Marshall County


Major Royal OLMSTED, who resides on section 2, Saratoga township, Marshall county, is a veteran of the late war with a most honorable record, and well  deserves special mention in a work of this kind. He was born in Watertown, Jefferson county, New York, September 7, 1838, and grew to manhood on a farm and received his education in the common and select schools of that locality. At the age of seventeen he commenced teaching in the public schools of New York, and taught for terms with great credit to himself and his employers. The greater part of his time, however, was passed upon the home farm, assisting his father in its cultivation. He remained at home as a dutiful son until he reached his majority.

Not being satisfied with life in the east, and believing his chances for future advancement would be better in the west, he determined on emigrating to Illinois. An uncle, Moses KNIGHT, was living near Whitefield, Bureau county, and to his house he came in the spring of 1860. Being without capital, he could not purchase land, but worked by the month for Mr. GREGORY for two seasons. The war for the union had now commenced and appeals were made for volunteers to put down the great rebellion. Accordingly, in August, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company D, Forty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into the service at Peoria, and with the regiment went to St Louis, and was stationed at Benton Barracks, and at that place and Jefferson City, Missouri, the winter of 1861-2 was spent. Soon after his enlistment he was appointed sergeant, and later orderly sergeant of the company.

In the spring of 1862, his regiment was ordered with others to Island No. 10, thence to New Madrid, then to Corinth, Mississippi, where it took part in the siege and battle following. From Corinth it was sent along the line of the Memphis & Charleston railroad, and later to Memphis, where it did garrison duty in the winter of 1862-3. On the 28th of January, 1863, Mr. OLMSTED was commissioned second lieutenant, and with that rank went with his company and regiment back to Corinth and Inka and took part in the second battle of Corinth. The regiment then joined Grant at Vicksburg, taking part in that celebrated siege, resulting in the capture of the city and the opening of the Mississippi river to our fleet of gunboats.

Soon after the surrender of Vicksburg the Forty-seventh Illinois Infantry was sent on the expedition up Big Black river, and in the spring of 1864 joined Banks’ expedition up Red river under General A. J. Smith. It joined Banks at Alexandria and was with him in all his battles and skirmishes up the river. Returning, it was sent to open up the Mississippi river, where the rebels had blocked it at Greenville while the gunboats were up the Red river. At that point the rebel batteries had succeeded in sinking a number of gunboats and must be silenced. In the fight following three men in Lieutenant OLMSTED’s company were killed.

Soon after the regiment was ordered to Memphis, and was in the fight at Tupelo against Forest. During the summer it was engaged principally in watching that general. In the fall of 1864 it followed General Price, who was making a raid through Missouri, and during that time it saw some pretty hard service, or until it reached Warrensburg in that state. It was then ordered to St Louis and later to Chicago, where it was thought that an attempt would be made to liberate the rebel prisoners then confined at Fort Douglas. From Chicago it was sent to Springfield, thence to St. Louis en route to Nashville, to Mr. Hood, who was operating in that vicinity. At Louisville, Kentucky, it was stopped and ordered to Bowling Green, where it spent the winter.

From Bowling Green, in the spring of 1865, the regiment was ordered to New Orleans, thence to Mobile, where it assisted in the capture of the city. From Mobile it was sent to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, where it spent the summer of 1865. Notwithstanding the war was over, the Forty-seventh was retained in the service and was not mustered out until January 20, 1866, at Springfield, Illinois.

In all the moves of the regiment our subject participated, doing his duty fearlessly and satisfactorily to his superior officers and men. He was promoted captain of Company A, October 11, 1864, on the re-enlistment and re-organization of the regiment. As such he served until May 19, 1865, when he was commissioned major and served as such until finally mustered out. During this time, on account of the colonel and lieutenant colonel being on detached duty, he frequently had command of the regiment. It was for a time in the pioneer corps, and after the close of hostilities, Major OLMSTED was detailed to look after the government cotton in Montgomery, Alabama.

On being mustered out of the service, the major returned to Marshall county, and February 22, 1866, he was united in marriage with Miss Amanda TOWNSEND, a daughter of Captain John C. TOWNSEND, formerly captain of Company D, Forty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in which the major first served as a private. Immediately after his marriage, he rented a farm and commenced what has since been his life work. After renting some three or four years, he bought his present farm on section 2, Saratoga township, where he has since continued to reside. This farm adjoins the old Captain TOWNSEND farm, and is one of the best in this section. Four children have been born to Major and Mrs. OLMSTED – Bessie, wife of James CROFT, of Rock Falls, Oklahoma; Emily, wife of George PACE, of Bureau county; Edwin, now assisting his father in the cultivation of the home farm, and John, who died at the age of four years.

In politics, Major OLMSTED is a thorough and uncompromising republican, and has ever taken an active interest in political affairs. He believes it not only a privilege but the duty of every legal voter to exercise his rights as such, attending the primaries, looking after the nomination of good men, and working for their election. For four years he served his township as supervisor, discharging the duties of the office in a satisfactory manner. In 1872 he was defeated for the office of county treasurer.

Major OLMSTED is a practical farmer and carries on diversified farming, never having been carried away by any fad for this, that or the other specialty that so often leads captive the average farmer, frequently to his ruin. He is not a member of any church, but believes in every man leading such a life as will merit the good will and confidence of his fellow men.

Extracted April 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.

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