I think most families have many ancestors and relatives who served in the military. I’ve yet to encounter a branch that didn’t have at least one member enlist or become drafted.

And the 19th century was rife with opportunities! Here’s a little piece of ours from the 1860s.

George E "Doc" Dillingham, undated portrait
George E “Doc” Dillingham, undated portrait.

George E. Dillingham was the son of Mourning Newman Smith and William Dillingham, born in Illinois 1825. Family lore says that his mother was at least part “Indian” and that the family (or at least George) didn’t have any prejudicial feelings towards Native Americans (more on this later, it concerns George’s daughter, Lillie). I have not been able to confirm Mourning’s mother’s line or any Native American lineage; my own DNA results show 0% Native American. I’m not sure of the full implications of this yet.

George married Susan F. Pace in 1850; they had six children before the war. Their daughter, Lillie (born March 25, 1861) is my great-great grandmother. Lillie also had a twin, Elvy, but I know nothing about her or Lillie’s other siblings at this time. She is the only twin in our family that I know of.

George enlisted into the 49th Illinois Infantry on October 19, 1861. He was a Hospital Steward, non-commissioned staff, and mustered out January 2, 1865.

That is the extent of my knowledge of his military service.

A regimental history is provided here:

Forty-ninth Illinois Infantry. — Cols., William R. Morrison, Phineas Pease; Lieut. -Cols., Thomas G. Allen, Phineas Pease, William W. Bishop. William P. Moore; Majs., John B. Hay, William W. Bishop, Thomas W. Morgan, William P. Moore, Jacob E. Gauen.

This regiment was organized at Camp Butler, Dec. 31, 1861, by Col. William R. Morrison. On Feb. 3, 1862, it was ordered to Cairo, and on the 8th moved to Fort Henry, where it was assigned to the 3d brigade, McClernand’s division.

It engaged the enemy at Fort Donelson, losing 14 killed and 37 wounded, among the latter being Col. Morrison, who was commanding the brigade.

The regiment was engaged in the battle of Shiloh, losing 17 killed and 99 wounded, was also engaged in the siege of Corinth, and on June 4 moved to Bethel and was assigned to Brig.-Gen. John A. Logan’s 1st division, District of Jackson — Maj.-Gen. John A. McClernand commanding. In Nov., 1863, it participated in the capture of Little Rock, Ark., and on Jan. 15, 1864, three-fourths of the regiment reenlisted and were mustered as veteran volunteers.

Assigned to the Red River expedition, it participated in the capture of Fort De Russy, La., and was engaged in the battle of Pleasant Hill. In June it was ordered to Illinois for veteran furlough, and the detachment of non-veterans which remained participated in the battle of Tupelo, Miss.

Returning to the field, the regiment moved to Franklin, Mo., and drove the enemy from that place. It took part in the battle of Nashville, after which its time was spent in garrison duty.

It was mustered out, Sept. 9, 1865, at Paducah, Ky., and arrived at Camp Butler, Ill., on Sept. 15, for final payment and discharge.

George was known as “Doc,” but at the time of this writing, I am unsure of what (if any) medical training he received. I do not know if he had the nickname before his service or if he earned it as a Hospital Steward or if he acquired it later.

Union Veteran Burial Record: bottom row, middle
Union Veteran Burial Record: bottom row, middle record.

Once George returned home from the war, he and Susan had three more children beginning in 1865.

Susan died in 1880 and George lived on until 1903.


Note: The Find a Grave reference for George E. Dillingham may contain a few errors or there was more than one George Dillingham who married a Susan and served in the 49th Illinois Infantry. The dates for George’s birth and death match my family records; he was married to a Susan: Susan Pace. I have found possible record of step children; however, I think these records are for the George and Susan Cheatham marriage. It is possible that at least some of the photo documentation on Find a Grave is not connected to my family. It is also possible that after his 1st wife died in 1880, he married a different Susan in 1893 (at age 67). My goal is to try to clarify this as soon as possible.

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