Fifteen Years Ago:
Patriotism of Will County,
Designed To Preserve The Names And Memory Of
Will County Soldiers,
Both Officers And Privates—Both Living And
George H. Woodruff,
Author of “Forty Years Ago.”
Patriots have toiled, and in their country's cause
Printed and Published for the Author
Joliet Republican Book and Job Steam Printing House
The History of the 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry; or,
1st Battalion, Yates'
Will County in the Yates Sharpshooters—Organization—Movements—From Birds Point to New Madrid—Movements—First Blood—Under Fire—Island No.10—River Sights—Expedition to Fort Pillow-Goes to Hamburg, Tenn.—Siege of Corinth—Battle of Chambers Creek—Casualties—Incidents—Reconnoisance—Evacuation of Corinth—Incidents—Becomes Gen. Rosecrans' Headquarters' Guard—Major Matteson's Death—Capt. Morrill made Colonel—Goes to Iuka—Movements—Battle of Iuka—Pursuit of Price—Iuka—Recruits—Contrabands—Battle of Corinth—Casualties—Incidents—Various Accounts—Goes to Glendale—Long Stay on Outpost Duty—Incidents—Goes to Iuka—Pulaski—Re-enlists—Comes Home—Recruiting—Becomes a Full Regiment—Promotions—Leaves for the Front—Decatur—Sunny South—Captain Logan's Company—Brigaded—Chattanooga—Forward—Resacca—Snake Creek Gap—Kingston—Van Wirt—Dallas—Casualties—Pumpkin Vine Creek—Ackworth—Big Shanty—Kenesaw, June 27th—Casualties—A Gritty Boy—On Kenesaw—4th of July—Movements—A Friendly Swim—Marietta—Roswell—Nancy's Creek—Decatur—July 22d—Casualties—Incidents—What Sherman Says—True Story of the Dispatches—Who Filled the Gap—28th of July—Before Atlanta—Change of Base—Atlanta—Transferred to 17th Army Corps—Chasing Hood—Hard March—One Man Hard to Wake—Snake Creek Gap—Fight—Casualties—Rations Short—Rations Full—Co. G as Foragers—Marches—Return to Atlanta—Joins the March to the Sea—Poole's Station—Savannah—Poke-em-till-i-go—Northward—Salkahatchie—Orangeburg—Columbia—Fayetteville—Battle of Bentonvllle—Major Reynolds Wins a Brevet—March Resumed—Washington—Review—Home—Something About the Smith's—A Problem in Natural History—Conclusion.
In the 64th regiment, Will County was represented by 16 commissioned officers, and about 300 enlisted men. We had, therefore, about the same number of Will County men in this regiment as in the 20th.
Capt. David G. Grover, of Co. E, was one of our well-known lawyers, and raised his company here early in the war, in the fall of 1861.
Co. F, of this regiment, was raised largely through the efforts of Joseph F. Reynolds, of New Lenox, a son of one of our oldest and most respected Hickory Creek families, who had just graduated from the Chicago high school at the breaking out of the war. He was assisted by Lieutenant Ward Knickerbocker, also of New Lenox. Mr. Reynolds entered the company as 2d lieutenant, and shared in all its campaigns and exposures, from New Madrid to Goldsboro. He gradually rose first to the command of the company, and then of the regiment. Co. F was raised mainly in the towns of New Lenox, Frankfort, and Wilmington.
Henry Logan, captain of Co. G, (afterwards major), was, and still is, a well-known Joliet lawyer, and raised his company entirely in this county in the winter of 1863-4.
The first major of the regiment, Fred. W. Matteson, although at the time of entering the service a resident of Springfield, was born and brought up in Joliet, and his early death was as deeply felt by our citizens as if he had gone immediately from this county, and his remains now sleep in our own “Oakwood.”
All these facts fully justify us in giving the history of this regiment as part of the war record of Will County. To these reasons we might add the fact that in the 64th we had the only general of whom we can boast, Colonel Reynolds being breveted brigadier toward the end of the war, as he richly deserved to be.
The first battalion of this regiment, consisting of four companies, was originally known as the “Yates' Sharp Shooters.” This was organized at Camp Butler, Dec. 16th, 1861, by Lieut. Col. D. E. Williams, of Peoria. Two more companies—E, Capt. Grover, and F, Capt. Payne—mostly enlisted in Will County, with Fred. W. Matteson as major, were mustered in the last day of December, 1861. Jan. 10th, 1862, the battalion, consisting of six companies, was ordered to Quincy, where it went into barracks and was armed. Feb. 16th, it moved to Cairo. March 5th, it moved via Birds Point, Charleston, Bertrand, and Sykeston, to New Madrid, where it was assigned to Morgan's brigade, Payne's division of General Pope’s command.
The march from Birds Point to New Madrid was a hard initiation for the Yates Sharpshooters into the discomforts of army life. Much of the country was heavily timbered and low, and—as the river was now high—covered with water, which obliged them to follow the railroad track. Anyone who has tried it, knows that a railway is a hard road to travel—on foot. They reached Charleston the same day, a very pretty town of 1,500 inhabitants, now reduced to 36 persons—the rest having fled when our army took possession, as they cast their lot with the rebels. Next day the battalion marched to Bertrand, where they joined other Union forces. Here they staid the 7th and 8th, and on the 9th resumed the march, having the same kind of swampy country, with the additional discomfort of rain, before they reached Sykeston. They were without tents, and passed the night in the mud and rain, without shelter. But they made the situation a little more cheerful with numerous fires. Next morning the march was resumed, the Yates Sharpshooters in the lead, over a rough and muddy turnpike, but the rain had ceased. Night came on again when within five miles of New Madrid, and this, too, was passed without shelter, and it was a cold and chilly one, rendering sleep almost impossible. Next morning, their rations being short, a detail was allowed to see what they could find in the country to help them out. The result was that the boys had plenty of fresh pork.
The force then moved on to within two miles of New Madrid, where they were welcomed with shot and shell from the rebel forts. The boys made their bivouac about one and a half miles northeast of the town, near the river, protected from the rebel gun-boats by a heavy piece of timber, making their shelter out of brush and cornstalks. Next day the Yates Sharpshooters had the honor of being selected from the large army there gathered, to make the first move toward the capture of the town and forts, which consisted in a demonstration in the night, on the opposite side of the town from the one where our forces were planting siege guns. Maj. Matteson, in command of the battalion, moved cautiously forward until fired upon by the enemy's pickets, when they were ordered to lie down. The bullets flew freely, hut no damage was done, except that one bullet passed through the coat collar of Jesse Cremer, of Co. F, and slightly wounded his neck, just enough to give him the honor of shedding the first blood drawn by rebels in the Yates Sharpshooters.
The skirmishing was kept up during the night by the picket line. The enemy's pickets were reinforced by several hundred men, some of whom were well posted in an old mill. As all the object of this demonstration was to divert attention from the operations of our forces who were planting the siege guns, no attempt was made to dislodge them. In the morning, the battalion was early drawn up in line of battle, and just at sunrise had the pleasure of hearing from one of our 64-pound siege guns, which had been successfully planted during the night. Loud cheers went up from the boys on hearing the music. Gen. Paine's division was then ordered to support the guns, as it was anticipated that the enemy would make an effort to take them. Silently and solemnly the men moved forward in anticipation of serious work.
The division was halted in the rear of the siege guns, and then awaited the movements of the enemy until about 11 a.m., when, no demonstration being made by them, the division was ordered to move to the left, and if it should be practicable, to attack the upper fort and carry it by storm. Gen. Paine moved the division forward until the Yates Sharpshooters, who were a quarter of a mile in the advance, reached the edge of the town, where the division was halted. The Yates Sharpshooters could look down into the rebel fort, which was firing its guns very rapidly toward our siege guns. Soon, however, the presence of the division was discovered, and one gun turned upon them. Two rebel gun-boats also came in sight, and commenced playing upon them with shot and shell in profusion. This necessitated rapid changes of position, and the Yates Sharpshooters were ordered to lie flat upon the ground, and never did a squirrel lie closer to a limb, when the hunter was trying to draw a sight on him, than did the boys, just then, to mother earth. The position was by no means pleasant, but they endured it for about an hour, when the order came to fall back. The Yates Sharpshooters, being deployed, were not so much exposed as the rest. Some were slightly wounded, but not enough to take them from duty. After another hour in the woods, they returned to camp.
Next morning (the 14th), the men rose with the expectation of another day's exposure, and perhaps a bloody engagement; but soon one of Gen. Paine's orderlies passed through the camp, singing the welcome song, “Madrid is evacuated!” Such was the fact, as the reader of our war history well knows; and our forces came into possession of the place, with a great amount of guns and munitions of war.
The battalion then witnessed more or less of the operations against Island Number Ten, and the rebel batteries on the main land; the running of the blockade by the Pittsburgh and the Carondalet, and their gallant exploits in silencing, and spiking their guns, assisted by the batteries which our forces had erected on the Missouri shore. Here were some of the most brilliant operations, and the most sublime and magnificent spectacles of the war. As is well known these operations resulted in the evacuation and surrender, (it partook of the character of both), of Island No. 10, with 5,000 prisoners, among them several generals and other officers; and of great numbers of guns, etc.
Three companies of the battalion then went to Chicago to assist in escorting the rebel prisoners, while the other three in the command of Major Matteson joined Pope's expedition down the river to Fort Pillow. This expedition left on transports preceded by gun-boats on the evening of the 13th of April, and arrived at Osceola, in the vicinity of Fort Pillow next day at 3 p.m. The voyage down the river by daylight was a fine one. The day was beautiful. The transports had bands of music which made the woods on either side resound with the national airs, while the stars and stripes waved gaily in the breeze, and flashed in the sunlight. The men also witnessed a fierce naval battle between our gun-boats and a fleet of seven rebel boats, lasting half an hour, and closing by the retreat of the rebels down the river.
After, their arrival the battalion escorted Generals Pope, Palmer and Hamilton, and the assistant secretary of war, on the “clipper Brown,” on a reconnoitering expedition up the river, landing (about twelve miles up) at the house of a Unionist, where they took on board some rebels who gave themselves up as prisoners.
The gun-boats lay just above a given point of land, and sent their compliments into Fort Pillow, while the transports lay in their rear out of range of its guns. As is well known the operations against Fort Pillow directly, were not pressed, and the expedition returned.
The battalion then moved with the army up the Tennessee and disembarked at Hamburg Landing on the 22d of April. From that time it was engaged in the siege of Corinth until its evacuation, May 30th, being continually on the picket and skirmish line, generally a mile in advance of the main army.
On the 3d of May it was heavily engaged. A reconnoisance in force was ordered, and Generals Paine and Palmer were detailed for the work. Among the regiments selected was the “Yates Sharp Shooters.” After proceeding five miles on the Farmington road, the enemy was encountered, and the battle of Chambers Creek ensued.
This battle in which the “Yates Sharp Shooters” played a most important part, is thus described in a letter of Sergeant Henry S. Clark, of Lockport, to his family friends:
“The 3d inst. (May), our division made a movement toward Corinth, our battalion in advance. After proceeding some three miles we came to low swampy woods with thick underbrush and tangled vines all through it. In the center of the wood, and running at right angles with it, was a small stream, the bridge over which had been burned by the rebels, and along which the enemy's pickets were stationed. On nearing the swamp, the battalion was deployed, three companies on the right, and three on the left of the road. The order then came “forward march!” and away we went. It was one of the worst places I ever tried to get through. We had not got ten rods in the swamp, before the rebels opened fire upon us. Neither party could see each other ten paces off, and the first intimation we had of their presence was a volley from their guns. Our boys never faltered, but pushed steadily forward, loading and firing as they went. In fifteen minutes after we started we had cleared the swamp of every rebel, and held the high ground on the other side. Our loss was six wounded, two of whom have since died. Upwards of thirty of the rebels have already been found and buried, including one lieutenant and a large number wounded. We also took two captains and a number of men prisoners.
“After we gained the high ground, and ceased firing, General Paine sent his orderly to find us, but he returned saying that he could not. Then he sent another, and soon rode up himself. He said he had learned from the prisoners that the rebel force was 600 men, in the swamp. Our battalion had left part of its men in camp, and went into the action with only 295 men, and in fifteen minutes routed the enemy from a strong position, killing, wounding and taking prisoners about seventy-eight of their force, with a loss of only six men. General Paine said he did not expect us to do it alone, but only to draw their fire, and then he was to have a regiment of infantry charge them. As soon as the sappers and miners had repaired the bridge, the whole division crossed over with its artillery. Pretty soon the order came for us to advance again, the enemy having retreated to where its batteries were stationed. We advanced at the double quick across an open field, and had scarcely gained the high ground before the enemy opened on us a terrific fire of shot, shell, grape and canister from their batteries, and musketry from their infantry supports. Here four of our men were wounded. In the meantime our artillery had begun its work, the first shot killing six of the rebels, and for twenty minutes it seemed as if all the demons from the infernal pit had broken loose. Our lines had faltered at first under their terrible fire,—but only for a moment. The next we sent a shower of minie balls in return, lying down and loading and firing. Soon General Paine rode on the hill, a fair mark for the enemy's guns which were immediately trained upon him. But he was as cool as upon parade, and did not mind them. “Now boys,” said he, “dash forward at the double quick and flank that battery, and shoot their gunners.” We dashed down the hill and towards the woods to the left of their battery, and soon flanked it, but they had skedaddled. We got two prisoners, and came near getting their baggage train. The infantry then came up, and the whole of us, infantry, cavalry and artillery, moved toward Corinth.
“We followed to within two and a half miles of that place, when we were ordered to return to the high ground near the swamp, where we are now encamped. General Paine rode along our line with his staff and said, “Boys, you have done nobly today. I never saw men do better, I am proud of you.” He says we have done enough for a while, and some of the others must try their hand. We did all the fighting done by the infantry during the day. The artillery only helped us.”
The battalion was received with shouts of welcome on its return from the fight. Gen. Pope also complimented the battalion in his special orders.
In this engagement, Lt. J. W. Baker, of Wilmington, had command of the left wing of the skirmishers. While pressing on and fighting sharply he saw a rebel behind a tree, aiming at him. But fortunately he did not hit the mark. Lt. Baker then ordered one of his men to shoot the reb. But he could not see him, and so the lieutenant took the soldiers gun and shot the reb in the arm, and he fell. After the fight was over, Lt. Baker saw the man he had winged, who said he was from Quincy, Ill., and was a 1st sergeant in a rebel regiment.
In this engagement, 118 of the enemy were killed, 25 wounded and 90 taken prisoners, according to one account. While the Union loss was four killed and eleven wounded, mostly in the Yates Sharp Shooters. Co. A. had two killed and three wounded. B and E each one killed. As has been seen the battalion received the special commendation of General Paine for their skill and bravery on this occasion. This engagement gave our forces possession of Farmington.
On the 8th, a reconnoisance of General Pope's entire command was made towards Corinth, which is thus described in the diary of an officer of Co. F:
“A reconnoisance in force was made to-day. The Yates Sharpshooters were in their accustomed place, leading the force as skirmishers. The rebels retired before us without offering any determined resistance, until within about two miles of Corinth. Here, as we entered a rye field, a battery opened on us. The shell exploded over our heads, and fragments flew in every direction, but did little harm. Our line of skirmishers pushed on until about the middle of the field, when we came in sight of the enemy in full force. Our sharpshooters, and those of the enemy, kept up a brisk fire. While standing, leaning my hand against a tree, a bullet struck between two of my fingers, slightly wounding each. I saw the miscreant when he shot. He was on the fence, behind a clump of bushes. I pointed him out to the boys, and they soon cleared him off the fence. After remaining about an hour in the field, and getting no orders, I thought it strange, and started to the right of our company, which was in the woods. But on entering the woods, they were not to be found. I started on still farther to the right, but had not gone far when I was arrested by the whizzing of bullets. I hastened back and told Capt. Grover that the rebs were getting in our rear, and that all the boys, except his company and part of ours, had fallen back. Captain Grover then ordered a retreat, and, by double-quicking, we escaped the enemy. When we got out of the woods, we found that the rest of our forces had fallen back two miles. With no pleasant feelings toward our superiors, we returned to camp.”
By way of explanation of the above, it is proper to say that it was afterwards found that an orderly had been sent to notify Capt. Grover of the falling back, but for some reason he failed to reach him.
Another engagement, which is known in history as the battle of Farmington, followed on the 9th, when the rebels, 20,000 strong, attacked our forces under Palmer and Paine, with the design of cutting them off from the main army. Gen. Paine engaged them at once, and fought them for five hours, but as the orders were imperative to avoid a general engagement, Gen. Paine fell back. The enemy made some demonstrations, but did not see fit to follow. In this engagement, the Yates Sharpshooters were not seriously engaged, the fighting being done by the brigade of General Plummer. The Yates Sharpshooters, however, held the front, after our forces fell back, until relieved by the 10th Illinois next morning.
The Yates Sharpshooters remained quiet in camp until the morning of the 15th, when it was again ordered out in line of battle, supported by two companies of the 10th, but after advancing about half way across the swamp, were halted, and at noon returned to camp.
May 17th, Pope's army, the Yates Sharpshooters in advance, was moved beyond Farmington, and the line established very close to the enemy, and the night spent in fortifying. In the morning a sharp picket firing commenced, which was kept up till 4 p.m:, with an occasional shell from the enemy; but our big guns kept silent, though ready to speak. The advance was general. The fortified lines were extended eight miles, with three tiers of works. The drums of the enemy, and the rumble of the cars in Corinth, were plainly heard.
On the 19th, a large force of the enemy was seen moving to our left, and an attack was expected. The Yates Sharpshooters were placed in support of Houghtaling's battery. A brisk artillery fight occurred between it and a rebel battery, but the rebels soon withdrew satisfied with the experiment.
On the 20th, the Yates Sharpshooters were marched out with other forces, and had a brisk skirmish across a swamp, over which they could not pass, and at noon retuned to camp.
Nothing special now occurred until the 28th, when the position of the battalion was changed. Marching buck through Farmington, it took a southwesterly course, which brought it directly in front of General Price's “Pea Ridge batteries.” Here they were deployed as skirmishers, and advanced within half a mile of the enemy, and within 200 yards of his skirmish line. Sergt. William Scheel, Corp. Jesse Cramer, Corp. Wm. Lamb, and private Wm. Kimber, of Co. F, were sent out to ascertain the direction of the enemy's lines, and their strength. Cramer advanced within two rods of a rebel picket, and ordered him to surrender, but he turned to run, when Cramer shot him down. This provoked the enemy, and a lively skirmish was the result. But our sharpshooters held their ground, and, in the course of the afternoon, excavated a row of rifle pits. At dark, the Yates Sharpshooters were relieved by two companies of the 11th Missouri. The pickets were posted by Lieut. Reynolds, at the request of Major Matteson, who was now in command of the battalion. Early on the morning of the 29th, a brisk firing commenced all along the line, and heavy artillery firing in front all the forenoon. This, as it afterwards proved, was a show on the part of the rebels, while they were busy evacuating Corinth.
The rebel generals, finding their position no longer tenable, commenced evacuating Corinth, the 27th, and May 30th the battalion entered Corinth in time to see the rear guard of the enemy leaving. Lieut. Baker, of Co. E, was the first man in the rebel works. The rebels had effected their retreat safely, and carrying off much of their stores and ammunition, and leaving the rest damaged and useless. The place presented a scene of desolation and destruction that was complete.
The evacuation of Corinth is thus described in the journal of an officer of the Yates Sharpshooters:
“May 30th, 1862. Very early this morning Gen. Morgan rode out to our line, and told the Yates Sharpshooters to prepare at once for a reconnoisance. He gave us minute instructions, and we moved towards the enemy's works. We advanced very cautiously, every moment expecting the enemy's guns to flash in our faces. But the thickest brush wood was passed, the summit of the hill gained, and no enemy met. From the hill top the enemy's works were plainly seen. A negro and a white horse were all that could be seen moving in the rebel works. Colonel Tilson's adjutant and myself moved around to the left, so that we could see behind the works. Nothing was to be seen but broken gun carriages, and some large shells. When we informed Gen. Morgan, he ordered the Yates Sharpshooters to occupy the works. At five o'clock in the morning we clambered over the immense fortifications, and were fully aware that Corinth was evacuated. General Morgan and the Yates Sharpshooters were the first to discover this.
“Maj. Matteson now sent me with twenty men down the Kossuth road, where it was known the enemy had heavy works. The remainder of the battalion moved into Corinth. Going down the road a short distance, we came in sight of a squad of about 60 rebel cavalry. They galloped off on our approach. When about a mile and a half from the Pea Ridge batteries we saw them again behind a long line of fortifications, moving in great confusion among the tents. A bullet sent into their midst by Corp. Lamb started them again post haste still further down into Dixie. We now took possession of the second line of works, which were much more extensive than the first. Behind them were the camps of Gens. Price and VanDorne. Everything indicated that they had left in the greatest haste. Tents were standing, victuals on the fire cooking, many guns, knapsacks, and camp equipage of all kinds, were lying scattered about. Hundreds of barrels of flour, beef, pork, sugar and molasses, were left behind. Two fine flags, belonging to the regiment known as “McCullough’s Avengers,” were found.
“After a little, Fred. Sonner called me into the tent of Capt. A Jack’s (such was the name on the tent), and invited me to partake of a warm breakfast which had been prepared for the captain. Being hungry, I ate heartily. The board was loaded with warm biscuit, blackberry jelly, corn bread, butter, &c., and a bottle of superior wine. Thanks to Captain Jack for an excellent breakfast.
“We had been here four hours before we saw anyone else. Gen. Granger then came up, and was much surprised to find us, supposing that he was in the advance. He told me to take charge of the camp.”
In the afternoon of the same day, the battalion joined in the pursuit, taking the advance. They came upon the rear of the enemy at Tuscumbia Creek, just at dark, on the 30th, when a brief skirmish ensued, continuing during the night, and the next day the pursuit was continued to Boonville with frequent skirmishes. The battalion then returned June 11th, and camped at Big Springs, six miles from Corinth. One man, Wm. Johnson, of Co. F, was killed in a skirmish on the second day of the pursuit.
Thus, from April 12th, the time that the battalion landed at Hamburg, until the return from Boonville, June 10th, the battalion had the advance of Pope's army, generally a mile in front, more than half the time without tents, and always sleeping on their arms. During this time they lost but one man by disease. It was true of them, (and of our army generally), that the men were healthier on an active campaign, than when lying idle in quarters. And more men could be rallied for a fight or a skirmish, than for a drill or parade.
At Tuscumbia Creek the battalion was actively engaged in skirmishing. Some of the boys had become so tired and exhausted with the constant marching, &c., that they went to sleep right under the fire of the rebel battery of four guns, and of the butternut and Indian supports. Having been three nights without sleep, they had become almost indifferent to anything else. One of the captains, John Morrill, in the 64th, shot an Indian who had a bush tied to his head, from under which he was shooting our men.
In July, Gen. Rosecrans succeeded Pope in command, and the battalion of sharpshooters was chosen as his headquarters and provost guard, and remained on this duty until November. Lt. Col. Williams having left the battalion on sick leave, the command devolved on Major Matteson, who held it until August, when he was taken sick and died August 9th. Captain Payne of Co. F, going north as escort, to the body, Lieutenant Reynolds was left in command of Co. F.
Captain John Morrill, of Co. A, then took command of the regiment, and was afterwards promoted to lieutenant colonel. About this time Captain Payne resigned, and Lieutenant Reynolds was promoted captain.
August 29th, the battalion moved to Iuka, Miss. This is a village of a few thousand inhabitants, and was famous for its mineral springs, being before the war a place of great resort for the southern chivalry. It was a spot of considerable attraction, the spring being in a beautiful grove, with summer houses, and affording a cool and pleasant retreat from the heat of summer. The boys enjoyed the retreat very much, and were grateful to Uncle Sam for sending them to this fashionable resort, where they could refresh themselves without being subjected to the payment of hotel bills. They had faith in the medicinal virtue of its waters.
In September, the battalion returned to Camp Clear Creek in the vicinity of Corinth. August 18th, it again started for Iuka, going by way of Jacinto. While on the march to Iuka, the tidings of the rebel reverses in Maryland, reached the army. It was said that Gen. Rosecrans on hearing it, jumped out of his bed en deshabille, leaped over two camp stools, grasped the ridge pole of his tent, and turned two summer-saults in his joy at the news.
The battalion reached the vicinity of Iuka on the second day's march,—the day of the battle, which commenced about 5 p.m. of the 19th. The battalion took a position in support of a battery on our extreme right, and was not seriously engaged. Next day it joined in the pursuit of Price.
A private member of the regiment writing home in reference to the battle of Iuka, under date of September 27th, says:
“We left Corinth with five days' rations, and took through the country, marching thirty-five miles each day. On the 2d, about five miles from Iuka, we were alarmed by the booming of cannon. We were halted and told to look to the priming of our guns, then ordered to march double quick. We were supporting Powell's battery about eighty rods from the fight. We lay out all night; it was very cold. The fighting was terrible from four o'clock until after dark. I was on the picket near the field, and the groans and cries of the wounded were awful. The ambulance driver says our army lost 300 killed and wounded. The rebs were drunk. The 11th Missouri had to push them back so as to shoot them. They lost two generals, one (General Little) killed, another wounded and captured. The rebs started that night and we started about nine in pursuit, and after marching about twenty miles came up with their rear guard, and our battalion deployed and came up too close to go any further without artillery, and so fell back.”
Orders then came to abandon the pursuit, and the battalion returned to Corinth, Sept. 27th.
While the battalion was at Iuka, many of the residents of northern Alabama enlisted in that and other regiments. Many of these recruits were as pronounced in their hatred of slavery as Wendell Philips himself. Said one to an officer of the 64th, “When I find a northern man upholding slavery I feel to curse him.”
The negroes also came into the Union lines in great numbers. Trains from Tuscumbia brought them by thousands. Many were sent to the north daily, but thousands were continually about the Union camps. They held big prayer meetings, in which they sang and prayed and talked as only the contrabands could. They compared their deliverance to that of Daniel from the lion’s den. The soldiers all welcomed the darkies, and even those who had once been bitter against fighting the war for the overthrow of slavery, had got cured of their prejudices, and did not seem to feel bad at seeing the slaves escape, and every mess soon had its colored cook and servant.
Price having been reinforced by Van Dorne and Lovel returned to attack our forces at Corinth, and on the night of October 3d, formed his lines within 1000 yards. The Y. S. S., went into position on the evening of the 3d as skirmishers. On the morning of the 4th, the battalion met the first advance of the enemy, and was heavily engaged through the day, rendering efficient and effective service. It lost heavily in this engagement,—going into fight with 233 men,—at evening roll call but 160 responded, 73 were killed or wounded. Co. E suffered most of all, losing twenty-one men, killed and wounded, and among these, alas! Captain Grover, who was mortally wounded. He was in command of companies B, C and E on the skirmish line, and was cheering on his men when he fell. Sergeant Major Henry S. Clark, one of Lockport's most promising young men, was also killed.
A private of Co. E, writing home after the battle, says:
“I am safe and sound after the great battle of Corinth, fought Friday and Saturday. The enemy attacked us 50,000 strong, under Price, VanDorne and Villipugue. The first day's fighting was terrible, but nothing to the next. We were out in the woods, three companies of us, Co. B deployed as skirmishers. Our men were driven in and the rebs attacked the reserve. We fought about an hour, at last they came so fast that we had to retreat behind our breastworks. We went out with forty-two men, (referring to Co. E) and when we got back, had but twenty-one. Serg’t Henry Clark, from Lockport, is killed. Our Captain is dangerously wounded, but the Dr. says he is better. Peter Brown from Channahon, Mike McGalligut and Geo. Rouse are killed. Messrs. Coyles, Casey and Tom Garlish, from Lockport, are wounded. John Sullivan from Joliet, lost his leg. We have taken 2000 prisoners. Our men are after Price, and captured his army train, and Price had to leave his horse and take to the woods. We took his staff. His men fought like devils charging our batteries, and taking both; but the 11th Missouri, (which was really an Illinois regiment,) 52d Illinois, and our battalion charged and drove them out. Our camp ground was covered with their dead. It was mighty rough at first, but I soon got used to it.”
The same soldier writing again the 16th, says:
“We had a job yesterday of lifting our little orderly who had been buried ten days without a coffin. I helped to bury our gallant little captain. I may well call him gallant, for a bolder man never drew sword than him and Lieutenant Manning. I believe Manning will be our next captain. I hope he may. I saw S. W. Bowen this morning. We will have to lift our captain to-day. By this time you know all about the great battle, but you don't know about our company (E).
“We lay out all night, and as soon as daylight the ball opened. We lay between our artillery and the rebel fire for two hours, when Captain Morrill told Captain Grover to send some of his best shots over to see how the rebels got along, when Pat Feeley, Darwin Gifford and myself, went over to the railroad and got behind an old milk cellar, and with some of Birges’ Sharpshooters gave them the best we had in our boxes for about an hour.
“We saw them crossing on our right in brigades, trying to flank us right and left, which they did. I then went and reported to our commander. We stood our ground which was to our loss. We got behind a big log and waited in silence until they came within about three rods when we gave them a volley which made them waver and go into the woods again. In front of us was a deep gulley with a very steep bank next to the enemy. They came to the edge of the bank in solid column, five brigades deep, mostly Arkansas troops. We filled the gully full of them. But our own batteries gave us two charges of grape and shell, killing four and wounding a great number of our company. So we had to retreat up to the breast works, when we stood and held them in check. They came up to the batteries on the double quick, charging them three times, and we drove them back as often. They got up in town as far as old Rosey’s headquarters, when they met our boys that was guarding them, and they drove the rebels back, killing twenty and not losing a man. I saw one sixty-four pound ball go through one hundred yards of a solid body of the 2d Texas, killing almost a whole company.
“As soon as the enemy was driven off the field, I went over to see how many were hurt. The first man I found was John Sullivan, of Joliet. Says I, “John, your leg is broke.” “Yes, says he, “but by—we drove them!—they had to run!” I examined many of the rebel haversacks to see what they had to eat. All I could find was some corn, some roasted and some raw, with a little side meat,—no bread in any of them.”
Such is the account given by a corporal of Co. E. We add another account given in a letter of a commissioned officer of the regiment.
“Corinth, Oct. 6th, 1862.—We are still at Corinth, but it was by a close chance that our forces held the town. The rebels were perfectly desperate, and fought like mad men. On the 3d of October the fight was kept up from eight in the morning until dark. On the left our force drove the enemy from the field the first day, and the enemy drove us on the right. On the second (4th) the rebels made a desperate charge on the left, but were repulsed with great slaughter. In about one and a half hours after, the combined forces of the enemy made a second charge on the town from the northwest. Here was the most desperate fighting of the day. Two brigades charged at once in column by division, on the double quick. Two of our siege batteries are posted on the northwest side of the town, and our forces were drawn up in a double line of battle, connecting the two batteries, and also in one line extending some way on the outside of the batteries.
“At first the rebels drove our forces back about fifty rods, and got possession of both batteries and about half of the town. But our troops rallied, and then followed such a scene as I hope never to witness again. Eleven of our battalion fell dead and thirty-nine wounded. The contest remained for some time undecided—victory leaning now to the one side, and now to the other—for about twenty minutes. During this time, the enemy made continuous efforts to plant their flag upon our forts, but no oftener was the attempt made than flag, and flag-bearer, fell from the parapet together. Our battalion paid its especial attention to the upper fort, or the rebels in and about it, and at that very place the rebels first began to give way. No sooner was it known along our lines that they were yielding on our right, than our whole line commenced to advance with wild shouts, and when the rebels saw that our men were going to give them a hand-to-hand fight, they turned and sought the woods like frightened sheep. But while our men were in the height of their exultation, lo! two new brigades of rebels were rushing up at double-quick directly toward our lines. Although our regiments were now all mixed up, yet order prevailed along the whole line the moment the enemy were seen advancing, and an earnest and determined look took the place of shouting. The danger was met most gallantly by our boys—not a foot of our lines gave way, but every man stood up nobly, and poured volley after volley into the foe, still advancing, even when to do so was certain death. They were more than brave—they were reckless. Their officers advanced the last time mounted, but not one who was mounted returned. Their regimental officers were on foot. When they commenced to retreat, they did so in order, but it soon became a stampede.
“The fresh battle-field was awful to behold; many a Union soldier lay dead or wounded, but the enemy lay piled up in heaps—the wounded often weighed down by the lifeless body of a comrade. The fighting continued next day on the Chevalla road, and report says the secesh suffered terribly. Our battalion did not join in the pursuit, being too badly cut up.”
In this battle, Lieut. Reynolds, of Co. F, had a very narrow escape. A bullet broke the ring which held the scabbard of his sword to the belt, and a spent ball hit his leg with sufficient force to drop him, and make him lame for a while.
During the fight, Lieut. Knickerbocker got hold of a rifle, but having no cartridges, on coming up to one of our men who lay dead on the field, he put his hand under his head for the purpose of slipping off his cartridge box, which the poor fellow could use no longer, when his hand went into a ghastly wound from which the blood and brains were oozing. Just then some one spoke, “This is hard,” said he. The words came from a mere boy, though a soldier. “Do you know the man?” inquired the lieutenant. “It is my father,” was the reply. The boy shed no tears, but his look expressed volumes of agony.
After the fight was over, Lieut. Knickerbocker went over the field to look after the wounded. In one place he found a rebel soldier bleeding from a wound in the ankle, which was badly broken. The lieutenant picked him up and carried him under a tree, and procured him medical aid. These attentions both surprised and touched the man, even to tears. He said that he did not expect such treatment, as their officers had told them before the battle that anyone who fell into our hands would be butchered. He avowed a determination, that if he got well, he would fight us no more.
Nov. 22d, 1862, the battalion was ordered to Glendale, Miss., where it was stationed on outpost duty, and where it remained nearly one year, engaged in hunting guerrillas, and scouting for Gen. Dodge, and in erecting fortifications, &c., thus assisting in holding this portion of the Union lines, while more active operations were going on elsewhere.
Of its stay while here, we have but little record. It was during this period that Capt. James C. Cameron, Co. A, of Ottawa, organized a regiment of cavalry from the Union men of that region, which was known as the 1st Alabama cavalry, of which he was commissioned colonel. Philip A. Steinberg, of Will county, a sergeant in Co. F, was commissioned a captain in the same regiment. Col. Cameron was afterwards killed in a fight at Barton’s Station, April 17th, 1863, and Capt. Steinberg was killed at Vincents Cross Roads about the 23d of October, 1863.
While at Glendale, John Sullivan, who lost his leg at Corinth, was discharged, and came home—the boys of his company generously making up a purse of $200, out of their hard earnings, to help him on his way.
The same corporal, from whose letters we have already quoted, says under date of Sept. 7th, 1863:
“I was in Corinth the other day. I walked in. It is a long walk through the woods, and they are full of guerrillas, and they shoot without halting us, as they would a dog. So we are ordered not to take any prisoners, but to shoot them on sight. They put six bullets into one of our men the other day, without telling him to halt. But he is living yet, for we are hard to kill. We went out the other day, a squad of eight, to a house where we found six women and girls, but we could see no man. So we began to look around a little, and presently three men ran out of an old stable. We ordered them to halt. Two did so, but the third kept on, and we leveled our rifles at him. The mother, wife and sisters screamed out to us not to shoot him. So we fired over him, but still he would not stop. So three of us took good aim, and brought him to a halt. He proved to be a lieutenant in the rebel army. We did not kill him, but we gave him a long furlough.”
We give one more brief extract from the same soldier's letters, to show how the sensibilities become hardened in time of war. He says: “We do have some funny times now and then. We have skirmishing with the enemy almost every day. We killed fifteen, one of them a colonel, this morning. Send me the Joliet Signal as often as you can!”
Nov. 4th, 1863, the Yates Sharpshooters moved to Iuka, and thence to Pulaski, Tenn., arriving at the latter place on the 12th, making a march of 135 miles in eight days, crossing the Tennessee river at Eastport. It formed part of Sherman's great army of 60,000, sweeping through Alabama and Tennessee, cleaning out everything as they went, leaving not a hoof upon the grass—a preliminary movement to the next summer’s campaign.
The latter part of December, enlistment rolls were opened to see who would re-enlist. The battalion had been two years in active service, and in eighteen different engagements of more or less importance—forty days before the enemy without tents or shelter of any kind, except the forests—yet so determined were these brave men that they would see the rebellion crushed out, and the Union restored, that over three-fourths of the battalion re-enlisted; and on the 15th day of January it went north on veteran furlough of twenty days from its arrival at Chicago; the 22d.
During this interval, recruiting was actively engaged in, to fill up the ranks of the old companies, and four new companies, G, H, I, and K, were added, thus making it a full regiment, known thereafter as the 64th regiment. Of these new companies, one was raised in our county by Captain (afterwards Major) Logan. Of the regiment thus recruited and enlarged. Lieut. Col. Morrill was made colonel, and Capt. Manning, of Co. E, was made lieutenant colonel, and Captain Thompson, of Co. B, major. The regiment re-assembled at Ottawa, Feb. 14th, and after being fully re-organized, left on the 17th of March for the front. On the 20th, it arrived by rail within two miles of Decatur, Ala., where it went into camp.
Captain Logan’s company, not being yet provided with tents, and having no covering but their blankets, and being all “fresh fish,” had rather of a cool time, for just at this time a storm came on which would do credit to northern Illinois. True, they were now in the “sunny south,” and they had great faith in that poetical expression; but their faith was somewhat dampened, when, on the next morning after their arrival, they fund themselves under a blanket of snow a foot thick. This seemed a rough introduction to a soldier's life, none the easier to bear because the old campaigners made light of it. But they soon got comfortably quartered in the town, and the weather got hot enough before they reached Atlanta.
Ten days after their arrival at Decatur, the inhabitants of the town were ordered to leave, and the place was converted into a fortified camp. Redoubts were built, rifle pits digged, and every preparation made for an attack or siege. For two weeks the regiment was kept continually under arms. The rebels, under Roddy, were hanging about the place, nine or ten thousand strong. Capt. Logan, writing home during this period, says: “I can get more work out of my men, when there is a prospect of a fight, than at any other time. On one occasion, when called up at midnight, in expectation of an attack, I noticed that my company was unusually full, and found a dozen or more in the ranks that had been on the sick list the day before. Among them was Jacob Lutz, of Jackson, a mere boy, who was really sick. I asked him what he was there for when he was sick. “Well,” he replied, “Captain, I am sick, but I wanted to get a pop at the rebs and make them sick, too.”
The regiment was now placed in the 1st brigade, 4th division of the 16th army corps.
May 4th, it arrived at Chattanooga, and entered upon the great Atlanta campaign. Leaving Chattanooga the 5th, it camped the first night on the old Chickamauga battle-field. Here they found many bones and skulls still unburied; whether they belonged to friend or foe could not now be told, but they gave them decent burial. The civilized human mind revolts at the sight of human remains unburied.
We shall quote now, generally verbatim, from the diary of an officer of Co. F, in detailing the movements of the regiment during the Atlanta campaign:
“We arrived before Resacca May 9th, and companies A and F were deployed, and drove the enemy in their front into their works. In the night the regiment marched to Snake Creek Gap. On the 12th it was in the advance on the skirmish line. Captain Reynolds, who was in command of the right of the line, had a very narrow escape. His sword was hit by a bullet, and knocked out of his hand.
“On the 13th, advanced to Resacca, and was engaged until the 16th, when the enemy retired. May 20th, arrived at Kingston, and remained in camp the 21st. On the 22d, Sunday, inspection. On the 23d, moved at 2 p.m., going about a mile, halted until sundown, when the regiment moved again, and, going some three miles, crossed a branch of the Coosa on a covered bridge, and going four miles farther, went into camp at 11 p.m.
“On the 24th, moved at 5 p.m., passing through a pine district about eight miles in extent, passing a steam mill and numerous wheat fields, stopping at 11 to rest at a splendid spring of water. The men were footsore and weary.
“Moved on again at 4 p.m., going some six miles, camped at dark in the town of Van Wirt; on the way passed a fine slate quarry. It rained all night, and we got thoroughly soaked. May 25th, lay in camp until 5 p.m., then moved on, acting as train guard, moving a few rods at a time, until about 1:30 a.m. of next day, when we lay down until morning. It rained for a couple of hours, and was so dark as to compel us to move by the sense of feeling more than by sight. About sunset, we hear artillery firing some eight miles in front.
“May 26th, moved on again as train guard at sunrise. Some sight for a fight. After going on five miles, camped in the township of Dallas, at 2:30 p.m., and had dinner and rest. We hear that bushwhackers are about, two men having been found with their throats cut while they were asleep, and one shot through the head. At 9 p.m. we are under arms, expecting to move every moment, and at 11 we moved half a mile, and lay down until morning. For the last two days we have been passing over high ground, being a spur of the Blue Ridge. May 27th, we started early and marched three miles to Dallas. We hear heavy firing in front.
“In about twenty minutes after halting, companies A and F are out as skirmishers, and deployed in the woods, and moved by the left flank into an open field, then by the right flank forward. Thomas Rickard, of Co. F, was shot through the hip at this time. When about half across the field, an order came to halt, leaving about half of the company without cover except two or three trees or shrubs, and the bullets in the meantime were raising the dust lively. Getting tired of this position, we made a change on our own responsibility, and reached the timber without further loss. We then moved forward again, and changed direction to the right, got close to the enemy, within four or five rods, and found them stubborn and hard to drive. We could only move them by making a rush for them. I tried to make one of them surrender, but he wouldn’t, so I tried the next best thing, and emptied my pistol at him. The right of the line fell back, obliging us to do the same. The 35th N.J. came up and assisted us. Three of them were killed within fifteen feet of me. When our line fell back they left, although we did not move more than ten rods to the rear, which position we held until we were relieved, after dark. Our loss in the company was severe. A. Wagner, killed, shot through the head, while in the front rank, loading and firing with all his might. We were obliged to leave his body in the hands of the enemy. They buried him under the tree where he fell. James H. Gilfallan, shot through the leg, died at night. Corporal John Parks, shot in the abdomen, will probably die. John Schleken, shot through the leg. Richard F. Hammond, (of Alabama,) shot through the shoulder, and Thomas Rickards, through the hip. Corp. G. Waldron, through the arm. Co. A had three men killed, and among the wounded was Capt. Conger.
“While writing, the rebels are sending sundry missives, and one of Co. D has just passed, hit in the head. Their sharpshooters look like Indians to me, and I have had a pretty good look at them. I was told by one of the 16th Ill. that there were women on the line in front of them, and that one of them was shot.”
The regiment in this engagement lost fourteen men, killed and wounded. Among the wounded was Captain Logan, of Co. G., who was shot in both legs.
“May 28th, we lay in camp all day. We found ourselves badly stiffened in the morning. We expected to move at night, but did not as the rebels charged on the second division, but they were repulsed with a loss of two thousand men. On the 29th we were ordered to relieve the 39th Ohio in the intrenchments, two companies as skirmishers. At night the enemy made seven distinct charges on our lines, but were repulsed each time; their loss not known. It was a pretty hot time, one man in Co. C killed, and five or six wounded, mostly by premature firing from our own line.
“May 30th, companies H and K, detailed as skirmishers. One man killed and four or five wounded. Our regiment was relieved at dark by the 39th Ohio, and we went back to our old ravine and to bed. Lt. Meeker, of Co. K, was wounded through the arms. The enemy made an advance on the line about nine, but fell back again.
“May 31st, Lt. Meeker and Captain Logan, go back to Kingston this morning. Companies F and A detailed for skirmish line. The enemy closed down on us in the night. Some pretty sharp fun. June 1st, our forces during the night moved to the left, leaving us to protect the rear, a very disagreeable job, as the enemy closed down on us when they found we were leaving. We fell back over hill and dale in skirmishing order. Our company was the nearest giving out of any time since their enlistment. Having been all night without sleep, the fighting and the excitement of the march made it tough. Moved about four miles and camped, and improved the time in sleep.
“June 2d, lay in camp all day. It rained hard for a couple of hours. June 3d, five companies ordered to Kingston as train guard. The rest moved about a mile to the left across Pumpkin Vine Creek, camped and commenced throwing up intrenchments, but next morning, June 4th, received orders to move again. Rather trying to our patience as it was raining hard. Moved a mile or two and stopped again. Skirmish firing pretty sharp on our left. A change has just been made by our forces apparently successful. We are ordered to intrench again. Commenced, but were soon ordered to suspend. Rained again during the night. Zuell and I have a pup tent and slept well.
“June 5th, ordered to move again this morning. Rebs said to be falling back. We advanced nearly three miles to the enemy's works, and found them deserted. They were very strong and well constructed. The work is said to be done by the negroes, who are said to be as numerous as the rebs. Their right flank was turned by Stoneman's cavalry, and the 17th army corps passing Altoona Gap, and they had to leave. Returned to camp, got dinner and moved again towards the railroad. After going six miles stopped for the night. June 6th, started forward about 8 a.m., going some eight miles, slowly, being hindered by the wagon train. Camped about four at the town of Ackworth, a station on the railroad.
“June 7th, lay in camp with the expectation of a few days’ rest. June 8th, ordered to be ready to march on the 9th, a decisive battle expected in a few days. June 9th lay in camp all day expecting to move. Our teams have been sent for forage, clothing, etc. Hear that the 17th army corps has arrived. The 15th and 16th army corps is now commanded by General McPherson, the right of the grand army.
“June 10th, marching orders, we are to follow the 15th army corps. Frequent showers. Captain Reynolds is sick. Moved into town just before night, and halted until 10 o'clock, then marched about five miles on a very dangerous road, rough and muddy. Camped about 1:30 and went to bed. Showers again. Moved in the afternoon two and a half miles down the railroad, the skirmishers are engaged. Halted awhile, rained very hard. The name of the station is Big Shanty. We began intrenching after dark, made a log work. Col. Morrill went down on the skirmish line, and tried his hand at shooting. He shot one of the enemy with a Henry rifle as was seen by the glass. But he came near paying dearly for his rashness, as a bullet grazed his abdomen leaving blue mark.
“June 12, companies B and G on the skirmish line—rain all the time. D and I sent out to relieve them. June 13th, companies H and C sent out. Regiment ordered in line of battle at daylight. The enemy have apparently left Hooker’s and Howard’s front—our right, (lost mountain), and are either massing their forces at Kenesaw on our left, or are evacuating. Rain still pouring down. Captain Reynolds is quite sick. Scorpions are quite plenty in this section, just caught one at the door of my shanty. They have a disagreeable habit of creeping into a person’s pants.
“June 16th, lay in camp all day. Was stung by a scorpion, applied ammonia, and felt no serious results. Ordered out on the skirmish line at night, expected a warm time as the lines were to be advanced. Moved our pits about forty rods to the front, but were not fired upon. We were supported by six companies. Guess the rebels got sick of the place as they left in disgust, as the 14th Ohio battery knocked their rail piles skyward. Some of the inmates too, appeared to make desperate leaps in the same direction. One of their officers appeared to be furious by the way he waved his sword, but a shell soon quieted him. Their signal lights were in operation during the night on the summit of Kenesaw mountain. Our signal officers can read their signs. One of their messages read that Lt. General Polk had been killed in our front by a solid shot through the arms and abdomen.
“June 15th we were relieved at daylight by two other companies. Towards noon we were ordered out to support our skirmishers, as they were to advance. Did so, captured eight or ten prisoners. One of them told that five hundred men were captured in front of the 15th and 16th army corps. Some of them came in with a white rag. Bullets circulated pretty freely, but only one of our regiment wounded, in Co. D. One of Co. D shot a reb, wounding him in the back and found that he was from Pulaski, and that one of our recruits in Co. D. sparked his sister last winter.” (A very affecting incident!)
“Our company laid in a ditch supporting our skirmishers all night. Pioneers commenced putting up a fort, when the enemy opened fire on our line, causing a lively stampede among the pioneers and negroes. The darkies got into the ditches before us, in some places three or four feet deep. Bullets came over by the basket full. Col. Manning was hit on his pistol. It was a hard fight and our second night without sleep.
“June 16th, the regiment was relieved this morning. Other regiments moved out into the new works constructed during the night. The enemy appear to have their principal signal station on top of Kenesaw, about three and a half miles distant. With a good glass groups of ladies have been observed several times on its summit taking a look at the detestable yankees. Our rations are brought to us, and we lay down in the ditch at night; I tried to make up lost time in sleeping. We were disturbed but once during the night, and then the firing did not last long. The pickets commenced talking with each other, asking all sorts of impudent questions. Our officers finally put a stop to it. June 17th, firing commenced at daylight; our regiment relieved the 27th and 39th Ohio on the front line at 4 p.m. The first division had a poor place, as the enemy’s fire enfiladed their works. We had to throw up traverses to protect ourselves. At dark firing ceases and talking commences. Came near coaxing over one of the rebs. They belonged to the 20th Alabama, and had friends in our regiment, and in the Alabama cavalry. At 10 o'clock they relieve guards, then we usually have a small skrimmage. At daylight it began to rain, and rained all day. We got only one and a half hours sleep. Our ditches filled with water, and we had to occupy our cross work until we could drain them. Our situation was too uncomfortable for description. It ought to be illustrated in Harper. We could not stand up for the bullets, and we could not lie down for the water. The firing was very sharp. I had two pretty close calls. It was dangerous to put a head above the works. We were warned at night that an attack was expected during the night, or that they intended to evacuate.
“During the night, as I and one of the boys were lying in the orchard outside the works, we heard an old recall signal of the guns, and immediately after, signal whistles to the right and left, on their skirmish lines. Waked up the company, and waited for ‘what next.’ Did not sleep a wink during the night. It rained a little; no alarm. Morning came at last. We fired a few shot into their rifle pens, without eliciting any reply. Neither could any be obtained along the lines. Reported to the colonel that I thought the Johnnies had absconded. He told me to take two groups and reconnoitre. Took one from Co. F, and one from Co. A, and stole out and examined some sixty or more of their pits, but nary reb could we find. Went back and reported. The first division was ordered to fall in, in skirmish order, and examine the main line of works. We found them evacuated. We halted to get breakfast. Other troops moved on to search for the enemy. He soon opened on them from the mountain. At noon skirmishing was going on with heavy cannonading. Our generals are on the lookout for some trap, and move very cautiously. At 3 p.m. moved ahead again, beyond the main line of rebel intrenchments, and halted for the night. Our corps are crowded out of the front line, and are now in reserve.
“June 20, skirmishing on the front line as soon as light. It is very difficult to find out the true state of affairs. Our forces appear to be much concentrated and investing the mountain. The enemy occasionally opens a battery on us from the mountain, but is soon silenced. Heavy cannonading toward night. Heavy fighting about ten at night. Rainy. Some twenty-eight prisoners came in that I saw; seventeen of the number were officers. June 21st, rainy and but little firing. Fell in during the afternoon, and moved one and a half miles nearer the mountain. After a good bit of moving and changes of base, stopped for the night, and had just gone to roost, when a fatigue detail came for two companies. A and E turned out. Had some one hundred yards of fortifications to put up. Finished, and returned to camp at daylight. The soil was hard to work, being stony and full of roots. The rebel trains were within a mile of our front. They seem to have chosen this as their final standpoint. They opened on us this morning with several batteries from the top of the mountain.
“June 23d, skirmishing as usual. Heavy cannonading in our front. Shot and shell pass over us by the wholesale. The regiment moved down nearer the mountain into intrenchments. Several shell dropped where we had just moved from. Skirmishers have advanced one-fourth of the way up the mountain. Companies D and E exchanged coffee for tobacco with the rebel skirmishers last night. Heavy fighting on our right. A shell struck to-day between two men of Co. K as they were asleep, but did no harm.
“June 24th. All quiet on the lines. Our artillery are firing, but get no reply. Think they are hanging out a bait for us to charge the mountain. At two, received orders to fall in, for the purpose of charging old Kenesaw. The boys seemed cheerful and disposed to make the attempt, although it looked as if we could not get up, even if there were no enemy to dispute the attempt. After wasting an hour or more, we were told to take off our traps again, as it had been abandoned for the present. A masked battery has been discovered on the mountain side.
“June 25th. One of Co. E wounded in the shoulder. One more of the same company wounded, and one killed. Weather very hot, and much sickness. The majority of the officers are complaining. Some of the troops moving to the right. Our regiment relieved on the skirmish line. June 26th, Sunday. Not much firing on the skirmish line. Had a sermon from a chaplain on the front line. It was calculated to make an impression, as a thunder storm was rising at the time. The flashes of lightning, the thunder, the darkness, and the constant skirmishing, all combined to make the scene very impressive.
“June 27th. A memorable day! We were awakened at 2 a.m., by the adjutant, packed our knapsacks, fell into line, and moved toward the formidable mountain. It was understood that we had to take it—or at least to make the attempt. We made the attempt, with our regiment as two lines of skirmishers, and got part way up the hill. But the enemy was too strong in force and position for us to effect anything more.”
The 64th contributed its full share to the fearful holocaust of the 27th of June, 1864. Its total loss of officers and men, killed and wounded, was fifty-seven. The adjutant of the regiment was killed.
“Among the severely wounded in this charge of the 27th was James Stoneking, of Co. F, who had his arm amputated close to his shoulder. He was a boy of only nineteen years, but the pluckiest of the plucky. The next day after the amputation, an officer of his company went to the hospital to see how he was getting along, but he was not there. He had got some one to tie a pail around his neck, and had gone blackberrying.
“June 28th. Firing as usual. Some charging done toward noon. June 29th, about the same. June 30th, General Dodge tendered his thanks to the regiment for its gallant conduct on the 26th, and general good conduct during the campaign.
“July 1st. Reinforcements are reported coming up. Troops were moving last night. Some strategic movement is in contemplation. The wounded are sent north on furlough to-day. In the evening we had the heaviest cannonading by our guns I ever heard. Some forty or fifty pieces seemed to be discharged at once. At 3 a.m. of the 2d, the cannonading was resumed, and the skirmishers advanced somewhat. Seven hundred deserters are reported to have come in during the night. In the evening orders came in for companies F and A to relieve the 18th Mo. on the skirmish line, with instructions to hold the enemy in check while our forces moved to the right. Some pretty sharp firing. Our artillery commenced moving, which could be plainly heard by the enemy. We began to suspect that they were evacuating the mountain. At daylight went up the mountain, and had my suspicions confirmed. The Johnnies were gone, except some who were tired of fighting and remained behind. From the summit there is a splendid view of the surrounding country. We found six of our regiment dead on the mountain, who were killed on June 27th, still unburied. The bodies were much decomposed. We gave them a soldier’s burial on old Kenesaw. The colors of the 64th were the first planted on the rebel works.”
General Sherman, in his recent work, says in reference to this evacuation of Kenesaw: “McPherson drew out his lines during the night of July 2d, leaving Garrard’s cavalry dismounted occupying the trenches, and moved to the rear of the army of the Cumberland stretching down the Nickajack. But Johnson detected the movement and promptly abandoned Marietta and Kenesaw. I expected as much, for by the earliest dawn of July 3d, I was up at a large spy glass mounted on a tripod, which Colonel Roe, of the U.S. engineers, had at his bivouac, close by our camp. I directed the glass on Kenesaw, and saw some of our pickets crawling cautiously up the hill. Soon they stood upon the very top, and I could plainly see their movements as they ran along the crest just abandoned by the enemy.”
The men thus seen by General Sherman were Lieut. Knickerbocker and others of the 64th. On calling Lieut. K’s attention to the narrative of Gen. S., he writes:
“As to Gen. Sherman’s account of the evacuation of Kenesaw mountain, he must be mistaken about the cavalry occupying the trenches. The 64th had orders, when they relieved the troops occupying the rifle pits, that they would probably have to cover the movement of McPherson’s corps during the night, but they did not go. The rumble of our artillery, as it moved, could be plainly heard by the rebels, as our men did not muffle the wheels as the rebels did. suspected from the signal whistles, that by this time had become somewhat familiar, that they understood our movements, and were evacuating. I sent word to that effect to Colonel Morrill. He returned answer, ‘Go and see.’ As soon as it was light enough to see, I started up the mountain, moving very cautiously, until assured that most of the enemy had left. On arriving at the summit, I could, of course, be plainly seen by those below. Then commenced a race between the color bearer of the 64th and those of the Ohio regiments, who were climbing the smaller mountain, but the 64th came up ahead.”
We resume the diary: “July 3d. We can see sharp fighting going on beyond Marietta. Prisoners are reported coming in by the hundreds. We marched twelve miles during the night, and got no sleep. July 4th, moved again in the morning about two miles. Our brigade formed in line of battle and moved on the enemy. Sharp firing from their skirmishers. We had one or two wounded. After going half a mile, the line halted, and our regiment deployed in two lines. Our loss during the day was heavy—seven killed and eighteen wounded. Our skirmish line advanced to within one hundred yards of their works about 4 p.m. The 27th and 39th Ohio passed us with a whoop, charged the enemy’s works, and in a trice had possession. Not three minutes before, the rebs were calling to us, ‘Yanks, why don’t you come on?’ and laughing because the 81st Ohio did not move forward at the sound of the bugle. Quite a number of prisoners were taken. The 39th Ohio had its colonel wounded, and about fifty men killed and wounded. This was the way we kept the 4th of July. Fireworks were plenty.
“July 5th. The enemy reported missing from our front this morning. Lay still until after dinner, then moved to the right again about five miles. Very hot; some sun-struck. Camped within four miles of the river, where there was heavy cannonading. The enemy trying to cross. A brigade reported to have surrendered. July 6th, cannonading near the river. Moved one and a half miles to the right and camped.
“July 7th. Lay in camp until noon, when our brigade was ordered to the front about two miles. Piled knapsacks, and advanced down the picket line. At the sound of the bugle we commenced firing by volley, and kept it up until night. A section of the 1st Ohio battery issued a few shells. We never fought at such long range before. One of our company had coat, pants and drawers perforated by a bullet, which was the extent of our casualties this day. The enemy opened on us with two batteries in our front, but their shot fell short. We were relieved at dark by the 18th Mo.
“July 8th, lay in camp. The skirmishers moved down to the river last night, and made an agreement with the rebs not to fire on each other, and then went in swimming together in the Chattahoochie, and traded coffee for tobacco, and exchanged papers, as though they were the best of friends.
“July 9th, marching orders again, moved to the left, marched about 16 miles and camped about a mile beyond Marietta. Captain Reynolds is here quite sick, and Albert Ashley was detailed to nurse him by order of General Veatch. Two men of Co. F sent to hospital.
“July 10, moved at 9 a.m. The 39th and 64th Ohio brought up the rear. Moved very slow, raining heavy. We had to wade two streams waist deep. Stopped on the bank of the river at a village called Roswell, which has a starch factory, and did contain cotton factories, but our cavalry had burned them. They contained great quantities of cloth for confederate uniforms. The river is wide here and rapid. July 11th, crossed the river on a foot bridge and camped so as to protect the crossing. In afternoon commenced throwing up intrenchments, and finished them before morning. Saw Captain Holden, of the 88th, to-day. July 13th, lay in camp, nothing important. Went into the river and helped get out one of the 43d Ohio, who was drowning.
“July 14th, lay in camp. There was a shower came up, with sharp lightning. Three men in the 18th Missouri were killed by lightning and two or three in a battery, other casualties reported across the river in the 16th corps. July 15th, the 17th army corps took 4,000 prisoners and nine pieces of artillery. July 17, moved about six miles to Nancy Creek, where we came up with the enemy’s cavalry and artillery, and charged and drove them one and a half miles. The 39th deployed in front. No one hurt in the regiment. Were relieved at dark. Our scouts killed two rebels and one old rooster.
“July 18th, moved again in the morning. Our brigade in front. No fighting. Camped about 3 p.m. Had honey, goose and potatoes for dinner. July 19th, moved, 64th in the advance. After going two miles, the cavalry found the enemy. We expected to get into Decatur before night. The 23d army corps beat us in. Not much resistance; we moved into and through town, when the enemy opened on us with artillery, severely wounding our surgeon, Dr. Stewart and five men. The 65th was then deployed and drove them back. Our advance in that direction seems to have been unexpected. The enemy burned the depot with a lot of corn and government wagons. Our troops tore up and destroyed the railroad for some distance.
“July 21st, the 17th army corps made a charge this morning and took the first line of the enemy’s works, losing heavily. In the afternoon our brigade moved to the extreme left and formed the third and fourth line in the rear of the 17th corps, expecting an attack on our flank. Staid there all night without blankets. July 22d, about 10 a.m. the brigade was ordered out on the double quick. The 64th was heavily engaged hand to hand, charging the enemy three times, and capturing forty prisoners and one battle flag, and also recovering the field glass and papers of Gen. McPherson who had been killed and robbed by the enemy. The flag of the 64th was pierced this day by eighteen musket balls, one shell and a bayonet thrust. The regiment lost fifteen killed, fifty-seven wounded and seven missing. Among the wounded is Lieutenant Zuell, of Wilmington, severely in the bowels.”
I will here say what Lieut. Knickerbocker, from whose diary the foregoing extracts have been taken, is too modest to say,—that this affair was a very brilliant one. Captain Reynolds, being at this time sick, the command of Co. E devolved upon Lieut. K., who, aided by Lieut. D. W. Moore, of Co. E, and several sergeants, succeeded in rallying about seventy men from various regiments, and threw a skirmish line across the gap between the 16th and 17th corps, capturing as above stated, forty prisoners, among them the man who had rifled the body of General McPherson. This important capture was made by a private of Co. F, Frederick W. Sonner, who handed the dispatches—(Sherman to McPherson), to Lieut. Knickerbocker, who delivered them to the brigade commander, introducing Sonner to his notice, with the expectation that he would have honorable mention in the reports of the affair, which, however, Sonner did not get. Sherman thus speaks of the affair in his work: “Fortunately the spot in the woods where McPherson was shot, was regained by our troops in a few minutes, and the pocket book found in the haversack of a prisoner of war captured at the time, and its contents were secured by one of McPherson's staff.” To Frederick W. Sonner, a private, should be accorded the credit of this recovery, and to Lieuts. Knickerbocker and Moore, and their brave men the recovery of the ground. The reader of the general history of this engagement will understand how timely this movement of these lieutenants and sergeants was. This little squad of men remained on the field the longest of any, coming out of the fight in good order with the regimental colors.
Lieut. Knickerbocker was himself wounded, though slightly, in this engagement. That it was not a serious and indeed a fatal wound, is due under Providence to the memorandum book, containing the journal from which I have been quoting, one corner of which was struck by a minie ball, turning it aside, and thus probably saving the life of the brave lieutenant.
In this battle little Frank Swearenger, of Co. G, saved the life of Lieut. Crews, of that company, and lost his own. The fight had become a hand to hand one, and only a fence separated the combatants. A rebel soldier had his gun aimed at Lieut. Crews, and was about to fire when Frank S. with his musket clubbed, struck him down from the fence, and turning said to Crews, “Lieutenant, I saved you that time.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the brave boy fell himself mortally wounded. From the 22d to the 27th, the regiment was engaged in skirmishing. On the 28th it was again hotly engaged. It was detached from the brigade and sent to the 15th army corps. Here it took a position on a rise of ground for the purpose of silencing a rebel battery. It had just time to throw up temporary breastworks when the enemy charged and were repulsed. The charge was repeated three times and failed. The regiment was armed with the Henry repeating rifle, and handled them with deadly purpose and effect. The number of dead rebels in its immediate front is said to have exceeded the number of the regiment. Only two or three were hit in the regiment.
From this time until August 26th, the regiment was engaged in the siege of Atlanta, constantly at work and under fire. On the 26th of August it moved out of the works down the Sandtown road, marching all night, and the 27th and 28th struck the Montgomery railroad, and was engaged on the 29th in tearing up the track. On the 30th marched to the Macon railroad, and on September 2nd passed through Jonesboro and Lovejoy, and on the 8th went into camp at Eastpoint, Atlanta having been evacuated the 1st.
On the 28th of September the division was transferred to the 17th army corps. The 64th was now in 1st brigade, 1st division 17th army corps. Brig. Gen. J. W. Fuller, commanding the brigade, and Major Gen. J. A. Mower, the division, and Major Gen. F. B. Blair, the corps.
October 1st, the regiment went to Fairburn on a reconnoisance. Returned on the 3d, and on the 4th commenced the chase after Hood. Went to Atlanta, crossed the Chattahoochie at midnight, and marched all night in the rain. Camping in the works at Marietta. Thence on northward through Kingston, past Adairsville, arriving at Resacca the 15th.
This was a terrible march, the hardest yet experienced. Says a member of the regiment, “For two days and nights we did not stop to eat or sleep. Where we crossed the Chattahoochie, several men lay down completely used up, never to get up again. I saw many march in their sleep, one walked off a bridge, falling some ten feet, injuring himself considerably. By the time we arrived at the end of the march, the loss of mules and horses was fearful. We realized the fact more fully on our return some days after, as by that time they were about half decomposed, and the road being most of the way through the woods, our olfactories received the full benefit. Of some of the companies, neither officers nor men came in until the march was concluded. Co. F started with forty-five men, but came in with only fifteen.
“All company officers were required to march in the rear of their companies, and in more than one instance were obliged to pick the men up and set them on their feet, and put their guns into their hands. Whenever the wagons got clogged, the men would drop in their tracks and be asleep by the time they touched the ground. Our Colonel Manning also rode in the rear of the regiment, to assist in keeping up the stragglers. One night after one of the temporary halts, he saw as the men commenced moving, something laying on the ground that looked like a man, called out to him, “Wake up sir, your company is moving.” But there was no movement and he spoke again, louder and sharper, “Get up, sir, and move on.” Still no response or movement. “Will you get up?” he says, accompanying the words with a slap with his sabre. But still he did not move or speak, when the Colonel got just a little out of humor, and said, Now, sir, get up or I will prick you," and he did so pretty savagely. The boys standing around could hold in no longer, and burst into a roar, and the Colonel found that he had been talking to a dead mule on which the boys had just been sitting.”
During the night of the 15th, Captain Conger, with Co. A, moved in advance as a reconnoitering party to Snake Creek Gap. Here they encountered the enemy who had got possession of the old works. A sharp skirmish was the result, in which Captain C. was mortally wounded. To the 1st division was assigned the task of driving them out. The 64th maintained its well-earned reputation in this engagement, losing besides Captain Conger, nine men wounded. Captain Logan, who had a little before rejoined the regiment, although still weak, thus speaks of this engagement in a letter to the Republican, written at the time.
“Arriving near the works in the thick woods about 10 a.m., we were ordered to take them in the rear through the dense thicket by the left flank. On we march, past the entire division. Forming into line, off go the knapsacks, and we advance. Arriving at the edge of the woods, we emerge into a cornfield. Down goes a fourteen rail fence. Passing the field, we scramble on through briars, bushes, sloughs and creeks. The rebs open fire, and the splinters from the trees fly in our faces. Double quick is ordered, and with a yell we rush on. I soon fell exhausted in Snake Creek, the cold water of which saves me from sun stroke. On recovering I perceive amid the shouts of ten thousand voices, our glorious ensign flying over the rebel works. Victory is again ours!
“The day after the fight we were out of rations, and all that our mess, consisting of seven, had for dinner, was two ears of corn between us. Two days after we were in Sugar Valley, the richest and most beautiful in the world. Here we got leave to forage, and in order to give you an idea of what foraging is, I must tell you how some of the Will county boys of my company looked on the 19th, about two hours before halting for the night. Although tired with a twenty mile march, here comes Sergeant Berow, my foraging captain, with half a sheep hung on his rifle; Michael Keefe with a young hog on his back—Mike loves pork; Pat. O’Connor is similarly loaded; Ed. Lizur has a sack of sweet potatoes; John Stone has a pail of honey—his face somewhat demoralized in getting it; Sergeant Sanders has a pail of syrup; Victor Henry and Frank Simpson are loaded down with potatoes and pork; Barney Lynch, just out of hospital, has as much as he can travel under of pork, mutton and chickens, and little Pat. Harrison, from Five Mile Grove, decently loaded with chickens and turkeys, and two great geese astride his neck, and looking half man and half goose, and swearing like a trooper for daylight, to the no small amusement of the boys.
“Up to this time, the entire loss in Co. G is forty-four—twenty-five killed, seven prisoners, and the rest wounded and sick. I am proud to say that in all the terrible conflicts in which the 64th has been engaged, the Will county boys, with but one exception, have never faltered in the presence of the enemy, but have bravely done their duty, as has the rest of the regiment.”
Marching by way of Lafayette and Summerville, the regiment arrived on the 21st of October at Gaylesville, Ala. On the 29th, marched via Cave Springs to Cedartown. Had a skirmish with the enemy’s cavalry. Moved to Smyrna camp ground on the 6th of November. On the 13th it returned to Atlanta, and on the 15th commenced the “march to the sea.”
During this march, and the subsequent existence of the regiment, it was in command of Captain J. S. Reynolds, who had been promoted major. We shall not give a minute record of this march to the sea, which has been so often described. The experience of the 64th did not differ materially from that of other parts of the grand army. As it left Atlanta, and for the first day or two of the march, the sky was darkened by day with the smoke of burning buildings of Atlanta and the vicinity, and lit up by the lurid flames at night. Its position was in the left hand column of the right wing of Sherman's army of 60,000 infantry. Passing through McDonough, Jackson, Monticello, Hillsboro, to Gordon Station, it there engaged in the business of tearing up and destroying the Macon & Savannah railroad. The regiment had no encounter with the enemy until it reached Poole’s Station, about twelve miles from Savannah, where it had a lively skirmish on the 9th of December. On the 10th it assisted in the investment of Savannah, skirmishing with the enemy during the day. On the 16th it marched to Kings Bridge, on the Ogeechee. On the 17th moved south, and on the 19th reached Doctortown on the Gulf railroad and the Altahama river. After destroying the railroad at this point, it returned to Savannah on the 23d. Thus, after a leisurely march of 300 miles in twenty-four days, it sat down with the rest of the grand army between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers, waiting for the plum, now ripe, to fall into its mouth. In common with the rest of the army, it was in even better health and spirits than when it left Atlanta. It had lived on the fat of the land, finding chickens, honey, pork, mutton, sweet potatoes, and rice, in great abundance, and without having far to go to find enough for the wants of the army. And let it be remembered, that this was in the vicinity of Andersonville, where our poor boys—more than twenty-five of whom were from Will county—were being starved into idiocy and death.
But while the boys were fat and saucy, they were also black and dirty, and could hardly be distinguished from the contraband that accompanied them, being blackened with the smoke of the resinous pine knots with which they built their camp fires.
As every reader knows, the plum fell into Sherman’s hands on the 22d, who sent it as a Christmas gift to FATHER ABRAHAM.
At Savannah, Lieut. Knickerbocker, whose time of enlistment had now expired, bade farewell to the regiment and to army life. Having served the country well and bravely for three years, and until the rebellion was evidently on its last legs, he came home and hung up his sword by the side of his grandfather’s, who had held the same rank in the army of the revolution.
Jan. 3d, 1865, the regiment (with the 17th corps), embarked at Thunderbolt for Beaufort, S.C., and on the 13th left Beaufort and arrived at Pocotaligo. Here there was quite a brilliant little affair in getting possession of the place. The 64th, under command of Major Reynolds, made a charge on the enemy’s works and captured them. The boys gave the place a slight change of name, calling it “Poke-em-till-I-go.”
Jan. 31st, on which day the movement of Sherman’s army northward commenced, the 64th moved from Pocotaligo, having previously been engaged in making some demonstrations against the enemy at the Salkahatchie and Combabee ferry. Feb. 3d, they crossed the Salkahatchie at Rice’s ferry, in the face of the enemy, crossing a swamp nearly tree miles wide, in which the water was from knee to waist in depth, and very cold, as was the weather also. The enemy then fell back behind the Edisto, and the division was pushed on to Midway, where it was engaged with the rest of the corps in the destruction of the S. C. R. R., to the 10th of Feb. Then moved to Orangeburg, where the enemy was intrenched at the bridge, but it was soon routed, and the corps was across the North Edisto and destroying the railway. Marched thence to Columbia, and witnessed its burning by the rebel General Hampton, who had with insane folly set fire to the cotton in the streets, to keep it from falling into the hands of the yankees. Thence it marched to Winesboro and Cheraw, to Fayetteville, N.C.
March 20th it arrived at Bentonville, and on the 21st the entire regiment was on the skirmish line. The division had been ordered to make a demonstration against the left flank of the enemy. It therefore moved to Mill Creek and formed in line of battle, with the 64th in front as skirmishers. After advancing a little way through a swamp, they encountered the enemy’s cavalry, with four pieces of artillery, and at once charged them, capturing a caisson. Major J. S. Reynolds was in command, and was ordered to drive the enemy as far as he could with the skirmishers. He succeeded in driving the enemy’s cavalry and artillery two miles, capturing Gen. Joseph E. Johnson’s headquarters, with forty horses belonging to his staff and escort, and twelve prisoners. The regiment was now in the rear of Johnson’s army and on the line of his retreat. Gen. Mower was moving to his support, when he was attacked with great fury on his left flank by Gen. Hardee’s corps, and was being forced back toward the swamp.
The 64th was now in great danger of being surrounded and captured. But Major Reynolds here displayed that skill, courage and presence of mind which showed him worthy of the promotion which he afterwards received, and which would justify still higher honors. He changed his position so skillfully and quickly as to give him a great advantage. The moment he saw his supports were being driven back, he contracted his line, and directing Capt. Long, who was acting as major, to watch the enemy’s cavalry, with companies A and F, he attacked the enemy with the rest of the regiment, with great vigor and intrepidity. The effect was everything that could be desired. General Hardee, supposing, no doubt, that he was being flanked by a large force, fell back with haste to re-form his lines, and did not discover the true state of affairs, until Gen. Mower had got his division safely across the swamp. The 64th then gave the enemy a parting souvenir, and also fell back across the swamp.
Sergeant Lamb, on the retreat, kept up a running fight, killing six rebs, loading as he ran; but, being overtaken while loading, he had to surrender, but he first broke his gun around a tree. The rebs paroled him, having first robbed him of his watch and pocket book.
The 64th lost thirteen men in this affair. Had it not been so skillfully handled, its losses must have been much greater. Its formidable sixteen-shooters were never handled to better effect. Both Generals Mower and Fuller highly complimented Major Reynolds, and the officers and men of the regiment generally, for their gallantry on this occasion. Major Reynolds was also recommended for promotion as brigadier general, which honor he received subsequently.
The march northward was resumed, and on the 24th of March the 64th camped at Goldsboro. Thence it proceeded on to Washington, by way of Raleigh. It reached the capital of the Union it had so bravely aided in preserving, on the 19th of May. It then took part in the grand review. Being armed with the deadly Henry sixteen-shooters, (at their own expense), the men attracted special attention and received frequent cheers.
June 6th, it left for Louisville, Ky., and on July 11th was mustered out of service. The regiment arrived at Chicago on the 14th, and received its final pay and discharge July 18th, 1865. Colonel John Morrill (breveted brigadier general), commanded the regiment until he was severely wounded, July 22, 1864. Lt. Col. Manning then commanded it until Nov. 22, 1864, when Capt. J. S. Reynolds, promoted major, took command and retained it until muster out, being promoted lieutenant colonel May 8th, and breveted brigadier general at muster out. Capt. Logan, of Co. G, was promoted major. A reference to the roster will show the other promotions of Will county men.
Before closing the record of the 64th, I want to make special mention of two of its privates, no suitable opportunity having been presented in the body of the narrative.
By reference to the muster roll of the regiment, it will be seen that JOHN SMITH, whose military record I have given at some length elsewhere, was also a member of Co. E, in this regiment. It will also be seen that he is reported as “absent, in arrest, at muster out.” Seeing this statement, and being naturally anxious to rescue the memory of my pet hero from this stain, I have been on the lookout for some favorable explanation of this matter. Most happily, I have found one which affords partial relief. In one of the letters written home from the regiment by a corporal of Co. E, (now dead, poor boy!) I find this statement: “Big John Smith shot two copperheads in Ottawa, and deserted. He got scared, and dare not come back to us; but if he had come back, the colonel would not have done anything to him.”
This is some explanation, and affords considerable satisfaction, inasmuch as it shows that it was not for cowardice or disloyalty that my hero was put in arrest. But just what his offense was, I have not been able to ascertain. I am at a loss to conjecture what the animal was that John Smith shot. It seems to me it could not have been the Trigonocephalus Contortex, the reptile to which the name of “copperhead” was usually given, for though a native of America, it has never, I believe been found so far north as Ottawa. I remember that in the early settlement of this county, the prairies were infested with a species of the Crotalus, which was familiarly called “massasauger,” but I have never known it to be called a “copperhead.” And then, why should it have been an offense which could have made John Smith fear the authorities, civil or military, if he had shot either a Crotalus or a Trigonocephalus Contortex, or indeed any number of them! Such reptiles being ferre naturœ, and venomous withal, are liable to be shot at will. The whole subject is involved in mystery, and I am compelled to leave it unsolved. There was also in this same company another representative of this renowned family, to-wit, Christian Smith. He is registered as being from Chicago, but this is of course a mistake. Without any hesitation I have transferred his name to the Will county list. I have only one item of special interest to record of his military history. On the 4th of July, 1864, he was severely wounded in that part where the Spartan mother, in her pride, prayed her son might not be. Let it be charitably remembered that we fight now altogether differently from the style of her time, and now a man cannot select the spot where he shall be hit. The wound, happily was not mortal, but it was a long time very inconvenient. This was a hard way to keep the 4th of July, but that’s the way they did it in Georgia, in the year 1864. Let this go into history as another blazon on the escutcheon of the Smith family!
In closing our record of the Yates Sharpshooters, we are deeply sensible that our imperfect narrative will convey but a feeble impression of the services rendered, and the sufferings and dangers endured by them, in common with most of our Illinois regiments. From New Madrid to Goldsboro, it fought its way through hardships and dangers which can never be fully told. Being one of the sharp shooting regiments—armed with the deadly Henry rifle, it was always kept in advance, and allowed the post of honor and of danger, and on many a hard fought field, its men displayed their skill and valor: At the battle of Corinth, it received the special commendation of Gen. Rosecrans. At Kenesaw after the terrific 27th of June, it was thanked by Gen. Dodge, for its bravery and success. In front of Atlanta it received the thanks of Gen. Fuller—and at Bentonville of Gens. Fuller and Mower.
It is impossible now to conceive how men could so cheerfully endure the constant hardships and exposure of the Atlanta campaign, when scarcely a day passed when some companion was not left behind, hastily buried in the inhospitable soil, or bleeding beneath some tree, awaiting the tardy care of the surgeon; while every day brought its reports of rebel barbarities practiced upon the wounded and dead. Most of the time too was passed in cramped trenches and rifle pits, under the fire of rebel batteries, and the keen watch of sharp shooters, when the slightest exposure was sure to be fatal,—all aggravated by hard, and ofttimes deficient rations, and insufficient clothing, and by the intense heat of a Georgia sun, alternated with terrific storms and rain-pours without shelter. On the route northward from Savannah, many of the regiment marched two hundred miles barefoot, much of the time skirmishing through swamps, and enduring all without a murmur.
Of the one thousand men and officers that left Ottawa after veteranizing and recruiting, in March 1864, only four hundred and fifty returned for muster out. Of company E—Captain Grover's company—only five of the original enlistment returned with Lieut. Feeley.
Our county lost fifty-six men in this regiment. Two valued officers, Captain Grover and Sergeant Clark, were killed at Corinth, as has been related. Sergeant Wm. Paul, from whose letters I have several times quoted, and who died of Typhoid fever on the Atlanta campaign, was the son of our citizen, Wm. Paul, then a resident of Troy, and brother of Oliver Paul of the 100th. One man, Israel Parker, died in Andersonville.
Let us who reap the benefits of the sufferings of our brave boys, gratefully remember the dead, and honor the living, and resolve to transmit inviolate Union and Freedom they helped to preserve.
Transcribed by Scott and Mary Gutzke, 2003.