Man saw many aspects of war

One of the most important people who was from Trumbull County during the Civil War was Joel F. Asper.

He went to war at the first call from the president with the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He entered as the captain of Company H from Warren. On May 20, 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

He was severely wounded in the thigh on March 23, 1862, at the Battle of Kernstown (Winchester, Va.) and never really recovered. In March 1863 he resigned his position and returned to Warren.

He was asked to recruit a National Guard unit and did so. In April 1864 he was elected colonel of the 51st OVI – later to become the 171st OVI and ordered to Kentucky.


Joel F. Asper was born in Huntington, Adams County, Pa., on the 20th day of April, 1829. When he was but five years old his father removed to Farmington by the slow process of a four-horse team and Pennsylvania wagon.

The county of Trumbull was then but sparsely settled. Until eighteen years of age he assisted his father in clearing a farm, at the same time attending district school in winter. This is all the school education he ever had; all other education being acquired by his own exertion and application to study out of school.

Having a passion for reading and writing, he was led to study law. But previous to this, however, he commenced teaching at school in Southington, but, for some reason, left it after one month’s experience.

Early in the year 1842, we find him in the law office of Crowell and Abel in Warren and working for his board at the American Hotel.

In 1843, he carried the Western Reserve Chronicle through several townships, and during the entire year did not miss a trip.

In August 1844, he was admitted to the bar, but remained with Gen. Crowell till 1846, when he learned the daguerrean business, but not succeeding in this, in October the following, opened a law office at Warren. His first year’s practice netted him more than $400, and it increased from year to year.

In 1846 he was elected a justice of the peace, and in the following year was married to Miss Elizabeth Brown.

In 1847 he was elected prosecuting attorney. In 1849, he was announced as one of the editors of the Western Reserve Chronicle, and wrote during the campaign of that year all of the leading political articles published in its columns.

During the summer of 1848, Mr. Parker, proprietor of the paper, left for a pleasure excursion, and while absent, Mr. Asper, being left in charge, took ground against Gen. Taylor.

During this campaign he did much toward developing anti-slavery sentiments in the party. For this conduct he was denounced by the minority of his party.

At this time he made a speech before a Whig convention, which is said to have been the best effort of his life. Carrying out these sentiments, he sustained Martin Van Buren for the presidency, and in the following year ran for prosecuting attorney on the Free Soil ticket, but was defeated.

In 1850 he moved to Chardon and edited a Free-Soil paper until 1852, when, it proving a losing business, he returned to Warren, where he again commenced the practice of the law, which he continued until the breaking out of the rebellion, in 1861.

He was among the first in northern Ohio to tender a company to the governor. It marched to camp on the 25th of April. He served the regiment until March 1863, when he was honorably mustered out of the United States service.

During this time, he took part in the affair of Cross Lanes and the battle of Winchester, Va., in which in the last engagement, he was severely wounded.

After the Cross Lanes affair, he accompanied a detachment of 400 men to Charleston, rendering much assistance during the march. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel during his service with the regiment, in which position he commanded the regiment in the retreat of Pope’s army from the Rapidan.

On returning to Warren he opened an office, and in August organized the 51st Regiment, National Guards, and was elected its colonel.

When in the spring of 1864 the corps was ordered into the field, his regiment was among the first to move. It went to Johnson’s Island, and while there, the noted John H. Morgan commenced a raid through Kentucky. To resist him, several militia regiments were ordered to the front; among them was the 51st, now become the 171st.

Arriving at Cincinnati, he reported to Gen. Hobson and was ordered to Keller’s Bridge by train. Soon after getting off the cars, it was attacked by the enemy in overwhelming numbers. After a gallant fight of six hours, the brave little band of heroes was compelled to surrender. No regiment of new troops ever did better, giving it a name which history will perpetuate.

The regiment was mustered out on the 20th of August 1864.

Col. Asper now made his arrangements to move to Chillicothe, Mo., which he did in October of that year. He resumed the practice of law and helped found the newspaper Spectator in 1866.

Asper was then appointed as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1868. He was then elected as a Republican in the 41st Congress from March 1869 to March of 1871. He did not run for re-election and returned to practice law until his death on Oct. 1, 1872.

Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.