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July 15, 2011

Western Reserve College in the American Civil War

On April 14, 1861, in response to the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln issued a call for volunteers to serve for 90 days. Western Reserve College was at the beginning of a two-week vacation between terms. While some of the undergraduates volunteered, most remained until the end of the academic year on July 11.

Though far from the battles, Western Reserve College was not unaffected by the War. As was true during most wars, the school struggled to continue its teaching in the face of fewer students and faculty, as many volunteered for military service. Undergraduate enrollment in 1860-61 was 62. In 1861-62 it was 52; in 1862-63, 48; in 1863-64, 50; in 1864-65, 41. The College did not keep records of all students who withdrew to serve in the military. But an 1873 directory of military service lists 140 students and three faculty. Frederick C. Waite, WRU historian, estimated that 400 Medical alumni served. Nevertheless, the only recorded disruption to the college year was the postponement of Commencement exercises in 1862 from July to October, due to the absence of most students serving in Company B of the 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Curricular changes were made to support the war effort. The College instituted three times per week military instruction in the spring of 1861. Many students and some faculty participated in the program led by Colonel Hayward. The Medical Department, located in Cleveland, began a course in military surgery in 1862. In 1863, the Soldiers’ Aid Society was organized to care for sick and wounded returning soldiers. Medical faculty served at the hospital and students received clinical instruction.

Future postings will describe some of these initiatives in more detail. In the meantime, here are some sources in the CWRU Archives which document Western Reserve College in the Civil War:

Histories
Waite, Frederick Clayton. Western Reserve University - The Hudson Era: A History of Western Reserve College and Academy at Hudson, Ohio, from 1826 to 1882. (Cleveland: Western Reserve University Press, 1943): 344-346.

Waite, Frederick Clayton. Western Reserve University: Centennial History of the School of Medicine. (Cleveland: Western Reserve University Press, 1946): 136-140, 240.

Military Service Directories
Osborn, Hartwell. Western Reserve College List of Students Who Served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865.
Entries are organized by class year and include birth and death places and dates; military service dates, units, ranks, and locations.

Descriptive List Co. B. 85th O.V.I. Camp Chase, Columbus O. June-Sept., 1862, Drawn from Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio.
Entries include physical descriptions, birth date and place, age at enlistment, military rank and unit.

Contemporaneous Records
Western Reserve Souvenir (WRC student newspaper), December 1862, November 1863, January 1864 issues.
Lists of students and alumni serving in the military were published along with articles describing the progress of the war, the military service of Halbert Paine (class of 1854), and experiences of Company B. 85th O.V.I.

Records of Western Reserve College Faculty.
Minutes of meetings discuss teaching assignments, student progress, and the academic calendar during the war.

Records of Western Reserve College Trustees.
Minutes of meetings discuss finances, property, and faculty appointments during the war.

Personal Accounts
Gilbert, Nicholas (class of 1864).
Several documents, ca. 1919, by George Thomas LeBoutillier describe his own and his classmate Nicholas Gilbert’s experiences at Camp Chase.

Cutler, Carroll. A History of Western Reserve College During Its First Half Century, 1826-1876. (Cleveland: Crocker’s Publishing House, 1876):60-61. Digital copies are available in Digital Case.
Cutler, a member of the WRC faculty during the war and later president of the College, described the impact of the war on the College.

Young, Charles Augustus.
Young, a member of the WRC faculty during the war, in a 1904 letter to Hartwell Osborn recounted his experiences as Captain of Company B. 85th O.V.I.

Posted by jmt3 at July 15, 2011 02:12 PM

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