Biography of F. M. Fagaly

F. M. Fagaly, a retired resident of St. Joseph, has many interesting distinctions, not least among which is the fact that he served more than three years in the Union Army during the Civil War. Mr. Fagaly and his family are widely known in Champaign County, where through all the years their names have been associated with that industry and good citizenship which are the bulwark of American institutions.

Mr. Fagaly was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, not far from the city of Cincinnati, a son of John and Mary (Stewart) Fagaly. His parents were also natives of Ohio. The Fagaly family is of German origin. An interesting story is told concerning his grandfather. He was a German youth who lived in the kingdom of Wuertemberg. He became acquainted with one of the daughters of the king of Wuertemberg and their acquaintance ripened into love. All the traditions and customs of the family for centuries prohibited the marriage of a royal daughter out of caste, since Grandfather Fagaly was a commoner. The young people determined to brave the wrath of the king, were married secretly, and eloped to America. The young princess was determined that her lot should be cast with her true love, and she was not afraid of the perils of a new adventure in a strange land. Coming to America, they settled at Cincinnati, where, though possessed of limited means, they had those characteristics which soon brought them a home, comfort, and the substantial honors of citizenship.

Mr. Fagaly’s mother, Mary Stewart, was the daughter of a Mrs. MacElroy. This grandmother of Mr. Fagaly lived in Indiana. She was born in what is now a part of New York City. When a girl she was bereft of her parents, was reared by strangers, came to Indiana and lived a long and useful life. As old age came on she was comparatively helpless and went to live with her children. One son, William Stewart, in anticipation of his mother’s coming, erected a new house with a special room for her convenience and comfort. She had just got located in this house when the building took fire and burned to the ground, and the old lady, who was then one hundred and seven years of age, was unable to escape and was burned to death.

F. M. Fagaly was one of seven children. He obtained his early education in the district schools of Hamilton County, Ohio. He grew to manhood on his father’s farm, and had acquired considerable knowledge of that industry before he entered the army.’

He was nineteen years of age when he volunteered and went to Camp Dennison, eighteen miles from Cincinnati, where he was enrolled in Company K of the Eighty-third Ohio Infantry. With this regiment he marched away to the front and first took part in the campaign to protect Cincinnati from the second invasion of Kirby Smith. Kirby Smith had tried to capture and destroy Cincinnati, but the Federal troops gave him a merry chase and caused a complete change in his plan. Mr. Fagaly and his comrades fought at Camp Orchard, were then ordered back to Louisville, took boat to Memphis, and during the year 1862 did much patrol duty up and down the Mississippi from Island No. 10 to Vicksburg. He was part of Sherman’s great army in the Vicksburg campaign. It will be recalled that the first plan to reduce that Mississippi stronghold was an expedition up the Yazoo River, allowing the troops to attack the city in the rear. The culmination of this was the battle of Haines Bluff, where the Union troops suffered heavy losses. Sherman was greatly criticized for this part of the campaign, but his troops loved him and, as Mr. Fagaly says, would have waded through fire and blood to follow their leader. After Haines Bluff Mr. Fagaly’s regiment was ordered back to Arkansas Post and captured that entire garrison of 3,000 prisoners. His next duty was at Young’s Point in Indiana and soon afterward he and his comrades were employed in the famous undertaking of digging a canal to divert the waters of the Mississippi. This occurred during the winter of 1862-63. It was an open winter, the waters of the river were very high, and after completing the work within half a mile of the river bank the floods broke through the narrow retaining wall and the next day the main current of the Mississippi River was sweeping down the canal. About 100,000 Federal troops were in the vicinity of Young’s Point and thousands of them were working night and day in the digging of the canal, which they considered a pleasant diversion in spite of its actual hardships. The Confederates believed that Vicksburg was so strongly fortified that it could never be taken by the Union troops. Grant dug this canal so as to get his boats and supplies down to New Orleans unimpeded by the fire of the Vicksburg batteries. The canal enabled the boats to pass by the fortress without incurring any material damage from the batteries. The Confederates had only one gun that could reach the forces at work on the canal, and the Union troops called this the “Whistling Dick.” Mr. Fagaly was witness, along with thousands of other Union troops, of one of the picturesque incidents of this campaign. A dummy boat was loaded above Vicksburg, consisting of two immense flatboats, piled high with man}’ barrels, in all of which were placed lighted candles. When this grotesque structure floated down in range of the Vicksburg batteries all the guns opened fire. It was a dark night and the illumination from the flashing guns was a spectacle which Mr. Fagaly will never forget. At that time General Pemberton, the commander at Vicksburg, had a great gunboat which the Union forces dreaded more than anything else. Believing that the dummy flatboats were the entire Union fleet, Pemberton ordered his gunboat blown up to prevent its falling into the hands of the Federal forces.

In all these exciting adventures Mr. Fagaly continued until April, 1863, when he and his command were sent below Grand Gulf to a place called Hard Times Landing, a shipping point where a great cargo of cotton was stored. On May 1, 1863, he’ fought in the first battle of the main attack upon Vicksburg and after that was under continuous fire every day until ttje 4th of July, when Pemberton surrendered his war worn forces and the Union troops entered the city and saw the stars and bars hauled down from the courthouse and the stars and stripes raised instead. Thus he had part in the campaign which even more than Gettysburg broke the back of the rebellion.

After Vicksburg Mr. Fagaly was at New Orleans, and while there was with the troops ordered to cross Lake Pontchartrain and attack a small fort. They captured this fort with 300 prisoners and returned with them to New Orleans. The troops were then ordered to Pensacola, Florida, and to Fort Blakely, Alabama, which after withstanding an eight day siege, surrendered to the Union forces. This occurred about the time Lee’s army surrendered in Virginia, and that was practically the close of the war. From Alabama Mr. Fagaly and his comrades were sent to Galveston, Texas, again to combat the wily Kirby Smith, who was making his last stand in the Southwest. Mr. Fagaly remained in Texas until sent back to Camp Dennison, where he was discharged, after giving three years and ten days of service to the Union. He arrived home in August, 1865.

On August 14, 1866, Mr. Fagaly married Miss Caroline L. Shafer, a girl with whom he had grown up in southern Ohio. They then settled near Cincinnati in Hamilton County, where he engaged in farming for a year, after which he moved to Indiana. Mr. Fagaly enjoyed the companionship of his first wife only four years. She was taken away by death in 1870, the mother of one child, Emma Catherine. This daughter married William Greiser, and they live on a farm near Cincinnati. She is the mother of five sons, Edwin, Clarence, Clifford, Elmer and William.

For his second wife Mr. Fagaly married Elizabeth Buzon. She was born near Loogootee in Daviess County, Indiana, a daughter of George and Brasilia (Perkins) Buzon, who were also natives of Indiana. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Fagaly settled on a farm in Elnora, Indiana, where he combined farming with teaching. For thirteen winters he taught in the district schools.

Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Fagaly: Cora, Arminta, Ella, Callie, Pearl, Roy, William and Edwin. These children were well educated in the high school at Worthington, Indiana. As they grew up they settled down in life for themselves, and a brief account of their family and whereabouts is as follows: Cora is the wife of Frank Locke, and they live on a farm near Fort Wayne, Indiana, and have two children, Nellie and Carl. The latter, Carl Locke, a grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Fagaly, is keeping up the record of the family in patriotism and loyalty, and is a Volunteer in the United States Army in Company D now drilling at Champaign preparatory for service against Germany. Arminta married William Harris; they live at St. Joseph and have one child, Hallie. Ella is the wife of Charles Locke, a farmer at Bondville in Champaign County, and they have two children, Floyd and Louise. Callie married Benjamin McLoughlin, an undertaker at St. Joseph. Pearl is the wife of Samuel Schofield, a grain merchant at Mahomet, their five children being Edwin, Howard, Dorothy, Donald and Dale. Roy is an extensive stock buyer and shipper and in the retail meat business at Philo, Illinois. He married Hazel Stayton, and their two children are Helen and James. The son William is proprietor of a grocery and meat business at Flat Rock, Illinois, and married Ada Dwyer. Edwin, the youngest child, is a farmer at Philo and married Lois Thompson of Homer.

Mr. and Mrs. Fagaly are active members of the Christian Church at St. Joseph. In politics he votes the straight Republican ticket, and he believes that his political record is almost unique in Champaign County. With his sons and his sons-in-law he constitutes a voting strength of sixteen when the time comes to elect a President or governor. Mr. Fagaly is a charter member of the Grand Army Post at Worthington, Indiana, and has always taken a great interest in army affairs and his old comrades of the war. He was with the Union forces at a time when military life made a strong impress upon his mind and character, and in all the years since he has successfully endeavored to instill in his children the principles of loyalty which he himself exemplified. For many years he has had by his side a good woman, a Christian character, and one who has been in close sympathy with his life and work. Mr. and Mrs. Fagaly now enjoy the comforts of a pleasant home on Sherman Street in the village of St. Joseph.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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