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George H., born March 21, 1857; Isabella Margaret, born July 31, 1859; and Ellen Christine,
born December 22, 1861. The youngest child was born after William went off to fight in the
Civil War and he never saw her.
The Tannahills had purchased 40 acres of land to start a farm, but when their horses
were stolen, William gave up farming and started working as a day laborer and carpenter.
William helped build the first Congregational Church of New Hampton, Iowa, which was
immortalized by the song The Little Brown Church. The Tannahills became charter members of
the church and their names are on a bronze plaque inside the church. My grandfather, George
H. Tannahill, son of Wm. Tannahill, was the first baby to be baptized in the Little Brown
William Tannahill was one of the first to join the Union Army, mustering in July 8,
1861. He served as a private in Co., B., 7th Reg., Iowa Infantry, until he was taken prisoner
at Belmont, Missouri, on November 7, 1861. Stories have been passed down on William's
encounters while in service. One of these has William, who always wore a long beard,
standing next to his friend Andy Feldt and getting his beard shot off in the Battle of Belmont.
Both William and Andy were taken prisoner at Belmont and traveled to Columbus, Kentucky,
and then to Memphis, Tenn. While they were there, everyone was given a chance to go free if
they would not re-enlist, but not a man took his freedom. Their travels took them next to
Tuscaloosa via Mobile, Ala., and then to the infamous Andersonville Prison. In a letter to his
wife, William said that the food given to the sick and the well wasn't fit for carrion and that
after a rain the sick were taken from cattle cars and laid between railroad ties to dry. Both men
knew at least twenty men personally who chose to be shot rather than endure the prison.
William was a man of prayer at home and his petitions, which were full of scripture
and given in a heavy Scottish accent, were a feast to his listeners. The story was told of how
the men were dying for water. William, upon seeing the men walking to the "dead line" to be
shot, called them together for prayer, asking for water. As the story goes, an hour after the
prayer, a rain came and gave them the desperately needed water. Later a spring opened from
the ground, and they had running water. The prisoners were given the chance to be paroled if
they could walk a gangplank across a swift river. William and Andy were among the few that
successfully crossed. They had been in prison eleven months and ten days when they reached
Annapolis, Maryland. Shortly after obtaining his freedom William ate some food, but because
of the weakened condition of his body, he was unable to accept it, took sick and died in
Annapolis Hospital three days later on October 22, 1862. William's body was buried at the
Annapolis Military Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. A letter he had written to Jennett
shortly before he was taken prisoner was read by Rev. J.K. Nuting, December 14, 1862, at
this commemorative funeral service. It read:
I hardly know what to write to you, as I do not know how you feel. I believe you feel as
though you had a burden too heavy too bear. I do not doubt it, but you must try to keep up
good spirits. Do the best you can and put your trust in that God who will not suffer anything to
come upon them that trust him to their spiritual disadvantage. Hath he not said, "He will never
leave nor forsake you?" And if it is so that I never come home He hath promised that He will
be a Husband to the widow and a Father to the fatherless. And no, dear wife, commit yourself
and our dear children to the care of that God that never slumbers nor sleeps. If it is his Will
that I should come home we will praise His name and if not, let us be resigned and say, "Not
my will, but Thine be done, 0 God!" Look forward to the time when there shall be no mare
parting, neither sorrow nor sighing, when all tears shall be wiped from our eyes. Put your
trust in Him shall never be moved nor put to shame.
Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994. San Antonio, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/. Accessed July 13, 2014.