Early Times in Kosciusko
Incidents and Anecdotes of Pioneer Days and the Early Settlement of this Region

by Reub Williams

"Dear friends of mine! The year is new.
I wish a happy year for you.
Whatever lies within its hand.
Easy or hard to understand.
Whether it brings you smiles or tears,
Filling your hearts with hopes or fears,
May He who marks the sparrow's fall
Protect and guide you through it all.
Good cheer to you. O friends of mine;
The human walks with the divine:
The earthly life may heavenly be,
Since Jesus walked by Galilee;
The path you tread has once been trod,
By Him, who was the Son of God;
Fear not the future, trust it all
To Him, who marks the sparrow's fall.
Dear Friends of mine! The year is new,
God grant a happy year to you."

We too, along with the poet, take occasion at the beginning of the new year to wish for all the readers of this paper, and especially those who are perusing these sketches and who have been so lavish in their compliments concerning them, both by written letters and in personal conversation, not only a happy, but an exceedingly prosperous year to one and all. Many people who write and speak to me on the subject are old and very much esteemed friends--friends of my boyhood, my younger manhood and middle age, and are such still. To all of them my best wishes go out in a wonderful degree; and in bringing the living to mind, I cannot help but think of the great many equally as warm friends, who have fallen all along the pathway of life. So many--ah, so many, that can never more be taken by the hand on the hither shore of Time, but whose memory is held in very dear remembrance.

Since the sketch alluding to the Under-Ground Railroad and the stations along its route, I have received a number of letters and talked with many others who knew more about its operations than the writer; for it is very plain to me now in looking back at the period that as a boy I was not let into the secrecy so necessary for the successful moving of trains on that mysterious road. At any rate, after leaving my home to engage in learning the printing business in this place, I had no farther knowledge of the moving of trains after the load of fourteen referred to in my last sketch were safely sent through the lines via Cass county, Michigan. Some have written us acknowledging their own connection with the Under-Ground Railway, while others in conversation have given us the particulars of their own occasional connection with the Under-Ground, and it seems that many more were helpers along the line than I had ever suspected. During all those years covered by the slaves escaping from servitude, the country was steadily drifting into the war that was to follow and shake this nation as though an earthquake of far greater force than any such disaster of which history gives any account, and in the natural order of things--although these brief weekly contributions have been written just as the incidents related came to mind, as the author took his pencil in hand to prepare them for the press, and thus far they have been all suggested at the moment and wholly without order or system. Nevertheless, in relating the principal events which have appeared in this series of contributions, it must be plain to those who have perused them, that inevitably they would, at least, lead up to the war period.

The civil war in reality opened on the plains of Kansas, and it was in that fine state that the first lives were given up on both sides in the preceding cloud-burst that a few years later was to break upon the country. The next incident--tragedy it would be better to call it--was the crazy, cranky raid of John Brown and his followers on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry--a scheme as wild in conception even though bravely carried out as was every conceived in the rattled brain of the most intense fanatic that ever lived. One would have thought that Brown would have pondered a long time ere he would assault, capture, and take possession of property belonging to the government, thus bringing him and his followers in direct conflict with the United States government regardless of the question that Brown might have thought was the issue.

The government could do nothing less than to recover its own property, and hence Brown found himself not engaged in freeing the slaves of Virginia whom he argued would muster under his command in large numbers, but at war with Uncle Sam. In perusing the history of the John Brown Raid, it really seems that this point-- that is, his direct conflict with the government--never entered his head, but governments always take the view that government property is held to be defended, even though war follows the same hour; thus Brown found himself and his deluded followers prisoners of war. As the raid took place on the soil of Virginia, he and his party were turned over to the state for trial and of course, every reader of the news of that period was fully aware that it meant hanging for every one engaged in the raid who had been caught. Brown was hung towards the close of 1859; less than two years afterwards the war was precipitated on the country by the firing on Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861.

Those who have grown to manhood since that event cannot realize the wild, ungovernable excitement that followed the shotted guns of Beauregard in Charleston Harbor! The whole country was aroused, and a universal cry went up all over the North demanding that the government at Washington should compel the restoration of the property of the United States at once. The latter had stepped in and recaptured the government property at Harper's Ferry from Brown, and the demand was for a like course in Charleston Harbor The fort belonged to the United States; it was the property of the government, and as the arsenal was, it must be restored to its owner.

On the 15th day of April, 1861, Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 men for three months, to assist in quelling the insurrection. Many times have I heard Lincoln criticized for not calling for double the number of troops at once; yet I have seen the statement made in his defense, that a law governing the calling out of troops to suppress an insurrection was limited to that number. Just where I saw this statement, I cannot now remember, but even had he done so, they could not have been armed, as there were none in the country, as good care had been taken by members of President Buchanan's cabinet to have all the extra muskets distributed into the south, and the ships of the navy scattered to the very ends of the earth.

The calling out of troops by President Lincoln acted like the putting of a live coal in a keg of gun-powder. Here in Warsaw on the night of the 15th--the call had reached this city at about 11 o'clock a.m. on that day--a meeting was called to assemble in the old Empire Hall that night. The very large hall was packed to its utmost with men and women. The late Wm. Williams made one of his soul-stirring speeches, and the excitement was most intense. Fifty-three men enlisted at the close of the meeting and the next day, as the news went abroad, enough had put down their names to make the number but a few less than 300! Capt. A. S. Milice, Marsh H. Parks (deceased) and the writer were the first individuals to sign the rolls.

I have already stated in one of these sketches that after the election of Abraham Lincoln in November, 1860, that the company of Wide-awakes--a campaign political organization--had determined to keep up its organization. It met regularly after the election in what was then known as Thomas' Hall, the upper story of the frame business room owned by the late Andrew Thomas; was finally organized as a military company, and had appealed to Gov. Morton for arms in December previous to the firing on Sumter in the following April. Its members, almost to a man, believed that a war would be the outcome of the near future, and it was with this idea in view that the Wide-awakes were converted from a political into a military company, and thus when the call for troops came after the firing on Ft. Sumter, the first company to enter the service from this county was the Wide-awake organization of 1860, with the identical same officers under which it had gone through the political presidential campaign--Henry Hubler, captain; A. P. Gallagher, first lieutenant; Reub Williams, second lieutenant. Captain Hubler during his residence in Pennsylvania and under the militia laws of that state had become an adept in military tactics, drill, etc; so that when on arriving at Indianapolis, and on being assigned to the 12th Indiana Infantry, Captain Hubler was in command of what was then a novelty, a well drilled company, but at the period when he was promoted to the majorship of the regiment, he was one of the very few volunteer officers who could put a battalion through its drills as laid down in the tactics.

Great difficulty was experienced in getting companies accepted. In the quota assigned to Indiana by the President six regiments were called for. As then organized a company was composed of 77 men and officers. This would make 770 for a full regiment--thus the state's full quota would be 4,620. To fill this quota, there were 22,000 men offered their services and fully 20,000 were in the various camps in and around Indianapolis! As soon as Congress was able to act it provided for 300,000 men who were to enlist for three years or during the war. I am aware that in thus going into the details of that period, its perusal may be tedious to some readers, but at the same time I am aware of the fact that those who were small boys when the war broke out, or have been born since, will surely be interested in what their fathers, friends and neighbors did at a time when it was necessary to act if the Nation was to be saved from dissolution, while the surviving veteran of the civil war will gladly read of a period of his life when he resolved to be the one to help save the Union from destruction, as it will recall many forgotten incidents not only in his own career, but those of his comrades and friends likewise.

After the President's call for troops the whole country was in an uproar. The one vital point was to procure arms, and it is only a truth to say that foreign gun-makers, reaped a rich harvest. The gun with which the U.S. army was supplied was known as the Springfield musket. Of these there were comparatively few; so English gun-makers sold to the government a fairly good gun known as the Enfield rifle; the Belgian government supplied a musket of the name of their own country--a most inferior and clumsy gun. Its wooden part was of heavy beech; its barrel seemed to be pot-metal, and it was quite usual for the tube (or nipple) to fly away with the first shot. Then there was the Harper's Ferry musket, the cartridge of which was a large ball with three buck-shots tied in with the large one. This at close quarters was a very effective gun, as it threw four shots any one or all of which would wound a man certainly, and kill him most probably. The war proceeded for more than a year and a half before any sort of unanimity existed among its arms, especially the infantry branch of the service.

Anyone can perceive the difficulty which would arise in a great battle like that of Shiloh, for instance, where ammunition had to be provided for so many different calipered guns, and the mistakes that would be made in the heat and excitement of a fierce struggle. Often the wrong kind of ammunition was sent to a regiment or brigade, and the time required in making corrections was very great, while the necessity for replenishing the troops was instaneous and momentous. About the time the war was half over, the ordnance department succeeded in getting a uniformity into the hands of the troops, consisting of the improved Springfield--a gun that never had its equal for a muzzle-loader, although now discarded for the Graag-Jorgesson, rapid-fire repeater. This feat was performed, too, by our own gun-makers, who had been manufacturing them at a rate so rapid, that at the latter two years of the war the entire army used the same kind of gun except the cavalry.

Warsaw Daily Times January 4, 1902

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