The February 2012 meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library on Thursday, February 9, at 7:00 pm.
President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.
A very large audience came to hear our speaker, Tom Emery tell us about the Illinois in the Civil War. Due to the size of the crowd, we dispensed with the normal business meeting.
The following is the Treasurer's report for the month of January:
Financial report for the month of January 2012, as follows:
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On February 9, 2012, Tom Emery,
freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Illinois,
presented a general overview of the Civil War in Illinois.
In the Spring of 1861, the men of Illinois raced to enlist for the glory and adventure in what they thought was going to be a short war. Patriotic fervor was at a fever pitch in Illinois. In the North, patriotism was at a level much higher than was shown immediately after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Lincoln had called for 75,000 volunteers; many more answered that call, particularly in Illinois. They soon realized that 75,000 would not be enough so Lincoln called for another 500,000.
Civil War regiments are designated by numbers: 7th Illinois, 32nd Illinois, 97th Illinois, etc. What do those numbers mean? The regiment numbers are assigned based on sign up date, the lower the number, the earlier they had been accepted into service. In Illinois, numbers 1-6 were exempted due to the use of those numbers in the Mexican War. The 7th Illinois was the first to answer the call. This "ticked off" several other regiments because they wanted to be first - especially the 10th Illinois from Madison County. Illinois Infantry regiments went up to the 156th. There were 17 cavalry regiments and a lot of artillery units as well.
Illinois sent 259,000 men off to fight in the Civil War - the fourth highest number of any state, trailing only New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. They lost over 34,800 - third highest number of any state, trailing only New York and Ohio.
Illinois was an important state in the Civil War - it was large geographically, had a population of 1.8 million, it was Lincoln's home state, both candidates for president in 1860, Lincoln and Douglas, were from Illinois, it is near two major rivers, the Mississippi and the Ohio. Illinois had both great agricultural facilities and manufacturing facilities. It also had numerous railroads.
The men showed up at the enlistment camps wearing all kinds of outfits - militia uniforms to street clothes - and carrying all kinds of firearms. Many of the older Americans were great marksmen, but most of these men had never fired a shot in anger, and certainly not in a military sense. Training these men to be soldiers was quite a challenge. There were training camps statewide, usually one in every Congressional district. The men were received with great pomp and circumstance, especially by the local women. There are stories of the women baking the men pies and cakes, making them quilts, flags, and banners, taking them Thanksgiving dinner, etc.
Many of the men did not see action until 1862 because orders had not been received. They were also not very well equipped early in the war. They lacked regulation uniforms - part of the 7th Illinois were issued black and white striped uniforms that made them look like prisoners! They did not have regulation firearms or even decent firearms - they got outdated government issue to begin with. Their firearms did not aim well, they might not fire, or might go off at parade rest. Some men were issued 1827 Belgian muskets that would hit their target "at the enormous range of 75 yards."
Illinois was neither uniform nor unanimous in support of the North. There was a rampant Copperhead settlement in Illinois. Copperheads were Democrats who were generally against the war effort. They did not like the way Lincoln was executing the war and they favored peace. Not all Democrats were Copperheads, but Copperheads were almost exclusively Democrats.
In the election of 1864, Lincoln got about 55% of the popular vote in Illinois and nationwide. There was plenty of unrest and division. And this was just in the mainstream. In the shadows were groups such as The Knights of the Golden Circle. The KGC was a very shadowy group characterized by anti-war and anti-black feelings in terrorizing terms. The KGC, which was later know as The Order of American Knights, were not a forerunner of the Ku Klux Klan, even though they resembled what the Klan tried to do. The KGC might have local political leaders, business owners, pillars of the community, whereas the KKK was a fringe society.
One of the reasons for division in Illinois is that a lot of the people from Southern Illinois, or their ancestors, were from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas. They had southern roots, southern thinking, and a southern way of life. They had no problems with slavery. America was still a very racist society in the mid-1800s. Just because you wanted to save the Union, did not mean you were anti-slavery. Just because you were anti-slavery, did not mean you were for racial equality.
Most men went to war to preserve the Union, not free the slaves. When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, that did not set well with a lot of troops from Illinois or other places. They saw the ideology of the war as changing from Union preservation to black freedom. The 128th Illinois from the Marion area had 700 desertions, decimating their ranks.
Many people try to romanticize the Civil War. It may be the most fascinating period in American history, but it is certainly one of our darkest and grimiest. People want to talk about brother against brother - households being split. It happened, but not nearly as often as people want to think. A better way to think of it would be neighbor against neighbor or friend against friend. There were cases of brother against brother, one example is from Staunton where three brothers fought for the Union and one went to Texas and fought for the Confederacy.
Some Illinoisans fought for the Confederacy. There was a company from the Marion area that crossed the Ohio River and enlisted in the 15th Tennessee Infantry. Most Northern states had the same problem.
A number of regiments had nicknames as well as numbers. These nicknames tell us about the makeup of the regiment and the type of Illinois men that served in the war. These nicknames were based on many things - ethnicity, occupation, leadership, or origin of the unit, and even characteristics of the soldiers. The 23rd Illinois was known as the Irish Brigade; the 24th Illinois and 82nd Illinois were known as the Hecker Regiment and the Second Hecker Regiment after their leader. There were two regiments of Scotch extraction; the 12th Illinois and the 56th Illinois were known as the First and Second Scotch Regiments.
The 89th Illinois from the Chicago area was called the Railroad Regiment; the 45th Illinois from the Galena area was called the Lead Mine Regiment.
The 34th Illinois from the Dixon area was known as the Rock River Rifles and the 36th Illinois was known as the Fox River Regiment. The 33rd Illinois was known as the Teacher's Regiment. It was organized on the campus on what is today Illinois State University in Normal. It was made up of college students and teachers. The 50th Illinois from the Quincy area was known as the Blind Half-Hundred. A large number of the men were either missing an eye or cross-eyed.
There was one black regiment from Illinois, the 29th U.S. Colored Regiment. The 73rd Illinois was known as the Preacher's Regiment but was arrested for stealing at the Battle of Chickamauga.
Illinois men came from all over, from all walks of life, from all ethnic backgrounds - urban & rural, rich & poor, farmers, laborers, coopers, carriage makers, teachers, blacksmiths, factory workers, store clerks. They were ordinary people called on to do extraordinary things.
Madison County sent 4.221 men off to fight in the Civil War, only seven counties in Illinois sent more. Madison County men fought in Vicksburg, Mobile, Missouri, Arkansas, Fort Donellson, Shiloh, the Hornet's Nest, Atlanta, the March to the Sea.
More soldiers died as a result of disease than of wounds - dysentery, typhoid, fevers, and the like. And then there was the darkside of the war: drunkenness and prostitution which ran rampant. Prostitution was very prominent - Nashville was full of brothels as was New Orleans. The term "hooker" came from the Civil War. Women who followed the troops of Maj. General Joseph Hooker were called Hooker's women. Red light districts flourished during the Civil War as did people selling whiskey or anything else to drink. Venereal disease ran high as well.
Some of the top personalities of the war came from Illinois: Ulysses S. Grant - his real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. He did not want his monogram (H.U.G.) on his West Point trunk, so he reversed it to Ulysses Hiram Grant. His nomination letter for West Point read Ulysses S. Grant - his Congressman thought that Grant's middle name was the same as his mother's maiden name - Simpson. Ulysses kept that name. Grant was squeamish of the sight of raw meat and blood. He was also a former slave owner.
Richard Yates was Governor of Illinois during most of the Civil War. Yates was an advocate for the troops. He rushed medical aid to wounded and ill troops. He helped Illinois meet their troop quota. Yates one fatal flaw is that he was an alcoholic. He had to someone to read his inaugural address - he was too drunk to deliver it.
Benjamin Grierson's cavalry raid through Mississippi in 1863 was the inspiration for the movie "The Horse Soldiers" starring John Wayne and William Holden. Grierson had been a music teacher in Jacksonville and a merchant in Merodosia.
Illinois can be very proud of its contributions to the Civil War.
This very interesting presentation was very well received and prompted several questions from the crowd of over 85 people in attendance.
We would like to express our gratitude for the co-sponsorship of this program by the Edwardsville Public Library.