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Although most of the American Civil War was fought outside of Ohio's borders, the Buckeye State played a huge role in determining the outcome. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans fought for the Union, and many of the North's leading generals were from Ohio. Few would dispute that Ohio's contributions were vital in determining the Union victory.
The American Civil War did not officially begin until 1861, but tensions between the North and the South were reaching a crescendo by 1860, prompting several Southern states either to leave or to debate leaving the United States of America. The division between North and South finally erupted into military conflict when Conferrate troops opend fire on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.
Just as the nation divided, Ohioans were split over this conflict. Most Ohioans supported the nation's reunification, but some, known as Peace Democrats and others who called themselves Copperheads, vehemently opposed the war. There were several reasons why these people did not support the Northern war effort.
*A sizable number of white Ohioans, especially those living along the Ohio River, had migrated to the state from slaveholding states. While opponents of the war could not legally own slaves in Ohio, many of them had family members residing in the South who did own African-American slaves.
*Some political opponents also feared that President Lincoln intended to free the slaves. Many of those who objected to slavery's end feared that African Americans would flood the North looking for jobs if they were given their freedom.
*Others came to oppose the war when the federal government enacted a conscription act, forcing men to fight for the North.
*Finally, some Ohioans simply did not want to leave their families without support while they or their sons were fighting in the war.
Despite the divided citizenry, a majority of Ohioans supported the war effort. During the American Civil War, the State of Ohio provided the United States government with more than 260 regiments of men. A total of 310,654 Ohioans served in the Northern army for varying lengths of time. Ohio men fought in every major battle of the war. Ohioans contributed greatly to the Northern victory. A number of prominent generals, including Irvin McDowell, Don Carlos Buell, Philip Sheridan, George McClellan, William T. Sherman, and Ulysses S. Grant, all came from Ohio.
To learn more about this pivotal era in Ohio's history, please browse these entries at your leisure.