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By H.G.M.

War story of Jesse W. Heaton, Company H, 26th Regiment.

First installment 3/13/1924 North Vernon Sun
His account of his experiences and prison life as written at the age of 82.
Died Jan. 1st, 1924.
Entered war at the age of 20.

    "My oldest brother Bivans Heaton enlisted in the 6th Reg. telling me that I must stay at home to take care of father and mother on the farm. He went in the spring of 1861. Knowiing that he would be discharged in six months, I enlisted for three years before he got home as one of us had to stay at home and I wanted to go before he had a chance to re-enlist. Later Bivans enlisted in Co. B. 82 Reg. Ind. Inf. Vols. He died at Murfresborough, Tenn., in the spring of 1863.
    But to return to my subject; I was wounded at the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark., Dec. 7, 1862. Was at the siege of Vicksburg, Miss., where we captured 30,000 prisoners of the 4th of July, 1863. Gen. U.S. Grant commanded the Union troops there. Gen. Pemberton commanded the Confederate troops. The prisoners were parolled and placed in paroll camp in or near Shreevesport, La., at the head of navigation on Red River where they were required to stay until they were exchanged.
    After the fall of Vicksburg our Regiment went up the Yazoo river on a raid and in a few days returned to Vicksburg but before the camp equipment was all unloaded off the boats we got orders to go down the river to Port Hudson where we remained only a few days, when we were ordered to New Orleans, where we stayed a few weeks. So many of our men were sick in the hospital that there were only three hundred able for duty when we loaded on boats and taken up the river to Marganza Bend where three hundred and seventy of the 19th Iowa and those of the men who were able to move were unloaded and marched seven miles from the river to what was known as the Sterling Plantation where we went into camp, the task set for us being to drive the rebel pickets in ____ day, endeavor to ascertain the strength of the enemy. We also had two pieces of Artillery out there with us to fire, in case of our being attacked, so the rest of our force at the river would come to our assistance.
    After about one week as near as I can remember, about noon one rainy day, one of our guards saw the enemy approaching our camp through the cane field. He knew what he was there for, fired at them and ran for camp. His shot alarmed the camp, every man grabbed his gun and was in line by the time the officers had their side arms on. The enemy soon came in view, when we were ordered to fire on them, which we did without waiting for a second invitation. Fortunately for us our camp was inside a piece of ground on which planter's house and negro quarters were built, and was protected by a levee about four feet high. The Levee was built to keep the back water from the bayou from overflowing the yard and negro quarters in a rainy season. We were glad to keep our heads lower than to top of the levee only when we raised to fire. We drove the rebels back but soon found they were approaching from the other side which made it necessary for us to shift our line to the side where the Jonnies were getting too familiar for so short an acquaintance. In so doing we were more exposed but after a few hours firing we discovered our ammunition was getting low. Lieut, John Whitsett (John A. Whitsit) of Co. I, our Reg., noticed the rebels had captured our two pieces of artillery and were in the act of turning them on us. "Boys, let us charge them before they can load the guns! Come on!" We said, "We're with you" and were the first to the guns. There was an artillery man standing by one of the guns with a revolver in each hand pointing them our way, but he did not hit Jonnie nor me (meaning John Whitsett), So Johnnie Whitsett settled with him. I saw a man who had finished loading a rifle while lying on his back, as he was getting up I ran to him and demanded his surrender while the muzzle of my gun was dangerously near his breast. He said, "I don't stand out agin odds". I ordered him to throw his gun down but he was badly excited, so was I, then Lieut. Whitsett came up to my rebel and said something to him; I was keeping an eye on the fellow as he still held on to his gun. As the Lieut. approached he turned the gun with the muzzle toward him. I thought his intention was to shoot Whitsett, so I placed my gun against his breast and again ordered him to drop his gun. Whitsett caught hold of my gun, pushing it away said, "Don't shoot a man after he surrenders!" "I thought he was going to shoot you." At this the man appeared to understand and dropped the thing as suddenly as though it were red hot. He had been to excited to understand.
    Soon after this the enemy made another charge on our camp and our cartridge boxes about empty! We had to search for more cartridges in the boxes of the killed and wounded, and as our firing had almost ceased the rebs of course thought we had surrendered so came rushing in from all sides. Our commanding officer ran up a white flag. We were prisoners of war. A rebel officer rode up to Whitsett and demanded his sword. Whitsett said as he handed it to the officer, "Colonel, here is a sword I never disgraced." The rebel officer officer answered, "That is right, I like a brave man, but damn a coward!"
    We were all wet and muddy as it had rained steadily most of the day. Our guards knew we had a division back at the river, so they hurried to place more miles between us and them."

Next Installment - North Vernon Sun - March 20, 1924
    "I will now skip several days again take up the warp and woof of my story. After we had marched from Sterling Plantation, in Louisiana to Tyler, Texas, I have no means of how many miles we traveled, it appeared to us to be a never ending journey, we were placed in a camp near a spring of water, the rebs soon built a stockade around us which prevented many Yanks from attempting to escape, however, some of us succeeded in getting out of it. Some were lucky enough to get into our lines, but not I. I succeeded in getting out of the stockade at two different times, you see I was caught. The effort the first time took us several miles past Marshall, Texas when we were tracked with bloodhounds taken back to Marshall and locked up in jail. Here they kept us ten days, then taking us out, marched us back to Tyler, put us back in the stockade.

    In about two months Jasper N. Jordan, John Gibbs of Co. H. 26th Ind. Reg. and James Suiter and Gerre Johns of Co. D. of our Reg. and myself made another effort to regain our liberty. This time we were within fifteen miles of our lines when we were again captured. They threatened to shoot us, but changing their minds took us to Natchetockes, pronounced Nacketock, county seat of county of that name. After a few days we were taken on steamboat to Alexandria on the Red River, placed in the court house with nine of Quantrels men who were under arrest for some violation of the law. They sneered at us, said they would be ashamed to be prisoners of war. "We fight under a black flag and neither take quarter nor give it," they said. I felt like knocking the speakers block off but knew I was too weak to put up much of a fight so considered discretion the better part of valor. But comrade John Gibbs asked the captain, as his men called him, to repeat his remark. He did and as he finished "we never ask nor give quarter" John struck him on the chin a violent blow with his fist which toppled him on the spot . When he tried to get up John would hand him another and another. One of his men ran up to kick John but I was standing around and got in his way. I could not knock him down, I had neither the strength nor the weight to enable me to down him, but I kept him busy so he did not get close enough as to hurt John until the Captain said enough, take him off." John laughing said, "D__n you, I thought I could make you ask for quarter." Maybe you think I was not proud of John Gibbs! At that time he had more courage than I, also was stronger. I wish he were alive to hear me sing his praise. He went to Nebraska after the war, married well and raised a large family, and fell dead in a doctor's office some ten years ago.

    We Yanks were immediately removed from the court house and put in a large room over the market house. Nearly every day more Yanks were brought in until the place was too full for comfort. The place was unbearable, sickness, filth and vermin made men pray to die. A line was drawn across the floor in one place, guards placed to watch-the orders were if a Yank crossed that line to shoot him. Many a man stepped the line to end his misery.

    Three of the parolled men who were captured at Vicksburg acted as guides to Gen. Banks, leading the Yanks to the cotton warehouses and gins up the Red River. They were arrested by the rebel forces and placed in with us. Two of them let us Yanks know they had the promise of commissions as soon as they got to our army and said they thought they were recognized by their former comrades. They asked for our assistance in getting away. Gibbs and I thought out a plan. They had been absent three days, we had answered to their names at roll call mornings and evening until the third morning about eleven o'clock the officer of the guard came into our room and called the names of the two men we had answered for. We did not answer to their names, then he called George W. Conley. This man was in the same business with the other two but had told them and us that he was not afraid to stand trial. When his name was called he stepped out in front of the officer of the guard and said "I am George W. Conley. He was then asked where the other two men were and replied that he knew nothing of them. The officer asked Conley if he knew he was to be shot in half an hour. "No", said Conley. "don't you give a man a trial before pronouncing sentence." The answer was that they had held a board of inquiry in this case and asked if he wished to see a minister. Conley first said no, but after a moment's hesitation he said. "You may send me up one. I have a wife and some property. I want to leave my property to her." He asked for a Presbyterian if there was one in town. They sent a man to inquire, who soon returned reporting No Presbyterian minister in town. Conley then said any minister would do as he was an honest man. They sent a Methodist minister up and he asked Conley to kneel. Conley informed him that was not what he wanted, he wished him to do some writing for him which was done. Then the officer called twelve soldiers who coming up the stairs into the room, were ordered to load their guns. Every man put in full loads both powder and ball. Conley was then asked if he had any requests to make of the men who were to shoot him. He answered, "Yes, do not shoot me in the face." And striking his chest with his fist he said "and this is as good a breast as ever a man drew bead on." He held up his left hand and called attention to a ring on the little finger, saying, "Please do not remove the ring. It is a plain band ring with my name George W. Conley engraved on the inside. Leave it for my wife to identify my body by. Let her have my body. She is liable to be here any moment and surely not later than tomorrow morning. I am ready." They marched down the stairs and up the river to a pontoon bridge, crossed and came back opposite the market house on a sandbar. There were four large windows facing the river in the room we occupied, so we saw it all. Conley stepped off ten steps, turned facing the firing squad, kneeled on one knee. At the command "Ready! Aim! Fire! The twelve men fired as one man and George W. Conley fell on his face, turned on his back and lay perfectly still."

Next Installment - March 27, 1924
    "- His body was left where it fell as long as we could see, but after daylight next morning I looked, but the body was gone. About eight o'clock that morning a handsome lady came up the stairs. As she entered the room she looked around and inquired for George W. Conley. A fool guard blurted out, "He was shot about noon yesterday." That woman screamed and moaned, staggered and fell to the floor. They carried her down stairs. I imagined I could hear her when I would close my eyes or dose off in a halfwake dream or nightmare, many years after. As deaf as I am I can imagine I hear her now. Sherman was right when he said, "War is Hell", a fine looking man was shot to death and a beautiful woman's life and happiness wrecked beyond help. I could tell more, much more, but it makes me blue to think of the things that are so hard to forget."

From The Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana-Vol. II
    The Twenty-Sixth Regiment was mustered into service, for three years, at Indianapolis, on the 31st of August, 1861, with William M. Wheatley as Colonel. On the 7th of September it left Indianapolis, for the field, and on arriving at St. Louis was sent in to the interior of the State, and participated in the Fremont campaign to Springfield. Returning to Sedalia, it was placed on duty gaurding the Pacific Railroad, and was kept on this duty until July, 1862. From that time until the 1st of May, 1863, it was engaged in active field duty, moving with the army into Southern Missouri, and thence into Arkansas. at the battle of Prarie Grove, on the 7th of December, 1861, the regiment was contspiououosly engaged, and suffered severely in killed and wounded. After the engagement at Van Buren, the Twenty-Sixth did guard duty until the 1st of June, 1863, when it was ordered to join Gen. Grant's army in the rear of Vicksburg, and was actively engaged in the trenches until the surrender on the 4th of July. It then went up the Yazoo River and retook Yazoo City. After the surrender of Port Hudson, the regiment was transferred to that place, and was susequently stationed at Carrolton Louisiana. On the 29th of September, the regiment engaged the enemy at Camp Sterling near Morganza, and was defeated, losing nearly one-half of its officers and men, mostly by capture. The prisoners were taken to Tyler Texas, where they were held for many months.
    During the month of October the regiment proceeded to Texas with Gen. Herron's expedition, an then moved to Brownsville on the Mexican frontier, where on the 1st of February it was re-enlisted. Arriving in Indiana in april, it remained there a month on veteran furlough, returning to the field in Louisiana on the 1st of June. On reaching Donaldsonville it was assigned to the garrison of Fort Butler, where it remained until the spring of 1865. On the 18th of February, 1865, in pursuance of the orders of Gen. Canby, the retained recruits of the Sixtieth Regiment, whose term of service did not expire with that of the organization were transferred to the Twenty-Sixth, the new organization retaining the designation of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment.
    When the campaign opened against Mobile, in the latter part of March, 1865, the Twenty-Sixth, as part of Gen. A.J. Smith's 16th Corps, as transferred to that vicinity, and was actively engaged for several days, participating in the siege and in the assault on Spanish Fort. Upon the occupation of the city, it was assigned duty there for some time, and was then transferred to Macon, Mississippi, where it still remains at the closing of this sketch (October 1865,)in command of Col. John G. Clark, the veterans and retained recruits numbering 375 men.
    In September, 1865, a detachment of non-veterans and recruits, whose term of service had expired, arrived at Indianapolis in charge of Major Alden H. Jumper for final discharge. Those were present at a public reception given them and other troops in the Capitol grounds, of the 12th of September, and were addressed by Governor Morton and others.

More on Jesse W. Heaton

Contributed to Jennings County INGenWeb by Sherri Feller

North Vernon Plain Dealer - April 1, 1915
    Jessie W. Heaton and wife celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on Friday, March 26th. It was indeed a happy event for a happy couple. They were completely surrounded by their children and grand-children, from far and near, during the day. One of those great big dinners, such as Hayden is noted for, was enjoyed by all and it lasted longer than usual. The table was beautifully decorated with smilax, tulips, daffodils and American Beauty Roses. The "bride and groom" were recipients of many, beautiful presents. The most notable gifts was a handsome ring presented to Mrs. Heaton by her husband. Many callers were received during the day and at night about fifty of the young people of Hayden surprised them from the outside with a serenade, after which they were invited in and all enjoyed the spirit of the occasion. Mr. Heaton is a native of Jennings County, son of Titus and Elliza Heaton, early settlers in the county. His wife, Caroline, is also a native of Jennings County, daughter of Hiram and Mary Whitcom, her father being a pioneer saw mill man. They were married near Hayden and resided on their farm northeast of Hayden for forty-five years. For the past five years they have resided in Hayden. Mr. Heaton served three and one half years in the Civil War. He enlisted in the 26th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Most of his service was in Missouri and Arkansas, but more particularly in the siege of Vicksburg. Mr. and Mrs. Heaton are parents of ten children; Ernest S., Manager of the W.U. Telegraph Co., at Paragould, Ark.; Jennie, wife of Cyrus N. Amick, farmer, Scipio, Ind.; Clarence, who died a number of years ago, the result of a railroad accident in Arkansas; Fountain, who is a merchant at Hayden; Harry, City representative for Indianapolis Paint and Color Company; Flora, wife of J.A. Reney, master machinist, Edinburg, Ind.; Mary, residing with her parents at Hayden; Edna, wife of Howard Judd, salesmanager Austin Canning Company, Austin, Ind.; Carrie, wife of L.E. Ellison, merchant at Springport, Ind.; Margaret, stenographer for Hoosier Cabinet Co., Newcastle, Ind. They have fifteen grand-children and one great-grandchild.

    Jesse W. Heaton, son of Titus and Mary Heaton, born March 8th, 1841, in Spencer township, Jennings county, Ind., died January 1st, 1924, in Kent, Ind., at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Carrie Ellison.
    His childhood days were spent on the farm northeast of Hayden, gaining a common school education, which enabled him to enjoy reading, and directed his interest in his country's progress.
    He was a veteran of the Civil war, enlisting for three years in Co. H 26th Regiment. One noted battle in which he participated was Prairie Grove in which he was wounded and taken prisoner. Was an inmate of Andersonville prison for some months a witness of many gruesome scenes.
    Soon after returning from the army he married Caroline Whitcomb on March 26, 1865. To this union were born ten children, nine of whom still survive. Clarence proceeded to the great beyond by an accidental death July 13, 1902, while in Arkansas. The surviving children are: Mrs. Jennie Amick, Scipio, Ind., Mrs. Ernest Heaton, Paragould, Ark., Mr. Harry Heaton, Los Angeles, Calif., Mr. Fountain Heaton, Moores Hill, Ind., Mrs. Florence Rennie, Butlerville, Ind., Mrs. Mary Townsend, Crothersville, Ind., Mrs. Edna Judd, Austin, Ind., Mrs. Carrie Ellison, Kent, Ind., Mrs. Margaret Walker, Butlerville, Ind. He also leaves to mourn his loss 21 grandchildren, one brother, Albert Heaton of Ascola, Mo., two sisters, Mrs. Ellen Bandeen, Hayden, Ind., and Mrs. Mary Kitts of Maquoketa, Ia., besides a host of other friends and relatives.
    On July 25th, 1870, he joined the Masonic Lodge of Hayden, and has ever since been a true and faithful brother among them, having just met with the members and their families at their annual banquet on the night of Dec. 27, 1923, enjoying a happy jovial fellowship, speaking of his love for the order and its fine principals and high ideals.
    He tried to live a Christian life as he saw it, trusting God, "Who created all things well", expressing the desire to go gladly when the summons came, "Be it soon or yet a little while longer."
    Funeral services were at Hayden Baptist church, Friday, Jan. 4th, the Masons having charge, interment in the Hayden cemetery.

    Of course after reading this I had to do a little checking on some of the local people mentioned in this narative. First I looked up Bivans Heaton the brother Jesse W. Heaton mentions was killed, here is a link to his headston on Find a Grave.     Then I wanted to check out the John Gibbs who he said was a local fellow. I found John was actually Jonathan Gibbs, son of Spruce and Eliza (Firth) Gibbs. After the war he married a local girl Susan Priscilla Fitzgerald. Jesse had most of his story correct but the part about where John Gibbs moved after he left here was in error, he went to Minnesota and died there in 1903. Most of Jonathan Gibbs brothers, all living in Jennings County when they enlisted, fought in the War. George W Gibbs was in - Company C of the 60th Indiana Infantry, then Company F of the 67th Indiana Infantry and finally in Company K, 14th Veterans Reserve Corps. Francis Marion Gibbs was in Company H, 26th Indiana. David Gudgel Gibbs - Corpl. David G. Gibbs, Co A 22nd Indiana, Mustered Aug. 15, 1861. Killed at Kenesaw, June 27, 1864.
    The John A. Whitsit he mentions was from Indianapolis, and returned there after the war. Garret (Gerre) Johns was from Fort Wayne and James Suiter was from Greenwood, both of them mustered out of the 26th in 1864.
    Unfortunately the one person from this story I would like to have found a record of is George W. Conley, whose execution he detailed. No luck thus far.

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