Mathew Romine
Corporal, Company E

Biographical Sketch Letter, December 9, 1861

Mathew W. Romine was born in Champaign County, Illinois on August 12, 1844. His parents were William, a farmer, and Louisa Romine. Mathew was the oldest of six children.

Romine with the Fifty-First Illinois. Romine enrolled in the regiment on September 30, 1861. He was one of the original corporals of Company E, appointed already on November 18, 1861. He was never absent from the regiment for illness or any other reason until he was wounded in the east Viniard field on the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19, 1863. In the space of twenty minutes, the Fifty-First suffered over a hundred casualties as Bradley's Brigade, held off a Confederate attack. Romine was shot in the chest. The shot penetrated his right lung. Romine lay on the ground, bleeding—not knowing whether he had another five minutes, five hours, or five years to live. John Johnson of Company E wrote, "Pale and sick, he begged to be helped off the field." His comrades, still engaged, told him to wait until the fighting lulled. Shortly thereafter, the regiment was ordered to fall back across the road and reform. Johnson recounted,

I was lying flat on my back loading my rifle. I finished loading before starting to the rear. Just then I saw no need of great haste. On raising to my feet, changed my mind, found the boys had considerable start. Think I outran every man in the Reg but one in the race back to the ditch. Got over the two fences on either side of the road. Could never remember getting over those fences. Only time in 13teen battles I was in that I did not know all I did and what occurred around me. The man that outran me, in the race, was Mat Romine, Co. E. ....When we took to our heels, Romine sprang up and was among the first to reach the ditch.

And, so, Romine made his way to the rear and there was picked up by ambulance and transported to the division hospital at Crawfish Springs. The next day, he along with many other wounded of the Army of the Cumberland was captured when the hospitals fell into the hands of Confederate General Wheeler. A week later Romine was marched to Dalton, Georgia with fellow-captives, took the train from there to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Richmond where he arrived on September 29 and processed as a prisoner of war. On December 12, 1863 he was transferred to the prison buildings at Danville, Virginia. Sometime in March he was again transferred, this time to Andersonville. He was moved out of the prison stockade there for parole in Charleston Harbor on December 10, 1864. A steamer transported Romine and other former prisoners north to Annapolis. Romine was admitted to the "Camp Parole" hospital at Annapolis on December 17, 1864. In January, Romine, somewhat recovered, traveled to Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois, to be mustered out of the service. On March 6, he was discharged; his muster-out date set to February 14, 1865.

After the War. In March 1865, Romine returned to Champaign County, with a bullet still in his chest, a torn lung, and respiratory troubles contracted in the aftermath of his wound in Confederate prisons. Romine was not fit for physical labor; he took up law studies and was soon beginning practice. Romine married Fannie A. Stevens on November 20, 1866 in Champaign County. Mathew and Fannie had a son, William Mathew Romine born on November 18, 1867. The mother was 18 years old; the father was 23, a torn veteran of skirmishes, marches, battles and war prisons.

When Romine sought a pension from the government, his old lieutenant and Champaign County neighbor William Morton bore witness , stating: "That he ws a member and lieutenant of the same company; that on the 19th day of September 1863 at the battle of Chickamauga, Ga., while doing duty as a member of said company, the said Mathew W. Romine was very seriousy injured by a gunshot wound, the ball entered the right breast about an inch to the right of the sternum penetrating the right lung and there remaining; that in consequence of receiving the gunshot wound as aforesaid the said Matthew W. Romine was disabled and taken prisoner by the enemy, that he was taken to the various Southern prisons and the kept as a prisoner of war until the 10th day of December 1864, at which time he was parolled by the enemy and placed aboard the United States flag-of-truce boat at Charleston, South Carolina."

Instead of recovering his health after the war, Romine suffered a decline. The bullet was still in his chest; Surgeon E. A. Kratz said the ball was "lodged some place in the chest." It wounded the lungs. In December 1867, Kratz wrote, "[Romine] now has a bad cough with muco-purulent expectoration, very much resembling the advanced and confirmed stages of pulmonary consumption. He is very much emaciated and reduced in flesh and quite feeble—pulse 100 to minute." Physician Pearman found that Romine died "from effects of said wound and no other cause." Romine was the last of the direct regimental casualties of the struggle in Viniard field in the late afternoon of September 19, 1863. He wasted away.

Romine died on August 10, 1868. He was twenty-four years old. The day he was wounded in Viniard field was not quite five years in the past. He was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Champaign. We catch a last glimpse of Fannie at age 31—via the 1880 Champaign County census—living in a boarding house with son William, earning her money as a dressmaker.

The following biographical snippet appeared in J. S. Lathrop's 1870 Champaign County Directory:

M. W. Romine, born in the county of Champaign, Illinois, Aug. 12, 1844, is the person to whom we refer. His early life was passed on a farm, where he learned what all farmers must learn, habits of industry, and economy of time. In 1861, when but seventeen years of age, he responded to his country's call, and enlisted in Company E, 51st Illinois Infantry Volunteers. With this organization he performed the duties of a soldier, until the 19th of September, 1863, when on the ill- fated field of Chickamauga he was fearfully wounded, and taken prisoner. "While thus a prisoner, he was taken to Richmond ; thence to Danville, Virginia; thence to Andersonville, Georgia; thence to Charleston, South Carolina; thence to Florence, South Carolina; thence, December 7, 1864, after more than one year of captivity, to the Federal fleet of Charleston Harbor; and was discharged, February 14, 1865, for disability. In 1865 he entered the Chicago Law School, where he prosecuted the study of the law with earnestness and zeal, and was admitted to the bar in 1866; and commenced practice in the town where he was born, the year following.

In 1867, he was appointed United States Internal Revenue Collector, for Champaign county. In the Spring of 1868, he he was elected Attorney of the city of Champaign, by a large majority over his competitor, who supposed himself to be a tolerably popular man at that time. During all this time, however, the rebel bullet which had crashed through his body, was fast doing its work; weaker and fainter, day by day, the emaciated form of Mathew Romine drew nearer the portals of that narrow house to which thousands of his fellow-victims had gone before him. He died Aug. 10, 1868, lamented and mourned by all who knew him, from the least to the greatest.

His mind and intellect were of a superior order; and in his turn and disposition, he was peculiarly calculated to honor and adorn the profession he had chosen; while in any capacity he would have been an ornament to society, and to the county a useful citizen.

J. S. Lathrop, Compiler, J. S. Lothrop's Champaign County Directory, 1870-1: With History of the Same, and of Each Township Therein, Chicago, Rand, McNally and Co., 1870, 443-4.

United States Census, 1850, 1870.

Mathew W. Romine, Compiled Service Record, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Camp Douglas Chicago
Dec the 9th/61

Mr. Samuel Busey
Dear Uncle,

It is with much pleasure that I sit down to inform that I am well at present and that I like to stay here very well. Today the Douglas Brigade left for St. Louis. There is about one thousand in the brigade besides them. About half of the rest of the inhabitants of the camp escorted them down to the city. In all, of the soldiers that went down to town there was about 5,000 men. It was muddy but we had a very good time. We walked about 10 miles that day but they did not get tired.

John Osborn went with them. He is in the 55th Regiment, Company F. I was with him all day Sunday and Sunday night. I hated to see him go with that regiment, and he is a private and some of their officers don't know beans. I was with him a while down in town. He told me to tell you not to send his miniature here but wait until he would write to you so you would know where to write to, but he said you could keep the picture that you have, but he said that there was one of his pictures at Parkes's, and he said for you to send that.

Tell father & mother that I am well & if the Vonaves are yet together tell them that I am well and healthy.

No more. Write soon & give the particulars

Yours truly
M. W. Romine



The letter is from the Civil War collection of Nicholas Kaup of Northbrook, Illinois.

Uncle Samuel Busey. The uncle Romine wrote to was both neighbor and relative. Samuel Busey was only nine years older than Mathew. Busey enlisted in the Seventy-Sixth Illinois in July 1862. He rose to the rank of colonel and at war's end was breveted brigadier general. He served mayor of Urbana in 1880. He represented his district in the 52nd United States Congress. He died in 1909.
   Camp Douglas. There is more information on this site regarding Camp Douglas and formation and training of the regiment there: the "Formation of the Regiment section and the "the "Surviving Camp Douglas" section.
   Escorting the Fifty-Fifth Illinois. One by one the regiments in training at Camp Douglas recruited their ranks full, completed their training, and outfitted themselves. They then left Chicago by train and headed for the front, usually via St. Louis or Cairo. The other Camp Douglas regiments accompanied them down town to Chicago to parade through the streets, bands playing, flags flying, to send them off.
   The Douglas Brigade. Presumably, Romine meant to say that besides the units of the Douglas Brigade that were gone to the field, there were yet 1000 remaining in camp at Camp Douglas, the Fifty-First Illinois being part of that number. The Douglas Brigade never got beyond the formative stages though the name persisted in some fashion through the early years of the war. Elsewhere on this site, we have this note on the "Douglas Brigade:" At inception the Fifty-First 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 Fifty-Fifth Illinois, the Second Douglas, as is well known, had a distinguished career throughout the Civil War. It suffered horrific losses at Shiloh, and heavy losses thereafter. The Fifty-First and Fifty-Fifth last fought on the same fields during the Georgia campaign of 1864. When the government sought the reenlistment of the Fifty-Fifth Illinois, the men of the regiment let it be known that they would not reenlist unless the colonel of the regiment resigned. He did. Romine did not name the officers who he thought didn't know beans, but the men of the Fifty-Fifth seemed to agree with him.