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Lt. Col. William McCullough
Fourth Illinois Cavalry (visit website)

December 6, 1862.  From CSA General Lloyd Tilghman's official report:

"The Fourteenth Mississippi, Major Doss commanding, toward the close became too far separated from the main command, but was abundantly able to take care of itself, and drove back the enemy in their front, killing and wounding a number, among them Lieutenant-Colonel [William] McCullough, who was shot dead within twenty paces of our line.  This regiment also captured 17 prisoners, with all their horses, arms, and accouterments."  (McCullough's men.)

"The body of Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough was not secured. "

From Union Colonel T. Lyle Dickey's report: 

"Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough, of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, fell while covering the retreat of our column with the mounted companies of his regiment. He was at first reported wounded and a prisoner, but it is now ascertained that he was instantly killed. A better or braver man never fought or fell. He died with his face to the foe, at the head of his command, thus nobly sacrificing his life for the safety of his fellows. His loss is a severe one to the country and the service."

From the diary of William Lyman of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry:

"Among those killed was Lieut. Col. McCullough of the 4th Illinois Cavalry, who had but one arm.  His escort of about 25 men were made prisoners at the same time."

From the diary of P. O. Avery of the Fourth Illinois:

"Our regiment Lieutenant Colonel McCullough commanding, was to be rear guard and was just moving out when they ran into a force of the enemy's infantry that had been sent up along our flank and had got across our road between the column and the rear guard.  The rebels fired into the head of our column, killing Lieutenant Colonel McCullough and wounding several others.  John Lansing of Company I, who was the Colonel's orderly, is crippled for life by a fall from his horse.  Wm. Stillhamer, another orderly from Company G, was shot in both thighs.  I took the latter off the field on my horse and after going several miles in this way I got him into an ambulance."

December 10th, 2 pm.  Excerpts from letter from Col. Lyle Dickey to General Grant.

"…the flag of truce party sent to recover the body of Lt. Col McCullough has not returned--His little son in charge of his effects is at the hospital at Oxford with Dr. Luce of the 4th Illinois Cav--by my direction awaiting the return of the party from Coffeeville--I wish very much to be allowed to detail a small party to take charge of the lad & effects & the body if recovered & take them to Bloomington--I expect the party this evening.  Where shall we find rations at Oxford & how soon must we start--Allow as much time for preparation as may be if you please."

December 10th, Grant's headquarters, Oxford.  Excerpt of letter from Grant to Dickey.

"The detail to accompany Col. McCullough's remains and effects may be made."

December 11, Dickey, Springdale, Miss., telegraphed to Lt. Col John A. Rawlins.

"Remains of Col McCullough are here & go forward at once.  Notify Lt Hyde who stays with Capt Osband to have McCullough's son & effects ready.  Enimines killed at Coffeeville estimated by the Enemy at 30 to 75."

From the P. O. Avery diary:

" The body of Colonel McCullough was brought in on the eleventh and Lieutenant Hyde started north with it."

Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Fannie McCullough, daughter of Lt. Col. William McCullough.

Executive Mansion
Washington, December 23, 1862

Dear Fanny,

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases.  In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all;  and, to the young, it comes with bittersweet agony, because it takes them unawares.  The older have learned to ever expect it.   I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress.  Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.  You can not now realize that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so?  And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to know what I say;  and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.   The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, or a purer, and holier sort than you have known before. 

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,            A. Lincoln

Miss Fanny McCullough. 

(ALS, owned by Miss Alice Orme Smith, Fairfield, Connecticut.   Fanny's father, Lt. Col. William McCullough of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry was killed in a night battle near Coffeeville, Mississippi on December 5, 1862.   As clerk of the McLean County Circuit Court in Bloomington, McCullough had been well known to Lincoln.)

McCullough Woods:  Full moon over McCullough Hollow, at about where he was shot by the 14th MS under similar night-time conditions. Taken 2 days after the 138th anniversary.

Pvt. Dwight Allen Brown. Company M, 4th Illinois Cavalry. Wounded in the Battle of Coffeeville, MS December 5, 1862, during the ambush of Lt. Col. William McCullough. At night, under a full moon, McCullough was sent to the east flank to serve as rear guard of the retreating Federal army. During the ambush McCullough was killed, along with several of his staff. Pvt. Brown was wounded in the right thigh and once the bullet exited his leg it lodged in his saddle holster. He reported that all Federal cavalrymen who rode white horses were either killed or wounded in this night action.

56 cal. Colt Revolving Rifle round dug in the vicinity of the skirmish. 4th IL Cav was armed with Colt Revolving Rifles.


Text Source: Don Sides
Bullet dug in the vicinity of the skirmish between the 4th IL Cav & 14th MS Inf by Sidney W. Bondurant.

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Published on January 13, 2001. Changes last made on February 8, 2002.

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