THOMAS H. MCKINLEY
Once a man known to many, now a veteran lost to history. Thomas H. Mckinley, was a brave young soldier who volunteered for the army on November 1st, 1861. He was 20 years old. McKinley was described as five foot eleven with a light complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He served bravely in the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery until December 11, 1863, when he was appointed an officer in the newly-forming 29th Connecticut Regiment, an African American regiment with white officers. He then sailed with the 29th when it left for South Carolina in April 1864. After four months of guard diuty, they were sent to Virginia in August, and immediately marched through the night and at dawn joined the fight near Deep Bottom to aid the Tenth Army Corps. On the 26th of August, the last of McKinley’s regiment was in the trenches before Petersburg, Virginia. Here they were engaged in a dangerous fire fight for several weeks. After this on the 28th of September the regiment marched all night and in the morning was engaged in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, VA. The regiment was acting as support at a charge on the “Rebel Fort Gilmer.” It was here second lieutenant Thomas McKinley was struck in the hip by a “ball,” which shattered his hip bone and left him suffering until January 3rd, 1865, when he died. The 29th Regiment was defeated at this battle, and many others were lost besides McKinley.
Fort Gilmer, near Richmond, Virginia, in 2011
McKinley was much loved as a second lieutenant and after his death his companions in arms passed several resolves in tribute to his worth. One stated, "That the recent death of our esteemed friend and brother officer 2nd lieutenant Thomas H. McKinley from the effects of wounds received in action near Richmond VA on the 29th day of September 1864 deprives us of one whom we shall always hold in pleasurable remembrance. That the many virtues of our late companion in arms, his never failing cheerfulness, his frank and genial manner, his kind and open heartedness, his many generous and social qualities, his devotedness to the cause of our common country, have endeared him to all our hearts, and have elicited our hearty respects and that it is with deep sorrow that we contemplate the fact that he is no more one of us. That though humbly acquiescing in that decree of an inscrutable Providence, we cannot but deplore the loss to our country of so brave a defender to ourselves of so time a friend. That as we remember his suffering, the result to him of his patriotism we rejoice in the assurance we have that he left us only to enter upon a life now happy a rest and peace that shall be everlasting.”
Thomas McKinley was a brave and capable soldier, loved by his men. Unfortunately, in the carnage of the Civil War, his story was lost among the hundreds of thousands of other young men killed. His story is known only through the pension applications his parents filed after the war. McKinley is buried in the East Cemetery in Litchfield.