Cleveland February 21, 2019
Few People Know The Roles These 8 Cleveland Sites Played In The Civil War
When most people reflect on the Civil War era, southern Scarlett O’Hara-inspired scenes usually come to mind, but Ohioans’ lives during the era feel somewhat mysterious. What did locals do to support the war? How could such a conflict inspire passion in people that were closer to Canada than many skirmishes?
Though most people associate the Civil War with more southern states, the 10,500 military encounters that took place during the bloodiest battle in U.S. history actually took place across 23 different states. It is difficult to imagine that the forward-thinking and largely abolitionist Ohioans could feel anything other than empathy for the casualties of both sides, and our own landscape in Northeast Ohio reminds us just how close to home this war truly was.
1. Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (3 Public Square, Cleveland)
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is a natural first stop on our tour through Cleveland's Civil War-era past. This monument was first proposed in October of 1879 to celebrate the valor and patriotism of Cuyahoga County soldiers and sailors that served the Union. It finally opened on July 4, 1894, and it continues to be free for the public to visit. In its interior, a series of marble tablets list the names of brave residents that served. It was eventually discovered that the names of 140 black soldiers were omitted, an act which was corrected in 2013.
2. Unionville Tavern (Madison)
When President Abraham Lincoln greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe, he famously called her the little woman that started a big war. She once stayed at the Unionville Tavern, which is now considered to be Ohio's oldest, as it dates to 1798. This site was an active station on the Underground Railroad. Locals knew of its role, and the abolitionist community supported it. Lewis and Milton Clarke, two fugitive slaves, spoke at a nearby abolitionist rally. When Milton was beaten, local abolitionists freed him and swore that no fugitive slaves would ever be captured again in Lake County. It is said that Harriet Beecher Stowe heard his story and he was the inspiration for the character George Harris in
Uncle Tom's Cabin.
3. The Weddell House (Superior Ave. and West 6th St., Cleveland)
February 15, 1861 was a remarkable moment in Cleveland history. Lincoln was on his way from Illinois to his inauguration at the capital when stopped and lodged in Cleveland overnight. He stayed at the Weddell House (now the Rockefeller Building), and it was on the balcony there that he greeted crowds, thanking them "not for myself, but for Liberty, the Constitution, and Union." Even the most starkly-Democratic newspapers put aside their differences to celebrate this hopeful visit from a soon-to-be president.
4. Academy of Music (W. 6th St., Cleveland)
Locals gathered at the Academy of Music for entertainment on a regular basis back in the day, though the site burned down in 1889 and then again in 1892 after its initial rebuild. It was on the night of December 5, 1863 that locals saw a performance that would change their lives. As crowds gathered in this world-class American theater, they got to know the character Charles D’Moor in "The Robbers." Though John Wilkes Booth gave what must have been an incredible performance, locals would doubtlessly remember him not for his acting skills but for his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
5. Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum (Lake Ave. and Walnut Blvd., Ashtabula)
The local Underground Railroad Museum offers an incredible way to spend the day. It appears just like any other home from the early 1840s, except that this site was a final stop for many slaves before they finally found freedom in Canada. The Hubbard family was famous for establishing the abolitionist periodical
Ashtabula Sentinel, and they were active members of the Ashtabula County Anti-Slavery Society.
6. Grays Armory (1234 Bolivar Rd., Cleveland)
In 1837, 65 men joined forces to create a City Guard Unit. These notable men protected the city, providing peace and order to a city that was all too close to the French and Indian War. It was in 1861 that these soldiers left the city just serve the Union's call for soldiers. They initially served in Company E, 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in the 84th OVI. Members of this group continued to serve throughout future wars, and remnants of this era are preserved in this building which once served as their armory.
7. Erie Street Cemetery (2254 E 9th St., Cleveland)
Located on what was formerly known as Erie Street, this cemetery is famous for being Cleveland's first. Though it was once situated on the edge of Cleveland, it is now right across the street from Progressive Field. Just under 8,000 of Cleveland's first residents are buried here, and 98 of them are veterans of the Civil War. You can visit the resting place of brave men like General James Barnett and Jabez W. Fitch.
8. Camp Cleveland (University Rd. and West 110th St., Cleveland)
This section of Tremont has an incredible view of the Cleveland skyline today, but in 1862 it was the largest of Cleveland's six Civil War training camps. By the end of the war, more than 15,000 soldiers had trained at this impressive site.
Northeast Ohio may feel far removed from the horrors of the Civil War, but it is intrinsically tied with the history of the area. What local sites would you add to this list?
Are you surprised by the role our state and region played in the Civil War? You’ll also be surprised by
these unusual moments in Cleveland history.