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Samuel Kirkman (1845 - 1931)
Samuel Kirkman was born in England in 1845, but emigrated to the United States as a child. He grew up on a farm near Kickapoo, Illinois, a few miles northwest of Peoria. Despite the fact that he was nine months short of the minimum enlistment age of 18, Samuel Kirkman enlisted for a three-year term on Friday, August 15, 1862.
Samuel Kirkman and the 77th Illinois Volunteer Infantry remained in camp in Peoria, Illinois until Saturday, October 4th, when it boarded a train for Kentucky. Organized into the 2nd Brigade (commanded by Colonel William Jennings Landram) of the 1st Division (commanded by Brigadier General Andrew Jackson Smith) of the 13th Army Corps (commanded by Brigadier General George Washington Morgan), the 77th Illinois fought its first battle at Chickasaw Bluffs, Mississippi in late-December of 1862.
Teh year 1863 was by far the most challenging year of the war for soldiers of the 77th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The regiment participated in General John McClernand's successful assault on Arkansas Post in January. During that engagement, Samuel Kirkman was wounded slightly in the arm. Fortunately, this would be his only injury during the war. Following the Battle of Arkansas Post, the regiment participated in the battles for Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Big Black River, and Vicksburg.
No doubt the 77th Illinois' finest hour came on May 22, 1863, when it participated in the assault upon the Railroad Redoubt at Vicksburg. Although the assault was unsuccessful, the 77th Illinois was one of the few Union regiments that planted their colors on the ramparts before a spirited rebel counterattack pushed them back. After this last attempt to break the rebel lines, the Union army settled in for a siege that lasted until the Confederates finally surrendered on July 4th.
Following the surrender of Vicksburg, the 77th Illinois participated in the battles for Jackson before boarding a steamer for New Orleans to participate in an August 29th grand review before Major General Nathaniel Banks. In the spring of 1864, General Banks would lead his Union army (including the 77th Illinois) on one of the most unfortunate debacles of the western war -- the Red River Campaign.
One of the deciding battles of this campaign -- the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (or Mansfield) -- took place on April 8, 1864. Poorly positioned, the Union troops were unprepared for the assault from Confederate troops commanded by Major General Richard Taylor. The 77th Illinois lost 10 of its officers out of 16 engaged, including its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lysander Webb. An additional 143 men were captured and spent more than 13 months in a rebel stockade in Texas. Fortunately, Samuel Kirkman escaped both injury and capture.
In late May of 1864, the Union Army ended its unsuccessful Red River campaign and withdrew to Baton Rouge, where it remained until mid-summer. The regiment participated in the August battle for Mobile Bay. After three weeks encamped at Morganza, Louisiana, the 77th Illinois left their camp and boarded a steamer for New Orleans, where they were assigned to guard rebel prisoners captured during the Mobile Bay campaign. While in New Orleans, Samuel Kirkman and several of his fellow soldiers had 'carte de visite' photographs taken at Leeson's Photographic Gallery. Samuel Kirkman's photograph is shown here, and more of these photographs are posted in Appendix B of my Three Soldiers of Valor website (http://sites.netscape.net/bart22benjamin/valor/valor-b.html).
In 1865, the 77th Illinois participated in its final campaign of the war, again in the Mobile, Alabama area. In late-March and early April, the regiment fought in the battles for Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. Finally, four days after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia, the 77th Illinois fought its final battle at Whistler Station, Alabama.
Information and photograph submitted by Samuel Kirkman's great-great grandson, Bart Benjamin, General Philip H. Sheridan Camp #2, Department of Illinois, SUVCW, Bloomingdale, Illinois.
For a more detailed account of Samuel Kirkmans's Civil War record, please visit the For the Union website (http://77illinois.homestead.com/index.html), which hosts two websites related to Samuel Kirkman's Civil War service. The first part, The 77th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, is a digitized version of the regimental history of Samuel Kirkman's regiment, which was written by fellow soldier William H. Bentley in 1883. The second part, Three Soldiers of Valor, is a work created by Bart Benjamin that describes the war experiences of three of his ancestors who fought in different regiments of the Union Army.