Solid as a Post

by Terry Hogan

His name was Philip Sidney Post. It's not a very military sounding name. Not a name that immediately strikes you as the name of a leader, a general, a Medal of Honor winner. But then, what can you tell by a name. Probably his parents weren't thinking of those things when he was named Philip Sidney Post in 1833, even though he came from military stock.

He was born on March 19, 1833 in Florida, Orange County, New York. His parents were General Peter Schuyler Post and Mary D. (Coe) Post. His grandfather was Colonel Garrett Post. It was natural, I suppose, that he would become a third generation field grade officer.

Philip Sidney Post married Cornelia A. (Post) Post, daughter of William Townsend Post and Harriet G. (Luce) Post. With a family tree full of Posts, it was inevitable that he would be, well, ''as solid as a Post.'' Speculating, he probably was, or would have been, good in fencing too.

Philip Sidney Post was to have at least one child, a son, named Sidney Philip Post. The son, born in Vienna Austria, was to become a lawyer, and a Knox County Judge, elected in 1898. (Too bad he wasn't Postmaster.)

But back to his father. Philip Sidney Post found success in the Civil War. His life in the military began with his entrance into service at Galesburg. He rose from the rank of Second Lieutenant to brevet Brigadier General by war's end. He was wounded at Pea Ridge, where the brother of Galesburg's Clark E. Carr, Eugene, was wounded and earned a Medal of Honor. Philip Sidney Post survived his wounds and continued in the war.

Post's achievements grew out of his command of the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which, in itself, had a noteworthy record and an uncommon origin. The 59th Illinois Infantry started life out as the 9th Infantry Missouri Volunteers and was organized at St. Louis on September 1861. Not withstanding this fact, it was comprised of companies that were raised in Illinois, and mustered into service at different times. The 9th Infantry was ordered to Jefferson City and then to Booneville in September of 1861. In December, it moved to Georgetown, Mo. and to LaMine Bridge. In January 1862, Philip Sidney Post was promoted to Major. In February the 9th Missouri was changed to the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, by an order of the War Department. This renaming of the unit made sense as much of the unit was composed of men from Illinois, including 104 from Knox County.*

On March 6, the newly named 59th was moved to Pea Ridge. On March 7th, it was in battle all day. Major Philip Sidney Post was severely wounded. The unit was to face the Confederate army frequently in the following months and years. The unit's name shows up frequently in major battles. These men of Illinois were at Chaplin Hills, near Perryville, in October 1862 and at Lancaster, Ky. in November. They also fought in the battles of Nolensville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, and the siege of Chattanooga.

On November 25, 1863, the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry led the charge up the Missionary Ridge in the Lookout Mountain campaign. The Confederates were driven from their position. Perhaps the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry had an even more dreadful task soon to follow. On November 30th, the 59th was ordered to undertake the job of burying those who had died and were left in the field at the battle of Chickamauga, which had been fought nearly two and one-half months earlier (September 19-20).

However, it was yet a year away before the 59th was to face the battle of Nashville that began on December 15, 1864. The 59th was in the first line of the assaulting column and was first to place a unit's flag on the Confederate's defense works. For this act, it paid a heavy price. The 59th lost about one-third of the number engaged. The commander, Colonel Philip Sidney Post, was brevetted to Brigadier General of the United States Volunteers. The unit was mustered out on December 8, 1865.

By the end of the Civil War, the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry had lost four officers and 105 men killed and mortally wounded. It had also lost another four officers and 117 men to disease, for a total of 230 men. As was typical of the Civil War, the unit lost more men to disease than to Confederate weapons.

On a local scale, of the 104 men from Knox County, three were killed, eight were wounded, and another 14 died.*

Philip Sidney Post received the Medal of Honor on March 18, 1893. The citation was for leading his brigade in an attack upon a strong position under a terrific fire of grape, canister, and musketry. He was struck down by grapeshot after he had reached the enemy's works.

Philip Sidney Post, after the war, continued in the service of his country. His activities included being a lawyer, a journalist, a diplomat to Austria (presumably accounting for the location of the birth of his son, noted earlier) and a Republican Congressman from the district that included Galesburg for four terms.

I was thinking of ending this article with, as you might guess by now, a Postscript, but I won't. Too tacky. But if I have offended anyone with my Post humor, you guessed it -- Just ''Post'' your letters to the editor.

*footnote See History of Knox County, published by Chapman & Co., 1878. Pages 332-333 provide full details on the 104 men from Knox County that served with the 59th.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 25, 2001

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