Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fallen heroes tree recalls large sacrifice of small, anti-slavery Ohio community

(Robbins Hunter Museum)

The village of Granville, in central Ohio, never saw a military draft during the Civil War because it exceeded its quota of troop contributions, says a local historian.

There’s at least one reason cited for the high number of volunteers.

“Licking County has always been conservative, but there were many who voted for (John) Breckinridge,” says Kevin Bennett, referring to the Kentucky Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1860 against Abraham Lincoln and would later fight for the Confederacy.

“Granville did not. It was termed by a local county newspaper as an abolitionist hellhole.”

And so the bucolic village of about 800 residents and its surrounding township rushed its sons to don blue uniforms and fight to preserve the union. Of the 2,900 residents in the area, about 300 served, including students at Denison University (formerly called Granville College), says Bennett.

Three of the six Rose brothers and cousins died

Four men that either were from the area or went to school in Granville – a center of education and culture -- became generals. Dozens would succumb to combat wounds or disease at campaign camps and prisons across the South.

The Robbins Hunter Museum at the Avery-Downer House, a striking example of Greek Revival architecture, this holiday season has a fallen heroes tree memorializing the lives of 53 local men who died during the war.

Each red, white and blue shield has a name, age and regiment.

The museum’s tree collection this year features other themes: pre-1870 ornaments and one paying homage to the 1950s, with bubble lights and shiny, bright ornaments.

Previously, also during the Civil War sesquicentennial, the museum featured a replica wooden crate and items that would be of the type sent to soldiers for Christmas (above).

“We are now saying goodbye to the Civil War after this,” museum Executive Director Ann Lowder says of this year’s tree.

Bennett, a retired army lieutenant colonel, told the Picket that he grew up in northern Ohio and became interested in the Civil War during its centennial.

He felt the village’s role in the four-year conflict deserved more research, which led to the publication by the Granville Historical Society of his book, “The Civil War & Granville: An Ohio Community’s Outsized Contribution.”

Among those died were three Hill brothers – Ezra, Benjamin and Caton – and three of six Rose siblings and cousins.

Daniel Rose, a member of the 113th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, died at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, a Sergeant Cressey would write. “It was terrible,” Cressey wrote of the numerous casualties. Lewis Rose was wounded in both legs and would later pass away.

Eight Granville men died and 11 were wounded at Chickamauga, says Bennett.

Local residents joined many units, such as the 3rd, 17th, 76th and the 88th regiments. Many joined two companies of the 100-day 135th OVI in spring 1864.

“They didn’t get the quiet, safe duty they thought they were going to get,” says Bennett.

While on guard duty at North Mountain Depot near Martinsburg, W.Va., “they were totally overwhelmed and surrendered.” Of 168 members of the 135th captured, only 65 returned home, most dying at Andersonville, Camp Lawton and other Confederate camps or after they were paroled, says Bennett. Eleven Granville soldiers were among the dead.

Lowder says the Licking County Genealogicial Society did intensive research of the 53 fallen, one of whom was a 17-year-old telegraph operator.

Bennett says he counts 64 war dead from the village, township and university.

He also researched two generals: Charles Griffin and Erastus Tyler.

Tyler, who attended Granville College, was brave and capable often incurred the ire of superiors, says Bennett. He fought at Port Republic, Monocacy and Antietam, among other battles.

Charles Griffin
Native son Griffin rose to the rank of major general and commanded a division and, later, the entire V Corps, which fought at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Five Forks and Appomattox Court House. Griffin’s brother, William, had moved south and fought for the Confederacy.

Founded in 1805 by Welsh settlers and anti-slavery settlers from Granville, Mass., and Connecticut, Granville had farmers, middle-class shopkeepers and faculty members.

Because the railroad arrived late and the township had limited industrial success, the community became better known for its education, with five schools, including the Granville Female Seminary, by the 1830s.

“We know there were girls who came up from the South to be educated,” says Lowder.

Today, Granville -- its village center built in a New England style reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting -- retains its identity while serving as a bedroom community a 25-minute drive from Ohio’s capital, Columbus.

War seems a great distance away.

But Granville, a planned community disrupted by the disorder of the Civil War, remembers the sacrifice of its son, husbands and fathers.

The Robbins Hunter Museum, 221 E. Broadway in Granville, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m., through Dec. 20. Admission is free.

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