Jackson County

Arrests of Israel Blanchard

ISRAEL BLANCHARD was born on the 4th day of June, 1825, near Mount Morris, Livingston County, New York. At the age of seventeen he commenced the study of medicine in his father's office, near Buffalo. He graduated and received the degree of M.D. from the Botanic Medical College of Cincinnati, Ohio, in February, 1847. On his return from college he commenced the practice of medicine in Erie County, New York, in which he continued until the spring of 1850, when, in company with many others, he left his home with the intention of going to California, by the Texas overland route. Soon after arriving in Texas, he was taken violently ill with inflammatory rheumatism, which prevented him from travelling for the ensuing few months. Upon his recovery, (his companions having all left him,) he remained in Texas until 1852, when he left that State, and settled in the town of Carbondale, Jackson County, Illinois.

Here he resumed the practice of his profession, which he continued until the fall of 1860. At that time, owing to general debility, induced by the arduous labors of his profession, he removed to Murphysboro', the county seat of Jackson County, Illinois, and commenced the study of the law.

The following spring he was admitted to the bar, and has since continued to practise in that profession with ability and success. During the summer of 1861 the clamor of war resounded through the land. The city of Cairo was filled with Federal troops; Big Muddy Bridge, on the Illinois Central Railroad, in Jackson County, was strongly guarded, and volunteers by the thousands were rushing forward to fill up the ranks of the Federal army. The 18th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, known as the "infamous 18th," was then stationed at the town of Anna, on the Illinois Central Railroad. This regiment afterward became notorious for its robberies and murders of women and children.

In August, 1862, while riding in his buggy, in the streets of Carbondale, Illinois, he was met by five men, who presented cocked revolvers at his head, and commanded him to surrender. Considering discretion the better part of valor, he did so, and was taken into custody.

When the Captain of the squad who had thus unceremoniously arrested him, was asked by Blanchard to show his authority for the arrest, he pulled out his revolver, presented it at his head, and replied: "There is my authority." He was then taken to Big Muddy Bridge and placed in the guardhouse, to await the Cairo train, which passed down at dark.

Immediately a despatch was sent to the Colonel of the 18th Regiment, stationed at Anna, twenty-five miles distant, stating that Blanchard was in custody, and would pass on the ten-o'clock down train.

When the train arrived at Big Muddy Bridge, Blanchard, with a guard of five men, was placed on it for Cairo. At ten o'clock the train arrived, and stopped at Anna. The 18th Regiment was drawn up in line on the platform of the depot. When the train stopped they gave three cheers for General Prentiss, and immediately afterward three groans for Dr. Blanchard.

The cry was then raised, "Take Blanchard out and hang him." Some of the soldiers attempted to enter the car, but were prevented by the conductor telling them that Blanchard was in the forward car. A rush was then made for the forward car, but not finding him there, they were returning to the rear car, when the train started. As the train moved off, the windows of the rear car were smashed in, but the guard presented bayonets, and thus prevented the soldiers from clambering in the windows until the cars were beyond their reach. The prisoner was then taken to Cairo and handed over to General Prentiss, who, after exacting and receiving his parole of honor that he would not escape, allowed him the privilege of the city, and required him to report at his office every day, until witnesses could he summoned against him.

Blanchard was kept at Cairo four days, when all the witnesses which had been summoned against him having appeared, an examination was had before General Prentiss.

The charges preferred were, that he had spoken disrespectfully of President Lincoln, discouraged enlistment, and attempted to raise a company to burn Big Muddy Bridge.

To the first charge he pleaded "guilty," but denied the others. Witnesses were examined who swore that his conversation had a tendency to discourage enlistments.

Whereupon General Prentiss sent him in charge of a lieutenant to the United States Marshal at Springfield, Illinois.

The Marshal refused to receive him, and returned him under guard to General Prentiss at Cairo. He was then immediately liberated by the General and sent home, where he remained, continuing the practice of the law until his second arrest.

In the latter part of July, 1863, while walking the streets of Murphysboro', he was accosted by a man in the uniform of a captain of volunteers, who inquired if his name was Blanchard. Being answered in the affirmative, the captain requested him to accompany him to the hotel, which he did. Upon entering the bar-room of the hotel he was surrounded by five men, having muskets with fixed bayonets.

The captain then informed him that he had been ordered by the United States Marshal to arrest and convey him to Centralia on the next day; that it was a very unpleasant duty to perform, but he was bound to obey "orders."

Upon signifying his readiness to accompany the officer he was allowed an hour in which to prepare for his departure.

At the expiration of that time, all being in readiness, he was taken in a carriage to Carbondale, and thence to De Soto, on a hand-car. Here the captain allowed him to remain on parole over night, to meet him at the train at six o'clock in the morning. He met the officer punctually and went with him to Centralia. While in the custody of this officer, Captain Howard, he was treated in the most gentlemanly manner. At Centralia he was delivered over to one Major Board, Deputy United States Marshal, who immediately confined him in a room with some ten or twelve other prisoners, to await the arrival of the Springfield train.

When the train was heard approaching, handcuffs were produced, the prisoners driven into one corner of the room, surrounded by a squad of soldiers with fixed bayonets, and handcuffed like convicted felons. They were then placed in a private car and taken to the camp at Springfield, where they were detained for two days.

After the expiration of two days, United States Marshal D. S. Phillips appeared, took Dr. Blanchard, and several others, and put them on a train and started for Washington; where, on their arrival, they were immediately consigned to the Old Capitol prison.

Here he remained for six weeks. Mr. Wood, the superintendent of the prison, generally treated his prisoners well, with the exception of fare. After he had been incarcerated about three weeks, the Illinois prisoners (about twenty in number) were placed in a room to themselves, and allowed to buy their own provisions.

From that period until the Illinois prisoners were discharged, they passed their time as well as men could who were kept in close confinement.

After having been imprisoned for six weeks, Blanchard, in company with five others, was taken before the Judge Advocate, when the following conversation ensued:

Judge Advocate. What is your name?
Answer. Israel Blanchard.

Judge Advocate. Where are you from?
Answer. From Illinois.

Judge Advocate. What are you in prison for?
Answer. I do not know.

The Judge then arose, went to a desk, and took out a bundle of papers, and after looking over them, again turned to the prisoners:

Judge Advocate. Do you belong to the Knights of the Golden Circle?
Answer. I am not acquainted with any such organization.

Judge Advocate. Have you ever belonged to any secret organization?
Answer. I have belonged to the Odd Fellows, and the Sons of Temperance, and I once joined something that was called the Know-Nothings.

Judge Advocate. I do not mean that: do you belong to any political organization.
Answer. I do: I belong to the Democratic organization.

Judge Advocate. Where do you meet?
Answer. We usually meet at the Court House, in Murphysboro', Illinois.

Judge Advocate. Do you meet at night, or in the daytime?
Answer. Sometimes we meet at night, and sometimes in daytime.

Judge Advocate. Do you have any secret signs or passwords by which you are admitted?
Answer. We have none.

Judge Advocate. What do you do there when you meet?
Answer. We appoint committees for different purposes, attend to our own political business, and concoct measures to beat the Republicans at the election.

Judge Advocate. Were you, in June last, at a meeting of the Golden Circle, near Pinckneyville, Perry County, Illinois?
Answer. I was not; I have not been in Perry County in two years, except to pass through it on the cars.

Question by Blanchard. Judge, I would like to see those papers, or would like to have you tell me who has made complaint against me, and what the charges are?
Answer by Judge Advocate. We have made it a rule not to let prisoners see the papers filed against them, nor to tell them who made complaint against them, or what the charges are, as it might lead to unpleasant consequences hereafter.

This ended the examination, and he was immediately discharged, without knowing why he was arrested and imprisoned, what the charges were against him, or who made them, if any were ever made. He was furnished with transportation, and permitted to return home.

Arriving at home, he was immediately nominated by the Democratic party for State Senator, for the Third Senatorial District of the State of Illinois, and was in the following November elected by 3,000 majority.

On the first Monday of January, 1864, he took his seat in the State Senate, and served the people well and faithfully during that stormy session of the Illinois Legislature. After the close of the session, in March, 1864, he returned to his home at Murphysboro', Illinois, where he is busily engaged in the practice of his profession, and still continues to be a sterling advocate of the principles of Liberty and Free Government.

Extracted 26 Nov 2016 by Norma Hass from American Bastile, pages 174-179

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