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Civil War Letters of Captain John A. Ritter, M.D.

49th Indiana Volunteers


Other Documents

The letters and documents which appear below are  letters written by or on the behalf Capt. John A. Ritter during his service in the 49th Indiana Volunteers from Oct. 1861 to December 1861. The letters were transcribed from the original letters or copies of the original letters in the possession of descendents of Capt. John A. Ritter. The letters appear exactly as written. No effort was made to correct apparent misspelled words. Many of these apparent errors may be the result of differences between modern styles of handwriting and styles in use during the 19th century. Blanks were inserted where words or phrases were totally illegible and underlining was used for words or phrases for which the correct interpretation was questionable. 

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Tribute to Dr. John A. Ritter from His Fellow Surgeons - Carrollton, LA,  Sept. 13, 1863

Carrollton, La, Sept. 13, 1863

Whereas Dr. John Ritter Surgeon 49th Indiana Regiment Vols. Infantry has been compelled to resign his commission in consequence of ill health and return to his home in a more congenial climate, we the undersigned Surgeons feel it to be our duty no less than a pleasure to assure him of our earnest sympathy and best wishes for his future well being. And we wish at the same time to acknowledge from an intimate acquaintance of many months that the service has been deprived of one of her most efficient and faithful Medical officers and with him we shall lose the company of a high minded and warm hearted gentleman and a sound sensible and active medical associate.

Otis C. French  Surg. 114 Reg. Ohio Vols.

Henry Manfred  1st Asst. Surg. 22nd Ky. Reg.Vols. ??

J. C. Kalb  Asst. Surg. in charge ??? 42 Reg. ????

?? H. Cyrus  Asst. in charge 34 Reg. Ind. Vols Inft.

A. B. Conant  1st Asst Surg.7th Ky in charge Reg.

C. S. C. Herndon  2nd Asst. Surg. 7th Ky.

Byron Stanton  Surg. 120 Reg. OVI

C. C. Stoffer Asst. Surg. 120 Reg. OVI

J. K. Bonde? 1st Asst. Surg. 118 Ill. Inft.

M. Reece   Surg. 118 Ill. Inft.

O. Pomeroy  Asst. 16 Ohio Vols. Inft.

D. S. Evans   Surg. 69 Reg. Ind. Vols. Inft.

Wm. T. Smith  Asst. Surg. 49 Reg. Ind. Vols.

J. G. Montieth  Asst. Surg. 69 Reg. Ind. Vols.

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Account of the Arrest of Dr. William A. Bowles

Dr. William A. Bowles

The following account was written by the grandson of Capt. John A. Ritter, William O. Ritter, sometime in the 1950's. I have not been able to document the accuracy of many elements of the account. I am certain that the events described in the account probably took place toward the end of the war, perhaps sometime in 1864, rather than in the early days of the war as described in the account. In the future, I intend to include some biographical information on Dr. Bowles and further information on his activities, arrest, trial, sentence, and the constitution political events surrounding his eventual release.

It is in the early years of the civil war, that the following history was made. An underground secret organization composed of southern sympathizers, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, flourished through out Indiana. Dr. William A. Bowles, of French Lick, was the President. The 49th Regiment Indiana Volunteers composed mostly of men from Orange, Martin, and Dubois Counties was mustered into the service, with Dr. John A. Ritter of Orangeville as their first captain. There were encamped at Camp Joe Holt near Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Captain Ritter received a telegram from Governor Oliver P. Morton to go immediately to Orleans and report to General William T. Spicely, a Special train was at his command. On arriving at Orleans he found General Spicely standing on the depot platform. Saluting the General, Captain said, "General I have a message from Governor Morton to report to you, I am at your command."

The General replied, "I too have a message from the Governor. There will be a special train due here soon, you are to take command go by the quickest route to French Lick, capture William A. Bowles, take him to Indianapolis, and turn him over to the Federal Authorities, spare neither men nor horse flesh."

This had been so timed that their movements would be under cover of darkness.

By the time this conversation was ended the special train pulled in. Gang planks were quickly thrown out, horses and men were detrained, all equipped for duty. Captain Ritter explained their mission, then gave the terse command, "Mount and follow me."

Captain Ritter had for many years been a country doctor and knew all the short cuts and bye roads, that was why he was selected for this job. Heading south west from Orleans a bye road known as "Scott's Gap," they came into the main highway at Collins Bridge following this to French Lick.

Upon arrival, they quickly dismounted and surrounded Mr. Bowles' home. Captain Ritter gave an alarm at the door which was answered by one of his wives. (It was claimed that he had two wives.)

Captain Ritter explained his mission, Mrs. Bowles protested saying Mr. Bowles was not at home, but on search they found him hidden in a closet, dressed in woman's apparel.

He was take to Orleans and put on a special train and by daylight he was in Indianapolis in a Federal Prison.

Captain Ritter went to Governor Morton's office and made a direct report, he said to the Governor that he had received and executed his order. The Governor asked the captain if there was any request he would care to make. Whereup the Captain replied, "Governor Morton politically Dr. Bowles and I are enemies, socially we are friends, if you can please spare this life." This request probably saved his life, as he was tried convicted and sentenced to be hanged, but the sentence was never executed. He was allowed to come home, where he lived for several months and died a natural death.

His body was first placed in a stone vault near his home but was later moved to Ames Chapel Cemetery where it was interred.

The Knights of the Golden Circle held their secret meetings in old abandoned buildings, deep thickets, and some times in caves. It is said that the French Lick Lodge kept their records and rituals on a shelf in the hollow of a big sycamore tree, near where the Southern Railroad crosses French Lick Creek.

During the life of this treasonable order, Governor Morton had Union spies in their meetings, who kept him informed on their acts and intentions at all times.

After the arrest of Dr. Bowles and his conviction, the influence of the Knights of the Golden Circle began to wane and soon was disbanded.


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