“The Camp Must Be Held!”
—John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail —
On Sunday afternoon, July 12, 1863, Camp Dennison's
commandant, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Neff, learned of
Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan's approach from Indiana
with more than 2,000 Confederate cavalrymen. Neff had about
600 Union soldiers — most either new recruits or convalescents
— and 200 of these were unarmed. Despite these odds,
Neff prepared to defend his strategically important camp.
On Monday, Neff deployed scouts and posted guards at
Little Miami River bridges from Milford to Fort Ancient.
He ordered Captain Joseph L. Proctor and 50 men to dig rifle
pits overlooking the vital crossroads of Kugler Mill,Loveland
and present-day Camargo roads. Proctor's men felled trees to
block the crossroads and fortify their rifle pits. By dawn on
Tuesday, 350 convalescent soldiers and militia manned the
earthworks. Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox, the District of
Ohio commander, telegraphed Neff: "The camp must be held!"
About 6 am on July 14, the Confederates appeared on Kugler
Mill Road and were sent reeling by a Union volley. Morgan's
ran soldiers dismounted and began a brisk firefight with
Proctor's troops. Morgan directed two howitzers of Byrne's
Battery to shell Proctor's position for nearly thirty minutes.
The Union lines held firm. Unable to afford a time-consuming
Morgan ordered a retreat to Montgomery.
At the request of Ohio Governor William Dennison,
Major General George B. McClellan established Camp
Dennison on April 27, 1861, as a place to muster, train,
and discharge volunteer soldiers. Between 75,000 and
100,000 Union soldiers passed through the camp on
their way to and from the battlefront. A military
hospital for Union soldiers and Confederate POWs
was added in April 1862. Boasting 2,300 beds, it was
among the North's largest such hospitals.
Top left map: Camp Dennison encompassed more than 700 acres by July 1863. It was dismantled between November 1865 and June 1866. Only these sites remain:
1) reservoir; (2) guardhouse; (3) "tents and shanties" campground of 1861,;
(4) Waldschmidt House (temporary headquarters): (5) camp cemetery
(6) post headquarters; and (7) camp road.
Top right: Camp Dennison, June 1861
A view looking northwest from the intersection of Galbraith (Kugler Mil) Road
and SR 126 (Glendale-Milford Road).
Text: David L. Mowery
Illustration: Bev Kirk