Soldiers from St. Mary's Parish in Elgin, IL
from "St. Mary's Golden Jubilee 1851 - 1901"
The harbinger of civilization in the section of Illinois in which Elgin is located was the United States soldier. In 1832, the Indians under Black Hawk, in their final though futile effort to retain the domain of their forefathers, created such consternation that nine companies of infantry commanded by General Scott were sent from the seaboard to support the troops at the front.
On the 8th of July, this command, decimated by Asiatic cholera (which appeared for the first time in America that summer) to less than four companies, arrived in Chicago, where Fort Dearborn was soon converted into a hospital. After the disease had abated, the march towards the Mississippi was resumed.
Little grassy mounds to this day mark the resting places of many of these defenders of our frontier, who were buried where they fell, victims of the cholera, and are mute indicators of the course of Scott's trail across the state. Along that trail came the first settlers to this vicinity, and along that trail also went the Indians on their final visits to Fort Dearborn. The ford at Fox river was at the place now known as "Five Islands," and to the early settlers as "Scott's Ford." It is about four miles south of Elgin. There on the western bank of the river, close to a spring which is near the end of the Elgin, Aurora & Southern Traction Company's bridge, Scott's command struck camp after cross-ing the river; and at that place lie under one mound the remains of two of those unknown soldier boys. No tablet marks the spot, but a wild cherry tree keeps silent vigil beside their forsaken graves. No record even in the war department of the United States of their names is available, and though but seventy years have elapsed since their sacrifices, all seems to be forgotten. That the names and sacrifices of the pioneers of St. Mary's Parish may not be forgotten when their forms and features shall have disappeared, is the main object of our volume.
"Among the Boys of '98"
It was nearly midnight on April 25, 1898, when Colonel Bennett of the Third Illinois Volunteers received orders to report by April 27th at Springfield with the Third Infantry. April 26th, at about 7 a.m., every whistle in Elgin sounded the awful alarm. Anxious mothers and fathers loving wives, sisters and sweethearts knew what that meant to them; their boys in blue were called to fight in their country's cause, and fight they would; for a finer, braver or more manly lot of fellows never went forth than the Illinois Third.
Elgin was not behind in sending forth her boys. Besides the members of the Third Regiment, many volunteers left their homes and joined other regiments. They went to Springfield and were examined by the doctors, and were mustered into Uncle Sam's service. May 8, 1898, the second call was made, when many more Elgin boys went; and even a third call was made later in the same month. On May 14, 1898, they left Springfield for Chickamauga Park, via the Illinois Central railroad, and arrived at Chattanooga, Tenn., May i6, 1898. The regiment marched from Roseville to Snodgrass Hill, an historic spot in Chickamauga Park. The next morning, they marched to Kelley's field, where they remained till ordered to Puerto Rico. July 22nd, they took cars for Newport News, and on July 28th, they embarked on the auxiliary cruiser "St. Louis" for Puerto Rico. After a pleasant and quick voyage the boat cast anchor off Ponce, Puerto Rico, landing at Arroyo, August 3rd. When the men reached the shore they buckled on their cartridge belts, loaded their rifles, under orders from Major Jackson, and started on the double quick for the foot of the mountains. The stars and stripes were raised on the Custom House by the Third Illinois, and the officer of the port and the mayor of the city were arrested by Colonel Bennett. Major Caughey with the Third Battalion landed last and patrolled the town. The Third was on the skirmish line thirty-six hours, but not an Illinois man was injured; and on the second day the enemy was driven into the mountains.
The boys suffered great hardships and privations; sleeping on wet, muddy ground, many of them caught colds which resulted in their deaths.
Father Sherman, son of General Sherman, was with the boys, and said mass in the open air. Among the Catholic boys who went from Elgin were:
They sailed from Guyama, Puerto Rico, on November 2nd, on the "Romania," and arrived in New York on November 9th, and in Elgin, on the 11th of November. Elgin gave them a hearty welcome home, and the name of the Third Illinois will ever be near and dear to the boys who went to war, and to those who loved them most.