- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

Two brothers in the Civil War, Jacob and Daniel Ammen, achieved distinction and glory, especially during the trying early days of the war. Although historians today largely overlook both, these two brothers deserve admiration and respect for remarkable service to their country.

After the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, Brig. Gen. William Nelson, commander of the U.S. Army’s 4th Division, wrote of Jacob Ammen, “The style in which Colonel Ammen handled his brigade excited my admiration.”

Later in his postbattle report, Nelson singled out Jacob Ammen this way, “I desire to call the attention of the general commanding the Army of the Ohio to the distinguished conduct of Col. Jacob Ammen, of the Twenty-fourth Ohio Regiment, commanding the Tenth Brigade. The cool, wary, and vigorous method in which he fought his brigade, protecting all the while the left flank of the army, gave me a profitable lesson in the science of battle.”

This is high praise from a commander at the time of the Civil War. In fact, for generations of military men, to be “mentioned in dispatches” was about the highest distinction achievable.

After Shiloh, Jacob Ammen pursued the Confederates to Corinth, Miss., and northern Alabama. Unfortunately, Jacob suffered severely debilitating physical ailments that forced him from the field of battle. He was named commander of Camp Dennison in Ohio and ultimately promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

But Jacob Ammen’s assignment away from the front lines should not, in any way, be viewed as less than dynamic. For decades after the Civil War, the men trained at Camp Dennison recalled Gen. Ammen as both a stern disciplinarian and a “fine gentleman” whom they admiringly dubbed “Uncle Jake.”

At Dennison, Ammen trained 57 regiments of Ohio infantry, nine regiments of cavalry, and 19 batteries of artillery. Dennison was one of the largest camps used by the Union Army during the Civil War and also housed a 2,300-bed hospital, reputedly one of the best in the country.

Jacob’s younger brother, Daniel, attained a certain fame and distinction of his own. When the U.S. Navy launched a combined amphibious operation against Port Royal, S.C., in November 1861, the first amphibious assault of its kind in history, Daniel commanded the small gunboat USS Seneca.

As Confederate troops fell back from their coastal forts in the face of severe naval shelling, Adm. Samuel F. Du Pont, commander of the naval forces, ordered Ammen ashore with a contingent of sailors to secure the forts and raise the American flag. Du Pont would later turn the forts over to the U.S. Army.

This marked one of the few times in American history that a Navy officer raised the flag over a captured enemy land fortification.

Daniel Ammen accomplished another singular achievement in the annuls of U.S. history when he spearheaded the successful suppression of a mutiny. While commanding 220 U.S. Navy seamen in transit aboard the steamer Ocean Queen, Ammen, with the assistance of the master of the Ocean Queen, Capt. Tinklepaugh, and a Boatswain Bell, put down the insurrection. Historian David McCullough gives Ammen the bulk of the credit in his history “Path Between the Seas,” writing that “he had settled a mutiny on the instant by calmly shooting the two leaders.”

Daniel Ammen also commanded the USS Patapsco in the attack on Fort McAIlister, Ga., and Fort Sumter, S.C., in 1863 and the USS Mohican in the bombardment of Fort Fisher, N.C., in late 1864 and early 1865.

Although both Ammen brothers were childhood friends of Ulysses S. Grant, Daniel seems to have been the closer in a friendship that could clearly be called “lifelong.”

Although the story of the early relationship between Grant and Daniel Ammen may be more myth than history, Brig. Gen. Theo. F. Rodenbough stated unequivocally that “[Daniel] Ammen saved Grant’s life from drowning while a school-boy.”

Rodenbough also recorded that Grant would allow only two men to ride his beloved charger Cincinnati: Daniel Ammen and Abraham Lincoln. Grant considered Cincinnati the finest horse that he had ever seen and had reportedly been offered $10,000 in gold for the mount.

After the Civil War, Grant kept track of his friend Daniel Ammen, ensuring promotions and prized assignments. Grant engaged Daniel’s great intellect in the possibilities for a waterway across Nicaragua. In 1879, Ammen was sent as a delegate to a congress in Paris to discuss Isthmian canal questions — a project that would ultimately become the Panama Canal.

Daniel Ammen also designed the Navy ram Katahdin and the “Ammen balsa,” a life raft used by the Navy for decades. He wrote “The Atlantic Coast,” and a series titled “The Navy in the Civil War” (New York, 1883). He also wrote “Recollections of Grant” (1885); “The Old Navy and the New” (autobiographical, 1891), and other volumes.

Jacob and Daniel Ammen displayed unusual alacrity in battle and great acumen in administration and diplomacy during one of the most trying times of America’s history.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to the Civil War page.

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