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Title: Edward A. Hannegan
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About 1825 a man named John Bodely moved with his family to Shawnee township and settled on what is now known as the Bodely branch. His wife's name before her marriage was Hannegan, and her brother, Edward A. Hannegan, the subject of this sketch, moved into Shawnee township, Fountain county, about 1825. In 1825 and 1826 he worked for the farmers in south Davis and north Richland townships and went form there to Williamsport where he was admitted to the bar to practice law at the second term of court held in Warren county. This began May 7, 1829 and Judge Samuel B. Clark was one of the associate judges at the time. After practicing in Williamsport a short time under the old circuits, traveling over a large district following the court on horseback with all the attorneys and their saddlebags, Hannegan formed a partnership with Rufus A. Lockwood of Lafayette. This partnership lasted only two or three years and during that time Hannegan was continually on the circuit with the court while Lockwod remained in the office. About 1832 Hannegan settled at Covington and married a Miss Duncan. He became the most noted criminal lawyer in Indiana; excepting, perhaps, his partner, Rufus A. Lockwood.

In 1832 Hannegan defeated Albert S. White of Tippecanoe county for Congress and soon became prominent. Harriet Martineau, the famous english writer, who visited Washington while he was there, thought him the most eloquent man in Congress, preferring him to Webster; and Webster himself said of Hannegan, "Had he entered before I entered Congress I fear I should never have been known for my eloquence." Hannegan remained in Congress until 1840 when he was defeated by Henry S. Lane of Crawfordsville. Hannegan was elected United States senator and served until 1849. At the expiration of his term he was appointed, on March 29, 1849, by President Polk as minister to the court of Prussia. He was not a diplomat, he could not keep state secrets and drank too much whiskey. The queen of Prussia became so infatuated with the eloquent representative from the Hoosier State that the king grew jealous, and when upon a state occasion Hannegan kissed the hand of the queen the king askt that he be recalled.

Logan Esarey, in his splendid new history of Indiana, mentions Hannegan first as a member of the International Improvement party and says:

"In local politics the International Improvement party controlled the State by an overwhelming majority. The party was not unevenly divided between Jackson and Adams men.**** National politics did not control State elections as at present. In organizing the General Assembly in 1829, J.F.D. Lanier, later the distinguisht Whig banker of Madison, was made principle clerk unanimously, while Edward A. Hannegan, later the eloquent Democratic organization was almost broken up. Tipton Hannegan, Sullivan, Judah, Milroy, Drake, and Dr. Canby, had either quit the party or were temporarily opposing it.

August 5, 1838, Hannegan was a colonel in the State Militia and stationed at the fort at Plymouth, Indiana, on account of trouble with the Indians. Esarey says "Councils were held at Plymouth and Dixie Lake, but the red men were obdurate. Then Col. Edwards A. Hannegan, later a United States senator from Indiana, came from the post with the company of militia, to see what effect that would have. It had none."

An incident in Hannegan's election to the United States Senate, showing the possibility of one vote, is quite often referred to: Hannegan was called to defend a man for murder in Switzerland country. When he went to his client had no money, but without price or prospect of pay Hannegan took the case and cleared his client, accepting as pay the pledge that if it ever became possible for his client to do so he would use whatever means he could to further the interest of Hannegan politically. The man whom Hannegan defended died but pledged his son that he would fulfill his promise to aid Hannegan. When the opportunity came the son was confined to his bed a hopeless victim of tuberculosis, but he told the candidate for the legislature in his district, Daniel Kelso, that if he would take him to the polls and pledge himself to vote for Edward A. Hannegan and do all he could to elect him United States Senator, he would go to the polls and vote. The candidate for the legislature took him to the polls and he voted. A few days later he died, and it developed that Kelso was elected state senator by one vote. After a close hard fought race Hannegan was elected U.S. senator by one vote. After he entered the senate, the question of the Mexican was had passed the lower house, nad was a tie in the senate. The vote of Edward A. Hannegan determined the attitude of the United States and brought the war with Mexico with the result that much splendid territory was added to the United States. All this could be traved to the one vote of the dying man.

Esarey tells of this election as follows: 'The opening battle of the new era in Indiana politics was the election of the United States senator to succeed O.H. Smith, whose term expired in 1843. The two parties were almost evenly matched in the General Assembly, so evenly that one or two votes would determine the contest. On the first ballot O.H. Smith, the Whig candidate, received 72 votes, Tilghman A. Howard, the Democratic candidate, 74 and Joseph G. Marshall, a whig, 1. On the second ballot O.H. Smith received 75, Howard 74. Daniel Kelso, a whig senator from Switzerland country, voted for Hannegan. On the sixth ballot the democrats dropt Howard, and supported Hannegan who then received 76 votes and was elected. Kelso was openly charged with selling his vote and the whigs, by public resolution, denounced him.'

In 1848 the democrats controlled the General Assembly. A spirited contest at once began for Hannegan's seat in the United States senate. Governor Whitcomb, Robert Dale Owen, E.M. Chamberlin and Senator Hannegan were the Democratic aspirants. There were 82 of 87 members present. Whitcomb received 49, Owen 12, Hannegan 10, Chamberlain 6, and Whitcomb was elected.

In 1851 Covington had four illustrious men living there. Hannegan was admitted as a Mason, May 26, 1850; Daniel W. Voorhees was raised a Mason December 13, 1850 and Lew Wallace was made a Mason January 15, 1851, so at the time Edward A. Hannegan, Daniel W. Voorhees, Lew Wallace and Isaac A. Rice were all of them residents of Covington.

A trivial incident, but worth the telling as a means of injecting a lighter vein into a story that is all too sad, has been handed down among the old men of Covington. Hannegan had a younger brother, George by name, an awkward youth who during his teen years made his home with Edward. As no man is a hero to his valet so George failed to appreciate the brillance and greatness of his brother. Often when the latter was engaged in the preparation of an important speech or a bried the lad would come lounging into his office and break in upon his work with unnecessary noise and conversation. Finally Edward told George one day that he wanted him to show some respect for him, that when he came into the office he was to take a seat quietly and without speaking wait until the older brother was ready to talk to him.

It was but a few days later that George came into the office and set down in a chair. He did not speak but clapped his hands in an effort to attract the attention of Edward from his desk but the latter, thinking that it was good discipline for the youngster, kept him waiting for some time before he finally lookt up and askt what was wanted. "You told me not to speak to you when I came in," he exclaimed, "so I didn't- but your house is on fire!" And it was.

Julia Anderson Levering, who was born in Covington, says in her History of Indiana in speaking of the part of Fountain conty took in the constitutional convention of 1851:

"Covington was very thriving town in those days, with the lively commerce of the new canal and river and eclipsed the capital of the state in business prospects. In the village there was a brillant coterie of young men, who had settled there because of the flattering business outlook. Many of them became famous afterwards in state and national politics. Such men as Senator Edward Hannegan, Judge Ristine, Daniel Voorhees, David Briar, and Lew Wallace resided in the town." Again she says: "There was also much bluster thruout the west during President Polk's campaign over the claims of Great Britain regarding Oregan. With the other states west of the Alleghanies, Indiana joined in the cry of her own United States Senator, Edward Hannegan, of 'Fifty-four forty or fight."

In the county election in August, 1851, there were three candidates for representative from Fountain County. Jacob Dice received 1165 votes, Hannegan 997 and William Piatt 80. Piatt lived in Covington and built the house that is now the home of Judge I.E. Schoonover. Piatt county, Illinois, was named for him. Perhaps in this election Lew Wallace was elected prosecuting attorney, as a democrat. Daniel W. Voorhees was then a young attorney, with splendid prospects before him, and a whig, Isaac A. Rice, was a practicing attorney and editor of the Fountain Ledger at Covington.

After the election was over Edward A. Hannegan entered the race for presidency and secured possibly nine states so it lookt as tho nothing would prevent his being the Democratic candidate for president in the election which would follow. Had he been the nominee he would have been president of the United States instead of Franklin Pearce, for Pierce was then unknown.

It happened that under the stress of the canvass he was drinking more whiskey than usual and it was getting the best of him to an extent that alarmed his friends. He came home for a rest and his brother-in-law, Capt. John R. Duncan, who had won his title in the Mexican war, upbraided him for his drunkeness. Duncan was greatly interested in the welfare of his briliant brother-in-law and saw that his own conduct was jeopardizing his chances. A bitter quarrel followed and finally Mrs. Hannegan prevailed upon her husband to go upstairs. Capt. Duncan is said to have called Hannegan a coward and slapt his face. This was more than the whiskey-fired brain of Hannegan could stand and snatching a dagger from a mantel in the room he drove it in to the hilt in the captain's body. Duncan died the next day but before his death declared that no blame should be attacht to Hannegan. He was buried in the old cemetery at Covington where his grave can still be seen. Hannegan was brokenhearted over the affair and never again entered the cemetery, even refusing to go there when his wife was buried. This incident occured in the house now occupied by David Fergusen as a residence, opposite the Methodist church, on May 6, 1852.

The killing naturally created a sensation, not only locally but thruout the nation for Hannegan, be it remembered, was a national figure and the leading candidate for the presidency. Lew Wallace, the prosecuting attorney, refused to prosecute Hannegan and tendered his resignation, soon afterward moving from Covington to Crawfordsville. A charge of manslaughter was lodged against Hannegan but the grand jury failed to indict him. Isaac A. Rice criticized severely the grand jury and court for this finding but that it appears to have met popular approval is evidenced by the fact that the democrats for the community made it so warm for Rice that he was forced to leave and moved his paper to Attica, where it became The Attica Ledger and endures to this day.

The only official record that is left of the Duncan tragedy is the following in the Order Book among the records in the clerk's office at Covington: "Sixth judicial Day, of the September Term of Court, 1852.

State of Indiana VS. E.A. Hannegan, on a charge of manslaughter. Comes now the said defendent be discharged and no bill of indictment having been found by the grand jury it is ordered by the court that the said defendent be discharged and go hence without day. Sighed, September 18, 1852 by J. Naylor, Judge."

Hannegan was never the same man after the tragedy. He abandone presidential and all other political aspirations and for a few years continued to practice law at Covingtion ins desultory way, but spending much time in the saloons thus gradually lost his prestige.

Daniel Voorhees was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Lew Wallace as prosecuting attorney but soon afterwards Voorhees, partially on account of criticism in this case, left Covington and went to Terre Haute.

It is useless for me to tell the story of the life of Lew Wallace. The history of the state in which he lived could not be written without his deeds being recorded. Daniel W. Voorhees became United State senator and the most eloquent criminal lawyer in the United State of America. Isaac A. Rice was elected to the State senate from 1856 to 1860 and died in 1860 at Delphi while making a political speech. He was then the nominee for congress from this district and would have been elected had he not met this untimely end. It is said that Hennegan discovered Wallace and Daniel Voorhees. He was a great admirer of Bishop Simpson, one of the early presidents of Asbury University (now DePauw Univeristy), and did much to aid Simpson to get recognition in the eastern state as a public speaker, interesting the members of the United States Senate and Congress in the bishop's oratory.

The late Judge James McCabe of Williamsport was a great admirer of Hannegan and named his son Edward after him. Judge McCabe has told me that Hennegan was very graceful in her personal appearance,with a musical voice and the most eloquent man he ever heard speak.

Hannegan was very fond of the Wabash Valley and the Wabash river. Often he would leave Washington during a session of Congress to go home and fish and hunt and regain his health along the banks of the Wabash. Once he said to a friend, "Come go home with me and let me show you the lovely valley of the Wabash." Again, on a hot day in Washington, "I can endure these hot and crowded halls no longer, I must have free air and space in which to roam, I would like to fish and hunt where I pleased and when I pleased; come go home with me, and see how I live in Indiana, and the beauty of the Wabash river and the Wabash Valley."

in 1857 some of Hannegan's political friends in St.Louis prevailed upon him to move to that city (where his only son had previously located,) with the idea of rehabilitating his political fortunes. He opened a law office there and for two years his friends did all they could to aid in gaining prominence for him politically. Possibly their zeal was not unselfish and some of them at least hoped to profit by his return to popularity. They met with some success, altho the edge of Hannegan's ambition was dulled by the tragedy at Covington and by the death of his wife, which had occurred in the meantime. The whiskey habit still remained with him and he had also become addicted to morphine. In spite of these handicaps he and his friends were making headway.

Finally in January, 1859, his friends concluded that it was time for a master stroke and arranged for a great meeting at which the chief address was to be made by Hannegan. This address, it was expected, would attract nationwide attention and again bring the speaker into national prominence as presidential timber. The meeting was carefully arranged and widely advertised. A huge crowd responded and the plans were working fine so the promoters were elated. But the mills of the gods are relentless. Hannegan had worshipt at the shring of Bacchus and Bacchus claimed his toll. Realizing that upon the success of this speech depended his success or failure Hannegan resorted to both whiskey and morphine for stimulant. The man who made the speech of introduction was long-winded. He reviewed the public career of Hannegan at length and talked too long. When it came time for Hannegan to speak the drug and alcohol had passed the stage of stilulant and were beginning to have the opposite effect. He made the address but it was lacking in the brillance and power of oratory which his hearers had been led to expect, and fell flat.

His friends upbraided him for his indulgence at such a critical time. None of them realized more clearly than he how completely he had failed. He went to his room that night stung by the criticism of his friends and deprest by the sense of his own humiliation. None of them ever saw his alive afterward. The next morning his dead body was found in his bed, death having come as the result of an overdose of morphin. Whether the drug was taken with suicidal intent or merely to induce sleep and rest from his thoughts will never be known. His death occurred January 25, 1859. His body was taken to Terre Haute for burial altho his wife was buried at Covington.

So ends the life of Edward A. Hannegan, the most brilliant orater the Wabash Valley ever produced; aye, more than that, the most brilliant orator that ever graced the halls of the American Congress. His meteoric career furnished ample room for moralizing on the evil of indulgence in alcolholic liquor but perhaps it was better to draw about his shortcomings the mantle of charity and close this sketch with these words from the finish of a speech he delivered in Congress: "For the singleness and sincerity of my motives I appeal to Heaven; by them I am willing to be judged now and hereafter when prostrate at Thy feet, O, God, I falter forth my last brief prayer for mercy on an erring life."

Hannegan was a man of strong sentimental interests. Before he left Covington he gave Colonel McManomy, of that city, who happened to be the local Democratic leader at the time, a photograph of himself, with the injunction that it be kept as a Democratic talisman. Years afterward when McManomy came to his death bed he sent for Hannibal Yount, upon whose shoulders the cloak of leadership then rested, and placed the portrait in his hands as a sacred trust to be passed at his death. Yount kept the picture all his life and just two weeks before his death summoned Leroy Sanders, at that time county clerk and leader of the county Democracy, and turned the talisman over to him. Mr. Sanders moved to Indianapolis in 1915 but took the picture with him and still holds it altho he recognizes the obligation that rests upon him to pass it on and expects to return to Covington when he feels the proper time has come. It is the only photograph of Hannegan known to be in existence.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001103
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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