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"Do not be afraid.
I am your shield,
your very great reward."

- Genesis

Corporal Henry B. Hemenway

Union Cavalry

The 12th Illinois cavalry Guidon flag

Henry B. Hemenway enlisted in Company C of the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry in December of 1861. He held the rank of Corporal. The Twelfth Cavalry was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois in February of 1862, and remained there guarding rebel prisoners until June 25th, when it was mounted and sent to Martinsburg, Virginia.


The 5th New York cavalry at Martinsburg

The first time the Twelfth met the enemy was after the evacuation of Winchester, Virginia by General White, of Chicago. Near Bunker Hill on a scouting mission, troopers of the Twelfth came upon Confederate cavalry in superior numbers. With a vigorous charge the scouting party routed the enemy and drove them several miles, killing, wounding, and capturing a large number. Two days later, the reinforced Confederates moved into the rear of the camp at Martinsburg, attempting to capture the troopers. Sending out couriers to round up the rest of the regiment, the again outnumbered Union troopers succeeded in routing the Confederates and driving them beyond Winchester. Only Forty men of the Twelfth Cavalry succeeded in driving back several hundred of the enemy, killing twenty-five and taking fifty prisoners, with no losses of their own. A few days later, the Twelfth rejoined General White's command, and with it fell back before the superior numbers of the enemy to Harper's Ferry.

Confederate Cavalry

When General Robert E. Lee learned that the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry was not retreating after he invaded Maryland, he decided to surround the force and capture it. On September 15th, after Confederate artillery was placed on the heights overlooking the town, Union Colonel Miles surrendered the garrison of over 12,000 men. Colonel Miles was then mortally wounded by a last salvo fired from a battery on Loudoun Heights. "Stonewall" Jackson took possession of Harper's Ferry, then led most of his soldiers to join with Lee at Sharpsburg (Antietam). After paroling the prisoners at Harper's Ferry, A.P. Hill's division arrived in time to save Lee's army from near defeat at Antietam. Henry B. Hemenway took sick as a result of exposure, poor diet and poor sanitary conditions, and returned to Chicago. The Twelfth Illinois Cavalry went on to serve at the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.

 Harper's Ferry during the Civil War                Union Cavalry at Antietam


The Elgin Advocate, March 26, 1887 Elgin, Illinois

Died, at Sycamore, March 19, 1887, Henry B. Hemenway, aged 73 years and 9 months. He was born in Williamsburg, Mass., in 1813, and in 1836 married Eunice Guild of Conway, Mass., who for over fifty years has shared with him his joys and his sorrows. In 1837 he moved to what is now called Wayne Center, Ill. His father and mother, though quite aged, accompanied him to the then wild country of the west; also a sister and an only brother, both of whom survive him.

The brother, Chas. Hemenway, resides on the old homestead where the Hemenways first settled, fifty years ago. The deceased cut and hauled to the mill the logs which were sawed into the lumber used by him in the erection of the first frame house built in the town of Wayne. He was a resident of the town from 1837 to 1870, when he sold his farm and moved to Sycamore, where he resided up to the time of his death.

He enlisted in company C, 12th Illinois cavalry, in December, 1861; was taken prisoner at Harper’s Ferry August 1862, and paroled five days later. He was discharged from the Army in September of the same year in consequence of failing health. He was a Republican in politics and a firm believer in the Christian religion, and died in the hope of a glorious immortality beyond the grave. He had been a member of the Congregational church for nearly half a century. During the last three days of his life he was a great sufferer, but he bore it with Christian patience. When one of his daughters asked him, a few hours before his death, if Jesus seemed near, he exclaimed: “Oh, yes! ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds to a believer’s ear.’ “
[His son, Dr. Lyman Hemenway, attended to him during the latter stages of his illness, and was at his bedside at the time of his death.]

A few minutes before he died, he said: “Tell the children to follow in my footsteps as far as I have followed in the path of duty.” While passing over the river of death, he exclaimed.    “ I am passing over; I am almost home.”

Asleep is Jesus, blessed sleep.

He leaves a wife and eight children to mourn his loss: Edwin and Dwight of Winters, Cal.; George W., of Madison, Kansas; Mrs. Ellen Stevenson of Sycamore, Ill.; Mrs. Elma Congleton of Wheaton, Ill.; Mrs. Elizabeth Scott of Lake View, Ill; Dr. Lyman of Pingree Grove, Ill.; and William of Coldwater, Mich. He also leaves a brother and sister, Mr. Chas. Hemenway of Wayne, Ill., and Mrs. Mary Mulnix of Warrenville, Ill.

His funeral was held at his late residence, Sunday, March 20. It was attended by a very large concourse of people. The Sycamore post of the G.A.R. attended in a body, the deceased being a worthy member of that order.

The funeral sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. Mitchell from these words: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

"Fraternity, Charity, & Loyalty"

GAR Badge

In early 1866 the United States of America - now securely one nation again - was waking to the reality of recovery from war, and this had been a much different war. In previous conflicts the care of the veteran warrior was the province of the family or the community. Soldiers then were friends, relatives and neighbors who went off to fight-until the next planting or harvest. It was a community adventure and their fighting unit had a community flavor.

By the end of the Civil War, units had become less homogeneous, men from different communities and even different states were forced together by the exigencies of battle where new friendships and lasting trust was forged. With the advances in the care and movement of the wounded, many who would have surely died in earlier wars returned home to be cared for by a community structure weary from a protracted war and now also faced with the needs of widows and orphans. Veterans needed jobs, including a whole new group of veterans -the colored soldier and his entire, newly freed family. It was often more than the fragile fabric of communities could bear.

State and federal leaders from President Lincoln down had promised to care for "those who have borne the burden, his widows and orphans," but they had little knowledge of how to accomplish the task. There was also little political pressure to see that the promises were kept.

But probably the most profound emotion was emptiness. Men who had lived together, fought together, foraged together and survived, had developed a unique bond that could not be broken. As time went by, the memories of the filthy and vile environment of camp life began to be remembered less harshly and eventually fondly. The horror and gore of battle lifted with the smoke and smell of burnt black powder, and was replaced with the personal rain of tears for the departed comrades. Friendships forged in battle survived the separation, and the warriors missed the warmth of trusting companionship that had asked only total and absolute commitment.

With that as a background, groups of men began joining together - first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the "War of the Rebellion". Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. The community level organization was called a "Post" and each was numbered consecutively within each department.

--from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

GAR Marker
Henry B. Hemenway
Company C
12th Illinois Cavalry

Photo Courtesy of Janet Pearson

Objectives of the Grand Army of the Republic included:

I. To preserve and strengthen those kind and fraternal feelings which bind together the soldiers, sailors and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion, and to perpetuate the memory and history of the dead.
II. To assist such former comrades in arms as need help and protection, and to extend needful aid to the widows and orphans of those who have fallen.
III. To maintain true allegiance to the United States of America, based upon a paramount respect for and fidelity to the National Constitution and laws; to discountenance whatever tends to weaken loyalty, incites to insurrection, treason or rebellion, or in any manner impair the efficiency and permanency of our free institutions; and to encourage the spread of universal liberty; equal rights and justice to all men.
No person shall be eligible to membership, who has at any time borne arms against the United States.

George Whitfield Hemenway was mustered into the 36th Infantry Regiment of Illinois Volunteers on August 12, 1861 in Aurora, Illinois. He was listed as a 19 year old farmer from Wayne and served as a musician, a fifer, in Company K, nicknamed "The Wayne Rifles."


Photo of George taken after the War


36th Illinois National flag

36th Illinois Regimental flag

The Adjutant General of the State of Illinois reported the following:

In general engagements alone, the Thirty-sixth (Infantry) Regiment lost in killed and wounded over 700 men. It was reinforced by 221 recruits and drafted men. It marched and was transported by rail and boat over 10,000 miles during its term of service. Changed commanding officers ten times, yet it maintained throughout its term of service the esprit de corp of its original organization.

The thirty-sixth infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Hammond, near Aurora, Ill., by Colonel N. Greusel, and was mustered into the service by Colonel Brackett, U.S, Mustering Officer....On September 24th moved via Quincy, Illinois to St. Louis, Mo., where the companies of infantry were armed. Companies A and B receiving Minnie and Enfield rifles, the other companies remodeled Springfield muskets calibre 69. On September 28, left St. Louis by rail for Rolla, Mo., leaving the Cavalry at Benton Barracks. Went into camp at Rolla, September 29, remaining there until January 14, 1862, the time being taken up with severe drill, camp and postguard duty, and an occasional scout. Left Rolla January 14, 1862, for Springfield, Mo., the Thirty-fifth, Forty-fourth and Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry, and Twenty-fifth Missouri Infantry composing the Brigade commanded by Colonel Osterhaus. Passed through Springfield on the 14th of February. Halted on the 22nd and remained for a few days near Bentonville, Ark. Companies B and K participated in the fight at that place March 6; was engaged in the battles at Leetown March 7, and Pea Ridge March 8; went into camp at Keitsville, Mo., after the fight. Broke camp April 5 and started for Batesville, Ark., reaching that point May 3. Here the Regiment was transferred to the command of General Asboth, who started with his command from Batesville for Cape Girardeau, Mo., May 11, arriving on the 22nd. On the 23rd embarked on a boat for Hamburg Landing, Tenn., marching out to Corinth, Miss., on the 29th. On evacuation of Corinth, marched to Booneville, and from there to Rienzi, remaining there until September 6: then ordered to Cincinnati; went into camp in Covington, Ky. From there ordered to Louisville, arriving September 19; was assigned to General Sheridan's Division. Started October 1 on the Kentucky campaign, marching via Bardstown and Springfield to Perryville, at which place it was engaged October 8. Moved thence in pursuit of Bragg via Danville and Lancaster to Crab Orchard, returning via Lancaster, Danville, Lebanon, Newmarket, Cave City and Bowling Green to Nashville, near which place it encamped November 8. Remaining in camp at this place, "Seven Mile Creek" and "Mill Creek" until December 26, the Regiment broke camp and started on the Murfreesboro campaign. On December 31 took part in the battle of Stone River. After the battle and evacuation of Murfreesboro, went into camp on the bank of Stone River, on the Shelbyville Pike, where it remained until June 24, 1863. The Regiment then took part in the Tullahoma campaign, participating in skirmishes incident to the driving of Bragg's army out of Middle Tennessee. Reached Cowan July 3, where it went into camp and remained until July 30, when it broke camp and marched to Bridgeport, Ala. Went into camp and assisted in bridging the Tennessee River, preparatory to crossing and entering upon the Chattanooga campaign. Crossed the river September 2, and being in McCook's corps, marched to Broomtown Valley, crossing Lookout Mountain through Winston's Gap. Here McCook was ordered to join Thomas, which he did by a forced march of 46 miles. The Regiment took part in the battle of Chickamauga September 20, and retired via Rossville with the army into Chattanooga, sharing with the rest of the army in its privations during the siege.

86th Illinois fife & drum corp                                                                  


         WILSON'S CREEK                          

The battle fought here on August 10, 1861, was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River, and the second major battle of the war, engaging about 5,400 Union troops and 12,000 Confederates.  This battle for Missouri, a border state with divided allegiances, and a pro-Confederate militia, was fought at extremely close range.  Although both sides claimed victory, the Confederates failed to capitalize on their successes, and the battle led to greater federal military activity in Missouri.  Wilson’s Creek set the stage for the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.  This battle was also the scene of the death of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general to be killed in combat.  


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