By "One Who was There
[Written expressly for the Northern Indianian] by Reub Williams
William R. Sapp, 20th Ind
As proposed in our preceding number, we shall devote some space to giving publicity to deeds of daring and adventure has performed by our Kosciusko boys. In doing which we know of nothing more deserving of mention then the military life and services of Sergeant William R. Sapp. To all of our towns people he was well known as a bright and promising youth. Possessing all the dash and courage so essential to the success of the soldier, it is to be regretted that his death came so soon, and our country deprived of the services of so gallant a soldier.
It was early in the summer of 1861 when our hero, fired by the reports sounded from the battlefield, and feeling it his imperative duty to step forward and join the ranks of our country's defenders, that he enlisted as a private of Company C, 20th Indiana.
To speak of his choice of a regiment in which to win for himself bright laurels would be useless. The history of the 20th Indiana Volunteers is known to every intelligent citizen of our country. Its conduct on a hundred bloody fields attests its gallantry and the material of which it was composed, and the fact that it was one of the five regiments selected from the Army of the Potomac for the purpose of quelling the New York riots speaks favorably for its discipline and the high regard entertained for it by the army commanders.
Shortly after his enlistment the regiment was ordered to the east to take part in the great struggles soon to take place on the sacred soil of the Old Dominion. From this time forward he was engaged with his regiment in all the great battles of the east, till his death in 1864. Among the actions in which the Twentieth were engaged, are the second battle of a Bull Run, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Chancellorville, Chickahominy Swamp, Seven Pines, and Malvern Hills. During the two fearful assaults upon Fredericksburg, and that glorious but terrible battle of Gettysburg, their conduct reflected credit on not only themselves, but the whole Hoosier State.
At Hatteras Inlet the Regiment acquired a double fame. Warring not only with traitors on the one hand, they had to encounter the danger of the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Having been landed on a barren Sandy isle at low tide, they came near being swept off entire by the tide as it came in. Losing all their baggage and effects, they considered themselves fortunate in escaping with their lives.
During all these trials, Will remained at the post of danger , and from all we can learn regarding his course in the army, we can only arrive at the conclusion that he was a model soldier. Of this we are assured from the fact that after a long period of faithful service, he was rewarded by an appointment as a Corporal in his company, and afterwards when the Twentieth was reduced to a skeleton regiment by battle and disease, he was further advance to the grade of Sergeant-certainly a mark of distinction in so gallant a regiment. He continued to hold this position until his death.
They had reserved for him to remain an honored member of his command until the close of the rebellion was at hand, and just when the dark and lowering cloud which had darkened our land for so long, was beginning to rend assunder, and the "silverlining" was becoming visible, and Will was congratulating himself upon a safe return to the "loved ones at home" his end was drawing near. A hard and cruel fate it seemed indeed which would crush to atoms this happy dream of love, and leave his airy fabric a baseless vision.
It was during the ever memorable campaign of 1864, our hero fell; at a time when the grandest campaign ever known in modern times was being inaugurated. Lt. Gen. Grant's perseverance and genius, backed by a million of muskets, was beginning to tell up on the enemy. The army of the Potomac was again moving upon Richmond. The Wilderness was reached by conquering obstacles which had before been deemed impregnable.
On the morning of the fifth of May, 1864, the columns of the opposing armies were all moved into position for the dreaded slaughter; to re-enact the scenes of horror occasioned by the first battle. Here, as on former fields, the advantage rested with the enemy; he had been allowed all the time and labor necessary to render the naturally strong position nearly impregnable. Every foot of the ground in front of our army now bristled with gleaming bayonets. The very nature of the ground precluded the use of artillery to any important extent; consequently the fortunes of the day rested in a great measure upon the bayonet. Nothing daunted Gen. Grant, [who] at once adopted the offensive. The various corps and regiments silently took their places in the prescribed order for the assault. All knew that bloody work was before them, and that many of their number must find their graves on that dreary field.
It was early in the conflict that the gallant Second Corps defiled into line preparatory to the assault, and took their position midst the swamps and morasses of the Wilderness in front of the enemy's line.
When all was in readiness the bugle sounded the advance, and our long lines advanced to the assault. In a short time the rattle and crash of musketry tells us that the murderous work is progressing, and that our boys are fast finding their graves amidst those dark and dreary woods. For hours there is no lull the conflict. But at length comes the announcement that the Second Corps had carried the enemy's line in their front, capturing large numbers of prisoners, colors, munitions of war, etc. Victory perches upon the banners of the old Second Corps. But the gladness of all is tempered by the fact that thousands of our brave boys lie dead or dying on the route. Yes! Thousands who but a few hours before held a living, tangible existence, had appeared at the bar of God, to render up their account of all earthly things.
Among the regiments of the Corps that had particularly distinguished themselves, was the Twentieth, which had again as always before, covered itself with glory. It had been among the first to pierce the enemy's line and plant its colors on their works.
During that fearful charge, one of the most brilliant which history records, the brave men of the twentieth, went down like stubble before the fire. Our hero was among those, who in the moment of victory, was launched into eternity. When victory was barely won, he received the wound which sent his spirit to Him who gave it. Receiving a severe wound in the thigh which shattered it so badly that he could only fall to die, surviving only a few hours. When all was over, the mortal remains of William R. Sapp were consigned to the damp and mouldy clay of the Wilderness, where the cheering rays of the sun could scarce enter to make the solitude more supportable. Here his remains reposed until the close of the war, which allowed his bereaved friends to secure them that they might consign them to the family lot in the village cemetery of his own loved home, there to repose near the remains of a dearly loved sister, who had also found her mast resting place on earth.
It was in November, 1865, a dark and dismal afternoon, I was passing where had been his home in life and strength, when I was asked to assist in removing a package from the wagon of the American Express Company. I complied. But a chilll pervaded my whole system when I assisted in removing a long, strong box, and saw that the volunteer had returned! Will Sapp had come home for the last time.
The next day we took our places in the sad procession which followed the remains to the grave. A few moments after, he who had left us with the bloom of health mantling his cheek, was laid to rest in the quiet grave yard, there to remain, a touching monument to our national honor, until the morn of the Resurection.
Northern Indianian April 5, 1866
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