Hiram Schoonover
Sergeant, Company F

Hiram Schoonover was born in Pennsylvania on December 24, 1834. His parents were Dennis and Anna (Wise) Schoonover. They had eight children. Hiram was the second oldest. In the 1840s, the family resettled to Illinois and pursued their livelihood as farmers. Anna died in 1857. In 1860, a year and some months before enlistment, Hiram was working as a farm laborer in Mason County on the farm of Alexander Lane. On the next farm lived John Rummerfield. And nearby, lived another Lane, Jacob Lane, no doubt the cousin or nephew of Hiram's boss, Alexander.

Career with the Fifty-First Illinois Infantry. The neighbors Hiram Schoonover, John Rummerfield, and Jacob Lane were all three recruited in the town of Bath, Mason County, by George Bellows who was building a company of recruits, which subsequently became Company F of the Fifty-First Illinois. The Fifty-First was already by then several months in the field but still without a Company F or a Company I. In July, 1862 both Schoonover, Rummerfield, and Lane were mustered into the regiment's new company. By rail, they traveled south. They caught up with the regiment at Iuka, Mississippi as the Fifty-First head east toward Alabama guarding the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.

In early November, 1862, while the Fifty-First helped garrison Nashville against an expected attack, Schoonover was taken captive in a skirmish while on picket duty. He was paroled the next day and returned to the regiment. Shortly thereafter, he was one of the two men from Company F assigned to duty with the "Pioneer Corps", the unit given quasi-engineering tasks—building bridges, erecting earthworks, making roads passable, digging holes—with the Army of the Cumberland. Schoonover therefore was not with the Fifty-First at the Battle of Stones River, but the Pioneer Corps was itself heavily engaged elsewhere on the battlefield.

Schoonover marched through Tennessee in mid-1863 with the regiment, Rosecrans pursuing Bragg. Mid-year, Schoonover received news that his father, back in Illinois, had accidentally shot and killed himself in a gun accident. Schoonover marched on into northwestern Georgia and there survived the two days of fighting at Chickamauga, unscathed, while his neighbor from Bath, John Rummerfield, suffered a fractured skull which left him suffering seizures and other serious mal-effects and led to an early disability discharge. Ill fate overtook Schoonover nine months later when he was severely wounded in the Kennesaw Mountain charge ordered by a blundering William Tecumseh Sherman on June 27, 1864. Even before the charge got well underway, Schoonover suffered wounds. A bullet went through his right hand, unhinging his thumb and index finger; the amputation of his thumb was finished the next day at the division field hospital. Another shot passed through his left arm near the elbow, knicking but not breaking the bone. A third bullet tore away part of his right cheek, "cutting through his right cheek disfiguring his face and drawing his mouth toward the right and drawing the muscles of his face out of shape."

Schoonover was moved back behind the lines. On June 30, he was admitted to a United States hospital in Chattanooga. He was admitted to Hospital No. 2 in Nashville on July 5. Years later, at a pension deposition, he said he could not remember the number of the hospital, but the "hospital was in tents". He moved to Hospital #8 in Nashville on July 18. By August 31, he was back in Illinois, admitted to the military hospital at Camp Butler in Springfield. Schoonover was finsihed; he never returned to the regiment—discharged for disability on October 17, 1864. The discharging surgeon listed his disability as "three-fourths".

After the War. With twisted face and a single thumb, back in Bath, Hiram married Mary Jane Sloss, a native of Pennsylvania, on February 28, 1865. In 1866, the couple moved to Johnson County in eastern Nebraska. Shortly they moved to Brownville, Nemaha County, Nebraska, so far east in Nebraska as to be on the Missouri River, not far south of the Iowa-Missouri border. From 1866 through 1907, the Schoonovers lived in Nebraska. The Schlosses, his wife's parents, also resettled to Nemaha County. Schoonover earned his living as a fruit-grower. He and Mary Jane had nine children. One son died at the age of four, but the others lived into adulthood—and scattered on the wind: Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, South Dakota, even Nebraska.

In 1881, Schoonover made his dream orchard; "Mr. and Mrs. Schoonover purchased two acres of land in Brownville precinct, erected their pleasant home and also planted their fine orchard, consisting of about three hundred apple and peach trees, besides much smaller fruit" (A Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska). A melancholy event interrupted the Schoonover's Brownville idyll. The Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska mentions merely that his mother-in-law, Mary Jane Ryter Sloss, was called to her final rest in 1886, when sixty-seven years of age—"called" in a manner of speaking. John Dundas, another chronicler of Nemaha County, told more of the story. He wrote, "August 8th Hiram Schoonover was arrested and brought before Esquire Degman, charged with the crime of shooting his mother-in-law, Mrs. Sloss. Mr. Schoonover had a small field of corn near his house in north Brownville, and late in the evening he heard some noise among the stalks, and thinking it some wild animal he discharged his shot-gun and then went to find what he had killed" (p. 151).

On those occasions when Schoonover had to go before the pension board, he counted on his old neighbors and regimental comrades—friends—to bear witness to his short run of ill luck at Kennesaw Mountain. Jacob Lane, his pre-war neighbor and wartime company-mate, already in September of 1865, back in Mason County, deposed "that Hiram Schoonover, with whom he was and still is acquainted was severely wounded by gunshot wounds from the enemy in said battle almost destroying his right hand, besides other severe fractures from the same cause." His old company comrade James Phelps recounted from his home in Neosho, Kansas, "Said Schoonover was wounded on the 27th day of June 1864 at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain Ga. by a musket ball through the left arm just below the elbow, also in the right hand and right cheek. I saw him at the time he received said wounds and was close to him at the time." George W. Smedley was also a member of Company F. He lived a few miles west of the Schoonovers, in the village of Brock. In 1901, when these men were all getting old, Smedley deposed that "Hiram Schoonover was a good and faithful soldier, never shirking duty of any kind and that he has lived in the same county with Hiram Schoonover for at least eighteen years." Even Schoonover's old Mason County neighbor John Rummerfield, at age sixty-five, missing part of his head since Chickamauga, spoke in behalf of Hiram, "I saw him when his thumb came off at the first joint."

In 1908, Hiram, wife Mary Jane, and their youngest son, David, left 42 years in Nebraska behind and moved briefly to Lansing, Michigan, and shortly thereafter back to Illinois, to Lewistown in Fulton County. There Schoonover spent the last twenty years of his life; he died on December 4, 1928, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lewistown, Lewistown Township, Fulton County, Illinois. The single stone marking his grave is shown on this page. He was less than a month short of being ninety-four years old.

A thousand thanks to Donald Parkinson for the gravestone pictures.

Hiram Schoonover, Compiled Service Record, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

A Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska; Embellished with Portraits of Many Well Known People of this Section of the Great West, Who Have Been and are Prominent in Its History and Development, Two Volumes. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1904. Vol. 1: 469-71.

J[ohn] H. Dundas, Nemaha County, Auburn, Nebraska: J.H. Dundas, 1902.

Illinois Veterans' Commission, Honor Roll, State of Illinois, Springfield, 1956.

http://www.ilsos.gov/GenealogyMWeb/MarriageSearchServlet - Marriage Record Hiram Schoonover, Mary Jane Sloss, Mason County