Col. John Alexander Turley – Soldier and Patriot


By Bob Boldman - Contributing Columnist



Boldman

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In the Elmer Swords book, “Scioto County Photo History” – is a photo of a massive building on the northeast corner of Second and Chillicothe Street. The building was constructed in 1905 and called the Turley Building. The main tenant on the ground floor was – The First National Bank. The bank was located there until 1912 when it moved to its own building. The building in 1924 suffered a serious fire, and ultimately purchased by Glockner Hardware Co. and was called the Glockner Building. After the tragic flood of 1937, it was apparently vacated and was used as the Lewis Furniture Company’s warehouse until the Checker Store opened there about 1948. After the Checker Store left various other businesses was located in the building – including, Custom Carpet Store and the Night Club, The Brothers Four. Many local bands would play at the Brothers Four and was a popular night spot for a time. All that remains is a vacant lot.

Who constructed the Turley Building was my first thought and when? As I searched records, I discovered the name John Alexander Turley, buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, Portsmouth. Turley was born in Moorefield, Hardy County, Virginia, on 1st of June, 1816 and died on the 20th of March 1900 (aged 83), in Portsmouth. Would this have been the man, of whom the building was named after? As I discovered more about John Turley, it became apparent that he was a notable man from this town. I found that he was a soldier and patriot to his country and his community.

While searching for John Alexander Turley on the web site “Find a Grave,” I discovered a biography written by Russ Dodge. “Turley was a native of Virginia (later West Virginia,) he moved to Ohio as a young man, and became a successful farmer in Scioto County, and served in the Ohio State Assembly. When the Civil War began, he was one of the first to enlist in the Union Army, being commissioned on April 27, 1861 as Captain of Company G, 22nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment raised for a three-month enlistment. His prominence within the community and regiment led him to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on May 23, 1861. Honorably mustered out on August 19, 1861 when the unit’s enlistment expired, he was immediately commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel of the newly recruited 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Officially mustered in on October 15, 1861, he served with the regiment until the summer of 1862. At that time he was detailed to help recruit a new regiment, which became the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Commissioned as Colonel and commander, on August 22, 1862, he led his men through operations in 1862 and 1863 in Western Virginia and Kentucky against Confederate cavalry and raiders, wintering in 1863-1864 at Fayetteville, Virginia. On May 9, 1864 he received the praise of his superiors for his leadership of the 91st Ohio Infantry at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, a Union Army victory that severed the line connecting Confederate forces in Virginia and Tennessee. In late May his regiment was part of a force commanded by Major General David Hunter that struck out to capture Lynchburg, Virginia. In the subsequent June 17 and 18, 1864 battle there, Colonel Turley was severely wounded leading a charge as Confederates under Lieutenant General Jubal Early repulsed General Hunter’s forces. Colonel Turley was brought off the battlefield, and was forced to turn the command of his troops over to Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Franklin Coates. Sent home to convalesce, it became apparent his injuries would prevent continued field service, and he was honorably mustered out on November 4, 1864. On March 13, 1865 he was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers for “gallant and faithful service at the battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, Va.” After the war he was appointed by President Andrew Johnson as Assessor of Internal Revenue for the Southern District of Ohio, and performed that duty for several months before his appointment was quashed by Congress, a move that had more to do with Republican opposition to President Johnson than with Colonel Turley. He twice served as Mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio (1872 to 1874, 1884 to 1888), and used his political influence to support Republican candidates. He passed away in Portsmouth in 1900.”

In the end the Turley building on 2nd and Chillicothe was a building that stood for many years and in my mind I have to believe, it was indeed named for that gallant man.

Boldman
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By Bob Boldman

Contributing Columnist

Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: g.boldman5@gmail.com

Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: g.boldman5@gmail.com