Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Civil War Oddities #82

Russian-born John B. Turchin came home one day and joyfully informed his wife that he would soon be made colonel of the Nineteenth Illinois Regiment. Eyes flashing, she instantly responded, “I’m going with you, even to battlefields.”

Although at that time most of the military nurses were men, Mrs. Turchin volunteered her services and went along in an unofficial capacity. Less than a year later, now commanding a brigade, Turchin permitted his men to loot indiscriminately in Huntsville and Athens, Alabama.

Accused of having encouraged his men to plunder and rob civilians, the Federal officer went before a court-martial that recommended his dismissal from the service. Oral tradition has it that his wife promptly set out for Washington, where she managed to win an interview with Lincoln. Impressed with her account of what had taken place, the president set aside the verdict of the court-martial. Soon afterward the president submitted the name of Mrs. Turchin’s husband for confirmation as a brigadier general.

Months later, during a Tennessee campaign, the Federal general, whose baptismal name was Ivan Vasilovitch Turchinoff, became so ill that he could not sit in the saddle. Veterans who served under him vowed that for a period of ten days Mrs. Turchin took command of his unit and once briefly led it in battle.

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