Civil War Blog

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Crimes Committed on and by Returning Soldiers (Part 1 of 3)

Posted By on February 13, 2014

As soldiers were released from military service in 1865, they flooded into the three major discharge points in Pennsylvania:  Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.  Frequently, these soldiers were the victims of local residents who sought to “relieve” them of their discharge money; sometimes the soldiers were themselves the perpetrators of crimes against the residents of these cities.  A three-part series begins today.  Selections from the Philadelphia Inquirer are given from May through August of 1865, describing some of the incidents.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 May 1865:


A SOLDIER FLEECED — A soldier, an inmate of Summit House Hospital, named Joseph Connelly, of Mauch Chunk, was robbed by a couple of hundred dollars a day or two since.  It seems that he fell in with two persons in the neighborhood of Second and Green Streets.  A carriage was —eared and the party started out for a ride.  During the trip the soldier was drugged and on Washington Lane, near the Ridge Avenue — he was thrown out of the carriage, after having had his pockets rifled.  A police officer found Connelly lying on the road, and taking him with him, procured medical aid.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 9 June 1865


ASSAULTING A SOLDIER — A man, named Charles Myers, the keeper of a clothing store in Market Street, had a hearing yesterday morning before Alderman Jones, on the charge of committing an assault and battery upon a soldier.  From the evidence it appeared that the soldier went into Myers’ place of business, and after looking at some clothing refused to buy any, at the same time making a remark which did not please the proprietor.  Myers picked up a club and struck the soldier on the head.  He was bound over in $600 bail to answer.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 June 1865:


RIOT IN WASHINGTON  — Today a party comprising between a hundred and fifty and two hundred soldiers made a series of assaults on many unoffending persons of the Seventh Ward.  They visited disreputable houses and tipping houses occupied by both white and colored, indiscriminately attacking the inmates, driving them away, breaking up their furniture, helping themselves to liquor and eatables, and committing other outrages.

The rioters showed particular animosity against colored persons, who were severely beaten and robbed.  The Negroes rallied for resistance, when a fight occurred, the soldiers using their revolvers as did also their antagonists.  Finally a military guard arrived on the field and restored peace.

Among the casualties, D. W. Boyd, who went out with a revolver in his hand to restore quiet, was struck in the face by a brick, which was thrown by a soldier.  The cheek jaw bones were horribly fractured, and the sight of one eye destroyed.

Others of the soldiers, made a rush for him, and one was in the act of cleaving his head with an axe when a number of women succeeded in persuading them to spare his life.  To-night a strong military force has been sent to the locality, and the police are also out in full number to quell another apprehended outbreak and threatened act of incendiarism.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 June 1865:


ROBBING SOLDIERS — A soldier was robbed on Wednesday afternoon, at a public house in Front Street, near Richmond, of $207.50.

On Wednesday evening another soldier had his pocket picked of $100 at a restaurant in the neighborhood of Ninth and Market Streets.  A man who was in the place at the time was arrested on suspicion of having committed the robbery, and was held for a further hearing by Alderman Jones.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 June 1865:


ASSAULTING COLORED PERSONSCharles Stevens, a soldier, was taken into custody yesterday morning at Ninth and Market Streets, for assaulting colored persons as they passed by him.  The accused had a hearing before Alderman Beitler, and was committed.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 June 1865:


SOLDIER ROBBED — On Thursday evening a soldier had his pocket picked of sixty dollars at a restaurant on Callowhill Street, near Sixth.  A young man, who gave the name of Clark, was soon after arrested on the charge of having committed the offense.  He was held to answer by Alderman Toland.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 June 1865:


ROBBING A SOLDIERWilliam Kelly was arraigned before Recorder Enue on Saturday, charged with robbing Hugh McCullough, a member of the Third New Jersey Regiment, lately discharged, of $63.  It is alleged that the soldier got into a house on Front Street.  Kelly was there.  The latter was intrusted with the money for safe keeping.  The accused was not discovered until Saturday morning, when he was arrested and taken into custody and bound over to answer.


News clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


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