Off to War with the 21st Ohio Infantry in September 1861

The first company of men to enlist from Perrysburg in the Civil War was the Fort Meigs Rifles, which became Company C of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The regiment served for 90 days in western Virginia and two companies of the regiment took part in the small battle of Scarey Creek, in which Perrysburg's own Colonel Jesse S. Norton of the 21st Ohio was captured. 
Reason Bates joined Co. C, 21st Ohio Infantry August 29, 1861 at Bowling Green, Ohio. In his first enlistment, he was captured twice: the first time at Pulaski, Tennessee in 1862 and the second time at Chickamauga. He escaped to Federal lines and re-enlisted January 1, 1864; Bates was soon promoted to Sergeant but was reduced to the ranks November 11, 1864 for disobedience of orders. He mustered out with the company July 25, 1865. The above photo was taken in January 1864 when the regiment was home on veteran furlough. 

In August, the regiment mustered out and many of the officers started to recruit the regiment for three years' service. Lieutenant Arnold McMahan took the lead for recruiting the Fort Meigs Rifles; he would be commissioned captain and later become lieutenant colonel of the regiment.

Captain Arnold McMahan, Co. C, 21st OVI

The high patriotism of the times is illustrated by this story which saw print in the August 29, 1861 issue of the Perrysburg Journal: "As Lieutenant McMahan was returning home on the McCutchenville road last week, he was met by a man who desired to enlist. The Lieutenant inquired his age, in answer which he was informed by the applicant that he was only 75! The Lieutenant thought he was old enough, anyhow, and promised him a place in the company if he should fail to receive the required number. “No, I want to enlist now,” said the old man. “Well, really,” replied the other. “I--,” “Its no use talkin’, for I am bound to,” broke in the old man, when the officer was compelled to put his name down on the roll. His name is John Fenton.”

General Patrick Slevin, later of the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

A few weeks later, as the rolls of the company approached the maximum, the village staged a flag presentation with speeches from Captain Asher Cook, who had led the 90 days Fort Meigs Rifles, and local attorney Patrick S. Slevin who would later see service with the 100th Ohio Infantry and be brevetted brigadier general following his wound at the Battle of Utoy Creek.
The former Wood County Courthouse in Perrysburg- the county seat would move to Bowling Green shortly after the Civil War. (Way Public Library)

“Flag Presentation-Leave Taking- There was a very interesting meeting of the friends of Captain McMahan at the court house on Wednesday evening last. Patrick S. Slevin, Esq., was appointed chairman who stated the object of the meeting was to here an address by Captain McMahan. Previous to his speaking, (This flag, a national flag emblazoned with the motto of Perrysburg's namesake Oliver Hazard Perry "Don't Give Up the Ship" now resides at the Hancock Historical Museum in Findlay, Ohio.)

Captain Asher Cook, Co. C, 21st OVI (3 months)
Co. F, 144th OVI (100 days)
Captain Cook came forward, and in a few well timed remarks, returned to the ladies the beautiful silk flag which they had presented to Company C previous to their embarking per steamer Belle for the tented field.

On behalf of the ladies, Miss Ella Baird received the flag and turning to Captain McMahan, asked him to received and protect this emblem of our national honor. The Captain accepted it, and said he would preserve it untarnished until it waved in triumph over every state in the Union. The speech of Captain McMahan was short, to the point, and highly patriotic. He seemed at a loss to account for the backwardness of our men in re-enlisting for the war, and said that while Ohio at the first call had organized a force of 90,000 men, she barely had 25,000 in the field now. He thought Wood County had done well. She now had about 500 men in camp, but her quota would amount to about two companies more. He hoped the friends of the Union would drop every other subject until we first establish the fact whether we have a government, then it would be time enough to resume party issues. With a fair show of our real strength and a fair trial of arms, he had no doubt of the result. In conclusion, the Captain again thanked the ladies for the flag, “it should henceforth wave in triumph at every trial.” Remarks were then made by Messrs. Cook and Hollenbeck, when the meeting adjourned. Next morning there was a general leave taking of the captain and some 8 or 10 others belonging to his company at the Baird House.”

Below is a first person account from Private George Scheets was one of McMahan's new recruits giving his own story of joining the company:
Private George Scheets, Co. C, 21st OVI

When the war broke out in 1861, I was employed as a salesman in a dry goods store conducted by W. I Hitchcock at Perrysburg, Ohio. I was then 18 years old. I read the papers carefully and watched current events with a great deal of interest, and had a serious notion of entering the three-months service, but my friends dissuaded me from carrying out my desire.

When the boys came home from the three-months service and the President issued his second proclamation for three hundred thousand men, excitement ran high and war meetings were frequent. So one evening after closing the store, I sauntered up to the old court house where a war meeting was in progress and enlistment solicited.

Captain Arnold McMahon was at this time recruiting his company for a three-years term having just returned from the three-months service. I knew him from boyhood and had corresponded with him regularly while he was in the regular army on the frontier. That night I didn't go to sleep very easy and was debating in my mind "what of the morrow." When the morning came and I saw the boys gathering at the Baird House, my mind was made up, and leaving a hasty written note on my desk for my employer (he hadn't come to the store yet), bade the other clerks good-bye and joined the boys at the hotel.

The Exchange Hotel (Baird House) in Perrysburg, Ohio where George Scheets enlisted in Company C. The building still stands today along Front St. but is considerably modified.
Teams were in waiting, and in half an hour we were on the road to Findlay, Ohio, the rendezvous of the 21st Regt., OVI. At Bowling Green quite a number joined us, also at Portage, and a few at Van Buren, so that we had quite a little company going into Findlay that night.

We went into Camp Vance at once and found a number of companies already in quarters. This was the first time I ever slept in a canvas tent on straw for a bed. After a few weeks of camp life, we were mustered into the United States service by Capt. E. Morgan Wood of the regular army. When he came along the ranks of our Co. C, he stopped and sized me up and objected to me on account of size and muscle (I weighed 120 pounds), but the captain (McMahan) assured him that I was all right, as he had a special place for me. (I wondered what position he would give me.) I assisted the captain as his secretary in making the original muster roll of his company at the Reid House, and was consulted to a certain extent in the selection of his non-commissioned officers.

The selection proceeded. First the sergeants, then the corporals, keeping right on until the number was complete. My name was placed in alphabetical order among the high privates. I never breathed my disappointment to anyone and accepted the result good naturedly, but the captain and I often laughed about it since.

21st Ohio Volunteers in front of the Hancock County Courthouse in September 1861


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