101st Illinois Infantry History

Submitted by Norm Witherbee


HISTORY OF THE 101ST INFANTRY





The One Hundred and First Infantry Regiment Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Duncan, Jacksonville, Illinois, during the latter part of the month of August, 1862, and, on the 2d of September, 1862, was formally mustered into the United States service, by Captain Charles Ewing, Thirteenth Infantry.

For about a month after muster-in, the Regiment remained at Camp Duncan, engaged in drilling and equipping for the field. At last, on the 6th of October, marching orders came, and, embarking on the cars, the Regiment, on the evening of the 7th, reached Cairo at sunset.

Here the Regiment remained for over a month, doing garrison duty. The interim was devoted to drill, in which the Regiment became so proficient as to win a very fair name. In consequence of the rainy weather, there was a great deal of sickness while at Cairo, and a good many men were discharged or died from disease. November 26th, the Regiment left Cairo, and proceeded down the river to Columbus, Kentucky, and thence, by rail, to Davis' Mills, Mississippi, where it was assigned to Loomis' Brigade of Ross' Division, Army of the Tennessee.

November 28th, it started on its first march, and, on the 30th, reached Lumpkin's Mills, six miles south of Holly Springs, where the Regiment first heard the ''clash of contending arms,'' from the Tallahatchie River, six miles beyond. The Regiment remained at Lumpkin's Mills three days, when it received orders to return to Holly Springs, Missisippi for provost and garrison duty.

December 13th, Company A, Captain John B. Lesage, was sent to Cairo, with rebel prisoners. December 20th, Holly Springs was captured, and Companies B, C, E, F, I, and the sick men of Company A, who had been left behind, were taken prisoners and paroled.Soon after they were sent to Memphis, and, thence, to Benton Barracks, Missouri, where they remained until exchanged, in June, 1863.

At the Holly Springs disaster, the men of this Regiment, on duty, did all they could have done, under the circumstances. Another Regiment was doing the picket duty, while the one Hundred and First was in the town, doing provost duty, and divided about the town, in squads, too small to make successful resistance to the overpowering numbers that surrounded them. Wherever the blame of this disaster shall rest, it surely should not attach itself to the One Hundred and First Illinois. When the town was captured, Companies D, G, H and K, which were stationed along the railroad, fell back to Cold Water, where they fell in with the Ninetieth Illinois (Irish Legion), and assisted greatly in repelling Van Dorn's attack on that place.

Afterwards, these four companies were formed into a battaion, and temporarily assigned to the Fourteenth Illinois Volunteers, and did a great deal of scouting service over Tennessee, finally bringing up at Memphis, Tennessee, in February, 1863. Here they were joined by Company A, Captain Lesage, who took command of the Battalion. Upon leaving Holly Springs, Company A proceeded to Cairo, and thence to Vicksburg, but was sent back up the river with prisoners. About the first of February, the prisoners were turned over at Alton, Illinois, but not until the Company had been fearfully decreased by the sickness incurred while on that duty. Often Captain Lesage could not muster half a dozen men for duty, and this, too, when he had over a thousand prisoners under his charge.

Early in March, the battalion was ordered down to Vicksburg, where it was broken up, and the companies assigned to various independent duties. Company K was assigned to provost duty at General Grant's Headquarters; Company A was assigned to the ''General Bragg''; Company G to the ram ''Switzerland;'' Company D to the ''Rattler'' and the ''Crocket;'' and Company H to the ''Layfayette.''

From this, until the final reunion of the Regiment, each company had its separate history of scouts, skirmishes and expeditions, up and down the Mississippi and its tributary streams. Company G had the honor of running the blockade at Vicksburg, for which service, after its fall, General Grant furloughed the entire company.

On the 7th of June, the other part of the Regiment was exchanged and sent down to New Madrid, Missouri. July 11th, they were sent to Columbus, Kentucky, whence they were started out on a series of scouts and expeditions, which only terminated about the 25th of August, by their bringing up at Union City, Tennessee. Here they remained about a month, during which time Compainies A, D, G, H and K rejoined them, and completed the reunion of the Regiment, which remained a unit thenceforth.

September 24th, 1863, the Regiment received orders transferring it to the Department of the Cumberland, and it started, at once, for Louisville, Kentucky, via Cairo and Sandoval, Illinois, and Mitchell and New Albany, Indiana, arriving in Louisville, Septemver 27th. September 30th, it left Louisville, via Nashville, and arrived at Bridgeport, Alabama, October 2nd, 1863, and remained there until the 27th. This period of service is always referred to as a hard time, owing to the severe rains and destitution of tents. In fact, most of the Regiment was tentless, until the 1st of January, following.

October 27th, the Regiment was temporarly assigned to the First Brigade, Third Division, Eleventh Army Corps, and started on the march to the front, arriving next day at Lookout Valley, where, on the night of its arrival, it participated in the night battle of Wauhatchie, where, by singular good fortune, not a man was hurt. For nearly a month, following, the Regiment lay encamped in the Valley, exposed to the daily shelling from Lookout Mountain, which, during that time, killed one man and wounded another.

November 22nd, the Regiment received marching orders, and proceeded to Chattanooga, where it participated in the battle of Chattanooga, losing one man killed. Immediately after the battle, it was ordered to the relief of Knoxville, and participated in that severe march; and, finally, returned to Lookout Valley, December 17th. Many of the men were barefooted, and, in that condition, had marched many a weary mile, over the frozen ground and sharp rocks, even as their forefathers had done in revolutionary times, leaving their blood to mark their steps.

Recuriting its strength in the Valley, for a few days, the Regiment was then set to work building corduroy roads; after which, on the 1st day of January, 1864, they were sent to Kelley's Ferry to relieve the Sixteenth Illinois, then about to return home on veteran furlough. Here the regiment remained until the last of January, when, upon the completion of the railroad to Chattanooga, they were ordered to Bridgeport, where they went into camp, and quietly remained there until the 2d of May, when they started for the front. The Eleventh and Twelfth Corps had been consolidated into the Twentieth Army Corps, and the old Brigade, to which the One Hundred and First had been attached in the Eleventh Corps, had been transferred to the First Division of the new Corps, and became the Third Brigade of that Division. This Brigade was commanded by Colonel (afterwards Brigadier General Robinson, of the Eighty-second Ohio. Leaving Bridgeport, May 2d, on the 6th, reached Taylor's Ridge, which was crossed next day, and encamped at Anderson Post Office. Remained there until midnight of May 10th, when it marched for Snake Creek Gap, which was reached next day and held for two days. On the 13th, having marched through the Gap, the troops were ready for action, near Resaca, but were held in reserve all day. On the 14th, were again held in reserve, until three p.m., when they started on the double-quick for the left, which was reached just in time for the Brigade to render important service in the action then progressing.

During this engagement, it is said, the One Hundred and First was ordered to take a hill in front of them, which they did in so gallant a style as to win the admiration of General Hooker, who happened to be standing near, and who cheered the troops with the encouraging shout of ''Go in, my Illinois boys.'' The next afternoon it was ordered forward, and, at four o'clock, while in column, was charged by a rebel force

.

Both officers and men of the Regiment conducted themselves gallantly, and rendered valuable services, losing one man killed, six mortally wounded, and forty wounded. Pressing the rebels, it again came upon them at Cassville, Georgia, on the 19th but did not get into a fight, as the rebels left. Again, followed on the 23d, and, on the 25th, got into a hot and heavy fight at New Hope Church. Among the wounded at this place were Adjutant Padgett, Lieutenant Hardin, and Lieutenant (afterward Captain) Belt, who subsequently died of wounds.

After this, the Regiment bore an honorable share in the various maneuvers around Kenesaw and Pine mountains, losing one killed and five or six wounded. During the battle of Kulp's farm, June 22d, it supported Battery I, First New York, which did signal execution during the fight. June 27th, lost Lieutenant Dimm, who was killed on the skirmish line. After the rebels evacuated Kenesaw, was engaged in the pursuit, and, on the 6th of July, took position on Chattahoochie Heights, where the Regiment remained eleven days.

July 17th, crossed the river, and, on the 20th, just after crossing Peach Tree Creek, the rebels assailed the Corps with terrible force. Forming line under fire, the enemy was held at bay, and their charges repelled, until at 8 p.m., when he abandoned the attack, and returned to his fortifications. In this engagement five were killed and thirty-five wounded. Among the killed was Captain Thomas B. Woof. The morning report, next morning showed only 120 effective men, for duty, having left Bridgeport with 365 men.

July 22d, took position in front of Atlanta-the Regiment supporting Battery I, First New York, in which position it remained until the 25th of August, when it was ordered back to Chattahoochie Bridge, which the Corps was to guard while the rest of the army swung into the rear of Atlanta.

September 2d, the Regiment was sent out on a reconnoissance, (together with the Thirteenth New Jersey and One Hundred and Seventh New York,) and claims the honor of having been the first Regiment that entered Atlanta, Georgia, after its fall, which occurred on the second anniversary of its muster into service. It remained in Atlanta until the destruction of the place- most of the time having charge of the fire department.

November 15th, started on the''great march'' and participated in all its glories, its trials, and its triumphs; and, whether as advance guard, driving rebel cavalry before it, or as rear guard, pulling wagons out of the mud or corduroying roads, over unfathomable mud-holes, the One Hundred and First Illinois always did its duty so well as to win high commendations from its Brigade and Division Commanders. The story of that march is about the same for all regiments, and need hardly be repeated. The Regiment reached Savannah, and entered the place, December 22nd, 1864.

January 17th, 1865, crossed over into South Carolina, and went through the great campaign of the Carolinas, participating in the battles of Averysboro and Bentonville, losing only one man wounded.

March 24th, entered Goldsboro, and, on the 13th of April, entered Raleigh, where the Regiment remained until the final surrender of the rebel army, after which, on the 30th, it started overland for Richmond, Virginia, which was reached May 8th. Here it remained until the 11th, when it marched through Richmond, and took up the line of march for Alexandria, where it arrived on the 19th.

May 24th, participated in the ''grand review'' and then went into camp at Bladensburg, where, on the 7th of June, it was mustered out, and started for Springfield, where, on the 21st of June, 1865, it was paid off and disbanded.




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