Kendall County Youth in the Civil War
Originally Published in Historical Notes: the Newsletter of the Kendall County Historical Society, Volume 30, Number 1
by Elmer Dickson
Over 2,778,304 men served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Generally speaking, physically fit healthy men between the ages of 18 and 45 years were accepted for military service. The majority of those who served were born between 1825 and 1847 but other volunteers were born before or after these dates. It is estimated that over 800,000 men who served during the Civil War were seventeen years of age or less. Of these approximately 200,000 were sixteen years or less; 100,000 were fifteen years or less; and about 300 boys were thirteen years of age or less. Among the later group it is believed that 25 were not more than ten years of age. Military regulations prohibited anyone under eighteen years of age from carrying a musket or rifle but this directive was frequently ignored. Typically the very youngest served in other capacities such as musicians or orderlies. However, hundreds of thousands of boys under the age of eighteen carried muskets or rifles and fought side by side with their older brothers.
When a militia company was organized, an Original Muster and Description Roll form was prepared with information pertaining to each member of the company. The information included a physical description of the enlistee, their age, date of enlistment, date of mustering in, and sometimes their permanent residence. Recruiting Officers were required to complete and sign the following statement.
"I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have minutely inspected the Volunteer John Doe previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that, to the best of my judgement and belief, he is of lawful age; and that, in accepting him as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able-bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the recruiting service. This soldier has Blue eyes, Fair hair, Light complexion, is 5 feet 4 inches high."
A comparison of the ages on these rolls with the enlistee's actual age reveals that many sixteen and seventeen-year-old enlistees were recorded as eighteen years of age. Several of the youngest were rejected on their first attempt to enlist but most were ultimately accepted. To achieve this objective they had to be persistent and find sympathetic enrolling officers and government inspectors.
The following soldiers and sailor were the youngest enlistees from Kendall County.
Lucius Henry ASHLEY was the son of Almon Pitcher and Hulda (Ferriss) Ashley. He was born April 8, 1849 in Kendall Township. Lucius is carried on the 89th IL Infantry regimental roll as Lewis Ashley, unassigned recruit of Spice Grove (sic Specie Grove.) He enlisted for three years and was mustered in January 5, 1864 and hoped to join Company H, which had been organized in Kendall County. He was carried on the muster roll as eighteen years of age and five feet, five inches tall. His actual age at the time he enlisted was fourteen years, eight months and twenty-eight days. His objective of joining Company H was not achieved when he became ill at Camp Butler, Springfield, IL. Lucius died February 23, 1864, one month and eighteen days after he was mustered in the army. At the time of his death he was fourteen years, ten months and fifteen days of age. He was buried in Cowdrey Cemetery, Oswego Township.
Orville Wormley BEEBE was the son of Alonzo and Elizabeth (Wormley) Beebe. He was born December 24, 1848 in Oswego Township and was 13 years of age when the Civil War began. Inspired by patriotism and three older brothers, Henry, John, and Orsemus who had enlisted, Orville tried to enlist several times. On one occasion, May 10 1864 he was accepted for enlistment in Company C, 132nd IL Infantry (a 100-day company) but was rejected by U. S. Government inspectors at mustering in June 1, 1864.
Because of his age and the fact that three of his sons were already in the service, Orville's father opposed his enlistment. To get around his father's opposition, Orville told him he had "hired out" and on September 7, 1864 enlisted in the navy. At the time of his enlistment he was fifteen years, eight months and twenty-four days old. He served on the U. S. S. Moose and was honorably discharged from the U. S. Great Western Naval Service August 22, 1865. Orville died February 1, 1921 at Yorkville, IL and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Yorkville.
Menzo BENNETT was the son of Darius Charles and Eunice (Tenney) Bennett. He was born July 21, 1848 in Little Rock Township. Menzo enlisted for three years in Company I, 23rd IL Infantry Consolidated, March 2, 1865 and was mustered in March 31, 1865. Menzo was listed as eighteen years of age on the original muster role. His actual age at the time of his enlistment was sixteen years, seven months and nine days. Menzo died July 13, 1865 at Richmond, VA three months and twelve days after entering the army. His cause of death is unknown to the compiler. He is buried in Little Rock Township Cemetery, Plano, IL.
Wells BROWN was the son of George and Christabel (Elliott) Brown. He was born circa 1849 in Oswego Township but the precise date is unknown to the compiler. Wells enlisted for three years and was mustered in Company K, 127th IL Infantry October 18, 1862 at Joliet, IL as a musician. His age was listed as fourteen years and height four feet, five inches on the original muster roll. It is more likely that he was thirteen years of age at the time of his enlistment. Wells was discharged February 25, 1863 at Vicksburg, MS by order of General Sherman. The reason for the discharge is unknown to the compiler.
Wells tried to re-enlist in Company C, 132nd IL Infantry (a 100-day company), May 4, 1864 at Oswego, IL. The original muster roll for Company C indicated he was fifteen years of age at the time. U. S. Government inspectors rejected his enlistment.
Isaac "Sebring" BUDD was the son of Matthew and Cornelia S. (VanVoorhis) Budd. He was born in Fox Township May 10, 1848. Sebring enlisted in Company C, First Michigan Cavalry for three years, October 7, 1863 at Detroit, Michigan. His age was listed as eighteen years on the original muster roll but he was actually fifteen years, four months and twenty-seven days of age at the time of his enlistment. March 28, 1864 Sebring was admitted to Campbell U. S. A. General Hospital in Washington, DC with the measles. His age was listed as sixteen on the hospital admittance form.
Sebring was reported missing in action at Front Royal, VA on August 16, 1864. Two days later it was reported he had been captured and was a prisoner of war. Isaac "Sebring" Budd died October 16, 1864 of acute diarrhea at Lynchburg, VA, while a prisoner of war. He was sixteen years, five months, and six days of age at the time of his death.
February 2, 1865 after the death of their son, Mathew and Cornelia had another son and named him Isaac Sebring. The second Isaac Sebring Budd died April 19, 1903 at Phoenix AZ and is buried in Millington-Newark Cemetery.
Franklin W. CLARK was the son of Henry Allen and Emeline A. Clark. He was born in 1848 in Oswego Township. The precise date is unknown to the compiler. Franklin enlisted in Company C, 4th IL Cavalry for three years January 25, 1864 at Oswego. He was mustered in April 29, 1864 at Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois. His age was recorded as eighteen years and height five feet, five inches. Unless he was born during the first 25 days of January, he would have been fifteen years of age at the time of his enlistment. Later he was transferred to Company D, 4th IL Cavalry Consolidated and then to Company L, 12th IL Cavalry Consolidated. He was mustered out May 29, 1866. Franklin died November 4, 1924 at Danville, IL. He is buried in Pierce Cemetery, Oswego, IL.
Thomas Hawley FINLAYSON was the son of William and Janette (Mitchell) Finlayson. He was born February 26, 1845 in Fifeshire, County Perth, Scotland. He enlisted for three years in Company H, 36th IL Infantry August 14, 1861 at Woodstock, IL. He was mustered in September 23, 1861 at Aurora, IL. He was carried on the original muster as eighteen years of age and five feet, four inches tall. His actual age at the time of enlistment was sixteen years, five months and nineteen days. He served his enlistment and re-enlisted as a veteran in the same company. He was discharged October 8, 1865 at New Orleans, LA, as a corporal.
Thomas died November 19, 1925 at Chicago, IL and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Yorkville.
John FITZGERALD was born June 5, 1849 in Malone, Franklin County, New York. He came to Will County with his parents in 1853 where both parents, whose names are unknown to the compiler, died while he was a young lad. After the death of his parents he came to Kendall County and made his home with the Philo Beecher family on a farm in Kendall Township. On October 3, 1864 he enlisted and was mustered in the 53rd IL Infantry at Chicago. He was carried on the original muster roll as eighteen years of age and five feet, two inches tall. His actual age at the time of his enlistment was fifteen years, three months, and twenty-eight days. The Civil War ended and he was discharged July 22, 1865.
James Thompson JARVIS was born in Ohio February 5, 1850. January 14, 1865 he enlisted for three years in Company A, 3rd IL Cavalry Re-Organized at Joliet, Illinois. He was mustered in two days later. Muster roll records report he was eighteen years of age, five feet, two inches tall and a resident of NaAuSay Township. His actual age at time of enlistment was fourteen years, eleven months and nine days. He was mustered out October 10, 1865 at Fort Snelling, MN. James died July 17, 1917 and is buried in Oswego Township Cemetery, Oswego, IL.
Franklin William "Frank" LORD was the son of William B. and Luna A. (Cook) Lord. He was born August 30, 1848 at Colchester, CT. Frank enlisted for three years in Company I, 23rd IL Infantry Consolidated, March 2, 1865. He was listed on the muster roll as eighteen years of age but his actual age was sixteen years and six months at the time of his enlistment. He was mustered in March 31, 1865 and mustered out July 24, 1865. He died August 28, 1938 at Plano, IL and is buried in Little Rock Township Cemetery, Plano, IL. Before his death he was the last living member of the Grand Army of the Republic in Little Rock Township.
Charles "Eugene" MERRICK was the son of Charles and Lorinda Merrick. He was born March 4, 1850 in Kendall Township. Eugene caught the "war fever" from two older brother, Clinton and Cyrus who had enlisted. The first time he tried to enlist he was immediately turned down because of his age. He claimed he tried to enlist four more time before succeeding.
A family friend, First Lt. Frank A. Buys of Bristol Station was instrumental in organizing Company C, 132nd IL Infantry, a 100 day company. Eugene succeeded in talking Lt. Buys into letting him enlist but he was rejected at mustering in because of his age. On February 13, 1865 he successfully enlisted for one year in Company C, 147th IL Infantry commanded by the now, Captain Frank A. Buys. His age was listed as eighteen and his height six feet one inch on the original muster roll. His actual age at the time of enlistment was fourteen years, eleven months and nine days. For the first two weeks of his service Eugene carried a musket. But fearing a reprimand from his superiors, Captain Buys made him a drummer boy. He served throughout the Georgia Campaign as a drummer boy and was discharged January 20, 1866 at Savannah, GA.
Charles "Eugene" Merrick died October 11, 1943 in Los Angeles, CA. He is buried in Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA.
Robinson Barr "Bob" MURPHY was the only son of Wright and Martha (Barr) Murphy. He was born May 11, 1849 at Oswego, Illinois. Bob first tried to enlist in May 1861 when he ran away from home and walked eighteen miles across county to Joliet where he persuaded one of the officers of Company K, 20th IL Infantry to let him enlist. His father found out where he was before the regiment left for the south and brought him back to Oswego.
Bob's father, Wright Murphy, was a lawyer and had been the sheriff of Kendall County. In 1862 a war meeting was held to discuss the organization of a company from Oswego. Wright was asked to speak and wound up by saying, " I have asked a great many men to enlist, and now propose to enlist myself." At this, Bob jumped up and came forward to enlist. Because of his age and being an only son, his father refused to let him enlist. For two weeks Bob and his father argued about the matter. Bob told his father he was determined to join the war and if he did not consent to let him go with him, he would run away and join another unit. Not wishing to back out from his commitment to enlist himself, Wright finally consented.
Bob enlisted for three years in Company A, 127th IL Infantry, August 6, 1862 at Oswego when he was thirteen years, two months and twenty-six days of age. According to the muster roll he was four feet, six inches tall. He was mustered in September 5, 1862 and served as a musician (drummer boy) and orderly. In January 1864 he was made orderly on Brigade Commander, General J. A. L. Lightburn's staff.
Bob participated in several hard-fought battles His comrades stated he performed many courageous acts and was conspicuous for his bravery and fidelity. On July 28, 1864 the 127th IL was east of Atlanta on the extreme right of General Sherman's army. The rebel onslaught was horrendous and their line of battle enveloped the 127th threatening to cut them off from the rest of the army. In the middle of this terrible turmoil, when the day seemed hopelessly lost, Bob rode his pony to the rear where he met General Logan commander of the Army of the Tennessee. With tears in his eyes, he begged the General for reinforcements on the right telling him they were being cut to pieces. The General stated reinforcements from the 14th Corps on the left had been ordered and were in sight, and if Bob knew where they are needed to lead them in.
Bob led two Ohio regiments on the double quick to the threatened points and into the battle. Cheers of the Ohio men filled the air as they went into the reformed line and drove the Confederates back. In the midst of the charge Bob's pony was shot out from under him. Robinson Barr Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery before Atlanta. He was fifteen years, two months and seventeen days of age on the day of the battle. He is the only person from Kendall County to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In November 1864 Bob was made orderly on the staff of General Webster, Chief of Staff to General Sherman. On June 5, 1865, when he was sixteen years and twenty-five days of age, his service was completed and he was mustered out of the army in Washington, DC. Robinson Barr Murphy died October 2, 1934 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
William R. OWEN was the son of Reuben and Lucinda (Ryon) Owen. He was born November 4, 1848 in Little Rock Township. William enlisted May 10, 1864 at Bristol, Illinois for 100 days in Company C, 132nd IL Infantry. He was mustered in June 1, 1864 at Camp Fry, IL. His age was recorded as eighteen years and height five feet, five inches on the original muster roll. His actual age at the time of his enlistment was fifteen years, six months and six days. William was discharged October 17, 1864 at Chicago, IL.
After the war, William R. Owen became a doctor. He died August 27, 1905 at Minneapolis, MN and is buried in the Griswold Cemetery, Little Rock Township.
Ira M. SCOFIELD was the son of John C. and Mary "Emeline" Scofield. He was born January 2, 1848 in Bristol Township. Ira enlisted for three years in Company E. 36th IL Infantry, March 4, 1864 and was mustered in March 18, 1864. His age was listed as eighteen years and his height five feet nine inches on the muster roll. His actual age at the time of his enlistment was sixteen years, two months and one day. Ira M. Scofield died of disease April 7, 1864 at Shelbyville, TN and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Bristol Township. He was in the army for twenty days before his death.
Rushton Joseph "Rush" WALKER was the son Lauriston and Lydia (Kennedy) Walker. He was born in 1848 in Massachusetts. The precise date of his birth is unknown to the compiler. Rush enlisted for 100 days in Company C, 132nd IL Infantry, May 12, 1864 at Oswego, Illinois. He was mustered in June 1, 1864 at Camp Fry, Illinois and was discharged October 17, 1864 in Chicago. His age was recorded as eighteen and his height five feet, four inches on the original muster roll. His actual age would have been either fifteen or sixteen years depending on the day of his birth. Rush died March 31, 1915 and is buried in Oswego Township Cemetery, Oswego, IL.
Martin Williams was the son of Elmer (or Almer) and Adeline (Varner) Williams, and was born February 22, 1850 in Webster, New York. Martin enlisted in Company C, 4th IL CAV at Oswego, IL, December 18, 1863 for three years. He was mustered in February 8, 1864 at Springfield, IL, twelve days short of his fourteenth birthday. His age recorded on the original muster roll was eighteen. Martin was transferred to Company D, 4th IL CAV, which was later re-designated Company L, 12th IL CAV. He was discharged from the latter company as a private, September 26, 1865 at Saint Louis, MO. In 1880, Martin was farming in Seward Township, Kendall County. He died March 17, 1916 at Steger, Cook County, Illinois.
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