The Forty-third Regiment Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Bulter in September, 1861, by Colonel Julius Raith, and was mustered into service of the United States by Captain Pitcher, U.S.A., on October 12th.
On October 13th the Regiment, containing only eight companies, moved by railroad to Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Mo., where it was armed with old Harpers Ferry and English Tower muskets, changed from flint licks to percussion guns.
On November 3, the Regiment moved by rail to Tipton, Mo. On the 4th to Otterville, also by rail.
On December 30-31, the Regiment had the first march from Otterville back to Tipton.
January 20-21, the Regiment moved by rail to Benton Barracks, where companies I and K were added to it. The Regiment was here armed with new Belgian rifles, and excellent arm, but very heavy.
On February 6th the Regiment, 800 strong, embarked on the steamer Memphis, which also carried Berge's Sharpshooters, arriving at Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, on the night of February 8th.
On February 24th the Regiment was assigned to the Third Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General L.F. Ross, of McClernand's Division of the Army of West Tennessee, and marched on the 25th and 26th to Fort Donelson.
Left Fort Donelson on March 4th; arrived at Bell's Landing on the 5th; got aboard the steamer Eugenie on the 7th, arriving at Savannah on the 12th.
On the 18th the Forty-third, with the Seventeenth and Forty-fifth Illinois, and Stewart's Cavalry and two of Taylor's Howitzers, marched to Pinhook, returning to Savannah on the 19th.
On the 22d, moved by steamer to Pittsburg Landing, and was with the other regiments of Ross's Brigade assigned camping ground near, and northeast of Shiloh Church.
On the morning of Sunday, April 6th, Colonel Raith heard the sound of battle, had the Regiment assembled, the tents taken down, the wagons loaded, and the Regiment paraded on the color line. He had sent Lieutenant Colonel Engelmann to General McClernand to inform him of the approaching battle, where Lieutenant Colonel Engelmann was instructed to tell Colonel Reardon, of the Twenty-ninth Illinois, to assume command of the Brigade, as General L.J. Ross had gone to Illinois on furlough. Colonel Reardon, being sick, the command of the Brigade devolved upon Colonel Julius Raith. His own Regiment, the Forty-third, was the only one ready for action. The staff officers of the Brigade were half a mile away at the Brigade headquarters. Besides the mounted officers of his own Regiment, he had no assistance in turning out the other regiments of the Brigade. He ordered Colonel Engelmann to turn out the Forty-ninth, which was left of the Forty-third, but the men of that Regiment could only seize their muskets and accoutrements when the enemy was upon them. They had no time to form line. Lieutenant Colonel Engelmann now had to assume command of the Forty-third, which for a long time alone supported the Waterhouse Battery and with it offered a stubborn resistance to the enemy, leaving in this first position 36 of its number dead, whilst many had been carried severely wounded to the rear. (See Greeley's history of this battle.) The Forty-third next took position on the Purdy road, with McClernand's Division. Here Colonel Raith was mortally wounded, dying on 11th. This line giving way, the Forty-third was next assigned a position by Captain Hammond, of General Sherman's staff, in a compact line of troops facing the Purdy Roads. This line also giving way, the Forty0third took a position with the Twentieth Illinois. All other Union troops having disappeared, the Forty-third slowly fell back to a position facing towards the west, an open field, and immediately to the left of the camp of the Ninth Illinois. About 4:30 o'clock General Grant. Sherman and McClernand came up, with many of their staff, and inspected the position of the Forty-third. They soon sent up troops from the direction of the river, and formed them on the line held by the Forty-third; the Forty-sixth Illinois being formed on the right of the Forty-third, also facing to the west. A battery was placed on the left of the Forty-third, firing to the southwest. It was supported by the Thirteenth Missouri (subsequently called the Twenty-second Ohio), which faced to the south, being part of a compact line of infantry and artillery from there to the Tennessee, which the Union troops held during the night. In every position held by the Forty-third during the day it had left its dead and wounded, who being carried off by the enemy, were the only men who had to be reported missing. The advance the next day was slow, and it was at about 4 o'clock p.m. when what was left of the Forty-third again stacked arms in front of its camp. Out of a total of 500 taken into action, it had lost 206, of whom 49 had been left dead on the field. The officers killed were Captains Louis Mausa, Franz Grimm, Chaplain J.L. Walther, Lieutenants John Oppendick, John Lindroth, and Henry Sacker. Mortally wounded were Colonel Raith and Captain Olof. S. Edvall, and severely wounded Captain William Ehrhard, John Toblen and Charles Stephani and two Lieutenants.
The Regiment participated in the advance on Corinth; arrived at Bethel on June 6th; on the 15th and 16th marched to Jackson, Tenn. July 17-19, marched to Bolivar, and built an extensive system of fortifications at that place.
Left Bolivar for Corinth by railroad on September 15th, going from there to Burnsville by rail during the 18th to 19th. Held with Grant's army near Burnsville all day of the 19th. At night had to dig rifle pits. On the 20th marched to luka, but on the same day started back to Corinth, arriving there on the 21st. On the 23d returned by rail to Bolivar. On October 9th marched to LaGrange, Miss. Next day marched back to Bolivar, in a pouring rain.
On December 18th, 225 men of the Regiment moved by rail to Jackson, abnout 100 men being left in Bolivar, under Captain S. Schimminger.
The same evening the Forty-third and the Sixty-first Illinois, also 225 men, all under the command of Colonel Engelmann, marched from Jackson, on the Lexington road, to the Brook's farm. Here, at 11 p.m., detachments of cavalry of the Eleventh Illinois, Fifth Ohio, and First West Tennessee, in all about 800 men, were met. They had been sent out to watch the confederate Forrest, who had crossed the Tennessee, near Lexinton, with 1,800 men and some artillery. Our cavalry, in trying to obstruct the march of Forrest, lost its two pieces of artillery and many of its men. They now came under the command of Colonel Engelmann. The troops stayed under arms and without fire, whilst Forrest's camp fires could be seen burning cheerfully all night. At daybreak the infantry was drawn back to the woods, on the edge of which Salem cemetery is situated; the Forty-third to the right of the road, the Sixty-first to the left and in rear of the cemetery. The cavalry was posted on the flanks, and some on the high ground forward, to draw the enemy into the ambush. The enemy first advanced very leisurely, putting his own and the captured artillery into position , in all six pieces, with which they kept up a cross-fire on the Union line for about an hour, from which the Union cavalry, worn out by the exertions of the preceding days, retired to the rear. The enemy now organized a charge on our center by 500 of its cavalry. They came first at a walk, then at a trot, then with a deafening yell charged at full speed. The infantry reserved its fire well, till it could be given with deadly effect, driving the enemy back in headlong flight, losing many killed and wounded, and three prisoners, and a number of horses captured. The Forty-third had only two men wounded. In the afternoon reinforcements came up.
The nest day General Sullivan marched the Forty-third, with the balance of his command, eastward on the Lexington Road, 28 miles, while Forrest's cannons could be heard booming to the north along the line of the railroad to Columbus, where he took several depots. No enemy being in this direction, General Sullivan;s command, on the 21st, returned to Jackson, from where Colonel Englemann went to Bolivar, while the detachment of the Forty-third, under Lieutenant Colonel Dengler, marching with a body of troops all under Colonel Lawler, of the Eighteenth Illinois, to Medon, Denmark, Glover Creek and Toon's Station, returning to Bolivar on the 26th.
In early spring of 1863, Brigadier General Brayman commanding, ordered 200 of the men of the Forty-third to be mounted; expeditions to the distance of forty miles from Bolivar were made, many skirmishes had, and many prisoners and horses taken.
On May 31, moved by rail to Memphis, embarked on the steamer Tycoon, and moved to Yazoo River. Having partly got on shore, the troops were speedily re-embarked and steamed up the Yazoo to Satartia, near which Wirt Adams was with several thousand confederate soldiers. A landing was effected, and the Union troops, under Generals Kimbald and Mower, drove the confederates beyond Mechanicsville, more than four miles. Lieutenant Colonel Dengler, here and always afterward, commanded the Regiment. Colonel Englemann commanded either the Brigade or Division of which it formed a part. On June 8, moved to Haines' Bluff; July 12, to Big Black River; July 22, to Snyders' Bluff; 29th, embarked for Helena. Ark. August 6, was assigned to First Brigade, Second Division, Seventh Army Corps. Major General F. Steele commanding.
August 13, left Helena. 17th, arrived at Clarendon, on White River. 22d, crossed White River. 24th, arrived Duvall's Bluff.
September 1, moved from Duvall's Bluff. Arrived at Brownsville on the 2d and moved on the 6th, crossing Bayou Meton on the same day. Colonel A. Englemann was assigned to command of the Second division. 7th, arrived at Ashley's Mill, and camped until the 10th, when moved forwared to the Arkansas River and laid pontoon. Two regiments of infantry, several batteries of artillery and a division of cavalry, crossed the river. The infantry moved on the north side of the river to a point opposite Little Rock. The enemy evacuated the place, and the cavalry. Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry in the lead, occupied the place. 11th, the Forty-third was ordered into the city, being the first Infantry Regiment to enter the place.
March 13th, 1864, the Forty-third was assigned to Third Brigade, Colonel A. Englemann commanding, Third Division, Brigadier General F. Saloman commanding. Major General F. Steele, taking command of the Red River Expedition, moved from Little Rock, March 23, 1864. After bridging many small streams and laying pontoon over the Ouachita, arrived at Arkadelphia on the 29th.
April 1, moved to Spoonsville. 2d, at Okolona, had a slight skirmish with Shelby's Brigade.
On 3d, Colonel Englemann's Brigade was sent back to Spoonsville to gather information concerning General Thayer's Division, which was to have joined them there. 5th, rejoined the army. 6th crossed the Little Missouri. 9th, General Thayer came up.
On the 10th, moved to Prarie D'Ahu. The Cavalry in advance had come to a halt, nombers of Confederates being concealed in the hazelbush, while large numbers and a battery were in a ridge beyond. Lieutenant Colonel Dengler was ordered to drive the enemy from their hiding places, which he speedily did. He joined Adjutant Wagenfucher, on horseback, gallantly leading the men. A general advance was now made by the Forty-third Illinois, and Fortieth Iowa in line, closely followed by Vaughn's Battery, which soon engaged the enemy with great effect, driving him from his position, when the Forty-third with its Brigade moved at sundown to the position just left by the enemy. Artillery firing and skirmishing was kept up till 10 o'clock p.m., when the enemy charged on our lines and were repulsed.
April 12 to 14, marched to Camden, having several skirmishes on the way. General Steele had started south to unite with General Banks, at Shreveport but information was here received of the defeat of Banks and his retreat, and that the enemy was massing his forces against Steele; so he determined to return to Little Rock. At 1 a.m. on the 27th the Forty-third left Camden and crossed the Washita on a pontoon bridge.
David Wilver, who had been on picket, was relieved after midnight. The body of the picket guards, having knapsacks and blankets with them, marched to the pontoon bridge, and joined the Regiment, but Wilver, having left his knapsack in camp, returned there alone, lost his way and was soon captured by the enemy. He was the only sound man of the Regiment who was ever taken prisoner by the Confederate.
On the 28th, reached Princeton, On April 29, the Brigade to which the Forty-third belonged having the rear of the army, line had to be formed on several occasions to check the advance of the enemy. These lines were formed of the Forty-third Illinois, Fortieth Iowa, and Vaughn's Battery, always punishing the enemy and sustaining no loss themselves. These Regiments doing picket duty were engaged with the enemy all night. The Confederates, having collected upwards of 20,000 men, the next morning, April 30, attacked the rear of General Steele's forces in the Saline River Bottom near Jenkin's Ferry. The Union forces engaged were General Salamon's Division, to which the Forty-third belonged, and the Second Kansas, colored and First Arkansas colored, regiments of General Thayer's Division, in all about 4,500 men. The battle was most desperate and bloody; at one time the enemy placed a battery of four guns in position, when some men of the Twenty-ninth Iowa, Forty-third Illinois and Second Kansas (colored), rushed up and took the battery, dragging two of the guns within Union line. By 12 o'clock, noon, the enemy having been driven out of the River bottom, the Union forces resumed their march. Union loss, 700. Confederate loss at lease three times as heavy. The Army arrived at Little Rock May 3.
The Forty-third remained at Little Rock till the enlistment for three years expired. Not quite three-fourths of the old men having re-enlisted in the veteran services. Colonel Englemann was discharged December 16, 1864. He succeeded in prevailing on the State authorities to assign a sufficient number of drafted men to the Forty-third, so that Lieutenant Colonel Dengler could be commissioned Colonel, in which capacity he now commanded. The Regiment remained at Little Rock till its muster out, November 20, 1865. Colonel Adolph Dengler died December 1884 at New York.