Journal-News Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Millville doctor chose to become Confederate prisoner
By Jim Blount
Dr. Abraham H. Landis became a prisoner of war by choice. As the Union army fell back to Chattanooga Sept. 20, 1863, he stayed on the Chickamauga battlefield doing his duty -- helping wounded soldiers. Eventually, he was transported from Georgia to Virginia and confined in a Confederate prison.
The Millville doctor had entered the Civil War in September 1861 as a surgeon in the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as "the Butler Boys" because the majority of its more than 900 members were residents of Butler County or had been born or raised in the county.
More than 58,000 Union soldiers confronted about 66,000 Confederates on the Georgia battlefield, southeast of Chattanooga. Casualties among the opposing forces surpassed 34,600, including more than 9,750 wounded Union soldiers and almost 15,000 wounded Confederates, a monumental task for physicians in both armies.
Saturday, Sept. 19, as the Battle of Chickamauga started, Dr. Landis said was ordered to the division hospital. "It was on Cloud's farm, and at that time nearly two miles north of the left wing of our army." Sunday, after "repeated flank movements on our left by the rebels, our hospital became exposed to a fire of shell and solid shot. The most of these deadly missiles passed over us, but some fell in our midst."
"About 11 o'clock," he recalled, "a line of rebel skirmishers were seen to emerge from a wood about 400 yards distant, followed by a large force of [Nathan Bedford] Forrest's cavalry.
"All the ambulances we had were loaded with wounded and sent to Chattanooga, and many of the slightly wounded were sent on foot. The enemy continued to advance until they ascertained it was a hospital, when a squad of them rode up, and for the first time we were in the hands of the rebels.
"Soon afterward," he said, Gen. Gordon Granger's Union forces approached, and "the rebels fell back, and we saw no more of them until the following morning, when they took us into custody, and from that time on we were prisoners.
"Generals Forrest, Cheatham and Armstrong honored us with their presence. Gen. Forrest told us to go ahead and attend to our wounded, and we should not be molested. He also told us that our wounded yet on the field should be removed to the hospitals and receive precisely the same treatment that their wounded received; also that parties had been detailed to bury the dead on both sides.
"In a conversation I had with Dr. Fluellan, medical director of [Gen.] Bragg's army, the following day at Chatham's division hospital, he made the same promises. These promises may have been in good faith," Dr. Landis wrote, "but from observation, I know -- and every other medical officer who fell into their hands knows -- they were not realized.
"I was over a portion of the battlefield three days after the battle," said the Millville doctor, "and the rebel dead were buried and ours unburied, and nearly all of them were stripped of their pants and shoes. Their appearance was most revolting, having been exposed three days to a September sun; they were so swollen and changed in appearance that recognition was impossible. I found also at least 300 of our wounded, all suffering from the gnawings of hunger.
"Every last wounded rebel had been removed," Dr. Landis said. "Some or our men were in cabins, some had been gathered in groups and laid on the ground, and some were still in the fields and woods, where they were wounded, in the immediate vicinity of the dead bodies of their comrades. To the credit of the rebels, they did furnish them some rations the following day. Some of these poor fellows remained in this condition for eight days.
"The question might be asked, why did we not have them removed to our hospital? We had no ambulance, no wagon, no vehicle of any kind, and the rebels refused to furnish us any; in addition, we had a contract already at one hospital of such magnitude that our energies were taxed to their utmost," the Millville doctor explained.
Future columns will relate more of Dr. Landis' experiences as a Civil War POW.
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Journal-News Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Civil War POWs lacked food, protection from cold
By Jim Blount
"Our provisions ran out at our hospital two days after our capture, and then starvation stared us in the face," said Dr. Abraham Landis, who had remained on the Chickamauga battlefield Sept. 20, 1863. While the Union army fell back to Chattanooga, Dr. Landis stayed with wounded northern soldiers who couldn't join the retreat.
Although technically a prisoner of war, the Millville doctor continued his medical duties beside Confederate physicians. The rival Civil War armies totaled 124,000 soldiers during the two-day battle a few miles southeast of Chattanooga. Among the 34,600 combined casualties were more than 24,750 wounded men.
After two days without food, the Union survivors received fresh beef, hard bread, bacon and corn meal from their captors. "The bacon and hard bread were good in quality, but very deficient in quantity," Dr. Landis said. The beef was of poor quality, he said, and "some of the corn meal was musty and scarcely fit for the swill barrel."
Monday, Sept. 28 -- eight days after his capture -- Dr. Landis said Union authorities "sent us rations, and from that time, as long as we remained at Chickamauga, Uncle Sam was our commissary, and we fared sumptuously."
The situation changed Friday, Oct. 2. That day, "our wounded having been paroled and sent through the lines, we were taken, 80 in number, seven of whom were surgeons and the remainder enlisted men, to Chickamauga Station, seven miles distant, where we took the [railroad] cars for Atlanta," explained Dr. Landis, who had entered the Civil War as one of two surgeons with the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
The 35th left Hamilton Sept. 26, 1861, with more than 900 men. At Chickamauga, only 391 men remained in the regiment. Most of its two-year loss was attributed to illness and injury, the remainder to transfers and promotions.
Sept. 19-20, 1863, at Chickamauga, the 35th lost 43 killed, 124 wounded and 28 captured or missing.
"We reached Atlanta the following evening,," Dr. Landis wrote, "and were lodged in the prisoners' barracks. These barracks consist of about two acres of ground, inclosed by a board fence 12 feet high. The few blankets the privates and non-commissioned officers had were taken from them on entering that filthy hole, and those poor fellows, while they remained there, were without blankets or overcoats, and spent the cold frosty nights with the earth for a bed and the sky for a blanket.
"There were two board shanties in these barracks, in which were about 40 of our wounded, all of whom were lying on the floor with but a single blanket, and all of them suffered terribly from cold during the night," Dr. Landis continued.
"Dr. Ashman, one of our surgeons, repeatedly asked the surgeon in charge for straw, and in response received some glorious promises, but the straw never came. Major Morely, of Tennessee, was in those barracks, and had a 50 pound ball and chain for his bedfellow. He was at the time, dangerously ill with typhoid fever, and finally died. Surgeon Young, of the 79th Illinois, who remained several weeks at Atlanta with our wounded, told me that the major had to wear the ball and chain until within 24 hours of his death.
"Two days after our arrival at Atlanta, 40 surgeons, captured at Chickamauga, and several hundred other prisoners arrived."
Dr. Landis said "Oct. 6, all the surgeons but those who remained with our wounded and enlisted men, numbering in all 300, were put aboard the cars for Richmond. We passed through Augusta, Ga.; Hamburg, Branchville and Columbia, S. C.; and reached Richmond, Sabbath, Oct. 11, and all the surgeons were lodged in Libby Prison."
A future column will recount the prison observations of the Millville doctor, who was among more than 50,000 northern captives confined in Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy.
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Journal-News Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Millville doctor described Civil War prison conditions
By Jim Blount
Dr. Abraham Landis was a prisoner of war for only three months during the Civil War, long enough to experience and witness the brutalities of captivity. He was captured Sept. 20, 1863, on the Chickamauga battlefield in Georgia. He was released in a prisoner exchange Nov. 24, 1863, and returned to his family in Millville before rejoining the Union army. While home, he wrote about his confinement, including 44 days in Libby Prison in Richmond, Va.
The complex was built between 1845 and 1852 for John Enders, a founder of the Richmond's tobacco industry. Captain Luther Libby, a ship chandler, had leased one of the buildings in 1854. Libby was ordered to vacate the structure in 1862, but his name remained on the prison that housed Union prisoners for about two years.
"Libby is a substantial brick building, 150 feet long, and 110 feet wide, and three stories high besides the basement," Dr. Landis recalled in a report in the Hamilton Telegraph. "The upper two stories are each divided into three rooms, and in these six rooms, before our release, were over 1,000 prisoners, all commissioned officers."
The Encyclopedia of the Confederacy says about "125,000 prisoners actually stayed in Libby, of whom about 40,000 to 50,000 were held for a prolonged time."
The Millville doctor said "each room had a sink, immediately contiguous to it, and the stench coming therefrom is almost unendurable. The windows were all unglazed when we arrived, and at times we suffered terribly from cold. The most of them were still open when we left, and as the mercury may fall to zero any day in Richmond during the winter, no one knows what tortures the inmates of Libby may have to endure the coming winter."
He said three days before his release, Confederate officers "were so obliging as to furnish two stoves for each room, but strange to say, we suffered with cold just as we did without them, for the simple reason that we were not furnished with a single stick of wood, and such will probably be the case through the winter, as they sometimes refused to furnish us a single stick of wood to cook with for nearly a whole day at a time."
Dr. Landis said "at one time some of our soldiers, who had been wounded at Chickamauga, were quartered in one of the lower rooms of Libby, immediately under one of the rooms occupied by us. Through a small opening in the floor they told us they had been without food for 24 hours, and implored us for something to eat. We had little to spare, but what we had we divided with them.
"Captain [Thomas P.] Turner, officer in charge of the prison, heard of it, and arrested three officers and reprimanded them severely, and ordered that the men should go 48 hours longer without food for the crime of talking to the officers. Whether this order was enforced or not we never could learn, as the boys were removed to other quarters.
"Some of our soldiers came to one of the lower rooms of Libby daily after rations. Some men were barefooted, some bareheaded, and I once noticed one poor fellow barefooted, bareheaded, and without a shirt."
Dr. Landis said "we never were allowed to ask them any questions in reference to their treatment, but the mere appearance of their faces told us starvation and exposure were closing the work of death."
The doctor -- who was captured while serving with the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment -- also described a swindle perpetrated by prison officers. When entering prison they were told they "must hand over our greenbacks and gold and silver," and "when released or exchanged our money should be refunded in kind." Instead, when Landis and others were exchanged Nov. 24, 1863, they were repaid with Confederate money.
After the war, Dr. Landis resumed his practice in Millville. Nov. 20, 1866, he became a father again. The son was named Kenesaw Mountain Landis for the 1864 Georgia battle in which his father had been wounded.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis -- because of his reputation as a tough federal judge -- was chosen by major league baseball owners in 1920 to save their troubled sport. As professional baseball's first commissioner, Landis is regarded as the person most responsible for reviving public confidence and interest, and placing baseball on a sound basis. He directed the game with a strong hand until his death in 1944.
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Journal-News Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Landis brothers served simultaneous congressional terms
By Jim Blount
One of Butler County's famous sons is Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a tough federal judge who was the first commissioner of professional baseball (1920-44). Landis, born Nov. 20, 1866, in Millville, is credited with providing the no-nonsense leadership that restored the game's reputation after the scandals of the 1919 "Black Sox" World Series. The commissioner -- named after the 1864 Civil War battle in which his father was wounded -- wasn't the only Landis son to perform on the national stage. Two brothers represented Indiana districts in Congress, including four years of simultaneous service.
Charles Landis, a Republican, was elected to six terms in the U. S. House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1897, until March 3, 1909. Frederick Landis, also a Republican, joined his older brother in the House for two terms from March 4, 1903, until March 3, 1907.
They were among six children of Dr. Abraham H. and Mary Kumler Landis, who resided in Millville and Seven Mile in Butler County before moving to Indiana.
Charles Beary Landis -- born July 9, 1858, in Millville -- was educated in Logansport, Ind., before graduation from Wabash College in Crawsfordville in 1883. He was the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Logansport Journal, 1883-87, and the Delphi Journal, 1887-1897, before entering Congress in 1897.
He returned to the Delphi newspaper after losing the 1908 election. Later, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to join the DuPont Powder Co., eventually becoming vice president of the DuPont Engine Co. and manager of the Washington office of the E. I. DuPont de Nemours Co. "It is said the former congressman invested heavily in the DuPont company and became wealthy," a Hamilton newspaper reported. He died April 24, 1922.
Frederick Daniel Landis -- born Aug. 18, 1872, in Seven Mile -- moved to Logansport with his family in 1875. After earning a law degree at the University of Michigan in 1895, he returned to Logansport to practice law. After losing his House seat in the 1906 election, he turned to writing and lecturing. "Although a lawyer, he practiced little," an obituary noted.
Instead, he became editor of the Logansport newspaper. His columns on politics and current affairs were syndicated to other newspapers. In the 1920s, when radio became popular, the columnist became a radio commentator. He was known as "The Hoosier Editor" on his national radio show.
"From the speaking platform, through his newspaper column and over the radio," a newspaper said, "Frederick Landis was widely known for his comment on current topics. In the political arena, he was a terror to his opponents, keen at repartee and biting in criticism of those who opposed his principles. He was known as a vote-getter -- he could sway his hearers by brilliant oratory."
Journalism wasn't his only writing venture. Landis wrote at least three novels -- The Glory of His Country, Days Gone Dry and The Angel of Lonesome Hill -- and two plays -- The Water Wagon and The Copperhead.
His two terms in Congress didn't end his political career. He was active in the Republican Party until 1912, when the incumbent president, William Howard Taft, was challenged for the party nomination by a former president, Theodore Roosevelt. Despite Roosevelt's success in state primaries, Taft won the GOP nomination in a controversial convention.
When Roosevelt left the party and formed the Progressive Party -- commonly known as the Bull Moose Party -- Landis not only supported the former president, but was the new party's unsuccessful candidate for governor in Indiana that year. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the presidency with Roosevelt second and Taft third in national voting in 1912.
By bolting the party, Landis lost favor among Indiana Republicans for several years. He sought the party's nomination for governor in 1928, but lost.
In 1934 -- during the Great Depression and a year after Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House -- the Logansport Republican ran for Congress again. He became ill, was unable to campaign in the final weeks and was too weak to vote on election day, but won by a wide margin.
Frederick Landis died of pneumonia Nov. 14, 1934, requiring a special election to fill the vacancy. Charles A. Halleck, a county prosecutor, won the contest and started the first of 17 consecutive terms in the U. S. House. During his 34-year tenure, Jan. 29, 1935, until Jan. 3, 1969, the Rensselaer Republican was minority leader for three terms and majority leader twice.