Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Rev. Ezra Howland Family Correspondence
Scope and Content
This collection of letters is from the Howland family of East Toledo, Ohio. It consists primarily of letters written by Horace Howland and O.H. Howland back home to their father Ezra Howland during the Civil War, who preserved them in the covers of a bound volume (1849-50 Patent Office Report). The letters were purchased by Larry Michaels from Toledo historian Fred Folger and donated to the Hayes Presidential Center in 2015. An introduction and some of the letters were published in The Civil War and East Toledo by Larry Michaels and Jeff Eversman.
The Howland family was early settlers east of the Maumee River when East Toledo was still part of Oregon Township. They had a large farm along what is now Starr Avenue, and nearby Howland Avenue is named in their honor. By 1860, East Toledo had become the 6th Ward of the city with 116 adult males who voted in the election of President Abraham Lincoln. The 6th Ward of Toledo would send 61 men to fight in Civil War, and eleven of them would give their lives.
Rev. Ezra Howland was born January 16, 1796. He married Betsy Howard on May 14, 1817, and they had seven children between 1820 and 1840: Philinda, Silas, Horace, Harriet, Eliza, Orange, and Sarah. In 1849, Rev. Howland organized First Congregational Church, the first permanent church east of the river in Oregon Township, and the following year a log church was built on the corner of Consaul Street and Otter Creek Road. The church disbanded in 1861 when all the adult men except for the elderly pastor enlisted in the Union cause. It was reorganized in 1868 as Second Congregational and a large brick church was later built on Fourth Street. After his wife Betsy died in 1863, Rev. Howland married Olive Jenison, who lived until 1901. Rev. Howland died November 2, 1866, at the age of 70.
Horace Howland was born October 26, 1825. In August 1861, he raised about 60 recruits for a new volunteer cavalry regiment being formed in Monroeville, 53 miles east of Toledo along the Lake Shore Railroad. He officially entered service on August 15, 1861, as Captain of Company C or the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. On October 17, 1862, he was captured at the battle of Lexington and was paroled soon afterwards. He was promoted to Major on January 5, 1863, and then in November became a Colonel. The 3rd O.V.C. took part in the Murfreesboro campaign in the spring of 1863, and in January 1864 they reenlisted at Pulaski, TN. After a 30-day furlough, they returned to the front at Nashville in March.
In the spring of 1864, as the letters to his father describe, Lieutenant-Colonel Howland and the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry were still in Tennessee, moving toward Chattanooga. On June 11, Howland’s horse was shot dead under him and he was wounded during the fighting. He returned to the regiment exactly two months later on August 11, 1864, and continued to participate in the battles around Atlanta under General Sherman. Colonel Seidel was mustered out of the regiment on January 18, 1865, leaving Colonel Howland in sole command. By April 2nd, the regiment was moving with Colonel Levi Long’s 2nd Brigade toward Selma, AL, where Howland led a successful charge against the fort that left the Confederates in full retreat. After the surrender at Appomattox, Howland was involved in the pursuit of Jefferson Davis through Georgia. He was mustered out of the army on August 4, 1865. In addition to the letters, he also sent correspondence back to the Toledo Blade. After the war, Horace returned to Toledo, and died in 1895 at the age of 70.
Orange H. Howland was born September 8, 1838. He married Sarah McConoughey, the daughter of a country doctor from Milan, OH, on September 10, 1859. She lived on the family homestead during the war and is mentioned often in the letters. Like Horace, O.H. Howland entered the service on August 15, 1861, in Company C of the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on September 10th, and then to 2nd Lieutenant on July 20, 1862. Also, like his older brother, he was captured at the battle of Lexington on October 17, 1862, and soon paroled. On April 24, 1863, he transferred to Company E. As a cavalry officer, he was involved in several skirmishes, and led specific missions to repair telegraph lines or deliver messages. He became a 1st Lieutenant on March 31, 1864, and was promoted to Captain on November 30th. He also with his brother was involved in the capture of Jefferson Davis in Georgia, and was mustered out of the service with the 3rd O.V.C. on August 4, 1865. He continued to live in East Toledo after the war, and built “Homewood,” a large house that still stands  at 1918 Starr Avenue, where he lived until his death in 1916 at the age of 78.
Scope and Content
The Rev. Ezra Howland family correspondence consists of approximately one hundred seventy-five letters that date from 1857 to 1866. However, the bulk of the letters (approximately one hundred), written by sons Horace and Orange H during the Civil War, date from 1864 through 1865. Arranged roughly chronologically, the collection contains more than fifty (1857 to 1861) from Rev. Ezra Howland’s brothers (Samuel Howland at Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Orange L. Howland at Rice Lake, Wisconsin) and Lewis Tappan and S. S. Jocelyn, officers of the American Missionary Association, for whom Rev. Howland served as a missionary. The organization supported his efforts with funds, books, clothing, and other needs.
The letters from Horace and O.H. describe officers they fought under, comrades they served with, marches and camp conditions, and the battles they fought in. The letters also talk about financial matters, feelings of loneliness, the fears and worries of family members who needed to be reassured, practical matters to be dealt with back home during their absence, and most of all their feelings about the war in general and how important it was to the future of the country.
For example, Horace mentions several times about the construction of a fence along their property, which was made difficult with the shortage of men to do the work. There is also much interest in the bridge being built across the river, the first to cross the Maumee that would be finished in 1865. Their neighbor, James Raymer, who became a member of the first school board, was scolded for using whisky to bribe people to come to a temperance meeting. Raymer School still stands near Howland Avenue in East Toledo today. In addition, the letters mention their lawyer, Morrison R. Waite, a friend of Hayes who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and swore President Hayes into office.
All in all, these many letters provide a detailed look through the eyes of two intelligent cavalry officers at the lives of Union soldiers during the war, as well as the lives of those back home in northwest Ohio.
Rev. Ezra Howland Family Correspondence. Bound into one large volume by Ezra Howland.
The Civil War and East Toledo. By Larry Michaels and Jeff Eversman, 2000.
Reprints several of the Civil War Letters with an introduction, along with personal reminiscences of northwest Ohio soldiers recorded in the history of the Ford Post. Includes also an introduction to the Johnson Island Prison Camp, Andrews Raiders, General James McPherson, General R.B. Hayes, and other aspects of the Civil War associated with northwest Ohio.