Samuel E. Beach
Colonel Samuel E. Beach, --one of Oakland's worthiest citizens is he, a brief sketch of whose life we seek to place upon the pages of the history of the old county. Ever a prominent man among the citizens of the county, he has also been a highly-respected one, receiving the tokens of his fellow-citizens' regard and confidence by numerous elevations to official stations within their gift. He has been one of the workers of the community, whose labors have rebounded more to others substantial benefit than to his own.
Samuel Elmore Beach was born in Lewiston, Niagara county, State of New York, April 7, 1823. His father, Noah Beach, was a native of Whitney, Rutland county, Vermont, where he was born October 3, 1788, and who died in Bridgeport, -Saginaw county, Michigan, May 23, 1866. His mother was Eunice Cooley, daughter of Colonel Benjamin Cooley, of Revolutionary fame, who was born at Pittsford, Rutland county, Vermont, April 30, 1747. She was born in the same town, April 16, 1791, and still survives, at Bridgeport, Saginaw county, Michigan. to which State she and her husband came in 1837. Noah Beach, the father, was a, member of the lower house of the State legislature, from Saginaw county, in 1842, and a member of the senate in 1848, from the senatorial district composed of the counties of Oakland, Saginaw, Shiawassee, and Lapeer.
The subject of this sketch attended the district school in his native place until he arrived at the ate of fourteen years, when, in November, 1837, he, in company with a young man named Martin Miller, left Lewiston to go to Michigan, traveling on foot through Canada, and arriving in Detroit the night previous to the descent of the Patriots of 1837 on Windsor, who burned a portion of that place. On the last days of November the lad-Beach-arrived at Pontiac, whither his father had preceded him in August. In February, 1838, the father removed to Springfield, to a farm, accompanied by the son, who wrought upon the farm during the sprint, summer, and fall following, and taught school the winter of 1838-39. In September, 1840, the young man returned to Pontiac, and engaged with Samuel Chamberlain as a clerk in a dry-goods and grocery store, in which situation he remained until August, 1842, when he removed to Franklin to take charge of a similar store and flouring-mill for D. M. Hinsdale, who also had a general store at Pontiac. Young Beach remained at Franklin, conducting the business of his employer until the spring of 1845, when he returned to Pontiac, and engaged with the firm of Mathews & Beach, in the dry-goods line, and remained with them until March 1,1847.
When he was but fourteen years of age he was a member of a rifle company in Lewiston, under command of Captain Robinson, which company was called out and stationed on the line between New York and Canada, to preserve the neutrality of the United States in the Patriot war. This brief experience gave him a taste for military affairs, and when the United States Congress authorized the president to raise ten additional regiments for the prosecution of the Mexican war, the feelings of patriotism engendered in the bosom of the young salesman proved too ardent to allow of further service in the measurement of tape and calico, and he at once resigned his position behind the counter, and calling on his associates, soon raised a company of forty-five men, and received a commission as second lieutenant in Company A, Fifteenth United States Infantry, commanded by Colonel George W. Morgan, of Ohio, assigned to service in Mexico.
The regiment was filled up with recruits from Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The forty-five men recruited by Lieutenant Beach were enlisted by him in a few days, prior to his departure to Detroit. Before he left Pontiac to join his command the citizens of that place presented him with a handsome sword, belt, and sash. After about a week's stay in Detroit, he left that city under orders to report to Colonel Morgan, at Vera Cruz, Mexico, and arrived at his destination in n June, and within two weeks the command proceeded, via the paved road of the Spanish conquest, to Puebla, and joined General Scott's forces at that point. The command was brigaded with the Ninth United States Infantry, commanded by General Franklin Pierce (afterwards president). On August 17, Lieutenant Beach, with the regiment, left Puebla for the valley of Mexico, where the entire command of General Scott concentrated and moved towards the capital. At Contreras, Lieutenant Beach participated in the storming and capture of the works, on the morning of August 20, 1847, and in the afternoon of the same day was engaged in the desperate assault and final capture of Churubusco.
For meritorious and gallant conduct in these engagements he was breveted first lieutenant. On the 8th of September following he was engaged in the battle of Molino del Rey, and on the 13th of the same month he and his company were foremost in the storming, of Chepultepec. Lieutenant Beach's company received eight of the fifteen certificates for bravery and merit which were awarded by Congress to participators in this last-named assault, in the Fifteenth Regiment, Lieutenant Beach himself placing and ascending the first ladder successfully raised against the walls of the castle, by which the same were scaled. The Fifteenth Regiment., in honor of its priority in the capture, was posted in the citadel of the castle of Chepultepec.
About the 1st of February, 1848, the regiment was ordered to Cuernavaca, and on the 23d of the month Lieutenant Beach received his promotion to the rank of first lieutenant in the United States army. Peace having been declared, his command was ordered to Covington, Kentucky, where, on its arrival, it was mustered out of service, and in August following the lieutenant returned home to Pontiac with the surviving members of his company who enlisted thereat, and with them was received with demonstrations of joy and accorded an enthusiastic public reception.
In the following April, Lieutenant Beach was elected justice of the peace of Pontiac, then a thriving and bustling village, for a term of four years, and while holding that office, in the fall of 1850, was elected to the office of county treasurer for a term of two years, and re-elected thereto in 1852 and 1854. He was re-nominated by his party (the Democratic) in 1856, but was defeated by a small majority by Judge Harry Andrews. In the fall of 1860 he was a candidate for sheriff of the county, but the great political revolution which swept over the northern States left Lieutenant Beach again defeated. He was, however, at this time cashier in the custom-house at Detroit, and remained at his post until the spring of 1861, when, being again elected justice of the peace of Pontiac, he returned to that city; but before taking the position (July 4) the war of the Rebellion bad burst upon the country, and the charms of home and emoluments of office were but a feather's weight in the scale as against his country in the breast of this patriot, and he at once threw his whole influence into the work of raising volunteers under the president's call for seventy-five thousand men.
So strong was the patriotic ardor of the community and earnest the zeal of the leader, in one week's time one hundred and forty-two men were enlisted and eager for duty. The call having been filled, and troops being, offered every day, more than the government could clothe and equip, enlistments ceased for a time, but the men already enlisted in Michigan were gathered into a camp of instruction at Fort Wayne, near Detroit. On the defeat of the Union arms at Bull Run the call for more troops was issued, and the skeletons of regiments In Fort Wayne were ordered to their places of rendezvous to fill up their ranks. On June 19, 1861, Lieutenant Beach received a commission from Governor Blair as lieutenant-colonel, and was assigned to the Fifth Regiment of Michigan Infantry, and July 22, 1861, was ordered to report with his regiment at Washington, where he arrived about September 15, and the regiment was assigned to the brigade commanded by General Israel B. Richardson, and went into camp south of Alexandria, Virginia. When tile general advance was made, the brigade went to Fortress Monroe, and a few days afterwards participated ill the siege of Yorktown.
While in the trenches before Yorktown, Colonel Beach was the first to discover and report the evacuation of those fortifications by the enemy. Colonel Beach's regiment was in the advance in pursuing the retreating foe, and was early engaged in battle with him at Williamsburg( May 5, 1862, where his regiment lost one hundred and forty-three killed and wounded, Colonel Beach being among the latter.
While charging the rifle-pits of the enemy he was severely wounded in his left thigh by a Minnie-ball, and was taken from the field; from the effects of which wound he has never recovered. He was taken to Baltimore, and was confined to his bed, at the residence of Dr. Robinson, vice-president of the Relief Society, for six weeks. He was then sufficiently recovered to travel, and was taken to his home in Pontiac, where he slowly regained his usual strength, and his wound healed sufficiently to enable him to oet about on crutches, when he was assigned to recruiting service in December, with headquarters at Pontiac, where he remained nearly a year, when, believing he was able to resume active duty in the field, he joined his regiment, then upon the Rapidan, at Brandy Station. But it required a few days only in the saddle to develop serious difficulty with his wound, and he was forced to relinquish the idea of doing further field duty; yet, despite intense suffering, he participated in the movement on Mine Run.
When the command returned to Brandy Station, he applied for and received a transfer to the hospital; and after his health had somewhat improved, he was assigned to duty on the general court-martial, at Washington, General Griffin president. On General Griffin's resumption of active service with his command, Colonel Beach succeeded to the presidency of the court-martial, which position he filled until the term of his enlistment expired, and he was mustered out of the service in August, 1864.
In November following he was elected to the office of sheriff of Oakland County, and re-elected in 1866, his last term expiring December 31, 1869. In April, 1871, he was elected justice of the peace of Pontiac, for four years from July 4, 1871; and in April, 1875, was re-elected to another term of four years, which office he is at the present time filling to the entire satisfaction of the people.
On October 11, 1849, Colonel Beach was united in marriage to a, daughter of John Thompson, of Broome county, New York. She was born in the town of Lisle, in said county, January 15, 1827. There are now surviving four children of this marriage, —three daughters and one son.
Colonel Beach is, and ever has been, a Democrat in politics. He was elected president of the village of Pontiac for two years, about 1854-55.
Source: History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.