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Samuel Walker Shattuck, Civil War Hero and Professor of Mathematics

by Philip Shaddock with Wikipedia


Samuel Walker Shattuck. The picture must have passed down through generations of Samuel as a young officer in the American Civil War.

Samuel Walker Shattuck, a descendant of the Groton Shattucks, was born in Groton, Massachusetts, the historic town with a large population of Shattucks. His father Walter Shattuck (1801-1871) was born in Groton, Aug. 9, 1801, where he was a merchant with his brother, under the firm of W. & G. Shattuck.

Samuel came from a long line of Shattuck ancestors who fought for their country, including fighting for England before the War of Independence. His grandfather was Noah Shattuck, Esq., (1772-1858). Lemuel Shattuck tells us this of his illustrious grandfather. "He was in the 1812 War. He commanded a company stationed at Fort Warren, from Sept. 19th to Nov. 30, 1814. He was one of the selectmen, assessors, and overseers of the poor in Groton, from 1817 until he declined re-election in 1824; was town clerk from 1819 to 1822; representative in the legislature in 1824; justice of the peace and of the quorum, and otherwise useful in public affairs. He has been much employed as administrator of estates, and as a guardian of children. He and his sons are extensive farmers in Groton." 

His great grandfather was the famous Job Shattuck (1735-1819), a ringleader in Shays' Rebellion, a revolt against state taxes. I tell the story of Job Shattuck on this page.  Samuel Walker Shattuck came of his military prowess, intellectual rigor and social prominence honestly, in the crucible of his native town of Groton and the crucible of a prominent local family.

Groton was the site of many conflicts, including King Philip's War, Queen Anne's War and Shays' Rebellion. If there is a good example of the kind of man the town produced, surely Samuel typified the grit and endurance of its citizens.

Wikipedia has page devoted to Samuel, worth reproducing in whole. 

"Samuel Walker Shattuck (February 18, 1841 – February 13, 1913) was an American academic from Massachusetts. He graduated from Norwich University in Vermont and taught at the school until 1867, with a break to serve in the Civil War. He then accepted a position at Illinois Industrial University (today the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), where he taught for the next forty-four years (1868–1912).

Samuel Walker Shattuck was born in Groton, Massachusetts, on February 18, 1841. He attended preparatory school at Lawrence Academy at Groton, then studied at Norwich University in Vermont, graduating in 1860. He was then appointed an instructor of mathematics at Norwich. Shattuck resigned his position upon the outbreak of the Civil War, becoming an adjutant of the 8th Vermont Infantry. He was wounded during the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, and was named a captain the next month. He was mustered out with his unit in June 1865. Shattuck then returned to Norwich University as an adjunct professor of mathematics and military tactics. From 1866 to 1867, he was acting president of the school.

Shattuck resigned from his position in the summer of 1868 to join the new Illinois Industrial University in Urbana, Illinois. He as named a professor of civil engineering two years later and was appointed a professor of mathematics in 1871. He was acting regent of the school for six months in 1873, then assumed the role of business agent and manager until 1905. He was then named comptroller of the university, serving until his retirement on September 1, 1912. The university presented him with an honorary Doctor of Laws. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching presented him with a retiring allowance for his service.

Shattuck married Adelaide L. White on August 14, 1866; she died in August 1914. They had four children: Charles W., Anna, Edith A., and Walter F. Anna married fellow Illinois professor Arthur Wilson Palmer in 1893. Samuel Walker Shattuck died on February 13, 1913 at the home of his daughter in Champaign, Illinois. He had been in ill health for two years. A brief account of Shattuck's university service was read to students on the day of his funeral. He was buried in Mount Home Cemetery and Mausoleum in Urbana."

The Fortnightly News, a publication of the alumni association of the University of Illinois, spoke highly of his character in its Feb. 15, 1915 obituary: "The respect and affection of his students he gained by a steady insistence on the highest standards of manliness and integrity. He measured men and situations accurately; he was never coerced, was never rash and never narrow. For 43 years he gave his refinement of character, his native dignity of bearing, his learning, his knowledge of men, his interest in students, his habit of care, to the making of the university. His conduct was always marked by the spirit of the teacher, the precision of the soldier, and the good judgment and dignified bearing of the independent man of affairs." The obituary called Samuel "one of the principal figures in the development of the University of Illinois."

A former president of the university said of him: "...if he did nothing else it would be worth while to the state of Illinois to pay him his salary just to have him on the campus as a visible example to young men." (From "A Tribute to Samuel Walker Shattuck" in "The American Mathematical Monthly" Jan. 1, 1916 by G.A. Miller, University of Illinois.) 

The qualities of character described by the author of the obituary was nurtured in the town of Groton by a family long and distinguished in the area. He was tested by his experiences during the civil war. We have an eyewitness account of the famous Battle of Cedar Creek. It comes from the 8th Vermont Regimental History by Captain S.E. Howard.

"After Fisher's Hill, the army followed Early to Harrisonburg and then returned to Cedar Creek, where it lay in camp when the fateful attack was made on our left in the early morning of October 19, 1864, the last great battle the regiment was to see.

When the attack was made in the early dawn on our left, the reserve brigade under Colonel Thomas crossed the pike, and took position to cover the great but unavoidable rout of the Eighth Corps, and check three divisions of the enemy that had surprised and defeated our left. Our line was not fairly formed in the fringe of timber before we were in most desperate fighting. It was so dark the enemy could hardly be seen, but the time was ablaze with the flash of his muskets, the air full of bullets, and above all rose the din of his victorious yells. The Eighth Vermont held the left of the brigade and was much more exposed than any other troops. Charge after charge of the enemy was repulsed. The colors of the regiment were taken away from us three times and as often re-taken and they now grace the Capitol in Montpelier. There were hand to hand conflicts, "bayonets dripped blood and skulls were broken by clubbed muskets," but the little band held on until, almost exterminated, it fell back, still showing its teeth and still fighting. During the day the brigade lost more than one third of its fighting men, the greater part of them on this "horrible hill of sacrifice," and on this spot the Eighth Vermont has a granite boulder from the Green Mountain Hills, with this enscription: "The 8th Vermont Volunteers, Col. Stephen Thomas commanding the brigade, advanced across this field on the morning of Oct. 19, 1864, engaged the enemy near and beyond this point, and before sunrise lost in killed and wounded one hundred and ten men, out of one hundred and forty-eight engaged, and thirteen out of sixteen commissioned officers. Whole number of men engaged one hundred and sixty-four." Lieut. A. K. Cooper was killed here and Capt. Edward Hall and Lieut. N. C. Cheney fatally wounded, and the wounded who recovered were Maj. J. B. Mead, Capts. A. B. Franklin, Wm.H. Smith, George O. Ford, S. E. Howard, Adjt. S. W. Shattuck, Lieuts. A. J. Sargent, Jas. Welch, Martin L. Bruce, and William H. Spencer. Lieut. F.R. Carpenter was wounded and captured on the picket line. Lieuts. Lewis Child and Henry W. Newton, both on staff duty, had their horses shot under them and were injured by the fall."

After that day in his life, I would think that every day thereafter was treasured and maximized by Samuel Walker Shattuck.


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