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Jackson County, Illinois

History of 31st IL Inf

 Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, 1861-1866, vol. 2, pages 571-577

Donated by Sandy Vansickle

The Thirty-first Regiment of Illinois Infantry, except Companies I and K, was mainly composed of men from the southern part of the State, the counties of Williamson, Perry, Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Saline and Union furnishing the larger number.  Its rendezvous was Camp Dunlap, Jacksonville, Illinois;  but it was organized at Cairo by John A. Logan, and was there mustered into the service by Captain Pitcher, U.S.A., on the 18th of September, 1861, and went into camp of instruction in the Brigade of General McClernand.

With less than two months' drill, the Regiment took part in the battle of Belmont, Mo., November 7 , 1861, cutting its way into the enemy's camp, and with equal valor, but less hazard, cutting its way out again.  On the 7th of February, 1862, the Regiment was at Fort Henry, Tenn.;  and after emerging from the muddy environments of that stronghold, it traversed the hills of Fort Donelson, and there, amid winter snows, on the 15th of the same month, it lost 260 men killed and  wounded-the Regiment having performed, in this engagement the difficult evolution of a change of front to rear on the company, in the heat of battle, among tangled brush and on uneven ground.  From Donelson the Regiment was transported by steamer to Shiloh, Tenn., and thence it moved toward Corinth, Miss., with the main body of the army, and reached that place only to find it evacuated by the enemy.  From Corinth the Thirty-first marched to Jackson, Tenn., and the summer of 1862 was spent in guarding railroads, skirmishing in the country of the Forked Deer River, and scouting in the direction of Memphis, to Brownsville and beyond.  Ordered to the support of Gen. Rosecrans, at Corinth, the Regiment reached that place in time to follow the retreating foe to Ripley, Miss., where the men fed on fresh pork, without salt, or crackers, or coffee.  On this expedition it was engaged in the skirmishes of Chewalla and Tuscumbia, ending the 6th of October, 1862.  The Regiment was with Grant in the first campaign against Vicksburg, sometimes called the Yokona expedition, and passed through Holly Springs to Coldwater, at which placed the men, destitute of rations in consequence of the capture and destruction of supplies at Holly Springs by the enemy, showed their characteristic adaptability by carrying out at once the suggestion of Logan to convert the timber into ashes, and, by means of the ashes, the corn of the surrounding country into hominy.

Upon the termination of this campaign the regiment, with the army under Grant, was transferred to a new field, that of the operations which finally resulted in the downfall of Vicksburg.  On the 15th of January, 1863, it set out for Lagrange, Ten., and thence went to Memphis, by way of Colliersville.  Leaving Memphis march 10, 1863, it embarked for Lake Providence, La.,  and after assisting in the attempts to open a route by water to a point below Vicksburg, it moved, upon the abandonment of these attempts, to Milliken's Bend, and thence to Wanesborough.  Having crossed the Mississippi below Grand Gulf, April 30, 1863, the next day the Regiment, without waiting for rations, though hungry and weary enough, hurried forward to the support of the comrades then engaged in battle at Thompson's Hill, near Port Gibson, and quickly forming on McClernand's left, under the eyes of Generals Grant and Logan, it moved upon the right wing of the enemy at the charge step, routing him completely, and helping to secure a speedy victory.  Governor Yates, in civilian garb of swallow tail coat and high shirt collar, and overflowing with enthusiasm and patriotism, witnessed this charge.  After crossing the Bayou Pierre, then men of the Thirty-first again met and dispersed their foes at Ingram Heights, May 3, 1863, and pushed on to Raymond, where on the 12th the Regiment hurled from its front the fragments of a brigade which the enemy had thrown against the advance of Grant. Moving onward, in almost ceaseless march, it took part in the battle of Jackson, Miss., May, 14, 1863, and thence at midnight, on the 15th, through drenching rain, it marched toward Vicksburg, to meet the enemy anew.  About ten o'clock in the morning of the 16th the men spread their cartridges to dry in the sun, in an old field about five miles from Champion Hills, from which latter point was soon after heard the sound of battle.  The men hastily gathered up their ammunition and seized their muskets, and the Regiment followed the head of the column at double-quick, effecting a formation with its brigade on the right of our embattled line, where it rested for a moment, the men lying on their faces while the hostile shells whistled and shrieked and exploded above them.  At the command "attention" the line stood erect, with bayonets fixed;  the Brigade-commander, General John E. Smith, gave the word;  McPherson said with a smile, "give 'em Jesse!" and Logan shouted "remember the blood of your mammies! Give 'em hell!" and then the brigade sprang forward, broke and routed the two column formation over which waved the Confederate flag, captured the opposing battery, turned its guns upon the retreating enemy, and took as many prisoners as there were men in the charging brigade.  In this encounter there was crossing of bayonets and fighting hand to hand.  Sergeant Wick, of Company B, used his bayonet upon his foe, and Sergeant Hendrickson, of Company C, clubbed his musket in a duel with one of the men in gray.

From this point the Regiment, with the main army, followed the retreating enemy to his entrenched lines at Vicksburg, where it took part in the bloody assaults of the 19th and 22d of May;  its gallant Lieutenant Colonel, Reece, meeting death by the explosion of a grenade while planting the Regimental Colors upon the ramparts.  Here the flag received 153 bullets, and the staff was shot asunder in four places.

During the siege the Regiment took a prominent part in the operations against Fort Hill;  and when the Fort was blown up, on the 25th of June, by the explosion of a mine beneath it, there came a time that tested the stuff the men were made of.  Here in the night, in that crater remembered as the "slaughter pen," the soldiers fighting by reliefs, and within an arms length of the enemy-some had their muskets snatched from their hands-under a shower of grenades and of shells lighted by port-fires, the voice of Pearson, Goddard, Mooningham and others, rising at times above the terrific din of combat, cheered on their men-were deeds of valor performed which would adorn the heroic page.

On the morning of July 4, 1863, the place of honor having been assigned to the Brigade, the Thirty-first Regiment marched proudly across the rents and chasms of Fort Hill into Vicksburg.

Having made the expedition to Monroe, La., under General Stephenson, the Regiment went into camp at Black River, Miss., the scene of Lawler's splendid victory, and here, on the 5th of January, 1864, three-fourths of the men again enlisted in the service.  That might the men, formed in line, with lighted candles held in the shanks of their bayonets, marched to the quarters of General Force, commanding the Brigade, who appeared before his tent and catching the splendor from the candles full in his face, cried out with enthusiasm, "Three cheers for the Thirty-first!"  But the "boys" were not going to cheer for themselves and there were no others present to do it, so they stood in their ranks, silent and with military air, and cheered not nor stirred;  whereupon the General shouted, "Cheer yourselves, boys! Hip! Hip!" and then the cheers were given with a will, followed by a "tiger" for the Union, and three groans for the Confederacy.

The Regiment was with General Sherman in the campaign against Meridian, Miss., after which the re-enlisted men-the "Veterans"-took their furloughs, starting for home the 19th of March, 1864.  Having returned to the front, by way of Cairo, the Regiment camped from the 6th to the 15th of May at Clinton, on the Tennessee

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