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From our archives: Farewell to ‘gallant’ hometown general

What we thought: 150 years ago

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society)
Brig. Gen. Edward Kirk (1828-1863) of Sterling served with the 34th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. He had the Dillon Home built in Sterling. He died of his war wounds on July 21, 1863. The editor of the Gazette, on July 25, 1863, praised Kirk's service to his country.

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorials appeared in the Telegraph on July 25, 1863.

Brigadier General Edward N. Kirk

The page is fast being filled. One by one, with fearful rapidity, are the heroes passing from earth.

Three weeks since we were called upon to record the death of Capt. E. Brooks Ward; last week Capt. Alpheus Clark’s remains were followed to the grave, and now we are pained to chronicle the death of Brig. Gen. Edward N. Kirk, which occurred at the Tremont House, Chicago, at 20 minutes past 9 o’clock, on Tuesday morning last.

For some months, Gen. Kirk had been at his home in this city (Sterling), all the time suffering from a severe wound he received during the battle of Stone River.

The ball never having been extracted from the wound, he determined to have an operation performed for that purpose if, in the opinion of competent physicians, it was deemed prudent.

With this end in view, he last week proceeded to Chicago and consulted with Dr. Brainard, who, on Friday, extracted the ball and pieces of cartridge and bone, after a painful operation lasting 45 minutes.

Having heard nothing to the contrary, we all hoped and believed the operation had proved successful and that the general was rapidly recovering from its effects, but on Tuesday morning, a dispatch was received announcing that he was dying.

Messrs. Sackett, Hawthorn, Coblentz, J.B. Patterson, and Jesse Penrose and lady, took the morning train for Chicago. When they arrived, the general was dead, and preparations were made for the conveyance of his remains to this city.

An elegant extra car was furnished gratuitously by Assistant Supt. Williams of the G. & C.U.R.R., and everything that was possible was cheerfully performed for the comfort of the general’s afflicted family, and those who had the remains in charge.

They arrived here on Wednesday p.m., and were met at the depot by a large number of sorrowing friends, who mournfully followed the remains to his late residence.

As the solemn cortege passed, led by the martial band with muffled drums, all business houses were closed, and the principal ones draped; flags were at half-mast and draped, and all evidences of respect were shown the remains of him who, in life, we all were proud to call our friend. ...

We are all well acquainted with Kirk’s gallant deeds on the hotly contested field of Stone River. His, the Fifth Brigade, occupied the extreme right of our line, and the 3rd was on the right of the brigade.

Here, on the second day of the battle, the rebels massed their forces and swept like an avalanche down upon our men, who, overpowered by numbers were forced back step by step, forming new lines and endeavoring to repel the enemy at each successive charge.

But it was in vain. Kirk soon found his brigade unsupported, and while gallantly endeavoring to hold the ground until reinforcements arrived, he received the terrible wound which has now ended his brilliant career as soldier and citizen. In this unequal contest, he lost 844 men.

This, in brief, is a summary of the public services of an honored citizen, a gallant officer, a fallen hero. He died for his country. His name is now added to that long list of noble men who have given their lives, their all, that the flag of the free may again float in triumph over a united, happy, and prosperous nation.

His memory will ever be enshrined in the hearts of the people, and when that bright galaxy of stars on the roll of fame is complete, then will shine in untarnished luster the name of Brigadier General Edward N. Kirk.

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