Thomas K. Challenor was a Belleville constable and county Sheriff. During the Civil War he help recruit volunteers for Company K, 22nd Illinois Infantry.
Thomas K. Challenor
Thomas K. Challenor, who was born in England, on 8 February, 1812; in Chester, England. He married Anna Robinson in Liverpool, England. Upon immigrating to the United States in 1842, he lived in Kaskaskia, Illinois, until 1844. Challenor moved his family to Belleville, following a Mississippi River flood, and once in Belleville he became employed as a constable and was elected as Sheriff of St. Clair County in 1852 to 1854.
After an emergency meeting in Springfield on 1 May 1861; to raise an additional ten regiments for Civil War service. St. Clair County was tasked with raising one company for Illinois 8th Congressional District; and Thomas Challenor took charge of those activities immediately. Challenor’s Company moved into residence of the newly established Camp Koerner (St. Clair County Fairgrounds), which was named after Belleville’s most influential politician, Gustave Koerner.
By 8 May 1861; three companies were present and accounted for, and Challenor was elected Captain of the company he raised; when then Captain Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Belleville, under orders from Illinois Governor Richard Yates; to observe the State’s defenses and readiness. On 10 May 1861; Challenor’s Company became Company K. Company K adopted the moniker of “The Brawny Miners”, but history simply remembers the company as “Belleville’s Own”, or “The Belleville Company”.
He trained alongside his Company until 25 June 1861; when they were mustered into service by Army Captain T.G. Pitcher; at Camp McClellan in Caseyville. The men were outfitted in the Grey uniform of the Illinois militia; and were equipped with a .69 caliber converted flintlock musket that fired buck & ball. Afterwards, Challenor and the 22nd Illinois was sent to Bird’s Point, Missouri; located across the Mississippi River from Cairo, IL.
Captain Challenor was present for duty when General Ulysses S. Grant; attacked the small Confederate Garrison located at the steamboat landing at Belmont, Missouri; across the Mississippi River from the major Confederate Garrison in Columbus, Kentucky; on 8 November 1861. The attack was initially a success with the Confederate troops pushed back towards the river. With many of the Federal troops thinking the battle was over, Confederate long range artillery opened fire upon their position, and the “defeated” Confederate troops counterattacked. The resulting second half of the Battle of Belmont, turned into a Federal rout by the Confederate troops & Challenor was shot in the hip and when captured he was beat with a butt of a musket.
Not returning with the 22nd Illinois to Bird’s Point; it was reported in the Belleville Newspapers that Captain Challenor was killed during the Battle of Belmont; until he was later exchanged; after being held in Columbus, KY. After his exchange, he returned to Belleville to recover from his wounds. Captain Challenor remained sidelined until May 1863; when he returned to duty.
Upon his return to duty, he was given a promotion to Major; and assigned to the staff of General Alvan C. Gillem, here he served in eastern Tennessee and western Virginia; until the end of the war.
Major Challenor’s life after the Civil War, seems to have been rather peaceful as his obituary mentions nothing, except that he had five children. It is known that he was a member of the Belleville Post #217 of the Grand Army of the Republic, that existed between 1866 & 1874. Major Challenor was present at the 1879 Belleville Soldiers reunion; and present at the first reunion of the 22nd Illinois Infantry held at the County Fairgrounds, between 25-27 September 1889. In September 1883; the Civil War Pensioners List was published, and listed T.K. Challenor receiving $10.50 per month for a wounded hip. Major Challenor later attended the reunion of the “Belmont Veterans Association” when it met in Belleville in November 1893. He joined the Hecker Post #443 of the Grand Army of the Republic, located in Belleville, IL; in May 1887 and remained with the Fraternal Order until his death on 10 March 1894. His burial was a “Soldiers Burial” as it was conducted by the rituals of the Grand Army of the Republic, by the Hecker Post; at Green Mount Cemetery; with the Honorable Jehu Baker giving the eulogy.
By: Jon Stacy, Historian, Fredrick K. Hecker Camp #443. Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War