Saturday, June 18, 2011

Draft Riots, Holmes County Ohio

Holmes County Historical Society
In commemorating the 2011 Civil War Sesquicentennial, Ohio is remembering significant events relating to the war between the states.  The Holmes County draft riots, or The Holmes County Rebellion, as it is called, made national news in 1863.  On June 17, 1863 a battle took place in Glenmont, Ohio between Copperheads and Union troops who were ordered out by President Lincoln.  Much of the information shared in this post are from a manuscript of J. R. Vance, found in the Holmes County Public Library Reference section; the article titled "Holmes County Rebellion - Fort Fizzle".

On July 2, 2011, David Weiss, considered to be one of Holmes County's leading experts on Fort Fizzle, will lead an hour-long history program which will begin at 1 p.m. in the Holmes County Common Pleas Courtroom.  This will be followed by a free courthouse tour lead by former judge Thomas D. White.  The Millersburg, Ohio, Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast invites you to reserve a room and "Step back in time" as you learn about Fort Fizzle.  Bring your lawn chairs for a spectacular fireworks display at 9 p.m.


1800's Wagon
On May 1, 1863 Clement L. Vallandigham, the nation's leading copperhead, in an infamous speach in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, denounced Lincoln's administration and garnered support for the southern cause.  Mr. Vallandigham appealed to the peasant or mechanic class of Swiss-French or Swiss-German immigrants who had settled southwestern Holmes County.  When the enrolling officer, Elias W. Robinson rode into Napoleon (now Glenmont), he was assaulted by Peter Stuber while enrolling men under the Conscription Act.  Apparently Peter threw a stone which struck Mr. Robinson, and according to his account, he apologized; however, the situation worsened.  Garnering community support, the copperheads used a stone house as Fort Vallandigham, formed a defense against the Union, obtained four small howitzers, practiced military drills, dug an underground trench and stockpiled two houses with food supplies for the Union army.  This activity prompted President Lincoln to order out troops.  Union troops with horses and wagons, arrived from Mansfield on June 17 and marched to Fort Vallandigham where after a few shots, the copperheads scattered and the skirmish ended, thus the fiasco has been called "Fort Fizzle".
In his recollections of 1863, Mr. Vance recounts his memories, discussions that he heard from his parents, and the story of Isaac Tipton, deputy-provost marshall, when he and Provost Marshall Colonel James L. Drake were disarmed and ordered out of town.  He refers to many eye witnesses who gave testimony to the events.  In 1863 people and editors strongly disagreed on administration policies, slavery, and states rights, and possibly to this date descendents may not agree on the events surrounding the incident.  

Vance writes, "My sources of information are authentic.  Some people have argued that there wasn't any Holmes County Rebellion; that there wasn't any organization of the "Knights of the Golden Circle."  But facts are stubborn things and cannot be set aside."  He refers to Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio copyrighted in 1888 where in Henry Howe said that "the air was full of rumors and it was nearly impossible even at that time to obtain correct details".  Referring to those who had taken part in the rebellion, they tried to banish into oblivian all the tragic events; saying that "They were ashamed to be called "Knights".  Most of the people of Holmes County were loyal to the Union.  According to the population, Holmes County sent more men to the war than any other county in the state.

I find Mr. Vance's recollections quite interesting, almost unbelievable, but convincing.  He explains what he understands as the origin of the "Knights of the Golden Circle" and what they sought to accomplish, making reference to Lossing's History of the United States.  Click here to learn what Benson Lossing wrote about this secret organization.

We hope you will visit Historic Downtown Millersburg on Saturday, July 2, 2011 and enjoy an old-fashioned family 4th of July!

Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
June 18, 2011

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