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Dr. Gregg

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Dr. Patrick Gregg had already proved his loyalty to his adopted community of Rock Island for twenty-five years. An Irishman with a thick brogue, educated at Trinity College in Dublin, Dr. Gregg came to Rock Island in 1836. His skill as a doctor soon brought him such patients as George Davenport, the Indian trader living on Rock Island, but he found time to serve as county treasurer and mayor of Rock Island.

The Civil War was his chance to show his loyalty to his adopted country as well. Responding to President Lincoln's call for volunteers in the summer of 1861, Dr. Gregg raised an entire company of fellow Irishmen, including his own son. The Irish Brigade became Company K of the 55th Illinois Infantry, with Dr. Gregg serving as captain and company surgeon.

Before they left for training, Rock Island presented Captain Gregg with the company flag, with orders to bring it back, "if need be, torn and spattered with blood and riddled with bullets."

Company K survived several battles in the late winter of 1862, but on April 6th, at the Battle of Shiloh, Dr. Gregg and his Irishmen were taken prisoners. Dr. Gregg was paroled a few weeks later in order to go to Washington to arrange for a prisoner exchange. As those arrangements were being made, Dr. Gregg returned south, with money and clothing for his men. He found them in a cotton factory in Georgia and tended to their needs until the exchange brought them back to Rock Island in October.

Two months later, Dr. Gregg returned to the front lines, this time as surgeon of Mulligan's Brigade, and served until 1864, when he returned to his medical practice in Rock Island.

In 1869, Rock Island County erected a Civil War soldiers’ monument in the courthouse square. Each year, on Decoration Day, Dr. Gregg proudly climbed a ladder to fly a flag atop the monument. He last did this in 1892, weeks before his death, so feeble he could barely climb the ladder, but too proud to hand the job over to anyone else.

At what point in this long career of service, one might ask, did the transplanted Irishman become an American? Dr. Patrick Gregg never lost his thick Irish brogue, but for the good doctor, actions truly spoke louder than words.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.