Private Barton’s Cigar Find Changes Course of Major Civil War Battles
From the Book:
Indiana’s Role in Civil War
Greetings, today I will relate to you the story of Private Barton W. Mitchell whose lucky find of a pack of cigars that likely changed the course of the Civil War. An historical marker in Hartsville, Indiana honors Private Barton and his lucky find.
Title of Marker:
Private Barton W. Mitchell
SW corner of town square, SR 46/East Harrison Street & North Washington, Hartsville. (Bartholomew County, Indiana)
1992 by Indiana Historical Bureau
Marker ID #:
Mitchell, Co. F, 27th Indiana Volunteers, is buried in Hartsville Baptist Cemetery. He found Confederate General Lee’s “Lost” Special orders No. 191 Near Frederick, MD, September 13, 1862. Union General McClellan then engaged Lee at the Battle of Antietam.
Barton W. Mitchell (1816 – 1868)
Mitchell joined the Union Army on Sept. 12, 1861 and reported to the 27th Indiana Volunteers stationed at Frederick, Maryland. They were resting from a previous battle near a campground previously occupied by Confederate Major General Daniel Harvey Hill’s troops. It was around noon on September 13, 1862, when Mitchell noticed a packet lying in the grass in the campground Hill’s troops had occupied. Picking up the packet, he found three cigars. Wrapped around the cigars he found a piece of paper. Upon examining the contents of the letter, he realized he had made an important find. He turned the letter (no word on the fate of the cigars) to his sergeant. The letter made its way up the chain of command until it reached the Commander of the Union Troops, Major General George B. McClellan. The contents of the letter delighted General McClellan, who told a subordinate officer, “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.”
Special Order 191
Mitchell had happened upon a letter that was of great importance to the Confederate Army. Many historians consider his find to have changed the course of the war. Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee drafted the letter on September 9, 1862. It contained detailed troop movements that Lee planned to make during the next few days. The intelligence contained in the letters contributed greatly to the Union victories at the Battle of South Mountain and Battle of Antietam.
Wounded at Antietam
Mitchell received a leg wound at the Battle of Antietam. Due to the lack of antibiotics at the time, many wounds became infected. This was the case with Mitchell and he mustered out on Sept. 1, 1864. He died in 1868, possibly because of the infected leg, which probably never healed properly.
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