Last Two Veterans of Civil War Living In Marion Recall Days of War Period In South
G. W. Ingels, 88, and Phil Johnson, 100-year Old Colored Veteran, Are Survivors In Marion
Memorial Day in Marion in 1937 finds the thinning ranks of Civil War veterans has dwindled to two Union soldiers, one of them a white man who shouldered a gun at the age of 15 years and the other a colored man who at the age of 17 went away to war from a Kentucky plantation with the echo of the slave-driver’s lash and the cries of beaten human beings echoing in his ears.
They are G.W. Ingels, 412 East Jefferson Street and the other is Phil Johnson, colored, 1308 South Van Buren Street. Mr. Ingels is 88 year old, while his colored compatriot has already passed the century mark.
G.W. Ingels entered the Union Army at Belleville, February 5, 1865. He was 15 years old, having been born May 1, 1849 in Bond County, an orphan boy. Mr. Ingels was reared in the family of William B. Oglesby, a cousin of the former Illinois governor Richard Oglesby.
Enlisting in the 149th Illinois Infantry, Company C, Mr. Ingels served until February, 1866 when he was mustered out at Dalton, Georgia. Although he was not in action in any of the actual engagements of the war, he was in the Union lines near the enemy at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.
His regiment was included in troops sent into Tennessee and Georgia to accept the surrender of fragmentary groups of confederate soldiers after hostilities ceased and to do patrol duty. He was stationed at many points in Georgia and remembers particularly his experience at Dahlonega, Georgia when he was one of a group of volunteers who went there in connection with the government’s confiscation of the confederate mint.
Mr. Ingels recalls that while the lieutenant in charge of the special detail accompanied a chemist on an inspection of the mint, he and the other soldiers panned gold in the main street of the town.
That mining experience was the forerunner of a diversified experience which Mr. Ingels was to acquire in mining. Returning to Illinois, he was finally discharged from the Army at Springfield and returned to his home community. He became a hoisting engineer and for many years was engaged in coal mining in that capacity in the central Illinois field. Afterward he assisted in sinking a salt mine at Lyons, Kansas, and later returned to coal mining at Bowie, Texas. He retired from mining in 1894 and for 18 years operated a large fruit farm at Sullivan, Missouri, from where he came to Marion 23 years ago. He still retains his membership in the Masonic Order and the Odd Fellows Lodge in Sullivan.
Mr. Ingels has one son, George Washington Ingels Jr. of Glen Carbon. His first wife and two other sons are deceased. He and the second Mrs. Ingles live at 412 E. Jefferson Street where the reporter for the Republican visited them Friday afternoon and found Mr. Ingels preparing to drive in his automobile to Pittsburg. Despite his years, Mr. Ingels has the appearance of a very much younger man, is in good health and active. He drives his car himself. Mr. Ingels says he reads three or four papers regularly and forgets nothing he reads.
The clarity of Mr. Ingels memory is evidenced by his discussion of current events as well as occurrences of his Civil War days. He recalls that his commander, Col. W.C. Keefner, a native of Germany, who was trained in the German Army was an exacting officer and required much drilling by his soldiers. An impression of the ragged appearance of confederate prisoners taken by his company after the war was over lingers in his mind.
“They came straggling in to surrender, sometimes only two at a time,” he said. “Occasionally they would have a horse or a mule. We allowed them to keep the animal after they had surrendered their arms and taken the oath of allegiance.”
Declaring that he is a candidate for the honor of being the last survivor of the Civil War in Marion in whose honor erection of a monument has been proposed, Mr. Ingels has but one explanation for his longevity and good health.
“The only reason that I have,” he said, “is the fact that I’ve always voted the Republican ticket.”
Mr. Ingels was uncertain whether he would be out for Memorial Day exercises at the cemetery Sunday. He has relatives buried at Fairfield and other out of town cemeteries. He’d like to visit their graves on Decoration Day if the weather isn’t too hot. Far from sitting back to accept the honors ordinarily conferred upon the aging veterans, this last white Civil War veteran is thinking of others on Memorial Day.
Phil Johnson spent his first months of freedom from slavery in the services of the Union Army in which he enlisted at the age of 17 at Henderson, Kentucky. After doing guard and patrol duty at Camp Nelson, Kentucky and other points in the south he was mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas 18 months after his enlistment.
Although he celebrated his 100th birthday in March this year, Mr. Johnson clearly remembers his boyhood as a slave on a Kentucky plantation. The years have not wiped out the bitterness with which he recalls the institution of slavery, although he says his owner was much less cruel than many slaveholders in the same community.
He was owned by a man named Gabe Green. Green was more considerate of his slaves because he was nursed by Johnson’s mother after his own mother had died. Probably because of the attachment which grew out of that childhood circumstance on the part of the young slave owner he kept the Negro mammy and her 14 children together, although her husband was owned by another planter.
“Uncle Phil” recalls that at the time his father died before the Civil War, his father was owned by a planter in another county, and his visits with his family in Henderson County had been far apart due to restriction imposed by slave owners upon their servants. His mother lived to be more than 80 years old and died several years after the Civil War. Of all the large family, none survive except Johnson who lives alone. He knows of no person whom he knew in his boyhood who is still living.
“This is like another world compared to the world in which I lived when I was a boy,” he said.
When he left the service after the war, Mr. Johnson returned to his home community in Kentucky and to the plantation on which he had worked as a slave. For two years, he farmed a small tract of land for his former owner. Then he moved to another tract and after five or six years he left that community to seek his fortune elsewhere. Coming to Illinois, he located first at Mt. Vernon and 37 years ago came to Marion where he has lived ever since. His first employment here was as cook at the West Side Hotel where he remained many years. Philip Rick, present owner of the hotel, was his employer.
Although, not as strong as in former years, Mr. Johnson still enjoys good health. He does not drive an automobile, but enjoys frequent trips in his car with a chauffeur at the wheel. He gets much enjoyment out of his radio, enjoying the news broadcasts and religious services. He spurns modern, popular music.
Deeply religious, he attributes his long life entirely to his belief that “the Lord has taken care of him.” He has never been seriously ill, but recalls that 75 years ago he had hiccoughs for two weeks and consulted four physicians without obtaining relief, only to have the hiccoughs stop after he had been told he was going to die.
Philip Johnson, 102-year old colored Civil War veteran, died at his home at 1308 South Van Buren Street Friday afternoon, June 24, 1939. “Uncle Phil” as the aged colored man had become known to many Marion persons was one of the last two survivors of the Civil War who lived in Marion. The remaining veteran is G.W. Ingels, 90 of 412 E. Jefferson Street.
Funeral services will be held at the Church of God on West Boyton street which Mr. Johnson attended regularly when his health permitted. Mr. Johnson’s service in the Union Army was with Co. D, 120th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry and Co. D, 6th U.S. Colored Cavalry. Burial will be in Maplewood cemetery with military rites by the American Legion and the VFW.
George Washington Ingels passed away in 1944. His wife Cora passed away in February 1967.
(Marion Daily Republican article dated May 29, 1937; Special thanks to Harry Boyd for providing Phil Johnson’s obituary information.)