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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography - Major George W. Kennard

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations," 1878


Major GEORGE W. KENNARD - Was born in Sidney, Shelby county, Ohio, July 24th, 1835. The Major's father, Col. A. D. KENNARD, is one of the old pioneers of that State, having moved to it, with his father, from the State of Kentucky, as early as the year 1812, and settled in the above county. In 1830, Mr. Kennard married Miss Rebecca BLAKE, by whom he had seven children, four of whom are still living. Mrs. Kennard was a native of England. Her parents emigrated to this country when she was about eleven years of age, and settled in Miami county, Ohio, but subsequently settled in Shelby county. The mother departed this life in the year 1848. The father still survives. The son, Geo. W., worked on the farm and attended school until he had reached his eighteenth year, when he joined the great living stream of humanity moving West to seek their fortunes, and drew up at Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was for two years engaged in the mercantile business. From Fort Wayne he continued his course west until he reached Lafayette, and from thence came to Champaign in March, 1859, and opened up in the dry goods trade, in which he remained until the year that witnessed the great Rebellion. Scarcely had the report of the rebel gun that fired the first shot at our country's flag died away until a nation of freemen had started to their feet to resent the insult, and among that number was Major Kennard. On the day following the one that witnessed the firing upon Fort Sumter, the Major and two others imbued with the spirit of '76, organized a company in Champaign, which, with their services, they tendered to the Governor of the State, and were by him accepted. In May, 1861, the company was ordered to Joliet, where it remained until the 13th of June, when they were sworn into the service as Company A, 20th Regt. Illinois Infantry, Col. C. Marsh commanding. The regiment was ordered to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and shortly after brigated with Col. U. S. Grant, of the 21st Illinois Volunteers, as commander of brigade. The regiment won its first laurels in the fight at Frederickstown, Mo., where the rebel General Jeff. Thompson's army was defeated with a loss of four hundred men and three field pieces. The regiment went into winter quarters at Bird's Point, Mo., but during the winter took steamers for Paducah, where they entered the Tennessee River, and assisted in the capture of fort Henry, Tenn., and from thence to Fort Donaldson. The brigade to which the 20th was attached was in the division commanded by Gen. McClernand, and subsequently was attached to the 17th army corps, Army of the Tennessee, commanded by McPherson Logan, and Howard. After the battle of Shiloh, and while the regiment was moving towards Vicksburg, Col. Marsh resigned, and Lieut. Col. Irwin having been killed at the battle of Fort Donaldson, Major Richards, who was then promoted to Lieut. Colonel, took command, and was killed May 12th, 183, in the battle of Raymond, Miss. The 20th is one of the historic regiments of the war, having participated in all the principal battles fought by the Army of the Tennessee under Grant and Sherman, and held the post of honor on entering Vicksburg, July 4th, 1863. At the end of the three years, for which time it had enlisted, the regiment veteranized, and was sworn into the service for three years, or during the war. Major Kennard entered the service as 2nd lieutenant, and was regularly promoted through the different grades up to major of the regiment. At the battle of Fort Donaldson he was wounded, and sent to Paducah hospital, but inside of three weeks was again with his regiment, and in time to take part in the battle of Shiloh. The Regiment accompanied Gen. Sherman on his famous march to the sea. The siege of Vicksburg and running of the blockade will now engage our attention for a few moments. The river between Vicksburg and Port Hudson was effectually blockaded. Its banks bristled with cannon that seemed to frown defiance upon the foe. One hundred and fifty pieces of artillery massed in batteries at short intervals covered the river, ready to dispute its passage. One hundred and fifty begrimed, lynx-eyed gunners stood, match in hand, by their pieces. It had been determined to run this blockade at all hazards. When General Grant started in his campaign for the capture of Vicksburg, he planned to run the batteries of that doomed city with a fleet of wooden transports, laden with supplies for the army at New Carthage, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The night of the 22d of April, 1863, was fixed upon for this perilous feat. As owners of boats and men employed on the river as captains, pilots, engineers, &c., could not be had nor trusted with the enterprise, volunteers from the army were called for. Who among the brave men will volunteer for this service, this forlorn hope, in which ten chances to one their boats will prove their coffins, and the waters of the Mississippi their winding-sheet? Volunteers step to the front, and among the first is G. W. KENNARD. He, with seventy-five men, is placed in command of one of the boats, the "Horizon." At dark on the evening above mentioned, the blockade runners left Millikin's Bend for their rendezvous at Young's Point. There were six boats. The programme was arranged to start at half-past eleven o'clock at night. Orders were issued for the Tigress, flag-ship of the expedition, in command of Col. Lagow, of Gen. Grant's staff, to go in advance, the others to follow one another at intervals of fifteen minutes. These instructions were promptly obeyed. At the appointed time the Tigress left Young's Point, under full head of steam. The batteries opened a terrific fire on her as soon as she got in range, and kept it up. She received a number of shots in hull and stern; was literally shot away. She was run to the Louisiana shore, where she sank in sight of the rebel batteries at Warrenton. The rebel pickets occupied the point opposite Vicksburg, on the Louisiana shore, and as soon as they noticed the flag-ship, they set fire to a large frame building which they had previously filled with combustible material, for the purpose of illuminating the river. The effect was, a bright glare was thrown across the river by which the rebels must have been able even to read the names of our boats and sink them. The firing lasted about two hours and a half. They fired few shells, relying on their solid shot to strike our boats and sink them. They used no guns of smaller calibre than sixty-four pounders, a majority of which were rifled pieces. They would frequently shout when they imagined they had struck one of our boats. Well, the firing ordeal is passed, the gauntlet of shot and shell run, and four out of the six boats have accomplished the feat, and among that number the Horizon. General Grant used those blockade runners for transporting his army across the river, and on the morning of May 1st, moved north fighting his way to the rear of Vicksburg, which place he had fully invested by the 19th instant. On the 27th day of October, 1865, Major Kennard, who had been nearly four years in the service, was mustered out. On the 22d day of October, 1868, he was married to Miss Laura, daughter of Dr. GAUR, of Boon, Iowa. They have four children. Mr. Kennard cast his first vote for J. C. Fremont, in 1856, and has ever since voted that ticket. He was elected, in 1865, County Treasurer of Champaign county, and re-elected to the same office in 1867. At present the Major is engaged in milling and manufacture of flour. The foregoing is a brief biographical sketch of one of Champaign's leading business men, who is well-known throughout the county, having been called by his fellow-citizens to fill important offices of public trust. His record as a patriot and soldier is too well known to need any further notice at our hands. History will accord him his proper place among the heroes who went from Champaign county and served so well the country during the late war.

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