Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 18

          We marched for “Little Mac,” and got a lot of fun out of it, but the opposition was too strong at the polls and “Honest Abe” was re-elected. At Dowagiac we nearly had a riot when someone cut the halyards of the U S flag  floating over the public square where the speaker’s stand was erected. It was found that a half-witted young man had been paid to cut down the flag by persons unknown. However, the flag was raised again and the speaking went on without further interruption. 

          During the Civil War I was not old enough to appreciate the condition of the country, but I can remember the intense excitement that prevailed when the news came of the firing of Fort Sumpter. That night few went to bed early at Niles, and the whole talk was of raising an army to fight the South. Seventy-five thousand agao for three months were soon raised, and the second regiment to be mustered in was from Niles - the Michigan 2nd Infantry. 

          The Twelfth Michigan Infantry was also recruited in our section, and the barracks where the men were quartered and drilled during the winter of 1861-2 in the Fair Grounds at Niles were a great attraction for sight-seers. The glamour of the new uniforms, the glint of the shining bayonets and the flashing of the officers’ swords as they ordered and controlled the movements of the squads and companies in their different evolutions were very interesting, and sometimes were the last straw that decided a hesitating volunteer to enlist. I did not like the cold looking tents where they slept on straw in bunks placed on above the other and only a few blankets to wrap around their bodies, and it must be remembered that the winter nights were very cold there.

          In the excitement of the war, political lines seem to have been broken or badly bent and curved in both directions, and sniffed people from one allegiance to another. Even those who voted for the war president were not at all anxious as a body to fight for him. My father was a strong partisan and had no sympathy with the cause of abolition, and every republican was to him a Black Republican or Abolitionist. He did not want his boys to go to war, and only one of them showed any desire of enlisting. This was his own namesake, John, and he would have gone if a higher office than Corporal Sergeant and been offered to him. He did unlist later as a private officer when the rather famous Colorado 3rd Regiment was fighting the Indian tribes that threatened the frontier in 1963-4. However, he missed the praise or blame of having taken part in the battle of Sand Creek where the Regiment under Colonel Chivington, a Methodist preacher, but fearless soldier, almost exterminated the hostile Indians and put an end to the frontier war. My brother’s company had been sent to cut off the retreat of the Savages, but a few got away, and these fled in all directions and escaped or evaded the detached company. As for our home regiments, the Michigan Second went to Washington and participated in the rout of Bull Run, while the Twelfth got its war baptism at Shiloh and both suffered considerably. The letters they wrote home were rather discouraging, telling more of their hardships than of their successes, and many of those who came home on furlough had hard tales to tell of privations

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