Thomas Yates joined Co E, 31st Illinois Infantry on 26 August 1861. He was mustered out on 19 Sep 1865. He enlisted as a Private and rose no higher. He was awarded the 17th Army Corps "Gold Medal of Honor" for actions during the Atlanta Campaign. His citation states that he received this award "for having bravely defended the colors of his regiment during the battle of the 22d of July, 1864 (ADDED: The Battle of Atlanta). NOTE: This is not the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, it was a high award giving at a Corps level and it was for an action for which the same action did result in the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
When the enemy attempted to wrest the colors from the bearer, Private Yates shot dead the first man who laid his hand upon the standard, knocked the next one down with the butt of his musket; remained y and gallantly defended his colors until they were out of danger.
He was mustered out at Louisville, KY on 19 July 1865. He returned to Johnson Co, IL and farmed there. He began receiving an Invalid Pension of $12.00 a month beginning 10 Jul 1890. His civil war pension file indicates that he drew this $12.00 a month until his death on 13 November 1896.
He is buried in Bridges Cemetery. Go west out of Vienna, IL Highway 146 for 3.9 miles; turn left onto Oak Grove Road (sign there saying way to Wild Cat Mountain); go 1.5 miles south on Oak Grove Road. Cemetery on right.
He has a very, very worn Veterans Administration type headstone, and I have requested a replacement from the VA. I have asked them to add the Gold Medal of Honor on it because, I am told, it was a federally recognized award at the time.
I hope to have a stone setting ceremony there sometime this summer. I've gotten a tentative commitment from a re enactors group to provide a drum, fife, and firing of volleys. This will be well posted with plenty of lead time, and I hope I can get enough interest to make it an event worthy of our local news media.
Submitted by Ted Pace
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