Joseph W. Vance of Knox County was named colonel of the 96th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, The Banner reported on July 22, 1862.
Vance, born in 1809, had come to Mount Vernon in 1840. He was one of the leading lawyers in Mount Vernon, was elected mayor in 1852 and was outspokenly abolitionist. He had been a Whig, and joined the Republicans when that party formed.
He would command the 95th until April 8, 1864, when he was mortally wounded at the battle of Sabine Crossroads.
The 96th Infantry was organized in Delaware County and eventually became part of the 13th Corps in the Army of the Tennessee. It served at Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Port Gibson, Champion Hill, the siege of Vicksburg, siege of Jackson, Grand Coteau, the Red River Campaign, Sabine Crossroads, Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan.
It would suffer severe casualties, but not in battle. Of the 339 men lost, only two officers and 46 enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded, but five officers and 286 enlisted men died of disease.
The Banner reported: “We are pleased to know that friend Vance has had his wishes gratified and that he is about to enter the army. We hope he will distinguish himself in battle. Those who have been asserting that he would not fight will now probably find that they were mistaken.”
That announcement was followed the next week with announcements that Prof. William Mitchell, superintendent of the Mount Vernon Public Schools, and Joseph Leonard of Gambier had been named captains of companies in the 96th.
The Banner wrote of Mitchell: “Mr. Mitchell is one of the most energetic men in the state, and possesses every qualification requisite for a bold, successful and popular officer. The managers and teachers of our schools and colleges have certainly contributed their full share towards putting down this rebellion against the government.”
Of Leonard, the Banner wrote that he “has considerable experience in military matters, having served his country in the Mexican War. He is a very worthy and estimable man, and we believe will make a popular officer.”
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