November 17, 1865

Macomb Journal


Being the Observations and Experi-
ences of a Private Soldier.




            Col. Watkins and his orderly made all speed for the two suspicious strangers. – They were overtaken about one mile from Headquarters, and very near the picket line. The Colonel rode up to them, and in the politest manner possible informed them that Col. Baird wanted to make some further inquiries of them, and furthermore that the Colonel thought it was dangerous for them to proceed to Nashville without an escort, as there had been guerillas upon the road. The strangers replied that they were willing to incur the risk, but Colonel Watkins insisted that they should return as Col. Baird wished to see them again, and he would then furnish them an escort so that they might proceed in safety. The manner of Col. Watkins gave assurance to the strangers that they were not suspected of anything wrong. After some remonstrance on account of the lateness of the hour, and the distance they had to travel, they consented to return. Colonel Watkins led them to his tent, where for a few moments he beguiled them with his usual affable and conversational powers. He then begged to be excused for a moment, and stepping out he ordered a strong guard to be placed around the tent. It was not until one of them attempted to pass the guard at the door that they even suspected they were prisoners. Col. Watkins immediately brought them to Colonel Baird under strong guard. They at once manifested great uneasiness, and pretended great indignation at being thus treated. Colonel Baird frankly told them that he had his suspicions of their true character, and that they should, if loyal, object no unnecessary caution. They were very hard to satisfy, and were in a great hurry to get off. Col. Baird told them they were under arrest, and he should hold them prisoners until he was fully satisfied that they were what they purported to be. He immediately telegraphed to General Rosecrans, and received the answer that he knew nothing of any such men, that there were no such men in his employ, or had his pass.

Long before this dispatch was received, however, every one who had an opportunity of hearing their conversation was well satisfied that they were spies. Smart as they were, they gave frequent and distinct evidence of duplicity. After this dispatch came to hand, which it did about 12 o’clock (midnight), a search of their persons was ordered. To this the Major consented without opposition, but the Colonel protested against it, and even put his hand to his arms. But resistance was useless, and both submitted. When the Major’s sword was drawn from the scabbard there were found etched upon it these words, “Lieut. W. G. Peter, C. S. A.” At this discovery Col. Baird remarked, “Gentlemen, you have played this thing d –d well.” “Yes,” said Lieutenant Peter, “and it came near being a perfect success.” They then confessed the whole matter, and upon further search various papers showing their guilt were discovered upon their persons. Lieut. Peter was found to have on a rebel cap, secreted by the white flannel Havelock.

Colonel Baird immediately telegraphed the facts to General Rosecrans and asked what he should do, and in a short time received an order to “try them by a drum-head court-martial, and if found guilty hang them immediately.” The court was convened, and before daylight the case was decided, and the prisoners informed that they must prepare for immediate death by hanging.

At daylight men were detailed to make a scaffold. The prisoners were visited by the Chaplain of the 78th Illinois, who, upon their request, administered the sacrament to them. They also wrote some letters to their friends, and deposited their jewelry, silver cups, and other valuables for transmission to their friends.

The gallows was constructed by a wild cherry tree not far from the depot, and in a very public place. Two ropes hung dangling from the beam, reaching within eight feet of the ground. A little after 9 o’clock a. m. the whole garrison was marshaled around the place of execution in solemn sadness. Two poplar coffins were lying a few feet away. Twenty minutes past nine the guards conducted the prisoners to the scaffold – they walked firm and steady, as if unmindful of the fearful precipice which they were approaching. The guards did them the honor to march with arms reversed.

Arrived at the place of execution they stepped upon the platform of the cart and took their respective places. The Provost Marshal, Captain Alexander, then tied a linen handkerchief over the face of each and adjusted the ropes. They then asked the privilege of bidding a last farewell, which being granted, they tenderly embraced each other. This over, the cart moved from under them, and they hung in the air. What a fearful penalty!

The elder and leader of these unfortunate men was Lawrence Williams, of Georgetown, D. C. He was as fine looking a man as I have ever seen, about six feet high and perhaps 30 years old. He was a son of Captain Williams, who was killed at the battle of Monterey. He was one of the most intellectual and accomplished men I have ever known. I have never known any one who excelled him as a talker. He was a member of the regular army, with the rank of captain of cavalry, when the rebellion broke out, and at that time was aide-de-camp and private secretary to General Winfield Scott. From this confidence and respect shown him by so distinguished a man may be judged his education and accomplishments. He was a first cousin of General Lee, commanding the rebel army on the Rappahannock. Soon after the war began he was frank enough to inform Gen. Scott that all his sympathies were with the South, as his friends and interests were there, and that he could not fight against them. As he was privy to all of General Scott’s plans for the campaign, it was not thought proper to turn him loose, hence he was sent to Governor’s Island, where he remained three months. After the first Bull Run battle he was allowed to go South, where he joined the rebel army, and his subsequent history I have not been able to learn much about. He was a while on General Bragg’s staff as Chief of Artillery, but at the time of his death was his Inspector-General. When he joined the rebel army he altered his name, and signed it thus: “Lawrence W. Orton, Col. Cav. P. A. C. S. A.” (Provisional Army Confederate States of America) Sometimes he wrote his name “Orton;” and sometimes “Auton,” according to the object which he had in view. This we learned from papers found on him. These facts in relation to the personal history of Colonel Orton was gathered from the Colonel himself and from Colonel Watkins, who knew him well, they having belonged to the same regiment of the regular army – 2d U. S. Cavalry. Colonel Watkins, however, did not recognize Colonel Orton until after he had made himself known, and now mourns his apostasy and tragic fate.

The other victim of this delusive and reckless daring was Walter G. Peter, a lieutenant in the rebel army, and Colonel Orton’s adjutant. He was a tall, handsome young man, of about twenty-five years, that gave many signs of education and refinement.

Of his history I could gather nothing. – He played but a second part. Colonel Orton was the leader, and did all the talking and managing. Such is a succinct account of one of the most daring enterprises that men ever engaged in. Such were the characters and the men who played the awful tragedy.

History will hardly furnish its parallel in the character and standing of the parties, the boldness and daring of the enterprise, and the swiftness with which discovery and punishment were visited upon them. They came into our camp, and went all through it, minutely inspecting our position, works, and forces, with a portion of their traitorous insignia upon them; and the boldness of their conduct made flimsy subterfuges almost successful.



To the Readers of the Journal.

            With this issue of the Macomb Journal, my connection with it ceases. One week ago I had not the remotest idea of severing my connection with this paper, but I was offered my price for the establishment and I have sold it. Mr. B. R. Hampton, a former editor of the paper, when it was published under the name of the Macomb Enterprise, is the purchaser. He will take possession next week.

It is with extreme reluctance that I bid adieu to the readers of the Journal as their editor. I have been connected with the paper for more than four years. A larger portion of that time was spent in the army, but I retained my interest in the establishment, expecting to continue my relations with it for years to come. But through the kindness and partiality of the present administration the appointment of Postmaster of this place was conferred upon me some three months since and in consequence my duties have been so vastly increased that it will be some relief to me to lay aside the duties and responsibilities of editor and publisher.

I return my most sincere thanks to the numerous patrons of the Journal for their generous support during my connection with it. I trust that my successor will be met with the same liberal spirit, for he is a gentleman every way worthy of it.

Mr. Hampton needs no introductions from me to the people of this county. He has been one of our oldest and most esteemed citizens. Since last spring he has been residing in Abingdon, in Knox county, but he will shortly return to this city. He is sound to the core on those principles for which the Republican party has contended, and stands up square for President Johnson on those issues upon which the President himself has recently shed a flood of light.

Again I say, adieu.

Jas. K. Magie.


Our City Council.

            There was quite a spirited contest last Spring in the election of city officers. We have no need to particularize, but we know that some of our citizens think they were badly sold in that election. Some of the candidates elected shied off, and went into bad company. At all events they cut some queer pranks, and haven’t got over it yet. They profess to be loyal, friends to the soldiers, and all that. While we were absent, carrying a musket in defense of their homes and firesides they were very liberal in their dealings with the printers. They paid good, fat prices for their advertising and printing – and even more, they paid two prices, for they advertised in both of our city papers. At length we returned home, having served almost three years in the ranks, and took charge of this office. The City Council then suddenly discovered that we were not City Printer, and couldn’t do their printing unless we did it very cheap. In short, they voted to have Mr. J. B. Naylor, of the Eagle office, do their printing. – They had no use for us, except to blow and puff for their new school house enterprise, which of course they expected us to do gratuitously. Well, in course of time Mr. J. B. Naylor retires from the Eagle office, and a strange gentleman from Missouri takes the office. But the City Council, which was so quick to discover that we were not City Printer as soon as a change was made in this office, have not yet discovered a change in the Eagle office. – They elected last spring this office to do the printing, but the retirement of Mr. Clarke they contended annulled that arrangement. But when Mr. Naylor retired, it made no difference. Verily our City Council are wise far beyond their constituents.


Sharp Practice.

            The copperheads go in for sustaining their party organs whenever they can do so with the people’s money. In this county they have had notice to quit, but the County Clerk before going out of office is getting the next four years printing done at the Eagle office. They think it their last chance.


Popular Sovereignty.

            It was but a few years ago that the Democracy were very enthusiastic in their devotion to a principle they called “Popular Sovereignty.” We have listened by the hour to their stump orators while elucidating, explaining and expounding this great principle. We have read column after column from their party organs glorifying and amplifying the excellent qualities and wonderful beauties of “Popular Sovereignty.” It was peculiarly an American principle. – It was the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions were founded. It was a great Democratic principle – it was indeed the chief corner stone in the temple of Liberty. This principle when explained, amplified and illustrated simply meant that the voice of the people was potent and should rule. Our Democratic friends, in times past, when illustrating this principle said that if the people of Kansas voted to have slavery, why, they should have it; and if they voted against it, it should not be forced upon them. – They stood by the voice of the people, or in other words – “Popular Sovereignty.” – We have heard many of them say, time and again, that they were opposed to slavery, but if the people voted for slavery then they waived all objection and said the will of the people, as expressed through the ballot box, should be the law of the land.

We now wish to make an application. – We are disposed to hold the Democratic party to their past professions. Prior to the late elections they persistently stated that a vote for the Republican ticket was vote for negro suffrage. The Republican ticket everywhere has prevailed by decisive majorities. Now let us see whether these Democrats are true to principle. If they are, they will be in favor of carrying out the will of the people in favor of negro suffrage, as lately expressed through the ballot-box. Now, gentlemen, don’t go back upon your past professions, but come square up to the work. Popular Sovereignty is a glorious principle – it is the voice of the people, and the Democracy “go in” for that voice. We will wait and see.


            Last of Camp Douglas. – A definite and final order was received from the War Department on Saturday, by Captain Pierce, Quartermaster at Chicago, to sell off all that is left of Camp Douglas, embracing all the building, fences, etc. There are over a million feet of lumber to be sold. The stoves in the barracks, about 500 in number, were sold by Colonel Ellison, bringing good prices. In less than a month, Camp Douglas will be no more.


            The 33d Regiment. – The 33d Regiment Illinois Infantry, under command of Col. J. H. Elliott, now at Vicksburg, will probably be mustered out at an early day, as the Commander of the Department has signified his willingness that the men should be mustered out. This will be good news to the brave boys, who have been so long from home in the service of their country.



            In this city on Thursday, Nov. 25, 1865, of Typhoid Fever, Miss Lucy J., only daughter of Wm. T. and Susan Thayer, aged 19 years.

Quincy papers please copy.

October 15th, at his residence near Macomb, of typhoid fever, Harmon Allison, in the 48th year of his age.

November 7th, at the residence of her son, near Macomb, Sarah Allison, in the 84th year of her age.

Near Tennessee, in this county, on Sunday, the 12th inst., Mrs. Margaret Waddill, widow of Charles Waddill, aged 90 years.

Mrs. Waddill was one of the oldest residents of this county, having resided at the pace where she died for upwards of 32 years. She was born in Pennsylvania, from which State she emigrated with her parents at an early age to the State of Tennessee, from whence she emigrated to Illinois. She leaves a large circle of friends and relatives, both in this State and Tennessee.


            → The second of a course of “Lectures to the Young,” will be delivered in Universalist Church next Sabbath evening, Nov. 19th, by the Pastor. Subject – “What make a man?” Services commence at 6 1-2 P. M. All are invited to attend.


            → “My Married Life at Hillside,” and “Mrs. Goodfellow’s Cookery as it Should Be,” are among the new books at S. J. Clarke & Co.’s Bookstore.


            → The Atlantic Telegraph has failed for the present but bids fair for success, still, Hopper, of the New York Clothing Store, No. 4, is doing a big business, and trade with him increases daily, as he keeps his stock full and complete of seasonable goods and at much lower prices than any other house. Boots custom made and warranted. Hats and Caps in great variety. – If you call you will buy at his low priced store.


Home Again.

L. H. Waters, who has for two or three months past been located at Huntsville, Ala., in the practice of law, has returned to this city with some idea of remaining here permanently. The stay laws of the South are not very encouraging to lawyers.


            → We received a call this week from Lieut. Irving, late of Co. F, 78th Ill., who was for a year and a half a prisoner in rebel hands in company with Lieuts. Morse and Hovey of this city. He was very low with sickness during his imprisonment, but he is now in robust health. His home is at Columbus, in Adams county, but he was on a trip to this county to “look around” with some view of locating here.




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