Harrison Horton Dodd (1824-1906) was a founder of the Order of Sons of Liberty (OSL), a paramilitary secret society that was a continuation and/or extension of the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC). The basic goal of the organization was to thwart the war efforts of the Union while still remaining citizens of the United States. By all accounts Dodd was the most important Copperhead in Indianapolis.
On August 20, 1864, Dodd’s Indianapolis offices were raided by the Union military, who recovered thousands of ammunition rounds and 400 revolvers. Several of his co-conspirators were arrested, but Dodd managed to escape to Canada. Dodd and his co-conspirators—William A. Bowles,¹ Andrew Humphreys,² Horace Heffren,³ Lambdin P. Milligan,4 and Stephen Horsey5—were convicted of treason, specifically planning to steal weapons and invade Union prisoner-of-war camps to release Confederate prisoners. They were convicted by a military commission and sentenced to be hanged. On May 31, 1865, President Andrew Johnson commuted their sentences to life in prison. The conviction was appealed through the federal courts, and on April 3, 1866, Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase issued a habeas corpus freeing them. The case ruled that the application of military tribunals to citizens when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional.
The following article from the October 15, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal has been split into three postings due to the length.
TREASON IN INDIANA.
The “Sons of Liberty” in Court.
T h e T r i a l o f H. H. Dodd.
Democrats Conspiring with Rebels.
Arrangement for Co-operating.
Confederate Authorities to Furnish Arms.
The Case of HARRISON H. DODD, a leading Democrat in Indiana, charged with conspiring against the Government, as a member of a secret disloyal and treasonable association, began at Indianapolis on the 27th ult., before the military commission, Gen. COLGROVE,6 President. The following is some of the testimony :
Felix G. Stidger7 testified that Dr. Bowles gave him the first information respecting the order of the Sons of Liberty. He was sent by Capt. S. E. Jones, Provost Marshal to learn the particulars of the organization, and had another interview with Bowles about the 26th of January, 1864 ; was regularly initiated into the order of the Sons of Liberty. This was about the 5th or 6th of June ; was instructed in the third degree by Mr. Harrison, the Secretary of the Grand Council of this State ; first met Dodd in the office of Mr. Bingham, editor of the Indianapolis Sentinel ; had a letter of introduction to Dodd from Judge Bulllitt.8 The letter was produced in Court. The conversation witness had with Dodd related to Mr. Coffin, a United States detective who was to be assassinated. Dodd said that such men would have to be disposed of. The persons connected in this matter at that time were Mr. Dodd, Harrison, Dr. Bowles, Milligan, Dr. Humphrey and R. J. Gatling. There were a number of others whose names the witness could not remember. Persons were not admitted to the meeting of the order of the Sons of Liberty without a password ; witness was at the time Secretary of Grand Council for the State of Kentucky ; was appointed by the chief officer of the State, Dr. Bullitt, and still holds the position if such an office exists. The Sons of Liberty was a military organization. It was in this organization that Coffin’s murder was discussed, and it was decided emphatically that it should be done. There was to be a meeting at Hamilton on the occasion of Mr. Vallandigham’s return [Clement L. Vallandigham], at which Coffin was expected to be present. At the meeting referred to, Dodd called on those who would go with him to murder Coffin. Only one man responded—McBride, from Evansville, Ind.—who thought he knew Coffin. He could not join Dodd. The witness, Bowles, Dodd and Milligan, went to Hamilton, but Coffin could not be found. There were two meetings on the day referred to. At the evening meeting they discussed the military organization of the Sons of Liberty. A number of speeches were made, all full of the oppression and tyrany [sic] of the Government, and that it was to be restored by force of arms. They expected a definite time to be set for a general uprising, in which they were to seize the United States Arsenals in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The rebel prisoners in the States were to be released and armed with arms seized from the arsenals. The number in the Order of the Sons of Liberty was calculated to be 60,000 to 75,000 in Indiana. Illinois was counted on as having a considerable number, and Missouri was believed to be almost unanimous. Ohio was not much counted on. Bowles told the witness that he had his command organized into companies and regiments. Saw Bowles at Louisville. He was there experimenting with R. O. Bocking in the manufacture of hand grenades and Greek fire, which were to be used in destroying Government property. Bowles said that the Greek fire had been used for the destruction of the Government warehouse at Louisville and of the Government steamers. The programme of the meeting of the Order in Chicago in July was given by the witness, who said Dodd had told him that Chicagoans had agreed to seize the camps and depots of prisoners in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois ; seize the arsenals in those States ; arm the rebel prisoners released, and also members of the Order and unite at Louisville.—The uprising was to be general in those States and in Missouri, and as much of Kentucky as possible. The date was not fixed definitely, as they were governed in regard to awaiting for the rebel armies to co-operate with them. At a conference with Bowles, Milligan and Walker, it was determined to go ahead on the 15th or 17th of August, and carry out the plan agreed upon, and eventually unite at Louisville. At the Chicago meeting of the order, there were present Judge Bullitt, Dr. Bowles, Pichard Barrett of St. Louis, Dodd and John C. Walker.—They agreed that the uprising was to take place from the 3d to the 17th of August, as should finally be determined by Vallandigham, the Supreme Commander of the order, whom they were sworn to obey. Dodd was Grand Commander, and Walker, Bowles, Milligan and Humphries Major Generals for Indiana. Bullitt had attempted to communicate with Colonel Jesse and a rebel Colonel Siphert on parole in Kentucky, was initiated into the order, and attempted to get permission to go to Canada, from whence he designed going to Mexico and into the Confederacy. At Chicago they agreed that the order was to meet openly in the mass Democratic meetings, and on the day of the uprising, August 6th, were to have a mass meeting at Indianapolis, and carry out their programme—the design of the movement was to carry a portion of the States into the Confederacy. Bowles talked privately about a Northwestern Confederacy. The constitution, rituals, &c., of the order were exhibited to the witness, and identified as the genuine work of the order ; also the roll of members of the order in Indianapolis, found in Dodd’s office, which had been shown to the witness by Harrison, the Grand Secretary. Without concluding the examination of Mr. Stidger, the Court adjourned.
1. William A. Bowles (1799-1873) was a physician in Indiana who served as colonel of the 2nd Indiana Regiment in the Mexican War. Bowles and others were court martialed over an incident at the Battle of Buena Vista. Jefferson Davis defended Bowles and they formed a life-long friendship. In the 1850s Bowles organized the Knights of the Golden Circle to counteract the Underground Railroad activity within the region where he lived in Indiana. During the Civil War, Bowles was made a Major General of one of the four military districts established by Dodd. Bowles was listed as a co-conspirator in Dodd’s 1864 trial.
2. Andrew Humphreys (1821-1904) was an Indiana politician who served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives (1849-1852 and January-March 1857); was appointed Indian agent for Utah in 1857; was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1872 and 1888; served in the Indiana Senate (1874-1876, 1878-1882, 1896-1900), and served in the U.S. Congress from December 1876 to March 1877. He should not be confused with Union General Andrew Atkinson Humphreys (1810-1883).
3. Horace Heffren (1832-1883) had served as lieutenant colonel of the 50th Indiana Infantry from July 1861 to September 1862 when he resigned. Heffren’s testimony at the trial was published in 1864 as “Sons of Liberty : Testimony of Horace Heffren, One of the Accused.”
4. Lambdin Purdy Milligan (1812-1899) was a lawyer and farmer (his law class included Edwin M. Stanton) in Indiana. Milligan was outspoken in political affairs and publicly protested the Civil War and Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton. By May 1864, Federal authorities were convinced that Milligan was in touch with Confederate agents. The Supreme Court case that eventually freed the conspirators bore Milligan’s name, Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2.
5. Stephen Horsey was a resident of Shoals, Indiana, who lived close to the site of a train wreck that involved hundreds of Union soldiers. He was arrested and within the next 24 hours the other “conspirators” were also arrested on charges of treason. After the trial, imprisonment, and release, Horsey returned to Martin County, Indiana, a broken man who died in financial straits.
6. Silas Colgrove (1816-1907) was a lawyer in Winchester, Indiana before the Civil War. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 3-month 8th Indiana Infantry in April 1861, and then colonel of the 27th Indiana Infantry in September. He fought at the battles of Front Royal, Winchester, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Resaca, Peachtree Creek and the Atlanta Campaign. Colgrove resigned in late 1864 and returned to Indiana where he took part in the treason trials.
7. Felix Grundy Stidger (1836-1908) was a young clerk who was recruited to become a Federal counter-spy within the Knights of the Golden Circle. He reported to Colonel Carrington, the Union commander at Indianapolis. He infiltrated the organization deep enough to become the Grand Secretary of the Sons of Liberty in Kentucky, second in command only to Bowles. He testified for two hours. Stidger wrote and self-published in 1903 a history of his connection with the organization, entitled Treason History of the Order of the Sons of Liberty, formerly Circle of Honor, Succeeded by Knights of the Golden Circle, afterward Order of American Knights, the Most Gigantic Treasonable Conspiracy the World Has Ever Known, 1864, available digitally on the Internet Archive. Modern reprints often go by the cover title, “Knights of the Golden Circle, Treason History, Sons of Liberty.”
8. Joshua Fry Bullitt (1821-1898) was elected a justice on the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1861, and served as chief justice in 1864-1865. Bullitt was arrested on August 11 and again on November 22, 1864, by order of Union General Burbridge for belonging to the Sons of Liberty. He was sent to Tennessee with others suspected of similar crimes, but returned to Louisville and the Court of Appeals in December of 1864. Bullitt fled to Canada and was removed from office by Governor Bramlette. Years later the Kentucky Legislature adopted a resolution dismissing the accusations against him.
1864 October 15: Soldiers’ Views of the Election, Ellsworth Burnett Sent Home on Sick Furlough, Rebels at Petersburg Badly Demoralized
The following excerpts from two letters written by soldiers appeared in the October 15, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.
The Soldiers’ Views.
DAVID JARVIS, known to most of the citizens here, now serving on a gunboat on the Tennessee, writes to a friend here, under date of Oct. 5, as follows :
The condition of our country seems favorable at present, especially in the army. It is now in a state of invincibility, and all that is now requisite for a final triumph over our enemies is a full and hearty support of the Northern States in the fall election. If they will join hands with the soldier and unite in the support of ABRAHAM [Abraham Lincoln], the war will be brought to a speedy termination, and also to the honor of the U. S. A. If we fail in placing ABRAHAM in the next Presidential chair, and choose a peace man, I am afraid we have only experienced the beginning of war.
There are thousands of men in the States of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, if a peace man is elected to the Presidential chair, will voluntarily present themselves to the rebel ranks, and thereby augment the rebel army, hoping to embarrass the North, and demand formal cessation to hostilities and disgraceful compromise which will be the beginning of wars in America. But I hope the people will awake to their best interests and unanimously proclaim for a vigorous prosecution of the war ; the only possible way of solving the question.
Capt. “BOB” EDEN, of the 37th Regiment, under date of Oct. 4, writes as follows :
Col. SAM [Samuel Harriman] is in command of the Brigade and Maj. KERSHAW¹ of the Regiment ; Capt. E. BURNETT [Ellsworth Burnett] has been sent home on sick furlough. He is a good officer and a pleasant companion, and his health was much impaired, rendering a furlough absolutely necessary.
As for news as to the progress of the campaign, you get that sooner than we do, and more authentic and reliable at that.
The general opinion here seems to be that Petersburg will very soon be evacuated, and therefore fall into our hands. The rebels are much disheartened at the many severe repulses they have lately met with, and appear, with but few exceptions, badly demoralized. Their supplies too, are very short, and taken altogether, the prisoners we take are the happiest act of men alive, apparently ; that is, after they are safe in the rear of our lines.—Their first demand is, “Where can we get something to eat ? They were just going to serve out rations when we left our lines,” etc. They also say that “fighting’s played out, I reckon. You’uns can’t whip we’uns, but we’re tired of fighting and want to go home” Most of the prisoners are old men and young boys—“the cradle and the grave.”
1. William J. Kershaw, from Big Spring, was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel of the 37th Wisconsin Infantry on September 27, 1864, and resigned on October 19. He had been wounded at Petersburg on June 17, 1864.
The following editorial and letter to the editor on the issue of whether Pierce County should continue the bounty offered to volunteers appeared in The Prescott Journal of October 15, 1864.
The County Bounty.
The Board of Supervisors propose to be governed in their action in relation to County Bounties by the wish of the people. Ballots for and against continuing the Bounty will be at the polls.
We think the Bounty should be continued for the reasons :
1st. The war is nearly through, and the additional expense will not be large.
2d. The cost of living is very high and the families of soldiers need the bounty more now, than two years ago.
3d. The soldiers who have gone were promised the bounty. It was a part of the contract. The faith of the county is pledged to pay it, and let us keep faith with our soldiers. Vote for continuing the bounty, if you have to go without a new coat by reason of it.
EDITOR JOURNAL :—By resolution of County Commissioners of this county the question of continuation of County Bounties to soldiers’ families was referred to the voters of the county at the General Election of next month.
Whilst our taxes are onerous on account of large volunteer bounties having been voted in many of the towns for the purpose of raising volunteers, yet, at the same time, we must remember that our volunteers for the last year have, in a measure, been induced to volunteer in the full faith that the county bounty wo’d be continued to their families. I think the voters should carry out this matter in good faith. I also believe that the same bounty should be extended to the families of the drafted men who are taken into service.
. .J. W. BEARDSLEY.
The following weekly summary of the news comes from the October 15, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.
— Since our last summary there has been considerable fighting and skirmishing in front of Richmond.—Our forces have been successful in several engagements. The rebels attacked Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler], on Friday of last week, and were repulsed with a loss of one thousand killed and wounded, and three hundred prisoners. Several unimportant cavalry fights are reported in the same vicinity. In one of those, we lost eight guns, and 200 prisoners by a surprise—but this check was fully regained in Friday’s battle. The seige [sic] of Richmond goes on bravely, and we may certainly expect its fall in a short space of time.
— From Sherman we have to record a severe battle at Altoona, in which our gallant army defended the rebels with great slaughter. The raid upon Sherman’s communications has been checked—the rebels utterly routed,—and the roads are all in running order. [William T. Sherman]
— Forrest’s raid in Middle Tennessee has come to an end. Our forces under Rosseau [sic] captured his truin [sic: train] and drove him across the Tennessee river. [Nathan B. Forrest, Lovell H. Rousseau]
— Thursday’s paper reports another victory over Early in the Shenandoah Valley. [Jubal A. Early]
— The elections in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, passed off in harmony and were hotly contested. returns come in very slowly and both sides claim a victory. We firmly believed from all indications before us, that every one of the above States have gone Union by large majorities.
Following are the smaller items from the October 8, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal and The Polk County Press.
From The Prescott Journal:
We have received an interesting letter from WILLIE HATCH, giving an account of the operations of the Battery he was attached to during the late campaign and capture of Atlanta. [William H. Hatch, from Prescott, 10th Battery Wisconsin Light Artillery]
GEO. DRESSER, Co. M, 2d Wis. Cavalry, is home on furlough. George’s health is poor, but his grit is good.
We were in error last week in stating that Capt. MAXSON was home on furlough. His time has expired and he is home to stay. The Capt. has been a faithful and efficient officer, and can look back with well earned pride on the part he has taken in this war. [Orrin T. Maxson]
The remains of Capt. CHAS. P. HYATT arrived here last Wednesday morning. The funeral exercises will be held at 11 o’clock, A. M., to morrow, (Sunday.)
Union Meetings will be held at
Oak Grove, Wednesday evening, Oct. 12
River Falls, Thursday ” Oct. 13
Clifton, Saturday ” Oct. 15
Union Clubs will be formed at each of these meetings. Speakers will be in attendance.
. .By order of the
Union County Committee.
Thirty-five teams, containing a little over 200 persons, 120 of them being voters, went from here to the Mass Meeting at Hastings last Tuesday.—Some of the teams were from Clifton and Oak Grove, and Hosen Bates and Mr. Tubbs each came with a four-horse team well loaded. Stand out of the way grumblers and little Mackerels.—The Union clans are beginning to rally.
The Lincoln Club in this city, holds its meetings every Friday evening, and is doing a good work. Union Clubs should be organized in each of the towns.
Union Mass Meeting.
We are not able to announce the day of the Grand Union Mass Meeting to be held here, but it will probably be on the 12th or 18th instant. Senator TIM. O. HOWE and Judge LEVI HUBBELL, of Milwaukee, will speak. The Great Western Band will be in attendance.
Let the people prepare to attend. It is expected to make this the largest political demonstration ever made in the Northern part of the State.
CONVALESCENT SOLDIERS IN HOSPITALS TO BE FURLOUGHED BEFORE ELECTION.—Surgeon General BARNES has issued an order to the Superintendents of Hospitals, directing them to permit all soldiers able to travel, and yet unfit for duty, to visit their homes and remain, until after the Presidential Election. As the order is general, and makes no exceptions, there can be no ground for complaint if the “straws” do not show the wind coming from a quarter to suit the Copperheads.
Imagine SHERIDAN addressing his army beyond Winchester : “Boys, I am requested by the Chicago Democratic Convention to say to you that after your ‘four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war,’ the ‘sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to you.’ ”—“Beyond Winchester” would be a mighty unsafe place for the Chicago Convention about that time. [Philip H. Sheridan]
A man is known by the company he keeps. DON CARLOS BUELL and FITZ JOHN PORTER are fast friends of McCLELLAN, GRANT, SHERMAN, FARRAGUT, BUTLER, LOGAN, HOOKER, BURNSIDE—all the men who are at present fighting the battles of the country—are for Mr. LINCOLN [Abraham Lincoln], regarding the policy he is pledged to as the only safe and ration one.
[Don Carlos Buell, Fitz John Porter, George B. McClellan, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, David G. Farragut, Benjamin F. Butler, John A. Logan, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose E. Burnside — all can be found in the Military Men Cast of Characters]
THE POSTMASTER GENERALSHIP.¹—The Cincinnati Gazette says Gov. DENNISON has decided to accept the position of Postmaster General. [William Dennison]
From The Polk County Press:
UNION MEETINGS.—Union Meetings are in full blast in all parts of the State. The people turn out in large numbers, and the enthusiasm for Lincoln & Johnson exceeds that of the campaign of 1860. Wisconsin is down for a larger majority for the Union Ticket this fall than ever before. [Andrew Johnson]
McCLELLAN CLUB.—We understand that the Democrats of this village have formed a McClellan Club.
— The 1st Wisconsin Regiment, whose term of service has expired, is to have a grand reception on their return, at Milwaukee, given by the ladies of the city.
PERSONAL.—We had the pleasure of welcoming back Lieut. OSCAR CLARK, and private SAMUEL EMORY, of the 10th Wisconsin Battery, on Monday last.
LIEUT. CLARK, and a few of his men are on a twenty day furlough, and will return the first of next week. The 10th Battery and the Polk Co. “boys in blue,” have seen hard fighting, and have gained a splendid reputation in the army of the Tennessee. [Oscar A. Clark]
Sergt. MOSES T. CATLIN of the battery left Tuesday morning for Madison.
SPEECH AT TAYLOR’S FALLS.—There was a Democratic Speech at Taylor’s Falls last week. Quite a large party attended from this place.
Hon. IGNATIUS DONNELLY, candidate for Congress in the 2d District of Minn., will speak at Taylor’s Falls on the 17th, evening. A large delegation may be expected from this village.
UNION MEETING AT HASTINGS.—There was a grand Union Meeting at Hastings, Minn., last Tuesday, and it is estimated that 2,000 people were present. Some thirty-five teams loaded with the “true blue,” in all 300, went from Prescott. The procession presented a magnificent appearance, with horses appropriately trimed [sic] with flags, and banners floating to the breeze. Speeches were made by Senators Ramsey and Wilkinson.—Music by the Great Western Band of St. Paul. Senator Doolittle, of our State, was expected to be present in the evening.
MARK A. FULTON.—We neglected to announce in our last issue, that MARK A. FULTON, Esq., of Hudson, is the Union candidate for Member of the Assembly for the St. Croix and Pierce Co. District.
A better nomination could not have been made. Mr. FULTON, is a leading business man, and thoroughly believes in the policy now being carried out by Sherman, Sheridan and Grant.—He will be elected by a large majority.
BOLTING.—The Union men of Chisago County, Minnesota, have bolted the regular Assembly nomination, and adopted a new ticket. The result will probably be to turn the District over to a Democratic Representative in the next Legislature.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1.—Ex-Governor Dennison was this afternoon sworn into office and entered upon the duties as Postmaster General.¹
— It is reported that Admiral Farragut is abdut [sic] to be assigned to a new command on the Atlantic coast—probably for the reduction of Wilmington, N. C.
— The great monitor Dictator, for several months past under construction in New York, is nearly completed, and will proceed on the first of October on a secret expedition somewhere in the south. Her destined service is said to be of such a momentous character that no time will be permitted to make a trial trip.—N. Y. Times.
— W. W. McCracken, formely [sic] a member of the Assembly, from the northern district of this State, died recently in Missouri, in the military service—Madison State Journal.
— Gens. Grant, Sherman, Rosecrans, McPherson, Sheridan, Keitz [?], Gerrard [sic], Weitzel, Crook and Gillmore were all born in Ohio.
[William S. Rosecrans, James B. McPherson, Kenner Garrard, Godfrey Weitzel, George R. Crook, Quincy A. Gillmore — all can be found in the Military Men Cast of Characters]
— The Country to Geo. B. McClellan :
“Are you for peace or war ?”
McClellan : “Yes.”
— The re-election of Lincoln is no longer a matter of doubt ; the only question is how large shall his majority be.
— The rebels say that the Yankees have three full brigades of negro troops at Chattanooga.
A Lively Bounty Jumper.
Private Samuel W. Downing, alias “John W. Ball,” Co. H, 4th Maryland Vol., who had deserted and re-enlisted seventeen times, was shot at Annapolis last week. Since July 1863, when he deserted first, he has enlisted and deserted seventeen times, and had received as bounty or substitute money a sum total of $7,550. He operated in six different States.
1. Until 1971 the U.S. postmaster general was a member of the President’s cabinet.
The following report from the New York World was reprinted by The Prescott Journal on October 8, 1864.
THE BATTLE OF WINCHESTER.
SHERIDAN’S GREAT VICTORY.
HEADQUARTERS 6TH ARMY CORPS, }
ARMY UNDER SHERIDAN, }
Sept. 2_, 1864.
Correspondence of the New York World.
At 11 o’clock in the forenoon, therefore, the armies of Sheridan and Early confronted each other between Winchester and the Opequan [sic] creek, in the following order: The rebel line extended across the turnpike, covering Winchester, Breckinridge’s corps in the center, Rhodes’ division of Early’s corps on the left, Ramseur’s division of Early’s corps on the right, Johnson’s cavalry on the extreme right, and Fitz Hugh Lee’s, Lomax’s, Imboden’s and McCausland’s cavalry on the extreme left, opposing our own. The Union army, the Sixth corps (two divisions) on the left, crossing the turnpike, the Nineteenth corps on the right, the Army of Western Virginia on the Opequan [sic] in reserve, General Wilson’s cavalry on the left, Generals Merritt’s and Averill’s cavalry on the right.
The cannonading, which had continued so fiercely throughout the forenoon till these dispositions were finally established, partially ceased. As I rode to a height directly in the rear of the Sixth corps, overlooking most of the field occupied by our infantry, the old but infinitely beautiful panorama of all battlefields, made still more impressive by the natural aspects of this most lovely of valleys, was spread before and around. Seemingly in a circle stood the mountains of the Cumberland and the Blue Ridge. Unto their bases faded away stretches of forest, and woodland, and field, dotted by dwellings, and sparkling with streams, and glowing with the kisses of approaching autumn. The sunshine was mild, the breezes were faint, the leaves scarcely swayed in their passing, the spires of Winchester were sliver threads.
Beyond the town, and along the pike the enemy’s wagon train, making for the rear, meandered like a white serpent. Nearer could be seen faint columns of their line of battle, moving masses, flashing bayonets and sabers. Their sharp-shooters and skirmishers were white specks in the cornfields, were clustered in groups about barns and houses, and nearer still our own skirmish lines posted along the edges of the woods, behind tall fences, across fields, waiting the signal. Still nearer, directly beneath and around, the splendid marching columns of our infantry had debouched from the pike and woods upon the fields and plateaus ; some waiting in hollows behind the crest ; some forming in position for an advance. The flags of the regiments had a proud look, an elastic tread was in every rank. The 6th corps was all up and mostly ready. The 19th corps, ascending the heights to the right, opposite the pike, were slowly wheeling into line. The levels and hollows between the main army and the skirmish line were crossed and recrossed by galloping staff officers and orderlies, carrying and receiving orders. Gens. Sheridan, Wright and Emery rode swiftly with their staffs along the lines, looking well to every point of advantage, upon the ground, examining with their glasses the position of the foe, and completing all dispositions for an attack. For a moment, on this scene of beauty and expectation, there stood perfect calm. For only a moment, the musketry and artillery were still, the smoke wreaths of our batteries standing silent in air mists as the skirmish line faded away.
The pickets and sharpshooters along the vast line of battle took breath. In that moment, although save the advantage obtained by Gen. Wilson in the morning (neutralized and more than neutralized by the delay which afforded the enemy time to concentrate his army in the fornoon [sic],) everything was yet to begin and to be gained. No one who glanced at the spectacle of confidence and strength, disposed for miles along the country within view, could feel his heart throb with serious doubt.
The signal long expected, was given at last Gen. Wright, to whom was assigned the command of the Sixth (his own) and the Nineteenth corps (Gen. Emory), gave the order to attack at precisely twenty minutes to twelve. The Second (Gen. Getty’s) and the Third (Gen. Rickett’s) divisions of the Sixth corps, joined in the advance, the First (Gen. Russell’s) division being held in reserve. The Nineteenth corps, including both divisions, under Gen. Grover and Dwight, advanced entire. The lines, at the signal, were posted, for the most part in the edges of woods, through which the troops advanced giving their fire to the enemy. For a few seconds the gleaming lines of our bayonets vibrated, before they entered the timber and were lost to view in the shadow of smoke. The enemy, receiving a severe and continual volley along his entire front, gave back at first volleys as severe, but was forced to retire slowly before the attack. The roar of battle as the two lines fairly met became thunderous. The artillery opened simultaneously on either side. The hollow clang of musketry in the forest was like the fierce clangor in the wilderness. The bombs bursting in the air and the woods, dealt in bursting the havoc, and had in noise, the horror of the fiercest battle fought by Gen. Grant from the Rapidan to Petersburg. The precision and quickness of the enemy’s cannonade was almost alarming. Their guns posted at first in well selected overlooking positions, never knew a moment’s rest.
I counted, during the brief interval between our first advance and the crisis which succeeded it, at least forty shells per minute, which fell along every portion of our lines, and sought in some instances, the pike in the rear, where a portion of the Nineteenth corps was still advancing to the front, and where some of our cavalry were lying in wait. Neither these nor the musketry fire which met our infantry checked the ardor of our troops. Their fire remained unslackened for an hour, during which we had driven the enemy at some points back nearly half a mile. The determination to win the battle, which seemed to inspire every man among our army, urged certain parks of the line along somewhat too hastily in advance. Gen. Berge’s brigade, attached to Grover’s division of the Nineteenth corps, pushed forward so impetuously in the charge as almost to isolate itself from the division. The enemy ere long perceived the advantage and charged in turn, threatening the gallant brigade on their flank, and it was forced to retire. The rebels, still coming on in overwhelming force at this point, pushed back and confused another brigade of the division in support, and the entire left of the division subsequently gave way.
The enemy from a battery, hitherto uncovered, opened this time on our flying troops, following up their advantage. Their shells decending [sic] among the broken columns of Grover, demoralized and shattered them still more. The entire infantry line of the enemy recovering its courage at the sight, charged in turn, pouring in severe and rapid volleys toward the point of breakage. Their troop0s still advanced at a double quick, firing and filing past, and almost turning the right flank of the sixth corps, led by General Rickett’s division, in their pursuit of Grover’s infantry. The moment was a fearful one. Such a sight rarely occurs more than once in any battle as was presented on the open space between two pieces of woodland, into which the cheering enemy poured in their eagerness. Their whole line, reckless of bullets, reckless even of the shells of our batteries, constantly advanced. Captain Stevens’ battery, posted immediately in their front, poured its fire unflinchingly into their columns to the last. A staff officer riding up, _arped it to the rear to save it from capture. Colonel Tompkins in command of the artillery of the Sixth corps, sat upon his horse with a loaded revolver close beside the battery and ordered it not to move. It did not move. The men of the battery, loading and firing with the regularity and precision of a field day, kept it at work in the face of the foe, who advanced at least within two hundred yards of the muzzles of the guns. General Rickett’s division, pressed heavily in flank, gradually broke and commenced falling back. General Getty’s division, on the left partially fell back likewise. The day, had such a situation been suffered to continue fifteen minutes longer, would certainly have been lost to us.
Crisis of a great battle ! Crisis met, and thank God, conquered ; though with such a loss as in the estimation of men highest and lowest in this army, can never be replaced.
General Ricketts saw the danger even before the wavering of his columns, and sent a regiment to his right flank, which formed at right angles of his main line, temporarily protecting it. Gen. Wright, in command of the forces, acted with prompt decision. Although it was indeed early in the day to be forced to employ the reserves of an army, he decided to employ his reserves at once. The first division of the Sixth corps under General Russell, immediately in the rear of our broken centre, was ordered in at the double quick. Colonel Edwards’ brigade, advancing on the right of General Ricketts’ sent its bullets crashing into the enemy’s hordes, astonishing and checking them. General Russell, commanding the division, cheered on the troops of his own and General Ricketts’ command, galloping along the lines and endeavoring to reform the columns which were broken. The lines were constructed with admirable quickness, and the enemy were charged in turn.
As the revived troops moved slowly forward, giving out their volleys, Gen. Russell was struck in the side by a bullet. Straightening himself up without uttering a word of pain, he called out to the command to “move on,” and moved on with them into the fray. In half a moment more a piece of bursted shell from one of the enemy’s batteries entered his breast, passing down through his vitals and out on the other side. He fell from his horse without a word. His men moved by him. His officers, moving by, also, saw with hearts full of tears and agony which they will never forget, but which they could not then attempt, even had it been possible, to alleviate.
The enemy, not yet wholly daunted, regained and preserved a somewhat stubborn regained and preserved a somewhat stubborn front. At this moment the brigade of Gen. Upton, also attached to the First division, moved upon the right of Col. Edwards and charged.—The charge of this brigade was the finest spectacle in the infantry battle of the day. Gen. Upton, himself a young but laureled hero, rode at the advance of his lines and drawing his sword, sat his prancing horse like a centaur, calling his men to follow. The brigade went in with a cheer that prophesied the event to come. Solid and strong, its two lines moved onward out of the woods and into the field. The rebel advance was an advance no longer. The rout was turned. Back over the fences, into and beyond the ravines, and into the woods still beyond their lines, flying and broken, they were pushed on.—The troops of the Sixth and Nineteenth corps, reforming and charging, soon won back the lost ground and a portion of the field beyond.
The battle now slackened for a time, and the main lines of our army were reformed preparatory to a second attack. The Nineteenth corps was temporarily held in reserve, the Sixth corps and the Army of Western Virginia, which were posted on the left, being ordered to advance simultaneously and drive the enemy out of their position. During all this time the cavalry of Gen. Wilson, Gen. Merritt, and Gen. Averill, on the left and right, had not been inactive.
Gen. Wilson had joined in the charge made at half-past eleven, driving the enemy’s cavalry in his front. Gen. McIntosh, commanding one of his brigades had been wounded in the leg. Gens. Merritt and Averill, who had both been pushing the rebel cavalry from the Opequan [sic], had formed a junction on the Winchester and Martinsburg pike, and were driving them in rapid successive charges down toward the scene of the main battle. Fitz Hugh Lee’s cavalry had been overwhelmed by Custer, in the early afternoon. The rest of the rebel cavalry made so little opposition, that for eight miles our troops moved at a trot gallop, corralling and driving them like sheep. At 2 1-2 [2:30] p. m., therefore, when the second cavalry and infantry advance was ordered, Gen. Torbett [sic] with his two divisions, was in a position to cooperate in time with the main army. The fire of our artillery, which, owing to the scarcity of good positions, had been previously not too destructive, was now increased. More batteries had been employed by the sixth corps, and two or three batteries were put in position in the rear of Gen. Crook
A rapid cannonade was opened just before the advance. The enemy replied to it with their usual vigor. We advanced again about half-past 2 p. m. It was made steadily from the first. The enemy must have known that to withstand this attack was their last hope during the day, but although they met it with a front so stubborn, and for a moment so unyielding, that few would have ventured to wager upon their retreat, their lines were very soon shaken by the determined and fearful volleys of our soldiers. The stern and magnificent advance of every brigade employed in this movement made up a spectacle, the grandeur of which has certainly not been equaled on any battle field of this war. The left flank of the enemy, shattered by Gen. Crook, gave way, and began wheeling around towards the southwest, beyond the Martinsburg turnpike. At this moment Gen. Torbett [sic], to whom the sound of our guns was a signal, moved on his advance to help the attack. Gen. Devins’ [sic]¹ advance on the left of Gen. Lowell, in support, was confronted just before the advance by the enemy’s infantry, pouring out from a mass of woods, in retreat before Gen. Crook. Gen. Devins [sic] had under his immediate command but two regiments, the Ninth and First New York. The moment was critical ; to hesitate was perhaps to lose both. Gen. Merritt, in command of the division, shouted out, “Charge them with what you have,” and Devin, drawing his sabre, headed his regiments and went through the flying crowds, cutting them down, still further demoralizing them, and capturing 300 prisoners and three battle-flags. The rest of the cavalry charging in turn, in conjunction with Gen. Crook, kept pushing the enemy’s left and flank.
Equally as successful an advance had been made on our left and centre by the Sixth corps. The right flank of the enemy was also pushed back, and in a short time its centre began retreating. The rebel line formed a triangle, the apex towards us, the base gradually narrowing as both flanks were pushed in towards each other by our attack. As the rebel centre began to give way, Gen. Sheridan, alighting near the centre of our own lines, felt that the day was won. Galloping up to Gen. Grover, commanding one of the divisions of the ninteenth [sic] corps, he said to him that all was going well and that now was his time also to go in. The next instant a solid shot whistling within a foot of Sheridan’s head struck the ground behind him. “I suppose so,” was the dry remark of the division commander, as he ordered his troops to advance to join in winning victory.
The battle was still a fierce one on both sides. Although the day was evidently lost to the rebels, they fought on at some points with a desperate resolution. The rear of musketry, thunder of cannonade, shouts of commanders, cheering of our men echoed now for miles over the fields ; through the woods, and in the ravines. More batteries moved up to the front, the cannonade grew and grew in volume until every second gave birth to the report of a gun. Battery after battery of the enemy was silenced, but from whatever guns they could command they gave back fire for fire. Evidently believing from the fierceness of our charges that reserves were coming up, they hurled a hissing storm of shot and shell far into our rear, plowing the roads and corn-fields and making the abodes of stragglers scenes of terror. On and on went the battle, every moment more distant ; men, women and children coming to their doors and peering from the windows of houses round about listened and wondered, and grew sad and pale. Back from the front along every roadway, out of the forests, across the meadows, came ambulances and stretchers bearing the cost of triumph that was now secured. Riding along the country in pursuit of the columns that were pushing the enemy on, one saw the lanes of victory strewn with fearful mementoes. The dead were horrible dead. It seemed as if the majority had received their death from shells. Most of the bodies were dismembered, and at least half were mangled beyond recognition.
Now, if ever, was seen the good work of that class of Samaritans per force, the medical officers and ambulance bearers of an army. Underneath flying shells, within range even of bullets, these men moved watchfully, bending down now and then to lift the sufferer and bear him to the ambulances in waiting. So rapid and thorough was this work, that it was rare to find a wounded man uncared for one hour after the battle in which he was wounded had passed over him. Still on, underneath the glowing sun, revived by fresh breezes, revived still more by the consciousness of victory, the Army of the Shenandoah thundered after its prey.
At the beginning of the battle, before its issues are fairly made up, there is sure to be some straggling. There is no straggling now. One, gazing along these columns, wreathed in the smoke of their own discharges, cannot image that a thought of retreat dwells among them.
The word is “Forward !” along the miles of the contest. “Forward !” You shall hear it from the lips of commanders everywhere. From generals and colonels and captains, with a superabundance of oaths and curses and unnecessary entreaties added. The woods ring with it. Cheers succeed it, and the lines advance anew. Yonder, in an orchard on the left, the troops of Getty’s division of the Sixth corps are making havoc among the enemy. They have crossed a ravine and taken a crest, and the batteries of McCartney and others, posted in their rear on this side of the ravine, are sending over their heads a worse than equinoctial tempest of bombshells. On the right—far to the right now—the army of Western Virginia, still pressing the foe with resistless ardor, are revenging Winchester. The First and Third divisions of the Sixth corps, in center, are making an angle out of the triangle described before. The cavalry of Torbett [sic], on the extreme right, are sweeping around, preparatory to a last and overwhelming charge soon to be made. The artillery, closing up on our rear, thunders still more heavily. Back from the mountains, back from the nearing spires of Winchester, the echoes of the battle are trembling. The last plateau directly overlooking the plain before Winchester is gained by the whole army. They enemy, encompassed by a semi-circle, fought still, retreating upon the furthest verge of the plateau, their artillery, driven to the plain below, being completely silenced. Along the plateau the forward march of our battalions is as unswerving as upon parade.
Down lower and lower yet the heads of the rebels sink, and are lost behind its verge.—What a cheer then goes up from the Army of the Shenandoah ! A cheer that, like the sweep of a billow, ranges through the army, making its heart glad. Forward, still forward, at a double quick, cheering and firing still Winchester is in full view, its roofs and steeples glowing red in the setting sun. Our artillery borne across the ravine to the plateau, and along the plateau to its furthest verge, now does a work so terrible that to witness it is sickening. The whole rebel army, swept down the slope and on to the plain below, is completely demoralized. At every discharge of our guns its ranks bend helplessly forward, like the grasses of a field before a storm. Rebel horsemen galloping everywhere upon the plain sway useless sabres and shout useless cries for their men to rally. There is no rallying there.
And now on the right flank of Gen. Crook sweeps around into view, the enemy flying helplessly before them everywhere, the cavalry of Gen. Torbett [sic] still forward to the right, are seen galloping in resistless columns around the left flank of the rebel army.
O, what a sight is there ! These horsemen, each a hero, bent on vengeance, gallop in close ranks, with sabres gleaming red, with cries that sound above the roar of musketry and artillery, to complete the work of this great day. Their horses, each arching a proud neck, and with nostrils wide and glowing, have a look like the Roman chariot horses of old in the midst of victory. Faster, yet faster, with a speed greater than the weary feet of the enemy they encompass, they gallop on and in among the flying crowds. The saber, that arm of which so many mythical deeds have been recorded, does actual work now, Generals Torbett [sic] and Merritt, with their staffs, joining in the splendid glee of the moment, are in the very front of the first line, charging and dealing death with their men. Generals Custer and Lowell, whose brigades are making the charge, are also in front, doing good service. The Sixth and Fourth New York, Devins’ [sic] brigade, join in the good work. The enemy, surrounded on their left by this brilliant movement, can make but a momentary opposition.
Scores, forsaking their comrades, fly to the houses near, and conceal themselves therein. Numbers are cut down and captured, the rest make their escape, join their flying comrades across the Winchester pike, making toward the town. Four hundred prisoners, four battle flags, and one piece of artillery, are the prizes, aside from the dead and wounded of the enemy, of this brilliant charge.
The sun, alas, sits on the horizon’s verge. Across that plain before Winchester, its beams shine upon a scene rivaling in picturesque sublimity all historic fields of most historic wars. Vast, and level, and beautiful for miles, the field itself, unpeopled, would be full of romance. Peopled as it is by thousands of rebels, shattered, demoralized, flying, by thousands of still pursuing troops, moving in well ordered battalions, resounding with a torrent of musketry and the boom of cannon, surpassing the roar of Waterloo, it is a scene which I, at least, exhausted by its excitement and the sleepless marches which have succeeded, cannot hope to suggest to any imagination.
The smoke of the battle alone would have told who were the victors. Along the ragged front of the rebel hosts it rose in patches ; along the solid front of the Union army it rose in straight thin clouds ; far off on the heights surrounding Winchester, the enemy’s artillery, again hurriedly posted, thundered a faint answer to our own.
The missiles from these guns, badly aimed, plowed along the plain, endangering the rebel wounded who were left in the retreat, quite as much as our own men.
One more charge ere the sun goes down.—Once more charge with victory in its meaning—victory as its result. The day is won ; the rebel army is beaten and overwhelmed at every point.
Flying through Winchester, scarcely attempting a stand ; except to protect the remaining pieces of their artillery, they are pursued by our men. In half an hour Winchester and the heights beyond are in our possession. The twilight gathers ; darkness falls. The only signs of the enemy, met in the morning and fought during the day are the echoes of their artillery wagons retreating along the pike toward Newtown.
We have taken twenty-two hundred prisoners, five thousand stand of arms, five pieces of artillery, and eleven battle flags. Nearly three thousand rebel wounded have been left in Winchester and on the field. Gen. Rhodes is killed. Gens. Gordon, Goodwin, Lomax, York, and others, are known to be wounded. The rebels must have lost at least six thousand in killed, wounded and prisoners.
Our own losses amount to between three and four thousand killed and wounded. The losses in the 6th corps are nineteen officers killed, and one hundred and ten wounded, one hundred and sixty three men killed and fourteen hundred and sixty-five wounded. The losses in the 19th corps are said to be between two and three hundred killed and nine hundred wounded. The losses in the Army of Western Virginia are said to be two hundred killed and six hundred wounded. Specimen losses, illustrating the fierceness of the battle at certain points, are shown by the fact that in Gen. Grover’s division alone, every colonel commanding a regiment was either killed or wounded. The 37th Mass. lost sixteen officers killed and wounded. Certain regiments of the 6th corps were almost annihilated.
I have not attempted (for you have not space) to narrate in detail the conspicuous deeds of heroism which crowned this great engagement. Where almost every officer and man behaved with courage, such references could only serve to illustrate the character of the fighting. There were, indeed chivalrous incidents, the memory of which has hung upon my pen through all this hasty chronicle, but I must reserve this and other matter for a future time.
1. Thomas Casimer Devin (1822-1878), not to be confused with Brigadier General Charles Devens, Thomas Devin fought in Sheridan’s Valley Campaigns of 1864. When General Wesley Merritt replaced General Alfred Tobert as the Cavalry Corps commander, Devin received command of Merritt’s First Division. On November 19, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Devin a brigadier general of Volunteers for his part in the Battle of Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864).
The following two articles appeared in the October 8, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.
Exempting Drafted Men.
It is important that people should know and act upon the information that, when the draft is made in a sub-district, it should not stop, but rather stimulate, recruiting therein. The circular from the Provost Marshal General’s office, dated Sept. 15th, and issued respecting this draft, contains the following paragraphs :
“If the quota of any sub-district shall be entirely filled by volunteers, after the draft, but before the drafted men are sent to the general rendezvous, then the persons drafted will be excused.
“Volunteers will be excepted and counted on the quota as well as drafted men until it is filled ; and when thus filled, and before the drafted men shall have been sent to the general rendezvous, for every additional volunteer mustered in, a drafted man will be excused, the person excused being taken from the bottom of the list of those drafted, in the reverse order in which they were drawn ; but in no instance will a substitute be exonerated or excused.”
“Qualified substitutes may be furnished by drafted men up to the time they are to be forwarded from the general rendezvous.”
“Local authorities may furnish substitutes for drafted me up to the period, and designate the persons for whom the substitution is made.”
An interesting presentation was made at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon in the Governor’s room. This was nothing less than the presentation of the celebrated Eagle of the 8th Regiment to the State of Wisconsin. Captain Wolf, of Co. C, the color company, and the one having the care of the Eagle, presented it to Gov. Lewis [James T. Lewis], stating how it was valued by the regiment ; how it had been in their midst, between their flags, in many a victorious conflict with the enemy, and how it had cheered and kept up their spirits by its bright eye and dauntless mien during weary marches and tedium of camp life. It had been with them for three years ; and when the time of the men of the company expired, and they were about to leave the service, they and the veterans voted that the Eagle should be presented to the State, to be kept as an honored and inspiring memento of the 8th Regiment, and the times in which it had fought the battles of the national with the true and strong men who rallied around the flag.
Gov. Lewis on the part of the State had pleasure in accepting the famous eagle of the 8th regiment and assured the Captain that it would be well cared for at the Capitol where it would remain to invoke inspiring memories of the brave boys who had carried it with such honor to themselves and the State.
The Governor then handed the eagle on its perch to Quartermaster General Lund, who he said would see that it was suitably kept.
The eagle never looked better than at present, its plumage being full and glossy and its eye piercingly bright. It will be an honored curiosity at the Capitol, and the many tales connected with its service in the field with the gallant 8th, will often be told and retold to the admiring crowns that perhaps, for years and years will come to see the Badger Eagle.—Madison State Journal.
1. “Old Abe at the Wisconsin State Capitol (Third),” ca. 1875, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, via Wikipedia, (Image ID: 7536 ).