Early history of First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry
from Col. H.C. McMaken’s GAR Scrapbook
NEBRASKA SOLDIERS GATHER AGAIN
The First Company of the First Regiment and Those in It.
When the news reached Plattsmouth in March 1861, of the firing on the U.S. supply steamer, Star of the West, in Charleston Harbor, the loyal hearts of the citizens of Nebraska were stirred with indignation. Dr. R. R. Livingston was one of the leaders in the then village of Plattsmouth. He issued a ‘call’ for a meeting of loyal citizens, the object of which was the organization of a military company. The meeting was an enthusiastic one, and many enrolled themselves on the list as willing to serve their country. A number, however, who were on the original roll, afterward re-considered there action and did not muster in. Others took their places and the drilling was begun.
On the 9th of June, 1861, the boys of Co. A, first Nebraska, assembled on the Wintersteen Hill, as did also about every other person, old and young living near here. It was a great day. The ladies had made a silk flag and on that day it was presented to the company. There were many impassioned speeches, made by both men and women. The members of the company, on their knees, took an oath never to surrender that flag. (Editor’s note: that flag had 26 stars since the states that had succeeded were removed.)
On the following morning the company crossed the river and marched to Omaha. There was a great rush to be mustered in. The first company was to be the ranking company and its commander the ranking captain, and of course, there was a struggle for the honor. When the boys enroute for Omaha reached St. Marys – since washed into the Missouri – they were met by the late Col. Peter A. Sarpy, who invited them to help themselves to egg-nog and other refreshments. The colonel made a speech which a number of the boys declare was the finest oratorical effort to which they ever listened. The company arrived at Omaha about dark and went into quarters at the Herndon hotel – now the Union Pacific headquarters. The next morning, on the green south of the hotel, the company was mustered in and became part of the first regiment.
In the July the company took a boat and went down the river to St. Joe. In a few days they were relieved by Iowa troops and the Nebraska troops were sent to Fort Leavenworth. While there loading the boats the scouts brought in word one day that on the next morning three Kansas soldiers, then prisoners, were to be hanged at Independence, Mo.
A company of regulars, a section of artillery and three companies of the 1st Nebraska, including Co. A, dropped down the river to near Independence that night. At daylight there marched through the woods and fell upon the town, taking it completely by surprise. The people evacuated in a hurry and the Kansas boys were released from the jail. The gallows had been erected and only the timely arrival of Union troop saved their necks.
The boys afterward saw a great deal of hard service in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. They were in the battles of Forts Henry, Donelson, Shiloh and other places. In the fall of ‘63 they were mounted and became cavalry, and were assigned to the Department of Northeastern Arkansas, with headquarters at Balesville, Col. Livingston in command.
The following is the list of the original eighty-four men who were mustered in as Co. A at Omaha, June 11, 1861.
R.R. Livingston, captain and afterwards major, lieutenant colonel and colonel;
A.F. McKinney, 1st lieutenant and afterwards captain;
M.J. Sharp, 2nd lieutenant;
J.G. Whitelock, 1st sergeant and afterwards 2nd lieutenant;
H.S. Herring, Geo. D. Webb, and Wm. W. Kennedy sergeants;
J.W. Carothers, John Hess, Benj. Hempel, Wm. Hart, W.G. Woodruff, W.L. Wells, Eugene L. Reed and Frank Kendall, corporals;
Robert A. Collins, fifer;
Orrin S. Thompson, drummer;
Geo. Hardrick, waggoner;
Richard Kinnamon and John Mc F. Hagood, ensigns.