MARIA BITT FUR UNS (Mary, Pray for us)
Image by elycefeliz
After the Confederates captured Fort Sumter to ignite the Civil War, Cincinnati’s German-born Americans quickly responded to President Lincoln’s call for Union Army volunteers.
On April 16, 1861 hundreds of men packed Turner Hall, a large German social and recreation center in Over-the-Rhine, for a meeting called to discuss the formation of an all-German Civil War regiment. Some questioned whether enough volunteers could be recruited, while others wondered whether giving battlefield orders in German would cause too much confusion.
But during the next two days, the required 1,000 soldiers signed up for the Civil War’s first all-German regiment, the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Dozens of would-be volunteers had to be turned away.
They were a formidable group of soldiers. Some of them had fought in the German Revolution of 1848 and emigrated to the United States after the revolution failed. Others were sons of German revolutionary soldiers.
Virtually all of them were members of the Cincinnati Turner Society, an organization that emphasized the development of the body and the mind. They were physically fit, mentally tough and fully prepared to endure the hardships of war.
The 9th Ohio Regiment, trained locally at Camp Harrison and Camp Dennison, fought so efficiently and ferociously during its three years in the Civil War that the Confederates called them the “Dutch Devils,” and the “Bloody Dutch.” The word, Dutch, was the Anglicized form of Deutsch, meaning German.
On April 15, 1861, Cincinnati attorney Robert McCook, a staunch opponent of slavery, proposed the formation of an all-German Civil War regiment. He had been to Europe and was impressed by the Prussians’ military prowess, according to “We Were the Ninth,” a book written in German in 1907 by Constantine Grebner and re-printed in English in 1987 by the Kent State University Press.
McCook, who didn’t speak German, organized the Ohio 9th Regiment and was elected by the companies’ officers to be colonel and commander. August Willich, a German-speaking Cincinnatian, served as the regiment’s second-in-command and its drill instructor.
When General George McClellan, then commander of the Ohio forces, inspected the regiment in July 1861 in West Virginia, “he said he had never seen, here or in Europe, a militia regiment better trained or made up of men so strong and fit,” Grebner writes.
The Ohio 9th distinguished itself in the battle at Mill Springs, Ky., on Jan. 19, 1862. The regiment performed the first bayonet charge of the Civil War and helped defeat the Confederates in that battle, which occurred about 130 miles southeast of Louisville.
When the Ohio 9th soldiers charged the Confederates at Mill Springs and at other battlefields, they screamed a fearsome Germanic-sounding battle cry comparable to the Rebel yell.
The Ohio 9th fought in numerous battles throughout the war, none bloodier than the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. A monument to the Ohio 9th Regiment stands on the battlefield.
Of the 1,155 soldiers who served in that regiment, only 674 remained when it was mustered out of service at Camp Dennison on June 7, 1864. Of those not there, 384 were dead or so severely wounded they had to be discharged, while 97 had been transferred to other units or resigned.