Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thomas Eugene Orton, Wisconsin.

The following information was taken from the Regimental History of the Third Wisconsin Infantry.

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Thomas Eugene Orton, the son of Thilo A. and Nancy Collins Orton, was born at the village of Eaton in Madison county, N. Y., on the 21st day of October, 1842. He enlisted as a private soldier in Company H, of the Third regiment of Wisconsin volunteer infantry, on the 22nd day of April, 1861, at Darlington, Wis., the family having removed to Wisconsin in the fall of 1850. At the time of his enlistment he was in his nineteenth year. He was a splendid specimen of young manhood, about 6 feet tall, round and compactly built, with a splendid constitution and weU matured, and was, though young, capable of great endurance.

He joined the army immediately after the first rebel attack upon the flag, and from motives of the purest patriotism. He was not impulsive, but was convinced that his country demanded the sacrifice of the life and blood of many of her sons; and he threw his young life, full of hope and promise, into the breach. His reading had been very extended, for his age, and he judged intelligently the causes which led to, and the magnitude of, the struggle impending; and like a hero, without faltering or hesitation, governed by a sense of duty, which he never questioned, went forth to meet his country's enemies, in the terrible ordeal of war. He was a typical soldier, strong, supple, and enduring as steel; intelligent kni fearless. He knew his duty and had the courage to do it.

He was very soon promoted to non-commissioned offices, the duties of which he discharged with great credit to himself. At the terribly disastrous battle of Cedar Mountain, Va., fought on the 9th of August, 1862, in which nearly one-third of the entire Federal forces engaged were killed, wounded or taken prisoners, and in which the losses of the Third were, 108, ^mong them Lient. Col. Crane, who was killed in battle, Orton was badly wounded, receiving five bullet wounds. He was left upon the field, and fell into the hands of the rebels, the federal forces having retreated. He was within the rebel lines two days. On Monday, the 11th of August, he was removed by a detachment of Union soldiers, under a flag of truce, to within the Federal lines, and thence to a hospital at Alexandria. His sufferings for these two days, wounded, helpless, unattended, in the hands of the enemy, can hardly be imagined. He never, however,referred to them except to acknowledge kindnesses extended to him by the enemy during the time.

His recovery was slow, and it was not until the 28th of July, 1863, that he rejoined the regiment. In the meantime, in acknowledgement of his meritorious services, he was, on the 1st day of November, 1862, commissioned second Ueutenant; and, on the 20th day of April, 1863, first lieutenant; and, on the 3rd day of February, 1864, captain. On his return to the regiment he was assigned to duty in Company K, which company he commanded from the time he was commissioned captain until his death. In January, 1864, he was tendered a commission as first lieutenant in the invalid corps, then organized at Washington; but, true to his soldierly instincts, he declined it, preferring active duty in the field.

On the 2oth of July, 1864, near Atlanta, Ga., while sitting in his quarters, in the m.orning, with his portfolio in his hands, having just sealed and addressed a letter to his parents, a shell from the enemy's gun exploded only a few feet from him, inflicting injuries from which he died at 4 o'clock P. M. of the same day.

Thus went out a young life, noble and beloved; a voluntary sacrifice for the perpetuity of constitutional government in the new world. His ^ase was not different from thousands of others, occurring all over the North; but is, rather, one of a class which presents boldly the idea of personal sacrifice of life itself, for the good of othei-s, which actuated the men comprising the Union army. The extent of the sacrifice can only be measured, by the possibilities of the life, had it not been thus yielded up; and who shall determine the extent of such possibilities?

The noble example given by the best young men of the land, who freely gave their lives that posterity might enjoy a united country and free institutions, will never die. As the ages pass and unnumbered generations continue to enjoy the blessings which they purchased with their blood, their example wiU grow brighter and be more affectionately cherished. Whatever civilization or religion may hereafter achieve for the exaltation of human character, posterity will accredit the sacrifices made on the battle-fields of 1861 to 1865 in the United States, with having made possible the uninterrupted progressive evolution of the race toward its final destiny.

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