Steward 12th Michigan Vols. (Infantry), February 7, 1862; Assistant Surgeon February I, 1863; died at Detroit, Mich., January 31, 1864, of disease contracted in the service.
Samuel Henry Eells was the son of Rev. James Henry and Maria Antoinette (Fletcher) Eells, and was born in Oberlin, Ohio, August 19, 1836. A few months after his birth, his father was drowned in attempting to cross the Maumee River. Ten years later the family removed to Boston, and young Eells was placed at the Brimmer Public School. Thence he was transferred to the Quincy School, where he received a Franklin medal; and thence entered the public Latin School, where he was fitted for college. In 1854 his mother died, and he came under the guardianship of his uncle, George N. Fletcher, Esq., of Detroit, Michigan. His college life was quiet and uneventful, and most of his classmates knew him very little. Yet he always looked back with warm affection upon this period and its associations; as was shown by a very cordial letter which he wrote from Arkansas to the Class Secretary, three months before his death, in which was enclosed a liberal contribution to the Class fund. He wrote in the ‘Class Book,’ just before graduating:—
My plans for the future are yet somewhat undecided. I think, however, of studying medicine. There has been a great number of clergymen in the Eells family; and my relations on my father's side have been anxious that I should follow the example of my father, grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and greatgreat-great-grandfather, besides a number of others not in the direct line. But for myself, I have been uniformly opposed to the idea, and am still of the same opinion.Accordingly, after graduation, he went to Detroit, Michigan, and began at once the study of medicine with Dr. C. H. Barrett of that city, residing meanwhile in the family of his guardian.  He attended also the medical lectures of Michigan University, at Ann Arbor, during the winter of 186-62; but before his course of study was completed, the war changed all his plans. On February 7, 1862, he enlisted as Hospital Steward in the Twelfth Michigan Volunteers (Infantry), then in camp at Niles, Michigan. He took part in the battle of Shiloh, where he was made prisoner,—an experience which is graphically described in one of his letters.
He remained a prisoner but a few days, there being an agreement between the surgeons on both sides that the wounded in the joint hospitals should be allowed to return to their respective camps on recovery, and their hospital attendants with them. After his exchange, he took part in the battle of the Hatchie, in the siege of Vicksburg, and in the expedition into Arkansas, under General Steele. On February 1, 1863, he was promoted to be Assistant Surgeon on the recommendation of his medical superiors, in spite of his want of a diploma. A letter written later in the season, gives some account of the wearisome and exhausting service on which he now entered.
The results of these labors and exposures soon became apparent. In August he was attacked by chills and fever, followed by camp diarrhea, and still later by ulcerated sore throat, terminating in bronchial consumption. Early in December he obtained leave of absence, and returned to Detroit, very weak and unable to speak above a whisper, but still retaining his courage and hopeful of ultimate recovery. In the words of his guardian: ‘When he was told, a few hours before his death, that he could not live, he received it without a fear, and looked on death calmly as his spirit went out, even after he had ceased to move a muscle, being still conscious, seemingly to the last breath. He fully believed God would do rightly with him, and did not fear to trust him.’ He died on the last day of January, 1864. He had previously written as follows, from the camp near Brownsville, Arkansas, September 5, 1863, to Dr. F. H. Brown of Boston, who was then collecting information as to the Harvard military record:—
I enlisted as Hospital Steward in February, 1862, and in February, 1863, was promoted to Assistant Surgeon. Being with the Army of the Tennessee all the time, I have had but little opportunity to learn what was going on at the East, and particularly in Cambridge. I shall be glad to get any information with regard to my Alma Mater and the doings of her sons, especially in the war, and shall be happy to pay any sum which may be necessary for this purpose.Before the letter could be answered, he himself had added, in his own modest and silent way, another act of sacrifice to those noble deeds of which he wrote; and the sum which he contributed was his life.