The stranger pretended to retire or to take the evening train, but instead went to work drilling holes on the outer door of the office. Soon a loud explosion was heard by those who were staying at the Rockwell House Hotel in the area. The hotel faced Court Street and Joliet Street. The stranger quickly ran off amid the many pistol shots from the guns of the citizens and was seen traveling fast southward toward the wilds of the Kankakee River. A small group of vigilantes began the pursuit.
The ruined vault was examined, and Treasurer John Brown was relieved to find that the money was still within the building. The little tin box was found to contain a gunlock, a watch, a percussion cap, and gunpowder. The bomb, which destroyed the vault, was determined to be a complicated device.
The men soon found evidence that the stranger had been seen north of Lowell and also had passed through the Lowell Cemetery earlier that morning. At noon he was seen at Oak Grove, had passed southward through the marsh on his way to Beaver Ditch near Schneider where he sold a watch, then headed for Beaver Lake, where he spent the night at the house of Newton Nichols and was seen by herdsmen heading south along the east shore of Beaver Lake toward the village of Morocco. The vigilantes found by speaking to some of the local residents that it was easy for hoodlums to hide in that big marsh area at hideouts on Bogus Island near the village of Ennis.
Weeks and months passed, and no new clues appeared until a message came to the county seat from Warsaw, Ind. On Tuesday, September 24, 1872, Sheriff H.G. Bliss, John Kain, E.C. Field, and the treasurer, John Brown, all rode to Warsaw to bring back the fugitive, but few citizens thought that it was the same tall stranger who blew up the treasurer's office months earlier. The hearing for the strongly built captive had some delays, then was set for early in October. A large crowd assembled at the courtroom of Justice Fry. The prisoner said that his name was Col. Battles (found listed under the 20th Tennessee), and claimed to have been an officer in the Confederate army. After hearing the confusing arguments from all sides and all the evidence involved, the Justice decided that the prisoner should be held for trial at the Circuit Court. Another hearing was held at the Common Pleas Court, agreeing that no jury would have convicted Col. Battles under all the strongly conflicting testimony, and the "tall stranger" was released. The "great burglar excitement" ended.
While no reasonable doubt remained that the man calling himself Col. Battles was the perpetrator, new evidence shows he was not the Confederate hero he claimed to be. The real Colonel Joel A. Battles was named Warden of the Tennessee State Prison where he remained until his death on August 23, 1872. This information is now available through modern technology. His true identity remains a mystery.
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