Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ancestor Highlight – John Erwin, 1841-1917, my 2nd-Great Grandfather

One of the family stories I remember being told to me when I was young, was that we had a relative who fought in the Civil War and was on General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Well, I’ve found him!

John Erwin, 1841-1917 (photo used with permission of Jim Ferguson, Bowling Green Kentucky)

          When the Civil War broke out, John Erwin was a farm boy in Hoosier Township, Clay County, Illinois (bn November 7, 1841). He lived at home on his father’s farm, with his father (Crawford Erwin) and his step-mother, two whole brothers, two young half sisters, and four step-siblings.[1] Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, a fort held by Union troops in South Carolina, and Lincoln called for volunteers from each state to join the Union army. John Erwin first enlisted June 15, 1861, in Company D, Eleventh Missouri Volunteer Infantry.[2] The Eleventh Missouri Infantry roster described him as 19, 5’8, with light hair and blue eyes, single, and a farmer from Clay Co. IL. He enlisted as a private, and served under Capt. Henry in Company D.[3] He was discharged in October, 1862, on account of disability,[4] which means that he was likely injured at the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, as the battle occurred October 3-4, 1862, and the 11th Missouri Infantry remained in the Corinth area until November 2, 1862.[5] 

            After his health improved he enlisted again in 1864; this time in Company B, Forty-eighth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. [6] He again enlisted as a private. The Illinois 48th Infantry Regiment served as part of General Sherman’s troops for the March to the Sea from Atlanta to Fort McAlister, outside of Savannah, GA, and afterward, on the Carolinas Campaign.[7]  “At Fort McAllister, Mr. Erwin was blown up some distance by an exploding torpedo, but not seriously injured. At the battle of Duck Creek, on the 4th day of February, 1865, his regiment charged the rebels through a swamp of mud and water waist deep.”[8] He was promoted to Full Corporal on 15 Aug 1865, and mustered out on 15 Aug 1865 at Little Rock, AR, and moved to Camp Butler, Illinois, arriving August 21, 1865.[9] 

                John Erwin returned home, and in 1867, at age 26, he married Amelia Ann Conley, age 20. He attended McKendree College in Illinois[10], possibly during the two years before and after his marriage. On October 19, 1869, he applied for a military pension, based on both his tours of duty. It was apparently granted because it has a Certificate No. 171632[11] He may have used that in part to pay for college. John and Amelia had six children: Luella, Vernon (my great-grandfather), Troy (deceased), Keturah, Mabel, and an infant son who apparently did not live long enough to be named.[12]

                In about 1872, John Erwin helped the Hoosier Township of Clay County obtain a Post office by circulating a petition; he secured an office on Section 15, which is known as Hoosier Prairie Post Office, which had a daily mail service. In 1876, John Erwin moved to Louisville and in January 1877, became a hardware merchant and dealer in farm machinery, taking over a hardware store previously owned and run by Morey & Phifer, at which he was very successful, keeping a ”full line of heavy and shelf hardware, farm implements, stoves, tinware, blacksmith coal, lime, hair, saddles, harness, chain and wood pumps, and is also agent for the Buckeye Reaper.” He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Masonic fraternity (in 1884 he was a Senior Warden, which meant he was next in line to be the Master of the lodge) and of the Methodist Episcopal Church.[13] Amelia died in 1915, at age 68.[14] John lived two years longer and died on December 23, 1917, in Louisville IL. He was buried the next day in the Orchard Hill Cemetery.[15]

[1] 1860 U.S. Federal Census. 1860; Census Place: Township 4 Range 7, Clay, Illinois; Roll: M653_162; Page: 578; Image: 578; Family History Library Film: 803162
[2] History of Henry & Clay Counties, Illinois, published 1884, p. 150; available on Google books as a free e-book, p. 619 of scanned version.
[3] ; sub:
[4] Supra Note 2.
[5] The National Park Service’s Civil War Soldier search for the Missouri, 11th Regiment Infantry’s service record for the period John Erwin served in it. (at
[6] Supra Note 2
[7] Excerpted from the Illinois Adjutant General's Reports, Regimental and Unit Histories, containing reports for the years 1861-1866, found at
[8] Supra Note 2
[9] Historical Data Systems, comp. American Civil War Soldiers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999;;
[10] Supra, Note 2.
[11] Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, compiled 1949 - 1949, documenting the period 1861 – 1942, Arm of Service: Infantry; Roll Number 260; National Archives Catalog ID:2588825; Record group: 15,  
[12] 1880 Census: Year: 1880; Census Place: Louisville, Clay, Illinois; Roll: 182; Family History Film: 1254182; Page: 291A; Enumeration District: 148; Image: 0003; and see Supra Note 2.
[13] History of Henry & Clay Counties, Illinois, published 1884, p. 149-150, 383, 384,450; available on Google books as a free e-book, and, respectively, p. 619-620, 377, 379, 444 of scanned version.
[14] Web: Illinois, Find A Grave Index, 1809-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.;
[15] Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data:"Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread.