Throughout the Civil War, Ohio supported the effort to preserve the Union by sending more men off to war than any other state North or South. And, Marion County was no different, with 1,775 men from Marion County enlisted in the Union Army–one-in-eight of those of age to enlist. In fact, with a population of 15,490, Marion County sent more than 10% of its total population South to fight. Marion soldiers were some of the first to enter western Virginia (West Virginia did not yet exist) to protect Ohio’s Southern border from invading forces. They served in the 4th , 64th , 121st , and 174th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiments and fought in all the major battles from Shiloh, to Gettysburg, to Atlanta, to Appomattox Courthouse.
They served as privates in the ranks, regimental commanders, and even as scouts – like John (Jack) Cade of Marion who became a prolific scout for the
Union Army in western Virginia. As a successful scout, he become so annoying and so well known to the rebels that Confederate Colonel Henry Marshall Ashby offered $500 for his capture. Jack, being anxious to see the man who was so anxious to acquire him, ventured in to enemy territory and, in disguise, encountered Ashby and had a pleasant conversation with his nemesis. Tempted to dispatch the rebel commander, Cade satisfied himself with gathering information on enemy troops to take back to his commanders.
James H. Godman, who before the war was a Representative in the Ohio House, also served in the Union Army. Godman enlisted on April 26, 1861, just after the firing on Fort Sumter as a major in the 4th Ohio. He became colonel of that regiment and was later severely wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia in 1862. He was honorably discharged in 1863 and returned to Marion where he lived until 1891. Marionites served throughout the four years of the war, resulting in 15 officers and 102 enlisted men killed in battle or from wounds, 175 men dying from disease, and some 400 wounded in battle.
While Clement Vallandingham of Dayton was the most famous Copperhead (Southern sympathizer) from Ohio, he wasn’t the only one. Thomas H. Hodder was the editor of the Marion Democratic Mirror, a newspaper that espoused the views of the Democratic party and support for the Confederacy.
A Confederate-leaning newspaper in Ohio was not very popular, as people sent their sons and husbands to war, and it is no surprise that Hodder received death threats and efforts were made to destroy his printing press. This all took place in the latter half of 1861, just as the war was getting started. Hodder received great pressures from community leaders to denounce the Confederacy to help calm the growing ire toward him and his newspaper. These leaders feared the consequences would turn violent. Realizing the wisdom of a wiser course, Hodder published in the Mirror the following statement as editor: “I think Jeff Davis and his supporters are a set of damned traitors.” Hodder and his newspaper remained quiet on war issues the rest of the conflict and, soon after the war ended, he moved to the town of Hamilton just north of Cincinnati.
Shortly after the war ended, grateful citizens of Marion County began an effort to establish a memorial to those who had served. It took some time, but in the 1880s the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Chapel was built in the Northwest corner of the Historic Marion Cemetery and stands today as a reminder of the men who helped preserve the entirety of our country more than 15 years ago.