Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery

"A battery of field artillery is worth a thousand muskets" General William Tecumseh Sherman


October 2015

Corydon Heath

In August of 1861, at the age of 28, Corydon Heath joined Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery as a sergeant. At the time of muster, Heath is described as 5’8″, with black eyes and hair, and a dark complexion.

Heath was with Battery G throughout their campaigns in Tennessee and the Mississippi Valley. In November of 1862 he was hospitalized near Trenton, Tennessee, and remained there as General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troopers rode into town. Heath is reported as being taken prisoner, while in the hospital, on December 20, 1862, but was paroled only a few days afterwards. He returned to Illinois for a short period of time, and was back with his comrades in Battery G by March of 1863.

That same month, Adj. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas began recruiting volunteers to serve as officers in some newly created black troops. These units were to be composed of black men from abandoned plantations and “contrabands” who had come into Union camps. The officers, however, would be white. Men of any rank could apply for officer’s positions, and were screened and promoted according to their abilities, leadership, and knowledge.

On April 14, 1863, Heath received an appointment to the rank of Captain in the 9th Louisiana Infantry, African Descent. He was not, however, officially commissioned. Records show him on “detached service” from Battery G. At that time, the new white officers were entirely responsible for doing their own recruiting. They would receive their commissions only when enough men had been enlisted to form the proper unit – companies for captains, regiments for colonels, and so on. By the end of May 1863, Heath’s Company B had approximately 44 enlisted men, less than half of the usual number to form a company.

The 9th Louisiana was stationed near Vicksburg, Mississippi at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, along with two other new black units and a portion of the combat-tested all-white 23rd Iowa Infantry.

The still organizing black troops received their rifles and began to drill and take target practice. Very few had even held a gun before, let alone shot one, and Heath’s lieutenant, David Cornwell, was discouraged with the men’s performance.

Because Negro units were a new phenomenon in the Union army, many people – including some of their own officers – felt that the men would run in terror at the first crack of a gun. Trampled down by slavery, and met with racism even from Northerners, black troops everywhere felt they had something to prove. The men at Milliken’s Bend would soon be given their test of valor.

On June 7, 1863, Texans under the command of General Henry McCulloch attacked the garrison at Milliken’s Bend around 4:00 a.m. With cries of “no quarter” for the blacks and their officers, the Confederates drove the Federals from one levee, and after facing stubborn resistance at a second levee, forced the Union men to the banks of the Mississippi. Two gunboats, the Lexington and the Choctaw were there to greet the Rebels, and the Southerners retreated from the field around noon.

A view of the field after the battle testified to the nature of the fighting. One officer told of seeing a Negro with six bayonet wounds. Such wounds were unusual, since one side would usually retire before the lines closed in hand-to-hand combat. Armed with inferior rifles, and with little training, the troops had little alternative but to flee or resist with bayonets and clubbed muskets.

With an attitude typical of many whites, a convalescing Union soldier wrote just prior to the battle, with apparent sarcasm, “Did I ever tell you there is a Negro brigade a couple of miles up the bend, valiant soldiers? It would amuse you to see them drill.” Two days after the battle, he was more enthusiastic: “All are astonished at their fighting qualities. They have proved themselves worthy of the name of soldiers.”

The 9th Louisiana Infantry, African Descent were indeed worthy of the title “valiant soldiers.” At Milliken’s Bend, the 9th Louisiana sustained the highest casualties in a single battle of any black unit during the entire war. Of approximately 300 men, a total of 206 were reported as killed, wounded or missing, a loss of 65%. In Company B, Lt. Cornwell reported that only 14 of the 44 enlisted men were present for duty shortly after the battle. The rest had either been “killed, too severely wounded to return to duty again, or having died of disease. A number of these fourteen had been wounded and recovered.”

Captain Heath’s whereabouts after the battle were uncertain. Cornwell last saw Heath standing in line, urging his troops to stand firm. Suddenly, from his left, the rebels swept in, cutting him off, along with a number of his men. Heath was taken with the rebels in their retreat, and was apparently never heard from again.

A month later, a captured Confederate prisoner reported being an eyewitness at the hanging of a white captain, a white sergeant, and several black enlisted men shortly after the battle at Milliken’s Bend. All evidence indicates that this captain was Heath.

One of the first to volunteer for the controversial and particularly dangerous task of serving with a black regiment, Heath was also one of the first white officers to be executed for his service with black troops.

SOURCES: Battery G Muster Roll, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; compiled service record, Corydon Heath, Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery and 51st U.S. Colored Troops (9th Louisiana Infantry, African Descent), National Archives, Washington, DC; David Cornwell Memoir, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.

Nathan Hathaway

Nathan Hathaway was born on November 30, 1843 in Steuben County, New York. It is believed he came to DeKalb County, Illinois with his family sometime around 1847.

When he enlisted in September of 1861, he was described as being 5’9″ tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and by occupation, a farmer. His residence at enlistment was New Lisbon, Illinois, but in 1864 when he reenlisted, his papers give his residence as Genoa, DeKalb County, Illinois. He was sent home sick in December of 1861, and his furlough appears to have continued into January and February 1862. In November of 1864, he was promoted to corporal, and was discharged in August of 1865.

After the war, he married Orpha Maria (or at times in the records, Marie A.) Smith. They were married in Sycamore, Illinois, on March 5, 1867. She died on either April 5 or 15, 1887 or March 5, 1882 (descrepancies in records), at a place in Iowa “formerly named” Brush Creek. He then married Emily J. Smith on March 26, 1884 at Springfield, South Dakota. It is unknown if she was a relative of Nathan’s first wife.

Nathan had only three children: John (b. Aug. 9, 1870 at New Lisbon, DeKalb Co., Illinois); Minnie A. (b. Feb. 16, 1877, Brush Creek, Fayette Co., Iowa); and Milicent W. (b. July 12, 1889 at Sioux City, Iowa).

After the war, Nathan’s places of residence appear to have been:
DeKalb Co., Illinois 1865-1871
Buchanon Co., Iowa for 4 years (no dates given, possibly 1871-1875)
Fayette Co., Iowa “until 1884”
Springfield, South Dakota 1884-1888
Sioux City, Iowa 1888 until 1932

In 1906, Nathan gave his occupation as a produce dealer in Sioux City, and he died at that place on Christmas Day, 1932.

SOURCES: Nathan Hathaway’s military service record and pension file, National Archives.

Rollin G. Harmon

Rollin G. Harmon was born around 1843 in Astabula, Ohio. He enlisted in Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery on August 6, 1861 and was mustered in on October 5 at the rank of corporal. Sometime during the summer of 1862, he was promoted to sergeant. From September 16, 1863 through December 1863, he was absent on medical furlough, returning to his family in Ohio, due to ague and weakness so severe that he was “unable to sit up for more than 15-20 minutes.” In January, he reenlisted, at which time he was described as being 6 feet tall, with gray eyes, and light hair and complexion. His residence at the time was Sycamore, Illinois. After his return to the battery, he was promoted again, this time to 2nd Lieutenant on March 14, 1864. In April, he took his veteran’s furlough. In the fall, he was raised to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He was mustered out in September 1865.

After the war, Harmon continued in the military, joining Company D [regiment not given] U.S. Infantry on April 25, 1866, serving until April 4, 1869. He married Mary Sophia Quicksall on October 10, 1878 in Chicago. She was the widow of Samuel Quicksall of [Fort?] Wayne, Indiana, who died Dec. 16, 1871 on the Wabash Railroad near Huntington, Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Harmon apparently had no children. Rollin served as a member of the Chicago Fire Department, where he was more commonly known as George R. Harmon; it is not known if he helped combat the famous conflagration of October 1871.

Rollin died of consumption (tuberculosis) on December 15, 1883, and was buried at Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was living at 408 Wabash Ave. In January 1884, his body was disinterred and shipped to Ohio.

Sometime in 1898 – perhaps as early as July, or as late as November, Joseph O’Donahue was appointed Mary’s guardian by the Cook County Probate Court. Mary was sent to Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane at Kankakee, Illinois. She died Oct. 27, 1900.

SOURCES: Rollin Harmon military and pension records, National Archives, made possible through a generous donation by Larry Werline.

Samuel S. Garst

Samuel Garst was born October 15, 1839 at Jonesborough, Washington Co. Tennessee. It is unknown when he came to Illinois.

He was mustered into service at Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois on January 4, 1862. He gave his residence at enlistment as Girard, Illinois. He spent the first months of his service driving mules, then was absent for a few months, sick. His regular task in the battery appears to have been that of driver, according to later testimony of a comrade. He, along with many other men in the battery, suffered from malaria while at Vicksburg. His illness was treated with two quinine tablets, sometimes taken with whiskey. He reenlisted in January 1864, and was described at the time as 5 feet, 11 inches tall, with grey eyes, light hair, and a light complexion. He was promoted to corporal in March. While on duty near Holly Springs, on August 28, 1864, he was captured by Rebel forces. He described his capture: “I was at Selma Cahaba and Mount Gamry [sic – Montgomery] al and at Macon & Andesonvil [sic] Ga was down at Macon Ga about a month Doctor Gardner gave me medicine but I got away from Andersonville in March 65 and got to Wilson Cavalry near Macon Ga. Some time in May I was sent home and stayed there” until the rest of the battery returned home to Springfield and was mustered out. Despite his absence from the battery, Garst was still promoted to sergeant on November 1, 1864.

After the war, Samuel suffered almost constantly from rheumatism, in later years becoming so incapacitated that he could hardly feed himself. Despite his suffering, the army was reluctant to grant him a pension in later years, because there were no official medical records documenting his case from the war. Finally, Garst’s pension came through as a direct act of Congress in 1906.

After the war, Garst lived in Girard, Illinois from 1865 until 1903. He married Nancy Elizabeth Thacker on March 1, 1866 at Nilwood, Macoupin Co., Illinois. They had at least 7 children who survived to adulthood: Mary, Ida V., Samuel L., Nancy A., Charles M., Ethel M., Jesse T., and probably had another unknown son who may have died in infancy. In 1903, Garst moved to Leeds, North Dakota, where he lived until 1907, moving to Monrovia, California where he resided until at least 1920. He died on July 5, 1926.

SOURCES: Samuel S. Garst military service and pension record files, National Archives.

Salmon Clothier

Salmon Clothier was born March 23, 1841 near Brockville, Canada West. He enlisted with the battery on September 1, 1861 at Rockford. At the time of his enlistment, Salmon gave his occupation as a farmer, and was described as being 5’8” with blue eyes, auburn hair, and light complexion. His residence at enlistment was Kishwaukee, Winnebago County, Illinois.

Like most soldiers, he had bouts of illness. From September to November 1863, he was absent on sick furlough to Rockford, Illinois, where he was diagnosed with intermittent fever and jaundice. Back with his unit, he reenlisted on December 4, 1863 at Vicksburg, and on December 13, 1863 he was promoted directly from private to sergeant, bypassing the rank of corporal completely. He was mustered out with the rest of the battery on September 4, 1865.

After the war, Salmon continued to be plagued with health problems. Fellow battery member Jacob W.B. Fort stated after the war that he treated Clothier at Vicksburg for “disease of lungs, stomach and kidnies.” Clothier complained that he was “troubled with occasional attacks of bleeding from the lungs,” which he claimed began at Vicksburg. Battery member Guy T. Gould “was in the same Co. & mess & Tent with him for 3 years” and testified to Clothier’s illness during the war.

Salmon never married. After the war, from 1866 to 1887, he lived in Chicago, where he was neighbors with fellow battery member Hananiah Hemingway. Salmon then moved to Imperial, Chase County, Nebraska in 1887, where he resided until his death. He may have lived for a short time in 1890-91 at Champion, Chase County, Nebraska, and may have gone to California briefly around or before 1912. He was a member of G.A.R. Post #301 in Nebraska. He died on February 26, 1916 at Imperial, Nebraska, and is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery at Imperial.

SOURCES: Salmon Clothier military service and pension record files, National Archives; correspondence to and reply from Chase Co. Historical Society regarding burial site of Clothier; “Obituary Report,” Journal of the Forty-First Annual Encampment of the Department of Nebraska Grand Army of the Republic, Held at Columbus, Nebraska, May 16, 17, 18, 1917. Made up by A.M. Trimble, Asst. Adjt. Gen’l. State House, Lincoln, Nebraska.


Cpl. Samuel J. Churchill was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1897 for his actions at the Battle of Nashville, December 15, 1864. While the men of his detachment sought shelter from an enemy barrage, Churchill “stood manfully at his post,” singlehandedly loading and firing 11 rounds from his cannon before help arrived. An impressive task for any man, this action is particularly remarkable when one considers that a fully staffed Civil War artillery piece had a crew of 8 men to conduct loading, aiming, and firing procedures.


excerpted from his book, _Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America_ (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1901), pp. 75-76.
This material is in the public domain.

[The Union army began to engage Southern forces just outside of the city of Nashville, Tennessee.]

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. Number one, of my gun detachment, seemed very anxious to get into the fight. He would hug the cannon with both arms and say, “We’ll give it to ’em, won’t we, old Bett?” Old Bett was his pet name for the gun. Our battery was ordered in position on high ground in plain view of two rebel batteries, on 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 in position. My gun, a 12-pound Napoleon, was located about eight feet to the right of a large brick house. At the command “load!” number one of the cannoneers (referred to above) took the sponge staff, sponged the gun, and while waiting for number five to come up with the ammunition, a volley from the rebel batteries caused him to become terror stricken. He dropped his sponge staff and ran behind the brick house. His terror spread to the other cannoneers, who also fled, and neither command or entreaty could move them to return to their gun. It was there that I won my medal of honor. 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.


from _War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies_,
Series I, Vol. XLV, part I, p.492.
Report of Col. E.H. Wolfe,
Commanding Third Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Tennessee Detachment.

Near Columbia, Tenn., December 23, 1864

Inasmuch as all the batteries of this division were placed under the immediate control of Captain Lowell, G Battery, Second Illinois, acting as chief of artillery, during the two days, I have not referred to the action of my [brigade’s] battery during either day, though I have personal knowledge of the valuable services rendered and the crushing execution done by this battery. The battery was engaged constantly during the two days, and the conduct of the officers and men at all times was such as to merit approval. Corpl. Samuel J. Churchill, of this battery, commanding one gun detachment, is highly commended for distinguished bravery displayed on the first day. At a time when two of the enemy’s batteries opened upon his guns, compelling for a short time the men of his detachment to seek the protection of the ground, this young soldier stood manfully up to his work, and for some minutes worked his gun alone.



as excerpted from Samuel J. Churchill’s book, _Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America_ (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1901), pp. 76-77.
This material is in the public domain.

Mr. Samuel J. Churchill, Late Corporal Battery G, Second Illinois Light Artillery:
SIR: I have the honor to inform you that, by direction of the President and in accordance with the act of Congress, approved March 3, 1863, providing for the presentation of medals of honor to such officers, non-commissioned officers and privates as have most distinguished themselves in action, the Assistant Secretary of War has awarded you a medal of honor for most distinguished gallentry in action at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee, December 15, 1864.

. . . .

This non-commissioned officer, commanding one gun detachment, and when the enemy’s batteries opened upon his gun compelling the men of his detachment for a short time to seek shelter, stood manfully at his post and for some minutes worked his gun alone.

– – A COMRADE – –


excerpted from the book, _Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America_ by Samuel J. Churchill, (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1901), pp. 77-79.
This material is in the public domain.

LAWRENCE, KANSAS, January 25, 1897
Chief of the Record of Pension Office, War Department, Washington, D.C.:
DEAR COLONEL: Yours of January 20 was received the 22d, and the medal was received the 23d. I am very happy to be accounted worthy to receive such an honor, and I assure you that I appreciated it very highly and thank you most sincerely. I just want to say to you that there was a private soldier in my battery that deserves a medal of honor as much or more than I did. It was at the battle of Nashville, December 15, 1864; he was the wheel driver of the caisson and his position at the time was comparitively out of danger. He saw my situation as I was manning the gun alone, and asked permission of the lieutenant to come and help me, which was given and he came boldly up where the missiles of death were flying thick and fast and said to me, “Let me help you; the lieutenant says I can.” I never was so glad to see a man as I was to see him. He took the sponge staff and went to work like an old warrior, and he was ever after that my number one of the gun detachment, and the number one that left me had to take his place as driver. That was true gallantry. His name was J.A. Thorp, private, Battery G, Second Illinois Light Artillery. I have not heard from him since the war, and know not if he is dead or alive. I shall always hold him in grateful remembrance as a true and brave patriot.
Thanking you again for your kind remembrance, I am very truly,
This letter was published and copied by many papers all over the country, and finally I received the following letter from the man himself:

Samuel J. Churchill:
FRIEND AND COMRADE: In reply to your letter of inquiry, which has been published, will say that J.A. Thorp is still in the land of the living and well. I came to Kansas in the spring of 1883, and settled here in Jewell county. My occupation is farming. For a good many years I have been trying to locate some of the Battery G boys, but never have succeeded in hearing from any of them until I saw your letter, and it came to me in such a way that it does me lots of good ­ it revives old memories. I congratulate you for the medal of honor that has been awarded you for your heroism at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee, December 15, 1864. It was the men that stood by their guns in the heat of battle that won the victory, not the skulkers. And when number one dropped the sponge staff and skulked to the rear and you were left alone, I could hardly wait for my relief to come, and when I took that sponge staff there wasn’t a man on earth that felt any better than I did. If you remember I pulled my jacket off and rolled up my sleeves as if I was going to chop wood. I really thought for a while that we were going to get the worst of it, but the victory was ours, and the old battle stained flag ­ Stars and Stripes ­ looked brighter than ever before.
I must say that words are inadequate to express my gratitude for the part that you have taken in my behalf, and if I should succeed in obtaining a medal it will be through your kindness. Give me the address of as many of the battery boys as you know, as I would like to hear from every one of them. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain as ever,
Your friend,

Formerly of Battery G, Second Illinois Light Artillery

I have seen this comrade several times since and have done my best to get him a medal, but have failed for the reason that no “special mention” was made in the offical war records of what he did.


Medal of Honor awarded to Samuel J. Churchill
posted here with permission of Taylor Owen, a descendent.






Samuel J. Churchill

Samuel J. Churchill undated photograph posted here with permission of Taylor Owen, a descendent

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 ChurchillCivln       ChurchillCivlnZm
posted here with permission of Taylor Owen, a descendent.


Captain Patrick J. DeGeorge

1st Lieutenant Bill Baehr

DougAnderson First Sergeant Doug Anderson

Marc and Mike Corporal Marc and Private Mike Abramson

DaveEisele Telegraph Operator Dave Eisele

TimTedrick Private Tim Tedrick

HenryVincent Private Henry Vincent

Pattersons Private Mike Patterson

DonEstabrook Private Don Estabrook

RussKenitzer Private Russ Kenitzer

SamOtt Private Sam Ott

TomLyons  Private Tom Lyons

SteveAarli Private Steve Aarli

EdBooth Private Ed Booth

bforge Private Jim DeGeorge

Furloughs Private Dale Furlough & Vicki Furlough

BillHannay Private Bill Hannay

MaryJeschke Private Charles Jeschke

BilJeschke Private bil Jeschke

JosephMiechle Private Joseph Miechle

RobMellen Private Rob Mellen

RayOtt Private Ray Ott

PaulRambow Private Paul Rambow

PeterSikora Private Peter Sikora

JustinSikoraPrivate Justin Sikora

Tedricks Private Del Tedrick & Phyllis Tedrick

SeanTedrick Private Sean Tedrick

Werlines Private Larry Werline & Carolynn Werline

DanWykes Private Dan Wykes

AudreyKonrad Mrs. Audrey Harris


Battery Bios

Someday, we hope to have information on ALL of the soldiers that served the battery during the war. If you can help by providing us with additional information, please let us know by contacting us and put “Battery G” in your subject line. Thanks for your interest and support!

Adrian, James

Churchill, Samuel J

Clothier, Salmon

Garst, Samuel S.

Goodwin, John C.

Hall, Alfred

Harmon, Rollin G.

Hathaway, Nathan R.

Heath, Corydon

Hemingway, Hanniah W.

Ingalls, John

Lewis, Isaac A.

Loveridge, Jefferson S.

McCauley, Thomas

Mellberg, Charles J.

Padgett, Robert M.

Richards, Price A.

Schoonmaker, John

Scutt, Hiram B.

Sherburne, Albert

Sherburne, Benjamin F.

Steele, Joseph M.

Stout, Benjamin

Thorp, James A.

Weitig, Charles G.

Werner, William

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