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Barry Schrader
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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.

 

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Bringing Civil War history home

By Barry Schrader.................................April 26, 2011

Laurinda Kidd has followed her passion for the past 18 years – collecting and recording the history of the men in the 8th Illinois Cavalry during the Civil War. She shared some of her work with the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society members at their annual dinner earlier this month.
A little background to show the scope of Illinois’ role in the war: The state sent 259,092 men to fight for the Union, including 17 cavalry regiments, 150 infantry regiments, eight heavy artillery regiments and two regiments of light cavalry. The losses were staggering: 34,834 in all. Of those, 9,894 were killed in battle, 21,965 died from wounds and disease and 1,720 died in Confederate prison camps.
Kidd also provided the statistics for just the 8th Cavalry. Of the approximately 1,200 men in 12

Leland historian, Laurinda Kidd, shows one of her 12 albums that contains photos of the tombstones of Civil War veterans from Illinois. (Barry Schrader photo)

companies in the 8th Illinois, 250 died in the war, but 175 of those deaths were from disease.
She said there were actually between 1,500 and 2,000 men in the 8th during the length of the war, counting replacements. She has been able to locate 900 of those men, including their final resting places, and has photographed some 700 grave sites. She has assembled those photos in 12 albums, one for each company, but for her talk she concentrated on Company B and Company K, the units most of the young men from DeKalb County served in.
The 8th Illinois was formed in St. Charles in September 1861 and was sent to Washington, D.C., where they were known as “Mister Lincoln’s Abolitionist Cavalry,” she said. They were stationed in the eastern states and had the distinction of firing the first shots at Gettysburg, even though they were pulled from the battle the first day and sent to guard supply trains away from the battlefield. They were finally mustered out in July 1865.
Kidd prepared a list of county men from the two companies for her PowerPoint presentation and was able to tell stories about several from her research through old diaries, letters, pension records and other materials found in the Illinois State Archives in Springfield. She began this project after meeting the granddaughter of Civil War veteran Silas D. “Deck” Wesson of Victor Township. The woman showed her a copy of Wesson’s Civil War diary, and she was hooked. She was able to interview the family historian, Harris Wesson, and learned much more from him.
Among the many anecdotes she shared was one about a Company B soldier from Genoa named Daniel “Coon Creek” O’Connor who was apparently a bully and disliked by his comrades. After some heavy drinking he picked a fight in camp one night with a George M. Roe of Shabbona and ended up getting fatally shot by Roe. The soldiers had no sympathy for O’Connor so they buried him. After a skirmish with the Confederates the next day, O’Connor was listed as “killed in action.” The true account came out later through diaries and letters from others in the same unit.
She also mentioned a captain of Company K, E.J. Farnsworth, who was so admired by his men some 15 or more named their children after him. He was killed in the battle at Gettysburg and is buried in Rockton.
She hopes to eventually organize all her research and get it onto a computer disk so it can be available to the public through libraries.
I would like to point out another Civil War history project worth checking out. The Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University has created an online exhibit – which can be found at www.libguides.niu.edu/civil war – in honor of the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, which highlights the impact on northern Illinois.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115