It’s dusk and the setting sun casts an ominous red glow across the battlefield. Shadows floating over the scarred land follow men shuffling through the mud and muck littering the ground. Death called to them from every direction. A young captain bends down to comfort a wounded man when, out of the mist, the blast of a sharpshooter’s gun zings across the field, ripping through his body and sending him to the grave.
This is the moment when Captain Edgar P. Trego became a hero to his men, and the inspiration for naming a newly plotted section of land found on American’s Great Plains, Trego County.
Capt. Trego was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Robert and Sarah Trego on April 1, 1838. He married Jennie Clark of Mercer County, Illinois in 1861 at the age of 23, and left her a widow a mere three years later.
By all reports Capt. Trego was a respected soldier, having enlisted in 1861 and rising quickly to the role of Captain of the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. When his orders sent him to the Battle of Chickamauga he had already solidified his reputation as a good and loyal soldier.
Chickamauga Creek is located in the northwest corner of Georgia, and was known as the River of Death to Native Americans long before soldiers dressed in blue and grey turned that river blood red. The Confederate army was desperate for a victory, coming on the heels of Gettysburg and the loss of Vicksburg to Union forces, and this ignited an impulse to fire at any available target. Including the stretcher-bearers collecting the dead and wounded after the regiments had retreated for the night. This is the situation our Capt. Trego found himself in on the evening of September 19, 1863. The reports of his death indicate “the ball of a musket tore through his body while he bent over a wounded soldier, causing his life to end through his own chivalrous impulses.”
Capt. Trego is buried beneath a grand oak tree in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Section B, Grave 1028. It’s one among more than 50,000 graves, and today is a peaceful spot for reflection on what it means to be a “divided nation.”
Four years later, when surveyors were plotting out the map of the new state of Kansas they turned to their war heroes for inspiration to name counties. It’s quite possible that one of those surveyors was once a soldier who served under Capt. Trego and admired his reputation as a brave and honorable man.
Today, 153 years after his death, Capt. Trego’s name continues to live on in the rural communities and bountiful farmland of Trego County. I like to think his brave and honorable spirit has become part of the land, too. A peaceful land that lies on the border between the fertile prairies of Eastern Kansas and the high desert of the American West.
For more information about the history of Trego County visit the Trego County Historical Society at 128 North 13th St., WaKeeney, KS.
Find A Grave/Capt. Edgar P. Trego: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=55671553
8th Kansas Infantry/History: http://8thkansas.org/history