Clinton Albert Cilley MOH

b. 16/02/1837 Rockingham County, New Hampshire. d. 09/05/1900 Morgantown, North Carolina.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 20/09/1863 Chickamauga, Georgia.

Clinton A Cilley MOH

Clinton Albert Cilley was born in New Hampshire in 1837 to Reverend Daniel Plummer Cilley and Adelaide Ayres Haines. His paternal grandmother was the sister of a governor of New Hampshire. He was raised in southeastern New Hampshire and well-educated. He attended the Boston Latin School in 1852 (the oldest school in the United States, founded in 1635 and still open today) where he was awarded the Franklin Medal for exceptional scholarship. He attended Harvard and upon graduating in 1859 went to Minnesota to teach. Cilley came from a long line of military heroes. His Revolutionary ancestor, Joseph Cilley served in the Second New Hampshire Regiment, formed in May 1775, as the second of three Continental Army regiments raised by the state of New Hampshire. He was later appointed Colonel of the First New Hampshire Continental Regiment. He fought in both battles of the American campaign in Canada, and the battles of Trenton Princeton, Saratoga, Monmouth and
Stony Point.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Professor Clinton A. Cilley, as President of the new Free Will Baptist Seminary in Wasioja, Minnesota in 1861, spoke to his students the day after the firing on Ft. Sumter, and 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?” With the help of Wasioja attorney James George, Cilley and a large number of his students and faculty volunteered to form Company C of the Second Minnesota. They enlisted at the tiny stone building in Wasioja in Dodge County that then served as a Civil War recruitment office; it still stands and now houses a

Just over a year after organizing, Company C stopped the Confederates at Chickamauga, Georgia, but at a high cost; of the 80 who enlisted, only 25 returned, which devastated the fledgling town. Cilley earned his Medal of Honor serving as Captain in Company C of the Second Minnesota Infantry at Chickamauga. His citation, awarded on 12 June 1895, reads, “Seized the colors of a retreating regiment and led it into the thick of the attack.” He was subsequently promoted to Brevet Colonel.

Because of his ability and bravery, Cilley advanced in rank and continued to receive promotions after the final Union victories. His assignment to General Schofield’s headquarters brought him to North Carolina at the end of the war. This move, and his involvement in administrative matters related to the freedmen, represented a significant turning point in his later career. As commander of part of the defeated South, General Schofield had responsibility for public order and the administration of justice.

Cilley married Emma Harper, the daughter of James Harper, a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives, 42nd U.S. Congress. He and Emma were the parents of four sons and one daughter: Albert Harper Cilley (1870-1873), John Harper Plummer Cilley (1871-1947), Gordon Harper Cilley (1874-1938), James Lenoir Cilley (1876-1965), and Katharine Adelaide Cilley, who died as an infant at seven months.

Being a Yankee army hero in the post-Civil War South made him a bit of an oddity. In the book Bluecoats and Tar Heels, he is described as a Harvard-educated, Union war hero who served in postwar North Carolina as a headquarters staff officer and Freedman’s Bureau official before returning to civilian life, remaining in the state, establishing a law firm with a former Confederate officer, marrying the daughter of a prominent citizen, and settling in Lenoir, a small town in Western North Carolina, eventually emerging as a civic leader, appointed as a judge and becoming mayor. According to the author, “Unlike more notorious Union army veterans who settled in the Tar Heel State, Cilley managed to avoid controversy and thus faded into obscurity after his death in 1900.

Clinton A. Cilley died at the age of 63 on 9 May 1900 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Hickory, Catawba County, North Carolina.



Seized the colors of a retreating regiment and led it into the thick of the attack.