Two from village served in the Civil War
Wilmette Life (Wilmette, Illinois), 7 Apr 2011, p. 11

Wilmette Historical Museum Staff, Author
Media Type:
Item Types:
Descriptions of the Civil War service of two Wilmette residents, John Fiegen and Charles Westerfield. Photographs of Pvt. John Fiegen (circa 1963) and Pvt. Charles Westerfield (circa 1865) from the Wilmette Historical Museum collection.
Date of Publication:
7 Apr 2011
Corporate Name(s):
Wilmette Historical Museum
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 42.07225 Longitude: -87.72284
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Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Sun-Times Media
Wilmette Public Library
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1242 Wilmette Avenue
Wilmette, IL
U.S.A. Phone: 847-256-6930

Full Text

There was no village of "Wilmette" in 1861, but settlers from England, Ireland and Germany had been arriving in the area in increasing numbers since the 1830s. By 1850, they had established New Trier Township as the local governing body.

From this community of about 700 souls, some 40 men went off to war.

Among those who lived in what would later become the villages of Wilmette and Gross Point were farmer John Fiegen, who joined the 23rd Illinois Infantry in Chicago on March 2, 1862, along with neighbor Mathias Selzer.

At the time of his enlistment, Fiegen was already 44 years old and living with his wife and children in a farmhouse on Illinois Road. At the second battle of Kernstown on July 24, 1864, he was captured and sent to the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Ga. He died there on Aug. 20, 1864.

The tintype shown on this page was treasured by his widow -- the Historical Museum has a photo of her holding it -- and passed down in the Fiegen family for generations. Some of John Fiegen's descendants still live in Wilmette today.

Company F of the 8th Illinois Cavalry was almost entirely made up of North Shore men, among them Charles Westerfield, whose parents, John and Rebecca, had a large farm that stretched along what is now Michigan Avenue in Wilmette.

Joining up in January 1864, soon after his 18th birthday, Westerfield was sent East to serve in the Army of the Potomac, where his regiment fought up and down the peninsula, from Mechanicsville to Gettysburg.

In April of 1865 he was involved in the search for John Wilkes Booth. His photo on this page comes from an album, now at the museum, that Westerfield filled with photos of his Company F comrades. (One of them, Peter Schutz, lies in the cemetery of St. Joseph's Church, alongside several other Civil War veterans.)

After the war ended, Charles returned home to work as a surveyor, helping to lay out the streets of the young village. His father, John Westerfield, became the first president of Wilmette in 1872, and Charles later served as village clerk.

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Two from village served in the Civil War