Editor’s note: This continues a series of reports on what happened in Southern Illinois 150 years ago, during the Civil War. Reports will appear on days of significance to Southern Illinois — known at the time as Egypt.
The 98th Illinois Infantry mustered in at Centralia in September 1862. Twenty-seven men from Burnt Prairie in White County served in Co. F of this regiment. By December the 98th was a part of Colonel John T. Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade” of mounted infantry.
In May 1863 this brigade armed itself with seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles. This was accomplished without any government “red tape” [the Spencer was still “experimental”] as each man in the regiment agreed to pay $35.00 [$663.58 today] of his own money to purchase the weapons. Wilder co-signed for any soldier who needed a loan.
In September 1863 the 98th fought at the Battle of Chickamauga where their Spencers allowed them to drive back a superior Confederate force. During the spring and summer, of 1864 they took part in the Atlanta Campaign, fighting at Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain and the siege of Atlanta.
On June 27, 1865 the 98th Illinois mustered out at Edgefield, Tennessee, its original members serving just three months short of their three year enlistment. Over that time the regiment lost 171 men suffering thirty deaths as a result of combat deaths and 141 as the result of disease.
Only thirteen of the Burnt Prairie volunteers remained. Of those not there, one had gotten sick and deserted, seven had been discharged, probably as a result of sickness, one was killed by guerillas, and five died from disease. The last of these, Pvt. Samuel Gray, died of typhoid fever at Edgefield just fifteen days before his regiment mustered out.
Burnt Prairie sent two Samuel Grays to Co. F and the muster roll labels them simply (1) and (2). According to these records they were both 21years old, 5’8” tall, with blue eyes and a fair complexion. Both were born single, farmers born in White County. The only thing that set these men apart was hair color; one had “light” and the other “dark.”
Samuel Gray (1), the son of Sheriff and Sarah Ann (Robertson) Gray, died at age 22 and is buried in the National Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Samuel Gray (2), the son of William and Rebecca (Robertson) Gray, survived the war. He married Anna Daniels in 1870 and they raised six children. Samuel (2) died in 1916 in Hamilton County, Illinois.
It is unknown if these two men were related.
A total of eleven men from “Egypt” died in June as the Union army moved toward demobilization, all from disease.
— Compiled by P. Michael Jones, director of the General John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro.