Ross County regiment under Colonel Allison L. Brown, along with a part of the 19th Ohio Battery under Colonel James W. Conine, marched up the road and commenced preparations, once again, to head off Morgan. "Three beautiful Brass cannon belonging to the 19th Ohio battery were stationed in the turnpike above our house, ready at a moment's warning to be whirled into position," noted Julia. "Squads of mounted men were coming and going with reports to the Head Quarters. Col. Brown & his field officers made their home with us and the regimental Surgeon established his hospital here."
Of the hundreds of men who milled about the house and grounds of the Cutler farm that week, the "fat doctor" affiliated with Colonel Brown's regiment was the only one whose rude, drunken behavior caused offense:
He said he must have rooms for himself & his patients and if we objected he would take the whole house. He stretched himself upon the parlor sofa and conducted himself like a boor as he was. We had all exerted ourselves beyond our strength the past three days - glad to do all we could - regardless of fatigue or expense. But when this man with brutal manners appeared, I confess my heart sank. Having established himself in the parlor, his apothecary shop in the entry, and his patients in one of the back rooms - he went to sleep - without troubling himself about the sick ones - leaving them to two or three nurses, only one of whom appeared to feel any responsibility. Lucy took the matter in hand & brought down mattresses & pillows and made them as comfortable as she could. She then prepared tea & toast or broth for such as could take it, all which seemed to do the invalids a vast deal of good.
In the early morning light we saw the battery-men stretched by the road-side upon their blankets near their guns, fast asleep - except those whose duty it was to stand guard. It looked indeed like being in Camp. We are getting accustomed to warlike sights and sounds. The glittering bayonets of the infantry, the bugle call of the Artillery, the clanking of saber & carbine of the Cavalry make "Camp Cutler" seem quite like a military post . . . [The soldiers] come to us for food, medicines, tools, cooking utensils, tubs, washboard, soap, books, newspapers, &c. &c. Every shade tree has its group of loungers, reading, writing, or discussing the raid. There are no angry political disputes. Some walk about the garden - some spend hours in the river - while others sleep their time away.But the idyllic spot was not long to be enjoyed, as the majority of the loafing soldiers were ordered to Wheeling later in the day. Only Captain Reed with an independent company from Ross County was left to guard the ford.
With the adventure seemingly over, Julia took to her room to rest from the strenuous activity of the past several days. She was soon awakened, however, by "a bustle in the road in front of the house." Looking out the window, she saw a crowd gathering around a buggy and heard someone say, "Yes, I'm a live rebel." After a week of dreadful anticipation, Julia finally encountered one of Morgan's Raiders.
The handsome young man captured by scouts was George Nolan, the son of a Union sympathizer, from Shelby County, Kentucky. According to Julia, Nolan was "well educated for a rebel & horse thief" and "ought to know better than to be a rebel and robber." The man had ridden with Morgan through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, and his feet were badly swollen. After receiving medical treatment, he ate his dinner under guard in the Cutler's house before being sent to Camp Marietta.
On Friday, July 24, news was received that Morgan had been involved in a skirmish at Eagleport on the Muskingum River above McConnelsville. The gallant Colonel Lynch and his men, who had guarded the ford at Constitution, had finally gotten their chance to strike a blow at Morgan.
The officers still stationed at the Old Stone House were remaining cautious. They agreed that it was best to keep the men at their posts, as a surprise visit from Morgan was possible. Julia went to bed that night "expecting to hear the signal guns before morning."
By Saturday, July 25th, Morgan was reported in Belmont County and moving in a northward direction. Julia was becoming weary of his antics and expressed the hope to "hear that he is either killed, captured, or driven from our borders."
On Sunday, July 26, the Cutlers, along with some of the soldiers, attended church. Dispatches were received indicating that Morgan was moving even farther away and was now beyond Steubenville in Jefferson County, Ohio.
Monday morning, July 27, brought the long-awaited news that Morgan and the last of his Rebel band had been captured at Salineville in Columbiana County. With a mixture of regret and relief, the soldiers at Constitution packed up their equipment and prepared to leave, but not before a parting gesture to the Cutler family:
When the soldiers left they marched by the house, halting in front and displayed the flag with which they had dared Morgan to the fight at Berlin Heights and then in consideration of the kindness shown by the ladies of the family, gave three cheers with a will. Considering the unexpected & severe draft on our energies, I think we sustained the credit of the family very well, giving without stint to all who came.
Tuesday, July 28, found the neighborhood back to the routine of an ordinary summer day. The men returned to the hay fields, and the women, suffering from "sick headache," toothache, palpitations and fatigue, began their recovery from the stress of the recent adventure:
To-day the farmers resume their work plowing out corn, stacking wheat, or making hay - everything of the kind having been suspended. Mrs. Dawes & Lucy came down this evening to talk over the exciting events of the last ten days, which seem a month to us, & to see the rifle-pits.
While Julia rested, she took time to reflect and write about the events of the preceding week and decided that all had gone rather well. "Altho hundreds passed through & around our gardens, not a flower was broken or the slightest injury done," and best of all, the Cutlers had made quite a number of "pleasant acquaintances and some warm friends" among the soldiers who were in their midst.
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