Federal troops arrive in town

By Rosanna Hoberg

An account by James B. Swing of Batavia of his experiences in the American Civil War, related in 1916, began May 1 and continues here:

‘‘When the Confederates were in the village, they saw a man on the street wearing the blue uniform of a Union soldier. He had been in the war only a short time, in the Fifty-Ninth Regiment, from which somehow he had been discharged. He had been in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, and was discharged soon after that battle.

“From what I often heard old soldiers of the regiment say, he never did the Confederates any harm. But Morgan’s men, seeing him in a Union uniform, and thinking him to be a soldier, ‘took him prisoner.’ They made him get up on a horse behind one of them, and I saw him riding out of the village with them, apparently a good deal alarmed. They took him with them a few miles — I think as far as Williamsburg — and then let him go.

“Several men of the village, three or four or more, full of fighting spirit, went out along the Williamsburg Pike with shotguns, ahead of Morgan’s men, having some idea of interfering with them in some way. They were all captured and their guns destroyed, but they were soon allowed to return home.

“Honorable Horace H. Lurton, afterward a distinguished judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, and later a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was with the company of Morgan’s men who came to Batavia. I heard him say, while he was a judge here, that he remembered going through Batavia. It was said at that time that General Basil Duke, Morgan’s brother-in-law, and afterwards a distinguished lawyer at Louisville, was with the company at Batavia. He wrote two very interesting books — one, Morgan’s Cavalry, and the other, Reminiscences of the War, or some such title. He died within the last year. Morgan’s men, as they went through Southern Ohio, did little or no damage, beyond taking horses for their use and burning some bridges. They burned the bridge over the East Fork at Williamsburg. The company of them that came to Batavia rode out of the village in the dusk of the evening, having treated the people well, none of the awful things that had been imagined and feared having been done by them. They seemed to be a fine lot of young men.

“The next morning, Union troops in pursuit of Morgan reached Batavia, several thousand cavalrymen under the command of General Hobson. They were spoken of as ‘Hobson’s Men.’ The whole pursuing force went through Batavia. They were real veteran soldiers of the column. They began to come into the village early in the morning, two or three at a time, riding on ahead of the column.

“They came into Batavia about the time that Morgan’s men were leaving Williamsburg. This was only seven miles ahead of them. Morgan probably left Williamsburg earlier in the morning, as the advance Union soldiers got into Batavia about 8 o’clock, I think, or a little later.

“I was standing on a street corner, ‘Kline’s corner,’ when two of the first soldiers to arrive rode up the street and stopped in front of a grocery at the corner, kept by an old German, Adam Kline. He was standing on the sidewalk. They asked him for two plugs of chewing tobacco. He brought them out and handed them to the soldiers. They thanked him in a pleasant way and rode on up the street.

“He called to them repeatedly and angrily for the money for the tobacco, shaking his fist at them, but they would just look back and smile. He was furious about it and immediately closed his store. It greatly amused me.”

James Swing’s memoir continues next week. Batavia is celebrating its bicentennial this year, and The Clermont Sun is publishing a series of historic vignettes. The late Rosanna Hoberg, author, was a columnist and reporter for The Clermont Sun. This column, excerpted from History of Batavia, Ohio, 1814–1965, was written in 1964.