The Washburne Leadmine Regiment, was organized by John E. Smith, of Galena, Illinois, who was commissioned Colonel of Volunteers, July 23, 1861. The Regiment, during its organization rendezvoused as the JoDaviess county fair grounds, near Galena, and the camp was named Camp Washburne, in honor of E. B. Washburne, member of Congress from the Galena District. Seven companies of the Regiment only, were in camp at Galena, but the regimental organization was fully composed and the Regiment armed with the short Enfield rifle.
November 22, 1861, Camp Washburne was broken up, and the Regiment ordered into camp at Camp Douglas, Chicago. Here the full complement of ten companies was made up, and the Regiment, mustered into the service of the United States, as the Forty-fifth Illinois Infantry, December 25, 1861.
January 12, 1862, the Regiment left Camp Douglas for Cairo, Illinois, where it went into camp on the 15th of January.
February 1, the Forty-Fifth was assigned to the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel W. H. L. Wallace, First Division, command by General John A. McClernand.
February 2, the Regiment left Cairo with General Grants army for the Tennessee River, and on the 4th pitched its tents on the first camp in the field, at Camp Halleck, four miles below Fort Henry. On the evening of the 6th of February, the Regiment marched into Fort Henry, the enemy having moved out the same day.
February 11, the forty-fifth, with the division, moved out of camp at Fort Henry at 4 oclock P. M., and took the direct road to Fort Donelson.
February 13, during the afternoon, it took its position on the right of the line. The afternoon of the 13th, the Forty-fifth was sent to the relief of the Forty-ninth Illinois Infantry, which was engaged close up to the enemys works, and received its "baptism of fire." It came hot, but brief, and the Regiment emerged benefitted by the encounter. The Forty-fifth bore its full share of the three days fight at Donelson, though its loss was small, only 2 killed and 26 wounded.
The Regiment remained in camp at Fort Donelson until March 4, when it marched across the county to the mouth of the Big Sandy, and took boats up the Tennessee River to Savannah, arriving on the 11th.
Remained in camp at Savannah until March 25. While at Savannah the Forty-fifth formed part of what was called the "Pin Hook expedition," which was simply a two or three days scout into the interior, towards Pin Hook.
March 25, moved to Pittsburg Landing and went into camp with McClernands Division. The camp of the Forty-fifth was at the junction of the Purdy and Corinth roads, not far from Shiloh church.
April 6, the Regiment had its regular Sunday morning inspection, and left its arms stacked on the color line at the close, to take breakfast. The breakfast call had just sounded, when the "long roll" was beaten on the color line, and in three minutes, at most, the men had their arms in their hands, and the officers were in their places. The order was to move to the left and front, "double quick," to support Sherman. The Forty-fifth went into the fight at Shiloh with about 500 men. It was in the front line from first to last of the tow days fight. On Sunday it fought mainly on its "own hook" after the first engagement, under the command of Colonel Smith, and fought back and forth over the same ground a number of times. Late in the day it fell back, leisurely, and took its place with its Brigade and Division, on the right of the line, when the final stand was made. Here the Forty-fifth laid on its arms during the night in the rain, and moved forward on Monday morning daylight. The second day it was a forward movement nearly all day, and after the final charge, Monday, the Regiment stopped almost in its old camp from which it had to suddenly depart on Sunday morning.
The losses of the Forty-fifth at Shiloh were 26 killed, and 199 wounded and missing. The missing, not wounded, were but few, and they rejoined the Regiment when it went into its old camp, about dark on Monday.
April 24, the Forty-fifth broke camp at Shiloh, and moved forward with the army on its slow approach upon Corinth. During the siege, the Forty-fifth was attached to the First Brigade, Third Division of the Reserve. Its labors in the trenches were severe; its dangers were few.
June 4, 1862, the Forty-fifth was ordered from Corinth to Jackson, Tenn., where it arrived with the Third Brigade on the 8th of June, and went into camp in a beautiful grove just east of town. The summer of 1862 was spent in camp at Jackson, or in railroad guard duty at different points along the line.
August 11, the Regiment was assigned to guard duty south of Jackson, on the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad. Four companies were stationed at Medon, one company at Treagers, and five companies at Toons.
On the 31st of August Armstrongs rebel cavalry brigade raided within the Union lines, and stuck the railroad just north of Toons, at Treagers and at Medon. Company C, was captured at Treagers. At Medon a sharp fight occurred but the rebels were repulsed. The loss in the Forty-fifth was three killed, 13 wounded and 43 taken prisoners.
September 17, the Regiment returned to camp at Jackson.
November 2, moved from Jackson to Lagrange, Tenn. The Regiment did provost guard duty in Lagrange until November 28, when it moved forward with the army on the Holly Springs campaign. The forty-fifth marched south as far as Springdale, where it countermarched for the return trip.
At Springdale Colonel John E. Smith received his commission as Brigadier General and took formal leave of the Regiment, though he had been in command of a brigade for some months.
The Forty-fifth moved on the return march December 22, to north of the Tallahatchie River, where it remained until January 1, 1863, when it continued its northern march to Memphis.
In the month of February, the Forty-fifth moved with General Grants Army on transports down the river from Memphis to take part in the Vicksburg campaign. Stops were made at Lake Providence, Vista Plantation and Millikens Bend. At Millikens Bend, volunteers were called for to run the batteries with transports at Vicksburg. The entire Regiment, officers and men, volunteered for this duty. The matter was decided by making a detail of the quota assigned to the Forty-fifth. The detail comprised the crew which manned the steamer Anglo Saxon, and took her safely through, loaded with a full cargo of commissary stores. The following composed the detail: Commander, Captain L. B. Fisk, Co. E; Pilots, Privates Charles Evans, Co. D, Joshua Kendall, Co. K; Engineers, Sergeant A. J. Esping, Co. B, Charles Flint, Co. G; Firemen, Privates J. M. Primmer, Co. F, Wm. Tripp, Co. G, Jonny Paul, Co. C.
May 1, 1863, found the Forty-fifth on the east bank of the Mississippi at Bruinsburg, below Vicksburg, and the same day started with General Grants army on the famous campaign which ended in the capture of Vicksburg. The Regiment participated in all the battles of the campaign, forming part of Logans Division.
The position of the Forty-fifth during the siege of Vicksburg, was immediately at the White House, on the Jackson road, in front of the rebel Fort Hill, regarded as the key to the fortress.
The Forty-fifth took part in three charges against the rebel works, on the 19th and 22d of May, and the 25th of June. On the 22d Major Luther H. Cowen was instantly killed. About a month was occupied in running a sap and digging a mine under Fort Hill. June 25, the mine having been charged, the match was applied. The Forty-fifth was selected as the storming party, when the breach should be made. Immediately after the explosion the Regiment rushed into the crater, but was met with a murderous fire by the enemy, who was still protected by an embankment of about three feet in width, which had been thrown up by the rebels as an inner line in case the outer works should be demolished. The loss to the Forty-fifth in this charge was 83 officers and men killed and wounded. Among the killed were Melancthon Smith, Lieutenant Colonel, Leander B. Fisk, Major, and a number of noncommissioned officer and men. Among the wounded was Jasper A. Maltby, Colonel of the Regiment. It was a bloody affair indeed. When the city surrendered, on account of its conspicuous service during the siege, by order of General Grant the Forty-fifth was given the advance of the Union army when it entered that stronghold, and its flag was raised upon the court house by Colonel Wm. E. Strong, of General McPhersons staff, to denote the possession of the city by the Federal army.
The Forty-fifth was detailed for provost guard duty in Vicksburg on the 4th of July, and continued to do duty until October 14, when it was relieved, to take part in the Canton raid during which a skirmish occurred with the rebels at Boguechitto, on the 17th.
From November 7, 1863, until February 3, 1864, the Forty-fifth was in camp at Black River, some ten miles east of Vicksburg.
In the months of December and January the Regiment, almost to a man, re-enlisted as Veterans.
From February 3 to March 6, the Forty-fifth took part in the "Meridian raid," and was engaged in the skirmish at Chunky Station, where three men of the Regiment were wounded.
March 17, the Forty-fifth left Vicksburg for Cairo, where it was given thirty days veteran furlough.
May 4, the Regiment again rendezvoused at Cairo, and rejoined the army, then on the Atlanta campaign, the 7th day of June, at Etowah Bridge, Ga., going by steamer from Cairo to Clifton, Tenn., and thence marching overland via Pulaski, Tenn., Huntsville and Decatur, Ala., Rome and Kingston, Ga. From this date the Forty-fifth took its share in the Atlanta campaign, before and after the fall of Atlanta, until the beginning of the "march to the sea."
On the "march to the sea" the Forty-fifth was attached to the Seventeenth Army Corps, as it had been during the Vicksburg campaign, and from the first organization of that famous Corps. Left Atlanta November 12 and arrived in Savannah December 21, 1864.
January 4, 1965, the Forty-fifth left Savannah, Ga., by steamer and debarked at Beaufort, S. C., on the 13th.
January 14, the Forty-fifth was engaged in the attack on Pocotaligo, S. C., and suffered a loss of 8 men wounded, before the place was taken.
January 30, the Forty-fifth left Pocotaligo to continue the march through the Carolinas, via Orangeburg, Columbia, Ridgeway and Winsboro to Sugar Loaf Mountain, where, on the 28th of February, it went into camp, having marched over 300 miles in less that a month.
March 3, moved on by Cheraw, Fayetteville and Bentonville to Goldsboro, N. C., where it arrived March 24, having been in the wilderness over 50 days. At Fayetteville, March 11, the city surrendered to Shermans "Bummers," and Wm. C. Taylor, then a private, but afterwards Quartermaster of the Forty-fifth, received the surrender at the hands of the Mayor.
April 10, the line of march from Goldsboro was continued. The Forty-fifth moved on to Raleigh and Greensboro, and then back again to Raleigh, where it received the news of the surrender of Lees and Johnstons armies, and saw and heard that the rebellion was a failure, and that the war was over.
May 1, 1865, the Forty-fifth, with the rest of the Seventeenth Army corps, took up its march for Washington, D. C., via Richmond. This was its hardest march of the war. The Fifteenth and Seventeenth Army Corps were engaged in a sort of foot race, to see which would reach Washington first. The Seventeenth Corps in one day made 39 miles; the Fifteenth Corps made in one day 35 miles. It was a hard tussle, but neither Corps won the race. They arrived at Alexandria and went into camp on the same day, May 19, 1865.
From May 14, 1864, to May 19, 1865, the Forty-fifth marched 1,750 miles.
The Forty-fifth participated in the Grand Review at Washington, May 23 and 24.
June 6, the Regiment left camp at Washington for Louisville, Ky., by rail, and arrived at the latter city on the 8th.
July 12, 1865, the Regiment was mustered out of service at Louisville, Ky., and arrived in Chicago July 15, 1865, for final pay and discharge.