On July 13, 1865, I. N. Haynie, the Adjutant General of Illinois (successor to the wartime adjutant general Allen C. Fuller) sent a circular to the officers of all Illinois regiments, saying that the Illinois regiments were being broken up, "to be known to the future only by the history of their great achievements." He went on, "I have deemed it my duty to call upon the officers who commanded them to render me whatever aid they can to secure beyond question, for all time, a truthful record of their deeds... now when the events of the past four years are fresh in the memory of those most conspicuous in the Union cause." To that end he ordered, "You will immediately forward to this office a brief, compact history of your command... embodying in the statement all the engagements, marches and movements, with all items of interest which will give the organization a merited and enduring record in the archives of Illinois" (Adjutant General Report, 120).
These compact histories were written generally by officers of the regiment but these regimental historians are usually unnamed and unknown. The Adjutant General Office's history of the Twenty-Seventh Illinois was written by William A. Schmitt, Captain of Company A, then major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel; we know that because Schmitt's history was also published as a separate booklet. We cannot determine who wrote the A.G.O. history of the Fifty-First Illinois; it is matter-of-fact in tone like Bradley's other writing; however, Bradley resigned his volunteer commission as brigadier general in June, 1865. James Boyd (the last promoted but never mustered colonel of the regiment) was the only field-and-staff officer of long-standing at regimental headquarters after July 1865, and, after being wounded at Stone's River, Boyd had been with the provost-marshall's office in Nashville until sometime in Spring 1865. Raymond had resigned; Davis was still recovering from severe Missionary Ridge wounds; McWilliams had left the regiment in March after his exchange and release from Confederate prison; Rose was gone after resigning for disability reasons; Moody was killed at Chickamauga, Bellows at Missionary Ridge, Hall at Kennesaw Mountain; Tilton, who had de facto command of the regiment throughout the last half of 1864 until he was wounded at Franklin, had resigned and was off searching for his brother who was lost in Andersonville; that left only James Boyd actively serving—and Merritt B. Atwater, senior among the captains. Adjutant General Haynie stated in mid-July that he had sent out forms to all the regiments: "This circular, with blanks to be filled and returned to this office, has been sent to all commanding officers of troops of this state, out as well as in the service, whose address was known" (First Edition, Volume 1, p. 89).
The AGO history of the Fifty-First is quite, if not utterly, accurate. William Edward Henry of these pages, in the itinerary of Private Edward Tabler of the Fifty-First, points out that the regiment crossed the Chattanooga Creek on September 22, 1863, not Chickamauga Creek as the A.G.O. history says. In December, 1863, as the Fifty-First and other regiments hurried to East Tennessee to support Burnside, the Fifty-First moved to Blaine's Crossroads near Knoxville - by rail, according to the A.G.O. history, but actually covering the last ten miles on foot, as Tabler wrote in his diary.
The A.G.O. history does not go beyond perfunctory recounting of the regiment's movements, casualties, and unit assignments in the Armies of the Mississippi and of the Cumberland - except to class Chaplain Raymond as a "venerable and good man" and to remember being in "the thickest of the fight" at Stones River (as the regiment was a number of other places).
The exact verbiage of the A.G.O. regimental history, in italicized paragraphs, forms the framework of a fuller history of the Fifty-First Illinois. The fuller history is a progressive work, building out the framework, here, then there, then here again. The building does not necessarily proceed from beginning to end, rather from interest and material to interest and material. Initially, the history will only in sections go beyond the AGO-perfunctory, but, if you return to the site periodically, you will find this historical presentation growing - old sections stouter and cushier and new sections starting to take shape, more dependent on letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts, and integrated with information from the National Archives and the venerable, coy Official Records.
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AGO: The Fifty-first Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Douglas, Chicago, Illinois, December 24, 1861, by Colonel Gilbert W. Cumming.
Organization of the Regiment: "The officers are all military men."
[This section created March 25, 2006; last updated December, 2008; written by Leigh Allen]
The men who became officers of the Fifty-First Illinois were engaged in Illinois militia activities, building and training companies and regiments, months before the Fifty-First was constituted. Goodspeed and Healy (1909, p. 439) wrote that John Loomis and Luther P. Bradley formed "a crack Zouave regiment" in April of 1861, "crack" presumably in the sense that its unison in drill was flashy. Loomis and Bradley turned their efforts from Zouave drill to other volunteer military undertakings. (Loomis eventually went on to be colonel of the Twenty-Six Illinois.) Bradley's energies soon - at the time of Lincoln's call for 75,000 three-month recruits - turned to forming a company to be offered for service in response to that call. The company was comprised of young Chicago men, according to Alexander McClurg, who was one of the company's members, many of whom had college educations and had been "somewhat delicately reared" and hoped to "tone down some of the asperities of the private soldier's life". Luther Bradley was captain of the company which became "before long a very creditably drilled military organization, and was known as Company D, 60th Regiment Illinois Militia." The company was not accepted into Federal military service because Illinois quotas were soon full. Company D was detailed as the guard of honor while Stephen Douglas lay in state in Chicago in June 1861 (McClurg, pp. 101-105) and continued a kind of existence though members were continually departing to serve in regiments bound for "the field". (Company D reconvened in late 1863, after Bradley was wounded at Chickamauga and partially recovered, for an evening of feasting, toasting and speech-making in Bradley's honor at a Chicago hotel.)
In August, 1861, several Illinois militia initiatives were consolidated as the First Regiment, Illinois State Militia. That militia unit never got beyond an inchoate state of organization; it did however form the core of the Fifty-First Illinois. Some of the captains and "home companies" of the First Illinois Militia became the captains and companies of the volunteer regiment
(Captain Rufus Rose, Fremont Fencibles, Company K;
Captain Henry F. Wescott, Union Railroad Guard, Company A;
Captain John G. McWilliams, Sturges Light Guard, Company E;
Captain George H. Wentz, Higgins Light Guard, Company G;
Captain Theodore Brown, Scammon Light Infantry, Company D;
Captain Isaac Gardner, Tucker Light Guard, Company B). There were other militia companies that were initially, briefly, part of the new regiment but subsequently went elsewhere—either disbanding or being folded into other new regiments—the Bryan Light Guard under James Heffernan,, the Anderson Rifles under A. L. Hale, and the Yates Light Guard under William P. White.
The Fifty-First was formally constituted by Order No. 197 of the Illinois Adjutant General issued on September 20, 1861 (Andreas II, 1884-86, p. 215).
The regiment went into camp in Chicago on October 8, 1861 near what was becoming Camp Douglas [map, sketch, details]. The camp was not a war-ready barracks and training ground carved out of the near-south side of Chicago. It was a piece of prairie, four miles south of the city, called "Cottage Grove", which lay at the end of the street-car line. The line did not even continue far enough through the trees and grasses to reach present-day Hyde Park. The cars themselves were more aptly called "horse cars", for this was prior to the first steam streetcars. The Chicago Times reported once during the war, March 21, 1864, that the State Street car bound for Cottage Grove found its way blocked by a herd of cattle. The street car was halted, as the herd, occupying the entire width of the street, "presented a bold front, or rather rear, to dispute the further passage of the car." This was not yet Chicago urban living at its most urbane.
Cottage Grove was beautifully wooded and was home to several music pavilions and a large beer garden. It was popular with the German-American population who traveled the street cars to have picnics and parties. (There were other such celebration groves around Chicago; the Fifty-First reassembled, after its veteran furlough in 1864, at Wright's Grove-Camp Webb-Camp Fry on the north side of Chicago). Before Camp Douglas was ready to accept troopsóeven before it was plannedóIllinois recruits camped and trained in Cottage Grove along Cottage Grove Avenue, which connected north to the city. There were several camps, some utterly temporary, some with permanent barracks, in the Cottage Grove areaóCamp Long, Camp Blum, Camp Heckeróbefore Camp Douglas was built in late 1861; there was even a temporary Camp Douglas, which lay to the south of where the permanent Camp Douglas was built (Karamanski, 1993, p. 78). The Forty-Second Illinois Infantry left Chicago for the field before they ever moved out of the Grove into the Camp. Even after Camp Douglas was completed and fully functioning, the housing and training of regiments at at the camp was not confined to the walls which surrounded it. William Bross wrote, "...troops were cared for in and about Camp Douglas, for it will be remembered at times the section west of the camp and nearly to State Street and south, far away toward Hyde Park, were covered with camps and open spaces for drilling the troops" (Bross, 1878, p. 170). Elias Colbert, a Chicago newspaper editor, remembered "the novel sight of tents dotted all over the surrounding region as far as the eye could reach" (p. 94).
The Fifty-First Illinois was one of the first to inhabit the new camp and undergo its outfitting and first training there, moving in while it was still being built. Benjamin Smith of the Fifty-First wrote that, after his company arrived in Chicago, supped at the Lloyd House, overnighted at the monstrous "Wigwam" (the ramshackle, quick-built, wooden auditorium where the Republican convention of 1860 nominated Abraham Lincoln), and breakfasted, again at the Lloyd House, they boarded "street cars" for Cottage Grove (Smith, p. 12, Cook, p. 38), and so began their military careers. Albert Tilton of the Fifty-First wrote home on October 12, 1861, "We are encamped at Cottage Grove, about 4 miles south of Chicago but easy of access by street car. Extensive and comfortable barracks are being built which when completed are calculated to accommodate 4 regiments of 1200 men each." Even though the Camp Douglas barracks were just then under construction, Tilton headed his letter "Camp Douglas 51st Ill". Tilton's letter of November 9, 1861, headed "Camp Douglas Chicago Legion (51st Ill)", wrote "...we have as yet no stoves put up in our barracks".
The regiment shuffled through several identities before it went to the field of war. At inception it was envisioned as one of the four regiments of a planned Douglas Brigade, a brigade of regiments formed in Illinois' northern military district, constructed by the war-footing military reorganization of 1861, and named in honor of Stephen Douglas, who had died in June, 1861. Two other of the regiments of this to-be brigade were the Forty-Second Illinois Infantry and the Fifty-Fifth Illinois Infantry. There was never a fourth regiment for the phantom Douglas brigade, even on paper, and the brigade ceased to exist before it started. The men of the Fifty-First, however, at some point after arriving in Chicago became aware that the regiment was designated as a constituent of the Douglas Brigade; they felt a certain gratification in membership in a brigade named after the great Stephen Douglas, greater for having thrown himself into the war effort after his election defeat and then, especially, having died. There was at least a passing notoriety to being members of this named brigade. Tilton wrote, in a letter of December 10, 1861, "The 2d Regt [Fifty-Fifth Illinois] Douglas Brigade left for St. Louis yesterday. We are the 3d Regt of the Brigade... It will be a splendid brigade." Benjamin Smith noted the Fifty-First's being part of the Douglas Brigade in his entry of October 11, but Smith sometimes backed into his dates, and not always correctly. The Fifty-Fifth Illinois trained at Camp Douglas but left for the field before the Fifty-First did, and the two regiments never served together. The Chicago Tribune said the Fifty-Fifth was "well known as the Second Douglas"; The Fifty-First was never known as the "Third Douglas". The Forty-Second, which was the first-formed regiment of the Douglas Brigade (but seldom called the "First Douglas") and which also assembled in Chicago but two months earlier than the Fifty-First, always served together with the Fifty-First.
The Chicago papers in 1861 and early 1862 referred to regiment as the "Chicago Legion" or the "Ryan Life Guard". The name "Ryan Life Guard" never gained currency, but the early stationery of the regiment, early Illinois newspaper accounts, and the early self-reference of its officers identified the regiment as the "Chicago Legion", legion because in contemporary military parlance a legion consisted not only of infantry units but also of cavalry and artillery units. The Adjutant-General's Order No. 197 of September 20, which formally organized the regiment and called it specifically the "Chicago Legion", stipulated, "There may be attached to said Regiment one company of Cavalry and one company of Light Artillery - said companies to be raised by voluntary enlistment for said purpose, and not to be selected from any of the companies of cavalry or artillery heretofore reported and accepted by the state." Albert Tilton glossed "legion" in the terms of a new soldier, "The 51st Reg is to be composed of 10 Companies of which 8 are to be Light Infantry, 1 of Flying Artillery & 1 Cavalry Co. making in itself a small brigade able to act on the offensive & defensive" (letter of October 12, 1861). For a time Allen Waterhouse's battery and Charles Roland's cavalry company were constituents of the regiment. On October 30, 1861, the Fifty-First Illinois counted six infantry companies and the battery. The battery accounted for 47 of the 296 men who had signed with the regiment as of that date.
As late as November 14, 1861 Colonel Gilbert Cumming authorized cavalry recruitment for the regiment.
Subsequently, however, Illinois Adjutant-General Fuller cooled toward the "legion" concept and reassigned the cavalry and artillery units. This was a major setback to recruiting efforts as the battery men and the cavalry troopers comprised one fifth of the regiment's strength. The adjutant general said that he would assign two infantry companies to the regiment, but he did not do so.
The regiment was left with only eight companies of infantry, rather than the usual ten; hence when the regiment went to the field in February, 1862, it consisted only of 684 enlisted men. (Not until July 1862 did the regiment gain a Company F, and not until Spring 1865, after the regiment had fought its last fight, did it gain a Company I.)
Through the end of February 1862, the regiment had its lieutenants scattered through Illinois recruiting to fill up the various companies. At Camp Douglas contingents of independently recruited men were added to existing companies, as when Albert Eads' Knox County contigent became the final piece of Captain Nathaniel Petts' Iroquois County company (ultimately Company C). Eads thus earned the second lieutenant's office of Petts' Company. Whole companies were similarly added to the regiment. John Whitson recruited sixty men in Rock Island County. Those sixty men were joined by William Greenwood's twenty-plus men (after considerable negotiating). These two contingents eventually became Company H of the Fifty-First. Whitson was captain; Greenwood was first lieutenant. Thus the Fifty-First built itself; its regimental existence was not a foregone conclusion. The "Rock Island Regiment" that was forming at the same time under "Colonel" Waters McChesney, and which had grown to over 200 men by the time it reached Camp Douglas, was cut into pieces and the pieces assigned to other forming regiments.
The Fifty-First Illinois was the "Chicago" Legion because the majority of the officers were recruited from Chicago and because the regiment mustered in in Chicago. Only two companies, C and H, had no Chicago-commissioned officers (Kirkland I, 1895, p. 162). There was yet another reason why very practically the regiment's closest ties were to Chicago: Luther P. Bradley was the first Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. Before the war he worked for the firm of Munson & Bradley. Francis Munson's downtown store at 140 Lake Street became the local point of contact for the regiment. Letters and packages could be dropped off there for (relatively) quick transport to the regiment in the field. The first set of colors made for the regiment was initially on display there, and Munson carried the flags to the regiment in the field at Farmington, Mississippi. When one of the regimental flags came back to Chicago, in shreds, after the Battle of Chickamauga, it was on display at Munson & Bradley's. The Chicago connection was more than officer-deep; Companies A, G, and K drew the majority of their privates from the City of Chicago and the Counties of Cook and Lake. When the regiment departed Chicago in February 1862, The Chicago Tribune bid the Fifty-First good-bye "...with peculiar feelings. Composed, as the rank and file is, mainly of our own citizens, and citizens who have occupied prominent and humble positions in this community, it is severing a near tie to say farewell and leave them to the uncertaintities of war. Chicago will watch the future course of this regiment with peculiar pride, and will anxiously await the day when they shall return..."
Governor Richard Yates appointed Gilbert W. Cumming,
a New York native and Chicago attorney, as colonel of the regiment. Cumming was a man of some military training but little military experience. He was born in New York in 1817. At the age of 16 Cumming enlisted in an independent military company, submitted to all its training and discipline, and eventually rose to command of a regiment in the New York militia whose only public function was in composing the public unrest relative to the rising of Anti-Renters in his corner of New York. He rose to the colonelcy of the militia regiment, a position which he held for six years. In the 1850s Cumming migrated first to Wisconsin, then to Chicago, where he established a successful law practice.
The first Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifty-First Luther P. Bradley also had some military background. Bradley was born in 1822 in Connecticut, and his initial military training came with the Connecticut militia before he migrated to Chicago in 1855. There, he was employed with the firm of F. Munson, stationers and booksellers. Bradley accepted a captain's commission with Company D of the First Illinois State Militia.
Samuel B. Raymond, the first major of the Fifty-First (and later lieutenant colonel commanding the regiment) was born in New York and came to Chicago where he was engaged first in printing, then "mercantile pursuits", then insurance. He was actively engaged in militia activities, serving as lieutenant colonel of the First Illinois State Militia. His father Lewis Raymond was chaplain of the regiment; a younger brother Eugene was a private in Company K. Regimental Adjutant Charles W. Davis was a native of Concord, Massachusetts and had served in the state militia for five years before migrating to Chicago in 1854.
For better or worse there were no Westpoint graduates among the officers of the regiment, but the officers of the regiment did not themselves require basic military training. They had that. Colonel Cumming wrote to Captain Nathaniel Petts, selling him on joining his independent infantry company to the regiment, "The officers are all military men and the regiment will be equipped in the best manner." The organizers of the regiment and its field officers took satisfaction that the regiment was not officered by political appointees - who might be marvelous creatures of patronage in the city but inept commanders in the field.
The Chicago Tribune wrote of the regiment, "In point of drill it is superior to any regiment that has been at Camp Douglas this winter." Camp Douglas was new, and not a lot of regiments had trained there; still, the Fifty-First was in camp a relatively long period of time, four months, before going to the field. And, its days were consumed with drilling, and more drilling. The Federal command heirarchy was frightened by what became of its untrained regiments at Bull Run. "With the establishment of Camp Douglas, troops were, for the first time, given uniform instruction in bayonet and close-order drill. The state appointed two former Ellsworth Zouaves as the official instructors at Camp Douglas. [Camp Commandant] Tucker established a schedule that gave the recruits at least four hours of drill each day." (Karamanski, p, 84). Tilton wrote home about the Fifty-First's training schedule. "We 'turn out' at day break, breakfast at 7, drill from 9 to 11, dine at noon, drill from 2 to 4 PM, take supper at 5 & go to bed at 9 1/2." The diary of Edward Tabler for January 1862 gives some of the tiny permutations of becoming a soldier at Camp Douglas, "Drilling again today, as usual, and learning to be a soldier - Drilled again, at the usual hour, and done well - Drilling again, and have a bad cold - Drilling again - Drill a little while again, but don't feel very well - The boys went to the lake shore, and fired their guns at a target - Drill again today, and have Dress Parade - The boys drilling by themselves today. We done well." The Fifty-Sixth Illinois Infantry, in contrast, found itself in the field after a much shorter interval in camp, and training was not an ambition of its field officers. Chaplain David Bunn wrote in his diary on May 3, as the Fifty-Sixth was joining General Pope's army for the war on Corinth (which came to be known as the "Siege of Corinth"), "The discipline of the Regt. is sadly deficient, and seems to lack a head to make it what it ought to be. The Col. has never yet said 'Shoulder arms' to the Regt." Quartermaster William Ferry of the Fourteenth Michigan, trying to move men and materiel away from Hamburg Landing in May 1862, complained of his regiment, "There is no discipline for this or anything else among our officers." A New York officer criticized the command style of his fellows, "Their orders come out slow and drawling, then they wait patiently to see them half-obeyed in a laggard manner." The militia careers and ambitions of the Fifty-First's field officers and some of its captains propelled the regiment past such inexperience and growing pains. Its field officers, for better or worse, had a taste for command - and some experience in exercising it. Ferry of the Fourteenth Michigan wrote, as his regiment got close to its first fighting, "The result of fight must prove disastrous to this regiment solely for the want of discipline & trained obedience to orders." Even when still untested, the Fifty-First had confidence in its training and proficiency in drill. Time would tell.
In October at Camp Douglas, the men of the regiment began receiving uniforms and some equipment, "So that", as Adjutant Charles Davis put it, "we hope to make soldiers of our men in very short time." The regiment was not exactly "equipped in the best manner", as Colonel Cumming promised Petts, not at first. Benjamin Smith, a private of Company C, wrote that Quartermaster Howland, judging by the ill-fitting uniforms that were issued at Camp Douglas, "must have had the mistaken impression that he was clothing a company of giants."
REFERENCES FOR THIS SECTION:
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Cumming to Captain Nathaniel Petts, September 25, 1861, Fifty-First Illinois Regimental Books 3, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration. The company Petts raised became Company C of the Fifty-First Illinois.
Davis to Lt. Northerington, October 7, 1861, Fifty-First Illinois Regimental Books 3, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration.
The Chicago Evening Journal.
The Chicago Times.
The Chicago Tribune.
James Grant Wilson, Biographical Sketches of Illinois Officers Engaged in the War Against the Rebellion of 1861. Chicago: James Barnet, 1862.
A[lfred]. T. Andreas, History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 3 volumes. Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1884-86
Benjamin Smith, Private Smith's Journal, Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1963.
David P. Bunn Diary, SC 209, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois.
William M. Ferry, Jr. to wife, dated "Between Hamburg & Corinth, six miles out, May 1st/62"; William M. Ferry, Jr. to wife, dated "In camp near Farmington which is 4 miles from Corinth May 5th/62", William Montagu Ferry Family Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 24 (slow and drawling orders).
Moses Kirkland, History of Chicago, Illinois, Two volumes. Chicago: Munsell & Co., 1895, Vol. 1, p. 162.
William Bross, "History of Camp Douglas," Paper Read before the Chicago Historial Society, June 18, 1878, in Mabel McIlvaine, ed., Reminiscences of Chicago during the Civil War, New York: The Citadel Press, 1967 (originally published in 1914), 160-194.
Alexander C. McClurg, "American Volunteer Soldier", Extract from an Unpublished Memoir, in Mabel McIlvaine, Reminiscences of Chicago during the Civil War, New York: The Citadel Press, 1967, (originally published 1914), 97-150.
Weston A. Goodspeed and Daniel D. Healy, History of Cook County, Illinois: Being a General Survey of Cook County History including a Condensed History of Chicago and a Special Account of Districts outside the City Limits from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1909.
Theodore J. Karamanski, Rally 'Round the Flag: Chicago and the Civil War, Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1993.
E[lias] Colbert, Chicago: Historical and Statistical Sketch of the Garden City, Chicago: P. T. Sherlock, 1868.
Frederick Francis Cook, Bygone Days in Chicago: Recollections of the "Garden City" of the Sixties, Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1910.
Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois: Containing Reports for the Years 1861-66, revised by Jasper N. Reece, Springfield: Phillips Bros., 1900-02.
AGO: February 14, 1862, ordered to Cairo, Illinois. Moved to Camp Cullum, on the Kentucky shore, on the 27th. On the 4th of March moved to Bertrand, Missouri, and on the 7th moved to Sykeston, and to New Madrid, and 10th, assigned to the Division of Brigadier General E. A. Paine, and Second Brigade, consisting of Twenty-second Illinois Infantry, and Fifty-first, Colonel Cumming commanding. On the 13th, made a reconnaissance in force, and, 14th, New Madrid was evacuated by the enemy.
To the Field: Cairo to New Madrid.
Section created July 21, 2006; written by Leigh Allen.
Even as the regiment took the field, Colonel Cumming was still trying to bring his regiment up to full strength by the addition of another two companies. He authorized John W. Campion to raise a company in the central Illinois town of Bloomington, McLean County. From February 21 to March 7, 1862, an ad ran in the Bloomington Daily Pantagraph; it read, "Col. Cumming's Regiment. - J. W. Campion has received authority to raise a company for the 51st regiment Ill. Volunteers. Any persons wishing to enlist will find this a crack regiment to go in, and will soon see service."
Campion had considerable success in recruiting men for his company. He recruited 50 men, then formed a partnership with Sylvester G. Parker, a farmer of means, to continue recruiting while he took the first recruits to Camp Dubois (Anna, Illinios, Union County) to begin their outfitting and training. A company skirmish broke out. While Campion was away, Parker held an election for the captaincy and won. On his return, Campion withdrew his men and formed another company. So said Campion. Parker said that Campion was present at the election on March 22 but received only 32 votes against 57 for Parker. Campion then, miffed, went off with 32 men and began to fill out another company. Parker said his 83 men were mustered in as Company H of the Sixty-Third Illinois on April 21 but that Campion's unit was not. Adjutant General records give the lie to this contention of Parker's for both companies were mustered into the Sixty-Third Illinois on the same day, Campion's Company D weighted with men from Bloomington, McLean County, Parker's Company H with men from Decatur, Macon County.
In the upshot, the Fifty-First Illinois did not gain a company from Campion's promising initial efforts. By the time the Campion's company was mustered in, the Fifty-First was on board a steamship heading for Fort Pillow, though certainly a company could join the regiment in the field (as did Company F a few months later). There is a more likely explanation than mere distance for Campion shopping his wares elsewhere. All the companies of the Sixty-Third were raised in central and southern Illinois and such local affinities were effective in a way that potentional ties to a "Chicago" legion could not be. The opportunity for satisfactory outfitting and thorough training were greater at Camp Dubois than they were with the Fifty-First Illinois as it boated up and down the rivers and then debarked in Tennessee and marched for Mississippi in April and May, 1862.
AGO: April 7, moved against Island No. 10; 8th, pursued the enemy, compelling the surrender of General Mackall, and 4,000 prisoners; 9th, returned to New Madrid; 11th, embarked and proceeded down Mississippi to Osceola, Arkansas; 17th, moved toward Hamburg Landing, Tennessee, disembarking 22d. April 24, the Brigade of Brigadier General John M. Palmer, Twenty-second, Twenty-seventh, Forty-second and Fifty-first Illinois, and Company C, First Illinois Artillery, Captain Hightailing [Houghtaling], known as the "Illinois Brigade," was assigned to Brigadier General Paine's Division. Engaged in the battle at Farmington, and siege of Corinth. Just previous to the evacuation of Corinth, the Army of the Mississippi was organized into two wings and centre. The Division of Paine and Stanley, constituting Right Wing, under Brigadier General W. S. Rosecrans.
From Island No. 10 to Hamburg Landing, Tennessee, April 1862
At Island No. 10, among Pope's men, there was euphoria at the ease of the victory, the haul of equipment, and the numbers of prisoners. Charles Davis, the major of the Fifty-First Illinois, wrote later: "At the scene of the victory, the excitement during the 7th was intense...The next day the joy over the surrender was unbounded." Major General John Pope was popular with the nation and embraced by the press. The nearly bloodless capture of New Madrid and Island No. 10 was seized upon by the press and the population in the North as evidence of the progress and prowess of Northern arms—unmixed good news to consider along with the troubling news from Pittsburg Landing and the Battle of Shiloh.
The Fort Pillow Mission. The next river mission for Pope's 20,000-man Army of the Mississippi was to lay siege to Fort Pillow on the Mississippi in mid-Tennessee, 90 miles south. The capture of Fort Pillow would deny use of the upper Mississippi to Confederate purposes and would bring Federal units in behind Confederate forces that held Memphis, Tennessee and Corinth, Mississippi. The shining object of the Federal campaign in the West in the Spring of 1862 was the Corinth railroad junction of the Memphis and Charleston and XX railroads ... The objective of capturing Fort Pillow was control of a greater chunk of the Mississippi Valley—and also Corinth. Memphis was 100 miles to the west of Corinth and was protected on its backside by Fort Pillow and other river fortifications. The fall of Pillow almost certainly would mean the capture of Memphis. Everyone was on this same page. Henry Halleck, who was in the process of taking command of all the armies in the west, wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton when Island No. 10 fell, "I am now of opinion that General Pope, by moving on Memphis, will produce a powerful diversion in favor of our attack on Corinth, and I shall therefore have transports prepared to
move General Pope's army down the river, changing its destination to the Tennessee, if I find it necessary on my arrival there" (Official Records 10/2, XX). At the same juncture, novice Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott informed Stanton, "If transportation arrives to-morrow or next day we shall have Memphis within
ten days, and General Pope can co-operate with General Grant at
Corinth in wiping out secession" (Official Records 8, 676).
Navy-side, Commodore Andrew Foote told Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that he understood "our object then," at the capture of Island No. 10, "was to
proceed to Memphis immediately" (p. 8).
In the Fort Pillow road-to-Memphis undertaking, as at New Madrid and Island No. 10, Pope's army would make common cause with Commodore Foote's "flotilla, consisting of gun, mortar boats, tugs, towboats, and transports" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 3). Foote had eight gunboats—seven of them were iron-clad, one was made of wood—and sixteen mortarboats. The numerous tugs and towboats were to push and pull the heavy, cumbersome gunboats and mortarboats around—and to serve reconnoitering functions. Foote's flagship was the "Benton." Foote himself, already a lauded protagonist of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, New Madrid, and Island No. 10, had a reputation among the men. William Onstot of the Twenty-Seventh Illinois wrote home, "Com. Foote you know is one of those peculiar men who is sure he is right and then goes ahead. Consequently we may never despair of success when he is in the lead."
James Eads, who himself had an illustrious career as supplier to the western navy during the Civil War, wrote of Foote, "The Admiral was a great sufferer from sick headache. I remember visiting him in his room at the Planters' House in St. Louis, a day or two after the battle of Belmont, when he was suffering very severely from one of these attacks, which lasted two days. He was one of the most fascinating men in company that I have ever met, being full of anecdote, and having a graceful, easy flow of language. He was likewise, ordinarily, one of the most amiable-looking of men; but when angered, as I once saw him, his face impressed me as being most savage and demoniacal, and I can imagine that at the head of a column or in an attack he would have been invincible. Some idea of the moral influence that he possessed over men may be gained from the fact that, long before the war when commanding the United States fleet of three vessels in Chinese waters, he converted every officer and man in the fleet to the principles of temperance, and he had every one of them sign the pledge."
Foote had been wounded at Fort Donelson in mid-February and still was suffering acutely from the wound.
A fleet of thirty river steamboats was ready to carry Pope's men and the mission's supplies. These transports were commercial steamers. The government in one of its branches had contracted with steamship companies for their use. Pope wrote, years later, that most of the boats were supplied by an "Old Captain White," who both owned the boats and served as captain on the river. Mid-sized steamers, like the "Daniel G. Taylor," could carry a full fully filled out regiment or a small regiment like the Fifty-First along with other units or pieces of other units; larger steamers like the "Hannibal City" or the "City of Alton" could carry two regiments or more, upwards of 1500 men, even more. Regiments were shuffled about, consolidated with others, or broken up to fill out the steamer spaces. John Greenman of the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry wrote, "My company and one other company of our reg't and two companies of cavalry were ordered on this boat (Steamer Sam Gatz)... six companies of our reg't were on Steamer McClellan, and the other two companies on the Steamer Spread Eagle."
The Steamboat City of Alton, in elegance of appointments, was fit to carry the governors of states. Captain William Stewart of the Eleventh Missouri said the regiment was headquartered on board "a fine boat 'Hannibal City'." The soldier passengers on the Steamboat Admiral, on the other hand, referred to it as "an old tub." At least one of the steamboats had been captured from Confederate forces. Pope's flagship was the Steamboat J. D. Perry; the several companies of the U. S. Regular Cavalry which were attached to the Army of the Mississippi traveled on the Perry with Pope.
Down the Mississippi. The men of the Army of the Mississippi expected to have a few days to rest on their Island No. 10 laurels, but in the evening of April 11, the Fifty-First Illinois and other regiments received orders to break camp and move quickly to the river to embark on steamer transports. John Campbell of the Fifth Iowa wrote in his diary, "We have orders to get ready to march. I put on a clean shirt." There was urgency to the order; they were to be off even that night. Charles Wills of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry wrote to his brother, "I think that Pope's hurry is caused by his fear that Grant and company will reach Memphis before him." The Fifty-First pulled up stakes and marched several miles through rain and mud to their assigned point of embarkation. But the rain delayed the start of the river mission. Otis Moody of Company K wrote, "It has now grown into a proverb, that stormy weather & the 51st always go together." The regiment, like others, spent the rainy night in a makeshift camp in a muddy corn field on the bank of the river. John Hill Ferguson of the Tenth Illinois infantry wrote in his diary that the Tenth pitched tents in a corn field and carried off fence rails "in less than no time to make some fires to cook - we cut corn stalks to make our beds - altho' they were wet they kept us out of the mud. It continued to rain all night." Charles Wills of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry wrote, "The rain has been falling in torrents... you can imagine the time we had pitching tents in a cornfield" (p. 81).
On April 12 the Fort Pillow expedition got underway. Commodore Foote's gunboats and mortarboats started down the Mississippi at about noon. Steamers tied up at stipulated points along the river shore below New Madrid. Throughout the afternoon and evening the steamers took on soldier-passengers, cavalry horses, artillery guns, ammunition, and other cargoes. William Pittenger of the 39th Ohio wrote from the "Admiral" at 8:00 p.m., "Are now all aboard. There are 12 steamers here loading." Hall wrote, "Our boat didn't report till after sundown and we had a tough time loading without any moon." The correspondent of The Chicago Tribune described the evening scene: "All along the river bank the watch fires gleamed brightly until they dwindled into stars at distant Point Pleasant. Drums were beating and fifes shrieking. Regiments were leaving quarters and embarking on transports. Many of the transports were already laden down to their guards with soldiers, wagons, ambulances, horses and commisary stores. [Soldiers] were lying upon deck wrapped in their blankets; some chatting and smoking; here a group singing, and there another intently engaged at cards" (Report dated April 12, 1862; edition of April 17, 1862).
Toward 11:00 p.m. the first transports cast off and headed down the river. It was midnight when the Fifty-First Illinois moved out into the river, aboard the D. G. Taylor. The regiment had company—horses and cannon and infantry companies—part of the price the Fifty-First paid for being a small, eight-company regiment. Henry Hall of the Fifty-First wrote, "We have on our boat our own regiment, 3 companies of the Yates Sharpshooters and a battery of artillery"—Captain Charles Houghtaling's eighty men, six artillery pieces, gun carriages, limbers, and horses. The men were a little critical of their cruise ship. Moody said the D. G. Taylor was a "poor boat with very leaky decks" and without anything like half-way decent accommodations.
Even with thirty-plus transports and days of planning, there was not enough room for all the cavalry on board and some horses and horsemen were left on shore waiting for additional steamers to transport them south. Wills of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry wrote, "Word came at nightfall that there were not enough boats for all and the cavalry would have to wait the morrow and more transports. We lay on the river banks that night, and the next day all the cavalry got off except our brigade of two regiments. Another night on the banks without tents... What the devil we are going to do is more than three men like me can guess" (82-3). Wills' regiment never did make the trip downriver to Fort Pillow.
Years later Pope recalled the beginning of the Fort Pillow campaign: "When all was ready Commodore Foote with his gunboats took the lead and the great convoy of steamers followed, each brigade and division being kept together and following in the order assigned them." Lieutenant Colonel Luther Bradley of the Fifty-First wrote home on April 14 from on the river, "Gen. Pope leads the flotilla of transports on the [flagship J. D.] Perry. Next comes our Division which is now the leading division of the army having the right permanently assigned to it. The [D. G.] Taylor & [N. W.] Thomas carry the 1st Brigade and the North Star & Meteor the 2nd." Pope wrote, "It was a grand sight, this great fleet descending the great river and loaded with men and munitions of war. The health of the command was excellent and their spirits bordering on the boisterous. They had been supremely successful and had sustained no loss in achieving great results. They believed themselves capable of anything and longed for the opportunity to show it" (Memoirs, 61-2). The Missouri Republican called the voyage the "pleasure trip to Fort Pillow". At one point in the river journey Bradley wrote to his family, "As I write there are 37 boats in sight coming down in a long line two abreast. The day is one of the blandest and clearest, and the great river is as smooth & shining as glass. The steamers are decked with flags...their decks filled with troops & bands playing. It is a sight worth seeing at any cost." Pittenger wrote in his diary as he sat in his spot on the Old Tub Admiral, "River pretty full."
About fifteen miles below New Madrid the Confederate Mississippi fleet waited, more to threaten, annoy, and observe than to attack the Federal armada as it came down the Mississippi.
By early morning of the 13th, the infantry transports had been underway for fourteen or fifteen hours. The leading transports came up with Foote's gunboats, which had sighted Confederate gunboats down stream. The leading transports landed to wait for the rest of the fleet. William Austin of the Twenty-Second Illinois, on board the "Meteor", wrote, "Our fleet comes gathering in until the shore is lined for miles." The men disembarked, visited friends on other boats and cooked breakfast on shore. The Federal fleet was now within 40 miles of Fort Pillow. The Confederate fleet let its presence be known. Austin wrote, "At 9:30 A.M. our gunboats start out to engage the enemy's boats, who have been sticking their bows around the point to look for us. There goes a gun flash from the Benton's side—the shell bursts far down the river high in the air. A shell from the enemy is seen to explode over our boats, followed by the report of the gun. Several more shots, and the enemy seek safety in flight. While they are playing war below us, the bands on the transports are making the woods ring with music." Foote reported to the Secretary of the Navy: "At 8 a. m. five
rebel gunboats rounded the point below us, when the [Federal] gunboats, the
Benton in advance, immediately got underway and proceeded in pursuit and when within long range opened upon tbe rebels, followed by
the Carondelet and Cincinnati and the other boats. After an exchange of some twenty shots, the rebel boats rapidly steamed down
the river and kept beyond our range till they reached the batteries of
Fort Pillow, a distance of more than 30 miles" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 4).
The steamers loaded and again headed down the Mississippi. It was Sunday. Services were held on the boats. Austin recorded in his diary, "The day is warm and clear, the trees are putting on their coats of green and Summer seems nearer than appears possible in a ride of one hundred and fifty miles." (Austin nearly doubled the distance.)
PICTURES: Contemporary Drawings of the Mississippi Convoy and Fort Pillow
Fort Pillow. Fort Pillow as a strong Confederate fortress on the Mississippi River was less than half a year old in April 1862. It was an expansion of lesser fortifications and was built under the supervision of Montgomery Lynch, a Confederate engineer, with a unit of sappers and miners, a number of Irish laborers, a large body of Tennessee infantry, and the labor of 1200 to 1500 slaves. The fort was located at a sharp bend of the river on the Tennessee side where there were sharp bluffs—the Chickasaw Bluffs—near the river's edge. The bluffs rose 80 feet above the river. The surrounding terrain was thoroughly rugged and forbidding. In December 1861, Engineer Lynch reported to his superiors that he had "fifty-eight 32-pounder guns" (American Civil War Fortifications 3, 17).
|New York Tribune Describes Fort Pillow. The situation of the Mississippi at Pillow is most favourable for defence. The river at Craighead Point makes a very sudden bend, running nearly north and south, and narrowing so remarkably that at the lower end of the works it is not more than half a mile wide, and at their first batteries is about three-quarters of a mile; bringing all boats within easy range of their guns, and rendering their escape almost an impossibility. Below the point there are two large sandbars which render navigation quite difficult. The fort, by which I mean the series of fortifications, is on the first Chickasaw Bluff, is composed of nine different works, extending about half a mile. The bluff is some 80ft. high, very precipitous and rugged, furnishing an excellent location for defence. The works erected at the base of the bluff and on the bank, at some distance from the river, are very well and carefully built for about fifty guns. The country about the fort is exceedingly uneven and rough, and presents the most formidable obstacles to pedestrians everywhere. There are deep ravines, steep ascents, wild gorges, sudden and unexpected declivities on every hand; while in the rear of the fort there is an unbroken line of heavy and carefully-built breastworks, some seven miles in length, to resist any and all attacks by land. These breastworks are far superior, considering their length, to any others which I have seen during the war. Usually they are merely thrown-up embankments of earth; but these are regularly and scientifically made, with broad parapets, heavy escarpments, and counterscarps neatly lined with timber and firmly secured by deeply-driven posts. (Quoted in The Illustrated London News July 12, 1862)
As Foote embarked on the Fort Pillow expedition, he reported his most recent intelligence regarding Fort Pillow to the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, "There are, or rather were, on
the 17th March, upward of forty heavy guns mounted at Fort Pillow, and 1,200 negroes working on the batteries still, to strengthen
this stronghold. The guns mounted are heavy rifled, some five or
six 10-inch columbiads, some 8-inch, and remainder 32-pounders.
We may also meet with some opposition at Osceola [on the Arkansas side of the river a few miles above Fort Pillow] in running down
the river, as a battery is said to be planted there." After Foote's gunboats reconnoitered to within a mile of the main fort on April 13, he further informed Welles, "This place has a long line of fortifications, with guns of heavy caliber" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 4-5). Fort Pillow was a dangerous place, and the heavy rains and high bluffs made it a treacherous place. In prolonged rainy weather the mortars tended, with each recoil, to scoot across the platform of the boat, compromising accuracy and firepower. And Foote's heavily clad—and slow and cumbersome—gunboats, Foote feared, could easily become sitting ducks for the big guns on the cliffs above.
Arrival at Fort Pillow. Late on the 13th the expedition came near Fort Pillow. The steamers stopped on the Tennessee side of the river, three miles above the fort, out of the range of Confederate artillery. Commodore Foote wasted no time. His gunboats reconnoitered the fort, following the Confederate boats until Foote's boats were within range of the fort's shore batteries. Pope meanwhile, army-side, sent small bands of scouts out in yawls, which were "quietly rowed down along the bank of the river" as Pope sought for an approach to or behind the fort that would enable him to work in concert with Foote (The New York Times, report dated April 18, edition of April 28, 1862).
In the afternoon of the 14th the steamer transports and the infantry moved from the Tennessee shore across to the Arkansas shore for the additional safety from long-range guns. The infantry waited assignment, marking time in the war. The Fifty-First marched a few hundred yards inland, stacked arms in a field and, as Moody put it, "spent two or three hours luxuriating on Arkansas soil."
Benjamin Smith of the Fifty-First wrote, "We all land for exercise, while the boat is undergoing a thorough cleaning. One of the men belonging to another Co. got hold of a can of cherries. Sitting under the shade of a tree, he proceded to devour them, seeds and all; some of his comrades wanted a taste, but he got away with the whole lot... In two hours he was a dead man; I suppose the cherry stones he swallowed caused his death."
Pope's scouts prodded the river's shores, on both sides. Foote's fleet continued to reconnoiter. William Austin wrote, "Our little tugs, the gunboats orderlies, are skimming over the water, reconnoitering the enemy's position." In the afternoon Foote's mortar boats rained shells onto the Confederate positions, without doing serious harm. On the 15th, the infantry still had no work. General Paine ordered the division to march out to a grove and hold a public service of thanksgiving for the denouement of the New Madrid-Island No. 10 campaign. Men hunted deer and roasted venison. They gambled. Austin wrote, "The day is warm and the shore is lined by bathers." They washed clothes, snuffed out the lives of lice, and fought off mosquitoes. William Gardner of the Fifty-First Illinois remembered Fort Pillow as "the rendezvous of the gnat tribe." Henry Hall thought the Arkansas interlude "a monotonous life... tent life was replete with activity, compared to this—cramped up among nearly 1000 men, cannon, caissons, baggage wagons, artillery horses, and quartermaster's mules, company and commissary stores... We sleep on the floor of the deck and drink muddy Miss. water, which isn't so bad when you get used to it and drink it without looking at it... the color of it is about that of an aged buff envelope."
Intermittently, while the infantry and cavalrymen of Pope's army cleaned the steamers, marched about in Arkansas near the river, and fought mosquitoes, the Federal and Confederate gunners harassed each other. George R. Yost, a sailor on one of Foote's gunboats, wrote, "I frequently saw as many as a dozen shells in the air at one time, crossing each other's fiery tracks; some of them burst in mid air, some landing in the water, others in the heavy woods of the Arkansas shore. One shell, a very large one, passed directly over our upper deck, where I was sitting, missing our wheel house about twenty feet " (Tucker, p. 196). The shell struck the water—a direct watery hit—like most other Confederate strikes. To see the contest between the Federal and Confederate river gunners, men of Pope's infantry had to hike several miles. Campbell of the Fifth Iowa did so, "I went down to the levee this morning to within 300 yards of the mortar boats and witnessed the firing between them and the fort. The sight of the shells as they leaped from the monster mortars and flew through the air was grand, while the roar of the mortars was terrific. The enemy made some close shots in reply to our mortars but happily missed their mark" (pp. 36-7). The Federal gunboats were not much more effective though there were reports that the gunners had found the range of one of the campsites inside Fort Pillow and forced it to relocate. The heavy river fighting was reserved to May and June.
Pope Abandons Fort Pillow. On April 16 the infantry and cavalry cleaned boats and cooked rations—and waited for their part of the Fort Pillow mission to begin. But, it was to be otherwise. At sunset abruptly came the order to be ready to embark in an hour. The men were dumbfounded. Otis Moody of the Fifty-First wrote, "The surprise occasioned by the order was only equaled by the chagrin with which it was received — not that we were unwilling to go where most needed but we had undertaken to open the Mississippi—it had become a sort of pet scheme with us, & we felt disappointed at being compelled to abandon our work." Albert Tilton of the Fifty-First wrote home that the "orders from General Halleck to go to Corinth... did not please us much as we had hoped to follow the river to N. Orleans." Pittenger wrote in his diary, "Late this evening we were ordered up the river... This seems strange." A heavy storm delayed the planned sudden departure until the next day, but Memphis was already receding in the drizzle.
April 17 marked the end of the Arkansas picnic. The rain extinguished the glow of the riverboat idyll. Pope left two Indiana regiments under Colonel Graham Fitch behind to cooperate with the Foote's fleet in reducing Fort Pillow. The rest of his army started steaming back up the Mississippi at daylight on the 17th, "our destination being unknown" (Austin). And so it was for the rank and file. However, Henry Howland, quartermaster of the Fifty-First, was soon in the know and wrote home on the 17th, "We were getting along very finely till last evening we received orders from Gen. Halleck for Gen. Pope to return with his entire army with the exception of the gunboats and mortars and proceed up the Tennessee to aid our troops at Pittsburg"—hence the abrupt order of the evening before, and it was not long before every private had an idea where the convoy was headed. Captain J. Harvey Greene of the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry wrote to his wife on the 19th, "The orders now are, as popularly understood on board, though not definitely known, that we are to go up the Tennessee river to reinforce Grant's army."
Above: Thomas Scott's April 16, 1862 Map of the Situation at Fort Pillow. The course of the Mississippi is always changing. However, Osceola, Arkansas is always north of Fulton and Randolph, Tennessee. The lines and strip of text cutting across the loop of the river—around Craigshead Point—read, "proposed channel" and offered the chance of a relatively short digging effort to put infantry and cavalry both above and below Fort Pillow.
Abandoning Fort Pillow—Why? The process that aborted the Fort Pillow expedition was set in motion even before Pope's convoy left Island No. 10. Shiloh was fought on April 6 and 7. Both sides had fought their armies to exhaustion. It would take time to recuperate, refit, and supply. However, the Confederacy was already taking steps to reinforce Beauregard at Corinth. Grant wrote to Halleck on April 9:
| GENERAL: There is little doubt but that the enemy intend concentrating upon the railroad at and near Corinth all the force possible, leaving many points heretofore guarded entirely without troops. I learn this through Southern papers and from a spy who was in Corinth after the rebel army left.
They have sent steamers up White River to bring down Van Dorn's and Price's commands. They are also bringing forces from the East. Prisoners also confirm this information.
I do not like to suggest, but it appears to me that it would be demoralizing upon our troops here to be forced to retire upon the opposite bank of the river and unsafe to remain on this many weeks without large re-enforcements. The attack on Sunday was made, according to the best evidence I have, by one hundred and sixty-two regiments. Of these many were lost by killed, wounded, and desertion. They are at present very badly crippled, and cannot recover under two or three weeks. Of this matter you may be better able to judge than I am. (Official Records 10/2, 99-100)
The reports of Confederate reinforcements moving toward Corinth were correct. Van Dorn and Price were on the way, and so were various detachments from other places, east and south—regiment-sized, demibrigade-sized, brigade-sized. Halleck was alert. Federal commanders were not panicked—not fearing that somehow Beauregard would pull his army together and attack on the 11th or 13th—but timetable was for them of the essence. It would take two or three weeks for Beauregard to recover fighting trim and time for the gathering forces to gather in Corinth and augment the Confederate army. But, even considering that, Grant suggested to Halleck that "large re-enforcements" were necessary to secure the Federal position at Pittsburg Landing. The primary candidate for "large re-enforcements" was Pope's Army of the Mississippi. It was currently pursuing a mission, the abandoning of which would not jeopardize Federal lines or positions though it would delay the strategic aggression of Federal forces along the Mississippi and the opening of the Mississippi Valley. It would take the Army of the Mississippi five days to boat the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Tennessee, from Fort Pillow to Pittsburg Landing. If the time required to take Fort Pillow was short, the Army of the Mississippi could stay and complete the mission with Foote and move on Memphis, broadening the front against Beauregard to the west, forcing Beauregard to thin his line of defense from the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River. If the time required at Fort Pillow was not short, then the Army of Mississippi might be banging away, stymied, at Fort Pillow, leaving the two armies on the Tennessee alone to fight the Confederate assembly at Corinth.
Foote, from the naval side, was of the opinion that the mission would take only six days, four to capture Fort Pillow and two more to get to Memphis. He reported to naval command that he and Pope had "made such arrangements, that by combining our own with the forces of the army, that our
possession of this stronghold seemed to be inevitable in less than six days" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 7-8). If Foote's calculations were true, Pope assented to them, and time were assumed to be the only factor that mattered, then Pope's proper place was Fort Pillow.
The army, however, was laboring under a different set of assumptions and alarms—Pope's apparent unity of opinion with Foote notwithstanding—and was developing its own timetable. Probably on April 13, Pope had news of the Confederate forces moving across Arkansas toward Memphis—and eventually Corinth—to reinforce Beauregard. This raised the prospect of either reinforcements reaching Beauregard before reinforcements reached Grant and Buell—if Van Dorn's army pushed on to Corinth; or, of a big fight for Pillow and Memphis if Van Dorn held his army at Memphis. Time was becoming more of the essence.
Within hours of arriving off Fort Pillow on April 13, Pope had begun exploring the Tennessee shore, looking for a route that would allow infantry to attack the fort from the rear while Foote attacked from the river. Such an approach would allow quick operations with Foote's boats; Pope's army would brush past fallen Pillow and strike Memphis.
But, this was not the right Spring for all that. Most of the Mississippi Valley was flooded with a hundred-year flood. The Tennessee side offered no decent ingress, within a tolerable distance, for infantry operations. Foote reported to Gideon Welles on the 14th, "General Pope has returned with his transports, and informs me that he is unable to reach the rear of the rebels from any point of the river above" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 5).
Opposite Fort Pillow, however, a levee protected the Arkansas side from flood waters. At first therefore Pope thought to cross Craigshead Point by land. In this way he would put forces below Fort Pillow (see Scott's map), cross the Mississippi with infantry forces, and attack Fort Pillow by land from below while Foote bombarded the fort from the river. But that workable plan was soon ruined; Confederates cut the levee on Monday, the 14th; soon the Arkansas shore was also a sea. Pope was confronted with flooded wetlands everywhere.
In the face of that Pope and Foote sketched out two plans. The first was to dig a canal about six miles long across Craigheads Point, "leaving the river 5 miles above Fort Pillow and intersecting 4 miles below about opposite the Village of Fulton," according to Scott's summary for Edwin Stanton (dated April 16th, 9 a.m., On board Steamer J. D. Perry;, Miss. River near Ft. Pillow). This plan entailed cutting a canal through the wooded waters now submerging Craigshead Point (very much like the effort that made Island No. 10 untenable for its Confederate defenders). General Pope, Scott wrote to Stanton, "if he decides upon the plan, will set Bissell's force [First Regiment Missouri Engineers] to work tomorrow [April 17] cutting timber below water far enough to give 6 or 8 feet water...to pass the whole fleet of transports if necessary." The second plan under consideration envisioned making use of an old bayou to the north of Fort Pillow on the Tennessee side. Pope would move his infantry transports up the bayou into the bluffs as far as possible, "land his force and march upon the rear of Fort Pillow—distance of navigation from Miss River to bluffs, about 25 miles—land movement from bluff to fort about 30 miles - requiring about 6 or 7 days to reach the fort with the army."
Thus, there was no route to quick triumph at Fort Pillow. Yet, in the mind of Federal decision-makers, the looming threat from Beauregard grew more threatening—with Confederate reinforcements hurrying to Corinth.
Pope and Scott reached a commonality of purpose and communication. In later years Pope wrote of the six weeks when Scott "made his home" with Pope. Pope said, "I could not have wished nor have had a pleasanter or more acceptable guest. He was a man of wonderful intelligence and quickness of perception, a keen observer and a most energetic and zealous participant in all that went on... He was everywere and saw everything and a more genuine, cheery good humored friend and companion I never met... He came to us unknown and left with the strong friendship of many of us and the regard of all." Scott traveled upriver on a dispatch boat to New Madrid late on the 14th, so he could better receive and send communications for Pope. Scott consistently represented the view that Pillow required too much time. On the 14th, Scott messaged J. C. Kelton, Halleck's assistant adjutant general, "Do you want his [Pope's] army to join General Halleck's on the Tennessee?...Fort Pillow strongly fortified. Enemy will make a decided stand. May require two weeks to turn position and reduce the works" (Official Records 10/2, p. 106).
The crux of the matter was in the phrase "may require two weeks." Pope controlled army communications from Fort Pillow and could slant them toward chosen ends; Pope let Scott be his mouthpiece in manipulating Halleck's decision-making. In Scott's communications the count of days required to accomplish the Pillow-Memphis mission was padded (whereas in Foote's communications the count was shaved.)
On the 15th, Scott wrote to his boss Edwin Stanton, "I arrived here [New Madrid] at 9 o'clock by steamer to give you information and with dispatches for General Halleck. He cannot be reached by telegraph [Halleck had recently arrived at Pittsburg Landing from St. Louis]. If General Pope finds, after careful examination, that he cannot capture Fort Pillow within ten days, had he not better re-enforce General Halleck immediately, and let Commodore Foote continue to blockade below until forces can be returned and the position be turned by General Halleck beating Beauregard and marching upon Memphis from Corinth?" Army opinion—Pope's and Halleck's (Stanton, in this case, gave Halleck free reign)—shifted against the Pillow mission.
Pope grew impatient with the Mississippi, especially since Foote was hesitant shoulder the risk involved in making a direct attack on Pillow's bluff and water batteries, thus increasing the likelihood that an impatient army would be mired in Arkansas swamps wrangling with Foote at each move.
Assistant Secretary Scott wrote to Stanton on April 16, "Commodore Foote is a faithful conscientious officer, brave personally as a man can be, but very cautious in regards to his fleet—fearing injury to boats might render them so helpless that enemy could pass up the river and do great damage." Scott added, "This view of course is entitled to great weight." But clearly Pope, army-side, was less concerned than Foote about the loss of a boat here and there. On the same day, in another Scott-to-Halleck missive, Scott wrote that the "canal project, as opposed to the seven-day bayou-and-overland-march project, would likely be adopted, "provided Commodore Foote can be induced to assume a little risk and pass the fort with about 3 gun boats."
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Gilbert of the Thirty-Ninth Ohio wrote to his wife on Tuesday, April 15, from onboard his steamer, "Here we are yet—old Foote is afraid to let his gun boats go close enough to fight the batteries of Fort Pillow, so we are still lying above the 1st Chickasaw bluffs. Pope is as mad as man can be at the delay; the rebels are represented as strongly fortified, but we believe a dash at them with gunboats & mortars would cause them to get..." This was an easy opinion for an army man, or an army commander, to cherish—enough to partially inform Pope's preference to move on with his command.
On the 15th Halleck issued the orders for Pope, "Move with your army to this place [Pittsburg Landing], leaving troops enough with Commodore Foote to land and hold Fort Pillow should the enemy's forces withdraw" (Official Records 10/2, 107-8). Halleck also informed Foote by telegram and suggested that Foote continue with the bombardment of Fort Pillow. Pope learned of the order on the 16th and formally notified Foote that he was ordered to Pittsburg Landing: "I move with my command tonight" (Official Records [Navies] 23, 5-6). Thus the first part of the day of April 16 was spent in planning how to take Fort Pillow and the latter part was spent in making army arrangements to abandon it.
But there remains the question of the soundness of the decision to move the Army of the Mississippi post-haste to Pittsburg Landing at the expense of the Fort Pillow mission. The Fort Pillow mission was not, as Foote insisted, a six-day affair, but would a two- or three-week mission have jeopardized the Federal campaign against Corinth?
The decision was based on the view that Confederate strength was growing at a threatening rate, the view (as stated by Grant above) that "large re-enforcements" were needed to secure the armies of Grant and Buell on the left bank of the Tennessee River, and the apprehension that Pope might be stuck at the Fort Pillow just when the Federal effort desperately needed his advance on Corinth from Memphis.
Hindsight says it was not necessary to move the Army of the Mississippi from Pillow to Pittsburg. Naturally Halleck and his sources of information over-estimated (by 100 percent) the forces that were coming toward Memphis and Corinth under Van Dorn and Price.
Interestingly, on April 15, J. C. Kelton, Halleck's assistant adjutant-general, who was still in St. Louis pending Halleck's establishing a headquarters somewhere in Tennessee, passed on Thomas Scott's telegraphed dispatch (quoted above)—enemy will make decided stand...may require two weeks—to Halleck. Kelton told Halleck what Kelton had dispatched in return to Scott, "I answered that you had intimated no change in General Pope's destination, and said I thought you relied on the re-enforcements General Buell could give you" (Official Records 10/2, 107). Kelton was right. The armies of Grant (Thomas) and Buell out-numbered Beauregard's consolidated forces up through the evacuation of Corinth at the end of May. Pope's army, sheerly in terms of numbers, was redundant in the balance of strength against Beauregard. The Army of the Mississippi provided, however, most of the driving energy of the Federal advance on Corinth—the road-building, bridge-building, road-clearing, and skirmishing reconnaissance between the Tennessee River and Corinth.
No doubt if Pope had championed a continued Fort Pillow mission through Scott's communications, there would have been a combined army-navy operation against the fort.
For all the logistical effort, for all the energy expenditure, for all the planning, the expedition to Fort Pillow bore little immediate tactical fruit. Pope's infantry never participated in hostilities; the fighting was between the guns of the fort and Foote's mortarboats. Most of the infantry and cavalry men, except for those engaged in scouting and yawling, never even saw Fort Pillow; they were too far upriver, and the fort was hidden in the bluffs and the water batteries were at the base of the bluffs. They only saw traces of missiles flying through the air and the dark emissions of gunboat stacks and heard the concussion of great artillery guns.
The Fort Pillow mission agitated Beauregard and Bragg in Corinth as they prepared to attack or defend against Halleck.
Their actions give a glimpse of how events would have transpired had Pope pressed the attack against the fort and moved aggressively against Memphis.
As long as Pope and Foote posed immediate threat to Fort Pillow, Beauregard and Bragg hesitated between directing the approaching forces of Van Dorn and Price to Fort Pillow or to Corinth, once those forces arrived in Memphis. Bragg opined to Beauregard that Fort Pillow was a more crucial point than even Corinth, and Beauregard agreed—for the loss of Pillow would bring the loss of Memphis and of the western terminus of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Pope would threaten Corinth from the west while Buell and Thomas threatened from the east. Beauregard prepared to move Van Dorn's army from Memphis to Pillow if Pope pressed the attack against the fort. Van Dorn's army was held at Memphis, rather than hurrying on to Corinth, as long as Pope was on the Mississippi.
Indeed, for a time Beauregard reassigned Corinth units to Fort Pillow. Those units were on the move away from Corinth when Pope headed back upriver, at which time the orders were rescinded.
Taking and holding Fort Pillow and Memphis would have allowed Halleck to work on a broader front, stretching Beauregard's strength even thinner. But Halleck thought he could better ward off any disaster at Corinth by starting with overwhelming strength at the Tennessee River. Hindsight tells us that he over-resourced there and subsequently failed to use his resources fully. When Halleck abandoned Fort Pillow and put all his energy into the war on Corinth at the Tennessee River, Beauregard brought on Van Dorn; he brought all his numbers to Corinth. The Confederate Mississippi fleet and an infantry garrison of five thousand defended Fort Pillow against Foote and his successor.
Back Up the Mississippi. As the Army of the Mississippi steamed away, back up the river, Pittenger recorded, "Heavy cannonading is heard in the direction of Ft. Pillow. Old Commodore is probably trying to get his foot in it." The Old Commodore complained about Pope's abrupt departure for a week and through several pages of the Official Records. The convoy headed upriver on April 17—Pope's Steamboat J. D. Perry far in the lead.
At mid-morning, the fleet caught up to Pope's flag-ship, which was taking on stores from the commissary boat. "The whole fleet," Austin wrote, "comes clustering up like bees for provisions." The upstream going was slow. The rain came down in sheets. Otis Moody of the Fifty-First wrote, "The rain continues to pour in torrents, & it is optional to stand outside & take it clear or retire below and receive it through the numerous cracks & seams, in the decks. There is very little comfort & less enjoyment in prospect for this trip. Officers can get their meals below on the boat such as they are for fifty cents each while the soldiers have two stoves, in the after part of the boat for six or seven hundred men on which to make their coffee. Stopped once during the day to take on wood where the men were obliged to wade waist deep in water to get to it."
The last days on the river were becoming as miserable as the first had been diverting. The Fifty-First Illinois was, in Henry Buck's words "'cooped' in the close, crowded, dingy transport." Houghtaling's wet artillery horses stank up the boat and beshat the decks. Colonel Bissell of the Missouri Engineer Regiment recalled the end of the trip, "It rained almost continually, with nearly a thousand men crowded upon one boat, filling every nook and corner of it. Few could secure shelter, and by far the larger number had to brave the tempest and endure their wet clothing, many sleeping in pools of water...The facilities for cooking were so poor that some could get but one meal a day." Lieutenant Colonel Bradley of the Fifty-First Illinois wrote home, "We had a thousand men on a moderate sized steamer. At night every square foot on each deck was covered with sleeping men... it rained constantly, keeping us wet nearly all the time as the steamer leaked through all the decks and the sides of the western boats afford no protection being as like an eastern steamer as a summer house is like a prison."
Late on the 17th the rain dwindled away for several hours, "giving us," Moody wrote, "a little relief from close confinement & dirty water."
Captain Greene described that first northbound night on the Mississippi to his wife:
|I never looked at a more magnificent sight than presented itself last night just before we rounded to and stopped. We were going round a bend in the river when one by one headlights of steamers became visible below us, increasing in number and rapidity as we cleared the point, until it seemed as if by magic a thousand red and white lights and a thousand bright furnace fires glittered and blazed on the water, making the darkness around us blacker than ever. All at once as if to complete the scene, the bands and drum corps of the whole fleet struck up tattoo, filling the air with a perfect medley of music. Gradually the notes of the bugle could be distinguished, then of other instruments and soon the medley of an entire band would come over the water. Our men... quieted down, scarcely whispering, subdued and fairly entranced by the beautiful sight and the music from the darkness, for the boats themselves were invisible. The lights looked as if suspended on nothing.
The morning of April 18 found them still churning upstream in intermittent rain. The lead boats of the fleet reached New Madrid—"this home-like point," Pittenger called it—at 2:00 p.m., stopped and took on coal. The boilers of the "Chonteau," carrying the Fifth Iowa Infantry, began to leak as the steamer approached New Madrid; it made poorer and poorer headway against the Misssissipp current. At New Madrid the Chonteau was lashed to the powerful "City of Alton" and the tandem—the Chonteau's engines assisting as they could—continued the journey on up the river towards Island No. 10. The "D. G. Taylor" and the Fifty-First passed the now famous island just before dark (other steamers passed the island long after dark). The steamers on water gave the men a different view than they had had of the Island when they drove Confederate forces off it. Moody wrote, "We reached the island about 5 1/2 & luckily it was one of those intervals of cessation from rain, so that we were able to stand astride & witness this spot, which was for itself such a memorable place in history. Approaching the island from the south there is nothing remarkable in its appearance - the lower end of the Island is heavily wooded & and at this stage of the water nearly submerged. We passed between the island & [Missouri] shore, some of the other boats taking the other side. Toward the upper end of this island the land becomes higher & opens out broader. There are two earth work fortifications on the west side of the island, mounting three or four guns each & a much larger & more formidable one at the head of the island.... Had this fleet attempted to pass this point at that time, it would have been sunk in ten minutes. Now we sail past with as strong a feeling of safety as one would ride in the street cars of Chicago."
The men of the Fifty-First woke up on the morning of the 19th to find their boat tied up in Cairo, Illinois, that city they as well as numerous other regiments had passed through two, three, or four months earlier on their way to their wartime tasks. Some regiments were not allowed to leave their boats in Cairo—some steamers were scheduled to take on coal there and then sail on—but the men of the Fifty-First Illinois managed to get into town, along with many men of other regiments. "Now commences a grand struggle between the men to get on shore & the officers to keep them on the boats," wrote Moody,
|for we only stop for a few hours, & if once allowed to scatter through the town, it would be utterly impossible to get them together again in time for starting. Some of the old campaigners went ashore before daylight, as soon as the boat touched the landing & before the guards were posted in sufficient force to prevent it. Others entreated permission to go with such earnestness & it seemed so hard to refuse them after their long confinement that officers gradually grew more lenient till finally every street and store in town was swarming with soldiers. The Express Office was besieged by so large a crowd eager to send money to their friends that they were obliged to apply to the provost marshal for a guard to station around the door & keep the crowd in check. Stores were beseiged in like manner & stripped of their content at owners' prices. The rain continues to fall meanwhile & Cairo fully sustains its reputation for mud.
Henry Buck of the Fifty-First wrote to his sister about the stop-over in Cairo, "On the boats we had lived on hard bread and coffee, there being no chance to cook anything else, and the landing of several thousand hungry soldiers was a godsend to the provision dealers of Cairo. In 15 minutes not a particle of anything like bread, cake or cheese could be found in the town. It was literally cleaned out of everything eatable."
William Pittenger of the 39th Ohio and his comrades had hoped to be transferred to a more worthy steamer during the Cairo stop. Pittenger wrote in his diary, "Our hopes of getting another and better boat have all been blasted; therefore we will be compelled to remain on this old tub. It and its crew were constantly being captured at No. 10. It is a very weak vessel and it has a reckless and distrustful crew who would as leave sink her as not and [a crew] unwilling to serve, but no other [boat] can be found so we have to stand it." Instead, it was the Fifth Iowa who transferred to another and better boat. The wheezing Chonteau was tied up in Cairo for repairs; the Fifth Iowa disembarked and got aboard the "Nebraska, a better and faster boat," (Campbell, p. 40).
Benjamin Smith of the Fifty-First wrote that at Cairo they took "on board all the accumulated mail for the army. Cal [Benjamin's brother] and I receive a batch of letters."
One by one the steamers, the Old Tub with the others, left Cairo and continued the journey. Smith wrote, "The fleet again gets under way while Cal and I get off in a corner to enjoy our letters in peace and quiet."
|After Coaling at Cairo: The Aleck Scott. The Forty-Seventh Illinois left Cairo on their steamer, the Aleck Scott, on the morning of April 20. Several of the men—boys—of the regiment were lying on a pile of tents in the hold, indulging in "a little foolish play." Benjamin Mosher and Jasper Fry were picking on James Askey, born in Warwickshire, England, 20 years old, and slow. Mosher and Philo Ravlin told the story: "Askey was tying his shoe at the time it commenced. Fry hit him on the shoulder in a playful manner...both laughing and joking at the time." Ravlin continued,
|Mosher tapped Askey on the shoulder two or three times. Then Askey turned around and commenced to curse Mosher, when Mosher said "Fry done it and I made the motions." After that Fry tapped Askey on the shoulder and said, "Mosher done it and I made the motions" just as Moser had said before about Fry, and then Askey jumps up and kind of jumps on Fry and Fry got the advantage of Askey and shoved him off. Askey gets up then and cusses and swears and jumps on to Fry and knocks Fry's arms across his breast, and as he did so, he kind of lunged his knees into the pit of Fry's stomach. Then Fry kind of struggled, and Mosher and me put our hands on Askey's shoulders, gave him a little push, and he got off. Then Fry struggled three or four times trying to get up. I took hold of his arm and raised him up. He dropped lifeless and fell on his back. He was dead.
At the court martial, James Askey, in his own defense, asked Ravlin, "Did I not go up after water thinking Fry had fainted away, in order that it might be used to assist in his recovery?" Ravlin said that Askey had. (Askey was arrested before he could return to the hold with a cup of water.) When it came to sentencing by the court, that trip for a cup of water effected removal of the charge "with malice aforethought." Askey was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a year of hard labor in prison at Alton, Illinois. Askey returned to the regiment in July, 1863. In April 1864, after the Forty-Seventh Illinois was engaged at and retreating from Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, Askey "straggled"—and disappeared. Eventually he was classed as a deserter. The man from Warwickshire saw his bad luck continue. After he dropped out of the ranks, he was captured by Confederate soldiers at Yellow Bayou, Louisiana on May 17, 1864 and imprisoned at the Confederate prison in Tyler, Texas. His prisoner-of-war records seem to indicate both that he was paroled and that he died—he probably died just as he was about to be released. At any unfortunate rate, Askey was buried at what became the Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville, Louisiana. His date of death was recorded as April 21, 1865. (Alexandria National Cemetery: After the war, federal troops moved into the region to begin the process of reconstruction. In 1867, an eight-acre plot was appropriated from local resident François Poussin for the establishment of a national cemetery for deceased Union soldiers who died in the region... Bodies were removed from the surrounding towns such as Mount Pleasant, Cheneyville and Yellow Bayou and reinterred in Alexandria. http://www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/nchp/alexandriala.asp)
Some steamers took on coal at Cairo, others were to take on coal seven miles up the Ohio River at Mound City, Illinois, and others yet 45 miles further on at Metropolis, Illinois. Officers detailed men to shovel coal. It was an unpopular task that could be avoided by disappearing into the town—and numbers did. Frederick Brown and Milton McLain, members of the Fifty-First's regimental band, had seen enough of the world and of coal shoveling. They wandered away from the riverfront—and deserted. Cairo in this way absorbed quite a few men of the Army of the Mississippi. At Mound City the scene repeated itself as other boats stopped to coal. The steamer "Platte Valley" was tied up and taking forever to coal up. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hatch of the Second Iowa Cavalry got frustrated, then furious, with the meager effort of men he detailed to shovel coal. Hatch then, according to witnesses, said to one of his officers, "Bring out those damned infantry sons of bitches to coal this boat." Private Edwin Whitney of the Fifth Iowa infantry and two comrades were brought onto the coal barge and set to work. But Whitney worked only very slowly. Hatch noticed that Whitney was listing to the side, assumed he was drunk, and struck Whitney across the back with the flat of his sabre, calling him "a damned drunken son of a bitch." Whitney continued stubborn, and Hatch struck him again and again and finally had Whitney tied up and put on the Platte Valley. As it turned out Whitney was not drunk. His left arm and shoulder were crippled and had been at the time he enlisted. Whitney did actually try to move coal using only his one good arm, and he did try to get Hatch to understand that his arm was once dislocated and had not healed well, that he was not simply drunk and obstinate. For his effort, Hatch was court-martialed. However, when his day in court drew near, Pope ordered the matter to be quietly dropped, and so it was. In the course of some months, Whitney was discharged from the service on account of disability.
The fleet stopped at Metropolis, Illinois to overnight and for the trailing steamers to catch up. Somehow the Old Tub, the Admiral, had taken on no coal anywhere. Pittenger wrote, "Turned around after several hours, returning to Cairo for coal after all." At 4:00 p.m. Pittenger recorded in his diary, "We only returned for coal, being ordered to lay in a large supply but none is to be had. We are now pushing off up the river without getting a bushel. Still raining." Sometime in the night Jerry Lightman, drinking, fell overboard and drowned. His body was not recovered.
The convoy stopped again the next morning for several hours at Paducah, Kentucky. The stop was primarily to take on commissary stores, for Paducah was the last landing the fleet would make before reaching Pittsburg. There was a mad rush for Paducah's streets, and the city's stores were ready, even though it was Sunday, to sell the soldiers everything they had. In the early afternoon, the convoy was underway again. William Austin of the Twenty-Second Illinois went to get a haircut. "While visiting the barbers shop the boat left me behind, so chartering a skiff I was put on board of the Emma, which was coaling at the island. The 27th Ohio were on board—Col. Fuller."
The boats left the Ohio River and started steaming up the Tennessee River. At one point the boats carrying Eleazar Paine's Division, which included the Fifty-First Illinois, were out of the channel and tied up to the bank. "Old Captain White," owner of most of the boats and president of the steamboat line that supplied them, was on a boat passing along side Paine's division. Pope told this story in post-war reminiscences:
|Captain White's boat drifted against the boat on which Payne was with his headquarters and stove in the lower guards of that boat, without doing any considerable damage. Paine sent a guard to bring to his presence the captain of the offending boat and the guard marched old Captain White on to Paine's boat a prisoner. Paine assailed him with a language of more power than piety and it appeared for a time that the old captgain was to be drawn and quartered at the least. Payne, however, after expending much indignant invective, decided that Captain White must pay at once to the captain of his (Paine's) boat the fulll amount of the damage done by what he was pleased to call the old captain's damned stupidity and carlessness. Under Paine's orders the captain of Paine's boat (an employee of Captain White who also owned the boat) proceeded gravely to assess the damage at fifty dollars. Paine, in complete ignorance of Captain White's relation to these boats and their captains, and too impatient to listen to any explanation, ordered Captain White to pay over then and there fifty dollars to Paine's captain, assuring Captain White that if he did not pay the money, he would be carried up the river a prisoner in irons. Captain White, with a perfectly serious face, borrowed the money from the captain to whom he was to pay it, and who received it back with a countenance equally grave, and Paine sailed off with a chuckle of satisfaction often repeated, that he had executed condign punishment on a refractory steamboat captain. I do not think anybody ever undeceived him.
Moody wrote, "The farther we proceeded up the river the more grand & beautiful became the scenery..."
|The effect of sailing up this river is like the unfolding of a vast Panorama, although this is but a faint comparison. The scene is ever changing, always new. Sometimes we could trace the course of the stream for miles in advance, as it wound itself among the hills & lost itself in the distance. Then again we would seem to be sailing directly into the base of a pyramidal bluff with no possible escape, & some of the officers would...ask the pilot how he was going to get the boat over that hill, but all at once we would discover some hitherto concealed opening, & a new scene of beauty would unfold itself.
The Fifty-First passed Fort Henry in the early morning dark of April 21st. Austin of the Twenty-Second Illinois on the Twenty-Seventh Ohio's"Emma," coming along several hours later, wrote: "I see Fort Henry at 11 A.M. — the scene of Foote's first naval fight in the West. It rained all day." On April 22, the river journey came to an end and the convoy reached the destination landings on the Tennessee River.
The Fifty-First Illinois had been routed and re-routed, down the Mississippi, up the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and down the Tennessee. They had whiled away time in Arkansas, slogged through water in search of wood, shopped in Cairo and Paducah, they had been entertained by the rivers, cooped up on the steamers, drenched and re-drenched, the observant had been instructed. They had arrived now at the end of an uncommon Civil War interlude. Albert Tilton wrote, "We have been knocked about considerably." There was a small irony in that the Army of the Mississippi, the namesake of its strategic purposes, boated up and away from the Mississippi for the Tennessee River—and never returned. Indeed, it was the Army of the Tennessee that laid siege to the great Mississippi River stronghold Vicksburg. By then the units of the Army of the Mississippi were renamed after some other river.
The Fate of Fort Pillow. Commodore Foote and his fleet and Colonel Fitch and his two Indiana regiments continued the Fort Pillow mission after the departure of Pope's Army of the Mississippi, hoping, trying to get Pillow to fall. But it was the fall of Corinth that brought the end of Fort Pillow and Memphis rather than the other way around as envisoned by Federal command in early April. Foote, to allow his wound to be tended to, departed the fleet before the fall and left command in the hands of Charles Davis. On May 10, just above Fort Pillow—the general river area that had been the home of the Federal fleet for a month, the swifter less iron-clad gunboats of the Confederate fleet attacked the Federal fleet in a dramatic river battle. The battle was fought at closer than close quarters. The Confederates were effective by using rams, the Federals by sheer firepower at close range. Two of the Federal gunboats were sunk. Four of the eight Confederate gunboats were disabled. The Confederate fleet went down the river to Memphis to heal. The situation of the fort itself was status quo. The Federal fleet was not driven off and Fort Pillow remained firmly in Confederate hands.
Corinth was evacuated at the end of May, under siege pressure from Pope's Army of the Mississippi, Buell's Army of the Ohio, and Thomas' Army of the Tennessee—Halleck's "grand army." The Confederate hold on Fort Pillow and Memphis was untenable. Federal forces had only to mop up. On June 3, Confederates began removing the big guns from Fort Pillow. On the Fourth they were finished, and Confederate troops completely abandoned the fort. The Federal fleet pushed down the river to Memphis. On June 6, the enemy fleets again met in river battle, with Memphis, the object of the fight, watching. Of eight Confederate gunboats only one escaped whole—three were destroyed and four were captured. Pillow was gone and Memphis fell.
Foote, ill and never having recovered from his wound, died on June 26, 1863.
Sources for This Section:
- John Hill Ferguson Diary, MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Illinois
- Samuel Richey Kamm, The Civil War Career of Thomas A. Scott, Philadephia, 1940 (Ph.D Thesis, University of Pennsylvania)
- Benjamin Smith, Private Smith's Diary, Chicago, R. R. Donnelley & Sons, 1963
- William Gardner, Decoration: Some Footprints of the Army of the Cumberland From the Privates' Standpoint, Washington, Illinois, 1883
- William Onstot Papers, SC 1809, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois
- James B. Eads, "Recollections of Foote and the Gun-Boats," The Century 29, January 1885
- Tilton Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
- Henry Hall to Nathaniel Hall, 16 April 1862, Henry Ware Hall Papers, 1851-1876, microfilm edition, 1 reel (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1990), reel 1, Massachusetts Historical Society.
- Henry Howland Letter, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, (Ms91-016)
- William Austin Diary, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois
- William S. Stewart Papers, 1861-1864, C2991, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia, MO
- Luther Bradley Papers, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
- Otis Moody Diary, Private Collection of William Moody
- Edwin M. Stanton Papers, Library of Congress (Stanton-Scott Correspondence)
- J. W. Greenman Diary 1861-1865 [Eighth Wisconsin Infantry], Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi
- J. Harvey Greene, Letters to My Wife: A Civil War Diary from the Western Front, Sharon L. D. Kraynek, ed., Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1995.
- Charles Davis, "New Madrid and Island No. 10," Military Essays and Recollections: Papers Read before the Commandery of the State of Illinois, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Volume I, Chicago, McClurg, 1891
- John Pope, The Military Memoirs of General John Pope, Peter Cozzens and Robert I. Girardi, eds. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998
- Spencer C. Tucker, Andrew Foote: Civil War Admiral on Western Waters, Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 2000
- William Pittenger Diary, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio
- Charles W. Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Compiled by Mary E. Kellogg, Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996
- John Quincy Adams Campbell, The Union Must Stand: The Civil War Diary of John Quincy Adams Campbell, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Mark Grimsley and Todd D. Miller, eds., Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000
- W. A. Neal, ed., An Illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th Infantry Regiments, Chicago: Donohue and Henneberry, 1889
- Alfred W. Gilbert, Colonel A. W. Gilbert: Citizen-Soldier of Cincinnati, William E and Ophia D. Smith, eds., Cincinnati: Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, 1934
- Ron Field, American Civil War Fortifications 3, Oxford, England, Osprey Publishing, 2007
- Edward Hatch, Second Iowa Cavalry, Compiled Service Record, Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's - 1917
- Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Records of the Proceedings of the U. S. Army General Courts-Martial, 1809-1890, Case NN3819, 6 June 1862 to 20 June 1862, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C.
- Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
AGO: June 4, advanced near Baldwin, Mississippi, and fell back to Booneville. Colonel F. A. Harrington, Twenty-seventh Illinois, took command of the Brigade. On the 11th, moved from Booneville, and again encamped at Corinth, 14th; 28th, General Pope being transferred to Virginia, General Rosecrans assumed command of the Army of the Mississippi, and Brigadier General David S. Stanley, of Right Wing. July 9, army organized into five Divisions, under Brigadier Generals Paine, Stanley, Schuyler, Hamilton, Jeff C. Davis and Asboth, the Fifty-first being in First Brigade, First Division.
AGO: July 20, the division left Big Spring, and marched to Tuscumbia, Alabama. The Regiment was assigned to guard the railroad from Hillsboro to Decatur. August 24, Regiment concentrated at Decatur. September 4, crossed the Tennessee River, and moved via Athens, Alabama, to Nashville, Tennessee. Here the Division of Negley and Palmer remained as garrison, while the army moved to Louisville, under Buell. November 6, engaged in repelling the attack of Breckinridge, Morgan and Forrest. From September 11 to November 6, Nashville was cut off from communication with the North, the troops being on half rations. September 30, Colonel Cumming having resigned, Lieutenant Colonel Bradley was commissioned Colonel.
AGO: December 10, the Brigade was transferred to the Division of Brigadier General Phillip H. Sheridan, and designated as Third Brigade, Third Division, Right Wing, Fourteenth Army Corps, and marched 7 miles on Nolensville pike. December 26, moved against the enemy, under Bragg. December 30, the Brigade met the enemy and was engaged during the day, losing 7 wounded. December 31, the Regiment was in the thickest of the fight at Stone River, losing 57 killed, wounded and prisoners. The Division lost its three Brigade commanders, Colonel Harrington being wounded and taken prisoner, and died a few days afterward. Colonel Bradley took command of the Brigade, and Major Davis of the Regiment, and upon Major Davis being wounded and carried from the field, Captain H. F. Wescott took command. On the 6th, moved 3 miles south of Murfreesboro, and encamped.
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AGO: January, 1863, the wings and centre of the army were designated as Fourteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-first Army Corps, that of McCook being Twentieth Army Corps.
AGO: March 4, moved to Eagleville--Captain John G. McWilliams commanding Regiment. On the 8th, moved to Spring Hill; 10th, reached Duck Creek; 11th, Van Dorn crossed Duck River, on pontoons, and Granger returned to Franklin.
AGO: June 24, Twentieth Corps moved down the Shelbyville pike; 27th, marched to Beach's Grove. July 1, enter Tullahoma, which had been evacuated the night before. Joined in pursuit of the enemy to Elk River, Winchester and Cowan, Bragg retreating over the Cumberland mountains, and across the Tennessee River. Remained at Cowan until the 9th, then ascending the mountains, encamped on the summit on the site of "Southern University." July 30, moved to Bridgeport, Alabama. September 2, crossed Tennessee River, and moved to foot of Sand Mountain. September 4, ascended the mountain; 5th, moved to Trenton, Georgia; 6th and 7th, marched down to Lookout Valley; 10th, to Winston's Gap; 11th, Alpine, Georgia; 14th, marched up Lookout Valley; 15th, from Stevens' Gap to McElmore's Cove.
AGO: After some days' movements, entered the battle of Chickamauga, at 4 p.m.; 19th, losing that evening, 90 men out of 209 engaged. During the night erected barricades. On the 20th, went into position on extreme right: by noon were heavily engaged, and in the afternoon the whole Division fell back, in confusion, to Mission Ridge; 21st, threw up works at Rossville; 22d, crossed Chickamauga Creek.
The Fifty-First Illinois "entered the battle of Chickamauga" in support of the extreme Federal right, which was fiercely pressed all afternoon and in recurrent danger of complete disintegration. The regiment was some miles south of the battlefield when the brigade of which it was a part, Bradley's Brigade (Third Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Army Corps), was put on the run, north up the Lafayette Road, toward the south-most end of the Federal line.
There are a thousand things to read on the Federal right-Confederate left at the Battle of Chickamauga, some written in 1863, some in 2003. For now, then, we present an under-construction account of the Fifty-First Illinois and Bradley's Brigade on the 19th and 20th, in miscellaneous notes on the Fifty-First at Chickamauga.
AGO: October 10, the Twentieth and Twenty-first Corps being consolidated, formed Fourth Corps, under Major General Gordon Granger. Regiment being in Third Brigade, Colonel C. G. Harker; Second Division, Major General Sheridan.
AGO: November 24, at Mission Ridge, was engaged, losing 39 out of 150 men engaged, including Major Davis wounded, and Captain George L. Billows [Bellows] killed. Captain A. M. Tilton commanding Regiment.
AGO: November 28, 1863, marched to the relief of General Burnside at Knoxville. December 16, moved, by rail, to Blain's Cross Roads. January 9, 1864, Colonel Bradley returned. January 15, moved toward Chattanooga.
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Chickamauga. The Chickamauga account exceeds the limits of this page and has its own.
AGO: February 10, regiment mustered as veterans, and started for Chicago, where, 17th, the men received veteran furlough. Regiment left for the front March 28, 1864, via Louisville, Nashville and Chattanooga, to Cleveland, Tennessee. May 3, commenced the Atlanta campaign.
Reenlistment (and Regimental Strength) in Winter 1864.
[This section created April 25, 2006; last updated December 29, 2008; by Leigh Allen]
After the Seventh Ohio's horrendous fight at Ringgold Gap at the end of November 1863 - which most of the men considered a fool's errand ordered by General Geary and which killed five of the regiment's thirteen officers and wounded seven others - the regiment went into camp at Chattanooga, then Bridgeport, to winter. It was time for the Seventh Ohio to choose for or against reenlistenment - for the continued existence or dissolution of the regiment as a military unit, as the Seventh Ohio. The Seventh was reluctant. Theodore Wilder of the regiment said "abuse and hard usage" disinclined the men to reenlist. Generals came and made speeches to the regiment. General Geary, whom the men did not like, told them that "to lose the Seventh would be to lose the seventh star of the Pleiades," and that "they were dear to him as the apple of his eye." The men were disgusted. They had no such evidence. "Gen. Slocum and all the corps authorites" came and said more things, but the veterans said, "We know the promises of men in authority, and how much care is exercised for the comfort of those under them." Every effort failed, and the Seventh Ohio, as a regiment, disbanded at the end of their term - the men "with clear consciences... The 11th of June was the glad day of their relief... Co. C was marched out into a little grove which was to witness the sad parting..." The "little band" of Company C - M. M. Andrews, J. F. Harmon, S. M. Cole, J. E. Avery, N. L. Badger, J. M. Burns, H. B. Fry, A. M. Halbert, E. T. Hayes, I. A. Noble, H. Parsons, Thos. Spriggs, T. J. Wallace, D. A. Ward, Oliver Wise, and Wm. Woodmansee - fulfilled their obligations and, still alive, headed home.
(The History of Company C, Seventh Regiment, O.V.I., Oberlin, Ohio: J. B. T. Marsh, 1866, pp. 39-42; Richard A. Baumgartner and Larry M. Strayer, Echoes of Battle: The Struggle for Chattanooga, Huntington, West Virginia: Blue Acorn Press, 1996, pp. 424-427).
Old Regiments: Simmered Down and Sifted Out. If seventy-five percent of the members of a Federal regiment voted to reenlist, the regiment would retain its unit designation, a matter of pride and honor for many Civil War soldiers.
The Federal government felt it in its own best interests to maintain existing regimental organizations even if regiments were shrinking in numbers. That is, instead of consolidating smallish regiments into larger ones, the government chose to preserve the "veteran" regiments, build them through recruiting, and get the veterans to reenlist. Frederick Holbrook, the governor of Vermont, argued it this way: "The veteran regiments are worth more to the Government to-day, even when simmered down to not more than 300 well disciplined, able-bodied men, than any new and green regiments of 1,000 men each that the Government can procure. The veteran regiments have borne the heat and burden of the war, all its trials, reverses, disappointments and discouragements; they still stand up firmly and nobly to their duties, desire to fight the war through to a successful termination, and should be permitted to preserve their organization and a continuous record during the war.... True, unworthy officers and worthless soldiers found their way more or less into all the old regiments at the outset; but all such characters have been pretty generally sifted out..." Official Records, Series III, Volume 3, p. 219).
There were individual incentives; each reenlisting soldier received a $400.00 bounty from the Federal government and oftentimes like monies from local counties who thus came closer to fulfilling quotas levied on them for additional soldiers. General Order No. 376 from the U.S. Adjutant General provided that "officers may take the volunteers so enlisted home in a body" (Official Records, Series III, Volume 3, p, 1179). Reenlisting soldiers were to be returned to their city of original muster, at government expense and by government transportation, and once home to begin a thirty-day furlough, at the end of which the soldiers reassembled for the trip back to the theaters of war. Historian James M. McPherson wrote that 136,000 men reenlisted; 100,000 did not.
Some regiments reenlisted at the seventy-five percent proportion and some did not. Regimental mood is the key factor, but it's a slippery matter to list the determinants of regimental mood. As the case of the Seventh Ohio indicates recent experience in battle, views and experiences of generals in the immediate command structure, and fair treatment were important factors. The case of the Illinois Brigade - the Twenty-Second, the Twenty-Seventh, the Forty-Second, and the Fifty-First - complicates explanation.
The time for the Fifty-First to decide for or against reenlistment came in January 1864. The regiment was at the time, away from its Chattanooga camp, at Blaine's Crossroads near Knoxville, their division having rushed there to help Burnside against Longstreet. The ranks were thin, having been thinned by the battling at Chickamauga and again at Missionary Ridge, where the regiment had engaged with only 150 active men. Colonel Luther Bradley himself was away from the regiment, recovering from Chickamauga wounds, until January 9. He wrote to his sister from Chattanooga as he was returning to the regiment, "Chickamauga and Mission Ridge have told terribly on the Brigade, 700 men and 110 officers killed and wounded in the two battles." Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Raymond had tendered his resignation on October 8. Major Charles Davis was promoted immediately to Lieutenant Colonel, but he was not with the regiment at Blaine's Crossroads - he was still recovering from wounds sustained at Missionary Ridge. A captain, Albert Tilton, was in command of the regiment at the time of regimental decision.
En route, Bradley wrote to his sister from Chattanooga on December 10, 1863, "You wonder perhaps that I can think of re-enlisting with my men, but the companionship of such men is enough to make the service tolerable. There was enough gallantry and heroism displayed in the late battle [Missionary Ridge] to redeem a hundred failures" (all Bradley letter references are to the Luther Bradley Papers, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennsylvania). Were such companionship and exhileration widespread and longlived enough to be motivation for a regiment to reenlist?
Bradley wrote home to his sister once more from Knoxville, on January 8, one day shy of rejoining the regiment. "The 42d has re-enlisted entire, and I am told the 22d and 51st have nearly all gone in. I am glad of this, for it shows a fine spirit in the men who have suffered so much." But, the Twenty-Second Illinois and the Twenty-Seventh Illinois, with whom the Fifty-First had shared a brigade ever since debarking at Hamburg Landing in April, 1862, and who had both fought the early war at Belmont in November 1861, both failed to collect the requisite percentage of votes for those regiments to "veteranize" and continue as units in the order of battle.
(The reenlisting veterans of those regiments were parceled out to other regiments such as the Ninth Illinois, which needed to fill out its ranks. The Chicago Tribune reported that ninety-four reenlisting men of the Twenty-Seventh Illinois arrived together in Springfield on March 8 for thirty days of furlough.")
It's hard to construe the unit mood that would see the Seventh Ohio but also the Twenty-Second Illinois and Twenty-Seventh Illinois refuse reenlistment while the Fifty-First Illinois and Forty-Second Illinois reenlisted at a very high percentage. The experiences of the 22nd and 27th for the prior eighteenth months were those of the 42nd and 51st; they shared the same commanders; they had been through the same battles; they reached the top of recent Missionary Ridge together. The Twenty-Seventh, of the four regiments, had encountered the most heat at Missionary Ridge. Company G reported back to their home Mercer County in the December 22, 1863 Aledo Weekly Record, "It is much the hardest fight that we have been in out of fourteen, and our loss is the greatest." The casualty list for Company G starts with, "Hugh M. Love, killed, shot through the neck. John C. Webber, killed; shot through the head. Jefferson Mosby, killed; shot through the bowels." Those losses were fresh at the time of the reenlistment decision for the Twenty-Seventh; were they burdensome enough to put the Twenty-Seventh—or more than a quarter of it—in a Seventh-Ohio-like mood?
In the case of the Twenty-Second there was another factor at work—the remaining term of service. The Twenty-Second, assuming the regiment did not enlist, would leave the front on June 10 to muster out. Certainly then the thirty-day furlough in January or February was no overriding factor for the men of the Twenty-Second, not worth paying for with three more years of service- if time at home were the key factor in one's calculation. But, the Tenth Illinois, which would have left the front for home only four or five weeks after the Twenty-Second, re-enlisted and took 346 men back to Illinois (where the regiment gained 200 recruits during the furlough). There's another factor that may account for the difference between the Tenth and the Twenty-Second. The Twenty-Second saw more violent and deadly service. In its three years it suffered 145 men killed and wounded to death, whereas the Tenth in its four years of service suffered 50 men killed and wounded to death. The Adjutant General's capsule history of the regiment tells that the Twenty-Second lost 96 men, out of 300 engaged, in ten minutes at Chickamauga and then lost another 30 to 40 storming Missionary Ridge five weeks later. There were regiments with similarly severe casualties, but the Twenty-Second's severe casualties began at Belmont in November 1861 and continued for three years. The regimental history says there was only a "scanty remnant" left to join the beginning of the Georgia campaign in May 1862. General George Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, reported on March 10, 1864 that 34 men of the Twenty-Second Illinois reenlisted (Official Records 32/1, p. 11). If one wants to talk about devotion to cause, right or wrong, these 34 men represent it—having no particular benefit from a 30-day furlough being soon due a furlough forever, not eligible for the honor of belonging to a "veteran" regiment, not swept along by the enthusiasms of their comrades.
(The reenlisting veterans of the Twenty-Second and Twenty-Seventh Illinois regiments were assigned to other regiments which needed to fill out their ranks: the men of the Twenty-Second to the Forty-Second; the men of the Twenty-Seventh to the the Ninth Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported that ninety-four reenlisting men of the Twenty-Seventh Illinois arrived together in Springfield on March 8 for thirty days of furlough.)
The Forty-Fourth Illinois Infantry, which like the Fifty-First and its brigade, had marched to the relief of Burnside, also reenlisted at Blaine's Crossroads. That regiment was more voluble in their Adjutant General's regimental history about the circumstances of their reenlistment: "Here the troops were on the point of starvation several times, having, for days at a time, nothing but corn in the ear, and but a limited supply of that. Nothing could more fully prove the patriotism of the men, than the fact that here, on the point of starvation, exposed to the most inclement weather, (it being so cold that the Ink would freeze to the pen as the men signed their names,) over three-fourths of the men voluntarily consented to serve three years more for that government for which they had suffered so much during the past two years and a half."
In his January 8, 1864 letter, Bradley described his regiment's situation at Blaine's Crossroads, "It is very cold here, and has been for two weeks, the ground is covered with snow... Our men are suffering greatly from want of sufficient food and clothing and the want of these makes the cold all the worse to bear. We have no tents, but few overcoats or socks, and generally but half rations. I doubt if the stories told of the sufferings of our troops during the winters of the Revolution much exceed the experience of the men now serving in east Tennessee. I have seen plenty of our men without shoes and nearly half their clothing torn from them by the wear of service. This comes not for want of clothing or food, but for want of transportation to bring it to us. One little steamer is all that can be spared to run from Chattanooga to this point and that cannot half supply the troops here." Wilbur Hinman of the Sixty-Fifty Ohio Infantry, which shared the frost of Blaine's Crossroads with the Fifty-First, wrote that in the latter part of December three or four pairs of shoes were issued to each company. Those most in need of shoes drew lots to see who would have them. "There were two men in Company I..., each of whom had one shoe in fair condition, while the other had gone to pieces and was a hopeless wreck. They divided a pair between them, each wearing one new shoe and one old" (p. 467). Great bonfires of oak logs were kept burning, "fed hourly, day and night. Around them the soldiers slept, lying broadside to the fire, or endwise, toastin their feet, while their noses were well-nigh freezing" (Hinman, 468).
Food. There wasn't much. Entire brigades went on foraging missions with large wagon trains for days on end, but "proceeds were most unsatisfactory to the men," (Hinman, 468) and between foraging hauls there was next to nothing to eat. For weeks, the Fifty-First fasted from their usual government fare and made do with what they found in the east Tennessee winter. Tabler wrote that Company K was lucky enough to kill a sheep on December 4 and he had "a few little frozen potatoes, which I scratched out of the ground with my fingers."
Like the Forty-Fourth, the Fifty-First found the requisite numbers at Blaine's Crossroads to sign up despite the ink freezing to the pen. On January 14, 1864, Bradley wrote to his sister from Chattanooga, where his regiment was again in camp, having completed the Longstreet-watch in East Tennessee; Bradley's family hoped the Fifty-First would not reenlist, but Bradley said, "To me it is a matter of unmixed pleasure. It not only shows the best of spirit among the fine fellows who have seen so much hard service and who re-enlisted when they were half starved and frozen, but it is a compliment to their officers that they are eager to serve another term under them."
According to the Adjutant General of Illinois, 151 men of the Fifty-First re-enlisted, by company:
Company A - 20 men
Company B - 7 men
Company C - 33 men
Company D - 26 men
Company E - 25 men
Company F - 0 men
Company G - 18 men
Company H - 13 men
Company K - 9 men
The men of Company F were not eligible for veteran enrollment because they had not served the minimum 21 months required by War Department regulations for the burdens and rewards of reenlistment; Company F had joined the regiment in the field in Mississippi in July, 1862. The regiment's 151 reenlistees were scattered across the other companies. Company K had only 9 men reenlist, but Chickamauga had almost blotted out Company K. One account says that only 8 out of 43 men remained to the Company after the fight on the first day at Chickamauga. The nine men who reenlisted were all of Company K, almost.
The veterans' muster rolls for reenlistment for the regiment are dated February 8, 1864, Chattanooga, Tennessee. The persuasion and politicing occurred prior to that, and the persuasion and politicing left few traces behind. Smith wrote simply that he "rode over to sign the rolls," but Smith was away at headquarters on detached service, absent from regimental politics. Men began signing volunteer enlistment papers in late December 1863 and early January 1864. Private Edward Tabler, in a diary entry of January 6 1864, wrote of a noisy veteranization campaign in Company K, "A great excitement raised about the veterans. Co. K. all depending on me, and after much persuasion, and many promises, I enrolled as a veteran, being promised light duty during my time of enlistment." Again, in another entry, he wrote, "A great cry about Veteran troops. Co. K. all went in, but myself, and after some persuasion and promises, enrolled my name as a Veteran." The pressure in Company K, and no doubt in other companies, stemmed from unit pride and early on from apprehension as to whether or not the regiment would reach the magic three-fourths. Tabler signed up, and for the moment, all of Company K was reenlisted.
Vermilion: The Thirty-Ninth Case in Point. There were certainly sensitivities and pressures for the soldier and the regiment relative to the whole matter of reenlistment. Regiments felt pride in high-reenlistment percentages as a manifestation of patriotism and courage, and in some regiments men and officers campaigned actively for reenlistments. Tabler was not eager to reenlist but bowed to the pressure of his comrades in Company K. Tabler doesn't elaborate on the "much persuasion, and many promises", and other regimental sources for the Fifty-First do not record major hanky-panky. In the instructive case of the Thirty-Ninth Illinois, however, the "great excitement" over veteranization - and the internecine rancor that it generated - leaked out of company and regimental meetings into the public forum of Chicago newspapers. When the Thirty-Ninth returned to Chicago on its reenlistment furlough in January, 1864, The Chicago Tribune of February 6, 1864 carried an article congratulating the Thirty-Ninth on past accomplishments and upon its successful reenlistment and declared in italics, "None have refused to re-enlist." The paper adduced these counts: "They number 352 men; 43 others were left in the field who had not served two years; and about 40 others who are disabled from re-enlistment."
Charles W. Vermilion, late of the Thirty-Ninth, wrote to the rival Chicago newspaper, the democratic Chicago Times, of the reenlistment machinations in the Thirty-Ninth (the letter dated South Carolina, February 23, appeared in the March 7 issue):
I wonder if the officers have forgotten the various ways they took to get men to re-enlist, and to how many they offered promotions, positions, &c., if they would only join; and also, when almost despairing of getting the regiment home as an organization, how they endeavored to get men transferred into the Invalid Corps, merely to have three-fourths of the men veterans?... Permit me also to state that, instead of 43 "yearlings"... and "some 40 invalids", we have a detachment of men, numbering 170, consisting of 1 Lieutenant, 30 non-commissioned officers, 8 musicians, and 131 privates...who are now performing picket duty at the lower point of Hilton Head Island."
Vermilion added (using a phrase that I cannot interpret but which sounds too good to omit), "In conclusion,... notwithstanding their threats of shoving us into the 2d South, we intend to serve out our term of service, and then return home; and, if we then think proper to enter the army, we will do so, bounty or no bounty."
Vermilion was offended by "slurs" upon the character of non-reenlistees and reacted to the imputation that "all those left behind" are "nothing but yearlings, invalids, &c." He wrote, "I do not believe a soldier should be abused who had faithfully served his country some two years and six months, simply because he did not feel disposed to re-enlist." He added that the officers of the Thirty-Ninth "labored hard" to make it seem that there was some failure of commitment on the part of those who did not re-enlist - (and then, in print, disdained even their existence).
Vermilion Coda: Vermilion's letter to The Times was signed "Formerly of Company B, 39th Illinois Volunteers". Sergeant Vermilion transferred to the Thirtieth Illinois Infantry, no doubt somewhere in the reenlistment excitement having made himself persona non grata. With the Thirtieth Illinois, Vermilion (of all things) reenlisted. He died of one of the war maladies in 1864 in a Nashville hospital.
The AGO history of the Thirty-Ninth Illinois rehearsed the regiment's reenlistment triumphs: the "Thirty-ninth returned to Folly Island, and soon embarked for Hilton Head... and then re-enlisted, being the first organization in the entire Department to accept Veteran honors and responsibilities. It left Hilton Head on veteran furlough, for Chicago, Illinois, via New York, on the 1st of January 1864, amid great enthusiasm. An entire Brigade, with several Generals and their Staffs, turned out to escort it to the place of embarkation. The Regiment reached Chicago the middle of January, 450 strong, and was tendered a fine ovation by the citizens, in Bryan Hall. After the Regiment had been recruited to seven hundred and fifty (750) strong, it left, early in March 1864, for Washington, D.C., and from thence sailed to Georgetown, Virginia..." Charles M. Clark's Yates Phalanx: The History of the Thirty-ninth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Veteran Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, (originally published 1889), counted somewhere between Vermilion and the official regimental communications: "The Regiment was induced to reenlist for three years or the continuance of the war, with the exception of about 100 who preferred to remain in this department until the term of their service expired and then proceed home for good. Many of those who were willing to reenlist could not be accepted because of physical disability... It was exceedingly wonderful to notice how rugged and healthful men would appear and represent themselves, who had formerly been the best patrons of the dispensary, and all through their eagerness to reenlist and get the opportunity of going home." Clark's account bears up some of Vermilion's cynicism. (Interestingly enough, Clark wrote that Lieutenant Colonel O. L. Mann, along with several officers, had returned to Chicago in early November to start recruiting to fill up the regiment. Thus the Thirty-Ninth did not wait until its officers returned to the home front with the mass of men two months later to initiate recruiting.)
Both Vermilion's adopted Thirtieth and his former Thirty-Ninth were distinguished regiments and absorbed great battlefield and hospital casualties.
Clerihan: The Tenth Illinois Case in Point. Michael J. Clerihan ["Clenhan" in Illinois adjutant general records] was one of the few of the Tenth Illinois Infantry to choose not to veteranize. In 1908, he remembered the experience of the non-veteran detachment, after the regiment's reenlisting comrades had gone home to be "feasted and feted by the loyal north" during the thirty days of veteran furlough. "On the morning of Jan. 10, 1864, we non-vets were cruelly abandoned by our officers, and as a punishment for not re-enlisting we were left to 'root hog or die,' until Gen. Morgan, our old Colonel, assigned us to the merciful care of Col. W. B. Anderson, commanding 60th Ill. We found a peaceful home and good treatment whilst we were with them. We shall always cherish in our heart a manly love for the boys of the 60th Ill. and we shall never forget how mercilessly we were cast aside by the men and officers with whom we 'touched elbows' for nearly three years" (National Tribune, March 5, 1908).
Regimental Counts. The Fifty-First did reach the figure of three-fourths, but three-fourths of what one might ask. In a Circular of December 21, 1863, the War Department clarified, "Three-fourths of a veteran regiment will be understood to mean three-fourths of those within the limits of the army in which the organization is serving, and not to include those absent as prisoners of war, in general hospitals, &c." (Official Records, Series III, Volume 3, p. 1179).
The three-fourths would include the members of the Fifty-First who were with the regiment at Blaine's Crossroads, whether they were performing active duty with the regiment, on detached service, or on the sick list, but it would not include those men who were still on the rolls but who were hospitalized in Nashville or St. Louis or wounded at Chickamauga, taken prisoner and released on parole, or wounded at Missionary Ridge - or those imprisoned in Confederate prisons. When Colonel Luther Bradley of the Fifty-First returned to the regiment after recovering from his Chickamauga wounds he passed through Nashville and on to the regimental camp at Chattanooga. From Chattanooga, on December 10, he wrote to his sister, "I found only about fifty of the Regt. here in camp, the Division being absent [gone to East Tennessee]. Those remaining are wounded and sick."
If the Fifty-First had more than 201 men counted in the denominator of the U.S. Adjutant General's three-fourths, then 151 reenlistments would not have entitled them to veteranization, or to any longer be the Fifty-First Illinois Infantry, but 151 did. Thus, there could not have been more than 201 men in the eight companies (the regiment still had no Company I) "within the limits of the army". But there were probably less. Benjamin Smith of Company C wrote in his journal for January 14, 1864, "Nearly all the 51st have veteranized." Pratt said all but seven signed up. Bradley's letter of January 24, 1864, after the sign-up in camp at Blaine's Crossroads but before all regimental reenlistment efforts among the men absent from the regiment in East Tennessee were exhausted, said "Nearly all my men who are not disabled will re-enlist."
The Chicago Tribune of February 17 reported twenty-six officers with the regiment - "Company K has no commissioned officers". This would bring the fit-for-duty strength of the regiment in early 1864 to 151 + 26 officers + 7 men who chose not to reenlist, + the number of Company F fit for duty (say, at a maximum, 30-35 men). 215 men. Were there other men that were duty-fit that we are not counting? Yes, there were - the small number of men who were rejected for veteran service and remained behind in Chattanooga while the rest of the regiment went north. Edward Tabler was one of them - probably not more than five to ten, at the outside - the Federal army wanted every man it could get. 225 men, then, active in mid-February 1864. This does not count the fifty sick and wounded men Bradley found in camp in Chattanooga, though some of them may have recovered enough to be among the reenlistees. The regiment in February, 1864 was equal in number to three of its companies in February, 1862. The other regiments of the brigade, the Twenty-Second Illinois, the Twenty-Seventh, and Forty-Second were similarly lean in numbers. Three months before the Georgia campaign of 1864, then, the whole of the four-regiment Illinois Brigade was equal in numbers only to a healthy-sized single regiment.
The Fifty-First and Forty-Second would not be merely vacationing in Chicago, the officers were also commissioned to recruit - to build the strength of the regiments. Bradley wrote to his sister in his January 24 Chattanooga letter, "The Regt. will be furloughed for thirty days, but I shall have a good deal to do meantime, recruiting and reorganising... We shall get two or three hundred from the state, and during the coming summer a considerable number of veterans from other Regts. that do not go in entire, so that we have the prospect of soon filling up for a full and fine Regt." Bradley started early. He sent officers to Nashville to "recruit men belonging to the Regt. as Veterans, the Regt. having re-enlisted" (Bradley to Brig. Gen. Whipple, Chief of Staff, Army Cumberland, dated Head Qrs. 51st Ill. Vols, Chatt. Jany 27th 1862, Service Record of Lt. Thomas Cummings, Company D, Record Group 94, National Archives). There in Nashville and elsewhere in Tennessee he had wounded men in the hospitals, sick men in hospitals, men serving as hospital stewards, men on detached service - men that would be important to his regimental strength and level of experience in early 1865, when their period of service would expire, if they failed to reenlist. It's fairly impossible to tell how successful this effort to enlist veterans who were not with the regiment was. Men lying in Nashville hospitals with shattered bones and without the company pressure of their comrades were less likely to reenlist. Of the seventeen men of Company H who were wounded at Chickamauga and therefore likely to be away from the regiment only five reenlisted, a far lower proportion than obtained among the men choosing for or against reenlistment at Blaine's Crossroads.
North to Chicago: Furlough. Tabler reported in his diary on January 14, 1864, "Marching orders today. Go home, as a Veteran Regiment, to recruit up some." The next day the regiment began the march across Tennessee to Chattanooga. Bradley wrote to his mother on January 16, "The men are all very happy at the prospect of going home and started on the march (from Blaine's Crossroads to Chattanooga) in the highest spirits. They will return to the service with renewed strength and spirit." The regiment arrived at its old camp in Chattanooga on January 26. Bradley and the company captains started to work on the paperwork. Captain Albert Tilton wrote from Chattanooga on January 29, 1863, "We are very busy getting everything ready— It requires a tremendous amount of work, each man requiring 32 papers to muster out & in..." (Tilton Family Papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Correspondence of Albert Murray Tilton, MSS84497, Folder 9). Then the regimental doctor began to examine the men, at least perfunctorily, to determine fitness for three more years of service. On February 2, Tabler wrote in his diary, "The Co. was examined for the Veteran Service. Several rejected, and I with the rest." Why Tabler was now rejected after having been courted by his company is not clear.
A set of reenlistment papers from the National Archives for a member of the Fifty-First Illinois, Fredrick Grabbe.
On February 8, the accepted men were mustered into the veteran service at Chattanooga. On February 10, the new veterans took the train for Chicago. At a maximum, 177 men (the 151 new veterans and 26 officers) would have gone north to Chicago for furlough. Whether or not it had any basis for doing so, The Tribune rounded the number arriving on furlough up to "about 200" (February 16). Probably, it was more like 140-150 men that went north togther; not all the men rode the railroad cars together. Other veterans - William and Robert Morton of Company E, Duncan McGillis of Company B, Jerome Mangan of Company D and others - trickled through the Soldiers' Rest in Chicago in late February and early March on their way to furlough. The same paper, the same month, reported that the Forty-Second Illinois returned to Chicago for reenlistment furlough with 226 men.
On February 17, the veteran thirty days officially began. Bradley wrote from Chicago on February 21, "I furloughed the men on the 17th and started them off to their homes, with light hearts and pockets full of money." The soldiers scattered. Most of them are hidden from view during the furlough, but we have an account of Benjamin Smith and his brother Calvin, both of Company C. They first returned to their home town of Kankakee and enjoyed their celebrity status there; "We are welcomed with open arms by our old friends, who forthwith inaugurate social gatherings, and evening parties in honor of our return... we enjoyed all this..." Still with pockets full of money - Kankakee County paid a $100 reenlistment bounty over and above all the Federal bounties - and time on their hands, the Smith brothers headed east by train for three days in New York City - strolling along Broadway, attending theater in the evening, visiting Barnum's Museum. The interlude ends with ten days with their sister in Providence, Rhode Island: "social evening gatherings, with Music and impromptu dances, a party on the shores of Narragansett bay, together with a clam bake... boating, bathing, and sailing upon the broad bosom of the beautiful bay... a period we shall long remember, and con over its details when we are again at the front" (Private Smith's Journal, Chicago, 1961, pp. 138-140).
| The Chicago Tribune of February 16, 1864 recorded their arrival on the Michigan Central Railroad. It was cold and windy. The temperature was seven degrees below zero; the regiment was hours behind schedule in arriving because sand had drifted across the tracks through the MIchigan Dunes. The Tribune wrote that the regiment had been "...in some of the hottest battles of the Southwest," and "they now return with about two hundred men. This brave regiment has been in the terrific battles of New Madrid, Island No. 10, Farmington, Stone River, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, &c... This was a fighting regiment throughout - the remarkable depletion is significant of that, as is the fact that not one of the original Captains return in command of their companies..."
Bradley wrote of the regiment's warm reception in the bitter cold city, "We were very kindly welcomed here. A party of gentlemen came out as far as Michigan City to meet us." When the train arrived in Chicago, the Tribune said, people stood "on the piazza of the Soldiers' Rest, overlooking the railroad track," cheering and waving handkerchiefs.
James Stovall was a slave until 1862. That year he became cook of Company F of the Fifty-First Illinois volunteer infantry. Stovall was with the regiment when it climbed off the railroad cars in downtown Chicago: "When we landed at the lake front we met a great ovation. Many had been killed and the remainder were crippled. As we unfurled our battle worn flag, riddled with bullets and hanging in rags, the people cheered..."
The men of the regiment marched to the Soldiers' Rest, "where they were received with loud cheers, Vaas & Dean's Band playing 'John Brown.' Here a bounteous dinner was prepared... After dinner J. B. Bryan, in a speech brim-full of humor, welcomed the boys on behalf of the citizens of Chicago, to which Colonel Bradley responded. Volunteer speeches were made by Mr. Russell, Adjutant Hall, a paroled prisoner from Richmond, and Chaplain Raymond. The band...performed several patriotic airs... The men slept at the Rest last night, and will breakfast there..., after which, if the weather proves favorable, they will parade through the streets to the Board of Trade rooms, where a public reception will be given them." The public reception took place but the weather did not prove favorable.
Bradley wrote, "Arrangements had been made to give us an escort through the city, but this was omitted on account of the extreme cold" (letter dated Chicago, February 21, 1864).
|The Soldiers' Rest
The Soldier's Rest in Chicago, ancient to us, was newer than the Civil War. "The Chicago Tribune" of February 19, 1864 described it.) The Soldiers' Rest, as far as outward appearances are concerned, is finished, and were it not for the delay in getting in the water and gas pipes, owing to the cold weather, the building would ere now have been completed. It is divided off into four large rooms, one as a dining room and the others as sleeping apartments, while at the north end is a large kitchen, in which stands one of the largest sized cooking stoves. In the dining room are twenty large tables, each capable of seating twenty men, while it is heated by a large stove, always red hot. The room is gracefully draped with streamers and stars and stripes. The sleeping apartments are each provided with four tiers of double bunks, extending round the sides, while in the center of the room stands a large coal stove, whose capacity is almost half a ton.
Besides the Smiths of Company C, we have a short glimpse of Millard Bowker of Company H, back in his hometown of Port Byron, Illinois. There, the parents of the sixteen-year-old and the soldier himself signed notarized affidavits
declaring that there was no parental consent for Millard's reenlistment though there had been such consent for his original enlistment when he was thirteen. This was all to no avail. The adjutant general's office responded that Millard had signed papers saying he was nineteen and "the oath of a recruit is, by law, conclusive as to his age." He stayed.
Officers of the regiment began their recruiting activities. And, meanwhile wounded men of the regiment, sick men of the regiment, tried to recover in hospitals in Nashville or St. Louis or convalesced in their home communities; others struggled to survive in Confederate prisons; others stayed out their paroles at Camp Benton, awaiting formal prisoner exchange. The regiment was everywhere, in every condition.
Small Boys and Men of Bad Habits. This matter-of-fact recruitment advertisement for the Fifty-First Illinois appeared in the Chicago papers in February and March, 1864, as the regiment sought to fill its ranks: "ALL THE GOVERNMENT AND COUNTY BOUNTIES SECURED TO RECRUITS. OFFICE ON CLARK ST. Opposite the Sherman House". An ad for the Seventy-Second Illinois appearing in the Chicago papers at the same time said that regiment had already recruited 250 men since December 1, 1863 and that yet fifty men were wanted. The ad said the Seventy-Second, quartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi, promised, "No marches, no standing picket at night, no fatigue duty" and big bounties. The ad for the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, which had recruiting offices at regimental headquarters in the western Chicago suburb of St. Charles and downtown Chicago, was, by comparison, forbidding: its veterans were "not Carpet Knights or feather bed soldiers... Small boys and men of bad habits will not be received and need not apply. There is no place for DEAD HEADS." The advertisement for the Fifty-First Illinois made no promises and issued no imperatives.
On Non-Veteran Duty in Chattanooga. Private Tabler, the other men who were rejected for veteran service, the seven men who had rejected veteran service, and the men of Company F, who were "within the limits of the army", stayed on in Chattanooga, engaged in fatigue duty, waiting for the furloughed men to return and the spring campaign to begin. Only in Tabler's case and the case of Marcellus Metzgar do we know what that duty consisted of. Metzgar clerked for the Sanitary Commission in Chattanooga. Tabler was assigned to the United States Sanitary Garden, an initiative of the Sanitary Commission; the function of this Federal garden was to grow vegetables for the army. Tabler stayed in camp until his duties began on March 9, just nine days before the veterans' 30-day furloughs would come to an end and reassembly of the regiment begin in Chicago. Tabler laid out the garden and waited on the weather. It snowed. In April, he and his colleagues started sowing seed. "April 2. Heard from the regiment. April 7. Setting out cabbage plants. April 9. Setting out sweet potatoes. April 11. Sowing radish seeds. April 12. Marking out onion beds."
Recruiting Success? Bradley wrote from Chicago on February 21, "We rendezvous here at Camp Fry at the end of 30 days. Meanwhile we are to recruit as far as we can. I went to Springfield on the 18th and received orders to remain on duty here with a part of my officers, the balance being stationed in different parts of the state. I shall not be confined to Chicago, but shall have a good deal of running about to do superintending the recruiting." It was not a trivial matter to superintend several teams of recruiters. Each recruiting party, according to the War Department's December 1862 regulations, was to consist of a lieutenant, one non-commissioned officer, two privates, and a fifer and a drummer. Bradley then, as superintendent, had "to make such requisitions on the proper departments (through himself) for subsistence, funds, clothing, camp equipage, arms, and accouterments, &c., as may be necessary" for the three or four weeks that the recruiting station functioned. If recruiting was slow, the superintendent was to move the station to a more likely location. Each station had an allowance of five dollars a month for newspaper ads and posting posters (Official Records Series III, Volume 2, p. 914). At intervals, groups of recruits who had assembled at rendezvous points were sent off to join the regiment and begin training. The regiment operated formal recruiting offices from February 21 to March 17, 1865. We do not know who the regiments recruiting officers scattered across the state were. Captain Theodore Brown ran the recruiting office in Chicago and rented rooms from William Wright in that city for the rendezvous of the recruits until the regiment left the city for the return to Tennessee. Captain Albert Tilton of Company C operated a recruiting office in Middleport. Captain Andrew Fraser of Company F worked out of Peoria in Central Illinois. At the end of the period of furlough, Bradley left Brown behind in Illinois to tie up all the official ends of the recruiting effort. On April 28, Brown was in Springfield finishing up the paperwork. Then he left for the front. He had just eight weeks to go before wounds sustained at Kennesaw Mountain ended his career with the Fifty-First (Theodore Brown, Compiled Service Record, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.).
The reassembly of the regiment was set for March 18 at Camp Fry at the northern edges of Chicago. Bradley wrote from Chicago on March 18, "We rendezvous here tomorrow, tho it is not likely we shall get off before the end of next week on account of the difficulty of getting transportation. The large number of troops coming and going keep the roads busy even beyond their ordinary capacity." The reassembly at Camp Fry stretched on for ten days. Recruits and veterans of the regiment were underway, to and fro, individually and in bunches. The Chicago Tribune noted in its March 24 issue, "About fifty recruits and veterans, belonging to the 51st Illinois arrived at the Soldiers' Rest, and after breakfast proceeded to Camp Fry." The regimental morning report of March 26, 1864, at Camp Fry counted, new recruits included, 264 men "for duty" and 522 men "present and absent". The regiment was two days shy of heading back to Tennessee—with 264 men. The regimental discipline around reassembly was strict, so this is a reliable figure. John Durbin of Company H and Port Byron, Illinois tested the waters on this point—ignoring the reassembly at Camp Fry and returning to duty only when the regiment reached Chattanooga—was court-martialed, found guilty, and sentenced to lose one month's pay (51st Illinois, Regimental Books, Morning Reports, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C.).
Tabler's Sanitary Garden
How did Tabler (and, along with him, presumably other men of the Fifty-First and other men of other regiments who did not reenlist) find their way to a United States Sanitary Garden? What was it exactly? Here is an explanation: this garden was a new thing.
Quoted from M[atthew] C[anfield] Read, "The Work of Ohio in the U. S. Sanitary Commission in the Civil War," in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. 1, 1888, pp. 193-4.
When the Army of the Cumberland had raised the siege of Chattanooga, and in the winter of 1864 was preparing for a vigorous, aggressive campaign, it was evident the army was likely to suffer severely during the coming summer for the want of vegetable food. It could not be brought to so distant a point from the Northern States, and no dependence could be placed upon the adjacent country for a supply. Scurvy had prevailed to an alarming degree in this army during the previous summer when stationed at Murfreesboro, much nearer the base of supplies. An experiment had there been made in gardening, under the management of Mr. HARRIMAN, a gardener detailed from the One-hundred-and-first O. V. I. in 1863, which was so far successful as to warrant, in the opinion of the agent at Chattanooga, more extensive effort in 1864, and commensurate with the increased necessities of the army. He immediately conferred with the medical director of the army, Dr. PERRIN, and proposed with his co-operation and the approval of the commanding general, to establish a sanitary garden of sufficient extent to provide for all the probable wants of the sick and wounded.
The proposition was heartily welcomed as a probable solution of what had been regarded as an insolvable problem. He immediately approved a propostion prepared by the agent for submission to Gen. THOMAS, proposing that if the general would authorize the Commission to take possession of abandoned lauds suitable for cultivation, would provide for the protection of the garden, and furnish horses and necessary details of men, the Commission would provide a good market-garden, tools, seeds, and appliances for the work, and would undertake to supply all the hospitals at Chattanooga and the neighboring posts with all the vegetables needed, distributing the surplus to convalescent camps and regiments.
The general at once issued the necessary orders for carrying on the work; a body of land between Citico creek and the Tennessee river was selected, a detail put to work building a fence, so as to include within it and the two streams something over 150 acres, and a requisition forwarded to Dr. NEWBERRY for seeds and tools. When these arrived application was made for horses, and it was learned that there were none at the post that could be spared for the work. An advertisement was inserted in the Chattanooga papers for the purchase of horses and mules, but none were offered. Then authority was obtained to impress from the country. The agent scoured the neighboring territory for some twenty miles on all sides of Chattanooga without finding anything to impress. Returning somewhat discouraged from his last trip, he stumbled upon a corral of sick and disabled horses, and the difficulty was at once overcome. An order was secured directing the quartermaster to turn over fifty of these horses selected by the Commission and as many harnesses. There was no difficulty in finding horses unfit for military duty which would do fairly good work before the plow or harrow. They were put promptly at work. But during these delays the season had so far advanced that more tools were needed than were sent from Louisville. To meet this want some were impressed from the country and others made to order by the quartermaster; and soon the fifty horses and nearly a hundred men were actively employed under the supervision of Mr. Thomas WILLS, of Summit county, who was sent by Dr. NEWBERRY as head gardener. The work was hushed with energy during the whole season, much of the ground being made to yield two three crops, all the articles raised in an ordinary market garden being cultivated. It happened that wagons were employed distributing the products to the hospitals on the day that the first of the wounded from the Atlanta campaign arrived, and from that time till the close of the season the supply was much in excess of all the wants of the hospitals, the large surplus being distributed to convalescent camps and regiments. As the season advanced the details of men fit for duty in the field were revoked, and details made from the convalescent camps: These men, placed in good quarters, abundantly supplied with vegetables, and moderately worked, were restored to health much faster than those left in the camps. The men were so well pleased with their position and their work that the prospect of a revoking of their detail for any insubordination secured strict discipline. At the close of the season voluntary testimonials were furnished by all the surgeons in charge of the hospitals of the great value of the work, and that it had been the means of saving the lives of thousands. The details for a guard and for work constituted as efficient part of the garrison of the post as if left within the camps, and there was with them an almost entire exemption from sickness. The horses from the sick corrals, well fed and cared for, rapidly recovered. and the whole practical cost was the price of seeds and tools, and the salary of the gardener. The fact was demonstrated that, at a military post, when a garrison is to be maintained through the summer, an abundance of vegetable food can be raised by the garrison without any impairment of its efficiency and at a very trifling cost.
On March 29, The Tribune reported the regiment departed for Chattanooga on the 28th, "...considerably strengthened by recruits." How strengthened? According to published Illinois Adjutant General records, ten recruits joined Company A, three recruits joined Company B, seven Company C, six Company D, twenty-seven Company E, two Company F, twenty-nine Company G, none Company H, two Company K, for a total of 86. In a letter to the assistant adjutant of the Army of the Cumberland, dated April 27, 1864, just a few days after the Fifty-First had taken up its position at the front at Cleveland, Tennessee, Colonel Bradley reported, "No of Recruits gained during furlough, 85" - proportionally, a considerable addition to a regiment with an effective strength of 225-275 men. Yet, other regiments were gaining larger numbers of recruits. Several factors might account for that. It might not have been utterly inviting for a potential recruit to join a regiment whose effective strength had fallen, even with the increment of a Company F, from 672 to 250 in the course of two years, and had only Stones River, Alabama's railroads, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and frigid days at Strawberry Plains to show for itself. The advertising of the Seventy-Second Illinois for recruits, promising "no marches, no standing picket at night, no fatigue duty" and big bounties, might have been more attractive and the Seventy-Second reported having secured 250 recruits in a recruiting effort that started December 1, 1863. The Chicago Times reported a recruiting figure for the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry which put even the Seventy-Second to shame. The Times reported, "Men [recruiters] were sent out into various parts of the state and a system adopted that resulted most satisfactorily; and when the recruiting agents had all rendered their reports, it was found that they had obtained an excess of about six hundred men, which were transferred to another regiment." The Twelfth Illinois Cavalry had recruited itself full (1256 men according to the AGO history of the unit) and had 600 new recruits left over! Now, the Fifty-First Illinois Infantry had also sent men, recruiting officers, to various parts of the state, with all the accoutrements stipulated by the War Department as pertaining to a recruiting officer. However, by the time the Fifty-First started recruiting on February 18, the state had already been picked over by recruiting officers for "old" regiments which had arrived home on furlough one and two months earlier. The Twelfth Illinois Cavalry had started recruiting around December 1, 1863 as had the Seventy-Second Illinois Infantry. The Thirty-Ninth Illinois Infantry sent its lieutenant colonel, Orrin Mann, back to Illinois to open a recruiting station at the corner of Dearborn and Madison streets in early January, almost a month before the regiment came home on reenlistment furlough (Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1864). Moreover, the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry had the advantage of being a mounted unit with generally lower casualty figures than infantry units - less marching around on foot, less getting shot at. Charles Wills wrote of his transition from the Eighth Illinois Infantry to the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, ""My chances for a lieutenancy in that company were first rate but I have got a better thing, and without so much walking" (Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Compiled by Mary E. Kellogg, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996 [first published 1906], p. 59.)
If one were signing up because the bounties were so attractive, one might not seek out a regiment that would tax their commitment the most.
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In the letter to the assistant adjutant of the Army of the Cumberland Bradley gave another figure: "strength of the regiment, March 1st". Bradley sets the figure at 517. This is not the number of men that the regiment was able to take into battle. It's the number of men of the regiment altogether.
The April 1864 figure of 517 included the 85 new recruits, the 250 men (plus or minus) fit for duty when the regiment was veteran-furloughed, and 150-160 men comprised of (1) those who were not "within the limits of the army"ómen in hospitals, men on detached service, paroled captive soldiers awaiting exchange, soldiers in Confederate prisons hoping for exchange, and men on disability leaves and (2) those who had recovered from wounds or illness in the months since Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge and the regiment's return to the front - a period of five or six months - men who were now ready for duty in the spring campaign.
Remnants Reunited (New Guns). Tabler's news from the regiment reached him on April 2. By that date, the regiment was heading back to the war. The regiment arrived in Nashville, by train, on April 1, 1864 (Record of Events, Company E). Bradley wrote from Nashville on April 4, "Thus far our trip has been very pleasant, but the finale does not promise well. Owing to the crowd of freight on the Chattanooga Railroad, no troops are transported south. All the Veteran Regts. are ordered to march through, 151 miles. This will be a tedious and profitless march, as it will be without the excitement of a campaign - just so much ground to be got over. I shall start tomorrow with my own Regt. the 45th New York and the 77th Penn. and shall be 15 or 20 days on the way as many of the men are recruits, and it will not do to march them fast. We follow the line of the railroad and stop at Murphreesboro, Tullahoma, and Bridgeport... we are likely to have exercise enough you see... We take no baggage on the march."
The men were irritated. Captain Albert Tilton wrote home from Nashville on April 3, 1864, "We reached here on Friday Morning and after waiting several days in suspense we have at last arrived at the irresistibly pleasant conclusion that we are to march from here to Chattanooga instead of going by rail as expected. This news is rather a damper on us and the entire regiment avow that had they known that this was to be the case, they would not have re-enlisted. We were obliged to march from Blaine's CrossRoads to Chat. when we went home, a distance of 150 miles — and now to be made to walk to Chat — 151 miles... when the government promised us transportation to and from home is almost the 'last feather.' — The march in itself is not so much if there was anything to be gained by it in a military point of view, but it is merely plodding back on a 10 or 15 days tramp to get to our old starting point" (Tilton Family Papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Correspondence of Albert Murray Tilton, MSS84497, Folder 9).
Indeed, the government seems to have reneged on its stated obligation to provide transportation. Paragraph 4 of General Orders 376, November 21, 1863, read, "In going to and from their respective States and homes the
veteran volunteers furloughed as herein provided will be furnished with transportation by the Quartermaster's Department" (Official Records, Series III, Volume 3, p. 1084). The government could argue perhaps that, by dropping the men off in Nashville, it had furnished transportion going to and from their homes. The men were irritated, but they accepted the argument of supply necessity as Bradley did, and they marched and marched, day after day. On April 17, the regiment marched in to Chattanooga, and, on the 18th, Tabler and the other non-veterans rejoined the regiment. Tabler's gardening career was at an end; his April 18 diary entry reads, "Putting up the Garden's tent, and returned to the Regiment". On April 21, the regiment piled its old guns—"which have become unfit for service by two years hard usage," Tilton wrote—on a wagon and hauled them off to the Chattanooga arsenal. On the 22nd, they drew new Springfield rifles and marched on.
The regiment marched the final sixteen miles and arrived at camp at Cleveland, Tennessee on April 24, the warm feel of the thirty days of furlough considerably cooled. On May 14, a captain of the regiment was killed in battle and twenty other men were wounded.
AGO: November 28, 1863, marched to the relief of General Burnside at Knoxville. December 16, moved, by rail, to Blain's Cross Roads. January 9, 1864, Colonel Bradley returned. January 15, moved toward Chattanooga.
AGO: February 10, regiment mustered as veterans, and started for Chicago, where, 17th, the men received veteran furlough. Regiment left for the front March 28, 1864, via Louisville, Nashville and Chattanooga, to Cleveland, Tennessee. May 3, commenced the Atlanta campaign.
AGO: Was engaged at Rocky Face Ridge, May 9, losing two men wounded. Resaca, 14th, losing Captain Lester killed, and 20 men wounded. At Dallas, May 25, found the enemy in position, and were engaged 11 days, losing one officer, and 11 men wounded. June 15, in a skirmish, lost Captain Tilton wounded, and 12 killed and wounded.
AGO: Engaged at Kenesaw Mountain and in the assault of June 27, losing 2 officers wounded and 54 men killed and wounded, and Adjutant Henry W. Hall and Lieutenant A. V. McCormack killed.
AGO: July 4, 1864, moved to Chattahoochie River. Marched to Rosewell and crossed, returning to the Corps 13th. July 20, engaged at Peach Tree Creek. Casualties, 5 wounded. Was engaged, during siege of Atlanta, in the skirmish of Jonesboro, losing two wounded, and at Lovejoy, losing three wounded. Marched into Atlanta, 8th September. During the whole campaign the Regiment lost 3 officers killed, 4 wounded, and 105 men killed and wounded.
AGO: September 28, moved to Chattanooga, and thence to Bridgeport, Alabama. October 18, moved to Chattanooga. Here 192 drafted men joined the Regiment. Here, too, Chaplain Raymond, a venerable and good man, resigned.
AGO: Moved to Alpine, Georgia; from thence, via Chattanooga, Athens, Alabama, to Pulaski, Tennessee. November 22, marched to Lynnville; 24th, to Columbia; 29th, retreated to Spring Hill, at which place the enemy made an attack. The Regiment lost 12 wounded, including Captain George I. Waterman, A. A. A. G., and General Bradley. November 30, moved to Franklin, and was heavily engaged in the battle of Franklin, losing Lieutenant Thomas, killed, Captain Tilton and Lieutenants Johnson and Hills, wounded, 52 men killed and wounded, and 98 missing.
"He had seen fields of men reaped clean by bullets, stirring charges withered under guns, but compared to these countless men and their countless torments, this storm of confusion and evil and unrelenting death, he knew that those were the upper circles of hell, where dignity and tragedy still robed the lives of those condemned. This was farther down."
Thomas Dyja, Play for a Kingdom, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997, p. 262.
The Retreat from Pulaski to Nashville: Part I (Pulaski, Columbia, Spring Hill, Franklin)
AGO: December 1, reached Nashville. Engaged in the battle of Nashville, December 15 and 16, losing 1 man killed and 5 wounded. After the battle pursued the flying enemy, and afterward moved to Huntsville, Alabama.
The Battle of Nashville. (Awaiting the beginning of construction.)
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The Regiment Scatters: "The old 50-onced has played out".
Samuel Walker, Co. F, to Uncle Levi Otis Colburn, Sergeant, Co. F, dated Hospital No. 3, Nashville Tenn Feb 7th/65, Samuel Walker Papers, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois.
AGO: March 31, 1865, moved to Greenville, East Tennessee. April 15, moved to Nashville. April 11, Company I - 90 men - joined the Regiment from Camp Butler.
AGO: June 15, Company F, Lieutenant James Skidmore commanding, was mustered out of service: 16th, moved to Johnsonville, Tennessee, and embarked for New Orleans, Louisiana. July 28, embarked for Texas; 31st, disembarked at Port Lavaca. August 1, moved to Camp Placidor, Texas.
AGO: Mustered out September 25, 1865, at Camp Irwin, Texas, and arrived at Camp Butler, Illinois, October 15, 1865, for final payment and discharge.
The Late Autumn of the Regiment. When the Fifty-First Illinois was mustered out on September 25 1865 at Camp Irwin, Texas, there were only 261 men to muster out, and this was after the March 1865 addition of a Company I, of over 90 men, to the regiment (Adjutant General Report, First Edition, 1866-7, p. 263).
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