Hometown Hero – 2021 Thank you all for coming to the East Liberty Memorial Day Ceremony this morning. I would be remiss if I did not profoundly thank my wife, Stacey, for everything she is. She is presently in the hospital this morning with our third child who was born about 29 hours ago. She believes the Hometown Hero presentation is important and wanted me to be here to offer it. I also want to thank my father, Jeff Hall, for the research he undertook on this project. And I want to express the gratitude I am sure we all have to the Wood-Rosebrook Post of the American Legion for getting us back together on Memorial Day. This will be the seventh year recognizing our East Liberty’s Hometown Hero. Today we honor William Humphreys and his family. Born the son of Jacob and Parmelia Humphreys, William was born in 1842. He was the third of his family to join the Union Army in its attempt to hold the deeply divided, 66-year-old United States of America together. His father, Jacob, and his older brother Daniel, enlisted in the 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in September 1861. Jacob at age 56 was commissioned a first lieutenant, and Daniel as a private. Shortly after, Jacob died of illness in December 1861 at camp in Somerset, Kentucky, and is buried at the North Greenfield Cemetery just north of East Liberty. William’s brother Daniel survived the war, earning a promotion to sergeant. He died many years later in 1923. Daniel is buried behind me over my left shoulder. Another of William’s brothers, Francis M. Humphreys, was Linda Baldridge’s great grandfather, and she still lives here in East Liberty. Back to William though. He enlisted in the 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private on August 8, 1862. He contracted a brief illness and spent a period in a hospital, but recovered in time to rejoin the 45th OVI as it was defending Knoxville against the Confederates’ advance in the autumn of 1863. Then on October 20, 1863, the Battle of Philadelphia Tennessee took place. This hard-fought struggle turned into a rout against the North though. The 1st Kentucky Cavalry, the 11th Kentucky Cavalry, the 24th Indiana Light Artillery, and William’s 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry were all parts of a brigade commanded by Colonel Frank Wolford. Wolford’s brigade lost 479 men, of which seven were killed, 25 wounded, and 447 captured. The Union forces also suffered significant material losses, including artillery, ammunition, all of their wagons, and numerous other supplies. Four hundred seventy-nine men lost. Seven killed. Twenty-five wounded. And 447 captured by the southerners. What caused this catastrophe? In the book Wild Riders of the First Kentucky Cavalry, a regimental history published in 1894 and reprinted in 1997, author Eastman Tarrant states flatly that the defeat at Philadelphia, Tennessee “has always been attributed to treachery” with the Confederates violating a flag of truce to secure the surprise that led to their victory. The Rebels, however, claimed military necessity. In a letter to Jefferson Davis three days after the battle, General John C. Vaughn, the commander of the Confederate forces at Philadelphia, said that he decided to disregard the white flag because one of his brigades “would be all cut to pieces and captured” by Union forces. One of those many captured in Tennessee was William Humphreys. He was first sent to Richmond, where he survived a harsh winter wherein 63 of his fellow northerners died. After Richmond, William became part of the first shipment of prisoners to arrive at Fort Sumpter, in Andersonville, Georgia, in February 1864, and it is here we catch up with him. The Confederate prison known as Andersonville existed for only the last fourteen months of the Civil War. The prison was built on about 16 acres. For some perspective, this East Liberty Cemetery is about 8 acres or half that size. It was later enlarged to over 25 acres. The stockade walls were built from pine logs set in a trench five feet deep, and prisoners later complained that the logs were set so close together that nothing could be seen on the outside. Indeed, its horrific legacy has lived on in diaries of its prisoners and the transcripts of the trial of its commandant. The diaries describe appalling conditions in which vermin-infested men were crowded into an open paddock with a single befouled stream as their water source. Food was scarce, and medical supplies virtually nonexistent. The bodies of those who did not survive the night had to be cleared away each morning. Designed to house 10,000 Yankee prisoners, Andersonville held nearly 32,000 during August 1864. Nearly a third of the 45,000 prisoners who passed through the camp perished. Exposure, starvation, and disease were the leading causes, but excessively harsh disciplinary practices and even violence among the prisoners contributed to an unprecedented death rate. At the end of the war, outraged Northerners demanded retribution for the travesties at Andersonville, and they received it in the form of the trial and subsequent hanging of Captain Henry Wirz, the prison’s commandant. The trial was the subject of legal controversy for decades afterward, as many felt Wirz was convicted as a scapegoat in order to appease the Northerners’ moral outrage over the horrors of Andersonville. On April 29, 1864, from the prison’s confines, William wrote this letter to his mother asking her to send desperately needed provisions to him: Dear Mother, I am alive yet, and I think that I will be able to worry it through the storm yet, if nothing turns up. I don’t want you to fret about me, fore I will do the best I know how. I have wrote one letter home but have received no answer yet and I told you to send me a box of provisions. I want you to write as soon as you get this from your Son, William Humphreys to Parmelia Humphreys East Liberty Logan Co Ohio. Direct to Camp Sumpter Anderson, Georgea 45. Regt. Co. C. Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Send me a box of provisions such stuff as won’t spoil. Apple butter, a can of pickles, salt & pepper, and dried sausage, and anything that won’t spoil Send a case with a knife, plate, fork, and spoon, cheese, sugar, tea, and coffee, dried beef. Anything that you think won’t spoil. Couple bars of soap, towel, and shirt, paper and envelops. So goodbye from your Son. W. Humphreys He added a PS also asking for “some nice soup beans” Whether he received his longed-for package is not known. Two months later, William fell ill with pleuritis in the misery of Andersonville and died too soon at the age of 22 on June 19, 1864. William never made it back to our dear East Liberty. Our hometown hero remains in eternal rest in Section K of the Andersonville National Cemetery, surrounded by over 13,000 of his fellow prisoners who also never made it home. The account of Andersonville is but a few pages from one of the darkest chapters in our country’s history. This frightful era was a time where our country was genuinely aflame; sparked by notions of equality of men and governments but fueled by political animus and death. More American lives were lost in our Civil War than the number of American lives lost in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam combined. And yet, the memories of our Civil War, being both necessary and horrifying, pass further into history with each day that passes and every monument torn down. The modern perspective is that any glimpse into or reflection of this past is regarded as a celebration of the Confederacy and all it stood for. Instead, these markers can serve a higher purpose. I conclude today with two quotes from one of our national treasures, Mark Twain. The first is “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Twain captures the often uneasy role of history in his apt and pithy phrase; history illustrates how our day’s contemporary events rhyme with our past. Such rhymes can serve to give us hope or caution us. Its rhymes can forecast what is to come by, at times, holding up a terrifying mirror that reflects actions past. This last year should certainly have bestowed upon us all time to reflect on the condition of our United States. To be frank, the regretful story of William Humphreys should serve as a deterrent against inciting division for each and every American. Still, this nation’s path forward remains dependent on the acts of its citizens, for Twain also said, “Each of you, for himself or herself, by himself or herself, and on his or her own responsibility, must speak. It is a solemn and weighty responsibility and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or politician. Each must decide for himself or herself alone what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man, to decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor. It is traitorous both against yourself and your country. Let men label you as they may, if you alone of all the nation decide one way, and that way be the right way by your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country, hold up your head for you have nothing to be ashamed of.” So I use Twain’s words to question you all, which course is patriotic? What must we speak to our fellow citizens or the bullying press, government, or politician? Is this country, for all its flaws and shortcomings, considering all of its harsh history and idyllic intentions, still a place worth having and defending? Or will America as we have known it merely drift into history? My hope is that all of you take heart today as we have fleetingly peered back to that joyless saga that was and is our American Civil War. I warn you though, do not dwell on our past. Instead, I encourage you to hold up your head and dream boldly into the future because America’s tale is not complete. There is still glorious road for all of us yet to travel. A road that leads us ever forward because it was paved with the sacrifice of those like William Humphreys and the numerous veterans we all know that comprise East Liberty’s Hometown Heroes. Thank you all and God bless you and these United States of America. Hometown Hero – 2021 Thank you all for coming to the East Liberty Memorial Day Ceremony this morning. I would be remiss if I did not profoundly thank my wife, Stacey, for everything she is. She is presently in the hospital this morning with our third child who was born about 29 hours ago. She believes the Hometown Hero presentation is important and wanted me to be here to offer it. I also want to thank my father, Jeff Hall, for the research he undertook on this project. And I want to express the gratitude I am sure we all have to the Wood-Rosebrook Post of the American Legion for getting us back together on Memorial Day. This will be the seventh year recognizing our East Liberty’s Hometown Hero. Today we honor William Humphreys and his family. Born the son of Jacob and Parmelia Humphreys, William was born in 1842. He was the third of his family to join the Union Army in its attempt to hold the deeply divided, 66-year-old United States of America together. His father, Jacob, and his older brother Daniel, enlisted in the 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in September 1861. Jacob at age 56 was commissioned a first lieutenant, and Daniel as a private. Shortly after, Jacob died of illness in December 1861 at camp in Somerset, Kentucky, and is buried at the North Greenfield Cemetery just north of East Liberty. William’s brother Daniel survived the war, earning a promotion to sergeant. He died many years later in 1923. Daniel is buried behind me over my left shoulder. Another of William’s brothers, Francis M. Humphreys, was Linda Baldridge’s great grandfather, and she still lives here in East Liberty. Back to William though. He enlisted in the 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private on August 8, 1862. He contracted a brief illness and spent a period in a hospital, but recovered in time to rejoin the 45th OVI as it was defending Knoxville against the Confederates’ advance in the autumn of 1863. Then on October 20, 1863, the Battle of Philadelphia Tennessee took place. This hard-fought struggle turned into a rout against the North though. The 1st Kentucky Cavalry, the 11th Kentucky Cavalry, the 24th Indiana Light Artillery, and William’s 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry were all parts of a brigade commanded by Colonel Frank Wolford. Wolford’s brigade lost 479 men, of which seven were killed, 25 wounded, and 447 captured. The Union forces also suffered significant material losses, including artillery, ammunition, all of their wagons, and numerous other supplies. Four hundred seventy-nine men lost. Seven killed. Twenty-five wounded. And 447 captured by the southerners. What caused this catastrophe? In the book Wild Riders of the First Kentucky Cavalry, a regimental history published in 1894 and reprinted in 1997, author Eastman Tarrant states flatly that the defeat at Philadelphia, Tennessee “has always been attributed to treachery” with the Confederates violating a flag of truce to secure the surprise that led to their victory. The Rebels, however, claimed military necessity. In a letter to Jefferson Davis three days after the battle, General John C. Vaughn, the commander of the Confederate forces at Philadelphia, said that he decided to disregard the white flag because one of his brigades “would be all cut to pieces and captured” by Union forces. One of those many captured in Tennessee was William Humphreys. He was first sent to Richmond, where he survived a harsh winter wherein 63 of his fellow northerners died. After Richmond, William became part of the first shipment of prisoners to arrive at Fort Sumpter, in Andersonville, Georgia, in February 1864, and it is here we catch up with him. The Confederate prison known as Andersonville existed for only the last fourteen months of the Civil War. The prison was built on about 16 acres. For some perspective, this East Liberty Cemetery is about 8 acres or half that size. It was later enlarged to over 25 acres. The stockade walls were built from pine logs set in a trench five feet deep, and prisoners later complained that the logs were set so close together that nothing could be seen on the outside. Indeed, its horrific legacy has lived on in diaries of its prisoners and the transcripts of the trial of its commandant. The diaries describe appalling conditions in which vermin-infested men were crowded into an open paddock with a single befouled stream as their water source. Food was scarce, and medical supplies virtually nonexistent. The bodies of those who did not survive the night had to be cleared away each morning. Designed to house 10,000 Yankee prisoners, Andersonville held nearly 32,000 during August 1864. Nearly a third of the 45,000 prisoners who passed through the camp perished. Exposure, starvation, and disease were the leading causes, but excessively harsh disciplinary practices and even violence among the prisoners contributed to an unprecedented death rate. At the end of the war, outraged Northerners demanded retribution for the travesties at Andersonville, and they received it in the form of the trial and subsequent hanging of Captain Henry Wirz, the prison’s commandant. The trial was the subject of legal controversy for decades afterward, as many felt Wirz was convicted as a scapegoat in order to appease the Northerners’ moral outrage over the horrors of Andersonville. On April 29, 1864, from the prison’s confines, William wrote this letter to his mother asking her to send desperately needed provisions to him: Dear Mother, I am alive yet, and I think that I will be able to worry it through the storm yet, if nothing turns up. I don’t want you to fret about me, fore I will do the best I know how. I have wrote one letter home but have received no answer yet and I told you to send me a box of provisions. I want you to write as soon as you get this from your Son, William Humphreys to Parmelia Humphreys East Liberty Logan Co Ohio. Direct to Camp Sumpter Anderson, Georgea 45. Regt. Co. C. Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Send me a box of provisions such stuff as won’t spoil. Apple butter, a can of pickles, salt & pepper, and dried sausage, and anything that won’t spoil Send a case with a knife, plate, fork, and spoon, cheese, sugar, tea, and coffee, dried beef. Anything that you think won’t spoil. Couple bars of soap, towel, and shirt, paper and envelops. So goodbye from your Son. W. Humphreys He added a PS also asking for “some nice soup beans” Whether he received his longed-for package is not known. Two months later, William fell ill with pleuritis in the misery of Andersonville and died too soon at the age of 22 on June 19, 1864. William never made it back to our dear East Liberty. Our hometown hero remains in eternal rest in Section K of the Andersonville National Cemetery, surrounded by over 13,000 of his fellow prisoners who also never made it home. The account of Andersonville is but a few pages from one of the darkest chapters in our country’s history. This frightful era was a time where our country was genuinely aflame; sparked by notions of equality of men and governments but fueled by political animus and death. More American lives were lost in our Civil War than the number of American lives lost in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam combined. And yet, the memories of our Civil War, being both necessary and horrifying, pass further into history with each day that passes and every monument torn down. The modern perspective is that any glimpse into or reflection of this past is regarded as a celebration of the Confederacy and all it stood for. Instead, these markers can serve a higher purpose. I conclude today with two quotes from one of our national treasures, Mark Twain. The first is “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Twain captures the often uneasy role of history in his apt and pithy phrase; history illustrates how our day’s contemporary events rhyme with our past. Such rhymes can serve to give us hope or caution us. Its rhymes can forecast what is to come by, at times, holding up a terrifying mirror that reflects actions past. This last year should certainly have bestowed upon us all time to reflect on the condition of our United States. To be frank, the regretful story of William Humphreys should serve as a deterrent against inciting division for each and every American. Still, this nation’s path forward remains dependent on the acts of its citizens, for Twain also said, “Each of you, for himself or herself, by himself or herself, and on his or her own responsibility, must speak. It is a solemn and weighty responsibility and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or politician. Each must decide for himself or herself alone what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man, to decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor. It is traitorous both against yourself and your country. Let men label you as they may, if you alone of all the nation decide one way, and that way be the right way by your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country, hold up your head for you have nothing to be ashamed of.” So I use Twain’s words to question you all, which course is patriotic? What must we speak to our fellow citizens or the bullying press, government, or politician? Is this country, for all its flaws and shortcomings, considering all of its harsh history and idyllic intentions, still a place worth having and defending? Or will America as we have known it merely drift into history? My hope is that all of you take heart today as we have fleetingly peered back to that joyless saga that was and is our American Civil War. I warn you though, do not dwell on our past. Instead, I encourage you to hold up your head and dream boldly into the future because America’s tale is not complete. There is still glorious road for all of us yet to travel. A road that leads us ever forward because it was paved with the sacrifice of those like William Humphreys and the numerous veterans we all know that comprise East Liberty’s Hometown Heroes. Thank you all and God bless you and these United States of America.


                                                                    TYLER  HALL