Clay County

1884 History of Clay County - Chapter VIII.

War — Revolutionary Soldiers — Black Hawk War — The Late Civil War — The Heroic Conduct and Bearing of the People of Clay County — Gen. L. B. Parsons, Capt. J. W. Westcott and Many Others, etc. 

AS we have shown in another chapter, the territory comprising Clay County is a part of the ground trod by the heroes of the war for our independence. Its date goes back to the year 1778, when it lay in the line of the expedition of Gen. George Rogers Clark and his little band of great heroes. Thus early in the annals of our country was this made historic ground. The centennial month of that wonderful expedition, its sore trials and magnificent outcome has come and gone, and, we regret to record it, without so much as a remembrance by the people of the county. These men were the heroes and benefactors of the human race. They gave us the Mississippi Valley and its millions of happy homes, its incomparable wealth, and its splendid civilization, and to forget or neglect so soon smacks of ingratitude and ignorance of our noble sires that is melancholy to contemplate.

In 1840, there were three of the Revolutionary fathers, who were pensioners, residing in Clay County, to wit: Samuel Parks, aged ninety-three years; Moses Johnson, aged one hundred years, and Nathaniel West, aged ninety years. This little band of aged heroes have quietly passed away, and they sleep in unknown graves. History will tell you of their sufferings, hardships and invincible heroism. How these men fought, bled and died, that we their children might be a free and independent people. And they fought solely for their friends and their families, and their sworn statements, in every case where they applied for a pension, was that they had struggled for bread so long as even the feeblest effort was possible, and only when they tottered and fell by the wayside, hungry and dying, did they apply to the Government to which they had given so much for a pittance on which to linger out the few remaining days of their lives. Some suitable commemoration of the dust of these heroes would be a most becoming act upon the part of the people of Clay County. It would tell at least the rising generation who these men were, and teach them the lesson, that busy selfish man is only too apt to forget, that the memory and fame of our real benefactors should be cherished and not at once forgotten. No monument, no name of town, village or municipality, we believe in the county, commemorates the lives of any of these old heroes, whose heroic deeds were in some way connected with the history of the county. Amends should be made at some early day for such an omission of what should have been both a duty and a pleasure.

We are informed, but we could learn nothing of the particulars of his life, that there was a man named Bartley — known universally as "Grandpa Bartley" — who lived in the extreme northwest portion of the county, and died there we believe in 1879, whose life was the most remarkable chapter in the history of the United States. He was born July 4, 1776, and was alive and a vigorous old man July 4, 1876, when the American centennial was in progress in Philadelphia. He died as stated above in 1879, and was consequently one hundred and three years old when he died. Certainly in all that goes to form the leading coincidences of a long life the whole country has not perhaps had a single person whose life was so singularly marked as this man's.

Black Hawk War. — When this war came, Clay County had been organized a few years, and enough people were here to receive a call from Gov. Reynolds to furnish a quota of men to go out and tight the Indians. We were furnished a communication from Mr. Pierce, of Xenia, which was published a few years ago by him in the Flora Journal. As the paper was written by an eye witness, we feel justified in re-producing it entire, as follows:

"Seeing some historical sketches of Clay County in your paper lately in which I have felt an interest, I have ventured to call up from 'the misty past' an event that occurred in this ancient town, now so silent and still, that one might well be pardoned for skepticism as to its ever being otherwise; but many years ago, before Clay City, its rival, in whose shadow it now lies, was even thought of, it was the county seat and the scene of many a stirring event, especially during the week of Circuit Court. But the event I allude to occurred in the spring of 1832.

“During the early spring, rumors were prevalent that the Sac and Fox Indians, led by the famous chief Black Hawk and the Prophet were laying waste the Northwestern frontier, at that time the Rock River country, killing the men and carrying off as captives the women and children.

"About the 24th of May, these rumors assumed tangible shape by the arrival of Robert Blackwell, Esq., with a dispatch from Gov. Reynolds to Maj. John Ridgway, calling for a company of mounted men from this county to go in pursuit of the Indians. Runners were immediately sent out over the county, and the following Saturday the hardy settlers began to gather in this old county seat of Clay, in obedience to the summons, and a more enthusiastic gathering was never seen there before or since.

"When the drum and fife began to call for volunteers, young men who had not thought of going in the company when they left home that morning, found themselves stepping into the ranks as defenders of their country against the hostile savage.

"To illustrate how earnest the people were in this matter, I will relate a little incident that occurred. When a Mr. Chamberlain remarked. 'If I had a horse I would go,' the reply came quickly from the now venerable Isaac Elliott, 'You need not let that hinder you; I have a horse, saddle and bridle which you can have.' He accepted the offer and went with the company.

"To give up a horse at the beginning of the crop season, every farmer knows, means a sacrifice, unless he has a surplus; now the first settlers of Clay County in general were free-hearted and open-handed, but they were not burdened with wealth, yet in this case they stood ready to make any sacrifice.

“The company was soon made up to forty-eight members; the late Maj. John Onstott was chosen as their Captain, Alfred J. Moore Second Lieutenant and the other officers, owing to the lapse of time, have been forgotten. They reported to Gov. Reynolds, were accepted and ordered to be at Hennepin, on the Illinois River, by June the 10th. Soon after they assembled at 'Sutton’s Point,' now the present site of Oskaloosa, and on the 9th of June reported at Hennepin, and were attached to the Third Illinois.

“Of that company of forty-eight men, but three are now known to be living in Clay County, viz., Alfred J. Moore, James McKinney and Abram Songer."

This company formed a part of Third Regiment of the First Brigade of Illinois Mounted Volunteers, called into service on requisition of Gen. Atkinson, by Gov. Reynolds' proclamation. The company organized May 29, 1832, and was mustered out August 15, 1832. The following is supposed a complete roster of the company: Captain, John Onstott; First Lieutenant, Trussey P. Hanson; Second Lieutenant, Alfred J. Moore; Sergeants, Cyrus Wright, Elisha Bashford, Arch T. Patterson and James Tompkins; Corporals, Samuel Whiteley. Strother B. Walker, Joseph Whiteley, Francis Herman; Privates, James T. Ano, Jefferson Creek, James Cook, Sol B. Curbow. Young Chamberlin, Auger Campbell, Levi Daniels, A. S. Fitzgerald (broke down and returned home), Joseph Lethcoe, Russell Logan (furloughed by Maj. Campbell), Hugh McDaniel (discharged by Gen. Scott), Robert McDaniel John McGrew, James McKenny, Bennett W. Moseley, Perkey Morton, John G. Nicholson James Nelson (furloughed by Col. Sam Leech), Isaac Rogers, Thomas Rogers, Jesse Sceif, Abram Songer, Lockhard Stallings, David Simcoe, John Sutton, John Speaker, Fredrick Tartar, James Van Cleve, Isaac Walker, James L. Wickersham, Martin Whiteley.

The company took up its line of march from Sutton's Point June 2, 1832; were mustered into the service June 16. The Third Regiment was commanded by Col. Sam Leech, of Wayne County.

This company was in the second campaign of the Illinois soldiers to the Rock River country. A previous expedition had driven Black Hawk's army across the Mississippi River, and a treaty had been entered into stipulating he would stay there. But notwithstanding this treaty in April, 1832, Black Hawk recrossed the river and commenced his march up Rock River Valley, accompanied by about 500 warriors on horseback, while his women and children went up the river in canoes. Gen. Atkinson, stationed at Fort Armstrong, warned him against this aggression and ordered him to return, but he continued forward to the country of the Winnebagoes, with whom Black Hawk made arrangements to make a crop of corn. The Winnebagoes and Pottawatomies, however, refused to accede to his propositions, or to join him in a war against the whites. There upon Gov. Reynolds called for 1,000 troops from the central and southern parts of the State, to rendezvous at Beardstown; 1,800 men met at Beardstown and were formed into four regiments, a brigade, and an "odd" and a "spy'' battalion. Another call from the Governor was soon made for 1,000 more men. This last call was caused by the skirmish at Kellogg's Grove, which came very near being a massacre by the Indians.

June 6, Black Hawk with 150 warriors made an attack on Apple River Fort, situated a quarter of a mile north of the present village of Elizabeth, and twelve miles from Galena.

On the 17th day of June, Col. John Dement, with his spy battalion of 150 men, was ordered to report himself to Col. Zach Taylor at Dixon. The main army was soon to follow. On arrival at Dixon, he was ordered to take position in Kellogg's Grove. A trail of about 300 Indians who were reported by scouts as discovered hovering near the grove was found, and Dement was ordered to take fifty picked men and reconnoiter. They sallied forth at daylight, and soon discovered several Indian spies. The raw soldiers at once became excited, and breaking all semblance of order, and despite the command and cries of Col. Dement, they gave chase. The Indians fled and the pursuit was reckless, and as Dement and Casey suspected, the foolish men were led into an ambush, when they were suddenly confronted by 300 howling, naked savages under the command of Black Hawk in person. A panic among the soldiers at once followed, and each man struck out for the fort, with all the speed he could command.

In the confused retreat, five whites, who were without horses, were killed, while the others reached the fort, dismounted and entered, closely pursued by the enemy. The fort was vigorously assailed for two hours, when the savages were repulsed and retired. Several were wounded in the fort, but no one was killed. The next day Gen. Posey started in pursuit of the Indians, but their tracks showed the usual savage tactics of dispersing in squads and going in different directions. It was ascertained that they had fled in the direction of the Mississippi River.

On the 21st of July, Gen. Henry, in command of the American forces, after pursuing Black Hawk, overtook his army on the bluffs of the Wisconsin River, and at once attacked. A gallant charge drove back the enemy with great loss. This was the first important advantage over the Indians gained in this war. The Indians left 168 dead upon the field, and twenty-four more dead were found the next day on the trail, while Gen. Henry had only one man killed and eight wounded.

On the 25th, the whole army was again put in motion, to try to find the Indians. Two days were spent in crossing the Wisconsin River. On the 28th they found the trail of the fleeing enemy. On the morning of the 2d of August, the army reached the bluffs of the Mississippi, some distance however from the stream. The Indians had reached the river and were making active preparations to cross. Some had already crossed, and some of the women and children had started down the river in canoes to Prairie du Chien, which they afterward reached in a starving condition. In this condition the Indians were attacked by a force under command of Capt. Throckmorton, who was on the steamer Warrior, and who, with a six-pound cannon, loaded with canister, destroyed many of the luckless fugitives, although they had displayed a white flag, which he refused to recognize. The fuel of the steamer having failed, the boat dropped down to Prairie du Chien. Although he had killed twenty-three Indians and wounded many more, he intended to return when wooded up, and finish the remainder. Before, however, he could return, Gen. Atkinson had fallen on the savages where they were encamped, at the mouth of the Bad Axe, and had commenced a general battle, in which the Indians were completely routed, and suffered a loss of 150 killed, besides many drowned and many wounded. A large number of women and children lost their lives owing to the fact that it was "impossible to distinguish them from the men." The American loss was seven killed.

This battle ended the Black Hawk war, and the boys came home and were paid off, and this money was the first great flood of money that ever was poured into the county. Several of the men entered their first land with their soldier money and thus laid the little foundations for their future farms and homes.

The Rebellion. — We have no doubt that the present race of small demagogues will have long put away their little slippers and cease to convert these soldier re-unions into electioneering camps and thinly veneered political stamping grounds or vote factories in the always coming elections, before the real historian who will tell the history of that cruel war will be around taking notes to print the terrible story and giving the world the truth and nothing but the truth, without prejudice or passion. Such histories are only finally written by those who were born long after the event happened, and who had no friends who could have any interests in them directly or remotely. He will topple over many an idol of foolish worship, perhaps, and upon the vacated pedestal place the now obscure hero, and thus undo much, and make heroes of many that this generation has idolized or condemned. This is the routine course of all history. It exemplifies the struggle between truth and error, that goes on from generation to generation, and from century to century. In the end perhaps truth triumphs after her long and many defeats, but the coming of that blessed end, who can foretell ?

The early people of Clay County were by nature more or less belligerent. The majority of men wore the Irishman's long-tailed coat, which they were always politely asking, often begging, some one to please tread on. They met on election days, shooting matches and other social places, and every man had his arms full of fight. It was a more elevated humanity than the modern prize fighter and sneak thug; that essence of cowardice, pickpocket and blood-tub. The pioneer must tight when his word was questioned or his honor in any manner impugned, and if one man told another that he lied, he knew he had to back his assertion with a fight. There was no exception to this rule. If the person insulted was physically unable to tight his insulter, he could and would get his friend to take up his quarrel, and the aggressor had to fight whoever he might be. Often when he went into the fight with a proxy, he knew he was going to be whipped; still he had to fight. Thus you can see it was no particular advantage always to insult a cripple or a man physically unable to defend himself. In fact, this was generally the most dangerous man to assail, because the assailant was almost certain to be soundly thrashed. The moral effect of all this was good. A man who learns thus to cherish and defend his honor and character, will eventually learn to guard and protect it by his own actions.

The spirit of patriotism has ever burned brightly upon the altars of the people of the county. They had no lot nor parcel in the vicious agitation that plunged the country in civil war. There was not, at least years ago, an agitator in the county — not a man but that his patriotism taught him that all good citizens respected the laws, loved the constitution of our fathers, and whose blood was quickened with an impulse of patriotism at the sight of the flag. They were not agitators, but when the Government's sore trial cause came, and the country called upon its sons to come to its rescue, they responded to that call, and with their lives in their hands and through flood and field, fought it out to the bitter end, and many of her heroic sons yielded up their lives upon nearly every battle ground, and sleep in the long trenches where they fell. The people of Clay County were an unpretentious people. They could not understand the fire-eating idiots of the South, nor the canting agitators of the North. They simply loved freedom and justice, and in their eyes there was no divided interests in this country. It was all their country, and the wise government adopted, fought for and established by our Revolutionary heroes, was good enough as they had transmitted it. They were content to let well enough alone, and they could see no cause for war and the butchery of brothers over the imaginary woes of a few "d — d stumped-tailed niggers," as John Logan put it about the time of the breaking-out of the war, or rather after he had made up his mind not to compel the Northern abolition army to march over his cold corpus down about the Big Muddy.

The part of Clay County in the late war is a chapter that some day will honor the name and fame of her people incomparably above that of some of the loud localities that now so plume themselves that they brought about the war that freed the slaves. The people of Clay never were the echo of that savage sentence of Johnson's that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." While prominent people of other localities, whom posterity may conclude that patriotism was not only their last but their first refuge, wore denouncing this portion of Illinois as the land of ignorance and traitors, the people were organizing, and their sons, husbands and fathers buckled on their armor, and in person went to the front with muskets in their hands, at a time when Massachusetts in her loud super loyal way was sending her rich emissaries even to Cairo, Ill., for negro substitutes. The people of Clay County did not grow bloated in wealth over the calamities of the country, or in coffins and headstones for the unknown soldier graves — they did not even proclaim they were the only saints and patriots of the earth, and then stay at home to steal, rob, speculate, grow rich and fill all the offices with fat salaries, and multiply fat places for their families and friends, to be quartered upon the bounty of the Government. They heard not, heeded not the lying taunts of their "loyal" slanderers, but above the wails of their families, and the sobs of the broken-hearted, they heard their country's call, and to this they responded like the true heroes and patriots that they were.

The incontestible proofs of all this are abundantly furnished in the statistics of the war, as they are found in the Adjutant General's office of this State.

In 1860, at the breaking-out of the war, the population of Clay County, as given by the United States census report, was 9,309. Her total quota under all the calls of the Government for troops was 1,462; her total credits were 1,482, or an excess of twenty men over and above all demands made upon the county.

In the 102 Illinois counties, there were only thirty-six counties that furnished any men in excess of their quotas, and these range from one to 160 per county. The total of excess over the quota in the thirty-six counties was 819. In sixty-six counties, there was a deficit that had to be filled by draft. The total deficit in the sixty six counties, was 5,715, the largest being Cook County, with a deficit of 1,633; the second was Adams County, 328. Union County and Clay County furnished the largest excess, and they were the continual targets for more slanders and vituperation than any other portions of Illinois. It is only some of these public injustices that so often come of that clamor of simpletons when they are led by demogogues and scoundrels.

The conspicious figure in the war from the county was, of course, Maj. Gen. L. B. Parsons, who filled with wonderful executive ability the responsible position of Master of Transportation for all the armies of the West and South. His resources were equal to the most sudden and extraordinary demands that the exigencies of the army ever demanded. He had to bear about on the tips of his fingers the entire system of railroads and the capacities in rolling stock, etc., as well as the rivers and the steamboats that plied their waters. To take charge of all these vast resources and bring them at once into a vast system and order, so as to serve best the great and often sudden exigencies of the army, was a task within the power of few men to successfully accomplish. In this position Gen. Parsons fixed his reputation far and wide as one of the ablest organizers and executive officers developed during the late war.

Capt. W. R. Westfall was in command of Company B, Eighteenth Regiment Illinois Infantry. Captains, Jacob L. More, Woodford L. Blocklidge, Robert F. Davidson and Isaac Creek. The First Lieutenants of this company were Blocklidge, Davidson, and Isaac Creek. The Second Lieutenants, Joseph Figg, Howlet H. Cook, Davidson, James B. Smith and George A. Miller.

Capt. Francis M. Loller was in command of Company F, Forty-sixth Regiment. In the Forty-eighth Regiment was Maj. William J. Stephenson, who died in St. Louis August 10, 1863. He was succeeded by Benjamin F. Reynolds. Charles D. Monroe and John W. Farris were at different times Adjutant of this regiment. Maj. W. J. Stephenson had gone out as Captain of Company B in this regiment. Afterward Ferdinand B. Stephenson, Simeon H. Neff and Adam E. Hoffman were Captains in this company. The First Lieutenants in this company were Stephenson, Elbert S. Apperson, S. H. Neff, Adam E. Hoffman and Andrew Fender. The Second Lieutenants in this company were William Sneed, E. S. Apperson, Christian C. Monroe, Adam S. Hoffman and David F. Wattles. In the Forty-eighth Illinois Regiment, Capt. Benjamin F. Reynolds commanded Company K, and after him Capt. Noah Webster. The First Lieutenants were Jefferson Farris, William Berkley, Webster and John Kenner. Second Lieutenants, William N. Berkley, Webster, Farris and John W. Colburn.

In the Ninety-eighth Regiment was Company A, Capts. Enoch P. Turner, John Funkhauser and Austin W. Standford. First Lieutenants, George W. Foster, Silas Jones, Austin W. Standford and James B. Maxwell. The Second Lieutenants were Joseph B. Gadd, James B. Maxwell and James B. Finnell. Company F was also in this regiment. The Captains were A. F. LeCrone and Thomas J. Smith, and the First Lieutenants were Wyatt Cook, George W. Hobbs, Thomas J. Smith and Francis Harman, and Second Lieutenants, George W. Hobbs, Smith and John T. Kerr.

In the One Hundred and Eleventh Illinois Regiment, William T. Monical and Fredrick W. Songer were First Lieutenants; and Company D, One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Regiment, Charles J. Pershall and James Mains were First Lieutenants. The Second Lieutenant was James Lewis.

In the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, Capt. Robert N. Toler was in command of Company D.

To conclude the chapter, we need only mention the fact that J. W. Westcott was one of the prominent figures in Clay County during all the late unpleasantness, and to his prudent forethought and wise counsels is due the fact of the county standing in the front rank of all the patriotic counties of the land.

Extracted 29 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1884 The History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois, pages 351-358.

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