William Perkins Black MOH

b. 11/11/1842 Woodford County, Kentucky. d. 03/01/1916 Chicago, Illinois.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/03/1862 Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

William P Black MOH

He was a student at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana studying to enter the ministry when the Civil War started in April 1861. The day after the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina, he enlisted in the Union Army with his older brother, John Charles Black and was mustered in as a Corporal in Company I, 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry (known as “Wallace’s Zouaves” after their commander, Colonel Lew Wallace). He served for three months, and was honorably mustered out on August 4, 1861 when the unit’s enlistment expired. He was then detailed to recruit a company of infantry in Vermillion County, Illinois, and was commissioned its Captain and commander on September 18, 1861 when it was mustered in as Company K of the 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

He served under his brother John, who was first appointed the regiment’s Major, but later became the 37th Illinois’ Colonel and commander. For his bravery in the unit’s first major engagement, the March 7, 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Captain Black was awarded the CMOH, with his citation reading “Singlehandeldly confronted the enemy, firing a rifle at them, and thus checked their advance within 100 yards of the lines.” His unit had been part of an assault on a position called Battle Ridge, and had been thrown back by the rebels. The Confederates surged forward to attack the retreating Union soldiers and capture an artillery battery. Captain Black, with a Colt repeating rifle, had stood by himself in front of the artillery pieces, firing at the Confederates until he was wounded. His heroics delayed the rebels long enough for the artillerymen to save four of the six guns of the battery from capture. His Medal was awarded to him on October 2, 1893, thirty-one years later.

He recovered from his wounds, and would go on to lead his company through all it’s field service over the next two years. When his enlistment expired by law, he was honorably mustered out on September 29, 1864. Upon his return home he abandoned his ministerial studies, read law, and was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association. He formed a prominent and successful law practice in 1867, and became known through the county for his serving as defense counsel for the defendants accused of inciting the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, Illinois. He was active in Union veterans organization, and passed away in Chicago at age 73 in 1916. His older brother, John Charles Black, would end the war as a Brevet Brigadier General, receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the December 1862 Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic from 1903 to 1904. William Perkins Black and John Charles Black are one of only five sets of brothers to be awarded the Medal of Honor.



Single-handedly confronted the enemy, firing a rifle at them and thus checking their advance within 100 yards of the lines.





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