McLean County, Illinois
Source: Company B, Fourth Regiment, Illinois Volunteers in the War With Mexico (1846-47) by Ezra M. Prince
The annexation of Texas and the consequent war with Mexico was violently assailed by the Whigs, Abolitionists, and every grade of anti-slavery men. Col. John J Hardin, who fell at the head of the First Illinois Regiment at the battle of Buena Vista, the eloquent representative in Congress of the Jacksonville district, denounced annexation as “an unwise, reckless, selfish sectional, and slavery-extending policy.” Mr. Clay declared that annexation and war were identical. The intensity of the denunciations of the Abolitionists may be judged from the following extract from the first of the “Bigelow Papers,” by James Russell Lowell:
“Wal’, go ‘long to help ‘em stelin’
Bigger pens to cram with slaves,
Help the men that’s ollers dealin’
Insults on your fathers’ graves;
Help the strong to grind the feeble,
Help the many agin the few,
Help the men that call your people
Whitewashed slaves and peddling crew.”
The Democratic party, north and south, generally favored annexation; it was “manifest destiny;” our flesh and blood appealing to us for aid. Texas was in fact inhabited by Americans, an exceedingly virile and brave people, alien to Mexico in religion, language, and political and social habits and customs, and it was exceedingly improbably that they would consent to remain under the rule of so weak a power as Mexico, who, there is every reason to believe, would have been willing without war to give up Texas, but that would not have suited the purposed of those controlling the administration. The object of the war was not concealed by its advocates. Mr. Calhoun, who was then Tyler’s secretary, in an official note to the British minister, avowed that Texas was to be annexed to guard against the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Annexation was first brought before the Senate by way of a treaty, but was defeated by a vote of 16 to 35. Both of the senators from this state, Judge Sidney D Breeze and Gov. James Semple, were among the sixteen voting for ratification. Judge Moses, in his “History of Illinois”, speaking of the desperate attempt in 1824 to make Illinois a slave state, says: “Sidney Breeze was another of those who held slaves at Kaskaskia and failed to leave any record showing which side of the question he favored.” Governor Semple was a native of Kentucky, who during the great contest of 1824 was living in Missouri, but he evidently had no scruples in extending the influence of slavery in the United States.
In the last session of congress, under President Tyler, annexation again came up in the form of a joint resolution. Van Buren had been defeated in the Democratic National Convention of 1844 by Polk, because he was opposed to and Polk strongly in favor of annexation. All the force of the incoming, as well as of the outgoing, administration was used in favor of the project. It was carried through the House by a vote of 120 to 97 and the Senate, which a few months before had rejected the treaty by a vote of 16 to 35, now passed the joint resolution by a vote of 27 to 25, Breeze and Semple again voting for annexation. The twenty-seven were all Democrats except three southern Whigs. It was in view of such changes that Lowell says:
“A merciful Providence fashioned us holler
O’ purpose that we might our principles swaller.”
Except Colonel Hardin, the entire delegation in the House from Illinois including Stephen A Douglas, John A McClernand, and John Wentworth, voted for annexation. McLean county was then in the Chicago district, represented by John Wentworth.
Polk, bent on war, ordered General Taylor into the territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers, which Mexico claimed never had belonged to or been occupied by Texas. The American army built a fort opposite Matamoras, the chief Mexican town on the Rio Grande. April 24 1846, a slight collision occurred on the Rio Grande between a detachment of General Taylor’s army and that of Mexico under General Arista. Captain Thornton’s company was surrounded and surrendered, ten men being killed and forty-five taken prisoners. When the news reached Washington, May 11, the President sent a special message to Congress, declaring that war existed by act of Mexico, and asking for men and money to carry it on. Congress, by a vote of 124 to 14 in the House and 40 to 2 in the Senate, promptly appropriated $10,000,000, and gave the President authority to call out 50,000 volunteers. Originally three regiments were assigned to Illinois, but Hon. Edward D Baker, then a member of Congress from the Springfield district, induced the Secretary of War to accept another regiment, one company of which was assigned to McLean county. Gen. Asahel Gridley, who had been in the Black Hawk war, was at the time in command of the militia of this county. He issued a call for a meeting to be held at Bloomington, June 13, to raise the McLean county company. On that day the people came from all parts of the county, in farm wagons, on horseback, and on foot, from far and near, to the meeting, which was held on a vacant lot on the southwest corner of Center and Market streets. Most of the adult male population of the county were there. General Gridley mounted a wagon and addressed the crowd in a very patriotic, vivid, and flowery speech, in which he painted in glowing colors the glory the soldiers would achieve and the good times they would have in the “Halls of Montezuma.” He urged the young men to enlist in the service of their country attacked by the ruthless Mexican barbarians, closing with “Go and fight the battles of your country as I have done. Glory awaits you. Our hearts are with you.”
While General Gridley was speaking, Judge David Davis, an old line Whig, who was present, and who it was presumed was opposed to the war, nudged A. Brokaw, who sat next to him, and said, “They wanted me to make a speech, but I told them I wasn’t going to enlist and wouldn’t make a speech.”
After General Gridley, John Moore of Randolph’s Grove, then Lieutenant-Governor of the state, spoke, He was a large, portly man, red face, sandy hair, looked like an old time farmer -- honest, plain, blunt, and direct, both in speech and action. He said: “General Gridley has urged you to go to war. I do not say go; I say come. I am going and say to you all, come with me.” Then he called upon his old neighbors: “Where is Old Billy Rust? Has he no sons to enlist in this great and glorious war? Where is Gardner Randolph? Has he no sons to go with me and defend his country?” etc. It was a very plain but effective speech, and took the wind completely out of General Gridley’s sails.
A full company of 103 men enlisted for six months. Dr. Garrett Elkin was chosen Captain, Governor Moore First Lieutenant, and James Withers and William L Duncan, Second Lieutenants, Congress having passed an act authorizing the election of an additional second lieutenant to each company of volunteers.
The night before the company went to Springfield, where it was organized, some ten or a dozen of the company who got full of whisky, paid their respects to the Abolitionists of Bloomington who had excited their anger by their denunciations of the war. They went to the home of Rev. Levi Spencer, No. 219 East Front Street, then pastor of the Congregationalist Church here, a strong Abolitionist, broke in the doors and windows of his residence with clubs and brick bats, and defiled the house with rotten eggs. Mr. Spencer and his family, driven out of the house, escaped in the night clothes by the back door. The mob then visited George Dietrich’s residence, 301 West Washington street, and repeated the operation. Lieutenant Duncan writes the author of this sketch: “The outrageous attack on the homes of Reverend Spencer and Mr. Dietrich was the act of a few drunken men, the vagabond element of our town. The McLean Company should not be mixed up with this matter at all as a company, and but few as individuals. We condemned and deplored the outrage.”
The next day the company went to Springfield, being hauled down in farm wagons. The government having refused any enlistment for less than a year, the company was there reorganized. A number of prominent men from McLean county went to Springfield and urged and persuaded their relatives to return, and some of the company, who had already got enough of soldiering, refused to enlist for a year and availed themselves of the opportunity to go home. June 26 the company was filled up with new men, mostly from Macoupin county, one of whom, Andrew J Wallace, was elected First Lieutenant. The members of the regiment from McLean county who were mustered in were:
Lieut. Col. John Moore, promoted from First Lieutenant Company B
Name and Rank
Name and Rank
Captain Privates Garrett B Elkin Res’d Oct. 20, 1846 John Good 2d Lieutenants Alexander Gwinn March 3, 1847 James M Withers Res’d Oct. 20, 1846 William Harbard William L Duncan Andrew J Hodge Died Sept. 9, 1846 Sergeants James M Jenkins B M Wyatt John S W Johnson September 1846 John D Lander Thomas P Johnston E S Duckeshier John Jones James E Parke September 24, 1846 William Lamer Corporals Henry Lash December 3, 1846 Samuel Ogden William Lash John G Crammer William Little October 28 1846 A J Mason David Mahon October 3, 1846 Nicholas Savage September 24, 1846 Justice McCarroll Thomas H Haines September 24, 1846 R N McIntyre George Perry Died Nov. 3, 1846 James M. Miller December 3, 1846 John Misner Died Nov. 18, 1846 Anderson Newton Musician Thomas J V Owen Charles E Fling September 24, 1846 Allen Palmer Privates Leroy G Palmer March 3, 1847 Mason Baker Clinton Poindexter October 27, 1846 William F Baldwin E C Reamer Joseph Bozarth Des’rted July 4, 1846 George Ruth Isaac Brown Julius H Series William Brumfield James Stout John I Crumbaugh October 27, 1846 William A Toppass Durant Daponte October 3, 1846 William M Vanhorn William S Davis October 3, 1846 John Walker James Depew J E Walker Ichabod Dodson David Williams John H Eskew August 28, 1846 Peter Withers Joseph Glimpse E B Young
Of the fifty-eight members of Company B from McLean county two resigned, one deserted, four died, sixteen were discharged for disability incurred in the service, the dates of their discharge being in the “Remarks” opposite their names. The rest were discharged with the regiment.
(TRANSCRIBER NOTE: For a full history of the battles engaged in by McLean County Company B please refer to "War Record of McLean County and Other Papers, Transactions of The McLean County Historical Society, Bloomington, Illinois, Volume I. (1899)"]
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