Reunion Company K, 1893
Terrible Fighting in Sheridan
Published in Kendall County Record, July 12, 1893
A few old soldiers who belonged to Company K, 20th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, met in Sheridan at the residence of James Jennings on Saturday, July 1, (1893) to visit and to fight over again in memory the great battles in which they were engaged in years that are gone.
A Bit of History.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries, under command of General Beaureguard, opened fire upon Fort Sumpter. On April 13, Sumpter surrendered. On April 14, the President of the United States called for 75,000 men to serve as soldiers for three months to suppress the rebellion.
A paper was immediately prepared at Fowler's drug store in Newark, to be signed by every man who was willing to fight. In about five days eighty volunteers had signed the document. We then elected officers, and sent First Lieutenant George Washington Watson to Springfield to report to the governor that we were organized, and earnestly desired to be accepted under the President's call for volunteers, and be sent to the seat of war. In about a week, Watson returned from Springfield and reported that he was not successful in having the company accepted. He reported also that it was recommended to him that we hold together and wait for the next chance, which would come soon. Acting in compliance with this recommendation we continued to meet almost daily in Newark. We were drilled by Lieutenants Watson and McKean, who had been in the army in Mexico, until May 11, when the company went to camp at Joliet and became Company K, 20th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was sworn into the United States service for three years on June 13. Two days later we left for the south. Company K commenced operations by fighting guerrillas in Missouri in 1861 and finished by marching with Sherman down to the sea and serving in the campaign in the Carolinas. It marched to Washington (DC) and participated in the Grand Review. In July 1865, after the war was over, the regiment was discharged and the boys came home.
The Fate of War.
But, alas some were destined never to return. Company K had twelve men killed in battle as follows. One at Fort Donelson, three at Shiloh, and eight at Raymond. Of the survivors probably the majority were wounded one or more times in action.
Something About Raymond.
On the 12th of May 1963, the brigade to whom the 20th Illinois belonged was in the advance. We were marching in a northeasterly direction. When nearing Raymond, (Mississippi) the enemy was suddenly encountered. The 20th was ordered to swing into position to the right of the road behind a heavy rail fence. As the different battalions were forming, General Logan dashed along the line. In passing us he reigned up and said, "Men of the 20th, hold this position at all hazards until reinforcements can be brought forward. Upon your firmness depends the salvation of the army." In a moment they charged us with a yell, but a volley from our ranks broke them up. They retreated, rallied and immediately advanced again. This time they stood their ground and the fighting became close and desperate. They worked their line right up to us, but they did not come over on our side of the rails. Probably they did not like to run against our bayonets. Reinforcements arrived. The Confederates were routed, our dead were buried, and our wounded were abandoned, and soon became prisoners of war.
Something About Our Host.
Comrade Jennings has put off the habiliments of war. He is now a man of peace. For many years he was a hard working farmer. He is still largely interested in agriculture although he now lives in town and is taking life easy. In religion he is a quasi Methodist. In politics he is a Republican, and a stalwart of the stalwarts. He will probably be in the last ditch with the good old party. He was in the army four years and three months. He was shot in the shoulder at the battle of Britton's Lane. On account of which he now draws a pension of four dollars a month. July 22, 1864, he and a number of others were captured near Atlanta and sent to Andersonville. He was a prisoner for about eight months, when he escaped and reached the Union lines near Wilmington, North Carolina. Previously he and Jerome Dann, also a Company K man, had effected an escape from Andersonville and attempted to reach the Union lines. They traveled together for about a week, mostly through the woods and by night. In the course of their journey they quarreled in regard to the direction to travel. Each was certain that he was right and that the other fellow was wrong. They were both determined and unyielding. Each had his own way. They separated. Each was sure that the other would not go far before he was captured. Within a few hours they were both captured and were sent back together under guard to the prison. Pilgrims passing through a strange country to a better land should not stop by the wayside and quarrel, but should press on with steady pace till the goal is reached. They should give each other aid, comfort, and consolation on the journey, lest they fall into the hands of the adversary.
How We Were Treated.
We were all magnificently entertained by Comrade Jennings at his commodious residence. We sat at his table for dinner and for supper and were royally feasted. We had beans, of course; that is according to the "rules and regulations" at all Company K meetings. Hardtack is out of print and therefore not purchasable. They were missed. Besides beans we had such an array of good things to eat that it is impossible for us to make out a bill of particulars. We had lemonade and a variety of other drinks and we were happy. Some confessed, even some of the ladies confessed, that they were hard drinkers. A discussion of the Keeley cure was entered upon in which Dr. John J. Taylor of Streator led off. The conclusion of all present was that whatever merit the cure might have it was not indicated in the case of any of us. For the entertainment we are under profound obligations to Comrade Jennings and his family, the hired girl included. We will all go through life with pleasant recollections of the occasion. Signed K.