HOW MONTANA SOLDIER TOOK
CHARGE OF MANY MILLS;
SAVED AN ARMY
One of the most distinguished soldiers of all the veterans of the blue and gray who came to Montana in the years following the close of the Civil War was Col. James E. Callaway. He was Secretary of Montana when a territory, helped to write the constitution of the state upon two occasions, was the first Republican to sit as Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives, and served the state in many other capacities. But notwithstanding his civic activities, and his achievements as a member of the bar, he was at heart a warrior, and to the day of his death, which occurred in Virginia City a few years ago, the glamour of the soldier hung about him.
Above all, he was a man of action, and it is interesting to recall an exploit of this old soldier, by which a large Union army was saved from famine--an exploit that attracted more attention to Colonel Callaway than his splendid ability as a first class fighting man.
It was at the Siege of Chattanooga in 1863. The coil of a great Confederate army was tightening about the place. The Unionists were abundantly supplied in munitions, but were very short of food. An army cannot fight without food, and something had to be done.
An Army of Foragers
Callaway, who had just been made a major, in command of two regiments of infantry, and details of artillery and cavalry, was sent up the nearby valley of the Sequatchie on a pretentious foraging expedition. It was a broad, fertile valley, the bread basket of Tennessee, where grain grew in abundance, and was dotted with well filled granaries.
The Sequatchie River furnished an abundance of water power, and every few miles marked the site of a grist mill. The numerous millstones of the valley furnished food stuff for half a state.
Callaway knew that this was his opportunity. He asked his commanding officers to supply him with all the millwrights in the Union army. Volunteer millwrights were called for and more than 100 men who had had experience in grinding wheat and corn responded. They went along with Major Callaway and his army of foragers.
Callaway marched his men 40 miles up the valley. Every mill that he saw he took possession of in the name of the United States. He put a guard of soldiers about the mills to enforce labor, commandeered any local Confederate millers that might be connected with any particular mill, reinforced Confederates with his soldier millers, sent other details out to commandeer grain, and started to grind flour night and day.
Had All Mills Working
Within 48 hours he was the dictator of every mill in this prosperous valley, and had them grinding. He impressed into the federal service hundreds of Confederate teamsters, with their wagons and teams, and with the aid of his bayonets, and the men that he found ready to do his bidding, if properly persuaded, made the quiet valley a bee hive of industry. Within 10 days he had ground enough flour to last the army three months. He issued army script for everything he took, at fair prices, and made such a record in the achievement that General Grant commended him for his work.
He did all this practically under fire. The Confederate forces soon realized his purpose and sent General Wheeler, with a detachment of cavalry to harass him and handicap his flour milling industry. Finally, when he had turned all the wheat and corn in the valley into flour he loaded his precious foodstuff on hundreds of wagons, and with his little army guarding this sustenance, trekked back to the camp of the besieged. Always on his flank hung this cloud of Confederate horsemen, but his force was so strong and so well organized, and so vigilantly commanded that they did not dare to come within striking distance. He brought back something like 500 tons of flour without the loss of a single man, and fed the hungry fighters.
Came to Montana
When the Civil War broke out, Colonel Callaway, then a fledgling lawyer, was a resident of Tuscola, Illinois. One hour after the news of the attack on Fort Sumter had flashed over the wires to his little town he had organized a company of volunteers. An hour later he and his company marched away from Tuscola to Springfield, to make the tender of its services to the federal government. The company was mustered into the service as part of the Twenty-first Illinois Infantry, of which U. S. Grant was soon after commissioned as Colonel. Three months later the young captain, fighting under the man who won the war, was made a major. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Chickamauga, in which he commanded two regiments, and was the last man to cross the Chickamauga Bridge, when his regiment was ordered to cover the retreat of the Union Army, barely averting disaster. After this battle, the non-commissioned officers and men of [the 81st Indiana] presented him with a sword. He rendered most distinguished service all during the war, and at its close resigned to once more engage in the pursuits of peace. He retired with the rank of colonel.
He returned to Tuscola and resumed the practice of law, in which he was very successful. He was elected a member of the Illinois legislature, and in 1871, President Grant, who was his personal friend, asked him to come to Montana as secretary of the territory. While serving in this capacity he was several times acting governor. He continued in this office two terms, resigned when Hays became president, and began to practice law in Virginia City.
He was elected to the Montana legislature in 1885 and became Speaker of the House of Representatives. He served in both constitutional conventions, and was a prominent factor in formulating the constitution. He prepared the address to the people of Montana when the constitution was submitted for their approval.
Chief Justice Lew L. Callaway of the supreme court, Edmund J. Callaway, an attorney, of Dillon, and George R. Callaway, Secretary of the Montana State College at Bozeman, are sons of Colonel Callaway.
[This newspaper article with accompanying photograph, on a previous page, from the Glasgow Courier is provided courtesy of the Montana State Historical Society Library.]
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