Abilene (KS) Weekly Reflector
February 13, 1890
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Remove the Stain
The Unjust Charge of Desertion Against a Faithful Soldier
How shall it be that a romance of love and glory, the pretty albeit sad story of a young soldier and his bride, shall find a place in the dull documents and grave considerations of the Senate?
It remained for Senator Wilson of Iowa, as plain and practical a man as the Senate holds, to demonstrate this possibility. Among other dry matters he introduced a bill to remove the charge of desertion against George W. Hardwick of Red Oak, Montgomery County, Iowa. Seldom has a more grievous wrong been inflicted upon a brave, good man; seldom has a more touching bit of life history been told than is contained in the recital of this bill.
In the spring of 1861, when the Civil War began, George W. Hardwick was a boy of sixteen living with his parents at Bedford, Lawrence County, Indiana. He was even then the lover of a girl schoolmate and, when yielding to the enthusiasm that swept the North at the first call of troops, the boy started with musket and knapsack for the front, he left behind him the pledge that if he returned alive there should be a little wedding in the town. For more than two years, through field and blood, battle and bivouac, wounds and disease, young Hardwick, with all the responsibilities of a man, followed the brilliant fortune of the army of the Tennessee. When at last Vicksburg had fallen and his first enlistment had expired, the soldier boy hurried home to keep the promise he had made and remembered through all those months.
The invitations of wife and home, however, could not withstand the martial thirst aroused in him, and he soon re-enlisted, entering the Forty-third Indiana volunteer infantry regiment. He was held for some months upon dull duty at Indianapolis, but at last was ordered forward to the support of Grant in the closing operations about Richmond. The little wife heard of his impending departure, and as she was then in the weakness of approaching motherhood, she wrote him to come and comfort her with a last farewell. The brave young husband presented this plea to his captain and was given permission to spend the five days remaining, ere the regiment should move, to perform this duty of love and humanity. He hastened on horseback, a two days' ride, to Bedford, and with a tenderness readily to be understood, entered his home. That night, as he sat by the girl so soon to feel the solemn emphasis of womanhood, musket butts rang upon the doorsill and a provost guard, scouring the country for deserters, poured in. They seized him, and as the wife writes in her affidavit, "despite my tears and entreaties they took him away."
Back to Indianapolis in disgrace, young Hardwick was led and there charged with desertion, but was never brought to trial. In a few days he was hurried to the seat of war with his regiment to be lost for weeks and months in the tremendous event of that last campaign until Lee and his brave men had been fought to a standstill, the magnificent Army of the Potomac passed up Pennsylvania Avenue in the capital of the triumphant nation, out of muster and into history. Few soldiers had a more worthy, a genuinely illustrious record than the lad who had from the first shot of the war, through four years of loading and firing to the last retiring volley of the foe, served without flinching, almost without pause.
Nevertheless, in the confusion of the times, the charge of desertion at
Indianapolis was unerased, his subsequent service was overlooked, and the
record of a deserter filed upon him in the National Archives of the war. A
little while ago, Hardwick, who has removed with his family to Iowa, heard
that money was due his class of soldiers. He inquired and was stunned to
learn of his recorded disgrace. He now petitions for redress. Not the
least sad of the features of this case is the sworn declaration of his
wife's that her health was shattered by her grief and excitement upon the
night of her husband's violent and unjust seizure and that the girl baby
soon afterward born to her and still surviving came into the world with a
nervousness and frailty of body from which she has never recovered.
Typed and donated by Randi Richardson.
Legislative Documents Submitted to the Twenty-fifth General Assembly of the State of Iowa Which Convened at Des Moines, January 8, 1894, Vol. 4, p. 67:
GEORGE W. HARDWICK—Montgomery County. On April 13, 1891, an executive order was issued suspending further execution of sentences imposed by district court for Montgomery County and court of A. W. Harding, mayor of Red Oak Junction, upon George W. Hardwick for violating prohibitory liquor laws, on certain conditions for a violation of which suspension was revoked on January 26, 1892.
Typed and donated by Randi Richardson.