Military History | Death of Logan Fontenelle|
The Rebellion | Proclamation|
First Infantry (afterward First Cavalry)|
Second Nebraska Cavalry|
First Battalion Nebraska Veteran Cavalry|
The First Regiment in Nebraska.
The Curtis Horse|
The Curtis Horse (cont.)|
Public Acknowledgment | The Distinguished Soldiers|
Department of the Platte
The patriotic devotion of Nebraskians to the cause of the Union during the dark days of 1861 to 1865 forms the most interesting section of this work, as it does of the military history of all loyal States and Territories. We have endeavored by care and research to treat this subject in a fitting manner.
A casual glance at the statistics furnished by the War Department might create the impression among those not posted in the matter that Nebraska was remiss in doing its duty to the country in the hour of peril. The number of troops furnished, it is true, was small. The fact must, however, be borne in mind that the Territory, at the outbreak of the civil war, although embracing a vast amount of country within its limits, was decidedly poor in population, there being, according to the census of 1860, but 28,841 white inhabitants to occupy its 125,994 square miles of area. Of this small handful of people, there entered into military operations, during the progress of the war, 3,307 men--about one-ninth of the entire population. Considering its resources, therefore, it will be seen that Nebraska gave not only reasonably, but generously.
The spirit of loyalty to the Union which characterized the people of Nebraska was intense. The stormy days of the border troubles had strengthened them in their adherence to the spirit of the constitution. In the exposition of this feeling, a few quotations may not be out of place.
On the 14th of November, 1860, after the canvass of the returns announced Lincoln's election to the Presidency, the Omaha Republican spoke editorially as follows anent the rapidly complicating political issues of the day:
"In the election of Lincoln, the Republicans have performed a conscientious duty; they have achieved a brilliant triumph in the success of a noble principle, and now we await with considerable interest the result. Previous to the late elections, Southern politicians made frequent and bitter threats of secession in case of Lincoln's election. Will they do it now? Speaking for ourselves, we must candidly say that we feel but little apprehension of such a result. The present is not the only time that the fanatical spirit of the South has broken out in open threats of secession and nullification; and it is our belief that the present state of agitation will end in equally as harmless a manner as those which have arisen before. * * *
"To South Carolina we look for the inauguration of this movement if it occurs; and she falters, hesitates and appears frightened at the peril of her position. The leading secessionists urge that immediate action must be taken; that the people must not wait for an overt act on the part of Mr. Lincoln. And yet South Carolina trembles while she gazes into the yawning abyss which stands ready to receive her at the first decisive step; she dare not brave the peril to which this movement would subject her. * * *
"It is an easy matter to dissolve this Union on paper and in windy resolutions, but practically, as South Carolina learned in Calhoun's time, great and insurmountable obstacles stand in the way."
Again, January 2, 1861, the Republican said: "On the 4th of March, Mr. Lincoln will be inaugurated. Then the people will be at ease; public confidence will return; treason will be promptly rebuked; the constitution respected; the laws enforced and the Union preserved. The only anxiety felt by the people is for the few remaining months of Buchanan's term."
The bill for the abolition of slavery in the Territory was passed by the Legislature on the 10th of December, 1860, as is shown in our history of the slavery question further on. Three weeks later, it was returned to that body unsigned by Gov. Black, accompanied by an elaborate veto message setting forth his views of the constitutionality of the slave traffic. It is but justice to state, however, in this connection, that the Governor, although an advocate of slavery, did not indorse secession, and his death, two years later, while gallantly leading a brigade of troops to battle, gave ample evidence of his loyalty to the Union.
In commenting upon Gov. Black's message, the Hon. T. W. Tipton, of Nemaha County, then a member of the Council, made the following remarks: "In my humble opinion, this veto message is a most remarkable production -- remarkable on account of the pertinacity with which His Excellency follows up this question of human freedom with ponderous documents, earnest protests and unavailing entreaties. In its component parts, it is equally remarkable, whether you consider it a system of dove-tailed fallacies, special pleadings or sublimated foolishness. If His Excellency had a mint of gold with which to bribe this Legislature, and we possessed all the logical acumen and captivating eloquence of our race; were we willing to receive the one and exert the other, we could neither give dignity to this document nor force to its conclusions. The honest hearts of our constituents would consign us, for our efforts, to everlasting political infamy."
Messrs. Strickland, Goss and Belden also spoke spiritedly and at length on the bill, which, notwithstanding the gubernatorial veto, was passed, the Council voting 10 to 3 and the House 33 to 2, in its favor.
The news of the fall of Fort Sumter evoked intense enthusiasm and an unbounded spirit of loyalty throughout the Territory. In Omaha the stars and stripes were hoisted upon the Territorial capitol, the post office, hook and ladder building and many stores and private dwellings. Business was for a time neglected; the situation was earnestly discussed and public gatherings held. Immediate steps were taken to lend all possible aid to the General Government, and the formation of two companies of infantry, one of dragoons and a squad of artillery was commenced in the City.
The first material evidence of the inauguration of war was seen on the 23d of April, when two companies of United States troops arrived in Omaha from Fort Kearney en route to Leavenworth and the front. They encamped at the steamboat landing for a day, awaiting the arrival of a transport. Meanwhile, local preparations went hurriedly on. The infantry and dragoon companies drilled nightly and were in a short time enabled to report their ranks filled.
Gov. Black appointed George F. Kennedy, of Florence, Acting Brigadier General of the First Brigade of Nebraska troops pending the organization and enrollment. On the 18th day of May, Gov. Alvin Saunders, who had just succeeded to the executive chair, issued a proclamation calling for the immediate raising and equipment of a regiment of infantry, that being the quota assigned to the Territory under the first call for troops.
This appeal was responded to somewhat slowly, the obstacle being that the Territory was without means of defraying the expense of keeping the men in readiness until the entire regiment was mustered into service. Under the provisions then in force, the State or Territory was obliged to stand the expense of maintenance until the regiments were ready to be turned over to the General Government. To obviate this difficulty, Gov. Saunders requested of the War Department that the several companies might be turned over as fast as recruited, thus relieving the Territory of the extra cost.
The attitude of the Territory toward the suppression of the rebellion is set forth in the following resolutions, introduced into the Eighth Assembly, by Mr. Clark, of Douglas:
Mr. Holladay, of Nemaha, also presented the subjoined resolution:
These resolutions--the last clause of which was directly aimed at slavery, and intended to suggest approval of the emancipation of slaves held by men engaged in rebellious acts--were passed. Mr. Clark, of Douglas, moved that copies be sent to the President and Congress, which motion prevailed.
Monday, June 3, the Omaha Guards, a company for home protection, were organized, with Thomas Watson, Captain, and John Horbach, Lieutenant. On the same date, an organization of German citizens was formed, under the title of the "Union Rifle Company." William Baumer was chosen Captain, and P. Walter and H. Koenig, Lieutenants. Thirty-six patriotic German citizens came up from St. Joseph to cast their fortunes with this company.
At about the same time, a company known as "Nebraska Rangers" was organized, under command of Capt. W. G. Hollins, and their services offered to the Governor under the call for volunteers. These men were all old Indian fighters, and accustomed to the perils and alarms of war.
Early in June, a company of dragoons was recruited in Cass County, under command of R. G. Doom, with Isaac Chivington and G. D. Conley as Lieutenants.
Authority having been granted Gov. Saunders by the War Department to muster the Nebraska volunteers into the United States service by companies as fast as organized, Companies A and B were, on the 11th of June, sworn into service. The two companies were drawn up on the green south of the Herndon House, where they were inspected by the Governor and Lieut. Merrill, U. S. A., and were accepted by the latter without delay; Company A (Plattsmouth) contained eighty- five men, and was officered by R. R. Livingston, Captain; A. F. McKinney, First Lieutenant; N. F. Sharp, Second Lieutenant. Company B (German volunteers, Omaha) numbered eighty-four men, and was officered as organized. After being mustered in, the troops were reviewed by the Governor and dispersed to their quarters, Company A being stationed at the Herndon Rouse, and Company B at the Territorial Capitol.
In Burt County, Capt. Stephen Decatur raised a company entitled the "Nebraska Frontier Guards." At Florence, Capt. George F. Kennedy organized a company to join the First Regiment, and brought it down to Omaha. On the 15th of June, a company from Nebraska City, under Capt. Allen Blacker, and one from Brownville, under Capt. Thompson, were sworn into service at Omaha. On the same date, Capt. Hollins' company, with S. M. Curran and J. N. H. Patrick as Lieutenants, was also accepted by the recruiting officer.
Commissions were distributed to the following gentlemen by Gov. Saunders as field officers of the First Regiment: John M. Thayer, Colonel; Henry P. Downs, Lieutenant Colonel; William D. McCord. Major; Enos Lowe, Surgeon.
John McCormick received the contract for supplying the troops during their stay in Omaha
June 26, a company of volunteers from Page County, Iowa, came over to Omaha to join the First Regiment. It was commanded by T. M. Bowen, Captain; G. W. Burns and Alex. Scott, Lieutenants. There were eighty-five men in the ranks.
Meanwhile, the six companies on the ground went to work vigorously to master the manual. Drills night and day were the order of the hour. Gov. Saunders appointed George Spencer Regimental Sutler, and went to Washington to see about procuring equipments for the troops.
June 30, Company G was sworn into service. This company was ordered by John McConihe, Captain; John Y. Clopper and Michael Riley, Lieutenants.
July 17, another company from Page County, Iowa, Joseph Butler, Captain, came over and joined the ranks.
At this juncture, a miniature Indian scare arose, the redskins along the Platte Valley showing symptoms of an uprising. Acting upon information sent in, Secretary Paddock telegraphed to Fort Kearney to have a company sent out to investigate the reports. Application was also made to the War Department for authority to use the First Regiment for frontier defense, but sanction was not obtained. Alfred Mathias, of Nebraska City, and John Taffe, of Dakota, were appointed by Acting Governor Paddock Aids-de-Camp for the purpose of organizing scouting parties to look after the conduct of the Indians. Every precaution was taken to guard against a general uprising of the aborigines against the scattered settlers of the Platte Valley.
The tenth and last company of the Nebraska First was sworn in July 22. It was commanded by J. W. Paddock, Captain; Robert A. Howard and E. Lawler, Lieutenants. Hon. T. W. Tipton was made Chaplain of the regiment. John O'Neal, a member of Company E, deserted shortly after being mustered in, and was overtaken and killed at Saratoga, while resisting arrest.