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Luke R. Sanders

Company C, 128th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

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Luke Sanders

Luke Ralls Sanders was born Feb. 24, 1824 in Robertson County, Tennessee. He was the 10th and youngest child of William and Mariah (nee Hoxworth) Sanders, who had come to Tennessee from South Carolina. Around 1831, most of Luke's family migrated and settled around the town of Marion in Williamson County, Illinois. Some of the family though, had gone to Scott County, Missouri. Luke himself later came to Williamson County in 1836 at age 12 with other family members. On May 28, 1847, 24-year old Luke enrolled as a Private and a Fifist/Musician in Company H (later transferred to Capt. J.M. Cunningham's Company B - CUNNINGHAM was John A. LOGAN's father-in-law) of the First Regiment, Illinois Foot Volunteers during the Mexican War. Luke was mustered in at Jonesboro, Illinois and mustered out at Alton, Illinois.

He was described as being 6'4" tall, had fair complexion, grey/blue eyes, light hair, and was by trade a farmer and laborer. During the war, he had met Capt. Robert E. LEE and had served with the famous John a LOGAN originally from Jackson County, Illinois, who was a family friend, and who later became a General in the Civil War and later Senator from southern Illinois. LOGAN detested the Mexican War and felt that the United States should have never been the aggressor. He said, "But the war was rudely thrust upon the country, and the demonstrated consequences of it, was to vastly increase the political power of the Southern States of the Union"!

At the beginning of the Civil War, many people in Williamson County were Southerners and naturally had sympathies for the South, as did the SANDERS family, who had indeed come from the South. Many therefore, did not join either side at the beginning of the war. But a "thrilling incident" occurred on the public Square at Marion, IL on August 19, 1862, according to Mary LOGAN, wife of Congressman John LOGAN.

Congressman LOGAN hurried home to Marion when he learned that tensions were running high and most citizens were considering joining the Confederate Army. Indeed, Williamson County had already passed a resolution to join the Confederacy. LOGAN mounted a wagon in the middle of the town Square, and after greeting his constituents, "began to give them the reasons for joining the Union Cause ........ for 2 hours, step by step, point by point. Ending, he then called for volunteers". Mrs. Logan continues........."Luke SANDERS, an old fifer, six feet, four inches tall, and very large in proportion, was in the crowd. He had been a fifer in the same regiment with General LOGAN in the Mexican War. We had seen him previously and he had promised to come and bring his fife and at a signal from J.H. WHITE, was to go up to General LOGAN, give him his hand as a volunteer, and then was to play a patriotic air on his fife, whereat Mr. WHITE and a few others were to step in line and start the volunteering. The General did not know that Luke was to be there, and he lost control of his feelings and wept like a child. It is needless to say, that through my own tears, I witnessed the most affecting scene that had ever occurred in that or any other town. At the sound of SANDERS' fife................ and the beating of one old drum of Gabriel COX, who was a member of the Drum Corps of the same regiment in which General LOGAN served in the Mexican War, whom Mr. WHITE and Captain LOONEY and the friends had hunted up ......General LOGAN jumped down from the wagon and stepped into the line that was speedily formed. All were enrolled for 3 years, or during the War"(and Southern Illinois, which no doubt would have gone Confederate, was saved to the Union by John A. LOGAN).

37-year old Luke SANDERS thus enrolled as a fifist/musician in Company C of the 128th Illinois Volunteers, and the unit was mustered in at Camp Butler, Illinois on Sept.26. Many other members of the SANDERS and other related families and friends joined, including Luke's brother Simeon (who died from disease) and SANDERS' nephews Ephraim James (Co.B, 9th IL), Daniel, George R., Jacob L., John J., Larkin Little, Silas and cousins Robert (killed in action) and Isaac J. The 128th was unfairly branded as deserters and cowards. What had really happened, was that an epidemic of diseases ran throughout the Regiment, and over 30 men died from various diseases. Nearly all of the remaining men of the regiment were also sick, and so as time went on, and the government did nothing to alleviate the diseases, it was only common sense for the men to just go home ...... if you were healthy, to go home and stay away from the sick, and if you were sick, to go home and recuperate, where you knew you would get the best care. Indeed, Luke's brother Simeon died only a couple weeks after arriving back home at Crab Orchard, Illinois. He died from "camp fever, measles and chronic diarrhea". Unfortunately though, he brought disease home, and his wife and one of his 5 children also died from it. Simeon had refused (as most of the men did) to go to the Camp Hospital, which was considered to be pure suicide, as the Hospital was known to be rampant with a myriad of diseases, including smallpox and measles. Luke himself was wounded which gave him a rupture and caused him to be deaf, and also contracted measles and chronic diarrhea, which affected him for the rest of his life, and prevented him from holding a substantial job to support his family. The 128th was disbanded by order of General GRANT on April 1, 1863. Many of the survivors trandferred to other units, or were eventually given honorable discharges. Luke died Sept 1, 1891 in Williamson County and was buried in his Civil War uniform. He was buried in the Burks Cemetery near the town of Ferges. A mining company later moved the bodies in Burks Cemetery to other locations. When Luke was exhumed, his body was in unbelievably good condition, and his uniform was still intact and his "buttons appeared to be newly shined". He was reburied in the Herrin Cemetery.

Submitted by John Maurath

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