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Compatriot Medal of Honor Recipients

Clinton Albert Cilley

Clinton Albert Cilley

Clinton Albert Cilley was born on February 16, 1837, in Rockingham County, New Hampshire. Carol Cepregi, Deputy Director of Operations for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, responded to a request of information on Clinton A. Cilley with the following: “I found a newspaper article from the St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press dated May 28, 1972. In it, it describes Professor Cilley, as president of the new Free Will Baptist Seminary, in Wasioja, Minnesota the day after the firing on of Ft. Sumter, as he spoke to the students, and, according to the article, said, “Would it were God’s will that peace prevailed, but now we can do no other than serve our Union cause. Are you with me?” This began one of the first student marches in America, not in protest, but to enlist in the Union Army at a tiny building which is now a museum in the town. The seminary burned down in 1905.”

Clinton A. Cilley was serving as a captain in Company C, 2nd Minnesota Infantry in the Union Army at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, September 19 through 20, 1863, when he earned the Medal of Honor. The citation reads “Seized the colors of a retreating regiment and led it into the thick of the attack.” He was subsequently promoted to brevet colonel in the Union Army. He is the second SAR compatriot Medal of Honor from that campaign; the other is Horace Porter. Colonel Cilley was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 12, 1895.”

Clinton A. Cilley moved to Lenoir and Hickory in western North Carolina at the end of the Civil War and became regional administrator for the Freedmen’s Bureau. Cilley became very popular as a lawyer in Lenoir, North Carolina, where he was elected one of the town’s first mayors. He later became a judge and a politician. Cilley married Emma Harper, daughter of James C. Harper, former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and then was later elected himself to the House of Representatives of the 42nd U.S. Congress.

Clinton A. Cilley became a member of the New Hampshire SAR in 1894. His National number is 7521 and his Society number is 21. His SAR patriot ancestor was Joseph Cilley who was “appoint Major in Enoch Poor’s Regiment on May 24, 1775 under recommendation of the Committee on Safety.” Later, Colonel Joseph Cilley was appointed to the command of the 1st Massachuesetts Continental Regiment. Joseph Cilley survived both the battles of the American campaign in Canada and the smallpox epidemic, fought and escaped with his regiment in the Battle of Long Island; tasted victory at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, was assigned to General Sullivan’s Brigade and participated in the Battles of Saratoga.

Personal papers of Clinton and his wife may be found in the library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Catawba County Museum of History contains the Clinton Cilley Collection of Civil War artifacts. He died on May 9, 1900, at the age of sixty-three in North Carolina and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery Hickory, Catawba County, North Carolina.

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