While not a common name among Vandalia citizens, Henry J. Remington, ‘closely related to the Remingtons of firearm fame,’ chose Vandalia as the place to live out his last years.
Henry J. Remington was born on June 8, 1839, in Savoy, Berkshire County, Mass., the son of Aaron Remington, a veteran of the War of 1812. Both of Henrys grandfathers served in the Revolutionary War.
He was an interesting enough fellow that the editors of the ‘Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Fayette County,’ published in 1910, included him in their volume.
They wrote, He was of Welsh stock and fighting blood.
Henry was a young store clerk in North Adams, Mass., when President Abraham Lincoln issued the call to arms for the Civil War. In October 1861, he joined Co. H of the 27th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry.
He saw the inside of more Confederate prisons than most people Ive read about.
A member of General Burnsides command, the 27th went into action in Virginia and North Carolina. Participating in the taking of Roanoke Island, Henry was gravely wounded. He was left in the care of a Confederate captain, who nursed him back to health.
Rejoining his regiment, he took part in the assault on Richmond. On May 16, 1864, eight miles from Richmond, he, with others of his command, was captured along with six stands of Massachusetts colors.
He was first taken to Libby Prison, then to Pembertons Warehouse for a week, and then was loaded with other prisoners onto a boxcar and moved to Danville, Va. After spending 10 days there, he was moved to Charlotte, where the prisoners were kept one night.
On May 30, the detachment of prisoners, including Henry, was incarcerated in Andersonville Prison, then at its worst. While there, Henry served as one of the police who tried and hung the six men who had been imposing upon the soldiers, the encyclopedia said.
After Atlanta fell to Sherman, the prisoners were again removed, and on Sept. 27, 1864, Henry managed to escape with one other man. After 18 days and 19 nights, the other man was recaptured.
Remington, meanwhile, managed to reach General Shermans army. His term of enlistment had expired during the time he was in prison, and he was given a pass. Henry was on a train heading north when it was captured at Vinings Station, Ga. Henry, along with 12 others, escaped.
He worked his way back to Atlanta, meeting up with his old companion whom he had escaped with from Andersonville, and together they went to Washington.
Henry had had enough of fighting, and in February 1865 moved to Winnebago County, Ill., where he lived for three years. Leaving there, he headed northward, settling in Cross Plains, Wis., where he met young Eliza Simpson, who came with her parents to Cross Plains as part of an English Colony in 1845 when she was 4 years old.
They were married in Cross Plains and lived there for a couple of years before heading on to Iowa and finally to southern Nebraska, where Henry took up government land.
The nearest post office was 50 miles distant; the nearest railroad 125 miles away and the nearest mill 300 miles. After living there for 16 years, the railroad was built to his land and he sold out, moving to Alabama, where he and Eliza lived for 16 years.’
In 1902, the couple made the decision to move to Vandalia, arriving here on Nov. 22. The couple joined the Baptist church and Henry added his voice to the church choir.
He was also active in the local McIlwain post of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Union veterans organization, and was identified as ‘officer of the day’ when he posed with his veteran brothers for a 1904 photograph.