Keeping an Eye on the Lower Muskingum: Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s birthplace

There was only one Civil War Major General born in Washington County, Ohio. Don Carlos Buell was born in Adams Township on March 23, 1818, son of Salmon D. and Eliza Buell Buell. It is convenient to say he was born in Lowell (or Buell’s Lowell, as it was originally called), but until 1964 this was actually incorrect. Buell’s Lowell was not laid out until March 22, 1838, so the future general was born on his parents’ farm. Even after Buell’s Lowell was surveyed, near the Muskingum River the west line of Market Street was the corporate line-upriver was outside the line and downriver was within Lowell. The Buell house was slightly upriver from Market Street and outside of Lowell. The proper designation for Gen. Buell’s birthplace was Adams Township within 100-150 feet of what is now Lowell. This all changed on April 7, 1964, when the Lowell Council annexed the portion of Buell’s Island that at one time included the Buell House. (Plat Book 9, p. 79) After this it is correct to say Gen. Buell was born in what is now Lowell.

Norris Schneider, in his History of Lowell and Adams Township, states, “Soon after their marriages the brothers [Salmon D. in 1817 and Perez B. in 1818] built a large, square brick house on the river bank opposite the south end of Market Street . . . Both families lived in this house until the death of Salmon [D.] in the cholera epidemic of 1823.” As will be stated in another issue, it was probably Enoch Wing who built the large, square brick house. The late Lawrence “Pete” Ball of Lowell made available an old photograph taken probably in the 1880’s that clearly shows the Buell House (see picture). As far as known this is the first time a picture of this house has appeared in print-at least an enlargement clearly naming it as the Buell House.

After his father died, five year old Don Carlos was raised by his uncle, Col. George P. Buell, of Lawrenceburg, Indiana. In 1837 Don Carlos received an appointment to West Point. He graduated in the celebrated class of 1841, which contributed 20 generals to the Civil War. He ranked thirty-second out of fifty-two classmates.

Upon graduation Buell was commissioned a second lieutenant. He served in the Florida War (1841-43) and in the Mexican War (1846-48), where he was severely wounded during the Battle of Churubusco. In 1851 he married Margaret Hunter Mason. There were no children from this union. The same year he was commissioned a brevet captain and during the 1850’s he served in numerous locations as assistant adjutant general. After the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, and the secession of South Carolina in the following month, it was clear to the War Department that there was soon to be a crisis over the forts in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. These forts were among a small number in the South still held by U.S. forces. With the situation becoming more stressful each day, Secretary of War John B. Floyd sent Buell to Fort Moultrie to confer with the commander, Major Robert Anderson. In what has gone down in history as the Buell Memorandum, dated December 11, 1860, Buell gave Anderson specific orders on how to handle the difficult situation. Buell wrote, “You are carefully to avoid every act which would needlessly tend to provoke aggression . . . but you are to hold possession of the forts in this harbor, and if attacked you are to defend yourself to the last extremity.” Further in the letter Anderson was told that he might not have the force to defend both Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, “but an attack on or attempt to take possession of either one of them will be regarded as an act of hostility, and you may then put your command into either of them which you may deem most proper . . . ” The Buell Memorandum set the time the Civil War could start-when the South attacked a fort in Charleston harbor. That day came on April 12, 1861, when Fort Sumter was bombarded by the Confederates.

In the following weeks there will be six additional articles about Buell. The first one highlights his role in the war. The second one relates his thoughts about when the Civil War should have started based on his orders in the Buell Memorandum. The remaining four detail the history of the Buell House that once stood so gracefully along the river.

“Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events that occurred in the Lower Muskingum Valley. His column will appear every other week.