Putnam County


Putnam BECKWITH. Many of the prominent and representative citizens of Marshall county served their country during the dark days of the rebellion, making a record honorable and glorious. One of these brave boys is now a leading farmer of Evans township, residing on section 8, and is a highly respected citizen. He was born in Magnolia township, Putnam county, Illinois, November 27, 1842, and is a son of Zera P. and Mary Ann (GAYLORD) BECKWITH, the former a native of New York.

Samuel BECKWITH, the paternal grandfather of our subject, came to Illinois in 1835, settling on a farm in Roberts township, Marshall county, but at that time was a part of Putnam county, and there made his home until his death, about 1847. The maternal grandfather, Aaron GAYLORD, located in Putnam county in 1834, upon Sandy creek. He was the son of Lemuel GAYLORD, a revolutionary soldier and a pioneer of Illinois.

Zera P. BECKWITH was eighteen years of age when he came with his father to Marshall county, was married in Roberts township, but for years made his home at Magnolia, Putnam county, where he worked at his trade of a tailor and kept a clothing store. Coming to Evans township in 1854, he rented land for two years, and then located upon his farm on section 29, which he improved and cultivated for a number of years. His last days were spent in retirement at Wenona, where he passed away in December, 1886, and his wife, who was born in 1819, died on the 25th of January, 1896. They were both consistent members of the Christian church, and during the civil war he served as a drummer in the One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, but was discharged on account of disability. Tow of his sons, our subject and Leonidas, were also members of the union army, belonging to the same regiment, and the latter died while in the service. In the family were five children who are yet living – Putnam; Albert, of Normal, Illinois; Orrin, residing on section 29, Evans township; Mrs. Emma BALL, of Bennington township, Marshall county, and Clara.

The primary education of our subject was obtained in the public schools of Magnolia, and as he was only eleven years old on coming to Evans township, he here continued his studies in the district school. After his return from the war he was for a time a student in the schools of Wenona. On the breaking out of the terrible struggle, he at once took steps to place himself among the brave boys who were going forth to fight the battles of our country, and enlisted July 3, 1861, in Company A, First Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, for three years.

The regiment was organized at Alton under Colonel Tom Marshall, was at once sent to the front, going to St. Charles, Mexico, St. Louis and Jefferson City, Missouri, and then to Lexington, that state, where it was placed under Colonel Mulligan, and there participated in the siege. During that engagement Mr. BECKWITH was wounded in the right hand by buckshot and in the left shoulder by grapeshot. His company charged into the enemy and retook a piece of artillery, and it was while thus engaged that he was injured. Later the regiment surrendered, was paroled and marched to Hamilton, Missouri. At St. Louis they received their discharge.

After a short time spent at home the regiment reorganized at Benton Barracks, Missouri, and in April, 1862, went to Raleigh, that state. It joined General Curtis’ army near the Arkansas border. Mr. BECKWITH was then on guard duty until June, 1862, and while stationed as a picket at West Plains, Missouri, May 18, 1862, was wounded in the right hip by a pistol ball. He was first sent to the field hospital, later to a hospital at St. Louis, Missouri, and on the 14th of July, 1862, was mustered out.

After his recovery, Mr. BECKWITH re-enlisted September 4, 1862, in Company C, Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, and was made sergeant of his company. The regiment was organized at Peoria under Colonel Horace Capron, was sent to Kentucky with the army of the Ohio, and took part in the engagement at Salina, that state, and assisted in the capture of John Morgan’s command. The troops were next under Burnsides in the engagements in East Tennessee, and after the engagement at Knoxville took part in a most severe fight at Beam Station, against General Longstreet. That was the hardest experience in his army record, as he was stationed between the fires of both armies, and were then sent into North Carolina after a band of Indians, and succeeded in killing fifty and capturing fifty-five others. In the spring of 1864 the regiment joined Sherman’s army at Big Shanty and was stationed on the right of that army until Atlanta was reached.

The command then participated in the Stoneman raid, going to Macon, Georgia, and Stoneman gave Colonel Capron the privilege to cut his way out. This he did, and our subject came through safely. After being in the saddle eight days continuously, during which time they had but little sleep, they were surprised by the enemy, but with eight others Mr. BECKWITH succeeded in making his escape and got back to Atlanta. After the capture of that city the regiment was sent to Louisville to be remounted, and then marched from there through Nashville and on to Hood’s army. Their next engagement was with Forest. While on picket duty our subject with a comrade were cut off from the command and were six days in getting back. He next participated in the battles of Franklin, Nashville and Pulaski. For gallant service he was promoted second lieutenant of Company C, and as such was mustered out in May, 1865, after almost four years of most faithful and arduous service.

After his return home, Mr. BECKWITH resumed farming, for four years made his home in Roberts township, and then removed to his present farm of two hundred and five acres in Evans township. In 1869 he was united in marriage with Frances DAGEN, a native of Ohio, and a daughter of Charles DAGEN. They now have four children - Bertha May, Herbert Horace, Charles Putnam and Mary Gaylord.

In 1891 Mr. BECKWITH entered Mercy hospital at Chicago, where he underwent an operation – scraping the bone and cutting on diseased bone – and suffered intense pain from inflammation for months. He has since been compelled to use crutches. His political support is unwaveringly given the republican party; for two terms served as collector, and is an honored member of the Grand Army pot at Magnolia. Both himself and wife are devoted members of the Methodist church at Cherry Point, of which he is trustee, and endeavor by their blameless lives to set good example.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 471.

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