by Philip Shackelford
Already heavily involved in the war effort, Portage County soon produced one of the most persisent and dedicated soldiers to serve in the Union armies.
A carriage maker by trade but a patriot at heart, Samuel H. Cole enlisted as a private in the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Taylor in Cleveland, and served a three month term before mustering out on August 18, 1861.
However, Cole’s first enlistment would not be his last.
Cole was only out of the Civil War a few months before re-enlisting in the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, this time as a second lieutenant.
Commanded by illustrious Ohioan and future president James A. Garfield, the 42nd OVI carried the war into central Kentucky. Their objective: dislodge a growing Confederate presence and open the way into Tennessee. They won a decisive victory at the Battle of Middle Creek in January, 1862, but sometime afterward, Samuel Cole resigned his commission and returned home to Franklin Mills.
|More about Portage County and the Civil War
In June of that same year, Cole enlisted in the 45th OVI as a first lieutenant and headed south yet again. Cole’s service remained focused in Kentucky, where he took place in a daring nighttime raid.
It was here, though, that disaster struck.
Cole’s horse tripped over an embankment and fell on him, breaking several of his ribs. Cole was judged unfit for further service and resigned his commission on June 17, 1863.
After returning home to heal, Samuel Cole re-enlisted once more, this time in the 9th Ohio Calvary. This unit moved south to Alabama where they patrolled the Tennessee River running through the northern part of that state. In 1864 the 9th Ohio Calvary was transferred to Tennessee and then Kentucky, where they regrouped before heading out on Sherman’s March to the Sea. Here Cole was promoted from lieutenant to captain.
Soon the war began to take its toll. Cole was severely wounded in the eye and would eventually be plagued by perpetual blindness. Though his injuries were still functional at the time, Cole mustered out soon after the March to the Sea for the final time.
No one is certain why Samuel Cole returned to battle so many times. Perhaps he felt that his duties were not yet completed. Maybe he felt more comfortable in the heat of battle than he did at home, watching from afar. Whatever the reason, Samuel Cole remains an example of what a patriot should be – and Portage County is forever grateful.