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PA Civil War Soldiers' Diaries

Schuylkill County Draft Riots

Pottsville, June 10, 1863.
Col. James B. Fry,
Provost Marshal General of the United States, Washington, D.C.


On the 4th instant I had two instances of assault upon the enrolling officers within this district, one in sub-district No. 7, consisting of Schuylkill Township, and the other in sub-district No. 23, consisting of Hegins and Hubley Townships, both within Schuylkill County.

The assault in the district No. 7 was in the mining village of Newkirk, some fourteen miles east of this place. I send you copies of two letters relating to this, one from the enrolling officer, Jeremiah F. Werner, and the other from William K. Jones, who was with him at the time, and who is an intelligent and reliable citizen of Tamaqua. These will exhibit to you the character of the assault, and of the people also, who are to be enrolled here. I have not yet learned what was done by the four persons, or either of them, whom Mr. Jones names, nor who fired the revolver. I therefore have not yet taken steps to arrest anybody as concerned with that assauLieutenant The assault in sub-district No. 23 was in Hegins Township, among a farming population of Pennsylvania Germans, some twenty-two miles or thereabouts north of west from here. I send you herewith a copy of the affidavit of Peter W. Kutz, the enrolling officer, which will acquaint you with that case. I deemed it improper to let this instance of assault pass unnoticed. I therefore, upon this affidavit of Kutz, ordered my deputy, Uriah Gane, to arrest the three assailants. Abraham Bressler, Isreal Stutzman, and Christian Stutzman.

At 8 o'clock in the evening of Monday, the 8th instant, Deputy Gane, with the sergeant (William Parks) and three men of the guard and James Bowen, a special assistant, left here in two carriages to execute the order. They reached Bressler's house after midnight and posted themselves, as the deputy says, properly about the house. Bressler was at home, and a man who is represented to me as named Abraham Reed, and a hired man of Bressler's was also within. Bowen knows Bressler well, and tells me he is sure Bressler was within, because he heard and knows his voice.

Bressler refused to open the front door, where Gane and Bowen stood, and tried to escape by the back door. Sergeant Parks and one of the guards were at the back door. It was opened from within, and Bressler and Reed showed themselves there. Sergeant Parks at once laid hold of Bressler and said "you are my prisoner. I arrest you in the name of the provost marshall," and then shouted "Marshal! Marshal! Then one of the men inside called to the other for "the rifle." Bressler escaped from the sergeant's grasp and jumped back into the house, and Reed prevented the sergeant following by shutting the door, where I understand this happened. A person at the door was holding it to, and as the sergeant and men say, had a rifle in his hand, About the time Gane got there the door was opened, the sergeant had fired his revolver inside, and Gane saw a man disappear in the smoke within. He rushed in, seized the man and arrested him "in the name of the United States." It was dark. On procuring a light he discovered the man he had seized was not Bressler, but Reed, and he let him go and went on searching for Bressler. On going to an end window he found it open and a rifle standing beside it. This rifle he brought away, and it is now here very heavily loaded. The guard who had been posted ouside by that window, on the cry of "Marshal! Marshal! had left their position and so gave Bressler the chance which he used to escape. Gane afterward heard Bressler's wife tell her daughter, in German, that he was gone to Tremont, a small town about four miles south from there.

Our party being satisfied that Bressler was gone, went on and without any difficulty arrested the two Stutzmans.

On their way back, when coming up the mountain and about two miles and a half from Bressler's, at a sharp turn in the road, they met Bressler himself on horseback coming from Tremont. Isreal Stutzman, one of the arrested men, who was along, and is a neighbor of his, and was sitting alongside the driver of the foremost carriage, said it was Bressler. It was about 3 o'clock in the morning and cloudy. Gane jumped from his carriage window and all but caught him. Gane ran after him down the mountain, the guard following. Gane called him by name and told him to stop, and that he "had a warrant for him." Sergeant Parks ordered him four times to halt, and, as he did not halt, fired his revolver after him twice. They gained upon him as long as the road descended, which was over a quarter of a mile. But as soon as Bressler came to where the road was somewhat level, away he went beyond their reach and they stopped pursuing.

If our men had been mounted they could easily have captured him. Bressler was riding his brother's (Solomon Bressler) horse, and he seems thus to have gone to his brother's, who lives near him, and taken his brother's horse when he escaped, and gone to Tremont with it. Our men did not then go back to Bressler's house to take him, and I have not up to this time done anything further toward arresting him.

The two Stutzmans were brought to my quarters. I had a locomotive here with steam up ready to take them at once beyond the reach of habeas corpus from the bench here on the way to the U.S. marshal in Philadelphia. The principal man, however, was not brought in, and these two were not really of an offensive spirit at least, and censured instead of upholding Bressler's conduct toward the enrolling officer. I therefore bound them by their honor and in the sum of $4,000 each (ostensibly) to appear here whenever I want them and then let them go home. The man Reed was wounded in the arm; how badly I do not know. Sergeant Parks tells me that the man at the door dropped the rifle when he fired and was wounded in the arm. He also tells me that he himself would surely have been shot by the rifle if he had not fired as he did.

I certainly would have myself avoided wounding anybody or even discharging firearms at all, if I had been present and could have done so. Still the occasion may have justified all that was done, and I am disposed to believe that it did.

The effort made to arrest Bressler and the result, even with all the circumstances, I am satisfied will tend, and strongly too, to smooth the enroller's way hereafter in this country. The public already canvass the whole, and those who are loyal regard it as an earnest that the provost-marshal's work here is to be done, and all others manifest surprise.

The enrolling officer for that sub-district, Peter W. Kutz, was too much intimidated to go on with his work and resigned yesterday.

The Board immediately appointed another, Peter N. Snyder, in his place. The new enroller has gone today to begin, and with instructions to commence in the very Bressler neighborhood where the late assault was made, and to not desist until driven away by actual force, and if driven off, then to report immediately to me with all the facts.

Very respectfully,
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