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8th Illinois Cavalry

From the original painting by Mort Künstler "Hold At All Cost" © 1993 Mort Künstler, Inc.

Biographies

John Franklin Farnsworth

John L. Beveridge

William Gamble

William Medill

Marcellus Jones


John Franklin Farnsworth

John Franklin Farnsworth, uncle of Elon J. Farnsworth and son of New England parents, was born in Eaton, a tiny village in Compton County, Quebec, Canada, on March 27, 1820. At an early age he became a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he studied law. He commenced practice in St. Charles, Illinois, but about 1852 moved to Chicago.

In 1856, Farnsworth was elected to Congress, described at the time as "a Lovejoy abolitionist," although he had originally been a Democrat. He was reelected in 1858 but was defeated for renomination in 1860. In September of the following year he recruited the 8th Illinois Cavalry of which he was made colonel. The regiment saw service on outpost duty in front of Washington and took part in the Peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862. During the Maryland campaign he was placed in command of a brigade in Alfred Pleasonton's division, which saw very limited service, its total casualties amounting to only thirty officers and men. Farnsworth was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to the rank from November 29 and was with his brigade at Fredricksburg where, according to Pleasonton's report "the cavalry was massed...in rear of the ridge commanding the approaches to the upper bridges. This position was held...until the army had recrossed the Rappahannock." Meantime, Farnsworth was again elected to Congress, this time from St. Charles, and took his seat on March 4, 1863, resigning his commission the same day. He was reelected in 1864 and by virtue of successive elections held his seat until 1873. Allying himself closely with the Radical Republican element in Congress, Farnsworth voted for all the extreme Reconstruction measures, including the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. With sentiment changing in favor of moderation, he failed to gain renomination in 1872 and in 1874 waged an unsuccessful campaign as a Democrat. General Farnsworth resumed his Chicago law practice when he left Congress and in 1880 moved to Washington, where he continued his practice until his death on July 14, 1897. He is buried in St. Charles.

Taken from "Generals in Blue" by Ezra J. Warner - pages 149 and 150


John L. Beveridge

 

 

 

 

 John L. Beveridge was born at Greenwich, Washington county, New York, July 6, 1824. His father was a farmer in fair circumstances and John enjoyed fair educational privileges until his father's family removed to Illinois in the spring of 1842, when he was in his eighteenth year. They settled on a farm in DeKalb county, and all the working force of the family was busily engaged in opening up and improving the farm.

He was a great reader and developed an aptitude for the law, and as the opportunities presented, improved them, and in due time was admitted to practice. Such was his success that he attained considerable prominence in the practice of his profession in his own and adjoining counties.
In 1844, wishing a wider field and scope for his varied specialties of practice, he opened an office in Chicago, and soon secured a good practice, which he increased until the breaking out of the rebellion in 1861, when, August 27, 1861, he enlisted, and commenced recruiting for the 8th Illinois Cavalry.
On the organization of the company he was elected captain of Co. F., September 17th. The next day he was selected by the line officers as one of the majors of the regiment. In October the regiment was ordered to Washington, and remained there during the winter of 1861-2. In the inclement weather and deep mud of Maryland and Virginia they were schooled to the privations and severe duties of camp life, hard marching and severe fighting. He was an apt student, and quickly acquired skill in drill and discipline of army movements and the maneuvering of the cavalry soldier.
In the fall of 1862, in the campaigns that ended in the battle of Fredricksburg, the "avenging hosts" of the 8th Illinois Cavalry were always hovering on the flanks or pitching into the wings of the rebel army. Major Beveridge fought the enemy, in command of his regiment, under that great cavalry leader, General Pleasanton, at Purceville, Unionville, Aldie, Barber's Cross Roads, and Amesville, and covered the rear and right flank of the army while swinging round under General Burnside to Fredricksburg.
The 8th were flying couriers, we might almost say the winged messengers, at the battle of Fredricksburg, Major Beveridge's battalion being the only cavalry force that crossed the river on that day. This force might be called the "Avengers," they followed in such quick succession in the battles of Chancellorsville, leading his regiment at Gettysburg, Williamsport, Boonsboro, Funktown, Falling Waters, and five times over the ground between the Rappahanock and Culpepper, either chasing the enemy or beating off their attack. Such was life with Major Beveridge in the Army of the Potomac. Sometimes the regiment was altogether, at other times divided up into battalions, making the 8th almost omnipresent in all the operations at that stirring period of the war. In this manner he served until the fall of 1863, when it was determined to organize another cavalry regiment from Illinois, and through Mr. Lincoln's recommendation to the War Department, permission was obtained to raise and organize another regiment, and by consent of Gov. Yates Major Beveridge resigned his commission Nov. 3, 1863, and returned to Illinois to recruit and organize the Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry. He was successful, and January 28, 1864, he was mustered in commissioned as colonel, and was in command of twelve companies, with Lieut. Col. Dennis J. Hynes, Major Hiram Hilliard, Second Major Lucius C. Matlack, Third Major Philip E. Fisher.
General Beveridge, after his promotion, March 7, 1865, was ordered to St. Louis to preside over a military commission for the trail of military offenders, and was finally mustered out of service February 6, 1866, the date of muster out of his old regiment.
Returning to his home he devoted his time to private business and some law practice until the November election of 1866, when he we elected sheriff of Cook county for the next two years. When his term expired, in 1868, he was elected to the state senate, for a term of two years, ending in 1870, then was elected to Congress for one term, when he was nominated on the state republican ticket as candidate for lieutenant-governor, with Governor Oglesby at the head of the ticket.
The ticket was elected by a large majority, and the following January he was installed into the office and held the position as presiding officer of the senate, when Governor Oglesby being elected to the United States senate, General Beveridge succeeded him as governor, and was duly inaugurated, serving four years, until succeeded by Hon. Shelby M. Cullom in January, 1877.
Gov. Beveridge's administration of affairs was vigorous, just and impartial, showing statesmanship of a high order. We have no space to devote to mention special measures that were promoted during his term. They were all in the interest of the state, and he will be accorded in history a place among the ablest executives of our great state.

 

 

 

 

Taken from "Fifty Years' Recollections" by Jeriah Bonham - pages 134 and 145

Biographies

 


William Gamble

 

 

 

 

William Gamble was born at Duross, County Tyrone, Ireland, on January 1, 1818. He studied civil engineering to the United States about 1838. The year following he enlisted in the Regular Army and was successively private, corporal, sergeant, and sergeant major of the 1st Dragoons (later renamed the 1st Cavalry), until he received his honorable discharge in 1843. He then went to Chicago, where he worked as a civil engineer until the outbreak of the Civil War. In September, 1861, Gamble became lieutenant colonel of the 8th Illinois Cavalry and its colonel on December 5, 1862. The regiment's first war service was at Warrenton, Virginia, where it was stationed until the beginning of the Peninsular campaign. At Malvern Hill, Gamble was severely wounded in the chest and did not rejoin his command until the battle of Fredricksburg. By January 31, 1863, he was in command of a brigade, and on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg a vedette of his old regiment posted on the Cashtown Road fired the opening shot of that famous engagement. At the beginning of a U. S. Grant's Overland campaign in May, 1864, Gamble was relieved from duty with the Army of the Potomac and assigned to the command of the cavalry division in the Department of Washington, where he served until the end of the war. Brevetted brigadier general of volunteers to rank from December 14, 1864, he was honorably mustered out of service on July 17, 1865. He was re-mustered shortly thereafter and on September 25, 1865, was appointed a full brigadier general of volunteers. Again mustered out in March, 1866, when the postwar army reorganization was effected. That autumn his regiment was ordered to California. While accompanying it there via the Central American Transit route, he fell ill of cholera and died in Virgin Bay, Nicaragua, on December 20, 1866. (138) He was buried there in Virgin Grove Cemetery where, according to the Memorial Division of the Quartermaster General's Department, his remains still repose.

 

 

 

Taken from "Generals in Blue" by Ezra J. Warner - pages 165 and 166


William Medill

 

 

 

 

To lighten these cold blooded details with the touch of nature that "makes the whole world kin" read a bit of biography typical of our best volunteer officers. Major William H. Medill entered (at 26) Barker's Dragoons, the first troop formed in Chicago, signing the roll two days after the fall of Sumter. This squadron took part in McClellan's short, brilliant campaign in West Virginia. At the affair near Beverly the Dragoons fought on foot with their carbines. Private Medill (always among the foremost) advancing through the woods, saw a rebel lieutenant aiming at him from behind a tree.
Taking a tree of his own, he waited till the rebel had fired and missed; then, rushing forward before the other could reload, he called to him, in the stormy language natural to the occasion, to surrender or he would let daylight through him. In short order there was a rebel prisoner marching to the rear, and now (1891) his straight, rapier-like sword hangs in Joseph Medill's hall, crossed with that of the captor's sword and with another taken later in somewhat similar fashion.
It was at Ashby's Gap in 1863. Medill, now Major of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, was attacking Stewart's Cavalry guarding the Gap. A little sergeant of the 8th, somewhat separated from the command, was marked for capture by the Colonel of the Eleventh Virginia Cavalry. Major Medill put spurs to his "big bay" and dashed straight for the would be captor who, giving up the lesser prize for the greater, turned toward Medill, with sword upraised, shouting, "surrender!" Still they drew near together, and then the rebel saw the unionist's revolver with its six bullets staring him in the face. He seemed to grasp the situation and realized the shortness of range of his sword compared with that of the revolver; for he suddenly shouted;"Don't shoot, I surrender!"
The troopers who noticed the incident said; "That makes the Major colonel of the 8th." And so it would, but that he was marked for higher promotion-martyrdom.
In bidding his goodbye to Chicago he said: "You'll see me next with brigadier's stars, or in my coffin."
It was the coffin.
After Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, the 8th and Twelfth were hurried forward to harass his retreat to the Potomac, taking over 2,000 prisoners and 800 army wagons. They came to where the enemy were building a bridge at Williamsport, and attacked the unknown force without hesitation. Half the 8th was dismounted, fighting as skirmishers. Major Medill took a carbine and fought with the rest. He was aiming it at the rebels when a ball struck him in the lower part of the breast, penetrating bone and lung.
He lived for ten days, during which his brother Joseph arrived only to bid him goodbye. The bad news was brought to him that Lee had got away. "I wish I had not heard it!" he cried. "I am going to die without knowing that my country is saved." He was greatly consoled, however, by the news of the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. "Ah!" said he, "blood will tell. It takes the Western boys to handle the rebels." He asked that his body might be embalmed, dressed in full uniform, and buried from Chicago in Graceland cemetery, because it was controlled by the patriot Thomas B. Bryan, and that the funeral be conducted by the patriot Robert Collyer - and so he died, a soldier, a gentleman, a lover of his country.

 

 

 

Taken from "The Story of Chicago" by Joseph Kirkland - pages 268 and 269


Marcellus Jones

 

 

 

 

Captain Marcellus E. Jones "was one of the valiant defenders of the Old Flag during the late war, and fired the first shot at the battle of Gettysburg." (Portrait and Biographical Records of Leaders of Cook County and DuPage County published in 1899).  He was born on June 5, 1830 in Poultney, Rutland County, Vermont, a son of Ephraim and Sophia Jones.  Captain Jones is credited as being the person who fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.
In 1858, Jones moved to DuPage County, Illinois. He lived in Milton Township until the time he mustered into service with Company E of the 8th Illinois Cavalry on September 18, 1861.  Jones was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on December 5, 1862, the rank he held when he fired the opening shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 1, 1863, three miles west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Jones was in command of his company which was on vedette duty along the Chambersburg Pike.  At 7:30 AM, Jones was alerted by Private T. B. Kelly of a "cloud of dust on the horizon" to the west.  (Morning at Willoughby Run published 1998)   2nd Lieutenant Jones borrowed Corporal Levi S. Shafer’s carbine.  (Many accounts refer to him as sergeant, but I have not found any evidence of this and I believe it comes from the first shot marker.  The roster for June 30 lists him as a corporal).  He aimed the carbine over a fence rail and fired a shot at an officer on a white or light gray horse.  While it is true that the 10th New York Cavalry fired shots earlier that morning, it did not escalate into a battle and both sides broke off the engagement.  It was considered a small skirmish and not the opening of the battle.

He was elevated to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on July 4, 1864, and then to Captain on October 10, 1864.  Illinois Governor Richard Yates signed all three of his commissions.

In 1886, Jones himself and Levi Shafer placed a memorial at the location where Jones fired the first shot of the battle.  The stone used for the monument is Joliet Limestone quarried from Naperville, Illinois, which was Levi Schaffer’s hometown. This monument can still be seen at the intersection of Rt. 30 (Chambersburg Pike) and Knoxlyn Road on Whistler’s Ridge behind the Whistler House.  The property is now part of the National Park and the monument is, in my opinion, one of the least seen in Gettysburg.
In 1864, Captain Jones married Naomi E. Mecham, a teacher from Wheaton College and who"did what the rebels could not do - capture the Captain" (Portrait and Biographical Records of Leaders of Cook County and DuPage County published in 1899).  After being mustered out on July 17,1865, he returned to his trade as a builder and house mover in Wheaton, Illinois.  He held other jobs after war, including Township Tax Collector  and Wheaton City Councilman.  In 1882, he was elected Sheriff of DuPage County.  In 1890, he President Harrison appointed Captain Jones Postmaster for Wheaton.  His home in Wheaton was built on Naperville Street. The house still stands, although not on its original site.  It is presently the offices of the law firm Peregrine, Stime, Newman & Ritzman and located about one block to the west.
Marcellus E. Jones died on October 9, 1900, and was buried in Wheaton Cemetery.

 

 

 

Biography written by Lt. Col. Jesse Martinez, past regiment commander