Samuel was born in Brookline, Vermont on April 30, 1830. Upon reaching his majority, he travelled quite extensively and worked at a variety of occupations before purchasing a farm near Winona, Minnesota in the fall of 1856. His farming career lasted just four month before he moved into Winona and went to work for the Winona Republican newspaper as a printer.
When news of the southern uprising arrived in Winona, a patriotic rally was held looking for volunteers to help suppress the rebellion. He enlisted. He was 31. He was mustered as a corporal in Company K on April 29, 1861.
During the Battle of Bull Run, the 1st Minnesota’s first engagement, Sam was slightly wounded in the foot. A few days after the battle, he recalled the event. As the Confederates started firing the bullets came,
“About as thick as hail, and I could see the rebels’ heads sticking up over a bank about ten or fifteen rods in front of us. I took as good aim as I ever did in my life and fired at them. Then I heard the order to lay down, and tried to do so, but it was impossible, for our line was broken and we stood in a perfect crowd at our end of the regiment. There were so many that had obeyed the order to lay down before I had fired that I could not get down; so I jumped out of the crowd to the rear, and loaded and fired my gun standing up. As I was commencing to load the next time a man that stood behind and a little to the right was shot and fell forward, sticking his bayonet into the instep of my right foot, and throwing me down. I looked at him and saw that he was dying, and tried to push him off, but he died instantly, laying on the breech of his gun and holding it fast. It was one or two minutes I should judge, before I could liberate myself.”
He became separated from the regiment. Working his way back to the Union lines, he evaded several Confederate cavalry patrols out looking for stragglers. Eventually his foot became so troublesome he couldn’t go any further. He found a home he thought looked “Respectable” and knocked on the door.
“A black girl came to the door. I asked her if the master of the house was in. She said no, and that his name was Brown. I told her my condition_that I was wounded, tired, wet and hungry, and could go no farther. I was invited to come in and in a short time Mr. Brown came and I told him my circumstances. He smiled and said he was a secessionist, but as I looked like an honest man, was welcome, and he would do what he could for me. I told him that I had no money. He said it made no difference, and ordered the black girl to dress my wound, which she did in the very best manner. My foot had swollen much and was very painful. Brown was sociable but differed with me in opinions and said if the South could not gain its liberty without him, he was willing to shoulder his musket and fight for them. He said he hoped I would never come back, but I told him [if] my regiment came back and I was able [I] should be with them. He was a first-rate fellow and treated me well, giving me lodging and breakfast, and urged me to stay longer, but not feeling perfectly safe, I thought it best to try and reach Washington. The people along the road were mostly in favor of the Union, but were surprised to hear of the treatment I had received from Mr. Brown, who they said was a rank secessionist.
Coming upon a Rhode Island regiment as he made his way to Washington, he was put on a wagon and returned to the 1st Minnesota where he received the care he needed.
Years later, he recalled the dramatic effect this first battle had on him.
“When we first began to meet the wounded coming from the outposts of the engagement, it looked hard but they all seemed in good spirits, and it didn’t affect me in the least. As we got nearer, there was a man lying beside the road wrapped in his blanket, and I opened the blanket to see if he was dead or alive; he was dead, and looked most frightful. It sent a shudder over me like a shock of electricity; but it was only for a moment, for the next minute we were where the cannon balls were flying over our heads, and it was all excitement. There was no time after that when I felt any fear. I saw men with their heads shot off, and others who had lost their arms and legs; and looking on the fight, saw them fall in different directions with a supernatural coolness, the like of which I never before experienced. It is impossible for me to describe it so that one who never witnessed a similar scene could understand it aright. Several times I thought I should be wounded or instantly killed, but I felt no such fear such as I have felt at other times in my life when I thought there was danger. There was no time during the battle that I would not laugh at anything comical, and when the man stuck his bayonet in my foot I put my hand against his head and pushed with all my might; and although I knew he was dying, yet I did it with as much indifference as if he were a horse.”
His wound, from which he never fully recovered, caused him to be discharged for disability on November 28, 1862. He returned to Winona.
Sam had been married at one time and had one child. What became of his first wife is not known, but in January 1863 he married for a second time. Her name was Margaret “Maggie” King, a native of Scotland. Shortly after their wedding, they moved west to Blue Earth County, Minnesota. He started working as a surveyor. He was the county surveyor for six years and then for the Northern Pacific Railroad for nine.
In 1880 Sam moved to the Dakota Territory after purchasing 640 acres near what is now Mooreton, North Dakota. Maggie died in November 1882, leaving Sam to care for their seven children. In 1884 he was elected on the Democratic ticket to the Dakota Territorial legislature. He served one term.
On July 29, 1886, Sam married again and moved the family to what became Fairmont, North Dakota. He held numerous offices in the township and worked for many years as the county surveyor.
He died on Sept 30, 1915 at age 85. He was buried in Mooreton next to his second wife, Maggie, the mother of his seven children.