From Ohio History Central
The Battle of Fort Fizzle was an uprising in Holmes County to protect local residents from federal provost marshals and deputies sent to Ohio to enforce the Conscription Act, which was also known as the Enrollment Act, during the American Civil War.
As the Civil War dragged on and the number of volunteers declined, in 1863 the United States government implemented the Conscription Act. This act required states to draft men to serve in the American Civil War if individual states did not meet their enlistment quotas through volunteers. The Conscription Act permitted drafted men to pay a commutation fee of three hundred dollars or to hire a substitute to escape service if they were drafted.
Many people in the Union strenuously objected to the Conscription Act. Draft riots occurred in both New York City, New York and Boston, Massachusetts. Some Ohioans also opposed the draft. These Ohioans encouraged men to resist the draft or to desert once they were drafted. In Holmes County, approximately nine hundred men created a makeshift fort to defend themselves from federal officials sent to enforce the Conscription Act. These men were responding to attempts by the federal government to enlist men into the Union army during June 1863. A mob had attacked an officer sent to enlist men into the service, and a provost marshal captured the ringleaders responsible for the assault. A group of residents freed the four men arrested. They built Fort Fizzle to resist future attempts to arrest the ringleaders and to prevent the draft's enforcement. They equipped themselves with guns and some sources say up to four artillery pieces, although it is very likely that no cannons actually were in the fort. Approximately 420 federal soldiers arrived to disarm the men and to implement the draft. A brief skirmish occurred, with the soldiers emerging victorious. Two draft resisters were wounded, but no other casualties resulted. The demonstrators dispersed into the woods, and the Battle of Fort Fizzle, as it became known, quickly ended. The soldiers continued to hunt for the protestors. Eventually a deal was brokered in which the four men originally arrested would surrender. When the men turned themselves in, a majority of the soldiers returned to Columbus.
This was just one of many protests that erupted in response to the draft in Ohio. Unlike the Battle of Fort Fizzle, government authorities easily put down most of these other uprisings without having to resort to violence.
- Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.
- Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1866. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1893.
- Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
- Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.