Archiver > ILFAYETT > 2002-01 > 1012205064

Subject: Re: [ILFAYETT-L] John and Hannah SEARS, civilian Civil War casualties killed ...
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 03:04:24 EST

In a message dated 1/27/02 9:06:04 AM Central Standard Time,

> My direct ancestors, John Levi SEARS and Hannah Ione JOHNSON, were
> reportedly civilian casualties of the Civil War, shot by the same bullet
> while standing in the doorway to their home near Bingham during the Civil
> War years. I have misplaced a copy of a newspaper article I had which
> talked about this event and said that a historical marker had been erected
> in memory of the event. Does anyone have a copy of this article that they
> could send to me? I'm trying to help an 11-year-old cousin with a school
> project.

I hope the following will help:

John and Hannah (Johnson) Sears were shot down in their home and killed by
the same bullet. The tombstone says that they were killed by soldiers of the
111th Regt. Ill. Vols. They were buried on the farm, son Joseph in the same
plot. Descendants say that the soldiers demanded horses (other that they
demanded money) and that when John Sears refused, he was shot. His wife
tried to intervene, was behind him and was killed by the same bullet.
Frances Landers, a young girl who later married John Sears, Jr., was in the
household at the time. Another report was that the soldiers were after son
Thomas Sears, who had deserted the Union Army. John Sears [Sr.] was a
soldier in the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans.
[Ref: Fayette Facts, Vol. III, No. I, Page 50].

John and Hanna Ione Johnson Sears were killed in the doorway of their log
home August 11, 1864 by soldiers of the 41st Illinois Volunteers. Much
mystery has surrounded the death of this couple over the years. Within the
past couple of years documents have surfaced which tell the resaons for the
soldiers being at their home and how they were killed.

The family was in Warren Co., Kentucky in 1818, moving shortly thereafter to
Alabama and from there to Fayette County in the mid-1820's. They settled on
40 acres about 1 mile northeast of where the present village of Bingham
stands. The Sears' home was built on this rolling piece of land which has
several good springs of water on it to this day. Also, the Shelbyville to
Greenville road passed not far from their door.

Being from the south, this family was pro-South and during the time of the
Civil War, living in a Union state, made things difficult. John Sears has
been referred to as the "King of the Copperheads."
[Ref: Fayette Facts, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Page 14].

"Reminiscence From F. M. Bolt," Ramsey News Journal, May 5, 1923, from St.
Louis, Missouri and addressed to the Editor:

Pursuant to a promise I made in my last communication, to give an account of
a tragic event that came as a sequel to the Civil War, Aug. 11, 1864. By
this time the public mind had been so imflamed by the war which began in
April 1861, and in that condition of the people, some things so revolting
now, were considered as a matter of course during the war period with its
incidental excitement.

I went to Springfield and took a few lessons in penmanship of Prof. D. W.
Lusk, an expert with the pen. And I bought a chart for $5 and returned home,
arriving there Aug. 11, 1864 a full pledged penmanship teacher.

Just before leaving Springfield I ran across one Mr. Sperry, a sort of deputy
provost marshal of Ramsey, who I learned by common rumor when I got home, was
up to Springfield to see Governor Yates, the war governor, to have soldiers
sent to Ramse and Fayette County, ostensibly to deal with people who it is
alledged were "disloyal," a common term applied to those squally times to
everybody who did not feel in sympathy with all republican parties and
policies then extant. Anyhow this man Sperry called me aside and was very
objectionable to the well disposed people of Ramsey and Fayette County in the
perilous days of '61-'65. (Now readers don't confuse this man with the fine
Christian folks around Ramsey of same name who came several years later and
some of the younger ones are there yet).

This man Sperry called me aside at Springfield and said, "Bolt, you needn't
say anything of what you see here today." Being perfectly ignorant of what
he meant, he called my attendion to the soldiers who were boarding the train
on the Wabash railroad; the travel then to Springfield was by the Illinois
Central to Decatur, then across to Springfield on the Webash. It so happened
that I got aboard the same train with the soldiers, but I saw no more of the
Deputy Provost Marshal Sperry.

We soon arrived [in] Decatur, where the soldiers made an attack upon the bar
at the old Central Hotel there, went through it, so to speak, toasted
themselves, and smashed glasses and bottles and finally in defiance of their
offices [sic] who, with drawn swords stood between the soldiers and the
proprietor until he could make his escape. And soon boarding an Illinois
Central train arriving in Ramsey about dusk, the soldiers soon made their way
to Hurricane township and to the home of an old veteran farmer and highly
respected citizen, Uncle Johnny Sears, whose son, Tom, was thought to be in
the house and he was the one sought. But he was not. The old gentleman and
his wife proceeded to barricade their door and refused the soldiers
admittance upon the principle that a man's house is his castle. Whereupon
the soldiers who no doubt were in a proper condition for anything tragic,
began firing the man and the door killing both the old gentleman and old lady
and as it was believed by one of his sons, Uncle Levi Sears, that the
soldiers, not only slew both father and mother, but took about one hundred
dollars in gold, as the old gentleman was financially well to do.

Uncle Levi as administrator of his father's estate, tried by a bill in
Congress while Hon. Ed Lane of Hillsboro was a member of Congress of the old
18th district, to get an allowance for the money at least. But partisanism
was too big for justice in the matter, and like the League of Nations now,
partisanism defeated all efforts and finally Uncle Levi gave up.
[Ref: Fayette Facts, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Pages 14-15].

Union Monitor, Hillsboro, Illinois, August 19, 1864, Vol. 2, No. 17, Page 2:

In relation to the incident connected with the death of Mr. and Mrs. Sears, I
as commander of the force would state, that at the request of Deputy Marshal
from Springfield, I accompanied him with a detail of five men, to aid him in
the arrest of Tom Sears. We arrived at a house supposed to be his father's
where we expected to find him (Tom), and surrounded it; but not being certain
we were right, one man went up to the back door and asked to use a saddle,
saying he was tired of riding without one. In the mean time I approached the
front door. The old man answered, "No sir, by G-d you can't have my saddle,"
and jumped up and seizing his gun he saw me and fired barely missing me. He
then spoke to someone in the house, saying "bar the door and I'll kill all
the damn sons o'bitches." A number of men were supposed to be in the house,
and my men all stood up close to it to keep from being shot at through the
windows. The door was open a little space by the old man, who was ready to
shoot, when one of my men fired at him. I am fully of the impression that
the same shot klled both Mr. and Mrs. Sears; she stood close behind him and
they both fell together. Had Mr. Sears been less impetuous no harm would
have befallen him. No other persons were in the house; but as I approached
the house I saw a woman get over the fense back of the house, and go into the
woods, I supposed to give an alarm to someone; she did not return while we
were at the house.

J, F. Nale, Lt. Col., 41st Ills. Vols.
[Ref: Fayette Facts, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Pages 15-16].

Jerry Blaylock

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