by Elizabeth Marsh
“We opened on them and when they would see the flash they would lay down and would repeat it at every discharge we rejoined the rest of the battery and in a short time after my horse was killed, and strange to say I had 16 or 17 bullets holes in my clothes but not a scratch on my person.” –Patrick White
White was a captain in the Union Army during the Civil War; he helped lead the Chicago Mercantile Battery, Illinois Light Infantry. White was born on June 1, 1832. Growing up as an immigrant from County Sligo, Ireland, Patrick White found his passion in drilling with the local Chicago battery. However, he did not enlist for some time because he felt that he needed to support his family after his mother’s death. But before long, his desire to join the Union Army reemerged, and he enlisted as the 2nd Lieutenant in Battery B, 1st Illinois Light Infantry, and set out for Cairo, Illinois in 1861.
White proved an able lieutenant, but had to return to Chicago in 1862 due to illness. Eventually he returned to the battlefield, and was promoted to Captain in the beginning of 1963, and took control of the Chicago Mercantile Battery which was under Grant’s supervision.
Captain Patrick White’s military career proved impressive, as he was known for his prowess with the gun, and his steadfast loyalty. White is credited with stating, “Gentleman, I do not deserve this compliment. I am serving my country, to the utmost of my feeble ability, because I love it.” Not only was his loyalty admirable among Americans, it was surprising for an immigrant to have such love for his new home during the war.
White and his battery were involved in several successful (and less than successful) battles throughout the war, but is most remembered for his bravest feat. During the action at Vicksburg on May 22, 1863, White “Carried with others by hand a cannon up to and fired it through an embrasure of the enemy’s works.” His attempts almost cost him his life, but ultimately he won a Medal of Honor for his heroic actions, which he received on January 15, 1895.
While at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads in 1864, Captain White was captured by rebel forces and became a prisoner of war. He spent thirteen months in Tyler, Texas, until he was traded back to the Union in 1865. After his military career, White moved from Chicago to Albany, New York, where he settled down with his new wife, Annie Owens. White worked in the fish and oyster business, and eventually passed away on November 25, 1915. He is buried in St. Agnes’ Cemetery in Menands, New York.
Boos, J.E. and Patrick H. White. “Civil War Diary of Patrick H. White.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 15, no. 3/4 (1922-1923): 640-663.
Find A Grave. “Patrick H. White.” Last modified 9 January 2004. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8253204
Taylor’s Battery. “Patrick H. White.” Accessed 26 January 2015. http://www.taylorsbattery.org/PH%20whites%20sabre.htm
U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Medal of War Recepients: Civil War (M-Z).” Last modified 27 June 2011. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwarmz.html
 J.E. Boos and Patrick H. White, “Civil War Diary of Patrick H. White,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 15, no. 3/4 (1922-1923): 654.
 “Patrick H. White,” Taylor’s Battery, accessed 26 January 2015. http://www.taylorsbattery.org/PH%20whites%20sabre.htm
 “Medal of War Recepients: Civil War (M-Z),” U.S. Army Center of Military History, last modified 27 June 2011. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwarmz.html