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Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Military History
Produced by Ted and Carole Miller.

Part 1:
Military History | Death of Logan Fontenelle
Part 2:
The Rebellion | Proclamation
Part 3:
First Infantry (afterward First Cavalry)
Part 4:
Second Nebraska Cavalry
Part 5:

First Battalion Nebraska Veteran Cavalry
The First Regiment in Nebraska.

Part 6:
The Curtis Horse
Part 7:
The Curtis Horse (cont.)
Part 8:

Public Acknowledgment | The Distinguished Soldiers
Department of the Platte

Part 2


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.


WHEREAS, the President of the United States has issued his proclamation, calling into the service of the United States an additional volunteer force of infantry and cavalry, to serve three years unless sooner discharged; and the Secretary of War having assigned one regiment to the Territory of Nebraska: Now, therefore, I, Alvin Saunders, Governor of the Territory of Nebraska, do issue this proclamation, and hereby call upon the militia of the Territory immediately to form, in the different counties, volunteer companies, with view of entering the service of the United States under the aforesaid call. Companies, when formed, will proceed to elect a Captain and two Lieutenants. The number of men required in each company will be made known as soon as the instructions are received from the War Department, but it is supposed now that it will not be less than seventy-eight men. As soon as a company has formed and has elected its officers, the Captain will report the same to the Adjutant General's office. Efforts are being made to trample the stars and stripes--the emblem of our liberties--in the dust. Traitors are in the land, busily engaged in trying to overthrow the Government of the United States, and information has been received that these same traitors are endeavoring to incite an invasion of our frontier by a savage foe. In view of these facts, I invoke the aid of every lover of his country and his home to come promptly forward to sustain and protect the same.
     Done at Omaha, this 18th day of May, 1861.
                   By the Governor,
                                                     ALVIN SAUNDERS.
     A. B. PADDOCK, Secretary of Nebraska.

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:

WHEREAS, The country is now shaken beneath the tread of two mighty armies--the one marshaled for the re-establishment of the authority of the Government throughout the whole Union; the other, organized for its overthrow, and

WHEREAS, We believe this to be a crisis in the history of the Nation, in which it may well be said. "he who is not for us is against us," therefore,

Resolved, That this body deems it its first duty to renew its vows of allegiance to the Federal Government, and to re-affirm its devotion to the Constitution bequeathed us by the wise and good men who established our liberties.

Resolved, That disavowing, as we do, the right of any State or States to nullify a Federal law, or secede from the Federal Union, we regard such secession or nullification as treason against the United States, and believe it to be the first and holiest duty of the Government to uphold its laws and repress treason.

Resolved, That we most heartily indorse the following resolution of the Congress of the United States, namely, "That the present civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against the Constitutional Government, and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feeling of mere passion and resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war on their part is not waged in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease."

Resolved, That as in times past, Nebraska has ever been dutiful and obedient to paramount law--the Constitution and laws of the United States--so in the future, it will remain faithful and loyal to that paternal government, which has been the source of prosperity and progress.

Resolved, That, relying upon the justice and righteousness of the cause in which the Nation has been called to arms, and fully indorsing and sustaining the determination of the government alike to quell internal rebellion, and resist and repel external insolence and invasion, and believing it to be the very glory of American citizenship to follow the flag whithersoever, whensoever and by whomsoever is may be borne aloft; and with a just sense of the responsibility which the declaration involves, we declare, "we are for our country and against all assailants."

Resolved, That whenever an American citizen unsheaths his sword or shoulders his musket at his country's call, he shall leave the spoilsman, the partisan and the politician in a nameless grave behind him.

Mr. Holladay, of Nemaha, also presented the subjoined resolution:

WHEREAS, The country we all love so much and revere, the liberties secured by the blood of our Revolutionary fathers, and which have, through succeeding generations, been transmitted to us as an inestimable inheritance, are being jeopardized and their perpetuity threatened by an internecine foe, a people with whom we have, for nearly a century past, fraternized as one great and common family, but whose conduct now leads us to exclaim, "For it was not an enemy that reproacheth me, then I could have borne it; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine aquaintance;" and

WHEREAS, All reason has seemed in vain, and, painful as it may be, it has become necessary that the powerful arm of the Government must be brought into requisition to preserve and perpetuate itself--the most beneficent the world ever saw; and as the powers that be, into whose keeping the people have entrusted the sacred boon, have been and now are endeavoring to perform faithfully its duties, it becomes the duty not only of individuals, associations and communities, but of the Legislative assemblies of the States and Territories, to contribute words of cheer, and show forth, by expressions, desires for and confidence in the efforts to crush out treason, put down rebellion and restore peace, harmony and prosperity between the North and South, old friendships revived and all the relations of uninterrupted brotherhood respected; therefore be it

Resolved, That we approve of the war by our Government for the suppression of the causeless and unholy rebellion now waged against it.

Resolved, That we hold rebels against our Government to be outside the pale of its protection.

Resolved, That we do earnestly pray the administration to use every means in its power to maintain the cause of the Government, protect the flag of our country on every inch of American soil, suppress the rebellion and show forth to the world that we have yet a government.

Resolved, That we recommend to the Congress of the United States, now assembled at the city of Washington, to amend the act of confiscation of certain property so as to embrace all kinds of property.

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.

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