James Coyle, Company K, 20th Illinois Mustered Out

James Coyle, Company K, 20th Illinois Mustered Out

Reminiscences of the Civil War; Career of Brave Soldier;
Dies Suddenly

Published Kendall County Record, April 8, 1914

For the Record:

May 11, 1861, a company of about seventy-five men left Newark and went to Joliet where they went into camp and became K Company, 20th Illinois Infantry, which regiment was then being organized. A few days later a boy came in looking for the Kendall County company. He enlisted as a soldier for three years; at the expiration of this term he enlisted for another three years and served till September 26, 1865, when he was discharged by reason of the close of the war.

There never was a better soldier than James Coyle. He went through the hardest marching and campaigning in good condition and was always ready for duty. He was a resolute and determined fighter; was in the fiercest of the fighting in all the great battles and would die in his tracks rather than budge an inch from the line.

On May 21, 1863, the regiment was working in the trenches at Vicksburg; Coyle was given charge of a Negro to do some digging; while at work a ball fired by a Confederate passed through the body of the Negro, then through Coyle's hand, then hit the face of the shovel and fell flattened to the ground. On May 22, 1864, the company was captured in one of the fights near Atlanta and sent to Andersonville. On the night of September 11, Coyle escaped from the Confederates and made a desperate attempt to reach the Union lines. He was out fifteen days. He lay in concealment during the day and traveled at night, but was captured and returned to prison. Soon after he made a second escape and traveled eleven nights, but was captured again, and again returned to prison. Later he made a third escape and after twenty-one days, by constant night travel he reached Sherman's army at Atlanta.

When the war was over and the soldiers mustered out, Coyle came back to Kendall County and, after a brief stay, went away to school for a year. He then went on the road as a salesman and met with remarkable success from the start. In a few years he became real estate merchant in St. Louis and later engaged in the wholesale business.

On Monday, March 9, 1914, while riding in a streetcar in St. Louis, he rose suddenly and died instantly. In his pocket was a draft for $3500 payable to himself and a bankbook showing a credit balance of $2970. In three months he would have been 70 years old. Only last New Year's, in a letter to me, he wrote thus: "I eat well, sleep well, work hard and am never sick." And how frail is the tenure of life? Signed Andrew Brown. Newark, April 2, 1914.

Last Modified on 2012-12-29 14:32:21-0600 CST by Elmer Dickson