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                                Civil War of the United States
                                   53rd Regiment, Company D,
                              of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry
                                    Cook County, Illinois


Information contributed for use in Cook County ILGenWeb by
        Ray Brucks [], Apr 2000

From U.S. Military History Collection
Found at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Civil War Room

A true story and History of the 53 Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry
It's campaigns and Marches
Incidents that occurred on the marches and in camp.
What happened to some of it's members and what Became of others.
Short stories of marches  and how the Army lived.
H.E. Ranstead
a member of Company D, Fifty-third Regiment

Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry

Page 2
This book is dedicated to the brave men who went out from 1861 to 1865
to perpetuate the Union of States, Free Speech and Liberty and to their

The Author

page 3
Chapter 1
The Fifty- third Illinois Infantry was organized at Ottawa, Ill., during
the fall and winter of 1861 by Colonel Cushman and was mustered into
United States service November 11, 1861. The Regiment consisted of ten
companies, one company of cavalry and one battery of six guns. The
Infantry, cavalry and the battery of artillery mustered a little over
1200 men.
Regiment left Ottawa February 27, 1862, and arrived in Chicago the same
day where it guarded prisoners in company with the twenty-third Regiment
Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In camp Douglas.
Remained till March 23, 1862, when it left for St. Louis Mo., where it
arrives March 24, and left March 25 for the south, arriving in Savannah, Tenn.,
March 28, 1862 and there is where it got its first sound of battle. Everything
was still on Sunday morning of April 6, when all at once there was a boom, boom,
of cannon and a continuos roar of small arms. I tell you it made the hair stand
to hear it and to think every volley meant the death and wounding of hundreds of
good men. The regiment had to stay at Savannah, about twenty miles from the
battle of Pittsburg Landing, and did not get there till the next day, Monday

Page 4
April 7, 1862, arriving too late to take a hand, as the boys had them on the run.
We marched out to the front, where our men were attacked on the morning of the
7th of April. It looked awful to us as we had never seen any such slaughter as
there was along the line of march of five or six miles that afternoon. Men and
horses all piled together all over a space of eight or ten miles. One could not
go anywhere without seeing dead or wounded who laid there two or three days,
many of the wounded died on the field for the want of care. We were over a week
getting all the dead buried.
General Johnson was in front at Corinth and General Hallock settled down for a
regular siege and the regiment had regular work to do. They took part in the burial
of the dead and in the siege at Corinth, and here while in camp we had a good deal
of sickness, as it was very wet weather at that time. Quite a number of the Regiment
died, and Company D lost their orderly sergeant John Carter, a fine man and a good
soldier. We thought it was awful at that time , but I tell you we got used to that,
and found a man's life was held pretty cheap in those days at the front.
On May 30, 1862, General Johnson evacuated Corinth, Miss., and the Union army took
possession. We left Corinth for Grand Junction, Tenn., where we arrived June 15, 1862,
and left June 25 for La Grange, Tenn., arriving on the 25th and left on the 30th and
arrived at Holly Springs, Miss., July 4, 1862, where we celebrated our first fourth
of July in the confederacy.

Page 5
And left July 5 for LaGrange, Tenn., where we arrived on the 7th and guarded the
rail road till the 17th and then left for Moscow, Tenn.. all this marching and
counter marching was not was not by the Regiment alone, but by a division and
sometimes by the whole army. We always had more or less fighting and skirmishing
to do on these trips, and generally had pretty hard living.
On this trip we ran out of rations and had nothing but parched corn for two days.
That was tough we thought then, but learned better.

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Chapter II
Arriving at Moscow, Tenn., July 17, 1862, left the 18th for LaFayette Tenn.,
arrived on the same day and left on the 19th for Germantown, Tenn., arrived
the same evening and left on the 20th for Memphis, where we arrived on
July 21, 1862, and left September 6, for Bolivar, Tenn., arriving on September 13.
Here we guarded the railroad till September 20, and then left for Grand Junction,
arriving on the 20th , and left on the 21st for Bolivar, where we arrived on the
same afternoon and left October 4 , going as far as Hatchie River, where the
regiment took an active part in the battle of Hatchie River, Tenn., on October 5,
which was a hard contested fight on both sides.
Company D, of the Fifty-third regiment, had a curious thing happen to two of
it's men. They both said in the morning of the battle that they would be killed,
and they both disposed of their things and told where to send them. Captain Hudson
told them if they felt that way they had better not go in, but they would not hear
to that and went into battle and both were killed, almost the first thing. This
is something that happened to a good many in the service.
We left the Hatchie River October 7, arrived at Bolivar October 8, and left for
La Grange November 3, and arrived November 4. Left November 6, for LeMar, Miss.,
then went to La Grange and back to LaMar on the 8th. Went to LaGrange again on the 9th,

Page 7
And guarded the railroad there till 23rd of November, when we left for
Sonerville, Tenn., and came back to Grange the same day and left on the 29th
for Hollysprings, Miss., where we arrived on the 29th, and left on the 30th,
for Waterford, Miss., where we remained until December 11, and left for
Oxford, Miss., arrived on December 12, and left the same day for Oxford, Miss.,
arriving December 12, and left the same day for Springdale, Miss., arriving in
the evening and left the next morning for Oxford, where we stayed two days and
left December 24 for Tallehatchie Fort, Miss., and on Christmas day left for
Holly Springs where we arrived January 5, 1863 and left for Moscow, Tenn., on
the 4th. Left Moscow March 9 for LaFayette, passing through Colliersville and
arriving Germantown, Tenn., March 10. Left the same day for Bridwater, Tenn.,
and arrived at Memphis March 11, where we stayed and got ready to go down the
river to Vicksburg.
We left Memphis May 16, 1863, for Young's Point, on Mississippi transports,
where we arrvied May 19, and left for Haines Bluff on the 20th, and left
May 21, 1863.

Page 8
Chapter III
Between Memphis and Vicksburg, the transports, of which there were five or
six, all in line one behind the other, all was going nicely, and one would
think it was the quietest place on earth, but we were destined for some fun,
and so we did. All at once there was a puff of smoke from the shore. The
boat the fifty-third was on was in the rear. All looked ahead and saw the
boats were trying to see which could get the farthest from that side of the
river and how quick it could be done, but that did not last long, as the
signal was given to the rear boats to land a couple of regiments in the rear
of the confederates. The fifty-third regiment was one of them. We marched
through the woods and swamps all the afternoon, but they were too swift for
us, as we did not catch any of them. We left destruction on our rear, as
there was 50,000 bushels of corn burned that afternoon, and some cotton,
and about night we were back at the river, to where our boats were waiting
for us. There was a little town of Greenville and it was not long before it
was all on fire. I don't think it was ordered to be set fire, but such things
happened. Nobody knew how it was done.
The boats went up the Yazoo river where the troops were unloaded and started
to our destination in the rear of Vicksburg, where we arrived May 25, 1863.
From the bluff where the troops landed we could see men of the General Grant's
army, and the confederates fighting.

Page 9
They looked from where we were as if the woods, hills, and valleys were full
of men. It was a sublime sight, but awful wicked. We looked and wondered how
soon we would be engaged in the awful work with the rest out there at the
front. We had not long to wait as all available men were needed in the front.
We were started for the front of Vicksburg May 24, where we arrived on the 25th,
when the regiment took an active part in the siege of Vicksburg until the
surrender of the city on the Fourth of July, 1863.

Page 10
Chapter IV
We had a great many experiences here. Our work was night and day, and no
intermission during the time. It was not the policy of General Grant to sleep
when the enemy was in front of him. Around Vicksburg it is very hilly country.
The hills are a good deal like taking a lot of eggs and setting them up on a
table. It is all hills and valleys. We camped in the valleys and built forts
and breastworks on the hills. We generally had to build the works in the night,
with the rebs shooting at the noise we made. They did not always hit the noise,
but more often they hit a man. In one of these works where Ed Avery, of company D,
fifty-third regiment, received his death wound. He was in one of the works with
a Company B man of the fifty-third regiment and one of them had shot at a rebel
through a port hole in the fort, and then the company B man was looking to see
what he had hit, and, Ed Avery was looking over his shoulder at the same time.
The Rebel let drive back at him and hit the porthole all right and also hit the
company B man in the temple, just back of the eyes. The bullet went clear
through his head, drove both eyes out, and hit Ed. Avery in the left breast,
just over the heart. The curious part of this little incident was when he
found the company B man was killed, he stuck his fore finger in the bullet
hole in his breast and walked to the company in that shape,

Page 11
and said he was wounded. He had put his finger in the hole so he would not bleed.
The boy lived till he knew Vicksburg had surrendered and he said he was ready to
die then. He passed peacefully away the same day. This is only one such incident
that might be told. If I told them all, there would be no end to this story and
the history of those times.
About the same things happened each day, until the 2nd day of July, 1863, when
the first flag of truce went up, while General grant and Pemberton were meeting
to negotiate for the surrender of Vicksburg. When the white flags would go up,
the rebs would shout, " Yanks, don't shoot now and we won't." then the men from
both sides would climb up on the works and have a great visit.

Page 12
Chapter V
The Union works and the Confederate works were pretty close together at the last
of the siege. In some places they were as close as three or four rods. Looking
out over the works we could see the lines of both sides for two miles each way,
running over the hills. It was a nice sight at night to look out over the armies
and over the city and see the flashes of the small arms and the flash of the gun
and mortar boats throwing shell and mortar shot into the city. We could see the
flash of the mortar and then see the ball rise up in the air and make a circle
through the heavens and then, when near the ground, another flash and boom and
it would be all still, and so they would be at it all night. The Rebs had to dig
caves in the sides of the hills to be in safety from the shell and shot.
The negotiations were going on slowly. During the 2nd and 3rd of July we would
get up on the works three or four time a day when the white flags were up and
visit. Pretty soon, way up the line the flags would go down. Then you would
hear everyone shout, " Look out, we are going to shoot," and it would not be a
minute till all along the line they were shooting as hard as ever, and so it went
 till the fourth of July, 1863, when the city and the confederate army were
surrendered to the union forces, and on that day, after the Johnnies had stacked
their arms, they were allowed to

Page 13
mingle freely with the men and you would not suppose that we were a lot of men
that had been trying to kill one another for the last two months. We gave the
Johnnies as good a dinner as we could, and had a general good time to celebrate
the Fourth. But the War was not over yet, as General Johnson was in our rear on
the east side of Black river, so the Johnnies we had taken prisoners were paroled
and turned loose to go where they pleased and General Grants army took no rest,
but started east on the 5th of July to catch General Johnson. We got to Clinton Miss.,
on the 9th and left July 10 for Jackson, arriving the same day.

Page 14
Chapter VI
Jackson is where the fifty-third Illinois Regiment, the Third Iowa and the Twenty
eight Illinois Regiment and the Forty-first Illinois Regiment got into more trouble
and it proved to be pretty serious trouble, too. These four regiments made up the
First Brigade, Fourth Division, and had been in the rear guard on the 11th of July,
as all the army was in the line around Jackson on the night of the 11th of July,
the first brigade went into camp for the night. On the morning of the 12th it was
to take it's position on the right of the army, and through some mistake in the
orders we got into a fearful charge. The brigade was marched up on the right of
the army on a raised piece of ground and ordered to lie down. We could look across
on an open space about 200 rods I should judge, where we could see the rebel works.
All was still over there, and to wake them up we placed a battery in the rear of
the brigade and opened fire on the rebel works, over our heads, but got no response
from them. Then we were ordered in line of battle, skirmishers were started forward,
and the line of battle ordered ahead. We had gone about forty rods and had run
against the rebel skirmishers and the skirmishers on both sides commenced to fire.
The order was given to fix bayonets and charge double quick. It was a hard place to
charge over, as all trees had been felled towards us and all the

Page 15
limbs sharpened and sharp stakes driven in the ground, leaning towards us, and wire
put on them, but we got through under heavy fire of small arms and artillery. The
cannons were loaded with grape shot and canister shot and some shells. We charged
within a few feet of the rebel works there, all that were alive laid down in a little
plowed furrow. Some had retreated and the rest of the brigade were killed or wounded.
Those who got close to the works were all taken prisoners, the rebels were in the rear
of us and ordered us to surrender. They got 104 prisoners out of the brigade who all
went to the Old Libby prison in Richmond Va., and from there to Belle Isle. The island
is situated in the James river, northwest of Richmond. It was a vile place at that time.
The brigade mustered 800 men for duty when they went in the charge. They lost something
over 300 killed, wounded and missing. The fifty-third regiment lost the Colonel,
Seth C. Earl. Company D lost in killed outright L.B. McClaskey; wounded Capt. James E.
Hudson, shot in the arm, afterwards died, from wound; Joseph K. McLaughlin shot in the
head; got well; Lot C Larkin , shot in the hand, got well; Knute Madison, wounded got

Page 16
well. The prisoners from Company D Fifty-third Regiment were Abner Beale, Lot C.
Larkin, H.E. Ranstead, Hamilton White, Geo. Crain, Ed. Thomas, John Cary. Abner Beale,
after he got out of prison, came home and died here. No one knows what became of Geo.
Crain, as no one ever saw him after he was taken prisoner as he was separated from the

Page 17
Chapter VII
After General Johnson retreated from Jackson, the army marched back to Vicksburg. The
fifty-third left Jackson July 21, 1863, arrived at Vicksburg July 23, 1863, where they
laid in camp till Aug 18, when they left for Natchez, where they arrived August 19.
Here they did a good deal of scouting and marching till the 30th of November, when
they went back to Vicksburg, arriving December 1. Left for Milldale, Miss., December 2
and arrived on the 3rd. While we lay here at Milldale, the order came from Washington
that all regiments that had enlisted for three years and had served two of the three,
and would enlist again for three years, or during the war, would be given the year off
of the first three years they had enlisted, and could enlist as veterans and would be
given a thirty day furlough and $402. The regiment did the right thing, talked for a
day or two and looked around and wondered how many would enlist under that law, but
waited for some one to go ahead, and the writer of this book was the first in the
regiment to put his name down. After the ice was broken it did not take long for the
rest to enlist, and on January 18, 1864 the Fifty-third Illinois was reported as veteran

Page 18
Chapter VIII
We left Milldale January 21, 1864, for a big raid through Mississippi. Arrived Big Black
river January 22, left February 3, arrived at Clinton February 4, left on the 5th, got
to Jackson February 6 and left on the 7th, got to Brandon the same day and left on the
8th and got to Morton on the 9th. Left Morton on the 10th and went to Hillsboro and on
to Decatur, where we arrived on the 12th. Left Decatur on the 13th and arrived Meridian
on the 15th. We had been marching through the country in Mississippi for a couple of
weeks in search of Johnnies, and had made it pretty lively when we met, and that was
every day, but we could not catch many of them at a time. We then turned back towards
It had come time now for the regiment to have it's veteran furlough, so they made ready
to leave the south for Ottawa, where it had organized and gone forth to the south two
years before. And I tell you it was not the regiment that left Ottawa.

Page 19
The company of Calvary was not with it, nor the battery of artillery, and the ranks of
infantry were thinned out very much. The regiment looked about the size one of the
companies did when it went out in 1861. Well, we arrived at Ottawa March 23, 1864 and
there we were disbanded and each company went to its home where it was enlisted, to have
a good a time as possible. I tell you the regiment was well received on their way home.
We were fed at almost every place we stopped, and had a big supper at LaSalle, and such
a dinner we had at Ottawa cannot be described. The people could not do enough for a soldier
at that time, and company D came to Earlville and everybody tried to see who should do
the most for the boys.

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Chapter IX
We stayed here till the 28th of April, 1864 and then went to Ottawa, had a big supper and
dance and the regiment left on April 29, arrived in Peoria that evening and left on
April 30 for Havana, and left for St. Louis, went on to Cairo and Paducah Ky., where we
arrived May 11, and left May 11 for Clinton,Tenn., arriving May 14; left for
Waynesboro, Tenn., arriving on the 16th, passing through Lawerenceburg, and arrived
at Pulaski May 16. Left for Elkwood, Tenn., and arrived May 21, left for Huntsville,
Ala., and arrived May 23, left foe Decatur, Ala., and arrived May 26, left for
Somerville, Ala., and arrived May 28, left for Warrentown, Ala., for Van Buren June 2,
left for Cedar Bluffs and arrived June 3, left for Missionary Station and arrived
arrived June 4, left for Rome, GA., arrived June 5, left for Kingston, Ga., arrived
June 6, left for Carterville, GA., arrived June 7.
We had now joined General Sherman's army again. We were kept here at Altoona Pass to
fortify and guard the railroad at this point, as this railroad was our only source of
supplies. This road had to be open all the way back to the Ohio river, about 500 or
600 miles. We had to fight for it every day, somewhere along the line. The rebels were
making dashes every day or two, trying to tear up the tracks and capture the trains,
and very often succeeded. About this time General Hood thought

Page 21
he would try General Sherman's tactics. He withdrew part of his forces and started for
Sherman's rear, to try and cut his communications and to force Sherman's army to retreat,
but General Sherman did not think that way. We started back and kept between Hood and
the railroad and just watched him. There was no damage done, as they did not strike the
After we got back from this raid, the Seventeenth Corps was started for the east of
Atlanta, Ga., we struck Decatur, Ga., July 19, and moved from there towards Atlanta,
and found the enemy strongly entrenched. On the afternoon of July 20, we were ordered
into line of battle. The fifty-third regiment's position was just on the edge of an
open field, about a mile from the rebel works, here is where we had to make the charge.
Across this field there was a small stream, in front of the rebel works. They were on
a low bluff on the west side. The Union forces brought up artillery and we had a lively
artillery battle, but that did not do much good, and now came the infantry charge

Page 22
Chapter X
We were ordered to load and fix bayonets and charge double quick, and away we went
with a Yankee yell, and loaded and fired as fast as we could when on the run, and the
rebels were giving the best they had, of artillery, and small arms, and our artillery
was firing over our heads. At every discharge you would see men pitch forward all along
the line, either killed or wounded. The regiment lost quite a number in this charge.
Company D had two wounded badly and several others slightly hurt. The two wounded
Joseph K. McLaughlin and Simon Plank. We could not get to the rebel works. We got as
far as the creek and had to stop, but we held our position and stayed and camped close
to the enemy's works. The next day, July 21, 1864, the Seventeenth Corps charged the
works and had their position in line. The 22d of July was when the Fifty-third regiment
got in bad shape. The left of General Sherman's army rested east of Atlanta, and reached
clear around to the northwest of the city. The Fifteenth Corps was the extreme left of
the army, and was facing west towards the city. The Sixteenth Corps was a mile or two to
the east, in line of battle. There was an open place of about a mile, from the left of
the Fifteenth Corps to the right of the Sixteenth Corps. The regiment was on

Page 23
this line. There was a small guard left with the camp. The guard was eating breakfast
when we heard something uncommon out in front of camp to the south and we started to
investigate, but did not have to look far, the Rebels were coming in line of battle.
General Hood had taken a notion to come a flank movement on General Sherman. Hood had
moved his main forces east from the city and then came down in our rear. When we saw
what was coming, we fellows in camp had to work quick to keep from being taken prisoner
and I, the writer of this book did not want any more of that, for it was not a long time
since I had gotten out of prison.

Page 24
Chapter XI
The only chance I saw was to make a run for the Fifteenth corps, about a mile from us,
they being the nearest of any of our men. So we started each man for him self. Myself and
two more of my company started together, but had not gone far when we lost one, the man
left with me was Ezra Drew. He stayed with me for a ways and then said he had to stop. I
tried to get him to come on but he did not, and the last I saw of him he had stood his gun
against a big tree and was resting. I was not tired just then, for I could see
Andersonville just behind and freedom in front and I guess my legs saved me that time.
Drew and the other man went to Andersonville and Drew died there. The other man got out
alive. Other members of the regiment were taken but I never learned how many. I got to
the Fifteenth corps, which was General Logan's old corps. They were armed with what we
called in those days "Sixteen Shooters." That is, sixteen shots at one loading and they
did some awful fighting that day. I was with them all day and the rebels charged them.
First they got it in the front and the next time they would try them in the rear. One
of the charges the Rebs made was the worst I ever saw. They came in, six lines deep and
every man yelling his best, and they charged clear to the Union breastworks and climbed
over in the fire of those "sixteen shooters," and pushed the

Page 25
line back from the works about three rods, but the fire was too much for them. They had
to fall back and the ground was strewn with dead, wounded and the dying. It was a sight
never to be forgotten. But the Yankees were too much for the Johnnies, and they withdrew
and went back defeated in their flank movement.
The next day after the battle the Fifty-third began to look around to see what had become
of it's members. They began to get together and in couple of days the regiment was
organized again and got so it could take it's place once more in line ready for duty,
but when the roll was called there were seventy-three missing. The regiment had lost
seventy-three killed, wounded and missing in the three days engagement.
On July 27, 1864 the Seventeenth corps with the Fifteenth corps and the Eighteenth corps,
withdrew from the east of Atlanta and moved to the extreme right of the lines, at Atlanta,
and on July 28, 1864, the battle was fought.
Then things were quiet for a short time, and then, on August 26, 1864, General Sherman
withdrew form before Atlanta and began his flank movement to Jonesboro, Ga. On August 31,
the battle of Jonesboro was fought and on Sept 2, 1864, Atlanta was evacuated by
General Hood and the Union forces took possession.

Page 26
Chapter XII
After General Hood had evacuated Atlanta, General Sherman made ready for his famous
march to the sea. The army consisted of four corps , one corps on a road by itself.
From the corps on the right to the corps on the left was about fifty miles so we took
a big scope of country. The Seventeenth corps had the center of the main line of
railroad between Atlanta and Savannah. The Fifty-third regiment was in the Seventeenth
corps, and the corps had the job of tearing up the railroad and destroying the rolling
stock. It is quiet an art to tear up railroad track. The way we did it was this: We
would march on the track till a whole regiment or division was strung along and then
stack arms beside the road and string along the track, one man to a tie, and then the
order was given to tip it over, and it went over quicker than it was built. Then we
knocked the ties off the rails and piled the ties in bunches about six feet high and
laid the iron on top of the pile and then set the pile of ties on fire, and it would
soon have the rails red hot in the middle, and then five or six men would take hold
of each end and start for a tree, and one set of men on one end of the rail go one
way and the other set the other way, and the rail wound around the tree and there
they stayed. All that was left of the railroad was the grading. I think it was not
as hard work to dress these trees

Page 27
with the iron rails as it was to get them off. While some were tearing up railroad
the rest would be fighting ahead for more road to tear up, as the Johnnies contested
every rod of the country and they made the Yanks fight for it. They were in our
front all the time. Where the wagon road went through the big timber the Rebs would
cut the timber from both sides and fell it to the road, so if we got through it at
all we had to cut the timber out. The way a march of that kind is conducted is all
the teams and the artillery and all kinds of vehicles are marched in the road and
the men march at the side of the road.

Page 28
Chapter XIII
We had rivers to cross, and here is where the Johnnies gave a good deal of trouble.
They burned all the bridges after they crossed a stream and then we had to lay
pontoon bridges, most generally under fire, and it is not a very pleasant job under
those circumstances. Another thing that was a big nuisance was the negroes. They
would follow the army by the thousands, with all kinds of vehicles, from a
wheelbarrows to a fine family coach, and they were drawn by all kinds of horses
and mules, and they would be loaded with everything imaginable and some of the
men and negroe women, too, would carry enough on their heads to furnish a house.
They would carry a load that would make a mule blush. They would keep falling in
all along the road and got so numerous that the army teams could not get along.
The way they got rid of them was when we came to a river where we had to lay
pontoon bridges, they would station a strong guard at the bridge and halt every-
thing and send them to the side of the road, and after the army was all across
would take up the pontoon bridge and leave the darkies all on the other , and
all the negroes had to do was go back home.
The days were employed on this march to the sea by tearing up railroad, foraging
and getting the road cleared of trees that the Rebs had fallen in the road, and
fighting the Johnnies out of the road

Page 29
head. There was fighting in front all the time. This was the work every day, and
all these places had to be bridged with corduroy bridges. They are made by cutting
the trees at the side of the road in lengths of almost eight feet and laid down
side by side. Sometimes just before coming to one of these swampy places, if there
was a fence handy, each soldier as he passed would pick up a rail and by the time
the last man came by there would be perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers with rails
their backs and as the soldiers in the lead came to the swamp each would lay his
rail down and so on till there was a good rail made road across the swamp, and it
went day after day.

Page 30
Chapter XIV
The regiment with the rest of the army left Atlanta on September 3, on the way to
Savannah, and on December 9, 1864, we were camped within about ten miles of the
city, with the Fifty-third regiment in the advance, and we went into camp by the
side of the road. General Sherman had his head quarters on the other side of the
road from the Fifty-third regiment. Everything was quiet on the night of the 9th,
but on the morning of the 10th we found something else. We had breakfast and had
fallen in line ready to march forward. The band was at the head and the Colonel of
the regiment with his staff officers at the head of all. There was no firing that
morning and I guess they thought there were no Johnnies in the woods. The country
around there was very level and nice. The road ahead of us was a straight and sandy
one, with heavy undergrowth of brush and timber on both sides. The order was given
by the Colonel to " forward march!" and as we moved forward the band commenced to
play and the men moved said they guessed we would be in the city that forenoon. We
had gone a few rods when we heard another kind of music. It was boom! Boom! of a
annon in the road in front of us. The Rebels had a masked battery in the road. The
first shot was a shell. It came through between the colonel and the officers of the
staff, passed over the heads of the band and

Page 31
at the head man in Company I on top of the head, the next man in the breast and the
next man in the bowels, and then it exploded, killing the first four and badly
wounding six others, putting ten men off duty at on shot, and that was the only shot
fired that morning. It did not take the regiment long to get into line of battle and
put out skirmishers and throw up breastworks, and they did get into the city for
several days.

Page 32
Chapter XV
then General Sherman in vested the city, and went to work to open up communications
with the fleet that lay out on the coast. It was necessary for him to hurry so the
army could get rations, as we had none for man or beast to amount to anything, and
the country was pretty poor around Savannah in the best of times. It was several
days before we got in communications with our fleet and we got pretty short before
we got supplies. For four days we had nothing but rice with hulls on. We had to
pound it to get the hulls off and then blow the hulls out. We had a one horse rice
mill to hull rice with, but it would not hull enough in a month to give the army
one meal, as there was over 100,000 men to feed and Uncle Billie Sherman was in a
big hurry to get supplies to us. There was a fort on the river to be taken before
the boats could get up to the army and the country round there is all low land awful
swampy, so it was impossible to get over with teams, this fort had to be taken at
any cost, so there was a division put out to take it. The division had to make a long
march to get in the rear of the fort and take the garrison by surprise, and they did
it nicely. The fort could be seen from where the Fifty-third regiment was, as the
country was open between us and the fort, and we could see General Sherman watching
from an old house way across the rice fields toward the fort.

Page 33
We had to watch a long time before we could see anything of our men. At last they
came out in the rear of the fort and as soon as they were in sight of the rebels
there was something doing. Our men made for the fort on the run and they were soon
in a hand to hand fight, and from where we were it looked as though there was a cyclone
at work there. The awful carnage was soon over and we could see that our men had taken
the fort and our communications were open to the grub pile, but at a heavy loss of good
soldiers. But such was war!

Page 34
Chapter XVI
Now that communication was open with our fleet, Sherman turned his attention to taking
the city of Savannah. All lines were advanced close by to the rebel works, when
everything was ready to do something, we woke up on the morning of the 21st day of
December, 1864, and looked for the Johnnies, lo and behold they had skeddadled, and
the Union forces took peaceful possession of the city, and General Sherman's famous
march to the sea had terminated successfully .
Some of the troops were sent after General Hardee and the rest got ready to make the
march across and through the Carolinas and Virginia to Richmond. The Fifty-third
regiment and the Forty-first regiment Illinois had now lost so many men that the
Forty-first regiment was consolidated with the Fifty-third and formed companies G and K
of the Fifty-third Illinois. This was done on January 4, 1865.
We left Savannah on boats January 6, 1865, for Beaufort, SC., and left there on January 13
on the raid through South and North Carolina, and on to Richmond. On January 14, 1865
the Seventeenth corps drove the Johnnies into their works at Patotiligo, S.C. During
the night they evacuated the place. On January 29 we started on the grand raid through
the Carolinas. February 3 the First and Fourth divisions of the Seventeenth corps forded

Page 35
the Carribee river at River Bridge, S.C. after considerable fighting. February 9
considerable skirmishing on the Little Edisto river at Orangeburg , S.C. February 16
and 17, considerable skirmishing across the Kangaroo , Salada and Broad rivers,
opposite Columbus. The Seventeenth Corp was on the west side of the river opposite
Columbus. We could see the city plainly from our position. The bridges were all
burned by the rebels when we got here. There were some big cotton mills here, with
about 500 or 600 employees, mostly girls and women, and they were nearly destitute
of anything to eat. They said the Johnnies took everything to eat with them and we
could not help them very much as we were living off the country ourselves. When we
crossed the river here we left all the negroes that had followed us up to that place
and they had nothing to eat, so they must have had a hard time before they got
In the night of February 17, 1865, the Johnnies evacuated Columbus, S.C. and a boat
load from the Thirteenth Iowa regiment, Third brigade Fourth Division, Seventeenth
corps, crossed the river and raised the flag of the regiment over the capitol, and
what was left of the city was in possession of the Union forces. The city was a
mass of smoking ruins when we got in there.

Page 36
Chapter XVII
But we didn't stop there. We were after Johnnies and they didn't stop in one place
long and so they kept us on the jump to catch them. On March 3, 1865, considerable
fighting at Sharon, S.C. The Johnnies evacuated the town and crossed Fear river. The
way the Johnnies were dislodged from in front of us was by a flank movement on them.
The way that was done was to send a detachment of troops away round to their left,
or to the right of them, and when they found the Yanks almost in their rear they up
and skedaddled for another good place to make a stand, and gave us the trouble of
going around them again, and so we kept moving forward in that way. 0n March 19, 1865,
heavy fighting on the left. General Johnson attacked the Fourteenth and Twentieth
corps near Bentonville, N.C. on March 20 and 21, the army closed up on General Johnson's
army at Bentonville. Here was the last battle General Sherman's army had. The heaviest
fighting was on the afternoon of March 21. The firing commenced about 1 o'clock and
was continuos till dark, in the open timber, with nothing to protect a man but a
tall slim tree, and some had two or three men trying to stand behind them, and it
did not always work, for as soon as a Johnny

Page 37
saw a piece of a Yank, it was a sure mark for a reb bullet and often a Yank got one
for keeps. To help this along, the rebs were in breastworks, and the Yanks in the
open, and to make things worse, it rained from dawn all the afternoon, and the
writer of these pages was so lame and stiff the next morning he could hardly get up.
Some were worse off than that, for they could not get up at all, and I don't think
they have yet. The Fifty-third regiment lost in this battle 1 killed and six wounded.

Page 38
Chapter XVIII
On March 23, 1865, Johnnies evacuated Bentonville, N.C. at night and crossed the
river. We now lay in camp till April 7, when a dispatch was received that General
Grant had taken Richmond, and everybody was sure the war would be done now, and we
lay and waited and watched for the end till April 12, when another dispatch was
received stating the General Lee had surrendered to General Grant. Now things began
to come our way pretty fast, as on April 15, 1865 General Johnson asked for terms
of surrender, but something happened then that was like stirring up a hornets nest.
On April 17,1865, a dispatch was received stating that President Lincoln and
Secretary Seward had been assassinated. This certainly made things look as if we
would not have peace at all. But the 18th of April Sherman and Johnson agreed on
terms of surrender subject to the approval of the war Department. On April 24 the
Seventeenth Corps was reviewed in town by Generals Grant, Sherman and Mead and
Secretary Stanton. The terms of surrender agreed by Generals Sherman and Johnson
were not approved by the war department, and we were ordered to advance on General
Johnson. This again did not look very much like peace, but we did not get a chance
to give Johnson battle, as April 26, 1865, Johnson surrendered, there was no more
armies to fight, and so we had to quit, and everybody was glad to do so and have

Page 39
a chance to go home to a peaceful life. We were sick of war.
We had a long and hard march in front of us. The army was at Raleigh, N.C. and had
to march from there to Richmond, and on to Washington for the big and last review
of all the armies of the rebellion. The army left there April 29, 1865, on the long
march to Washington, where we arrived on the 24th of May 1865, and went into camp at
Fort Henry, D.C. where we stayed until after the big review.
Our march to Washington was considerably different than we had been used to. We had
no enemy in front to be driven out before we could go ahead. Lee's and Johnson's
 armies had been paroled and had disbanded and on their way home. We met them all
along the road and they felt happy. They would laugh and say, "Well the war is over;
glory to God."
The country we were passing through looked like war. Around Petersburg and Richmond
the earth was all turned into big forts and breastworks, and the timber nearly all
cut down from south of Petersburg nearly to Washington. General Mead's army of the
Potomac lay all along our line of march between Richmond and Washington and the two
armies had lots of jokes for one another. They called us `Sherman's bummers" and we
called them "band box soldiers" because they always were in camp and could keep clean
and get new clothes when they needed them. But Sherman's bummers had been on the march
and had been fighting almost constantly for nearly eight months and had no time for
many white collars. It was all taken in good part for now we were for peace.

Page 40
Chapter XIX
On May 23, 1865 General Mead's army was reviewed in Washington and on May 24 General
Sherman's army was reviewed. After the big review the armies were sent to various
places where they were to be disbanded and discharged. June 7 it was our turn to go
toward home, so on that dates the Fourth division of the Seventeenth army corps
marched to Baltimore depot and took transportation on the cars, for Louisville , Ky.,
where we arrived June 12. We layed in camp till the 19th of July and were mustered
out of the service, and the fifty-third regiment was then sent to Chicago, where
they drew their last pay and were given their final discharge from the service,
and then the regiment scattered to the four corners as they had come together
nearly four years before, and I hope they made as good citizens as they did soldiers.

Page 41
Chapter XX
The Fifty-third regiment in it's various marches had been all over Kentucky, had
marched all over Tennessee, and across and up and down the state of Mississippi,
all over Alabama and Georgia, and marched through South Carolina, North Carolina,
Virginia, and a piece of Maryland, and the District of Columbia, and rode from
Washington home.
It has been said that the Fifty-third regiment had marched 5,000 miles and rode
as many more. This I cannot vouch for, but I think it is not enough.
(The next 5 pages are listings of their marches. They are listed in the following
 manner: "Name of Place Distance Date of arrival Departure". If you are interested,
 you may get this information from the micro fiche at the
 Chicago Public Library.)

Page 47
November 11 1861   First Regiment Muster
April 6 and 7      Battle of Pittsburg Landing , Tenn.
May 30 1862        Evacuation of Corinth, Miss.
October 5          Battle Hatchie River, Tenn.
July 4 1863        Surrender of Vicksburg
July 12            The Fifty-third Illinois, with the Third Iowa, Twenty-eight and
                   Forty-first Illinois regiments charged the enemies works at
                   Jackson, Miss.
January 18 1864    The Fifty-third Illinois Reported as a veteran regiment.
July 20            Closed up on the enemies works at Atlanta
July 21            The Seventeenth corps charged the enemy works at Atlanta
July 22            Battle of the 22d of July at Atlanta.
                   The Fifty-third lost seventy-three in the three days engagement.
July 27            The Seventeenth corps, with the Fifteenth and Eighteenth corps went
                   to the extreme right of the line at Atlanta.
August 26          Sherman withdrew from before Atlanta

Page 48
                   And commenced his flank movement to Jonesboro, GA.
August 31          Battle at Jonesboro.
September 2        Atlanta evacuated by Hood and taken possession of by the Union forces.
December 10        Closed up on the enemy's works at Savannah. A shell burst in Company I,
                   Fifty-third regiment, killing four and wounding six others.
December 21        Savannah evacuated by Hardee and taken of by the Union forces.

January 4  1865    The Forty-first Illinois Regiment is consolidated with and forms
                   Companies G and K of the Fifty-third Illinois regiment
January 14         The Seventeenth corps drove the Johnnies into their works at
                   Pocotaligo, S.C. During the night they evacuated the place.
January 29         Started on the Grand raid through the Carolinas
January 30         The First and Forth divisions of the Seventeenth corps forded
                   the Combabee river at River Bridge, S.C. Considerable fighting.
February 9         Considerable skirmish on the Edisto river
February 11        Considerable skirmish on the Little Edisto river of Orangeburg, S.C.

Page 49
February 17        Columbus evacuated. A boat load from the Thirteenth Iowa regiment,
                   Third Brigade, Fourth division, Seventeenth corps, crossed the
                   River and raised the flag of the regiment over the capital.
March 3            Considerable fighting at Chrean, S.C.
                   The Johnnies evacuated the town and crossed the Pedee river.
March 14           Considerable fighting at Fayetteville, N.C.
                   The Johnnies evacuated the town and crossed the Fear river
March 19           Heavy fighting on the left. General Johnson attacked the Fourteenth
                   And Twentieth corps near Bentonville , N.C.
March 20and 21     The army closes up on Johnson at Bentonville.
                   Heavy fighting all along the lines. The Fifty-third regiment Illinois
                   lost one killed and six wounded in this battle.
March 22           Johnson evacuated Bentonville at night and crossed the Neuce river.
April 7            A dispatch confirming the news that General grant had taken Richmond.
April 15           General Johnson asks for terms of surrender.
April 17           A dispatch received stating that President Lincoln and
                   Secretary Seward had been assassinated.
April 18           Sherman and Johnson agree on terms of surrender subject to the
                   Approval of the war department
April 24           The Seventeenth corps in town by Generals Grant, Sherman and Mead
                   and Secretary Stanton.
                   Terms of surrender agreed upon by Sherman and Johnson are not approved
                   by the war department
                   And we are ordered to advance on Johnson.
April 26           Johnson surrenders.
May 23             General Mead's army is reviewed in Washington.
May 24             General Sherman's army is reviewed in Washington.
June 7             The fourth division of the Seventeenth corps marched to Baltimore
                   depot and took the cars to Louisville, Ky.

Page 51
The order of march was this: The advance regiment was started out in the morning
with it's regimental wagons in the rear, and the next regiment behind them, and
thus all the regiments of one brigade. It took four regiments for one brigade,
three brigades for a division and three divisions for an army Corp, and each
regiment, brigade, division and Corp had it's own wagons in the rear. The regiment
that is in the lead one day takes the rear the next day, and so each regiment,
brigade, division and each corps takes it's turn in being in the lead, and so they
keep doubling over from the rear to the front. It is a great deal easier to march
in the front than it is in the rear, and if there was anything good to eat the front
ones gobbled it up and left the rear ones in the soup. In the first year of the war
there was a guard put at all the houses that claimed to be union people and for
everything taken a voucher was given to pay in the future. So in the first stage of
the game the people fared all right. There was even a guard placed over the wells and
in order to get water one man would take the canteens of several of his comrades and
stop at a well to fill them. It was a hard job to do it, there were so many after the
same thing at the same well. The way they had to draw the water was with an

Page 52
old tin can of any kind with a bail in it and a string to it. The men would get around
the well so thick you could not get near it till your turn came, sometimes it never
came at the well. All the wells then were dug wells and from forty to eighty feet deep,
and we generally suffer for water, as it was generally hot an dusty.
This whole thing was changed the second year of the war. If it had not been we might
be at it yet. Our mode of march was changed. All kinds of transportation was given the
wagon road and the men took to the side of the road, and took a straight shoot for any
place we wanted to go, and there were no more guards placed over property. Every regiment
would send a man or two from company every day under an officer to forage and get supplies
for the regiment. It was not so hard on the men as it was under the old way, but this was
not all fun.
Imagine hundreds and thousands of men hungry, tired, dirty and foot-sore. If not marching
all day in the dust and heat it would be raining and they were wet, and the rear men would
get into camp all times of the night, tired and hungry, but maybe no supper but detailed
to go out a mile or two on picket, cold and wet. They were allowed no fire on the picket
line, and had to eat hard tack and sow belly that night without coffee to wash it down.
This is a meager description of what a soldier had to undergo on a march. It cannot be put
on paper. But then some funny things happened to put

Page 53
life in the men. One time on a march the men were told as they passed a picket fence to
take a rail on his shoulders and carry it along, as there was a swamp ahead that had to
be bridged with rails or trees, and as every man took a rail, there was a line of men as
far as you could see each way with a rail and his gun on his back and it made a funny sight.
A lot of negroes were standing beside the road. They never had seen Yankees before and one
darkey did not know what to say, but at last he found his tongue and looked up and down the
line of men and rails and made this remark that was used afterwards as a by word by the men
who heard it. The darkey opened his mouth and eyes and raised his hands and said, "De Lord,
look at de rails," and it struck the men quite comically, and such little things were a
great stimulant.
Another little incident happened that was comical. We ran across the Johnnies where they
were strongly fortified and we had to stop and show them how the Yanks drove Johnnies out
of our front when we took a notion to march through the country. After we formed in line
of battle the line moved forward. In the movement we came across a plantation residence.
There were three or four women folks there, and of course the men did not stop for fences
nor anything else in front. There were good picket fences and a lot of bee hives, a lye
leach and other truck around and of course the Yanks never got through there without
upsetting everything they came across. Bee hives lye leach and fences all were kicked
out of the way, and when

Page 54
the supporting column came up the old lady of the house was mourning over the destruction
of the bees, fence and leach, the spilling of all her good ashes ( it was too bad anyhow )
and she was telling how Captain Sherman had formed a string of fighters and went through
her yard and spilled her bees and broke her fence and spilled her lye leach and now she
could not have any soap, and she wanted to know who was going to pay for it. The soldiers
thought Captain Sherman might come back some day and settle up and so such things
happened every day.

Page 55
When an army is on a march and not engaged with the enemy, the advanced guard will go
into camp early in the afternoon, and as the balance come up they are marches to the
front and so keep on till all are in camp, and generally they will be nearly all night
getting in. when it is late at night, about all you will hear is, " How far is the camp,"
and few ever found out. I never did, but there is an end to everything. We would find
camp after awhile and were always tired, thirsty and hungry. The first thing to look
after was some water and fire to make coffee. Some would go and hunt for water and
others would hunt for wood and the other fellows would build the fire, and after a
while we would have something to eat. As a general thing the men would divide up messes
of from two or three to six, and that way could help one another. Each one was always
looking out for his special mess. I don't know what a soldier would have done without
his coffee, for it was seldom that he could get any water fit to drink. Most of the
water there was saved in holes in ravines. The people built dams across and when it
rained it would make a pond of water, and these were the only places at which the army
get water, and rebs would throw dead horses and dead hogs in these ponds and at night
when we got into camp late in the dark we would get water

Page 56
and make coffee and in the morning when we saw where the water came from it would make
us sick to look at it and see what we had drank out of, but it was that or nothing in
some places . These water holes were generally covered green scum in hot weather, but
generally we got pretty good grub on the march. When we could catch live hogs we would
have fresh pork, and if we had flour we would have pancakes.

Page 57
In the winter of 1862, the Fifty-third regiment guarded railroad in Tennessee. We had
to guard it to get supplies through to the army. The road at that time was our source
of supplies between Corinth and Memphis. We were in camp at Bolivar, Tenn., north and
of the railroad and north of the town. We had some little skirmishing to do here but
no hard fighting, but had a pretty cold job, as there was snow on the ground most of
the time. We had Sibley tents. They are round and run to a peak in the middle like an
indian wigwam, with a hole in the top for the smoke to go out. In the center of the
tent, we had around sheet iron stove and the bunks were around the stove. The beds
were straw and hay thrown on the ground, and when we went to bed we would two go
together and lay down a blanket and one of two blankets for covering, and then crawl
in with our feet towards the stove, and would fill the tent full clear around the
stove, and we slept a good deal like a lot of pigs. What got us was to get out of these
warm nests in the morning at 3 o'clock and stand out in line of battle in the snow and
cold until daylight. It was worse than picking corn. This was done because it was the
Johnnies custom to make a dash in the early hours of the morning on the posts guarding
the railroad, but we got a little fun out of life and had

Page 58
a laugh. One morning the Captain of Company K got out suddenly. The company officers
had square tents and they had fireplaces built up in one end of the tent, with a stick
and mud chimneys. The Captain of Company K was a little old Irishman. He had been an
officer of the war of 1812. His company in the fifty-third was all Irish, and a good
lot of men they were too. Old Captain got blowed out that time. He came out one way
and the chimney went out the other. Some of the boys to have a little fun threw a lot
of powder down the chimney in the fire and it exploded, and so did the fire place,
and the Captain exploded after he got his breath. That was all the good it did, as
no one knew who did it. We had another interesting thing here. We had a big crowd of
negroes and small pox got among them, and we had to keep them corralled so the soldiers
would, not get it. Once in a while one took it, and so the time was spent here for
almost a month, and very pleasant.

Page 59
In the winter of 1864 General Sherman started on a raid through Mississippi. He
started for the purpose of finding Johnnies and to destroy the enemy's property
and grab his grub pile. That is what a big raid is for, and on this raid there was
a good deal of stuff captured and lots destroyed. Not much was done on this march
until we got to Meridian, and here we went into camp and then scouting parties were
sent out all over the country. The division to which the fifty-third regiment
belonged was camped by the town of Meridian. General Crocker, the commander of the
Fourth division, had his headquarters at the south end of town in one of the
buildings. The town at that time was one long street, running north and south,
and one day when the wind was blowing pretty hard, the town took fire at the
north end. The wind swept from the north and took the fire down the street towards
General Crocker's headquarters. He held his post as long as he could, till he saw
he was going to be burned out, and then got his horse and his headquarters moved,
and the comical part of this was what the general said about being burned out. He
was an awful man to swear, and when he was burned out he looked around at the
destruction and he said it was a "H--- of a way to burn out as good a Union man
as he was."
We had a good living on this raid-had plenty

Page 60
of flour, fresh pork and molasses. There was so much sand and wind around Meridian
that when we made pancakes and put molasses on them, the wind would start the sand
to flying and our pancakes and molasses would be full of sand, and maybe there was
not some bad words said, but that did not pick the sand out of the molasses.
The first day we started was cold and raining. I had my musket over my shoulder with
my hand over the breech of the gun and jammed the back of my hand against a post
and tore a chunk of skin off my knuckle, and the weather being cold and wet, I
caught cold in the sore and my hand and arm swelled clear to the shoulder, and
I carried my hand in a sling for four weeks, and carried my gun and did duty all
the time we were out, and that was a little over forty days, and never had my
clothes off during the march. Such was the duty of a soldier.
After the burning of Meridian we started on the back track towards Vicksburg,
where we arrived safe after a successful raid of about five weeks.

Page 61
when an army is in camp doing nothing the routine consists of getting up at
5 O'clock and then fall in line and have roll call, and if a man is not here to
answer to his name there is something doing until he is found, and if he has no
good excuse there is something more doing. After roll call comes breakfast and
then detail for picket, and details for other duties of the day. The quarters of
each company have to be cleaned up, and then those left in camp have to fall in
and drill till dinner time. Then we have dinner and maybe we can rest an hour or
two, and if nothing better to get at, will go out and drill again until nearly
supper time. After supper the men have a rest and time to write letters and sew
on buttons and do a little mending, till 9 o'clock sharp, when retreat is sounded
and lights must be out. The officer of the day or the officer of the guard will go
all through the camp, and if he finds a light burning in a man's tent, the man had
better say his prayers, for there is no argument. Orders have been disobeyed and
that always means trouble for the culprit. So it goes, day after day, one thing
after another. This is what a soldier calls doing nothing in camp.

Page 62
The officers of a regiment are the headquarters officers, and the line officers
are the commissioned officers of a company. The headquarters officers consist of
a colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, adjutant and commissary officer. These are
commissioned officers of a regiment. The commissioned officers of a company are
the captain, first lieutenant, and second lieutenant. The other officers are an
orderly sergeant , five sergeants of the line and eight corporals, and the rest
of a company are just privates, but they are the fellows who have the most of the
work to do. The duties of the company officers are most numerous. The have charge
of the company and are responsible to the headquarters officers and have charge
of all details, such as guards and pickets and foraging details, and in fact it
would take a big book to tell all their duties in time of active service, but the
sergeants and the privates and the corporals have all the work to do that is done
with the gun, such as fighting, doing guard duty, going on picket, most of all the
camp work and if there is any tough job to do the private soldier has it to do. On a
march he is the fellow who is put in front to drive the enemy out, and in a battle
the private is the one who is ahead on the danger line. In fact, the private is the
main spoke in the wheel, and they have to obey all orders if it

Page 63
kills them the same minute. The private soldier likes a good officer and will fight
for one any day, but he is a funny fellow, for he has some rights all officers
respect. When off duty he takes the world pretty easy till something is to be
done, then he is pretty lively. He generally lets the officers do the worrying,
for it is the officers duty to hunt up work and the duty of the private to do it,
especially if it is going after the enemy.

Page 64
After the surrender of Atlanta, the fifty-third regiment was sent out on a scout,
to a little town about twenty -five miles away. We started early one morning and
did not find much to make it interesting till we got within about a mile of the
town, and then our advance guard ran out some Johnnies and we had no way to find
out how many there were of them, only to go ahead and see, and if there were too
many for us we would have to run for it, and if we were too much for them, then
they would have to run from us. So into line of battle we went with skirmishers
to the front and all moved forward. The skirmishers began firing and as we advanced
the Johnnies kept falling back and we were soon in sight of the town. It was more
open here and we could see the Rebs and citizens-some on foot some on horseback
and they all seemed to try who could get out of town the quickest. They had no
great force of soldiers, only a line of skirmishers, and they were in as big a
hurry as the rest in town, but they were not very good shots, as they hit none
of the yanks. They shot wild. I guess they did not take sight, but they left
fast and we had the town and all in it. There we took twenty-five prisoners.
They said they were citizens, as we could not tell what they were, we kept them
under guard and looked the town

Page 65
over to see if we could find anything contraband. We found the post office and
as there was nothing better we took the mail and our prisoners, and as it was
late in the afternoon we started back for Atlanta. When the prisoners saw we were
going to take them with us they said they were not soldiers, and I guess they
were not. They wanted us to let them stay at home, but we told them they were
prisoners of war and we had to take them, so they marched with us about ten or
fifteen miles and then we paroled them and told them to go home, as they could
get there by next morning, and to stay there, and they were most tickled to death.
Thus we parted. We got to camp about midnight, all alive and ready for a little sleep.

Page 66
It seemed to be the aim of the commanding General to keep the army at work at
something, and they always succeeded pretty well. In the winter of 1863-64 the
general orders were to build huts and fix it all in nice shape for the winter.
This called for going into winter quarters. Nice camp grounds were selected and
laid out in military order. The fifty-third regiment was camped in grove of beech
trees and the ground was covered with beech nuts. We had a nice camp and were
well pleased with our location, as we expected to stay three or four months. We
went to work to fix up in good shape. We cut logs and hauled them to the camp, we
built log houses, and each company built their own houses, and so we worked for
over a month, and we had a fine camp, and everything now being done, we were hugging
ourselves thinking what a good time we would have till spring. But we were not
destined to enjoy it long, for a rumor came that we were to move camp and the rumor
soon proved true, as we got orders to get ready to move and no one knew where nor
what for. We thought possibly we would go out on a scout and then come back, but
after we left there, I don't think any one in that squad ever saw that camp again.

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I will endeavor to give a description of the battle of Pittsberg Landing, as it
looked to me at that time. I saw the most of it, except the first day. The attack
in the morning of the 6th of April 1862, was a complete surprise on the Yanks. For
the night of the 7th, I slept in one of the tents where seven of our men lay in
their bunks where they had gone to bed on the night on the night of the 5th of April.
They lay just as they were shot on the morning of the 6th. They were not dressed so
they must have been killed quickly. Our men called and got to work pretty quickly.
After the first firing was heard on the morning of the 6th of April, it was one
continuous roar of artillery and small arms. There was not a continuous line of
battle, as armies of the size of that one there at that time ought to have been,
but we were fighting by divisions and brigades, detached from each other, and
therefore the Rebels flanking our men and as soon as they did that, they certainly
had to fall back or be captured, as all of the fifty-third Indiana were captured the
first day of the battle. Our men fought desperately that day. There were charges and
counter charges, but they drove our men back to the river and the only thing that
saved the day to the Union forces was our gunboats and the coming of night. Many men
were driven to the waters edge and some swam out to the islands in the water rather
than be taken prisoners.

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But there was help close at hand, for the next morning, the 7th of April, General
Buell's army was on the march for the Landing. They passed the Fifty-thirds camp
the evening of the 6th and were taken across the river before the morning of the
7th and that put new life into the Union forces for the day's fighting, and the
ball opened early and desperate. The sound of the firing and yelling was awful to
hear, and to realize what it was for, but now with a nights rest and organized in
better shape, The Johnnies found a different foe to handle. The Union forces soon
gained all the ground they had lost the day before, but the night of the 7th of April
the Rebs were in full retreat and the Union forces had made a brilliant success out
of an almost total defeat and surprise. But at what a terrible slaughter of men. It
was a battle field of almost twelve miles long and six or seven wide, and there were
dead, dying and wounded all over the field. There were places where you could step
from one body to another. There were patches of brush that looked as though it had
been mowed with a scythe, and trees of good size cut off with shot from cannon. There
were some desperate things done. One man who was in all the fight told me of a battery
that the Rebs charged and took and then turned it on the Yanks. The Yanks formed again
and charged the Rebs and captured the guns, and then turned them on the Rebs again,
and so they had it back and forth for two days without any cessation. During the two
days engagement the two armies fought with desperation, for if the

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Union forces lost there, it meant a prolongation of the war and a big chance for the
total failure of the struggle for the Union. It was the hardest and most desperate
two days battle during the rebellion, except for the battle of Gettysburg.

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In the Andersonville prison Company D Fifty-third Illinois, had two men. One gave up
his life and is buried there. The other got out alive. The regiment had some others
from other companies there. The stockade was on a piece of ground situated in a swamp,
or low wet place. It got the name of the stockade because it had a fence around it
made of logs sharpened and driven in the ground close together. There were about forty
acres in the stockade and the guards were placed at intervals along the top of the
fence. I will not try to tell all that was done to the men in this hell hole called
a prison. Men cannot give a description of the suffering men underwent in this place
till death relieved them. I saw a few who escaped from there when General Sherman
was making his march through Georgia. They looked more like crazy men than rational
beings. They were just skin and bones, and I don't wonder from what they told of the
treatment of the men there.

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The old Libby prison consisted of old tobacco warehouses owned by a man by the name
of Libby and used for the storage of tobacco there were two buildings, one used to
keep officers and the other to keep private soldiers. They were situated on the bank
of the James river. The buildings were very filthy and full of vermin, old rotten
tobacco and other filth. The place was not fit for a man to stay in over night unless
he wanted to breed disease.
Belle Isle was a twin sister of Libby Prison. It was situated opposite the city of
Richmond, Va., in the James river. It is quite a large island. The south end is low
and flat. That is where the prisoners were kept. In the center of the island is a
hill, and here is where the Rebel guards were stationed with a battery of six guns
trained on the prison camp. The camp had about five acres in it with a breastworks
built around it, of dirt about three or four feet high. The guard stood just outside
of this breastworks and the dead line was just inside of the works, and woe to the
man who stepped over it, for it was sure death if the guard could shoot straight
enough, and they could for I saw one man shot while I was there. The men confined
here got about as hard usage as a man could devise to reduce men down to sickness
or death. The prisoners were furnished just enough to eat so they were on slow

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starvation rations, as starvation was what they mostly died of there. The Fifty-third
regiment Illinois had twenty or thirty men who were prisoners on the isle at one time.
Company D had six: Abner Beale, now dead; Ed Thomas, alive; Lot C Larkin, now dead;
John Corry, now dead; Hamilton White, dead; Herbert E. Ranstead, alive. I would give
the names of all the Fifty-third prisoners, I have forgotten them all except one
Captain Hatfield of Company H, Fifty-third regiment.

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In this story of a private it is not intended to tell the story of one man, but a
sort of history and description of all privates. Who carried a musket in the front.
This was written for the privates who carried a musket in the front and the ones who
did the fighting, and not the headquarters privates who did the talking and are
still at it.
He carried a musket three years and nine months in the front and after leaving the
north never lost a days duty by sickness or any other cause. He was always on hand
for roll call and something to eat, if there was anything on the bill of fare.
Sometimes he went pretty short, but felt just as well and grumbled just as much.
It was his right to grumble.
On a bright morning in the early part of the fall of 1861, a young man of eighteen
summers was enlisted in the service of the United States at Earlville, Ill., and
went from there to Ottawa, where he was assigned to company D, Fifty-third Illinois
Volunteers, and was mustered into the Fifty-third regiment for three years or during
the war if not sooner discharged. His duty now was to serve his country with his life,
if duty required it. The

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time now was put in at this camp at Ottawa , drilling twice a day and standing guard
day and night, and doing other duties too numerous to mention in this short story.
But don't think a private was not kept at work, for the commanding officer always
had a job of some kind for him. A soldier is supposed always to be lazy.
Being organized and all ready for the field, the regiment was ordered to Chicago
for duty. Here the private soldier was routed out at 5 o'clock in the morning to
answer roll call. He then had his breakfast was then detailed for guard duty or any
other duty required for the day. If it so happened that he was not detailed for duty
that day, he might get a pretty easy time if they did not have company drill. But with
every other ill , there was a good deal of sickness in this camp, and quite a few died.
The private soldier of this story came pretty near leaving his bones there. He had
pneumonia and was in the hospital for ten days, and off duty for three weeks, but
it was not his time yet. Now as the regiment was well drilled and all equipped for
duty in the field, they were ordered to the front forthwith and took the cars for
LaSalle , on the Illinois river, where they took a boat for the Mississippi river,
and down that river for the south, where a goodly number of private soldiers left
their bodies for all time.
We had an uneventful trip down the Mississippi river, to Cairo, and then up the
Ohio river to the mouth of the Tennessee river, and then unloaded and went into
camp. Here the time was filled up at

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the regular duties of a soldier, such as guard duty, eating, drilling and
anything else that might turn up, but we were destined to have big excitement
soon, for we had not been there long until Sunday morning there was a boom of
cannon and small arms and the battle of Pittsburg Landing was in full blast, and
the private of this story was some what excited and anxious, as all the rest of
the boys were, to get out in front and help the boys in battle. They were fighting
for the Union, but a soldier has nothing to say where he shall go, nor when, and
the head officers did not seem in a hurry to get us there.
The second day of battle we were loaded on boats and were in time to see the
windup. We had now gotten to where there was plenty to do. The private soldiers
had a pretty hard time of it here, as the weather was very bad. It rained most of
the time and the private soldiers had no tents, but lived out in the woods like
cattle. To sleep at night we would lay down brush and then lay on them a blanket,
and two men would lay down together and put another blanket over them and
knapsacks for a pillow, and if it did not rain too hard, would sleep pretty
well. But when it rained our roof leaked and the water ran under us, and by
morning it would be a pretty wet bed. Such were most of the nights, and the
days were put in burying the dead of the Rebel army and the union army. As the
union army had the battlefield in their possession, we had to bury the dead.
This service lasted about ten days and lots of the privates paid for this service

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with their lives, from the exposure. It was a busy time as the siege of Corinth
was on. The private soldier had to do all the work, such as building forts,
breastworks, doing guard duty, handling supplies of all kinds and doing the
fighting and skirmishing, and in fact the private soldier is the bone and
sinew of the whole army. The officers just see that he is kept at work, and
if he is shot or killed he is only a private soldier- plenty more where he
came from. This job id not last long, as the Rebs left our front and without
permission, and we had to take to marching to try and catch the Rebs. They
were like the Irishman's flea-when he thought he had him under his thumb,
he was gone. It was so with them. When we thought we had them, they would
be some other place. So we did lots of marching over the country, but found
them once in a while and had quite a little battle. When not on the march we
were in camp and some were guarding the railroads and doing scouting duty in
small detachments, but never any rest, night or day, as a soldier in the
time of active war don't hardly know night from day, nor Sunday from any other
day. It is all the same in Dutch. The enemy by this time had mostly left this
part of the country and gone towards Vicksburg. Thus the army here had to change
base, so was marched to Memphis, Tenn., on the Mississippi, and loaded on boats
for down the river to take a hand in the siege of Vicksburg. Going down the
river would have been uneventful but the Rebs fired on the boats and some of
us landed and chased them all one afternoon, but we did

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did not catch any of them. We burned a lot of cotton and corn and one little
town Greenville. Nothing more of any moment happened until we got to the
Haines' Bluff, on the Yazoo river. Here we were unloaded, and here the private
soldier saw something besides play. It was work and serious work too, and there
was no time lost, for we were put to work right away and it was one continuous
job of building forts and breastworks and fighting to advance the lines till we
were pretty near in the Rebel lines ourselves., and this work all has to be done
by the private soldier who carries the musket. This work was continuos, night
and day, until the surrender of Vicksburg.
The privates thought after the surrender they would get a little rest, but it
was not to be. There were other worlds to conquer, so we were started out on a
grand raid after more rebs. We found some more entrenched at Jackson, Miss., but
here is where one or two officers thought they could do something big and get
another star or eagle on their shoulder straps. It made no difference if they did
get a few privates killed so they got their promotion, and so they tried to fight
the whole of the Rebel army there with a little brigade of about 800 privates.
They had undertaken more than they could do and the privates had to suffer most,
as they were badly cut up in this charge, about 300 being killed or wounded and
104 taken prisoner, of which ninety-nine out of a hundred were privates. So the
privates always got the worst of a bargain.
In order not to break the line of this story we

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shall have to follow those taken prisoners especially one of them. They had a
trip of nine days through the Confederacy, from one place to another, till at
last they were landed at the old Libby prison, in the city of Richmond, Va., and
after a couple of days were taken across the James river and went into camp on
the very pleasant place called Bell Isle, where there were about 7000 other privates.
There were no officers on the island, so the privates got the bad end all the
time. The trip on this squad of privates is described in another part of this
book, and also the treatment they received and a description of the two places.
I shall digress here to say it is almost impossible to give in detail all a
private soldier is supposed to do and the hardships he has to undergo. A soldier
on a march in time of war never knows when he can sleep or eat. Sometimes
there will be a halt and the men think they can make a little coffee, will
start a good fire and get the coffee cooking, and just get a good start to have
something to eat, and then the order is given to fall in and forward march and
they are obliged to pick up the half cooked coffee and wait until another time
to finish it, and don't get anything to eat as they march along and what they
generally had to eat at such times was nothing but fat raw pork or "sow belly,"
as the soldiers called it, and hard tack, and march in the dust if it was dry,
and if it was not dry and hot, it would sure be raining, and then get into camp
in the small hours after midnight, tired and hungry, and then be detailed to go
on guard duty the balance

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of the night, and if near the enemy cannot have any fire to warm by or cook
coffee. This is a little of what the private soldier had to undergo for the
preservation of the Union, and the generations of today are reaping the fruits
and benefits of the hardships of the private soldiers in the War from 1861
to 1865, for they are the sinew of the army.
To resume the story, there was one private of that squad got out of prison
after a sojourn of nine weeks in the very pleasant company of the confederates,
and after the high entertainment at their first class hotel - the Hotel Libby
and the summer resort of Belle Isle, he joined the regiment in the western
department and was ready for duty again, after his vacation from the duties
of a private in the regiment. The time was being put in now at scouting and
getting ready to make changes in armies and base of operations. During this
time there were a few regiments, which had re-inlisted as veteran regiments
and were allowed thirty days furlough to go home, and the Fifty-third Illinois
regiment was one of the number, and was given a thirty day leave and came
home and had a high old time while in the north to pay for the two years of
hard service in the front. They thought they would have as good a time as
they could for there was no knowing how many would ever have the chance again,
for there was lots of hard fighting to be done when they got back south, and
it was well they did improve the time, for there were lots of them never saw
home again.
After the visit home we went by railroad to

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Cairo, and from there up the Ohio river by boat and landed at Paducah, Ky., and
started for Atlanta, Ga. There was no more riding it was all walking now for
the privates. We had Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama to march through before
we got to Atlanta. There were many who never got there, but their bones are
close there yet. Such is the fortunes of war, and the fortunes of war gave us
lots of hard work here such as marching, building forts and line after line of
breastworks, and fighting. That was an every day occurrence and so we were kept
pretty well at work. But the fortunes of war soon changed this as the Yanks woke
up one morning and found Rebs in our front, so that meant some more hard marching,
with out any rest. We now had a long hard siege of marching before us, and no one
knew where this would end or whether it would end with any of us alive, as now we
were to cut loose from all communications with the outside world and march into
the enemy country, where if we were not successful, it meant the destroying of a
whole army, and in that case might be the loss of all we had fought for, for the
last three years. But we were to be successful in the undertaking, after a long
hard march, with plenty of fighting in between, and lots of hard work, such as
tearing up railroad and building roads to get the teams and wagons and artillery
along, so with it all in all, we had a hard tramp before we got in communication
with our fleet, which was waiting for us on the coast. But

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after a few days of anxious waiting and fighting and marching, we got pretty
hungry, too, as we were on short rations, but at last communications were opened
up with the outside world once more, and we got a square meal and mail from home.
That was better than sow belly and hard tack. We thought we would have a big lot
of fighting to do here, as we found a large army of Rebs entrenched with big forts
and strong rifle pits, and the country is swampy and makes it hard to operate a
large army of men, but after a few days struggle we found ourselves in full
possession of the country and of the city of Savannah, Ga., and here we lay in
camp for a few days and took a badly needed rest, and got ready for another march.
As the Rebs would not stay in one place long enough to put up a big fight any more,
we had to keep after them. The Yankee soldiers found it a long a long and stern
chase, as they had to march a good many thousand miles to find where the Rebs had gone.
Sometimes they would give a good fight and when we thought we had them, lo and
behold, they had skedaddled, and that meant more hard marching for the Yanks.
That was what we were there for. It was to corner them and give them a good
licking or get one ourselves, and so we started out after them again and chased
them out of Georgia, through South Carolina and nearly through North Carolina, and
they halted and put up a nice little fight of half a day's duration, which proved
to be the last battle of the war for the preservation

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and continuation of the Union of the States, which we were now sure we had succeeded
in doing, but at a fearful sacrifice of life and treasury. The private soldier felt
that they had sacrificed their lives and health in a grand duty to the whole country,
and for the good and benefit of the future generations, and I thank God that I have
lived to see our hopes and what we fought for, worked and marched and gave thousands
of young lives for a grand success at this late day of 1910.
We felt now that our work was done and could see home and for the whole country,
north and south one and inseparable. We had along march yet before we could get home.
From Raleigh we marched to Richmond and from there up to Washington, where we were
in the big review of all the armies, and then from there to_ _ _ville Ky., by cars
from there to Chicago, where all were discharged and sent home to enjoy the fruits
of our labor of four years for the nation and the benefit of people of all nations.
So be it!

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The battle of Jackson, Miss., was fought by the First Brigade, Fourth Division,
Seventeenth Army Corps. The Brigade mustered eight or nine hundred men and officers,
and the loss of the Brigade was something over three hundred killed, wounded and
missing, and one hundred and four taken prisoners.
The battle was fought on a nice Sunday morning. The Army had left Vicksburg after
the surrender and started out to find General Johnson. He had been in the rear of
the Union Army for a long time and General grant sent General Sherman out to give
him battle if he would stay in one place long enough. The little brigade got all
the fight there was in it, and they were not the first there either. In the
marching, the brigade had got in the rear of the whole army as rear guard and
the night of the 11th of July 1863, they went into camp on the right of the army.
Now don't think those armies were like the ones we have now days, of four or five
thousand, for the union forces that were after General Johnson at that time were
probably seventy five thousand or more. General Johnson was supposed to have about
fifty or sixty thousand. On the morning of the 12th of July 1863, everything was
as quiet as a Sunday morning could be, with so many men as deadly enemies in a
small scope of country, each watching the other to get the advantage

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and kill as many as they could. Such was war in the sixties. The brigade was
brought up in line of battle on a raise of ground, and there laid down to wait
for something else. We could look across about a mile and see the Rebel breastworks,
but could not se a living thing there, but found something later. Everything was
as quiet as death, so a battery of six pieces was brought to the rear of the
brigade and opened fire over our heads, and got no response from the enemy. Then
the brigade was ordered to put out skirmishers and to advance in line of battle.
This was an awful place to charge across. It was a level piece of ground with a
small stream running through it, and the timber had all been cut and felled down
towards us and the limbs all sharpened and wire stretched across, and then there
were lines of stakes set close together with the ends sharpened and wire on them,
and take it all together it was not a very desirable place to take in a Sunday
morning ramble under a heavy fire of small arms and artillery. We moved forward
for quite a distance and all at once the skirmishers came together, and then it
was pop, pop, here and there, and the balls commenced to zip, zip, and then the
order was given to fix bayonets and charge double quick. The Rebs opened fire with
their cannon loaded with grape and canister shot and then it seemed to come as
thick as hail. But we kept right on. Men were falling all along as we went forward
and we could not go very fast with all the impediments in our front to overcome
as we went forward. But a few got there, for the first thing they

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knew they were surrounded and taken in out of the wet. We had charged almost to
the Rebs works, getting so close we could not stand in the fire and hail of
bullets, so we laid down in a shallow furrow made by a plow. This had been a
corn field. I don't know what they thought we would do here, as there were no
orders to retreat, and the first thing we knew the Rebs were swarming all around
us and we were their prisoners. We had charged in a half circle, as this was the
shape of the rebel works, and they told us when we got in they had six thousand
infantry massed here and fourteen pieces of artillery. This outfit was firing on
this handful of men for over an hour. When we came to count the number of this
squad, we found it to be 104 and whether we were all that was left of the brigade
that had made the charge, we did not find out for some time after. That afternoon
we were loaded on cars and started for a Rebel prison.

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When we found we were prisoners, there was a good deal of guessing as to
where we would be taken. We supposed to Andersonville. Late in the afternoon
an officer came in and said that all who had any monies or valuables had better
give them to him to take care of, as we might be robbed when we were turned over
to another guard further along on our journey. After he went out some of thought
we could take care of our own money and went to work to devise ways to hide it
about our clothes. The others turned their things over to the officer for safe
keeping and it proved to be safe for they never saw their money again.
We got along very well at the time, as they did not search us as thoroughly as
they did afterwards. Then the officer came back and put all the valuables in a
haversack and hung it around his neck and said it would be safe. Then he marched
us out and put us on board the cars, all but George Crain of Company D, Fifty-third
regiment. He was left there and no one ever saw or heard of him again to this day.
There was a good deal of speculation as to what was done with him, but no one
knows. Some of the men said they knew the officer in charge of us and that he
had lived in Paw Paw. We were taken on the cars as far as the Tombigbee river,
and then by boat to Selma, Ala., and there unloaded and marched out in a grove of
nice trees and told to take it easy.

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In a short time another officer came and said he would be in charge of us. He had
the haversack of valuables and said he would give them back to the owners as we
were now out of danger of getting robbed. So he poured the things out on a table
and told the owners to come and get their things as their names were called. The
first man who got his pocketbook, opened it to find his money, but it had taken
wings and flown, alas, no one knew where. It was comical to see the fellows as they
took their empty pocketbooks. We who had kept, ours felt sorry for them but we could
not help them any. But there was something else that was worse than the loss of the
money. We were getting hungry, as we had had nothing to eat since we became guests of
the Confederacy. We were told that there were no rations there, but there would be
some at the next stopping place, but we could not find out where that would be. Later
this proved to be Atlanta, Ga. There we were marched out to a stockade and a big
barrel of hams and some hard tack was brought in. Water would not make the hard
tack soft, and the hams were packed in ashes and maggots were crawling all through
the meat. It had turned blue and had a very nice smell, if you like that kind of
roses, but never the less it was eat that or nothing, so we took the meat away
from the maggots and did the best we could, for a man is not very particular
when he has eaten nothing for three or four days and no prospects of getting
anything better soon. We were then told we were on our way to Andersonville.
That looked bad to us. We were started

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that way, but found for some reason were turned off and sent toward Richmond,
where we arrived July 30,1863. The later part of our journey was very slow, as
we had the worst railroad I ever saw to run over. The road was graded and the
square timbers or ties laid about eight feet apart and then long planks or square
timbers were laid along for the iron rails to rest on. The rails were wrought iron,
two and a half inches wide and an inch thick, and the rolling stock was in keeping
with the track, so you will believe me if I tell you we went slow enough, so we
could jump off and pick berries along the track - - jump off and on as the boys
jump bobsleds in the wintertime, only they didn't pick berries as those boys did.
This is merely to show what progress had been made in South and North Carolina. At
one place where we stopped in North Carolina, some Confederate soldiers came
alongside the cars asked if there was anyone who had guarded prisoners at Camp
Douglas, in Chicago, in 1861. We told them some of us were at Camp Douglas and
guarded prisoners at that time. They said they hoped we would receive as good
treatment as they received at our hands at that time. We hoped they would, for
we had not seen much good treatment so far.
Nothing more happened until we arrived in Richmond. There we were marched to the
Old Libby prison and locked up. The officers were put in one building and the men
in another, so we saw no more of the officers. One of the men was taken from the
rest and whatever became of him not one of us ever found out

Page 89
We now found ourselves in the old Libby prison. The prison was a large three story
brick building and had been used as a tobacco warehouse before the war. It was a
filthy place and the floors were covered with spoiled tobacco and other dirt and
filth. This building was taken down and brought to Chicago for exhibition and was
visited by thousands of interested sightseers, many of whom had been confined
within it's dingy old walls many years before.
After we were settled in our new quarters, we thought we would get something to
eat, as we had received no rations since we left Atlanta. We were disappointed,
however, for atleast twenty-four hours, when we got a lunch of hard tack and were
left alone till the next day. Then we were passed between two guards and an officer
searched each man as he passed through, and all the money found on them was taken
from them. We were searched pretty thoroughly here. They felt in our pockets and
felt our clothing all over, but they did not get everybody's money, but took all
they found. We were then taken back and told that we would be taken to Belle Isle
the next day. The next morning two guards were placed at the head of the stairs and
we were searched again by two officers for money. All who had good shoes or good coats

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were required to give them up and old ones were given instead. All our blankets were
taken except one for every two men. One tin cup and a knife and fork and spoon were
allowed us, so we thought maybe we would get something to eat some time in the future,
as up to that time the question of rations had worried us a good deal. We were then
marched out and taken over to Belle Isle.
Belle Isle is situated near Richmond, in the James river, northwest of the city. The
south end of the island is level, and that is where the prisoners camp was located.
The camp consisted of four or five acres with a dirt breastwork thrown up around it.
The guards stood about three or four rods apart just outside of this breastworks.
Just one rod inside the earthworks was the dead line. If a man stepped over that line
the guard had orders to shoot him down. I saw one man shot for getting over the line
while I was there. Just north of the camp was a high hill. And here were six pieces
of cannon trained on the camp so they could quell any uprising or any demonstration
the prisoners might undertake. Besides this battery a regiment of infantry was camped
close at hand, so we had to keep pretty quiet. We thought surely after we got to the
island we would get something to eat. We did, but it was mighty little to satisfy a
lot of half starved men, and it was a long time between meals. Our daily rations were
two ounces of light bread and a little piece of boiled meat - not over two ounces of
meat in a ration. In the afternoon we got a pint cup of soup and a couple of ounces
of light bread.

Page 91
This was our daily rations, never increased but often diminished, as they let us go
two and three and sometimes as long as five days without anything to eat. I suppose
this was done to get us in light marching order. Our rations were good but just enough
for slow starvation. It was a hard sight to see men lie there and die of slow
starvation and disease and for want of medical attendance, of which there was
absolutely none. Our drinking water we got in the camp by digging about three or
four feet in the sand, and it was warm and dirty. The men would almost choke before
they could drink it. The days were hot and the nights were cold, so it was no wonder
the men were dying all the time, the deaths being one or two and sometimes more a day.
There were between 5,000 and 7,000 prisoners in the camp at that time. We had a few
old tents but most of the men had to lie on the ground with the heavens for a covering
as we were not allowed enough blankets for all, so some had none. There were some
graybacks there, too, to keep the unemployed from getting homesick. We never got any
washing done, so we had to give the graybacks full sway. We did not wash our hands
and faces very often, as we had no towels, as the washing had not been brought home.
Well, I think we will be searched for money again, as they give us nothing to eat for
three or four days before searching us, and it has been three days since we had
anything to eat. The orders are now to fall in for something. We were all taken
outside the camp and through a tent one at a time and searched

Page 92
for money and then marched into camp again. I suppose you think it curious we were
searched for money so many times. Just about that time the army had just been paid
off and all were supposed to have their money on them, and so they had and the Rebs
knew it, and there fore tried to get it, and they always made good wages when they
searched us for it.
They tried all manner of schemes to find it. One day the officer in charge of the camp
came in with about a peck of silver quarters and half dollars and wanted to trade them
for paper money. He said it would be handier to play chuck-a-luck and to bet with. The
playing of this game was the failing of some of the boys to pass the time away. But he
failed to get many trades that way, as the men could not hide the silver. I don't
remember how many of our squad saved their money. Ed Thomas took $40 through and I
had $29 and some little change and some postage stamps. The way I hid mine was this:
When first captured at Jackson I had two $10 bills and hid them in the double seams in
the front of my pants. It stayed there till we got on Belle Isle. Then one time when
searched I split a plug of tobacco and put the money inside. It did not look like a
$20 plug of tobacco. Next time we were searched I carried it in my mouth under my
tongue. Others did the same way. But next time we disposed of it for good. Ed Thomas
and myself took the brass buttons off our blouses and took the buttons apart and
made each bill into a little square chunk and pounded it into the hallow

Page 93
of the button and then put the two pieces together again, and there she was safe
so long as we did not lose the blouse, and I tell you that $20 came handy to me when
we got out of prison, as I think I would have died if I had been out of money, as
I was a pretty hard looking kid.
Nothing much happened now, only to lie around and wonder what would come next and
talk about what we would have to eat if we ever got where we could get it, tell of
the good things we had when we were in God's country. Another thing we there that
was interesting to a soldier was the little grayback, of which we had plenty there
on the isle. The way we used to get rid of them, as we could not wash our clothes
because we were not aloud to have any fire in the camp, was in the middle of the
day when the sun shone out warm, we would take our clothes off and lay them on the
sunny side of a tent and the little vermin would crawl off the shirt and get in
little bunches on the tent. Then we would take the shirt up and there we had them
at our mercy and we would kill every one of the vermin we could find. That got rid
of some and we had a little satisfaction on them for keeping a fellow awake nights
scratching. One night after we had been on the island about six weeks, I came pretty
near getting done up. I was walking along just inside the dead line alone after
midnight. Everything was quiet and it was pretty dark, as I passed near the guard
who was just opposite of me outside the breastworks, and he said to me very low,
"Say, Yank, are you the one that

Page 94
wanted to get some biscuit." Of course I answered , "Yes" "Well he says you throw
twenty five cents over to me and I will throw the biscuit over to you". I had some
small script, so I tied two ten-cent shinplasters and three two cent stamps to a
stone and threw them over, and he passed the biscuit over to me. I had twenty four
little buns about as large as a lemon, and I sat right down there and ate all I
could hold and I was not hungry when I finished, nor did I have any buns left. But
I had something else before morning. It was terrible pain. I had eaten too much at
once in my starved condition, and you can guess what I suffered. I was satisfied
with small rations after that for a while.
We had been on the island about six or seven weeks now and the order came that
there was to be an exchange of 500 prisoners off war. The ones to be taken were
to be those who were the sickest. When the order came to pick out those who were
to be exchanged there was a good deal of speculation as to who would be the lucky
ones to pass out and get a chance to go to God's country, as we called the north at
that time. They had taken nearly all the order called for and none of our squad had
gone except Ed Thomas. We were talking the matter over and came to the conclusion
that the rest of us had to stay where we were. Then one of the boys said
"Ranstead, why don't you try and get out." I waited a while and finally said,
" I am going to try for it," and so I got up

Page 95
and started for the place where they went outside I went up as though I was
nearly dead and the guard and officer that examined them looked at me and
never said a word, and of course I didn't , and passed out and went down to
the tent and they took my name and I had passed muster. I tell you I felt
pretty good over it., but I hated to leave the other boys in the pen, but they
all got out afterwards alive., but not very fat. All returned to duty afterwards
except Abner Beale. He came home from the prison pen sick and died shortly
afterward on account of his prison experience.
After the number they wanted were out, we were taken across the river and put
in Libby prison again for the night. Next day we were searched for money again
and then taken to the cars and loaded on flat cars and started for Petersburg, Va.
On the road we passed the others coming to Richmond with the Rebs who had been
exchanged for us. When we met the two trains stopped close together and we said
to the Johnnies, " Why, you are looking fine." " Oh Yes ." they said , "We had
good living." " So did we, But had it to get yet." They were looking fine as
though they had good keep and well fed and were all dressed mostly with Yankee
clothes, and the contrast between us was great. We were poor, thin and ragged,
and they were looking fat and healthy. From Petersburg we went to City Point, Va.,
where our flag of truce boat was. We got there just at dark and when we saw our
flag, you can guess we did so lusty yelling. We were glad to see freedom before
us and a chance to

Page 96
get a square meal once more, and that is what we got as soon as were marched
on the boat. They handed each man a big chunk of light bread and a slice of
boiled ham cut clear across a big ham, and a tin cup of fine coffee, the first
we had tasted since we were captured. Everybody was happy because they said they
had a square meal once more. But I was careful not to eat too hearty, as I had
some experience one night on the island with a square meal. We left that night
for Annapolis, Md., where we arrived the next day and were taken to the barracks
to recruit up, as we needed some good living to be fit for service. When I got
to a pair of scales I was surprised at my weight, as I weighed just eighty pounds.
I had weighed before I was captured about 140 to 145 pounds.
There is one incident that happened to me at that time. I was supposed to been
killed at Jackson, Miss., and was so reported in the regiment and the news sent
home to the folks, and they had set time to have my funeral sermon preached here
in the Earlville Methodist church. When I got to Annapolis, I wrote home and the
folks got the letter on Saturday and the service was to be held Sunday. So in place
of the funeral service they wrote my record in the family bible with the rest, and
it is on the record yet.
Well to make a long story short, I stayed in Maryland a week and then went to
St. Louis, and stayed till I got well and then went down the river and joined the
regiment at Vicksburg and drew a new gun, canteen, and haversack and reported for
active duty.

Page 97
The following are the government figures of the ages of the men enlisted for
service in the Civil War.

Ten years old and younger................ 25
Eleven years old and younger................ 38
Twelve years old and younger................ 238
Thirteen years old and younger................ 390
Fourteen years old and younger................ 1,523
Fifteen years old and younger................ 104,087
Sixteen years old and younger................ 231,051
Seventeen years old and younger................ 844,591
Eighteen years old and younger................ 1,151,428
Twenty years old and younger................ 2,159,738
Twenty two years old and younger................ 618,511
Twenty four years old and younger................ 40,626
Twenty five years old and younger................ 16,011

Page 98
ON General Sherman's famous march to the sea, the army had to live off the
country they marched through, and so there was a detail of men and teams
sent out to get rations for the men and forage for the mules and horses.
There would be a detail of two or three men from each company of the regiment
and teams to go with them. These details would be under an officer and would
start out on their hunt for grub, and as a general thing they would come back
at night pretty well loaded, if they got through the day without meeting any
of the Rebs, who kept a pretty shape look out for these foragers, and they
often had to run and fight their way back to camp. They would sometimes get
ten or fifteen miles from the main body of troops, and that was a pretty
dangerous distance in those times, for the enemy had squads of Calvary all
over the country watching for those chances to capture Yankees, and the citizens
and the women folk kept them informed of the movements of the Yanks all the time,
and they would pounce on them when least expected.
But if they were not disturbed it would be a sight to see the outfit come into
camp at night. There would be a whole line of all kinds of vehicles from a
government wagon to a fine surrey, and they would be loaded with corn fodder,
fresh pork, chickens, geese, hams and bacon, flour, but nothing except

Page 99
something to eat, as it was strictly against orders to take anything else,
and that was one thing most all the soldiers of the Union were opposed to
taking or destroying anything that was not in the eating line. But they would
take anything that was good to eat if they could get their fingers on it, for
they were always hungry.

Page 100
The following articles given here were taken from the market reports in
the Tri-Weekly Mercury, which was printed in Charleston, S.C., in the year
1865, on the 31st day of January. The paper is now in my possession, having
brought it home myself.
Schedule of Prices
Apples, dried, per bushel of 28 lbs. ............ $ 5.00
Axes, with handle, each ............... 8.00
Bacon sides each .............2.00
Bacon hip per lb. ............ 1.30
Beef on foot, including hide, per lb. .............. .75
(There are two pages of prices that do not relate for our time, so I
leave them out.)

Page 101
From the Richmond Dispatch, January 21, 1865:
The decline of gold has been very rapid within

Page 102
the past few days. On Thursday the brokers refused to buy at fifty, and a
number of holders of specie were upon the street anxious to sell. Yesterday
gold was very dull at forty-seven and eight. In the afternoon several small
sums were sold at the later price.
(Here again are some prices for hiring teams or men. I leave them out. They
do not relate.)

Taken from the Weekly Mercury:
The United States sloop of war San Jacinto was lost off the Bahamas banks on
the night of the 1st in a terribly gale. The United States gunboat Narcisse
was blown up by a torpedo near Mobile a few days since. Week before last the
gunboat Rattler drifted from her moorings, between Vicksburg and Natchez. She
was boarded by a party of Confederate Calvary and burned to the waters edge. On
Sunday evening last a Yankee monitor was blown up by torpedoes at Charleston. We
are glad to see that old Abe's money is being rapidly reduced.
Sherman's column's in Motion.
Whatever else the peace may have affected, they

Page 103
certainly have not availed to halt the columns of Sherman. At last accounts his
main force was moving in two columns along the west bank of the Savannah river
in the direction of Augusta, Ga. Two Yankee gunboats lay anchored at Sister's
Perry. Another force, fully provided with wagons, etc., was camped near Ennis
cross roads on the road leading to Grahamville, and on the road leading to
Sister's Perry a reconnoitering party was reported within four miles of
Robertsville. A small force of the enemy landed on little Britain on Saturday
night but were soon driven off. The fleet at Geogetown is said to have been
considerably increased. Nothing further worthy of mention has occurred in the
harbor since our last report.

The New Peace Movement
For two days past the political atmosphere has been thick with rumors of
approaching peace. The basis for these rumors appears in the dispatch we
published today, announcing the appointment of three well known Confederate
gentlemen as commissioners to confer with the Lincoln government on the subject
of Peace. We should have been better pleased had the first formal, as well as
actual overtures for peace, come from Washington to Richmond instead of from
Richmond to Washington, but in case where the honor, the treasuries and the
blood of our people are at stake, we would not stand on trifles, and if there
be really a prospect of acquiring our independence and an honorable

Page 104
peace by negotiations, then we bid our commissioners God speed. But has there
been anything in the course of the Yankee government to press our people to
indicate the least disposition to yield the sine qua non of an honorable settlement -
Confederate Independence? We trow not. Every utterance of public official or
unofficial that has reached from beyond the Potomac forbids the hope of such a
concession at this time. Indeed, so great a change has come over the spirit of the
Yankee's dream that they are ready to consent to the separation we have been fighting
so long to maintain. It would, perhaps be well worth while for our government to delay
for a season until we can fully learn causes which could have produced so sudden and
singular an effect. Meantime it behooves our people to be elated by no elusive hopes
and our soldiers to stand to their arms. Let the spirit of eternal resistance to
re-union with the fiends who have wrought such desolation to the southern homes
everywhere be freshly awakened throughout the land. Let the atrocities and the
faithlessness or our foe be ever kept in view, and let the sea of blood shed by
the hosts of martyrs to our cause forever roll between us and the hated states of
the north. Let the commissioners at Washington parley and wrangle over the terms
of peace to the hearts content. Sherman and his insolent army are the commissioners
with whom just now we have to deal.


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