The following story of Arthur Whitney is a detailed account of his Civil War experiences as discovered from The Waukegan Weekly Gazette newspaper clippings between 1861-1863. The results of the research were published in the Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society issue of the January – March 2023 “Quarterly” magazine:
SECOND LIEUTENANT ARTHUR WHITNEY
An Avon Township Farm Boy, A Civil War Soldier Who Fought and Died
By Vernon B. Paddock
The gravestone of Lt. Arthur Whitney in Avon Township’s Fort Hill Cemetery (pictured) was partially covered by overgrown brush and tree limbs when I first discovered it. The original portion of the cemetery suffered similar neglect. Once the brush and tree removal were completed, Whitney’s 8-foot monument stood as one of the tallest in the cemetery. After the stone was thoroughly cleaned the bright white marble stood out from all the others.
(photo by Vernon B. Paddock)
Seeing his gravestone brought many questions: “What battle was he in?”; “What did he experience?”; “How did he die?”. Recently, I started to research his military service. I searched newspaper articles in the Waukegan Weekly Gazette between 1861-1863. I found letters printed in the newspaper that were sent home from local boys in Arthur’s regiment giving me an insight of their experiences. Lt. Whitney fought in two major battles at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove in northern Arkansas. The battles preserved Missouri from the pro-slavery Confederate army. It was the Battle of Prairie Grove where 2nd Lt. Arthur Whitney suffered a major wound and eventually died.
The Whitney Family
Arthur Whitney was born in Ohio in August 1841, son of David (1796-1855) and Nancy Whitney (1801-1873). His parents were born in New York. The family moved to Lake County, Ohio and then in the early 1840’s moved to Lake County, Illinois.
David had nine children and was married twice:
Wife: Mary Arnott
1) Amelia M. Whitney, born about 1824 in NY; married Russell Fuller (1821-1879) in 1846 in Lake County; she died April 14, 1911 in Willoughby, Ohio; 2) Cordelia C. Whitney, born July 1825 in NY; married Daniel Rowley Cheney (1820-1889) in 1848 in OH; she died October 26, 1904 in Colorado Springs, CO and buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Blue Rapids, KS; 3) Harvey Whitney, born about 1821 in NY; married Eliza Ann Jump (1821-1884) in 1842 in Lake County, OH; he died in 1881 in Keokuk County, Iowa and buried in the Sixteen Cemetery, Thornburg, IA; 4) Levi Whitney, born December 24, 1824 in NY; married Phebe Ann Slusser (1833-1901) in 1859 in Lake County, IL; he died September 19, 1911 in Chicago, Co, IL and buried in the Lakeside Cemetery, Libertyville, IL; 5) John G. Whitney, born April 1829 in NY; Civil War Veteran, 1st Company, 15th Massachusetts Sharp Shooters; he died January 29, 1904 in Grant County, IN and buried in Marion National Cemetery, Marion, IN; 6) David Whitney, Jr. (information unknown)
Wife: Nancy Whitney
7) Allen B. Whitney, born about 1834 in Willoughby, OH; Civil War Veteran, Captain of Co. B, 96th Illinois Infantry; married Harriet J. Arnold (1837-1903) in Lake County, IL; he died February 19, 1879 in Chicago, IL and buried in the Grayslake Cemetery, Grayslake, IL; 8) Arthur Whitney (our subject), born August 1840 in Ohio; Civil War Veteran, Co. C, 37th Illinois Infantry and wounded on December 7, 1862 in Prairie Grove, Arkansas; he died March 13, 1863 in Springfield, Missouri and buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery; 9) Martha E. Whitney, born about 1842 in Ohio; she died July 22, 1860 and buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery
It is estimated that the Whitney family arrived in Lake County between 1842 and 1845. In March of 1845, David purchased 10.48 acres in Avon Township (Section 16) according to the Illinois, U.S. Public Land Purchase Records making him an early settler in the County. He also owned about 120 acres in the township.
According to David’s last will and testament filed in Lake County, IL on December 4, 1855, he bequeathed $10 each to his older children, Amelia, Cordella, Harvey, Levi, John and David Jr. To his youngest daughter, Martha, he bequeathed $500. To his wife, Nancy, he gave her all his household furniture and the rest of his personal property along with property and real estate. He also bequeathed the same real estate to his two youngest sons, Allen and Arthur to be divided between them. David died November 18, 1855 and is buried in the Diamond Lake Cemetery in Diamond Lake, Illinois.
Nancy was left with her three children, Allen, Arthur and Martha. In January 1860, her youngest daughter, Martha had died of consumption at the age of 17. The 1860 census records indicate Nancy was living with her stepson, Levi, near Hainesville. At the outbreak of the Civil War, both of her sons, Allen and Arthur, volunteered to fight for the Union. It was recorded that Nancy Whitney married Warren Smith on October 28, 1861 in Lake County. On July 13, 1873, Nancy (Whitney) Smith died in Hainesville at the age of 77 years and 6 months. She was buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery next to her son, Arthur, and daughter, Martha.
Whitney Enlisted in Company H, But No Field Action
The Waukegan Weekly Gazette newspaper in January 1861 printed stories about the events surrounding Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina. Having grown up as a farm boy in Avon Township, 20-year-old Arthur went into Waukegan to enlist in the Union Army on April 1861. On April 20th the Waukegan Gazette reported:
“Without waiting for the supplies to attempt to reach the fort the rebel authorities, demanded the evacuation of the fort and on being refused commenced the attack upon it on Friday April the 12th at 4 o’clock A. M., before the arrival of the fleet. The firing was opened from 7 batteries, and kept up all day, renewed the next morning, and continued until evening when at 9 o’clock P. M., the fort was surrendered….
Upon the receipt of the news at Washington, the Government acted with the utmost promptitude and vigor. The President issued a proclamation, commanding the rebels to disperse within twenty days; calling upon the loyal States to furnish forth with 75,000 men, and calling upon Congress to convene on the 4th of July next. The free States are responding with alacrity and energy. The Governors of Vermont, Maine and Illinois have called extra sessions of their State Legislatures, to pass the necessary laws and make provision for the crisis….
The Chicago Zouaves, it is said, will increase their number to 300 and take the field and it is proposed to arm and equip them by private subscription. The Light Artillery and Cavalry of the same place have been offered to the Government.”
Prior to the news release, local authorities held a meeting on Tuesday, April 16th at the Lake County Court House with patriotic speeches. A second meeting was held the next Thursday at Dickinson Hall and was largely attended. Within a few hours, $1,000 was raised to provide the organizing military companies of volunteers. By Monday, April 22nd, the first company of Lake County had completed the fulfillment of 85 volunteer members, including Arthur Whitney from Avon Township.
A lengthy newspaper article in the Weekly Gazette was printed on April 27th about Zouaves or members of the Volunteers. Portions of the article read:
HOME NOTES OF WAR.
Departure of the Waukegan Volunteers.
Lake County Responds Liberally
To the Call of her Country, in Men and Money
THE WAUKEGAN ZOUAVES THE
FIRST COMPANY IN CHICAGO.
Our People Terribly in Earnest.
Notes of Preparation from
All parts of the County,
&c. &c. &c.
The Great Jehovah tested the faith of His friend Abraham of old, by demanding the offering up of his son Isaac, and Our Abraham has tested the faith of Waukegan, by requiring the offering up of her sons upon her country’s altar.
As in the first case, so is the last, the faith of each has proven itself equal to the task, and on Monday the 22d inst. we witnessed the departure of the first company of volunteers from Waukegan, for Chicago and Springfield, and from there, to whatever point their country calls them.
This Company forms part of the regiment of Zouaves from Chicago, having chosen WILLIAM INNES As their Captain, and B. FRANK ROGERS as First Lieutenant. (Both of these gentlemen were formerly attached to the old Chicago Zouaves, who won such golden opinion for their great efficiency in drill and general deportment during a visit to the east, last summer, under the command of Col. Ellsworth.) The Company is composed of the flower of the Waukegan youth; also, as will he seen by the list below, embracing quite a representation from different parts of the county, of the sturdy farmer boys, who left the plow in the furrow and bid a hasty adieu to wives mothers and sweethearts, were promptly on hand to offer themselves to the supporters of the Stars and Stripes, to do their share towards vindicating the honor of our glorious government, and if need be, die for their country.
The scene at the depot in this city on Monday last, as our boys were about to bid the last good bye to the dear ones at home, is beyond our powers of description. The crowd could not have numbered less than 2,000, and of this large concourse of people the largest share was composed of females; mothers, who had come to take perhaps the last farewell of a darling boy and bid him God speed, upon the uncertain journey on which he was embarking, yet feeling that all was well, that an Eternal God reigns above, and will protect the boy who goes to fight the battles for liberty and right; sisters were there and many were the moistened eye as the last brother’s embrace was given; yet a tenderer chord was touched when the father and husband tore himself away from the wife and child, and the lover from his sweetheart; these were indeed the most affecting scenes of all, and our descriptive powers can do no justice to the occasion. We noticed that the hearts of strong men, those who would not quail before the cannon’s mouth, were not sufficient to this trial, and as the time for parting came, they wept like children….
The flag belonging to the Gazette office, was presented to the Company be the editor, with the request that it should never be allowed to trail in the dust, so long as a single member of the corps had the strength to bear it aloft. It was gladly accepted upon these terms by Capt. INNIS, in behalf of his company, of whom he felt justly proud….
The Company dined together at the Waukegan House, from whence they marched to the cars, preceded by an excellent band of martial music.
Precisely at 12:38 P.M., the train bearing this precious load moved slowly away, amid the patriotic and enthusiastic cheers of the crowd of citizens, parents, wives, sisters, brothers and sweethearts, who had assembled to bid them farewell….
On the arrival of the train at Chicago the Company was met by some officers of the Zouave regiment, and escorted to the Armory where they were provided with an excellent supper, which was in readiness; Capt. INNIS attending personally to his men, seeing that each was properly cared for. During supper and when the attention of the young men could be had, Capt. INNIS mounted a chair, and gave them a short lecture on general deportment, telling them plainly, yet kindly, what was expected of them as men and soldiers.
Among other things, he enjoined upon them habits of sobriety, insisting upon total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks, declaring that he should punish with the utmost rigor, all drunkenness in the ranks/ saying my character is staked on your good conduct. I will love you and will treat you as a father would his son, yet I must have strict, implicit obedience and you will not be suffered to injure one another, or disgrace me.”
The boys received the lecture as it was given, with the kindest of feelings, and gave three cheers for their Captain.
That evening the enlisted men left for Springfield, MO and arrived at Camp Yates the next day. Weeks transpire and illness set in with some of boys. Finally, too many volunteers had enlisted. So, the boys of Company H were sent home. The Gazette printed a story on May 25, 1861:
Company H. Waukegan Zouaves, returned home on Friday morning, some in good health and spirits, others sick and emaciated and evidently not feeling so good, except perhaps, at the idea of getting once more into a pure healthy atmosphere. The company was honorably disbanded by the Governor, having failed to secure a position in any of the twelve regiments which have been accepted into the service of the United States. The boys created quite a sensation upon their arrival, and were heartily welcomed home.
Enlisted a Second Time in Company C
The Waukegan newspaper also reported on June 8th:
WAUKEGAN ZOUAVES. – Our boys who were formerly attached to Zouave company H, which was recently disbanded, have formed a new company, which already numbers over fifty.
Arthur Whitney enlisted again in Waukegan on August 1, 1861. He became a member of Company C, 37th Illinois Infantry organized by Colonel Julius White. On August 24, Arthur was elected 1st Sergeant to the “Lake County Guards” and left Waukegan for Camp Webb near Chicago where they attached to the “Fremont Rifle Brigade”. As an Orderly Sergeant, also known as a 1st Sergeant, Whitney was responsible as a file-closer in battle, standing behind the two-rank line and instilling some order in the chaos of battle.
On September 28th the Waukegan Weekly Gazette published an updated status of the Avon boys:
BENTON BARRACKS NEAR ST. LOUIS
Sept 22, 1861
According to agreement I will now improve the first opportunity to inform you, and thro’ your valuable sheet, our friends in old Lake, of our present condition and future prospects. I think I wrote you from Camp Webb last Wednesday, that we were under marching orders for St. Louis, and accordingly we struck our tents at 9 o’clock Thursday, and at half past twelve the line was formed, and a thousand brave men were on the march for the scenes of conflict, and I am proud to say that nearly two hundred of them were from gallant little Lake County Illinois. We marched to the city and were there presented by the Board of Trade with a splendid stand of colors.
Our regimental flag is truly beautiful, it is composed of blue silk, on one side of which is a likeness of GEN. FREMONT as he appeared in 1847, and on the reverse is a double medallion, one representing him crossing the Rocky Mountain in mid winter, surrounded as they were by eternal snow; and the other represents him in the far famed act of planting the American flag on the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains; all of which is well executed, and is said to be the best thing of the kind which ever went out of Chicago, and I need not tell you that we are all proud to march under its beautiful folds.
We then proceeded to the Illinois Central Depot, and at half past four one heavy train of twenty five cars was slowly drawn out of the city, and we had left the familiar scenes of many years behind, many of us perhaps forever. As we passed along the route the people seemed to be almost wild with enthusiasm, for seemingly every man, woman and child, came forth to cheer us on, and I assure you it did cheer us on, for it told us that as we went forth to the fields of strife, to do battle for the glorious cause of American Liberty, the hearts and souls of those we left behind were with us in that holy cause, in which we are engaged.
After a hard ride of twenty-four hours we arrived opposite St. Louis, where the splendid U.S. Steamer Memphis lay ready to receive us, and we bid farewell to Illinois and were soon pacing her noble decks.
We ordered to camp on board the boat for the night and to go up the river the next day to Jefferson City, and I promise you that there were many a down cast look at the thought of going immediately into the middle of the scenes of hostility, but we must obey, for obedience is the first prerogative of the soldier.
Saturday morning we were ordered to appear at Fremont’s Head Quarters for inspection and expected to return to the boat and go directly to Jefferson City.
At 9 o’clock we were paraded before Head Quarters, (a thing which no other regiment has had the honor of doing) and was inspected by the Gen. in person, and his staff. He seemed to like our appearance very well, and after he returned to the house our color guard were marched up and our flag presented for his inspection which he pronounced well executed. His wife “Mrs. Jessie,” came out and asked permission of the General to place a bunch of red white and blue ribbons on the top of our flag and as the color guard again took its place in the line we gave three heart felt cheers for MRS. JESSIE FREMONT, and every man swore to himself that under that flag, as it was then decorated, he would march to victory or death.
COL. WHITE said to the Gen. “I understand that I am ordered to Jefferson City,” and he replied that he would countermand that order that he would send another regiment there for he was going to take the field soon himself, and wanted us with him, according we were sent to this place for the present, and I think we shall stay until we are thoroughly drilled, and then go immediately under FREMONT, if we can do that we will be content.
COL. WHITE says we have a little better reputation here than we deserve, which is that of being the best regiment that has yet come to St. Louis, and I think that the General’s actions justifies that opinion.
We have a splendid location here – we are as comfortable as though we were at home hence I hope our friends will borrow no trouble about us while we are here.
It is said that the quarters will contain 100,000 men, and then there is 30,000 here at the present time.
I feel proud to say that I am from ILLINOIS, for she is doing nobly in this war – three regiments came here from our State yesterday, and the day before, she has more left that can come yet, and I hope that they will still continue to come so that Illinois may maintain the high position which she now holds.
Our boys are all more than satisfied and not one would return on any conditions; each is anxious to have his friends and companions which he has left behind follow in his noble footsteps. Come all who can, and be assured that you never will repent it.
We were to-day assigned our positions in the regiment. CAPT. PAYNE’S CO., is Co., C. and CAPT. MESSER’S is Co., F and carried the colors.
All letters for us should be directed to the Illinois 37th Regiment, (Company C or F as the case may be.) St. Louis, Mo.
We hope to hear from our friends often, for be assured, that news from home will always be welcome. For fear of wearying your patience. I will close and write more particular next time. E. P. M.
The objective of the military presence in Missouri and Arkansas was to oust the rebels in the territory and protect those states from pro-slavery aggressors. Company C departed for Bonneville, MO on September 31, 1861 and arrived October 2nd. They joined Brigadier-General John Pope, commander of the District of North and Central Missouri. On the 10th, Company C and F boarded the steamer “War Eagle” and proceeded up the Missouri River to Arrow Rock exploring Saline County for the exiled Gov. Claiborne Jackson, a pro-slavery sympathizer. Company C remained in Booneville, MO until November 3rd and marched to Rolla, MO remaining there until February 1862.
In early 1862, on February 7th, Company C led by Capt. Payne came back northwest and joined Col. White at Lamine River to become part of the “Army of the Frontier” under Generals Samuel Curtis and Francis Herron. From the 12th to the 17th the troop marched several hundred miles south from Lamine to Cassville, MO located just north of the Arkansas border. They skirmished with the retreating Confederate army, along ”Wire Road”, on the way to Sugar Creek and Bentonville, AR. The objective was to force Confederate General Sterling Price out of Missouri. It was in Pea Ridge, AR where the Union Army engaged the Confederates in battle.
The Battle of Pea Ridge, March, 1862
The “secesh” troops, those who supported the Confederacy, numbered 35,000 strong against 15,000 of the Union army. Even though outnumbered in the battle, the Union soldiers forced the retreat of the rebels. The scars to the 37th Illinois Infantry left 21 killed and 114 wounded. A depiction of the Battle of Pea Ridge, in which Arthur Whitney participated, was provided in a letter from one of the men in Company C, and published in the Gazette on March 29, 1862:
From a Waukegan Boy who was in the
Great Battle of Pea Ridge.
The following extracts from a letter from private Calvin F. Boardman, of Capt. E. B. Payne’s Company to his Father, Judge Boardman of this city, will no doubt be read with interest, coming as it does direct from one of the soldiers of the great battle field in Arkansas, where two Companies of our brave Lake County boys were engaged:
Camp Sugar Creek, Arkansas,
March 15th, 1862
DEAR FATHER: The Chaplain is going home this morning, and I improve the opportunity to send you a line. I am in first rate health as usual. We have had a hard battle with Price, and the result was, we have cleaned him out, and he has retreated southward. – Some of his men said before the battle, that if they did not whip us this time, that they wo’d not fight any more. I think we have pretty near used them up.
We (our regiment) had the hardest of the fight on the 7th instant. Our regiment was pretty well cut up; we lost three out of our Company, besides a good many wounded. I got two bullets holes through my pants, and one ball struck the metallic plate of the “U.S.” in the centre of my belt, and glanced off, which saved my life – a miss is as good as a mile in battle. The bullets flew thick and fast on both sides, but we got the better of them. Gen. Sigel says he never saw a regiment stand fire better than we did.
We took two Secesh Colonels; they said that all the men they could rally in two of their regiments after the fight of the second day, was sixty; so we must have mowed them down pretty rough. There are many yet lying on the battle field that have not been buried. We, the 37th and 59th Illinois, were fighting four regiments of secesh, two of Indians, and two Louisiana regiments. Patrick Brown’s son, Gurnsey Manzer and Fred Payne of our Company were shot dead on the battle field. Lieut. Huntley is wounded in the thigh close to the hip. He is getting along well.
A detail of 150 men went out last night into the country about 15 miles, and found lots of arms stacked, beside cartridge boxes, canteens, &c., that are supposed to have belonged to secesh, who have gone home. We are now here awaiting orders; I must close this or be too late to send it.
From your affectionate son,
CALVIN F. BOARDMAN.
In May, the Company was stationed in Cassville, MO until September 29, 1862 doing garrison duty and guarding the frontier in Southwest Missouri against guerillas. While they were in Cassville, Sgt. Whitney was sent home for several months and arrived there July 9th to recruit more volunteers. The Waukegan Gazette reported on September 6th:
SWORD PRESENTATIONS. – We learn, that on Tuesday evening last, some of the liberal citizens in the Town of Avon, met at the Doolittle School House, and presented to Captain Salisbury and Lieut. Whitney, officers of the fine company which volunteered from that town principally, each a beautiful Sword, as testimonials of the high appreciation in which they are held by the citizens from whose midst the noble Company over which they are placed, has been drawn. Success to Old Avon and her fine Company of Volunteers.
The first Battle of Newtonia in Missouri occurred on 29-30 September. The 37th Illinois left Cassville on September 29th heading east reaching Pond Springs on October 1st (near Brookline today). They drove the rebels out of Newtonia on the 4th.
From there, the 37th went to Gadfly (now Corsicana), MO and back to Cassville. They returned to the former Pea Ridge battle grounds and onto Huntsville, AR arriving on October 20th. On the 22nd they marched all night for Bentonville, crossed the White River and camped about 4 miles south of Cross Hollows. They reached Osage Springs on the 24th and stayed until the evening of the 27th. Marching all night, by day break they surprised the rebels at Fayetteville, AR where they took some prisoners and returned to Osage Springs on 30th. They spent the month of November chasing rebels and went into camp at Camp Lyon in Missouri. The swift marching activity during this time period gave the 37th Illinois Infantry the name “The Illinois Greyhounds;” they were reknowned throughout Arkansas and Missouri.
Sgt. Arthur Whitney was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of Company C, 37th Illinois Infantry on November 20, 1862. As a Lieutenant, he was second in command of infantry and calvary companies and artillery batteries. Lt. Whitney would also assist the company captain in the positions behind the line of battle by guiding the troops in their movements and firing.
On December 3rd, Lt. Arthur Whitney and the 37th Illinois were stationed at Camp Lyon, MO when they received orders to march to Sugar Hill, AR to provide relief of Gen. Blunt. In three days, the Regiment arrived in Prairie Grove, AR. It was here the Battle of Prairie Ridge took place. The one-day campaign was considered the most bloody and hotly contested battle of the war based on the number of troops engaged.
Battle of Prairie Grove, December 7, 1862
The 37th Illinois Volunteer Regiment at the Battle of Prairie Grove
“The Bayonet or Retreat” depiction by artist Andy Thomas
(Photo from the website “CivilWarTalk – Celebrating 20 Years” (https://civilwartalk.com/)
Details of the event were published in the Waukegan Weekly Gazette on December 27th:
FROM OUR BOYS IN ARKANSAS.
Battle of Prairie Grove, Ark.
Correspondence of the Gazette:
ARMY OF THE FRONTIER.
“PRAIRIE GROVE” BATTLE FIELD, DEC. 10.
FRIEND CORY: As many of your readers are deeply interested in the welfare of the 37th, and the “Army of the Frontier,” I will give you, for their benefit, our experience for the last six days, including the short but bloody battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas
ON THE MARCH.
On the morning of the 4th, at 3 o’clock a.m., we marched from McCulloch’s store, twenty-five miles south of Springfield, Mo., with the 2d Division under Col. Huston of the 7th Missouri cavalry; the 3d Division being some ten miles in advance of us. Both divisions are under Brig. Gen. Herron, of Iowa, and consisting of six regiments of infantry, about the same of cavalry, two batteries and a second of artillery.
On the night of the 4th we camped on Flat Creek, after a march of over twenty miles. – We are again on the march at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 5th, and marched twenty-one miles, within four miles of the Arkansas line, where we camped for the night. We marched at an early hour on the 6th, and arrived at Cross Hollows, twenty-six miles distance, at 4 p. m., where we rested until 11 p. m.; at which hour we marched for Fayetteville, seventeen miles further, where we arrived at sunrise and rested for an hour, but were hurried on the sound of the cannon of the 3d division, whose advance had come upon the enemy at about this place, ten or twelve miles west of Fayetteville.
ON TO THE BATTLE.
We were all worn, apparently, to the very limit of human endurance, by hard marching and want of rest, but every man forgot his sufferings, and all rushed to the approaching contest, and we were not a moment too soon.
POSITION OF THE ENEMY.
We found the enemy posted on a high ridge bordering on a prairie some half a mile in width, near where our cavalry first met them in the early part of the day as they were marching to surround the 1st division under Gen. Blunt.
THE BATTLE IN EARNEST.
The battle was opened by a shot from their batteries, as ours appeared on the opposite side of the Prairie, which was soon replied to by our whole force of artillery. The fire of our guns was so rapid and certain that they were soon obliged to change the position of theirs, (some six of which they had opened on us) and during the remainder of the day they were unable to maintain a gun in any position, the fire of our artillery, as they acknowledged that night; besides several of them were disable by our fire. They did but little damage.
In a short time the 19th Iowa, 94th Illinois, and 20th Wisconsin were ordered to charge the hill on their right and center, and succeeded in gaining the brow of the hill and advancing some distance, when they were met by such a terrible fire, from overwhelming numbers, that they were obliged to retire with great loss.
CHARGING THE ENEMY.
The 37th Illinois and 26th Indiana, both not numbering a thousand men, were ordered to charge the same position. We gained a fence on the top of the hill, where we were met by a line of the enemy advancing in four ranks closed in mass, and this line followed by two more of the same character in reserve. Against such odds we were unable to stand; but not a man left his place until the order was given us to retire. They came only to the edge of the timber, as they dare not expose themselves to the fire of our artillery or meet us on equal footing on the open field, notwithstanding their superior numbers.
At this time Blunt came up with reinforcements from near Cane Hill, ten miles distant, and his cannon opened on them from our right, where his whole force soon became engaged; the battle raging with unmitigated fury, the tide wavering from one side to the other, until darkness put an end of the slaughter. At times, when his artillery could be brought to bear, the firing was incessant and the havoc in their ranks were fearful. Neither side gained much over the other, and both were glad of a respite.
We slept on our arms, where our line was formed as we came from the hill, expecting a fearful battle on the succeeding day. Flags on truce were passing to and fro during the night; and an armistice of twelve hours from 5 o’clock a. m., proposed by Gen. Hindman was accepted by Gen. Blunt, and during the time the rebels withdrew all the force they had not taken away during the night and the field was ours.
THE DYING AND WOUNDED.
The night and day was spent in caring for the wounded and burying the dead. From our position on the field during the night the shrieks and wailings of the wounded and dying were most heart-rending. On some parts of the field the carnage was fearful. I saw eight men from one company of the 20th Wisconsin lay dead amongst several dead horses of a battery they had taken and held for a few moments, with three more men of the same company near by, and the Captain who had led them in there stood weeping over them. He went into action with about fifty men, and lost all but ten in killed and wounded. That regiment last fifty killed and one hundred and fifty wounded. The 19th Iowa suffered terribly. The loss of the 26th Indiana was large. The 94th Illinois lost but two killed.
LOST OF THE 37TH ILLINOIS.
The 37th lost ten killed, fifty-seven wounded, two lieutenants and three privates taken prisoners and paroled.
The loss of my company was, 1st Corporal James Perry, and private Calvin Hadlow – killed; John B. Witt, thigh badly shattered, Henry Bilinski, flesh wound in the thigh, and William Shuler, hand badly shattered.
Company C, Capt. E. B. Payne, lost Color Corporal Emery F. Farnsworth, wounded through the bowels – since died. Arthur Whitney, 1st Serg’t and Acting Lieutenant, wound through the right breast; Corp. E. D. Farnsworth, slightly in head and wrist; Corp. A. C. Wood, through the thigh; private E. E. Craig, through the thigh; private W. W. Dooly, in the leg; private J. C. Case, in the leg; private Thomas McAllister, in the leg.
Lieut. Col Black, commanding the regiment, had his left arm badly shattered. Lieut. Johnson, of Company D, was shot through the lungs dangerously.
From our best information, the enemy had from 25,000 to 30,000, mostly infantry, while we had hardly a fourth the number of infantry, and our cavalry did nothing, save to guard the train. IN the charge made by us, Gen. Hindman himself said, during an interview our General held with him under a flag of truce, he had eight thousand opposed to us; and this is confirmed by our men who had been taken prisoners and paroled. The Indians under Gen. Blunt are said to have fought desperately, and killed “much meu.”
THE REBELS RETREAT.
How far the rebels have retreated, or what may be the next move of either party, I at present cannot say.
Their intention in crossing the Mountains this time were to attack and defeat Gen. Blunt before Herron could arrive to his support, and then take Herron as he came up, when the country would be left at their mercy; and had it been any other than the army of the Frontier they might have succeeded, but we have learned that nothing, in the way of hard marching, is impossible, when there is a foe to meet or a friend to save, and were here twenty-four hours sooner then expected, and for this reason the army of the Frontier is now victorious.
THE REBELS ARE WELL ARMED AND CLOTHED
Their army is well armed and equipped, many of them with the best Enfield rifles and entirely new equipments of the latest style, and furnished with the best cartridges bearing the stamp of the English manufacturers, which shows that they have been lately fitted out from the cargo of some blockade runner, probably with the intention of invading Missouri. They are also well and warmly clothed, the only thing they appeared to lack was good rations.
The wounded have all been conveyed to Fayetteville, where it is said a general hospital is to be established, which shows that our General have no idea of speedily abandoning this country. Our army would rather endure almost any privation than to drag itself back to Springfield again, only to rush back here as soon as the enemy shall show himself on this side of the mountains; yet we are two hundred and fifty miles from any line of communication, and most suffer many privations if we winter here. The health of our army is good, and the weather is warm and pleasant, the ground freezes but little during the night, and the roads are excellent.
E. B. MESSER,
Capt. Co. F, 37th Ill. Vol.
During the battle Lt. Arthur Whitney was shot and wounded. The Union army suffered 1,251 casualties: 175 died, 813 wounded and 263 missing. The Confederates had similar losses of 1,317 casualties: 164 dead, 817 wounded and 336 missing. The battle left the Confederates severely demoralized and many of their soldiers deserted. The rebel army retreated out of Arkansas and the Confederate army was no longer a threat to the region of Missouri and Arkansas.
After the battle, wounded Lt. Whitney was transported from Prairie Grove to a Fayetteville, AR hospital. It is unknown when and how he was transported from Fayetteville to Springfield, MO. His trip of over 120 miles would have been in early March 1863. Shortly after his arrival, Lt. Arthur Whitney died.
The announcement of his death was reported in the Gazette on March 21, 1863:
In hospital at Springfield, Mo., on the 13th inst., whither he had been recently removed from Fayetteville Ark., Lieut. ARTHUR WHITNEY, of Company C, 37th Reg’t Ill. Vol.
It will be remembered by our readers, that Lieut. Whitney, then a Sergeant, was severely wounded at the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark., the ball entering the left breast and passing out through and breaking the shoulder blade. He had been unable since that time to be out yet his friends supposed him to be doing well and entertained hopes of his gradual recovery. It is feared his removal from Fayetteville to Springfield, may have induced the sudden change and death of this brave young officer.
On March 28th, the Waukegan Weekly Gazette printed a report from the Elk Creek camp in Missouri of the 37th Regiment which stated:
We were pained a day or two since in learning of the death of Lieut. Whitney, Co., C; he died in Springfield in consequence of wounds received at Prairie Grove. We had supposed him nearly well, and was looking for his early return to duty. He was an energetic officer and a good soldier, and in his loss we are deprived of a genial friend and a brave soldier, and his memory will ever be green in the breasts of his soldier companions.
Several years after Arthur’s death, an Administrator’s sale was held at the Lake County court house on November 24, 1866 on the real estate of the estate of Arthur Whitney consisting of 120 acres in Avon Township. The Gazette published the sale on November 3, 1866:
ADMINISTRATOR’S SALE. – Public notice is hereby given that the subscriber, administrator of the estate of Arthur Whitney, deceased, by virtue of an order and decree of the Circuit Court of Lake county, Illinois, made and entered on record at the September term thereof A. D. 1866, will sell at public auction to the highest bidder for cash, at the east door of the Court house, in Waukegan, in the county of Lake and State of Illinois, on Saturday, the 24th day of November A. D. 1866, at 11 o’clock a.m. of said day, all the right, title and interest of Arthur Whitney, deceased, in and to the following real estate, being the remainder in fee (after the expiration of the life estate of Mrs. Nancy Smith, mother of deceased) of the undivided one half of the east half of the northwest quarter of section thirty five (35), in township number forty-five (45), north range number ten (10), east of the third (3d) principal meridian, situated and lying the county of Lake and State of Illinois, and containing eighty (80) acres of land more or less. Also the remainder in fee, (after the expiration of the life estate therein of Mrs. Nancy Smith, mother of deceased) of the undivided one half of the north east quarter of the south west quarter of section number thirty five, (35) in township number forty five (45) north range number ten (10), east of the third Principal Meridian containing forty (40) acres of land more or less, situate, lying and being in the county of Lake and State of Illinois. Also the remainder in fee (after the expiration of the life estate of Mrs. Nancy Smith, mother of deceased) therein, of the undivided one half of the following lands, to wit: a certain lot of land lying and being in the County of Lake and State of Illinois, and a part of section numbered sixteen (16) granted by the United States to the State of Illinois for the use of the inhabitants of township number forty-five (45) north range number ten (10) east of the third (3d) Principal Meridian, for the use of schools known and designate on the map of the said section as made by the trustee of school lands within the said township as lot number three (3), containing ten acres and forty-eight one hundredths of an acre (10 48-100) by survey. Also the remainder in fee, after the expiration of the life estate of Mrs. Nancy Smith (mother of deceased) therein, of the undivided one half of the following land, lying, situate and being in the count of Lake and State of Illinois, to wit: The east half of the north half of the south half of the west half of the northwest quarter of section number thirty-five (35) township number forty five (45) north of range number eleven (11) east of the third (3rd) Principal Meridian, and being in the district of lands subject to sale at Chicago, Illinois, containing ten (10) acres more or less. All lying and being in the county of Lake and State of Illinois.
Administrator of the estate of Arthur Whitney, deceased.
Waukegan, Oct. 12th, 1865.
- Ancestry.com website
- Civil War Index website; Adjutant General’s Report. Thirty-seventh Infantry Regiment, Three Years’ Service. https://civilwarindex.com/armyil/rosters/37th_il_infantry_roster.pdf
- Eddy, T. M., D.D. The Patriotism of Illinois Vol. 1, Chicago. 1865. Chapter XV, Regimental and Personal, pages 239-240
- Fort Hill Cemetery website: Arthur Whitney https://www.forthillcemetery.org/
- Genealogy Trails website. Illinois Trails presents History of the 37th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War: http://genealogytrails.com/ill/37infantryhistory.html
- Ketzle website: Civil War Diary of Henry Carl Ketzle – 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company A 1861-1866 – Full Diary https://www.ketzle.com/diary/1861.html
- National Park Service website:
- The Civil War – Battle Detail – Prairie Grove Battle Detail – The Civil War (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
- Battle Unit Details – Union Illinois Volunteers – 37th Regiment, Illinois Infantry Battle Unit Details – The Civil War (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
- Newspaper.com website
- Partridge, Charles A. Lake County, War History and Record”. Chapter from: The Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois. 1877
- Wikipedia website:
- Battle of Pea Ridge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pea_Ridge
- Battle of Prairie Grove https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Prairie_Grove
- Julius White https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_White
- Samuel Ryan Curtis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Ryan_Curtis