William Henry Upham Jr. or Billy as he was known to his friends and classmates in Marshfield, Wisconsin was born at home July 15, 1916. Shortly after his birth, his father, Governor William H. Upham, who was 75 at the time, received a congratulatory telegram from a close associate. Its content became Bill Jr's favorite story. It said Congratulations Governor - on the birth of a son. Whom do you suspect?
Bill's mission from early on was the honoring of his father's Civil War service. William Upham Sr. enlisted in Racine's Belle City Rifles, Company F, 2nd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry where he served as a Private and later Corporal. He was wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run and left for dead. He survived and was sent to Libby Prison in Richmond. Released on parole, Corporal Upham set out to getting his back pay. During this quest, he contacted his senator, who invited him to the White House where he met Abraham Lincoln. Upham apparently impressed Lincoln who appointed him to West Point. Upham graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1866. His first assignment was a temporary duty as officer of the guard of Jefferson Davis. William Upham Sr. became an Original Companion under the provision of an enlisted Civil War veteran accepted into the MOLLUS if he had been subsequently commissioned as an officer. Bill Jr. joined the MOLLUS with his father as his qualifying ancestor.
Throughout his own long life, Bill Upham Jr. was involved with many veterans groups and historical societies. He was especially proud to be part of re-establishing the Civil War Round Table of Milwaukee Inc. and his involvement with the Iron Brigade Association. His daughter, Monie, has stated that, he knew enough about his father and his father's history. Those things touched him and the things he was interested in. He ... joined those organizations in order to preserve that history. Dad had his (father's) portrait painted about 15 years ago. Bill Upham Jr. also made a $10,000 donation to West Point in honor of his father's long-ago Class of 1866 and donation was made to the MOLLUS from his estate upon his death.
While self-effacing and willing to stay in the shadow of his father, Bill's record can stand on its own. After his mother remarried in 1925, he was sent to live with his grandmother and aunts in Beaufort, North Carolina. He often quipped that he grew up half rebel, referring to many battles by their southern names.
William Upham Jr. served as Commander-in-Chief of the MOLLUS from 1985 to 1989. He died in 2009.
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