Capt. William G. Whitney - Civil War Veteran
William enlisted as a sergeant in Company B of the 11th Infantry on August 24, 1861, shortly after the commencement of the Civil War. He completed his service for the Union Army as a Captain on September 16, 1865. By his actions, William proved to be a valiant soldier.
Three privates and a Lieutenant Colonel testified to two different instances of heroism on the part of William in their petition to have him recognized with a Medal of Honor. The first, on September 20, 1863, occurred at Snodgrass Hill at Chickamauga, Georgia. It was late afternoon and the rebels had made several charges and been repulsed. The ammunition of William's company was exhausted. The rebels were about to charge again when William left the relative safety of the Union temporary works. He "went among the dead and dying rebels and at great exposure to himself, cut off and removed the cartridge boxes from the rebels and brought them within our own lines for our own use…."
The second instance of heroism was on August 7, 1864 near Atlanta, Georgia. During a skirmish one of the Union soldiers was "seriously wounded and cried piteously for help…." William "started to go to his assistance, those around him tried to dissuade him from going as it meant almost certain death so to do…." The members of the company said, "'why risk your life when you will soon be discharged, and this man a stranger to you.' that disregarding the remarks of his comrades, he went to the assistance of his wounded comrade, having to go some fifty or sixty yards in advance of the line and ll the time exposed to a heavy fire, brought in the wounded soldier to safety."
William received the Medal of Honor on October 21, 1895, for his actions at Chickamauga.
This is William G. Whitney's description of how he replenished the empty cartridge pouches of the men of his company during the battle of Chickamauga.
"Noon of the 20th of September, 1863, found our brigade--Stanley's--Negley's Division, Thomas' Corps, on Snodgrass Hill, a part of Missionary Ridge. We were about 120 yards east of the Snodgrass House. The brigade consisted of the Nineteenth Illinois, Eighteenth Ohio and Eleventh Michigan, about 700 men, placed in line of battle as follows: Nineteenth Illinois on the right, Eleventh Michigan on the left, and the Eighteenth Ohio in reserve. We were expected to repel the assault of Preston's and Kershaw's divisions of Confederate infantry. Their losses alone during the afternoon were twenty per centum more than the whole number of our brigade. During a lull in the storm of battle we threw up a temporary breastwork of stone, rails and logs. About 5 P.M., after repulsing five successive charges of the enemy, we found ourselves without ammunition. The enemy were about 100 yards in our front, preparing for another charge, and their sharpshooters were firing at every man who showed his head above our light works. Their dead and wounded lay in great numbers, right up to our works. They were [illustration] armed with Enfield rifles of the same calibre as our Springfield rifles. I don't know what prompted me, but I took my knife from my pocket, stepped over the works, and, while my company cheered and the rebels made a target of me, I hurriedly passed along the front, cutting off the cartridge boxes of the dead and wounded, and threw them over to my company. Thus I secured a few rounds for each of my men. The enemy made one more charge and was again repulsed. Darkness settled down on us, and ended the terrible battle of Chickamauga."
For information about the Battle of Chickamauga, CLICK HERE.
For information about the Medal of Honor and the other men who received it for heroic actions at the Battle of Chickamauga, CLICK HERE.
For speculation about how Capt. Whitney came to own a Civil War saber, scabbard and belt, CLICK HERE.
JoAnne P. Miller