Wesley was probably destined to be a soldier. His grandfather fought in the War of 1812, and his great grandfather was none other than the Revolutionary War hero Abner Powers. American Abner lived about 150 miles east of Montreal at a place called Eaton for about a dozen years pre the War of 1812. Abner, wife and child apparently arrived on snowshoes! When the War of 1812 started he moved his family back south to the US. But he left family behind that would later move west into what is now Ontario... and to Orono.
But when Wesley was only 4 years old the family took up stakes and moved south also. They moved into a farming community in Illinois that was just started up about five years earlier by other Canadian farmers. They called it Canada Corners.
Wesley would grow up on the farm but by the time the Civil War broke out he was only 16 1/2 years of age. He was very patriotic and wanted an adventure and so he tried to sign up... several times. But each time he was frustrated because his parents found out and put a stop to it. So he did what many of the day did... they just ran away from home and faked their ages to sign up... some even using fake names to boot.
Wesley probably did not run. More than likely he just walked... and walked... and walked... and walked till he had enough and ended up at a place called Virgil Illinois. His very long obit many years later said this walk was 80 miles long.
No longer having his parents looking over his shoulders, Wesley faked his 16 1/2 year age as being 19 and also claimed he was an orphan and was signed up to go off to war. His new home would be with Company D of the 13th Wisconsin Infantry. Soon he would arrive at Camp Kane in Illinois for training on the personal land that was donated and run by Montreal born General Farnsworth. This man was a lawyer and politician, was the founder of the Republican party, personal friend of Abe Lincoln's and actually nominated him to run for President. He would be summoned to be at the President's side when he lay dying in a bed once occupied by his very assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Another soldier to be trained here was a fellow called Marcus Jones of the 8th Illinois. He would later claim being the soldier to fire the first round at a place called Gettysburg. Yet another student of this camp was a soldier named James Allen, from Canada also, and a later Medal of Honor recipient as well.
Within two months of joining the army Wesley J Powers found himself in one of the fiercest battles in the entire war. This would be at Chickamauga Tennessee on September 19 and 20th where some 120,000 soldiers from the South and North battled it out. It would be a massive defeat for the Northern troops and when over they would have just over 16,000 casualties...in just 2 days. The South, while winning the battle, actually had almost 18,500 casualties. Wesley would be one of the Northern men wounded. While the nature of his wounds are unknown, they were sufficient enough to have him being evacuated to Nashville for a several month stay and recuperation. When finally released from there he would return to his unit but they found him too disabled released him from further service.
Seven months later Wesley was accepted for service with the 141st Illinois Infantry. This was just a 100 day regiment and he would be released from that in October of 1864.
In January of 1865 a one year regiment was raised and again Wesley would sign up. This time he claimed being 19, again untrue, and living at Blueberry Illinois. This Northern regiment was the 147th Illinois Infantry and it would find the enemy in Georgia while attempting to cross the Oostanaula River in the north west corner of the state of Georgia.
Wesley's Union troops were on one side of the river and the Confederates were on the other and between the two was a deep river and no way to cross it. When the Union troops discovered that there was a ferry hidden from most folks view, but moored on the enemy side Wesley volunteered to swim across and float it over so his regiment could board and make the crossing. Approval was given and into the water he went. The Confederates soon saw this and gave him quite a heavy load of lead by missed their mark. Successfully getting to the ferry he only then came to realize it was far to big a job for one man, so he took a smaller skiff also found and while still under heavy fire managed to cross with it. He then got some of his fellow soldiers onboard, and made a third crossing, even though still under heavy fire and boarded the ferry and bought her back to their regiment. Now able to cross, the unit's portion of the overall battle was turned in favour of the Union. And the credit belonged to Wesley.
His own Commanding Officer read a letter of thanks to him, in front of the whole regiment, acknowledging his volunteering, bravery and persistence in securing the ferry and turning the battle around. At the time he had been in the unit less than two months. In January of 1865 the year term for the unit was up, all the soldiers were released, including Wesley who was a Corporal, but for some reason was listed as a musician. (Maybe it was because he could sing such fine tunes about his age. hehe)
He worked as a moulder up until about 1894 and then took up the business of ice making and continued with that until taking ill in 1904, and within 2 months of the illness Wesley J Powers passed away and lies at rest today in St Charles.
On his birthday in 1895 Wesley received a very nice gift in the mail. It was a Medal of Honor, for his actions in capturing the ferry some 30 years earlier.
He is proudly wearing his MOH in this picture just a few years before his passing. in 1904.