Squirrel hunters of the Civil War

By Joan Baxter

As you are aware, Greene County sent more soldiers per capita to the Civil War than any other county in Ohio.

The troops were outfitted in the customary blue uniform with appropriate accessories. Many of the men were transported by train from the Xenia Station in order to fight in various battles in the country. The Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) exceeded all expectations for gallantry on the fields of battle.

Another group of men were also called upon to fight for the Union, but they were not as well-known as the “blue bellies” of the regular army. This group was called upon to defend the borders of the State. They enlisted for a short period of time.

When it was thought that the Confederate troops might be able to enter Ohio, Cincinnati as a major shipping port was considered at risk.

An alarm went out to protect the Little Miami Railroad, even as far north as Xenia and an urgent request was sent by the governor to protect Cincinnati. Within an hour or two of the Cincinnati newspaper arriving with the request, several counties including Greene telegraphed that they would send help.

The governor responded “Cincinnati Sept. 2, 1962. In response to several communications tendering companies and squads of men for the protection of Cincinnati, I announce that all such bodies of men who are armed will be received. They will repair at once to Cincinnati and report to General Lew Wallace, who will complete their further organization. None by armed men will be received and such only until the fifth instant. Railroad companies will pass all such bodies of men at the expense of the state. It is not desired that any troops residing in any of the river countries leave their counties. All such are requested to organize and remain for the protection of their own counties.”

Whitelaw Reid wrote in Ohio in the War, Vol I “… The most picturesque and inspiring sight ever seen in Cincinnati. From morning to night the streets resounded with the tramp of armed men marching to the defense of the city. From every quarter of the state they came, in homespun, with powder-horn and buckskin pouch; half0rgaqnied regiments, some in uniform and some without it, some having waited long enough to draw their equipment and some having marched without them; cavalry and infantry, all poured out from the railroad depots and down toward the pontoon bridge. . . ”

The governor sent a letter to the press suggesting that no more troops were necessary in Cincinnati, and that those who wished to serve the state should continue to remain in their camps and continue to drill until needed elsewhere, but the Squirrel Hunters remained on duty in Cincinnati, with the ladies of the community providing food and other supplies. They remained until it was determined that the danger had passed. The Squirrel Hunters were thanked by the Governor and told they could go back to their respective homes.

Official discharges were issued to the men. The discharge paper featured engravings of the governor and the Attorney General of Ohio, along with a drawing of a man in civilian attire with a rifle in hand and a squirrel perched on a tree branch and the State of Ohio seal.

An additional document was issued by the State of Ohio Executive Department in Columbus dated March 4, 1863. “To W. J. Martin, Esqr. of Greene County. The Legislature of our State has this day passed the following Resolution:

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Ohio that the Governor be, and he is hereby authorized and directed to appropriate out of his contingent fund a sufficient sum to pay for printing and lithographing discharges for the patriotic men of the State who responded to the call of the Governor, and went to our Southern border to repel the invaders, and who will be known in history as the Squirrel Hunters.

And in obedience thereto, I do most cheerfully herewith enclose a Certificate of your service. But for the gallant serves of yourself and the other members of the corps of patriotic ‘Squirrel Hunters’ rendered in September last, Ohio, our dear State, would have been invaded by a band if pirates determined to overthrow the best government on earth, our wives and children would have been violated and murdered, and our homes plundered and sacked. Your children and your children’s children will be proud to know that you were one of this glorious band.

Preserve the Certificate of service and discharge, herewith enclosed to you as evidence of this gallantry, The rebellion is not yet crushed out and therefore the discharge may not be final; keep the old gun then in order see that the powder horn and bullet pouch are supplied and caution your patriotic mothers or wives to be at all times prepared to furnish you a few days cooked rations so that if your services are called for (which may God in his infinite goodness forbid) you may again prove yourselves ‘Minute Men’ and again protect our loved homes.

Invoking God’s choicest blessings upon yourself and all who are dear to you.

I am very truly yours, David Tod, Governor.”

The period of service for the Squirrel Hunters was shorter than the military, but they did perform an important duty in time of need.


By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.