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3 1833 00829 4875





One Hundred Years in the Union









Wells Howard Blodgett was born January 29th, 1839, at Downers Grove, Du-
Page county, Illinois. His father, Israel P. Blodgett, was a native of Belchertown,
Massachusetts, and his mother. Avis (Dodge) Blodgett, was born in the nearby town
of Amherst, in that state. In 1830 they traveled across the country by wagon to
Albany. The Erie Canal had then been opened, and they went by that route from
Albany to Buffalo. From Buffalo they took a schooner (there were no steamboats
on the Lakes in those days) to Chicago, which was then better known as "Fort
Dearborn." From Chicago they traveled west about twenty-five miles, across the
open country (th4re being no established roads), to the DuPage river, where they
located their home. At that time the tribe of Indians known as the Pottowatomies
occupied the DuPage river country. Locally they were friendly with the white
people who were coming to settle in their country. But when Black Hawk, Chief
of the Sacs and Foxes, declared war against the whites and commenced crossing
to the east side of the Mississippi with his warriors, the white settlers residing
west of Fort Dearborn became alarmed and fled to the fort for protection. After-
wards, however, when Black Hawk had been defeated and captured, the Blodgett
family returned to their home on the DuPage, but soon afterwards they moved to
a new location and established their home at the place now known as Downers
Grove, where Wells H. (the subject of this sketch) was born and grew up on a
farm as other boys do in a new country. He was one of a family of eight children,
seven sons and one daughter. His eldest brother (Henry W. Blodgett) was judge
of the federal court at Chicago for many years. Another brother (Asiel Z.) served
through the war 1861-5 as a captain in the Ninety-sixth Regiment, Illinois Volun-
teers, and was severely wounded at Mission Ridge. Another brother (Edward A.)
was adjutant of that regiment and received a brevet commission as Major of In-
fantry. His youngest brother (Charles B.) still resides in the old home at Downers.

In 1856, '57 and '58 Wells H. Blodgett was a student at Wheaton and Mount
Morris, and at the close of the school year in 1858 he entered the law office of
Norman B. Judd as a student. Mr. Judd was at that tim^ one of the best known
citizens of the state. He was chairman of the Republican State (Sommittee and the
member of the National Republican Committee from Illinois. He was general counsel
for the Rock Island Railroad Company, and in the great suits brought, in both the
state and federal courts, by the river interests, to prevent the placing of a bridge pier
in the channel of the Mississippi river, he employed Mr. Lincoln as his associate,
and at the National Republican Convention that met at Chicago in June, 1860,
Mr. Judd presented the name of Mr. Lincoln as the candidate of his state and party
for the presidency. In March, 1861, Wells H. Blodgett presented himself before
the examining committee for admission to the bar, and received a certificate that
entitled him to enrollment. On the 15th day of April, 1861, Mr. Lincoln issued his
first call for an army of 75,000 men "to protect the national capital and suppress insur-
rection." On April 17 of that year he (the subject of this sketch) enrolled as a
private in a military company then being organized at Chicago by Captain (after-
wards Colonel) C. C. Marsh. That company was not called into active service, but
in July of the same year he again enrolled as a private for "a term of three years
or during the war," in Company D, Thirty-seventh Regiment, Illinois Volunteers,
and afterwards, in August, 1861, he was commissioned by Governor Yates as a first
lieutenant in that company and regiment. In the autumn of that year he marched,
with his company and regiment, to Springfield, Missouri, in the army commanded
by General John C. Fremont. But as the Confederate Army commanded by General
Sterling Price had fallen back to a point farther south, the army commanded by Fre-


mont returned north to a camp in Missouri, near what was then the western terminus
of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. General Price, however, soon returned with
his army to Springfield, and General Samuel R. Curtis, who had succeeded Fremont,
decided to move his army against the Confederate forces at Springfield, and in Feb-
ruary, 1862, that movement began and continued until the main army, under Cur-
tis, had reached Sugar Creek, Arkansas, at a point two or three miles south of Pea
Ridge. In the meantime the army under Price had been reinforced by a division
of Confederate troops from Louisiana commanded by General Hebert: by a division
from Texas commanded by General Ben McCuUough, and a division from Arkan-
sas commanded by General Mcintosh. Such being the situation, and while the
troops of the main army under Curtis were quietly resting in their camp on Sugar
Creek, they were, on the afternoon of March 6, 1862, suddenly startled by the
roar of artillery in the direction of Bentonville where the division of the Federal
Army under Siegel was in camp. During the night of March 6 the Confederate
Army moved from its position near Bentonville, and, on the morning of March 7,
it was occupying a position north of the army under Curtis. The Thirty-seventh
Illinois Infantry was in the division of the Union Army commanded by General
Jeff C. Davis of Indiana, and instead of moving south to the attack it moved north,
and at daybreak on the morning of March 7 the fighting began and continued until
the night of that day. It was renewed the next morning and continued until between
one and two o'clock p. m. of March 8. In the final charge of the Union Army, at the
point known as Elkhorn Tavern, it so happened that the right of Company D, Thirty-
seventh Illinois,. rested on the highway leading up (they were then moving north)
to what was known as the Elkhorn Tavern. Down the slope to the north some
seventy-five or one hundred yards, the Confederates had been compelled to abandon
two pieces of artillery, and the next day, March 9, Company D of the Thirty-seventh
Illinois, commanded by Lieutenant Blodgett, was detailed to escort the two cap-
tured guns to the headquarters of General Curtis, who thanked the lieutenant and
his company and complimented, in generous terms, the gallantry of the regiment
to which they belonged. In the two days' fighting at Pea Ridge (March seventh
and eighth, 1862), the Thirty-seventh Illinois Volunteers lost fifty-four men killed
on the field, six of whom belonged to Company D. The number of wounded in the
regiment exceeded one hundred.

In April, 1862, Lieutenant Blodgett was detailed to support Major James M.
Hubbard of the First Missouri Cavalry, in an expedition from CassvlUe, Missouri,
into the Indian Nation. Standwaite, then Chief of the Cherokees, was an officer
in the Confederate Army and had fought with his regiment under Price and Van
Dorn at Pea Ridge. The force under Hubbard consisted of about three hundred
cavalry armed with carbines; sixty selected men from the Thirty-seventh Illinois
Infantry, armed with Colt's revolving rifles and two six-pound guns from David-
son's Peoria Battery. Hubbard's command was furnished with ten army wagons,
each of which was hauled by six army mules. The wagons served a double pur-
pose; they not only transported the needed commissary supplies, but also enabled
the infantry to ride and rest when the marching was too fast or too far for them
to walk. Armed and equipped as above, the command moved out from its camp
at Cassville and headed for the Indian country. The first day out they met with
no opposition, but on the second day, whenever the route lay through brush or
timber, small bodies of armed horsemen would form across the narrow roads, and
thereupon one of the cannon would be brought into position and upon its discharge
a platoon of Hubbard's men would charge down the road and tlie enemy would
disappear. Before reaching the place then known as Seneca Mills Hubbard had
captured more than thirty prisoners, but at that point the number was largely in-
creased. At Seneca Mills Hubbard was informed that a Confederate camp, com-
posed of both whites and Indians, was located over in the nation, on what was then
known as Cow Skin Prairie, and at daylight the next morning he started with the
cavalry and one piece of artillery to find and capture that camp. He found the
camp, but its defenders had fled, and Hubbard returned to Seneca Jlills, and from
there he marched his command to Neosho, the county seat of Newton county. On
reaching Neosho he first took possession of the public square and placed his pris-
oners in the court house, but he soon concluded that in order to hold the court
house he would be compelled to divide his forces, and thereupon he moved his
men to a ridge that overlooked the town, and was then covered with scattering


timber. On the point nearest the town he stationed the artillery and supported it
with the sixty men from the Thirty-seventh Illinois, commanded by Lieutenant
Blodgett. Before reaching Neosho Hubbard had learned that a Confederate force,
outnumbering his own, and composed largely of Indians, had been following him,
and just at dawn the next morning the white men and Indians composing that force
came charging into Hubbard's camp and for a few moments there was a din of
shooting and shouting that was most bewildering. The fighting did not last long,
however, and when it was over the enemy was seen to be in full retreat. In that
brief engagement Hubbard lost two men killed and five were wounded, and inside
of Hubbard's camp two Indians were killed and three white men were taken pris-
oners. In that engagement a bullet fired from what is known as a squirrel rifle
struck Lieutenant Blodgett in his left foot and caused a serious but not a permanent
injury. The excitement of that attack being over, Hubbard informed his officers
that 'he intended to move, and that his destination would be the Stone barn, then
owned by Judge Richie, on the Newtonia prairie. The prisoners and the men of
the Thirty-seventh Illinois were then quietly loaded into the wagons, and, at the
sound of the bugle, the movement began. The first two or three miles were in a
valley and the road was rough, but the Stone barn on the prairie was reached
that afternoon. Soon afterwards, however, squads of mounted men armed with shot-
guns and rifles began to appear just outside the range of their guns, and it soon
became apparent that Hubbard's force was greatly outnumbered. It so happened,
however, that Hubbard had with him a young man employed as a civilian scout
and guide, who, while at Neosho, had volunteered to pass through the lines of the
enemy at night, and go on to Cassville and advise Colonel Black of the situation.
The young man succeeded, and at daylight the morning after his arrival at Cass-
ville, Colonel Black left for Neosho with four companies of the Thirty-seventh
Illinois Infantry, two companies of cavalry, a section of Davidson's Peoria Battery,
and some wagons in which to rest the infantry. Arriving at Neosho, Black learned
that Hubbard had gone to the Newtonia prairie, and, after giving his men a short
rest, he moved in that direction, and before daylight the next morning the men of
Hubbard's command welcomed the sound of the big bass drum of the Thirty-seventh
Illinois as it announced the approach of Black and the men of that regiment.
Soon after daylight the next morning the squads of Confederate horsemen that had
been on guard began to move further away from the Stone barn, and by ten o'clock
of that morning they had entirely disappeared, and Black, after resting one day
with his men, took command of the entire force and returned to Cassville. As
showing the manner in which the prisoners captured by Hubbard on that expedition
were treated, the following quotation from a letter written many years afterwards
by one of them may be of interest:

"Muskogee, April 15, 1898.
Lieutenant Blodgett,

St. Louis, Missouri.
Dear Sir:

I address you as 'Lieutenant' because that was your rank when I was your
boy prisoner, thirty-six years ago.

Last week I saw your name mentioned in a Washington dispatch as being one
to whom the President would offer a command, as brigadier general, in case we go
to war with Spain.

If we are to have another war I think old Confederates ought to be given the
first chance.

Treat me as good as you did when I was your prisoner thirty-six years ago. If
you enter the service and do not fake me with you I shall be greatly disappointed.
Very respectfully yours.

In September, 1862, General Shelby of the Confederate Army was in camp on
the Newtonia prairie, and it was reported that he had a force of 10,000 cavalry
and several field batteries. On receipt of that report General Schofield. then in
command of the Federal Army in the southwest, took the field. In making an at-
tack on Shelby it was ordered by General Schofield that a brigade of cavalry com-
manded by Colonel George H. Hall of Missouri should make a night march and
at daylight attack the Confederate camp from the east, and that he (General Scho-


field) with his infantry and artillery, would, at daylight, approach the Confederate
camp from the west. Such was the plan, but when General Schotield reached a
point from which he could with his glass see the head of the cavalry column under
Hall, a staff officer appeared and reported to General Schofleld that Shelby and
his army were retreating south on the road leading to Pineville. On receipt of that
report General Schofield ordered General E. B. Brown to send a member of his
staff to Colonel Hall and direct him to move forward with his command, and bring
on an engagement, and that he (Schofield) would support him with his infantry
and artillery. What happened to Blodgett in his effort to execute that order has
since been printed and told on many occasions. We copy from a statement, made
at the time, by General E. B. Brown, and published in 1865 in a volume entitled
"The Civil War in Song and Story, 1860-1865." The events described in that vol-
ume were selected and arranged by Frank Moore, who edited for the United States
government the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies. In 1882
that volume was reissued and on page 71 thereof the following statement appears
exactly as it did in the edition of 1865:

"One of the coolest and most extraordinary exploits of the war is thus described
in a letter written by Brig. Gen. E. B, Brown, dated at Springfield, Mo., 1862.
After a preliminary description of an engagement of the enemy eighteen miles from
Newtonia, Gen. Brown proceeds:

" 'Then General (Schofield) sent Lt. Blodgett with a single orderly with orders
to Col. Hall of the 4th Missouri Cavalry, to move to the left and attack in that
direction. The route of the lieutenant was across a piece of woods, in which he sud-
denly found himself facing a squad of the enemy drawn up in irregular line. With-
out a moment's hesitation he and the orderly drew their revolvers and charged.
The cool impudence of the act nonplussed the fpe, and, probably thinking there
was a large force in the rear, eight of them threw down their arms and surrendered.
It is difficult for me to say which I admired most in the Lieutenant, his bravery
in making the charge against such odds when to have hesitated a moment was
certain death, or his presence of mind and coolness in offering to accept them as

The orderly, too, deserves more than a passing notice. His name is Peter
Basnett, and he was at one time Sheriff of Brown County, Wis.

The Lieutenant and orderly were well matched — both are quiet and deter-
mined men. I am glad to bear witness to the bravery and soldierly conduct of
Lt. Wells H. Blodgett, and I hope he will be rewarded as he deserves.' "

The substance of the foregoing statement was contained in the official report
of General Brown, and several years afterwards, at the request of General John
C. Black of Illinois, the War Department examined the record and the following
citation was then issued:

"Wells H. Blodgett was mustered into the service on the 18th day of September,
1861, to serve three years. He held the grade of Captain of Company 'D,' 37th
Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, and a Medal of Honor is awarded to him for most
distinguished gallantry in action, near Newtonia, Missouri, September 30th, 1862,
where this officer, with a single orderly, captured an armed picket of eight men
and marched them in as prisoners."

On the Medal the following words are engraved.

"The Congress to Colonel Wells H. Blodgett, 48th Regiment, Missouri Volun-
teers, for most distinguished gallantry near Newtonia, Missouri, September 30,

On December 7, 1862, the battle of Prairie Grove. Arkansas, was fought be-
tween the Federal and Confederate Armies in the southwest. In that campaign
Lieutenant Blodgett was on duty as a staff officer, and, accompanied by a single
orderly and a citizen guide, he conveyed messages and orders between General
Frank J. Herron (Commanding the Army of the Frontier) and General James G.
Blunt, who was then approaching the battle field with his division. For that service
he (Blodgett) received the personal thanks of both the generals. In that battle his
company, in the Thirty-seventh Illinois Volunteers, was commanded by Lieutenant
William Johnson, who was killed in the action. On January 8, 1863, General Mar-
maduke, with a cavalry force, reported to be 3,000 strong, and a battery of six
guns, made an attack on the military post at Springfield, Missouri. In the battle
fought on that day General E. B. Brown (commanding the Federal iorces) was se-


verely wounded in the right shoulder, and Blodgett received a severe wound in his
right leg above the knee. In March, 1863, Lieutenant Blodgett was commissioned
by Governor Yates as Captain of Company D, Thirty-seventh Regiment, Illinois Vol-
unteers, and on the face of that commission, above the signature of the Governor,
the following words are written:

"Promoted for meritorious services at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 7 and 8,

"Promoted for meritorious services at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, December 7,

Early in April, 1863, the Thirty-seventh Regiment, Illinois Volunteers (Cap-
tain Blodgett commanding Company D), was rushed from southwestern Missouri
into St. Louis in freight cars, and then hurried through the city to a steamer
waiting at the wharf to transport the regiment to Cape Girardeau to meet and
repel an attack upon that post by a Confederate force commanded by General
Marmaduke. General John McNeil was in command of the Federal troops at the
Cape, and as the men of the Thirty-seventh Regiment were moving off the steamer
in the morning they were saluted by the roar of artillery in the very suburbs of the
town, and quickly forming line at the wharf, and sending up a "yell" that could be
heard by Marmaduke and his men, they went forward, double quick, to the posi-
tion assigned them. It was soon discovered, however, that General Marmaduke
and his troops were in retreat, and thereupon the Thirty-seventh Illinois (com-
manded by Colonel John C. Black), and some other troops, followed in pursuit
down through Bloomfield and on to the St. Francis river at Chalk Bluffs. In ap-
proaching the river the highway passed for some distance through a low bottom
that was at that time rather sparsely covered with large trees and" but little under-
brush. When some two or three hundred yards from the river Colonel Black halted
his regiment (37th Illinois) and ordered three companies (one of which was com-
manded by Captain Blodgett) to deploy as skirmishers and advance towards the
river. That order was quickly obeyed, but when the skirmish line reached the
river it was found that the bridge had been blown up and rendered impassable.
The river at that point was not very broad, and as no enemy could be seen on the
other side the men of the Thirty-seventh Regiment left their alignment and sat
down on the fallen logs to rest and wait for orders. Soon, however, the silence
was broken by the sharp crack of rifles from behind the stumps and trees on the
other side, and as the river could not be crossed nor the enemy seen General Black
directed his bugler to sound the retreat. In that affair Lieutenant Eaton of Com-
pany H, Thirty-seventh Illinois, was killed and two men of Company D of that
regiment were wounded. In his official report General William Vandiver (com-
manding the brigade) stated:

"Colonel John C. Black, Thirty-seventh Illinois, brought his command gallantly
into action, and deserves special mention for his services. I regret to announce
the loss of Lieutenant Joseph Eaton, Thirty-seventh Regiment, Illinois Volunteers."

In April, 1863, Blodgett was commissioned by President Lincoln as Judge
Advocate of the Army of the Frontier with the rank of Major of Cavalry in the
Army of the United States. In September, 1864, he was commissioned by Governor
Willard P. Hall of Missouri as Lieutenant Colonel of the Forty-eighth Regiment,
Missouri Volunteers. In October, 1864, he was commissioned by Governor Hall
Colonel of the Forty-eighth Regiment, Missouri Volunteers. In December, 1864,. he
was ordered to proceed with his regiment (Forty-eighth Missouri Volunteers) to
Nashville, Tennessee, and report to General George H. Thomas, but while ascend-
ing the Cumberland river, from Paducah to Nashville, all traffic on the river was
blocked by an artillery force commanded by the Confederate General Lyon, and
during the delay so occasioned General Thomas moved out of Nashville with his
army and the battle was fought in which the Confederate army under General Hood
was defeated. Arriving at Nashville Colonel Blodgett, with the troops of his com-
mand, joined in the pursuit of Hood and followed the retreating army as far as
Columbia and Pulaski, Tennessee. The war having ended with the surrender of
Lee in April, 1865, Colonel Blodgett was, on the 1st of June, 1865, ordered to
proceed to St. Louis with his regiment to be mustered out of the service. Upon
its arrival in St. Louis his regiment was said to present a very fine appearance,
and in the Missouri Democrat (now the Globe-Democrat) of June 12, 1865, the
following complimentary notice appeared:


"As the Forty-eighth Missouri Infantry, Colonel Blodgett commanding, marched
up Fourth street yesterday afternoon they halted in front of the Democrat office
and gave three rousing cheers for the Missouri Democrat, the gallant Colonel pro-
posing the compliment.

"We return our thanks to the Forty-eighth for its appreciation of our course, and
promise them and all the other noble soldierly of the country who have been bat-
tling for the Union our hearty cooperation whenever the government shall call upon
their valor and patriotism."

Again, on June 15, 1865, the following appeared in the same paper:

"This regiment was raised principally in the second congressional district. Its
organization was completed at Rolla, and in November. 1864, it started for Nash-
ville. In connection with the Forty-fifth and Forty-seventh Missouri Regiments,
it opened the Cumberland Tiver — at that time blockaded by the Confederate
forces under General Lyon, and on account of that delay the Forty-eighth arrived
at Nashville two days after the Confederate army under General Hood had been de-
feated by General Thomas. The Forty-eighth Regiment joined in the pursuit of
the army under Hood and when that army had been driven across the Tennessee
river the Forty-eighth returned and took post at Columbia, where it remained
until April, 1865. The officers have brought the regiment up to a perfection in
drill and in the manual, which shows great energy on their part and great aptitude
on the part of the men. We paid a visit yesterday nlorning to Benton Barracks,
in company with General White, General McNeil and Senator Henderson. While
there we had the pleasure of witnessing their drill and dress parade of the regi-
ment. The party was joined by Colonel Bonneville, commanding the Post, and

Online LibraryWalter Barlow StevensCentennial history of Missouri (the center state) one hundred years in the Union, 1820-1921 (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 88)