Wesley Willson

Company C, 89th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Wesley Willson was born in the state of New York on May 22, 1828, the son of John Willson, a Methodist clergyman born in Ireland, and his wife Hannah Case, born in New York State. The family moved to northern Illinois prior to the 1850 census. Wesley enlisted in Chicago on August 6, 1862, as a Private in Company C of the 89th Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, “The Rail Road Regiment," giving his occupation as “Porter.” He was described as being 5’10” tall, with a light complexion, gray eyes, and brown hair.

Mustered in on August 27, 1862, Wesley Willson was with the 89th when they went to Louisville, Kentucky and later to Nashville, Tennessee in the fall. He was taken prisoner on December 31, 1862, during the Battle of Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After rejoining his unit he was promoted to Corporal on June 1, 1863. The 89th left Tennessee for Georgia on August 16 and Wesley was present during the Battle of Chickamauga and the siege of Chattanooga and also at Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge.  In late November, 1863, the 89th moved to East Tennessee, returning to Georgia in May of 1864. Wesley served in the campaign against Atlanta and was again taken prisoner, while attempting to carry a wounded soldier from the field, on May 27, 1864, during the Battle of Pickett’s Mill, near Dallas, Georgia. He was imprisoned at Andersonville.

Wesley Willson carried with him a needle case for mending his uniform, made for him by Nancy Jane Harvey, who married his younger brother John on April 13, 1864. Some of his fellow prisoners were planning an escape through a tunnel dug under the stockade, but he was too sick to join them. He gave the needle case to one of them, asking him to take it to Janie. When his friend brought the needle case to Janie he told her that “The last he saw of Wesley was seeing him crawling with a cup in his mouth to get a drink of water from an old slimy water hole.”

Wesley Willson died in the hospital at Andersonville Prison, Georgia on November 1, 1864, and is buried in grave #11712. The casualty sheet gives his rank at that time as Sergeant, as does the prisoner of war record.

The needle case is now in the possession of John and Janie’s great-granddaughter, Jeanie Marion ([email protected]), who provided this information compiled from Wesley Willson’s Military Service Record, census records, family records, and information on the 89th from the Illinois Civil War Project and the National Park Service Civil War database (www.itd.nps.gov/cwss).

Submitted by Jeanie Marion

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