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CPT Wilberforce Lovejoy Hurlbut

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CPT Wilberforce Lovejoy Hurlbut

Birth
Death 1864 (aged 22–23)
Burial Alton, Madison County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 12138 View Source
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Son of Rev. Thaddeus and Abigail Hurlbut. He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness, 1864.
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THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN WILBERFORCE LOVEJOY HURLBUT
Killed in Action During the Civil War
Source: Alton Telegraph, January 27, 1865
Among the many, in the vicissitudes of war, whose fates have for months been shrouded in mystery, few had acquired a more honorable reputation for those manly qualities that go to make up the true citizen soldier than Captain Wilber Hurlbut, of the 6th Michigan Infantry. The uncertainty which succeeded the first report of his death, encouraged his family to hope that he might still live, though wounded and a prisoner. But it is now no longer permitted them to doubt, what seems conclusive evidence that he fell on the second day’s Battle of the Wilderness, on the morning of May 6, 1864.

Captain Hurlbut was the only son of Rev. Thaddeus B. Hurlbut, and was born in Upper Alton, Illinois. He had nearly completed the Junior year of his college course, when in February 1862, he joined the army as Lieutenant, and Aide de Camp to the lamented General Richardson, and while upon his staff, took part in the battle of Fair Oaks, then of the Peninsular campaign and Antitrain. After General Richardson’s death, he entered the 5th Michigan Infantry, and became Captain of Company D, in which capacity he served with the regiment at the battle of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (when he was wounded), Locust Grove, Mine Run, and others, having at the time of his death participated in nearly a score of battles. He was in command of the regiment at the time of his fall, owing to the wounded condition of his superior officers.

During his college term, he occupied a distinguished position as a scholar, and his talents, attainments, and character were held in high estimation by his instructors and fellow students. In the social circle, his graces of mind and person, and his rare virtues as a son and brother, made him deservedly the idol of his family and the center of their hopes and affections. It was the privilege of the writer to know him intimately during his connection with the army, and to be placed in close relationship with him during some of the most arduous campaigns in Virginia, where constant opportunity was afforded of observing the man and appreciating his worth. The qualities that adorned him in private life were exemplified in the fearless soldier and Christian patriot.

Prompt and courteous in the discharge of every duty, retiring and gentle in his deportment, he secured the confidence of his commander and the affection of his fellow officers. Those who knew him can sympathize deeply with his family in their great bereavement, as they will ever cherish for his memory that affectionate regard and friendship which his rare virtues inspired. His lamented and uncertain fate must ever add double poignancy in the intense grief of those who were near and dear to him. To hope against hope and never to know when, where, and how he died, but always to feel the dread certainty that he has gone forever in this life. May time soften the affliction to the bereaved ones, until God in his providence shall call them together. Signed J. H. T.

NOTES:
Wilberforce “Wilber” Lovejoy Hurlbut was born on July 20, 1841, in the Hurlbut-Messenger house in Upper Alton. The home was located near the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Brown Street. The home was razed in 1957, and today the Calvary Baptist Church is located there. Wilber was the only son of Rev. Thaddeus Hurlbut, who was one of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy’s most ardent supporters. Wilber Hurlbut was named after two abolitionists – Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy and William Wilberforce, the English abolitionist who helped to end slavery in Britain.

Wilber attended Shurtleff College in Upper Alton, and was considered a brilliant student. Against his parents’ wishes, he left college in 1862, in the middle of his junior year, to enlist in the Union army. He was in many battles, and was wounded at Gettysburg. He went missing in action on May 6, 1864. He was last seen leading a charge against the Confederates. An eyewitness was later located, who stated he saw young Hurlbut shot in the head. Union General Thomas F. Meager praised the fallen warrior by saying, “With Hurlbut fell the fittest historian of the Army of the Potomac.” Although his body was never recovered, Hurlbut is honored by a cenotaph in the Alton City Cemetery.

Wilber’s father, Rev. Thaddeus Beman Hurlbut, was a descendant of an old English family that settled in America prior to 1636. He attended Andover Theological Seminary, and was licensed as a Congregational minister. He married Miss Abigail M. Paddock. The young couple moved to St. Louis in 1834, and Rev. Hurlbut formed a friendship with Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy. When Lovejoy was driven out of St. Louis to Alton, Hurlbut became associate editor of Lovejoy’s Alton Observer. After the death of Lovejoy, Hurlbut contemplated the re-establishment of the Observer, but the hostility of the pro-slavery element prevented this. Rev. Hurlbut was pastor of the Upper Alton Presbyterian Church. He died in April 1885, and is buried in the Alton City Cemetery.


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