History & Tourism

Richland Roots: General Franklin Sawyer, A Hero Of Gettysburg

18 Jan , 2021  

By 1812Blockhouse

In our Richland Roots series, we briefly present the lives of men and women from Richland County — either by birth, or residence — that have made important contributions to American history but who may not be household names.

Other posts in our series can be viewed and read here.

Today, we share a bit about Brevet Brigadier General Franklin Sawyer.

At first, we acknowledge that if you stood today on the ground where Franklin Sawyer was born on July 13, 1825, you would not be standing in Richland County, although you would be exceedingly close to it. As it so happens, that location is now in Auburn Township, Crawford County. At the time, however, it was very much in Richland County as a part of the eastern townships of Crawford County that were “moved over” in 1845.

Sawyer lived on that farm, north and east of Tiro, until the age of 17 when he went north to study at Norwalk Seminary in Norwalk. He later attended Granville College, now known as Denison University.

Returning to Norwalk, he became an attorney in the late 1840s, and at the outbreak of the Civil War formed the “Norwalk Light Guards” at the urging of Ohio Governor William Dennison. That unit was a part of the famed 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Sawyer’s skills and decisions contributed to a quick rise in the ranks, being given the following ranks:

  • Captain — June 1861
  • Major — August 1861
  • Lieutenant Colonel — November 1861
  • Brigade Commander — May 1862
  • Brigadier General — March 1865 by Brevet

General Sawyer commanded his regiment at the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Morton’s Ford, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania — a truly remarkable list.

Three times he had his horse shot out from underneath him and he was severely wounded three times. At Spotsylavania his wound disabled him from further service and partially paralyzed his right side.

At Gettysburg, he especially distinguished himself as commander of the 8th Ohio, which brought 209 men into the field. The unit’s most important role took place during the infamous Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the battle, where watching 13,000 Confederates advancing, the 209 Ohioans actually attacked, striking the right flank and contributing to the defeat of that action.

The 8th Ohio monument at Gettysburg marks that spot, and bears this inscription — “In this way and forever does Ohio stand to the front of the Union.”

A 2013 article in Esquire magazine written by Robert Batement and entitled “Commander Sawyer’s Charge” details that day, and can be read here.

After the war, Franklin Sawyer settled back into civilian life in Norwalk, serving as an attorney, judge, and member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He died in 1892 and is buried there.

Sources: FindaGrave, SanduskyHistory.blogspotcom, above Esquire article, Ancestry.com; Photo: Ringgold Battery on drill. Local Identifier: 111-B-363. National Archives Identifier: 524783.

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