Company K Reunion at Springfield, Illinois 1898
Interesting Notes from an Old Soldier
Published in Kendall County Record, October 12 1898
To The Editor:
I was a boy when Fort Sumpter surrendered but realized that the country was in danger and immediately resolved to cast my lot with those who left home and friends and went forth to fight under the old flag for the constitution and the perpetuity of the government. I went to Newark and put my name down with a hundred others for the war and we became Company K of the 20th Illinois regiment. We were anxious to confront the enemy and were soon in Missouri. A St. Louis paper in July 1861 contained this comment. "Colonel Marsh's regiment is evidently in first-class condition and consists of strikingly vigorous and hardy men. They are brim full of energy and health and are aching for active service wherever desired. The regiment numbers nine hundred and sixty-one men, rank and file."
The annual reunion of this glorious old regiment was appointed for Monday September 26, in one of the large rooms of the capitol at Springfield. Having taken a night train at Joliet, I was there at the appointed hour. There were no military formations and no loud and lusty cheers as the comrades assembled, but the greetings were truly earnest and sincere. Attachments are sacred that are formed amid scenes of slaughter, upon battlefields and in hospitals and prisons. We are not now numerous. The grave has already claimed half our numbers. As the years go by the sacred memories of the past, to us who still survive become still more sacred. We will continue to meet annually. To many of us this reunion is the most important event of the year. In 1899, we will again meet in Springfield during the week of the State fair.
Memorial Hall is a room 54 feet square in the south wing of the capitol and is frequently called the Flag Room. It contains many relics of the war, but the most interesting are the flags carried by the Illinois regiments during the war. Most of these are rent by Confederate bullets and are stained by the blood of the soldiers that carried them. On one of the flags of the 13th Illinois regiment there hangs a card with this inscription.
"Sergeant Patrick Riley, whose blood stains this flag, was Color Sergeant of the regiment. In a charge a Ringgold's Gap, when close to the enemy, he was shot through the heart and fell forward dead with the flag clasped tightly in his hands."
The flag of the 116th Illinois is inscribed thus. "Samuel Baty, whose blood stains this flag, was regimental color bearer. In the charge on Vicksburg, May 9, 1863, he was shot and fell saying, 'Keep this flag up!'" In the room are four flags carried by the 20th Illinois regiment at different times during the war. There is also an ash staff an inch and three-quarters in diameter from which the flag had been shot off. This staff contains more bullet marks than anything else does in the room. It had been broken off by bullets just below the flag and was shot in thirteen different places.
Tuesday was soldier's day at the State fair and every soldier received a medal at the gate and passed in free. The fair was one of the greatest I ever saw. I was on the ground two days. I might write a long article about it but as several prominent Kendall County men were there I will leave the task for some of them.
The Camp Fire
The campfire was held Tuesday evening at the capitol and the audience was very great in numbers and was overflowing with patriotism. The principal speakers were John R. Tanner, John C. Black and Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller is a ready talker and her speech bristled with points. I am decidedly an admirer of talented women. General Black is an orator and handles rhetorical figures with great ease. In the course of his speech he alluded to the splendid achievements and marvelous success of our army and navy in the war of liberation of Cuba. I thought of the resolution recently passed by our Kendall County Democrats.
General John A McClernand
I knew General McClernand during the war, but knew him at a distance as the soldier in the ranks knows the Major General in command of a division or an army. I called at his home in Springfield and had a exceedingly interesting talk. At Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh he commanded the division to which I belonged and later the 13th Army Corps. He was a very aggressive fighter and when the history of the war shall be impartially written few names will stand higher than his. The General's father belonged in the County of Antrim, Ireland. He was engaged in the uprising of 1798. On account of his participation therein he came to America and settled in Kentucky. There the General was born in 1812. In 1813, he came with his parents to Illinois. As he remarked, it is very probable that he has been a resident of the state longer than any other person now living has. He became a lawyer, practiced in Springfield, lived close to Abraham Lincoln, engaged in politics, and became a member of Congress. He was serving his sixth term in the House of Representatives when he resigned to enter the army. He is a lifelong Democrat and thinks that it is left-handed for an Irishman to be anything but a Democrat. That has been my own experience. Signed K.
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