Historical Memoranda
Of the Fifty-first Regiment Illinois Volunteers

The "historical memoranda," which appear on this page, were written down throughout the life of the regiment and sent to the Adjutant General's Office in Springfield. They were generally written by the regimental adjutant, who maintained this record in conjunction with the regimental commander. These memoranda offer quite a bit more detail and length as over against the compact regimental history, which was published as part of the official public record of the Adjutant General's Office after the war and which appears all over the web and on this site.

Organization 51st Ill. The 51st Regiment of Ill. Inf. Vols. was organized on the 20th of September, 1861, by the appointment of Gilbert W. Cumming as colonel, Luther P. Bradley as lieutenant colonel and Samuel B. Raymond as major. The regiment was recruited during the fall & early winter following & was mustered into the U.S. service Dec. 20/61. Until ordered into the field it was stationed at Camp Douglas, Ill. during the whole time.

It left there Feb 14/62, being ordered from State headquarters to report to Brig. Gen. John A. McClernand at Cairo, Ill. It was then just after the Battle of fort Donelson, & from Feb 15th to the 27th the regiment was on duty at Cairo engaged principally in guarding the prisoners captured in the late battle & conveying them North. On Feby 27th, it crossed the [Ohio] river & camped in tents on the Kentucky shore, the name "Camp Cullum" being given in honor of Gen. Halleck's chief of staff. But the spring campaign was opening & it was not allowed to remain inactive long, & on the 4th of March, tents were struck at Camp Cullum, & having recrossed the river, it moved out on the [Cairo & Fulton] railroad as far as Bertrand, Mo., where troops were being collected to be sent to Gen. Pope, who had organized an expedition against New Madrid, & was even then investing the place. It remained at Bertrand until the 9th & then marched to Sykeston on the same railroad & then struck south reaching the vicinity of New Madrid, in company with the rest of the troops collected at Bertrand, on the 18th after a march of 23 miles.

Until now the regiment had had no special place assigned it in brigade or division, but on the 11th, by order of Gen. Pope, Brig Gen. E. A. Paine took command of Div. No. 4 of the Army of the Mississippi, which was the designation of Gen. Pope's forces before New Madrid. His division consisted of two brigades, in one of which (the 2nd) was the 51st Ills., the brigade being commanded by Col. Cumming of the 51st, leaving the regiment in command of Lieut. Col. Bradley. The other regiment of the brigade was the 22nd Ill, and the two regiments have remained in the same brigade to the present date.

New Madrid and Island No. 10. Gen. Paine having organized his command, moved it on the 11th onto the line of battle held by the rest of Pope's army and occupied the extreme left. On the 13th the division made a reconnoissance to within a short distance of the defenses of the town & then the 51st was for the first time under fire. The effect of this reconnoissance with other minor movements of that day was the evacuation during the following night of both the upper and lower parts of New Madrid. Paine's division remained in their former camp until April 7th, waiting with the rest of the army, for Commodore Foote's gunboats, which were all this time engaged in hammering away at that celebrated obstacle, Island No. 10. The delay was made useful however by the strict discipline & desire for efficiency which Pope maintained, and there was a very marked improvement in the appearance and knowledge in every regiment of the army, when on April 7th, the final effort against Island No. 10 was made. The day before two gunboats arrived off New Madrid, having run past the island and early on the morning of the 7th a large number of transports came, having cut their way through the forests of the bayous which lie north of New Madrid. The division of Paine was the first that embarked and was landed on the Kentucky shore a few miles south of the town, the gunboats having demolished what few defences the enemy had there. After landing the pursuit was commenced, the 1st Brigade in the advance. That day Island No. 10 was evacuated and the whole garrison, joining with those who had fled from Paine, was endeavoring to elude our forces by a rapid retreat. But on the morning of the 8th, they were surrounded by the division of Paine and after a short parley were surrendered by Brig. Gen. Mackall, their commanding officer, some 4000 in all with all their arms and munitions of war. On the 9th the regiment returned to its former camp near New Madrid.

Fort Pillow Mission, and To Hamburg Landing. On the 11th the army left their camps & were embarked on board the transports, all obstacles to Pope's progress down the river from this point being now removed. The 51st with the rest of the army and Foote's gunboats then proceeded down the Mississippi river, and on the 13th moored near Osceola, Ark., while the gunboats reconnoitered the defences of the river a few miles below, known as "Fort Randolph." The army remained there quietly till the 17th when Pope was ordered to proceed with his army to Hamburg Landing, Tenn. to reinforce Halleck who was then investing Corinth. With the army the regiment steamed up the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers, reached Hamburg, a place 18 miles northeast of Corinth on the 22nd of April. On the 24th the Army of the Mississippi was increased and reorganized, the division of Paine receiving an addition of four regiments. The 1st Brigade now consisted of the 22nd, 27th, 42nd, and 51st Ill. regiments, under the command of Brig. Gen. John M. Palmer, styled 1st Brig., 1st Div., Army of the Mississippi; and these four regiments have remained in the same brigade until the present date, known until long after the brigade was increased as the "Illinois Brigade," the battery connected with it being also from Ill., viz. Co C, 1st Ill Art., Capt. Houghtaling commanding. On the 26th Col. Cumming went north on sick leave, and the regiment never saw his face again.

Farmington, Mississippi. On the 27th, Paine's division advanced five miles on the Corinth Road, encountered no opposition of importance. On May 1st, advanced seven miles. On the 3rd a reconnaissance from Paine's Division drove the enemy out of the town of Farmington, Miss. after a slight skirmish, but the camps were advanced only to within some three miles of the town, there being a large and heavily wooded swamp just between. On the 8th the army made a reconnaissance some three miles beyond Farmington, returning to camp that night. On that day no enemy was found in force near Farmington, and on the following day the division moved out with knapsacks to establish an advanced camp, but were driven after a sharp engagement which lasted till nightfall. Until the 17th [May], the army was engaged in building roads through the swamp which lay between us and Farmington, and on that day the division, as also the rest of the army, was advanced to about a mile beyond the latter place and there strongly intrenched themselves behind earthworks. On the 23rd, Gen. Palmer went north on sick leave, and Col George W. Roberts of the 42nd Ill. assumed command of the brigade. On the 28th, the division marched out and after some severe cannonading threw up an advanced line of earthworks about 1 1/2 miles nearer Corinth. During the 29th, the regiment lay behind these while skirmishing and cannonading were going on throughout the whole line of the army. On the night of the 29th, Beauregard evacuated Corinth, and the afternoon of the 30th the division started in pursuit, Col. James D. Morgan of the 10th Ill., before commanding the 2nd Brigade, being now in command of the division on account of Gen. Paine's absence due to sickness.

Further Reorganization - Camp Big Springs. Just previous to the evacuation the Army of the Mississippi was again increased and organized into two wings and a center. The Right Wing, consisting of the divisions of Paine and Stanley, was assigned to Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans. Our designation was now 1st Brigade, 1st Division, right Wing, Army of the Mississippi. On the 3rd of June we had advanced nearly to Baldwin, Miss. some 34 miles south of Corinth. There the indications were that the enemy was disposed to resist our further advance and were even trying to cut off Roberts' Brigade. It was therefore ordered back to Booneville eleven miles further north where was the main force of our army. We remained there in camp until the 11th [June] when Col. Roberts was obliged to take a leave of absence on account of ill health, and Col. F. A. Harrington of the 27th Ill. assumed command of the brigade. On the 11th the division left Booneville, and on the 14th made a camp about five miles southeast of Corinth called "Camp Big Springs." There we remained until July 20th, drilling constantly. On the 28th of June Gen. Pope was transferred to the command of the Army of Virginia and Gen. Rosecrans assumed command of the Army of the Mississippi, Brig. Gen. David S. Stanley succeeding to the command of the right Wing. July 1st the brigade was ordered to Rienzi seven miles south to reinforce Gen. Asboth, who feared an attack, but it proved to be a scare and we returned the next day.

On July 9th, the Army of the Mississippi was again reorganized into five divisions under Brig. Genls. Paine, Stanley, Schuyler Hamilton, J. C. Davis and Asboth. On or near July 18th, Gen. Halleck was ordered to Washington, and the Army of the Mississippi became part of the forces which Maj. Gen. U. s. Grant commanded, retaining its former organization.

Railroad Guard. On July 20th, the division left Camp Big Springs, having been ordered to relieve the troops of Gen. Thomas in guarding the line of the Memphis & Charleston RR from Iuka, Miss. to Decatur, Ala. The headquarters of the Division were placed at Tuscumbia, Ala. midway between the two latter points, and the 51st were give the extreme left of the line from Hillsboro to Decatur inclusive, about eleven miles, headquarters at Decatur. The regiment arrived on this line on the 28th and 29th, having marched 117 miles. August 11th, Col. Roberts returned and resumed command of the brigade, headquarters at Courtland, Ala. On the 15th Gen. Paine returned and resumed command of the Division. On the 24th the regiment was concentrated at Decatur. During the stay at Decatur the regiment was constantly annoyed and kept on the alert by guerillas who infested the adjacent mountains and made continual attacks on the railroad. On Sept 2nd, Gen. Palmer returned and resumed command of the division, Gen Paine having again gone north for his health. On the 4th the rest of the brigade except the 22nd Ill arrived at Decatur, and on the 4th and 8th crossed the river there in a small steamer.

To Nashville. It had been decided that the railroad could not be held, and the division had been ordered to Nashville to reinforce Buell, who was now marching north with the whole of his army to intercept Bragg. We joined with the 2nd Brigade at Athens, Ala on the 6th and reached Nashville on the 11th after a forced march of 129 miles, the enemy's cavalry and guerillas hanging on our rear through the whole distance. The divisions of Negley and Palmer were ordered to remain behind and garrison Nashville, while the rest of the army moved northward, Negley being post commander. On the 7th of October, a rebel camp at Lavergne was broken up by Gen. Palmer, an expedition in which the 51st did not join, being on picket that day. Nov. 6th the left wing of the regiment while on picket between the Lebanon and Murfreesboro pikes was attacked by a strong force of the enemy about 2 a.m. and after a sharp skirmish lasting some hours drove them back. There was a general attack on the city that day by the forces of Breckinridge, Morgan, and Forrest which was uniformly repelled. Their object was probably to destroy the bridge over the Cumberland before the army of Rosecrans came up and thus embarrass them in getting into Nashville. That same night the advance of that army arrived. From September 11th to November 6th, the period of our blockade in Nashville, the 51st, as was the whole division, was constantly on duty, either picket, foraging, or digging intrenchments, nearly all the time on less than half rations. On the 7th the regiment was sent to Mitchellville, Tenn. 39 miles north of Nashville to guard a supply train, returning on the 10th. On the 9th the division came permanently under the command of Gen. Palmer, Gen. Paine being transferred to the command of the post of Gallatin, Tenn. It was then placed under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, commanding Center, 14th Army Corps, as the forces of Maj. Gen. Rosecrans were designated, the other parts being the Right & Left Wing under Genls. McCook and Crittenden respectively. On the 11th the divisions of Negley and Palmer were reviewed by Maj. Gen. Rosecrans.

Changes in Command & Organization. On the 30th [Sept], Col. Cumming having resigned his commission, Lt. Col. Bradley received the commission of Colonel, Major Raymond that of Lieut. Col., and Adjutant Chas. W. Davis a few weeks after, that of Major, they having been previously elected to fill those positions. On Dec. 10th, owing to a further reorganization of the army, the 1st Brigade, Col. Roberts commanding, was transferred to the division of Brig. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, one of the divisions of the Right Wing, the latter being commanded by Maj. Gen. Alex. McD. McCook. Its designation was now Roberts' Brigade, 11th Division, 14th Army Corps, but soon after that was changed to 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, Right Wing, 14th Army Corps, the former being the clumsy nomenclature of Gen. Buell. The 2nd Brigade remained at Nashville as part of the garrison of that post while Gen. Palmer was assigned to the command of a division of the Left Wing. There at last was broken up the old division which had remained together since April 24th.

On Dec. 18th the brigade marched out seven miles south on the Nolensville pike to join the division of Gen. Sheridan. The camp was called "Camp Sheridan," in honor of the division commander.

Stone's River. On the 26th, the 14th Army Corps having nearly all concentrated south of Nashville, struck their tents & commenced the movement against the army of Bragg, which lay a few miles further south between them & Murfreesboro. The Right Wing of McCook marched down the Nolensville Pike & encamped near Triune on the night of the 27th, having met with but slight opposition. The 28th the division remained in camp, on the 29th moved with the rest of the wing east toward the Murfreesboro Pike, to join there with the rest of the army. On the 30th, the regiment encountered the enemy in force & with the rest of the brigade was engaged in a very hot skirmish during the whole day, and this was the case with the entire front of the line of the army. The loss in the regiment that day was seven wounded. Dec. 31st, the next day, found the 51st in the thickest of the fight at the Battle of Stone River, losing 57 men in killed, wounded & prisoners. The Division lost its three brigade commanders; the 3rd Brigade, in addition its second-ranking colonel, Harrington of the 27th Ill; all killed very early in the action, except the latter who was taken prisoner & died a few days after. The Command of the brigade, at about 11 a.m. devolved on Col. Bradley of the 51st Ill & of the regiment on Major Davis, Lt. Col. Raymond being on detached service with Gen [Eleazar] Paine at Gallatin {Tennessee]. But Major Davis only had command a few hours, when he too was wounded & carried from the field, the command then devolving on Capt. Henry F. Wescott of Company A.

On Jan 1st, 1863, the regiment remained in the line of battle which Gen. McCook had formed parallel to the Murfreesboro Pike after the disastrous withdrawal of his command on the morning of the day before. Rough breastworks were built of stones and boughs, & behind them we lay till afternoon when Buckner tried to get past us to our right, in which attempt he was foiled, in part by the exertions of the 3rd Brigade, & after his retreat 70 prisoners were captured by Company C of the 51st who had been sent out as skirmishers. During the 2nd and 3rd all was quiet on the right, though heavy attacks were made on the left each day. On the 4th the enemy left our front & evacuated Murfreesboro, & the pursuit was commenced in which none of the Right Wing participated. The 4th & 5th were spent in burying the dead & removing the wounded.


Camp Bradley - Pursuit of Van Dorn. On the 6th the division marched about 3 miles south from Murfreesboro on the Shelbyville Pike and there encamped. The whole army soon lay in camp around the town, it not being possible to make effective pursuit. The camp of the division at this place was called "Camp Bradley" in honor of our brigade commander. In the month of January 1863 the wings and center of the army of Rosecrans were ordered by the War Department to be designated as the 14th, 20th and 21st Army Corps, that of McCook being the 20th. Our brigade was then known as 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 20th Army Corps. On January 13, Captain Wescott went north on leave of absence and Captain John G. McWilliams of Company E took command. On the 28th he was relieved by Lt. Col. Raymond. The regiment lay in Camp Bradley from January 6th to March 4th, doing the usual amount of picket duty and much more than the usual amount of foraging, in which latter duty we often met the enemy and were obliged to fight for our forage, for the enemy's line was not far from ours, and of this we were constantly admonished.

On the 4th of March the division of Sheridan was ordered to Eagleville, Tenn 16 miles west from Murfreesboro, to remain there in reserve while a movement was progressing from Franklin, Tenn, some 23 miles further west and south. The regiment left camp under Capt. McWilliams, Lt. Col. Raymond having that day gone north on leave of absence. The division stayed at Eagleville till the 6th and then marched 5 miles toward Triune. During the day Sheridan received orders to report to Maj. Gen. Granger at Franklin to assist in the pursuit of Van Dorn, who was in large force near Spring Hill south of Franklin. The regiment reached the latter place on the 8th and Spring Hill on the 9th, Van Dorn retreating before us. On the 10th marched to Duck Creek some miles north of Columbia on the other side of which lay the enemy. On the 11th Van Dorn crossed the Duck River on pontoons previously laid there and Granger having no means to cross returned to Franklin. The division reached Franklin on the 12th and Murfreesboro on the 13th having marched since leaving their camp 120 miles.

Camp Schaeffer - Toward Tullahoma. On the 14th, the camp was moved about a mile in common with the rest of the army, the object being to make a more regular and continuous line of battle. This camp of the division was called "Camp Schaeffer" in honor of Col. Schaeffer [also often Schaefer] of the 2nd Missouri, killed at Stone's River. On the 23rd, the 20th Army Corps was reviewed by Gen. Rosecrans. On April 10th, Lt. Col. Raymond returned and assumed command of the regiment, Captain McWilliams remaining as acting field officer.

Till the 24th of June the regiment remained in camp doing the usual duties of camp life, marred by an occasional scare that Bragg was advancing upon us. On the 24th commenced the movement which was to drive Bragg out of his defences at Manchester, Shelbyville, and Tullahoma, the line of Duck River. The 20th Army Corps marched down the Shelbyville Pike and had a severe skirmish about 10 miles south of Murfreesboro at Lee's Knob in which the 3rd brigade did not engage, being held in reserve. That night and the next were spent at Millersburg, a small village [10] miles south of Murfreesboro. On the 27th the division marched to Beach Grove on the Manchester Pike where the corps of Thomas had been engaged the day before. The 51st Ill was left behind here to guard the train, which was to start the next morning. On the afternoon of the 28th, the regiment reached Manchester and joined the Division. Bragg had retreated from this place and from Shelbyville and was said to have concentrated at Tullahoma. We were now south of Duck River. On the 29th left Manchester on the road to Tullahoma. On the 30th line of battle was formed, the division on Brannan's right about 5 miles from the place, preparatory to an attack on Bragg, then strongly posted. That night Tullahoma also was evacuated, and at 12 noon on the 1st of July, Sheridan entered the town with his division. July 2nd marched to Elk River in pursuit. On the 4th, the river was forded and the division marched through Winchester to Cowan, Bragg being on the full retreat over the Cumberland Mntns & finally across the Tennessee River. There had been for the past four days constant skirmishing with his rear-guard of cavalry. At Cowan, just at the foot of the Cumberland Mts. the division remained alone very quietly until the 9th. That day the 3rd Brigade alone ascended the mountains & camped on their summit on the site of the celebrated "Southern University." On the 10th marched eight miles along the mountain to a place known as "Burntstand," there stationed as an outpost to receive the many deserters who were now coming into our lines. On the 14th marched back to "University." On the 29th Major Davis returned to the regiment, having recovered from his wound. The brigade remained at "University" till July 30th when it was ordered to Bridgeport, Ala; reached there the 31st after a march of 38 miles and went into camp on the banks of the Tenn. River, the rebels in plain sight holding the opposite bank and the R.R. bridge entirely destroyed over the north channel.

Toward Chickamauga. All the time, since leaving Cowan, the brigade had been acting independently being detached from the division. Col. Bradley, brigade commander, commanded the post at Bridgeport until August 6th when he was relieved by Brig Gen. Wm. H. Lytle, commanding 1st Brigade of the division. On the 20th all our baggage was sent back to Stevenson, preparatory to the contemplated crossing of the river by the army of Rosecrans. On Sept. 2nd, the division, now concentrated, left Bridgeport, crossed the river, and marched some five miles to the foot of Raccoon or Sand Mountain without opposition. Remained there during the 3rd, waiting for Gen. Negley's division to ascend the mountain. On the 4th, Sheridan ascended, and on the 5th marched 19 miles to Trenton, Ga., descending the mountain. On the 6th marched down Lookout Valley 11 miles. On the 7th, advanced a few miles and camped. Remained in this camp till the 10th, and then resumed the march. Here we heard that Chattanooga had been evacuated and occupied by the Corps of Crittenden and we, the 20th Corps, were ordered to leave all wagons behind and start in pursuit, as we supposed. On the 10th, marched 10 miles south to Winston's Gap and ascended Lookout Mt. On the 11th, descended Lookout Mt. and marched to Alpine, Ga, where the day before there had been a sharp cavalry skirmish. Remained at Alpine during the 12th and, on the 13th, ascended Lookout again and camped on its top, the 20th Corps being ordered to reinforce Gen. Thomas who was threatened near Stevens' Gap by the concentrated army of Bragg, who was not exactly flying but with added forces from Virginia seemed disposed to fight. On the 14th, descended and marched 10 miles up Lookout Valley. On the 15th, reached Stevens' Gap. On the 16th, crossed Lookout for the third time and camped in McElmore's Cove, where Thomas now was and where he had been fighting some days before. On the 17th, stood in line of battle all day and listened to the noise of a skirmish in the next valley. On the 18th, left McElmore's Cove and camped near the scene of yesterday's skirmish just at nightfall. But we were not allowed to stay there long for about 8 P.M. the division received orders to close up on the line of Thomas who was himself closing to the left. Marched that night till 12.

Chickamauga. On the 19th the division marched on again and maneuvered without being engaged till late in the afternoon, listening to the sound of the heavy fighting on our left. This was the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga. About 4 P.M. of the 19th, Wood's Division being heavily pressed, Col. Bradley's Brigade was ordered to his support and after marching on the double-quick for more than a mile was hurled right into the face of the enemy, the trained troops of Longstreet, and there, though meeting with front and cross fire, stood and held their ground with a loss in the 51st of 90 men out of 209 in less than half an hour. Col. Bradley, commanding brigade, was twice wounded and carried from the field, and the command devolved on Col. Nathan Walworth of the 42nd Ill. That night, just after sundown, barricades were made of fences. Most of the time under fire and behind these, the brigade lay till morning on the ground gained the afternoon before. At daylight on the morning of the 20th, the regiment was marched a mile and a half to the rear and up the Rossville Road. The fighting of that day did not commence till 10 A.M. The brigade was then ordered to the front and extreme right of army. At noon it was taken into the fight, but owing to its being brought under ambuscading fire before it could form from double-quick march and being broken through by a flying brigade of our own men, it was considerably scattered, and in the course of an hour this was the case with McCook's entire corps. The corps in this state fell back to Mission Ridge. Maj. Gen. Sheridan then arriving ordered this promiscuous herd of officers and soldiers to follow him, and, taking them by a long and circuitous route to the right and rear, brought them at 1 A.M. of the 21st back to the rest of the army and reported them to Gen. Thomas. Thus the corps, between whom and the rest of the army, was the enemy, was dexterously joined to it again at Rossville. On the 21st, defenses were thrown up there but the enemy gave no annoyance. On the 22nd, crossed Chattanooga Creek and camped three miles from Chattanooga, throwing up earth-works. On the 25th, moved still nearer the town, which was soon surrounded by a circle of formidable defences. On the 9th of October, Lt. Col. Raymond's resignation having been accepted, Major Davis took command of the regiment.

Reorganization of the Army of the Cumberland. On the 10th, was issued the order for the consolidation of the Army of the Cumberland, the 20th and 21st corps to form the 4th [Corps] under Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, Maj. Genls. McCook and Crittenden having been removed. This consolidation was rendered necessary by the reduced state of almost all the regiments. The regiment still remained in the division of Gen. Sheridan, the 2nd of the 4th Army Corps and still in the 3rd Brigade, the old brigade being joined to that of Col. Charles Harker, who took command as ranking colonel, relieving Col. Walworth. The Division now consisted of 27 regiments, 9 in each brigade, the designation of the brigade being 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps. On the 19th of October, Maj. Gen. Rosecrans was relieved and was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Thomas. Nothing of special interest occurred in the regiment from the Battle of Chickamauga till Nov. 23rd when was commenced the operations which resulted in the capture of Mission Ridge & Lookout Mountain.


Missionary Ridge to East Tennessee in Support of Burnside. On the 23rd, the division was in reserve, on the 24th also while Hooker took Lookout Mountain. On the 25th, the 4th Corps marched in line of battle up Mission ridge - [the Fifty-First] with a loss of nearly 30 [should read "40"] out of less than 150, including Major Davis wounded and Captain George L. Bellows, as the next ranking officer, killed. The command then devolved on Captain A. M. Tilton, Company C, and that night the regiment went forward as far as Chattanooga Creek, to return to Chattanooga the next day. We were then ordered to make preparation for a campaign of two weeks for the assistance of Burnside in East Tennessee, which lasted two months instead. On the 28th, the march to Knoxville was commenced, and we reached there on the 9th of December, crossing the Hiawassa and Little Tennessee rivers. Remained at Knoxville until the 11th when the brigade was sent on the cars to Blain's Cross Roads.

December 14th Major Davis received the commission of Lieut. Col. and Captain Rufus Rose, Company K, that of Major. The regiment remained at Blain's Cross Roads till January 15, 1864. On January 9th, Colonel Bradley returned to the regiment, having recovered from the wound received at Chickamauga, and Captain Tilton returned to his company, though [since] Major Rose was sick in Nashville, he remained as acting field officer. On January 10, the regiment went on a foraging expedition, 34 miles from their camp.

Toward Home - Reenlistment Furlough. January 15 lots were drawn to see which regiments should go back as veterans; the 51st, having reenlisted, was fortunate enough to draw one and started for Chattanooga the next day; reached Kingston on the 19th and remained there till the 21st on account of fears which were then entertained of a Morgan raid. Reached Chattanooga on the 26th of January. On the 11th of February, the rolls being made out and the men all mustered [as reenlisted veterans], the regiment took the cars at Chattanooga for the North. They reached Chicago, the place of rendezvous for the regiment, on the 17th and were there furloughed for 30 days, to return to Camp Fry [Chicago] on the 18th of March, which place they left for the front on the 28th of March.

Introductory Note to the Historical Memoranda, 28 March 1865 to 5 August 1865 [below]

Head Quarters 51st Ills Inf., Placidor, Texas, August 7th, 1865 [to Adjutant General, State of Illinois]

Respectfully forwarded — Without wanting to make any invidious comparison, I take pleasure in testifying to the soldier-like conduct of the men of the 51st Ills Inf when enroute to this point. Not a case deemed serious enough for a court martial occurred on the boat or at New Orleans. The conduct of the non-commissioned officers is worthy of special praise. We are all anxious to be mustered out of service, and if good conduct and soldierly obedience merit any favor of the Government, the 51st Ills has so far nobly earned it. My command will be very small by October 25th. The veterans are nearly all non-commissioned officers.
I am, General, your obedient servant,
James Boyd, Major, 51st Ill. Inf.

Historical Memoranda
From the Twenty-Eighth day of March 1864 to the Fifth day of August 1865

On the 28th day of March 1864 the 51st Regiment Ill. Vet. Vol. Inf. stepped on board the train at the Union Depot, Chicago, Ill and were soon on their way back to the seat of war, commanded by Col. L. P. Bradley.

It was a pleasant sight to witness the many tokens of respect manifested by the waving of handkerchiefs and the shouts that greeted us by the way.

After a very toilsome ride of two nights and one day over a very poorly conducted and unaccommodating railroad via Lafayette and Indianapolis, the Regt. reached Jeffersonville, Ind. on the morning of the 2d day. Crossing the river we remained at Taylor Barracks until 4 o’clock P.M. next day when the Regiment stepped on board the train for Nashville. On reaching Nashville the Regiment was informed that it must march through to Chattanooga, a distance of one hundred fifty-one miles.

Procuring one six-mule team as the transportation for the entire Regt. the march was commenced which proved rather pleasant than otherwise.

Here the Regiment formed a temporary Camp to await the inspection and turning over of their arms and equipments, preparatory to receiving new ones: (Springfield Rifles).

In a weeks time we were again on the march to Cleveland, Tenn., a distance of thirty-five (35) miles.

As the Regiment was encamped in a beautiful grove of young trees and the men were expecting to remain here some time, they commenced building “huts” — which were abandoned in a week.

Noon of the 3d of May found the Regiment marching as part of Sherman’s army. —The great Atlanta Campaign had commenced in earnest.

The Regiment then was a part of the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Fourth Army Corps, Department of the Cumberland, commanded respectively by Col, afterwards Brig. Genl, L. P. Bradley —Col., afterwards Brig, Genl, C. H. Harker — Brig. Genl. Newton — Major General O. O. Howard — and Genl. George A. Thomas.

Skirmishing commenced on the 5th. — On the 9th at Rocky Face Ridge, Ga., an unsuccessful charge was undertaken by the Brigade, in which two men were wounded.

The enemy fell back on the night of the 12th and on the 13th the Regiment passed through Dalton, Ga. in slow pursuit and engaged them at Resaca, Ga. On the 14th, in this engagement Captain Lester, a tried and true soldier who entered the Regiment as 1st Lieut on its original organization, was killed by a musket ball. Twenty (20) men were wounded.

The enemy evacuated his works on the night of the 16th — and Regiment was ordered to pursue immediately — Skirmishing (occurred) continually until the 19th, when the entire army halted resting there 3 days near Kingston, Georgia.

Resumed the march on the 25th. Found the enemy on the 25th, near Dallas, Ga. After eleven (11) days skirmishing, they retreated and the command rested three (3) days near Ackworth Station. The casualties near Dallas were one officer (Lieutenant Jesse Johnson) and eleven (11) men wounded.

Moved forward on the 8th of June and on the 15th, being on the skirmish line one (1) officer wounded Captain Tilton and twelve (12) men killed and wounded. On the 17th the enemy retreated to his works at Kennesaw Mountain, GA., where nothing but changes of line and light skirmishes occurred till the 27th when we participated in an assault on the enemy’s line, two (2) officers killed, Henry Hall, adjutant, a true gentleman and gallant soldier, and Lieut. A[rchibald] L. McCormick -Two officers wounded, each so severely that they have since been discharged from the service on account of same – Captain Theodore F. Brown and 1st Lieut. Thos. M. Cummings – also thirty-nine (39) enlisted men killed and wounded. The losses from the 15th to this time were eleven (11) men killed and wounded. The enemy left this line on the night of the 2nd of July – and the command marched to the Chattahoochie River without further hindrance than a show of resistance on the 4th. Marched to Roswell 18 miles up the river and crossed, returning to our position I the Corps on the 13th and again crossed the river on the 14th and rested three (3) days. Marched on the 18th in support of the skirmish line. On the 20th reinforced the 88th Illinois Infty of the 1st Brig. engaged in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek and afterwards formed line to the rear and built breastworks. Casualties five (5) men wounded. On the 23rd confronted the Enemy in their works around Atlanta where remained until the night of the 25th of August when the command started on a [illegible] which resulted in the evacuation of Atlanta on the night of the 1st of September.

In the skirmish near Jonesboro on the 1st of September lost (2) men wounded and on the 3rd near Lovejoy three (3) men wounded. Remained at Lovejoy until the 5th when the retrograde movement was commenced. Regiment on picket. Marched triumphantly into Atlanta on the 8th. Capt. A. M. Tilton commanded the regiment since June 27th till present time. Col Bradley having received his appointment of Brig. Genl. commanded the brigade since the death of Genl. Harker June 27th/64. The regiment lost three (3) officers killed, four (4) officers and one hundred and five (105) enlisted men killed and wounded. This campaign is considered by the Regt. to equal in hardship their entire experience before and since in the service of their country.

The Campaign having ended, the Regiment went into camp near Atlanta, and, believing their labor ended for some time, took much pains to make themselves comfortable by building good quarters.

September 28th found the Regiment hastily breaking up camp and loading on the cars to move back to Chattanooga, Tenn. and Bridgeport, Ala. as Hood was getting in our rear. At this time Genl Newton was relieved and Brig Genl Wagner placed in command of the 2d Division, 4 AC [Army Corps]. —Reached Bridgeport Oct 1st and again built winter quarters to be abandoned on the 18th. Here the Regt received the first pay it had seen in eight months. On the 18th Sept on the cars for Chattanooga, remaining there long enough to receive one hundred and ninety-two (192) of (200) drafted men and substitutes assigned to the Regiment and draw their arms and equipment when the Regiment marched to Alpine, GA, a distance of forty (40) miles. On leaving Chattanooga the Regt bade adieu to Chaplain Raymond who remained to await the acceptance of his resignation. He had been from the first a zealous hard working man ever alive to the interests of his flock—leaving now because, being long past the meridian of life, he felt himself unequal to the hardships of a winter campaign. —Here we remained one week, being joined by the other divisions of the corps. A march was immediately commenced for Chattanooga reaching there in two days. Took cars for Athens, Ala., there marched for Pulaski, Tenn, about 20 miles, wading Elk River, a very swift flowing stream and waist-deep, so cold that it almost froze the blood.

At Pulaski the Regiment was engaged in throwing up works and doing picket duty. On the 22d of November left Pulaski, a very cold day, and marched to Lynnville where we remained two nights and one day. On the morning of the 24th made a forced march to Columbia. It having been determined that the army was too small to hold Columbia, on the morning of the 29th the command commenced retreating to Spring Hill some ten (10) miles. The 2nd Div arrived there at 2 P.M. They were hardly there when the enemy made his appearance in considerable force, having crossed the river above Columbia and intending to flank the small army commanded by Schofield, which they well nigh succeeded in doing.

The Regiment together with the remainder of Bradley’s Brigade were formed in line at once to dispute the ground with the enemy and save an immense wagon train concentrating in the town. The loss in the Regiment was twelve (12) men wounded. Captain Geo. I. Waterman, A.A.A. Genl., was severely wounded and also General Bradley.

Colonel Joseph Conrad, 15th Mo., took command of the brigade. On the morning of the 30th at 5 o’clock, the army was moving towards Franklin passing the enemy’s lines so closely that our troops supposed them our own men. Arriving at Franklin at 11 o’clock A.M. the Regiment together with the other regiments of the 3d Brigade and also the 2nd Brigade were posted some five hundred yards in advance of the main line of works. The enemy appearing suddenly in force and this position being indefensible for so small a force, the 2nd Brigade having already fallen back to the main line in good order, we were swept back in confusion to the main line, sustaining a heavy loss.

The ground from the first position to the main line being an incline plane sloping toward the river, destitute of tree stumps, stones, fences, hillocks, or anything behind which a person could take shelter, was the cause of so severe a loss. Lieut Thomas was killed. Captain Tilton, Lieut J. J. Johnson, Lieut Charles Hills wounded, the last two (2) so severely as to be discharged for physical disability. Lieut. O. D. Butler was taken prisoner and fifty-two (52) enlisted men killed and wounded, ninety-eight (98) missing, many of whom were killed and many cannot be heard from. The regimental records still remain open and efforts still being made to ascertain what was the fate of very many of those men.

The same night the army crossed Harpeth River and commenced a gloomy, midnight march towards the entrenchments of Nashville, Tenn. All speak of this night as a night of horror. Men slept as they walked the road; others fell out exhausted and falling asleep by the roadside were picked up by the enemy. About Noon December 1st the command reached Nashville in safety.

Here the command remained quietly till the evening of the 2nd when they moved into position on the right of the Hillsboro Pike.

In this position we remained till the morning of the 15th of Dec. A more disagreeable situation could not well be imagined. A low piece of ground, muddy or frozen — camped, no shelter tents, no “bunks” — little wood and exposed to the cold blasts of December. About this time Brig. Genl. Elliott relieved Genl. Wagner of command of 2nd Division, Genl. Wood commanding 4th A. C.

On the 15th the Regiment was placed in reserve. On the 16th moved out in the front line of battle and lost one (1) man killed, five (5) wounded. It has always been a query with us how we got off so cheaply.

After a “march” of one hundred and thirty (130) miles in pursuit of the fleeing enemy over roads fast becoming impossible for wagon trains or artillery, the pursuit was abandoned and we turned toward Huntsville, Ala. expecting to go into winter quarters there.

We marched this distance of fifty (50) miles only to find our hopes blasted and learn that we were to be placed on out-post duty at Decatur, Ala. Decatur, having lately been occupied by the Enemy, was a perfect ruin. There was nothing with which to construct “huts”, and it was necessary to remain idle and miserable till the wagons came up to haul wood and logs with which to make fires and build “huts”. During two weeks it rained almost daily—cold January rain. At the end of that time we had very fair quarters. The duty was extremely heavy.

A watchful “enemy” being in front the men were compelled to stand “picket” two and sometimes three days in a week and do “fatigue” duty as often as twice a week, making five days out of seven on duty —and poorly supplied with rations.

During this period the remainder of the 4th Corps was doing little or nothing at Huntsville, Ala.

On the 31st of March we gladly crossed the Tennessee River and took cars for Greenville, East Tennessee, distance three hundred and thirty (330) miles. Here we remained until the 15th of April when we commenced moving toward Nashville, Tenn., distance three hundred and forty (340) miles, arriving there and going into camp on the 25th. (Called “Camp Harker”.) On the morning of April 11th, Company “I”, eighty seven (87) men and three (3) officers, commanded by Captain Henry Augustine, joined the regiment. Here we remained in a most “beautiful camp” until June 15th —Regiment commanded by Capt. Boyd —Brigade by Genl Bradley —Division by Maj Genl Elliott —Corps by Maj Genl. Stanley.

During this time the sixty two (50) troops were mustered out [the 1862 recruits who had not reenlisted]. To become 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps, Bvt. Brig. Genl. Joseph Conrad commanding brigade, Genl. Bradley having resigned.

On the morning of June 16th, Company “F” commanded by Lieutenant James Skidmore bade adieu to the regiment and together with the men whose term of service expired prior to October 1st, 1865 were mustered out of the service.

June 16th took the train for Jonsonville, Tenn arriving there on the morning of the 17th. Embarked on the Steamer “Clara Durning” for New Orleans.

After a very pleasant trip of seven (7) days, went into camp on the “battle ground” of 1815 where we remained until July 28th.

This camp was very unhealthy. Embarking on the Steamer “Tillie” we were soon on the Route to Texas. This vessel is very small and was too much crowded, but the weather being very fine, the voyage to Indianola was very pleasant.

On the 31st of July the Regiment was transferred from the “Tillie” to a river steamer and running up to Port Lavaca, disembarked on the same evening.

Afternoon of August 1st the Regt marched out to camp at Placidor, a distance of twelve (12) miles —no water nearer [than] the town of Lavaca.

So here the Regiment remains this 6th day of August awaiting as patiently as they can the result of this Texas movement.

Cyrus A. Anthony, 1st Lieut & Adjutant
James Boyd, Major 51st Ills Inf, Comdg

SOURCE: Descriptive Roll Fifty-First Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Illinois State Archives, (301.023).