Lieutenant Simeon T. Josselyn of the 13th Illinois Was Awarded the Medal of Honor for His Actions at Missionary Ridge
At the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25th, 1863, the 13th Illinois Infantry was part of Brigadier General Charles R. Woods’ brigade in the 1st Division (commanded by Brigadier General Peter Osterhaus) of the 15th Army Corps. Three Union divisions assaulted Missionary Ridge, while three others, including Osterhaus’s attacked the Rebel left flank. Osterhaus advanced along a dirt road that ran parallel to the eastern side of Missionary Ridge, with the objective of getting behind the Confederate line and cutting off the retreat as other Federal units pushed the defenders off the ridge.
The Union assaults were successful in driving the Confederates off Missionary Ridge and eliminating the Rebel threat to Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the officers in the 13th Illinois who distinguished himself in the attack was Lieutenant Simeon T. Josselyn of Company C. The 21 year old Josselyn, a native of Buffalo, New York who had relocated to the northern Illinois town of Amboy, captured the flag and entire color guard of the 18th Alabama Infantry.
Josselyn described the incident:
We had formed line of battle at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and after waiting a few minutes we received the order to advance at double quick. We crossed an open field and a creek before we came in full view of the rebel lines, near the top of the ridge. With never a chance to regain our breath, we were pushed on under a heavy fire. The order came to my company and another, to advance as skirmishers.
We had approached within a short distance of the enemy’s line when they broke. I caught sight of the rebel colors with the guard, who kept well together, and I determined to have them at any cost. My company was back of me and I knew that, although they were somewhat scattered, the men would follow me. I pushed on and captured a rebel, from whom I took a Springfield musket and cartridges, before ordering him to the rear as a prisoner.
With the captured musket, I opened fire on the color guard, and brought down the color bearer. When the flag came down, the men disappeared in the tall grass and weeds. I reloaded quickly, and rushed to the spot, where I found nine men. I was about to fire upon them again, when they waved their hats and shouted: ‘We surrender’.
I seized the flag, which was that of the Eighteenth Alabama Infantry…Some of my men coming up at this moment, I placed them as a guard over the prisoners. I then pushed forward in the direction of General Bragg’s headquarters neat the summit of the ridge, carrying the flag with me. The remnant of the rebel army was in full retreat, and our day’s work was done.
The nine prisoners Josselyn captured were some of the 258 captured by the 13th Illinois. After the war the regimental historian of the 13th wrote that “We considered Lieutenant Josselyn among the bravest of our brave men”. Josselyn was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Missionary Ridge.
Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor by Walter F. Beyer and Oscar F. Keydel.
Military History and Reminiscences of the Thirteenth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War in the United States 1861-1865 by a committee of the regiment.
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XXXI, Part 2.
The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga by Peter Cozzens
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