CAPTAIN W. W. LARGENT. History has given us the names of many heroes who sacrificed much to the good of their country, not stopping to think of personal loss or danger, but offering themselves to the cause of liberty, and through their efforts the foundations of the present greatness of this country were laid. Prominent among the veterans of the great Civil war of Saline county, Illinois, may be mentioned Captain W. W. Largent, one of the pioneers of this part of the state who has seen and participated in the wonderful changes that the last half century has brought. Born May 30, 1841, in Knox county, Ohio, he is a son of John and Jane (Early) Largent, natives of Ohio, who were married in Pennsylvania. The family came to Illinois on the 12th of March, 1855, John Largent engaging in agricultural pursuits one and one-half miles south of Harrisburg, where he died during the seventies, at the age of sixty-eight years, his widow surviving him a few years.
William W. Largent as a lad worked on a farm one mile north of Harrisburg, which at that time was just being settled, there not being a house in the village. Starting to build a house on the farm, Mr. Largent suggested to his father that they purchase a lot in the village, and this they subsequently did. While William W. Largent was serving in the army he purchased the Saline county farm, his father having gone to Pope county to reside for a few years. Mr. Largent can recall many interesting reminiscences of the early days in Harrisburg, and relates that he hauled every stick of timber that was used in building the old Court House. He also remembers cutting oats on the site of the present Court House, in 1855, and of giving a party at the proprietor's James Fezel, who lived at the present home of Captain Parish. This was the first gathering of youngsters in this part of the state, they having come here in March of that year. The house he erected that fall stood on South Main street. Captain Largent was made a Mason in Harrisburg forty years ago. He has now attained the age of seventy years, and during his entire life has never known what it is to taste beer, ale or whiskey or liquor of any kind, although he has been frequently thrown with men who drank.
At the outbreak of the Civil war, Captain Largent enlisted in Company B, Thirty-first Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, commanded by General Logan, Company B having been recruited from Harrisburg, under Captain T. J. Cain. From the rank of eighth corporal Captain Largent rose to the command of his company, and today holds the commissions all through the different grades. After the fight at Vicksburg he had command of the company, the former captain resigning his command and he continued to hold this rank up to the close, participating in the "March to the Sea," through the Carolinas and up to Washington,
D. C., where the company participated in the Grand Review. At the head of a command of sixty men, known as "Sherman's Bummers," Captain Largent participated in numerous skirmishes while out foraging for his regiment, and at times was as far as seventy-five miles from headquarters. This was a command of picked youngsters, who became famous for their bravery and valor and for the success which crowned their operations. On one occasion, being ordered by General Howard to hold a bridge, over which a Confederate force was attempting to escape, by a clever charge Captain Largent and his little band succeeded in capturing the entire Southern force, numbering some three hundred men, and marched them into camp as prisoners. Of the original company that had left their homes with such light hearts but few returned, and on one occasion Captain Largent returned to his home village and secured forty recruits to take the places in the fast-thinning lines. Some of these were killed or maimed by the enemy, some died of fever and disease, while others, as at Vicksburg, where Mr. Largent's regiment was given the task of blowing up Fort Hill, were killed by entering the fort too soon and meeting death from the exploding shells. Outside of this fort Generals Grant and Pendleton met to arrange the terms of surrender. At Atlanta Mr. Largent's regiment was at the front when McPherson was killed, and his regiment was sent to fill the gap where the Confederates had broken through the Union lines and captured a number of articles, including Colonel Logan's cap. Behind this intrepid leader, whom all of the soldiers would have followed anywhere, they recaptured not only the articles taken but the Confederates themselves. Captain Largent was in the service four years and four days, but although he was always in the thickest of the fight he was never seriously wounded, his worst injuries being confined to being struck by a spent ball at Belmont, and being knocked down, and again at Atlanta. During the remainder of his life he has taken a deep interest in public affairs, and has taught his sons to be as patriotic as himself. As a faithful comrade of the Grand Army of the Republic, he is known and respected throughout this community, and is a charter member of George Newell Post at Harrisburg. On his return from the war he engaged in various business ventures, and during the past thirty or more years has been engaged in the livery business, although he is now practically retired. In politics an ardent Republican, Mr. Largent served one term as sheriff of Saline county in 1886. He was also a member of the city council, was president of the town board when Harrisburg was made a city, and for twenty years he has served as a member of the school board, a position which he will in all probability fill up to the time of his death.
In 1863, while on a veteran furlough, Mr. Largent was married to Miss Hattie Holland, who was born in the county of Saline, and when she died she left these children: Dora, who married T. S. Reynolds, of Harrisburg, a prominent citizen now acting in the capacity of postmaster; Moody, who is engaged in the livery business in Harrisburg; and Hattie, who married P. O. Ferguson, a well-known merchant of this city. In about the year 1884 Mr. Largent was married to Lena R. LaFont, who was born in Massac county, Illinois, of French parentage, and six children were born to this union, as follows: Eugene, express agent at Harrisburg; Fanny, who married Lee Pearce, bookkeeper with the O'Gara Coal Company of this city; William W., Jr., a druggist in business at Portageville, Missouri; Charlie and Hazel McKinley, who live at home; and Louis A., who met his death on a trestle in a railroad accident.
Every veteran of the Civil war commands our respect and honor, in memory of what he accomplished and what he risked during those dark days. If he happens to be a member of one of the regiments of divisions that made famous certain struggles in the history of the war, then he is better remembered and as a result more highly honored. However, Captain Largent's war record, excellent though it may be, excels in no way the record that he has made as a private citizen and public official, and it is doubtful that there could be found a citizen in Saline county who possesses to a greater extent the confidence and esteem of the people of the community in which he has spent so many years.