Illinois Civil War soldiers made contributions after the war

Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2013, 11:32 pm
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By Tom Emery
Many Illinois Civil War soldiers were everyday men who led ordinary lives. But some didextraordinary things in their post-war years.

Six Illinois veterans later became governor of the Prairie State, and many became congressmen. Lt. Col. Alphonse Barto of the 52nd Illinois served as lieutenant governor of Minnesota.

Prussian-born Edward Selig Salomon, one of the highest-ranking Jewish soldiers in the war, fought with fellow Germans in the 24th and 82nd Illinois and was the governor of Washington Territory from 1870 to 1872. Springfield's Mason Brayman practiced law and was a newspaper editor before serving in the 29th Illinois, rising to brevet major general. After the war, he moved to Idaho, where he served as territorial governor from 1876 to 1880.

Another territorial governor was Edwin McCook, one of the 17 "Fighting McCooks" of Ohio who chose to serve in the 31st Illinois under friend John A. Logan. McCook was governor and secretary of state of the Dakota Territory before he was murdered while delivering a speech in what today is South Dakota in 1873.

The West was also the destination for James and Virgil Earp, who lived with their younger brother Wyatt and the rest of the family in Monmouth. James, of the 17th Illinois, was wounded near Fredericktown, Mo., in October 1861, while Virgil fought in the 83rd Illinois. Virgil was wounded in the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone on Oct. 26, 1881. Wild Bill Hickok, born near Troy Grove, fought in the war before his stint as lawman of Abilene and later infamy as a gunfighter.

Marcus Reno of Carrollton served in the regulars in the East, but he is best known for his actions — or lack thereof — with George Custer at the Little Big Horn, for which he was dismissed. Gaining less Western notoriety was John Wesley Powell of the 20th Illinois, who embarked on the first organized exploration of the Grand Canyon in 1869.

Illinoisan Wesley Merritt was an Eastern cavalry leader and brevet major general who also fought with distinction in the Spanish-American War, serving as military governor of the Phillippines. Philip Post of Galesburg, who won the Medal of Honor at Nashville, spent 1874-79 as U.S. consulate to Austria-Hungary. Golconda native Green Berry Raum, who enlisted in the 56th Illinois and rose to brigadier general, was the U.S. commissioner of internal revenue from 1876 to 1883.

Others made their mark in literature. James H. Wilson of Shawneetown wrote several books after the war, including a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, his old commander. He shared a name with Scottish-born James Grant Wilson of the 15th Illinois Cavalry, whose long list of credits includes a compilation of biographical sketches of Illinois officers, published before his enlistment in late 1862. Writings by Brig. Gen. James Fry, Carrollton, included an acclaimed analysis of Army regulations.

Richard Rowett of the 7th Illinois bred a Kentucky Derby winner on his Carlinville farm and is credited by many as the first to introduce the true-bred beagle hound to this country from his native England. His comrade in the 7th, Maj. Edward Johnson, served as custodian of the Lincoln Tomb from 1896 to 1921.

Hillsboro's Jesse Phillips of the 9th Illinois was chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1897 to 1901. Samuel Busey was the mayor of Urbana before enlisting in the 76th Illinois. He returned to Urbana to found a major Illinois bank that bears his name.

But some of the greatest legacies came from veterans' organizations. Benjamin Stephenson of Petersburg, the surgeon of the 14th Illinois, founded the Grand Army of the Republic in 1866. The first two permanent GAR commanders were Illinoisans Stephen Hurlbut and John A. Logan, a testament to the impact of Prairie State men in their post-war years.

Tom Emery of Carlinville, Ill., is developing a project on Illinois generals in the Civil War. He can be reached at or (217) 710-8392.


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