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Remembering Our Civil War Veterans

Submitted by Jari Lynn Oncken - July 20, 2011

On April 12, 1861 General P. G. T. Beauregard obeyed orders to fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina and the Civil War began. That was 150 years ago. Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 and on December 20 of that year South Carolina seceded from the union soon to be followed by six other southern states. Then four more states seceded, making an eleven state confederacy.

In the spring of 1860 one of the first military companies was organized, as there was talk of a possible war between the north and south. This company was known as the "Minonk Minute Men". When the war was declared President Lincoln called for 75,000 three months' men. Many young men of Minonk and area signed up. The Minonk Minute Company was kept up and officers were elected. Once a week the men met for drill and at the call for 300,000 in August 1861 the company enlisted in the war and went to the front. The few soldiers who were left served their time and were mustered out in October 1864 at Springfield. Company H, of the 77th enlisted in Minonk on August 9, 1862 and was mustered out in 1865. On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. It was a time of joy because the Union was saved but also a time of sadness due to the loss of so many men including Abraham Lincoln who was assassinated on April 14.

In 1866 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union veterans organization, was established. This group was at its peak in 1890 with 400,000 members. Their goals were to give aid to fellow veterans and their families, obtain pension increases and preserve the memory of fallen comrades. This organization also adopted Memorial Day in 1868. The first GAR post in Minonk was known as the McPherson Post No. 320. It was active from June 1868 until it disbanded in 1875. Then in November 1882 the L. G. Keedy Post, No. 160 was organized.

The first encampment of the Big Bend Veterans Reunion was held in 1884. These reunions were held in various area towns including Minonk. On Tuesday, August 18th through Friday, August 21st, 1896 the 13th annual reunion was held in Minonk. The camp was located west of town across the road from the present day NAPA Minonk Auto Parts. Officers for that reunion were from Minonk, Cornell, Rutland, Pontiac, Tonica, Streator, Sheridan, Henry, Morris, Ottawa, Ransom and Marseilles. During each day the scheduled activities included morning guns at sunrise, breakfast from 7 to 8 a. m., sick call at 9 a. m., speeches, balloon ascensions with parachute drop, sham battles with upwards of 300 soldiers, dress parades, supper from 6 to 7 p. m., camp fires from 8 p. m. until day light, band concerts during the evening and martial music until sunrise.

Seven separate divisions lined up on city streets ready to join the Minonk Day Parade on Wednesday at 1 p. m. Mayor F. W. Horneman requested that all business houses close at noon until 4 p. m. The parade included mounted police, a flag bearer, the Dana Marshal Band, all dignitaries, Ladies' Relief Corp, carriages with Minonk's oldest ladies and residents too feeble to march, soldiers, the Minonk Fire Department, an estimated forty floats representing the mechanics, merchants, manufacturing, mining and farming industries of Minonk and vicinity, various Minonk lodges including the Masons, Odd Fellows, Woodmen, St. Vincent, St. Mary's (Polish) and the Maccabees, decorated carriages and bicycles.

The program published by the Minonk News included the order of each day's activities, parade information, Minonk advertisements, the names of town officials and the complete history of Minonk.

Now let's step forward to August 9, 1927, the day that Civil War veterans Daniel W. Davison, a local barber and Minonk's last surviving Civil War veteran, and Henry Smith of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, formerly of Minonk, were walking down Minonk's "Main Street". They met C. R. Denson, the editor of the Minonk News-Dispatch. While the men were visiting, Mr. Davison and Mr. Smith recalled the day of August 9, 1862 when they and 98 other area men enlisted in the Civil War in Minonk's first Presbyterian church building that had been moved to the 700 block of Chestnut. L. G. Keedy, a local grocer, was elected captain; M. B. Permeter, first lieutenant; John Filger, second lieutenant and David Filger, sergeant. Mr. Keedy died with a fever on a steamboat at Millikens Bend, Arkansas and Permeter became captain. John Filger was sent back to Minonk with Keedy's body. His son David who gave Minonk its library was wounded at Arkansas Post and was sent home.

Sixty-seven Civil War veterans are buried in the Minonk cemetery. On Memorial Day we honor these men who fought to perpetuate the union of our great nation under God.