Governor of Ohio 1860-1862
William Dennison, Jr. was Ohio's twenty-fourth governor. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 23, 1815. His father, William Sr., was from New England. The future governor graduated at the age of 19 from Miami University where he become a practicing attorney. After a short time, he moved to Columbus, Ohio and married the eldest daughter of William Neil, a well-known name in stage transportation.
In 1848, Dennison became a member of the Whig Party of Franklin and Delaware Counties, and was elected to the Ohio Senate. He appeared on the political scene at the time when the slavery controversy was at a critical stage, vocalizing his advocacy of the abolition of the slave trade. In 1856, Dennison was one of the first prominent Whigs to become a Republican. In 1859, he was nominated by acclamation for Ohio governor and elected by a 13,000 vote margin.
January 9, 1860, William Dennison became Ohio's twenty-fourth governor and the first to serve during the Civil War. He opposed returning runaway slaves to other states and blocked any attempts to do so. He strengthened the Ohio militia, seizing railroads in Ohio for military purposes at the start of the War Between the States. He also seized telegraph lines in his jurisdiction to prevent any dissemination of troop movements. Some members of the Ohio Legislature were upset at the time over these seizures. This was war and there were many Confederate sympathizers, referred to as Copperheads, in Ohio.
He denounced secession, declaring those who did so as traitors. He issued a series of proclamations calling for 13 regiments or 10,153 men to serve. As Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the State Militia, Dennison had to perfect this organization and to guarantee the state full protection from invasion. He also initiated measures supplying new weapons for Ohio's troops, since most were in poor condition. Ohio responded with 13 regiments and the Ohio Legislature approved 9 additional regiments for state service.
The Governor appointed George McClellan to take charge of the State Volunteers and to organize training camps. McClellan set up the largest post outside Cincinnati and named it Camp Dennison. He also set up Camp Chase in Columbus. On April 29, 1861, the first troops marched into Camp Dennison. On May 26, 1861, Gov. Dennison ordered Gen. McClellan into western Virginia and brought West Virginia into the Ohio Department.
Gov. Dennison delivered his last message to the State Legislature on January 6, 1862. He was not re-elected because of the unpopular moves he made at the start of the war, including seizing the railroads and telegraph lines. During the governorship of William Dennison, he raised 23 regiments for three month enlistments and 82 regiments for three years, totaling over 100,000 men.
William Dennison was named Chairman of the Republican Convention in 1864. A few months later, President Lincoln appointed him Postmaster General, a position in which he served until 1866. In 1880 he unsuccessfully opposed James Garfield for the Republican Senatorial nomination. During his lifetime he also served as a Columbus Councilman and organized the Franklin County Agriculture Society.
On June 15, 1882, Gov. William Dennison died after an 18-month illness, with his wife and his seven children surviving him. He was buried on June 17 in Greenlawn Cemetery (Section C, Lot 29, Grave 6). His wife, Anne Eliza Neil Dennison died December 30, 1910. She is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery (Section C, Lot 29, Grave 11).
Governor William Dennison