I’ve never had much of an interest in the American Civil War. But recently I’ve done some research into my ancestry and found out that two of my ancestors fought in it, so the history is suddenly more interesting.
My great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Cunningham served in the Union army. For those of you in my family, this would be my great-grandpa Bernie’s grandfather.
Solomon Cunningham joined the 16th regiment of the Iowa volunteer infantry January 5th,1862 when he was 39 years old. His 23 year old brother Maximillian had joined Dec 23rd, 1861. They were both Privates in Company D, and fought in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 as part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant. Then the Union army moved a few miles south to take the railhead at Corinth, Mississippi, and that’s where they died, in the Siege of Corinth (First Battle of Corinth), Maximillian on May 16th and Solomon on the 17th. According to an article in the Muscatine Journal, both men were wounded, but died of malaria. The sad part about Solomon’s death (other than the obvious) was that he left his 29-year old widow Agnes with a 9 year old son, a 7 year old son, a 5 year old daughter, and a 2 year old daughter. What’s more was that Agnes was pregnant. Her fifth child George was born September 21st, and died a month later. If George was born around his due date, then he was conceived somewhere around Christmas. Solomon didn’t muster (join the troops) until January 28th, 1862, and it’s likely they didn’t find out Agnes was pregnant until after he had joined. How horrible for Agnes to get the news that her husband had died when she was five months pregnant. I’m sure there were many stories like that during our nation’s bloodiest war, but this one was from my family. My great-great-grandfather Robert was the 7 year old. Agnes never remarried, and died at the age of 65.
Here is an interesting passage I read about Solomon’s first battle (The Battle of Shiloh) in “Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 2” By Guy E. Logan:
The experience gained by the regiment in this great battle was invaluable. In the numerous battles in which it was subsequently engaged it had the advantage of the training and drill which it had not received before the battle of Shiloh, but it was never afterwards placed in a position in which the bravery and fortitude of the officers and men received a more thorough test. It was the common experience of all soldiers that their first battle, no matter how favorable the conditions under which it was fought, was the severest test to their courage. At Shiloh the conditions under which the Sixteenth Iowa went into action were most unfavorable. The impression its men received, the moment they left the boat and formed in line of battle, was that the enemy was successful on every part of the battlefield; and this impression was sustained as they marched to the front and met large numbers of wounded being taken to the rear, also many demoralized and panic-stricken soldiers who had not been wounded but had deserted their regiments in the face of the enemy and sought safety in flight. The fact that the men of this new and untried regiment did not become infected with the feeling of panic, but marched steadily forward and went into that hell of battle with the coolness of veterans, fought until the only alternative was retreat or surrender, and afterwards rallied to their colors and rendered important service until the close of the battle, entitles them to a place in the front rank as heroic soldiers. In its subsequent history the record made at Shiloh was fully maintained but, in the judgment of the compiler, never surpassed.
Now I want to learn more about the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth.
My g-g grandfather and his brother fought for the Union in different Wisconsin units. The brother was killed in Dallas, GA just before Sherman captured Atlanta. He’s buried in the federal cemetery in Marietta, GA. I visited the grave several years ago.