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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society
Vol. 35 No. 4 (Dec. 1942), pp338‑346

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p338 Illinois at West Point:
her Graduates in the Civil War

By George T. Ness, Jr.

The current emergency,a with the emphasis on army training and all things military, brings to mind some of the elder sons of the Prairie State who, as professional men-at‑arms, heeded the nation's call eighty-one years ago.

By the time the Civil War commenced, after the firing upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, April 12, 1861, fifteen men born in Illinois had been trained within the hallowed gray walls of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Of these, four were dead and another was engaged in civil activities.

By 1861, two of the fifteen had attained the rank of brevet second lieutenant, six had become second lieutenants, five were first lieutenants, while two had reached the grade of captain.

At least nine had seen active service — some in the campaigns against the Seminoles, whose oft-repeated sorties from the Everglades kept the southern frontier in a state of turmoil, others on the western frontier. The Mexican War was another conflict in which these Illinois men had served their nation.

Among those who fought the Indians in the South were Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rudolph F. Ernst and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Samuel F. Chalfin, and against those in the West were Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Samuel Kinney, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert p339Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.G. Edwards, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William P. Carlin, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John O. Long, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. Marcus A. Reno and Ernst. In addition, Ernst and Chalfin, already mentioned, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Elias K. Kane, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. James B. Fry and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Washington P. Street had fought beneath the burning sun in Mexico, and when troops were sent to Harper's Ferry in 1859 to suppress the John Brown insurrection, Fry was there as a lieutenant of artillery and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Martin D. Hardin served as an aide to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert E. Lee.

Several of these graduates were sufficiently well regarded to be detailed to the Academy to assist in the training of the cadets. Chalfin was assistant professor of French and Spanish, and became principal assistant professor of the former, all between the years of 1854 and 1859. Fry was an assistant instructor of artillery in 1847 and again in 1853, and held the position of adjutant from 1854 to 1859.

Two Academy graduates not living during the Civil War were sons of prominent Illinois men. Samuel Kinney, class of 1830, had died at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, in 1835, at the age of thirty. He was the eldest son of William Kinney, member of the Illinois Senate (1818‑1820 and 1822‑1824) and Lieutenant Governor of Illinois (1826‑1830). Elias K. Kane, class of 1841, who had been captured in the Mexican War, died at Belleville, Illinois, in 1853. He was the son of Elias K. Kane, Illinois' first Secretary of State, 1818 to 1824, and United States Senator from 1824 until his death in 1835. The two other graduates of the Academy who died before the Civil War were: Washington Posey Street, class of 1847, who had died in 1852 at Camp McKavett, Texas; and Rudolph F. Ernst, class of 1841, who as a lieutenant and adjutant of the 6th Infantry had fought through the siege of Vera Cruz and many other major engagements, and p340died two weeks after he was mortally wounded, September 8, 1847, at Molino del Rey.

When the "opening gun" sounded the knell for the hope of peaceful settlement of the nation's problems, there were then in service from Illinois, eight lieutenants and one captain. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.H. W. Kingsbury, who was commissioned on May 6, 1861, raised the state's West Point contingent in the Union Army to ten.

Albert Gallatin Edwards, son of Ninian Edwards (the first territorial governor, and later state Governor of Illinois), who had been graduated in 1832 and resigned three years later, remained in business in St. Louis, but became a brigadier general in the Missouri militia. His brother, Ninian Wirt Edwards, married Elizabeth P. Todd, sister of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.

Samuel Fletcher Chalfin was graduated seventh in the class of 1847, with such prominent men as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Orlando B. Willcox, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.A. P. Hill, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ambrose E. Burnside, as well as James B. Fry and Washington P. Street of Illinois. Chalfin became a major in the Adjutant General's office and was brevetted lieutenant colonel and colonel for faithful and meritorious services in that department.

James Barnet Fry, of the same class, was born in Carrollton, Illinois, February 22, 1827, the son of General Jacob and Emily Turney Fry. He was Chief of Staff to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.General McDowell at Bull Run, and thereafter saw service at Nashville, Pittsburg Landing, Shiloh, and Perryville. In the controversy between Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Don Carlos Buell and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, arising out of the Battle of Shiloh, Fry was a staunch supporter of the former and his partisanship was the reason for several recommendations for his promotion being rejected. Nevertheless, when the office of Provost Marshal General of the United States was p341created in 1863, General Grant recommended Fry as the best fitted officer for that important post. He was brevetted colonel for gallant services at Bull Run, brigadier general for the same at Perryville and Shiloh, and major general for "faithful, meritorious and distinguished services" in the Provost Marshal General's Department.

The class of 1850, which included in the its membership such prominent men as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.G. K. Warren and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Armistead L. Long, also graduated William Passmore Carlin who had been born in Greene County, Illinois, November 24, 1829. He was a captain when hostilities started and entered the volunteer service to become colonel of the 38th Illinois Regiment. Extensive active duty took him into the border states of Missouri and Arkansas, through the shot and shell at Stone River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. When Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman severed his communication with his base of supplies and set out on his "March to the Sea," Carlin was with him. High honors were received by this son of Illinois, for he was brevetted brigadier general and major general in the Volunteers, and in the Regular Army was promoted major, brevetted lieutenant colonel for gallantry at Chattanooga, colonel for the same at Jonesboro, Georgia, brigadier general for like conduct at Bentonville, North Carolina, and major general for gallant and meritorious services in the field during the war.

John Osmond Long, possibly influenced by some of his classmates in 1854, such as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.G. W. C. Lee, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Pegram, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class."Jeb" Stuart and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stephen D. Lee, resigned May 2, 1861, and entered the Confederate Army with them. He was lieutenant colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry and later served on the staffs of Generals p342Slaughter and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. B. Magruder. He attained the rank of colonel.

The Illinois representative in the class of 1857 was Marcus Albert Reno, born in 1835. He served in Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan's Peninsular Campaign in Virginia and in most of the engagements of the Army of the Potomac, and was four times brevetted — major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general in the Volunteers — for gallantry at Kelly's Ford and Cedar Creek, and for general meritorious services.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Edward Geer Bush and Martin D. Hardin were graduated in 1859. Bush served in the field throughout the war, was a captain in the 10th Infantry at Chancellorsville, and was brevetted major for gallantry at Gettysburg where he was wounded.

Martin D. Hardin was born at Jacksonville, Illinois, June 26, 1837, the son of Colonel John J. Hardin, who was killed in the Mexican War while leading his 1st Illinois Volunteers.b Martin Hardin was with the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsular Campaign, through Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and in the Wilderness where, at Spottsylvania, he lost an arm while commanding a brigade of the 5th Corps, and in the final operations around Richmond. He had been colonel of the 12th Pennsylvania Infantry and was promoted brigadier general of Volunteers in 1864. For gallant and meritorious services he was brevetted captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier general in the Regular Army.

In the class of 1860, which graduated Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Horace Porter, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.S. D. Ramseur, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wesley Merritt and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Frank Huger, were three men from Illinois. They were Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. John Jay Sweet, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. Cornelius Hook and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James Harrison Wilson.

p343 Sweet, a lieutenant in the 5th Cavalry, was killed at Gaines's Mill, Virginia, June 27, 1862. After having served in Burnside's North Carolina expedition, and on other fields, Captain Hook, of the 1st Artillery, was honorably discharged in 1863, for disabilities contracted in the line of duty. He died at Key West, Florida, June 19, 1864.

James H. Wilson, who stood sixth in the class of forty-one members, was probably the most prominent Illinois West Pointer in the Army. He was the son of Harrison and Katharine Schneyder Wilson and was born September 2, 1837, at Shawneetown, Illinois. It is interesting to note that his father was a native of Virginia.

Wilson's wide field of service extended from Fort Pulaski, Georgia, through the Antietam campaign, into Tennessee, the siege of Vicksburg and finally back to the Army of the Potomac. In the operations in Tennessee he had gained some fame by building bridges in record time and out of material from dismantled houses. By 1864 he had been promoted captain, brevetted major and lieutenant colonel in the Regulars, and brigadier general of Volunteers. Originally in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, he was transferred to the mounted arm and in 1864 commanded the 3d Cavalry Division under Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sheridan in his operations in the East, and was brevetted colonel for services in the Wilderness. Somewhat later he commanded the Cavalry Corps in the Military Division of the Mississippi, and was brevetted major general of Volunteers and then promoted to the same grade. Brevets to brigadier and major general in the Regular Army rounded out his long list of Civil War honors. He is, perhaps, best noted for the fact that p344troops under his command effected the apprehension of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis, May 10, 1865, near Irwinville, Georgia.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry Walter Kingsbury was in the May class of 1861, with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Adelbert Ames, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Emory Upton and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Judson Kilpatrick. He served in the Bull Run action, was with the Army of the Potomac as colonel of the 11th Connecticut Volunteers, and was mortally wounded at Antietam, September 17, 1862, and died the next day. He was the son of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Julius J. B. Kingsbury of the class of 1823, and formerly major of the 6th Infantry.

Two of Illinois' sons graduated during the war — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert Catlinº in 1863, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Cullen Bryant in 1864. The former was with the Army of the Potomac, was brevetted first lieutenant and captain, and was forced to retire from active service in 1865 because of the loss of a leg and other disabilities received in action along the Weldon Railroad. Bryant, a nephew of William Cullen Bryant, famous poet and editor, was commissioned in the Ordnance Department, in which he served for the remainder of the war and many years thereafter.

When the war was over, the nation settled down to the difficult task of reconstruction, and many officers retired to civil life, but those who remained had to forego the high rank attained by brevet or in the Volunteers.

Edwards became an assistant treasurer of the United States at St. Louis and died in 1892.

Chalfin resigned as a major in 1869 to become an engineer in the Department of Public Works of New York City. He died in 1891.

The feud which had started over the Shiloh matter arose to plague Fry every time the question of his promotion p345was presented. It flared up in Congress where James G. Blaine came to his support against Roscoe Conklin. He retired from the duties of Provost Marshal General in 1881, to do extensive writing on military matters, particularly for the excellent Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. He lived for thirteen years after retiring.

By 1870, Carlin had been with the Freedmen's Bureau in Tennessee and commanded troops in South Carolina; he then served on the frontier, became colonel of the 4th Infantry in 1882 and retired eleven years later with the rank of brigadier general. He resided at Carrollton, Illinois, but died on a railroad train in Montana in 1903.

As a major of the 7th Cavalry, Reno saw much western service under Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George A. Custer. He left the Army in 1880 and lived for nine years thereafter.

In 1870, as a brigadier general, Hardin retired from active service due to disabilities. After the death of his first wife, Estella Graham, in 1890, he married Miss Amelia McLoughlin. He practiced law in Chicago from 1870 to, at least, 1904.

After retiring as a lieutenant-colonel in 1870, James H. Wilson engaged in engineering work for the government, then settled in Wilmington, Delaware, where he did some writing. During the Spanish War he returned to the service and became a major general of Volunteers and a brigadier general of the Regular Army. Again, in the Boxer Uprising in China, he took up arms, and later became a major general for the third time, Included among the books written by Wilson are a number of military biographies, an account of his experiences in China, and reminiscences of his service in the Civil and Spanish wars and Boxer Rebellion. Wilson outlived p346his wife, Ella Andrews, whom he had married in 1866, by twenty-five years, and it was not until February 23, 1925, that this sturdy patriot's active career came to an end. He is buried in the city of his residence, Wilmington, Delaware.

Catlin taught at the Academy, 1865‑68, served as treasurer, 1867‑70, and later practiced law in Wisconsin and Oregon. He was deputy governor of the Soldiers' Home, Washington, D. C., from 1888 to 1891. He died in 1903. Cullen Bryant, the last of Illinois' Civil War graduates, was promoted major in 1891 and retired three years later. He died in Alameda, California, in 1909.

The state's lone Confederate West Pointer, John O. Long, died April 3, 1875, in Tampa, Florida, where he had resided for several years.

Edward G. Bush remained in service, became colonel of the 25th infantry in 1892, and died on July 4 of that year.

Reno, Bush and Catlin had taught at the Academy after the war, while Edwards and Wilson had been members of the Board of Visitors.

In 1898, in the war with Spain, just as Wilson had responded so did other sons of Illinois, and in 1917, when the United States was again involved in war, more of her West Point trained men served beneath the Stars and Stripes. Today, when the Republic is engaged in another world conflict, Illinois' sons, both from the corridors of the Military Academy and from civil life, have sprung to arms just as their forebears who marched to battle in Union Blue so many long years ago.


Thayer's Notes:

a World War II!

[decorative delimiter]

b Although he was an occasional soldier, and died in the Mexican War at the battle of Buena Vista, the senior Hardin was primarily an Illinois political figure; see the entry in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.


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