History of Peoria County
(pub. in 1880 by Johnson & Co.) pgs 365-367
transcribed by Gaile Thomas


THE FIRST WAR MEETING.

 

            There is some difficulty in fixing the date of the first war meeting in Peoria. The newspaper offices were consulted, but without result. The Transcript was the only daily newspaper published here at that time, and the file of that paper for the first six months of 1861 is not to be found in the office, and thus we are left to the memory of men.

            As to the time and place of the first war meeting, accounts differ. Some assert that the first meeting was held at Rouse's Hall; others, that it was held in the court-house. Mr. D. J. Calligan and others maintain that the first meeting was an impromptu one, and that it was held in the public square on Sunday, the 13th day of April. These authorities say that as the news of the surrender of Fort Sumter spread through the city, the people came together by a common impulse. All accounts agree that the meeting was a large one, that the corner of the square and the streets adjacent were packed with men who were wild with excitement. There was no formal organization, no recognized leader. The friends of the administration were confirmed in patriotism, and enthusiastic in their determination to stand by the Union, the constitution, the enforcement of the laws, and the administration in the suppression of the rebellion, cost what it might.

            Those who were opposed to coercion, and they were not wanting in numbers in the early days of the rebellion, were equally determined and expressive in action, and personal collisions were momentarily imminent. It was a boisterous meeting, but happily for all, the better sentiments of the disturbed elements prevailed, and there were no serious breaches of the peace. As the war advanced the force of the anti-coercionists weakened in number, and before a year had passed there was scarcely a corporal's guard of them left. Prominent men, whose position was not positively known when the war commenced, wheeled into line, and almost as one man the people of Peoria county, without  distinction of party, gave their support and offered their lives and their money in defense of the Union.

 

PEORIA'S FIRST OFFERING.

 

            The National Blues, an independent military organization dating from the 12th of July, 1856, besides contributing a large number of its members to the private ranks and furnishing some of the ablest officers known in the army, was an invaluable auxiliary in directing enlistments, organizing and equiping companies and hurrying them off to the front. In many other ways the Blues added largely to the success of war movements in the city and county of Peoria. In fact, this company was the nucleus of an army of nearly five thousand heroes that went from Peoria county in defense of the Union.

            Backed and encouraged by this influence, it was not many hours after General Order No. 2 was issued from headquarters at Springfield till the formation of a company was commenced. John Wetzel, then fifty-two years of age, as brave a man as ever shouldered a musket, and as good an officer as ever drew a sword or gave a word of command; Charles E. Denison, who was true to the death; Alex. Jackelfalusy, a countryman of Kossuth, and whose love of freedom and liberty was inspired by the teaching and example of that Hungarian patriot; D. D. Snyder, Antony Rhoerig, Henry C. Pierce and Otto Funk, of the Blues, were among the very first to step to the front and pledge their lives in defense of freedom's holy cause. Others followed in quick succession, and almost before the fact was realized ninety-six men had enrolled their names and were ready to march to the fore.

            The company took the names of the National Blues, and commenced drilling daily and nightly with Lieutenant Wetzel as drill master. The arms of the parent Blues were turned over to the new organization, and the men made rapid headway in the manual of company maneuvers.

            The company left Peoria for Springfield, the place of rendezvous, by way of the S., P. and B. Railroad at 11:15 o'clock A. M., on Wednesday, April 24. They were escorted to the depot by Captain Norton's company of volunteers, the Zouave Cadets, and the Emmet Guards and an immense concourse of citizens, the procession being led by the two Peoria bands. Want of time prevented any formal demonstrations at the depot. The boys were hurried into the cars, and amid loud huzzas, waving of handkerchiefs, etc., the train moved away from the depot and was soon beyond the sight and hearing of their homes and friends. The Transcript, of the 25th, said: "The boys behaved excellently well at parting with their friends, who crowded about them, some in tears, but more with words of cheer and encouragement. The Cecilian Brass Band, J. J. Murray, leader, accompanied the volunteers to Springfield. A few miles this side of Washington, a hanger on the center car of the train broke, causing a delay of about an hour. At Washington, Cruger, Eureka and Secor, large crowds were gathered at the stations and lustily cheered the volunteers as they passed. At El Paso the people turned out enmasse, with fife and drum, and gave the company an enthusiastic reception.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

            "The company took with them the cartridge-boxes and muskets of the National Blues, and a few rifles. The muskets are very good of the kind, being old flint-lock guns altered to percussion. A large number of the company also went provided with Colt's revolvers and bowie knives. Altogether, they were a fine-looking set of boys, and we doubt if Illinois produces a finer company out of her whole quota."

            When the company came to be mustered in at Springfield on the 25th of April, Captain Denison and Lieutenant Wetzel were advised by the mustering officer that only sixty-four men would be recognized as a full company. This was a dampener on  their order, for they knew the boys all wanted to go. How to avoid the contingency, they scarcely knew. But, putting their heads together, they overhauled the list of ninety-six and set aside those they believed to be least fitted for active military duty. There were just thirty-two ---half a company --- more men than were wanted for a full company under the rule of the mustering officer, and that number was marked off. The following is a certified register of the company as sworn in; together with the nativity and occupation of each member:

 

                                                      OFFICERS AND MUSICIANS
                                                        
                                                        
NAME					RANK			AGE	NATIVITY AND OC'P'N

Denison, Chas. E.			Captain			34	Vt., civ. engee'r.
Wetzel, John				1st Lieut.		52	Pa., carpenter.
Proebsting, Chas.			2d  do			29	Prussia, merch't.
Russell, John				Ser. Maj. Rg.		32	Ireland, do
Bestor, Geo. L.				2d Ast. Qr. M.		24	Illinois, lawyer.
Wheaton, Loyd				1st Sergeant		22	Mich., civ. eng.
Wilson, Robert				2d  do			32	England, potter.
Jackelfalusy, Alex			3d  do			30	Hungary, civ.eng.
King, Fred. A.				4th Sergeant		24	Ill., book keeper.
Reiss, Charles				1st Corporal		34	Prussia, actor.
Snyder, D. D.				2d  do			38	Pa., blacksmith.
Rhoerig, Antony				3d  do			29	France, grocer.
Caldwell, Sam'l				4th do			27	Pa., printer.
Pierce, Henry C.			Fifer			23	Mass., carpenter.
Walton, Henry				Drummer    		20	Pa., clerk.

                                                     PRIVATES


NAME					AGE			NATIVITY AND OCCUPATION

Anderson, Irwin				27			Ireland,  R. R. contractor.
Babb, Timothy				27			N. Hampshire,  physician.
Bohm, John				28			France,  cooper.
Brauns, Otto				27			Prussia, butcher.
Carmer, Lawrence			20			New York,  dentist.
Christ, Karl M.				25			Hesse Darmstadt,  clerk.
Comminish, David			20			Switzerland,  cigar maker.
Funke, Otto				28			Prussia, printer.
Forrester, Asa B.			23			New York,  cooper.
Frazer, Chas. H.			30			Prussia,  watch maker.
Frye, Chastain S.			21			Illinois,  clerk.
Gray, Wm. H.				19			Illinois, student.
Gorsuch, Noah H.			23			Illinois, carpenter.
Gilliard, John P.			24			Penn., cabinet maker.
Gruse, Gustavus		            	24			Prussia, clerk.
Guuntele, Francis			22			Bavaria, printer.
Gingrisch, Jacob			19			Illinois, farmer
Gillig, Chas. E.			30			Hesse Dam'tdt, hotel pro.
Gauss, William				19			Wirtemberg, painter.
Greenleaf, Henry B.			21			Connecticut, dentist.
Hetzel, Fred				27			Baden, shoemaker.
Hahle, Charles				24			Saxony, carpenter.
Harrison, A. Y.				35			Tennessee, printer.
Hurd, Geo. W.				22			New York, clerk.
Humphries, James			24			England, shoemaker.
IrIrons, C. D.				22			New York, student.
Jackel, Amandus		           	29			Prussia, painter.
Julg, Basil				29			Baden, cooper.
Keener, Henry N.			20			Illinois, clerk.
Karl, Joseph				26			Bavaria, cooper.
Kluge, Gustavus				21			Prussia, wagon maker.
Kalmback, Reynold			28			Poland, clerk.
Kellogg, John H.		     	20			Illinois, clerk.
Kuehnle, Joseph		            	32			Wirtemberg, farmer.
Lawson, Benj. F.			21			Pennsylvania, clerk.
Loomis, Andrew				28			Missouri, plasterer.
Lutz, Henry				30			Hesse Darmstadt, brewer.
Miller, Rudolphus			25			Prussia, clerk.
Martins, Frederick			23			Holstein, fresco painter.
Moldenhower, Ernest			25			Prussia, sur. and engineer.
Martin, Otis P.				32			Pennsylvania, printer.
Mond, August				21			Missouri, miner.
Moehl, Emil				27			Prussia, druggist.
McCormick, Seth		            	27			Pennsylvania, agent.
Niglas, Ignatz				25			Austria, printer.
Nafzigen, Jacob				31			Wirtemberg, clerk.
Oberhauser, William			25			Austria, clerk.
Pfeiffer, Chas. H.			26			Bavaria, tailor.
Rohlman, Oscar				25			Prussia, clerk.
Schulte, Otto				25			Prussia, druggist.
Stutsman, X.				27			France, shoemaker.
Schroeder, Louis			30			Prussia, actor.
Schuman, Fred				24			Saxony, brewer.
Thomas, Jacob				32			Hesse Darmstadt, printer.
Voris, Robert				21			Illinois, farmer.
Van Bramer J.				23			New York, tinner.
Willis, Charles				21			Illinois, clerk.
Wetzlau, Julius				24			Bohemia, clerk.
Wetzlau, Gustavus			26			Bohemia, barber.
Wasson, James T.			21			New York, farmer.
Wrage, Henry				25			Holstein, carpenter.
Wilson, Joseph F.			24			Illinois, lawyer.
Zindle, George				28			Hesse Cassel, shoemaker.
Zeidler, William			28			Prussia, clerk.
                                                                                                            LOYD WHEATON, ORDERLY.Y.

            The above is correct.

                                    CHARLES E. DENISON.
                                    Capt. Co. E. 8th Reg. Ill. Vols.

            This company was mustered in with the Eighth Illinois, and was designated as "Company E."

            Other companies besides the Blues had a surplus of men, and when the organization of the Eighth was fully completed, enough men were left for nearly three other full companies, which were organized. Some of the rejected thirty-two from the Blues, as originally reported, joined these companies, and some others waited for another chance to "fall in" with the company with which they started out. A sketch of the history of the Eighth and of Company E will be found in the regimental history, published in connection herewith. Suffice it to say here, that not one of the men were killed, and that only one of them died while in the ninety day service. All but this one came home happy and jubilant as only brave soldiers can be, and ready to "pick the flint and try it again," which they did by re-enlisting when the Eighth was reorganized.


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Copyright Janine Crandell
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Updated October 20, 2005