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  • Writer's pictureCathryn Stanley

Glimpses of Glory: Belmont County Civil War Heroes

Updated: Jun 11

Despite being wounded, Lt. Nathan Edgerton lifted the flag and advanced it with his regiment until the Confederates retreated. Two senior non-commissioned officers, both African-Americans, advanced the regimental colors with Lt. Edgerton. They were Sergeant Major Thomas R. Hawkins and First Sergeant Alexander Kelly. The three men, Edgerton, Hawkins, and Kelly are depicted in a painting, Freedom By The Sword:: Three Medals of Honor by artist Don Troiani. 

As Charles “Bud” Fry wrote in The Generals of Belmont County, Ohio: The Civil War in Eastern Ohio, “At the outbreak of the Civil War, the patriotic spirit in Belmont County pervaded all classes. In quick response to President Lincoln’s call for troops, the county's youth sprang to the nation's defense. Three companies were organized and in the field within 30 days. Most men reenlisted for three more years after their three-month duty. They were then known as Veteran Volunteers and their flags showed O.V. V. I (Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry) and their division number. Soon more than 3,500 men from Belmont County served in the various service branches. In addition to the men from Belmont County who were in the Ohio Regiments, hundreds enlisted in the 1st and 2nd Loyal Virginia Calvary and the Carlin’s Virginia Battery at Wheeling and were not credited to Belmont County.  Captain W.H. Orr of Martins Ferry organized a full company of Belmont County men for the 2nd Loya Virginia Infantry. Not only did Belmont County supply the soldiers to fight, but also the leaders. Eleven generals can be traced to Belmont County, 10 for the Union and one for the Confederacy.”

Those generals are listed below, as are some other Civil War officers who distinguished themselves while in the service and after the war. The museum's newest exhibit Glimpses of Glory: Belmont County Civil War Heroes opens June 13 and will be on display through July 6. It will feature photographs, documents, Colonel James F. Charlesworth’s Civil War presentation sword donated by Harland Thomas of St. Clairsville, and Civil War-era items on loan from the Tri-State Military Veterans Museum in Belmont. Two men featured in the exhibit, Colonel James Charlesworth and Captain Thomas Drummond, will be the subject of two upcoming programs at the St. Clairsville Public Library on June 13 and 20 at 6 p.m. Click the links above for details.

General John C. Tidball

John Tidball lived in the small community of Hendrysburg and graduated from the United States Military Academy. He served in the Third Seminole War fought against the indigenous Seminole tribe, and accompanied an exploring expedition to California in 1853–1854. In 1859 he was sent on the Army's expedition to Harper's Ferry, Virginia to suppress John Brown's raid. He was a cannoneer and was believed to have fired the first cannonshot at the Battle of Gettysburg. Tidball served all through the Civil War, receiving five brevet commissions for his gallant and meritorious conduct on the field, and being complimented personally by President Abraham Lincoln for his work at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was in command of the Second Brigade Horse Artillery under Major General Alfred Pleasonton. Tidball ordered the first playing of taps over the grave of a fallen comrade. He served in most major campaigns in the Eastern Theater, from the First Battle of Bull Run through the Siege of Petersburg. After the war, he served as the Commander of the Department of Alaska, the military governor of the region.

General Thomas Eckert 

Thomas Thompson Eckert was born in St. Clairsville on land near Jepson Drive on April 23, 1825. Eckert was 6’3” and over 200 lbs. At a young age, he became interested in the use of the telegraph and the actions of Samuel F.B. Morse. A Brevet General and eventually Assistant Secretary of War, Eckert was later general manager of Western Union. He was head of the War Department Telegraph office and President Lincoln would stop by often for updates from the Civil War. Lincoln asked him to accompany him to Ford’s Theater on the night he was assassinated. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Steubenville) ordered him not to attend because of work. He is buried in the catacombs of old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

General Benjamin Rush Cowen

General Benjamin Rush Cowen was born in Harrison County but grew up in St. Clairsville. He was a printer’s apprentice at the Belmont Chronicle, where he became owner and editor at age 21. He completed studies in medicine, but never practiced.

On September 19, 1854, Cowen married Ellen Thoburn.  He sold the Chronicle in 1858 and was in real estate in Bellaire. In the 54th General Assembly, he was Chief Clerk of the Ohio House of Representatives. In October 1861 he was elected Ohio Secretary of State, but resigned for War duties in May 1862. He was a personal friend of President Lincoln who appointed Cowen to Paymaster of the U.S. Army. In this position, he served as General of the Army of the Potomac. Cowen was instrumental in preparing legislation that enabled soldiers to send money to their families through state and county treasurers. After the war, he maintained a home in Bellaire and was editor of the Ohio State Journal until November 1884. At 53, he was appointed clerk of the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for the Southern District of Ohio. When President Lincoln was assassinated, Cowen was responsible for the funeral train stop in Columbus.

General George Washington Hoge

George Washington Hoge (brother-in-law of Gen. Cowen) was born February 22, 1832, near Belmont. He served in the 126th  and 183rd O.V.I. and participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Monocacy, Winchester, Opequen, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. On the western front, Cowen participated in the battles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, and went with General Sherman to Atlanta. General Hoge was wounded five times and returned to the field each time. Hoge and Cowen opened Bellaire’s first bank, Cowen, Sheets, and Hoge.

Generals Samuel Rice and Elliot Rice

Born in New York and Pennsylvania, but raised in Bellaire, Samuel Rice and Elliott Rice became generals. The elder, Samuel served in Missouri and Arkansas. He was shot in the right ankle at the battle of Jenkins Ferry on April 30, 1864, and later died from the wound. Elliott fought at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, and most of the major engagements of the west and General Sherman’s march to the sea. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on June 22, 1864. He was wounded seven times during the war and carried the bullet he received at the Battle of Belmont for the rest of his life.

General Joseph Thoburn

Irish-born General Joseph Thoburn of Morristown was a practicing doctor in Wheeling. He was commissioned surgeon of the first regiment raised in Virginia for Union services. At the battle of Philippi, when Colonel Kelly was wounded, Surgeon Thoburn was placed in command. When General Thoburn’s first enlistment ended, he reenlisted and was ultimately promoted to division commander. He was involved in the disastrous Lynchburg Raid and participated in the battles of Kernstown, Opequen, and Fisher’s Hill. General Thoburn was fatally shot in the surprise attack of the Battle of Cedar Creek, on Oct. 19, 1864, while rallying his men for defensive action.

General Henry Capeheart

Bridgeport native and surgeon Henry Capeheart was appointed regimental surgeon of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry on September 18, 1861.  General Capeheart entered the service as colonel of the 1st Virginia (loyal) Cavalry and fought under Sheridan in the memorable campaign down the "Valley of Virginia."  At the end of the Civil War, Colonel Capeheart was serving as brigadier-general, an honor conferred upon him by appointment of Governor Pierpont of West Virginia for skill and bravery in the field. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving a life at Greenbriar, Virginia on May 22, 1864. He remained in the army after the war, retired as a Major General, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

General Bushrod Rust Johnson

General Bushrod Rust Johnson, C.S.A., was born in the area that is now Bakcamp State Park. He taught school at Barnesville, secured an appointment to West Point, and graduated with the class of 1840. He served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. After being dismissed from the army in 1847, for illegally selling government property while serving as a commissary officer, Johnson received a teaching position at the Western Military Institute in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1851. He eventually became the headmaster and part-owner of the school. Johnson joined the Confederate Army and served in many notable battles, including the Battles of Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Crater. Promoted to major general in 1864, Johnson was relieved of his divisional command with the Army of Northern Virginia during the Appomattox Campaign toward the war's end.

General Frank Askew

St. Clairsville’s General Frank Askew started his military career as a lieutenant in the 15th O.V.I., becoming its general by war’s end. The 15th participated in nearly all major battles in the west from Shiloh to the battle of Nashville. Wounded several times, Askew was 28 when he was discharged. His men stayed after being discharged to salute his train as it departed.

General William D. Wood

General William D. Wood of St. Clairsville fought with the 11th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry in the Missouri and Arkansas territories. He began the war serving as aide-de-camp to Hamilton Gamble, governor of Missouri, in the Missouri militia. On December 14, 1863, Wood was appointed colonel of the 11th. He resigned his commission on April 8, 1865. In recognition of his service, President Andrew Johnson nominated Wood for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers on January 13, 1866.

Other Civil War Veterans of Note

Colonel James Charlesworth

Born in St. Clairsville on November 25, 1826, Colonel James Charlesworth had a remarkable military career.  While serving under Gen. Winfield Scott in Company H First Regiment Mounted Rifles, later the 3rd U.S. Calvary, in Mexico he was slightly wounded at Contreras, but continued in the service until the war’s conclusion.  Upon returning to St. Clairsville and after his admission to the bar, he became a practicing lawyer until 1854, when he was elected Belmont County Auditor, serving two years. On July 4, 1855, he married Laura A. Tallman. In 1857, he became proprietor and editor of the Independent Republican. He ceased publication when the southern states seceded.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, his previous military experience made his services much in request. He commanded the first three years company organized in Ohio, Company A, 25th Ohio, He was commissioned captain on July 12, 186, promoted to major on May 16, 1862, and by July 30 was lieutenant colonel. He was again wounded slightly at Allegheny Mountain.

He was subsequently promoted to major of his regiment and at the bloody battle of Cross Keys, Virginia on June 8, 1862, was shot through the abdomen. The bullet was picked up by his comrades who carried him off the field and was in the Colonel's possession.

The ball entered a little over two inches to the left of his navel, passing through his sword belt, and clothing, and entirely through his abdomen, marking its exit a short distance to the left of his spine. Miraculously, Major Charlesworth partially recovered and returned to the field, however, the severity of his injury forced him to resign and retire from further active service on May 18. 1863. 

Upon returning to St. Clairsville, Charlesworth served his term as Belmont County Clerk of Courts, having been elected while in the service. He then served as Master Commissioner of the Court of Common Pleas for nine years. In 1864 he served as Colonel of the Belmont County Militia 1st Regiment. He helped secure the location of the courthouse in St. Clairsville and was vice president of the Democratic State Central Committee. He was a trustee of the Ohio Soldiers; and Sailors’ Home, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and a commander of the Belmont County Battalion. He belonged to fraternal organizations including Lodge No. 16, F & A. M., Chapter No. 17 R/A/M/, Hope Commandery, No. 26, K.T.

Captain Thomas Drummond

Thomas Drummond (1832-1865), legislator, abolitionist, and soldier, was raised in St. Clairsville, He moved to Iowa where he was a member of the House of Representatives and secured the location of the State Asylum for the Blind at Vinton. As editor of the Vinton Eagle, he was an outspoken opponent of slavery. During the Civil War, Drummond was appointed to the 5th U.S. Cavalry where he commanded George Armstrong Custer and fought at First Bull Run, Stoneman's Raid, and Gettysburg. On April 1, 1865, at the decisive Battle of Five Forks, Drummond was mortally wounded. He is buried beside his mother Harriett Green Drummond in St. Clairsville's Methodist Cemetery. The G.A.R. Post in St. Clairsville was named in his honor.

Captain Nathan Huntley Edgerton

Nathan Huntley Edgerton was born on a farm, the eleventh out of 13 children of Joseph Jesse Edgerton and Charity Doudna, Quakers who had moved north from Wayne County, NC to Barnesville where they were members of the Ohio Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Having been born and raised as a Quaker, Edgerton did not join the war until 1863, when the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvania. He joined the Pennsylvania militia and served until the end of the Gettysburg Campaign. A few months later, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the 6th United States Colored Infantry Regiment.

By 1864, Lt. Edgerton had become the adjutant of the 6th USCT. In the early morning of September 29, 1864, his regiment advanced against the Confederate line at the Battle of New Market Heights in Virginia. 

One Union flag bearer was shot down, then another, then a third. Despite being wounded, Lt. Edgerton lifted and advanced the flag with his regiment until the Confederates retreated. Two African-American senior non-commissioned officers advanced the regimental colors with Lt. Edgerton. They were Sergeant Major Thomas R. Hawkins and First Sergeant Alexander Kelly. The three men, Edgerton, Hawkins, and Kelly are depicted in a painting, Freedom By The Sword: Three Medals of Honor by artist Don Troiani. 

Edgerton was presented the Medal of Honor for “extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1864, while serving with the 6th U.S. Colored Infantry, in action at Chapin's Farm, Virginia.”

 Edgerton was promoted to captain before the end of the war and discharged from active duty on September 20, 1865, less than a week after the birth of his first son.

Captain Julius Armstrong

Julius Armstrong of Armstrong Mills was the son of Alexander Armstrong and Elizabeth Welsh. Alexander, who was Belmont County Commissioner from 1833-1837, started the Belmont Repository newspaper in St. Clairsville in 1812 which became the St. Clairsville Gazette in 1852.

Julius enlisted in Company F, 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at 22, and was promoted to second lieutenant a year later. He commanded the company through Sherman's March.

After the war, he owned lumber and glass businesses and was a clerk in the Ohio Secretary of State's office. He was a member of the Bellaire I.O.O.F. Lodge and the Armstrong Mill's G.A.R. Post. Julius died in 1910 and is buried in Columbus. Governor Harmon attended his funeral and the flag at the statehouse was flown at half mast.

Captain Lorenzo Danford

Born in Washington Township in 1829, Lorenzo Danford served as Belmont County prosecuting attorney from 1857 to 1861, when he resigned to enlist in the Fifteenth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as a private. Commissioned a lieutenant and later a captain, he served until honorably discharged in August 1864. 

After the war, he resumed the practice of his profession in St. Clairsville and served as a presidential elector on the American Party ticket in 1856. He was a presidential elector for Lincoln/Johnson in 1864. He served five terms as a U.S. Representative from Ohio from 1873 to 1879 and 1895 to 1899.

Samuel Hilles

Belmont County Sheriff Samuel Hilles and his parents moved from Chest County, Pa. to Belmont County in 1844. In 1858 he began studying dentistry with Dr. Y.H. Jones of Lloydsville. In 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company E, 15th O.V.I. He was immediately made sergeant and in 1862, promoted to second lieutenant. A few weeks later he was elevated to first lieutenant. He was engaged in the battles of Shiloh, the siege of Corinth, Stone River, Liberty Gap, and Chickamauga. At the battle of Stone River, he received two severe wounds from the explosion of a shell- one piece striking him in the right leg above the knee and another in the back between the shoulders. He was medically discharged on December 15, 1863 On September 20, 1864, he married Lizzie N. Lee. In Lloydsville he went into the mercantile trade until entering into partnership with Dr. H.W. Baker of Barnesville in dental surgery. He moved to Red Oak, Iowa in 1870, returning to Barnesville in 1874. After becoming gas works superintendent in 1875, he ran for sheriff in 1878 on the Republican ticket. He was elected that fall and served as sheriff until 1882.

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