An Honorable Name: Medal of Honor Recipient 1Lt. Lorenzo Dow Immell
Lorenzo Dow Immell was a 1st Lieutenant in Company F of the 2nd U.S. Artillery. His bravery in action as a Corporal at the Battle of Wilson‘s Creek on August 10, 1861, not only helped him acquire an officer‘s commission, but earned him the Medal of Honor. When perusing the list of venerated Medal of Honor recipients buried in Missouri or attached to Missouri regiments, this name stood out not just due to its relative uniqueness, but also its personal familiarity. It was his first two names in particular which beckoned this author to engage in further research.
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! … How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” – John Proctor from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Lorenzo Dow Immell
Lorenzo Dow Immell was born on June 18, 1837, in Ross County, Ohio, to Jacob Immell, Sr. and Mary Ann Sibrel. As a corporal in Co. F, 2nd U.S. Artillery, during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Immell gathered cannon from another battery and continued to fire on the Confederate assault. A soldier named John Kelly witnessed his bravery, and his recounting appeared in the St. Louis Globe Democrat on August 8, 1897.
“At the Battle of Wilson Creek, Mo., on the 10th of August 1861, I was witness to an act of bravery performed by the said Corp. Immell, namely, going between the lines at short range and cutting out the dead lead team of Corp. Wittenberry’s caisson and cutting a sapling, where it was lodged, and mounting the swing team and taking it out, for which act the line cheered.
At the close of the engagement his off wheel horse fell, fatally wounded, and Corp. Immell received three wounds himself. He put in a mule in place of the off wheel horse, saved his six-pounder gun; otherwise it would have been abandoned, as all the troops, except a company of 1st Iowa Infantry, had withdrawn from that part of the field.”
Another soldier and comrade, William J. Williams, also witnessed Immell’s bravery at Wilson Creek at wrote an affidavit recounting the event:
“I was a private in Capt. James Tottens’ Company F, 2nd United States Artillery, and was acting gunner of the third piece in the battle at Wilson’s Creek, Mo., the 10th of August, ’61, and remember seeing Corporal L.D. Immell advance between the enemy and our lines and cut loose the lead team, which had been killed, then mount the saddle horse of the swing team and save the caisson of Corporal Wittenberry’s piece, which had been abandoned by all the drivers and men, and remember our whole line cheering him; also of seeing him take a mule on the same day and put him in placeof one of the wheel-horses which had been shot, take an ax and cut a small tree, which the piece was fast on, and save the gun; also saw him advance and get a horse belonging to the enemy, under a hot fire, which I had killed the rider of with canister shot, he having his horse shot under him in the fore part of the engagement. Also remember Capt. James E. Tottens telling him he was the bravest man he ever saw, and that he would see him rewarded. L.D. Immell was one of the youngest soldiers in the company when the war commenced, and was made a Corporal while yet a recruit, and there was no promotion that he could have received that the company would not have appreciated. He was a good soldier.”
In 1890, Immell was recognized for his bravery at Wilson’s Creek with the Medal of Honor. After the war, he was a member of Ransom Post #131 of the G.A.R in St. Louis, Missouri. His comrades thought highly of him as a soldier as summed up by the previous affidavits and this account, in the same article, of his entire Civil War service: “The record of L.D. Immell is most remarkable. Perhaps no comrade in Ransom Post saw longer or more arduous service than he. Beginning with the defense of the arsenal in St. Louis in March and April, 1861, he participated in the capture of Camp Jackson , May 10, 1861, the battle of Boonville, Mo., June 17, 1861, the skirmishes at Syracuse and Dug Springs, followed by the battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, again followed by the capture of Island No. 10, then Fort Pillow, Farmington, Corinth, and Boonville, when Gen. Sheridan thrashed Gen. Chalmers. He participated also at Rienzi, Iuka, the second battle of Corinth, Oxford, Missionary Ridge, Tunnel Hill, Rockyface Ridge, Dalton, Buzzard Roost and so on through to Atlanta. Every comrade who was with the army in that section of the country knows it was a continual series of battles until after Atlanta fell. Then came Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, Columbia, Tenn., Spring Hill, Franklin, Nashville, etc. Mr. Immell was wounded slightly three times at Wilson’s Creek. At Corinth, he was again wounded, also at Resaca, at the siege of Atlanta and at Jonesboro, Ga.”
Immell and his family eventually migrated to Franklin County, Missouri. He died on October 31, 1912, and was buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Three counties away from Franklin County in Pulaski County, Missouri, my ancestor, Lorenzo Dow Wall (1832-1875), had lived out his relatively short life, which included service as a Private in Company E of the Osage County Home Guards. These men were not related; they did not share a common ancestor.
While “Lorenzo” isn‘t a terribly common name, “Dow” is even less so, and the combination of names “Lorenzo” and “Dow” for two separate men seems an improbable coincidence. But that combination is not limited to these two men born in the 1830s. A cursory Google search reveals a plethora of males born in the first half of the 19th century who share these two names. As the diversity of geography and circumstance suggest, this was not a favorite uncle or a common ancestor. So, who was this Lorenzo Dow?
Reverend Lorenzo Dow
Reverend Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) [pictured right] happened to be a prolific and well-traveled clergyman, spreading what is primarily regarded as the doctrine of the Methodist Church and specifically preaching against the religions of “atheism, deism, Calvinism, and Universalism.” He was a much loved, much revered, eccentric man—not without enemies, but demonstrably popular enough to inspire a multitude of parents in multiple generations to name their children in his honor. What does this tell us about Lorenzo Dow Immell, Lorenzo Dow Wall, or any of the many other namesakes of this man?
In reality, names often say more about the parents and what they valued than about those who hold them, and even then, names were not always given the amount of thought one would like to attribute to them. It would be reasonably safe to assume parents who bestowed upon their sons the name “Lorenzo Dow” were God-fearing Christians, which were not all that uncommon for the time period.
A New Connotation
It is less breakthrough revelation and more satisfying curiosity that the name “Lorenzo Dow” can be traced back to a celebrity of the time period. Dow‘s successful ministry has garnered him the hollow immortality on Earth that comes with some degree of name recognition almost two centuries after death. As for instilling their borrowed name with individual meaning, 1st Lt. Lorenzo Dow Immell successfully associated the name with conspicuously heroic bravery, and both he and Lorenzo Dow Wall have forever tied it to patriotic service to the Union cause.