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Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery

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

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Albert Sherburne

Left to right Nelson Frost, Harrison Whitmore and Al Sherburn.  Photo used with permission of Jason Pate.

Frost-Whitmore-Sherbum

Albert Sherburne (full name John Albert Granger Sherburne) was born on September 9, 1838 at Canandaigua, Ontario, New York, the son of Hezekiah and Mary Sherburne. The family moved to Sycamore, DeKalb County, Illinois, sometime around 1847.

When war broke out, Albert enlisted on 16 September 1861 at DeKalb, Illinois, and was mustered into service on October 5, 1861 at Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois. His physical description at the time of his enlistment described him as being 5’11”, with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. His occupation was farmer. His brother, Benjamin, had also enlisted in the same battery, just a few days before.

He suffered with the measles while at Camp Butler early in his service. In May or June 1863, he was deafened in both ears as a result of the loud artillery in battle. His condition would be so bad that in later years, he had difficulty hearing regular conversation just a few feet away from him. On January 15, 1865, at Eastport, Mississippi, he was captured by the Rebels, and shortly thereafter was sent to the notorious Andersonville Prison. He remained P.O.W. until April 28, 1865, when he was paroled in Florida, and he was discharged on June 12, 1865 at Springfield, Illinois.

Albert returned to Sycamore for a short time after the war, then moved to Allegan, Michigan, where he was a teamster on the route from Allegan to Kalamazoo. On June 11, 1869, Albert married Elizabeth Noggle, a local schoolteacher. Soon after their marriage, the Sherburnes moved to Clarksville, Iowa, and then Wynot, Nebraska, where they homesteaded around 1872. Driven out by the grasshoppers, the Sherburnes returned to Allegan, Michigan.

The couple had five children: Frederick, Minnie, Anna, May and Margaret.

In 1897, disputes about the importance of educating the children, particularly the girls, drove Albert and Elizabeth to separate. His drinking may have also been a contributing factor to his marital strife. Elizabeth provided for her family by working in a dressmaking shop, ensuring that her children could attend school.

When the couple separated, Albert deeded the home and a milk cow to his wife, then headed west, joining some of his siblings in Iowa and Nebraska. He drifted at times to relatives in New York, back to Michigan, and to his son near Chicago. Albert seldom stayed for long in one place, and apparently found work as a teamster and laborer, usually residing with friends or relatives. Though some of his siblings felt strongly that Albert should divorce Elizabeth, he refused, concerned that she would get “everything he had.”

Albert died of a stroke at his sister’s home, Mrs. Marietta Thompson, on February 1, 1914 at Wynot, Nebraska, where he was buried.

SOURCES: Albert Sherburne military service record file, National Archives. Albert Sherburne pension file, National Archives.

John Schoonmaker

John Schoonmaker was born April 2, 1842 in Winnebago Township, Winnebago County, Illinois, the son of Henry and Mary Schoonmaker. He initially enlisted on August 11, 1862 in Company E, 74th Illinois Infantry, where he served for just 5 months. At his enlistment, he was described as being 20 years old, 5’9″ tall, light complexion, gray eyes, light hair, and by occupation, a farmer. In his short term of service, he saw action in his first major engagement at Perryville, Kentucky. He was soon discharged for disability. His discharge papers claimed he had “hypertrophy of the heart” which was present before his enlistment, but grew worse due to exposure. The examining physician declared that “he can be of no use to the service.” His condition was so bad that his brother, William, said upon his return, “he was a hard-looking man. I hardly recognized him as my brother.”

After recovering at home, John again enlisted for the Union cause, joining Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery in January 1864, and returning at the conclusion of their service in September of 1865.

After the war, he married L.L.M. Posson in 1868, and they had three daughters: Ella (b. 1869); Fannie (b. 1874); and Maggie (b. 1877). The Schoonmakers farmed in Winnebago Township, and moved to Rockford in their later years to retire. John Schoonmaker died Mar. 23, 1927, and is buried in Winnebago Cemetery

SOURCES: John Schoonmaker partial pension file, National Archives (provided through courtesy and generous donation of Del & Phyllis Tedrick); Charles A Church, Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois, Together with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Leading and Prominent Citizens and Illustrious Dead. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1905.

Robert M. Padgett

Robert Padgett enlisted in Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery on September 16, 1861 at Lane [now Rochelle], Ogle County, Illinois, and was subsequently mustered in to service on October 5, 1861 at Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois. He was born in Washington, Pennsylvania around 1842. At enlistment, he was described as being a farmer, having light hair and complexion, grey eyes, and standing 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall.

He was absent due to illness and confinement in a Memphis hospital from approximately June 28, 1863 until August 1863. He was promoted to the rank of corporal on March 15, 1864, and became a sergeant on September 10, 1864. He returned north for recruiting service on November 14, 1863, where he remained until April 29, 1864. He reenlisted while recruiting, in March 1864.

When he was mustered out with the battery in September of 1865, he had not been paid since February. The government still owed him $3.42 on his clothing account, and a whopping $240 on his reenlistment bounty.

At this time, very little is known of his life after the war. He appears in the 1870 census living in Ogle County, and in 1880 in Chicago. He was commander of the George H. Thomas post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Chicago at the time of his death. He died on June 27, 1922 and is buried in Oakwood cemetery.

SOURCES: Robert Padgett military records, National Archives; 1870 and 1880 Federal census; Roll of Honor, Deceased Ex Service Men and Women in Illinois. (Springfield, IL, 1929) extracted by Tim Tedrick; Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1922, p. 25.

Charles J. Mellberg

Charles J. Mellberg enlisted in 1861 when he was 30 years old. He was 6 feet tall, with auburn hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion. He was single, a farmer, and resided at Mendota, LaSalle County, Illinois. When he reenlisted in March of 1864, he gave his residence as Chicago. He was born at Sandskrona, Sweden.

From August 25 to November 25, 1863, Mellberg was sick in the hospital at New House of Refuge in St. Louis, Missouri, along with his battery-mates, Samuel Garst and Hiram Scutt. He was promoted to corporal on Sept. 10, 1864, but then at the end of the battery’s service, was designated “supernumerary non-commissioned officer” on account of “the Battery having been reduced to four guns” in early August, 1865. He was mustered out with the rest of the battery on Sept. 4, 1865 at Springfield, Illinois.

SOURCES: Barnickel, We Enlisted as Patriots (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1998). Charles J. Mellberg military records, National Archives (provided through courtesy and generous donation of Tim Tedrick).

Thomas McCauley

At this time, we have only limited information on Thomas McCauley. He was just 18 when he joined the battery early in 1864 in Chicago. Just six months later, on July 14, he was wounded and “left in the hands of the enemy” at Tupelo, Mississippi. Medical records report that his right leg was amputated at the thigh, and it is believed that he died of his wounds.

SOURCES: Battery G Muster Roll, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War vol. XI, (reprint of Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Part III, Vol. II, Surgical History by George A. Otis and D.L. Huntington, second issue, original published by Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1883; reprinted by Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, NC 1991) p. 272.

Jefferson Loveridge

Jefferson Loveridge enlisted in 1861 at the age of 18. He was described as being 5’7″ tall, with black hair, hazel eyes, and a dark complexion. He was single, a farmer, and resided at Lane, Ogle County, Illinois. Sometime in 1864 or 1865, he received a promotion to corporal.

During the grueling march across Missouri in October and November of 1864, Loveridge suffered eye problems “owing to unavoidable exposure to inclement weather arising partly from the use of unsuitable tents and partly from such exposure while on march,” and it was upon this basis that he filed his claim for a pension.

After the war, Loveridge lived in Kendallville, Noble County, Indiana in 1866 (where he apparently had ties during the war); Goshen, Elkhart County, Indiana in 1870; Crystal Valley, Oceana County, Michigan in 1876.
SOURCES: Barnickel, We Enlisted as Patriots (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1998). Jefferson Loveridge partial pension file, National Archives.

John Ingalls

At the time of his enlistment as Quartermaster Sergeant in 1861, John Ingalls was 44 years old, 5’9″ tall, married, had a light complexion, brown hair, and gray eyes. Born in Wales, New York in 1817, Ingalls was a resident of DeKalb, Illinois at the time of enlistment.

He studied medicine before coming to Wisconsin in 1850, moving to Illinois in 1859 or 1860. Although he gave his occupation as a dentist when he enlisted, he served much of his time in the military on detached service as a surgeon at and around Jackson, Tennessee. After appearing before a board of examiners, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the 59th U.S. Colored Troops (3rd Tennessee Colored Infantry) in August of 1863, and his association with Battery G came to an end. A photograph of him was taken after he had left the battery and joined the officer corps of the 59th USCT, and is on display at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. He was described as a quiet man and “a true friend,” who “was always at his post, and was fearless in battle.”

After the war, he and his wife settled in Memphis, where he continued his medical practice, but due to his generous spirit – which was sometimes taken advantage of – he was quite poor. Both he and his wife (A.C. Horton) died in the Memphis Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, and left no survivors.

SOURCES: Battery G Muster Roll, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Fifty-Ninth U.S.C. Infantry, by Col. Robert Cowden (Dayton, OH: United Brethren, 1883), p. 206-207.

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.

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