Monday, January 5, 2015

John Maxwell and the Copperheads

Rick Kelsheimer of Robinson recently spoke to the Society regarding his book "South Union", a fictional "historical" novel, somewhat based on Copperhead activities near the Crawford/Lawrence County line, between Lawrenceville and  Flat Rock.  He mentioned the following story, which involved unidentified Lawrence County Copperheads and  incidents involving Copperhead in Lawrence Co. 

(Copperheads were a vocal faction of Democrats who lived  in the Northern States of the Union and were opposed the American Civil War.)

On the site- Crawford County Illinois Gen Web under the heading of the History of Flat Rock – is the story of Marshall Maxwell who was taunted by Rebel Sympathizers (Copperheads) on his way home on furlough near the Blackburn School house. 

Note: According to our Civil War researchers, Marshall Maxwell is the same as Pvt William M. Maxwell, Co D, 62nd Ill. Inf., who served in the same company of Capt Robert Ford of Bond Twp.  Marshall Maxwell had three brothers in the Civil War.  - Pvt John C. Maxwell, Co E, 98th Ill. Inf.; Corp Archibald S. Maxwell, Co I, 21st Ill. Inf.; and Pvt Joseph W. Maxwell, Co I, 21st Ill. Inf., who was killed at the Battle of Stone River, Tenn on Dec 30, 1862.  The three brothers had originally served together in Co I, 21st Ill. Inf.

In the 1883 History of Crawford & Clark Counties, Il, a book that can be found on Google Books, is a biography of John Maxwell Sr (pages 245-246).


“John Maxwell Sr . . . when the Civil War broke out, three of his sons, Archibald S., Joseph, and William M., entered the Union army.  The two former were in the battle of Stone River, and there Joseph was killed and Archibald was wounded and taken prisoner, but soon recaptured. On the morning of the 2d of November, 1864, his house was the scene of the most unwarranted outrage ever perpetrated in the county.  Just at the break of day, the house was surrounded by a mob of armed men of Crawford and Lawrence Counties. His sons Archibald and William M. were home on furlough until after the election. They and a soldier by the name of Henry Beaman staid (stayed) there overnight. All in the house were aroused just before daybreak by the violent barking of the dogs, and the old gentleman went out to ascertain what was the cause.  He was fired upon by some of the mob, when he hastened into the house and fastened the door. The mob followed him up on an open porch, when they were halted by William M. from a window upstairs. They paid no attention to his command to stop, when he fired at them, but missed his aim. The mob immediately opened fire all around the house, firing in at the windows. One of his daughters, Elizabeth, who had just arose from bed, was mortally wounded, being hit by two rifle balls in the groin, while standing by the bed. William M., hearing her cry out that she was shot, ran down stairs and opened one of the doors and emptied his revolver at the crowd, wounding one of them in the thigh and receiving a wound in the leg. The mob then retreated and stationed themselves behind the outbuildings, and remained there until after daylight. When it was found that they were still around the house, Mrs. Eliza Maxwell determined to venture out and see what was wanted. They told her that they had come to arrest William M. Maxwell, and had the Sheriff of Lawrence County with a writ. She told them if they had the Sheriff, he would not resist them. They then came in and took William M., Archibald and John C. Maxwell to Lawrenceville. But it was ascertained that they had no officer nor no writ, or any authority whatever for their action. They, however, swore a warrant for him after getting to Lawrenceville, on a charge of assault with intent to kill. He was tried on this charge and acquitted. The daughter suffered untold agony for about seven weeks, when she died from the effect of her wound. William M. never recovered from his wound.  It continued to ulcerate, and could not be healed. The ulceration run up to the body, and he died from it after long suffering, on the 12th day of February, 1867. Some of the mob afterwards boasted that they had used poisoned bullets, and the doctors were of the same opinion. To the disgrace of Crawford County, it must be said, that no indictments were ever found against the murderers. Many of them, however, have gone forth with the mark of Cain upon them, and have been a curse to themselves. The mob was composed of rebel sympathizers and members of the order of the Knights of the Golden Circle, and was caused by the wild excitement that was rife in that section of the country. After the close of the war but little worthy of note occurred in his life.”