Oakwood Cemetery

Wilmington, Illinois..........

Resident Stories

Selected residents buried in Oakwood Cemetery will have their stories told in this section. If you have a story, please forward an electronic version of the copy along with a headstone picture. A photo of the resident would be a perfect thing to include.

George W. Yates

George W. Yates

James Yates b.1796 was part of the general migration of the Yates family from Kentucky to Crawford County in the early 19th century. We have records that indicate that James married Mary Ann Butler b.1792. Mary was a widow who had previously married William Irvin when they resided in Barren County, Kentucky. James and Mary were married January 7, 1819 in Crawford County, Indiana. Our best judgment at this writing is that James and Marry produced six children: John b.1825, Silas b.1827, Elias b.1829, Catherine b.1834, Benjamin b1837 and George b.1840.

Three brothers will migrate to Illinois perhaps drawn by the work in coal fields, land speculation or other interests. In 1860 we find Silas and his wife Jane, Elias and his wife Rachel and we find George who will marry Eliza Jane Rockwell living in Will County, Illinois. This migration is how we find three good Crawford County men residing in and serving in Illinois military units. George elected to serve in the 39th Illinois Infantry and Elias served in the 100th Illinois Infantry.

The 39th Illinois Infantry was organized at Chicago, IL and mustered in October 11, 1861 then moved from to Hancock, Md., December 11, 1861 for guard duty on Baltimore and Ohio R. R. till January, 1862. Moved to Cumberland, Md., January 5 then advanced on Winchester, Va., March 7-15. Reconnaissance and operations throughout the Shenandoah Valley; marched to Fredericksburg, Va. then on to Fortress Monroe, Va., August 16-22, and duty there till September 1, 1862. Moved to Suffolk, Va. and there until January, 1863.

39 Illinois Volunteers Infantry

The 39th moved to New Berne, N. C. January 23, 1863 then to Port Royal, S. C., Camp at St. Helena Island, S. C., and then an expedition against Charleston, S.C. April 7-13 with occupation of Folly Island, S. C. April 13 to July 10, 1863. It was during this time that George took a leave and was home and married Eliz Jane Rockwell on June 16, 1863. Conducted attacks on Morris Island, S. C. July 10 with assaults on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, S. C., July 11 and 18. Then siege work of Forts Wagner and Gregg, Morris Island, S. C., and operations against Fort Sumpter and Charleston July 18-September 7, 1863.

Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg, September 7 and siege operations against Charleston, S. C., until October 1863. Duty at Folly Island, S. C., and at Hilton Head, S. C. until April, 1864. On January 1st George Yates reenlisted for 3 years and also was promoted to Corporal. The 39th veterans went on furlough home January 1 to February 3, 1864. They then moved from Chicago to Washington, D. C., then to Yorktown, Va. Work against Petersburg and Richmond May 5-June 15; occupation of Bermuda Hundred and City Point May 5, 1864; Chester Station June 6-7; Weir Bottom Church May 9; Swift Creek May 9-10 and Proctor's and Palmer's Creeks and Drury's Bluff May 12-16, 1864.

Siege operations were conducted against Petersburg and Richmond June 16, 1864 through April 2, 1865. Operations conducted on the Bermuda Hundred front till August 14, 1864. On August 16, 1864 George W. Yates was given a field promotion from Corporal to Sergeant for gallant conduct. The 39th are in the trenches in Petersburg, VA August 25-September 27; Chaffin's Farm, New Market Heights, September 28-30. Then Darbytown Road October 13, 1864. On October 13, Union forces advanced to find and feel the new Confederate defensive line in front of Richmond.

While mostly a battle of skirmishers, a Federal brigade assaulted fortifications north of Darbytown Road and was repulsed with heavy casualties. The Federals retired to their entrenched lines along New Market Road. It was during this assault that George W. Yates was seriously wounded by gunshot and was taken prisoner. His wounds were so severe that he was rapidly paroled and returned to the Federal forces for treatment. We know from his records that he was transported to the City Point, VA area and medically evacuated by the USS Steamer New York. He was processed through Parole Island near Annapolis, Maryland and admitted to USA Hospital Division #2. At the age of 24 on October 26, 1864, George died from his wounds. He was buried but subsequently reburied at Oakwood Cemetery in Wilmington, IL.

Speaking at a 39th Illinois reunion held in February 4, 1885, Sergeant D.H. Slage made the following remarks regarding the events at Darbytown Road October 13, 1864:

"At 2:00 P.M. we are in front of the enemy's works at Darbytown Crossroads. Our regiment and brigade are deployed in close column by division; the order comes down the line to charge! You all recall that terrible YELL, as we made the assault through the brush, the air seeming filled with whizzing bullets, the scream of solid shot and shell, the rattle and sweep of grape and canister through our ranks. Comrades fell on our right and on our left; we find the "Johnnies" too many. Their forces behind protected works outnumber ours two to one. The old brigade find they cannot take the works this time, and are compelled to fall back and re-form their line. That day I and many others were wounded and made prisoners.

Color-Sergeant George W. Yates who sleeps in the cemetery nearby in Will County, that day received his fatal wounds and was made prisoner. I was transferred in the same ambulance with him to Richmond; blood from his wounds trickling along the pike the entire distance from Darbytown battlefield to the city, he having received four severe wounds that proved fatal a few days after our parole and arrival at Annapolis, Maryland.

You will recollect that just before the order came to make the assault our mail arrived and was distributed. His company was on the skirmish line; their letters had been handed to Sergeant Yates, of the color-guard, who placed them in his left breast coat-pocket. In the assault he received a bullet which pierced those letters and also his watch, and penetrated his side, the letters turning the bullet away from the heart. The next day I noticed those letters saturated with blood, and I have often wondered if they ever reached the parties to whom they were addressed, or whether the writers ever knew that their letters had helped to turn a rebel bullet from the heart and for a brief period spared the life of one of our brave men."

George's widow Eliza Jane Rockwell would remarry after the war and have three children before she too dies young in 1870. She is also buried at Oakwood Cemetery in plot 106 George's brother Elias received serious wounds in the Battle of Chickamauga September 19, 1864 and will be medical evacuated to Keokuk, Iowa. He is buried at Forest Cemetery, Oskaloosa, Mahaska Co., Iowa


Oakwood Cemetery Association of Wilmington, Illinois P.O.Box 775 Wilmington, Illinois 60481, All Rights Reserved
Incorporated May 29th 1905 under Illinois legislative Act of May 14, 1903