My great-great grandfather, William Hughes Cornwell, was born on January 14, 1844, in Princeville, Illinois, his father, Solomon, was 34 and his mother, Emily, was 25. He had five sons and two daughters with Elizabeth Church Thomson between 1867 and 1881. He died on October 5, 1897, in Williamsfield, Illinois, at the age of 53.
Modern day descendants of William Hughes Cornwell include the Maley and Dameron families that live in Fairbury.
William Hughes Cornwell served as a Private in the Union Army. The first miraculous thing about William Hughes Cornwell was that he was wounded in the hip by a musket ball, and he survived this injury. In those days, a wound by a musket ball was usually fatal.
The second miraculous thing was that he survived being a prisoner-of-war in the dreaded Andersonville, Georgia, prison camp. He was held the last 4 months that Andersonville prison was open.
Andersonville was only open for about 16 months. Of the approximately 45,000 Union prisoners held there, nearly 13,000 died. That is a death rate of 29%.
The prison was expanded from 16.5 acres to 26.5 acres in June of 1864. The peak population was about 35,000 men. Using 26.5 acres, this means each man got 33 square feet of space. At 16.5 acres and 35,000 men, this works out to 21 square feet. It was overcrowded to four times its capacity, with inadequate water supply, reduction in food rations, and unsanitary conditions. The chief causes of death were scurvy, diarrhea, and dysentery.
The South did not have enough supplies for its regular army. What little supplies they had went to their regular army, and not to the POW camps.
During the Civil War, a "signing bonus" was offered to enlist in the Union Army. Some unsavory gentlemen enlisted to get the signing bonus, then planned to flee immediately. But some of these men were taken prisoners-of-war before they could flee the Union Army. They formed a gang of thugs that would rob their fellow prisoners of their clothing and valuables at Andersonville Prison. Six of the ring-leaders were hung in the camp for their crimes. The prisoners called them Raiders.
The prison commander was Major Henry Wirz. After the Civil War was over, he was tried and hung for murder in Washington, DC. He was the only person in the Confederate Army who was tried after the Civil War.
There are at least two excellent books about Andersonville. The first is HISTORY OF ANDERSONVILLE PRISON by Ovid L. Futch first published in 1968. The author argues that Major Wirz had an impossible job. He asked time and time again for supplies for the prisoners, and was refused.
The second book is the 1879 book ANDERSONVILLE, By John McElroy. This book contains many sketches and stories about prison life in Andersonville, and other Confederate prisons. The prisoners thought Major Wirz was the devil incarnate.
William Hughes Cornwell
About W.H. Cornwell
The (October, 1897) Peoria Transcript of recent contained the following:
The funeral of the late William Hughes Cornwell occurred Thursday at the Princeville, M. E. church, being the largest audience room available. The Rev. 0. M. Dunlevy, his pastor, officiated and was assisted by the Rev. F. W. Merrill, of
The pall bearers at the house were from the official board of the Monica church, and at the church and cemetery from his army comrades. The singing was in charge of S. W. Herviatt and the Monica Choir. The floral decorations were many and beautiful.
William Hughes, oldest son of Solomon S. and Emily Cornwell, was born January.14, 1844, one mile north of Monica, and died at his home one half mile south of town
When about 1 year old he moved with his parents to his late home. His boyhood days were
spent down on the farm. He received such education as the public schools afforded and was also a student of
At the ace of 17 he enlisted in Company D of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry. He went at once
to the scene of conflict in the South land and engaged in the battles of
For some time he was on the skirmish line in
with General Sherman from
After his return to the South he took part in the charge of Port Gibson, and later assisted in
cutting off General Hood’s communication with the main army.
In the latter part of December, 1865 they took Egypt station, where he was wounded in the hip by a musket ball, and falling behind his regiment, was taken prisoner and sent to that pen of living horror, Andersonville, where for four months he stayed and heroically endured his awful ordeal.
The surrender of Lee brought release, yet not till starvation and suffering from his wound had undermined his constitution. His late sickness and early death are traceable to this event. He was honorably discharged
Much of his courage, heroism and daring will always remain unrecorded as far as the pages
of this world’s history are concerned. He often received the commendation of his superiors in
rank, and has always been held in the highest esteem by his comrades, and is one of the few out of the many who have thus long remained to tell the story of bravery and patriotism of our "Boys in Blue."
He was for years a member of the Chenoa Post, G. A. R., and when coming again to his old
home he cast in his lot with the J.F. French Post No. 153 at Princeville, and at his request they
bore his moral remains to the quiet camping ground of the dead.
After the close of the war he returned to his home and farm life, and was married
During this period he held various town offices in the county, such as township collector, commissioner of highways, justice of the peace, and for 13 years was one of the most active members of the board of supervisors. In politics, he was always an ardent republican. As husband and father he was true, loving, and kind, and is held in no higher esteem by any
than by his own family.
He was the father of ten children. Emily Olivia died at the age of 5 years; Mary Olive. Aged 1 year, and two in infancy. The living ones, Albert W. and Lester Paul, who live on the farm in
Waldo township, near Flanagan; Charles, Hubert, Mabel and David at home. He also leaves one brother, Charles, an attorney-at‑law in
The same uprightness that has been a characteristic of his early, army, business and family life entered into his religious life as well. Raised by Christian parents, he always had a high regard for church and sacred things, and while attending a revival at the school house near his home in
At the time of his death he was a trustee, steward, class leader, and Sabbath school teacher in the Monica church. By his life, as well as by personal testimony, he gave clear evidence to the fact of pardon, the witness of the Spirit, purity of heart, and growth in grace.
For the past six months failing health has deprived him of many of the privileges of the sanctuary. Yet he always manifested the deepest interest in the work of the Master and it has been a comfort to meet with him and his family around their own family altar, and hear him tell of God's comforting grace amidst all his sufferings. His last conscious testimony was in accord with his noble life.
He has gone to his reward. Our comfort is in the hope of meeting him in the home eternal,
where separation never comes. He has gone to be with his father, who preceded him four years and four hours, and mother, who crossed over the dark river 16 mouths later.
Peace to his memory.
One of the reasons there were so many Civil War soldiers in prisoner-of-war camps was the suspension of prisoner exchanges. Per Wikipedia............
The exchange system collapsed in 1863 because the Confederacy refused to treat black prisoners the same as whites. The South needed the exchanges much more than the North did, because of the severe manpower shortage in the Confederacy. In 1864 Ulysses Grant, noting the "prisoner gap" (Union camps held far more prisoners than Confederate camps), decided that the growing prisoner gap gave him a decided military advantage. He therefore opposed wholesale exchanges until the end was in sight. Some Confederates were allowed to join the Union Army; these "galvanized Yankees" were stationed in the West facing Indians. In 1865, as the war was ending, the Confederates sent 17,000 prisoners North while receiving 24,000 men. On April 23, after the war ended, the riverboat SS Sultana was taking 1900 ex-prisoners North on the Mississippi River when it exploded, killing about 1500 of them.
Here is the location of Andersonville Prison in Georgia.......
Here are views of the prison............
Here is another view of Andersonville prison taken from the book cover........
Below are various images about Andersonville taken from the other book about Andersonville Prison. The first image is the camp commander.........
Below are pictures of the book author when he first entered Andersonville, and then his appearance after spending some time in this prison.........
The prisoners were plagued by lice in their clothing. They used to hold their clothing next to the heat of a fire trying to kill the lice........
No replacement clothing was available for the prisoners, so one way to replace worn out clothing was to take it from a fellow soldier who died in the camp..........
The 6 Union soldiers who terrorized their fellow Union prisoners were hung at Andersonville...
The prisoners were cleaned up by the Union Army after they were liberated from the Andersonville Prison.........
After the war was over, the camp commander was tried and found guilty of murder. He was then hung in Washington, DC..............