1864: William R. Bennet to Joseph O. Jones

This letter was written by 43 year-old William R. Bennett (1821-1896) of Ascension (now Farmersburg), Curry township, Sullivan county, Indiana. William’s parents were Thomas Bennett (1797-1865) and Miranda Coffin (1803-1848). William was married in 1842 to Lucinda Terry (1824-1913) in Ripley County, Indiana.

I could find no image of William but here is a tintype from the period of a man that looks to be about his age. (Will Griffing Collection)

William wrote the letter in late September 1864 from his home in Sullivan county, Indiana, where he was most likely a member of the Home Guard. Some two weeks later he accepted a bounty to enter the service as a substitute in Co. E, 43rd Indiana Infantry. He was discharged at Terre Haute in mid-June 1865.

The letter was written to Joseph O. Jones who served as the post master at Terre Haute at the time. The content hints at the violence that prevailed in Sullivan and Clay counties during the Civil War caused by the strong presence of Southern sympathizers residing there—particularly in Eastern Clay county where the Knights of the Golden Circle factored prominently and who terrorized the loyalists.


Ascension, Sullivan county, Indiana
September 28th 1864

Mr. J. O. Jones
Dear Sir,

There is a good deal of uneasiness among the Union men here on account of the assemblage of the rebel sympathizers at Hooker’s Point in Clay County. 1 Reports are so conflicting that we can form no just conclusions. We are anxious to get information from Terre Haute daily until things are brought to a focus. Will you please get some reliable person to send a few lines to our post master (E. Hunter) every mail giving us any information that would be useful to us. If you should see Dr. Baldridge, he would write us about the news if requested. He will be likely to be about the Provost Marshal’s office.

Respectfully yours, — Wm. R. Bennett

1 Hooker’s Point was located on the Eel River in Clay county, Indiana. It was named for Lucius Hooker who built a watermill on the river about 1860. It was located about ten miles due east of Ascension (Farmersburg).

Tom Frew and Rose Gates reveal the remains of the flag that was given to Sullivan county’s Home Guard by Gov. Oliver P. Morton. “Sullivan County contained many Southern sympathizers and there was a strong presence of what was called the Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-Southern secret society that was the forerunner of the Ku Klux Klan,” said Frew, president of the Sullivan County Historical Society Inc.
“They shot down the flag and tore it to pieces. The main thing they sought to get rid of is the field of stars, which was the symbol of the union. They wanted a separate country of the confederate states,” Frew said. “To me, it is an example that you can’t destroy the United States. You can’t destroy the flag; it will hang on, just like this one,” Frew said. See Enduring Symbol: Torn, tattered Civil War-era flag.

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