Friday, June 26, 2009

Malta, Ohio

I recently finished A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country, the reminiscences of Halbert Eleazer Paine (review will be posted here after it appears in Civil War News). Paine was the colonel of the 4th Wisconsin and eventually became a brigadier general (with a brevet at the end to major general). I wondered if the Captain Joseph Bailey he refers to was the Bailey who won a Medal of Honor for his engineering work during the Red River campaign. So I looked it up and it was the very same man. As part of Bailey's biography I noticed that he was from Malta, Ohio. From my other reading I remember that Rufus Dawes, of 6th Wisconsin fame, was also from Malta, Ohio. This seemed like a strange coincidence so I then looked up Malta.

It turns out that Malta had two other Civil War generals, Jeremiah Rusk and Otho Strahl. Rusk served as lieutenant colonel of the 25th Wisconsin and was brevetted a brigadier at the close of the war. In 1882 he was elected governor of Wisconsin. Still seems an odd coincidence that Malta provides three notable officers for Wisconsin. I did not see that any colonels or generals for Ohio came from Malta.

Although raised in Malta Strahl moved to Tennessee once he was older to study law. When the war broke out he raised a company for the 4th Tennessee and by the time of Shiloh had risen to lieutenant colonel. After Shiloh the 4th was consolidated with the 5th Tennessee and Strahl became the colonel. He eventually was promoted to brigadier general and led a brigade at Franklin where he was killed.

Malta provided two brigadier generals and two brevet brigadier generals. I'm not sure how big a town it was in 1860, I've yet to find that tally but in 2000 there were 696 people. According yo the 1860 census there were 22,119 people in the county at the outbreak of the war. Today there is roughly half so if Malta has declined in size at the same rate as the rest of the county there were about 1500 people there at the outbreak of the war. Even 4 out of 1500 is a pretty substantial ratio.

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