The 37th Infantry, known as the "Fremont Rifles," was organized by Colonel Julius White in August , 1861, and was mustered into service September 18th. The Regiment rendezvoused at Camp Webb. On the 19th of September it left for St. Louis. The Regiment numbered: Field and staff, 15; company officers, 30 and 964 enlisted men. It was composed of ten companies of infantry and two of cavalry.
Before departure, the Regiment was presented with battle flags by the Board of Trade of Chicago, and upon reporting to General Fremont , at St. Louis, Mo., was reviewed by him and his staff in front of his headquarters upon which occasion ribbons of red, white, and blue were tied to the spear-heard of the battle flag of the Regiment by the hands of the distinguished wife of the General, Mrs. Jesse Benton Fremont. The Regiment was armed -the eight inside companies with Springfield rifles, and the two flanking companies and all non-commissioned officers with Colt's repeating rifle (seven shooters).
About October 2, the Regiment proceeded to Booneville, Mo., where it went into camp. About October 10th, Captains Black and Payne boarded their companies aboard the steamer "War Eagle," and proceeded up the Missouri to Arrow Rock, and after exploring Saline county of the rebel General Claib Jackson, returned. About October 13, Captain Payne was left in command of the post at Booneville with Companies C and H, and seven companies of Home Guards, and Colonel White proceeded with the other eight companies as part of General Fremont's army to the capture of Springfield, Mo., then held by Price's (rebel) army. The rebels retreating, the Regiment went into camp on the Lamine River, where it was joined February 7th, 1862, by Captain Payne's command from Booneville when the Regiment became a part of the Army of the Frontier under Generals Curtis and Herron. From the Lamine, the Regiment marched by way of Cassville, Mo., along the "wire road," skirmishing all the way with the retreating rebel army, to Sugar Creek, in Arkansas, where in the 6th, 7th, and 8th of March, 1862, it participated in the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where, although the rebel army outnumbered the Federal army two to one, we won a complete and brilliant victory, and saved St. Louis from Price's grasp. At this battle, Col. Julius White commanded the Brigade composed of the 37th and 59th Illinois, and Davidson's Peoria Battery.
From 10 A.M. of the 7th of March until sundown, this Brigade met and repulsed the onslaught of 6,000 rebels under General McCullough and McIntosh, both of whom were killed in front of this Brigade. The night of the 7th, the Regiment slept on its arms, and next day renewed the fight, and a 11 A.M. a general charge was made, which resulted in putting Price's army to flight and our taking many prisoners. The rebel army numbered 35,000 men, and were completely whipped and forced to retreat south by General Curtis' Union army of 15,000. For his gallant handling of his heroic Brigade at this battle, Colonel White was made a Brigadier General of Volunteers. At this battle the 37th lost, killed, 21; wounded, 114-total, 135.
After this battle, the 37th Infantry, with the Peoria Battery and Hubbard's Missouri Cavalry, were stationed at Cassville, Mo., on outpost duty.
In June, 1862, General White received his commission as General, and departed east to report for duty. Lieutenant colonel Barnes was then Promoted Colonel: Major John Chas Black Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain H.N. Frisbie Major.
During the summer of 1862, the report coming in that a large force of rebels and Indians were at Neosho, Mo., 40 miles distant, Lieutenant Colonel Black, taking all the available force at the Post, started at sunrise, marched to Neosho, met and defeated the enemy and drove him into the Indian Territory; returned to Neosho at midnight, and reached Cassville by sundown the next day with over 300 prisoners and a large number of horses, mules and wagons captured from the enemy, having marched 100 miles and fought a battle in two days.
The 37th guarded the frontier in southwest Missouri all through the summer of 1862, having frequent fights with roving bands under Coffee and Quantrell, alternating between Springfield and Cassville, Mo.
During the summer of 1862, Company F, of the 37th Illinois, Captain E.B. Messer commanding, was detailed as a guard of the College Military Prison at Springfield, Mo., and occupied part of the summer in the construction of a stockade and otherwise fortifying Springfield.
September 29, 1862, found the 37th again on the march after the enemy. October 1, reached Pond Springs, Mo., October 4th, drove the rebels out of Newtonia, Mo., thence to Gadfly, thence to Cassville, Mo., thence to old battlefield of Pea Ridge, thence to Huntsville Ark., arriving there October 20th. Started on the evening of October 22 for Bentonville, marched all night, crossed White river, and camped four miles south of Cross Hollows October 23d. Reached Osage Springs October 24th, broke camp on the evening of October 27th, marched all night, and at daylight surprised the rebels at Fayetteville, Ark.; took some prisoners, and returned to Osage Springs October 30th.
Continued marching in light order, chasing rebels from one place to another, until December 1, 1862, when the Regiment went into camp at Camp Lyon Mo.
On account of the rapid marching qualities of the 37th and the fact that it was always on the march in pursuit of the enemy, when not actually engaged in battle with him, it gained the sobriquet of "The Illinois Greyhounds," by which name it was known all over Missouri and Arkansas.
December 3, 1862, the order came to the Regiment, then at Camp Lyon, Mo., to proceed to the relief of General Blunt, then besieged at Sugar Hill, Ark.
Leaving the baggage to follow, the Regiment started for the relief of Blunt and marched to Prairie Grove Ark., in three days, a distance of 112 miles, double-quicking the last ten miles.
On the morning of December 7, 1862, engaged the enemy at Prairie Grove, Ark., near Illinois Creek. General Herron commanded the Division at this battle and Colonel Dye, 20th Iowa, commanded the Brigade composed of his own regiment, the 37th Illinois, and one battery. The battle lasted all day, and was one of the most hotly contested and bloody battles of the war, considering the number engaged. The 37th lost about one-seventh of its number in killed and wounded.
Colonel Black, at this battle commanded the Regiment with one arm in a sling shattered at the battle of Pea Ridge, and late in the fight had his other arm shattered by a rifle ball. Many of the company officers were killed and wounded.
That night General Marmaduke, commander of the rebel army, and under a flag of truce, approached the outpost, under command of Major Payne, Officer of the Day and after being disarmed and blindfolded by that officer, was escorted by him to the headquarters of General Herron. Exactly what transpired at this conference is not known, except that the battle was named Prairie Grove. It is surmised, however, that General Herron demanded an unconditional surrender, to which General Marmaduke could not fully accede. Returning, the rebel leader muffled his artillery wheels, and fled during the night across the mountains. The 37th accompanied General Herron the next day, and pursued the rebel army over the Boston mountains to Fort Smith, Ark., where General Marmaduke, with the remnant of his rebel army, crossed the river and escaped.
The 37th returned to Prairie Grove, and as a part of General Herron's Army of the Frontier, spent the winter and spring of 1862-63 marching from point to point in Missouri and Arkansas, having numerous skirmishes with the enemy, until April 24, 1863, when the Regiment proceeded to St. Louis, and from thence to Cape Girardeau, Mo., where it engaged the enemy single-handed and drove him across the sunken county to Chalk Bluffs, on the St. Francis River. It was at this battle of Chalk Bluffs, fought on May 2, 1863, that the brave Lieutenant Joseph Eaton, Company H, was killed.
Returning to St. Louis, the regiment accompanied General Herron's Division to Vicksburg, Miss., where about June 13, 1863, it helped to completely environ Vicksburg by closing up the gap between General Logan and the river on the south side. Major Eugene B. Payne was here detailed as "Picket Officer" of General Herron's Division, and had full charge of the rifle pits during the siege. The Regiment took a prominent part in the siege of Vicksburg, and being hardy veterans, marched with every man into the captured city, July 4, 1863.
July 13, 1863, the Regiment proceeded up Yazoo river, landing near Yazoo City and capturing that place after a hard fight, taking many prisoners. Thence marched to the Big Black River in pursuit of the enemy. Was from thence ordered back to Vicksburg, thence to Port Hudson, and from thence, August 13, proceeded to New Orleans, La., and went into camp at Carrolton. September 4, 1863, the Regiment was reviewed by General U.S. Grant. September 5, proceeded to Morganzia, La., and on September 8, in company with 29th Iowa, and 26th Indiana, started in pursuit of General Dick Taylor, and General Green's Rebel forces west of the Atchafalaya River. On 29th September, met enemy near Morgan's Bend. Rebel force 3,000-Union force 1,200 whipped them. Rebel loss 32 killed, 110 wounded. Union loss, 13 killed, 34 wounded.
On September 30, General Dana took command of our Division. October 1, Regiment had another "scrape" with the enemy and took 65 prisoners. Returned to New Orleans, La., October 11. Colonel Black was in command of the Brigade composed of 26th Indiana, 20th Iowa, and 37th Illinois. October 13, Colonel Black with his Brigade embarked and proceeded to, and took possession of Brownsville, Texas. From that time until Feb., 1864, the Regiment guarded the Rio Grande River as far north as Ringgold Barracks. In Feb., 1864, the Regiment re-enlisted for three years, and was re-mustered Feb. 28, 1864. Receiving a furlough of thirty days the "boys" visited their homes for the first time in three years. Reporting at Chicago, the Regiment proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., April 30th, where Colonel Black with his Brigade was sent after the rebel General Forrest, whom he forced to retreat into interior of State.
Returning to Memphis, the Regiment proceeded to "Atchafalaya Bayou," where General Black's Brigade constructed the celebrated "Steamboat Bridge" over which General N.P. banks escaped from the rebel General Dick Taylor. May 30th, started out on another scout; marched 60 miles and camped at Morganzia, La., between June 2d and 14th, 90 of the Regiment were on another scout. Attached to Nineteenth Army Corps on June 14th; July 12th proceeded up White River and fortified St. Charles Ark. Returned to Morganzia July 12th. The Nineteenth army Corps (Banks) having returned east, the Regiment was attached to Thirteenth Army Corps and placed in General Lawler's Division. September 20th, all the non-veterans returned home. October 7th, the Regiment went into regular winter quarters at Duvall's Bluff Ark. (a thing they had never done before). January 4, 1865, the Regiment received marching orders and proceeded to New Orleans, La., and thence to Barrancas, Florida. March 11th, marched to Pensacola, Florida. The Regiment was now in First Brigade Second Division Thirteenth Army Corps, General Steele commanding. March 20th, the Regiment marched across Perdidio River and Aslumia River on bridges built by themselves, to Pollard, Florida, having several skirmishes by the way.
March 13th, Colonel John C. Black was promoted Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers, and then Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers by the President and Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. General Payne having resigned on account of sickness as Lieutenant Colonel. April 2d, the Regiment participated in the siege and storming of Fort Blakely, Ala. April 9th, stormed Fort Blakely, and after a hard fought battle captured the Fort, captureing 1,200 prisoners and much property. The Regiments loss was 1 killed and 7 wounded. April 14th, entered Mobile, Ala., and went into camp. April 20th, embarked on steamers and proceeded up the Alabama River to Cahawba, Ala., (a late rebel prison pen) and took on board the half starved and emaciated Union prisoners confined there. Near Selma, Ala., a gang of bushwhacking rebels fired into our boat killing one man of Co. A. Retribution quickly followed, for the Regiment landed and burned the houses of the leader of the Rebels, and General Steele issued his proclamation that if his boats were fired on again his troops would burn all buildings within 15 miles of the shooting. This put a stop to it. On April 29 reached Montgomery, Ala., (seat of Rebel Government). Returned to Selma, May 1. Reached Mobile, Ala., May 15. June 12th received orders to march with 60 rounds. Remained in suspense until June 28th, when the Regiment embarked on steamer and for the fifth time ploughed the Gulf. Arrived at Galveston, Texas, July 1. Reached Sabine Pass July 5, and camped at Beaumont. July 17th, went to Houston, Texas, where the Regiment with headquarters at Houston, was stationed by companies along the railroads leading out of Houston. July 13th, Major Wolford was mustered out and Captain J.J. Huntley, Co.C, was promoted Major. Co. A was stationed at Brenham, B at Milligan, C at Columbus, D at Beaumont, F at Richmond, H at Alleyton, K at Hempstead, with E, G and I at Houston. General Black resigned August 15, 1865, the 37th was mustered out of the U.S. service at Houston, Texas, and reached Springfield, Ill., May 31, 1866, where it received final payment and discharge, having been in the service of the United States for four years and ten months, and having participated in eleven hard fought battles and sieges and innumerable skirmishes, and having marched a distance of 17, 846 miles as follows: By steam, 14, 560 miles; on foot, 3,286 miles, according to the tabulated statement kept by Henry Ketzle, veteran of Co. A.