from the pen of Samuel J. Churchill,
Medal of Honor
excerpted from his book, _Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America_ (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1901), pp. 71-77.
This material is excerpted under “Fair Use” guidelines.
[At Camp Butler, near Springfield, Illinois, the battery was mustered into federal service.] Not being able to get equipments, the battery was detained in this camp for about five months, drilling every day and became very proficient. In December . . . measles. . .was very prevalent in camp. About February 1, 1862, we received our battery of six guns and were sent to Kentucky, opposite Cairo, Illinois. We had no horses, so could not move our guns. Most of the battery was placed on gun-boats, went up the river and participated in the battle of Fort Donaldson, Feburary 16, 1862. Soon after this we received our full equipment of horses and were ordered to Columbus, Kentucky. We were the first troops to enter this rebel stronghold. From thence we were ordered to Hickman, Kentucky. On March 31, 1862, we were ordered out by night to Union City, Tennessee, and surprised a rebel camp early in the morning, completely routing them, capturing the garrison and many prisoners and eating the breakfast the rebels had cooked. The rebel officer in command escaped on mule bareback in his night clothes. We returned to Hickman, Kentucky, and soon received order to march to Trenton, Tennessee, where we camped for some time. In the fall we joined General Grant’s expedition at Lagrange, Tennessee, and marched south with the intention of capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi. Our battery was attached to General Logan’s Second Division and General McPherson’s Seventeenth Army Corps. We proceeded south on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad to Oxford, Mississippi. From here our battery was ordered on an expedition with the cavalry to Coffeeville, Mississippi, where, on December 5, 1862, we encountered a large rebel force which was many times greater than ours. The battle was fierce and lasted for several hours. Our loss was ten killed and fifty-four wounded. We managed to retreat, saving our supply train, back to Oxford, Mississippi.
The base of supplies for the Union army was at Holly Springs, Mississippi, and on December 20, 1862, the rebels raided the town, capturing 1,000 of our troops and burning all our supplys. We were camped then on the Tallahatchie river, where we were obliged to subsist three weeks on corn that was foraged in the country. I will never forget the joy we felt when we heard the whistle of the first train that brought us rations. We then marched to Memphis, Tennessee, and in the spring of 1863 we were ordered down the Mississippi river on transports to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, where General Grant massed a large army for the attact on Vicksburg, Mississippi. From thence we marched to Hardtimes Landing, Louisiana, below Grand Gulf, Louisiana, where we took a transport to cross the Mississippi river and get in the rear of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In crossing the river another boat collided with us which caused our boat to sink. We had a very narrow escape from being drowned. We lost all our guns, nearly all of our horses (except what broke away and swam out); but all our battery was saved except two men, who were in the stern of the boat with the horses and could not get out. This was before daylight of May 1, 1863. We had to retrace our march back to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, where we embarked for Memphis, Tennessee, to get a new equipment of guns and horses; also clothing, for we had lost everything we had, except what was on our backs. We soon got our equipment and started again for Vicksburg, Mississippi, this time by way of the Yazoo river. Our battery was stationed in front of Fort Hill, which was undermined and blown up. We were in the seige and under fire about six weeks before the surrender. I saw Rebel General Pemberton when he came out with a flag of truce to negotiate terms of surrender with General Grant. They stood just in front of our battery for some time, and the rebel soldiers whom we had not seen for weeks came upon the breast-works to look over. We did the same thing. It was a beautiful sight down the line of fortifications as far as we could see were the soldiers in blue on one side and the rebels in gray on the opposite side all standing in bold relief, where but a few moments before not one on either side dared to show his head. Our battery was among the first to march into Vicksburg, Mississippi, the morning of July 4, 1863. It was a glorious Fourth to us. Our battery was stationed here for some time, and many of the boys got sick. I among the rest was taken down with malarial fever, and had I not got a furlough just when I did I would have been buried with the innumerable in southern soil. I was placed on the United States hospital boat, and that was the last I knew until I reached Cairo, Illinois, five days later. I was taken from the boat and placed on the cars, and by the time I reached Joliet, Illinois, I was barely able to walk. . . .
As soon as I was able I returned to my battery, but the chills and fever did not leave me; and I have suffered at times all my life from the effects of that sickness. Soon after my return to the army we were ordered to Memphis, Tennessee, to join General A.J. Smith’s command, the Sixteenth Army Corps. On October 14, 1863, we took part in the battle of Brownsville, Mississippi. Some of my battery were killed; I don’t remember how many, but I do remember John Weir. The top of his head was shot off by a cannon ball and his brains spattered in my face. Soon after this we were ordered to Union City, Tennessee, where we camped during the winter, which was very cold. Some of the soldiers froze to death in their tents.
On January 1, 1864, nearly all of my battery re-enlisted as veteran volunteers, and I among the rest. This entitled us to a veteran furlough. . . . On July 14, 1864, was the battle of Tupelo, Mississippi, our battery taking a very conspicuous part. . . . This was a very bloody battle in which about 700 rebels were killed and wounded. The Union loss was eighty-five killed and 453 wounded. Our victory was complete. We also participated in the battles of Harrisburg, Mississippi, July 13, and Old Town Creek July 15, and Hurricane Creek August 14-16 and 22, 1864.
Soon after we were ordered to Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis, Missouri, and, during Rebel General Price’s invasion of Missouri, from September 24, to October 28, 1864, we were on the march all the time across the state of Missouri camping one night in Kansas, thence back to St. Louis, marching about 700 miles without stopping to rest. Here, after two days’ rest, the Sixteenth Army Corps, under General A.J. Smith, embarked for Nashville, Tennessee, to join General Thomas; and a part of the corps arrived in time for the Franklin battle, November 30, 1864. During the siege of Nashville, Tennessee, by Rebel General Hood, we were in line of battle two weeks, firing more or less every day. We could hear the rebel band play, “Whose been here since I’se been gone.” To answer them our band would play, “Yankee Doodle.” On December 14, 1864, the Union line advanced and attacked the rebel army in their fortifications. We had to march for some distance under a galling fire from the enemy before we could get our battery in position. . . . Our battery was ordered in position on high ground in plain view of two rebel batteries, one to our right and the other directly in front, about 240 yards distant, which were doing their best to dislodge the Union forces, and several men and horses were killed before we could get our battery into position. My gun, a 12-pound Napoleon, was located about eight feet to the right of a large brick house. . . .It was there that I won my medal of honor. [After a member of my crew ran terrified from the gun, his panic spreading to other members of the crew, and] in the face of a terrible rain of shot and shell from the enemy, I loaded and fired my gun eleven times alone before assistance came. The rebel batteries were silenced and driven back and the Union forces took an advanced position. The result of the battle is well known in history. . . .
On December 16, 1864, we fought from early morn until 4 p.m., when we succeeded in putting the rebel army to flight, capturing many cannon and small arms. The Union loss was 400 killed and 1,740 wounded; the rebel loss was 4,462 killed and missing. We followed up Rebel General Hood’s retreat as far as Eastport, Tennessee, where we were obliged to stop on account of our rations giving out; and for two weeks we subsisted on dry corn. Soon after this the Sixteenth Army Corps was ordered down the river to New Orleans, Louisiana, and took ship for Mobile Bay, Alabama, where was one of the last strongholds of the rebellion. From March 24th to April 12, 1865, we were fighting continuously in the siege of the Spanish forts, Forts Blakeley and Mobile, Alabama. Our victory was complete. . . . We marched from Mobile to Montgomery, Alabama. While on this march the new came, through rebel sources, of the surrender of Rebel General Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865 of 26,000 prisoners. This gave us great joy, and we realized the war was over. The next day came the news from the same source that President Lincoln had been assassinated. We could hardly believe this at first, but it cast a deep gloom over the whole army. Stalwart men cried like children.
From Montgomery, Alabama, we received orders to proceed to Springfield, Illinois, and be mustered out of service, and on September 5, 1865, I was honorably discharged, having served forty-nine months and participated in nineteen battles.
Updated: September 16, 1999
Created: August 29, 1999