Hudson hero Samuel DeGolyer is still remembered

January 5, 2011 —

by Hazel Pray Monahan

When news of the impending war reached Hudson in 1861, Samuel DeGolyer was foremost among those who rushed to arms, and foremost in inducing others to join in aiding the government to put down the rebellion.

He had just been voted president of the village of Hudson and was co-owner of the Spoke, Hub and Bending Factory, but this did not prevent him from joining in on the war effort. He was a man of much native ability, of indomitable energy and perseverance. Whatever he undertook, he accomplished, if it were possible for man to do it. He gave a new impetus to whoever and whatever he came in contact with — these characteristics of the man would never be forgotten by the citizens of Hudson.

His military career began when he left as Captain of the Co. F of the Fourth Michigan infantry. He was captured at Bull Run and imprisoned at Richmond, but made a daring and adventurous escape. Following his escape from Richmond, he received an appointment as a Major of the Fourth Michigan. he was next assigned to the staff of General Lane, and later he received an the appointment of Commander of the Eighth Michigan Battery. The noble part his battery bore in the bloody struggles for the possession of Vicksburg is the story we tell here.

The Battery left the state on March 13, 1862, in the command of Captain DeGolyer, and moved under order to report to General Halleck at St. Louis. From thence, they went to New Madrid, Mo. and served during the siege of Island No 10 and during part of October, was on duty at Columbus, Ky.

Leaving Columbus in November, this battery engaged in various movements in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi during November and December 1862 and January of 1863. In January it was at Holly Springs, Coldwater, Davis’s Mills, Moscow, etc. On the 19th of January they arrived at Memphis, Tenn, whence they proceeded to Lake Providence. During March and April they were stationed at Lake Providence, Milliken’s Bend and other points on the Mississippi, near Vicksburg, taking an active part in the campaign in Mississippi, preceding the siege of Vicksburg.

At Thompson’s Hill, Miss., May 1, 1863, the battery first encountered the rebels and then at Raymond, May 12th following, where it received much favorable comment on its rapid and effective fire.

The fight here was a short one. The rebels opened with great fury, attempting to charge and capture DeGolyer’s battery, which was in position in federal front, but being repulsed by a terrible fire of grape and canister, they broke and fled precipitately.

Shortly after the opening of the fight, Captain DeGolyer’s battery (8th Michigan) was ordered to the front, and took a commanding position for the purpose of dislodging the enemy from the woods, the infantry having proven itself inadequate to the task. The James rifled guns of DeGolyer’s battery opened and commenced pouring a heavy fire of shell into the rebel columns. The enemy now, for the first time, opened artillery upon them. His aim was good, succeeding in making the infantry change position. But his purpose was to silence the 8th Battery and failed in that.

Finding it impossible to silence the guns with artillery, the rebels attempted a charge upon the battery. A regiment of men essayed the hazardous undertaking. While they were removing a fence, preparatory to making the decisive dash, the battery opened on them. The battery fired two shells into their midst, both of which burst among them, killing and wounding a large number and causing the entire column to fall back into disorder. At their inglorious withdrawal, the federal infantry sent up a few rousing cheers, which had the effect of accelerating the speed of the fugitives and inspired the battery’s whole command with a new zeal and determination to press forward to a victory of which they felt certain, even when the fortunes of the day seemed to turn against them.

The battery participated in the fight at Champion Hill with loss, and then was actively engaged in the siege of Vicksburg until its surrender.

On May 22, the Northerners made a desperate but unsuccessful assault in an effort to capture the Great Redoubt near Vicksburg.

The Batter DeGolyer was established on May 25, 1863 and contained the largest concentration of cannon (22) in the Union siege lines. The battery consisted of guns from the 8th Battery Michigan Light Artillery, Yost’s Independent Ohio Battery, Battery L, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery, and the 3rd Battery Ohio Light Artillery. It was named after its commander, Capt. Samuel DeGolyer.

They received the command to move the 12 lb howitzer of the 8th Mich. Battery to the advanced Redoubt about 3:00 a.m. on the morning of May 25th. Then it was noted that they were in an exposed position without other troops with them. It is believed this is where Capt. DeGolyer was located when he was hit by a rebel sharpshooter and received a mortal wound.

The news reached his wife here in Hudson, who immediately left for Memphis, Tenn., where he was in the hospital. A gentleman from Morenci who had just returned from that area, told his brother, James, that he had been hit by a rebel sharpshooter, the ball entering his abdomen on his right side just above and passing through the hip, shattering the bone. The wound was considered serious and it was not thought he could survive more than 3-4 days.

However, for many weeks he suffered more than death from pain, and when it was felt it was safe for him to be moved, he arrived back in Hudson, as this was his wish to return home before he died. He arrived here on July 30, 1864, after which it was considered necessary to operate on his hip and a doctor from Chicago was sent for. The doctor arrived and operated on the hip on August 4. However, he grew worse and on Friday evening, August 7, he breathed his last.

His death caused a great gloom over the community, such a gloom as the death of brave and useful men causes everywhere.

A special session of the Common Council was held on Saturday morning and a preamble and resolution was adopted. Also the Alert Fire Company held a special meeting and they also adopted a preamble and resolution. He had been a member of the local fire department before he entered military service.

The day of the funeral there was held the largest procession of all the military, dignitaries, family and citizens of Hudson and also from Adrian. he was laid to rest in the Old Protestant Cemetery (this is located in what is now Webster’s Park.) Later, his body was removed to the Maple Grove cemetery where it resides with other members of his family.

He was survived by his wife, Catherine and a small daughter, his mother and several brothers. One brother lived here in Hudson and the rest came from New York.

Samuel DeGolyer was born in 1827 in Fondasbush, Fultan Co., NY and was thus 36 year old when he died on August 7, 1863. He came to Hudson in 1858 having lived previously in Cincinnati, Ohio and Downer’s Grove, Dupage Co., Illinois.

Today at the Vicksburg National Military park the first stop on the tour of the military park is where the battery of guns, including those from the 8th Michigan Artillary, commanded by Captain Samuel DeGolyer hammered the Confederate Great Redoubt directly ahead. This is where he was mortally wounded while directing the fire of the battery.

Interestingly enough, the present park director is a man from Hudson, Michael Madell. Two men from Hudson meet, but years apart on a battlefield.