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Rev. William Wallace Lyle (1828-1893)
Native of Scotland, pastor of First Congregational Church, Bay City, MI.

1883 biography. Added April, 2010.

History of Bay County, Michigan - 1883


Rev. William Wallace Lyle, A. M., pastor of the First Congregational Church of Bay City, has served in that connection since 1880. Not only is he a fine speaker, able alike to interest and instruct his congregation, but he is also well known as a writer, and his "Lights and Shadows of Army Life" portrays in a forcible manner the hardships and pleasures of the camp. During the late war he was a chaplain in the army and served as surgeon on the battlefield, although he was never commissioned in that capacity. He corresponded for a number of Eastern papers during those dark days of civil warfare, and has evinced on all occasions his deep and patriotic love of this country, his adopted home.

Mr. Lyle was born in Paisley, Scotland December 31, 1828, and is a son of Alexander Lyle and his wife Margaret Wallace. He belongs to an old Scotch family, the members of which trace their lineage to the Lord Lyles of Ducal Castle in Renfrewshire. Both the father and grandfather of our subject bore the name of Alexander and were manufacturers of shawls in Paisley during the years when that ancient city became so famous for the products of its looms. Although belonging to the old Covenanter stock and holding fondly and sacredly to the memory and traditions of their fore-fathers, they became liberal enough to join the "old Kirk," and at the disruption, became connected with the Free Church. Each survived to a good old age.

The maternal grandfather of our subject was Alexander Wallace, of Paisley, who was a man of considerable wealth and for many years a manufacturer of shawls. It is one of the traditions of the family that it is descended from the same stock as that of Sir William Wallace, so celebrated in Scottish history. Our subject was one of three children who grew to maturity, the others being Margaret and Elizabeth, the latter of whom married into the Coates family and resides in Paisley. Young Lyle enjoyed excellent opportunities for education in his early days, having begun the study of languages when ten years old under private tutors as well as in the academies of his native town. Removing to Glasgow he continued his classical and philosophical studies under the professors for which that city is so famous.

When Mr. Lyle came to America in 1848 the anti-slavery agitation had commenced and without much thought of the consequences, socially and financially, he joined the ranks of the then well hated Abolitionists and became identified with the American Missionary Association which had pronounced against human slavery. he served as a minister of the Gospel in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, organizing many churches and doing genuine pioneer work as a home missionary. At the time the war broke out he was the pastor of a prominent anti-slavery church in Troy, Ohio, which was made up of different denominations.

In January, 1862, the Rev. Mr. Lyle received the commission of Chaplain in the Eleventh Ohio Infantry from Gov. Todd, an honor entirely unsolicited, and remained with that regiment until it was mustered out at the close of its three years' service. It formed a part of the Kanawha Division under Gen. I. Cox, seeing hard service in Western Virginia and was afterward transferred to the Army of the Potomac, under Gens. Pope and McClellan, participating in the second battle of Bull Run and in those of Frederick, South Mountain and Antietam. Having studied the medical profession for his own pleasure he now found himself doubly useful to the brave boys who were under his spiritual care, and was an effective helper in taking care of the wounded, Lyle was consequently recognized officially in this capacity and was placed on field hospital work through the remainder of the service from the time of the battle of Bull Run.

Chaplain Lyle has in his possession the copy of a special field order issued from headquarters and which he values very highly. At a time when his regiment was in great peril, holding an important position far from any base of supplies or reinforcements, he assumed command of a wagon train of hospital supplies which he had collected during a two weeks' absence on detached service, determined if possible to bring success to the scores of sick and wounded. Not a man could be spared, in the emergency as a guard, but the teamsters were supplied with extra arms and ammunition. After receiving the necessary orders and being cautioned as to the movements of the rebel cavalry, the Chaplain with his precious supplies started on the perilous journey. After passing the outer lines of pickets, thirty miles lay between him and the mountain side on which his regiment laid entrenched.

Eluding the Confederate cavalry, after crossing mountains, penetrating ravines and rocky gorges the expedition reached the regiment safely on the evening of the second day. The wounded, the sick and dying were soon rendered more comfortable and there was general rejoicing in camp. The work done was officially recognized at headquarters by the issuing of the special field order complimenting the Chaplain, which was ordered to be read on dress parade.

The regiment to which Mr. Lyle belonged, together with others of the same divisions, was subsequently transferred to the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. Rosecrans, and took part in the battles of Hoover's Gap. Chickamauga and Mission Ridge. Although in several of the most severe battles of the war he was never wounded. At the storming of the heights of South Mountain he and his corps of assistants were for a time in deadly peril through a mistake in orders given for establishing a field hospital. He was reported killed at the battle of Chickamauga, having been seen in a position where escape from death seemed impossible.

After the Chickamauga campaign, however, such had been the privations and exposure of the Chaplain that he was stricken down with serious illness, and was granted leave of absence for some two months which he spent at home under the care of physicians. On rejoining his regiment he returned to Chattanooga and took part in the conflicts there, remaining with his regiment until their term of service expired in June, 1864, when he was mustered out. Of thirteen hundred and fifty who enlisted in his regiment, only three hundred returned to their homes.

During the service, the Chaplain's horse having been killed, the officers of his regiment kindly presented him with another. When about to be mustered out the regiment made arrangements to present him with a dress sword but he declined the gift. However, he accepted a Bible on the cover of which is a silver plate on which is engraved a suitable inscription and the date of muster out. The Bible and a silver communion service he used during the war -- carrying it with him through all the sad and stirring scenes from Bull Run to Ringgold and Rocky faced Ridge, are held by the family are the most precious and sacred relics of the war.

On his return to civil life Chaplain Lyle became connected with Adrian College as financial agent. After serving a few months in this capacity, overtures were made to him in reference to a professorship. Being desirous of returning to the pastorale he declined all offers, however kindly made, and became pastor of the Memorial Congregational Church of Seneca Falls, N. Y. There he remained eight years, during which time his people built a magnificent house of worship. Being afflicted with sickness he was advised to change climates, and so accepted the pastorate of the Pilgrim Congregational Church of Duxbury, Mass. In that ancient town, associated with the memory of the Pilgrim Fathers, such as Miles Standish, John Aldon and Gov. Winslow, he remained for eight years.

In 1880 Mr. Lyle accepted a call to the First Congregational Church of Bay City and here he has built up a prosperous congregation. He is Chaplain of the U. S. Grant Post, No. 67, G. A. R., and is a true-blue Republican in his political belief. He has made several trips to Europe and came nearly suffering shipwreck while on the ocean in the famous cyclone of 1888. It was about 1865 that he wrote and published his book, "Lights and Shadows of Army Life," of which three editions have been brought out, but the last edition was destroyed by fire, which entailed severe loss upon the author, so that the few copies which are left are now held very precious.

The marriage of Mr. Lyle to Miss Margaret Adam, a native of Lanarkshire, Scotland, took place in Glasgow in 1848. They are the parents of seven children, namely: Margaret, now Mrs. E. M. Bradley, of Rochester, N. Y.; Kate married A. D. Catlin, of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Eva, who is Mrs. B. S. Stevens, of Bay City; James M.Lane and Alexander, all of whom reside in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Edwin, who is at home. Every member of the family has received an excellent education, having graduated from Eastern academies, and the three sons are successful manufacturers in the South.

Additional Notes:

The Spirit Divided: Memoirs of Civil War Chaplins (2007)

    Page 144: "1892 he led the First Congregational Church of Bay City, Michigan. Failing health induced him to seek warmner climes, and he made his way to Chattannooga, Tennessee, where he organized a Congregation mission church. Reverend Lyle died there on 31 December 1893, and his remains were placed in Forest Hill Cemetery."
Related Note & Pages

Related Pages:
First Congregational Ch.
Bay Co. Civil War History
People Referenced
Adam, Margaret (wife)
Aldon, John
Bradley, E.M.
Catlin, A.D.
Cox, I. Gen.
Lyle, Alexander (father)
Lyle, Alexander (son)
Lyle, Elizabeth (sister)
Lyle, Edwin (son)
Lyle, Eva (dau.)
Lyle, James M. (son)
Lyle, Kate (dau.)
Lyle, Lane (son)
Lyle, Margaret (sister)
Lyle, Margaret (dau.)
Lyle, Wm. W. Rev. (subject)
McClellan, Gen.
Pope, Gen.
Rosecrans, Gen.
Standish, Miles
Stevens, B.S.
Todd, Gov (Ohio)
Wallace, Margaret (mother)
Wallace, Sir William
Winslow, Gov. (Mass.)
Subjects Referenced
11th Ohio Infantry
Adrian College American Missionary Assoc.
Bay City, MI
Chattanooga, TN
Duxbury, MA
First Congregational Ch.
Forest Hill Cemetery, TN
Grand Army Republic
Glascow, Scotland
Lanarkshire, Scotland
Memorial Congr. Ch., NY
Paisly, Scotland
Pilgrim Congr. Ch. MA
Renfrewshire, Scotland
Rochester, NY
Seneca Falls, NY
Troy, OH
US Grant Post 67
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.