More than 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in the Civil War. However, one man works to ensure that the ones who hailed for Elgin will never be forgotten.
For the past nine years, historian Ken Gough documented more than 3,200 people who had a tie to the war and who lived in Elgin at some time before, during or after the war.
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The result is his book, "Elgin, Illinois Soldiers of the Civil War," which is available in the genealogy section of the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. A second copy is at the Elgin History Museum.
"I probably have 95 percent of (the Elgin soldiers) in that book," he said. "I'm not going to say I have everybody because even in the last couple of weeks I've found a couple that I missed."
The 294-page book started as a 24-page paper written for the Elgin Area Historical Society. And even though it is bound now, Gough, 59, says the book might actually never be finished because he continues to find more Elgin soldiers.
"Every now and then I get a letter from somebody with an obit about their great-grandfather that says they fought in the Civil War, and it's somebody I haven't heard about before," he explains. "And I encourage that. I want that information."
To find soldiers, Gough used the public library's microfilm readers. He does his research, sometimes up to eight hour a day, after his full-time job as an engineer designing staircases.
A difficult aspect of his investigation is that after the war, many veterans moved away from Elgin, and never talked about the war. As a result, there's often no local written account such as letters and newspaper accounts.
"Basically I'm going through the old newspapers, one obituary at a time," he explains. "I started at 1866 and worked through to the 1940s. That's where the really good stuff is."
In addition to his book, as he finds more data, he updates his blog, elginareacivilwarsoldiers.blogspot.com.
Well-known as a Civil War re-enactor and lecturer, he is easily recognized by his long beard and small, oval spectacles. His interest in the war began during high school in Georgia. His ancestors fought for the Confederacy.
"Just because they are my ancestors doesn't make them right," he says.
But his goal is more than reporting data. Gough digs for personal information about each man. His book tells the reader more about the character of the man than the footprints of the soldier.
"Everybody is interested in the battles and stuff, but I've found that what he did after the war could be a better story," he says. "My focus was on learning each man's story. What did he do? Was he a student? Did he work on a farm? Was he a printer?"
Gough speaks at schools, libraries, history clubs, and historical events. At one time, he was appearing in as many as 20 re-enactments annually. His look is genuine enough that he has appeared as a soldier in several big-screen, Hollywood movies, such as "Gettysburg" and "Glory."
He recently started a new project researching the citizens interred at Elgin City Cemetery, the city's first cemetery that was closed to new burials in 1906. But his Civil War passion continues to burn as he finds more onetime Elgin residents who fought.
"I wanted to know about the guys who actually got down in the mud and did the actual fighting," he said from his regular chair at the library. "They're the ones who carried the weight. Their story needed to be told."