Dover Township and the Civil War

April 12 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of America’s Civil War. It was on that day in 1861 that South Carolina, having previously declared itself seceded from the United States, fired its cannons on Fort Sumter, a U.S. fort in the middle of Charleston Harbor.

Those shots reverberated across our country into every community – North and South – including Dover Township. Its people knew that the long-simmering differences between states over “states rights,” principally the right to own slaves, would be settled in battles. These would pitch Americans against Americans and brothers against brothers – every loss, a loss for our country.

Each side called for volunteers to fight its battles. Many were needed as there were only 15,000 men in the U.S. Army as the war began and these would be divided by loyalties. Thousands of young men answered President Lincoln’s call to service, including at least 120 men from Dover Township.

These men, divided among several regiments, saw action throughout the war years (1861-1865), engaging in some of the war’s most significant battles: Chattanooga – under General Grant in the taking of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge – and at the siege and surrender of Vicksburg which opened up the Mississippi River to Union forces.

They were also sent to guard Washington and were there to defend the city against an aggressive attack, witnessed by Lincoln, not far from the White House.

It’s easy to picture life in Dover during those days with parents, wives and girlfriends worried about their men and boys; waiting for letters and any news of their regiments, while fearing to look at the casualty lists printed in local papers after battles. Lists that kept growing as the war went on.

It’s believed that 11 Dover men gave their lives in what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to their country. One of these was John Albert Clague who died at age 23 of an illness after he had fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Other Dover men were wounded and still others survived without physical harm. But no man returned home the same as he had left. In honoring the men and women who serve in any war, we honor those who served in all the engagements of our armed forces over the years.

The Revolutionary War gave us our country but left undefined what that country was: a loose alliance of states or a permanent union of states. Before the war, our country was always referred to in the plural – as in, the United States “are”. After the war, it became the United States “is.” Our Dover men had helped to make our country one Nation.

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

Read More on Westlake Bicentennial
Volume 3, Issue 7, Posted 7:53 PM, 04.05.2011