Wednesday, October 23, 2019

General Samuel A. Whiteside, an Illinois pioneer.

Samuel A. Whiteside fought the British in the War of 1812 and Indians through the Blackhawk War (including in the Illinois Territory before statehood and later in the Wisconsin Territory).

Whiteside was born April 12, 1783, in Rutherford County, North Carolina, the son of John and Judith (Tolley) Whiteside. Sam's father and his uncle William, head of the Whiteside clan, served heroically in the Revolutionary War and won acclaim in the Battle of King's Mountain. The Whiteside family had strong ties to kin and friends, a spirited Irish character, enormous love of the new nation they fought to free, and also had a double portion of bravery and self-sufficiency.

In 1790 the Whitesides and a following of industrious families set out into the new frontier. They settled briefly in the Kentucky wilderness, then arrived at Hull's Landing, south of Columbia, Illinois, on January 1, 1793. They built Whiteside Station on the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail and often engaged the Indians in battle. The Kaskaskia–Cahokia Trail was the first road (by foot, horseback, and stagecoaches) in Illinois.
1778 map by Thomas Hutchins of the French settlements in the Illinois Country showing the "Road from Kaskaskias to Cahokia" highlighted in yellow.
When Samuel was a boy, he was playing outside with a brother and cousin under the supervision of his mother. Indians fell upon them, killed his brother and tomahawked his cousin. He and his mother escaped by jumping through some undergrowth and running into the forest. The memory of this event stayed with Sam his entire life.

In 1802 Samuel and his brother Joel purchased land from the government and built a cabin (survey 603 Claim 1601 Collinsville Twp). They were Maryville's first settlers. Samuel married Nancy Miller May 28, 1804, in Madison County and wasted no time in starting a family: Michael M., born 1805; Judith, born 1807; Nancy, born 1808; Sarah, born 1810; Joel, born 1811; William, born 1812; Thomas, born 1815; Samuel Ray, born 1820; John Perry, born 1822; Eliza Ann, born 1825; Mary Ann, born 1830.

Samuel loved life in the wilds of the prairie. He wore buckskins and moccasins and was well known for his skill in tracking and hunting. He was often gone for many weeks and lived by his talents and the bounty of the land. It made no difference to him whether he was hunting a rabbit or a bear and when he once dispatched three panthers in a single outing, he thought nothing of his accomplishment.

Samuel served as a ranger in the War of 1812. When warring factions of Indians allied to the British attacked white settlements, Captain Sam Whiteside and his troops were often first on the scene, the first to take up the chase and the last to end the pursuit. In 1814 Samuel was put in charge of a group of fighting men based at Chilton's Fort, {{located about two miles west of the present town of St. Jacobs, Illinois. The Fort was built during the early days of the War of 1812 when British-allied Indians had begun a series of widespread brutal attacks in the region. The fort, never attacked, provided a haven for the area's pioneering families who had emigrated from Kentucky and Tennessee.}}

When a mother and her six children were killed by Indians at Wood River, Illinois, (Wood River MassacreCaptain Whiteside took up the chase immediately. Most of the natives who took part in that terrible act never lived to tell the tale.

On August 12, 1814, an expedition under the command of Major Zachary Taylor (later United States President), left St. Louis with several boats, one under the command of Captain Sam Whiteside. The British Army had built strong fortifications on the Mississippi and under fire from British artillery, Major Taylor sounded a retreat. The wind pushed their boats toward an embankment. One boat was blown to shore and almost encircled by a band of Indians allied to the British. Captain Whiteside came to the rescue. Through exhausting man-to-man combat and brave deeds in both boats, Whiteside managed to lash the embattled boat to his own and pull it from the river's edge. When recounted, this deed "contributed very greatly to Samuel Whiteside's credit for courage and good judgment in an emergency."

Samuel Whiteside rose steadily in rank during his tenure in the Illinois Militia: ensign (January 2, 1810), captain (August 22, 1812), major (February 26, 1817), colonel (May 22, 1817), and brigadier general (1819). 

In 1818 Sam became the first representative of Madison County in the state legislature. He helped choose Vandalia as the new state capital after Kaskaskia. Whiteside descendants said, "in matters of religion he sided with the Baptists, and in political affairs, he cooperated with the Democrats. He was an honest man and the only thing that he seemed to be afraid of was being in debt. He believed with all his power that what he believed was right and it was rather a hard task to convince him that the opposite side might seem to be right." In 1819, he was a member of the commission to select a new site for the Illinois State Capitol. He then served in the Illinois General Assembly from 1819 to 1821. He never sought reelection but continued to lead the Illinois Militia troops.

For a brief period of time, he resided in Galena and took part in the Winnebago War in 1827, then the Black Hawk War in 1831-32, where he served as brigadier general of the First Brigade, Illinois Militia.

During the Black Hawk War, the 'Indian fighter' commanded the Illinois militia. It was Samuel Whiteside who commissioned Abraham Lincoln into the militia, with Lincoln leading a company under Whiteside's command. When the regular U.S. Army troops arrived, General Whiteside chose to reenlist as a private in Capt. Synder's Co.

One of Sam's more colorful engagements was recounted by Senator John T. Kingston in his book Early Western Days:
"Whiteside was serving as a private in Capt. Adam Snyder's temporary company in June 1831 when a superior force of Indians attacked them in the Rock River country of northern Illinois. In a state of confusion, the Illinois Volunteers ignored the pleas of their officers and went into retreat at full gallop, heading for the nearest settlement.

"The Indians were in hot pursuit, crossing an open prairie when one of the volunteers suddenly reined in his horse and dismounted. It was the grizzled, white-haired Private Samuel Whiteside, late of the general staff and a man well into middle age. The Indians, taken aback by Whiteside's action, slowed the chase to take stock of the situation.

"They continued to ride forward. A chief wearing a feathered headdress was in the lead. He began to swerve his horse, left to right, right to left, and leaned low against the animal's withers. Private Whiteside, the leader in many successful fights again Indians, raised his one-shot rifle, took deliberate aim and killed the chief. As the leader tumbled from his horse, the Indians stopped, began milling around and uttering loud cries. The fleeing volunteers heard the commotion, took in the situation and ended the retreat. Shamed by Whiteside's stand, they raced their horses back toward the Indians and engaged them. The Indians seemed to have lost heart. They picked up the body of their chief and fled the assault. Several of the men later asked Whiteside why he had stopped to face almost certain death. "I have never yet run from an Indian," Samuel Whiteside said. "I never will."
Samuel's wife Nancy passed away July 1, 1851, and was buried in the Old Canteen Creekgrave Cemetery (now lost) near their home in Madison County. Samuel sold his Madison County farm about 1854 and moved to the northeast part of Christian County Illinois where several of his grown children were living. 
General Samuel A. Whiteside (1863)
Sam passed away on January 13, 1866, at age 83, while living with his daughter Eliza (Mrs. John Henderson). He is buried in the Hunter Cemetery in Mosquito Township, Christian County, Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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