Special to the Sunday Press.
(Copyright 1905 by W. R. Hearst.)
Wooster, O. September 2. — That Captain Elmore F. Taggartº still loves the wife from whom he is trying to secure a divorce many who have visited the court during the last few days believe. A well-known resident who poses as a student of human nature, said tonight: "I have been watching Captain Taggart very intently for some days and it is my opinion that Captain Taggart still loves the little woman whom he has brought into such unenviable prominence. I base my opinion on the way Captain Taggart keeps his eyes on Mrs. Taggart at all times, and particular at times when I know persons have been talking to him of the sadness of the case. I believe, too, that if the right persons went to him that the captain would gladly, even at this time, drop the case."
Persons of course have a right to their opinions, but the conduct of the captain and his words when spoken to on the matter of reconciliation make those who are in touch with the officer believe that the aforesaid student of human nature is mistaken in his diagnosis. That there are persons who still hope to see Mr. and Mrs. Taggart make up their differences has been demonstrated within a few hours.
Rev. J. J. Excell, an aged minister of the city, today visited Mrs. Taggart and said he had been praying nightly for herself and boys and Captain Taggart, asking that the difference of husband and wife be forgotten for the sake of the boys. Mrs. Taggart, when spoken to, only shakes her head, as if to say: "It cannot be."
Both Captain and Mrs. Taggart have been visited by Mrs. Alice B. Evans, of Delaware, O., with the same object in view. Mrs. Evans attended college with Captain Taggart and expressed great interest in himself and boys and Mrs. Taggart. The kindly offices of these friends seem to be appreciated by the litigants but their differences cannot now be made up. It is expected that the evidence in rebuttal will all be submitted by noon Tuesday when the arguments will start. A number of witnesses will be examined to rebut testimony of Billy Taggart. Howard Taggart and Major Newberry, of Pittsburg, have also been asked to be here. Captain Taggart also will again be placed on the stand. Major Newberry is expected to give some testimony of great benefit to Captain Taggart. Both sides intimate that they have some surprises in store for the closing hours of the taking of testimony.
Of the greater part of this morning's session was taken up in the reading of depositions of Major Charles G. Morton, who in Fort Leavenworth was the major of Captain Taggart's battalion. His testimony was offered in rebuttal and to materially refute the charges of plaintiff in regard to the alleged conspiracy on the part of General Miner and Mrs. Taggart, whereby Captain Taggart was confined in the hospital to Fort Leavenworth on the charge of acute alcoholism. When Taggart was confined in the hospital the charge of acute alcoholism was placed against him on the hospital records. When General Miner was on the stand for the defense he swore that this charge was not true, but that he had him confined in order to observe his mental condition.
Colonel Van Hoff, the surgeon in charge of the hospital, in his deposition, said that Taggart was not a victim of acute alcoholism and that there was nothing wrong in his mental condition. Now comes Major Morton, by deposition, and swears he was intimately associated with Captain Taggart during most of his military career and particularly so during the trouble in Fort Leavenworth, and that he never knew or heard of Taggart being intoxicated and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him either mentally or physically when he was confined in Fort Leavenworth. "I have a very shrewd opinion as to why he was confined," said Major Morton. "He was put there so he could not talk."
"From my knowledge of the case," he said, "and the circumstances that occurred about that time I am quite of the opinion that he was confined to keep him out of the way for other persons in gross violation of all the rules and regulations that govern the administration of the army. One reason most assigned was that the post commander desired to keep Taggart where he could not talk. I went to the hospital a day or two after and asked the hospital sergeant if I could see Captain Taggart. He told me he had orders to allow no one to see him. I asked what the matter was, and he looked at me with a knowing smile, but did not give me any explicit reason. He conveyed the idea to my mind that there was something strange about it. There was a place in the hospital for persons with mental derangement, but he said Taggart was not put in the place."
"Was Taggart intoxicated when he went into the hospital?"
"I know that he was utterly sober when he was placed in the hospital and that while there he was marked acute alcoholism."º
"It was a falsehood and was done to cover up the real truth in the matter."
"If General Miner was not justified in imprisoning Captain Taggart, Taggart could have readily had redress by court martial, could he not?" "I should say not readily. The whole principle of discipline is that the presumption is in favor of the commanding officer."
"In order then, to have redress, that presumption must be overcome?"
"It might happen very often that a commanding officer would be upheld publicly even though his course was frowned upon or even reprimanded in private. That statement will be readily understood by any intelligent person."
The deposition of Colonel Van Hoff was read in rebuttal. He stated that his residence was close to Taggart's in Fort Leavenworth and that the windows of his house were all open on the night of June 30. He heard no screams nor cries for help coming from the Taggart home. He said the captain's habits were always good. "I never knew of his being intoxicated nor did I ever hear of his being in such a condition."º
"I never knew him to carry a revolver except in the line of duty."
Whether or not he wins his suit for divorce now being tried here, Captain Taggart must face a court martial in a fight for his shoulder-straps.
"The court martial," says an army man involved, "is waiting the end of the trial, not because the decision, as has been supposed would determine whether or not the charges would be pressed, but because the amended petition in the divorce case forms the basis of the court martial charges. It is a privileged communication and Taggart could not be brought to court martial for it until the case has been decided."
Information that Lieutenant Fortescue, kin of President Roosevelt, also will file charges for court martial against Taggart, comes from an authoritative source. Fortescue is named as a co‑respondent. He is now in Europe.
"That Fortescue will file charges is practically certain," is the statement of Captain James Taylor, attorney for Mrs. Taggart.a
Mrs. Taggart is to be a witness against Taggart in the court martial charges, filed by General Miner. Her written statement for Miner and against Taggart has already been filed with the war department at Washington. Recently the information was given out that the court martial charges against Taggart, as well as those Taggart filed against Miner had been outlawed by the expiration of two years since the trouble at Fort Leavenworth. The charges against Miner were outlawed, but the charges Miner filed against Taggart were based not on his conduct at Fort Leavenworth, but on his accusations against Miner in the amended petition in the divorce case. On Miner's allegations Taggart now stands accused of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman in making false charges against Miner. The alleged offense is scarcely six months old.
Court martial charges based on Taggart's conduct at Fort Leavenworth including the allegations that he assaulted his wife and put her from the house naked were threatened, but this court martial, according to testimony, was prevented by Mrs. Taggart. In the pending court martial, it is announced Miss p4 Anna Berry, daughter of Judge and former Congressman Berry, of Newport, Ky., is to be a witness. Captain Taggart's testimony against General Miner was that he overheard Mrs. Taggart telling Miss Berry about the alleged pinching incident at the Miner dinner. This morning were read depositions of army officers, who said the captain was sober and, to the best of their knowledge, was kind to his wife and children.
Special Dispatch to The Call
Wooster, Ohio, Aug. 22. — The central figure in the Taggart divorce case to‑day was Brigadier General Charles Wright Miner, U. S. A., retired, who is named as co‑respondent and who is accused by Major Taggart of having maliciously imprisoned him at Fort Leavenworth.
General Miner was accompanied by his wife. He was not called to the stand until late this afternoon. He was asked about the famous dinner party, at which the alleged impropriety between himself and Mrs. Taggart took place. General Miner said he sat at the head of the table, which was •fifty-four inches wide, and that it would have been impossible for him to take improper liberties with Mrs. Taggart. He said he had called to see Mrs. Taggart on one occasion only, and that was to deliver a message from his (General Miner's) wife. This took twenty minutes, he said. He denied that he had ever gone out the back door of the Taggart home or any other back door except his own. He denied having gone to see Mrs. Taggart when her husband had been detailed on flood duty in May, 1903, in Kansas City. General Miner denied in toto, upon questioning by Smyser, any indiscretions whatever with Mrs. Taggart, as charged in the amended petition of Captain Taggart, and any conspiracy with others to falsely imprison the captain at Fort Leavenworth.
General Miner described the famous scene at Fort Leavenworth, when he had Captain Taggart before him on the day after the trouble occurred between Captain and Mrs. Taggart. Captain Poore had officially reported the affair to him, he said. When he asked Taggart about it, the captain said he must have been crazy, and spoke of Mrs. Taggart being "as white as the driven snow," and called upon God as his witness that he had never struck his wife before.
General Miner said he did not prefer charges against Taggart at the court-martial. He went to the Taggarts' home, and Mrs. Taggart pleaded with him, for the sake of the children, not to prefer charges.
Upon cross-examination General Miner said he, did not consider himself a member of Governor Herrick's staff. He said he considered Captain Taggart a good officer. Mrs. Taggart had asked him to order the captain not to communicate with her for three months, but he considered that he lacked the authority, and did not do so.
General Miner was shown a letter he had written to Taggart after the latter's return from Kansas City. The letter was couched in flattering terms and warmly praised Taggart's work there.
Before this he was asked why he had mentioned the bad things concerning Taggart and had failed to mention the good things Taggart had done. He said he supposed it was an oversight in making out his report. In reply to another question, General Miner said that if Taggart had been court-martialed at the time of the Fort Leavenworth affair he would have been dismissed from the service.
Mrs. Miner also was a witness this afternoon. She denied the dinner-table episode, and said nothing occurred that was improper. She never witnessed any improper conduct on the part of Mrs. Taggart while at Fort Leavenworth.
When court convened this morning Mrs. Vose, niece of Mrs. Taggart, completed her testimony of yesterday. She reiterated her charges of indiscretions by Taggart and Augustina de la Cruz, the Filipino girl, at Manila; described the alleged scenes fully, and said she had not told Mrs. Taggart of them at that time, nor did she until some time afterward, because she did not wish to come between her and Captain Taggart.
Wooster, Ohio, Aug. 3. — Details of events that caused much trouble in the Sixth United States Infantry, when it was stationed at Fort Thomas, Ky., from 1893 to 1898, were brought out here to‑day at the trial of the suit for divorce brought by Capt. Elmore F. Taggart. The plaintiff is attached to the Sixth Regiment, but is temporarily detailed as in the Quartermaster General's Department.
Howard Taggart, brother of Capt. Taggart, gave evidence to show that Mrs. Taggart used liquor to excess. A contest for the beer-drinking championship of the garrison was held one night, he said, between Mrs. Taggart and Mrs. Poore, wife of a Lieutenant, and the contestants were backed with wagers by officers. Mrs. Taggart told him afterward, he declared, that Mrs. Poore won the match, drinking nine goblets of beer, while she could drink only five.
He also testified that his sister-in‑law drank habitually with the officers, and prided herself on taking her whisky straight, laughing at the men for using water with it. The Captain objected to his wife's actions in giving beer to their sons.
He told further of attentions to Mrs. Taggart paid by Lieut. Ritner while Capt. Taggart was absent.
The defendant in the suit was formerly Violet Culver, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Culver of Chicago. She is making a fight for the custody of the two sons, Charles, aged eleven, and Elmore, aged nine.
The couple have been separated for more than a year. It is said that Capt. Taggart will introduce testimony involving one regimental commander and several officers of lower rank. He will charge that two of these men engaged in a conspiracy to ruin his character and have him put into prison and dismissed from the army. His charges have caused great bitterness in the Sixth Infantry. Testimony of many officers has been taken. As some of them are in the Philippines it has been difficult to get the case completed.
Wooster, O., Oct. 13. — Judge Eason, who heard the divorce case of Capt. Elmore F. Taggart against his wife, rendered his decision this afternoon. The court grants Capt. Taggart the divorce and the custody of the two children, Culver, aged 11, and Charles, aged 7. Although Mrs. Taggart is denied possession of the children, she will be permitted to see them. Capt. Taggart was in court during the reading of the decision. Mrs. Taggart is ill and was not present. The court room was crowded with an eagerly expectant throng of people. Judge Eason, before giving his decision, reviewed the petitions, cross petitions, answers and affidavits. In the course of his statement Judge Eason said that the testimony was deeply touching. The charges of drunkenness against Capt. Taggart, the court said, were not sustained.
The trial lasted seven weeks. The case went to the court a month ago. The suit was first started in July, 1904, by Capt. Taggart, who filed a petition for divorce, charging his wife with conduct unbecoming a wife and alleging the excessive use of intoxicants. Mrs. Taggart heard of the proceedings in San Francisco several weeks later and immediately started for Wooster, the home of the Taggarts, where she filed a counter petition for divorce against Capt. Taggart on the grounds of cruelty and neglect. The case has been of exceptional interest because of statements during the trial by Capt. Taggart that the use of intoxicants in the army was so common as to be almost the custom. A number of prominent army officers were named in Capt. Taggart's petition as having been more or less the cause of the domestic troubles between Capt. and Mrs. Taggart. Capt. Taggart is a well known army officer. He is a graduate of West Point and has served at various army posts of the army. He was commissary officer of a division in the Cuban campaign, aided in the relief of Cubans, served with distinction in the Philippines and especially in Samar, was chief of police of Manila and commanded the hospital ship Relief and the transport Sherman.
Culver, the oldest child of Capt. and Mrs. Taggart, declared to his mother tonight that no matter what the court decided he would remain with her. This afternoon before the decision of the court was announced, the child went to his mother and said:
"Mamma, I don't have to leave you, do I?"
The Taggart home is being watched tonight because of a fear that the children might be kidnaped.
a As we will see in the Los Angeles Herald article, Mrs. Taggart lost her case in October. This brief item, reproduced here in full, appeared in The New York Times the following month (November 19, 1905):
Washington, Nov. 18. — Acting Secretary of War Oliver to‑day accepted the resignation of Lieut. Granville R. Fortescue, Tenth Cavalry.
Lieut. Fortescue was one of the officers mentioned in the Taggart divorce case at Wooster, Ohio. No reason is given for the resignation.
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