(For Rogers, Day, Malone, Walcott and Page)

Friday, March 14, 1862
Central Transcript

The Doings of the Committee.

On Tuesday morning—after the news had reached here of the fall of Fort Donelson—a meeting was held at the Court House, to consider what steps should be taken to procure the bodies of the killed from DeWitt county, and what relief could be extended to the wounded.  As it was supposed that the DeWitt county companies were in the thickest of the fight, the friends and relatives of the volunteers here were prepared for the worst.  It was felt that such a great victory could not have been purchased without a heavy sacrifice of life; and the meeting governed themselves accordingly.  After some discussion, it was decided to send a committee to Fort Donelson, and volunteers who would bear their own expense were called for.  Scores promptly expressed their willingness to undertake the task.  It was, however, thought best to limit the committee to three persons, as that number would be more likely to carry out the object of the meeting than a larger force.  Messrs. Joseph J. KELLY, Baz. CAMPBELL and Henry G. WISMER were selected.  A subscription set on foot to defray the expenses of bringing home the dead and wounded placed a handsome sum in the hands of Mr. Kelly, who acted as treasurer of the committee.

The committee left on the evening train, accompanied by Drs. WRIGHT and EDMISTON, and Messrs. S. F. LEWIS, J. H. HUDSON, A. GRAHAM, Wm. HANEY, J. B. BEATTY, J. G. FOSTER and others, where they arrived next morning.  Having fortified themselves with letters of introduction from Hon. L. WELDON to the Provost Marshal at Cairo, they waited on that officer who received them courteously, and paid them every attention in his power.  He could not pass the committee to Fort Donelson, but advised them to go up to Paducah and apply to General Sherman.  A steamer was about leaving for that place, on which they took passage, arriving in the evening.  They at once made search in the hospitals of Paducah for the DeWitt soldiers. They only found James SLATTEN, slightly wounded—left him comfortable and well-cared for.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Kelly waited on General Sherman and requested passes for the committee to Fort Donelson.  The request was refused.  There were hundreds making similar applications.  To an ex-Governor of Indiana, the General said: “If you had forty sons dying in the Fort, I could not pass you.”  Mr. Kelly informed General Sherman that he was one of a committee appointed by the citizens of DeWitt county, Illinois, to look after the dead and wounded—that DeWitt county had five hundred volunteers in the fight, and that if he did not give the committee passes, he should insist on his stating his reasons in writing for such refusal, so that he could lay them before the people on his return empty-handed.  The General complied with Mr. Kelly’s wish and wrote a letter to the citizens of this county.  Before Mr. Kelly left the room he was told to return at 3 P.M., and, if possible, he would be furnished passes.  At the hour indicated he was in waiting, but was informed that he would have to return at 5 o'clock P.M., for a final answer.  So, at 5 o'clock, Mr. Kelly repaired once more to the quarters of the man in power, when his perseverance and energy were rewarded with success—the General gave him the necessary passes.  The committee immediately went on board the steamer John Warner, which left Paducah the next morning—landing at Fort Donelson at 4 A.M., on Saturday.  Here the committee were again stopped for a short time by red tape or necessary regulations of war.  They were not allowed to step ashore without a pass from some officer at the Fort.  A messenger was dispatched to Lieutenant-Colonel RICHARDS, but before his arrival, they were vouched for by another officer, and permitted to tread the rebel soil of Tennessee.

The Committee were received by the DeWitt soldiers with every demonstration of pleasure.  They cheered and threw up their caps, and laughed and shook hands; and,

     “Something upon the soldier’s cheek
     Washed off the stains of powder.”

They had seen committees from other counties in Illinois in search of dead and wounded, and had watched the arrival of others from Ohio and Indiana on the same errand.  And they had nearly settled down in the belief that the citizens of DeWitt county had forgotten those who went forth amid patriotic speech making and the enthusiastic cheering of thousands to fight for the Old Flag.  They feared that the promises so freely made were not held in remembrance; and that those who fell by rebel bullets would sleep in rebel soil, instead of honored graves among the loved ones at home.  The presence of the committee dispelled all such fears, and the volunteers grew happy in the thought that their fallen comrades would receive decent burial in the State they loved so well.

On making known the object of their visit, the officers of the Twentieth and Forty-first Regiments extended every facility to the committee to carry out their designs.  Men were detailed from both regiments to take up the bodies of the dead.  They had been carefully buried near where they fell, and boards had been put up over the graves on which the names of the fallen heroes were inscribed.   As an evidence of the tender care shown by the survivors for the dead, we may mention that they wrapped their slain comrades in their own blankets before committing them to the grave, and afterwards walked two miles to the river to procure the timber out of which to fashion the rude monuments that marked the final resting-place of their departed comrades.

The bodies of the dead were taken from their graves to the headquarters of the Twentieth Regiment, where they lay in state during Sunday, under guard from the Twentieth and Forty-First Regiments.  Timber was so scarce that it could not be procured for coffins, unless by dismantling some of the houses vacated by rebels.   Against this there were strict orders.  Private property was scrupulously respected.  Lieut.-Colonel Richards, however, assisted the committee in this strait.  He went to General Grant and obtained permission to take as much of the ceiling of an unoccupied warehouse as was required, and this was made up into coffins by the men of the two regiments, detailed for that purpose.

The committee were escorted over the battlefield by the officers, who pointed out the spots where the most desperate fighting took place.  They examined closely the ground where two rebel regiments (Texan and Mississippi) engaged the Twentieth Illinois, and they expressed their astonishment that one of our soldiers escaped alive.  They were advanced upon by the rebels at dawn of day, and for hours held their ground against fearful odds, eventually driving the enemy back to their entrenchments.  There was a thicket in the rear of the Twentieth, to which they retired after firing the first few vollies.  The appearance of this thicket sufficiently indicated how deadly the conflict must have been.  The twigs had been completely mowed down by the leaden hail that hurtled among them for hours, and the saplings and smaller trees were either cut off by cannon-shot or scarred by musket and rifle balls.  The committee brought home some trophies from the fight which the soldiers were anxious to send their friends.  They were obliged to reject all but a few, which Lieut.-Colonel Richards, with some difficulty induced General Hurlbut to pass.  The General also gave passes to them to take themselves and the bodies to Cairo.

On Monday night, the committee telegraphed from Cairo that they would be up on Tuesday evening.  At the hour when the train was due from the south there was an immense concourse of citizens at the railroad station.  There was great anxiety felt, as it was not certainly known how many of the volunteers from this county had been killed.  On the train making its appearance, a committee appointed for the purpose, stationed themselves on the platform to receive the bodies.  They were taken from the cars in profound and impressive silence, placed in wagons and driven to the room where they were to be prepared for interment.  There were five coffins, and the names of the dead were as follows:


The committee gave the body of Sergeant CARROTHERS in charge of his father, at Coloma, twenty-six miles south of Centralia.  Mr. Carrothers, was at that station, ready to start for Fort Donelson in search of the remains of his noble son, as the train bearing the returning committee passed up.  The committee were anxious to have the Sergeant buried with the other soldiers in Clinton, but the private feelings of the father were stronger than the public feelings of the man, and constrained him to bury his dead son where his grave could be bedewed with the tears of mourning relatives.

The wounded brought home by the committee were: Lewis HILL, Samuel COBEAN, Robert A. MURPHY (who has since died) and - McKEE.  The wounded were found at Cairo on a steamer bound for Cincinnati.

On Wednesday morning, a meeting of the citizens was held to make arrangements for the burial of the dead soldiers, and it was decided to bury them with military honors on Friday afternoon, and a committee appointed to carry out the necessary details.  The persons appointed to procure a suitable place for interment, conferred with George W. GIDEON, Esq., who generously set apart an acre of land in the beautiful grove, north of his residence, as a soldier’s burial ground.   Mr. Gideon’s son, who died in the service of his country, last autumn, was already buried there.

During Thursday, the bodies carefully dressed and placed in handsome walnut coffins, lay in state and were visited by thousands.  Their features were not distorted; they had all been shot through the head and death came to them with the suddenness of the lightning’s flash.  Mothers and sisters wept over and kissed the cold clay of those who went forth from their presence full of life and hope and courage.  And many a man, whose eyes were unused to tears, felt the gathering drops coursing down his cheeks as he looked upon the upturned faces of the noble dead.

On Friday, people came flocking into town from every direction, and by twelve o'clock, it seemed as if all DeWitt county was in Clinton.  The flags were all at half-mast and all places of business closed as a tribute of respect to the memory of the dead.  At two o'clock the funeral procession was formed on the Public Square by Lieutenant H. Clay PHARES, Chief Marshal, and his Aides John J. McGRAW, J. B. LINTNER and William L. CHAMBERS moved to the place of interment in the following order:

Martial Music.
Bodies on Biers, covered with an American
Flag, as a Pall, which was borne by
Four Bearers.
Firing Party, in uniform.
Citizens on Foot.
Citizens in Carriages.
Citizens on Horseback.

Arriving at the grave, the Marshal formed the procession in a square with the coffins in the centre, after which the following exercises were conducted:

SINGING-by choir, organized by Wm. B. SMITH, Esq., who was appointed committee man for that purpose.

HYMN read by Rev. Mr. HOWARD.



The following funeral oration was delivered by Hon. L. WELDON:

MY FRIENDS:—In accordance with the dictates of humanity and patriotism, we have assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to all that remains on earth of our fellow-citizens who have fallen in defense of our country.  This is a melancholy scene.  The gloom of death has mantled the flush of youth upon the brow of our departed heroes.  Their untimely fall is but another witness of the truth—

“Ye hopes and despondence—pleasure and pain—
Are mingled together like sunshine and rain.
The smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other like surge upon surge.
'Tis the twink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of youth to the paleness of death—
From the gilded saloon, the bier and the shroud—
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud.”

How can I speak to you today of this mournful pageant!  The cold lips of the dead—the tear of the mother and widow, and above all, the wail of the orphan, address you in the “resistless eloquence of woe.”  But short time since these young men, whose lifeless forms we have thus prepared for the grave, left the endearments of their homes for the “tented field,” to sacrifice, if need be, their lives in defense of the government purchased by the blood and sufferings of their fathers.

They went to the battle-field full of life and hope—they return to us with honored names, but cold in death. May we not with the poet, say—

Whether on the scaffold high,
Or in the battle’s van,
The fittest place for man to die
Is where he dies for man.”

Although the death of our friends is to be deplored in the hour of private grief, we have reason to rejoice that their blood was not spilt in vain; and that the conflict in which their lives were lost is but one of a glorious series which in the providence of God will attend our arms in crushing out rebellion and re-establishing again the pillars of that Constitution and Union which has made us the hope of mankind throughout the world.  I am happy to state that the friends whose loss we now mourn, were among the bravest of the brave amid the smoke and carnage of that sanguinary and desperate struggle.  They were ever valiant in defense of that Old Flag under which they were born, and under whose victorious folds they so bravely fought and so nobly died.  The circumstances of this occasion will not permit me to refer in detail to that splendid victory that crowned the federal arms at Fort Donelson.  The dark cloud of war, which for a time lowered upon our country, has been dispelled as I trust forever.  In the army which besieged and captured that rebel garrison, Illinois had her chosen sons—true to the memories of Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo, they bared their manly breasts to the storm of battle.  They felt that the honor of Illinois, as well as the fate of a great nation was dependent upon their valor and success.  Let impartial history record how they maintained the one, and, as I hope in God, preserved the other.

“Bear to the prairies of the West
The echoes of our joy,
The prayer that springs in every breast,
God bless thee—Illinois!”

How many more of our brave soldiers are to be gathered to this mold time alone can determine.  How long this cursed rebellion is to affect this land no mortal intelligence can foretell.  We have many reasons to hope that its spell of apparent success is broken, and that then our army now buoyant with victory will plant the emblem of our nationality upon the dome of every rebel capitol in this broad land.  The victory at Fort Donelson will give us hope and life at home, while it will teach the officious monarchs of the old world that twenty millions of people, impelled by the inspiration of freedom, are irresistible.

Success in the field, with promptness and firmness in the Cabinet, will enable us to do whatever justice and freedom may dictate should be done.  For the sake of the living, the memory of the dead, and that constitutional liberty may be transmitted to our children, the glorious fabric of our Union must be preserved from the fearful consequences of dismemberment.  Let our sacrifices enable our children to say as we have proudly said: “The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places; yes, we have a goodly heritage.”

Looking back upon Europe through the twilight of history, I can see the luxurious but enervated South quaffing before the giant steps of the North.  To you, our deluded and rebellious brethren of the South,—I say, beware!—when by your treason you have started the avalanche of northern power and northern bravery.  All of these men were private soldiers, and in all probability will not live in the written history of this great struggle.  Let you and I remember to the last hour of life the name of a ROGERS, a DAY, a MALONE, a WALCOTT, a PAGE and a GIDEON, who have given their lives as a free will offering upon the altar of their troubled country.  This spot, with its virgin soil, its elevations of plain, its drooping boughs, is not unfit to be the resting-place of departed worth.  Before these trees shall again don their green coronal of leaves let us erect upon this spot a monument, which by its solidity and polish, will stand a memorial of our government, and those whose lives were sacrificed on the banks of the Cumberland that the blessings of freedom might be enjoyed by the latest generations.  My friends, let us often retire to this solitude to drink anew the inspiration of patriotism, for there is no act of the American citizen so well calculated to teach lessons of patriotic love as is the bravery and devotion of the common soldier beneath the flag of his country.

So live that when they summons comes, to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death
Thou go not like the quarry-slave at night
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

The funeral sermon delivered by Rev. Mr. SHAW was impressive and eloquent.

SINGING-by choir.


Three vollies over the grave by the firing party terminated the proceedings and the earth closed over the breasts of five as noble volunteers as ever went forth at their country’s call to maintain the honor of her Flag.  Concerning them it may be fitly said:

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country’s wishes blest,
When Spring, with dewy finger cold,
Returns to deck her hallow’d mold,
She then shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy’s foot has ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there.