Memories of War Times

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

by Reub Williams

The Union! The Union! The hope of the free!
Howsoe'er we may differ in this we agree--
Our glorious banner no traitor shall mar,
By effacing a stripe, or destroying a star!
Disunion? No never! The Union forever!
And cursed be the hand that our country would sever.

In taking a look back at the period in the mind's eye, I feel sure those who were old enough to remember and are still living, will agree with me that the mid-supper and autumn of 1862 was one of the most exciting of the four years preceding the surrender of Generals Lee and Johnson and the consequent close of the ware; and the following winter was, perhaps, the gloomiest period the north was called upon to undergo. The events --merely glanced at in this series of articles--were of a nature to arouse the people of this section to an appreciation of the stupendous proportions the struggle was to assume ere it would or could come to a close. During July, August and September, 1862, regiments were being formed in every Congressional district in the State and in some of them either a battery of artillery or a company of cavalry were also being recruited in addition to the regiments of infantry. During the war the State contained eleven districts, whereas it is now entitled to thirteen, and before long it will be given another as the population increases. In all of these men were busy in recruiting companies. Then the northeast corner of the State, having for its western border, Kosciusko and Elkhart counties, and for the Southern tier Allen, Whitley and Kosciusko, extending to the Ohio and Michigan State lines. It was then known as the Tenth district and Fort Wayne had been selected for the rendezvous for the troops raised in the Tenth. The Thirtieth Indiana Infantry, so long commanded by Colonel J. B Dodge, deceased, he succeeding the mortally wounded Colonel Sion S. Bass, who was killed at Shiloh, had been made up late in the autumn of 1861, and of course was already in the field, but at the time referred to--the mid-summer of 1862 --the Seventy-fourth, the Eighty-eighth and the One Hundredth were all recruited and mustered in before cold weather came, besides Captain Leslie's company of cavalry, the latter almost entirely made up from this county.

This was the situation here in the north part of the State, and similar conditions prevailed in all the districts of the State, and similar conditions prevailed in all the districts of the State. The disaster at Richmond followed by a great many others at various points of less moment, but all of them reverses, had a two-fold effect. One was to increase the number of croakers in the north claiming that the South could never be subdued and on the other hand to increase the determination of all loyal men to put a sufficient number of men in the field to crush the opposing forces and to prevent the destruction of the Union at all costs. As a consequence and with a threat on the part of Congress to enforce a draft, the effect was to easily fill all the calls thus far made on the State by the President. Governor O. P. Morton was, at that time, precisely the man for the place, and though he is now dead and gone, it can be truthfully said that among all of the governors of the loyal States, numbering among them an Andrews, a Curtain, a Todd, a Yates and others of superb ability, not one among the number excelled Governor Morton, of Indiana, in his support of the sorely tried, but noblest man among a nation of great men who, as governors of states so grandly sustained and supported President Lincoln in the herculean task before him --a task greater than ever was placed upon the shoulders of any man before. These remarks are only preliminary and are made only to merely touch upon the situation here in Indiana for the benefit of the younger readers of these "memories," who were not old enough to know them and who have since come upon the stage of action, and I am pleased to know there are many such who are perusing them, for dozens of boys have taken the trouble to tell me so; and are only briefly referred to as all points connected with a war of such immense proportion as it finally assumed, and conducted, as it was, on such an immense scale by both sides, must of necessity be, I resume the story at the point I left off in my last sketch.

The paroled Federal prisoners captured at Richmond had to get to Cincinnati the best way they could, and all of them took the then unused railroad from Lexington to Covington, the city immediately opposite Cincinnati. As already stated, after being placed in command of those belonging to Indiana to take home, I took charge of the detachments as fast as they arrived. Sometimes I would receive a squad of a half-dozen, and again perhaps fifteen or twenty. These had to be gathered to an assigned point where nations could be issued and the men earned for till the last detachments came in, which as I have already said; was on the fourth day after the arrival of Major Kempton and myself, who had reached Cincinnati by steamboat. After the arrival of the "squirrel rifles," many of them in the blue and red "wamuses," of the backwoodsman; but one and all of them provided with their own gun, often consisting of an old-fashioned rifle of pioneer pattern, and with the old-time shot pouch powder horn and belt in many instances, they had been transferred to the Kentucky side, the streets of Cincinnati being almost wholly deserted. Martial law was in effect and every able bodied citizen of Cincinnati was taken over to the Covington side, and were set to work in the trenches, and in building small extemporized forts for the artillery. Many of the citizens in consequence of the danger threatened by the advance of the Confederates went into this work willingly, some of them even anxiously, caused by the fear that the enemy might capture the city. Those who went unwillingly were forced to do so just the same, for military law is rigid, and readily enforced by men with bayonets ready and willing to obey orders.

It must be remembered that the Confederate army under General Kirby Smith, then presumably marching on Cincinnati, was quite a large force in and of itself; but at the same time General Don Carlos Buel, in command of the Union forces, was falling back on Louisville, while General Braxton Bragg, at the head of a large force of Confederates was following him on parallel lines. Following or just about the time of the disaster at Richmond, Louisville was reached, and then General Buell prepared to defend that city, and to check the Confederate army I can only speak for my own regiment, but the same thing is true more or less of all others whether from the State of Ohio or of Indiana, but about two hundred of the Twelfth succeeded in making their escape from the Richmond battlefield, and arrived at Lexington in time to join General Charles Cruft, who had been ordered to retreat from Lexington to Louisville, and all of these escaping Federal made their way to that city along with General Cruft's forces. This, however, I did not know until after I had arrived at Indianapolis with those of all the Indiana troops that were among the paroled prisoners of my own regiment.

The whole country was wildly excited, and when I left Cincinnati, with a very large train load of these men it was soon discovered that the militia had been called out as at almost every station there were detachments of State troops on guard, especially taking care of the railroads in order to prevent their being torn up by raids of rebel cavalry. Amongst the paroled prisoners to arrive at Cincinnati was the late Marsh H. Parks, of Warsaw, at that time a sergeant in F company, but some time afterwards promoted to be adjutant of the Twelfth. I attached him and one or two others to myself, while I was engaged in meeting and receiving the returning soldiers. It was a very difficult and tedious work to receive the homecoming members of the regiment. The command was so new that neither officers nor men knew one another and they arrived at all hours during the day and well into the night sometimes. To aid in this matter I sent six or eight men well out on the railroad reaching Covington to gather up the members of my own regiment and as they could only do by asking everybody as to what regiment he belonged, I can truthfully say that those four days were wearisome ones to me, and after I got all of them on board the train, ready to start for Indianapolis I was almost broken down through sheer weariness and for want of sleep. During all those days of martial law, one could not procure a glass of lemonade; could not even get shaved, or buy a cigar save in the office of hotels where boys were placed behind the stands, so rigid and so well enforced was the order that every citizen of both cities should aid in constructing earth-work defenses, and to be prepared for whatever might turn up.

After starting for Indianapolis I learned that a passenger train --only box cars were furnished to take the men home--would leave Cincinnati a couple of hours after the paroled prisoners' train left Cincinnati, and as I was so tired out I at once determined to proceed with the train that had been assigned me to conduct the men home, and to stop off at Lawrenceburg and await the passenger train that would overtake my train and take that one from Indianapolis, as it would or should arrive at the latter place fully an hour before the slow-going soldiers' train. I told Parks what I intended to do and directed him to remain with me and this we did on reaching the point referred to. Unfortunately, however, the first train did not stop at the downtown depot; but came to a halt nearly, if not quite, a half mile from the principal part of the town. The conductor pointed out to us the proper direction and told us to follow back on the railroad for a certain distance and then turn to the right. The night was exceedingly dark, although there were a few lamps at long distances apart, that gave just about sufficient light to make the road more difficult than if it had been without any.

We were getting along the best we could, taking an occasional stumble, when all at once the cry of "halt," rang out right in front of us. both of us having had more than a year's service, of course we obeyed the order at once, although we could readily perceive that the sentinel was a greenhorn at the business, and instead of directing one of us to come forward and give the countersign, he was at a loss what to do, and so I told him I would come to him and explain who and what we were. This was satisfactory and I went forward and told him the facts; how we had been at the battle of Richmond, Ky., and were paroled prisoners on our way back to Indianapolis, all of which was a sufficient explanation and the halt ended in his telling us where we could find a hotel. But when we bade him good-night he pulled out a flask of whiskey and wanted both of us to drink with him. He belonged to the militia regiment of that section of the State, and the entire regiment had charge of quite a length of railroad as guards; but it can readily be perceived that railroads would be as safe from a rebel raid without such a guard as with him; at least it was always found unsafe for guards to be supplied with whiskey.

As already stated, the passenger train that we expected to take was to follow about two hours after the other one and on reaching the hotel we found the office floor fairly covered with men lying fat upon it, some with blankets under them and some with out. Among these we also found some Union soldiers who had been in the Richmond battle, who had crossed the Ohio river below Cincinnati, the reason for doing so being unexplainable; but they had reached that far on their way home from the battlefield, and had trudged every mile of the way on foot. They had failed to go to Cincinnati and consequently knew nothing about the arrangement to carry them back to Indianapolis by rail. I told them of our own arrangement to take the passenger train that was to go by ere long, and that I would make the effort to get them to the city, and I did so by telling the conductor the the story. Parks and myself stayed at the hotel awaiting the train and when it was about due we learned that it had been delayed from some cause, and this news was soon magnified into a rebel raid upon the railway track. Of course all of the story was made up out of whole cloth, but readily believed under the surrounding circumstances for it was generally accepted by the citizens of the south part of the State that the Confederates were about to undertake the invasion of the North and many people about that time would believe any story told them, no matter how absurd or inconceivable. The hotel, however, was so crowded that our attempt to get a couple of hours of much needed rest was a flat failure.

In his wisdom, Governor Morton had very wisely organized the militia of all the border counties that were most interested in preventing raids across the river, but in time it included nearly all of the counties in that section, and at times the organization proved quite effective, too, and especially did it assist in holding in check the home opposition to the war, which was already assuming considerable proportions, though not sufficiently great in numbers or bold enough until later to assist the enemies of the Union in the field. That was to come afterwards and did come in 1864. I think it was about 1 o'clock when our passenger train arrived at Indianapolis, running in ahead of the soldiers' train by only a few minutes, so that Parks and myself were there ready to receive the homecoming members of the regiment. I had telegraphed the authorities at Indianapolis that the troops would reach the capital early in the morning, and consequently there were officers there to notify us what to do, and to conduct the entire party out to Camp Morton, where quarters had been assigned us, and where the detachment that I had brought home was to go into camp and await the exchange of prisoners. Here I learned of the number of the regiment that escaped. My visit to them at Louisville and the procurement of an order to have them returned to Indianapolis and united with those who had been captured, until the paroled ones could be released by a legal exchange between the hostile forces will be told in my next (sketch).

Warsaw Daily Times April 25, 1903

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