Other Units: 1st Ohio Rifles - "Squirrel Hunters"

In early September 1862, Confederate forces under Kirby Smith captured Lexington, Kentucky. Smith dispatched General Henry Heth to capture Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. Major General Horatio Wright, commander of Union forces in Kentucky, sent General Lewis (Lew) Wallace to prepare Covington's and Cincinnati's defenses.

In Cincinnati, martial law was proclaimed and all business suspended. Trenches and rifle-pits were dug on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, citizen soldiers organized by wards and began drilling. Governor David Tod accepted the offers of many counties to send help. Only armed men were to report, and perhaps over 15,000 civilians from sixty-five counties did so, bringing "every variety of firearms," including antique muskets and powder horns. These men became known as "Squirrel Hunters."

For two weeks, the Squirrel Hunters drilled and manned the barricades in Cincinnati, preparing for an attack. After some skirmishes, the invaders retired. Their actions were intended to cover General Kirby Smith's retreat. By September 13, news reached the city that the Confederate forces were withdrawing and the danger was over. The men were issued special discharges and later paid $13.00 for their month of service--the same monthly rate of pay as a Union soldier.


Ralph Robinson

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