War of the Rebellion: Serial 057 Page 0633 Chapter XLIV. RIOT AT CHARLESTON, COLES COUNTY, ILL.

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authorities. I fear it would be useless to turn them over for trial by the civil tribunals, whether State or Federal, to whose jurisdiction they would belong. Prompt and rigorous dealing by military law could not fail to be of salutary and lasting effect. It is scarcely necessary to observe that many of the insurgents were without doubt merely the dupes of others and were inveigled into the scheme without apprehending or approving the real purpose of the chief conspirators. It is proper to add that the opinion of the origin, character, and purpose of the insurrection, herein expressed, is concurred in by every loyal man of the counties concerned with whom I have conversed.

Herewith I have the honor to transmit the report of Colonel G. M. Mitchell, Fifty-fourth Illinois Infantry.

I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant-Colonel Fourth U. S. Cavalry,

Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General, Illinois.

Colonel JAMES B. FRY,

Provost-Marshal-General, Washington, D. C.



Mattoon, Ill., April 8, 1864.

COLONEL: In pursuance of instructions from you, I have the honor to report my proceedings during the recent disturbances in coles County, as follows:

The furloughs granted my men having expired they were ordered to rendezvous at Mattoon, Ill., March 28. As many of the men lived at, or would pass through, Charleston on their way to camp, I remained there Monday to see them all on the train and to prevent any disturbance.

Before the afternoon train left for Mattoon about 3 p. m., Nelson Wells, a so-called captain of a company organized some 7 miles north of Charleston, whose object in drilling was only known to themselves, commenced firing at Private Oliver Sallee, Company C, Fifty-fourth Illinois, so far as I can learn without the slightest provocation, lodging a balk in Sallee's breast, which has since caused his death. Sallee fell, but partially rising shot Wells dead. This was in the court-house yard, near the west door. Immediately firing became general, the sheriff of this county, John O'Hair, leaving his seat and taking the lead in the attack upon the soldiers. Some 16 of my men were present on the square, nearly all of whom were killed or wounded. Some 75 men, after firing wherever they could see a blue coat, collected at a grove about one-quarter of a mile from the square east of town, under the lead of the sheriff, held a consultation, and learning the Fifty-fourth Illinois were on their way from Mattoon, moved out in the country.,

Immediately on the report of Wells' pistol I stepped out of the west door of the court-room, when 3 men with revolvers drawn, apparently expecting me, commenced firing, 2 of them running by me into the room. I caught one named Robert Winkler by the wrist as he was attempting to shoot me, turning his revolver down until he discharged all his loads.

Major Shuball York surgeon of the Fifty-fourth Illinois, was shot from behind as he was leaving the court-room, expiring almost instantly.