Circle of Honor, Shiloh
Circle of Honor
In late 1861, William Dawes came to recruit men out of west-central Wisconsin to serve their country. He began in Strongs Prarie, Adams County, to gather men that would eventually be Company E, Sixteenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Adams and adjoining Waushara county yielded many of the volunteers, men of varied ages and backgrounds that would be joined in brotherhood on the Shiloh battlefield and beyond.
Coloma in Waushara County sent Philo Perry and Joseph Holcomb among others. Strongs Prarie was home to Lewis Knight and the town which John Willis signed out of. Henry Thomas came from Hancock in Waushara County.
Who were they?
John P. Willis was first out of Strongs Prarie though he lived in Friendship, WI. He enlisted September 23, 1861
and was Company E's Color Sergeant by the time Shiloh rolled around. He had been born in Vermont 26 years
earlier and in a letter describing the progress of the battle for a newspaper said "when our friend John Willis,
the great manly Color Sergeant of the Regiment fell, Lieutenant Niles took the Colors and thus saved them from
being captured, for which valued service he received the thanks of the Regiment."
Joe Holcomb enlisted on November 11th, 1861 and became 4th Sergeant. Before the war, he had been a blacksmith and his wife, Sara Ann, was a teacher. There were four daughters at home ranging in age from 9 to 19. Joe was 42.
On December the 19th, Henry L. Thomas, 37, joined the Company from Hancock, Waushara County. He was a Doctor from Wales, UK, and his wife, Mary, was from England. He enlisted as a Private leaving, along with Mary, two young boys, William, 3, and Charles, 2. After the was, Mary lived with a neighbor for a while and, later, with his son, Charles, until she died.
The youngest, Private Lewis E. Knight, was seventeen or eighteen, depending on the version he put forth. Born in Maine, he'd been living with his parents, Ezra and Rachel, also from Maine,in Friendship, WI and had been working as a lumberman. He'd had a younger brother who'd died in the 1850's and his only other sibling was a younger sister who'd been born in Wisconsin. Lewis stood 5'9" tall.He had grey eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.
Private Erwin Rider, was born in Farmington, Ohio and enlisted saying he lived in Coloma, WI, the home of his parents, Willian and Martha and younger siblings. He was 21 and had been out of the house since 1860 - living in Alto, Wisconsin as a farm laborer. By the time of his enlistment he was a carpenter and married. He was tall for the service, 6'1/4" and had grey eyes, brown hair and of fair complexion. By 1870, the remainder of his family had moven to Newton, Iowa.
Philo Perry born in New York was 22 and enlisted March 6 of 1862. Before enlisting he was a wheelright. He had black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion with a height of 5'6". He was living with his 61 year old father, a traveling minister sometimes known as "the World's Preacher, his mother and his brothers and sisters - the youngest named John Brown Perry.
On April 6, 1862, these men from Company E were color bearers for the 16th Wisconsin Regiment, the honor having fallen on them for the day - normally this would have gone to four to seven assigned corporals. In the same letter to local newspapers it was written "Captain Dawes was sick and Lieutenant White was officer of the Guard and half of them were either killed or wounded."
In the heat of the battle all these men described above carried the colors and all were killed.
In the National Cemetery at Pittsburg Landing, (Shiloh) they are all buried in the Circle of Honor overlooking the Tennessee river...At the center of cemetery surrounding the cemetery's National Flag, forever.