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Private John Williams

Private John Williams
Company A, Infantry Battalion

The story of Private John Williams at first glance is almost mundane. He was a soldier who enlisted in Legion Infantry Company A at it's formation on June 26th 1861, and served faithfully through the war. His record is one of those that is almost boring in it's perfection. He is never wounded, never absent with the illneses that plagued so many and shown as "present" on every roll until the final one on record dated January 30th 1865. His name, John Williams, is even exceedingly unremarkable.

BUT, John Williams' real story is a strange one. He was born John Wilhelm January 28th 1844 in Bavaria to Jospeh and Margaret Funk Wilhelm. His parents emmigrated to the United States before John was a year old and settled in New York. At the time of the 1860 census, young John Wilhelm (now calling himself John Williams) was living with his uncle Sebastian Funk in Greene County, Ga. Swept up in the passions of secession, John joined the Greene Rifles and marched off with them in June 1861 to become part of the short-lived 4th Georgia State Brigade at Camp McDonald in Cobb County. When the 4th State brigade was disbanded at the end of July, it's rifle battalion (including the Greene Rifles) became Company A of the newly formed Phillips Legion.

After surviving the horrors and hardships of four years of war, Private Williams soon returned to New York City and resumed his life there as John Wilhelm. He married Mary Swick on October 13th 1867 at St John the Baptist Church in Manhatten and raised a large family of thirteen children (with nine surviving childhood). John died November 23rd 1921 at St Mary's Hospital in Hoboken, New Jersey and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.

Truly an amazing story of a Bavarian Yank, who became a faithful southern soldier and, having done his duty, reverted to his northern heritage.

Photo courtesy of Mr Ed Wilhelm of Lansing, Kansas

Written by:Kurt Graham