The Forty-first Infantry was organized at Decatur during July and August, 1861, by Colonel Isaac C. Pugh. Company A was from Decatur, Company B from Sullivan and Bethany, Companies C, F and K were from Clinton and DeWitt county, Company E from Blue Mound, Company G from Taylorville, Company I from Mt. Auburn and Illiopolis, Company D from Mattoon and Company H from Shelbyville. It was mustered into the United States service August 5th. August 8th it moved to St. Louis, and remained at the Arsenal until the 29th, when it was moved to Bird's Point, and was assigned to the command of General Prentiss. September 8th, moved with other troops, under General U.S. Grant, to Paducah; assisted in fortifying Paducah.
Companies B and I, under command of Major John Warner, were sent to Smithland, together with two companies of the Twelfth Infantry, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Chetlain. Assisted in fortifying the place. The main portion of the Regiment remained at Paducah, and with other troops, under General C.F. Smith, made marches to Mellborne, Lovelittsville and Columbus, returning November 19th. Marched to Crown Point December 31st.
February 5, 1862, the Regiment moved to Fort Henry, arriving just as the gunboats, under command of Commodore Foote, formed their line of battle to attack the fort. The attack was short and decisive, resulting in the capture of the fort and the rebel General Lloyd Tillighman, who was in command. The Forty-first was in the command of General C.F. Smith; assisted in the capture of Fort Heiman.
February 11th, moved to Fort Donelson, and was assigned to General John A. McClernand's Division, with Colonel John McArthur as Brigade Commander, the Ninth, Twelfth and Forty-first Illinois Infantry forming the Brigade. The Forty-first was on the extreme right, next to the backwater of the Cumberland River, and was the first Regiment engaged in the desperate struggle of the 15th, when the rebel army, under Floyd, Pillow and Buckner, attempted to cut their way out. A desperate battle ensued. This was the first general fight the Regiment had participated in. Being overpowered, it, with the Eighth, Ninth, Twelfth, Eighteenth, and in fact the entire Division, was driven back, but not until they had suffered severely and exhausted their ammunition. The Forty-first lost some 200 in killed and wounded. Colonel Pugh had eleven holes shot in his clothing.
March 10th, moved back to Fort Henry, with the army under General Smith; went on board the transports and proceeded up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing. The Forty-first was the first to land at that historic place, but there was no enemy there at that time.
In the organization of the army after the battle of Fort Donelson, the Regiment was assigned to General S.A. Hurlbut's Division, which occupied the left wing of the army at Shiloh. The Regiment participated in the desperate battle of the 6th and 7th of April, forming the left wing of what the Confederates called the hornet's nest. The Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Twenty-eighth were on the right of the Forty-first, and the Ninth on the left. In the battle of the 6th, the Forty-first was under fire fully six hours, and lost near 200 killed and wounded, including the gallant Lieutenant Colonel Ansel B. Tupper, who fell pierced in the head by a rebel bullet, and died in a few hours. The Regiment was complimented on the battlefield, by General Hurlbut, for its gallantry throughout the entire battle. Early in the engagement Colonel Williams, of the Third Iowa, was wounded, and the command of the Brigade fell upon Colonel Pugh, who handled the troops admirably, and assisted in repelling three assaults of the enemy at the peach orchard, on the forenoon of the 6th. After the death of Colonel Tupper the command of the Regiment devolved upon Major John Warner, who maintained the good order of the command.
The Forty-first formed part of the last line of defense at Shiloh, in the battle of Sunday, and under the personal supervision of General Grant assisted in repulsing the rebel forces, driving them back beyond the reach of our gunboats, and thus closed its work on the first day at Shiloh. On the 7th, the Regiment made one charge, and assisted in driving the enemy from his position on the right wing. In this engagement the loss of the Forty-first was severe in killed and wounded.
The Forty-first took part in the siege of Corinth, where the army under General Halleck was 25 days moving 24 miles. After the capture of Corinth, the Forty-first marched through Northern Mississippi and Western Tennessee for Memphis, via Grand Junction, Holly Springs and Germantown arriving there July 21, where it remained until September 6, when, with Hurlbut's Division, it was sent to Bolivar, Tenn.
October 4th, made a forced march with the Division, and intercepted the rebel army under General Price and Van Dorn, on the Hatchie River, which was retreating from what was known as the second battle of Corinth. On the Federal side, in the battle of the Hatchie, some 500 prisoners were captured and a battery of Artillery, besides much of the rebel supply-train and baggage. The Forty-first followed the retreating enemy until a junction was formed between Rosecrans, McPherson and Hurlbut.
Returning to Grand Junction, the Regiment went with the army under Grant on the march towards Vicksburg, through Mississippi to Oxford. When Holly Springs was captured, the army returned, going into quarters in Moscow, Tennessee, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, where it guarded the road until March, 1863, when it was ordered again to Memphis. Arriving there March 10th, was assigned to the Sixteenth Army Corps, commanded by General Hurlbut.
While at Memphis, the question arose between Generals Hurlbut and Lauman which was the best drilled regiment in the Division. Hurlbut held that the Fourteenth was best, while Lauman contended that the Forty-first was the superior. Each regiment was ordered to headquarters the nest day for dress parade. Our commander, Lieutenant Colonel J.W. Nale, received a challenge from Colonel Cain, of the Fourteenth, for a prize drill. The drill came off March 26th, at General Lauman's headquarters. It was witnessed by some 10,000 citizens and soldiers. Three U.S. Army officers were selected as judges, who unanimously gave the decision in favor of the Forty-first. The ladies of Memphis presented the Regiment with a magnificent wreath of flowers. General Oglesby had just returned from Illinois, where he had been since receiving the terrible wound at Corinth. He sent for the Regiment to return to headquarters, when he made an eloquent speech, highly complimenting it, and reciting good news from home.
April 12th, with the Twelfth and Thirty-third Wisconsin, and the Fifth Ohio Battery, moved on the Hernando expedition. Met the rebel General Chalmers on Cold Water River; double-quicking three miles to fight three hours. Returned to Memphis.
May 12th, started with Hurlbut's army on transports for Vicksburg. On the way was fired into at Greenville, Mississippi, by rebel batteries. Several of the Third Iowa were wounded. Landed and chased the rebels off, when the army proceeded to Vicksburg.
Landed at Haines' Bluff May 22, and was assigned to the Thirteenth Army Corps, General John A. McClernand commanding, where the Regiment took part in the forty-seven days' siege, during which time it lost some 50 killed and wounded.
July 5th, moved with Sherman's army to Jackson. Arriving the 11th, was assigned to the extreme right wing, between the railroad and Pearl River, on the south of Jackson.
On Sunday, July 12th, the Third Iowa, Twenty-eighth, Forty-first and Fifty-third Illinois, under command of Colonel Pugh, were ordered to close up the gap between Hovey's Division and Pearl River. General Lauman commanded the Division, and General Ord the Corps. In moving up, the Brigade had gone as far as troops could go, when they were ordered by Colonel Pugh to halt and lie down. General Lauman ordered him forward, and the four regiments made a desperate charge on the enemy's works. They were met by General Breckenridge's rebel Corps, consisting of the Louisiana Brigade, General Adams commanding; the Kentucky Brigade, General Helm commanding; the Florida Brigade, General Storall commanding; Mebeau's Tennessee Battery Battery, Cobbs Kentucky Battery, Austin's Louisiana Sharpshooter, and Slocum's Fifth Louisiana Artillery. In this charge the regiments herein named lost more than two-thirds of the men who went into the engagement, including many line and field officers. Major Frank M. Long, of the Forty-first, was shot and captured, dying next day, after having his leg amputated, at the rebel hospital. Several flags were captured, including those of the Twenty-eighth and Fifty-third, and the regimental flag of the Forty-first. The latter was shot down five times, the color bearer being killed each time. Sergeant H.M. Strearer, who carried the National colors of the Forty-first, was severely wounded, but he carried the flag, torn and tattered, in triumph off the field.
As soon as Colonel Pugh's voice could be heard above the din of battle, he ordered a retreat, but it was too late; many had passed over the rebel works and were prisoners; many others had been killed upon the spot. In this engagement the Forty-first lost in killed, wounded and prisoners near 200. The company to which the writer belonged lost 21 out of 30 who went into the action. For this mistake General Lauman was put under arrest, court-martialed, and dismissed the service.
Returning to Vicksburg, the Forty-first was assigned to the Seventeenth Army Corps, General McPherson commanding.
November 18th, the Brigade moved to Natchez, Miss.
December 16th, returned to Vicksburg, and went into camp on Big Black River. There nearly 200 of the Regiment re-enlisted as veterans March 17, 1864, when they were given thirty days furlough.
The non-veterans moved up Red River, participating in the campaign under General A.J. Smith and General Banks, taking part in all the battles and skirmishes of that disastrous campaign.
When the veterans arrived at Camp Yates, a dispatch was received that a riot was in porgress at Charleston, Illinois, in which Major York and several of the Fifty-fourth Infantry had been shot by the rebel sympathizers. Colonel Pugh hurried forward with his Regiment to Mattoon, arriving at night. He found the whole city arroused, and many of the citizens under arms. From Mattoon the Regiment was sent to Windsor, ten miles south, where a camp of 1,500 rebel sumpathizers was reported, but on arriving there no one was found under arms, and the Regiment returned to Mattoon, where it dispersed on its furlough of thirty days, at the expiration of which it moved to Cairo; thence to Nashville. From Nashville it was sent to Tunnel Hill, where the rebels had torn up the railroad, to guard the line of communication with Atlanta. Thence it moved to Moon Station, Big Shanty, Marietta and Kenesaw Mountain. While camped at Marietta, July 21st, the term of service of the men who did not re-enlist expired, and they returned home, under command of Colonel Pugh.
When the body of General McPherson, who was killed on the 22d of July was sent home the Firty-first, commanded by Major G.R. Steele, was sent as an escort.
The Regiment participated in the battle of Guntown. After this bloody engagement, it was organized as a battalion under the command of Major R.H. McFadden and was stationed at the base of Kenesaw Mountain when General Hood made his celebrated move around General Sherman's army at Atlanta. The battlaion had some lively skirmishing east of Kenesaw with the rebel General French's Division of General Stewart's Corps.
The Forty-first was present on Kenesaw Mountain and witnessed the brilliant struggle at Allatoona, when General Sherman sent the famous dispatch to General Corse to "hold the fort, I am coming." and when the equally famous dispatch of General Corse was received, which was in these words: "I am short a cheek-bone and an ear, but I am able to whip all hell yet."
The Forty-first assisted in the destruction of the railroad at Atlanta and joined the main army on the march to the sea, being in the Seventeenth Army Corps.
Arrived at Savannah, GA, December 4; camped near the old French cemetery, doing guard duty at the custom house, where there were 25,000 bales of cotton.
January 4, 1865, the Forty-first was, by order of General O.O. Howard, consolidated with the Fifty-third
Illinois Infantry, forming companies H. and G.