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The Butler Boys - A Middletown Civil War Story
Wednesday, September 05, 2007 5:04:49 PM - Middletown Ohio

By Andy Wendt 

As I plan a trip to Perryville, Kentucky next month to attend a Civil War reenactment, I can’t help but wonder if the story of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) is completely lost to today’s Middletown residents.

Ferdinand Van Derveer 35th Ohio Volunteer InfantryThe 35th OVI Regiment was formed in 1861 by Colonel Ferdinand Vanderveer, a Middletown, Ohio native. The 35th OVI was comprised of men from Butler and Warren County. The all-volunteer unit numbered over 800 men when first mustered on the Butler County Fairground in the summer of 1861.

After a brief guard duty assignment in Cincinnati, the 35th OVI, who called themselves the “Butler Boys”,  were marching off to Kentucky by the fall of 1862. As a part of the Army of the Ohio under Major General Buell the 35th OVI was among three corps of Federals who were in Kentucky to drive out the Army of the Tennessee. The Confederates, under Braxton Bragg, had earlier in the summer of 1862 taken their army into Kentucky in hopes that the local populace would flock to the southern cause.

Failing to rally popular support or dislodge the Army of the Ohio, the Confederates soon withdrew from Kentucky after the battle of Perryville in which the 35th OVI was largely held in reserve.

The luck of the 35th OVI however was not to last long. Within the year the 35th OVI was deep into southern territory on the Georgia – Tennessee border when on September 20, 1863 the Union Army of the Cumberland was flanked and smashed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Ferdinand Van Derveer - Veterans Memorial at Woodside Cemetary in Middletown Ohio

As the Union forces withdrew in disorder, the 35th OVI was ordered to hold as a part of a desperate rear guard. Falling under the command of Major General George H. Thomas, the only high ranking Union officer not in full retreat, the 35th OVI along with other units from Ohio and Minnesota fought the rest of that day in and around a small ridge called Snodgrass Hill.

Running completely out of ammunition on two occasions during the action, the 35th OVI never once faltered and repulsed several Confederate charges lasting long into the night.

The rear guard by Thomas was successful and the Confederate assault lead by General Longstreet was unable to completely envelop the fleeing Union Army. Though Union casualties at Chickamauga were estimated at 34,000 the army was spared total destruction.

For his service in defense of the Union withdraw Thomas earned a place in history along with the nickname “The Rock Of Chickamauga”. Also, shortly after the battle he was appointed Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, the same army he had just saved.

For their part the 35th OVI suffered among the highest casualty rates of the battle as almost half (49%) of the unit was killed, wounded, or captured with most of the unit's losses received in the fighting on Snodgrass Hill. It is said the 35th OVI was the last Union regiment to withdraw from the field of Chickamauga. 

The 35th OVI served out the reminder of its commitment primarily in a support role, never again seeing action such as on that horrible day at Chickamauga. The 35th OVI being an all volunteer unit was dissolved in 1864 when the unit’s term of enlistment had expired. Many of the unit’s veterans were absorbed into the 18th Ohio Infantry Regiment and the war went on.

On a personal note, and somewhat to conclude this story, this Memorial Day I took my 5 year old son with me to Woodside Cemetary on the West side of Middletown. As my son and I walked around the various areas filled with the crosses and headstones of Middletown residents who had fallen in our wars. We often stopped to read the names, the military unit numbers, and the dates on the markers. After a few minutes my son asked “Daddy why are we here?” To which I replied with the only thing I thought a 5 year old would understand: “Because this is all we can do to say thanks to these soldiers who died so that we could be free. All we can do now to show our gratitude is to remember them and what they did for us”.

And so it is with the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. All we can do is remember.

Click here for more infomration on the 35 OVI.


Archived Comments

9/14/2007 12:20:16 PM swohio751
The family home of Ferdinand VanDerveer is the oldest home still standing in Middletown, and is located on Thorn Hill Lane. Constructed in 1825 on S. Broad near VanDerveer, this Federal style home was moved to Thorn Hill Lane in the 1950s.

Ferdinandís father, Dr. Peter VanDerveer purchased the home from its builder, Nathaniel White, shortly after its construction. Dr. VanDerveer was one of the first physicians in the area. Ferdinand was born in 1823, so he definitely spent time in this house.

Legend has it that during the Mexican War, as a Captain Ferdinandís company bivouacked near the house on their way south. For a drill, they would march up the front steps, through the central hall and out the back.

Ferdinandís sister, Margaretta married the Presbyterian minister in town, and lived the couple lived in the house, which was sold to Dr. Barnitz and his wife in 1864.

Ferdinand was also a successful lawyer in Middletown. Not sure where his adult residence was, however.
10/15/2007 9:50:01 AM Martie Mycoff
The 35th OVI also recruited in Germantown, Montgomery Co. OH. resulting in Company H. My great-grandfather, Abia Zeller joined up with his friends at the SE corner of Cherry and Center Streets in August 1861 and was mustered in that month in Hamilton, OH. He stayed for a year and a half when he was medically discharged for dysentery. (He had also been bayonetted in the hip (friendly fire) while crossing Fishing Creek near Mill Springs, Kentucky.) It's possible I am here today telling this story because of Abia's dysentery....soon after his discharge was the Battle of Chicamauga in which he very likely would have died. This is I play the role of a nurse (Mother Bickerdyke) while re-enacting with the Ohio Valley Civil War Association.
4/25/2008 3:09:02 AM Carol Vanderveer Hamilton
I am descended from Ferdinand's younger brother John Van der Veer, who died young as a result of ill health from his Civil War service.
5/19/2008 7:46:08 PM Rich Saum
Keil's 1894 narrative of the 35th OVI is finally being reprinted by Higginson Book Company of Salem MA, and can ordered for $42.50 I purchased a poor photocopy of the book a decade ago from the Library of Congress, and look forward to receiving it in the near future.
11/11/2008 10:25:53 PM Bill Penn
The 35th Ohio established Camp Frazer at Cynthiana, Ky., September 26, 1861. See "Rattling Spurs and Broad-Brimmed Hats" (Penn, 1995) for chapter on this; read copy in some Hamilton Co. libraries. Out of print now. Am seeking additional info on this camp for rev. edition. Contact me at pennwma@aol.com.
1/12/2009 1:06:23 PM molliebow
After doing research on a my 1st great grandfather I found that he was a volunteer in the 35th. His obituary (Butler County Signal 2 April 1903)says, " John D. Proctor was 71 years of age and was born in Indiana. He lived near Monroe at the breaking out of the Civil war and volunteered in the first call for three months servicemen. He afterwards enlisted at Lebanon in Company A. 35th O.V.I., which regiment was in command of Col. Vandeveer of Butler County. John Proctor's war record is enviable, for he displayed much bravery in action as is evidenced by the tributes of his comards in arms; particulary by John W. Wilson who enlisted as a boy and whom Proctor looked after as a father. Proctor in his younger days was a man of powerful build and herculean strength, which served him in good stead during his army career. He was habituall cool during an engagemnet and never shirked a duty. A daring feat of bravery which received the cheers of officers and men was performed at the battle of Chicamauga, during one of the fierce engagment of the regiment with the enemy, when the color bearer was killed and shot and the flag fell to the ground. Procotr sprang from the ranks in the face of the enemies heavy fire and rescued the flag without receiving a scratch. He carried the banner at the head of the troops until releived by another color bearer. The Union Veteran Legion of which he is a member, will have charge of the funeral which occurs from his late home Tuesday morning at ten o'clock, Rev. U.G. Humphery officiating. The remains will be buried in Woodside cemetery beside thise of his wife who died a year ago last February. He is survived by three sons Frank, Dike and Hennan."
If anyone has additional info please contact me.
5/20/2009 3:43:05 PM Marisel Walston
This is for Carol Vanderveer Hamilton. I am related to Gustav Franz the husband of Margaret Morton Mitten. I believe she was the grand-daughter or great-great-grandaughter of Dr. Peter Vanderveer, the father of Ferdinand. She descended from a daugher of Dr. Vanderveer by his second wife. I have many family papers and photos that Margaret left to my mother in law. Please contact me at stairene@yahoo.com.

5/27/2009 7:31:47 PM Deb
I am curious to know if David Parkhurst Clark served in the 35th?? I hope there is someone out there that can enlighten me on this man and his military experience. email me directly at da120757@yahoo.com


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