James Lawrence Botford (1834 – 1898)

Major James Lawrence Botsford was born April 16, 1834 in Poland, Ohio and died on October 6, 1898 at the age of 63. He was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in a lot adjacent to both his parents Archibald and Eliza and his boyhood friend, Ira F. Mansfield. Both James and Ira grew up in the same neighborhood (Botsford Street) and attended the common schools of Poland. At the age of 24 James Botsford went to California to try his hand at mining but returned home to enlist in the army in May 1861.
His military career in the famous 23rd Regiment lasted until the end of the conflict. As a reward for able and valiant service he was promoted to second lieutenant and aide-de-camp to Colonel Scammon, who commanded the Third Brigade, Kanawha Division, Army of West Virginia. In January 1862 Botsford made first lieutenant and nine months later was commissioned captain and made assistant adjutant-general of the United States Volunteers. His division participated in the second battle of Bull Run in July 1862 and the battle at Antietam two months later. For the next year and a half Captain Botsford was in a series of engagements in West Virginia and then was assigned to General Sheridan’s command in the Shenandoah Valley. In November 1864 he was stationed in Cumberland and detailed as assistant inspector general. After the war he was commissioned brevet major “for meritorious and distinguished conduct”.

While in the service Major Botsford married 23 year old
Ellen E. Blaine of Louisville, Kentucky. He moved to Louisville after the war to engage in a general product business with his brother Thomas G. He remained there until 1872 when he came to Youngstown and began the manufacturing of iron. When the Mahoning Valley Iron Company was formed in 1879, he was elected treasurer and held that position until his death. The Botsfords had two children: Ella Kirtland who married Frederick H. Wick, a member of one of Youngstown’s most prominent families; and James Jr., who carried his honored father’s name. Major Botsford and his wife lived at 664 Wick Avenue and were valued members of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Youngstown. Mrs. Botsford served two terms as the state regent of the Ohio Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. (Note the bronze marker on the tombstone installed by the D.A.R.)

In politics Major Botsford was a Republican but was never very active. He was a member of Youngstown City Council for a short time and he supported his two regiment buddies,
Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley. On January 14, 1892, Governor McKinley appointed Major Botsford quartermaster general of the state. During the Spanish war President McKinley honored him by offering him an appointment as brigadier general, which Major Botsford declined. When he died, President McKinley sent the following message from the White House to Mrs. Botsford: “I am deeply grieved at your bereavement, and extend the heartfelt sympathy of Mrs. McKinley and myself to you and your family. The loss of such a dear and old comrade in arms comes home to me keenly, and his memory will always remain with me in tender recollection.”

The battle at Clark’s Hollow

In the January 2003 Issue of the Riverside Review there was a lengthy article on the life of Poland’s distinguished Civil War veteran, Major J.L. Botsford. This article spoke briefly of his military career with the famous Ohio’s 23rd Infantry Regiment. The following story was recently found in the October 1997 issue of the Civil War Times magazine. It was written by Stephen E. Ambrose.

In the spring of 1862 the Twenty-Third Ohio emerged from its West Virginia winter camp to take up once again the task of hunting guerrillas. On April 29th, Commander Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, heard that a notorious gang of bushwhackers was supposed to be operating in the vicinity of Camp Creek, about 16 miles away. Hayes ordered Lieutenant J.L. Botsford to take the 100 men of Company C and go after them. Botsford’s men scouted the area but found nothing. Unknown to them, a guerrilla leader was observing them and reporting their presence to Confederate Colonel Walter H. Jenifer. Col.Jenifer collected about 300 troops and marched toward Camp Creek. Second Lieutenant Botsford, in the meantime, had taken up quarters in a farmhouse at a place called Clark’s Hollow. At daybreak on the morning of May 1, as Company C was forming in the barnyard, shots rang out, and the Confederate troops appeared on all sides. Hastily Company C retired into the farmhouse and prepared for a desperate defense.

On the same morning Commander Hayes had the regiment up and ready to march at six o’clock in the hope of finding action. The gun fire at Clark’s Hollow was loudly audible, and Hayes gave orders to march to the sound. Rain was falling, and the going on the muddy roads was rough. But the men eager to fight plunged forward. When they broke into the clearing around the farmhouse, the now outnumbered Confederates broke and fled toward Princeton, a Southern Army supply depot.

Hayes rode up just as the enemy left. He almost dissolved when the men of Company C, some of them wounded, saluted him with presented arms. ‘My heart choked me,’ he admitted, and he could not speak. One of the men said, ‘All right, Colonel, we know what you mean.’ In a minute he regained control of his emotions and ordered a pursuit of the Confederates. The troops, excited by the prospect of a chase and inspired by Hayes’s leadership, swept forward. Soon they caught up to the Confederates, and a running fight, lasting 13 hours and covering 22 miles, ensued. At one stage the cavalry commander asked Hayes if he should essay another charge. Hayes answered jauntily, ‘Try them again, if you like to do so.’ All over the field Hayes rode, constantly crying to the men to ‘push on.’

Toward nightfall the pursuers burst over the mountain in front of Princeton and saw great clouds of smoke rising to the sky. Col. Jenifer, rattled by the turn of events, had ordered the town fired and the army supplies destroyed. With the Confederates in retreat Hayes’s men entered the town. They tried to stop the flames but could save only a few buildings. ‘And so ended the first of May,’ Hayes recorded in his diary. ‘A good day’s work.’ One of his soldiers, who also kept a diary, was more philosophical. ‘What a day . . .’ this man wrote. ‘Fun for us but terrible fright, destruction, and death for the people of this quiet valley.’