On September 3, 1862, rumors arrived over the telegraph that Cincinnati was in imminent danger of attack by a large force of Confederate troops approaching through Kentucky.
The alarm spread, and Wilmington and the entire county were filled with great anticipation. Local leaders called a meeting in the Clinton County Courthouse.
The commissioners rang bells and printed posters, calling on the citizens of the county to assemble in Wilmington the following day, bringing with them all matter of firearms, and to organize volunteer companies to rush to the defense of Cincinnati.
It was a blustery day, but an immense gathering of men assembled armed with squirrel rifles, shotguns, muskets, and any other weapons that they could find.
Boys, as well as men, enrolled. In the early afternoon, 400 men stepped forward for duty. The railroad company offered a special train, and as they departed the first stop was in Cuba, Ohio, where more volunteers joined the company, as they chugged south to Cincinnati.
As the train passed through Midland, a family in a buggy waved as their little brother passed by, the big, black smoke billowing from the huge locomotive. His sister said, “I guess Billy is a soldier now.”
“Yes, but he’s still just a kid,” her dad replied.
The new soldiers showed up in Cincinnati a few hours later. But the Confederates did not. Another group of Buckeye squirrel hunters had stopped the rebels short of the Ohio River.
The young soldier was soon back home in Cuba. He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to step forward when our nation calls in times of war.
Almost 80 years later, another young man from Cuba, Theodore West, the uncle of local attorney Jeffrey Wright, and a member of the Blanchester National Guard, entered the military in October 1940. Soon he was on a train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
West excelled as a soldier and his superiors selected him for Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. He graduated as a second lieutenant. The Army stationed him in Virginia, and he had maneuvers in Tennessee and Arkansas as well, before going to Camp Philipps, Kansas.
It wasn’t long before they shipped him overseas. West progressed through the ranks, promoted to the rank of captain.
His unit soon found themselves in France. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, Captain West’s company landed on the French beaches of Normandy, one of the leading units in the invasion. In one of his latest letters home, he wrote to his family they were moving across France toward Paris.
By that time, Captain West was a commander of an infantry company, marching through extensive gunfire and artillery bombardments.
Back in Ohio on June 23, 1944, Captain West’s father, Leslie West, opened a letter from the United States War Department. The next words took his breath away: “Captain Theodore M. West, Infantry, United States Army, is awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in France.”
The citation described the Captain’s actions. His battalion was subject to intense enemy machine, pistol, rifle, and artillery fire, producing heavy casualties. Captain West had organized a 12-man patrol, consisting of message center personnel, and attacked the enemy.
Despite the handicap of darkness and inexperience, the patrol knocked out the pill box containing an enemy machine gun and an anti-tank gun covering the major supply route to the battalion. Captain West’s battalion captured 12 prisoners and neutralized three enemy soldiers.
Captain West’s brave actions as a result of his presence of mind, forceful leadership and coolness under fire, reflected the very best of the military forces of the United States.
The medal was the first Silver Star awarded to a Clinton County serviceman in World War II.
In less than a month from now, we will celebrate Veterans Day in Clinton County on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I; the armistice that began on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.
President Reagan reminds us, “The timing of this holiday is quite deliberate in terms of historical fact, but somehow it always seems quite fitting that this day comes deep in autumn, when the colors are muted, and the days seem to invite contemplation.”
We will proudly come together, bow our heads and lower our eyes, as we remember all of the brave servicemen and servicewomen, and give thanks to them for their service to our country.
Captain Theodore West served again in the Korean Conflict, and stayed in the Army, eventually retiring as Lieutenant Colonel. And he makes us all immensely proud.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.