Albert Eads
Lieutenant, Co C

Albert Eads was born in Knox County, Illinois on April 23, 1842. When the war came Eads was a twenty-year-old clerk living in Knoxville, the town of his birth.

In September and October of 1861, Eads began recruiting men in Knox County for Waters McChesney's "Rock Island Regiment". The Rock Island papers were full of accounts of this effort. As of October 22, Eads was considered informally as second lieutenant of one of the companies of that regiment. When that regiment, still in the formative stages, was moved to Chicago's Camp Douglas, it was soon broken up and its 225 men assigned to other regiments, which were larger and closer to being ready to go to "the war". Eads and the men he recruited were adjoined to Nathaniel Petts' Iroquois County company, and Petts' company became Company C of the Fifty-First Illinois. Eads' second lieutenancy was a recognition of his bringing so many men to the company rolls. Eads was promoted first lieutenant on December 13, 1862 (when Albert Tilton was promoted captain, Petts having resigned due to never-ending illness), shortly before the Battle of Stones River. The biographical below sketch details one event of his "participation" in that battle.

In June, 1863, Eads fell ill and on the 24th was admitted to the Officers Hospital at Nashville. He was back with the regiment in September, 1863. On September 20, with Adjutant Henry Hall severely wounded at Chickamauga on the previous day, Eads assumed the role of acting regimental adjutant. His first task in that role was a heavy one—he listed one by one the regiments 149 casualties and the nature of each casualty from "wounded, slightly", to "missing", to "killed".

In March, 1864, Eads fell ill again; he was able for light duty, however, and undertook recruiting activities during the February-March reenlistment furlough of the regiment. He was allowed to remain home in Knoxville, Illinois on formal sick leave, starting March 21, 1864, one week before the regiment left Chicago for Tennessee—and war in Georgia. In July Eads returned to the regiment and, on July 18, 1864, was assigned to light non-field duty as a "military conductor". A military conductor held the rank of lieutenant and was responsible for security and order on trains that carried military personnnel and materiel. Subordinates on the train checked passes and papers and reported to the military conductor. The military conductor was in charge of the train; the engineer and ticket/pass-takers were functionaries. As far as physical demand went, it was a light job; but, during the Civil War, in areas threatened by the enemy, it was a job that required discrimination, decision-making, and administrative ability.

Eads' "easy job" soon became a dangerous one. Forrest's Cavalry crossed into northern Alabama in mid-September 1864 and began tearing up railroads, destroying bridges, burning railroad cars, and generally disrupting communication and supply in the rear of Sherman's army, preparatory to Forrest's raid into middle Tennessee. Eads was captured by Confederates on September 24, 1864 at Athens, Alabama. On that date, Forrest's forces surrounded the garrison at Athens and demanded its surrender. Meanwhile, reinforcements were moving by train from Decatur to Athens. Jordan and Prior wrote in The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N. B. Forrest, that "a train came up from the direction of Decatur...filled with Federal infantry, who disembarked, over 400 strong, near a block-house, about one mile from the work, and were moved forward with the evident purpose of forcing their way to a junction with the invested garrison."

Eads, very likely, was the military conductor of that train, which carried men of the Eighteenth Michigan and the One Hundred Second Ohio infantries to the relief of the Athens garrison. Certainly Eads was not part of the garrison, and only the train could have brought him to Athens, Alabama on the 24th. While the force which arrived by rail tried to fight its way to assistance of the garrison, the garrison surrendered without firing a shot. A report of the action (by a Federal railroad defense official who was also captured on September 24) read:

On the morning of the 24th General Granger, commanding at Decatur, sent detachments, by railroad, of the Eighteenth Michigan and One hundred and second Ohio, both amounting to 350 men, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Elliott, of the One hundred and second Ohio, to re-enforce the garrison at Athens. They arrived at the breach in railroad and were attacked by the whole of General Buford’s division. Our force, though small, pressed their way on in the direction of Athens, strewing the woods with the enemy’s dead. On two occasions heavy lines were formed in their direction, which were charged and driven back in disorder. In this manner they had almost gained the fort, which had been surrendered not more than thirty minutes before they arrived within 300 yards, when they, too, were forced to surrender. We lost in this engagement 106 men killed and wounded. (This is from the report of Lt. H. C. March of the 115th Ohio Infantry. March was at the time Assistant Inspector of Railroad Defenses, Department of the Cumberland. March closed his report: "These are the facts of the surrender of the different posts on my section of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. On the morning of the 24th I, with considerable effort, reached the fort at Athens. I went there for the purpose of helping defend the place, and was surrendered with the garrison.")

The surrender of the garrison was adjudged a reprehensible act by everyone except Colonel Wallace Campbell of the One Hundred Tenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who surrendered it (see sidebar at right). The entire force that arrived on the train, minus the dead, after serious fighting was also taken captive. Forrest's report of the episode read:

The re-enforcements... fought with great gallantry and desperation. They pressed on, but found the Twenty-first Tennessee, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Forrest, between them and the fort. This gallant regiment opened fire upon the advancing enemy, and it was during this engagement that Lieutenant-Colonel Forrest fell severely wounded. I ordered Colonel Nixon and Colonel Carter, with their respective commands (numbering about 150 men each), reporting to me, to move rapidly to the relief of Colonel Wilson. They did so, and after a short engagement the re-enforcements surrendered and marched up just in time to see the garrison march out of the fort and stack their arms. (OR, 544)

By the terms of surrender as stipulated by Forrest, all "white soldiers" were to be treated as prisoners of war "and the negroes returned to their masters" (OR, 521). Commissioned officers were to be sent to Meridian, Mississippi until formalities could be worked out to release them on parole at Memphis, Tennessee. The Fifteenth Tennessee Cavalry reported that it returned to Mississippi guarding 820 prisoners.

Thus the question is answered as to why Eads was paroled in Memphis and less than two months (November 13, 1864) after his capture. Eads reported immediately to Benton Barracks parole camp in St. Louis. He was formally exchanged on December 30, 1864 and returned to the regiment. Fortunately, the fighting days of the regiment were over (though days of high-tension duty remained) and Eads let his own days be numbered. He had not re-enlisted as an officer in late 1863 when most of the regiment re-enlisted, so his term of service was almost due for expiration. On January 14, 1865, Eads was mustered out of the service at Huntsville, Alabama. Eads letter requesting furlough while at parole camp.

Excursus: "Preferring to die in the fort to being transferred to the tender mercies of General Forrest"

0n the morning of the 24th, about 7 o’clock, the enemy opened fire on the fort, throwing solid shot and shell from a battery planted on the Buck Island road. Shortly after they opened on us another battery from the Brown’s Ferry road. From these two batteries the enemy threw fifty-five or sixty shots. Of this number of shots twenty-four struck in the fort or buildings in the fort, causing the death of 1 man only, a non-combatant, and wounding 1 soldier. At 9 a. m. the enemy sent in a flag of truce de- manding the surrender of the place; this was refused by Colonel Campbell. General Forrest then again demanded the surrender of the place, stating that he had ample force to take it and offering to show his force to Colonel Campbell. Colonel Campbell then called a council of officers commanding detachmnents, in which council, we are informed, but two officers voted in favor of a surrender, neither of whom had a command in the fort. Of the forty-five officers present in the fort at the time this council was held but eight were consulted, amid of these eight there were several who had no command present with them in the fort, whilst officers who had the largest numuber of men under their charge were excluded. Colonel Campbell, after reviewing the forces of the enemy returned to the fort, saying, “The jig is up; pull down the flag,” thus surrendering the best fortification on the line of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. We also feel it our duty to make mention of the bearing and disposition of the soldiers in the fort, both white and black. It was everything that any officer could wish of any set of men. So far from there being any disposition on the part of the men to surrender or to avoid a fight, it was just the reverse. Officers had to exert all their authority, even to threatening to shoot their own men, to restrain them from exposing themselves. The soldiers were anxious to try conclusions with General Forrest, believing that in such a work they could not be taken by ten times their number. When told that time fort had been surrendered, and that they were prisoners, they could scarcely believe themselves, but with tears demanded that the fight should go on, preferring to die in the fort they had made to being transferred to the tender mercies of General Forrest and his men. Another thing should be taken into consideration, which is that we were on the point of receiving re-enforcements. While the truce was in operation and during the time occupied by Colonel Campbell in viewing the enemy's force, firing was heard on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. This came from a force of our troops sent to our relief from Decatur, consisting of detachments from the Eighteenth Michigan and One hundred and second Ohio infantry, numbering 360 men, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Elliott, of the One hundred and second Ohio, who was severely wounded. These brave men had forced their way through three lines of the enemy, were within musket-range of the fort when our flag was lowered. The surrender of the fort allowed General Forrest to throw a portion of his force between the fort and them, thus compelling them to surrender after a hard fight of three hours’ duration, during which they lost one-third of their number in killed and wounded, and after they had arrived almost at the very gates of our fort.

In conclusion we do not hesitate to say over our signatures that the surrender was uncalled for by the circumstances, was against our wishes, and ought not to have been made. We also respectfully request that a thorough and immediate investigation of the above statements be made, that our names may not be placed in the list of cowards in the general summing up of our nation’s history.
Very respectfully, &c.,

The following biographical sketch was written while Eads still lived and is taken from the book referenced below:

President of the Union National Bank, of Macomb, McDonough County, Ill., and one of the ablest financiers in this section of the State, was born in Knoxville, Ill., April 23, 1842. He is a son of John and Margaret (Anderson) Eads, natives of Kentucky and North Carolina, respectively. When Albert Eads was three years old he was left without a mother and was reared in the family of his grandfather, in Morgan County, Ill., until he reached the age of twelve years. He attended school at Knoxville, Ill., where he remained with his father until 1861. He spent one year (1859-60) in school at East Hampton, Mass. On the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in Company C, Fifty-first Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, of which he was made Second Lieutenant, and promoted to First Lieutenant before reaching his twenty-first birthday, and thus served until January 14, 1865. In February, 1864, having suffered severe injuries from a fall, he had been detailed as military conductor between Nashville, Tenn., and Huntsville, Ala. While in the performance of his duty he was taken prisoner, in September, 1864, by Gen. J. B. Forrest, and in the following November was exchanged. During the battle of Stones River, on January 1, 1863, Lieutenant Eads, with his Second-Lieutenant and sixteen men from Company C, Fifty-first Illinois Volunteers, captured a Confederate officer and eighty-five men, and, on June 24, 1904, had the privilege of returning to his former prisoner the sword which he had captured forty-one and a half years previously. In the meantime these two representatives of "the Blue" and "the Gray" had been in occasional correspondence with each other, and, in November, 1906, Mr. Eads visited his former foe at the home of the latter in Mississippi.

Resigning his commission on January 14, 1865, Mr. Eads returned to Knoxville, Ill., and in the fall of that year went to New York, where he pursued a course of study in Eastman's Business College. During 1866-67 he was engaged in mercantile pursuits in Topeka, Kans., and in 1868 came to Macomb, Ill., where he conducted a dry-goods store two years. For the next few years he applied himself to farming in the vicinity of Macomb. In January, 1876, he entered the Union National Bank of Macomb as bookkeeper, was subsequently promoted to the position of Cashier and ultimately became President of the bank, an advancement which signally attests his sterling characteristics. He is also President of the National Bank of Colchester, and the Bank of Industry.

Mr. Eads was one of the leading spirits in the movements to secure the location of the Illinois State Normal School in Macomb, liberally contributing both of his time and money for this purpose. When this institution was overcrowded, in 1904, an appropriation for its enlargement was passed by the State Legislature. This was vetoed by the Governor, and Mr. Eads, together with other public-spirited citizens, came to the rescue of the project with personal contributions, he himself donating $1,000, which, with subscriptions from other sources, resulted in the addition of six spacious rooms to the school.

On January 28, 1868, Mr. Eads was united in marriage with Mary C. Tinsley, a daughter of Nathaniel P. Tinsley, whose biographical record may be found elsewhere in this volume. Two daughters have resulted from this union: Eleanor Eads, wife of James W. Bailey, who is in the banking business in Macomb; and Margaret Tinsley, who died at the age of four years and eight months. On political issues Mr. Eads was identified with the Democratic party until the campaign of 1896, since then having voted the Republican ticket, although he has never consented to become a candidate for public office. His religious connection is with the Presbyterian Church. Fraternally, he is a Royal Arch Mason, and served as Master of the Blue Lodge for eleven consecutive years--is a member of Macomb Lodge No. 17, A. F. & A. M., Morse Chapter No. 19, and Macomb Commandery No. 61. He is a thirty-second degree Mason of the Quincy (Ill.) Consistory, and belongs to the Veteran Masonic Association of Chicago, of which Venerable Veteran John C. Smith, one of the best-informed and most widely traveled Masons in the United States, is the founder and President. Mr. Eads has been for some time a Trustee of the Masonic Lodge of Macomb, in which he has been one of the leading spirits; is also affiliated with the Medinah Temple of the Mystic Shriners of Chicago, and is a member of the McDonough Post No. 103, G. A. R., and of the Illinois Commandery Loyal Legion.

Eads died in Macomb, Illinois on May 9, 1922, sixty years to the day after he was first under direct Confederate rifle fire at the small battle at Farmington, Mississippi.