The military history of Nebraska dates back to December 23, 1854. It was on that day that acting Governor Cuming issued a proclamation in which he recommended that the citizens of the newly created Territory organize volunteer companies in their respective settlements.
These companies were to form the nucleus of two regiments, one for the country south of the Platte River, and one for the country to the north. At that time the Platte was not only a geographical boundary line, but a social one, as well. Each newly organized company was to develop its own organization and elect its own officers. Arms and ammunition were to be kept in readiness for service and night sentinels were set up to guard frontier districts where there was a danger of Indian raids.
Blockhouses were suggested in the early military directive as a suitable place of refuge in case of an attack. Although fully equipped, the regiments were ordered to go into action solely for defense, and the Indian tribes, despite the peacefulness of the Pawnees in that section, were subject to influence from the more warlike Sioux.
In 1855 the Militia was organized in Nebraska for protection against the Indians. Commissions issued to members of the territorial Militia were as follows: First Brigade, John M. Thayer, brigadier-general; Peter A. Sarpy, quartermaster-general; William English, commissary-general; John B. Falsom, adjutant; H. P. Dawns, inspector-general.
First Regiment, A. J. Hanscom, colonel; William C. James, lieutenant; Colonel Hascal C. Purple, major; J. D. N. Thompson, Thomas L. Griffy, adjutants; John B. Robertson, quartermaster; Anselum Arnold, commissary; M. H. Clark, surgeon.
Second Regiment, David M. Johnson, colonel; Richard Brown, quartermaster; Gideon Bennet, commissary; William McLennan, adjutant; Isaiah H. Crane, surgeon; William Hamilton, assistant surgeon.
The over-all organization of the Militia took place at that time as a result of certain depredations which had been committed by the Pawnees in the spring of 1855 upon white settlers in Dodge County. Governor Izard had appointed J. M. Thayer and O. D. Richardson a committee of two to meet with the Indians in council on the banks of the Platte. The Pawnees were told of the government's desire for peaceful relations and warned that they would be held to a strict accounting for any further depredations they might commit.
Since the results of this meeting were not considered satisfactory, it was deemed necessary to maintain a military organization. Shortly thereafter, in July, 1855, a band of hostile Sioux created additional fear among the settlers, and when Logan Fontenelle, chief of the Omahas, was massacred, the governor authorized General Thayer to raise and equip a volunteer company of forty men. Further authority to increase this force, if necessary, was granted Thayer who was put in charge of the "Home Guard."
Four years later, in the summer of 1859, the volunteers were called into active service in the Pawnee War. The county seat of Platte County (then the three-year-old settlement of Columbus) figured prominently in that territorial episode. On July 1, messengers arrived in Omaha from Fontenelle with the news that Pawnees were driving off stock, burning houses and threatening the lives of the settlers. A citizens' committee, consisting of John Evans, John M. Taggart, S. Searte and W. M. Saint, then appealed to Governor Black for aid.
The aggressor Indians who were encamped near Fontenelle had begun by pilfering and, emboldened by the non-resistance of the white residents, had later made more violent assaults.
In the course of one
of these attacks, the settlers had killed four Indians, and great unrest seized
the entire region. Governor Black was in Nebraska City when the summons arrived,
and Secretary J Sterling Morton, next in legal authority, was called upon to
act in his place. He issued a call to Colonel Charles May, comman-
dant at Fort Kearney, for troops to repel the Indians.
However, all of the military force then stationed at Fort Kearney had been dispatched to protect the train of Russell, Majors and Waddell, government contractors. Instead, Lieutenant B. H. Robertson, commanding Company K, Second Dragoons, was ordered to proceed with his company to protect the settlers.
In the meantime, General Thayer, with the light artillery company of Omaha under the command of Captain James H. Ford, had set out for the scene of the hostilities. For fifty miles around the embattled settlement, the district was alerted, and farms and homesteads were abandoned.
On July 5, Governor Black, with a portion of Company K, United States Dragoons, arrived in Omaha. The governor immediately set about organizing an army of volunteers. He obtained horses and equipment from the firm of Wood and King, Omaha liverymen, who put their entire stable at his disposal. Stores were provided from Lacy and McCormick, and George Clayes, local merchants.
Post offices in the Territory had been destroyed, and government property burned and pillaged when, on the morning of July 6, Lieutenant Robertson and Governor Black left Omaha to join General Thayer's forces south of the Elkhorn.
The army consisted of approximately two hundred men. Officers included: commander-in-chief, Governor Black; major-general of the commanding expedition, John M. Thayer. The staff included the following men: Lieutenant-Colonels John McConihe, R. E. Bowie, C. D. Woolworth, Samuel A. Lowe.
General Thayer's staff consisted of Captains R. H. Howard, A. S. Paddock, Witt Black and J. W. Pattison. The companies of troops were as follows:
Number One, Omaha Light Artillery with one six-pounder cannon, Captain James H. Ford; First Lieutenant E. G. McNelly; Sergeant Will Searight. Sixteen men were in the company, one wagon and twenty-one horses. -
Number Two, First Dragoons: Captain George F. Kennedy; First Lieutenant J. C. Reeves; Second Lieutenant C. A. Henry; First Sergeant J. S. Bowen. The total list included fifty-two men, four wagons and fifty-seven horses.
Number Three, Second Dragoons: Captain R. W. Hazen; First Lieutenant William West; Second Lieutenant H. C. Campbell; Sergeant Abram McNeil. Total: fifty-one men, five wagons and forty-six horses.
Number Four, Fontenelle Mounted Rifles: Captain William Kline; First Lieutenant James A. Bell; Second Lieutenant William S. Flack; Sergeant John H. Francis.
Columbus Infantry Number Five: Captain Michael Weaver, First Lieutenant William Grauman; Sergeant John Browner. Total: thirty-seven men, four wagons and eleven horses.
Columbus Guards Number Six: Captain J. Rickly; First Lieutenant J. P. Becker; Second Lieutenant J. C. Wolfel; total: eleven men.
When regularly organized, regimental officers were: Governor Black, commander-in-chief; John M. Thayer, Major-General; William A. West, Colonel; B. H. Robertson, United States Army, Lieutenant-Colonel; Samuel R. Curtis, Inspector-General; E. Estabrook, adjutant; Reed, Major; W. T. Clark, Quartermaster; A. U. Wyman, Commissary; Henry Page, wagon master; J. P. Peck and William McClelland, surgeons.
The report as set down by General Thayer, described the battle as follows: "The troops came upon the Indians and the Indians surrendered. The line was formed, the cannon was planted, and the chiefs of all the different bands came forward, throwing down their arms and raising white flags. The interpreter was directed to communicate with them, and they asked to have a council. They acknowledged that their young men had committed these depredations and offered to give them up. They then brought forward six, who were surrendered."
Later the following day, two of the prisoners were shot while trying to escape.
The war between the whites and the Pawnees was marked by many humorous incidents. One of these concerned the trapping of some Indians in the house of a white settler. The family hid in one room, while a small squad of white troops waited in another. The Indians then were invited to enter the house. When eleven braves came in, the white leader gave a signal, and the soldiers rushed on them. However, the Indians were prepared for this: They dropped their blankets, slithered down between the legs of the white men, and made their escape through the door.
In the pursuit, one soldier was wounded, two or three Pawnees killed. Another was injured,
The History of Platte County Nebraska
and the soldiers captured one lone Indian. While he was being taken back to camp, the wounded Pawnee pretended to die and was pitched into the nearby river. Suddenly he came to life, and began to swim for the opposite shore. Some indication of the feeling toward the Indians at that time is revealed in the statement of A. Sorenson, concluding his account:
"When he came to the surface to get air, a load of buckshot struck him in the back of the head. That finished his career."
At the conclusion of the Pawnee war, a conference was held between the whites and the Indians, in which the latter were given their choice of fighting or surrendering. They agreed to stop all warfare, and relinquished seven young bucks as prisoners to the whites. The Pawnees were tied on behind the wagons of their captors and the white army moved on. When one of the prisoners was found shot, the military surgeon said that he would not live to reach the settlement, and he was set free to return to his tribe.
Symbolic of the fate of his fellow tribesmen at the hands of the whites, even this move ended in failure for the wounded Pawnee. He never lived to rejoin his people, but was found dead the following morning, a short distance from the camp.
In this territorial rebellion, or "Indian scare" as it has sometimes been called, military titles were almost as numerous in Nebraska as they were one decade later at the close of the Civil War. General John M. Thayer, however, was one officer who did not gain his title in the Pawnee uprising. Thayer had been a general in 1855 and, similarly, Colonel A. J. Hanscom, who played a leading role in the frontier battles, had served in the Mexican war as captain of a Michigan company.
The "enemy" in this strange pioneer war was not like any other hostile group later encountered by a defending American force. The Omahas, for instance, "had one side of their villainous-looking countenances painted red, and the other side black." Frequently, in conferring over reparations due the Indians for men killed, and equipment and horses lost, the white soldiers would employ a series of details. One would argue until exhausted, and then the next would take his place, continuing to haggle with the Indians. In this way, many victories were won by outwinding the red men.
The defending white forces were formally disbanded at Columbus, and told that each company commander would receive the pay due his company, and the members would be paid by him. That this agreement was not strictly kept by the government was later felt by some volunteers.
This organization of the Home Guard, the '63 raid by the Sioux on the white settlers of the Loup and Platte Valleys, and the subsequent alarm which spread through the countryside from Wood River across the Loup and through the German and Irish settlements along Shell Creek, turning the entire valley into an armed stockade -- these were the first efforts of the residents of Platte County to protect themselves in any but an individual manner. Casual and unorthodox as it was, this new region had manned and produced a military machine.
It was made up of cavalry and infantry, and part of it moved by ox-drawn wagon carts. It used muskets and guns which had been carried across the country, and handed down in the family to "be ready should trouble come." It fought bravely for the protection of home and family. Sometimes this fighting was done on the soldiers' very doorstep, sometimes at a distant point many miles away on the plains. But one thing remains certain. It was the last time that Nebraska soldiers ever fought on home soil, saw graphically the price put on capitulation, on fear, or on defeat.
For over forty years preceding the outbreak of the Civil War, the new Nebraska Territory and the rest of the frontier played much the same role in United States history as that of an adolescent whose parents were feuding violently over the practical and ideological patterns to be laid down for the rest of his life. In a way, without firing a shot or raising its strident young pioneer voice, the Western territory --- passively and almost unconsciously-was the raison d'etre of the entire American Civil War.
Beginning in 1820, a date marked by the first violent clash over the extension or prohibition of slavery in the Territories of the West, the clash grew steadily worse. In 1850 ended what might be called the period of compromises between the South on one hand, dominated by an agricultural economic system, based on feudal institutions. Large estates or plantations were maintained through slavery. The North, on the other hand, was industrial and commercial, and had a growing middle class which viewed the southern division of classes and races as typifying the very things Americans had fought to escape in other lands.
Statesmanship was on a high level during the pre-Civil War days. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun all worked to seek a solution to the national problem. Old political parties split up and new ones formed. But the crucial point came when the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won a victory over his three opponents in the 1860 election. The Southern states, feeling themselves opposed by a hostile and unsympathetic majority, had recourse to secession.
South Carolina was the first to move. The Gulf states and "border" states followed, and the first shot of the Civil War was fired April 12, 1861, when southern soldiers attempted to take Fort Sumter (a Federal garrison in the South) by force. In all, eleven states were pitted against the Union with the issue one of Southern independence or the indissolubility of the federation of the United States.
In the war, which lasted four years, General Ulysses Grant and President Lincoln were outstanding in their leadership of the North; General "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee, chief advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, plotted the strategy of the rebelling states. In military affairs, the Civil War was tremendously important for the development of mechanized warfare. A few days before the final surrender of the South, President Lincoln, considered by many to be the greatest leader America has ever known, was assassinated in Washington, D. C.
The war was fought from Gettysburg south, with some fighting taking place at sea. As a result of the victory of the North, the way was opened up for new development of the territories of the West --- a modern, democratic and slave-free development, which assured the best social and most effective economic system for that important region in the very heart of the newly organized states of the South.
Because there were less than eight hundred people in Platte County at the time of the Civil War, it was not possible for Columbus or the surrounding country to figure largely in the great conflict. In 1860, there were but 28,841 white inhabitants to occupy the entire 125,994 square miles of Nebraska Territory. Of this number, about one-ninth of the population, or 3,307 men, entered into military operations.
It is interesting to note that, after the bill abolishing slavery in the Territory was passed by the Nebraska legislature on December 10, 1860, it was returned unsigned by Governor Black. An elaborate veto message, setting forth his views favoring slave traffic, accompanied the bill's return. Black, however, did not support secession; and later fought on the side of the Union. He died in battle in 1862.
Despite the gubernatorial veto, the bill overwhelmingly was passed by the legislature, and one critic of the governor said: "If his Excellency had a mint of gold with which to bribe this legislature .... we could give neither dignity to this document nor force to its conclusions."
Telegraphic communication had not yet been established with the outside world when the war between the states broke out, and mail service was still being handled by pony express. Thus it followed that reports of the advance of hostilities and military developments from below the Mason-Dixon line filtered into the little settlements on the plains quite some time after they had actually transpired.
However, the news of the fall of Fort Sumter evoked intense enthusiasm and a strong spirit of loyalty among the pioneers. Perhaps they, better than any others in America at that time, realized the very real need for unity, the interdependence of all men in this new land and were therefore more impatient with the rebellious and medieval disposition displayed by the South than with their neighbors in the Atlantic states.
The first wartime move in the Nebraska Territory took place on April 23, when two companies of United States troops arrived in Omaha from Fort Kearney on their way to Leavenworth and the front. They encamped at the steamboat landing for a day, awaiting the arrival of a transport. Meanwhile, local preparations for securing volunteer troops were stepped up.
George F. Kennedy, of Florence, was appointed by Governor Black as acting brigadier-general of the First Brigade of Nebraska troops pending the final organization. On May 18, Governor Alvin Saunders, who had just succeeded Governor Black, issued a proclamation, calling for the immediate raising and equipment of a regiment of infantry. This was the first quota assigned to the Territory under the initial call for troops.
It is practically impossible to determine even from the reports of the Adjutant-General, the names of all men from Platte County who served in the war of rebellion. Most of the forces were later withdrawn from Fort Kearney, and the other Territorial military posts, for service in the South, and this lack of trained troops
The History of Platte County Nebraska
made necessary the organization of the Home Guard. Realizing the weakness of the settlers, those tribes of Indians which remained war-minded began a series of attacks which all but stopped overland travel in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Dakota, and affected the entire region between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains.
Although those who entered the service from Platte County were not collectively identified with any one regiment or company, James H. Galley had preserved a record of men enlisted in the Second Nebraska Cavalry. This remained the only distinctive Nebraska organization in which Platte County found a place in the history of the Civil War.
Enlisted in Company B were: W. A. McAllister, George Lawrence; in Company D, Edward A. Gerrard of Monroe.
Enlisted in Company K were: Henry Brown, J. H. Galley, John Hashberger, J. M. Hashberger, James Hudson, Luke Johnson, Philip Lowe, L. H. North, William Penn, Albert J. Skinner, James L. Skinner, Daniel W. Kitchen, Valentine H. Thomas, John Will and John Ziegler of Monroe.
John M. Thayer, who later became United States senator and governor of Nebraska, applied for his commission and left the Territory for the field of action in July, 1861. With so many young men and trained military personnel leaving Nebraska, the Home Guard took on an even greater responsibility, and one force organized in Omaha was known as the "graybeard company," since it was composed entirely of old men. In many frontier settlements during Civil War years, the home guards were drilled every afternoon while stores, shops and offices closed during those hours.
To former United States Senator Paddock was due the credit for establishment of the military district of Nebraska, which naturally resulted in the department of the Platte, with headquarters for many years at Omaha. Several military outposts were also established on the frontier and as companies were trained, they were distributed among these posts. For a time, General James Craig was put in command of the district of Nebraska. Fort Omaha, originally known as Sherman Barracks, was first officially organized in 1868. It continued to be used for military purposes by the signal service and, during World War I, was utilized as a balloon school.
The individual experiences of a cross section of Platte County residents tell, better than the musty records in government offices, the human story of the Civil War.
In 1910, the Columbus Telegram carried an article about S. J. Ellis who had been living with relatives in Monroe Township. After forty-five years, Ellis was returning to his old home in the South to re-enact the scenes of his soldier days. As one of General Lee's fighting men, he belonged to the famous North Carolina "Tarbell Terrors." Although wounded on the fighting line at the battle of Gettysburg, he managed to crawl back to the rear after Pickett had been repulsed, and was with the retreating army when Lee crossed the line into Virginia, in May, 1862.
Ellis also saw action at Chancellorsville when General Stonewall Jackson was killed accidentally by his own men who had mistaken his staff for a squad of Federal cavalry.
Another Platte County Civil War veteran was Herman G. Lueschen, who homesteaded in Sherman Township in 1869 and was the first man to hold the office of Township Clerk. Born in Germany in 1838, Lueschen immigrated to the United States twenty years later. He enlisted in Company E, Third Wisconsin Infantry, in April, 1861. As color-bearer, he first saw action in the Shenandoah Valley. Captured by the Confederates during the battle, he was held prisoner for four months at Bell Island and Lynchburg, Virginia, before being restored to his company through an exchange of prisoners.
Lueschen also participated in the battle of Chancellorsville, and was wounded in the engagement. He was taken out of field service for three months, and then sent to York on assignment to suppress riots incident to the enforcement of the draft. He was later returned to service in the fighting area. Lueschen also took part in Sherman's terrible "March to the Sea," which began in Tennessee on September 3, 1864, and carried the war home so vividly to the civilian South.
He took part in the grand review of the troops in Washington, D. C., on May 17, 1865, and lived to be the last member of the Creston Grand Army of the Republic. Lueschen died in May, 1934, at the age of ninety-six. His brother, Henry Lueschen, who settled in Bismark Township in 1869, served in Company E, 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.
Another Columbus man who saw action in the history-making battles of the Civil War was William N. Hensley, who enlisted in the
Union Army in 1862 and was mustered out the following year. Serving in Colonel Jacobs' Cavalry Troop, he participated in the campaign through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, which resulted in the capture of Morgan's famous rebels. Hensley also fought in the much-heralded battle of Lookout Mountain.
Henry P. Coolidge enlisted as a private in Company J of the 8th Regiment, Iowa Cavalry on June 16, 1863, and served for twenty-seven months on the side of the Union. His first assignment was to guard the Northern Railroad from Nashville to Waverly, Tennessee. In the battle of Newman, Georgia, Coolidge later received twenty-seven ball holes in his blouse in July, 1864.
James H. Galley, whose records furnished many of the facts concerning Platte County's military history for this period, enlisted in the fall of 1862, in Columbus Township. As a private in Company K, 2nd Regiment, Nebraska Cavalry, he was discharged at Omaha the following year. During his service, Galley saw action in the battles following the Minnesota Massacre, and in the battle of White Stone Hills in South Dakota, under the command of General Sully.
Joining Company E of the 132nd Volunteers in August, 1862, Colonel Michael Whitmoyer was elected captain of his company. He took part in the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
Another Platte Valley citizen, John H. Wurderman, who homesteaded in Sherman Township in 1869, enlisted in Company D, 39th Illinois Infantry, on August 28, 1861. His regiment was later quartered in the Republic Wigwam on Market Street in Chicago. Wurdeman's company was the first to meet the advancing force of the southern army under General Stonewall Jackson at Bath, Virginia, on June 3, 1862.
A 1917 list of soldiers serving in the Civil War from the district of Platte County brought forth the following names: John Burrell of Columbus, Company C, 9th Wisconsin Regiment; John R. Brock of Columbus, Company D, 122nd Pennsylvania Regiment; James L. Brown of Columbus, Company D, 144th Indiana Infantry; William Becklam of Monroe, Company 8, 105th Regiment from Illinois; John Diester of Humphrey, Company B, 51st Regiment, Illinois; C. G. Hicok of Columbus, Company C, 176th Ohio Regiment; Louis. Jones. of Columbus, Company A, Indiana; B. H. Keller of Columbus, Company C, 33rd Wisconsin Regiment.
Also, Herman G. Lueschen of Sherman, Company E, 3rd Wisconsin Regiment; James Martin of Newman Grove, Nebraska Infantry; J. Mi. Rickert of Creston, Company A, 193rd Regiment, Ohio; Sam E. Ritchard of Humphrey, Company G, 1st Nebraska Regiment; and Jacob Schmid of Duncan, Company A, 60th Regiment of Indiana.
In 1884, a list of sixty-one Platte County pensioners was released, announcing monthly pensions allocated by the Federal government. Depending upon the nature of disability, amounts at that time ranged from two dollars to thirty dollars per month.
Fifty years after the Civil War, in a town hundreds of miles from Platte County, two men, Jack Dineen of Route 4, Columbus, and Albert Baker, met on the streets of Sacramento, California. The old soldiers, who, had served as stripling warriors on the side of the Union at Chicamauga forty-seven years before, recognized one another and clung together in weeping embrace.
Baker and Dineen, after enlisting in Company E of the 15th Ohio Infantry, had served in many battles together without being wounded. However, on the field at Chickamauga both were injured, Dineen in the knee. and Baker in his arm.
Managing to get Dineen on his shoulders, Albert Baker --- who could still walk --- dragged his comrade from the line of fire. Both were later taken to field hospitals and became separated. However, after almost half a century they had met again accidentally and, while sympathetic bystanders watched and listened, the two grizzled veterans fought once more the dramatic engagements of their boyhood days.
Other men who had served in the Blue and in the Gray lived to participate in the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1876 the Columbus chapter announced its election of officers as follows: Commander, D. D. Wadsworth; Senior Vice-Commander, H. P. Coolidge; Junior Vice-Commander, J. W. Early; Adjutant, S. L. Barrett; Quartermaster, Augustus Lockner; Officer of the Day, T. J. Murphy; Officer of the Guard, J.. N. Lawson; First Sentinel, John Hammond; Second Sentinel, R. H. Henry.
The following year, August 8, 1877, the officers elected for the ensuing term were: Commander, John Hammond; Senior Vice-Commander, J. N. Lawson; Junior Vice-Commander, A. M. Jenning; Quartermaster, Augustus Lockner; Adjutant, J. W. Early;
The History of Platte County Nebraska
Chaplain, J. W. Lentz; Post Inspector, D. D. Wadsworth; Quartermaster Sergeant, A. J. McKelvey; Sergeant-Major, J. W. Collins; Officer of the Day, J. N. King; Officer of the Guard, Benjamin Spielman; Inside Guard, D. N. Miner; and Outside Guard, Edward Clark.
On Decoration Day, 1883, a newspaper account of the graves of Civil War soldiers to be decorated in Columbus included: Edward Arnold, Solomon Edwards, B. Hunt, R. B. McIntyre, E. D. Sheehan, James Jones, W. H. Thomas, George Drake and John Lawson
The Spanish-American War of 1898 between the United States and Spain for the liberation of Cuba was partly economic and partly humanitarian. That it was also political in its import is evident from the fact that, with the ceding to the United States of Puerto Rico and Guam and the sale-of the Philippines by Spain, America overnight became a world power.
This led to a marked reorientation in United States foreign policy, and projected the country into Far Eastern affairs for the first time.
Ever since 1868, when liberals in Cuba had tried to force concessions from Spain's imperialistic rulers who were exploiting Cuban agricultural wealth, the sympathy of people in the United States had. been with the insurrectionists. After the Mexican War, this attitude became all the more pointed because of Cuba's strategic position as a result of the proposed canal routes across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Intervention by the United States was being considered when two events occurred which, with the added impetus of hysterical turn-of-the-century newspaper reporting, catapulted the country into war. One was the publishing of a derogatory letter about President McKinley, written by a Spanish minister at Washington to a friend. The other was the sinking of the American battleship, Maine, in Havana harbor. "Remember the Maine" was the war-cry of the day.
Hostilities were officially announced to have begun April 21, although Spain did not declare war until April 24. Many of the engagements of the Spanish-American War took place on the sea, Rear-Admiral Sampson having set out to blockade Cuba by intercepting the Spanish fleet. Commodore George Dewey's forces saw much action, also, in their attack on Manila and other Pacific targets
Platte County Spanish-American War Veterans, 1898.
Also historic among engagements were the battles of San Juan Hill, in which Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders figured heavily, and the capture of Santiago. The treaty of peace was signed in Paris, December 10, 1898, and ratified by the United States Senate, February 6, 1899.
The Spanish-American War is significant because it was the first time America had engaged in combat with a European power for reasons other than her own immediate protection.
When President McKinley issued his call for volunteers at the outbreak of hostilities, Columbus responded by organizing Company K of the Nebraska State Militia. Enlisted men from all over Platte County were in this group although the majority of them were residents of Columbus.
Three commissioned officers, Captain J. N. Killian, First Lieutenant Charles W. Jens, and Second Lieutenant Charles L. Stillman, were included in the personnel. Seven non-commissioned officers: First Sergeant James S. Haney, Sergeants Sauer and Albert L. Rollins, Corporals Lester E. Sisson, Harry Rightmire and Louis Schonlau, and Musician Charles T. Miner, were also in this group, as were fifty-three privates.
Company K left Columbus April 23, 1898, enroute to Camp Alvin Saunders at Lincoln. In the group was August Wagner, Columbus attorney, who kept a detailed account of Platte County soldiers in the months that followed.
Four days after it left Columbus, on April 27, 1898, Company K was mustered into Federal service as part of the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry. The regiment was then sent to Camp Merritt, San Francisco, for further training.
The First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry landed in July at Camp Dewey, near Manila. The city was then held by the Spanish. Subsequent engagements with the Spanish forces occurred at Pasay, August 5, and in the Battle of Manila on August 13.
Most of the fighting participated in by the Columbus men, however, was during the Philippino insurrection which followed. Company K. was in the Battle of Manila; February 4; Nariquina Road, February 17; San Matea River, February 22; Mariquina Road, March 6; San Francisco del Monte, March 25. Mey Canayan, March 26; Marilao, March 27; near Marilao, March 29; Quinquinto, March 30; Malolos, March 31; Quinga, April 23, and at the battle of Calumpet.
Company K, under Commanding Officer Colonel John P. Bratt, was discharged later in the summer of 1899, at the Presidio, San Francisco.
It was one of the wartime customs for Columbus residents to collect and send boxes to members of the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Mrs. W. N. Hensley and other members of the Christmas Box Committee for Soldiers, served tirelessly to maintain the morale of those fighting men overseas, whose home was in Platte County.
In January, 1899, a few members of Company K were released and sent home on the transport Ohio. Those who landed in San Francisco on January 16th of that year and arrived shortly thereafter in Columbus included Wilet Hyatt, Isaac Brock and George Kohler.
Still active in 1949 was the Columbus camp of Spanish War veterans. These men hold regular reunions and annual conventions to celebrate their participation in the war of 1898-99. In 1910, this group took a definite stand-on the raising of the battleship Maine, which had remained in the harbor at Havana from February of 1898.
It has often been said and written that the spark which set off World War I was the assassination on June 28, 1914, of the Austrian Archduke, Francis Ferdinand, heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungary, at Sarajevo.
If this is true, the assassination was only a spark for the growing nationalism of European countries leading to the formation of the Triple Alliance, and the Triple Entente had brought into the open, conflicting imperialistic desires that, for years, had, seethed beneath an uneasy surface. .
The war which saw. England, France,. Belgium, Russia and the United States as leading powers on one side,. opposing Germany and Austria; lasted for four years arid was fought not only in Europe, but also in the British and German colonies of Africa. It was the German submarine campaign which finally resulted in the entrance of the United States on the side of the Allies in 1917. America felt idealistically involved in the struggle to "preserve democracy," as well as materialistically interested in the cornering of world markets by greedy hostile nations.
World War I was the first general conflict involving large blocs of countries, the first to
The History of Platte County Nebraska
be truly world-wide in scope or in influence. Its termination in the much disputed Treaty of Versailles marked a new era in world history. In tactics and strategy, its importance is not to be underestimated, for it saw the introduction of tank and aerial warfare as well as poison gas, machine guns, hand grenades, submarines. It was the first war to actively engage the enemy noncombatants through air raids, terrorism and economic throttling. Moreover, it introduced a new weapon--organized propaganda.
But more than anything else, World War I was the proving ground of our economic development and modern science on a large scale. Its cataclysmic impact upon the millions of people directly and indirectly participating in it was to burst wide the appalling gap between man's sociological and his technological advance.
That gap proved, even to those safely landlocked in the heart of all countries, that the road from Sarajevo to Columbus, Nebraska, was a short, short road, and that contemporary populations were no less interdependent now than they had been when their forefathers braved the frontier.
The first realization of the break between Germany and the United States in February, 1917, came to Columbus residents almost immediately when a guard was thrown up at the Union Pacific Railroad bridge west of town. A. P. Groves patroled the bridge by day, and Chris Nauenberg and Sam Bell were on guard duty at night.
When war was officially declared, April 6, 1917, a military patrol was dispatched to guard the bridge, considered a key link in the main artery of transcontinental transportation. Governor Keith Neville ordered Company H of the Fourth Infantry, Nebraska Militia, to assume patrol. This company was made of forty-eight men mostly from their home station of Madison, and acted -entirely under Federal supervision.
Ten days after the declaration of war, an immense mass meeting was held in Columbus at which President Louis Lightner, of the Commercial Club, made the chief address. The meeting was held at the North Opera House and a company of Platte County volunteers was announced. A. L. Rollins and Fred Lanz (both of whom had served in the Spanish-American War), at once identified themselves with the move for volunteers.
Registration of men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one was held June 5 1917, in Platte County under supervision o Sheriff Mark Burke. The first contingent of drafted men left the county September 1 for Camp Funston, Kansas, amid much local fanfare.
The first group included: Robert Kent, John H. Boss, Edward W. Brunken, Sylvester Zarek and William Schwantje. The second contingent to leave for the same destination was dispatched September 22. The third group, numbering fifty-eight men, left October 6, and the fourth followed shortly thereafter. This completed the first quota of drafted men.
The second army, called the "Victory Army," was formed in the spring and summer of 1918. First contingent included seven men, departed April 2, 1918. Then followed in rapid succession: April 30, fifteen men; May 28, forty-three men; June 28, fifty-eight men; July 22, sixty-one men; August 30, eleven men; September 4, three men; September 5, nine men. Others no doubt enlisted in different parts of the country whose homes and permanent addresses were actually to be found in Platte County.
Orders soon went out to recruit men for Company K of the Sixth Nebraska Infantry, a volunteer regiment. Commissioned personnel of this company included: Captain, A. L. Rollins; First Lieutenant, Fred Lanz; Second Lieutenant, Edward C. Kavanaugh. Company K was quartered in Columbus until September when, with a force of one hundred forty-eight men, the group entrained for Camp Cody, New Mexico.
The Sixth Nebraska Regiment went out of existence October 1, 1917, when most of the rank and file were assigned to the 109th Supply Train, with which force the volunteers served in France.
A few months after war was declared and while recruitments were taking place, the County Board of Supervisors in Columbus appropriated twenty-five hundred dollars for the Home Guards to purchase uniforms and other equipment. The five companies of Home Guard Militia recruited were assembled to take the place of the Nebraska state militias in guarding certain strategic areas and enforcing Federal, state and local wartime measures.
The men in this force continued in their duties until January 10, 1918, when they were mustered out. Theirs was a completely volunteer wartime effort, and all members served without pay.
Also organized in 1917 was the Platte County Military Council of Defense, a patriotic tribunal which helped in Liberty Loan drives, Baby Bond campaigns, and other detail jobs. C. J. Garlow was voted chairman; Bruce Webb, vice-chairman; Mark Burke, secretary; and W. A. McAllister, treasurer. C. L. Gerrard also served as Food Administrator for Platte County and organized the "Four-Minute" speakers, with Garlow as chairman, to address organizational groups with patriotic messages.
Meanwhile, on the battlefields of France, the first Platte County boy to be wounded was Corporal John Mallet of Platte Center, injured in a battle northwest of Chateau-Thierry, July 19, 1918. First soldier from the county to die in World War I was Private Fritz Klaus, who left Columbus as a member of volunteer Company K. Private Klaus died as a result of pneumonia, February 6, 1918.
Two brothers, George C. Hartman and Lester O. Hartman, sailors aboard the U. S. Destroyer Manley, were the first Columbus boys to lose their lives in a war zone. Their ship went down following a collision with a British warship in English waters on March 19, 1918.
Although a complete list of Platte County residents who gave their lives in World War I is not available, the following list has been supplied by Hartman Post, Number 84, American Legion, Columbus:
Ben Sueper, St. Bernard
George H. Mohr, Co. 45, 161st Depot Brigade
Robert O. Perry, Co. E, 4th Infantry
Theodore Weber, Co. B, 109th Supply Train
Julius Trofholz, Battery C, 338th Field Artillery
Carl A. Walter, Co. B, 109th Supply Train
Adam H. Bock, Co. 248, 12th Sanitary Train
Fred Klaus, Co. A, 134th Infantry
Walter A. Viergutz, 35th Co., 163rd Depot Brigade
Andrew R. Swanson, 31St Ammunition Train
William Goedeken, Co. C, 163rd Depot Brigade
Dane Hirt, 378th Casualty Co.
Walter A. Kuehnert, Co. F, 131st Infantry
George C. Hartman and Lester Hartman, U. S. Navy
John M. Nickolite, Co. C, 362nd Infantry
Joseph C. Hepday, Co. A, 19th Machine Gun Battalion
Charles Groves, Co. C, 19th Machine Gun Battalion
Emil Robert, Leigh, Nebraska, killed in action
Andrew Matya, Tarnov, Nebraska, killed in action
John P. Abts, U.S. Navy
Florian Placzek, killed in action
Joseph Starek, Camp Meade
Fred Burgenter, killed in action
Joseph Storz, killed in action
In 1920 the French government, in recognition o the support given to her during the war, delivered a war memorial certificate to the nearest relative of all these and other Platte County soldiers who died in service in World War I.
Six Columbus doctors left Columbus to serve with the armed forces of their country. They were: Doctors F. H. Morrow, W. S. Evans, C. D. Evans, Jr., J. North Evans, C. H. Campbell and W. R. Neumarker, who rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in charge of a sanitary train. All of the above attained the rank of major except Captain C. D. Evans, Jr.
In advance of the American Legion, a society of returned veterans of World War I met in Columbus March 8, 1919. Doctor F. H. Morrow was chairman of the meeting and. Jay Hensley served as secretary. These two were elected president and secretary, respectively, of the little thirty-man group calling itself "The Temporary Organization of Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Marines." -
A brief set of by-laws was drafted by Otto F. Walter, Lowell Walker and Clarence Umland, and the organization continued to function for more than six months, when the name was changed to Hartman Post, Number. 84, American Legion. It was named in honor of-the two Hartman brothers, the first Platte County boys to lose their lives in a war zone. Doctor F. H. Morrow was elected the first commander of the new post, which numbered about one hundred members.
From the September day in 1938 when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to London from Germany with news of the compromised "peace in our time," the world crept daily closer to the global warfare which marked its most recent excursion into wholesale killing. The Nazi government, a mechanized version of other historical ruling cliques with all their
The History of Platte County Nebraska
savagery, discrimination and mock-justice, had begun in the pool-halls and gutters of Berlin, and grown into a totalitarian machine which threatened to conquer the entire civilized world.
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and, finally, France fell beneath the fascist onslaught. In Italy, the Mussolini regime, equally undemocratic and addicted to the use of mass torture to enforce its government by the specially privileged, cooperated with Hitler against the free nations of the world.
Meanwhile, in Asia, much the same battle was waged. The Japanese war machine had announced its imperialistic aims, set out to conquer China, Korea, India and Burma, and precipitated the entrance of the United States into the war by attacking the American ports of Pearl Harbor, Guam, Manila and other bases in the Pacific in the infamous air-and-sea raid of December 7, 1941.
From that day on, World War II saw the use of large-scale hostilities such as never before had been known in the history of modern warfare. The United Nations, embracing more than fifty-five democratic countries, planned a campaign that reached from the deserts of Africa to the battlefields of Europe and the island beachheads in the Pacific, introduced for the first time precision bombing, and the new and frightening potent achievement of the physicists -the atom bomb.
The traditional isolation of mid-western Nebraska had been thoroughly broken by 1940, when Congress passed the draft act, and two thousand fourteen men from Platte County registered. First to enter the armed forces under the Selective Service Act were: Edward Harms, Robert Moss, Wilbur Kenneth Johnson and Calvin Raney.
In November, 1940, the 110th Medical Regiment of the National Guard, under Major J. N. Evans, Captain R. C. Anderson of Columbus and Lieutenant Gene Teply of Howells, was alerted. The Platte County Regiment, numbering sixty-three men, left Columbus in January, 1941, for Fort Robinson, Arkansas.
As in other parts of the country, USO groups were set up and other organizations of a wartime nature sprouted, but in the training camps soldiers still talked about "getting their year over". Then, on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the United States entered the war.
By March, 1942, there were approximately five hundred thirty-five Platte County men in uniform. In Columbus, defense squads, first aid groups, salvage and bond drives took the time and energies of the civilian population. On December 3, 1942, when mobilization was at its peak, Columbus had its first practice blackout.
In addition to the countless citations earned by Platte County soldiers in World War II, the experience of Arthur Johnson was unique. Johnson, forced down and interned in Switzerland, managed to escape and was "smuggled" back to England by sympathetic members of the Underground.
Among those held in enemy lands as prisoners of war were: Lowell Walker, Jr., John Nosal, Terrance Messing, Irving Heller with the Canadians, Don Geiger, and Mike Gaspers.
Doctors from Platte County who gave up their practice to serve in World War II included: Doctor E. E. Koebbe, commander in the U. S. Navy; Doctor Reynolds J. O'Donnell, Air Force major; Doctor J. North Evans, who attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel; Doctor R. C. Anderson, lieutenant-colonel; Doctor Carroll D. Evans, Jr., major, and Doctor Gordon H. Rucklos, who attained the rank of major in the Dental Corps.
Never before had a top command met as did Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Premier Stalin. Never before had an invasion such as D-Day, when the Allied forces crossed the Channel to Nazi-held France, been staged after years of preparation. For World War II was not a short war. If, indeed, it really began when German guns and tanks were tested for the struggle during the 1936 Civil War in Spain ... or if it began years before that when the eager military men of Japan moved into Manchuria in 1931, it was not a completely won war until 1945.
In that year, the National Socialist government of Germany crumbled, and hostilities ended in the European theatre in May, one month after the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. A few months later, in August, the dropping of two atomic bombs upon key cities in Japan, forced that country to surrender and ended the inestimable cost in life and effort of man's greatest military holocaust --- World War II.
On the home front, those cited for their work in War Bond sales included: Betty Turner, Theresa Drvol, Lynn Hentges, Vernon Weber,
Chris Wunderlich, Jr., Marie Wollberg, Phyllis Miles, Helen Gloor, Glenn Kay, Elizabeth Whitney, Gayle Boyd, Irene Boroviak, Ina Person, Agnes Wiksch, Mrs. Julia Thomas, Jean Woitosky and John Jasper. On one occasion, Monroe topped its War Bond quota in a single night.
Five Platte County residents were later given awards for "outstanding service as leaders in the war finance effort." They were: Judge Louis Lightner, Frank Dietz, P. L. Kelley of Humphrey, P. W. Lakers and Mrs. Lowell Walker.
Serving in a volunteer capacity on the Selective Service Board were: A. H. Backus, Oliver Alderson of Humphrey, Paul Gertsch of Monroe, William Scheip, Jacob Glur, Henry Fritz and Frank Ternus of Humphrey. These men performed an important and tedious job as their part of the total war effort.
Approximately two thousand men from the county served in the armed forces. Three families the Gus Olsons and Charles Brocks of Columbus and the Joe Diederichs of St. Bernard --- each had five sons in the service.
Approximately seventy-five men from Platte County who were enlisted in the various branches of the United States Armed Forces gave their lives for their country.
Two major awards were won during World War II by the Platte County Red Cross Chapter, the first under the chairmanship of Arthur McAuliff, who resigned after one year to enter the service, and the second under the chairmanship of Clarence Gates.
The first award, given only to eight other chapters in the country by the American and British national organization, was for "courteousness and promptness in giving the best service." The second citation, which was received by only twenty-four other Red Cross chapters, was awarded for making financial reports on a quarterly basis.
The local organization was led by County Judge C. L. Stone, chapter, chairman, and A. E. Schwantje, secretary-treasurer. The financial record of the Platte County group was outstanding under the chairmanship of Clarence Gates and Emiel Christensen (who headed three drives) and C. E. Pearse. Each quota was oversubscribed by more than fifty percent.
Chairmen who headed Red Cross committees during World War II were: Home Nursing, Mrs. Gus Becher and Miss Margaret Curry; Surgical Dressing, Mrs. Clarence Kuhn; Canteen Aides, Mrs. Otto F. Walter; Nutrition Course, Mrs. H. A. Rinder; Nurse's Aid Committee, Mrs. Howard Burdick and Mrs. Carl Herrod; Junior Red Cross, Clarence Gates and Robert A. Quick; Knitting, Mrs. John Fairbairn; First Aid and Water Safety, Doctor C. V. Campbell; Volunteer Services, Mrs. A. A. Bald of Platte Center; Data Keeper and Recorder, Mrs. R. H. Heynen. The Home-Nursing program and Nurse's Aid Work were outlined under the direction of Doctor J. E. Meyer.
Columbus workers also included the following: Mrs. Elaine Fontein Saba and Mrs. Robert Long, Home Service Corps chairmen; and Mrs. Irene Wilkens, Mrs. Fred Babka, Mrs. J. F. Kirkpatrick, Elsie Ruda, Mrs. Dana Trowbridge, Mrs. Raymond Syslo, Mrs. Eileen Ebel and Miss Mary Shea.
Other Home Service workers in Platte County included: Humphrey, Mrs. M. J. Dober and Mrs. Frank Duesman; Platte Center, Mrs. Harold Gleason and Miss Catherine Reilly; Monroe, Mrs. Grover Larimore and Mrs. Helen Hillier; Lindsay, Mrs. Leo Schaecher and A.P. Peterson; Creston, Mrs. E. H. Farnsley.
Headquarters for the local chapter was in the Red Cross room of City Hall where members rolled bandages and carried out many other activities. This group was organized by Mrs. Walter Matzen, chairman, assisted by Mrs. M. M. Taylor.
© 2005 for the NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller