Biography - JOHN SKINNER

John Skinner, a retired and highly respected citizen of Newman, was born in Vermillion county, Indiana, April 4, 1831, and is a son of Joseph and Mary (Gaston) Skinner. His father came to the county in 1839 as a renter, but afterward owned a tract of land of eight hundred acres. The city of Newman is located on part of this land. He took stock to the value of four hundred acres of land and one thousand dollars cash in the construction of the I. D. & W. R. R., from which he realized nothing. He was an enlisted soldier in the Black Hawk war, and died in 1857 (for further ancestry see sketch of his brother, Isaac Skinner).

John Skinner grew up on the farm and has always been identified with farming interests. He has held the office of township commissioner, and has always identified himself with the best interests of Newman and Newman township. He owns three hundred and seventy acres of valuable and well-tiled land, which comes almost to the corporation line of Newman.

In 1859 our subject was married to Miss Hannah J., a daughter of Dr. Ringland, one of the first physicians of Newman, who emigrated from Pennsylvania to the neighborhood of Kansas, Edgar county, later removed to Newman in 1857, and thence back to Kansas, where he died. The death of the wife of our subject occurred within six weeks after her marriage to Mr. Skinner; he has remained unmarried ever since.

In 1862 he volunteered in the Seventy-ninth Illinois Infantry, and participated in the battles of Stone River, Liberty Gap and Chickamauga. He and his brother Anson were captured at the latter place on September 19, 1863, and were placed in Libby prison for three days. They were placed in the Pemberton building, just across the street from Libby, and kept there for six weeks. They were afterward taken to Danville, Virqinia, and kept in an old tobacco factory through the winter of 1863 and 1864 with sixteen hundred other prisoners, and were made to sleep on the bare floor without bedding or lights in the building. They were taken from this place in April, 1864, and sent to Andersonville, Georgia. This prison contained about twenty-three acres, being enclosed with logs standing on end, making a wall around about fourteen feet high. This prison had about thirty-five thousand men in it. In September, 1864, they were taken to Charleston, South Carolina, and remained there four weeks, thence to Florence Stockade, in February, 1865. They were kept prisoners here for about four months, when they were removed to Goldsboro, South Carolina, and back to Wilmington, where they were mustered out after enduring a prison life of seventeen months and nine days. In these prisons they were reduced in flesh by starvation to less than half their natural weight. Mr. Skinner was with his regiment all the time after being mustered in until he was captured, excepting two weeks sickness at Stone River. After being captured he was ten days on his way to Libby, where general starvation began. He issued rations to a squad of twenty men about one year. There were seventeen members of his company captured at the same time and he had charge of them in prison and kept them all in his squad except Lieutenant Albin, who was wounded and taken from this place. Joseph Harvey and William Ritter were left sick at Richmond, Virginia: Ritter died and Harvey was paroled. D. N. Howard, Aaron Briton and Wm. Stillwell, of his company, died in Andersonville. These were all that died of the seventeen who were captured.

After they left Danville, Virginia, there was never a vessel of any kind issued for them with which to eat, drink or cook. All they had was old cans that they could pick up that had been thrown away.

Our subject got hold of an old iron hoop and made a saw and a pocket knife, these being the only edge tools he had. With these he began making buckets out of cordwood. He could make one bucket a day and sold them for from one dollar to one dollar and a half. This was his occupation while in Andersonville. While he was in the Florence stockades he mended shoes and made from two dollars to two dollars and fifty cents per day. At Danville he got a job of keeping the back yard clean, for which be received four rations per day; he divided these rations with his company and by so doing saved the lives of six or eight men. In November, 1864, he went out to the commissary, where he had plenty to eat, taking his squad along, besides several members of other companies. While he was in Andersonville prison he was starved down to the weight of eighty-five pounds, but when he left the commissary at Florence, in February, 1865, he had gotten back to his natural weight, one hundred and ninety-seven and one-half pounds, so it can be seen how starvation had reduced him. He was mustered out of service June 5, 1865. at the city of Springfield, Illinois.

Anson Skinner's death occurred in February, 1896. William, another brother, now residing in Newman, was a member of the same regiment; they were all sergeants. John Skinner's friends are legion in the community in which he resides. He lives a quiet, contented life, and enjoys the highest confidence of all who know him.

Extracted 08 Sep 2018 by Norma Hass from the Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, published in 1900, pages 171-173.

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