Batavia meetings and funerals

By Rosanna Hoberg

An account by James B. Swing of Batavia of his experiences in the American Civil War, related in 1916, began two weeks ago and continues here.

“All through the years of the war there were war meetings held at the Court House — some of them intensely exciting. I remember one such meeting in particular. A Major Beatty, a soldier from Goshen who was at home on furlough, made a speech at the meeting. He wore his uniform and laid a revolver on the Judge’s desk in front of him. This was a warning to anybody who might take issue with what he had to say. I think he had been a prisoner of war, though I am not quite sure of that. He told in a graphic way of his war experiences and was very bitter toward the Confederates and had the audience wrought up to a high degree of excitement.

“Just when the feeling was most intense, I heard the village drum corps coming up the street to the Court House. They came in playing a patriotic air, and with Jimmie O’Maley, a gallant soldier boy of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment, also on furlough, just behind them, in his private’s uniform, carrying a flag. The drum corps and Jimmie, carrying the flag, constituted the whole procession. As they came in and pushed their way through the crowd, and Jimmie set up the flag behind the speaker, the people went wild. I have seen excited meetings, but none in which the excitement was more intense as in that meeting when Jimmie O’Maley and the drum corps came in. four or five years ago, I saw Jimmie at Middletown, where he then lived, and I asked him if he remembered that meeting, and he said, “Yes, that was a wild night.” He has since gone to his reward.

“I remember the death of our Jesse Ellis, for whom the G.A.R. Post at Batavia is named. He was in the Fifty-Ninth Regiment, a Lieutenant, and was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. I remember when the news of his death reached Batavia, and how deeply it affected the people. His body was found on the battlefield and brought home for burial. I remember the funeral very distinctly. It was a military funeral. There were soldiers up from Camp Dennison who marched in the funeral procession. It all seemed very imposing and solemn. The soldiers marched with what they called ‘trailing arms.’ There was a large flag over the coffin. The band played a funeral march with muffled drums. After the coffin was lowered into the grave, the soldiers, four of them, I think, possibly more, fired over his grave, an old military custom of which I knew nothing at the time, and there was something strangely impressive about it to my mind. There was a large gathering of the people at the funeral, and it is all clear in my memory.

“I remember another great military funeral similar to that of Jesse Ellis, but even more imposing. Colonel John W. Lowe, a former Batavia lawyer, an uncle by marriage of my wife, was Colonel of the Twelfth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His home during the war was at Xenia, Ohio. Colonel Lowe was shot in the forehead and killed at the Battle of Carnifax Ferry. He was brought to Batavia for the burial, and his funeral was most solemn. I have seen none since that so impressed me or that remains so distinctly in my memory.

“I remember the coming of the death of William Thompson of Olive Branch, who was killed in the charge of Missionary Ridge. He was color bearer of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment at the time, and I heard it said that when he fell, killed instantly, his grip on the flagstaff was so tight that they had difficulty in releasing it. That circumstance, while not particularly significant, so far as I can see now, made a strong impression on my mind at the time.”

James Swing’s memoir continues next week. Excerpted from History of Batavia, Ohio, 1814–1965, by Rosanna Hoberg.