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did not hate these cousins, we did not want to kill them, nor have them kill us, for that matter. We thought them wrong, and yet we suspected that if we had been born where they were born, and had been surrounded by the same influences, we would be doing just as they were; for there are few men who can stand up against the overwhelming opinion of the community in which they live. But what could we do? Here were our misguided cousins planning to take away from us the whole sunny south, which belonged to us as much as it did to them, and they were going to turn it into a foreign country, so that we should have to get passports before we could go to see the old homes of our parents or the graves of our ancestors. No, we could not let them do it; and notwithstanding the unpleasant possibilities of the situation, we were ready, "with charity for all and malice toward none," to swear Jackson's great oath, “By the Eternal, the Federal Union shall be preserved," and to make that oath good by every needful sacrifice. Well, I believe the Army of the Tennessee made as good a record as the Army of the Potomac. We had a stiff fight, as we expected to have, for the blood of our foemen was our own blood, and you know the old proverb, “When Greek meets Greek.” But oh, how glad we were when it was over, and how heartily we would have supported Lincoln's liberal plan of reconstruction if he could but have lived to put it into execution; for to defeat our cousins and to hold fast to the country they were about to take away from us seemed sufficient. We saw no good in humiliating them more than was necessary. Though we were not Abolitionists, we welcomed the Emancipation Proclamation when it came; the line of events was compelling. But when the ballot was given at once to these so recent slaves we knew that it was a mistake as surely then as we know it now, for we had taken the mental measure of those slaves in the far South as well as in the border states.
While we were reasoning with these Confederate cousins of ours south of Mason and Dixon's line, what was going on back in our native states? If the Union armies could have been raised by a selective draft from the very beginning, it might have saved much trouble at home; but as volunteers were called for, it was inevitable that the loyal men should go and that the hyphenated men should stay at home. As regiment
after regiment was organized and sent to the front, these hyphenated citizens came dangerously near being a majority of all that were left behind; and as the prospect of Confederate success became more and more hopeless, this inimical population in our rear became more and more active. It elected an opposition Legislature in Illinois, which obstructed the loyal activities of the Governor as far as it possibly could; but it was not till after Vicksburg and Gettysburg had practically sealed the doom of the Confederacy that the extreme danger point was reached in Illinois and Indiana. Vallandigham was openly defying the government by his incendiary and disloyal utterances. Semi-military posts of the Knights of the Golden Circle were widespread. There was a wild scheme for liberating and arming the thousands of Confederate prisoners confined in the great prison camp near Chicago, and it was thought by some that with the aid of the disloyal elements by the way this body of veteran soldiers could force its way along the line of the Central Railroad to Cairo and so into the Confederacy, leaving a wide swath of desolation behind it. Loyal soldiers needed elsewhere had to guard important bridges and culverts on the railroads in Indiana and Illinois, just as though these roads passed through an enemy's country. Rumors of these critical conditions reached us in the army through the papers, and, even more disturbing, through letters from home.
After the Vicksburg campaign, in September, 1863, the 15th Corps was being reorganized at Camp Sherman; I wished to see the actual state of things for myself, and obtained a leave of absence for twenty days. I left camp on September 16th, and reached Decatur, by way of the Mississippi River and Central Railroad, a little before sunset on the evening of September 24th. From that date till October 9th I was very busy seeing my friends and learning all that I could as to the condition of the country and state of public opinion. I found the Knights of the Golden Circle very bold and very disloyal. They felt strong enough to be defiant. I met several of them on East Main Street in this city, and they cursed me openly and bitterly, calling me among other uncomplimentary things, a “Lincoln Hireling” because I wore the uniform of my country and was in its service. I found that the loyal men still left in the country were also organized in the secret society of the
Union League. I was inducted into this society the same evening that I reached Decatur, Jerome Gorin being the officer in charge. It was from him that I received its grips and signs and pass words. I was glad to find that these men were armed and watchful. Military companies were organized in many neighborhoods, the officers being commissioned by the Governor of the State. My old friend Thomas Moffett commanded such a company near Boody, and these companies composed a regiment of which William Rea was Colonel. My brother, the Rev. William P. Baker, was a member of this regiment. These organizations were not uniformed, nor were they spoken of openly. There was no desire to provoke a conflict, they were simply a provision against a probable insurrection precipitated by the other side. The Knights of the Golden Circle were also organized into military companies. They were known to be drilling in secret halls and by night in the open fields. I could give the name of the captain of one of these companies, and I know where a Vallandigham flag was still stored a short time ago, as a memento, by the son of the man who used it for what certainly looked like disloyal purposes.
But while I would like to give the name of every man that did loyal service for the country at that trying time, I think it best to name no names on the other side. I want to preserve the facts as a matter of history, but wish to connect no man's name with the disloyal deeds that made these facts possible; for these men were good citizens before the war, they were good citizens after the war, and their children and grandchildren are still with us.
I found that practically every man who whole-heartedly supported the Union cause in Long Creek Township, where my home was, was a member of the Union League, Judge Charles Emerson, who was then living on his farm, being their leader. Their meetings were in private houses, as being less liable to disturbance from the outside. When they met at my father's house, (it being a secret society and women not admitted), my mother and sister were supposed to stay upstairs; but they had as well taken mother into full council, for having a full share of mother Eve's audacity, and a well-founded belief that she had a right to know all that went on in her own house, she was accustomed to stand on the lower step, just inside a door which as not too tightly closed, and thus kept herself fully informed
of all their acts and doings. To be sure, she was as loyal as any of them and would no more have betrayed their secrets than the wisest councillor of them all.
To put it plainly, then, in the fall of 1863 the people of this county felt as though they were living in the midst of high explosives that might go off at any moment. There were outbreaks in Montgomery County, in Bond County, and one that threatened to be serious in Coles County, and both Union Leaguers and Knights of the Circle started from here in hot haste to reinforce their respective partizans; but the riot was quelled before they reached their destination. There is a sequel to this that illustrates a marked characteristic of those times. One of the Knights that started for the Coles County conflict was a minister, and in due time the facts were laid before the Presbytery, with the suggestion that he be prosecuted for unministerial and unchristian conduct. There was a division of sentiment on unexpected lines. Some of the members of Presbytery who had not been at the front, but whose righteous souls had been vexed for months by the unrighteous deeds of these disturbers of the peace, felt that the man ought to be tried and censured, and the record spread on the Presbyterial minutes; while some others of us, who had been at the front and had fought our battle out in the open, were disposed to pass the matter over as just one of the many impulsive and foolish things that had been done during those trying days, and to vote that nothing more should be said about it. This incident illustrates the well known fact that the home guards on each side of the line held their bitterness longer and found it much harder to forget and forgive than did those who had faced each other on the battle front.
A few incidents will show how raw and jumpy was the publice nerve at this time. A rumor spread through Mt. Zion Township that the Knights of the Golden Circle had taken armed possession of Decatur, and without stopping to consider the probabilities of its truth, a number of good citizens, like the Minute men of old, grabbed their guns, mounted their horses, and rode post-haste to the relief of the countyseat. The fact that the rumor was false does not detract in the least from the merit of the quick rally for defense. My old friend Frank Scott, of Mt. Zion Township, was one of this prompt company.
After a meeting of representatives of Rea's regiment, at the home of their Colonel in Oakley Township, the men were returning to their homes, not in a body, but by twos and threes on various roads. My brother and James Kanaday, a neighbor, were riding together through the timber, when Kanaday, rather thoughtlessly, fired his revolver at a rabbit. In less than twenty minutes more than twenty men had concentrated at the point where the shot was fired. A large open-air gathering of the opposition clans was held in Long Creek Township. The 'orator was a man of ability, well skilled, like Brutus, to stir men's hearts and make the worse appear the better reason. Of course the war was proclaimed a failure, Lincoln and all his works condemned, and the audience incited to resist government exactions just so far as the speaker could go without putting himself in danger of military arrest. General Richard J. Oglesby was at home then, recovering from a serious wound. He was sufficiently convalescent to ride about the country, and it so happened that just as the speaker finished his fiery address, General Oglesby came riding by on his way from Lovington to Decatur. The sight of his uniform was to that crowd like the traditional red rag. There was a rush to the road, the carriage was stopped and surrounded, and pistols were flourished in the midst of threats and curses. Anyone who knew Oglesby will know what he did, return curse for curse with interest, and with set jaw defy the crowd. Cooler heads quickly intervened, the road was opened, the carriage released, and the General rode on unharmed. That was a public meeting, a good sprinkling of members of the Union League were there to hear and observe. Evidently this was but a sporadic outburst, unpremeditated and without purpose; yet all that was needed to precipitate a bloody riot that day was for one half-drunk, excited fool' to pull a trigger.
But was there any serious danger after all? Were there preparations made, and a set purpose to strike a disorganizing blow in the rear if ever conditions at the front should seem to make the success of such a movement possible, or was it all bluster on one side and nerves and imagination on the other? Who shall say? But would Thomas Moffett of Blue Mound Township have been drilling men in the dark had he not believed that that other company drilling in the dark had a