20 September 2015

Death of Edward W. Hall (1839-1863)

The old adage is that "the winner gets to write the history."  But there are winners on a multitude of levels, winners of arguments, winners of skirmishes, winners of battles, and winners of wars.  The Union Army won the war, but they lost a lot of battles.  One of those catastrophic, unnecessary battles claimed the life of my 2xg-granduncle Edward W. Hall, 1st Lieutenant Co. B, 3rd Iowa Infantry.

General Grant was involved in a chess match in Mississippi in the summer on 1863, trying to take Vicksburg.  To draw Confederate defenses away from Vicksburg he attacked the state capital of Jackson.  After defeating Vicksburg he had to turn around reclaim Jackson.  On the 13th of July, Brigadier General Jacob Laumann ordered Col. Isaac Pugh to line up and march his brigade of over three thousand soldiers, passed an abatis of downed trees, through a cornfield and up a hill directly into an enemy firing artillery the entire time. The lined up Union soldiers were mowed down by rebel artillery.  Whole slashes of men were wiped away with each cannon ball or canister of grape shot.

I now pass it over to Lt. S.D. Thompson and his self-published book from 1864, Recollections with the Third Iowa regiment -- 

Click to enlarge.
Each regiment was literally torn in pieces. In proportion
to their numbers the 53d Illinois suffered most, to say
nothing of losing their gallant Colonel Earle, who was
struck by a volley of canister while riding in advance
of his men. Our own regiment lost one hundred and
thirteen, sixteen being killed, fifty-seven wounded, and
forty missing and taken prisoners. A number of the
wounds were mortal. Among those who lost their lives
were some of our best names. The Ruckman brothers,
the one Captain, the other 2d Lieutenant of Company B;
1st Lieutenant Hall, of the same company; and 1st
Lieutenant McMurtrie of Company D; 1st Sergeants
Woodruff of Company B, and McClure of Company I;
Sergeants Gilmore and Dent of Company E, Follett of
Company F, and many other gallant names were among
the sacrifices of this needless blunder.

-- The soldiers knew this was a bad idea.  The field officers knew this was a bad idea, everyone all the way up to and including Col. Pugh knew this was a bad idea. But General Laumann was to be trusted and obeyed.  Laumann was recalled to HQ in Vicksburg and never allowed to command again.

Such was the death of my 2xg-granduncle Lt. Edward W. Hall, July 13th, 1863.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

19 September 2015

SUVCW Grave Marker Dedication

Today my son Ralph and I attended a grave marker dedication at the Oak Hill and Oak Crest Memorial Cemeteries in Downer's Grove, Illinois.  The event was sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Oak Hill/Oak Crest Cemeteries Foundation.  Wonderful turnout!  Well over a hundred people.  There were several dignitaries -- township trustees, a mayor, local state congresswoman, and a representative from the Governor's office.

The new grave markers were for Pvt. Jacob T. Escher (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Judson Farrar (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Herman Pilz (Co. I, 52nd Ohio Infantry) and Pvt. Martin E. Stanger (Co. A, 82nd Ill Infantry).  I keep calling them grave markers, but in fact they are headstones paid for with your tax dollars and provided through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Our country has, rightfully, decided this is one of the least things we can do to show our appreciation for their service.

There were remarks from two representatives of the S.U.V.C.W., the politicians spoke, also a local Eagle Scout who was instrumental in the project. Everyone kept it to just two minutes until the head speaker who was the local historian and cemetery curator who gave us the detailed biographies of these four soldiers.  The S.U.V.C.W. also provided a presentation of colors, professional singer (for the National Anthem and "Battle Hymn of the Republic"), and an artillery salute with a period canon, salute with period rifles, and a professional bugler ("Amazing Grace" and "Taps").  And of course the S.U.V.C.W. provided a chaplain for the Invocation and the Benediction.

At last count I have six direct ancestors who served in the Civil War --

Pvt. Charles H. Chesley -- Co. K, 8th Illinois Cavalry
Pvt. Alfred Gibson -- Co. D, 33rd Kentucky Infantry
Pvt. George Hall -- Co. K, 26th Illinois Infantry
Corp. Arthur H. Needham -- Hosp. Steward, 2nd Iowa Cavalry
Pvt. Samuel R. Porter -- Co I, 17th Illinois Infantry (transfer from 8th Ill)
Pvt. Henry Martin Walker -- Co. A, 33rd Illinois Infantry

-- and several more indirect relatives.  I have been completely engrossed in Civil War studies for the last several months.  Reading, researching, listening to podcasts, and watching lectures on YouTube.com. It would be impossible for me to recount all I have learned.  So two months ago my son Ralph and I decided to join the S.U.V.C.W. Needing to show our ancestral connection, we chose to use my 2xg-grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. as our ticket in.  After all, we share his surname and his y-chromosome.  Today's dedication was our first event as members of the S.U.V.C.W.

Following the Civil War many, many of the Union Veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic as a fraternal organization supporting the soldiers.  According to Wikipedia --
Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, help to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000 was in 1890.
-- As the Civil War veterans began passing away, the job of looking after our soldiers and their memory was passed down to their sons, and then their sons' sons, and so on.  That is where Ralph and I are currently, descended not just from Civil War veterans but G.A.R. members too.  Doing good work.  Doing the right thing.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker