This is the monument in William May State Park, Winsted, Minnesota
William May came from humble
beginnings of Scotch-Irish stock, whose ancestors pre-dated the American
Revolution. He was born in Pennsylvania. While still a child, his parents
moved to Indiana where they operated a farm. At the outbreak of the
1846-1848 war with Mexico, he volunteered and served in action with the
4th Indiana Regiment.
He married a local girl,
Louisa Dodd, shortly after he was mustered out at the end of the war.
Somewhat later, he moved with his family to Maysville, Iowa, where he
homesteaded some land and began farming again. He continued farming in
Iowa until the outbreak of, the Civil War, at which time he answered the
Union call for volunteers to stem the southern rebellion.
And thus, he enlisted and was
assigned to Co. H, 32nd Iowa Volunteers. During his tour of duty, he
participated in eight, large-size battles which various campaigns took him
through Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and finally to the battle for
The battle for Nashville took
place on Dec. 15-16, 1864, and was a particularly vicious battle, fought
under extreme weather conditions of snow, sleet, and ice. It was also a
very crucial battle because on its outcome hinged the success of General
Sherman's ongoing campaign in the Carolinas and Georgia, and the prospect
for an early termination of the war.
That William May contributed
substantially to the outcome of the battle for Nashville is evident from
reading his citation for the medal of honor and first-hand accounts of the
battle in which he participated.
It was Dec. 16, 1864, the
second day of battle for Nashville. Up to that time it had been a see-saw
operation, neither side making significant gains until a sudden probing
action by the Union forces revealed a weak point in the opposing
Confederate battery of Captain Alicde Bouanchaud. There was an immediate command
from our side to fix bayonets and make a frontal assault on the
Confederate position. As our men leapt over their trenches, they were
caught by a surprise volley of Confederate rifle fire.
The sudden intensity of fire
caused the Union forces to falter for a moment. It was at that point that
William May ran out in front of his regiment, up to Bouanchaud's Confederate
battery and grabbed the rebel flag from its bearer, crying "The flag
This timely, bold, and
aggressive action so galvanized William May's comrades that in a wild
rush, they followed him and in minutes overcame the Confederate position.
This action was followed by the crumbling of the southern resistance in
Tennessee, and the gradual destruction of the entire Confederate army in
At war's end in 1865, William
May was mustered out of the army again returned to Maysville, Iowa, to his
farm, wife, and children. However, he was never quite satisfied with Iowa.
He's heard much about Minnesota from his comrades-- all about the big
woods, our lakes and streams, and the good land that was here for the
And so, William May, ever the
pioneer, as well as patriot and soldier, set out with his family for
Minnesota sometime in 1865 or 1866. He settled in Winsted, homesteading
several parcels of land, parts of which include portions of the present
city of Winsted. The abstracts of any number of city landowners will
attest to this fact.
He lived out his years in
Winsted, a respected citizen of the community, dying Oct. 21, 1894. He
lies buried, as also do his wife and children, in the Winsted Cemetery,
beneath its gentle, whispering pines.
A new stone, complete with
the logos of the Congressional Medal of Honor marks his grave. The
original stone, now completely refurbished, honors this park with its
presence and marks forever the heroic deeds of one of our forebears.
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