I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
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The life of a Civil War soldier
By Barry Schrader.................................March
An entry in his diary tells about the unit arriving
in Baltimore where they camped for several weeks. On Oct. 29,
1861, he writes that they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past
the White House. They halted momentarily and gave three cheers.
Someone came to the door swung his long arm at us,
made a bow. It was Old Abe. Oh dear! He is so homely, Deck
wrote. On Oct. 2, 1862, Deck saw President Lincoln again when
he reviewed the troops in camp. Poor man. He looks tired
and worn out and he is homely as a mud fence, the soldier
wrote in his diary that night.
In the first installment last Tuesday, this column detailed
the life of the war horse known as Old Charley that
spent its remaining years after the war on the Wesson family
farm on Leland Road south of Waterman.
column will dwell on its owner, a Civil War soldier named Silas
Dexter Wesson, also known as S.D. or more often called
Deck was born in 1839 in Jamestown,
N.Y., and was one of four children. His father James decided
to come west to Illinois and loaded up an ox-drawn covered wagon
in 1845, later purchasing 160 acres of a Mexican soldiers
land grant between Waterman and Leland, which the family eventually
called the Victor Centre Farm. The barn has the date 1849 painted
on it, so it became a centennial farm in 1949. According to Leland
Civil War historian Laurenda Kidd, that is probably also the
time when the memorial plaque for the heroic horse was placed
there. Deck died in 1909, and his wife Maggie in 1925.
went with some 25 other Victor Township men to join the Union
Army and was sworn in August 1861. He was assigned to Company
K of the 8th Illinois Cavalry. He kept a diary with almost daily
entries throughout the war, and the Wesson family still has it
in a safe. Much of the diary is reprinted in the family history.
His girlfriend was another Victor township resident, Magdalen
Maggie Suydam, who he referred to as his Doxie
girl. The Suydam Church bears her family name today.
Mug shot of Sgt. Deck Wesson as a soldierTombstone in Victor Cemetery of S.D. Wesson and family
Company K saw its
first action in the battle of Williamsburg, Va., on May 5, 1862,
and then a string of major engagements for the next four years,
including Richmond, Gettysburg and Appomattox. He escaped the
battle at Gettysburg, having been wounded at Beverly Run, shot
through the right thigh, and his horse at that time was killed.
He recuperated in Lincoln Hospital and then rejoined his company.
About that time he was promoted to sergeant.
of the entries show his mindset as the war progressed: One on
Nov. 1, 1864, states: The country is desolate. War is a
terrible thing. I pity the people who are trying to live here.
They are robbed by friend and foe. Another one: Have
got a lot of prisoners, poor devils, they look sorry. Our orders
were to burn every barn in the Shenandoah Valley, destroy all
the grain, take all men prisoners, drive off all the stock and
leave the women and children to starve, I suppose. We would not
do it. It is the first time I saw the regt refuse to obey
orders. A rather humorous entry on Nov. 23, 1864: I
said dam it to the chaplain. He took me down and
punched me with his fist. He is a good Methodist and wont
let the boys swear.
Deck also reported that
another company in their regiment was involved in the search
for Lincolns assassin. He told of them finding a boot that
belonged to John Wilkes Booth at the home of Dr. Mudd and taking
the doctor into custody.
After the war ended,
his regiment was sent to the Bull Run battlefields to dedicate
the monuments our men have built. Gen. Hancock is with us. He
has a fine whickey nose. We buried 2400 skulls under the monuments.
He returned with his comrades to Chicago, where they
mustered out in July 1865. He went home to rejoin his father
on the farm. He married his Doxie girl Maggie in October 1866,
and they had 11 children. He took time out to attend Jennings
Seminary in Aurora for two terms, becoming qualified to teach
and preach, but remained a farmer all his life.
obituary in the Sandwich Free Press on Feb. 11, 1909, stated
in part: Politically Mr. Wesson was a stanch Republican.
He was town clerk for a long time and supervisor at different
periods for nine years, was assessor for three years. His official
service was characterized by the utmost fidelity to duty. He
was a member of the Masonic order and connected with the Farmers
Elevator Company of Leland, and for several years was secretary
of the Victor Township Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Ms.
Kidd adds that he was active in the Grand Army of the Republic
veterans organization and took part in several of their gatherings.
He is buried at Victor Cemetery and his monument
can be seen near the front, left of the main gate. The cemetery
is a half-mile south of Wesson Road on Leland Road.
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PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115