I’ve been busy the past few weeks going through about 1,000 pages of documents surrounding Everton Conger’s suspension in 1883 from the Territorial Supreme Court bench in Montana, so I haven’t had time to do much in the way of blog work. But since I feel like I need to carry my weight here a little better, I’m taking a break from that, but not from Conger.
One thing that constantly surprises me is how many famous people Conger’s path crossed. He was good friends with Rutherford B. Hayes before the Civil War, and Hayes actually suggested that Conger raise his own cavalry company after Conger’s first stint with the 8th Ohio Infantry didn’t pan out. Conger was mentioned by John Fremont in his report on the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign due to Conger’s near capture of Turner Ashby near Mt. Jackson. Of course, Conger will forever be known to history for his role in capturing John Wilkes Booth.
But one of the most interesting roles that Conger played in our nation’s history came with his role, and that of his brother, in the founding of the American Red Cross. After the Wilson-Kautz Raid in 1864, where Conger received his second war wound, he was cared for by none other than Clara Barton, who was traveling with the Army of the James and who enjoyed a friendship with Ben Butler, who heartily welcomed her to the service.
Years after the war ended, Barton was traveling in the halls of Congress trying to drum up support for America adopting the Geneva Convention and the creation of an American Red Cross. Her pleas received little interest from either representatives or senators until she chanced upon meeting Omar D. Conger, senator from Michigan and Everton’s older brother.
At first Omar listened politely but uninterested until Barton asked him “you wouldn’t by chance be related to Col. Conger, would you?” Omar’s eyes brightened. “I am his brother,” he replied. She explained how she tended to Everton’s wounds after the Wilson-Kautz Raid and how much she grew to like and respect Everton. From that point, Omar became one of the strongest supporters of the organization, holding an organizational meeting in his Washington home on May 12, 1881. Omar’s strong and vocal support for the organization helped pave the way for its success. In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Geneva Convention and the Red Cross was born.
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