Sargus digs deep on Civil War hero

T-L Photo/GAGE VOTA Ed Sargus, retired federal judge, speaks to a packed house at the St. Clairsville Public Library about local Civil War hero Thomas Drummond.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Retired federal judge Ed Sargus spoke about the life and legacy of Thomas Drummond, a local Civil War hero, at the St. Clairsville Public Library on Thursday.

The event was organized by the Belmont County Heritage Museum, which is offering the “Glimpses of Glory” exhibit on the county’s Civil War heroes through July 6.

Drummond was a St. Clairsville native and a captain of the UNion Army in the Civil War. He died at the Battle of Five Forks in Virginia, only eight days before the Confederacy surrendered.

Drummond gained a bit of a reputation for his drinking problem, which eventually led to him to migrate to a small town called Vinton, Iowa.

“For someone in a small town with a drinking issue, you get a reputation. But one good thing about the frontier is it’s like a social bankruptcy, there’s all new people and nobody knows who you are,” Sargus said.

While living in Vinton, Sargus said, Drummond purchased a newspaper called the Vinton Eagle, which was a Republican newspaper. Drummond was anti-slavery and was publicly anti-alcohol even though he was a heavy alcohol user in his private life. He was very active in politics. By the time he was 25, he was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives and was the leader of the anti-slavery members of the House and Senate.

“Thomas’ career in the 1850s almost exclusively focused on slavery with one big exception. Blindness was a big problem in the state of Iowa from the diseases you would catch on the farms that would make the children go blind. The governor of the state made a pitch when he ran for office that we need an asylum for the blind, and it should go to any place that can give us 50 acres and can raise $5,000,” Sargus added, noting that Drummond was able to procure the 50 acres of land and raised $5,000 for Vinton, Iowa, to be the home of the asylum.

Apparently, this rubbed the people from the larger Iowa cities the wrong way. But despite the larger populated cities disputing the location, Drummond filibustered his way into making Vinton the home of the asylum for the blind. Sargus said it is still standing all these years later.

When the Civil War started, Drummond joined the Union Army and eventually became a captain for the 5th Cavalry. He died due to injuries sustained at the Battle of Five Forks in Virginia, which Sargus said ended up being the beginning of the end of the Civil War. According to Sargus, Drummond wore his best clothes to the battle because he believed he was going to die and wanted to die in his best outfit.

Sargus has spent the last 16 years researching and writing about Thomas Drummond. He said he first learned about Drummond when coworkers from Columbus and Cincinnati were visiting St. Clairsville and asked him to take them on a tour of the town. Sargus went to the cemetery on Newell Avenue and while walking around the cemetery, he saw Drummond’s tombstone and proceeded to go home and Google search him.

After learning about Drummond and doing extensive research on him, Sargus decided to write a book about him.

“I was originally going to write a history book about him. There’s a lot I can learn about him, but there are some holes. There’s no book about him, and his early years especially are hard to follow, so to fill those holes I made it into fiction,” Sargus said.

Once Sargus decided the book would be a fictional story, he quickly realized that it was very different from writing history.

“I learned the hard way that I needed to go back to school. I took some classes on fiction writing online, and I finished the book about a month ago,” he said.

Now that his book is complete, Sargus has started looking for a publisher.

Sargus wrote a book about Thomas Drummond’s father, the Rev. Drummond, as well as one about the creation of West Virginia, which was released by a publisher. The book he co-wrote with Eric Wittenberg and Penny Barrick is called “Succeeding from Secession.”It is available on Amazon and is currently ranked third in sales in the 19 Century History section.


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