Memories of War Times

Personal Reminiscences of Happenings That Took Place From 1861 to the Grand Review

by Reub Williams

From where our green mountain-tops blend with the sky,
And the giant St. Lawrence is rolled,
To the waves where the balmy Hesperides lie,
Like the dream of some prophet of old,
They conquered, and dying, bequeathed to our care
Not, this boundless dominion alone,
But that banner whose liveliness hallows the air,
And their motto of "Many in One"
---George W. Cutter

The excitement following the driving of the army under General Banks back from whence he had started--Harper's Ferry and Williamsport, both places on the Potomac, but on the Maryland side of that river--was most intense in the North. General Lee had assembled a large army in front of the Federal forces, overpowering them in numbers, at least for a time, and it can truthfully be said that a despondent feeling prevailed among the people of the northern states. There were but two Indiana regiments that had finally accepted the call of the State Legislature to serve as State troops for one year--the Twelfth and Sixteenth Indiana Infantry. These two regiments, the reader will bear in mind, after the battle of the first Bull Run were turned over to the United States service, served the remainder of their time in the Army of the Potomac, and at the end of their service and muster-out, were refused permission to reorganize "for the war," but owning to the military reverses that so soon followed, were both directed to reorganize under the terms then applying to all troops "for three years or during the war." The order was issued by Governor Morton, almost as soon as the members of these two regiments reached their homes, and was dated in the latter end of May, 1862. Directly following the issuing of the order for the reorganization of these two regiments came one from President Lincoln for Indiana's quota for "three hundred thousand more," and as Governor Morton proposed in his call to fill the quota for this body of men by assigning a regiment to each of the Congressional districts of the State, it can be seen that Indiana's share for this call of the President would be about 11,000 infantry for the State at large, but in addition there were several batteries and also a number of cavalry regiments. I refer to these points for the purpose of explaining that the reorganization of the two regiments--the Twelfth and Sixteenth--proceeded slowly. The commissioners of every county in the State became solicitous, of course, to recruit the Congressional district regiments and hence, they discouraged the raising of troops for any other purpose than to fill the call by districts. As a consequence those engaged in the effort to reorganize these two regiments found unusual impediments in their way.

Here in this county, myself, assisted by Samuel Boughter, the late Ed. H. Webster, Lemuel Hazzard, and others had gone immediately to work to raise the company expected form this county, and I had already taken forty men to Indianapolis, where they were in camp in charge of Mr. Boughter, who had been a sergeant in the original Twelfth Indiana, assisted by Webster and Hazzard already referred to. The commissioners of Kosciusko county had met and offered a bounty of $25 for every man who would enlist in the Congressional district regiment. This was, of course, a severe blow to me, as I had fourteen recruits at that moment at the old Wright House. I perceived at once that I must get them to Indianapolis before they ascertained that the commissioners were discriminating against them as to bounty; so I rushed them off to Indianapolis during that night and before they had learned of the bounty offered the members of what afterward became the Seventy-fourth Indiana Infantry.

After landing my recruits at Indianapolis, where they went to swell the forty already there, and which formed the nucleus of the reorganized Twelfth Indiana Infantry, I returned at once to my home and after a "heart to heart" talk with the late Joseph A. Funk, who was auditor of the county at that time, he saw the great injustice that was being done to me. He was aware that I had expended nearly every dollar I had in aiding and helping to reorganize the Twelfth and could also readily perceive that in assisting to evade the draft that was then threatened by the government, the men who were enlisted by me would count just as much as those in all others, he decided that all who enlisted in the Twelfth should also have the $25 county bounty. The fear of a draft accelerated the filling-up of the district regiments greatly, and not only did the Twelfth secure its full company for the reorganized command, but it also contained a second one from this county composed of the overflow from the district regiments, which became Company I in the new Twelfth, commanded by Captain Samuel Wells originally.

I am fully aware that in detailing the reorganization of the Twelfth that I am of necessity compelled to do so in a personal manner. The facts in the case were that but few of the officers of the original organization made any attempt to assist in reorganizing their companies, and among the enlisted men who served for a year the organization of a full regiment in each district rendered promotion from the ranks of the disbanded Twelfth quite numerous, and it is a fact that every regiment in the State organized at that time had quite a number of officers in it who had been enlisted men in the original Twelfth, consequently the influence of these men, their relatives and friends were thrown to the new regiments rather than to the reorganization of the two older ones. This left for several weeks, only Col. William H. Link and myself, the only really active officers engaged in the reorganization. For myself I had come home from the first year with about $800 in demand notes--in other words just the same as gold. Colonel Link had about the same. Before the regiment was fully reorganized I had expended every dollar of this and borrowed $300 more which was also expended in the thousand and one expenses we were called upon to pay, and for some time the outlook for the reorganization was decidedly doubtful. However the threat of the draft, and the advance of the Confederate armies into Kentucky through Cumberland, Pound, and other gaps in the Cumberland range, made enlisting so rapid towards the last that in some instances recruits had to be refused as all the commands called for under the proclamation of the President were full.

That was an exciting period of the war. At the beginning but little opposition to the war to save the Union had been openly expressed, but by the close of 1861 and all through 1862, those who had voted the Democratic ticket in the North had become faultfinders and grumblers and some even at that early period began to openly espouse the cause of the South, and when one looks back to the "War for the Union," is positively astounding that with so large an opposition in the rear, the Union cause succeeded as well as it did, and as the years progressed, this opposing element grew stronger and much bolder in its hostility to Lincoln and his administration. From early in May and until the Twelfth Indiana Infantry was reorganized and mustered into the service I was constantly engaged in recruiting and I enlisted a great many persons individually, and after my own company was full I would assign these men to the company in camp that needed them most--that is, to those who had the fewest number so as to enable them to reach the minimum number and permit the muster in. I remember on several occasions of standing at the old Palmer House corner in Indianapolis and enlisting as many as twenty or thirty men by 8 o'clock in the morning, and what is more, I lost no time in having the United States mustering officer administer the oath required so that they could be held, as all of them were strangers to me.

Considerable tact was required in handling new recruits. It was not at all uncommon for a squad of young men to come to Indianapolis in those days, ostensibly to enlist, but on reaching the city, probably the first time they were ever in a large place, some of them would suddenly decide that they did not want to enlist after all, and I remember one of the excuses they would the most frequently make was, that they would not be stripped in order to be medically examined, this being required of the medical staff as early as the middle of 1862. They would declare that they would not undress to be examined before anybody! I would generally overcome this suddenly conceived excuse by deriding them for their lack of pluck and end up by offering to go before the medical examiner and strip off all my clothes with them. Inn almost every instance this method would succeed and I know that I am safe in saying that I have taken off my clothes in this way and received the administration of the oath required of all soldiers as frequently as from four to six times in a day. They could see that I was an officer and they would reason that if an officer would put himself on an equality with them in this way, he, above all others, was the man to enlist with. I have often thought I was the most "sworn in" officer the Union army contained, and that very few had sworn to "support the President in all his bequests," oftener than I, in all those four years.

The regiment was reorganized and mustered in about the middle of August, 1862, in the old State House square in Indianapolis. I had supposed all along that Colonel Link would see to it that I should be made the Major of the regiment on its reorganization, although never a word had passed between us upon the subject, and to tell the truth I was astounded on the evening of the muster-in to receive a commission from Governor Morton sent to my headquarters at the Oriental House, appointing me Lieutenant-Colonel. Next to Colonel Link himself, I had been most active of all in assisting in the reorganization, but I never looked beyond a Major's commission. However the appointment would in either case lift me above the Captaincy, which I already held, and created a vacancy for the line officers of my company; so the same day commissioners were issued to Samuel Boughter, now and for many years past a conductor on the Big Four Railroad, as Captain, Alonzo Hubbard as 1st Lieutenant and Ed H. Webster as Second Lieutenant. The issue of these commissions, I feel sure, even at this late day gave me as much pleasure as my own, for all three of them had assisted greatly in helping to reorganize the company to which they belonged and which was for several weeks the only fully reorganized company of the regiment in camp.

The next day following the "muster in" of the regiment, I left Indianapolis for my home in this city, to procure a horse, and fully aware of the fact that my old friend --and even yet, forty-one years afterward, a fellow citizen --Silas W. Chipman, was a good judge of horse-flesh and knew all the good ones there were in the county, he was commissioned to procure me a suitable animal. This he did, buying a most beautiful one of Cy Mentzer, of the Big Prairie. During my brief absence from Indianapolis the regiment received marching orders and took the cars for Cincinnati, from thence to be sent to any given point thought to be the most in need of troops. General Kirby Smith with the Confederate veterans of Pea Ridge and an army of 30,000 men had come through the Cumberland and Pound Gaps into Kentucky, while a still larger force of Confederates under General Bragg was marching on Louisville, the Federal army retiring before him and sometimes almost alongside of them, the two armies apparently racing for the same objective point --Louisville. On reaching Indianapolis, I ascertained that the Twelfth had proceeded to Lexington, the capital of Kentucky. I had no difficulty in procuring a car for my horse's conveyance and as I had in my employ Jacob Merriman as a hired man to take care of him, we arrived at Lexington in a couple of days only to learn that the regiment had been sent to Richmond, Kentucky, the first county seat east of the capital.

Here I also found quite a number of members from different companies of my own regiment, who for various reasons had been left behind, as was often the case under similar circumstances, all of whom were solicitous to go along with me when they learned that I intended to proceed to Richmond the next day. The late General Charles R. Cruft, of Terre Haute, Indiana was in command of the Federal troops in the city of Lexington, and had about 8,000 men under him. Lexington at that time contained all of the supply wagons except those containing ammunition, which had been sent to the troops at the front, and there were all that time hundreds of officers' trunks stored there. There was nothing left for me to do but to follow the procedure of the others and leave my baggage there also --something that I have regretted all my later life since, for aside from a double suit of officer's uniforms, fatigue and full-dress, the latter a present from Stephen Bond, the well known banker still a resident of Fort Wayne, and whose young brother Jared D. Bond, also still living in that city was the Adjutant of the regiment, the trunk contained the very handsome sash presented to me by William C. Harris for safely bringing the manuscript for the book he had written out of Libby prison, as has been alluded to in a former sketch. What is more, all this baggage after the defeat at Richmond was destroyed by being burned up under the orders from General Cruft as was thousands of dollars worth of government supplies, munitions of war, etc., although it was a fact that over eighty wagons, entirely empty, went along with the Lexington column that fell back on Louisville after the disaster at Richmond, the particulars of which will be given in my next sketch, that being the first struggle in which the Twelfth was to be engaged. Such was the wanton destruction of property when a panic was imminent.

Warsaw Daily Times March 21, 1953

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