March 2011: A Civil War Story


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Learn about the history of Westerville, Ohio, including a locals story about the civil war and information about the music of Ben Hanby. This newsletter was created by the Westerville Library’s Local History Department.

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March 2011: A Civil War Story

  1. 1. The Music of Ben Hanby The Civil War era was a time when music roused the emotions of an entire country. The dramatic and sad A Walk Through History events taking place in the United States led many com- posers to write songs capturing the mood of both North THE WESTERVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY and South. One of these songs was written by Benjamin R. Hanby while a student at Otterbein. LOCAL HISTORY RESOURCE CENTER NEWSLETTER Darling Nellie Gray written in 1856 by Hanby was March 2011 sung by soldiers of the North and the South. The song was based on the sad but true story of Joseph Selby, a runaway slave. Selby died in the Hanby home in Rushville A Civil War Story while fleeing through Ohio on the Underground Railroad. In April 1860, Henry Michelbach left Germany and immigrated to the United He was seeking to reach Canada and earn money to buy States. He met a young Irish immigrant, Mary Lee, and they married. When the Civil the freedom of his beloved Nellie Gray. Nellie was sold War began Henry felt the desire to serve and enlisted in the cavalry. Mary and Henry Benjamin Hanby had a baby daughter Henrietta Kay, born while Henry was away serving his country. away from the area where they both were slaves and Jo- When the baby was several months old, word came that Henry had been killed in battle.seph, knowing that the only way they could be reunited was if he fled, made his way A fellow soldier wrote Mary that he had last seen Henry pinned between his horsethrough Ohio to Canada. He hoped that he could earn the money to purchase her which had been shot and the horse next to him which was also dead. Mary, of course,freedom when he reached Canada. Joseph Selby did not live to make it to Canada, assumed that Henry was dead.but instead died in Rushville where a large gravestone marks his burial spot. Ben- Alone with a young child to support and few skills, she tried to make her living. An accomplished lace maker, she went from employer to employer seeking a job but alljamin Hanby was a boy of nine when this happened. The plight of this slave and a turned her away because of the child. They did not want her distracted from her workvisit to Kentucky where he witnessed a slave auction by the child. Finally in desperation she approached a Westerville family named Bonar.led the young Otterbein student to write one of the This family had lost a seven-month-old baby and when Mary approached them asking if they could help her by taking care of her child, they agreed to take the child and fiftymost beloved songs of his time. One writer said of dollars.that Mary provided for her care. Because the family grew to love the child, theyDarling Nellie Gray, “This lyric swayed the sentiments did not want her to be attached to anyone but them. They told the child that her parentsof our people, perhaps more than the oft-quoted Uncle had not wanted her and had given her away. Picture taken from the bookTom’s Cabin – for a book must be read from cover to When night fell on the battlefield Henry was unconscious, trapped between the Life Goes On: The Civil War at two horses. He awoke when thieves were stealing his watch and ring and began to stir.cover, but a song leaps from heart to heart.” Upon seeing the movement the thieves stabbed Henry in the head. The next day the Home 1861-1865 Ben Hanby was a songwriter who wrote music Confederates buried the dead and took anyone still living to Andersonville prison camp in hope of exchanging thesewith a message. Darling Nellie Gray was just one of the wounded prisoners for some of their own men. Henry was in the “Because the family grew to love the child, they prison camp for 10 months, uncertain where he was and barely alive.Civil War era songs written by him. He also wrote Ole did not want her to be attached to anyone but At the end of that time, the exchange was made and Henry was takenShady, a song written to encourage slaves to flee their them. They told the child that her parents had to a hospital in Baltimore Maryland. He lay unconscious in a bedmasters and make their way to the Union lines in order not wanted her and had given her away.” there for three months. Gradually his mind cleared and he was ableto work for the Union cause. Terrible Tough was a re- to communicate and finally write a letter home, letting his wife know Hanby House that he was alive. When he found out what had happened with hiscruiting song to encourage soldiers of Ohio to enlist in the child he was very angry and blamed his wife Mary. When he arrived back in Delaware County he gave his young wifeservice of their state and country. Another anti-slavery song, Little Tillie’s Grave, a dreadful shock. She had last seen him as a healthy young man but now his head was covered with bandages, one legrelated the tale of a slave whose wife was taken from him so he fled with his young would not support him and he walked with crutches.daughter to a secluded island where the young child died. Henry and Mary attempted to recover their lost daughter. They went to the Bonar farm but were turned away without seeing the child. Mr. Bonar threatened them with arrest. Because they were unaware of the fact that the child Today the Hanby House, a house museum owned by the Ohio Historical Soci- had never been legally adopted and that the law would have sided with them, they left the child where she was. Henriettaety and run by the Westerville Historical Society shares the history of songwriter never lived with Henry and Mary but they were allowed some visits with her through the years.Benjamin Hanby and his father William Hanby who operated an Underground Rail- Henrietta (later known as Kate) married and raised a family in our community. Her granddaughter shared thisroad stop. story with the Local History Center at the Westerville Public Library 4 1
  2. 2. The Cormany Diaries “We struck Hanover at dark. Found N.C. R. R. badly torn up – During the day we heardRachel Bowman and Samuel Cormany met while students at Otterbein in 1858. In 1860, after heavy cannonading – and later musketry firing – in the direction of Gettysburg. Rumor wastheir courtship and marriage they moved to Canada. There they welcomed the birth of their “Theres a Battle on at Gettysburg” and was not hard to believe – Some of our cavalry haddaughter Cora. Back in the U.S., the country spiraled into the Civil War. Samuel brought his wife fought desperately here today, early – Charging into the enemy’s rear and flanks… We layand newborn daughter home to Pennsylvania and volunteered to fight to defend his country andhis state. Below are some entries from the diaries that both Rachel and Samuel kept during the on arms in a field for the night – we were well fed, but awfully tired and sleepy – A showerdifficult years of the war. Rachel lived in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and watched the Confed- of rain failed to awaken me – I was lying in a furrow, an old furrow. I partially awakenederate forces march through the town on their way to the battle at Gettysburg. She had to search in the night feeling coolish on my lower side –But didn’t fully awake – and in the morning Ifor food in a town stripped of resources by the Confederate army. discovered that water had run down the furrow … and so was pretty wet from below while my“I went to see about enlisting. There is great “All day since 7 oclock they have been going poncho had kept me dry from the top.” - Samuel, July 1, 1863excitement about drafting men into the Army—The through. Between 30 & 40 pieces of cannonair is full of calls for men who are patriotic to & an almost endless trail of wagons. While I “Canonading commenced early – and battleenlist – I really inwardly feel that I want to go am writing thousands are passing…. It makes “Towards noon firing became more general was on again in full intensity. From 1 ¼ untiland do my part.” Samuel, Sept. 9, 1862 me feel too badly to see so many men & cannon and in almost all directions – and we were 4P.M. there was the heaviest cannonading I going through knowing they have come to kill ordered to our horses – and joined our re- ever have heard – One constant roar with rising our men …” - Rachel, June 27, 1863 turned heroes, and lay in readiness for any and falling inflections …”“Break camp 7a.m…. Heard cannonading fre- emergency – The general battle increased - Samuel, July 3, 1863quently frontward and leftward –We moved about “Another eventful day has passed – All morning there in energy – and occasional fierceness –20 miles – Our advance had a light skirmish about was considerable riding done up & down street. At and by 2P.M. the cannonading was most4p.m. – Halted – alert for the night – I sat on 10a.m. the infantry commenced to come & for 3 hours terrific and continued until 5P.M. and “Rained furiously during the night – We hadmy saddle – leaned against a tree – took little they just marched on as fast as they could. It is sup- was interspersed with musketry – and fed, eaten and were standing to horse when aboutnaps – holding my horses rein in my hand – am posed that about 15,000 have already passed through charge-yells and everything that goes to 6oclock NEWS CAME – ‘the Rebs are fallingactually very unwell – tooth and headache, sore & there are sill more coming…. It is thought by making up the indescribable battle of the back!’ “mouth and throat.”- Samuel, April 13, 1863 best men on Earth, seemingly in the Fight - Samuel, July 3, 1863 many that a desperate battle will be fought at Haris- burg. This p.m. the Rebs are plundering the stores...” to the Finish. Taken as a whole from -Rachel, June 24, 1863 all one can see from one point – it seems “Little Willie Wampler came running as fast as he “Rains a little – Awfully dark –Fed horses Note: The 15,000 passing through Chambersburg as tho our men – The Union Army – is could to tell me a soldier had come to see me & sure – ate a little ourselves, and at 5a.m. were in are Confederate troops. rather overpowered and worsted … Lay enough when I got to the door Mr. Cormany just column, on the march – about 5 miles took us to on arms to rest – Little chance to feed and rode up…” - Rachel, July 6, 1863 ½ mile from River, were we halted – Stood two “It is very muddy this morning of yesterdays rain – in eat.” - Samuel, July 2, 1863 hours in heavy rain – Kept ammunition dry – fact I believe it has rained every day this week. I was Moved a short distance forward – our advance out hunting yeast and got some at last. I have not a bit The war continued after the great battle of Gettysburg with Samuel engaged in more battles engaged the Rebs lightly. Infantry. They fled of bread left. My yeast got sour, so of course the yeast and receiving several promotions. Rachel, on the homefront, anxiously waited between his – we followed a short distance – firing on them I set last evening is sour and not fit to use. .. they are letters home for word of him and his safety. In August 1864, the Confederate forces returned at ¼ mile range – No casualties on our side chopping at a great rate over at the R.R. all morning. to Chambersburg PA and burned most of the homes down. According to Rachel, “About 3,000 – But I do not believe they could say as much – were made homeless in three hours.” She is one of the fortunate ones whose home was spared. I judge they are breaking up the iron by the sound. Finally in August 1865 after almost three years of separation and hardship the Cormany We were ordered back to mount, and then after Must now go & set my bread.” family was reunited. They had two daughters and it is through the descendants of these two establishing a picket line – all fell back ½ mile - Rachel, July 1, 1863 daughters that the diaries of Rachel and Samuel were shared in the book The Cormany Diaries and put up – I was wet to the hide – so were Note: The Confederates were destroying the rail- A northern family in the Civil War edited by James C. Mohr which is in the collection of the many – but my throat was better” road line in an effort to impede the Union forces. Westerville Public Library and from which the above excerpts were taken. - Samuel, April 15, 1863 Continued on Page 3 2 3
  3. 3. EXPERIENCE LOCAL HISTORY The Local History Center is offering free guided walking tours of historic Uptown Westerville for elementary school class- es. The walk takes approximately 90 minutes making a loop through old Westerville. Students will be treated to stories of the founders of the community, residents who participated in the Underground Railroad, and information about homes and businesses. The Anti-Saloon Museum and local history dis- plays at the Westerville Public Library are part of the tour. To schedule a tour, contact Beth Weinhardt at 259-5028 or at bweinhar@westervillelibrary.orgWesterville History The Local History Resource Center is scheduling programs for spring. Let us bring history to your classroom. We will share stories about the early pioneers of Westerville, show old photos of the town, and talk about the growth of and change in the community with special emphasis on a transportation timeline. Classroom programs can be scheduled by contact- ing Beth Weinhardt at 614-259-5028.
  4. 4. Civil War ActivitiesAfter reading Samuel and Rachel’s diary entries, write a diary entry of your own abouthow their diaries made you feel. What do you think it would have been like to livethrough the Civil War? Recipe Listed below is a recipe for hardtack. Soldiers INSTRUCTIONS made their own during camp and kept it with them Mix the ingredients together into a stiff to eat while they were marching. batter, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/2 inch INGREDIENTS on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake for one-half an hour at 400 degrees. Remove 3 1/4 cups flour from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, 2 teaspoons salt and punch four rows of holes, four holes 1 cup water per row into the dough. Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another one-half hour. Turn oven off and leave the door closed. Leave the hardtack in the oven until cool. Books Listed below are children’s books about the home front during the Civil War. These books, and many others, can be found in the youth department of the Westerville Public Library. When This Cruel War is Over by Duane Damon Life Goes On: The Civil War at Home 1861-1865 by James R. Arnold and Roberta Wiener Women at the Front by Jean F. Blashfield