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William F.B. Vodrey, Cleveland Civil War Round Table Topic: Ohio’s Civil War Governors
September 17, 2015 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
William Vodrey, former president of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table, spoke on Ohio’s Civil War Governors: William Dennison, David Tod and John Brough – men who served the state and nation well but are now largely forgotten. Mr. Vodrey is currently a magistrate of the Cleveland Municipal Court, an honors graduate of Oberlin College, with a law degree from Case Western Reserve. He often speaks on Civil War topics to Round Tables and historical societies and is a former re-enactor with the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Co. B.
During the Civil War, Ohio was still electing Governors to two-year terms. William Dennison, Jr., was a Whig-turned-Republican, elected in 1859. After Fort Sumter, he rallied Buckeye support for the Union, enlisting many more troops than Washington asked for. His early and strong military help for what became West Virginia was crucial. By 1861, Dennison had become a political drag on the Republican Party and, as he had no chance of reelection, withdrew his name from consideration. Thereafter, he served as Postmaster General in both the Lincoln and Johnson administrations. He died in 1882.
David Tod was a “War Democrat” elected in 1861. He had twice previously run unsuccessfully for Governor. He won this time by vowing to help crush the Secession – and he carried through in style, retaining much of Dennison’s staff and implementing his policies. Tod had cordial relations with Stanton and McClellan, and he gained a reputation as the “soldiers’ friend” by providing help to Ohio men serving in the field. By 1863, however, Tod had used up most of his political capital. His autocratic style hurt, and he alienated many people by arresting dissenters. Morgan’s Raid damaged his reputation; some called it “Tod’s military elephant.” He was unable to gain nomination for a second term. He declined Lincoln’s offer of the post of Treasury Secretary due to ill health, and he died in 1868.
John Brough, running in 1863 as the “Union candidate” supported by Republicans and War Democrats, decisively beat the Copperhead Clement Vallandigham. Brough energetically aided Lincoln and the war effort. He helped Lincoln win an easy 1864 victory over McClellan. But then, after losing Republican support and announcing that he would not seek re-election, Brough fell, got gangrene, and died in August 1865, just after the war ended. All of these governors served well in office. They strongly supported the Union, working hard and effectively to meet its military needs. All three wanted to run for a second term, but each had lost so much political support that this proved impossible.