Reviewed by Jon-Erik Gilot
Historian David L. Mowery has in recent years delivered several outstanding books for those of us interested in Ohio Civil War topics. His 2013 work on John Hunt Morgan’s Indiana and Ohio Raid is, in the opinion of this reviewer, one of the best available, while the complimentary guidebook published a year later stands as the definitive driving tour of sites associated with the raid. In his latest book, Cincinnati in the Civil War, Mowery has put together not only a concise history of the city during the Civil War, but an outstanding reference tool in several lengthy appendices.
The first thing one notices about the book is its thickness. Your average Civil War volume published by The History Press runs somewhere between 150 – 220 pages. Mowery’s book clocks in at an impressive 318 pages. Of that, the body of the narrative runs only 108 pages, including the table of contents and preface. Don’t let that fool you, however, as there is plenty of depth to Mowery’s research.
In seven fast-moving chapters, Mowery covers the growth of Cincinnati from the late 18th century through the Civil War years. Situated as it was on the Ohio River and at the mouth of Kentucky’s Licking River, Cincinnati was poised to play a prominent role during the Civil War.
Richly illustrated, the book also includes numerous historic and modern maps of the area, showing the locations of boatyards, iron foundries, and engine factories that supplied the war effort, the layout of nearby Camp Dennison, Morgan’s Raid through the Cincinnati suburbs, and the city’s defenses.
The book truly shines for its reference potential. Tables of local men who enlisted in the Navy (by city ward), import/export valuations, lists of all quartermaster buildings in the city (with addresses and GPS coordinates), and local Medal of Honor recipients. There are five appendices totaling over 120 pages, ranging from steamers built, refit, or purchased in Cincinnati, to the area’s Civil War defenses (with addresses and GPS coordinates). Other appendices include additional Civil War sites around Cincinnati (with addresses, GPS), and the Civil War generals buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery (40 generals – the fourth most in any one location in the country).
The final appendix includes a listing of all military units composed of Cincinnati or Hamilton County residents. And we’re not talking just those companies and regiments recruited in southwestern Ohio, but regiments from seemingly every corner of the Union. These tables are illustrative of Cincinnati’s vital role along several important transportation routes, which carried its residents far and wide, and the critical role the city played in supplying northern manpower during the war.
Cincinnati in the Civil War will serve as an outstanding reference tool for those interested in the city’s and the state’s wartime contributions. The book should likewise serve as a roadmap for future local or regional studies…I can think of several cities deserving of such an effort. I look forward to seeing where Mowery takes us next!