Hidden high on a hill in Fort Wright, Kentucky and surrounded by giant sweetgum, gingko, and pine trees is the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum. Named after a retired history professor and Civil War author, this tiny treasure occupies the first floor of the home of Fern Storer, a popular Cincinnati food editor and author, who willed the property to the Northern Kentucky University Foundation at her death in 2002. The Storer home was situated on important historical land and, after being sold to the City of Fort Wright in 2005, the house and surrounding land were developed to preserve and share its critical role in the protection of Cincinnati during the Civil War.
Battery Hooper was an artillery battery and military outpost constructed in 1861 to protect Cincinnati and the Ohio River Valley from an advancing Confederate infantry. As the sixth or seventh largest city in the US, Cincinnati had a of wealth of resources in railways, river boats, and pork and was a thriving metropolis. Controlling the city would mean controlling much of the region so it was an important target for the Confederates. Local men and soldiers built the 8-mile defensive line, extending from Ludlow to Fort Thomas, in under a week and the invading Confederate soldiers, confronted by thousands more Union soldiers and local militia, retreated. Standing just outside the museum and looking south over the Licking River through dense foliage, one can see Evergreen Cemetery in Campbell County, KY, the site of Shaler Battery, one of 6 remaining in this area. To the north, there is a clear view of what is now downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.
The museum has 4 small rooms on the first floor of the house, 3 dedicated to the region’s involvement in the Civil War and the third the house’s original kitchen, honoring Fern Storer and her work. I was given a personal tour during my visit by a volunteer who was also able to provide me information on other local historical sites and their importance in the development of the area. Although I’ve never been much of a history buff and only recently became interested in the Civil War, I definitely wanted to learn more about how the war affected my region after my visit. This museum provides such a wealth of detailed information about the war’s local impact; through signage, displays, and very knowledgeable volunteers, it brings to its visitors a fascinating view of the critical role the local military played in the security of the area. Being able to stand at the very spot where soldiers defended the Union is an experience that history books simply can’t provide.
In addition to the contributions of Army Engineer Major James Simpson, who designed the fortification, banker William Hooper, Union General Horatio G. Wright, and General Lew Wallace, the museum shares the untold story of the Black Brigade of Cincinnati. Local African American men were initially forced and under constant physical threat by the Cincinnati Police to work on the fortifications; after just days, though, they were released and a call for volunteers was made. The 706 men who answered the call were developed into a paid regiment and were critical to the defense of the city. The museum also highlights the story of the Black Brigade’s First Sergeant Powhatan Beaty, who was awarded the Medal of Honor as a soldier in the 5th United States Colored Infantry Regiment.
Although there are no age limits on admittance, the museum proper is not especially child friendly. Most displays are behind glass, the history is told primarily through extensive signage, and there are no opportunities to touch exhibits or hold artifacts. The surrounding property, though, is open and spacious and there are a couple of shelters and a playground. Adults can also enjoy the grounds, reading about the strategic placement of the battery on the outdoor displays and walking among the many various species of trees.
Friday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Closed on holidays.
The museum is located at 1402 Highland Avenue in Fort Wright, KY and can be accessed from the parking lot of the Community of Faith Presbyterian Church. Handicapped parking is available on the museum grounds.
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Diane E. Baumer is a proofreader/editor and writer, with an MA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Midwest in Yellow Springs, OH. Her work has appeared in The Albatross (Romania), This is Shibun (Japan), Streetlight Magazine, The Manifest-Station, Haiku International, Open Minds Quarterly (Canada), and several others. When she is not writing (and sometimes even when she is), Diane can be found playing with her beautiful tortie, Silk.