The Civil War was the seminal event in the lives of a generation. It changed and shaped American families, politics and culture. More than three million men fought in the war, north and south. Somewhere between 620,000 and 750,000 men died in battle or from disease or accident. About 2,070 men from Portage County, Ohio served in the war: farmers, blacksmiths, teachers, shopkeepers. More than 300 died. Using letters and diaries, “The ‘Sojer Boys’ of Portage County” tries to tell the stories of those men, focusing on the experiences of seven men from all parts of the county.

But there is so much more to the legacy of the Civil War than the tale of a few good men. The documentary provides only a base for the inside details that shaped the history of Portage County’s Civil War generation. The following stories provide a deeper look into the lives of Portage County citizens and soldiers, and shares the sentiments of this generation toward America’s bloodiest and most historic war.

Changing sides: John Thomas chooses the South

County residents among the witnesses to Lincoln’s assassination
On April 14, 1865, as the Civil War was coming to a close, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth during a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Dr. John Morris, his brother Julius and William Broadhurst, all from Kent, Ohio, were present the night the president fell.

Coverage differed among Portage County’s newspapers during the Civil War

Four Portage County African-Americans honored with monuments, markers
In Portage County the slavery debate was no less heated than in the rest of the country. Some African-Americans found the freedom and happiness they longed for, while others left the county because of never-ending discrimination.

James A. Garfield: Portage County’s most famous Civil War officer

Persistent Patriot: Samuel H. Cole of Franklin Mills enlisted in the Union military four times

Portage County doctors and nurses saved lives on and off the battlefield
Portage County doctors and nurses played a crucial role in saving thousands of lives of Union soldiers. They may have worked in hospitals or on the battlefield, but they all witnessed the horrors of war.

Portage County residents were not in total agreement over the draft system

Portage County soldiers detested anti-war factions

Portage County’s Buel Whitney Provides spiritual counsel to those on the battlefield

Three Portage County Brothers Fight for the Union but only one survives

Three Portage County Soldiers received a Medal of Honor
More than 2,000 Portage County men fought for the Union Army. Three of them became honorary heroes.Newton H. Hall, John H. Ricksecker and Orion P. Howe received the United States Medal of Honor, an award to soldiers who displayed the highest level of bravery and patriotism.

Two poets interpret the Civil War and its impact on their Portage County neighbors