Butler County history: Civil War general was born 200 years ago today

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Hamilton Civil War general who organized the 35th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry also was responsible for creating the first national military park at the Georgia battlefield where many of his men died.

Ferdinand VanDerveer was born Feb. 27, 1823 — 200 years ago today.

VanDerveer’s second-in-command, Henry Van Ness Boynton, persuaded the federal government to make the Chickamauga battlefield the first to be included in the National Park Service.

The following story about VanDerveer, written by Mike Rutledge, published in the Journal-News in 2020:

“The 35th was known as “the Butler Boys,’” said Kathy Creighton, executive director of the Butler County Historical Society. “The unit was about 85 percent Butler County,” with the rest of the unit recruited from Preble, Warren and Montgomery counties, although Boynton was from Hamilton County.

“When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter and Lincoln called for troops, Butler County responded with the Ohio 35th Volunteer Infantry,” Creighton said. “They were under the direction of then-Colonel Ferdinand VanDerveer, who was born in Middletown, went to school to become a lawyer at Farmers College down in College Hill, comes back here and sets up his law practice here in Hamilton.”

The 35th recently made news because of historical society efforts to preserve its American flag that was damaged during Civil War battles.

The regiment spent the early part of the Civil War guarding railroad depots in Tennessee and Kentucky, not seeing much fighting. They later were assigned to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, and their first major battle was Chickamauga, in northwestern Georgia (some fighting also happened in southeastern Tennessee).

The regiment was to hold the Confederates back so Union forces could escape.

“Over half of the 35th is killed, wounded or captured at Chickamauga,” she said. “They continue on with Sherman’s march to the sea, and eventually get mustered out.”

VanDerveer and Boynton were part of a reunion at Chickamauga years later with both Union and Confederate soldiers who had fought there.

“As VanDerveer and Boynton were riding around the Civil War battlefield, they realized that stuff was being built, and changes were happening,” Creighton said. “And they said, ’This is not good, because if we don’t remember the Civil War, history will doom us to repeat ourselves.’”

Most people expect that Gettysburg was the first battlefield, Creighton said, because President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address there. But: “Lincoln dedicated the cemetery at Gettysburg. He did not dedicate the battlefield.”

VanDerveer died before the camp was dedicated, but Boynton became the first commandant there, said Creighton, who has visited the battlefield and found the monument there dedicated to the 35th regiment.

Michael Cupp, who has organized Hamilton’s Memorial Day parades for three decades, was delighted to hear the society was working to preserve the regiment’s flag, not only for people today, but for future generations, he said.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Cupp said.

Ohio sent more soldiers per capita to the Civil War than any other Union state. Also, many of the blue jackets worn by Union soldiers were manufactured in Columbus. Those are two reasons for the National Hockey League team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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