David McKinney papers  1776-1921 (bulk 1863-1865)
full text File Size: 30 K bytes


McKinney, David, 1829-1903

Rank : 1st Lieutenant; Captain

Regiment : 77th Illinois Infantry Regiment (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 September 3-1865 December

Born on September 5, 1829, in Newburg, Pa., David McKinney was the eldest of the nine children of Abraham Smith McKinney, Sr. (1791-1872) and his wife Margaret Reynolds McKinney (1801-1886). McKinney's father was a successful and respected farmer, tanner, and surveyor, and a veteran of the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. The stature and respect accorded to the elder McKinney eventually earned him several years of service in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

David McKinney attended Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pa., impressing his professors with his intelligence, good nature, and integrity. Graduating in 1849, he began to pursue a career in teaching, a profession that he shared for a time by his younger brother, Abraham Smith McKinney, Jr. (1834-1921), but in 1856, the family moved to Peoria, Ill., to begin a new life in the west.

With the crisis of the Civil War upon them, David McKinney assisted his friend, and later brother-in-law, David Perkins Grier, in organizing a volunteer infantry regiment. The 77th Illinois was mustered in to the federal service on September 3, 1862, and on September 12, McKinney received a staff commission as first lieutenant, assuming the duties of regimental quartermaster. Ordered to take part in the campaigns to wrest control of the Mississippi Valley and divide the Confederacy, the 77th Illinois took part in the Vicksburg Campaign and subsequent capture of Jackson, Miss., and later in the Red River Campaign and other operations in northern Louisiana and Texas. It was in September, 1863, when flush with the victory of Vicksburg, "Perk" Grier took the opportunity to marry McKinney's sister, Anna.

A Democrat, politically, McKinney distanced himself from the conservative wing of the war-time Party. Considering himself above politics, and above the divisions that he saw dividing the north and imperiling the war effort, he argued that national unity, rather than partisanship, ought to be the overriding concern of all Americans. "I am very sorry indeed," he wrote to his sister, whom he felt was fraternizing with dissidents, "that you have any sympathy with those called Copperheads of the North -- they are a dangerous & disloyal set of men... They may be Democrats or abolitionists, I care not what, but they are not true Union men, & therefore I don't like to see them receiving any sympathy or continuance -- I don't know & do not want to know anything about party down here or elsewhere until this rebellion is put down" (1863 August 9).

Honest and capable, McKinney was called upon to fill increasingly responsible positions as a quartermaster following the Red River Campaign. When Grier was promoted to the command of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Division, XIII Corps, McKinney was appointed Acting Assistant Quartermaster on brigade staff, later serving in the same position on the staff of Brig. Gen. George F. McGinnis (3rd Brig., 3rd Div., XIX A.C.). Just as he was about to rejoin his regiment in New Orleans in December, 1864, McKinney was ordered to assume the position of post Quartermaster for the important Union supply depot at Mouth of White River, Ark. As Master of River Transportation, McKinney effectively controlled all military and commercial traffic passing the post down either the White or Mississippi Rivers -- a position that he noted was important and, in the wrong hands, could be used for personal profiteering.

In March, 1865, McKinney was rewarded with a promotion to captain, and shortly thereafter was appointed Assistant Quartermaster of the Department of Arkansas, in which position he supervised several supply depots and a large staff. He longed to remain in the service, and was willing to take on any post that would further that goal. Long after the close of the war in the West and the demobilization of his regiment, McKinney continued to perform valuable service for the army, organizing public sales of surplus military stores, however his application to transfer into the regular army was denied, and he was finally discharged in December, 1865.

McKinney's post-war activities are less clear. His brother, Abraham, became a successful businessman and banker in Peoria, after an abortive attempt to profit from running a plantation in Mississippi with a family friend, David Keighin. David McKinney never married, but seems to have enjoyed a successful career and comfortable life, as he was able to afford a variety of treatments for the illness which eventually claimed his life on January 10, 1903, in Peoria.