Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Eifort
William Henry Eifort was a son of Sebastian Eifort, Esq., and Rachel Jackson Eifort, of Hunnewell, Kentucky.
He was born at Jackson Furnace, Jackson County, Ohio, December 26th, 1842. He was brought up in Scioto County, Ohio, where his father was engaged in the manufacture of iron.
In his thirteenth year his father moved to Carter County, Kentucky, where he built Boone Furnace. Here his son Henry was engaged as clerk and storekeeper, with the exception of the time spent in school. In the Spring of 1859, he came to Marietta, and entered the Preparatory Department. He was distinguished here for a peculiarly bold and generous spirit, impulsive and frank in a high degree.
At the breaking out of the war he found himself in a state which assumed the attitude of neutrality, but he was too straight-forward and too spirited a youth to be beguiled into any imaginary path between loyalty and disloyalty. He promptly espoused the cause of the Government, and with two or three friends of like spirit, attempted to raise volunteers for the Union Army. It was a perilous undertaking; they found that " neutrality " meant war upon all who should dare to rally men to the old flag on the soil of Kentucky. Their lives were threatened, and they were targets for the rifle and revolver as they rode through the country.
But Eifort was one of those bold spirits who seem insensible to fear. Danger only roused him to his best. He and his friend raised a company, which, on its organization, chose him first Lieutenant, his friend Thomas being made Captain. At this time Lieutenant Eifort was but eighteen years of age. The company could not camp on neutral soil, but crossed to Indiana to Camp Joe Holt, where they were mustered into the United States service, July 18th, 1861.
Enlisting first as Infantry, they were invited to change their organization, which they did, forming a company of the Second Kentucky Cavalry. The Regiment was under Sherman in his first campaign in Kentucky, in the Fall of 1861, and served in the Army of the Cumberland through the war. It fought many battles, and almost numberless skirmishes.
(Compiled Service Records)
Everywhere Eifort was conspicuous for his courage, continually getting in advance of his men when there was an enemy in front. He attempted exploits which were almost unheard of even in cavalry charges; not from vanity or ambition, nor as the result of stimulants, being strictly temperate in his habits. He never seemed to appreciate his own personal danger, but fixing his eye on the end to be reached, forgot himself till success was assured.
An instance of his courage is given just before the battle of Shiloh, in the Spring of 1862. He with a detachment of thirty men was sent forward on the pike near Franklin, Tennessee, when the rebels in their retreat were burning bridges behind them. Coming in sight of a bridge which they had just fired and fled from, Eifort spurred on ahead of his men, blind to danger or impossibility, plunged into the smoke and flames with his thirty men after him, crossed it as by a miracle, and suddenly appeared among the astonished rebel pickets, whom he made prisoners. In a few moments after the crossing the bridge was a mass of fire.
Eifort rose steadily through the grades of promotion, being made Captain, April 26th, 1862; Major, December 14th, 1863; and Lieutenant Colonel, June 22d, 1864, when he was but twenty-two years old. His extreme daring cost him his life. This occurred in a skirmish at Triune, a small village between Murfreesboro and Franklin, Tenn., September 4th, 1864.(*)
In this engagement his zeal and daring led him many yards in advance of his men, when he was mortally wounded, living a few hours, and sending home the message that "he had died as a soldier ought," that "he was the first man in, and the last man out of the charge."
His body is buried at Portsmouth, Ohio, by the side of his grandfather, who was for fifteen years a commissioned officer in the French and German wars of Napoleon.
(*) The Compiled Service Records indicate that William Henry Eifort was mustered in as 1st Lieutenant in Captain Thomas' Company, 1st KY Cavalry, which subsequently became Co. C, 2nd KY Cavalry. He was promoted to Captain of Co. H and mustered to date August 23, 1862. This date was later amended to date April 27, 1862. Eifort was promoted to Major, mustered in to date January 27, 1864. His final promotion was Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd KY Cavalry, dated June 22, 1864. He was killed in action near Triune, Tennessee, on September 3, 1864.
(Compiled Service Records)
Major General R. H. Milroy noted in his report, "It is with pain that I mention death of the brave Lieutenant-Colonel Eifort, of the Second Kentucky, who received a mortal wound while gallant leading a charge on the rebel battery and rear guard about noon on the 4th instant, of which he soon afterward died. The Tenth Tennessee Cavalry had been ordered to move around to the left of the rebel position and charge them in flank, while Colonel Eifort, with the detachment of his own regiment and a portion of the Fifth Tennessee, went to charge them in front. After a sufficient time had been given the Tenth to get into position Colonel Eifort charged forward in the most gallant style, but the Tenth had failed to get into position and charged simultaneously, as was intended. The consequence was that Colonel Eifort was repulsed and driven back; and while the colonel was bravely trying to hold his men in the unequal fight, amid the enemy's guns, he was shot through the body. In this death society lost an ornament and the country a brave young officer of much promise."