In 1863, America was embroiled in the third year of the Civil War. The conflict had begun in 1861 and by the time it was over, it would take more lives, wound more people and cause more destruction to America than any other war in our history.

In 1863, America was embroiled in the third year of the Civil War. The conflict had begun in 1861 and by the time it was over, it would take more lives, wound more people and cause more destruction to America than any other war in our history.

Today, we know that by 1863, the war half over and that during this year the tide would begin to turn against the South. But few, if any, knew that at the time. To many people living in the North, it was simply incredible that the overwhelming power of the North had not crushed the South in short order.

Throughout the country, tempers were beginning to wear thin.

And in Columbus, the capital of the state that would provide more soldiers per capita than any other in the North, the frustrations and difficulties experienced in conducting a long, difficult and deadly war were beginning to be felt here.

At the end of 1862, General Ambrose Burnside had been place in command of the Union Army of the Potomac after General George McClellan had failed to either bring the war to a speedy end or keep the confidence of President Lincoln.

Burnside proceeded to lose the next major battle in the East at Fredericksburg in December and was sent west to command the Army of the Ohio. He promptly made as many enemies in Ohio as he had made in the East.

Burnside simply did not understand that a large number of Ohioans did not like Lincoln, did not like the war, and did not like having Union soldiers telling them what to do. This had become all the more apparent in early 1863 when conscription was enacted and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

The Civil War draft law was not very equitable. A person could evade it by paying a large sum of money or hiring another to serve for him. To many people, the war now had literally become "a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight." In addition, many persons who had supported the war as a means to save the Union now believed the abolition of slavery in the South was turning the conflict into a "freedom war" that would be all that more difficult to win.

Chief among these opponents of the war was Samuel Medary and his Columbus newspaper called "The Crisis." Medary had previously been the editor of the popular Democratic newspaper, the "Ohio Statesman," and was an outspoken critic of the war. He continually questioned the judgment of both political and military leaders and called for a speedy end to the war.

Columbus, in 1863, was the home to a large and ever-growing number of Union soldiers. Camp Chase on the far west side was home to more than 26,000 troops and new camps were being added every day as more soldiers arrived in town.

Many of these troops did not like Medary or his paper. On March 5, 1863, a number of them took matters into their own hands and raided Medary's office in downtown Columbus. They scattered supplies and equipment into the street and ransacked the office. The incident would not be repeated but the point had been made.

On March 30, a different sort of demonstration of wartime frustration took place. As General Burnside's group was being transported through Ohio on its way west, the three long trains carrying his troops stopped briefly in Columbus. A number of soldiers left the trains and attempted to visit local shops near the railroad tracks.

They were turned back by the local provost guard. Angry and with some men at least partially intoxicated, the frustrated soldiers began to throw sticks and stones at the guard. The guard was armed while the soldiers were not. But in short order, several hundred men left the trains and rushed the guard.

The guard opened fire. Even though most of the shots were fired over the heads of the soldiers, some were not. When the smoke cleared, one soldier was dead and three were severely wounded. The soldiers and their trains soon left town.

These splits in public opinion and outbreaks of violence were not lost on the military and political leadership of the rebellious South. General John Hunt Morgan and more than 2,000 Confederate cavalry crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky on July 9, 1863. Counting on the support of people dissatisfied with the war, Morgan and his men hoped for a successful raid and the possible freeing of Confederate prisoners in northern camps.

It was not to be.

The week before Morgan's Raid, the north had won a decisive battle against the Army of Northern Virginia near the town of Gettysburg, Pa. Initial word of the success reached Columbus on the Fourth of July. News of the fall of Vicksburg, Miss., reached the city on July 8. On that evening, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was burned in effigy over a giant bonfire at the corner of Town and Third Streets. A later account reported that "the scenes of popular joy and enthusiasm, both day and evening, were unprecedented in Columbus."

When Morgan's Raiders crossed into Ohio from Indiana four days later, the response to his coming was - shall we say - less than hospitable. More than 50,000 militia and volunteers mobilized to oppose Morgan and this force supplemented the several thousand Union soldiers in hot pursuit of the raiders.

The Camp Chase prison camp's guard was reinforced as the Confederate force moved across the state. Checked in an effort to flee across the Ohio, Morgan and his men were surrounded and captured in eastern Ohio.

Most of the enlisted men were sent to the Camp Chase camp. Morgan and some of his officers were imprisoned in what was felt at the time to be the "escape-proof" Ohio Penitentiary.

Two months later, Morgan and his men escaped from the penitentiary. Morgan was killed the following year.

Battles continued to be fought.

But new people were becoming involved as well.

On June 19, 1863, a local paper reported that, "Yesterday afternoon a company of colored recruits marched through our streets to the tune of the drum and fife. In the afternoon, they assembled in the Eastern Terrace of the Capitol to the number of sixty-five, formed in line and dispatched their recruiting officer to His Excellency the Governor, with a request that he address them.

The recruits were sent to Camp Delaware in Delaware, where they became part of what would become the Fifth United States Colored Troops.

And while the war went on, it was no longer the same war it once had been.

Ed

Lentz