With the American Civil War's outbreak, neither the North nor the South had sufficient military forces to conduct a war. Both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, at first, relied upon volunteers either to form or to bolster their respective militaries.
With the American Civil War's outbreak, neither the North nor the South had sufficient military forces to conduct a war. Both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, at first, relied upon volunteers either to form or to bolster their respective militaries. Typically, individual states would recruit and send volunteers to their respective federal governments. Initially, many states relied on militia forces. Historically, every British colony in North America had established a militia. The militia usually consisted of adult, able-bodied men, who would rally to defend the colonies and, following the American Revolution, states during military crises. By the start of the American Civil War, unfortunately for both the Confederate States of America and the United States of America, most state militias were in a decline and unprepared for a major war.
In Ohio, Governor William Dennison hoped to supply the United States government with men and supplies from the Ohio militia. Ohio's militia system was virtually nonexistent by 1861. While militia forces played a vital role in Ohio's history from the American Revolution to the War of 1812, most major military threats to Ohio's security ended with the War of 1812. Following this conflict, the federal government quickly removed most Native Americans further west, and in the decades immediately following the war, no European or other major power attacked the United States. Facing no serious internal or external threats, most states, including Ohio, allowed their militia organizations to weaken. Most militia groups became mere social organizations and did not actively practice or study military maneuvers or tactics.
Dennison quickly discovered that Ohio's militia system could not play an active role in the American Civil War. Following the Battle of Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln’s call for seventy-five thousand volunteers to return the seceded states to the Union in April 1861, Ohio's governor sent Jacob Cox, a state politician, and George McClellan, a former United States Army officer and current businessman, to Ohio's arsenal to assess the availability of weapons and supplies. Cox and McClellan found three or four crates of smoothbore muskets, a number of inoperable six-pound cannons, and some mildewed horse harnesses. Upon learning of the dire condition of the state's military supplies, Dennison still encouraged Ohioans to reestablish militia units to defend the state from Southern attack and to assist the federal government in reuniting the nation.
Ohioans quickly responded to the governor's and the federal government's call for troops. Among Ohio's earliest regiments was the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This organization enrolled between April 16, 1861 and April 22, 1861. Companies A and D organized at Coshocton, Ohio on April 20, 1861. Company B formed at Ashland, Ohio on April 23, 1861. Company C organized at Wooster, Ohio on April 20, 1861. Company E formed at Springfield, Ohio on April 23, 1861. Company F originated at New Philadelphia, Ohio on April 16, 1861. Company G formed at Millersburg, Ohio on April 22, 1861. Company H organized at Cambridge, Ohio on April 20 1861. Company I formed at Bellville, Ohio and Company K at Dresden, Ohio on April 22, 1861. The State of Ohio formally mustered the regiment into service for three months of duty on May 10, 11, and 12, 1861, with the effective muster date being April 27, 1861. The 16th Regiment was also known as the Carrington Guards, in honor of the 16th Regiment's Adjutant-General.
On May 25, 1861, the 16th Regiment departed for western Virginia (modern-day West Virginia), where the regiment protected the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the vicinity of Farmington, Virginia and Fairmount, Virginia. Officials dispatched one battalion of the 16th Regiment to Grafton, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). This battalion participated in the Battle of Phillippi on June 3, 1861, the Battle of Laurel Hill on July 8, 1861, and the Battle of Carrick's Ford on July 14, 1861. The rest of the 16th Regiment remained along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but these companies did participate in advances on Romney and Red House, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia).
In August 1861, the 16th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry returned to Columbus, where officials mustered it out of duty on August 18, 1861. During its term of service, the regiment had one man killed on the battlefield. Two additional men died due to disease.