No. 1. --Report of Maj. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman, U. S. Army, commanding Northern Department.
HEADQUARTERS NORTHERN DEPARTMENT, Columbus, Ohio, March 29, 1864.
(Received 2 a.m., 30th.)
SIR: There has been a serious disturbance at Charleston, Coles County, Ill.; 5 or 6 men killed, and about 20 wounded. A veteran regiment is there, and I have made arrangements to re-enforce them should the disturbance be renewed. I leave to-night for Johnson's Island.
S. P. HEINTZELMAN, Major-General.
General HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXII/1 [S# 57]
MARCH 28, 1864.--Riot at Charleston, Coles County, Ill.
No. 2. --Report of Brig. Gen. Julius White, U. S. Army.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., March 29, 1864.
Six persons were killed and about 20 wounded in the affray at Charleston. Lieutenant-Colonel Oakes, assistant provost-marshal-general from this State, sent an officer there last night, who reports no further disturbance. The strength of the Fifty-fourth [Illinois] is not known here, as it has lately been recruited, but it is not less than 500. There is no further information from Moultrie County. I think now that the Fifty-fourth will be able to maintain peace.
J. WHITE, Brigadier-General.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXII/1 [S# 57]
MARCH 28, 1864.--Riot at Charleston, Coles County, Ill.
No. 3. --Reports of Lieut. Col. James Oakes, Fourth U.S. Cavalry, Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General of Illinois.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., March 29, 1864.
There has been a serious disturbance at Charleston, Ill. Captain Montgomery, an experienced officer whom I sent to that place last night, reports as follows:
MATTOON, March 29, 1864.
Lieut. Col. JAMES OAKES, Superintendent Volunteer Recruiting Service:
The disturbance at Charleston was quite serious; 6 killed and 20 wounded. It is now quiet. I do not think you need come. I go to Charleston this morning. Will report further from there.
D. L. MONTGOMERY, Seventeenth Infantry, Mustering and Disbursing Officer.
I will keep you fully informed in case of first outbreak.
JAS. OAKES, Lieut. Col. and Actg. Asst. Provost-Marshal-General of Ill.
Major-General HEINTZELMAN, Commanding.
OFFICE OF ASSISTANT PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL,
Springfield, Ill., April 18, 1864.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that information of the disturbances in Charleston, Coles County, Ill., on the 28th of March last, reached me on the afternoon of the same day.
Captain Montgomery, U.S. Army, being about to proceed to Mattoon on mustering duty, I directed him to repair to the scene of the outbreak, ascertain the posture of affairs, and telegraph me if my presence was deemed necessary.
About 8.30 p.m. the next day I received a dispatch from Captain Montgomery requesting me to come down without delay, and left by the next train for Mattoon, where I arrived on the morning of the 30th. Finding the town in a state of great excitement from rumors, apparently entitled to credit, that the insurgents meditated an attack in force to rescue the prisoners which had been sent up from Charleston, I deemed it prudent to order forward the Forty-first Regiment, Colonel Pugh commanding, from Springfield.
Taking a freight train I then proceeded to Charleston. Colonel Mitchell, of the Fifty-fourth Infantry, was absent with a mounted detachment of his regiment in search of the insurgents, who had left the town and were reported to be collecting in large bodies in various directions in the surrounding country.
In the afternoon (30th) I received a dispatch from Colonel True, Sixty-second Illinois, on recruiting duty at Mattoon and commanding <ar57_631> post, representing in urgent terms the need of more troops at that point. I therefore asked for 500 men from Indianapolis, and returned by next train to Mattoon, finding the place in a state of the most intense excitement, over a hundred citizens being organized and under arms, the prisoners lodged in a secure place and strongly guarded, pickets posted, and every preparation made to defend the place, an attack upon which was confidently anticipated.
The Forty-first Illinois, Colonel Pugh, and Forty-seventh Indiana, Colonel Slack, arrived about midnight, and both regiments, under the command of Colonel True, proceeded to points some 12 miles west and southwest of Mattoon in search of the rebels, who were believed to be there collected in considerable force. Finding that the insurgents, small parties of whom had been assembled at the designated places, had dispersed upon the advance of the troops and made good their escape, the command returned to Mattoon, arriving on the morning of the 31st, when the Forty-seventh Indiana was permitted to proceed on their way to Cairo en route for the field.
Leaving the Forty-first at Mattoon, I again repaired to Charleston, where I found the excitement subsided and confidence partially restored, the people feeling secure in the protection of the troops, consisting of the Fifty-fourth Illinois, and Company E, Twenty-third Veteran Reserve Corps, which had been stopped by Captain Montgomery on the 29th while on its way from Paris, Ill. After making such arrangements for the protection of the place and the maintenance of order as circumstances seemed to require, I returned to Mattoon and thence to Springfield, arriving on the morning of the 2d instant.
On the 8th instant, I again visited both Charleston and Mattoon, and found those places and the surrounding country quiet and confidence generally restored. The Forty-first was furloughed on the 11th instant, and the Fifty-fourth left for the field on the 12th, leaving one company of the Veteran Reserve Corps at Charleston and another at Paris, which I deem ample for the present.
A large number of prisoners were taken by- the military and citizens, most of whom were released for lack of evidence. The proof against 29 was, however, deemed sufficient to warrant their being held for further examination, and I ordered them to be forwarded, under guard, to Camp Yates, near this city, until the necessary testimony could be obtained and examined, to enable me to determine what further disposition should be made of them. After careful examination of the evidence received, consisting of affidavits, reports, letters, &c., and which is very voluminous, I have discharged 13 of the 29, and 1 has since died, leaving 15 yet to be disposed of. I have forwarded all the testimony, together with an elaborate report, to Maj. Gen. S. P. Heintzelman, commanding Northern Department, with request that the prisoners might be tried by military law, if consistent and expedient, and requesting early instructions or suggestions for my further action in the premises.
It is much to be regretted that the ruling spirits and chief actors in this treasonable insurrection have not as yet been captured. O'Hair, the sheriff of Coles County and the ringleader of the insurgents, is not to be found; and others who were prominent in the murderous assault have made their escape.
It is impossible to doubt that this outbreak was premeditated and preconcerted, and that its immediate purpose was the murder of the soldiers, to be followed by such other movements as circumstances <ar57_632> might warrant, and it is this fact that gives special significance to the whole affair. The occasion was favorable. The circuit court of Coles County, Judge Constable presiding, was to open on Monday, the 28th of March, and Mr. Eden, member of Congress from that district, was to make a speech. It was known that the Fifty-fourth Regiment was about to return to the field, and that a number of soldiers belonging to that regiment would take the cars on that day at Charleston for the rendezvous at Mattoon. There was thus an excellent pretext for a large gathering without exciting suspicion, while the number of soldiers would be comparatively small and in no condition for defense.
On the appointed day the court convened. Sheriff O'Hair was present attending to his official duties; the court-house square was thronged with people, including notorious secessionists from the adjoining county of Edgar, whose sheriff is brother to the sheriff of Coles County. Mingling with the crowd, and unarmed with one or two exceptions, were some 12 or 15 soldiers of the Fifty-fourth, who were residents of Charleston and vicinity, quietly conversing with their acquaintances while waiting for the train for Mattoon. Presently, without cause of provocation, a desperado named Wells fired upon and mortally wounded a soldier. Sheriff O'Hair instantly rushed from the court-room, marshaled the insurgents, put himself at their head, and directed all their subsequent movements. Every man of the assailants was found to be armed. Pistols were drawn and fired in all directions. When these had been discharged they rushed to wagons near by and brought forth guns and ammunition, which had been lain concealed beneath the straw, &c. In one minute, as Colonel Mitchell reports, 100 shots were fired and nearly every soldier was either killed or wounded, although scattered about over the whole square; every blue coat or brass button, without distinction, became a target for the assassins.
I think all this admits of but one solution, a deliberate plot on the part of the leaders to murder the soldiers of the United States. This view is confirmed by several witnesses, who swear that the purpose of "cleaning out" the soldiers and Union men on that day had been avowed by the ringleaders several days before, and preparations had been extensively made to execute the threat; and I am satisfied that but for the timely action of Colonel Mitchell in ordering up his regiment from Mattoon, and the prompt measures subsequently taken to check the progress of the insurgents and thwart their designs, it would have proved the beginning of an extensive and dangerous emeute in that part of the State.
I have direct personal knowledge that some at least of the gang were members of a treasonable secret society, kindred in its character and objects with that known as the "K. G. C.," or Knights of the Golden Circle, and I have little doubt that the outbreak was planned and executed in great part by and through that organization. There is also reason to apprehend that through the same agency an extensive and formidable conspiracy is being formed against the Government, and that it is only awaiting a fitting opportunity for development. It is therefore not so much on account of the intrinsic importance of these disturbances, desperate and bloody as they were, as from a sense of their revelation of and bearing upon future and more daring machinations against the Government, that I am desirous that these prisoners and the leaders, should they hereafter be taken, may be tried and (if found guilty) punished by the military <ar57_633> authorities. I fear it would be useless to turn them over for trial by the civil tribunals, whether State or Federal, to whose jurisdiction they would belong. Prompt and rigorous dealing by military law could not fail to be of salutary and lasting effect. It is scarcely necessary to observe that many of the insurgents were without doubt merely the dupes of others and were inveigled into the scheme without apprehending or approving the real purpose of the chief conspirators. It is proper to add that the opinion of the origin, character, and purpose of the insurrection, herein expressed, is concurred in by every loyal man of the counties concerned with whom I have conversed.
Herewith I have the honor to transmit the report of Col. G. M. Mitchell, Fifty-fourth Illinois Infantry.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel Fourth U. S. Cavalry, Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General, Illinois.
Col. JAMES B. FRY,
Provost-Marshal-General, Washington, D.C.
HDQRS. FIFTY-FOURTH ILL. INFTY. VET. VOLS.,
Mattoon, Ill., April 8, 1864.
COLONEL: In pursuance of instructions from you, I have the honor to report my proceedings during the recent disturbances in Coles County, as follows:
The furloughs granted my men having expired they were ordered to rendezvous at Mattoon, Ill., March 28. As many of the men lived at, or would pass through, Charleston on their way to camp, I remained there Monday to see them all on the train and to prevent any disturbance.
Before the afternoon train left for Mattoon about 3 p.m., Nelson Wells, a so-called captain of a company organized some 7 miles north of Charleston, whose object in drilling was only known to themselves, commenced firing at Private Oliver Sallee, Company C, Fifty-fourth Illinois, so far as I can learn without the slightest provocation, lodging a ball in Sallee's breast, which has since caused his death. Sallee fell, but partially rising shot Wells dead. This was in the courthouse yard, near the west door. Immediately firing became general, the sheriff of this county, John H. O'Hair, leaving his seat and taking the lead in the attack upon the soldiers. Some 16 of my men were present on the square, nearly all of whom were killed or wounded. Some 75 men, after firing wherever they could see a blue coat, collected at a grove about one-quarter of a mile from the square east of town, under the lead of the sheriff, held a consultation, and learning the Fifty-fourth Illinois were on their way from Mattoon, moved out in the country.
Immediately on the report of Wells' pistol I stepped out of the west door of the court-room, when 3 men with revolvers drawn, apparently expecting me, commenced firing, 2 of them running by me into the room. I caught one named Robert Winkler by the wrist as he was attempting to shoot me, turning his revolver down until he discharged all his loads.
Maj. Shuball York, surgeon of the Fifty-fourth Illinois, was shot from behind as he was leaving the court-room, expiring almost instantly. <ar57_634>
The attack could not have lasted over a minute, during which one hundred shots must have been fired, nearly all of my men being either killed or wounded. The fact that my men, scattered as they were over the square, were instantly shot down, and the systematic manner in which the sheriff rallied and drew off his party, together with affidavits of reliable citizens forwarded, leaves no room to doubt that a party of men came to Charleston armed with revolvers and shotguns with the knowledge and consent of Sheriff O'Hair, with deliberate intention of killing the soldiers.
As soon as the firing was over I telegraphed to Colonel Chapman at Mattoon to bring men and guns. He arrived at 4.30 p.m. with 250 men. I immediately mounted 75 men and scoured the country in all directions, arresting several parties implicated, and releasing Levi Freesner, private Company C, Fifty-fourth Illinois, who was confined in a house under guard 7 miles from town. He was arrested by Sheriff O'Hair some distance from the square while on his way to the station to take the cars for Mattoon, and knew nothing of the affray. His gun and accouterments have not yet been secured. As the regiment arrived in the court-house yard a man named John Cooper, living in this county, who had been in town all day intoxicated, wearing a pistol in sight and swearing he came to kill soldiers, was accosted by a patrol, but turning to run was immediately shot down, citizens and soldiers firing without orders. Unfortunately a ball passed through the residence of John Jenkins, citizen, wounding him and since causing his death.
Captain Montgomery, mustering and disbursing officer, arrived from Springfield, Ill., Tuesday morning, and examined several witnesses, instructing me to remain at Charleston with my command until you arrived.
A company of the Invalid Corps, Lieutenant Baker commanding, passing from Paris, were detained by Captain Montgomery and ordered to report to me.
On your arrival Wednesday you instructed me to continue to arrest individuals implicated in the murder, procure affidavits of reliable witnesses, and to keep the peace, which has been done.
Hearing of large bodies of rioters of the country, I left Charleston with 100 mounted men at 9 p.m., April 2, proceeded south through Martinsville, to within 5 miles of Marshall, county seat of Clark County, from thence to Auburn, and north to the Terre Haute, Alton and Saint Louis Railroad at Kansas, and thence to Charleston, arriving at 7 p.m., April 4. I found bodies of men from 25 to 100 had been seen, but had dispersed; one squad of 16 I arrested but released. At present all is quiet.
I forward herewith lists of killed and wounded; also lists of prisoners forwarded.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. M. MITCHELL,
Cot. Fifty-fourth Ill. Vet. Vol. Infty., Commanding.
Lieut. Col. JAMES OAKES,
Superintendent Recruiting Service, Springfield, Ill.
The following is the list of killed and wounded during the disturbance at Charleston, Ill.:
Killed: Maj. Shuball York, Fifty-fourth Illinois Infantry; Privates Oliver Sallee and James Goodrich, Company C, and John Neer <ar57_635> and Alfred Swim, Company G, Fifty-fourth Illinois Infantry; Private William G. Hart, Sixty-second Illinois Infantry; John Jenkins, citizen (loyal); Nelson Wells, citizen (sheriff's party); John Cooper, citizen (sheriff's party).
Wounded: CoL G. M. Mitchell, Fifty-fourth Illinois; Privates William H. Decker, Company G, Landford Noyes, Company I, and George Ross, Company C, Fifty-fourth Illinois; Citizens Thomas Jeffers, William Gilman, Young E. Winkler, Robert Winkler, John W. Herndon, George J. Collins, and -------- Reardon.
Summary.--Killed: Officers, 1; soldiers, 5; citizens, 3. Wounded: Officers, 1; soldiers, 4; citizens, 7.
List of prisoners taken in Coles County by Col. G. M. Mitchell, and forwarded to Mattoon, Ill., from April 1 to April 8, 1864: Jacob L. Reardon, Benjamin F. Reardon, David Reardon, John P. Keller, Nelson O'Hair, Michael Murphy, Miles Murphy, J. W. Murphy, James S. Hardwicke, William P. Hardwicke, S. G. Hanks, H. P. Tichnor, James O'Hair, jr., Blueford E. Brooks, Miner Shelborne, William C. Batty, James [Jordan?] E. Hardwicke, John Reynolds, John T. Taylor, John F. Redmon, John W. Herndon, John Galbreath, Henry Stevens, George Jeff Collins, James M. Houck, Aaron Bryant, Young E. Winkler.
G. M. MITCHELL,
Colonel Fifty-fourth Ill. Vet. Vol. Infty.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXII/1 [S# 57]
MARCH 28, 1864.--Riot at Charleston, Coles County, Ill.
No. 4. --Report of Maj. Addison A. Hosmer, Acting Judge- Advocate- General, U. S. Army.
WAR DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF MILITARY JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., July 26, 1864.
In the case of Coles County prisoners, in custody at Fort Delaware, and charged with a murderous assault upon Union soldiers at Charleston, Ill., in March last, I have the honor to submit the following report and summary of evidence:
The facts in regard to this striking episode of the rebellion are as follows: For about a year before the occurrence in question there had been formed in Coles and Edgar Counties, Ill., an organization which comprised a considerable number of farmers and other citizens, all strongly in sympathy with the rebels. It would seem that a portion, at least, of them were associated as "Knights of the Golden Circle," but that which rendered their organization formidable was its military character. They appear to have formed an irregular regiment of companies, which met for frequent drill, which was under military discipline, and the members of which were tolerably well armed. Between this body and the loyal citizens there was of course a decided opposition, but it was against the Union soldiers that their hostility was principally expressed. Whenever they came in contact with the latter much taunting and threatening language was interchanged, and now and then personal collision took place as in the cases of Dukes and Toland, leaders of the "Butternuts" (as these men were sometimes called), who are said to have been severely handled on the part of the soldiers. Besides, however, these occasional altercations, rendered inevitable by the disloyal conduct and utterances of these parties, they had as yet engaged in no general outbreak.
On the afternoon of Monday, the 28th day of March last, a dozen or 15 soldiers of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers were collected at Charleston, the county seat of Coles County, Ill., in the neighborhood of which they resided, and from which place they were about to proceed by railroad to Mattoon, where the regiment (which had re-enlisted as veteran volunteers) had been ordered to rendezvous preparatory to its return to active service.
The day in question was the one appointed for the opening of the circuit court of the county, and it had also been given out that Hon. J. R. Eden, who represented the district in Congress, was to deliver a speech on the same day. A large number of persons had therefore gathered together, and had assembled mostly in the court-house square. Among these were distributed the soldiers, who were generally unarmed. The court had entered upon its regular business; the grand jury had been sworn, and had retired to its room; the sheriff of the county, John H. O'Hair, who had thus far been quietly engaged in his usual duties, was proceeding to impanel a petit jury. At this moment, about 3 p.m., a citizen named Nelson Wells, apparently without cause or excuse, suddenly drew a pistol and shot a soldier (Oliver Sallee) of the Fifty-fourth Regiment, who was standing near him in the square, inflicting a mortal wound. In falling, Sallee, who was armed, shot and fatally wounded his assailant.
The act of Wells was a signal for a general and evidently preconcerted assault upon the soldiers. The latter were at once fired upon from different directions and shot down by a large number of men armed with pistols, who, as soon as these were discharged, hastened to their wagons, which were near at hand, and in which had been carefully concealed guns and ammunition. With these the firing was continued, and in a very few minutes nearly every soldier in the square had been killed or wounded. One of the official reports sets forth that 100 shots were fired in the space of one minute, so fierce and summary was the assault.
Meanwhile, at the first fire, Sheriff O'Hair hurried abruptly from the court-room, placed himself at the head of the assailants, whose acknowledged leader he at once appeared to be, directed all their movements, and himself participated conspicuously in the murderous attack.
Meanwhile, also, the court-room had been invaded by the same band; Major York, the surgeon of the regiment, had been assassinated and killed, and Colonel Mitchell, of the Fifty-fourth Regiment, set upon by 3 armed men, with whom he had a desperate struggle, from which he barely succeeded in escaping with his life.
All this, as has been said, occurred in a very short space of time. One officer, 5 soldiers, and 1 loyal citizen had been killed: the colonel and 3 soldiers wounded. Of the assailants 2 were killed and 7 wounded.
When the first fury of the onslaught had expended itself Sheriff O'Hair collected his men, who were nearly 100 in number, and presently marched them off to a grove, about a quarter of a mile from the court-house. Here they remained till they learned that a considerable body of troops, for which Colonel Mitchell had at once telegraphed to Mattoon, were on the way to Charleston, whereupon they moved out into the country. With them they took I soldier as a prisoner.
At 4.30 o'clock 250 men of the Fifty-fourth Regiment arrived in a train from Mattoon, 75 of whom were mounted by Colonel Mitchell. By these the country was scoured for some distance, and in the course of the next day or two about 30 prisoners were captured. Lieuten-ant-Colonel Oakes, the acting assistant provost-marshal-general of the State, also took immediate and vigorous measures for the protection of the country, and assembled strong bodies of troops not only at Charleston, but at Mattoon and at Paris (in Edgar County), which places were supposed to be threatened with attack. It is principally from the full and detailed official report of this officer that the circumstances above narrated have been derived.
The insurgents, after leaving the scene of their crime, separated, but assembled on the same night at a rendezvous which had been indicated by their leaders. Thence they moved still farther south, separating as before, but assembling from day to day at some fixed point until Saturday of the same week, when the main body, which had become less and less, finally disbanded at a rendezvous near the town of Martinsville, Ill. At each place of meeting the more violent were in favor of pressing guns and ammunition, returning to Charleston, and again making an attack upon the troops and loyal citizens. These, however, were overruled by the majority.
In regard to this remarkable outbreak, it was quite evident at the moment, and still more so when the evidence now presented came to be taken, that it was the result of a preconcerted and carefully arranged plan. The parties who had long been associated in a political and military organization, who had frequently drilled together under their chosen leaders, who for some time had indulged in significant threats of "cleaning out" the soldiers and those who opposed their traitorous designs, and many of whom had been noted for their openly avowed and bitter disloyalty, expressed even while holding civil offices of trust and importance, were the same who assembled at Charleston on the 28th of March with carefully-concealed weapons, and who suddenly commenced a murderous assault upon every individual whom they saw dressed in the uniform of the United States.
The fact that they selected for this assault a period most opportune for their plans, when the presence of an unusual crowd would render their gathering less suspected, and when at the same time those who were the objects of their attack would be dispersed and disorganized; the character of their firing, which appeared to be in a single volley or very rapid succession of shots, and which followed instantaneously upon the given signal; the implicit obedience which they gave to the orders of their chief, or so-called "colonel," who would appear to have been awaiting the right moment to assume command, and whose appearance on the scene of action was evidently expected; the manner in which they rallied, marched off together, and held together until a dread of the increasing force of the U.S. troops induced them to disband--all these are circumstances which show most conclusively that this insurrection was no casual effort of lawless men, but the act of a body of conspirators, determined to effect, and by the most violent and summary proceedings, the overthrow of the military authority of the Government in that region of country.
That the insurrection was not more widely extended, and did not assume more threatening proportions, is doubtless owing to the vigorous measures taken by Lieutenant-Colonel Oakes and Colonel Mitchell to crush it at its inception. Of this rebellion in petto of traitors but few of the leaders were apprehended. Of the rioters who were captured, about 30 in number, all were released but 16 little or no proof being found against the others. Of the 16 1 died, and 15 therefore remained and still remain in the hands of the military authorities. Their names are as follow: Bryant Thornhill, George J. Collins, John F. Redmon, G. W. Reardon, B. F. Reardon, B. E. Brooks, John Galbreath, Aaron Bryant, John Reynolds, John T. Taylor, John W. Herndon, John W. Murphy, Michael Murphy, Miner Shel-borne, William P. Hardwicke.
In regard to these men, instructions were conveyed from this Bureau, under date of the 27th ultimo, to Major Burnett, judge-advocate, to the effect that their cases were triable by a military commission. It was ruled that while they might be charged (as proposed) with "conspiring to kill soldiers of the United States contrary to the laws and customs of war," they were chargeable with "murder" also. "Not" (as was remarkable) "murder in the common acceptation of the term of which, when committed by a citizen in a State where the ordinary criminal courts are open, a military tribunal would not have jurisdiction, but the murder of soldiers of the United States, for the disloyal and treasonable purpose of resisting and defeating the Government in its efforts to suppress the rebellion. Such a crime (it was said), when perpetrated in time of war, might well be held to be a military offense, and, as such, friable and punishable by a military court." It was added that "the circumstances thus conferring jurisdiction should be indicated in the charge and distinctly set forth in the specifications."
Pursuant to these instructions the trial of at least 4 of these prisoners has, as it is understood, been entered upon at Cincinnati. These 4 are supposed to be Thornhill, Collins, Redmon, and George W. Reardon, being the same who were indicted by the grand jury of Coles County, the two former for riot and the two latter for murder.
It may be added here that the grand jury ignored bills of indictment against the other prisoners now held by the military authorities. They, however, found indictments of murder against John H. O'Hair and a number of the leaders of the insurrection who have never been captured.
As it is understood to be the desire of the President to come to a just conclusion in regard to the criminality of these prisoners, especially of those who are believed to have not yet been put on tribal, the mass of affidavits and other written testimony, including the sworn statements filed in their defense, have been carefully examined. The following is a brief summary of the evidence in all these cases, including those of the first four:
Bryant Thornhill.--Two female witnesses testify that at the time of the commencement of the firing he was at the house of one of them, situated a quarter of a mile from the court-house. They, however, do not state that he remained there during all the firing although they add that when he left he went toward his home, which was in a direction opposite to the square. One of these witnesses is the wife of Dukes, a notorious insurgent; the other, her next neighbor. There is other testimony, mostly, however, on the part of men implicated in the riot, that he left the square just before the firing and advised others to leave, on the ground that there was about to be a difficulty. On the other hand, it is testified by Mullen, a soldier, that he saw Thornhill present at the attack and engaged in firing upon the soldiers. Two others, H. N. Turner and Robert Smith, testify that they saw him around and in company with O'Hair and his sons, and that he assisted them in taking prisoner one Freesner, the soldier mentioned as having been captured. One of these witnesses states that Thornhill would have shot Freesner if his companions had not prevented him. Lewis Hevell states that on the evening of the 28th Thornhill told him that he was present at the assault and that he shot Jeffries (a soldier), and saw him fall. Richard Stoddard testifies that he saw him counseling with the leading rioters just before the firing; and B. F. Wells and W. T. Wells represent that they were present at a copperhead drill in June, 1863, at which Thornhill made a speech in which he counseled resisting the draft "to the death," and made use of highly disloyal and treasonable language. He is spoken of as the "lieutenant-colonel" of the "Copperhead regiment."
George J. Collins, commonly called "Jeff Collins."--No evidence whatever is submitted in behalf of this man. Several witnesses, V. K. Curd, J. A. West, D. P. Morris, and A. N. Graham saw him present at the assault with the other rioters. West testifies that he saw him armed and apparently in the act of shooting at the soldiers. Morris saw him strike a soldier with a club. Graham saw him throwing brickbats. Upon his arrest he admitted to the officer making the arrest, as well as to Colonel Mitchell, that he threw brickbats. In the riot he was slightly wounded.
John F. Redmon.--In the defense of this party is introduced the testimony of his brother and two of his friends, who state that they all came into Charleston together on the day in question and returned together to their homes at night. Two of these state that Redmon was sitting with them in the court-room before the riot, and that he went out a little before the firing commenced. These witnesses admit that he was armed and they were also armed with pistols. Other witnesses say that they saw him running into the court-house, as if for refuge, a very short time after the commencement of the firing, and that he remained there during the firing. Between this time, however, and that of his first leaving the courthouse he is not accounted for. On the other hand, it is testified by William Ricketts, John W. Reat, J. E. Taylor, George McNutt, William A. Basleton, Felix Sanders, Robert Kimball, and Samuel Bowser that they saw him present at the firing, and McNutt, Basleton, and Bowser state that they saw him in the act of shooting at the soldiers. Basleton adds that a soldier who was fired at by Redmon appeared to be hit, whereupon the latter exclaimed, "By God, I got him." Bowser says that after seeing him shoot with a pistol he saw him go to a wagon and take out a gun and shoot with that. Sanders also saw him take the gun from the wagon and load it.
G. W. Reardon, commonly called" Wash. Reardon," and B. F. Reardon.--No affidavits are presented in behalf of either of these prisoners. The testimony of Colonel Mitchell, George Ross (a soldier), James B. Campbell, Charles Fleming, James F. Feeney, and Samuel Bowser is to the effect that both were present and actively engaged in the firing. The former was seen by Bowser to shoot "several times" at soldiers. Fleming says that he had a soldier's coat on, and that one of the Reardons shot at him "five times." It is fully established that one of them was one of the assailants of Colonel Mitchell, and that the same one attempted to shoot Ross when he came to the colonel's assistance. The weight of the evidence is that this one was G. W. Reardon, but Ross swears that it was the other.
B. E. Brooks.--Several witnesses, principally neighbors and friends of this party, who were at Charleston with him on the 28th, state that about the time the firing commenced he mounted his horse and went away peaceably homeward with several others, and that at this time he expressed himself as desirous to get away, since he had no arms. It is added, however, that after riding some distance he returned to Charleston alone with the avowed purpose of getting his saddle, which had been left behind. A large number of citizens, principally of Hutton Township, subscribe a testimonial in which they say that he has always been a man of good and peaceable character. Three witnesses, however, H. G. Green, G. P. Smith, and J. B. Hutchason, state positively that they saw him present and acting with the rioters on the occasion of the attack. These did not see him engaged in the firing, but Smith testifies that when the principal firing was over he saw Brooks on horseback with a revolver in his hand, and heard him ordering or urging his associates to "go back and give them hell." Green testifies that he saw about 30 of the insurgents collected and formed in a line by Brooks, and that he heard him whoop, and cry out, "Bully for you, boys; we gave them hell this time; and further, that he heard him issue orders to them.
John Galbreath.--It is testified by one witness on the part of the defense that very soon after the firing commenced he saw this man run out of the gate on the north side of the square, mount his horse, and ride away. One of his neighbors states that he saw him at his house on the evening of the 28th, and on the next two days; and both this witness and another (the father of the accused) allege that they never knew him to have or carry fire-arms or to engage in any "copperhead" drills, and that his character is that of a quiet, peaceable man. On the other hand, Marcus Hill swears that he saw Gal-breath present during the principal firing; that the latter approached and addressed some conversation to him, and did not leave his neighborhood till the firing was about over. David Johnson testifies that just before the firing he saw Galbreath run to the west door of the court-house, and heard him ask two men who were there if they had their pistols ready; that they replied, "yes." That two more men then joined them, and that the five then went rapidly and excitedly to the west side of the square, where the firing commenced almost immediately after; that when the principal part of the shooting was over, he saw Galbreath in a line of some forty of the rioters which had been formed by their leaders east of the court-house.
Aaron Bryant.--In behalf of this man it is stated by a neighbor that on the 28th, about 2 p.m., he saw him about 2 miles from Charleston, going with a team toward the residence of one Parrish, and that he informed the witness that he was going there for oats. But another witness, who accompanied Bryant, states that it was about 4 o'clock when the latter started for Parrish's. Members of the Parrish family say that he came to the house "as late as 4 or 5 o'clock," and remained till late in the evening. On the part of the Government a witness, Robert Kimball, clearly identifies Bryant as having been present at the riot and engaged in firing upon the soldiers. He says that he saw him fire "once or more." John Gossett states that on March 23 Bryant invited him to "join their order," and told him that they were about to "clean out" the soldiers and Union citizens. He adds that the latter urged him to go to Charleston on or about the 28th and carry arms with him, stating at the same time that he was then traveling about the country on "that business."
John Reynolds.--It is testified by three witnesses that they saw this party run out of the square at the south gate, at the commencement of the firing, as if trying to get out of the way. One of these, however, mentions that he was armed with a pistol. A fourth witness testifies that at the time of the firing he met the accused outside of the town, mounted, with some 15 or 20 others, and heard him advise that they should not go into the town on account of the shooting, which he thought was not yet over. Three other witnesses, however, David Johnson, F. Brown, and J. B. Hutchason, testify that Reynolds was present at or about the time of the firing, and Johnson states that he was armed with a pistol. Brown describes him as seen in consultation with O'Hair before the assault, and as afterward falling into line with others under O'Hair as their leader. He adds that he has often heard Reynolds threaten to resist and "fight against" the draft, and to express his determination, if drafted, to "shoot our own boys." Henry Dittimore testifies that in riding home in company with R. on the evening of the 28th, he heard him state that he had "let one load off."
John T. Taylor.--The testimony offered on behalf of this party is quite immaterial upon the question of his participation in the riot. One witness says that he saw him about 4 p.m. run from the courthouse square, go to his horse, which was fastened at a little distance, and mount him and ride away. Another states that he loaned his pistol to Taylor in the morning; and a third, that the pistol was picked up in the square after the firing, covered with mud, with all the barrels loaded and with the appearance of not having been discharged. On the other hand, the prisoner is fully identified by N. L. Wyeth as having been present at the attack. This witness says that he "saw a man by the name of Taylor, whom we took as prisoner. He had a pistol in his hand, and seemed to be in the act of shooting; was pointing toward the soldiers." B.F. Wells states in his affidavit that Taylor, on being arrested by him, at first denied, but afterward admitted, that he was in the fight, and that he had lost his pistol there. He also made a similar admission to Colonel Mitchell.
John W. Herndon.--No testimony is offered in his defense. N. L. Wyeth identifies him as having seen him "in the crowd with a pistol in his hand." V. K. Curd states that he saw him in Charleston on the morning of the 28th, in company with Collins and a number of others, who were indulging in hostile language in regard to the soldiers. At the time of the firing he "saw Herndon raise a pistol and fire at some person in the court-house yard." When arrested by Wells, Herndon first denied and then admitted that he was present at the fight, and was himself wounded there. A similar statement was made by him to Colonel Mitchell.
John W. Murphy and Michael Murphy.--(With these prisoners was captured also their father, Miles Murphy, who died while in confinement at Camp Yates.) In behalf of the former, it is endeavored to be shown by members of his family, &c., that he was either at home or at a neighbor's house during all the afternoon of the 28th. But the witnesses do not agree in their statements; one representing that he was at a certain house from 1 till about 5 p.m. of that day, and another that he was there only till 3 o'clock, when he returned home and presently went to another house, and did not again return till dusk. His mother testifies that he had no arms of any kind in his possession. In behalf of Michael Murphy no evidence is presented. On the part of the prosecution, it is deposed by Robert Kimball, a soldier, that he saw "one of the Murphys" (whose first name he does not know) fire "twice" at himself. George Mc-Nutt (a soldier) further testifies as follows:
Saw three of the Murphys engaged in the fight: one of them was Miles: the other two were his sons. These two young Murphys had guns in their hands. I saw them draw their guns up to their faces as in the act of shooting. They seemed to be pointing at me. I was then trying to get out of their way, and could not say whether they fired at me or not. The old man Murphy seemed to be engaged in loading the guns and handing to others to shoot. These guns seemed to be taken out of a wagon; also saw the old man have a pistol in his hand.
Another fact which goes to establish the participation of the Murphys in the assault is that Freesner, the soldier who was detained as a prisoner by the insurgents, was confined under guard, on the night of the 28th, at the Murphy house.
Miner Shelborne.--There is no testimony in regard to the active participation of this man in the firing. On the morning of the 29th he was captured at the house of the Murphys while engaged in guarding Freesner, the soldier taken prisoner by the insurgents. Freesner states that when going toward the railroad station, just after the firing, he was arrested by a band of about 20 rioters and forced to accompany them till late at night, when he was placed under guard of Shelborne and others and confined as aforesaid. Mrs. Murphy represents in her affidavit that when the prisoner was brought to her house. Shelborne said that Freesner was "put in his charge till morning,'" and that he" seemed to be the one in control."
William P. Hardwicke.--In behalf of this party it is represented that on the 28th he was traveling at some distance from Charleston, on his way from Edgar County, Ill., with a company of persons who were starting for the Nevada gold mines; that he staid that night at the house of one Davis; and that early the next morning he visited the house of his uncle, Samuel Hardwicke, which was in the neighborhood, and was there arrested; further, that he was not at the house of the Murphys before his arrest. This testimony, however, is somewhat confused, and Freesner testifies positively that when he was released by the Union soldiers, early on the morning of the 29th, Hardwicke was engaged with Shelborne in guarding him. His language is: "William Hardwicke and Miner Shelborne were on guard when the Union soldiers came up and took them, and released me." He adds also that James Hardwicke and Jordan E. Hardwicke were at the house at the same time, and were arrested by the soldiers. These two men were afterward discharged. Their relationship to the accused is not set forth.
Upon a review of the testimony in these several cases, it seems quite clear that all the above-named prisoners (except the two last) were implicated in the murderous assault which has been detailed, and it is urged that all of them (with these exceptions) be forthwith brought to trial upon the charges mentioned in the letter of instructions from this office of the 27th ultimo.
It is not merely because these men have engaged in murder, assassination, riot, and brutal assault that their prosecution before a military tribunal is thus urged. It is because they have conspired to aim a most deadly blow at the supremacy of the Government at a time when it is engaged in a struggle for its life, and when the villainy of the traitor at home is as fatal and as keenly felt as the hostility of the open enemy in the field. Their crime was not committed against individuals merely, but directly against the military authority of the nation, and whether viewed as a domestic insurrection en rapport with the rebellion, or as a vindictive and treasonable assault upon the soldiery to whom the suppression of that rebellion is intrusted, their act must be regarded as one of momentous public importance, and in the fullest sense a great military crime.
Moreover, it is to be remarked that these prisoners have been for four months in confinement, and that a writ of habeas corpus, issued by the U.S. circuit court, requiring them to be delivered up to the civil authorities, has been disregarded, and the prisoners retained in the hands of the military by the express order of the President. The Government would seem, therefore, to have committed itself to a prompt and special adjudication of their cases as those of offenders against military law.
In regard to Shelborne, it may be said that testimony other than that at present submitted may probably be obtained by the judge-advocate, to the effect that this man personally participated in the riot, but in the absence of such evidence both he and Hardwicke may be brought to trial upon a separate charge of violation of the laws of war in illegally imprisoning a soldier of the United States.
It remains only to add that, though many of the more prominent actors in this bloody revolt have thus far escaped, they should be deemed as public enemies, and if the capture of any of them be hereafter consummated by the military authorities, that they should be brought to immediate trial with a view to their summary punishment in case of conviction by a military court.
The names of those alluded to are as follows: John H. O'Hair, James O'Hair, Jesse O'Hair, Henderson O'Hair, B. F. Toland, Ellsbury Hanks, Benjamin Dukes, B. F. Williams, John Frazier, Robert McLain, Robert Winkler, Alexander Rodgers, Calvin Rice, Joseph Carter.
With these may also be included as present and concerned with the foregoing in the assault and riot: Young E. Winkler, G. W. Toland, George Thomas, Dick Robinson, Harry Ray, John Cooper, James Houck, --------- Wetherall.
A. A. HOSMER, Major and Acting Judge-Advocate-General.
To His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President of the United States.
[Indorsement No. 1.]
NOVEMBER 4, 1864.
Let these prisoners be sent back to Coles County, Ill., those indicted be surrendered to the sheriff of said county, and the others be discharged.
[Indorsement No. 2.]
WAR DEPARTMENT, November 5, 1864.
Referred to the Adjutant-General to cause the execution of the order of the President.
By order of the Secretary of War:
C. A. DANA, Assistant Secretary of War.
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