21st Illinois Infantry
On the 28th day of June the Regiment was mustered into the United States service for three years, by Captain Pitcher, U.S.A., with U. S. Grant as Colonel. Colonel Grant continued in command of the Regiment until the 7th of August, when he was commissioned by the President Brigadier General of Volunteers, to date from May 17, 1861, when he assumed command of the District of Southeast Missouri, with headquarters at Cairo. We append a memorandum made by that great captain, who fought his last fight on earth at 8:08 A.M., Thursday, August 23, 1885, at Mount McGregor, New York:
I was appointed Colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry by Governor Richard Yates, some time early in the month of June 1861, and assumed command of the Regiment on the 16th of that month. The Regiment was mustered into the service of the United States in the latter part of the same month. Being ordered to rendezvous the Regiment at Quincy, Illinois, I thought, for the purpose of discipline and speedy efficiency for the field, it would be well to mark the Regiment across the country, instead of transporting by rail. Accordingly, on the 3d of July 1861, the march was commenced from Camp Yates, Springfield, Illinois, and continued until about three miles beyond the Illinois river, when dispatches were received, changing the destination of the Regiment to Ironton, Missouri, and directed me to return to the river and take a steamer, which had been sent there for the purpose of transporting the Regiment to St. Louis. The steamer railing to reach the point of embarkation, several days were here lost. In the meantime a portion of the Sixteenth Illinois Infantry, under Colonel Smith, were reported surrounded by the enemy at a point on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, west of Palmyra, and the Twenty-first was ordered to their relief. Under these circumstances, expedition was necessary; accordingly the march was abandoned, and the railroad was called into requisition. Before the Twenty-first reached its new destination, the Sixteenth had extricated itself. The Twenty-first was then kept on duty on the line of the H. & St. Jo. R.R. for about two weeks, without, however, meeting an enemy or an incident worth relating. We did make one march, however, during that time, from Salt River, Mo., to Florida, Mo., and returned, in search of Tom Harris, who was reported in that neighborhood with a handful of rebels. It was impossible, however, to get nearer than a day’s march of him. From Salt River the Regiment went to Mexico, Mo, where it remained for two weeks; thence to Ironton, Mo., passing throughout St. Louis on the 7th of August, when I was assigned to duty as a Brigadier General, and turned over the command of the Regiment to that gallant and Christian officer, Colonel Alexander, who afterwards yielded up his life whilst nobly leading it in the battle of Chickamauga.
U. S. GRANT. Lieutenant General.
It will ever be a pleasing thought with the men who composed this gallant Regiment to remember that the man who first led them in defense of their country’s flag became the most illustrious soldier and distinguished citizen of the age and generation in which he lived.
Lieutenant Colonel John W. S. Alexander assumed command of the Regiment at the promotion of Colonel Grant.
After the arrival of the Regiment at Ironton, it remained in camp several weeks, receiving instruction in company and battalion drill; made reconnoissance with the Twenty-fourth Illinois Infantry as far as Marble Creek, in the direction of Greenville, where the Rebel General Hardee was discovered with a large force; went into camp at Marble Creek; remained about two weeks. On the 23d of August, Lieutenant Colonel John W. S. Alexander was unanimously elected Colonel by the line officers of the Regiment, vice Grant, promoted. Returned to Ironton, where the Regiment remained until October 17, when it marched to Fredericktown, supporting Walker’s Squadron of the First Indiana Cavalry; discovered the Rebel Jeff. Thompson in force; returned to Ironton; on the 26th with the Thirty-eighth Illinois Infantry and First Indiana Cavalry, marched to Greenville; remained there until March, and from thence moved to Rive’s Station, on the Black River, arriving there March 11 or 12. Here the troops, consisting of Twenty-first, Thirty-eighth Illinois Infantry, Eleventh Wisconsin Infantry, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth Illinois Cavalry, First Indiana Cavalry, and Sixteenth Ohio Battery, were organized into the Division of Southeast Missouri, under command of Brigadier General F. Steele, First Brigade, Colonel Carlin commanding, consisted of Twenty-first and Thirty-eighth Illinois Infantry, Fifth Illinois Cavalry, and Sixteenth Ohio Battery.
March 31, moved from Rive’s Station to Doniphan. April 17, crossed Current river 21st, reached Pocahontas, Arkansas.
April 30, marched for Jacksonport, Arkansas, arriving May 4.
May 10, the Twenty-first and Thirty-eighth were ordered to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 220 miles distant. This march was made in ten days, a day and a half of which time was spent in terrying Black and Current rivers. Arrived at Cape Girardeau May 21. On this day the two columns, under General Jeff. C. Davis and Colonel Carlin, were marching on converging roads, each striving for the right of way at intersections. Carlin’s column gained the right of way; his advance guard, being under Lieutenant Vance, of the Twenty-first Illinois Infantry, marched 28 miles, by mile posts, in six hours and thirty minutes. Arrived at Hamburg Landing May 24. Moved to the front, and were before Corinth during the last days of the siege-in Second Brigade Fourth Division, Left Wing, Army of Mississippi, Colonel Carlin commanding Brigade, Brigadier General Jeff. C. Davis commanding Division and Major General John Pope commanding Army of Mississippi.
Marched to Danville, Booneville, back to Corinth, and to Jacinto. During the last of June, marched to Ripley, and returned by forced marches, arriving July 4, 1862. Remained in camp till August 14, when marched with the Division to join the Army of the Ohio, under General Buell. Passing throughout Iuka, Mississippi, crossed the Tennessee at Eastport, thence marched, via Florence, Alabama, Lawrenceburg, Mt. Pleasant, Columbia, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville, Tennessee, Bowling Green, Mumfordsville, Elizabethtown and West Point, Kentucky, arriving at Louisville, Kentucky, September 26, 1862, having marched, night and day, about 500 miles.
October 1, marched from Louisville, in the Thirty-first Brigade, Ninth Division, Army of the Ohio - under Colonel Carlin commanding Brigade, and General Robert B. Mitchell commanding Division.
October 8, engaged in battle of Perryville, and Chaplin Hill. Company F, Captain David Blackburn, was the first in Perryville. Was honorably mentioned in General Mitchell’s report of the battle. Joined in pursuit of Bragg as far as Crab Orchard, and then marched through Lancaster, Danville, Lebanon and Bowling Green, to Edgefield Junction, near Nashville, arriving November 9.
When the army marched from Nashville, December 26, 1862, this Regiment formed a part of the Second Brigade, First Division, Twentieth Army Corps, and was in the skirmish at Knob Gap. December 30, in connection with Fifteenth Wisconsin, Thirty-eighth Illinois and One Hundred and First Ohio, it had a severe engagement with the enemy near Murfreesboro, where it charged the famous Washington (Rebel) Light Artillery, 12 Parrott guns, and succeeded in driving every man from the battery, when it was compelled to fall back by a Division of Rebel Infantry. During the battle of Murfreesbor, it was fiercely engaged, and did gallant duty, losing more men that any Regiment engaged. The Twenty-first was with General Rosecrans’ army from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga. Was engaged in a severe skirmish at Liberty Gap, June 25, 1863.
Marched through Manchester, and camped at Winchester, Tenn. August 17th, 1863, crossed the Cumberland Mountains to Stevenson, Ala. 30th, crossed the Tennessee River at Caperton’s Ferry. Crossed Sand Mountain, and Camped in Will’s Valley. September 9th, crossed Lookout Mountain, and camped in Broomtown Valley, about 50 miles south of Chattanooga.
September 13th and 14th, recrossed Lookout Mountain to Will’s Valley. 16th, ascended Lookout Mountain, and marched 25 miles, on the top, to Steven’s Gap. 17th, entered McLemore’s Cave, and laid in line of battle before Dug Gap, in Pigeon Mountains. 17th, at dark, moved to the left, to Pond Springs. 19th, marched past Crawfish Springs, and entered the battle of Chickamauga, near Gordon’s Mills. Double quickening, a line was formed, under fire, and was hotly engaged till dark. September 20th, was moved to the left. Went into position at 10 A.M., and was heavily engaged. The enemy, pressing through a gap made by the withdrawal of General Woods’ Division, forced the line back, and the Brigade narrowly escaped capture. Was reformed on the hills, in the rear of the battle ground, and marched toward Rossville. Was then marched toward the right, where General Thomas was continuing the fight. After dark, returned to Rossville.
Losses in the battle of Chickamauga, September 19th and 20th - 238 officers and men. Among the officers killed were Colonel Alexander and Lieutenant Weitzell, Company K; Captain Frank Reed, Company D, and Captain Andrew George, Company G, were mortally wounded; Captain Harlan, Company H, Lieutenant Austin, Company H, and Lieutenant Hunter, Company F, were wounded; Lieutenant Colonel McMackin, Captain Welshimer, Company B, Lieutenant McKeen, Company H, and Lieutenant Songer, Company G, were captured.
Colonel Alexander being killed, and Lieutenant Colonel McMackin captured, Captain C. K. Knight took command of the Regiment.
After the battle of Chickamauga the Twenty-first was attached to First Brigade, First Division, Fourth Army Corps and remained at Bridgeport, Ala., October, November and December.
In January 1864, marched to Ooltewah, east of Chattanooga, where the Regiment remained until March, when it re-enlisted, and after a month’s furlough in Illinois, rejoined the army in front of Kenesaw Mountain. July 5th, reached the Chattaqhoochie River, 12th, crossed the Chattahochie at Power’s Ferry. 20th, crossed Peach Tree Creek. 21st, engaged at outer lines before Atlanta. 22d, threw up works before Atlanta. 26th, moved to works protecting rear and left of the lines. August 1st, the Corps relieved the Twenty-third Corps, on the left. August 25th, withdrew from the lines in the night. 31st, on railroad, below Rough and Ready. September 1st, engaged in the battle of Jonesboro. September 2d, moved to Lovejoy, and threw up works on the left of the lines. 8th, camped at Atlanta.
October 3d, marched in pursuit of Hood, via Marietta, Ackworth and Allatoona, to Kingston, thence to Rome, Resaca, Ship’s Gap, Summerville, to Gaylorsville, Ala., and after halting a few days, marched to Chattanooga, arriving October 30th, 1864.
October 31st, the First Brigade started as escort to wagon train of Fourth Corps, for Huntsville, the remainder of the Corps going by rail. Passing through Shell Mound, Bridgeport and Stevenson, crossed Cumberland Mountain at Tantallon. Passed through Cowan, Itcherd, Winchester, Salem and Fayetteville, rejoined the Corps at Pulaski, Tenn., November 12th, 1864.
Arrived at Columbia, Tenn., November 24th. November 25th and 26th threw up works and skirmished with the enemy. 27th, crossed Duck River in the night. 28th, threw up works opposite the ford. 29th, moved and threw up works on the left flank. Withdrew in the night and marched through Spring Hill, passing a large rebel camp. Marched alongside the train to Franklin, with rebel cavalry on the flanks. 30th, entered Franklin. About half past four the enemy advanced, driving in our skirmishers, but were driven back by the main line. Withdrew at midnight, and crossing the Harpeth River, reached Nashville. December 1st, occupied in building fortifications and doing outpost duty. 15th, was placed in position near the Hardin pike, and at four o’clock P.M. were in the charge on Montgomery Hill, and among the first to enter the enemy’s works, capturing battery and many prisoners. 16th, was in the reserve line, and joined in pursuit, when the enemy’s lines were broken. Was in pursuit to Lexington, Ala. Marched to Huntsville, arriving January 5th, 1865. Remained at Huntsville until March 13th, 1865.
March 13, proceeded by rail to Strawberry Plains, East Tennessee, 24th, moved to Lick Creek, near Bull’s Gap. April 3, Brigade was ordered on an expedition to Ashville, North Carolina. Returned 11th. 20th, took cars for Nashville. June 7, the non-veteran regiments having been mustered out, the Twenty-first and thirty-eighth Illinois were assigned to Second Brigade, First Division, Fourth Army Corps, the Brigade also containing the Ninth, Thirtieth and Thirty-fifth Indiana Veteran Volunteers, Colonel J. C. B. Leeman, commanding Brigade.
The Fourth Army Corps was sent to Texas by way of New Orleans; camped two weeks on old battle ground at New Orleans; embarked on vessel for Matagorda Bay; disembarked for Victgoria, thence to San Antonia, where the Regiment was mustered out December 16, 1865. Arrived at Camp Butler January 18, 1866, for final payment and discharge.