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Edward M. Pike was a sergeant in the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Regiment who received the Medal of Honor for rescuing an imperiled cannon during the 1862 Action at Hill’s Plantation in Arkansas.
Edward M. Pike was born on July 1, 1838, at Raymond, Maine, the son of wealthy farmer Harrison N. Pike and Susan A. Pike. He was the oldest of their five sons and two daughters. By 1860, the family had moved to Bloomington, Illinois. After the Civil War began, Pike served in the Union army, as did several of his brothers. Twenty-four-year-old student Pike enlisted as an orderly sergeant in Company A of the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Regiment on August 21, 1861, at Bloomington.
The Thirty-Third Illinois served in Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest during the Pea Ridge Campaign. After the Federal army threatened Little Rock (Pulaski County), Curtis decided to march to the White River at Clarendon (Monroe County) in search of supplies. The Union column was crossing the Cache River near Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) on July 7, 1862, when advance elements of Colonel Charles Hovey’s Third Brigade—about 400 men of the Thirty-Third Illinois and Eleventh Wisconsin Infantry with a cannon of the First Indiana Cavalry—were attacked by about 1,000 Texas cavalrymen led by Albert Rust.
After initial skirmishing, Hovey ordered the outnumbered Federals to fall back to a stronger position. Noticing that most of the artillerymen were wounded and the First Indiana’s cannon was now between the opposing forces, he asked Captain Leander Potter of Company A, Thirty-Third Illinois, to retrieve it. Potter called for volunteers, and Sergeant Pike responded, an act that would result in his receiving a Medal of Honor on March 29, 1899.
The Medal of Honor citation says that “while the troops were falling back before a superior force, this soldier, assisted by one companion, and while under severe fire at close range, saved a cannon from capture by the enemy.” The Thirty-Third’s regimental history characterized the event somewhat more dramatically, stating that Pike, “who was as colossal in courage as he was in size, rushed to the gun…seized the trail and tore down the road with the cannon as if it had been a baby wagon.” Pike himself would remember the combat at Hill’s Plantation as “the hottest place I got into during all my war experience[;] the charge on Vicksburg was not half so dangerous.” Hovey’s men, reinforced, defeated Rust’s troops, inflicting heavy casualties on the Texans, and Curtis’s army would eventually reach Helena (Phillips County) on the Mississippi River, establishing a Union base that would remain for the duration of the war. Edward Pike mustered out with the regiment in Springfield, Illinois, on October 11, 1864, at the end of his term of service.
After the war, Pike returned to McLean County, where he served as county sheriff in 1867–1868. He married Eunice Fugate in 1869, and the couple had a son and daughter. Pike ran a successful lumber business, served on the Chenoa Board of Education for twenty-six years, and was active in the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Association, serving for some time as its president. He died on August 10, 1924, and is buried at Chenoa Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Edward M. Pike.” Findagrave.com. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8643229 (accessed February 13, 2018).
The History of McLean County, Illinois. Chicago: Wm. Le Baron Jr. and Co., 1879.
Medal of Honor Recipients 1863–1978, Prepared for the Committee on Veterans Affairs United States Senate, February 14, 1979. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1979.
Shea, William L. “The Confederate Defeat at Cache River.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 52 (Spring 1993): 129–155.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1885.
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 2/13/2018
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