MAJOR-GENERAL HENRY J. MADILL Among Bradford County’s most distinguished heroes, highest on the roll of fame stands the name of Major-General Henry J. Madill. Indeed, the record of this gallant officer is one of the most brilliant and thrilling to be found in the annals of the Civil War. This brave soldier, conspicuous in deeds of great valor upon his country’s battle fields, was born of Scotch-Irish parents at Hunterstown, Adams County, Pa., March 30, 1829. His father, Dr. Alexander Madill, a native of Ireland, in 1831 came to Wysox, this county, where his son, afterwards to win renown in the service of his country and state, grew to manhood. Our subject received a liberal education, both from private tutors and at the “old academy” in Towanda. Having chosen the law for a profession he studied with John C. Adams, Esq. And was admitted to practice in the several courts of Bradford county in 1851. He located in Towanda and was busily engaged in his profession when the tocsin of war was sounded. In April, 1861, when President Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion Henry J. Madill was one of the first to offer his services. With two companies he went to Harrisburg, where they found the call for three month’s men was already full, and that they could not be received; but in a short time, June 22d, they were mustered into the three years’ service, as a part of the 6th Penn’a Reserves of which organization Henry J. Madill was chosen major. He served in this regiment with distinction until August 28, 1862, when he was appointed colonel of the 141st Penn’a Volunteers. Seven of the ten companies of this regiment had been recruited in Bradford county, and the “boys” hailed this fortunate appointment with joy, and from that hour until the day of its muster-out there was no command in the Union army that was more conspicuous for dash and courage, as cool in the fiercest of the battle as at the mess-table, always careful of the lives of his men, yet as reckless of danger to himself as a plumed knight, he forged his way to the highest military office every conferred upon any man from Bradford county. His command of the 141st was itself not only historical, but soon made a reputation for that command that was a brilliant as it was dangerous to the lives of the total membership. To show the estimation in which they were held by the officers of the corps, we need but mention the fact that they were selected by the division and cops commanders, in the celebrated “mud march” of General Burnside, to cross the river alone, carry the opposite heights at the point of the bayonet, and hold the crest of the hill, in order that the army might cross to the opposite side, for the purpose of attacking Fredericksburg in the rear. Through thirty-three battles, in which they fought, they never became demoralized, or willingly turned their back upon the foe. Colonel Madill commanded his regiment during the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac of ’63 and ’64, and was engaged in the great battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, and at various times was placed in command of the brigade. For his great heroism at the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (elsewhere given in this work) he was highly complimented by his superior officers. He was brevetted Brigadier General, Dec. 2, 1864, and by special order of the President appointed to command a brigade. He was assigned by General Miles to command the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps. In charging a battery at the head of his brigade at Sutherland Station, April 2, 1865, he was wounded by a sharpshooter in the groin, the ball still being in his body, and from the effects of which wound he has never recovered. He had also previously been twice wounded, June 16 and 18, 1864, at Petersburg. One ball cut his belt off and grazed the small of his back; another ball struck him in the leg below the knee, shattering the bone. He was brevetted Major General of Volunteers, March 13, 1865. The large number of bullets that passed through his clothing and the six horses that had been shot from under him in the more than twenty battles in which he had participated, look as though he escaped with his life through naught else than Providential interference. “No officer was ever more loved, respected or trusted by his men. They looked upon him with the confidence and affection of children to a father, and well they might, for by his energy, bravery, consideration and care, he had largely been instrumental in making the regiment what it was. In the terrible battles which had swept is men from the field he had been at its head. In camp he secured obedience without resort to the cruel punishments, which were a disgrace to so many, and at all times was watchful for the interests of his men, at the expense of himself; and to-day, after more than thirty-three years have elapsed since he led them on the field, and cared for them in the camp, every man of the 141st speaks of him with loving respect, and the familiar title, “Our Old Colonel,” is uttered with an affectionate regard by those with whom he shared danger and privation, hardship and want. Henry J. Madill must always be inseparably connected with whatever glory or renown was won by the 141st, an integral part of its grand achievements and of its imperishable glory. Fearless of danger himself, he never exposed his men needlessly, and never sought a fight to promote his own interests-in fact, at least at three several times promotion was offered him if he would attempt a desperate charge, when the answer as self-sacrificing as gallant was-‘If I must gain a star at the expense of the lives of my men I will never have one.” He never asked his men to go where he would not, and his command was always-“Come, boys” – as he led them to battle. When General Madill had sufficiently recovered from his last wound to be moved, the war was over, so as soon as able he returned to his Towanda home, and resumed his practice of law. In 1866 he was elected to the office of Register and Recorder and Clerk of Orphans’ Court of Bradford county, serving a term of three years. He was again called to serve the people in 1878, having been elected a member of the State Legislature. While serving in this capacity, he proved himself a true friend of the people, as loyal to their interests as he was brave when facing the guns of the enemy. During his term the famous “Pittsburg Riot Bill,” by which it was intended to steal nearly $4,000,000 from the State, came before the Legislature. General Madill alone prevented its passage. Every sort of inducement and any price he would name were offered him if he would support the measure or absent himself when the bill was called up for consideration. He was one of ten thousand “without his price”, and like an uncaged lion he paced up and down the halls of the House, denouncing the corruptionists, the attempt to rob the State and appealing to and commanding members to vote against this most iniquitous measure. He won by a very narrow majority and the State Treasury was not pillaged. In 1890, in obedience to the behests of his many friends all over the county, he stood for the office of Prothonotary in opposition to Republican machine nomination, and was triumphantly elected on the Independent ticket. He proved himself an able, courteous and obliging officer. Again, while serving in this capacity, General Madill’s noble traits of character exhibited themselves. Both friends and political enemies were treated with fairness and consideration. Great charity was shown to the poor and the unfortunate. Fees were cut down, and in many cases donated entirely to them. He gave legal advice free, and was the first Prothonotary to execute pension papers and vouchers for the old soldiers free of charge. To his country, his State and the people, General Madill has been one of the truest friends they ever had. He is a member of Watkins Post, G.A.R., and a most devoted friend of the boys who wore the blue. He is a hero of heroes, and may he long live to enjoy the blessings of a people, who yet will learn to love and honor him in a greater measure for his great and noble achievements.
Henry J. Madill
Was born March 30, 1829, at Hunterstown, Adams county, Pa. His parents were Scotch-Irish and were born in Ireland. His father, Alexander Madill, was educated as a physician before emigrating to this country, and came to this county and located in Wysox township in 1831, where he practiced medicine for many years.
Henry J. received a liberal education, he was a student at the “old academy,” on State street, while Professor Gun and Nash were the instructors; he also received instruction from private tutors. He studied law with John C. Adams, Esq., and was admitted to the bar of Bradford county in 1851, and has practiced his profession since.
He was one of the first to answer to the call of President Lincoln for troops, and upon the arrival of two companies from this county at Harrisburg, and finding that they could not be received for three months, were mustered into the U. S. Service for three years, and upon the organization of the regiment he was elected Major of the regiment – the 6th Pa. Reserves – June 22, 1861.
He served with his regiment with distinction until August 30, 1862, when he was appointed Colonel of the 141st Pa. Vols.
Seven companies of this regiment were organized in Bradford county, and the selection of Major Madill to command the regiment was a recognition of his former service and his fitness to lead the “boys” from Bradford county.
He commanded his regiment during the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac of 1863 and 1864, and was engaged in the great battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, and at various times was placed in command of the brigade. He was complimented by his superior officers for his conduct at the battle of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He was brevetted Brigadier-General, Dec. 2, 1864, and by special order of the President appointed to command a brigade.
He was assigned by General Miles to the command of the Third Brigade, First Division, Second Corps, and was wounded while leading his brigade at Sutherland Station, Va., April 2, 1865. He was brevetted Major-General of Volunteers, March 15, 1865. During his four years’ service he was in over 20 battles, had six horses shot under him, and was wounded three times – June 16 and 18, 1864 at Petersburg, Va., and April 2, 1865 at Sutherland Station, Va.
In battle he was brave and fearless, and always ready to lead his men. The officers and men of his command loved and respected him, and were ready to follow wherever he led them.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville, when his men were driven back and the color-bearer had been shot, he picked up the flag, faced towards the enemy and began singing – “Rally round the flags, boys, Rally once again!”- under a storm of lead and shell, around which the men rallied and repelled the charge of the enemy. When at the battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, General Sickels appealed to Colonel Madill, “for God’s sake to hold on a little longer!” the Colonel sobbingly replied, “Where are my men?” he having but twenty left of the two hundred he took into the battle.
“In camp he secured obedience without resort to cruel punishments, and at all times was watchful for the interest of his men. Although fearless of danger himself, he never exposed his men needlessly, and never sought a fight to promote his own interst.” Several times he was offered promotion if he would attempt a desperate charge, to which he replied, “If I must gain a star at the expense of the lives of my men, I will never have one.”
He resumed his law practice after he was musterd out of the serivce. He was elected to the office of Register, Recorder, and Clerk of Orphans’ Court of Bradford county in 1866 and served for three years. He served one term in the House of Representatives, having been elected in 1879.
He attained the highest rank of any soldier from Bradford county in the War of the Rebellion, and was one of the bravest and most fearless of officers in the army, and is highly esteemed by all the ex-soldiers for his fearless advocacy of their rights since the war, as well as by his soldierly advice for their welfare, given at camp-fires and reunions.
Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.