|Harper's Weekly, September 20, 1862|
PREPARATIONS FOR DEFENSE AT CINCINNATI—CITIZENS IN THE TRENCHES.—SKETCHED BY MR. HENRY MOSLER.—
The Defense of Cincinnati occurred from September 1 through September 13, 1862, when Cincinnati, Ohio was threatened by Confederate forces. The "Queen City" would have been a prize of incalculable value to the Confederacy: although they would not have been able to stay long, they could have captured or destroyed huge stocks of war material stored in the city warehouses (particularly shoes, overcoats, and blankets, all badly needed in the Southern armies).
Confederate General Henry Heth had been sent north to threaten Cincinnati, then the sixth largest city in the United States. Heth was under orders from his superior, General Edmund Kirby Smith, not to attack the city, but to make a "demonstration". Cincinnati's mayor, George Hatch, ordered all business closed, and Union General Lew Wallace declared martial law, seized sixteen steamboats and had them armed, and organized the citizens of Cincinnati, as well as the riverfront cities of Covington and Newport, Kentucky, for defense.
On the 1st of September, Wallace set up headquarters in the Burnet House hotel, where he met late into the night with the mayors of Cincinnati, Newport and Covington. By the next morning, 15,000 volunteers were drilling in the streets.
|Volunteers Drilling Outside Market House|
TO ARMS! TO ARMS! The time for playing war has passed. The enemy is fast approaching our city. Kentucky has already been invaded and our cities for the first time since the rebellion are seriously threatened . . . Let us prepare to resist an army of 100,000 men bent on our destruction.
After the declaration of martial law on September 2, 1862, Cincinnati Mayor George Hatch ordered the police department to gather any and all able-bodied African American males for work on fatigue duty on the fortifications in Northern Kentucky. Men were driven from their homes and businesses by bayonet point to a mule pen on Plum Street in downtown Cincinnati. After being held overnight, with no way of contacting their families, on September 3rd the men were taken as a group across the Ohio River to begin work on the earthwork fortifications.
The Cincinnati Gazette published the following protest:
Let our colored fellow-soldiers be treated civilly, and not exposed to any unnecessary tyranny, nor to the insults a race which they profess to regard as inferior. It would have been decent to have invited the colored inhabitants to turn out in defense of the city. Then there would have been an opportunity to compare their patriotism with that of those who were recently trying to drive them from the city. Since the services of men are required from our colored brethren, let them be treated like men.
|William Martin Dickson|
|Memorial to Black Brigade, Cincinnati, Ohio|
You have labored faithfully; you have made miles of military roads, miles of rifle pits, felled hundreds of acres of the largest and loftiest forest trees, built magazines and forts. The hills across yonder river will be a perpetual monument of your labors... Go to your homes with the consciousness of having performed your duty - of deserving, if you do not receive, the protection of the law, and bearing with you the gratitude and respect of all honorable men.
|Memorial to Black Brigade, Cincinnati, Ohio|
Militia Colonel J.V. Guthrie, who served as commander of the Citizens Labor Corps, and
months before, issued an order authorizing the arrest of all "rebel women" who insulted
Federal soldiers and refused them water. The Gazette reported that a building is being
fitted up in which all such will be confined," adding that, men offending in like manner
will be arrested and confined in the county jail."
View from Hooper Battery,
Defense of Cincinnati
By September 5th, General Wallace ordered the "resumption of all lawful business in this city except the sale of liquor . . ." At 4:00 p.m., however, military organizations were still required to assemble for drill. General Wallace was disturbed at the length of time it was taking for the ferrying of troops across the river. No bridges existed at the time. Wallace consulted with Cincinnati architect Wesley Cameron regarding the feasibility of placing a pontoon bridge across the Ohio River. Cameron immediately fashioned a bridge that was made of empty coal barges lashed side-by-side, and anchored securely to both shores. In the space of two days, Cameron had the pontoon bridge in place.
|The Pontoon Bridge|
Along eight miles of hilltops from Ludlow to present-day Fort Thomas, Kentucky, volunteers and soldiers constructed rifle pits and earthwork fortifications, which were defended by 25,000 Union Army soldiers and the local militia volunteers.
"Thanks to the promptitude of Generals Wright and Wallace, and the patriotism, courage and valor of the people, the Rebel movement toward Cincinnati has been frustrated and rolled back. In a remarkably brief space of time our cities, which were practically defenseless, became bastions of military might as our whole male population arose en masse. The patience that they endured, the severe labor of trenches and tented fields for many days in succession presented a remarkable instance of how quickly a citizen can be converted into a soldier. Assisted by loyalists from other areas, we had an army in less than a week that was a proud example of what the West can do to meet invasion. Cincinnati is a large and wealthy city, attractive as a prize to the enemy. Hereafter, it must not be undefended as hitherto; we must have troops for home defense."
|Monument to Dickson and Wallace, Cincinnati, Ohio|
Wallace received the nickname "Savior of Cincinnati" for his actions in September 1862. Before leaving, Wallace issued the following proclamation:
For the present, at least, the enemy have fallen back and your cities are safe….When I assumed command there was nothing to defend you with, except a few half-finished works and some dismounted guns; yet I was confident. the energies of a great city are boundless; they have only to be aroused, united and directed. You were appealed to. The answer will never be forgotten.
Paris may have seen something like it in her revolutionary days, but the cities of America never did. Be proud that you have given them an example so splendid. The most commercial of people, you submitted to a total suspension of business, and without a murmur adopted my principle–'Citizens for labor, soldiers for battle.'
In coming time, strangers, viewing the works on the hills of Newport and Covington, will ask, 'Who built these intrenchments?' You will answer, 'We built them.' If they ask, 'Who guarded them?' you can reply, 'We helped in thousands.' If they inquire the result, your answer will be, 'The enemy came and looked at them, and stole away in the night.'
You have won much honor; keep your organizations ready to win more. Hereafter be always prepared to defend yourselves.
|"Return of the Cincinnati Militia After the Retreat of the Rebels"|
|The Squirrel Hunter's Discharge|
The fact that a battle was not fought is due to Wallace's prompt and decisive action. Had he not taken command, nothing would have stood in the way of the Confederate army, which could have taken the city. Heth's plans to hold the city for ransom (as Confederate General Jubal Early later did to Frederick, Maryland) or sack it, indicated that he felt his forces were too weak to hold it for the Confederacy, but he might have caused the Union to divert troops from critical operations elsewhere. Wallace earned the city's gratitude, but the absence of a battle prevented him from regaining the standing he had lost at Shiloh and kept the defense of Cincinnati from being as celebrated.
By the end of November, Simpson directed the construction of twelve more battery positions. Two years later, at the end of 1864, Simpson and his subordinates had constructed a total of four forts and twenty-three battery positions.
Beaty lived until 1916 and is buried in Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati.