BY MARGO DRUMMOND
During most of the Civil War, a reporter named Sylvanus Cadwallader lived in a tent adjoining the quarters of General Ulysses S. Grant. Originally from Kenosha, Mr. Cadwallader was serving as the NEW YORK HERALD’S Washington bureau chief. When the war ended, Cadwallader returned to the capital and his 14th Street office where, one afternoon in 1865, he was asked to meet a man waiting outside in a carriage. The man was Brigadier General Horace T. Sanders of Racine. Cadwallader immediately recognized Sanders, despite the general’s frail condition resulting from consumption.
“I had formerly known him as a stout, heavily built man, florid, dark complexioned man, animated in expression and full of vitality. The man before me was colorless and emaciated, bundled up carefully, accompanied by his wife and evidently in the last stages of consumption.”
A prominent lawyer whose eloquent oratory was renowned throughout the state courts of Wisconsin, Horace T. Sanders had been appointed a colonel and provost judge in 1861. Later he would serve with distinction in the Army of the Potomac as well as under General Benjamin Butler. Meanwhile, the family he was forced to leave behind would become all but destitute following four years without income from his practice of law. Thus it was that General Sanders approached his friend, Sylvanus Cadwallader, about a possible political appointment of any sort that would “give his family bread.” With the help of General Benjamin Butler, Cadwallader secured Sander’s appointment as internal revenue collector for the Racine district. But his efforts were in vain. At a cheap boarding house on East Capitol Hill, Horace T. Sanders had died. His grief stricken wife, Eunice, was left with an unpaid board bill and 50 cents for the long journey home.
Once again Sylvanus Cadwallader offered his kindness. Abandoning his initial impulse to take up a collection from Wisconsin soldiers still in the city, he instead proceeded directly to the office of Secretary of War Stanton. There Mr. Cadwallader appealed for government assistance in seeing Mrs. Sanders home, accompanied by the body of her husband. As he concluded, a tearful Cadwallader saw Stanton looking at him with what he described as “the most gentle expression I ever saw on his face.”
“General Sanders has just died,” spoke Stanton to an aide. “Please see Mrs. Sanders and learn what disposition she would like to make of the body. She will probably want to take it to Racine, Wisconsin for burial. If so, make all the necessary arrangements for its transportation in a good metallic case, escort the body and Mrs. Sanders to Racine…pay all charges and funeral expenses…and set Mrs. Sanders down at her own door when all is over…”
Horace T. Sanders had come to Racine from New York State in 1842 to begin the practice of law and soon was appointed district attorney. Described as “negligent in attire and manners to the point of slovenliness,” his appearance was soon forgotten when he rose to speak with an eloquence that reflected his education in the classics. As a member of the second state constitutional convention of 1847, he took part in the writing of that document and later served in the state legislature of 1853 where he was known as a “spellbinder.”
Initially a “Douglas Democrat” outside whose law offices hung an enormous banner reading, “Death To Traitors” following the execution of John Brown, Sanders became a “war Democrat” when the South moved to secede. It was then that he organized the 19th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry which was sent from Camp Utley in Racine to Camp Randall in Madison to guard Confederate prisoners. A few months later they were sent east to battle. At the Battle of Proctor’s Creek at Chesterfield County, Virginia in the spring of 1864, it was noted by a fellow soldier that General Benjamin Butler’s shoulder strap was lost to a bullet as was the tassel of General Sander’s hat-cord.
On Thursday, Oct. 11, 1865, the remains of Horace Turner Sanders came home to Racine. The following Sunday funeral services were held from his residence on Main Street. His devoted widow, Eunice, who is buried next to her husband in Mound Cemetery, became a beloved local figure, known for her care of Civil War veterans. Until her death at the age of 85, she welcomed visits from those who had served with her husband and from those who recognized her dedication to their well-being during and after the war.
On Jan. 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Horace T. Sanders for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from April 19,1865. On March 12, 1866, the United States Senate confirmed the posthumous appointment.
Margo Drummond’s interest in local history began when she became involved with preservation Racine. For 31 years, she taught high school courses on Racine History and Death and Dying, Issues of Living and Life. She wrote two books, “Blessings of Being Mortal: How a Mature Understanding of Death Can Free Us to Live Wisely and Well” and “Here’s to Your Health.”