Monday, February 3, 2014

The Cold Snap of 1864

Winter in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky
As temperatures have plummeted this winter to near-record lows, with much of the nation in the grip of polar air masses that have brought snow as far as Florida and Alabama, the question emerges - how unusual is this weather, really? Are there any historic parallels? Look no further than the cold snap of 1864 which was very similar to our current weather in many respects.

The Big Sandy River in Eastern Kentucky froze over in December of 1863 and remained so for nearly three months, until late February 1864. Snow covered the ground and the temperatures hovered right at zero degrees or lower. Things turned worse on New Years Eve 1863 and culminated on Friday, January 1, 1864, a day remembered by all who were old enough at that time, as the "The Cold New Year."

The Louisville Weekly Journal reported on December 31, 1863, that the “weather glasses in our city gave unfailing premonitions of the remarkable change in the weather which accompanied the close of the old year and the opening of the new. At noon on Thursday, the barometer indicated 29.62, when it commenced falling rapidly, accompanied by a rain storm, and the wind a little north of west. At four in the afternoon the temperature was forty-seven degrees above zero, when it commenced steadily and rapidly falling.”

At dusk, the rain changed into snow and the winds began blowing violently. Within five hours, the temperatures dropped thirty-five degrees. At nine o’clock P.M., the thermometers registered twelve degrees above zero which dropped to one degree above zero within ninety minutes.

The severe cold weather arrived at Portsmouth, Ohio, several hours later. New Years Eve was a dark drizzling day and it remained quite warm until 9 P.M. At this time, it was still fifty-three degrees and raining. Things started to change quickly at 9:30 P.M. when the wind started blowing hard from the Northeast. By 10:30 P.M., the thermometer showed twenty degrees and kept falling throughout the night.

The weather deteriorated even further on New Years Day. At 7 o’clock A.M., it was eight degrees above zero, at 2 P.M., four degrees above and at 9 P.M., one degree above. It was reported that heavy winds were blowing all day. In comparison, it was clear and cold at Cincinnati at 8 o’clock in the morning and the mercury stood at seven degrees below zero

One journalist noted, “The New Year was ushered in with a wind that blew almost a hurricane, and reminded one of the stormy nights when witches are said in old nursery legends to be abroad in their work of mischief. The cold was intense, penetrating everywhere, freezing every thing, not guarded by artificial heat, that could be frozen, and exceeding in degree the cold on any New Year's Day ever known by 'the oldest inhabitant'."

The severe cold weather extended throughout the West and Northwest. Two break men on the Oil Creek railroad, in Western Pennsylvania, were frozen to death while standing at their posts!
In Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Northern Illinois and Indiana, the cold was still more intense. At Milwaukee, on the 1st and 2nd, the thermometer ranged from thirty to forty degrees below zero, and several persons were frozen to death. At Galena, Ill., thermometer twenty-five to thirty-three below; at Madison, Wis., thirty-four to thirty-nine below; at Dubuque, thirty below; at Oshkosh, Wis., thirty-eight below; at Rockford, Ill., thirty below; Fort Wayne, Ind., twenty-eight below. Between Springfield and Virginia, a stage-driver was frozen to death on his box. The Mississippi River was frozen over at St. Louis, which people crossed on the ice.

Even the Southern States were affected by the “General Freeze Up.” In Richmond, Virginia, the papers reported that, “Matters and things in general concluded to "wait" on Saturday morning, in view of the sudden descent of the temperature below zero. The water froze up in railroad tanks and locomotive boilers, water wheels refused to "circumnavigate", machine shops ceased their clatter, old clocks stopped at "witching hours", hydrants negatived the reservoirs, the town pumps were in demand, the boards of the floors creaked and weather boarding snapped, frosty network frescoed every window pane, and the universal "ugh" that escaped from every mouth went with icy chilliness to the soul of sympathetic nature.”

At Memphis, Tennessee, the thermometer was reported on New Year's Day at ten degrees below zero. Even Georgia was not spared from the cold weather. The Atlanta Intelligencer reported temperatures of twelve degrees at 10 P.M. on January 1st, 1864, and eight degrees the following morning at 7 A.M. “This is the coldest weather we have experienced within forty years, in this country, with a single exception - the cold Saturday (in 1834), when the Mercury fell below zero. It is with difficulty, therefore, that we can write. Not only has our ink frozen, but with the best of fires that we can command, our fingers become numb before a paragraph can be written.”

The severe weather was especially hard on the soldiers. The newspapers reported that, “at Fort Halleck, Columbus, on the Mississippi, above Memphis, on New Year's eve, many of the negro soldiers were badly frozen; and at Island No. 10, ten negroes were frozen to death, and more were expected to die. On the same night, at the same place, eight men of the 52nd Indiana Infantry “were out on a skiff, and being unable to make the shore, were cast on a sand-bar, where three of the party were frozen to death before they could be rescued, two others died the next day, and the others were not expected to live.” The soldiers at Camp Indianapolis also suffered considerably on New Years Eve when a number had their ears and feet frozen.

According to news from Louisville, three Union soldiers were frozen to death at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, on the night of January 2, 1864. At Camp Yates, Springfield, Illinois, several soldiers met the same fate, as well as two soldiers at Camp Chase, Ohio.

Similar hardships were also endured by soldiers who were stationed in Eastern Kentucky where the temperatures dropped well below zero. According to local citizens, the beginning days of January 1864 saw the coldest weather and most abrupt change to be recorded in this section for many years. 

On New Years Day, a soldier from the 5th Independent Battalion OH Cavalry recorded the following from winter quarters at Poplar Plains, “Turned awfully cold last night, a strong wind began blowing from the northwest about nine o'clock and by midnight everything was frozen up. We left our tents and hovered around blazing fires. Our pickets were all brought in except the one that was sheltered towards Poplar Plains. It is reported to-day that seven men of the 40th Kentucky Infantry were found frozen on their posts east of here. Such intense cold I never felt before.” Another member of the unit wrote, “The night of December 31, 1863, we passed through the cold that ushered in "the cold New Years." The thermometer dropped to 25 degrees below zero, and with difficulty the troops were saved from freezing ... Two soldiers on duty were frozen to death at Mount Sterling below us, and all in all the experience was one not soon to be forgotten.”

Snow covered road, Eastern Kentucky
On New Years Day, the 45th Kentucky Mounted Infantry began to arrive at Mt. Sterling from Paris. “Some of these men were badly frosted and had to lie by at farmhouses,” noted an eye witness, “and it was several days before they all got in, and as they were without tents they were quartered where ever shelter could be found for them, till the cold had abated somewhat, and tents could be procured...”

In an effort to stay warm, the 14th Kentucky Infantry, one of the regiments stationed at Louisa, KY, detailed one of the soldiers as coal digger in the quartermaster department during the months of December 1863 and January 1864.

The cold weather continued unabated. A report from St. Louis noted that, “The weather continues very cold here, the mercury ranging from 5 degrees below to 15 degrees above zero. About one foot of snow lies on the ground, and the sleighing is splendid. Heavily laden wagons cross the river on ice, and there are no indications of a speedy break-up. The weather has been intensely cold throughout the State. Many persons and a large amount of stock have been frozen to death.”

On January 8, 1864, Portsmouth recorded ten inches of snow and the thermometer had not risen above twenty degrees. The Ohio River was full of floating ice and finally closed up firmly on Jan. 13, 1864. It remained ice-bound which prevented the steamboats from running thus limiting the delivery of supplies to citizens and soldiers alike. The soldiers' families were impacted as well and those who had not been able to put up enough food for the winter were in dire straits. In order to alleviate some of the suffering, Catlettsburg merchant William H. Geiger donated two steers and one beef to the poor soldiers' wives and families.

The Ohio River at Greenup with floating ice, January 2014
Photograph courtesy of Nancy Wright Bays
As the frozen Big Sandy River prevented steamboats from supplying the Union post at Louisa with stores, the quartermaster department soon was running low on provisions. Therefore, a detachment of the 39th KY Mounted Infantry was ordered to proceed to Catlettsburg on January 9, 1864.  An attack by the enemy was not expected since the weather was extremely cold.  However, as the men were marching along the west bank of the Big Sandy River, they were quietly followed on the other side of the river by a detachment of about 150 men of the 16th Virginia Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Milton J. Ferguson.

By nightfall, the 39th Kentucky detachment had reached Turman's Ferry at the mouth of Bear Creek, a prominent point on the Big Sandy River about 14 miles above Catlettsburg. Just below, at the present-day site of the Cavanaugh M. E. Church, stood an old log schoolhouse, which the men selected as their sleeping quarters. Still completely unsuspecting of any danger, no pickets were posted, “and the officers were asleep in the neighboring farm houses." 

The 16th Virginia Cavalry, under the cover of night, crossed the Big Sandy River on the ice and quietly approached the quarters of the unsuspecting Union soldiers. The Confederates wasted no time and opened fire on the sleeping men. One of the lieutenants was killed in the fight, nine men taken prisoners, including one lieutenant, and the rest, “were driven out into the snow with weather at about zero or lower." The 16th Virginia Cavalry re-crossed the icy river and vanished as quickly as they had appeared. A Union force from Catlettsburg was later sent out to pursue the Confederates but came back empty handed. Some of the men who had taken to the woods, "became frozen, especially their feet, and suffered greatly." On January 11, 1864, "A part of the wounded left behind arrived at the Ashland Hospital, not only badly wounded, but frostbitten.” The majority of them required amputations. According to Catlettsburg post commander Major Rhys Thomas, twenty men had to be sent to the hospital.  

Snowy  Creek in Eastern Kentucky
In closing, the eloquent remarks of the editor of the Daily Ohio Statesman seem fitting. “The New Year has come in, our brother journalists say, like a Lion - more, we should think, like a Russian or Norwegian Bear. A little snow would have probably moderated the intensity of this Arctic weather; but that was not vouchsafed us. Is this rugged birth of the New Year figurative of the hardships of the mass of people - the laboring poor - will have to endure during its existence, or does it prefigure that, though it freezes us with its cold frowns at its commencement, it will comfort and gladden us with sunny smiles before its close? Let us all hope, and so labor, that we may have cause to remember and bless the year 1864.”

The same thoughts and blessings go out to everyone for the year 2014, as we look outside our windows, shivering from yet another winter storm.

Article researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, January/February 2014. Images are the author's property, unless noted otherwise. Unauthorized use and/or duplication, including images, without express written notice by the author is strictly prohibited. © 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pensions for Militia and State Troops

The following report, made in the second session of the Fifty-second Congress from the House Committee on Invalid Pensions on bill (H. R. 7554) to grant a pension to survivors of certain battalions of Kentucky Militia, etc., contains much information regarding a number of Kentucky State troops that were in service during the war and the orders and State laws under which they were raised:

"The Committee on Invalid Pensions have considered the bill (H. R. 7554) granting a pension to survivors of certain battalions of Kentucky Militia, etc., and submit the following report, recommending the passage of the accompanying substitute for the bill under consideration.

"The object of the bill, as introduced, is to place those who served in the organizations named under the provisions of the act of June 27, 1890, which requires a service of 90 days and a present disability, not due to vicious habits.

"In considering the bill these questions arise:
"(1) Under what authority were the said organizations raised and paid?
"(2) Were they subject to the orders of United States officers, and  what was the character of the service performed?

"On these points the following facts and arguments have been presented to the committee:
"The Frankfort, Paducah, and Sandy Valley Battalions, which were known as the Capital Guard Regiment, were intended to aid and assist the Federal troops, and were to be held subject to the call of the district commander for any service in Kentucky, and they were raised by order of the governor of Kentucky, under sanction of an order dated July 11, 1864, and signed by Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

"The North Cumberland, Three Forks, Halls Gap, Green River, Middle Green River, South Cumberland, and Frankfort Battalions, and First Kentucky State Cavalry and Frankfort Battalion were raised under an act of the Kentucky Legislature approved January 26, 1864, entitled 'An act empowering the governor to raise a force for the defense of the State.'

"The Harlan County Battalion was raised under the militia laws of the State and was mustered into the State service October 13, 1862, and was mustered out January 13, 1863. It comprised seven companies, of 494 men, and performed service in eastern Kentucky, along the Tennessee and Virginia borders, affording protection to the loyal people of that section and preventing the destruction of property by the evil inclined, and at the same time acting as an advance guard for the Federal troops.

"The Casey County State Guards, and Captain Bussey's Bath County Rangers were organized under the militia laws of Kentucky, and, being  ordered on duty, the former was assigned to and performed duty with the First Kentucky Cavalry, whilst the latter after having performed service from December 11, 1863, to April 1, 1864, was assigned to and  performed duty with the Capital Guard Regiment, and was then known as Company F, of the Frankfort Battalion of that regiment, and was mustered out February 6, 1865.

"It may be proper to state that the Halls Gap Battalion also included the Mercer County State Guards, which organization was raised under the  militia laws of the State, and that the Frankfort Battalion was a distinct organization from that of the same name raised under the order of Secretary Stanton, heretofore referred to.

"It appears from the records in the Third Auditor's Office that the State of Kentucky made a claim against the United States on account of expenses incurred in behalf of the organizations mentioned in the bill  and was reimbursed therefor, and that the United States reimbursed Kentucky, on account of expenses incurred in raising volunteers to the amount of $3,504,466.77, being a greater amount than was paid to any other State, except the States of Missouri, New York, and Illinois.

"The said organizations performed the same character of service in the State of Kentucky as was required of United States troops. They were in the service not less than 90 days, some for six months, others for about one year. They rendered valuable and efficient service to the State and General Government, and cooperated with the forces of the  United States, and were subject to the orders of United States officers for services to be performed within the State.

"Hon. John M. Palmer, now United States Senator from Illinois, and formerly department commander of Kentucky, under date of January 21, 1863, says:
"'The Kentucky State troops, as a rule, were under my command in the  department of Kentucky, and I treated them as troops subject to my command. Some of the organizations performed valuable services, and ought to be provided for by the pension laws.'

"Gen. Green Clay Smith appeared before the committee and stated that at times during the war he commanded Federal troops in Kentucky; that he was then a resident of the State, and a native thereof, and well acquainted with the conditions prevailing therein at that time, and he had no doubt whatever that the organizations mentioned in the bill were at all times subject to the orders of the department commander, and rendered important service in behalf of the United States in protecting and guarding its property, its lines of communication, and aiding in driving its enemies from loyal territory.

"Kentucky furnished three classes of troops in behalf of the General Government during the late war—those that were mustered into the United States service, those that were known as the State militia proper and which did not perform service for 90 days, and those mentioned in this bill.

"A table is appended hereto showing the number and when mustered in in  each organization mentioned in the bill, the whole number being 4,983, and the number mustered out being about 4,200. But as many of these performed military service in other organizations, which service placed them within the provisions of the pension laws, it is thought that not more than 2,500 would be placed under the provisions of this bill, as originally presented, should it become a law.

"Having directly sanctioned the organization of some of these troops, and having accepted the services of all of them, they having been subject to the orders of the commander of the Department of Kentucky, and having reimbursed Kentucky for all expenses incurred in their organization and maintenance, it seems that the General Government, so far as its military, executive, and ministerial officials had power so to do, have regarded the organizations mentioned in the bill as if they had been mustered into the United States service for all practical purposes. And that being true, it would be fair dealing to place them, as far as this bill can do so, upon an equal footing with the same class of troops furnished by the States of Missouri and Pennsylvania, which have been placed under the provisions of the pension laws.

"Following is the table above referred to, compiled from the report of  the adjutant general of Kentucky: (click on image to enlarge)
"In view of the facts shown, your committee have been unwilling to recommend the passage of the bill as presented, for the reason that to  do so would be to assume to determine that the organizations named were essentially in the service of the United States during the entire period of their service. It does seem proper, however, that these troops should be placed in a position as good as, but no better than, that given to the Missouri State Militia, and your committee therefore report the accompanying bill as a substitute for the bill H. R. 7554, and respectfully recommend that the substitute do pass."

This bill failed of passage and no pensionable rights accrue on account of service in these organizations. The period of service of these troops was generally about six months, though a few of them served about one year. The earliest period of service was from the first part  of 1864. The following is taken from the published report of the adjutant general of the State of Kentucky, dated September 1, 1867,  volume 2, pages 825, 826, as showing something of the service of these organizations:

"All these troops did valuable and efficient service to the State and  the General Government, as the history of the time would fully show. The Sandy Valley Battalion rendered most important service during the Saltville raid.

"The Frankfort Battalion protected the capital from the frequent incursions of guerrilla forces. The Paducah Battalion protected the southwestern portion of the State. Shortly after the muster out of this battalion, the gallant Capt. Thomas J. Gregory, Company A, was killed in action while leading a charge against a guerrilla force.

"The troops raised under the act of January 26, 1864, were enlisted subsequent to the muster out of the Capital Guard Regiment and were located as follows:

"The Three Forks Battalion in the extreme southwestern portion of the State, with headquarters at Booneville.

"The Halls Gap Battalion in the locality between Stanford and Halls Gap; headquarters at Stanford.

"The Green River Battalion in the counties between the Ohio and Green  Rivers, with headquarters at Calhoun.

"The Middle Green River Battalion in the southern portion of the State, with headquarters at Rochester.

"The South Cumberland Battalion also in the southern portion of the State, with headquarters at Burksville.

"The First Kentucky Cavalry in the central part of the State, with headquarters at Lebanon.

"The Frankfort Battalion was assigned to duty in guarding the Louisville & Lexington Railroad and the country adjacent thereto.

"All of these battalions performed the most valuable service against  the rebels and guerillas under Morgan, Johnson, South, Lyon, Mundy, Gentry, Jesse, etc., and for some time freed the State from the incursions of these troops (the acts of many of whom were barbarous in  the extreme). This was accomplished notwithstanding their efficiency was somewhat crippled, first, by the then military commander of the district of Kentucky, and, second, by partisan feeling and prejudice."

This report does not give any particulars of service rendered by these forces under command of United States officers or in connection with United States troops. It shows, however, that 66 of them died and 27 were killed, some of these being killed in action.

Kentucky had another body of State militia, State guards, and home guards that were on active duty at various periods during the war. The published report of the adjutant general of the State of Kentucky, volume 2, page 903, shows the designations and strength of the organizations composing this force to have been as follows:

Home-guard companies called out by Gens. Anderson and Sherman 1,534
Police guard Kentucky Central Railroad 1,470
Oldham County State Guard 63
Shelby County State Guard 35
Spencer County State Guard 56
Nelson County State Guard 49
Flower Creek Home Guard 33
Martin's company Home Guard 57
Ohio County Home Guard 155
Leonard's company, Home Guard 60
Forty-first Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 1,096
Forty-second Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 1,393
Frankfort Union Guards 57
Rockcastle and Lincoln County Home Guard 304
Twenty-second Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 112
Sixty-eighth Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 615
Sixty-fifth Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 347
Thirty-sixth Regiment Kentucky Enrolled Militia 280
Peak's Mill Rangers  51
Fleming County State Guard 102
Hardin County State Guard 42
Capt. R. R. Bacon's company, State Guard 26
Capt. Greenbery Reid's company, Kentucky National Legion 84
Capt. H. H. Johnson's company, Kentucky National Legion 87
Lieut. George W. Burchett's company, Kentucky National Legion 14
Harlan County Battalion 494
Bath County Rangers 88

These militia and home guards served short terms at various intervals during the war, beginning in the fall of 1861; some of them were in  service as late as in November, 1865. A great many of them served less  than 20 days, some served 1 and 2 months, and but very few, if any,  were in service 3 months. Their principal duty was the guarding of  railroads, bridges, locks, etc. The Forty-first and Forty-second  Regiments, Kentucky Enrolled Militia, were 30-day men, called out at  the time of Bragg's Invasion. The Sixty-eighth Regiment Kentucky  Enrolled Militia, 30-days' service, is recognized by the War Department as having been accepted into the military service of the United States  and the members thereof have pensionable status under the general law for disability or service origin only. They have no status under the act of June 27, 1890, as their service was less than 90 days. None of the other Kentucky State organizations has pensionable rights under existing laws.

Many of these troops served out of the limits of Kentucky and the report of the adjutant general of Kentucky mentions that 1,534 of the home guards of that State were called out by Gens. Anderson and Sherman. The home guards, so called, were on active duty in the fall of 1861, a few serving a little over 1 month, but the majority less than 15 days. The Thurston Guards, called out by Gen. Anderson, served 12 days in September, 1862.

Source: Congressional Edition, 66th Congress, 2d Session, Dec. 1, 1919 - June 5, 1920, Volume 7653, pp. 27-31

Transcribed by Marlitta H. Perkins, July 2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear John ~ The Hazards of Mail Delivery

Patriotic cover, postmarked April 14 (1862) at Catlettsburg, KY 
The Post Office Department of the Confederate States of America was established February 21, 1861, by an act of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States. On March 6, 1861, former U.S. Congressman John Henninger Reagan was appointed postmaster general of the Confederate States of America by President Jefferson Davis.

Reagan instructed southern postmasters to continue to render their accounts to the United States as before until the Confederate postal system was organized. In May 1861, Reagan issued a proclamation stating that he officially would assume control of the Post Office Department of the Confederate States on June 1, 1861. US Postmaster General Blair  responded by ordering the cessation of United States mail service  throughout the South on May 31, 1861. This also included mail going from North to South and vice versa.

After this time, private express companies, such as Adams Express, American Letter Express, and Whiteside's Express, still managed to carry the mail across enemy lines, until the U.S. Post Office ordered an end to such traffic, effective August 26, 1861.

Mail delivery was carried out by private contractors. Transporting the mails was filled with danger, particularly along the Kentucky and Virginia border which was infested with bushwhackers. Interrupted service, robberies and guerrilla sniping were a common occurrence. On Sept. 5, 1861, the Daily Louisville Democrat reported that, "In the counties along the Kentucky and Virginia line, several mails have been robbed by men, who came from Virginia, across the line, for that purpose."

One such incidence took place on Wednesday, August 21, 1861, when the mail from Louisa to Warfield, via Cassville (VA), was robbed. Nathan Holt, a wealthy Wayne Co. VA farmer and one of the first local constables, was the mail contractor. The mail boy, his 17 year old son Bernard P. Holt, had left Warfield at 6 o'clock in the morning with the mail and was travelling on the Virginia side of the Big Sandy River toward Cassville. About 5 o'clock in the evening, Bernard arrived within 1 1/2 miles from town when he noticed two men, Alex. Vinson and John Walker, on the road side waiting for him. The boy was knocked from his horse by Vinson and Walker who swore that they were going to have that Lincoln mail. Bernard Holt engaged in a fight with Walker while Vinson cut the mailbag and took out and destroyed all the mail matter, and then took the horse from the boy. Both men left together.

Bernard P. Holt alerted the citizens who made pursuit and captured Vinson about three miles from the place of the robbery. He was brought back to Cassville, and had a hearing before Justice James Stone, who held him over for further trial. Vinson was then put in custody of Constable Bow, who summoned two citizens as guard to watch Vinson through the night. He however made his escape before morning. The Sandy Valley Advocate noted, "He and Walker are now at large. From what we can learn, all the officers were secessionists, as well as the guard, and therefore do not wonder at the escape of the prisoner."

Within days after the incident, Bernard P. Holt was fired on by someone in ambush near Taber's creek, between Turman's Ferry and Cassville. The constant threat of rebel incursions made it increasingly difficult to safely maintain postal service in the area, which may have contributed to the closing of the Falls of Tug (William Ratcliffe, post master) and Palmetto Post Offices on Sept. 3, 1861. David Holt, Bernard's older brother, had held the position of post master at Palmetto since March 9, 1858.

 Nevertheless, Nathan Holt entered into another contract with the US post office on April 24, 1862, to carry the mail twice a week between Warfield and Louisa, KY. In the end, however, Holt failed to execute the contract.

Instead, Nathan Holt joined Union Capt. David Bartram Company, 167th Militia, on June 2, 1862, together with his sons William, David, John W. and Bernard. The Holts continued in the militia service until 1864, in Capt. William Bartram's Wayne County Scouts. 

Sanford Scott, who was contracted to carry the mail six times a week between Guyandotte to Catlettsburg, failed to arrive at Catlettsburg on May 4 and June 28, 1861 and 8 times in July of 1861. Scott completely omitted service for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 1861. Deliveries were resumed by John H. Ford, of Catlettsburg, beginning February 21, 1862.

Catlettsburg Postmark, March 14 (1862)
The situation in Kentucky along the Big Sandy River was very similar.  Stephen Bartram who was contracted to carry the mail twice a week from  Catlettsburg to Prestonsburg, a distance of 73 miles one way, encountered similar problems. Bartram failed to arrive at Catlettsburg with the mail on July 24, Sept. 12 and 26, 1861. After being robbed several times, mail service was finally suspended until the end of December of 1861 when the presence of Union troops along the Big Sandy River made it to a degree safer again to carry the mail.

During the first week of November 1861, the Grand Jury, United States Court, in session at Frankfort, KY, found indictments against Harvey T. Hawkins and Milton J. Freese, for robbing the mail. Bail was set at $ 3,000 each, and $3,000 surety.

Cincinnati Postmark, May 13 (1862)
At the beginning of fall 1861, safety concerns led to the discontinuation of mail service on several Eastern Kentucky routes, under act of Congress of February 28, 1861. The act authorized the Postmaster-General to discontinue the postal service on routes where, in his opinion, it "can not be safely continued, or the postal revenues collected, or the postal laws maintained, by reason of any cause whatever, till the same can be safely restored."

Effective Oct. 17, 61, Route # 9555: Mt. Sterling/Piketon, 2 weekly round trips, D. Cooley (contractor)

Effective Oct. 17, 61, Route # 9556:  Mt. Sterling/West Liberty, 2 weekly round trips, H. C. Berkley (contractor)

Special Agent Miller was authorized to employ service upon the above mentioned routes "as far as safety would permit, at not exceeding the rate of the old pay, from Nov. 11, 1861."

Effective Oct. 17, 61, Route # 9578: West Liberty to Louisa, 1 weekly round trip, Wm. P. Davis (contractor)

Effective Nov. 29, 61, Route # 9569: Greenup Court House/Louisa, 1 weekly round trip, Charles Callahan (contractor)
Louisa Postmark, August 13 (1862)
Several Post offices were discontinued in Eastern Kentucky during the Civil war. Given are the dates of closing name of the post masters and date when the post office was re-established, if applicable.

Cherokee, Sept. 13, 1861 (William W. Graham), re-est. Sept. 10, 1867
Warfield, Nov. 4, 1862 (Mark Dempsey) re-est. Aug. 29, 1870
Bolton, Nov. 2, 1861 (Greenville Bolt) see Boyd Co. KY
Riffe's X Roads, June 25, 1863 (Isaac Belcher)
Georges Creek, July 31, 1863 (Thomas P. Salyer)
Lockwood, Dec. 8, 1865 (Jacob Lockwood)
Buchanan (formerly Round Botton, Wayne, VA) est. Sept. 3, 1861 (George Buchanan, followed by Joseph F. Hatten, Sept. 29, 1863)

Coal Grove, Feb. 28, 1863 (Stephen Ferguson)
Lanesville, July 31, 1863 (James S. Layne), re-est. Oct. 27, 1865

Breckenridge, July 21, 1863 (William R. Bevins)
Democracy, Feb. 28, 1863 (William H. Johnson)
Lonville, Oct. 10, 1862 (Thomas L. Marrs)
Piketon, May 20, 1864 (Lewis C. Dils), re-est. Oct. 28, 1865
Robinson Creek, Nov. 5, 1861 (Samuel Keel), re-est. Sept. 28, 1866
Hamilton's Store, July 31, 1863 (Nelson Hamilton)

Grass Land, Jan. 30, 1862 (William Davis); re-est. Aug. 28, 1862 and discontinued Feb. 28, 1863 (Madison M. Hensley), re-est. June 11, 1875
Sandy Furnace, Feb. 28, 1863 (Pleasant Barber)
Amanda, Aug. 22, 1862 (George P. Walker)
Bolton, July 21, 1863 (John W. Bolt)

Three Prong, Nov. 2, 1861 (J. R. Warnock), re-est. Jun 23, 1866 (Mrs. Martha Warnock)
Truittsville, May 30, 1862 (George W. Truitt)
Callahan, Dec. 2, 1861 (John R. Callahan)
Argylite, Oct. 26, 1861 (James Lampton), re-est. June 24, 1874 (as  Argilite)

Bell's Trace, April 15, 1863 (Nelson T. Rice)
Bruin, July 31, 1863 (John Hood), re-est. Jan. 16, 1867
Estill Flats, June 4, 1863 (Wesley Fults), re-est. Sept. 10, 1863
Rice's X Roads, July 31, 1863 (Paris Rice)

Clarksburgh C. H., Feb. 8, 1864 (Isaac Bassett)

Black Water, July 21, 1863 (John C. Dennis), re-est. Feb. 1, 1866
Caney, March 20, 1862 (David F. Lykins), re-est. July 7, 1874
Christy's Fork, Feb. 26, 1862 (Thornton W. Sanford)
Grassy Creek, July 31, 1863 (Thomas Goddwin)
Hampton's Mills, March 20, 1862 (George M. Hampton)
Johnson's Fork, Sept. 10, 1862 (Eli Williams), re-est. in Magoffin Co. KY Jan. 9, 1863 (Mrs. Lodicky Denham)
Little Sandy, Jan. 9, 1864 (William B. Wheeler)
Relief, July 31, 1863 (Wallace W. Brown)
Devil's Fork, Jan. 9, 1864 (George W. Stamper)

Still Water, Feb. 14, 1865 (Wm. W. Waterman)
Devil's Creek, July 31, 1863 (Sandford R. Shackelford)
Hazel Green, Nov. 8, 1865 (Addison H. Tracey), re-est. Feb. 1, 1866

Blue Rock, Oct. 10, 1863 (Wm. H. K. Garvin), re-est. in Carter Co. Feb. 9, 1864

Gill's Mills, July 31, 1863 (William M. Ragland), re-est. Sept. 23, 1865, in Rowan Co. KY
Laurel Fork, April 15, 1863 (Andrew J. Connoy)
Rockhouse, Dec. 14, 1861 (Thomas N. Perry), re-est. Feb. 6, 1867
Bald Eagle, Jan. 21, 1863 (Joseph Willson), re-est. Jan. 21, 1874

Pleasant Grove Mill, Dec. 15, 1864 (Squire A. Day)
White Oak Hill, Feb. 26, 1862 (Benjamin G. Johnson)

Cornett's Mill, Oct. 10, 1863 (Peyton M. Duke)
Indian Bottom, July 31, 1863 (John Dickson), re-est. Aug. 25, 1868

Brasherville, Juy 31, 1863 (Robert S. Brashears)
Cutshin, Juy 31, 1863 (James C. Brewer), re-est. Aug. 22, 1872

Frozen Creek, July 31, 1863 (Samuel H. Holmes)

There were no closings in Johnson and Magoffin County, KY, during the Civil War.

Paintsville Postmark, August 27 (1862)

Links of Interest

Article researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, July 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication, including images, without express written notice by the author is strictly prohibited. © 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Ticktown Murders and Fiery Retribution

Map of the Ticktown and Camargo area, Montgomery Co. KY (1879)
Source: Library of Congress

In the fall of 1863, the small village of Ticktown in Montgomery County, Kentucky, was burned to the ground by Unionists. What led to this event?

Ticktown, also known as Jeffersonville, began as an important trading center for cattle in Eastern Kentucky during the mid-19th century. It was located roughly eight miles southeast of Mt. Sterling, KY. The origin of the name is obscure but it is believed that the town was either named after the tick grass grown in the area or the ticks found in the cattle stalls. During the Civil War, the town became known as a safe harbor for rebel guerrillas such as the notorious Tom Greenwade.

Several incidents preceded the burning of Ticktown. On Sept. 28, 1863, some twenty or thirty guerrillas made a raid on Sharpsburg, Kentucky and stole fifteen horses as well as other items and subsequently  escaped army scouts. Oneof the units in pursuit was Captain Simon Cockrell, 47th Ky. Mounted Inft. (US) who, with a detachment of 15 men, was searching for the guerrillas in the farmland east of Mt. Sterling. At one point, Cockerell sent five of his scouts, namely Pleasant  Martin, Asbury Nickell (son of Spaniard Nickell), Charles Little, (son of Phillip Little), Reason Grayson and Robert Nickell, off on their own search. Most of these men were friends and nearby neighbors of Captain Cockerell who lived in Morgan County, with the exception of Reason Grayson who was a resident of Bath County.

When the small group reached the vicinity of Camargo, they were surprised by a party of a dozen guerrillas and taken prisoner. After their capture, the prisoners were disarmed and stripped. The rebels then marched them a half a mile to Sycamore bridge near Ticktown. Here the men were drawn up in line and told they were going to be paroled.

Henry C. Hurst, one of the local home guards, later related, "They had  them cross their hands on their breasts, telling them they were about to administer the oath; but instead they placed their guns against them  and fired. All were killed dead except Robert Nickell who was shot near  the right nipple, the bullet came out about five inches lower in the back. He fell off into the creek and they fired three more shots at  him, one bullet struck his arm. He played off dead and they left him." As soon as the guerrillas disappeared, Nickell managed to drag himself  to the house of J. R. Shubert where he was taken in by the family who attended to his wounds.

Meanwhile, the guerrillas continued on their killing spree and reached the home of Jacob Stephens. He was robbed of his pocket book with about $30.00 and shot dead in his own home. Next, the guerrillas captured a man by the name of Jenkins. Hurst noted, "The treatment they gave him was much worse than death. They took all privileges from him that was allowed a man by nature and told him that if that did not kill him they would come back and finish the job."

The morning following the raid, Shubert managed to take Nickell to Mt. Sterling and alert Union authorities about the murders. During the pursuit that ensued, the guerrillas made their way to James Gibbs' on Dry Ridge. Here they successfully escaped the grasp of the federal troops. Lt. Col. C. C. Matson of the 6th Indiana Cavalry, post commander at Mt. Sterling, noted in his report to General Boyle, "I fear the murderers have escaped."

The brutality of the murders triggered much anger and outrage among the citizens in the area. The fact that the depredations continued just added oil to the fire. Consequently, a decision was made to inflict  severe penalties upon the rebels and those who shielded and spied for them in order to curb outrages of this nature in the future.

Accordingly, on October 6, 1863, Lt. Col. Matson ordered a company of  the 6th Indiana Cavalry under the command of Captain E. W. Peck to Olympian Springs. Here they found one of the barns destroyed by the rebels. Following their trail, and passing by the ruins of a residence  belonging to a Union man by the name of Hall, Peck pursued the rebels to Thomas Greenwade's at Old Beaver Furnace in Bath County. His home was a known resting spot and hiding place for guerrillas. Peck ordered the house burned, as well as those belonging to two other rebels, including Isaac Ingram's.

Guerrilla infested Ticktown fared no better and received the same treatment at the hands of a detachment of the 47th KY Mtd. Infantry under command of Captain Simon Cockrell. On October 12, 1863, the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth reported that Union men of Mt. Sterling had recently burned the village to the ground and killed a resident by the name of Greenwade, who was charged with harboring  guerrillas and desperadoes. Incidentally, Thomas Greenwade survived and  remained at large until well after the Civil War, holed up in a cave with his followers, and refusing to surrender.

We have only limited information as to the identity of the guerrillas responsible for the Ticktown killings, except for one man - Jacob L. Edwards. On January 28, 1864, a Union scout pursued a group of guerrillas to the home of Big Jim Stamper on Grassy Creek in Morgan County, KY. The Union soldiers surrounded the house but the guerrillas showed fight and a fiery exchange began. When finally a door was torn  down, the guerrillas surrendered and threw their pistols into the yard. Among the captured was Jacob L. Edwards, who, according to an eye witness, was, "the man who led the squad, who killed the four men at  the Ticktown Bridge and wounded Robert Nickells. They were all tied  together and taken to our camp. We were all very happy over getting  Edwards in our custody. Many of the boys wanted to kill him on the spot; but our Captain would not permit it. He said not to worry that he would get what was coming to him when we turned him over to the proper  authorities."

Edwards was a former member of the 5th KY Mtd. Infantry (CSA) and a deserter from the 1st Battalion KY Mounted Rifles (CSA). He was taken with the other prisoners to Mt. Sterling on the charge of murder and forwarded to the  Military Prison in Louisville. On February 12, 1864, Edwards was sent  to Rock Island Prison, Illinois, but was turned over to civil authorities on March 11, 1864, to be tried for murder. He eventually escaped on October 20, 1864. Nothing further is known about him.

List of prisoners, including Jacob L. Edwards,
arrested in Morgan Co. KY, Jan. 28, 1864.
Robert Nickell, the only survivor of the Ticktown murders, eventually recovered from his wounds. He might be the same man who enlisted a  month later in the 47th KY Infantry. He lived a long and productive
life and died on May 21, 1924, in Rich Hill, Bates County, Missouri. He was 83 years old.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Unpleasant Scene ... Vanceburg in the Fall of 1861

Vanceburg, ca. 1912
Late summer and early fall of 1861 was a time of great struggle and turmoil for Kentuckians. The Civil War left the state divided in sentiment. Although sympathetic to the South, Kentucky was traditionally loyal to the Union. Her citizens showed strong patriotism and were reluctant to abandon the old flag and the Union their grandfathers had fought and died for. On the other hand, there was resentment over coercion of the seceded States by the federal government. The issues of states' rights and slavery helped drive the wedge even deeper.

Families, friends and neighbors found themselves on opposite sides, but holding firmly to their viewpoints. Sometimes, the feeling of animosity was bitter and manifested itself in unpleasant scenes.

One such incident took place in Vanceburg, Lewis County, Kentucky. Situated on the Ohio River 20 miles above Maysville, at the junction of Salt Creek, Vanceburg was a town of roughly 200 inhabitants. It had a  post office, four hotels, several stores and a salt-works nearby. Over the past 13 years the population had quadrupled, mostly due to the influx of new settlers from Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts  who came down the Ohio River and settled here. Among the inhabitants  were a number of lumber merchants and sawyers, a land agent, steamboat  pilot and flatboat man, physicians, lawyers, blacksmiths, carpenters, a  saddler and miller, brick makers and layers, teamsters and seamstresses. By all appearances, Vanceburg was an up and coming town at the beginning of the Civil War.

One of the more recent arrivals was 30 year old Francis L. Shaw and his family. Francis occupied a home next to the residences of his brother William Y. Shaw and his brother-in-law Killian K. Mann. A near neighbor was Hiram T. Rowley, a merchant who operated a store on Second Street in Vanceburg. As far as current political issues were concerned, Shaw and his family strongly supported the Union cause.

On the evening of September 1, 1861, at 7 p.m., Shaw was sitting in his house with his wife Mahala, and the couple's two young children, eight year  old Oliver and four year old Mary. Also present were Shaw's younger brother Lorenzo and one of his wife's sisters. Suddenly, they heard the foot steps of men walking up the sidewalk in the direction of their  house. When in front of their house, a man by the name of Henry Pell  called to Shaw, and told him that, "Mr. Rice" wanted to see him down town immediately. Mr. Rice in this case may have been Francis H. Rice, a 42  year old land agent from Massachusetts who was boarding at police judge William S. Parker's house, six households from the Shaw residence. The men then turned and walked directly across the Street as Shaw was able to determine by the sound of their feet.

Francis L. Shaw was reluctant to leave the house as he believed from the indications that Pell and the men with him "designed some evil" toward him. An hour later a small stone was thrown against the house. For the next three hours all was quiet again until about 11 o'clock when Mahala went into the backroom where the children were sleeping and  moved the curtain at the window. She quickly stepped back and remarked that she heard men running and just at that instance, "the report of a gun and the crashing of the window and the lumbering of stones on the floor filled the house."

Shaw stated that, "My family were so much alarmed as to cry out which together with the report of the gun alarmed many of the citizens who were yet not retired to bed and within Five minutes a number of citizens were at my house, when we proceeded to examine the affect of the assault, and found two stones in the room one weighing about Four and a half lbs; the other about Three lbs. One of the stones had struck the far side of the room cutting through the ceiling; the other had struck the floor cutting quite a gash in it. The charge in the gun being shot, had taken effect in the wall and in the head board of the Bedsted near the head of one of my children who was sleeping there. Another stone had struck the meeting Rail of the Window Sash, when it broke and scattered over the room. The glass was nearly all broken out of the window."

While Shaw and some of his neighbors were examining the damage in the house, others proceeded to scout in different directions in search of  the mob, and in a few minutes one of the scouts came upon three men sitting by the road side about Two Hundred yards from Shaw's house - one of them being Henry Pell. One of the scouts asked him if he knew anything of the disturbance to which he replied he had not heard of any disturbance.

Shaw immediately procured a writ and charged Pell and his companions with assault on his home and shooting into the house with intent to kill. Consequently, Pell's two companions were arrested, as well as a  third man who had been seen running away from Shaw's house immediately after the firing was heard. Pell, however, was not taken. A court of inquiry was called immediately and proceeded to try the men arrested.

One of the men turned States evidence and testified that Pell induced him and the other two men referred to, to go with him to try and lure Shaw out of the house for the purpose of robbing him. After failing in any way to get him out they went and made the assault, thinking that Shaw was at the window, as they had seen the curtains moved by some one.

Shaw stated in regard to Pell that, "I have no knowledge of any insult of any kind that could have actuated him, only as I was told that he said I was a damned Lincolnite and a damned Abolishionist."

Soon after the incident, Francis L. Shaw moved with his family to Fleming County. He enlisted in November 1861 in the 24th KY Infantry and thus had no further chance to prosecute the case.

Pell remained at large but was eventually arrested within two months after the incident. Police judge William S. Parker investigated and tried the case "according to law" but amazingly, cleared Pell of any wrong doing. Parker reasoned that, "there was no evidence implicating  him in said charges and I found there was no course for sending him on for trial in the Circuit Court."  Clearly, Parker ignored the fact that Pell had been named as the main instigator by one of his companions.  Furthermore, Parker called none of the witnesses in the case, namely Socrates Holbrook, County Attorney of Lewis County and Dr. Robert G. Barber, one of the physicians in Vanceburg, nor Francis L. Shaw's  brother Lorenzo Dow Shaw or William Schiffbower who was rooming at one of the hotels in town at the time of the incident.

After the proceedings, police judge Parker enlisted in the 16th KY Infantry and left the docket and papers in his bureau drawer. By 1864, when called  upon, all pertinent documents had been conveniently lost or misplaced. Clearly, for unknown reasons, justice had not been served. Nevertheless, although the law failed to prosecute him for his misdeeds in the fall of 1861, Pell eventually ran into trouble a few short years later ... which will be the subject of another article.

  ~ To Be Continued ~

Monday, January 28, 2013

Henry Biggs alias Henry Holms, 100th USCI

One of the African American soldiers from Greenup County, KY who served their country during the Civil War was Henry Biggs. He was born in Greenup County between 1825 and 1827, the son of a man by the last name of Holmes. Henry was the slave of William Biggs who lived on a farm situated near the Ohio River, about three miles from the town of Greenup.

Once part of the William Biggs farm
William Biggs was a self-made business man who maintained a line of keel boats on the Ohio and Big Sandy Rivers and owned interests in iron furnaces in Ironton, Ohio as well as in Kentucky. In 1850, he bought a hotel in Portsmouth Ohio, which came to be known far and wide as the "Biggs House." He maintained a woodyard on the banks of the Ohio river in Greenup which was supplied from his heavily timbered farm. Biggs was also a substantial slave holder. In 1850, he owned 19 slaves and 24 slaves in 1860. He was characterized as a "kind and indulgent master" who, during the 1830's, allowed his slaves to cross the Ohio river, and work in the state of Ohio. It has been said that none of his slaves ever tried to escape. This may have been partially due to the fact that, beginning in 1856, slave patrols were employed for which the state legislature appropriated $1200 annually to Greenup County for wages.

As Henry grew to manhood, he was married to Rosa Philips, also a slave, about 1845/1846. She was born in Kentucky between 1820 and 1824. The ceremony was performed in Greenup County by Charles Howard, a "Colored Minister." After their marriage, the couple lived on the William Biggs farm and during the course of the years five children were born to this union:

Charlotte/Lottie, b. abt. 1846

Jackson/Jack, b. abt. 1850

Sophy/Sophia, b. March 2, 1851

Henry, b. May 15, 1853

Harrison, b. April 15, 1855

In addition to their five children, the couple also cared for a young slave girl named Maria. Despite her young age, being only between 7 to 9 years old, Maria was of great help to Rosa and assisted in nursing her "during her sickness resulting from her being confined" by giving birth to her last two children, Henry and Harrison.

When the Civil War began, African Americans were not permitted to enlist in the military service to serve their country. As the war progressed, attitudes began to change. The first official authorization to employ African Americans in federal service was the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. This act allowed President Abraham Lincoln to receive into the military service persons of African descent and gave permission to use them for any purpose "he may judge best for the public welfare." However, the President did not authorize use of African Americans in combat until issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

To facilitate recruiting in the states of Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the War Department issued General Order No. 329 on October 3, 1863. Section 6 of the order stated that if any citizen should offer his or her slave for enlistment into the military service, that person would, "if such slave be accepted, receive from the recruiting officer a certificate thereof, and become entitled to compensation for the service or labor of said slave, not exceeding the sum of three hundred dollars, upon filing a valid deed of manumission and of release, and making satisfactory proof of title." Further, every owner was required to sign an oath of allegiance to the government of the United States.

Nevertheless, open enrollment did not begin in Kentucky until Burbridge issued GENERAL ORDERS No. 34, dated April 18, 1864. It directed the assistant to the provost-marshal-general of the State, the provost-marshals of districts, and the deputy provost-marshals in each county, " to receive and regularly enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States all able-bodied negro slaves and free colored persons of lawful age who may apply to them to be enlisted, and in case of slaves whose owners may request the enlistment."

A month later, on May 22, 1864, Henry Biggs appeared at Greenupsburg and signed a declaration, that he desired to volunteer as a soldier in the Army of the United States, for the term of three years, which was witnessed by J. W. Henderson. The following day, he enrolled as a private in Capt. Hamlin Rockwell's Co. H, 100th US Colored Infantry. Henry was examined by Surgeon A. Spaulding and declared "free from all bodily efects and mental infirmity" which in turn qualified him for military service. His physical description was given as follows: Age 37, occupation farmer. He was 5' 4" tall, had black eyes, black hair, and a copper complexion.

Henry Biggs Enlistment Paper
Henry Biggs was mustered into the US service on June 1, 1864, by Captain William C. Grier, Provost Marshall, 9th Congressional District of Kentucky. The absence of any type of manumission documents in his service records seem to suggest that he volunteered without permission (or blessings) by William Biggs.

According to Col. Reuben D. Mussey, 100th USCI, Commissioner, Organization U. S. Colored Troops, "the people of Kentucky did not seem to be willing there should be armed negroes in their State." Burbridge's order specified that as soon as mustered,"and squads of such recruits are collected, they will be at once forwarded to the general rendezvous at Louisville; thence forwarded by the commandant of the rendezvous to the nearest rendezvous or camp of instruction outside of the State, for the purpose of being equipped and assigned to companies and regiments." Burbridge made note that, "recruits will, in all cases, be forwarded as herein directed with all practicable dispatch."

Accordingly, within a few days of muster, Henry Biggs, along with a detachment of other recruits, boarded a steamboat for Louisville. As they departed Greenup, the recruits may have felt a sense of relief. While in camp and without weapons, the raw recruits manifested, "some alarm lest the guerrillas should come in and massacre them after the manner observed at Fort Pillow." On June 4, 1864, the Portsmouth Times (OH) reported that a "Boat-Load of negro soldiers passed down the river on the Market Boy, yesterday morning." The Market Boy was not a fancy boat by any means. It was formerly in use by the Kanawha Salt Association to transport salt. The recruits arrived at Louisville on June 6, 1864, and were quickly loaded onto a train to Nashville, Tennessee.

Ohio River at Greenup, near the steamboat landing
Henry Biggs was among the first several hundred African American recruits from Kentucky thus received at Mussey's headquarters in Nashville. Military authorities were encouraged and decided to expand their recruiting efforts in Kentucky. By mid-June, the number of recruiters were increased and eight camps were authorized to receive US Colored recruits which would include Camp Swigert in Greenup County. The Ironton Register (OH) reported that, "The negroes of Greenup and adjoining counties in Kentucky are enlisting into the United States Service very rapidly. At last accounts one hundred and fifty of them were encamped near Greenupsburg." When the 100th USCI was organized at Nashville, recruits from Greenup as well as a number from neighboring counties accounted for most of the rank and file of Cos. F and H through K, 100th USCI.

The regiment was immediately assigned to guard duty on the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad where it was involved in a skirmish on Sept. 6, 1864. The regiment saw action at Johnsonville on November 4-5, particpated in the Battle of Nashville, TN, December 15-16 and Overton Hill, December 16. Immediately therafter, the 100th USCI took part in the pursuit of Hood to the Tennessee River, from December 17-28, 1864.

Their hard service as well as a lack of tents and blankets and exposure to the elements led to widespread sickness among the soldiers in the regiment. It was during this time, that Henry Biggs contracted a severe cold which quickly turned into pneumonia. He died from the effects on Christmas Day 1864, while on a train between Huntsville and Stevenson, Alabama. Sadly, his burial site could not be ascertained by the writer and seems to be lost. Henry Biggs' name is displayed on the African American Civil War Memorial, Plaque Number C-99.

Henry's enlistment did not automatically free his family who remained in servitude until Congress passed a resolution on Mach 3, 1865, that freed the wives and children of U.S. Colored Troops. It can only be speculated how Rosa and the children were treated during their remaining days in Greenup County. By the time the Civil War was over, they had left the Biggs farm and were living in Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio. On Sept. 6, 1865, Rosa applied for a widow's and minors' pension before Probate Court Judge John Walker.

Rosa applied under the surname Holms, rather than Biggs. In order to explain this discrepancy, two of Henry Biggs' former comrades, Corporal Harvey Kouns (listed as Karnes on the regimental rolls) and Richard Johnson, both Co. H, 100th USCI,  testified on July 13, 1866, before William Corum, Greenup County Clerk, that Henry enlisted with them and was mustered into the service, "under the name of Henry Biggs, the Surname Biggs being the surname of his master and by which he was known here, that after he became free, he assumed the surname of his Father which was Holmes and called himself Henry Holmes and that the said Henry Biggs alias Henry Holmes continued with them in the service till his death."

After producing supporting affidavits in regard to her marriage to Henry and the birth dates of her children, Rosa Holms alias Biggs was granted a pension for herself and sons Henry and Harrison at the rate of $8 per month, beginning Sept. 21, 1866 (Cert. # 83.944).

Rosa Holms' Widow's Claim for Pension
Rosa never re-married and continued to live with her children in the 3rd Ward in Circleville. According to census records, she owned  her own home. Also living with her for some time were Maria and her husband James Rollins. In 1872, she applied for an increase in pension which was not granted. Rosa died on Nov. 29, 1882. Her last known residence was 254 Canal Street, 3rd Ward, Circleville, OH, which was in close proximity of the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Links of Interest
Resolution Freeing the Families of Black Soldiers
Published by Freedmen & Southern Society Project

THE BLACK SOLDIERS OF KENTUCKY: Over Twenty Thousand Negroes Furnished to the Armies of the Union More than a Hundred Thousand Slaves Made Free.
Article by the New York Times, published August 10, 1865.

Freedom by the Sword- U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867, by William A. Dobak.

African American Civil War Memorial
Photo Gallery (NPS)

Article researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, January 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express written notice by the author is strictly prohibited. © 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Loyalty of James Kendall Hunter

James Kendall Hunter
James Kendall Hunter was born in Morgan County, Kentucky, about 1832. He was the son of Benjamin Franklin “Francis” Hunter, also known as “Captain Frank”, and his wife Elizabeth Drake. Both Francis Hunter and his wife were Virginians by birth and came to Kentucky via Tennessee. The family lived in Pike County, Kentucky for a few years before settling in Morgan County by 1830. Over the next 16 years, Francis Hunter amassed a wealth of property in form of land grants. Most of the 1,600 acres he was awarded was situated between and along the Open Fork and Middle Fork of Little Sandy River.

We do not have much information regarding the early years of James K. Hunter, his childhood, upbringing or education but it appears that he inherited his father’s sense of business. In 1850, he was still living with his parents, working as a laborer. Ten years later, James K. Hunter was a substantial land owner in his own right, listing $3800 real estate and $1660 personal property in the 1860 Morgan County Census. On January 20, 1859, ready to support a wife and family of his own, he married Mary “Polly Ann” Clevenger, the 14 year old daughter of Pleasant Clevenger and wife Margaret Hamilton, in Morgan County, Kentucky. This marriage lasted only a few months. In absence of records we are only able to speculate what happened to Mary but it is entirely possible that she died, perhaps from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

James K. Hunter did not mourn the loss of Polly Ann for very long and soon was courting Edy Howard, the 17 year old daughter of Dyer Howard and Celia “Sealie” Adkins. There is no record for this marriage, but by June of 1860, James K. Hunter was living with his new wife Edy and four month old daughter Almarinda, in District One of Morgan County, near Gordon Ford in Horseshoe Bend of Licking River.

The following year, the dark clouds of war soon overshadowed Hunter’s happy home life. In early fall of 1861, James K. Hunter began raising a company of volunteers for the Confederate Army. James H. Morgan, a Morgan County resident who later had to flee from the rebels and live as a refugee in Greenup County, stated that, “about Oct 1, 1861 James Hunter, in Company with some others took affiants gun from him. Hunter was then in the Rebel service, & from the information I had was a Captain in the Rebel Army.” A good portion of Hunter’s men came from the Middle Fork District in Morgan County, KY. He was joined in his recruiting efforts by his brother-in-law Peter M. Fannin, husband of his sister Nancy.

On October 21, 1861, the company was enlisted in the Confederate service at West Liberty by Andrew Jackson May. Two days later, federal troops under General William "Bull" Nelson captured West Liberty and the Confederates were forced to beat a hasty retreat to Prestonsburg. It was here, on October 25, 1861, that James K. Hunter and his men were sworn into the service by Lt. R. B. Howard. His company became Co. B of the 5th KY Mounted Infantry, commanded by Colonel John S. Williams. Hunter was elected Captain, Henry T. Stanton, a young lawyer from Maysville , 1st Lieutenant, and both Joseph Adkins and Peter M. Fannin, 2nd Lieutenants.

The following month, after the Battle of Ivy Mountain on November 8, 1861, the Confederates retreated into Southwestern Virginia, while the 5th KY Infantry encamped at Pound Gap. After nearly a month, Confederate forces, including the 5th KY Infantry, under command of Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall, re-entered Eastern Kentucky and slowly proceeded down the Big Sandy Valley. By December 1861, a camp was set up at Hager Hill, in Johnson County, near Paintsville where more recruits were received and supplies were gathered. Captain James K. Hunter arranged to have 122 hogs driven to camp which he sold to the CS Government for a whopping $1,151.76 on January 4, 1862.

Receipt for $1,151.76 for 122 hogs
Less than a week later, on January 10, 1862, Marshall’s troops faced the Union forces under Colonel James A. Garfield at Middle Creek in Floyd County, Kentucky. The battle ended with a Confederate defeat. Marshall left the field and retreated with his men to Martin’s Mill in Floyd Co. KY. It was here, in camp on Beaver Creek, where Captain Hunter was paid for his hogs, on January 15, 1862. Twelve days later, on January 27, 1862, the 5th KY Infantry, including Hunter’s company, was encamped on the banks of the Kentucky River, near Whitesburg, Kentucky. Hunter requisitioned camp and garrison equipage such as tents and clothing for his men and was generally attending to his duties.

What happened next was unexpected and is truly inexplicable. Within a matter of days, Captain Hunter deserted his men and his regiment and returned home to Morgan County. Why he did not simply choose to resign instead of deserting his men is hard to explain. Was he pressed by some urgent matter, was he physically unable to withstand the rigors of campaigning and military life, or did he become disillusioned with the Southern cause? Or were his actions due to pressure by his family who were, for the most part, Union supporters? After all, during the course of the Civil War, no less than three of James K. Hunter’s brothers, four nephews and one brother-in-law enlisted in the Union Army.* His father Francis was also known to be a loyal man. Unfortunately, the records are silent and void of any reasonable explanation.

Company Muster Roll, Co. B
5th KY Infantry (CS)
Dec. 31, 1861 - Apr. 30, 1862
Regardless of Hunter’s motives, he returned home to his wife and young daughter but his stay, for the time being, was cut short. About February 7, 1862, a federal cavalry patrol, Wolford’s 1st KY Cavalry, captured James K. Hunter at his Morgan County home and brought him to Camp Buell, Garfield’s Headquarters, at Paintsville, Johnson County, KY. Surprisingly, Hunter was not sent off to Newport Barracks or Camp Chase as a prisoner of war. Undoubtedly, Garfield interviewed Hunter and must have been sufficiently convinced that Hunter was not in communication with the rebel army anymore or aiding the enemy. Yet, Garfield still did not trust him enough to release him simply on his word of honor. James K. Hunter was allowed to post bond and, upon taking the oath of allegiance, he was permitted to return home.

Head Quarters 18th Brigade
Camp Buell Feb 13 1862

James K. Hunter of Morgan county Ky having come into camp and taken an oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States and entered into bonds to remain a true and faithful citizen. (He) thereof is hereafter considered as under the protection of the Federal Army and will in no way be molested so long as he shall remain at home a peaceable citizen.

By order of
Col. J. A. Garfield
Comdg Brigade

W. H. Clapp
A. A. G.

Garfield's order dated Feb. 13, 1862
During the following months, Hunter seemed to abide by the terms and conditions of the oath and bond and remained at his home in Morgan County, attending to his own personal affairs. John T. Shepherd, postmaster at Grayson, Carter Co. KY noted that, ”when I saw him he was attending to his business as any other citizen After he gave bond as aforesaid For the Purpose of ascertaining whether he was Keeping the Condition of his Bond - at Every Chance I had - I made Enquiry of his neighbors where he was and what he was doing and always understood that he was at home and behaving himself.” James M. Gray of Morgan County noted that Hunter, “since he gave a bond to Col J A Garfield in the winter of 1862 that he has since that time he has been at home or not connected with either army Federal or confederate.”

Another child was welcomed into the family who was named Jefferson Davis Hunter. The first name is an interesting choice but in absence of an exact birth date it remains unclear if the child was named before or after his father’s desertion from the Confederate Army.

At the beginning of August 1862, the State of Kentucky was threatened by a massive Confederate invasion under Generals Bragg, Kirby Smith and Humphrey Marshall.

On September 17, 1862, Marshall’s men, including Hunter’s former regiment, the 5th KY Infantry, arrived in Morgan County, and, “marched thru West Liberty with a brass band and drum and fife in great pomp.” The soldiers received a warm welcome. James K. Hunter, however, may have looked upon this spectacle with mixed feelings. Captain Joseph Adkins, who was now commanding Hunter’s Company B, promptly stopped at Hunter’s home and arrested him, and, according to Davidson Davis, “forced him of as a prisoner much against his will.” James M. Gray, Hunter’s neighbor, stated, “that he was present at J. K. Hunters and seen him taken off under an arrest by some of Capt Adkins Company of Gen Marshals.” F. C. Walsh later saw, “a portion of the soldiers of the Confederate Army as they passed through West Liberty. James Hunter, was with a lot of soldiers I saw He was acting with them but in what Capacity, I did not hear any one say; don't know that he was captain.” Jackson B. Ward and Benjamin F. Crawford stated that Hunter was taken “away by the Rebels a prisoner”.” Jesse K. Howard noted that, “Men under Colonel May of the Rebel army arrested James K Hunter and took him off to the Rebel Army and he was then dismissed and allowed to Come back home.” Eyewitnesses such as Davidson Davis and James M. Gray added that Hunter was gone “some ten or twelve days.”

After his return to Morgan County, James K. Hunter went into the horse trading business with Jesse K. Howard. At the end of 1862, Hunter and Howard proceeded to Greenup County and lodged at Seymore Harding’s hotel in Greenupsburg, waiting to board a steamship to Cincinnati. According to Harding, “They had some horses they told me they were taking them to Cincinnati to sell them.” A similar trip was undertaken about mid-February 1863.

During a third trip at the end of March of 1863, Hunter was recognized in Greenupsburg by some Morgan County refugees, among them James H. Morgan, who notified Provost Marshall William C. Ireland of his presence. “I am informed by refugees from Morgan Co. that James Hunter was a Captain in the Rebel Army, and was commanding a Co., at the battle of Middle Creek on Big Sandy, “noted Ireland. It was also stated that Hunter had, “raised a Company, and went into the rebel service“, during the Confederate invasion of Kentucky in the summer of 1862. “Went off and was gone until a month or so ago.”

Ireland decided against an immediate arrest of Hunter and Howard and instead, addressed a letter to Enoch T. Carson, Collector of the Port of Cincinnati and the United States, on March 21, 1863. “Not being advised as to who is in military command at your city, I write you, knowing that you will place this in proper hands. There is now at this place two men waiting for a boat to go to your city. James Hunter, and Jesse K. Howard. They have 4 horses, and a gray (?), that they say they are taking down to Sell … I would have arrested them here, but have no forces at my command, and no safe place to keep them. I would arrest notwithstanding, but for the fact that they are going to your city where they can be properly cared for. If they are arrested, and if proof of the facts stated is required, I will forward testimony.” He added a physical description of Hunter and Howard. “Hunter, is about 28, or 30 years of age, dark hair, dark whiskers, about 6 feet high. He resides I understand in Morgan Co. Ky. Is a son of Frank Hunter who is said to be a Union man … Howard, who is with Hunter, is a large man - weighing say 180 lbs. dark hair, age about 30 years … Both wear soft black hats. Howard, has some hair on chin of rather (?) sandy color.”

Apparently unaware of the trouble that was brewing, Hunter and Howard boarded the next steamship at Greenupsburg with their horses and proceeded to Cincinnati. Upon their arrival on March 25, 1863, both men were promptly arrested and their horses seized, upon orders of Colonel Eastman. Hunter and Howard were then taken to the barracks on Columbia Street in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Provost Marshal William C. Ireland made every effort to locate witnesses for this case but believed that, “it would not be safe to go to Morgan Co.” Despite the apparent hurdles, Ireland managed within three weeks to obtain the affidavits and statements of 15 witnesses. On March 31, 1863, James K. Hunter’s father Frank stopped at Ireland’s office with two affidavits in his pocket in favor of his son while on his way to Cincinnati. Ireland did not seem to be completely satisfied, however, and continued to search for witnesses. The last affidavit in Hunter’s case was taken on April 8, 1863.

It appears that Jesse K. Howard was soon released and was allowed to return to Morgan County. Provost Marshal Ireland noted that, “They say Howard, who is with Hunter, has never been in the Rebel Army but is a sort of tool for Hunter.” James H. Morgan noted that, “I have known Jesse K. Howard for several years and so far as his Loyalty is concerned within my own knowledge I cannot say but this much I can say - I have never heard of his Taking any part whatever in this Rebellion so far as truth or veracity is concerned I have never heard him doubted.” James Walsh, a private in Co. D, 14th KY Cavalry (US), knew Howard well and characterized him as a “notorious rebel & sympathizer” but as far as he knew or believed he had never been in arms.

In regard to James K. Hunter, Greenup postmaster Joseph Pollock stated, “that a short time after the Federal forces under Genl George Morgan passed through this place, he had a talk with several men, some of whom were members of the 22nd Ky Infantry, & others Tennesseans … These men informed me that they learned as they passed through Morgan Co. Ky, that a man by the name of Hunter, was trying to get recruits for the Rebel Army. I do not remember that they gave his given name, but I learned from them (?) that he was a son of Frank Hunter of Morgan County, and that he had been before that time in the Rebel Army.”

US Brig. General George W. Morgan had entered West Liberty with his 7th Division, Army of the Ohio, on September 28, 1862, only 11 days after Hunter had been taken off as a prisoner by Captain Adkins of the 5th KY. As witnesses had stated, Hunter did not return home until some ten or twelve days later. Since Hunter was most likely still absent from Morgan County during the time Federal Morgan’s troops passed through the county, it would only be natural for people to speculate or assume that he had re-joined the Confederate Army and make statements to that effect to the Union troops. But return he did shortly thereafter and “since that time he has been attending to the ordinary avocations of life and not in the army,” as was noted his neighbor James M. Gray.

Interestingly, the initial statement by an unnamed witness to Provost Marshal Ireland that Hunter “Went off and was gone until a month or so ago”, which would fix his date of return to Morgan County to mid to late February of 1863, does not appear in any of the witnesses’ affidavits. Furthermore, it was easily discredited by Seymore Harding’s testimony who had seen Hunter and Howard in Greenup at his hotel at the end of December 1862 and again in mid- February 1863, on their way to Cincinnati to sell horses.

Seymore Harding affidavit, March 29, 1863
Harding’s testimony also raises doubt about James H. Morgan’s statement that, “Sometime in December I was in Morgan County, and heard it said that Hunter has been trying to raise a company for the Rebel service,” but Morgan himself admitted that, “of the truth of the matter, personally I know nothing.” It is possible that Morgan had personal reasons to implicate Hunter, and was trying to get even for the visit that Hunter had paid him in October 1861, when his gun was taken from him.

The overwhelming majority of the witnesses testified in Hunter’s favor, stating that, once he returned to Morgan County, after being captured by Captain Adkins and taken off as a prisoner, Hunter had remained home and attended to his own business. Davidson Davis noted that Hunter,“has since been at home or attending to his ordinary business of life and that he has frequently heard said Hunter say that he never intended to violate his bond that he had given. “Jackson B. Ward also added that “from all I have been able to See or hear of him he has been guilty of no disloyal acts or Conduct.”

Additionally, on March 31, 1863, Robert F. Prater, a soldier of Company B, 14th KY Cavalry (US) was questioned and cross-examined in Cincinnati, in reference to the loyalty of James K. Hunter to the Government of the United States.

An excerpt is given here:

Robert F. Prater first duly sworn deposeth and sayeth:

Question 1st. ~ What is your age. Where do you reside and what is your occupation.

Answer. Twenty Three years of age. I reside in Morgan County, Ky. Soldier in the United States Army.

Question 2d. ~Are you acquainted with James K. Hunter and how long have you been acquainted with him

Answer - I am acquainted with James K. Hunter and have known him for five years.

Question 3d. ~What is said James K. Hunter's reputation.

Answer - His reputation as far as I know is good.

Question 4. ~What do you know of his loyalty since February 7th 1862.

Answer. As far as I know he has been loyal ever since.

Question 5. ~Do you know of his having raised a company for the Rebel army since February 7th 1862.

Answer - He has not raised a company that I know of

Question 6. What portion of the time since February 7th 1862 have you resided in the same vicinity with defendent

Answer - About Six months

7 Question . ~Have you been in his vicinity since the 1st of september 1862

Answer - I have

8 Question ~ Do you know of defendent having raised a company for the Rebel army during the month of August 1862 or at any time since

Answer - He has not that I know of my reason for so stating is that I have frequently been through the neighborhood where he resides as a scout as a soldier during the fall and winter of 1862 and he was at home

The records do not disclose whether the charges of disloyalty against Hunter were dropped or not but in view of the testimony in favor of his case it seems unlikely that he was held by the authorities for very long. It may be noted that James K. Hunter’s name does not appear on any Confederate military records after his desertion in 1862 which lends added credibility to the statements made by witnesses who testified on his behalf.

Hunter returned home and during the remaining war years, two more children were added to the family - daughter Arvilla, born abt. 1864 and son William D., born ca. 1865. George Montgomery, born in March of 1866 and Laura B., born abt. 1868, soon followed.

After the end of the Civil war, James K. Hunter rose to prominence in local affairs. In 1869, we find James K. Hunter as a resident of the newly formed Elliott County, KY. On April 5, 1869, the county seat was laid off on a one acre plot in Martinsburg that had been generously donated by Hunter. On the same day, a committee composed of James K. Hunter, G. W. Stamper, W. H. Vansant, Travis Horton and A. Ison met at Hunter’s home for the purpose of dividing the county into five districts, or voting precincts.

On May 25, 1869, the first session of court conducted in the new county was convened Hunter’s steam mill on the bank of Little Sandy River. James K. Hunter served as the first Elliott County Judge and his mill was fixed as the permanent meeting place for both county and circuit court until a more suitable place could be found and provided.

The 1870 Elliott County Census reveals that Hunter had made it through the Civil War financially unscathed. He was a merchant in Martinsburg and owned $8000 worth of real estate and $12,200 personal property. During the same year, on July 3, his daughter Mollie Belle Barbour Hunter was born. Hunter seemed at the height of his personal and professional life and was considered an influential citizen. Two short years later, tragedy struck when James K. Hunter was killed by a fall from his horse. The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown. The 1873 Elliott County Tax List shows Judge James K. Hunter as deceased. His final resting place is in the Old Sandy Hook Cemetery. His 29 year old widow Edy Hunter, who was left to raise 7 small children, joined her husband’s side 44 years later, on August 23, 1916, one day after her death at Sandy Hook of cerebral hemorrhage.

Eda "Edy" Hunter Death Certificate

*James K. Hunter’s Family Members in the Federal service
Nephew - James M. Vansant, Co. B, 14th KY Cav (US) – son of J.K. Hunter’s sister Lavisa Susan
Nephew - Sylvester Green Hunter, Pvt., Co. B, 14 KY Cav (US) – son of J. K. Hunter’s sister Emerine

Brother - Squire Henderson Hunter, Pvt., Co. C, 40th KY Inf. (US)
Nephew - James M. Hunter also Pvt., Co. C, 40th KY Inf. (US) – son of Squire Henderson Hunter

Brother-in-law - Lewis A. Thornbury, Sgt. Maj. in Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)– husband of J. K. Hunter’s sister America. Lewis A. Thornbury was a brother of Captain Martin Thornsbury, Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Brother - Kenas F. Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Brother – William Thomas Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Nephew – Martin Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US) – son of J. K. Hunter’s brother Sylvester D.

Source Records
Compiled Service Records, Confederate and Union
Confederate Citizens files
Union Provost Marshal Records

Article researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, December 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express written notice by the author is strictly prohibited. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.