This stone marks the grave of Sidney Babcock, a private in the 15th Illinois Infantry. Sidney was too sick to travel and was left at the train depot in Keokuk, Iowa, where he subsequently died in a hospital.

The sacrifices of many local soldiers fade from the memories of local communities. Every once in a while the dust gets blown off the pages of some old newspaper or diary and the sacrifices of these warriors of yesteryear are revealed. I found two such stories while scouring obscure issues of the Marengo Journal from the year 1861. The first of these two experiences, the drowning of Charles Morris of the 15th Illinois Infantry in the Pecatonica River in Freeport, Illinois, was related to readers in last month’s issue of the Marengo-Union Times.

This month I’m going to share the story of a Private Sidney S. Babcock of Company D, 15th Illinois Infantry Regiment. Sidney was born in 1841 in Livingston County, New York. In 1846, his father Enoch Babcock moved the family from New York to Illinois and settled on a farm in Riley Township. Although records don’t directly state that Sidney was the brother of J.B. Babcock; it can be inferred from a review of various sources that the two men were indeed siblings. J.B. Babcock is well known in Marengo history as the editor and publisher of the Marengo Republican newspaper.

According to Illinois Archives records, when the Civil War broke out Sidney was a farmer and his residence was listed as Genoa in DeKalb County. Sidney crossed the county line and enlisted in the company that was organized in April of 1861 in Marengo by Harley Wayne. Sidney trained with the regiment at Camp Scott in Freeport, and the regiment eventually moved on to Alton, Illinois, and subsequently crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. It was here where events took a turn for the worse for Sidney Babcock. On August 13 the regiment was ordered to march out of Jefferson Barracks located near St. Louis, Missouri, and the orders directed the regimental officers to only take soldiers who were ready for active field service. Captain Harley Wayne knew that Sidney had complained of illness earlier in the day, and he went to Sidney’s tent and found that his health had deteriorated even further. Sidney was taken to the camp hospital and the regiment moved on without him. When the regiment returned on August 19 Wayne discovered that Sidney and three other members of the regimenthad left for Marengo on furlough.

Sidney’s story is continued by Dr. McGugin of Keokuk, Iowa. On the morning of August 19, a citizen came to McGugin’s office and told him that a soldier, too sick to continue his journey, had been left behind at the train depot. McGugin immediately went to the depot where he found Sidney whose condition was dire. At the time a medical college was located in Keokuk, and McGugin immediately moved Sidney to the hospital at the college. McGugin also learned that in the middle of the night a northbound steamboat had landed in Keokuk carrying dead, wounded, and sick soldiers who were headed to their respective homes. At noon Sidney passed away; all McGugin knew about the deceased young man in his hospital was his name and that he resided near Marengo, Illinois. McGugin penned a letter to the postmaster at Marengo requesting that Sidney’s family be notified of the circumstances that befell their son. Sidney’s body was placed in a coffin and secured in a vault until further instructions were received.

The remaining details of the story are not known, but Sidney’s body was eventually returned to Marengo and interred in the Riley Township Cemetery. McGugin’s letter to the Marengo postmaster was published in the September 7, 1861, edition of the Marengo Journal. In closing the letter McGugin wrote; “Therefore, it may be said with regard to this young soldier, who went forth perhaps in health and in the morning of his life in behalf of his Government and country, and to battle for the re-establishment of our national existence, that he had given his all, his life, in the cause, and that ‘By strangers hands his dying eyes were closed, by strangers hands his decent limbs composed.’ Please communicate the above facts to his friends as speedily as in your power and oblige.” The letter was signed D.S. McGugin, M.D.

This Memorial Day reflect on the sacrifices not only of Sidney Babcock, but also of all the other soldiers, in all wars, conflicts, and hostile actions that had given their all; their lives.

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