Eli Martin Hewitt, of Vermilion County, IL, enlisted in Company I (originally known as Capt. Vinson's Company) of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Illinois Infantry Regiment. The Illinois Adjutant General's Report and the Consolidated Military Records (CMR) Muster Rolls show he enlisted as a Private on 12 August 1862, for a period of eighteen months. His unit was mustered for duty on 3 September 1862 in Danville, IL. He received a Bounty payment of $25, with a Premium payment of $2, for enlisting. When he left for duty he had five children - three by his first wife, Franey Holsten, and two by his second wife, Artimesia Holsten. Artimesia was also pregnant with their third child who would be born in January 1863.
The first Muster Roll, for Sept. 3 to Oct. 31, 1862, reports Eli as "Absent; Detailed to wait on sick Louisville, Ky., Oct.1, 1862." His status was listed as "not stated" until being "Present" on a Special Muster of April 10, 1863. The July and August Muster the has him as "Absent - Sent to Convalescent Camp Nashville Tenn, June 29, 1863." Muster Rolls of the 125th Regiment through June 1864 reflect the same. The July and August Muster record states, "Dischg'd in accordance with S.O. No. 106, D.C. [Department of the Cumberland] to date from Mar 23, 1864."
The CMR contains a letter penned by Eli on September 29, 1863, from the Convalescent Camp at Nashville, stating his desire for "...an appointment as Assistant Surgeon of some one of the Colored Regiments now forming in this Department." The records also include a letter of recommendation, dated the same, written by one C. H. Mills, 1st Assistant Surgeon of the 125th Regiment and in charge of the convalescent camp. The letters state that Eli had been a practicing physician for five years prior to enlisting, and that he had been performing the duties of an Assistant Surgeon at various times.
A family member has another letter, dated July 9, 1864, written by Eli to his wife. This letter has admonishments for his wife for not writing more and for the children to be good and honest. He also describes his poignant observations of the troops (some members of the 125th being mentioned) in the hospitals he visited in the Nashville area and a flag-raising ceremony at one. A very curious mention in his letter is of a box he plans to send home which will contain some clothing to be used for the children and some bones which are to be left in the box and put "upstairs where it will keep dry"!
This letter was written just 15 days before his death. On July 24, 1864, Eli was "killed by guerillas near Springfield Tenn." Records show that Major General Lovell Rousseau, Commander of the Department of the Cumberland, assessed and collected five thousand dollars from the local population to compensate Eli's family for his "unnecessary death." This was one method employed to try to reduce the activities of guerilla operations.
Eli is buried with his first wife, Franey, in Makemson Cemetery near Oakwood, Vermilion Co., IL.
July 9 1864
Having received no letter from you this week I Proceed not withstanding my disappointment to make you my usual weekly visit a short letter; for some days past I have been quite unwell owing I think to the extremely warm weather and the amount of duty I have had to perform. I have not been so sick as to ask to be relieved from duty today I am much better and am feeling quite well.
The weather still continues extreamly warm though we have for the last few days occasional showers of rain which makes more tolerable than it would otherwise be. Yesterday and the day before I visited several of the Hospitals in the city and found among the sick and wounded a number of the 125th Ills and some others with whom I was formerly acquainted in Hospital. I found Hiram Hollett with three other boys from my old regiment.
Hiram is not wounded but has been sick he is getting better and has not been dangerously ill. Clark Snell is in the same Hospital he is wounded in the head but not dangerous. John Brothers is in the Cumberland Hospital has been severly wounded in the side but is doing well and his wound is nearly healed he will be well in a short time. The Hospitals are filled with the sick and wounded from the front but there are very few deaths considering the extremely hot weather warm weather. The wounded bear their sufferings with surprising fortitude, and as you pass round among them they will hold up a stump from which a leg or arm has been amputated and tell you that they will make the Rebel smell powder for it yet. Poor fellows their country will be saved with a great sacrifice to them they are true heroes and demand our love and admiration My heart is pained when I look upon so many fine looking young men maimed disfigured and cripples for life through this wicked Rebellion a few days since I witnessed the raising of a magnificent flag on a pole near two hundred feet high at the Cumberland Hospital Some five hundred of the Convalescents and wounded who were able to be out were present, the crowd stood motionless while the flag was slowly raised to the top of the pole, when thebroad stripes floated Proudly upon the breeze the deafening cheers simultaneously burst forth from the voices of the five hundred veteran soldiers. The Gov. Is a true man and well worthy the confidence and support of every loyal American citizen. A few appropriate remarks were also made by the Col, and Chaplin of my regiment when we dispursed to our quarters with renewed determination to stand by the glorious emblem of our Country's liberty though Rebels in arms have dared to trail it in the dust. I can not und understand why I do not get word from you more frequent than I do. I have written to you regularly every week and sometimes twice a week. I have had but two in six weeks past. I answer all your letters and write to you once a week whether I receive any from you or not I would be very happy to see you and if I am spared till fall I will use every effort in my power to accomplish that very desirable end I can not get leave of absence to come home while there is so much work here for Surgeons as at present. I saw Wm Hall yesterday he is well and at work in the city. One company of our Regt is ordered to Alabama They start tomorrow. the balance of the Regt may go south soon though the Col thinks we may remain here this summer I think I will send home a box in a few days if I can get permission. It will contain some clothing which you can use for the children as you think proper. Also some bones. after you have taken out all but the bones you set the box upstairs where it will keep dry and be out of the way. I have not yet recd. pay for the last two months but expect to be paid in a few days I think I can send home fifty dollars this month and will send more when I am paid again after I get a horse I will not be obliged to lay out so much money in the future as that will nearly complete my outfit I would not buy a horse now if I could help it but the regulations require me to furnish myself a horse and I cannot get around it When I send the next money I will have to send it by express I do not yet know whether I will send the money or a check to draw it as there is at this time considerable risk in sending money through Kentucky I will write to you before I start it. Tell the children I remember them and do not forget them in my Prayers and I have a great anxiety to know that they are not disobedient to mother and that they will remember to be kind and gentle to each other and am especially desirous that they carefully avoid manifesting or indulging in ill words or temper and besides I wish them to be careful to speak the truth under all circumstances
Oh! How it would pain me to know that one of my children whom
I love so much should be branded as a liar better speak the truth
let it cost what it may as everybody hates a liar and no liar
can enter the kingdom of Heaven Give my love to the Brethren and
Sisters. tell them I still need their prayers.
Remember me to any inquiring friends
your affectionate husband
Eli M. Hewitt
Convalescent Camp, Nashville, Tenn
Sept. the 29th 1863
I wish an appointment as Assistant Surgeon of some one of the Colored Regiments now forming in this Department. I would respectfully state that I have been a practicing physician for five years previous to Enlistment.
Please direct to me in care of Surgeon in Charge, Convalescent Camp
Convalescent Camp, Nashville, Tenn
Sept 29th 1863
I have the honor to report to you that Eli M. Hewitt a private of Co I 125 Ill Vols has performed the duties of an Asst Surgeon at various times both in his regiment; And in this Camp - with benefit to the Service and Credit to himself as a physician - I would especially request that he be ordered to report for an examination with reference to an appointment as an Asst. Surgeon of a Colored Regiment
Many thanks to Bill Hewitt for submitting this information.
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