“This story was written by Jessie Milligan using basic family history facts provided by Betty Shinn.

The Soldier Samuel Lemuel Stillions

It’s hard to imagine William and Nancy Ann Stillions picking a better name for their second-born son, Samuel Lemuel Stillions.

The boy would be known as Lemuel, a name popularized by the main character in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726 and seldom, if ever out of print, since then. Lemuel Gulliver led a life of adventuresome journeys.

Lemuel Stillions would see his own share of adventure.

Lemuel Stillions grew up in Loudoun County, Virginia, in the days before the Civil War. He worked on his father’s farm and then as a laborer on the farm of James W. Brown. When he was offered a chance to herd a flock of sheep more than 300 miles to his uncle in Ohio, Lemuel Stillions took on the job. He likely headed out on foot, eventually reaching what is now known as the Historic National Road to make it to his uncle’s farm in Middlebourne, Ohio.

The reasons for his leaving Virginia in about 1860 are not entirely known. The delivery of sheep might not have been the only motivation.

It could be he had his sight’s set on his uncle’s daughter, Elizabeth.

It could also be that conditions along the banks of the Potomac River in Loudoun County were unstable enough to encourage him to leave. The Virginia county was just 50-some miles northwest of Washington, D.C., and in the nervous year before war broke out, Loudoun County was deeply divided over the issue of slavery and succession. Lemuel’s own church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, had in 1844 split into northern and southern churches over the issue of slavery.

Whatever his reasons, Lemuel Stillions’ intentions became clear when he arrived in Middlebourne. He married his cousin Elizabeth in February 1861.

Although a Virginian, it is clear his loyalties were not with the Southern cause. On July 18, 1862, he enlisted in the 97th regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in Company A, the first company organized in that regiment that recruited its soldiers from four Ohio counties.

When he left for the army, the newlywed Stillions family had a six-month-old daughter, Rebecca, and Elizabeth was about three months pregnant with their second child.

After mustering in early September, the regiment set out for Kentucky. On a march through Cincinnati, the regiment joined a parade and sang, We Are Coming Father Abraham, a song whose lyrics begin:

“We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more, From Mississippi’s winding stream and from New England’s shore. We leave our plows and workshops, our wives and children dear, With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear. We dare not look behind us but steadfastly before. We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more! “

The 97th began its pursuit of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg into Kentucky. Lemuel Stillions spent his 31st birthday in Perryville, Kentucky, where the 97thmet its first battle.

His regiment would go on to make a name for itself in the War Between the States.

Its first large battle was in Tennessee, where in the deep of winter 1862, the 97thadvanced on the Confederates near Murfreesboro. Hints of a major battle swirled around him in the days after Christmas, while farther north, at home in Ohio, his wife was giving birth to their second daughter, Tracy.

The 97th set up camp along Stones River near Murfreesboro. In the evening hours the Yankee band took up patriotic tunes. Each Yankee song would be answered with a Southern song from the Confederate band across the river. This sparring of bands went on sometime until finally the Yankees began playing a popular song of the day, Home Sweet Home. The Confederate band picked up on the same tune, and the two bands played the sentimental song together. The Battle of Stones River that began the next day was a Union victory.

The 97th went on to make a name for itself when it was the first regiment to enter the Rebel stronghold in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1863. Some say the 97tharrived three hours before the main army and was the first to raise a U.S. flag at the Confederate headquarters.

The unit fought largely in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The 97th again became known for its charge up a 600-foot bluff at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee and engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

The regiment participated in the Atlanta Campaign that took that city in late summer 1864, and then the men turned northward to pursue Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood into Tennessee. Finally, after the war ended in April 1865, Lemuel Stillions was mustered out and returned home to his young family in Middlebourne.

Two years after the war he applied for an invalid pension, so it is possible that he sustained an injury during the war, or perhaps suffered from an illness contracted during the war.

He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children. They farmed and were longstanding members of their Methodist Episcopal Church in Middlebourne.

Like Lemuel Gulliver, Lemuel Stillions lived a life full of travels and surely must have met with travails. Yet a photograph of him in his later years shows a kind and gentle face that suggests a life well-lived. 

Author: Jessie Milligan
Primary Sources: Dyer’s Compendium of regimental histories, US Census