Samuel Willard

Captain SAMUEL F. WILLARD

 

Captain SAMUEL F. WILLARD, was born in Madison, Conn., November 22, 1822. In that pretty and quiet New England village he passed his life, engaged in mercantile operations until his enlistment into the 14th regiment, August 1, 1862. He had for some years prior to the war commanded an independent militia company in Madison, and at the outbreak of the war in 1861, was anxious to enlist, but was persuaded by his family that his duty lay at home. But at the second call for troops he said to his loved wife, “I feel that it is God who bids me go. Can you say no?” He then called upon his company and townsfolk to form a company for the war. The ranks were quickly filled with the best and bravest of the youth of the town, and he was unanimously chosen their captain. Marching with them to camp at Hartford. Capt. Willard was constantly with his men, till he fell in the first fight of the regiment at Antietam on that memorable 17th of September, 1862. Early in the day, while gallantly leading his men into the thick of the fray, he was shot and fell unconscious. Before he ceased to breathe, he was picked up by his brother-in-law, private Bradley, who afterwards became a Lieutenant and died of his wounds, but his spirit soon fled, and his body was born to Kedysville, Md., whence it was transferred to Madison, where the funeral services were held from the Congregational Church, with military and Masonic honors, on the 23d of September. A relative of Capt. Willard, who furnishes the incidents of his life writes: "Capt. Willard possessed a warm and generous heart, and those who knew him best loved him best. About the age of 30 he became a loving child of the loving Jesus, and from that time the whole course of his life was changed. He was literally ready for any good work. Upon his body when he died was found a diary in which he recorded lead pencil notes that he forwarded to his wife from time to time. The record is very interesting, and shows a most earnest faith and trust in a Divine Providence." We regret that we have space for but two quotations from it. September 15th, he writes: 

Monday Morning,

Middletown Valley, Sept. 15, 1862.

 

   These may be my last words; if so, they are these: I have full faith in Jesus Christ my Saviour ; I do not regret that I have fallen in defense of my country; I have loved you truly and know that you have loved me, and in leaving this world of sin I go to another and better one, where I am confident I shall meet you. I freely forgive all my enemies, and ask them for Christ’s sake to forgive me. If my body should ever reach home, let there be no ceremony; I ask no higher honor than to die for my country—lay me silently in the grave, imitate my virtues, and forgive all my errors.

 

   I prefer death in the cause of my country, to life in sympathy with its enemies.

 

   The last entry is dated Wednesday morning the 17th. It closes “I pray God we may be successful, and that you may see me again _____”

 

   Here the pencil notes close suddenly, for the battle had even then, commenced, and the soldier dropped the pencil to gird on his sword and to lead his comrades into the conflict, in which in one brief hour he gave up his life.

 

   Of the two petitions in his last recorded prayer, one has been vouchsafed us, God has granted us success. Let us hope and pray that the other petition may be granted not only to the wife to whom it was specially addressed, but to all of us his comrades, and that we may all see him again in the land immortal,

 

“The beautiful of lands.”