Ripon's Booth War: Aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Act in Wisconsin




WAUPUN, AUGUST 1-3, 1860

After a hasty dinner it was decided that Booth with the two prison guards and myself, should drive to a railway station, two or three miles distant, and take the car to Waupun or Ripon. We passed out of Saulsman's [Salsman's] house, through a back yard to the stable, while the United States marshal, John H. Lewis, attempted to summon the posse comitatus from the crowd in front of the house, to re-arrest the prisoner. Professor Daniels stood on the porch and argued with the marshal, while the crowd made fun of him, and before we left the stable, word came that the Montgomery guard had been ordered to assist the marshal.
     We reached the railway station just before the train, took the car, and proceeded without question to Horicon.

O. H. LaGrange, 1902 letter

     After freeing Booth from the Milwaukee Custom House at noon on August 1, the rescue party stopped at the home of Booth's brother-in-law a few blocks away to confirm their next step. Writing forty-two years later, O. H. LaGrange would indicate that while the general direction of the escape had been determined beforehand, the destination on that day had not. Ripon and Waupun both were still alive as possibilities.
     Given the decision to escape by train--a decision no doubt motivated by the need to put some significant distance behind them as quickly as possible--at least two other routes were available. The route to Fond du Lac, somewhat more to the northeast, was possible, as was the route directly north toward Sheboygan. What made western Fond du Lac County more attractive is suggested by Frank L. Klement's history, Wisconsin in the Civil War. Klement observes that while "the antislavery movement found many ex-Yankees in its ranks," it was equally true that:

Most German-American workers, however, feared emancipation, which they believed would release "a flood of cheap labor" upon the North, cutting living standards even lower. The Irish workmen also viewed emancipation with alarm, fearing economic competition from the slaves who would be freed. The Irish and Germans therefore had no use for Sherman Booth and the abolitionists. Some called him "a polecat" and applauded the court decisions which went against the radical reformer. (p. 4)

Fond du Lac, which would vote heavily for the Democrat Douglas in the presidential election three months later, and Sheboygan, where the editor of the Journal would write of the election results, "every shout of victory makes us feel sad and gloomy," [Klement, p. 6] were not, therefore, likely to provide Booth with sanctuary.
     Western Fond du Lac County, on the other hand, was not only the birthplace of the Republicans, it was home to influential and outspoken antislavery activists, including Hans Christian Heg, the State Prison Commissioner at Waupun, and Professor Edward Daniels, one of the rescue party and both a faculty member at Brockway [Ripon] College and a Regent of the state's Normal Schools.
     Having identified the obvious escape route, and having made the decision to travel as a small group, as LaGrange's letter confirms, the escape party wasted no time in making their retreat. While Marshall Lewis organized a posse in Salsman's front yard, the rescuers slipped out the back door and caught their train.
     The Milwaukee News was particularly critical of Lewis' response throughout the affair, but it was convinced of his incompetent handling of the incidents at Salsman's home. Quoting the News in its August 8 edition, the Waupun Times printed:

     In the following style talks the News of what Marshal Lewis done [sic] and how he acted after Booth had left Salsman's:
     "Booth had gone, and the Marshal stood looking at the hole which he was seen last to pass through, in a state of delicious uncertainty as to the Martyr's whereabouts, and what to do regarding it. As a dernier resort, however, he stationed three or four small boys around the house to watch it, while he went to consult his political confreres and order out the military. Previous to this, Salsman had announced that Booth would speak from the steps of that building at four o'clock; but he couldn't fool the officers with such stuff as that.--As he departed an anxious spectator inquired of Jehu [U. S. Marshal Jehu H. Lewis] what course he was going to pursue, when he feelingly replied with a deep drawn sigh: "I'll be d----d if I know what to do," and we are fully convinced that he didn't.

     To what degree Lewis mismanaged the response in Milwaukee immediately following the escape--and there is some doubt about that, given LaGrange's note that the Montgomery guard was already on its way before the rescuers had even managed to leave Salsman's house--he was apparently soon aware of Booth's escape route. While the News was reporting as late as the next day that Booth "has left town and gone to parts unknown," the marshal had in fact addressed a telegram to Saterlee Clark shortly after Booth's escape from Milwaukee requesting Clark's assistance in detaining the party when the train arrived at Horicon. Written two days later, on August 3, and printed in the August 5 edition of the News, Clark's response to Lewis confirms the request:

Jehu H. Lewis, Esq.
     My Dear Friend:--I regret very much that I was unable to comply with the request in your despatch [sic] of the 1st inst., "to arrest S. M. Booth, an escaped convict, who was rescued from your custody by an armed force."
     I conceive it my duty to myself, as a "law abiding" citizen to set myself right in your estimation, and through you to the "reverend" "Old Buck," whose colors you wear.
     Upon the receipt of your dispatch, I armed myself with one of John Brown's lances , and rode through the streets shouting at the top of my voice, "Freemen to the rescue!" I was immediately surrounded by an armed force of 1,000, more or less, (as republicans estimate the numbers attending their ratification meetings,) who eagerly inquired what was wanted. I explained in as few words as possible that Booth had been rescued from the Hon. Jehu H. Lewis, U. S. Marshal, and that I had been notified that he was on the cars, to arrive in about half an hour. The inquiry was then made whether you did not hold office under the present Federal Administration; and upon being told that you did, they set up such a shout of derision as would not have been gratifying to your vanity to have heard, and declared that old Buck and his minions might catch their own rogues for all of them; and that if the officers appointed by Old Buck were too imbecile to discharge their duty, he ought to discharge them and appoint Democrats in their stead; or, if they must have assistance, they should apply to their allies, the black republicans. I tried to persuade them that you was as efficient and honest as any man supporting this Administration, and, while they did not dispute that proposition, they declared that though Old Buck, at the date of your appointment, pretended to be a democrat, he nevertheless appointed you against the known wishes of every respectable democrat in the State; that your nomination was confirmed by the Senate through the influence of republicans, for the sole purpose of rendering the democratic party ridiculous. And one man said that he heard a prominent republican (who was a delegate to the Chicago Convention, and now a prominent railroad man,) say that he had written to Doolittle and Durkee to do all in their power to effect your confirmation, as nothing, he said, could possibly render the party more odious.
     It was also charged that you had at the last State Convention (pretending to be a Democrat) placed all the patronage of your office at the disposal of one Hobart to enable him to get to Charleston as a delegate to oppose the wish of the entire Democracy of the State; he also pretending to be a Democrat.
     While I could not deny these allegations, I nevertheless tried my best to pacify them, and induce them to assist me not only to arrest Booth but his body guard led by one LaGrange. I told them not to be afraid, hoping to arouse them by appealing to their courage, but it was no go. They declared that if Old Buck had remained in the Democratic party, or had been true to the Constitution and laws of the United States himself, they would do everything in their power to assist his officers; or if the gallant Douglas was President, (and required it,) they would take Booth back to Milwaukee on one of Lincoln's rails.
     The crowd then gave three cheers for Douglas, three more for Charley Larrabee and dispersed. When [sic] I sneaked off to find H. E. C., the only Breckinridge [Southern Democratic candidate for President] man in this part of the State, who I thought would sympathize with me; but I found that as soon as he heard that Booth was rescued, he left for Kekoskee.
     I really believe, notwithstanding the above, that the Democrats of this place are as brave and loyal as any community that ever lived, but they are unwilling to give the public the least cause to suspect that under any circumstances they could be induced to form an alliance with those persons who are supporting Breckenridge [sic], whose only aim is the destruction of the Democratic party and the dissolution of the Union.
     Hoping to retain your confidence and esteem I remain as ever, Very respectfully

Your admirer,

P. S.--Please write to Old Buck and inform him of the extraordinary services I tried to render.

     This highly politicized public response to Lewis obscures the fact that Clark made no attempt to arrest Booth, although he did meet him as the train reached Horicon. As LaGrange would describe the event in his later narrative:

Saterlee Clark, a former neighbor and friend [Clark had earlier resided near LaGrange in Green Lake County], came into rhe car while the train stopped, and told us he had been telegraphed from Milwaukee to make an arrest, and that he could undoubtedly have brought force enough to do so, but that he had declined the service, because he thought 'it the best thing that could happen to have Booth get away.' I told him jestingly that no one would dispute his courage, and that in this case his pridence deserved commendation.

     In quoting on August 8 a very amusing announcement by the Free Democrat, the Waupun Times also reported that Clark had "declined" to act:

SAT. DECLINES THE HONOR.--When Sat. Clark was telegraphed to arrest Booth on the train at Horicon, Booth made his acquaintance, and on saying to him that he understood he had directions to arrest him, he replied that he was not in that business--that he was in the flouring business--not in the Millering business just now.--Free Dem. [Judge Miller of the Circuit Court of Wisconsin was the sentencing judge in the Booth case]

     In truth, Clark was probably in violation of federal law in exercising "prudence." Section 5 of the Fugitive Slave Act, under which Booth had been convicted, not only authorized federal authorities to request assistance in enforcing the act, it also obligated citizens to cooperate:

In conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States and of this act, [all marshals and deputy marshals] are hereby authorized and empowered, within their counties respectively, to appoint, in writing under their hands, any one or more suitable persons, from time to time, to execute all such warrants and other process as may be issued by them in the lawful performance of their respective duties; with authority to such commissioners, or the persons to be appointed by them, to execute process as aforesaid, to summon and call to their aid the bystanders, or posse comitatus of the proper county, when necessary to ensure a faithful observance of the clause of the Constitution referred to, in conformity with the provisions of this act; and all good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law, whenever their services may be required, as aforesaid, for that purpose; and said warrants shall run, and be executed by said officers, any where in the State within which they are issued. [italics added]

Clark was, in fact, taken to task for his inaction in a letter to the Daily Enquirer, and felt compelled to respond on August 8 in a letter that appeared the following day in the News:

Editor News:
I discover from an article in the Daily Enquirer, that the "Administration clique" are terribly exercised at my letter to Mr. Lewis. It has had precisely the effect I desired it to have, and I am satisfied.
I have, however, something to say with reference to the charges and insinuations in the article of the 7th inst., above alluded to.
It is there charged that "Sat" "was an anxious applicant for the Marshal's office," and that letter was from a "Sore head."
Now the writer of that article knew that there was no truth in his assertion. I never desired the office of Marshal, never applied for it myself, nor any person for me.
Of course these men who do the "dirty work," of an unprincipled administration, can procure from the departments at Washington, copies of any such application or recommendation, and if they fail to do so, they stated what they knew to be a wil[l]ful falsehood.
They say, "all loyal citizens are as much bound to assist, and he (Lewis) is to arrest him, and all but traitors and cowards will do so." I was never called upon by Mr. Lewis, or any of his deputies, to assist to arrest Booth. On the contrary, he has never made any attempt to take him himself, but sent a despatch [sic] by telegraph, offering $100 for the arrest of Booth. I have not heard that the writer of the article in the Enquirer has rendered any assistance, and consequently he must be a "traitor and coward."
I acknowledge that it is my d[u]ty, and the duty of every loyal citizen, to assist the Marshal and his deputies in the proper discharge of their duties, and I believe the re-arrest of Booth to be an important duty, indeed, an imperative duty. I believe the order and decrees of the U. S. Court, should be rigidly enforced, and the laws vindicated, and I promise the man of the Enquirer if we--he and I--should be called upon by the Marshall for assistance to execute any U. S. writ, he shall never get an inch ahead of me unless he is smarter than I am, and "I know he aint."
His advice to the people of Horicon to "tar and feather me" comes with bad grace from one who professes to be very anxious that the laws should be enforced. When mob law suits his wishes he counsels it, but when a mob refuses to allow the Marshal or his deputies to serve a writ, then it is treason. I don't think the people will pay any attention to his advice, and therefore I believe I won't leave.
One more word and I am done. If the writer in the Enquirer thinks I am a traitor and coward, I hope he will tell me so the first time he meets me, as I shall not believe him till he does.
Every word in my letter in regard to Lewis and his appointment I here reiterate on my own responsibility. I was opposed to the appointment of Lewis, (not from any personal hostility) but from the same reason that the Black Republicans favored it, because I really thought he was not qualified for the position, and because his appointment would render the Democratic party ridiculous. And [sic] I submit to every candid man if such has not been the result. Yours truly, SAT. CLARK.

     With the failure of the marshal's plans for stopping them at Horicon, Booth and his party arrived at Waupun late in the afternoon of August 1 without further incident. The Waupun Times reported his arrival in its edition the same day:

     At 12:15 to-day Sherman M. Booth was rescued from the United States Custom House at Milwaukee, and now breathes the fresh country air of Wisconsin. He made a short speech in this village this evening and told a determination to kill and be killed rather than be re-taken.--The Sentinel tells how it was done:
     A few minutes after 12 o'clock, ten determined men walked leisurely up the Custom House steps. They might have been taken for merchants having business with the Collector. They seemed entirely unconcerned, and were talking of every day matters. Burke was the sentinel on duty--they presented a card of admission to see Booth--Burke looked at it, and stepped into the guard room for the keys. As he came out a visitor seized either arm, another pointed a pistol at his head and requested him to keep cool--the door to Booth's room was unlocked--Booth was invited to walk out--Burke was invited to walk in--the key was turned, and Booth and his friends walked out of the building--down Wisconsin street--across to Second street, to the residence of his brother-in-law, where a large crowd assembled to greet him.
     From there he was conveyed a few miles into the country, in a wagon, where he took the cars, and arrived here on the five o'clock train.

     At Waupun, Booth was invited to stay at the state prison by Prison Commissioner Hans Heg in what would prove a very controversial arrangement. In a deposition made in the Milwaukee Circuit Court on August 8 and printed in the Waupun Times on August 15, Deputy Marshall William Garlick stated:

     DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN, SS:--William H. Garlick being duly sworn on oath says that he is a Deputy Marshal for the District of Wisconsin, residing in Milwaukee, that after the rescue of Sherman M. Booth from prison in Milwaukee on the 1st inst., he followed said Booth and those who had him in charge, to Waupun, in this State, and found that Booth was in the State Prison of Wisconsin, that the same evening the said Booth was taken from the Prison to address a public meeting accompanied by Hans C. Heg, the State Prison Commissioner, with a guard of four or five from said Prison, that after addressing said meeting, said Booth was taken back to the Prison by the same guard and about sixty others, that while in Waupun the said Booth resided in the Prison and never left it so far as this deponent could learn, unless he was accompanied by a guard from said Prison, and this deponent learned to his satisfaction that two of the guards from the Prison, were among the rescuers and assisted in rescuing said Booth from the Prison in Milwaukee. That on the 3d inst., this deponent called on said Heg at the State Prison to serve a notice on said Heg from the Marshal, by F. Henry, Deputy, to deliver up and assist in securing said Booth. The notice and the answer are attached to the affidavit of said Henry.
     That at this interview with said Heg, he called said Booth into the room in the presence of several of the Prison keepers in this and the adjoining room, and said here is Booth arrest him as you choose, but I advise you not to do it, as, if I was in Booth's place I would shoot you down like a dog, and said he himself would fight until his last drop of blood was gone, and that this deponent ought to be engaged in better business than in holding an office under the Federal Government.
    During this time, and in the presence of said Heg said Booth was flourishing a pistol about the head of this deponent, and said that the first man who laid hands on him, he would shoot him down.
    Deponent told Booth that he had heard him make that threat before, but that he had been arrested once, and that if he was now in the street he would arrest him again. Said Heg refused to deliver said Booth to this deponent at the gate of the Prison, and the deponent left him. Said Booth was afterwards taken to Ripon, in the carriage of said Heg, on the night of the 3rd inst., accompanied by two of the officers of the Prison, and after making a speech there, was taken back to the Prison on the night of the 5th inst., where according to the best information of this deponent, he is now secreted.


Subscribed and sword to, this 8th day of August, A. D., 1860, before me,

Clerk U. S. Dist. Court, Milwaukee.

     Garlick's testimony suggests that, at minimum, Prison Commissioner Heg provided aid and support to a fugitive and misused the power of his position in using prison employees to protect Booth. These were serious charges, but they were first enunciated by the News earlier in the week. In response Heg wrote a letter in self-defense to Milwaukee' Sentinel and Free Democrat that was reprinted in the Waupun Times on the day of Garlick's deposition:

     The Milwaukee News having published an article reflecting quite severely upon the State Prison Commissioner for secreting Booth. Mr. Heg wrote to the Sentinel and Free Democrat, giving the following facts in the case:
     Mr. Booth stepped into my office last Wednesday evening, and not dreaming that my election to the office of State Prison Commissioner made it necessary for me to discard any of the feelings I naturally might have for an old acquaintance, I invited him to partake of such hospitalities as I could give him. And here let me state, that only about four weeks ago I extended the same hospitalities to Marshal Lewis, although I had heard it said that he was a kidnapper, and he told me himself that he had only a short time before been tried before a court of justice for violation of the laws of this state--and for aught I know had indictments hanging over him at the time. I asked him no questions about these matters for the very simple reason that it was none of my business.
     He stayed with me over night, ate at the same table, and slept in the same bed that Sherman M. Booth did, and if the editor of the News will point out the law making it my duty to examine persons under oath, or otherwise, as to their antecedents, before I allow them to visit me, I will acknowledge that I have violated my duty.
     Mr. Booth was around all day Thursday, calling upon his friends in the village, and you may judge then, of my astonishment when Deputy Marshall Garlick yesterday morning called at my office with the following note:

"Waupun, Wis., Aug 2, 1860
"Hans C. Heg, Esq., State Prison Commissioner, Wisconsin:
     "SIR--I am credibly informed that Sherman M. Booth, a United States prisoner, who has lately been rescued from the custody of the United States Marshall, is at this time secreted and harbored within the prison walls of Waupun. Having in my possession a warrant for his arrest, issued under the seal of the United States District Court, for the District of Wisconsin, and properly tested, you are hereby required, if said Booth is within your prison walls, to surrender him into my custody; and, in case of necessity, to assist me with police of the Prison in executing the laws of the United States. An answer in writing is required [Signed]
"J. H. LEWIS, U. S. Marshall,
by F. HENRY, Deputy."

     To which I made the following reply.

"Waupun, Aug. 3, 1860.
     Dear Sir:--Your note of Aug. 2d is received, and in answer to it allow me to say that Mr. Booth is not secreted within the prison walls. He is at present visiting with me, and at his own liberty to go wherever he pleases.
     "As to rendering you any assistance to aid you in his arrest, allow me politely to say that my force is at present employed in a more profitasble and honorable way.
"I am, very truly yours,
"HANS C. HEG, S. P. C."

     While writing the reply to Marshal Lewis' letter, I had Booth called into the office from his breakfast, and introduced him to Deputy Marshal Garlick, and then in the presence of half a dozen persons invited him and gave him all the opportunity he wanted to arrest him. Mr. Booth was here all day yesterday. The gate was ready to be opened at any call from any one; I even sent an invitation to Deputy Marshal Henry to come up to the prison, but the Marshal never made his appearance. In the evening Mr. Booth appeared in Dodge Hall, in this village, and spoke to a large audience of people, to which, I believe, even the Deputy Marshals themselves will testify.
     After which Mr. Booth went through to Ripon in a carriage. These are the plain facts in the case, and for the benefit of the News and those that may have expressed their fears that by allowing Mr. Booth to eat at my table, I had as a State officer implicated the State of Wisconsin in any controversy with the authorities of Uncle Sam, I will say that all I have done officially in this matter is in simply writing the reply to Marshal Lewis' letter.

     Not satisfied with this response as it appeared in the other Milwaukee papers, the News published an editorial further condemning Heg on August 7:

     The prison commissioner, Mr. Hegg, in communication published in the Sentinel, denies that he admitted Mr. Booth within the prison walls for the purpose of sheltering and protecting him from arrest. He admits, however, that Booth was there partaking of his hospitalities, and that officer Garlick was there after him, but for some cause which Mr. Hegg does not explain, found it inconvenient to re-arrest him. Now the whole thing is too transparent to need any elucidation, and after it is shown that Mr. Hegg has been harboring a fugitive from justice, he becomes disqualified from testifying as a witness in his own behalf. When the parent swore that he would not whip his son if he would come down from his safe retreat, hopeful replied "that a man who would swear would lie," and therefore he would not trust him. We place no reliance in the statement of a prison commissioner, who by his own confession has been guilty of receiving Booth within the walls of the State prison, and guarding him so well that the officer who was in pursuit of him dare not attempt to re-arrest him.

     The News followed with a another editorial on August 9 under the banner "A Bad H'egg:"

     Hans Hegg, State Prison Commissioner, repeats in yesterday's Sentinel his denial of our charge that he received Booth within the walls of the Prison yard at Waupun, and extended to him the protection of his guards. In order to satisfy the public on this point, we submit the following facts, related to us by eye witnesses.
      I. Mr. Hegg was advised of the escape of Booth soon after it occurred, and expected him to seek refuge within the walls of the State Prison. Two of the Prison guards were in this city at the time of the rescue and accompanied Booth to Waupun, where he was met by some of the other guards and escorted at once to Mr. Hegg's house, which is within the walls of the Prison yard..
     II. In the evening, Booth, under escort of Hegg and his Prison guards, proceeded to the platform of one of the warehouses, where he addressed a crowd of people. During his entire speech, Mr. Hegg and his guards stood on the platform with him, and when Booth displayed his revolver and threatened to shoot anyone who should attempt to arrest him, Mr. Hegg took off his hat, swung it wildly in the air, and cheered vociferously. On the adjournment of the meeting, Hegg and his guards escorted Booth back to the Prison.
      III. While at Waupun, Booth was uniformly attended by the Prison guards, whenever he went out of the Prison yard into the public streets
      IV. Cromwell Laithe, of Waupun, remarked in a careless manner, that if the reward offered for Booth's re arrest [sic] had been $1000 instead of $100, he would have taken him. Booth heard of his saying this and immediately went to Laithe's house, accompanied by some of the prison guards, and defied Laithe to attempt to arrest him.
      V. Booth, when he left the prison, was accompanied by some of the prison guards to Ripon.
      These are the facts as related to us by citizens of Waupun, and the sneaking manner in which Mr. Hegg tries to evade the responsibility of his own acts, is even more discreditable to him than the acts themselves. Booth will corroborate his statements; but who will corroborate Booth? His reputation for truth and veracity was never very good, and since the developments made public on his late trial, it is as bad as his reputation for chastity. If Mr. Hegg conceives his conduct justifiable, it would be manly in him to admit his complicity with the affair. There are three high public functionaries, Randall, Hegg and Daniels, whose names have been used in connection with the "Booth question," but the greatest of these three is Daniels. He plays the desperado to the end of the chapter, while the other two act like sneaks.

     In mentioning Governor Alexander Randall along with Daniels and Heg, the News was referring to another of its editorials, printed the day before, August 8, in which it argued that Randall was implicated at the highest levels in the conspiracy to release Booth:

After the escape had been effected, Gov. Randall, who was at Waukesha, within twenty miles of this city, and by a strange coincidence in the very village where the plot was concocted, and the band of rescuers organized, was telegraphed to come in here and "speak on the Booth question," as was publicly announced, and he came, intending when he left Waukesha, to harrangue [sic] the mob on the occasion, but was dissuaded from it after he reached Milwaukee, by republicans who object to casting off the disguise, and exposing the real aims and designs of their party at this time.--That he was in Waukesha when the plan of the rescue was laid and the arrangements made for executing it, does not admit of a doubt, and that he remained there until after the deed was done and then came into this city for the purpose of haranguing the people on the subject, is also susceptible of proof.

     Heg's defense of himself, limited in the public forum to the single letter sent to the Sentinel and the Free Democrat, curiously relies on the same defense advanced by Saterlee Clark, that the Fugitive Slave Act was a federal law and therefore not a compelling matter to Wisconsin residents. This was not, of course, the interpretation of the federal courts or consistent with the language of the act itself, but it seems to have been a position taken by some Douglas Democrats as well as Republicans. Clark was, of course, among the former, and as reported in the August 8 Waupun Times the argument was also advanced by the Madison Patriot, a Douglas paper:

BOOTH ON HIS TRAVELS.--Well, Booth has escaped--his friends came and took him away while Jehu was asleepeth.--Well, this is none of our business--it must all be between the Administration and the Black Republicans. If the Republicans are sincere in their professions, they were in duty bound to set Booth free, and if the Administration is sincere, it is bound by all its power to "rescue" him, and again imprison him. The Douglas Democracy have nothing to do with the game. Let the Black Republicans and the Bucks engage in the "Irrepressible Conflict." Jehu, you now have a wide field of glory open befor[e] you.

--On, ye brave,
And rush to glory or the grave.

     Still, accusations in the News and some of the other Democatic papers in the state called for a response, and The Waupun Times took up the mantle of defending Heg beginning in its August 15 edition with responses to two similar stories appearing in the Berlin News:

     Somebody has been hoaxing Frank Hyde [editor of the Berlin News]. He copies into his News, a portion of a letter written by a "reliable citizen" of this village who says: "One of the military company told me that he was notified on Friday to be ready, and if the prison bell tolled three times, it would be a sign that Maj. Heg wanted the military to protect Booth." Now this is all gammon [text unclear]. In the first place Maj. Heg has no more authority over "the military" than the man in the moon, and in the second place many of "the military" are of such political stripe as Major Heg would not have been likely to call upon for help in a contingency like that referred to by the writer. Again, this "reliable citizen" says: "Wm. Ware and a lot more staid [sic] at the prison to protect him while there. He said they went prepared to shed blood before he should be taken back."--This we know to be untrue. The writer may have been misinformed--there were many rumors that lacked foundation afloat "about those days"--but that makes the assertion no less a falsehood.

This first response was immediately followed by the second:

The Marshal must have been highly grateful for the opportunity thus afforded him by Heg, of entering single-handed into the presence of half a dozen of Booth's friends, who were armed to the teeth, and sworn to protect him with their lives.--Berlin News.

Raw-bead and bloody-bones, Frank.--Not a man would have interfered between them, as the officer was assured; besides Booth offered to go outside the gate alone with this officer, who no doubt was grateful that circumstances would enable him to get up a good excuse for not accepting Booth's proposition.

     The Times printed Garlick's deposition in the same issue, apparently without time to respond to it. Its response came a week later in the August 22 issue:

     LAST WEEK we published the affidavit of officer Garlick, concerning his connection with the Booth case, but had no time to refer to its many and glaring imperfections. In the first place the deponent, "being duly sworn upon oath," says:

"After the rescue of Sherman M. Booth from prison in Milwaukee on the 1st inst., he followed said Booth and those who had him in charge, to Waupun, in this State, and found that Booth was in the State Prison of Wisconsin, that the same evening the said Booth was taken from the Prison to address a public meeting accompanied by Hans C. Heg, the State Prison Commissioner, with a guard of four or five from said Prison, that after addressing said meeting, said Booth was taken back to the Prison by the same guard and about sixty others."

     Now, we do not wish to accuse Mr. Garlick of willfully misrepresenting facts in this matter, but as he must have been either much excited, or suffering from lying awake nights thinking "how dear a thing glory is," we would endeavor to set him right in regard to these facts before they have altogether passed from his and the public mind. In the first place, then, Mr. Garlick "followed Mr. Booth to Waupun," the next, and not the same day, as the language of his affidavit would have it. Again, the assertion that Booth was taken from the Prison the same evening that he arrived here, to address a public meeting, accompanied by Heg and others, armed, and that he was taken back to the Prison by them and sixty others, is untrue. Mr. Booth addressed the Wide-Awakes, who happened to be on drill that evening, it is true, but he did not come down to the place of meeting under any escort save that of a gray-haired freeman, whose only arms were those that nature gave him.--Maj. Heg had been in the discharge of his duties as Captain and drill-master of the company, for a considerable time before Mr. Booth left the Prison to come down town, and with the exception of the gentleman referred to as accompanying him, there was not an officer in the Prison yard who could have left his duty to become a "guard." Mr. Booth made a few remarks--very few--which were quietly received, after which he went down town with the gentleman before referred to, and when he got ready he returned to the place where he proposed passing the night. As to the charge that two of the officers of the Prison assisted in the rescue, and that after the first night Booth never left the Prison unless accompanied by some of the officers, it does not concern the Commissioner. When they are off duty and outside the Prison walls he is not responsible for their acts, and if they chose to assist in the rescue of Mr. Booth, or to walk with him in our streets, they done it [sic] on their own behest and risk.
     We have conversed with several of those who were present during the interview between Garlick, Heg, and Booth in the Prison office, and have seen statements written by others who were there present, and all of these agree in saying that the facts have been distorted and downright misrepresentations made. When it is proper, and becomes necessary, the falsity of the statements made in this affidavit can and will be shown up. It is not worth while now to throw words away on menials such as Jehu's.

     The Times defense is corroborated in part, at least, on two counts. First, Heg was a captain of the local Wide-Awakes, as reported by the Times in an article on August 1:

     AT A MEETING of the Republican Club, held at Dodge Hall last Wednesday evening a Wide-Awake Company was formed. Sixty-four names were enrolled, and considerable enthusiasm was manifested. The regulations of the Janesville Wide-Awakes were read, and, after being amended, were adopted. They are as follows:
1st--This is a branch of the Waupun Republican Club, and shall be known as the "Wide Awake Club."
2d--Any person who has attained to the age of eighteen years, who will aid and support the Republican candidates, and furnish himself with the style of uniform adopted by this Club, may become a member thereof.
3d--Every person shall, before he is recognized as a member of this Club, sign these articles.
4th--The officers of this Club shall be a Captain, 1st, 2d, 3d and 4th Lieutenants, and Treasurer. The Captain shall have command of the Club at all times; in his absence the Lieutenants shall have command in the order of their rank.
5th--Every member of this club shall attend all the meetings whether regular or special; and when on duty or in attendance at the meetings, shall obey the officers in command, and shall at all times perform such duties as shall be required of him by the officers in command.
6th--It is the object of this club--
1st. To act as a political police.
2d. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our village to address our citizens.
3d. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept, and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed.
4th. To attend the polls and see that justice is done every legal voter.
5th. To conduct ourselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join us.
6th. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican ticket.
     The following officers were then elected:
Captain--Hans C. Heg.
1st Lieut.--Andrew Clark.
2d Lieut.--I. P. Randall.
3d Lieut.--Wm. Ware.
4th Lieut.--M. J. Althouse.
Treasurer.--Geo. W. Butterfield.
     L. B. Hills was elected Corresponding Secretary of the club. The officers were authorized to obtain uniforms, and a resolution was passed requesting members to pay one dollar to the treasurer for the purpose of procuring the same. The uniform, it was decided, should consist of a cap, cape, and torch. On Thursday evening there was a drill meeting at Wirt's Ware-house, which was well attended. Several new names were added to the roll-call. Another drill-meeting is called for this evening, at the same place. Let every Republican who has the good of the cause and the fame of our village at heart be in attendance. Such as deem themselves too old to join the Wide-Awakes, are not debarred the privilege of uniforming a substitute. There are many who wish to join, but lack the means, offering a good field for political philanthropists. Our young Republican friends in the country, who reside sufficiently near town to attend the meetings are cordially invited to join.

     Second, two depositions taken from members of the prison staff, William Booth and Royal M. Bryant, have recently been uncovered by Dee Grimsrud, reference archivist, Kevin Dier-Zimmel, and S. C. Meeker in the collection of Heg's papers in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin archives (Wis Mss GF Box:1:MAD 4/19/A4 & Micro 235). While it is not clear that these depositions were ever published, they do essentially bear out Heg's version of the meeting between Garlick, Booth and Heg. A note attached to Bryant's deposition reads:

Waupun Aug. 17th, 60
Seeing some statements of Mr. Garlick subscribed and sworn to respecting an affair which occured [sic] at the Prison in refference [sic] to the delivering up of S. M. Booth by Hans C. Heg we being at the time the whole transaction occured [sic] a silent spectator, wish simply to suggest that the statements of Mr. Garlick are quite erronious [sic] and are calculated to mislead the public mind with refference [sic] to the conduct of both Booth and Heg. As nearly as we can recollect Mr. Heg offered no kind of resistance to Garlick but told him so far as he was concerned that Mr. Booth was at his disposal. Mr. Booth offered to accompany Mr. Garlick alone to the gate into the street and no reply was made by Garlick. Mr. Booth told him plainly he was perfectly willing to go with him but Mr. Garlick did not seem to take the hint.

Truly Yours
R. W. Bryant

     In a final public defense of Heg, in its August 22 issue the Times also responded to a charge from the Milwaukee Enquirer:

Booth was taken on the railroad to Waupun where he was met by a large body of armed men, who accompanied him to the Prison at that place.--Mil. Enquirer

If the administration organ is inclined to correct a misstatement, will it inform its readers that no "large body of armed men," or small body either, met Booth on his arrival here, or accompanied him on any of his walks about the village. At the time of his arrival, not a dozen of our citizens knew he had been liberated, and not one that he designed coming here.

     By the end of August, the public fallout from Booth's sojourn in Waupun appears to have died down, replaced by news items related to Booth's continued evasions of capture. That prison staff were involved in the conspiracy to free Booth is confirmed by LaGrange's 1902 letter. Whether Heg was as implicated in the planning and execution as the News asserted is not as certain. LaGrange does not implicate him in his letter, and George Carter's history of the Booth affair does not refer to Waupun or Heg. As suggested by the News, however, it strains credulity to believe that Heg was not at least informed of the plans of Booth's rescuers, and it seems evident that the reason Booth stopped in Waupun on August 1 was Heg's position in the state prison as well as his outspoken support for Booth.

LAST UPDATED 6/18/1999 If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716 (608) 221-1421.