The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Beginning of the End

Who pulled the bayonet from Samuel Eddy’s chest?

Practically every town in the United States has a Civil War hero, but Chesterfield, Massachusetts—the author’s hometown—is especially proud of Samuel Eddy, a private in the 37th Massachusetts Volunteers. A blacksmith, the forty-three-year-old Eddy had already served in at least a dozen engagements, but the Battle of Sayler’s Creek is where he showed his mettle to the extreme. A Confederate plunged his bayonet into Eddy’s chest and then twisted it. Using his Spencer rifle, Eddy killed his assailant, then pulled the bayonet out. The pain from the thrust was not so bad, he claimed, but the rebel had twisted the bayonet after thrusting it. Eddy was in bad shape that afternoon, and one of his fellows, Sergeant William Shaw, thought this might be the last of him. But Eddy survived and lived another forty-odd years.

Eddy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service, but by one of those odd chances, it was never given to him. Therefore, in 1982, a special ceremony, as well as a reenactment of the Battle of Sayler’s Creek, was held in Eddy’s hometown of Chesterfield. The Medal of Honor was finally bestowed, 117 years after the fact!


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