What can you expect from a teen who runs away from home, walks some 80 miles, lies about his age and fakes being an orphan? Apparently a lot!
Farm life did not meet with all of Wesley's needs so in the early 1860's he snuck off to join the Civil War effort whilst only 16 1/2 years old. Much to his parents shigrin, and after many efforts to prevent his enlisting, he finally ran away from home. And kept running! For another 80 miles till he ended up in Wisconsin and in front of a recruiter who accepted his lies of being 18 years old and that he was an orphan.
Over about the next three years he would soldier in 3 different regiments. At his first he would be trained at Camp Kane, which stood on the grounds of Montreal born John Farnsworth. John was one of the founders of the republican party, was a good friend of a fellow named Abe Lincoln, and would serve during CW years as a general for the Union. (As did several other Canadians.) Camp Kane would also be the training ground for a fellow that would later claim fame as the soldier firing the first Union shots at a place called Gettysburg.
Wesley was wounded in battle, sent off to recover, would later return to his first unit but found unfit for further service and released. Not accepting rejection he simply went on to join a 2nd... and still later a third regiment. It was here with the 147th Illinois Volunteer Infantry where he would find himself serving as a corporal in many battles including at the Oostanaula River.
This Union regiment found itself blocked from advancing with no means of crossing the river and doing battle with the Confederates on the other side. Wesley could see that a ferry moored at the other side could carry the troops over to do battle. He then volunteered to swim across, secure the ferry and return to load the troops for the crossing. Under heavy fire he swam across but then found the ferry to big for one man to handle. Grabbing a a small skiff he piloted it back, got as few more volunteers, returned and then captured the ferry, all still very much under fire. Successfully again returning to the Union side, his unit then crossed and captured valuable enemy ground and pushed forward in the battle.
The unit commander would later highly commend the soldier for his bravery and many years later... in 1895... on his very 50th birthday he received an envelope in the mail. In this was a present from President Abe Lincoln. It was a Medal of Honor. It was the only MOH awarded to anyone in this regiment for CW actions. (Several Canadian recipients also held the only MOH's in their units.)
Wesley survived the war, returned to Illinois, married and had one daughter. He worked in the moulding business for years and at an early age in life, only 57, in 1902 he died whilst employed in the ice making bussiness.
And that day was on 14 December...
Exactly 110 years ago today!
(NOTE: The family have provided the above photo showing Wesley proudly wearing his Medal of Honor. A careful look reveals that it still was suspended from the CW era type of ribbon. This was replaced in 1896 and so the family may still have the later version ribbon. It also may be a clue that the picture was dated in 1895-6)