Reunion Twentieth Illinois 1892
The Old Army Boys
Reunion of the Twentieth Illinois - Adventures of James Coyle
Published in Kendall County Record Jun 22, 1892
To the Editor:
Boys of 1861 were boys again over in Joliet one day last week. On June 15, 1861, the 20th Illinois Regiment left Joliet for the south. On June 15, 1892, the survivors of that regiment met to grasp each other by the hand and to look again into each other's faces. And, Oh such a glorious meeting! What memories were revived of campaigns and marches, of battles and sieges, of wounds and suffering and of brave comrades slain on bloody fields.
Company K was the Kendall County company, and was represented at the reunion by the following "boys." Pease Barnard, Martin Bissell, Nelson Boyer, Andrew Brown, James Coyle, Samuel Hagerman, James Jennings, Benjamin Olin, William Preston, Luman Preston, John Taylor, Samuel Trenter, and DeWitt Wilson. Of these, Pease Barnard and Luman Preston were recruits who came to the regiment in 1864. The others were original members of Company K, having enlisted early in the spring of 1861.
James Coyle is president of the regimental association. Before the war, Comrade Coyle's home was near Plattville. Today he is a successful businessman in St. Louis. He was in the ranks for four years and three months, and was continually at the front. At Vicksburg he had charge of a Negro to execute a piece of work in the trenches. A bullet from the enemy passed through the Negro, killing him instantly, and Coyle was badly wounded by the same bullet. Near Atlanta he was captured, as was most of the regiment, and sent to Andersonville. He escaped from Andersonville but was recaptured after some time and sent to another prison. From this he also escaped by digging a hole through a brick wall. He again started for the Union lines, avoiding the roads and marking his course by the stars. One morning he sighted a Negro in the woods and hailed him. He revealed himself to the colored man and asked him to bring him something to eat. The Negro willingly consented. Coyle retired a distance from the place and watch and waited. The Negro came back in course of time bringing corn cakes. He said he had told the other Negroes and that they manifested a great deal of excitement, which was observed by the white folks, and it was not safe for him to stay there. He started immediately, but was not much more than out of sight of the Negro when he heard the baying of a pack of hounds. He was overtaken by the dogs and was attacked by them and badly bitten. He used a club on the hounds with all the energy he possessed and disabled one of them. The men soon came up; one fellow, a boy, was furious because his dog was hurt. He assaulted Coyle and might have shot him but for the interference of an older man. Coyle was now taken back to the prison from which escaped. The officer in charge was about to put a ball and chain on him. Coyle told the officer that he now had enough of trying to escape. He would not try it again and the officer refrained from putting him in chains. Coyle says anything is right in war and he did not keep his promise. He put pegs in a high stockade wall, by means of which he climbed to the top and jumped down on the other side, and away he went again. This time he was more successful. After a journey of 150 miles he reached the Union lines. As he neared the end of his journey he had to move with the utmost caution, as the pickets of both armies were close together. On the morning of the last day he climbed a small tree and took observations. He saw the men in camp and knew his deliverance was close at hand.
President Coyle called the house to order at eleven o'clock and the association engaged in prayer led by Comrade Hagerman. Business was transacted and many letters from distant comrades were presented and read. The dinner hour arrived and the meeting adjourned until afternoon. Met again at two o'clock for the further transaction of business. The same officers were elected for the ensuing year. The next meeting will be in Chicago in September 1892. Meeting adjourned until evening and in the meantime everyone enjoyed himself according to his own individual fancy.
The street cars were full during the entire day. Supper at six o'clock. And such a dinner and supper as we had, and that too without money and without price! There was a multiplicity of good things. We have had no relish for common hash since last Wednesday. May the Lord bless the true, devoted and patriotic women of the hospitable city of Joliet.
After supper the society met and an interesting program was rendered. First was the beat of the long roll. We had often heard it before, but under very different circumstances. In the army it was the alarm. It indicated present danger. When we heard, all rushed to arms, ranks were formed and the army was quickly drawn in battle array. When beat at night to arouse a sleeping camp the effect was terrific.
Mr. Haley, Joliet's talented mayor, was introduced and made a rousing speech. "To you, to all, who were willing to risk life for country we say, all hail and welcome. We greet you with open, outstretched arms. Because you were willing to sacrifice every attachment which men hold dear we honor you. You fought a good fight and we revere you. Because of your valor the inheritance descended from the fathers may now be handed down to posterity. Because of your devotion the land of the brave is now also the land of the free. You made a grand history for Illinois and you will always have a warm place in our affections. The people of this city look with especial pride on the 20th Regiment because we claim you as our own. Men of the 20th lie buried on all the battlefields. Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Atlanta all tell of your valor. We see some of the gallant old regiment in our midst here today and we regard you as our most distinguished guests. We can not grant you the freedom of the city in just the same way in which London grants the freedom of the city to very distinguished visitors, but you shall have our hospitality, our good wishes and our admiration. Come again: come often; come always. In this city you shall ever be welcome"
Mr. Haley is a very fluent and eloquent speaker, and it is impossible to give anything line an adequate idea of his speech.
N. P. Barnard, of Newark responded in behalf of the Twentieth. He said that language failed to utter the appreciation of the veterans for the welcome so generously given by the mayor. "If there is any place on earth," said he, "the survivors of the Twentieth should feel glad to tread upon it is in Joliet. Here they were first organized. Here the 'God speeds' of dear ones were first uttered. None thought the war would last as long as it did. The Twentieth went forth and their record is made. Again we thank you for your noble welcome."
A. R. Morgan, formerly Chaplain of the penitentiary, delivered a very highly finished address, taking for his theme his own experience and observations as a soldier in the ranks and as the experience of one soldier is, in general, the experience of others, his address was intensely interesting. he was in Company F, of the 8th Illinois Regiment and saw as much hard service and desperate fighting as any of us. He said he did not propose to give us history, but to relate some of the small incidents and details that came under his own observation. He would not hold before us pictures found in art galleries, but he might present us with a few pictures that were deep down in his own heart. His first picture was his parting from his mother, when he left for the war. He told us how he felt when under fire for the first time. He described his feelings and condition after the surrender of Fort Donelson. He was a Shiloh. He took us back again to that terrible Sunday April 6, 1862. We saw again Federal and Confederate armies grappling in deadly conflict. We heard the rebel yell and shouts of defiance from the Union ranks. We saw demoralization among the green troops and saw the heroes of Donelson beat back the Confederate legions until night threw the mantle of darkness over the scene. And, OH, who that was there can ever forget that night? The angry elements, the intense darkness, the lurid lightning, the thunder, the rain pouring down in torrents. the cannonade by gunboats in the river, the field strewn with dead and dying men, the moans and cries of anguish and despair heard on every side during the whole of that terrible night; all these combined to make a scene such as very few shall ever witness.
Short speeches were made by Pease Barnard and Ben Olin of the Kendall County company, by the Commander of Bartleson Post (G. A. R.) of Joliet, and by others. The exercises were enlivened by vocal in instrumental music. We are under obligations to Boyne's Joliet band.
The meeting was adjourned at a late hour. Some left on departing trains. Others went to the hotel where they sat up all night and talked. A few went to bed, but we understand they talked all night too. Signed K.