Kansas History and Heritage Project-Nemaha County Civil War Sketches

Sketches and Reminiscences of Nemaha County Veterans of the Civil War

Below are some sketches and stories featuring Nemaha Co. veterans of the War of the Rebellion, taken from "The History of Nemaha County," published 1916:

John Benfer served with the One Hundred and Twenty-third Ohio volunteers, fighting in the celebrated battle of Winchester, and serving with the Army of the James River. He was taken prisoner three times and was released, the third time only by the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. James L. Brockman, who has served Seneca as city clerk with efficiency, fought with the Thirteenth. James Draney who came to Nemaha county in 1857, served as a teamster during the war in Colonel Taylor's State militia. Elbert Dom Dumont was one of the youngest soldiers who have ever made Nemaha county their home. He was barely sixteen when he joined the Ninth Michigan volunteers and served until 1865. After he left the army he went to school at the seminaries of Ovid and Fulton in New York. He came to Seneca many years after the war closed as an architect and builder. He erected the jail, the Centralia school house, which fire later destroyed, the opera house in Wetmore, and many residences and business blocks. He married Miss Mary Bruner of Nemaha county. Two sons of E. J. Emery met remarkable deaths during their service in the war. George Emery was drowned in the Ohio river and Edwin was ship-wrecked off the North Carolina coast and presumably drowned.

A. J. Felt, affectionately called, over the State, "Andy," founder of several newspapers, once editor of the Seneca "Tribune" and Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, was a soldier with the Seventh Iowa regiment. He was taken prisoner at Belmont, Mo., and held for nearly a year, and afterward was in a hospital for four months. He rejoined his regiment and was promoted to sergeant. Mr. Felt founded the "Tribune." He was the father-in-law of Senator William H. Thompson. He died about twelve years ago. Dr. Hayes, who has made Seneca his home since 1881, was but seventeen years old when he enlisted with the Indiana volunteers, serving with the famous armies of the Cumberland and Tennessee and fighting at Shiloh, Chattanooga and other famous battles. After the war he returned to his home in Newcastle, Ind., and to school as well. Dr. Hayes having had a taste of adventure, shipped on the Polaris for the North Pole in 187 1. He was picked up by the ship Arctic after two years in the Arctic regions, carried to Scotland and thence made his way home. Since then he has settled down to doctoring, after government work in Washington and a few years at a medical school. Judge Lanham, almost the first Nemaha county resident, served in the army before anyone. He served on picket duty in 1854. He was wounded, but with the beginning of the Civil war he served with the wonderful Eighth Kansas, through until the end, including the terrible march to San Antonio. J. H. Larew was with the Fifth Missouri; J. W. Larimer with the Fourth Iowa, marching with Sherman to the sea; J. L. McGowan enlisted first with the Second Missouri, later raising a Kansas Militia company; N. H. Martin, at sixteen years, enlisted with the Forty-sixth Iowa infantry; Mort Matthews, the venerable county surveyor who has held his job for over thirty years without opposition, was a soldier with the Thirty-fifth Ohio infantry; James Parsons enlisted with the Denver Home Guards, later recruiting a New Mexican regiment, and finally entered the field as second lieutenant of the Second Colorado infantry. Mr. Parsons was the first Nemaha county surveyor and was elected in 1858.

R. S. Robbins fought with the Twenty-second Ohio and became a captain. Capt. Lewis Sheeley did not get enough fighting with Missouri regiments and chasing guerillas but stayed with the army in Hancock's veteran reserve corps for a year after the war closed and became colonel of the Kansas State militia. He had lived in Seneca since 1860.

J. F. Clough, founder of the Sabetha "Republican," fought with the Sixty-ninth Ohio. He was shot twice during the battle of Mission Ridge, a bullet piercing his lung. He was a year in a hospital.

Ira F. Collins, one of the brilliant, early day citizens of the county, who today is as fascinating and interesting a man as he was forty years ago, enlisted in the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois. He was taken prisoner at Mobile and held in one of the southern prison pens until the close of the war. He had served under Grant at Vicksburg and saw about every side of life in the army. When he was asked recently how many rebels he supposed he had killed, he replied, "Oh, just about as many as they killed of me." Mr. Collins was the first mayor of Sabetha, State representative and State senator. John E. Corwin was a soldier with General Sherman with the Ninety-seventh Indiana infantry. He was in the Grand Review. S. B. Freelove as lieutenant and S. P. McAllister as captain were members of the Plainfield battery that tendered to President Lincoln its services before the firing on Sumter. He fought through the war with the Eighth Illinois cavalry.

J. E. Price, the elevator man for whom the station of Price was named, enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment. He was wounded at Antietam but when his wound healed he went back into the fray and stayed until the game was called at Appomattox. He retired a lieutenant, a post given him for conspicuous bravery in manning a gun abandoned at the siege of Richmond where he was a member of the Light Artillery, one of the few Nemahans to be in the artillery. J. E. Price did not forget his military training after his removal to Sabetha. He taught a crowd of young girls a broom drill, the perfection of which, as feminine drillers, is still told with pride. The little station of Price still has standing its two elevators, but the rural free delivery put the post-office out of business. The elevators are used when the season's crops are especially good.

N. S. Smith, for years and years the city attorney of Sabetha until his resignation about a years ago, was a member of the One Hundred and Twelfth Illinois. He was sick, in a hospital in 1865, after fighting through the Atlanta campaign in Tennessee, and was discharged in August, 1865.

Z. Bean, of Wetmore, served under Sheridan in the Fifth Wisconsin regiment. John Dudley came out to Kansas from Illinois to farm. Conditions here were so desolate that he found relief in enlisting as a private in the Third Missouri. He was wounded and taken prisoner, held for several months, freed, again captured, and escaped, swimming across the Saline river, and wearing a pair of pantaloons which he made himself, by ripping the sleeves out of his coat. Returning to Wetmore, farming in Kansas has since seemed a less trying job.

Dr. J. W. Graham, of the Forty-fourth Illinois, has kept among his treasures a paper signed by President Lincoln and countersigned by Secretary Stanton, conveying especial thanks to him for conspicuous bravery and service. Dr. Graham was a physician in the abandoned town of Capioma going later to Wetmore, where he was the first druggist, postmaster, justice of the peace and a good citizen at large.

J. H. Hart was a member of Company I, Thirty-third Iowa, who was present at the fall of Mobile, was transferred to Mexico and Texas, mustered out at Rock Island, Ill, and then came to Nemaha county, settling on a farm near Granada.

Alfred Johns was one of the few Nemahans to have fought with the Fifteenth Kansas. The Fifteenth was recruited by Colonel Jellison to protect the Kansas border after the terrible Quantrill raids, culminating in the Lawrence massacre. The officers were mainly from Leavenworth, Olathe, and that section, with a notable exception in the case of the lieutenant colonel, who was George H. Hoyt, of Boston, Mass. The Fifteenth remained on the job as border protectors until the famous Price raid, when their work in that historical event was conspicuous for its courage.

A. J. McCreery and his three sons served in the Rebellion, all in different regiments. A. J., with the Eleventh Kansas; Alvin, with the Ninth Indiana and William with the Tenth Kansas. The Tenth was a consolidation of the Third and Fourth Kansas regiments and a portion of the Fifth under the command of Col. W. F. Cloud, of Emporia. This section of the State was well represented in the Tenth. Among the illustrious names is that of Judge Nathan Price, of Troy. He is the father of Mrs. Paul Hudson, wife of the editor of the New Mexican "Herald," who in all the present Mexican difficulties has stuck to his post. The Tenth was called first to the Indian difficulties on the Neosho; they battled with Ouantrill, fought at Paririe Grove and finally were detailed to Alton, Ill., to take charge of the military prison there.

Nathaniel Morris, of Wetmore, was a fighter with the Seventh Illinois, a regiment of laurel winning soldiers, who seemed to win whereever they went. Morris became a sergeant. Stories are told of a daring capture made by Morris. Dressed in citizen's clothes he captured a rebel officer. His own horse was stolen by a Ouantrill man. and later recovered. Before moving to Nemaha county from Linn county he had taken part in the border war down there. David Scott was a second lieutenant in the Third Iowa, and later a color bearer in the Twenty-second Iowa.

The youngest Nemaha county soldier, and perhaps the youngest in the State, was Daniel Smith, who enlisted with the Thirteenth Kansas at the age of fourteen, in fact, he was not quite fourteen when he enlisted. Nemaha county claims that he is the youngest soldier who ever entered either Union or Confederate armies during the entire Rebellion. He served through the three years of his enlistment, carrying his gun as bravely as any soldier. Returning to Wetmore he made his home there, becoming a plasterer. Daniel Birchfield was a member of the Ninth Kentucky. He was captured on the retreat from Richmond but was exchanged. At the close of the war he drove three oxen across the desolate country to Montana. He prospected and floated down the Yellowstone and Missouri to Omaha in a Mackinaw boat, then settled down in Centralia.

James F. Brock, of Centralia, served with the Twenty-fourth Iowa infantry ; George R. Hunt was a member of the Twelfth United States infantry, a regiment which was noted for quelling the draft riots of New York; W. A. Lynn enlisted with the Eighth New York cavalry, which fought at Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Winchester, straight through to Lee's surrender, a very noted regiment. Mr. Lynn says it was to the lieutenant colonel that the flag of truce was waved at Appomattox.

Isaiah Stickel was principal of the Union Academy in Sparta. Ill., when the war broke out. He enlisted as a private in the Second Illinois and left the army a lieutenant. At Holly Springs, Miss., the captain of his company was taken prisoner and the conduct fell upon him. With six men in canoes he penetrated the bayous for thirty miles during the Vicksburg campaign pursuing a boatload of rebels and capturing two officers. These are but two instances of his fine work during the war. He came to Centralia in 1866, was the first postmaster of the town and was in the mercantile business before going into farming and stock raising. J. O. Barnard, of Oneida, served with the Ninety-fourth Illinois. G. H. Johnson, later a postmaster of Corning, was a member of the Eighty-ninth New York infantry ; Morrison Mackley with the One Hundred and Seventy-third Ohio; Joseph McCutcheon, with the Sixty-first Pennsylvania ; George F. Roots, who came to this country from England in 1850, and to Nemaha county in 1856, enlisted with the Thirty-sixth Illinois. Mr. Roots lived in Illinois before coming to Kansas and it was he who named Illinois creek. He had some knowledge of surveying and laid out much country around Corning.

E. S. Vernon fought with the Seventy-eighth Ohio at the battles of Shiloh, Fort Donelson and all the others of fame; J. C. Warrington with the Thirteenth Iowa; David Bronson, of Granada, with the Fifty-seventh Illinois; A. B. Ellit was with the Second Kansas that routed Quantrill and his men. The three Haigh brothers, James, Urias and Joseph, fought in the Rebellion. J. O. Hottenstein, of a western Kansas county, was captain of the company in which "Uncle" Dave Wickins, postmaster of Sabetha, served during the Civil war, and he after many years, hunted Mr. Wickins up. Mr. Wickins recalls one incident of their service together very well. There was a skirmish in Mississippi in which Wickins was hit three times and Hottenstein was hit once. Both men were injured at almost the same moment. Hottenstein was shot through the left breast just above the heart. Wickins was shot in the leg, hand and arm. "Let Hottenstein alone, and give other wounded attention; Hottenstein can't live anyway," said an attendant. Hottenstein made a great fuss at this and swore he would live to see the funeral of most of his company. In a few weeks he was well and at the head of his company again. The scar on David Wickin's right hand was caused by the wound in this engagement.

G. K. Hatch, of Granada, served as a member of the One Hundred and Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania, partook of the pursuit and capture of General Lee and was in at the finish. G. W. Conrad enlisted with the Twenty-eighth Iowa, fought under Sheridan and told great stories of Sheridan's ride. Lewis Logan was with the Twenty-second lowas; A. J. Morgan with the Fourteenth Indiana, barely escaping capture at Gettysburg. J. F. Randel served six months with the Twenty-second Kansas at the close of the war. F. F. Fisher enlisted with the Twenty-third Wisconsin. J. Hollingsworth, when but fifteen years old, enlisted with the Thirtv-third Illinois. These enlistments in regiments of other States show a remarkable range of citizenship which has gathered together under Nemaha county's banner. Another odd circumstance is that no two were members of the same regiment.

Any attempt to fully handle stories and reminiscences of the war is futile. A three-volume novel could not contain those of Nemaha county veterans. Still there are anecdotes that are irresistable. Uncle Jock Matthews, veteran rural mail carrier, who for twenty years has held the record for shortest time in delivering his mail out of Sabetha, joined the Pennsylvanians in a cavalry regiment. He got on his horse to go to war. He did not even stop to put down his knapsack, let alone drill, or stack arms, or make camp. He was rushed immediately into battle, and the battle was the second Battle of Bull Run. Recently F. A. Gue, a few miles from Sabetha, with Mrs. Gue took an odd journey: a visit to all the prisons where Mr. Gue was held during the war. They visited Chickamauga, where Mr. Gue was captured while taking care of thirty-eight Union soldiers, as assistant surgeon. Mr. Gue spent 526 days in prison during the War of the Rebellion. He was at Libby, Pemberton, Danville, Andersonville, and Salisbury, N. C. The Salisbury prison, merely a stockade, burned down and Mr. Gue was taken to Florence, S. C., where he was kept until near the close of the war. Mr. Gue's health was in as miserable a state as might be imagined after such an experience. He settled near Sun Springs where there is a mineral well, the waters of which restored his health. Lyman Fair marched with Sherman to the sea. He says it was during this famous tramp that the song, "Marching through Georgia," was conceived. The song was started by the men in the ranks and compiled as they marched along. It passed from man to man, line to line, company to company, and regiment to regiment. As they walked along the whole army sang the song on their way to the sea.

Nemaha county treasures many odd bits of war relics today, half a century after the close of the Civil war. A. G. Rees, a farmer living one mile west of the Sabetha hospital, is an old soldier who makes a trip almost daily on foot from his home to the town of Sabetha. He has kept in fighting trim as a result, or tramping trim, anyway. He carries with him an odd cane fashioned from bits of horn taken from the tips of his favorite cattle, dehorned during his farming life since the close of the war. The cane looks like a stick of polished onyx. Mr. Rees has among his relics a piece of hardtack which he carried through the Civil war. Mr. Rees was with the Ninety-second Illinois mounted infantry. He marched with Sherman to the sea and carried his hardtack on that historic march. Hardtack, to the uninitiated of the present generation and to those of the farmlands who have never been to sea, is merely a name. It is supposedly a biscuit. In reality it is a cracker, big and hard. Mr. Rees's hardtack bears the stamp "Rilley," as a certain popular cracker today bears the stamp "Uneeda." The Rees treasures number more than the cane and hardtack. Saved from the depredations of soldiers, Mrs. Rees has treasured a set of cups and saucers that were among the bridal gifts of her grandparents. She has also a set of silver spoons that were made from shoe buckles of her great-uncle, who presented them to her grandmother. The shoe buckles had also seen war service, and were on a pair of shoes worn by Mrs. Rees's uncle when he came over to America from Ireland over a hundred years ago.

This website created June 12, 2011 by Sheryl McClure.
2011 Kansas History and Heritage Project