August 30, 1862, saw
the defeat of a 7,000 man Union force at Richmond, Kentucky. The question that spread
across Ohio was, would Confederate General Kirby Smith continue his drive north and invade
Cincinnati? Two days later Ohio Governor David Tod issued a proclamation to all Ohioans:
"Our southern border is threatened with invasion. I...therefore recommend that all
the loyal men of your counties at once form themselves into military companies. Gather up
all the arms in the county and furnish yourselves with ammunition for the same."
Within a few days, over 15,000 armed 'militia men'
descended on Cincinnati to tangle with the rebels. Homespun buckskin clothing was a common
sight, as were an assortment of weapons most men used to hunt squirrels. A Confederate
scout apparently returned to his commander with a reconnaissance report on these
unconventional soldiers. "They call them 'Squirrel shooters'; farm boys that never
have to shoot at the same squirrel twice."
David Baker was a typical Shelby County
volunteer Squirrel Hunter. He was 35 years old and a Salem Township farmer in 1862.
Unmarried, he immediately left his crops in the field and traveled to the Queen City.
For about two weeks, military authorities tried
to make soldiers of this independent lot. Finally, the rebel threat passed. General Smith
wrote to General Lew Wallace in Cincinnati on September 17. "Reports from the
front state that the enemy are in full retreat...Cannot I get rid of the Squirrel hunters?
They are under no control."
After a grand parade, the men were free to
return to their homes, without getting a taste of battle. All were given a discharge
certificate, and the sum of $13 (a month's pay).
segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace
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