Postwar: Former Union Officer Attacks Confederate Gen. Joe Wheeler August 1865

Pat Young

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@John Hartwell alerted me to this in another thread. This is a case of General Wheeler being attacked by a former Union four months after the surrender.

How Gen. Wheeler was Whipped in Nashville.

Published: September 3, 1865 New York Times

The Nashville correspondent of the Clarksville, Tenn., Chronicle, gives the following version of the difficulty between Gen. WHEELER, late of the rebel army, and Col. BLACKBURN and Capt. QUINN, of the Federal army, on the 21st:

Gen. WHEELER was stopping at the City Hotel, being here, as one account has it, on his way home from Northern imprisonment, and as another says, here as a witness for the defence in the Crant Ferguson trial -- at any rate, here the guest of the City Hotel, and, as I have been told, sick.

Yesterday afternoon, Col. BLACKBURN, accompanied by Capt. QUINN, proceeded to Gen. WHEELER's room, and, on entering, found him lying on the bed. He arose, and when Col. BLACKBURN announced himself, advanced and extended his hand, after a friendly, or at least polite greeting. This was met by BLACKBURN with a blow from a heavy cane, followed by others, fast and furious. WHEELER retreated from the room as well as he could, crying for help, and followed up by BLACKBURN, still dealing him heavy blows, while Capt. QUINN, armed with a couple of pistols, brought on the rear of attack; ready, I suppose, to disable or kill WHEELER if, by any means, he should prove able to defend himself successfully, or should got the better of the valorous Colonel. WHEELER's outcries, and the noise of the affray, soon brought others to the scene, and WHEELER was rescued from his infuriated assailant.

Gen. WHEELER was found to be very severely beaten about the head, face and arms, insomuch that he required at once the service of a physician, though his injuries are not of a dangerous character.

The cause of this assault upon an unarmed, defenceless man, I do not know, except upon the statement of a morning paper, which, in a matter of the kind, would make the very best case for BLACKBURN it could; and all the provocation it alleges is, that "it was said" that WHEELER had threatened BLACKBURN's life, and applied to him opprobrious epithets.

A large crowd collected at the City Hotel soon after the occurrence, and intense indignation, I learn, was manifested by Gen. WHEELER's friends, and for a little while a general melee between them and Col. BLACKBURN's friends was imminent, but it was, fortunately, prevented by the timely arrival of a military guard.

Gen. THOMAS, I am told, says that Col. BLACKBURN is not now in the United States service, having been recently mustered out; and this, I suppose, means that he (Gen. THOMAS) will take no action in the matter. The papers of this morning do not represent the city authorities as having taken any cognizance of it, either, so I suppose it will be allowed to pass into the chronicles of these chivalrous times unadjudicated by any recognized authority.

http://www.nytimes.com/1865/09/03/news/how-gen-wheeler-was-whipped-in-nashville.html
 

Pat Young

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Here is Wheeler's letter to Thomas as per the NY Times:

The Blackburn-Wheeler Difficulty.
Published: September 3, 1865

GEN. THOMAS ON GEN. WHEELER.

HEADQUARTERS FOURTH BRIGADE, DISTRICT MIDDLE TENNESSEE, AND POST OF NASHVILLE, NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 2, 1865.

GENERAL ORDERS NO. 11. -- In accordance with orders from Headquarters Division of the Tennessee, the following correspondence, in the case of the late assault on Mr. WHEELER, at the City Hotel, is published for general information:

NASHVILLE, Aug. 23, 1865.

Major-Gen. Geo. H. Thomas, Nashville, Tenn.:

GENERAL: In obedience to your instructions, I have the honor to make the following statement:

An order from the War Department of the United States releasing me from confinement as a prisoner of war, directed that I should be paroled in accordance with the terms agreed upon between Major-Gen. SHERMAN and Gen. JOHNSTON. I have not carried about my person or baggage any weapons since May 1, 1865.

About 4 o'clock P.M., on the 21st inst., while I was lying on my bed in my room at the City Hotel, no other person being in the room, some one knocked at my door. After partially dressing myself, I unlocked my door, when two officers, partially dressed in United States uniform entered, one of whom stated that he at one time had been a prisoner in my hands, and that he had come to thank me for kindness received at the time. The other stated he knew me and had called to make his personal respects. After a few moments of polite conversation they arose and bade me good bye, remarking that as they discovered I was unwell they would not remain any longer. About five minutes after their departure, I heard another knock at my door, which I again unbolted as soon as possible, when two other officers dressed in United States uniform, neither of whom I had ever seen before entered one of them advanced and extended his hand, which I took, while in the act of shaking hands, he remarked "is this Gen. WHEELER?" and upon my answering in the affirmative, he stated that he was Col. BLACKBURN; the other officer immediately seized me by both arms, when Col. BLACKBURN having given no previous intimation whatever of his hostile purpose, struck me violently twice upon my head with a club of considerable dimensions.

I struggled away from the man who held me, and as I left the room both the assailants followed me, the other officer holding a pistol in a threatening manner. I am confident I only prevented him from shooting me by keeping Col. BLACKBURN between him and myself. Col. BLACKBURN continued his attempts to strike me, but I succeeded in warding off his blows with my arms.

Finally a gentleman caught hold of the other officer, when Col. BLACKBURN hastily ran back and ran down the stairs.

I am satisfied that the attempt was one upon my life, and the pistol would have been fired at me but from the fact of Col. BLACKBURN being between myself and the officer holding it.

I would here state that I never issued any order whatever to the prejudice of Col. BLACKBURN or any of his men, and that all his men who fell into my hands were kindly treated, and allowed to return to their command in bodies, in order that they might not be molested by any one.

I would further state that, while passing through the country I do not recollect that any complaint was made by any one of Col. BLACKBURN's family, or that anything whatever was taken from them.

I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. WHEELER, late C.S.A.

The foregoing is addressed to you in the form of an official communication, but I now desire to swear the facts are true as set forth.

J. WHEELER, Late C.S.A.

http://www.nytimes.com/1865/09/03/news/the-blackburn-wheeler-difficulty.html
 

Pat Young

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The case apparently attracted wide attention. From John:

wheeler1.JPG
wheeler2.JPG
 

TerryB

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Wheeler was in town to testify at Champ Ferguson's trial. The beating was a blatant attempt to frighten him into standing down. At the trial, he testified that Ferguson had been given a regular commission, but since Champ could not produce said commission, Wheeler's testimony did him no good.

Wheeler himself was tried for murder in Alabama some years later but acquitted.
 

Pat Young

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Wheeler was in town to testify at Champ Ferguson's trial. The beating was a blatant attempt to frighten him into standing down. At the trial, he testified that Ferguson had been given a regular commission, but since Champ could not produce said commission, Wheeler's testimony did him no good.

Wheeler himself was tried for murder in Alabama some years later but acquitted.
Thanks for the info.
 

diane

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Wheeler was in town to testify at Champ Ferguson's trial. The beating was a blatant attempt to frighten him into standing down. At the trial, he testified that Ferguson had been given a regular commission, but since Champ could not produce said commission, Wheeler's testimony did him no good.

Wheeler himself was tried for murder in Alabama some years later but acquitted.

Wasn't it that a roster was found listing Champ as 'captain' was the only evidence he was actually an officer?

Got to say, that was sure lopsided in favor of the chickens! Wheeler was a little guy, too. A lot of Confederate generals had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel after the war. D H Hill's son was shot for being his father's son - the shooters couldn't find Pa!
 

TerryB

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Wasn't it that a roster was found listing Champ as 'captain' was the only evidence he was actually an officer?

Got to say, that was sure lopsided in favor of the chickens! Wheeler was a little guy, too. A lot of Confederate generals had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel after the war. D H Hill's son was shot for being his father's son - the shooters couldn't find Pa!
Champ claimed to have a commission, but could not produce one. Wheeler testified that the CS Congress passed an act that formally put all partisans under control of the government, reassigning them to regular cavalry units. We know Mosby and one or two others were excepted.
 

Pat Young

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The Charleston Courier article implies that there had been a dispute a year earlier between the two. Any ideas?
 

Pat Young

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Wasn't it that a roster was found listing Champ as 'captain' was the only evidence he was actually an officer?

Got to say, that was sure lopsided in favor of the chickens! Wheeler was a little guy, too. A lot of Confederate generals had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel after the war. D H Hill's son was shot for being his father's son - the shooters couldn't find Pa!

I wonder about the earlier "friendly" visit by Union officers.
 

diane

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I wonder about the earlier "friendly" visit by Union officers.

Well...sounds like a set-up! Send somebody to check if that little guy really is Joe, be sure he's all alone by himself... Seems to me - maybe somebody can correct me if I'm wrong - that the officer who arrested Ferguson was named Blackburn. There's always a WHOLE lot more to these kinds of events than meets the eye!
 

John Hartwell

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One of the other newspaper articles I read (I didn't take note of it) said that at some time during the war Wheeler had sent a message to Blackburn calling him a "D*mn, homegrown Yankee," and promising that if he captured him he'd hang him on the spot.

Joseph H. Blackburn was Lt. Col of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry. His MSR includes only one reference to the incident:
blackburn.jpg
Capt. Morton Quinn's MSR contains a similar declaration.


NB: BLACKBURN'S FIRST NAME CORRECTED.
 
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TerryB

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Diane, this could well be the guy who arrested Ferguson. I have the account somewhere in my files. He managed to trick Ferguson into disarming before he got him saddled up for Nashville. Champ didn't know he was not to be paroled by order of Gen. Thomas until well into the arrest procedure. I'll check my notes. As to Wheeler's note to Blackburn, I think I have a newspaper account mentioning this officer, too. The homegrown Tennessee Union cavalry were an ill-disciplined lot who in many cases were every bit as bad as Ferguson. They won, so they got to go home---that's the only difference.
 

Pat Young

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One of the other newspaper articles I read (I didn't take note of it) said that at some time during the war Wheeler had sent a message to Blackburn calling him a "D*mn, homegrown Yankee," and promising that if he captured him he'd hang him on the spot.

James H. Blackburn was Lt. Col of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Previously he had been Captain in the 5th Tenn. Cav. His MSR includes only one reference to the incident:
Capt. Morton Quinn's MSR contains a similar declaration.
Thanks John.
 
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