When war broke out in 1861, Samuel J. Churchill had just arrived in Illinois. He was born in 1842 in Vermont, where he lived on a farm until heading west at the age of 18. He was among the first to answer the call to supress the rebellion of the Southern states, enlisting in early August of 1861 at DeKalb. In May of 1864 he was promoted to Corporal, and by the end of the war, held the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant.
Churchill’s most notable event of the war occurred during the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864. The battery came under heavy fire, and for a time, the men of his detachment were permitted to seek shelter. However, Cpl. Churchill singlehandedly manned his cannon, firing several rounds with great effect, before the rest of the men of his detachment returned to their posts. For his herioc efforts, Churchill was awarded the MEDAL OF HONOR in 1897.
After the war, Churchill moved to Lee’s Summit, Missouri, where he was one of the few “Union men” in town. He later moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he found a friendlier environment. He was very active in civic and veterans’ affairs, holding several offices at the local and state level in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) veterans’ organization. He died on June 5, 1932.
SOURCES: Battery G Muster Rolls from Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; The Bravest of the Brave: A Biography on the Life and Times of Cpl. Samuel J. Churchill by Cpl. Jeffrey A. Lovett (Dixon, IL: privately printed, Dec. 1991).
About the photos
Due to the apparent absence of any rank insignia, this photo was almost certainly taken before May of 1864, when Churchill was promoted to corporal. Perhaps this is an early war photograph, taken shortly after enlistment. Note the detail on his cap that looks very much like crossed sabers (denoting cavalry). Churchill also appears to be carrying a sword, rather than the heavier, curved artillery saber. His uniform is not the typical shell jacket used by most artillery units during the war. The battery may have been issued these uniforms while guarding the armory at Springfield, Illinois and the crossed cavalry sabers (if they are such) may be indicative of the battery’s early identity as the DeKalb Horse Artillery.
Here are two photos probably taken after the war, undated photograph in civilian dress
posted here with permission of Taylor Owen, a descendent.