By 1862, the American Civil War was not going well for the Union. The North was in danger of losing the war after decisive defeats at the Battle of Fort Sumpter, the First Battle of Bull Run, and the Battle of Wilson’s Creed.
Needing additional soldiers, President Lincoln put out the call for volunteers to serve in the Union army. Several hundred men - mostly farmers - from the northern Ohio counties of Cuyahoga, Medina, and Lorain answered the call. This unit was organized in Cleveland in August 1862 and became known as the 103rd Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 103rd saw action in Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.
The regiment completed its service on June 12, 1865. During its tour, 248 soldiers were killed as a result of their service, with 139 fatalities as a result of combat and 109 due to disease. Despite its losses, the regiment’s outstanding war record and commendable service to the United States serves as a bright spot in American history.
In an effort to maintain the close friendships that were formed as a result of their service, the veterans created the 103rd O.V.I. Association in 1866 and also established an annual reunion for themselves and their families. In 1907, the Association became a corporation and purchased property in Sheffield Lake, Ohio. This property became the permanent home of the organization, its reunions, and (later) a museum dedicated to preserving the history and artifacts of the regiment.
In 1971, the not-for-profit 103rd O.V.I. Memorial Foundation was established to maintain the organization’s museum, which is dedicated to the 103rd and to perpetuate the heroic service of the men who served the Union during the Civil War. In recent years, the Foundation has expanded in scope by creating a scholarship fund for graduating high school seniors entering a form of military service, hosting educational programs and tours at the museum, as well as continuing to maintain its original charter.
Today, the descendants of the 103rd continue to hold reunions on the banks of Lake Erie, as they have every year since 1866. They gather each summer to nurture the relationships that have formed as a result of the organization, reminisce, and ultimately to continue to honor the service of the brave soldiers of the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Today, the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry is a three-fold organization comprised of the 103rd O.V.I. Company, the 103rd O.V.I. Memorial Foundation, and the Sons and Daughters of the 103rd. Each group is charged with different responsibilities to preserve our history and perpetuate the organization as a whole.
The 103rd O.V.I. Company was incorporated on August 19th, 1907. The corporation was formed for the purpose of acquiring, leasing, owning, operating, and maintaining the grounds for camping, boating, bathing, and other legitimate amusement purposes. It also was charged with providing suitable facilities for the encampment and entertainment for the surviving members of the 103rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry, their families and descendants, and associations and organizations.
After years of holding their reunions throughout Northeastern Ohio, the 103rd O.V.I. Company purchased the 4.5 acres of land on the shores of Lake Erie in Sheffield Lake, Ohio. The annual reunions for the Regiment have been held continuously on these grounds since 1908. Over the years, buildings and cottages have been erected upon the grounds.
The Company consists of a 15-person Board of Directors that is charged with the responsibility to oversee the assets of the company and the operations of the grounds and buildings.
The 103rd O.V.I. Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that was incorporated and chartered in 1971. The Foundation manages and curates the 103rd O.V.I Library & Museum on the O.V.I. grounds, which houses, preserves, and displays the Civil War materials and artifacts that have been collected and donated by the descendants of the men of the 103rd Regiment.
More information on the 103rd O.V.I. Memorial Foundation can be found here:
The Sons and Daughters of the 103rd OVI have the responsibility of organizing and coordinating the annual reunion. Volunteers of the descendants organize daily activities including meals, entertainment, games, and flag lowerings for the week-long encampment.