NINETY-SIXTH ILLINOIS INFANTRY REGIMENT
Compiled by Vernon B. Paddock
“The survivors of Company B, like those of many other organizations will, never forget the terrible battle of Chickamauga and the tempest of shot and shell of the enemy passing through their ranks, like a whirlwind of death, leaving upon the field to die many of their bravest and best men, while others were borne to the rear, many of them crippled and maimed for life. The Company went into the battle with less than forty men. Of these, four were killed or left dying upon the field, nine were wounded, one was taken prisoner, and nearly one-half of the remainder had their clothing pierced by bullets.”
“Soldiers of the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry mustering at Waukegan, circa 1865”
(photo from the Lake County, Illinois History “Lake County’s Entry into the Civil War”
by Diana Dretske, Curator for the Bess Bower Dunn Museum)
Two of the Civil War Veterans, buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery, that served in the 96th Regiment, Company B were Private Erastus Tyler Cleveland and Private James H. McMillen. Arthur Whitney, who is also buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery, had an older brother, Captain Allen B. Whitney that also served in the 96th Regiment. A detailed description of their Company is written in “History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry” by Charles A. Partridge, Chicago, 1887 (pages 704-714). The writing brings to light the experience Privates Cleveland, McMillen and the soldiers of Company B endured during their almost three year period from training in Rockford, Illinois to the battlefields of Georgia and Tennessee.
“CHAPTER XLII.” COMPANY B. BY GEORGE WAIT”
During the spring and early summer of 1862, although opposing armies were in the field and at the seat of war, the rank-and-file were over-taxed with duty and the Generals command put to their wits’ end to know just what to do. Farther to the north, and more remote from those accompanying scenes of carnage and bloodshed, comparative quiet seemed to reign, and a hope that the worst was past seemed to pervade every neighborhood and fireside. But what a change soon passed over the country! Fresh disasters to our armies set the wires in motion, bearing to the extreme portions of the North the call of our “Father Abraham” for 300,000, and shortly afterward for 300,000 more, making in round numbers 600,000 men. In obedience to these calls, I. L. Clarke, Esq., of Waukegan, and Dr. David Salisbury, of Hainesville, started out in July to recruit and organize a Company, believing that, with the united efforts of the people, Lake County could raise her quota of that might host, and that, too, without a draft. In every town and village the sound of the mustering drum was heard. Patriotic men left the store, the workshop and the farm, eager to place their names upon the rolls, believing the time had come when the preservation of the Union depended upon the united efforts of the people of the North.
Hardly had Messrs. Clarke and Salisbury made the effort to recruit one Company, ere they found they had upon their rolls names enough to make nearly two, and so by mutual consent they parted. About twenty men who had signed a roll in the village of Wauconda joined Dr. Saulsbury, and a Company was organized at Hainesville, Ill., on Saturday, August 10, with David Saulsbury as Captain, Rollin H. Trumbull, of Wauconda, as First Lieutenant, with a total of one hundred men, varying in age, with a few exceptions, from seventeen to thirty-five, and in appearance and power of endurance equal to the heroes of the 15th and 37th Regiments, or, in fact, to the men of any other organization that had previously left Lake County. When formed in line, as they were upon one or two occasions, they gave the little village of Hainesville quite a military appearance.
Shortly after the organization of the Company, and after swords had been presented to the officers by the patriotic citizens of Avon and Wauconda, the Company was disbanded for a time, the men being allowed to return to their homes, gather up their effects and provide for the future of their families (such of them as had families), as best they could, previous to entering camp, September 1. As the men, or boys as most of them were, were about to start for Waukegan, en route for Rockford, Ill., where they were to enter camp, who can describe the feelings of father and mother, of brother and sister, of wife and children, as they parted with their loved ones, – many of them never to meet again this side of the River of Death! The writer remembers one instance where friends gathered around a young man who, when a lad of four or five years, was left an orphan, and, without so much as a brother or sister, had made the journey of life to manhood alone, a neighboring farmer took him by the had, and when he could trust his voice to speak, he said: “If the time ever comes, in the future, that you need money, a home, or a friend, come or send to me.”
September 3 found the members of the Company all together again in Waukegan. The Company was formed on the Court House Square, and again sworn into the service, although it had previously been sworn in, at Hainesville, by Esquire Marvin. During the Company’s brief stay in Waukegan some of the men were quartered at the Sherman House, some at the Waukegan House, and others at the City Hotel.
The morning of September 5 found the men taking leave of the friends who had remained in town to see them off. Then, tendering their thanks to the patriotic ladies of Waukegan, who had presented each member of the Company with a nicely arranged pin and needle cushion, the Company marched down to the depot, and, with the other three Companies from Lake County, was soon on board the train. Hardly had the train got under motion over the up-grade, when it came to a station, then called Rockland, where there was standing what was, no doubt, a truly loyal and patriotic citizen, waving his handkerchief. Hanging upon his arm was a basket containing a nice roast of beef. A white-haired youth of Company B. believing that, to be good soldier, one should begin early and learn easy, slipped his foot through the handle of the basket, and, as the boys used to say, “took it in.” This was the first indulgence in what afterward became a prominent feature of the War, namely, foraging.
The train made but a short stop at Chicago, and was soon moving on its way, a few hours’ run bringing it to Rockford, where the four Companies disembarked and marched through the city to Camp Fuller. When the men were ordered to break ranks, each one made a rush for the barracks to secure a bunk; the next thing in order being refreshments. Hardly had the fires been kindled, and the dinner, – or supper, as it might be called, – got under way, when the order was given to fall in, and Company B, with the other Companies, marched out and was mustered in as a Regiment. This being the third time Company B had been sworn into the service, the mustering officer no doubt thought it would do, so the men were marched back to camp to finish the meal already cooking. The coffee was again warmed up, the meat given another turn in the skillets, and when the men were gathered around the rude table which contained meat, soft bread and molasses, the expression upon each one’s countenance seemed to say, – “ I am not ding at mother’s table, but at Uncle Sam’s Hotel.”
After finishing their meal the men took a stroll around camp for a short time previous to entering the barracks, where they spent the evening in singing songs and telling stories, and if any gloomy thoughts were entertained of home, they were not expressed, but each one seemed to do his part to pass off the first evening in camp as pleasantly as possible. When the hour for retiring came, most of the boys had their first experience in making up beds, – which consisted of straw without a tick, pillows without a feather, and the soft side of a pine board for a mattress, – that would not let them sleep long enough to have any sweet dreams of home without waking them up and causing them to turn over. The next morning the men came out of their quarters seemingly refreshed, and ready for any duty that might be assigned them.
Captain Saulsbury, the previous evening, having drawn the second letter in the list, the Company was ever after known as Company B. The list of non-commissioned officers were announced, as follows: Sergeants, E. J. Gillmore, Morris S. Hill, George H. Burnett, Orskine Ferrand and Henry Annis; Corporals, Ambrose A. Banks, George Wait, William D. Whitmore, John D. Fulsom, Daniel Osman, Samuel H. Lindsay, Arthur Cook and Willard Whitney. The men were arranged in the Company according to size or height, and the commissioned and non-commissioned officers assigned to their places. The Company daily went out for Company drill, usually under command of Lieut. O. S. Johnston, of Waukegan, who had been service in the 51st Illinois, and was a good drill-master. When the Regiment went out for battalion drill Company B took its place upon the left of the Regiment, next to Company G, a position that ever afterward, when on the march, the order being right in front, gave it the rear, and if left in front, the advance of the Regiment. Few things of interest transpired while the Regiment was in camp at Rockford. The drawing of arms and accourtrements was a matter of curiosity as well as interest. The men looked with equal curiosity upon the knapsack, in which they were to carry their clothing and everything pertaining to the comfort of the outer man; the haversack, in which they were to carry their food to strengthen the inner man; the canteen, from which they were to slake their thirst; the cartridge box, in which they were to carry their supply of ammunition; and their guns, with which they were to help whip into subjection those who dares to raise their arm against the Constitution and the Flag of our country.
An incident occurred when the outfit was drawn that brought a smile upon the faces of all. George Rix, of Company B, after packing his knapsack with his personal effects, and strapping his overcoat and blanket upon the top, found it to be a healthy looking object and a burden not easily borne. Being full of pluck and nerve, he placed it upon his back and made secure the fastenings; then, straightening up, he looked at his shadow to see what kind of an appearance he made; then looking over his shoulder, and acting as if scared at the object he saw, he went prancing around the camp like a wild colt loose upon the prairie, with a rider stripped to his back. Little did his comrades think then that within four short months, through the deep muds of Kentucky, keeping step to the sound of the muffled drum, they would be following him to his last resting place.
October 8 found the Regiment under orders for Cincinnati, and the members of Company B hurrying to their place on the left of the Regiment. The command of Colonel Champion was repeated by the Captains along the line, – “Right, face!” “Forward, march!” – and the Ninety-Sixth was marched to the city, boarded the train, and was soon on its way to the front. While the Regiment was in barracks at Covington, Ky., a portion of the Company, under command of Sergeant Ambrose A. Bangs, was detailed to guard Fort Mitchell. When the Regiment started for Lexington, Ky., Company B was one of the five Companies under Colonel Champion, marching via Williamstown and Georgetown. When Lexington was nearly reached the Regiment came to a halt, and the men of Company B, tired of their long march, stood leaving upon their guns. Dighton Granger, a lad of twenty years, with no matrimonial prospects, so far as any one knew, gave his knapsack a nudge, and, turning to his filemate, said: “My! We will help put down this Rebellion, but if there is ever another war, our children will have to go to the front.”
At Harrodsburg Company B received notice of the death of Hiram W. Hollister, at Lexington, November 25, his being the first death in the Company. While at Danville the Company received notice of the resignation of First Lieutenant Rollin H. Trumbull, who had been sent to hospital at Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon the receipt of this notice Allen B. Whitney was promoted from Second to First Lieutenant. The election was an interesting though friendly one, and resulted in a tie between Corporals John D. Fulson and George Wait, and, consequently, no choice was made. A few days later the Company officers, to make good a promise given by them at the organization of the Company, when it was thought Captain Salisbury would be made a member of the Medical Staff, sent the name of First Sergeant E. J. Gillmore to Governor Yates, and requested that he be promoted to Second Lieutenant, which was done.
Company B was detailed, December 29, 1862, to guard the Hickman Bridge across the Kentucky River, on the Lexington and Danville pike, but rejoined the Regiment January 3, 1863. After the return of the Regiment to Danville from the Lebanon march, through a torrent of rain, nearly one-half of the men in the Company were sick, three of the number, – George Rix, James Brown and Alfred Collins, – dying within a short period. During the last day’s march from Danville to Louisville, William S. Skinner deserted; and while ascending the Cumberland River by transport, Corporal John D. Fulsom and Lafayette Collins deserted. While the Regiment was in camp at Nashville, Tenn., Captain David Saulsbury resigned, and Allen B. Whitney was promoted from First Lieutenant to Captain, E. J. Gillmore from Second to First Lieutenant, and George H. Burnett from First Sergeant to Second Lieutenant.
During the first year, and previous to the battle of Chickamauga, the losses of the Company were twenty seven, as follows: the losses of the Company were twenty seven, as follows: Captain David Saulsbury, and Lieutenant Trumbull, resigned; Morris S. Hill, William Bottom, Williams S. Clark, Hiram Boogar, John H. Crosby, George H. Day, Whitman O. Fisher and James Young were discharged; James Brown, James Bottom, Alfred Collins, Eleazer Graves, Hiram W. Hollister, James O’Connel, John J. Price and George Rix died; Corporal John D. Fulsom and Privates William S. Skinner and Lafayette Collins deserted; Isaac Barrus and Alfred Castle were detached, and J. W. Devoe was transferred.
The survivors of Company B, like those of many other organizations, will never forget the terrible battle of Chickamauga and the tempest of shot and shell of the enemy passing through their ranks, like a whirlwind of death, leaving upon the field to die many of their bravest and best men, while others were borne to the rear, many of them crippled and maimed for life. The Company went into the battle with less than forty men. Of these, four were killed or left dying upon the field, nine were wounded, one was taken prisoner, and nearly one-half of the remainder had their clothing pierced by bullets. After reaching the right, the Regiment had hardly halted and come to a front, when Charles N. Fox was struck in the breast by a ball and instantly killed. When the Regiment had advanced up the hill a few rods, Thomas Potter was shot in the bowels. He returned to within a few feet of where Charles Fox fell, and lay down and died. When the line had fallen back and re-formed, it was found that William Kimball was missing, having doubtless been killed, although no one saw him fall. The regiment had advanced a second time but a short distance, when Emery Dart was missed, and is supposed to have been killed outright. In the first charge John H. Cruver was wounded in the right elbow so severely that he afterward suffered three operations, having portions of the elbow and five inches of the bone above taken out, and being compelled to carry his arm in a sling three years. Henry Annis was wounded in the left leg, below the knee, and also received a scalp wound. Corporal Hamilton C. Whitney was shot in the side, the ball passing through and coming out the other side. When taken from the field eight days later, under a flag of truce, his wound was filled with maggots. John Cashman received a severe wound in the foot, and never afterward rejoined the Company. Sergeant William D. Whitmore was wounded severely in the shoulder, Caleb Whitney slightly in the heel, William W. Tower severely in the right leg below the knee, and Charles McCusker in the shoulder. Near evening First Sergeant Ambrose A. Bangs received a slight scalp wound. Soon afterward he and Arthur Cook, both of whom had remained too long at the front, differed as to the direction the Regiment had taken in a retrograde movement, each taking his own way; Cook quickly rejoined his comrades, and Bangs soon found himself in the enemy’s lines and a prisoner. The total loss to the Company in killed, wounded and missing at Chickamauga was fourteen.
When the Regiment was drawn up in line at the foot of Lookout Mountain on the morning of November 24, 1863, a thoughtful expression was upon the face of every man, when Charles McCusker stepped out in front, and facing the Company, said: “Well, boys, it is a hard fight that no one gets through to tell the story!” The spell was broken, the order given to advance, and soon all were on the move. When the Regiment was swinging around the point of the mountain, near the white house, Esau Rich was killed, and James Litwiler and Valentine Traut were slightly wounded. A singular circumstance happened during the battle. While Valentine Traut and Gustavus Bollenback were passing a plug of tobacco from one to the other, it was struck by a ball, leaving a portion in each of their hands.
From the battle of Lookout Mountain to the opening of the Atlanta campaign, few things of importance transpired in Company B. The Company took part in the Dalton reconnaissance, but without a loss. The service the men had seen in the past gave them a foretaste of what the future had in store for them, and, to say the least, nearly every man was a hero, ready to stand by his comrades in battle and by the flag of his country at any hazard. In the sharp engagement that followed the first meeting of the enemy at Rocky Face Ridge, May 9, 1864, Fred Brainard was struck in the top of his shoulder, the ball passing downward and causing instant death. Corporal Warren E. Powers was severely wounded in the right arm, and Erastus Cleveland in the left ankle. At Resaca, May 14, while the Company was on the skirmish-line, Herman Hoogstraat was killed, and it was thought by members of the Company that Malcolm McMillen killed the man who shot Hoogstraat. Near evening, after the Company had rejoined the Regiment, James Litwiler was struck by a ball and instantly killed. June 3, Carlisle Druse, while on the skirmish-line in front of the eemy, was killed by a falling tree. June 19, near Kenesaw Mountain, Orskine Ferrand was wounded in the left hand. June 20, at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, Captain E. J. Gillmore was mortally wounded, being shot three times, and dying three days later. Sergeant William D. Whitmore was struck by a ball, and almost instantly killed. David Wells was severely wounded in the left hand. Erastus Cleveland was also wounded in the left hand. August 3, near Atlanta, Myron Gillmore was wounded severely in the left leg, and was never after able to join the Company. August 19, while the Regiment was advancing on the enemy’s skirmish-line, William W. Tower was wounded in the neck and shoulder, and died five days later.
Just previous to the battle of Nashville, Tenn., December 15 and 16, eleven recruits came to Company B, as follows: Herman W. Hall, Ami Lovejoy, William J. Lindsay, John T. Mitchell, Stanislaw Mattax, Walter E. Stone, Volney Washburn, Myron A. Bryant, Owen Dady, Joel Gove and Allen B. Whitney, the latter being Company B’s former Captain. At the battle of Nashville, December 16, 1864, while charging the enemy’s works, John Washburn was instantly killed by a ball which struck him in the breat; Orskine Ferrand was wounded in the left hand; and, after the Company had entered the enemy’s works, Corporal John McCusker was severely wounded in the foot. At the close of the battle Company B was detailed on picket, and was relieved the next morning, drenched with rain, only to find that the Regiment had, nearly two hours previously, taken up its line of march for Franklin. Upon rejoining the Regiment in the evening, Company B received especial commendation from the commander of the Regiment, Major Hicks, for its gallant service.
While the Regiment was in camp at Huntsville, Ala., Gustavus Bollenback went out with a foraging party, and was taken prisoner; but, being one who made the best of everything, and an expert at any kind of a game, he was frequently called upon by his captors to join them in a game of cards, and gaining their confidence, the soon permitted him to help gather wood for the fire. Going out one evening, he got a little in advance and failed to “gather,” but, striking out across the country a distance of thirty miles, he rejoined his Company the next evening, somewhat thinner than when he left it twelve days before, and his growing appetite and frequent visits from tent to tent during the evening made it necessary for the Company to draw rations next morning.
While the Regiment was in camp at Russellville, Tenn., in the spring of 1865, Ambrose A. Bangs, who had been taken prisoner at Chickamauga, rejoined the Company, and was mustered at First Lieutenant.
During the three years’ service, thirty of the Company were struck by bullets or shell in battle. Twenty three died or were killed before the close of the war. Of this number, thirteen were killed or mortally wounded in battle, ten died of disease, – nearly all during the first year. Those dying from disease were James Brown, James Bottom, Alfred Collins, George T. Cooper, Eleazer Graves, Hiram W. Hollister, Nelson Huson, John J. Price, George Rix and Corporal James O’Connel. Sixteen men were discharged for disability, caused by wounds or disease. Two commissioned officers resigned, six men were transferred, three men deserted, and two – Morris Hill and Hiram Weatherly – were promoted to the non-commissioned staff. Twenty-two different men were non-commissioned officers in the Company. Of the commissioned officers, Captain David Salisbury resigned, First Lieutenant Rollin H. Trumbull resigned, Allen B. Whitney was promoted from Second Lieutenant to Captain, and resigned; E. J. Gillmore was promoted from First Sergeant to Captain, and was mortally wounded at Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., dying three days later, greatly regretted by his command; George H. Burnett was promoted from Third Sergeant to Captain, and remained with the Company until the close of the war; Ambrose A. Bangs was promoted from First Corporal to First Lieutenant, and George Wait from Second Corporal to Second Lieutenant. The non-commissioned officers at the close of the war were as follows: Sergeants – Daniel Osman, Samuel H. Lindsay, Arthur Cook and Willard Whitney; Corporals – Charles McCusker, Orville P. Barron, Jerome Burnett, Warren E. Powers, Henry Annis, John McCusker, Caleb Whitney and Major H. Cleveland. Just previous to the Regiment’s leaving Nashville for Chicago, the eleven recruits were transferred to the 21st Illinois. At the final muster-out of the Company, only forty of the original members were present.
During the three years’ service, Company B was never found wanting when called for, and never failed to do its full duty; and now, at the end of more than twenty years, its survivors look with pride upon the results of the war, that they, in their feeble way, helped to bring about, – namely, a happy, united and prosperous nation.”
The following was from Illinois Adjutant General’s Report “Regimental and Unit Historys” – Containing Reports for the Years 1861-1866. The data originates from eight volumes of the publication, “Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois” (1900-1902). Which included the 1886 version of the Report with revisions and corrections to the histories. https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/reghist.pdf
96th Illinois Infantry
“The NINETY-SIXTH INFANTRY VOLUNTEERS was recruited by companies, under the call of the President of the United States, during the months of July and August 1862, and mustered into service as a Regiment at Camp Fuller, September 6, 1862.
Six companies, A, E, F, H, H and K, were from JoDaviess county, and four, B, C, D and G, from Lake county. The mustering into one Regiment of men from Lake, the northeastern county bordering Lake Michigan, and JoDaviess the northwestern county on the banks of the Mississippi, although separated by a distance of two hundred miles, was but the reuniting of old friends, who, in the past, had been associated in the old first Congressional District of this State. The union proved one of lasting harmony and good comradeship, thereby increasing the efficiency of the Regiment.
The month of September was spent in arming, equipping and drilling the men for the field, much proficiency being made therein.
October 6, the Rebel forces under General Braxton Bragg being on the march toward Louisville, Kentucky, and those under General Kirby Smith threatening Cincinnati, O., orders were received to hold the men in readiness to move on short notice.
October 8, orders were received to proceed at once to the defense of Cincinnati. By noon the Regiment, under command of Colonel Thomas E. Champion, was on the cars, and at midnight on the 10th was at its destination. Crossing the Ohio River on pontoons and reporting to Major General Gordon Granger it was assigned a position in the batteries in front of Covington and Newport, Ky.
The first real duty of a soldier was here performed and within sound of the enemy’s guns. The Regiment was attached to and became a part of the Second Brigade, Third Division of the Army of Kentucky, the Division being under the command of that courteous gentleman and thorough soldier Brigadier General Absalom Baird, of the regular army, and the Brigade under Colonel Cochran, of the Fourteenth Kentucky Infantry.
October 19, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac L. Clarke, with Companies A, E, F, G and H, was ordered to the front via Falmouth as escort to a commissary train, and on the 29th, Colonel Champion was ordered with the other five companies to proceed to Lexington, Kentucky, which point was reached November 4, the detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Clarke being already there.
November 14, the Regiment moved to Harrodsburg, where it remained guarding rebel prisoners taken at Perryville until the 28th, when it proceeded to join the Division at Danville, leaving Companies A and E under Captain George Hicks, for some six weeks longer.
December 26, moved out toward Lebanon Junction to intercept John H. Morgan, but the enemy escaping, the command returned to Danville, where it remained until January 26, 1863, when orders were received to join the Army of the Cumberland, near Murfreesboro, Tenn. Tents were immediately struck and the troops, the Second Brigade being then under the command of Colonel Smith D. Atkins, Ninety-second Illinois, marched to Louisville, Ky. Arriving at Louisville January 31, the Division embarked on steamers going down the Ohio River to Smithland at the mouth of the Cumberland River, thence up the Cumberland to Nashville, Tenn., under the convoy of gunboats.
Reaching Ft. Donelson the night of February 3, the gunboats were attacked by General Wheeler, who, assaulting the Eighty-third Illinois, then in garrison, was handsomely repulsed. Troops were landed but were not engaged, as the enemy retreated hastily.
February 7, arrived at Nashville, Tenn., disembarked on the 8th, and went into camp south of the city, until March 5, when the Brigade proceeded to Franklin, 18 miles south, to reinforce the First Brigade under John Coburn then engaged at Spring Hill.
March 9 to 12, skirmished with the enemy under General VanDorn, driving him south of Duck River, after which the command returned to camp at Franklin.
March 27, ordered to Brentwood in rear of Franklin, where the Ninety-sixth and Ninety-second Illinois threw up a strong line of field works. Returned to Franklin, April 8. The Brigade was here attacked by General VanDorn, April 10, but repulsed with some loss. On the night of April 16, while the Regiment was on picket, Company F was attacked and one man, James M. Scott, killed.
June 2, the Division marched to Triune, Tenn., and on the 11th skirmished with the enemy under General Wheeler.
June 14, the Army of Kentucky was reorganized and made a part of the Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland, the Ninety-sixth being assigned to the First Brigade, First Division of said Corps, our commanders being the same, Colonel Smith D. Atkins, of the Ninety-second Illinois, Brigade Commander, Brigadier General A. Baird Division Commander, and Major General Gordon Granger commanding the Corps.
June 23, the Division joined the right wing of the Army operating against the rebel forces under General Bragg, passing through Salem, and across Stone River in the face of the enemy and during a terrific storm.
At Walnut Grove Church, the Ninety-sixth was detached to escort a large body of rebel prisoners to the rear. Having delivered the same to the commander at Murfreesboro, the Regiment rejoined its Brigade on the Shelbyville Pike.
July 1, entered Shelbyville, Tenn., having driven the enemy out of his strong line of earthworks, through the city and across Duck River.
July 3, marched to Wartrace, through heavy storm, and there went into camp.
July 6, Colonel Smith D. Atkins having secured the assignment of his Regiment to the mounted Infantry, Colonel Thomas E. Champion became the Brigade Commander.
August 12, the Brigade marched to Elk River, near Estell Springs. General James B. Steedman was here assigned to the command of the Division, General Baird having been granted a leave of absence by reason of ill health, and General Walter C. Whittaker to the command of the Brigade.
Remained at Elk River and vicinity until September 7, when the Ninety-sixth Regiment, together with all the troops of the Reserve Corps that could be spared from guarding the railroad, three and one half Brigades (14 Regiments of Infantry and 3 batteries of Light Artillery) were collected and hurried forward to reinforce General Rosecrans, now south of the Tennessee River.
September 12, reached Bridgeport, Ala., crossed the Tennessee River and bivouacked on the south side.
September 13 and 14, forced march on south side of river across Lookout Mountain to Rossville, Ga., a distance of 40 miles over mountainous roads, in less than 36 hours.
September 18, moved out on Ringgold to McAfee Church and engaged the enemy, losing Corporal Elisha Haggert, Co. D, killed, and several men wounded. The fighting continued the 19th, with the loss of Captain Charles E. Rowan, captured, and several men wounded, but not until Sunday, September 20, did the Regiment receive its full baptism of blood, and then, on the right of the historic field of Chickamauga.
About 11 o’clock A.M., September 20, 1863, General Steedman, leaving but one Brigade to cover the ground assigned him, and without orders gathered up the two and one half Brigades of 10 Regiments and 2 Batteries, and hurried to the support of General Thomas, 4 miles distant. Reporting to Thomas, he was assigned to the left center, but before becoming engaged, finding the enemy were endeavoring to turn his right, General Steedman was ordered to that flank, where, at 1 P.M., he was engaged and before night had set in that brave soldier and Christian gentleman, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac L. Clarke, was killed, Lieutenants Nelson R. Simms and George F. Barnes mortally wounded, Captains A. Z. Blodgett and William F. Taylor, Lieutenant William Vincent, B. G. Blowney, S. B. Funk and Theodore F. Clarkson severely wounded, and 220 of the rank and file, over 50% of the men engaged, were killed, wounded, or missing, but the command held the ground upon which it had fought Longstreet’s veterans so gallantly, and only left the line when night closed the battle.
On the 21st, the Division held Mission Ridge near Rossville, where the Ninety-sixth lost two companies, after a determined resistance, C and H under command of Lieutenants Charles W. Earle and Charles H. Yates, they being left on picket when the army fell back that night to Chattanooga.
September 23, Brigade ordered to Moccasin Point, north side of Tennessee River, and opposite Lookout Mountain. Here the men were subject to artillery and picket firing daily, from the enemy on and around the point of the mountain.
October 9, the army was re-organized, the reserve corps broken up and distributed to other commands, the Ninety-sixth Regiment assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Fourth Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, with which it continued until mustered out of service at close of war.
During much of the time while on Moccasin Point the weather was exceedingly bad, the men sadly in want of clothing, camp equipage and rations. One-fourth rations being issued for some time and on the morning of October 26, when under orders for Brown’s Ferry, one ear of corn was issued to each officer and man for the day’s rations.
October 27, crossed the river into Wauhatchie Valley, returning to bivouac on the Point; recrossed on the 29th to support General Hooker, in which engagement the Regiment lost several men. Returning to the Point again, to remain but a few days, as on November 1, the Division now under command of Major General David S. Stanley, General Walter C. Whittaker commanding the Brigade, took up its line of march on the south side of the Tennessee River for Shellmound, Tenn., and the Regiment was placed on out-post duty in Nickajack Core., Ga. The troops were here more comfortable than on Moccasin Point, being in receipt of full rations and an abundance of clothing.
November 20, six days rations were issued; reconnoitered the enemy’s line. The 23d, marched up the Wauhatchie and joined the column for the storming of Lookout Mountain, crossing Lookout Creek at daylight of the 24th; ascended the mountain and moved forward, driving the enemy. The Ninety-sixth was then ordered to the extreme right of the front line; climbing up the mountain side, to where it rises perpendicularly, the Regiment was rapidly advanced; flanking the enemy’s works, pouring a destructive fire down the rifle pits, which caused the rebels to give way and fall back to the point near Craven’s House, when night coming on, the enemy evacuated the mountain. Our loss was quite severe in this action.
The next morning the Ninety-sixth Illinois and Eighth Kentucky were ordered to advance and occupy the mountain, which they held until December 1, when orders were received to return to out-post duty, at Nickajac Core, where the Regiment remained until January 26, 1864. The Ninety-sixth was then ordered to cover the working party repairing the East Tennessee Railroad. Reached Blue Springs, February 7, where it camped until the 22d, and then joined the column operating against the enemy in front of Dalton. Moved to the extreme left of the army on the 25th, took position in front line and was heavily engaged all day in the action known as “Buzzard Roost”, after which skirmished until the 28th, when the Regiment returned to camp at Blue Springs, having lost several men during this reconnoissance.
March 1, ordered to Cleveland to fortify and garrison, remaining there until April 23, when camp was broken and the Regiment again joined to its command, preparatory to commencing the Atlanta campaign.
May 3, 1864, moved with command; engaged the enemy on the 9th at Rocky Face Ridge, losing heavily; entered Dalton on the 13th; engaged again at Resaca on the 14th and 15th with heavy loss. Skirmished with the enemy on the 19th and drove through Kingston, south of which the army rested until the 24th. Engaged at New Hope Church on the 25th and again, from the 27th to June 5, in the rifle pits in front of Dallas.
June 10th and 11th, skirmishing, and in action on the 14th at Pine Mountain, where the rebel General Bishop Polk was killed.
15th to 19th, marching and fighting. 20th and 27th, assault on Kenesaw Mountain, in which the Regiment lost heavily,-Colonel Champion and Lieutenant Colonel Smith being severely wounded, and Captains Gilmore and James mortally.
July 3d and 4th, skirmishing and in action at Smyrna Camp Ground. Crossed the Chattahoochie River on the 12th. In action of the 19th and 20th at Peach Tree Creek. July 27th General Stanley was assigned to command of Fourth Corps, and General Nathan Kimball to the command of our Division. From this time until August 25th under continuous (sic) fire in front of Atlanta, and on the 31st in action at Rough and Ready.
September 1st and 2d, engaged in battle of Jonesboro and Lovejoy’s Station, and skirmished until the 6th losing several men in action. Atlanta having been captured, the Regiment returned to camp near the city, where it remained until October 3d, when the march back to the Tennessee River was commenced, camping on many of the battle fields of the campaign.
From Chickamauga the command crossed to Pulaski, Tenn., which place was reached November 3d. On the 23d Hood appeared before Pulaski, and the march for Nashville began. Franklin was reached on the 30th, where the Regiment was again engaged in desperate battle.
Falling back, December 1st, to Nashville, the Ninety-sixth was in front of the enemy, doing picket duty, until December 15th, when the battle of Nashville began, and continued two days, during which time the Regiment behaved gallantly,-carried the enemy’s line near Franklin Pike, planted the first colors on his earthworks, and captured a battery of twelve-pound Napoleons, together with prisoners far exceeding their own number. The loss was quite heavy in killed and wounded in this action. Joining in pursuit of the remnant of Hood’s command to the Tennessee River, the Ninety-sixth exchanged the last infantry shots with that army. The Regiment reached Athens January 4, 1865. From thence marched to Huntsville, Ala., and there camped until March 15th, when it moved to Bull’s Gap and Shield’s Mills, in East Tennessee. Here the Regiment was employed in scouting until the surrender of Lee’s army, shortly after which the command was ordered to Nashville, en route for Texas, to operate against the rebels under Kirby Smith. Arriving at Nashville, it was learned that Smith had surrendered to General Canby, which closed out the last rebel army, and the muster out of troops commenced. The following accompanied the order for muster out:
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, FOURTH ARMY CORPS.
CAMP HARKER, TENN., June 1, 1865.
Brevet Colonel J. C. Smith, commanding Ninety-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry:
You, with the officers and men of the Ninety-sixth Illinois, after three years’ gallant devotion to the cause of our common country, in this war against rebellion, are now about to return to your homes, with honor unstained, and with reputation bright with glory. Your deeds will live forever. In nearly every battle of the southwest you have been engaged, from Fort Donelson, through Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Stone River, Chickamauga, Resaca, Rockyface, Dallas, New Hope, Franklin and Nashville,-you have borne the flag of the Union and the banner of your noble State to victory over the foe who would have destroyed the Government and Union made by our fathers. God has given you the victory. Remember Him. An(d) now, that the war is over, the rebellion at an end, remember those whom you have conquered. Use victory as becomes true men and brave soldiers. Return to your homes with enmity toward none, and charity for all.
I know that you will be the best of citizens, because I know that you have been the best of soldiers. While we, enjoying the honor and privileges which your valor has won and saved, let us ever cherish as idols of our hearts the memory of our comrades who have given up their lives for the salvation of our country-who fell by your sides battling for the right. Remember the widow and orphan of our dead comrades. Be true to them as our comrades were true to us and our country.
My comrades, accept my gratitude for your devotion to me personally; you have been true and noble soldiers, and brave men. May God ever bless you and crown your lives with happiness, and each of you with honor, peace and plenty. Be as you have ever been-true to God, to country, friends, and to yourselves.
Good bye, comrades; again, God bless you.
Brevet Major General.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
CAMP HARKER, TENN., June 9, 1865.
Special Orders, No. 115,
The enlisted men of the Ninety-sixth Regiment Illinois Infantry, whose term of service does not expire prior to October 1, 1865, are assigned to the Twenty-first Regiment Illinois Infantry. The Assistant Commissioner of Musters of this Division will prepare the necessary rolls for this purpose.
By command of Major General Kimball.
ED. D. MASON,
Brevet Lt. Col, and A.A. General
June 11th, the Regiment was ordered to Camp Douglas, Ill., for final pay and muster out of the United States service, where it arrived on the 14th, received pay on the 29th, and on the 30th day of June 1865, the Ninety-sixth Regiment Illinois Infantry Volunteers had passed into history, after an eventful existence of three years, rendered historic by deeds written in blood on many a battle field. The suffering and privations of the brave men of the Ninety-sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers can be best understood when their casualties are remembered, the battles in which they were actively engaged recounted, and the number of miles traveled are known; and not even then can their devotion and sacrifice to the country be sufficiently appreciated.
A careful estimate of the distances traveled from the time the Regiment left Camp Fuller, Rockford, Ill., October 1862, until its return at Camp Douglas, Chicago, June 1865, shows over 5,000 miles marched or transported in the service of the United States.
The casualties of officers and enlisted men were as follows:
Discharged for wounds or disease …………………………………………….187
Killed or died of wounds or disease……………………………………………190
Missing in action……………………………………………………………………… 78
Transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps or other Regiments…………..283
Deserted ……………………………………………………………………………….. 30 Total………………………………………………………………………………………768
The following events and dates of battles in which the Ninety-sixth Regiment Illinois Infantry was engaged, while under the command of Major General George H. Thomas, is taken from a report made to that General on muster-out, to which is added its services under previous commanders:
Defense of Cincinnati ………………………………………………October 1862.
Fort Donelson…………………………………………………… February 4, 1863.
Spring Hill, Tenn …………………………………………………..March 10, 1863.
Franklin, Tenn ………………………………………………………….April 8, 1863.
Triune, Tenn ………………………………………………………….June 11, 1863.
Liberty Gap, Tenn …………………………………………………..June 26, 1863.
Shelbyville, Tenn……………………………………………………..June 29, 1863.
Chickamauga, Ga ………………………………. September 19 and 20, 1863.
Wauhatchie, Tenn ………………………………………………October 29, 1863.
Lookout Mountain, Tenn…………………………November 24 and 25, 1863.
Buzzard Roost, Ga…………………………………………… February 25, 1864.
Rocky-face Ridge, Ga ……………………………………….May 8 and 9, 1864.
Resaca, Ga…………………………………………………..May 14 and 15, 1864.
Kingston, Ga …………………………………………………………. May 19, 1864.
New Hope Church, Ga…………………………………………….. May 25, 1864.
In front of Dallas, Ga…………………………………. May 26 to June 5, 1864.
Pine Mountain, Ga ………………………………………………….June 14, 1864.
Kenesaw Mountain, Ga ……………………………………………June 20, 1864.
Kenesaw Mountain, Ga ……………………………………………June 27, 1864.
Smyrna Camp Ground, Ga ………………………………………….July 4, 1864.
Peach Tree Creek, Ga ………………………………………………July 20, 1864.
Atlanta, Ga…………………………………………….July 22 to August 25, 1864.
Rough and Ready, Ga ………………………………………… August 31, 1864.
Jonesboro, Ga …………………………………………………September 1, 1864.
Lovejoy’s Station, Ga ………………………………………..September 2, 1864.
Franklin, Tenn ……………………………………………….. November 30, 1864.
Nashville, Tenn……………………………………. December 15 and 16, 1864.
In addition to the above general engagements the Regiment was in many of the skirmishes, and all the movements and marches of the Army of the Cumberland, from Murfreesboro until the close of the war and the final pay and discharge, June 30, 1865.
According to the “History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry” by Charles A. Partridge, Chicago, 1887
“Sketch of Company B.” (page 711-712):
“From the battle of Lookout Mountain to the opening of the Atlanta campaign, few things of importance transpired in Company B. The Company took part in the Dalton reconnoissance, but without loss. The service the men had seen in the past gave them a foretaste of what the future had in store for them, and, to say the least, nearly every man was a hero, ready to stand by his comrades in battle and by the flag of his country at any hazard. In the sharp engagement that followed the first meeting of the enemy at Rocky Face Ridge, May 9, 1864, Fred Brainard was struck in the top of his shoulder, the ball passing downward and causing instant death. Corporal Warren E. Powers was severely wounded in the right arm, and Erastus Cleveland in the left ankle…. June 20, at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, Captain E. J. Gillmore was mortally wounded, being shot three times, and dying three days later. Sergeant William D. Whitmore was struck by a ball, and almost instantly killed. David Wells was severely wounded in the left hand. Erastus Cleveland was also wounded in the left hand.
According to the “History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry” by Charles A. Partridge, Chicago, 1887
“Roster of Company B.” (page 720):
“Erastus T. Cleveland. – Age 18; born in Columbia County, N. Y.; farmer; enlisted from Avon, was nearly always with Regiment; was wounded in left ankle at Rocky Face Ridge, and at Kenesaw Mountain was wounded in left hand, causing amputation of one finger; m. o. with Regiment. Is running a hotel and livery at Sutherland, O’Brien County, Iowa.
According to the “History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry” by Charles A. Partridge, Chicago, 1887
“Roster of Company B.” (page 725):
“James H. McMillen. – Age 23; born in Jefferson County, New York; farmer; enlisted from Fremont; was detailed on gunboat “Newsboy,” on the Cumberland River, and served there until the close of the war; m. o. at Nashville, Tenn., June 24, 1865. Is farming near Hainesville, Ill.”