Son of Thomas I. Cahill, late of Solon, Cortland County, N. Y., was born in the city of New York, whence his father moved to Solon, when the Lieutenant was yet young. He enlisted in Company B at its organization, as a private, having been injured about the time the war broke out, so that he was unable to enter the service before, as he desired. Ever present for duty, and prompt to perform it he did not long remain in the ranks. When the Regiment left Fredericksburg for Culpepper, he was sick and so emaciated that the surgeon directed him to be taken to a hospital in Washington, and sent an ambulance to his tent to convey him to the cars. But determined to accompany the Regiment and share its first dangers, he insisted that he was improving and was able to undertake the march.
The surgeon finally assented. His energy enabled him to keep with his company. He took part in the skirmishes at Rappahannock Station and Warrenton Springs, and the battle of Gainesville. At the latter place he was struck by a pistol shot in the head, the ball entering and lodging between the right eye and nose, where it still remains. It was one of those narrow escapes which partake largely of the miraculous. He fell, and was reported dead. This fortunately proved incorrect.He was taken prisoner, but soon after paroled.
He was sent to the hospital in New York, where he was tendered his discharge. The surgeon informed him that he would never befit for service, but this he steadily denied. He returned to the Regiment in time to take part in the first battle of Fredericksburg. He was soon after, (January fourteenth, 1863), promoted to Sergeant.
He remained with the Regiment, taking part in the "Mud March," Second Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. March first, 1863, he was promoted to Orderly Sergeant, and as such fought in the battle of Gettysburg. Here he displayed true heroism.
In the hottest of the fight, next to the colors of the Regiment, he was struck by a piece of shell on, the hand, which benumbed his arm, and rendered it, for a time, useless. He, however, by rubbing, induced a return of sensibility, when the rebels had reason to regret the provocation they had given. Immediately before the line fell back, he was struck in the thigh by a musket ball, bringing him down. The ball struck the bone, and, glancing around, lodged on the other side. He was taken to the city and the ball extracted. He was captured by the rebels, and retaken on our troops repossessing the city. He was sent to Philadelphia, but soon returned to the command of his company, as Second Lieutenant, (July thirtyfirst, 1863), which command he held until March, 1864. He was on the march with the Regiment southward through Virginia, and participated in the battle of Mine Run.
Was promoted to First Lieutenant, February fourteenth, 1863. At the battle of the Wilderness, May fifth, 1864, he was with his company when the three companies, (B,F and K), were captured. He was on this occasion severely wounded. His left arm was broken, and the wrist joint dislocated, He also received a Minnie ball in his body, where it still remains. In this condition he was compelled the next day to walk twenty miles. Two weeks later, on reaching Macon, Ga., having had no change of clothing, he was obliged to soak himself before he could remove his clothes. Here the prisoners were all searched and robbed of their money. The bullet hole in the Lieutenant's coat was now not without its uses. As the robbing-sergeant approached him, the Lieutenant quietly slipped his greenbacks through the bullet hole, and thus retained his money.
Here he found Lieutenant Myers, of the Seventy-sixth, and Lieutenants Curtis and Coffin, of the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, all from Cortland. What these prisoners suffered in Southern prison pens has been so often related that to write the experience of this hero, would be to repeat the same story of cruelties, starvation, vermin, heartless disregard of life, and unparalleled diabolism, which puts to the blush every loyal man, as he considers even the possibility of a return of these barbarous savages to the political status of peers to the loyal. Sherman's successes before Atlanta, and Stoneman's advance towards Macon, rendered this an unsafe depository for prisoners. They were therefore, July thirty-first, 1864, sent to Savannah and Charleston. At the former place Lieutenant Cahill witnessed one of the peculiar attractions of the corner-stone of the Southern Confederacy.
It became necessary to cover a trench of rubbish to prevent disease. A man with a white skin marched in fourteen colored women, who, with spades and bare feet, and arms bare to the shoulder, were compelled to do the menial service, while the white traitor looked on with whip in hand!
At the end of six weeks, (September thirteenth), Lieutenant Cahill, with other officers, was taken to Charleston, S. C., and placed under fire from our batteries on Morris Island. Here they were placed in the filthiest of pens, where the shells from our guns fell as often as one in twenty minutes, often sending showers of fragments among our officers. To add to the horrors of the situation, the yellow fever broke out in the prison, and for a time threatened the annihilation of the entire company. Of fifty officers attacked, but two recovered, one of whom was Homer D. Call, of the Seventy-sixth. Our officers were removed to Columbia, S. C., October fifth, 1864.
An arrangement was finally made by which a certain number of sick and wounded were exchanged. Lieutenant Cahill was examined. The surgeon directed his clerk to write, " five gunshot wounds " opposite his name, and the next morning he was discharged. December ninth he started on a blockade runner down the harbor for the Union lines. For the first time in many months these brave boys hailed the "red white and blue," as it floated in front of Fort Sumter. Cheer upon cheer rent the air, while "The Star Spangled Banner," and 11 Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys," were sung as never before. No one in the army had a more varied experience than Lieutenant Cahill. Five times wounded, three times a prisoner, still carrying two balls in his person, he feels proud of each sear received in freedom's battles.
He was discharged March eleventh, 1865, and commenced the study of law. He now resides at Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- From the Regimental History of the 76th New York, A. P. Smith, 1867
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