Sunday, July 10, 2011
Court Martial Of Colonel John Basil Turchin.
In Camp, Huntsville, Ala., August 6, 1862.
I. By a general court-martial, which convened at Athens, Ala., on the 7th day of July, 1862, pursuant to Special Orders, No. 93, of July 5, 1862, and which was adjourned to Huntsville, Ala., by Special Orders, No. 108, of July 20, 1862, from the Headquarters Army of Ohio, and of which Brigadier General J. A. Garfield, U. S. Volunteers, of the Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers:
CHARGE 1.-Neglect of duty, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.
Specification.- In this, that the said Colonel J. B. Turching, of the Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, being in command of the Eighth Brigade, Army of the Ohio, did, on or about the 2nd day of May, 1862, march the said brigade into the town of Athens, State of Alabama, and having and the arms of the regiment stacked in the streets did allow his command to disperse, and in his presence or with his knowledge and that of his officers to plunder and pillage the inhabitants of said town and of the country adjacent thereto, without taking adequate steps to restrain them.
Among the incidents of said plundering and pillaging are the following:
A party entered the dwelling of Milly Ann Clayton and opened all the trunks, drawers, and boxes of every description, and taking out the contents thereof,consisting of wearing apparel and bed-clothes, destroyed, spoiled, or carried away the same. They also insulted the said Milly Ann Clayton and threatened to shoot her, and then proceeding to the kitchen they there attempted an indecent outrage on the person of her servant girl.
A squad of soldiers to the office of R. C. David and plundered it of about $1,000 in money and of much wearing apparel, and destroyed a stock of books, among which was a lot of fine Bibles and Testaments, which were torn, defaced,and kicked about the floor and trampled under foot.
A party of this command entered a house occupied by two females, M. E. Malone and S. B. Malone, and ransacked it throughout, carrying off the money which they found, and also the jewelry, plate, and female ornaments of value and interest to the owners, and destroying and spoiling the furniture of said house without cause.
For six or eight hours that day squads of soldiers visited the dwelling-house of Thomas S. Malone, breaking open is desk and carrying off or destroying valuable papers, notes of hand,and other property, to the value of about $4,500, more or less, acting rudely and violently toward the females of the family. This last was done chiefly by the men of Edgarton's battery. The plundering of saddles, bridles, blankets, &c., was by the Thirty-seventh Indiana Volunteers.
The same parties plundered the drug store of William D. Allen, destroying completely a set of surgical, obstetrical, and dental instruments, or carrying them away.
The store of Madison Thompson was broken open and plundered of a stock of goods worth about $3,000, and his stable was entered, and corn, oats, and fodder taken by different parties, who on his application for receipts replied "that they gave receipts at other places, but intended that this place should support them," or words to that effect.
The office of J. F. Lowell was broken open and a fine microscope and many geological specimens, together with many surgical instruments and books, carried off or destroyed.
Squads of soldiers, with force of arms, entered the private residence of John F. Malone and forced open all the locks of the doors, broke open all the drawers to the bureaus, the secretary, sideboard, wardrobes, and trunks in the house in the house, and rifled them of their contents, consisting of valuable clothing, silver-ware, silver-plate jewelry, a gold watch and chain, &c., and in the performing these outrages they used coarse, vulgar, and profane language to the females of the family. These squads came in large numbers and plundered the house thoroughly. They also broke open the law office of said Malone and destroyed his safe and damaged his books. A part of this bridge went to the plantation of the above-named Malone and quartered in the negro huts for weeks, debauching the females and roaming with the males over the surrounding country to plunder and pillage.
A mob of soldiers burst open the doors and windows of the business houses of Samuel Tanner, jr., and plundered them of their contents, consisting of sugar, coffee, boots and shoes, leather, and other merchandise.
Very soon after the command entered the town a party of soldiers broke into the silversmith shop and jewelry store toward by D. H. Friend, and plundered it of its contents and valuable to the amount of about $3,000.
A party of this command entered the house of R. S. Irwin and ordered his wife to cook dinner for them, and while she and her servant were so engaged they made the most indecent and beastly propositions to the latter in the presence of the whole family, and when the girl went away they followed her in the same manner, notwithstanding her efforts to avoid them.
Mrs. Hollinsworth's house was entered and plundered of clothing and other property by several parties, and some of the men fired into the house and threatened to burn it, and used violent and insulting language toward the said Mrs. Hollinsworth. The alarm and excitement occasional miscarriage and subsequently her death.
Several soldiers came to the house of Mrs. Charlotte Hine and committed rape on the person of a colored girl and then entered the house and plundered it of all the sugar, coffee, preserve, and the like which they could find. Before leaving they destroyed or carried off all the pictures and ornaments they could lay their hands on.
A mob of soldiers filled the house of J. A. Cox, broke open his iron safe, destroyed and carried off papers of value, plundering the house thoroughly, carrying off the clothes of his wife and children.
Some soldiers broke into the brick store of P. Tanner & Sons, and destroyed or carried off nearly the entire stock of goods contained there, and broke open the safe and took about $2,000 in money and many valuable papers.
A party of soldiers, at the order of Captain Edgarton, broke into an office through the windows and doors and plundered it of its contents, consisting of bedding, furniture, and wearing apparel. Lieutenant Berwick was also with the party. This officer was on the ground.
The law office of William Richardson, which was in another part of the town, was rifled completely and many valuable papers, consisting of bonds, bills, and notes of hand, lost or destroyed.
The house of J. H. Jones was entered by Colonel Mihalotzy, of the Twenty-fourth Illinois Volunteers, who behaved rudely and coarsely to the ladies of the family. He then quartered two companies of infantry in the house. About one hour after Captain Edgarton quartered his artillery company in the parlors, and these companies plundered the house of all provisions and clothing they could lay their hands on, and spoiled the furniture and carpets maliciously and without a shadow of reason, spoiling the parlor carpets by cutting bacon on them,and the piano by chopping joints on it with an axe, the beds by sleeping in them with their muddy boots on. The library of the house was destroyed, and the locks of the bureaus, secretaries, wardrobes, and trunks were all forced and their contents pillaged. The family plate was carried off, but some of the pieces have been recovered.
The store of George R. Peck was entered by a large crowd of soldiers and stripped of its contents, and the iron safe broken open and its contents plundered, consisting of $940.90 and $4,000 worth of notes.
John Turrentine's store was broken into by a party of soldiers on that day, and an iron safe cut open belonging to the same and about $5,000 worth of notes of hand taken or destroyed. These men destroyed about $2,000 worth of books found in said store, consisting of law books, religious books, and reading books generally.
CHARGE 2.-Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
Specification 1.-In this, that he, said Colonel J. B. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, did remain one week, more or less, as a guest in a public house in the town of Athens, Ala., and did fail to pay his bill for board, and did fail to compensate in any way the landlord of said hotel, J. B. Davison, although applied to once or oftener by said landlord for payment for said board. This on or about the 7th day of May, 1862.
Specification 2.-In this, that the, the said Colonel J. B. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, commanding Eight Brigade, did permit of did fail to make any reasonable and proper effort to prevent the disgraceful behavior of the troops under his command, set forth in the specification to the first charge. This at Athens, Ala., on or about the 2nd day of May, 1862.
CHARGE 3.-Disobedience of orders.
Specification 1.-In this, that he, the said Colonel J. B. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, in contravention of Orders, No. 13a, from the Headquarters of the Department of the Ohio, in the following terms, to wit, "Peaceful citizens are not be molested in their persons or property; any wrongs to either are to be promptly corrected, and the offenders brought to punishment," did, on or about the 2nd day of May, 1862, march his brigade into the town of Athens, in the State of Alabama, and having had the arms of the regiments stacked in the streets, did permit his men to disperse and leave the ranks and colors and molest peaceable citizens in their persons and property, as shown in the specification to charge 1, above, and did fail to correct these wrongs or bring the offenders to punishment.
Specification 2.-In this, that he, the said Colonel J. B. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, commanding Eighth Brigade, Army of the Ohio, while occupying with said brigade the town of Athens, State of Alabama, in contravention of General Orders, No. 13a, from the Headquarters of the Department of the Ohio, in the following terms, to wit, "If the necessities of the public service should require the use of private property for public services fair compensation is to be allowed," did, on or about the 2nd day of May, 1862, permit the officers and soldiers of his command to take provisions, forage, and other private property from the citizens of said town and country around the same for public services, and did fail to have fair compensation allowed to the owners of said property, either by money or by official vouchers in due from.
Specification 3.-In this, that he, the said Colonel J.b. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, commanding Eighth Brigade, Army of the Ohio, while occupying the town of Athens, Ala., with said brigade, in contravention of the spirit of General Orders, No. 13a, from the Headquarters Department of the Ohio, did, on or about the 2nd day of May, 1862, without adequate necessity, cause to be taken from the inhabitants of the town of Athens, Ala., and the surrounding country provisions, forage and draught animals.
Specification 4.-In this, that, he said Colonel J. B. Turching, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, commanding Eight Brigade, Army of the Ohio, in contravention of General Orders, No. 4, from the Headquarters of the Department of the Ohio, in the following terms, to wit, "No woman, whether wives of officers or soldiers, will be permitted to remain in camp or accompany the troops in the field," did, on or about the 10th day of May, 1862, permit his own wife to be with him in the town of Athens, Ala., and to accompany him to and from the same, while serving with the troops of said brigade in the field.
To which the accused pleaded as follows:
To the specification to the FIRST CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the FIRST CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the first specification to the SECOND CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the second specification to the SECOND CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the SECOND CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the first specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the second specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Not guilty
To the third specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Not guilty.
To the fourth specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Guilty.
To the THIRD CHARGE, Not guilty.
FINDING AND SENTENCE.
The court finds the accused as follows:
Of the specification to the FIRST CHARGE, Guilty.
Of the FIRST CHARGES, Guilty.
Of the first specification to the SECOND CHARGE, Not guilty.
Of the second specification to the SECOND CHARGE, Guilty.
Of the SECOND CHARGE.-The court being of the opinion that the defendant is guilty of conduct unbecoming "an officer," but being unprepared to say that his conduct is unbecoming "a gentleman," find him Not guilty of the charge as laid, but find him Guilty of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Of the first specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Guilty.
Of the second specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Guilty.
Of the third specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Not guilty.
Of the fourth specification to the THIRD CHARGE, Confirms his plea and finds him Guilty.
Of the THIRD CHARGE, Guilty.
And does therefore sentence him, Colonel J. B. Turchin, Nineteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, to be dismissed the service of the United States.
II. The proceeding of the court are approved, and in pursuance of its sentence Colonel J. B. Turchin, of the Nineteenth Illinois Regiment, ceases to be in the service of the United States.*
Six members of the court have recommended the prisoner to clemency, on the ground that "the offense was committed under exciting circumstances, and was one rather of omission than of commission." The general commanding has left constrained nevertheless to carry the sentence into effect.
Colonel Turchin was tried for the disorderly conduct of his command at and in the vicinity of Athens, and the sentence of the court rests on that matter alone, but on the question of clemency it is proper to look beyond the record of the court. It is fact of sufficient notoriety that similar disorders, though not to the same extent, have marked the course of Colonel Turchin's command wherever it has gone. The question is not whether private property may be used for the public service, for that is proper whenever the public interest demand it. It should then be done by authority and in an orderly way. The wanton and lawless indulgence of individuals in acts of plunder and outrage is a different matter, tending to the demoralization of the troops and the destruction of their efficiency. Such conduct does not mean vigorous warfare; it meas disgrace and disaster, and is punished with the disorders were committed were precisely those which demanded the strictest observance of discipline. The command was supposed to be in the presence of an enemy that might take advantage of any confusion in its ranks. Every man should have been at his post instead of roaming over the town and country to load himself with useless plunder. In point of fact the criminality is not so much that good order was violated
*On August 5, 1862, Colonel Turching was appointed brigadier-general Unites States Volunteers. He accepted commission September 1, 1862, and remained in service till October 4, 1864.
Gen John Basil Turchin.
Birth: Jan. 30, 1822, Ukraine.
Death: Jun. 19, 1901, Anna, Union County, Illinois.
Burial: Mound City National Cemetery, Mound City, Pulaski County, Illinois.
Because of his implications, Major General Don Carlos Buell had Turchin court-martialed for this action and ordered him cashiered. However, President Lincoln was persuaded to override Buell's order and he was promoted Brigadier General in July 1862. He went on to serve in the XV Corps at Chickamauga, Chattanooga and in the Atlanta Campaign. Due to poor health he resigned his commission in October of 1864. After the war, he returned to Chicago, worked as an engineer and a patent solicitor. In later years, he lost his sanity and died in an insane asylum in Anna, Illinois.