By John R. Knight

From Goshen Trails, April 1966; p. 3
Re-printed by permission

          William Newby, a private of the 40th Illinois Infantry, who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862, and was supposed to have been killed and buried at that celebrated battle.  Newby was restored to his family in April 1891, after 30 years wandering from poorhouse to poorhouse, in the North and the South.

          During the Sixth Annual Reunion of the Army and Sailors Association at McLeansboro, Illinois, William Newby was a great attraction, many coming just to see the man who had been supposed dead for 29 years.  The following ex-solders who were in Andersonville prison during the war met and recognized Newby as one of the prisoners of that pen:  Henry Stewart, of Martin Store; Rev. H. Hutchcraft of Mt. Vernon, Ill.; James A Johnson of Macedonia, and Sealsbury Brown of Six Mile P. O., Wayne County, Illinois.

          During the 29 years wandering of William Newby, his homestead of 200 acres was divided and sold under a decree of the White County Circuit Court, and his children, two girls and four boys, received the benefit of the partition.

          It was then decided that he should apply for a discharge from the Army and seek a pension as well as all the back pay that was due him.

          However, when William Newby went to Springfield to advance his claim he was taken into custody and placed in jail.  The charge that was lodged against him was that he was attempting to obtain a pension fraudulently.  The attorneys believed him not to be William Newby but Daniel Benton.  An indictment was returned against Daniel Benton and a date for the trial was set.

          On Monday, July 9, 1983, the witnesses in the William Newby case went to Springfield.  A. M. Wilson, H. Goodrich, J. H. Upchurch, Moses Robinson, Ed Banes, C. A. Day and several others went from here, and it is estimated that 400 went from White County.  Also on Monday, a Deputy U. S. Marshal passed through this city with 35 witnesses from Tennessee.

          The trial began on July 11, 1893.  Mrs. Rebecca Newby, the mother of Wm. Newby, blind, equally enfeebled and her head white with snow of age, was helped to the witness stand.  She was 95 years old but evidently understood all the questions put to her and answered them intelligently.  She could not see the defendant, but she had talked with him and knew he was her son, for he recalled many incidents of his boyhood.  Among others who identified him were a brother, a sister and several other relatives.

          Newby, however, was convicted despite all this testimony and was sentenced by Judge Allen to two years in the penitentiary at Chester.  A plea for a new trial was denied.

          Shortly after his release from prison Newby left this part of the country and wandered to the region of Andersonville Prison where he died and was buried in a potters field.

Click for Newspaper photo of William Newby and his comrades of the 40th IL Infantry.

Click here for a new link--The William Newby Case

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