In September of 1846, the first year of the Mexican-American War, a drunken Texan desperado named Hardy shot an army sergeant in a smoke and dust-filled ramshackle gambling house on the Texas frontier in San Antonio.
“The shot took effect in my right knee and I fell back on a settee but sprung up again intending to cut him down. But, my right leg failing me, I fell to the floor in a sitting position… with the limb below the knee at an unnatural angle.”
Edward Everett, the sergeant who years later described the incident, was born in London, England in 1818. His father Charles, a native of Massachusetts, moved his family to London in 1816 to manage what became a successful import business. The Everett family of Dedham, MA, could trace their roots in America to the mid-17th century and included several notable members. The latest member was the sergeant’s namesake and cousin who was previously a Harvard president, Massachusetts governor, U. S. secretary of state, and senator. Edward Everett is best remembered as the eloquent, though long-winded, orator preceding Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg Address in 1863.
In 1836, the Charles Everett family returned to America, venturing first to Jefferson City, MO, and to Quincy in 1840. Charles and his son Samuel owned and operated a general store adjacent to the courthouse and a nursery ¼ mile north of Broadway. The success of these ventures was evidenced by the spacious home Charles built on six acres at the southwest corner of Elm and North 12th streets. Meanwhile, son Edward advertised as a machinist and engineer with his business located on Maine Street, five doors west of the public square.
The Quincy Rifles, a local militia group, was formed in March of 1843 led by James Morgan with Edward’s older brother Charles as a 3rd lieutenant. Edward wrote about the unit he too joined:
“… The first event worthy of notice occurred June 28th, 1844… when in consequence of the murder of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, and his brother Hiram, we were hastily called out and proceeded to Warsaw in Hancock County, about thirty miles above Quincy.”
Unknown to most, including the Mormon faithful, their new leader, Brigham Young, adopted a no retaliation posture, sparing the lives of his outnumbered and outgunned Nauvoo Legion. Hence, the gathering of Illinois militia in and around Nauvoo, IL, in mid-1844 and to the beginning of the Mormon exodus west in the early spring of 1846 resulted in no serious clashes. In fact, the militia forces served more for the protection of the Mormons from the non-Mormons than vice versa.
During the final days of the Rifles’ occupation of Nauvoo, expansionists in the nation’s capital succeeded in baiting their neighbor to the south into the Mexican-American war. A national call to arms ensued. Thirteen members of the Rifles donned new military uniforms, a “black-trimmed grey frock coat and black pantaloons,” and as part of the 93-man Company A of the First Illinois volunteer regiment they headed southwest toward the Rio Grande River. Sergeant Everett was shot during a stopover in San Antonio. The slow to heal leg-shortening wound caused surgeons to deem him unfit for battle duty and he languished in a canvas covered make shift outdoor hospital.
Captain J. H. Ralston, a Quincy native and assistant quartermaster for General John E. Wool’s command in San Antonio, found Sergeant Everett.
“He [Ralston] was in want of a clerk, particularly one who could be depended on, as steady characters were difficult to obtain. He employed me and I was removed from the discomforts of the hospital to his own quarters, carrying me cot and all. From this hour, I date the turning point in my fortunes.”
For the remainder of the war, Ralston and Everett worked as an inseparable team fulfilling their duties to General Wool’s army. In the process they were the driving force for the restoration of the Alamo Mission, in particular the preservation of the historic mission chapel, a shrine to the brave Americans who gave their lives for Texas independence ten years earlier.
Edward returned to Quincy where two years later, April 1851, his father died. For over a decade and a half, Everett was Quincy’s jack-of-all-trades. His primary income came from the sale of lots on land his father owned. He also helped people with federal patent applications, built a buggy displayed at the New York “World’s Fair,” and was active in Quincy’s library and agricultural organizations. He drew an illustrated birds-eye view of Quincy in 1857 and later that year married Mary Billings the daughter of a Quincy Unitarian minister.
John Wood was a household name in Quincy. He arrived on the bluffs above the Mississippi in 1822 where he built a small one-room cabin. For years after, the successful land speculator was considered the man to know in Quincy, serving seven times as mayor. When Illinois Governor William H. Bissell died in 1860, Lt. Gov. Wood finished his term from a room in his Quincy home. New Gov. Richard Yates appointed Wood the state’s quartermaster general at the outset of the Civil War. Wood immediately appointed Everett as his assistant with the rank of major, a position Edward held for a year. He resigned his commission to locate the grave of his younger brother, Samuel, a surgeon, who was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. A sad but successful mission.
A small advertisement appeared on page 3 of the Quincy Daily Herald on May 4, 1866, announcing the auction of a home on 12th Street, north of Vine. Mary and Edward Everett were selling their home to the highest bidder and moving to New York. Earlier that year, the Everetts extensively toured the Hudson River valley and found a home shaded with majestic trees in Ossining, forty miles north of New York City, with a sweeping view of the Hudson River. After extensive foreign and domestic travel, the Everetts moved back home to the Boston suburb of Roxbury, MA, in 1891 where Edward died twelve years later.
Edward Everett, “A Narrative of Military Experience in Several Capacities”, Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year 1905, Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, IL, 1906, pp. 179-236.
Edward Everett Journal. [1862, Doc # D1145]. Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.
Edward Franklin Everett, Descendants of Richard Everett, of Dedham, Mass, Boston, 1902.
The Quincy Whig, 2/12/1842, p. 3.
The Quincy Whig, 10/18/1843, p. 4.
The Quincy Whig, 5/6/1851, p. 3.
The Quincy Whig, 12/8/1860, p. 3.
The Quincy Daily Whig, 7/28/1903, p. 8.
Edward Everett, “The Volcanoes of Hawaii”, Scientific American Supplement [from the Boston Commonwealth], November 30, 1895, p.166.
Online – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Everett