Ohio History Journal

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A Civil War Diary of William McKinley

A Civil War Diary of William McKinley


Edited by H. WAYNE MORGAN*




IN APRIL 1861 news came to Ohio that secessionists had

fired on Fort Sumter; the long-dreaded civil war was at

hand and the last hopes of compromise vanished in the smoke

of battle. Ohio, home of so many conflicting forces, had her

share of southern sympathizers, but she was prepared to

stand by the Union cause even if it meant war. Recruiting

agents mingled with politicians and orators through the late

spring and early summer in the great Ohio Valley. Men

would be needed; many would come from Ohio.

Poland, Ohio, was a sleepy little crossroads town in 1861,

untouched by most of the great events of the day. But this

one did not pass her by. Young men gathered in groups to

hear recruiting agents and patriots explain the necessity of

raising an army to beat the "Seceshers" and save the Union.

In Poland, as in a thousand other small towns across the land,

crowds gathered, listened with alternating enthusiasm and


In June 1861 Charles Glidden, Poland's most promising

lawyer and later a close friend of William McKinley, spoke

to a crowd on Poland's main street. As he spoke young men

stepped forward to join the Poland Guards, who were being

recruited to help Mr. Lincoln's cause. William McKinley,

Jr., was in the crowd and listened intently as the lawyer's

words brought out the crowd's allegiance. Quiet, slight in

stature, with arresting dark eyes, given to careful thought

* H. Wayne Morgan is an instructor in history at San Jose State College,

San Jose, California. His article, "Governor McKinley's Misfortune: The Walker-

McKinley Fund of 1893," was published in the previous issue.