History of the 123rd Illinois Infantry
February & March were spent in brigade and regimental scouting.
Early in March, the regiment was attacked beyond Stone River while halted on Breed's Hill with arms stacked and ranks broken, by a large cavalry force, but forming under fire and repelling the attack, it waded Stone River, carrying off its wounded and withdrew to Murfreesboro.
March 20, the brigade, consisting of the 123rd, 105th Ohio, 101 Indiana, with two pieces of Captain Harris' Battery - about 1,500 men in all, was attacked and surrounded by Morgan's Cavalry, about 5,000 strong, with 6 pieces of artillery, near Milton, Tenn., about 12 miles out from Murfreesboro. This was shortly after Morgan had captured a brigade of infantry at Hartsville, Tenn. In the engagement at Milton, Morgan was wounded, his force driven from the field, leaving their dead and wounded and two pieces of artillery. Captain A.C. Van Buskirk, Company H, was killed and a number wounded. Major Connolly had the pommel of his saddle torn away by a bullet and while dismounting was in a few minutes knocked down and seriously injured by a bullet which carried away the collar of his overcoat and blouse. Dr. H.C. Allen, the Regimental surgeon, had his blouse riddled with bullets while attending to the wounded. Morgan never fought a successful battle after this.
May 6, the regiment was assigned to Wilder's Brigade, Reynolds' division, 14th Corps, composed of 17th & 72nd Indiana and 98th & 123 Illinois. They were mounted and armed with Spencer rifles - seven shooters. Did scouting and patrol duty for a month or so.
June 24, the Brigade led the advance of Rosecran's army in its movement from Murfreesboro, the 17th Indiana being in advance and the 123 Illinois next. These two regiments moved out from Murfreesboro long before daylight on the morning of the 24th in a drenching rain, and by daylight encountered the rebel videttes. From that moment, the two regiments broke into a gallop and kept up the run. The farther they went, the larger the rebel force of cavalry kept growing before them, but the rapid pace gave the enemy no time to form, until about 9 o'clock in the morning, by which time these two regiments had advanced to and seized Hoover's Gap, a place of great natural strength, but they were confronted here with twenty times their own number of infantry, well supplied with artillery to occupy this Gap, and their supporting forces were at least ten miles in the rear, floundering along through the mud and rain. But the rapidity and audacity of the movement saved them, for the enemy, supposing the force was a large one, checked their advance in column, deployed their force in two lines, brought up their artillery and opened a terrible artillery fire, at the same time sending out reconnoitering parties on the Federal flanks, but as soon as the gap was seized, couriers had been dispatched back to Wilder, informing him of the situation, and before the enemy had satisfied himself to the force in his front, the other regiments of the Brigade arrived, and with the battery of Captain Lilly (Indiana), his guns having been hauled the last mile by men of the brigade - Lilly's horses having given out with their long run through the muddy roads. These reinforcements checked the enemy still more, but by 2 p.m., they made a determined attack along the whole line and on both flanks, but the seven shooting Spencer rifles proved effective in repelling it, and before another could be made the head of the infantry of Rosecran's army began to arrive, and Hoover's Gap was held without further contest, the enemy withdrawing in the night. The regiment lost several killed and wounded in this affair.
June 26 to August 16, raiding to the rear of Bragg's army, cutting and tearing up railroads and burning bridges in his rear; capturing horses and contrabands in the vicinity of Manchester, War Trace, Shelbyville, Columbia, Centerville, Pulaski and Deckerd.
August 16, moved eastward from Deckerd over Cumberland Mountains and Walden's Ridge, reaching the valley on the east side of the Ridge, at Poe's tavern, about 10 o'clock at night, and there bivouacking until 3 o'clock in the morning, when Major Connolly of the 123rd was ordered to move down the valley with two companies of his regiment, and moving cautiously and without noise, to go as far down the valley as he could. This battalion moved on a smart pace and noiselessly over the sandy road, until about 6 o'clock in the morning, when, upon making a turn in the road, the battalion suddenly found itself within 100 yards of the Tennessee River, and looking right up the main street of the city, while the high fortified hill, on the Chattanooga side, with its many guns, frowned immediately over the heads of the men of the battalion, but there was a steamboat lying at the bank on the north side of the river just where the road they were traveling reached the water, which had just unloaded 60 mules and 12 rebel solders, who were bringing the mules out to pasture. In an instant, the battalion was flying down the road to that steamboat, the mules and soldiers were captured and the Spencer rifles began firing into the boat, which dropped its gangplank into the river, and backed out from the bank, drifting down with the current as the helmsman was compelled to desert his wheel. In the excitement of the attack, some of the men rode their horses belly-deep into the river in their eager desire to capture the boat. The enemy in the city were completely surprised; they didn't know there was a federal soldier within 100 miles of the city, so the little battalion stood there and fired across into the streets at every rebel uniform that showed itself dodging about the streets, for full 10 minutes before a single shot was returned from the other side. Couriers were sent back to notify the Brigade Commander and, in a very short time, the rest of the brigade with Captain Lilly's battery was on the hills opposite Chattanooga and Lilly, with his rifled guns, soon found himself able to send his shells entirely over the city and to any part of it. The regiment remained there with its brigade, picketing the river for miles above and below Chattanooga, until Sept. 9 when Crittenden's Corps entered Chattanooga. The regiment then forded the river above Chattanooga, and led the advance of Crittenden's Corps to Ringgold and Tunnel Hill, GA, constantly skirmishing during the three days advance.
September 18 and 19: Engaged in the battle of Chickamauga, the regiment taking its place in line with the infantry of the 14th Corps, to which it belonged.
More of the history of the 123rd
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