BIOGRAPHY - JOHN BYERS REED
By Robert Dale Reed
(Great-Grandson of John Byers Reed)
John Byers Reed was born to John Reed on February 23, 1831, in Wellsburg,
Brooke County, (West) Virginia. He was one of seven children of John Reed
and Margaret McMurray, the latter born in West Alexander, Washington County,
Pennsylvania, the daughter of Samuel McMurray, a native of Ireland.
They farmed land that was cleared by John Byers Reedís grandfather, Charles Reed,
a native of Scotland, and a prominent pioneer of Brooke County.
The seven children of John and Margaret were:
1. James, born February 23, 1820
2. Samuel, born December 1, 1821, in Ohio County, (West) Virginia
3. Mary, born abt 1823, wife of Joseph Gerry
4. Nancy, born abt 1828, wife of Hiram Elliott
5. Margaret, born abt 1829, wife of Thomas Hand
6. John Byers, born February 23, 1831, in Brooke County
7. Henry, born abt 1836
John Byers Reed farmed the land with his father, siblings, and grandfather
until he was 15. Then he left his home for a five-year apprenticeship as
a saddle and harness maker, in Triadelphia, Ohio County, (West) Virginia.
When he was 19, he left the panhandle of West Virginia, working three years
in Hancock County, Ohio, then a short while in Fort Wayne, Indiana;
before working in a saddle and harness shop in Brimfield, Illinois, in 1853.
His brother, Samuel Murray Reed, moved from West Virginia to Millbrook Township, Peoria County, Ill. with his wife, Jane Davis Reed, also in 1853. Samuel and his wife, Jane Davis, born in 1825, were married in January 1852 in Ohio County. They had a son, Willis E. Reed, born in 1853, and a daughter, Amanda Jane Reed, born in 1856. Many of them are buried in French Grove Cemetery Millbrook Township, Sec. 32.
John met and married Mary Darby on the 21st of December 1854 in Peoria,
Illinois; she was born in New York. Soon, a daughter was born but died
in childbirth. Another followed but died early in her life.
They moved to Elmwood in 1857 and had another daughter, Annie,
born February 4th of the same year; she lived. One more daughter,
Nettie, was born in 1859. By the census of 1860 the Reed family
found John Byers Reed a harness maker at 28, Mary at 23, Annie, 3, and Nettie, 1.
1861 was a cruel year for the Reeds: Annie died on January 15
at the age of 3 years, 11 months and 11 days. Soon after, death
struck again and took little Nettie. Depression filled the household
and then war came.
John Byers Reed, as many young men of Elmwood, Illinois, wanted in on the fight for many reasons. Some wanted the flash of war and to fight to save the Union. John Byers Reed wanted to join to get away from the sorrows of Elmwood, but only one company from Peoria had been accepted. A cloud of uneasiness and discontent formed over the Peoria volunteers, wanting to get into fight before it was over, to the point that many of them were willing to enlist in regiments forming in other States. Finding an opening in the American Zouave Regiment of Missouri forming at St. Louis, two Peoria companies decided to join it. Afterward it became to be known as the 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry (US).
(Click here for a
explanation of why people from other states joined the 8th Missouri)
On the 19th day of June, the Peoria Zouave Cadets, nearly a full company
of young men, left for St. Louis expecting to join that regiment
as a company, with Frank Peats as Captain. When they got to St. Louis,
Frank Peats and the volunteers were given a less then warm reception
and Frank Peats, declined the bid to become Captain. This had the
effect of disorganizing the Company for a time, and in the mayhem and
disgust half of the men went back to Illinois to join with other
Illinois Regiments yet to be created.
(Click here for an
engraving of some American Zouaves)
John Byers Reed went back to Elmwood, and he stayed one more month but
the grief of the loss of his daughters proved too great and
the diversion of war too strong. A group of 30 recruits calling
themselves the Pekin Zouaves from Pekin, Illinois, left Peoria for St. Louis,
to fill up the under-strength company on the 19th of June.
John signed his enlistment papers September 1st of 1861, joining
the 8th Missouri Infantry Regiment, Company H, as a private.
John caught up with the 8th Missouri Regiment in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and moved with the Regiment September 7th to Paducah, Kentucky and stayed till February 1862. Then the 8th Missouri Infantry moved past a snow-covered battlefield and captured Fort Henry, Tennessee on February 5, 1862. The 8th Missouri aided in the capture of Fort Donelson, on the Union right to retake the hill from which the first brigade had lost that morning: Sunday February 16.
The capture of Fort Donelson produced elation throughout the North and
silence in the Confederacy. The Fortís surrender was the Northís first
major victory of the Civil War, opening the way into the heart Dixie and
preventing the Confederates from moving into Kentucky while making Grant
a hero to the Union. The Union losses at Fort Donelson were 500 killed,
2,108 wounded and 224 missing. Confederate losses were never estimated.
The 8th Missouri, with John Byers Reed, moved south along the Tennessee River crossing the state of Tennessee into the Spring of 1862 and the battle of Shiloh, April 6-7 1862.
one of the bloodiest battles of the war, even though no ground was gained,
no strategic town was taken, no supply depot was sacked,
but the Union victory did force the evacuation of Confederate troops
from much of Tennessee and split the rebel forces along the lines formed
by the Mississippi River. With the battle of Shiloh behind them the
8th Missouri followed with the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, April 29th.
Then on May 17th, with Thomas on the right, drove back a strong rebel
outpost at the Russell House and captured high ground along the
headwaters of Phillips and Bridge Creeks. These new positions,
located within 4 miles of Corinth and only 2 miles outside Confederate
entrenched fortifications secured the victory. By June 3 the
8th Missouri started a long winding march to Memphis via Lagrange and
Holly Springs, Mississippi, and Moscow, Tennessee.
The food, the battles, the heat, cold and marches, took its toll on every man. June 10th, unable to march any longer, John was admitted to Mississippi Hospital debilitated from chronic diarrhea. On June 11th, John received a furlough to the New House of Refuge Hospital in St. Louis with transportation on a riverboat steaming up the Mississippi, costing $3.24. There he was sent home to Elmwood to recuperate and report back to St. Louis Hospital on August 6th 1862.
While convalescing in Elmwood, he found that a new cavalry unit was deploying
in Peoria in need of an experienced saddler. After reporting back to
St. Louis, John Byers Reed enlisted in the 14th Illinois Cavalry as a
saddler, September 20th 1862, putting his marching days behind him.
7th 1863, John was promoted to Saddler Sergeant at the time of mustering.
The Saddler Sergeant in a Cavalry, North or South, receives orders
and instructions from the commander of the regiment. He is required
to repair the horse-equipment of the field staff of the regiment.
He instructs the company-saddlers how to do their work; and when
they are assembled to work in one shop, he acts as foreman.
He must keep a correct account of all the tools and material
entrusted to his care, and at all times be able to account for them.
In February and March 1863, the Regiment received its horses and equipment, and was placed under thorough discipline and well drilled in tactics. March 28, it started for the front.
April 17, the 14th Illinois arrived at Glasgow, Tennessee, being
headquarters there; the Regiment was almost constantly in the saddle
scouting. They pursued the rebel raider John Morgan from July 4,
until he was captured, the expedition covering 2,100 miles; they took part
in many of the skirmishes and battles on this raid and were especially
conspicuous at the battle of Buffington Island. During the night,
Morgan and about 400 men escaped encirclement by following a narrow
woods path. The rest of his force surrendered, after six days
pursuit thereafter, it then ended with capture of Morgan himself.
On the march, a cavalry could cover some thirty-five miles in an eight-hour day under good conditions. However, some raids and expeditions pushed man and beast to the limits.
Because of the hard use and endless riding John was keep busy with the day-to-day repairs of both saddle and harness.
On the 14th of December, at Bean Station, the Cavalry alone had an engagement, with the enemy's entire Corps attacking and then losing 800 men. Here a Battery manned by men of the Fourteenth did double service. The next day, the fight was renewed and the enemy was again severely punished.
In many instances troopers fought dismounted, particularly in the later part of the war when remounts became scarce, and the mounted cavalry charge was looked upon as reckless. Some circumstances which called for dismounting were: to seize and hold ground until infantry arrived, to fill gaps in lines of battle, covering the retreat of infantry, fight dismounted where the ground was impractical for mounted cavalry, or as in the case at Bean Station man a field battery.
On July 30, 1864, in an encounter called "The Battle of Dunlap Hill," also
known as "The Stoneman Raid," Major General George Stoneman saw the
potential for strengthening Union forces by freeing men in two central
Georgia prison camps. He planned to take the city of Macon and free
the Union officers held at Camp Oglethorpe. Stoneman, with a well-armed
cavalry corps, of one been the 14th Ill. cavalry could then free the
officers imprisoned at Camp Oglethorpe in Macon and the many enlisted men
at Andersonville, about 45 miles further South.
Upon reaching Macon, Stoneman occupied the Dunlap House, set up temporary
entrenchments in the yard, and began to shell the city. Stoneman
didn't know that the city had advance warning of his arrival.
Johnston had brought together 2,500 boys, older men and convalescing
soldiers for Macon's defense.
On this raid, the First Battalion 14th Illinois cavalry was detached, leaving the command, July 29, to make a flanking movement to destroy the chance to be reinforced from the east and south by rail. In 60 hours, night and day, it marched 160 miles, destroying 4 depots, 500 passenger and freight cars, 40 engines, many miles of railroad track, public buildings, and heavy military stores, many bridges, including the great Oconee Bridge. Several times it marched near large bodies of the enemy, at one time passing between the rebel picket and Milledgeville, not over half a mile from the city, in which was a large rebel force. It rejoined the Regiment August 1, in time to share in the great disaster of the 3rd. After this raid, the scattered fragments joined the line of battle in front of Atlanta, having the honor to enter the city with our advance forces.
George Stoneman having failed in his goal to free 30,000 Federal prisoners being held in Macon and retreated back to join Sherman when his cavalry force ran into three cavalry brigades under Confederate Gen. Joe Wheeler. The Confederates prevailed in the Battle of Sunshine Church, forcing Stoneman to surrender. George Stoneman found himself imprisoned at Camp Oglethorpe and his men were sent to Andersonville, the very prisons he sought to liberate.
(Click here for the Stoneman History Marker)
Colonel Capron, of the 14th Illinois cavalry, received permission to cut his
way out on hearing of Stoneman's capture. This he did, taking his
command with him, with success. August 3, at 1 o'clock in the morning,
Colonel Capron supposing he was beyond the reach of the enemy ordered a
halt. But a treacherous guide betrayed him and the men were attacked
about daylight. Being without sleep for seven days and nights many men
could not be aroused and every man was for him-self at this point.
In this condition many were killed or captured. Rebel soldiers,
guerrillas, citizens, and bloodhounds hunted those who were not captured
for days and weeks. The men that were able to escape came in singly
and in squads for weeks after. One party traveled over 400 miles
before reaching Union lines.
The only lasting effect of "The Stoneman Raid" on Macon occurred when a Union cannonball, aimed at Confederate Treasurer William Butler Johnston's home, struck the home of Judge Asa Holt. Today the Cannonball House and the Johnston-Hay House attract visitors from all over the world. Had the Stoneman Raid succeeded, the names of all connected with this raid would have been as well known as the participants of the Alamo. Due to its failure, it is all but forgotten outside of Macon.
September 15, the remainder of the 14th Illinois Regiment returned to Kentucky, where it was remounted and re-equipped. After escaping capture from the "Stoneman Raid", John Byers Reed was on furlough from Lexington on the October 10th, to be back at Nashville on the 20th of November.
When he got to Nashville, his 14th Regiment was battling Hood Forces in Spring Hill, November 29, 1864.
When John rejoined the 14th, he retraced his tracks with his unit back
to Franklin on November 30 with Hood in pursuit, then again retracing his
tracks back to Nashville December 15-16. John witnessed the last
gasp of hope for Dixie in that battle of Nashville with Hood's forces
lacking the materials, troops, and supply lines to sustain a protracted
fight against an overwhelming force, in the dead of winter,
he must break off the battle.
The Battle of Nashville, including the pursuit to the Tennessee River,
capture and destruction of Hood's great army on Dec. 17th-28th,
practically closed the fighting and other aggressive work of the 14th
Regiment with the Brigade; it was afterwards stationed at Pulaski, Tenn.
While performing the ordinary camp and guard duties in Pulaski, the sorrow of Elmwood reappeared when John heard of the death of his wife, Mary Darby Reed, Feb 12, 1865. I am not sure what happened with John at this time. I do not know if he went back home or if it was too late for him to do so because of the snow and cold of February. There are no records one way or the other, all I can tell you is, what does not kill you only makes you stronger.
July 31, 1865: the 14th Regiment is mustered out at Nashville. John
went home to Elmwood.
Without considering the duty done by detachments, the main column of the
Fourteenth, during its term of service, marched over 10,000 miles.
The Regiment lost during service: 2 Officers and 23 Enlisted men killed and
mortally wounded, and 190 Enlisted men by disease. Total 215.
John picked up his life, and started his own harness shop in Elmwood at the corner of Magnolia and Main, across from what is now a hardware store. The building allowed him to live upstairs from the shop.
On November 8th 1866, John married Kezia Harlow, born in Sheffield, England
in 1842. She, with her mother and stepfather (surname Eggleston)
sailed to America in 1844. John and Kezia married in the neighboring county,
Knox, and quickly started a new family.
1868: Henry H. Reed, the first son, was born in Elmwood.
1869: John F. Reed, the second son, was born in Elmwood. Our family has lost touch with these first two sons and what happened to their families at this time.
1873: Charles E. Reed, the third son, my grandfather, was born in Elmwood.
When I was a
boy of five in the late 1950ís, I would find great fun in sitting out on the
front steps of our house, overlooking the Avenue and blowing a coronet
I had found, loudly at cars driving by to startle them. The people
would do a double take to see so much noise coming from such a small boy.
I would later find out this horn was Charles E. Reedís, and he would have
played it in Elmwood with the town band under the gazebo on Sunday evenings,
when he was a boy.
Charles E. Reed married Ethel Persinger on August 8th 1902 in Galveston, Cass County, Indiana. She was born to Harrison Eli Persinger (May 6th 1849-May 8th 1926) and Charlotte Louise Nana (1852-Nov. 25th 1942).
Harry Eli Persinger, son of Eli and Sophia Bleim Persinger,
was born in Logan County, Ohio.
Charles E. Reed and Ethel Reed moved to 595 Carroll Street, West St. Paul, Minnesota, by 1902. They had two sons, John and Harry, the latter being my father.
But with the new life comes loss in the death of the old man John Byers
Reedís father, John Sr., in 1882, Sand Hill,
Marshall County, West Virginia.
He was a farmer by occupation, and a worthy and respected citizen of
Ohio County, West Virginia, in which most of his eighty-five years were
spent. He is buried at Stone Church Cemetery, Wheeling, Ohio County,
In Illinois, John Byers Reed was active with civic lodges of both Brimfield and Elmwood. Arcaneus Lodge, No. 102, I.O.O.F., was first instituted at Brimfield, Peoria County, Illinois, April 9, 1852, with District Deputy G. M. Linneli in the chair. The charter, turned over books and regalia to Grand Lodge Nov. 19, 1863. Re-organized under the same charter in Elmwood, through the influence of Mr. John Byers Reed, a former member of the Brimfield Lodge, July 7, 1873. The first officers were Thomas. W. Keene, N. G., W. S. Ritchie, V. G., John Byers Reed, Secretary, and Samuel Alluvelt, Treasurer.
The Soldiers' Union Association was organized in Elmwood, April 25, 1876. This association and its members met yearly to decorate the fallen soldiers' graves, John Byers Reed having been a charter member.
(Click here for a photo of the 8th MO Peoria area Reunion in the 1890's)
John Byers Reed died in 1913, and his grave is in the Elmwood Township
Cemetery. He left his wife and three sons, and a lot of good
stories; I wish I had heard them.
(Click here for information about the Elmwood Township Cemetery)
Sincerely -- ROBERT DALE REED, son of Harry Frances Reed, son of
Charles E. Reed, son of John Byers Reed.
A special thanks to Greg Maier for breaking through the wall of time,
and digging to get to the genealogy records of Johnís father and
grandfather. Also to Karen Hammer for all her work on the Peoria
County website. And to Linda Fluharty for her contributions to the
Wheeling Area Genealogical Society website. My Aunt Gladys Reed who
started me on this quest in 1979 with the gift of all the Reed family
photos. Also my Mother, Elsie Edna Bajari Reed and sister Vanessa
Reed Cowen for all the support.