The Fifty-third Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Ottawa, Illinois, in the winter of 1861-'62, by Colonel W.H.W. Cushman. On the 27th of February, 1862, was ordered to Chicago to complete its organization, and to assist in guarding the Confederate prisoners captured at Donelson and confined there.
Ordered to St. Louis March 23d, and from St. Louis to Savannah. Tenn. April 6th, was ordered to Shiloh, but for want of transportation did not move until afternoon of the 7th. Were assigned to First Brigade, Fourth Division, Brigadier General J.G. Lauman commanding Brigade, Brigadier General S. A. Hurlbut commanding Division, in which Brigade and Division the Regiment served until the close of the war.
The Regiment was engaged in the siege of Corinth, and for meritorious conduct on the skirmish line were furnished with new Springfield rifles. Marched to Grand Junction, LaGrange, Holly Springs. Miss., and Memphis. Tenn., arriving there July 21, 1862. The weather having been very hot, the troops had suffered very much from heat and scarcity of water on the march.
September 3, Colonel Cushman took leave of the Regiment, having resigned, leaving the regiment in command of Captain McClanahan, who had been acting as a field officer since the evacuation of Corinth.
September 6, moved toward Bolivar. Tenn., arriving there on the 13th. October 1, moved toward LaGrange, but meeting a large rebel force, moved back to Boilvar. Acting Adjutant C. R. May was taken prisoner by the rebel cavalry.
October 4, moved toward Hatchie River, and on the 5th engaged four times their number of the enemy, who were retreating from Corinth.
While crossing Davis' Bridge, on the Hatchie, a regiment from another State was forced back through our lines, but the Fifty-third moved steadily forward, holding the bridge and road for over two hours, until other troops could be crossed and placed in position. Loss in this battle, sixteen killed and forty-nine wounded. The Regiment here assisted in running a section of artillery, a Missouri Battery, up the bluff by hand, placing it within fifty yards of the enemy's line, and supported it while it did splendid work. The Regiment was complimented by General Hurlbut for its work here.
Returned to Bolivar October 8th. October 15th, Lieutenant Colonel Earl took command of the Regiment.
Moved to La Grange November 4, 1862. On the 28th of November, moved south with General Grant's army, to Cold Water, Holly Springs, Waterford, Abbeyville and Oxford, Mississippi; arrived at Yocona Creek December 13th, and on the 22d commenced the northward march toward Tallahatchie River.
January 1. 1863, the Division was made a part of the Seventeenth Army Corps, General J. B. McPherson commanding Corps; J. G. Lauman the Division, and Colonel I.C. Pugh. of the Forty-first Illinois, commanding Brigade, now First Brigade, Fourth Division, Seventeenth Army Corps.
January 11th, arrived at Moscow, Tenn. The Division was transferred to the Sixteenth Army Corps. General S.A. Hurlbut commanding Corps, and was placed on duty guarding the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.
March 11, moved to Memphis. May 17, embarked for Young's Point. On 20th, moved to Haines' Bluff, and on the 25th swung into line with the main army around Vicksburg, being on the left of the Thirteenth Army, Corps, Major General E.O.C. Ord commanding, to which our division was temporarily assigned.
On July 5, moved with General Sherman's army against Jackson, Miss., and on the 12th, while closing the lines around that place, the Brigade was ordered to charge the rebel works. The Fifty-third participated in this gallant but disastrous charge, going into the fight with 250 men and officers, and coming out with but 66. Colonel Earl fell near the rebel breast-works, pierced with four canister shot. Lieutenant Colonel McClanahan was severely wounded. Captain Michael Leahey and Lieutenant George W. Hemstreet were killed. Captain J. E. Hudson, mortally wounded. Captains Potter and King were wounded. Lieutenant J. B. Smith lost an arm and was taken prisoner. Captain George R. Lodge, Lieutenants Mark M. Bassett and John D. Hatfield, and a number of the enlisted men, were taken prisoners. The color guard and bearers were all either killed or wounded. The colors were captured, saturated with the life-blood of Sergeant George Poundstone, the color bearer.
A few days after this fight the Regiment returned to Vicksburg. The Division was assigned to the Seventeenth Army Corps, Brigadier General M. M. Crocker commanding Division. Moved to Natchez August 18th. Returned to Vicksburg November 30th, and camped at Milldale.
On the 1st of February, 1864. the Regiment, having re-enlisted, was mustered as a veteran organization, and on the 3d started on the Meridian campaign. Returning, arrived at Hebron. Miss., February 29th.
Left Vicksburg March 13; reached Ottawa, Illinois, 22d, where the men were furloughed for 20 days. Companies I and E having been consolidated, a new company was organized and assigned to the Regiment as Company I. Captain Samuel I. Haynie commanding.
The Regiment rejoined the Division at Cairo. Major General F. P. Blair having been assigned to the Corps. Moved up the Tennessee River to Clifton; marched via Huntsville and Decatur, joining General Sherman's army at Kingston, Ga.
June 8th, the Fifty-third was ordered to Allatoona Pass, and Instructed to build earthworks on each side of the Pass. They worked hard at that until July 13th, when they re-joined the Division at Marietta, Colonel B. F. Potts commanding Brigade. General W. Q. Gresham commanding Division.
On the 17th, joined the main army at the front. Was engaged in the siege of Atlanta, and in the engagements of July 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd: lost 101 men killed and wounded. Captain Samuel I. Haynie and Sergeant Major Oran M. Bull being killed.
Was engaged as skirmishers at Jonesborough, and went with the army as far south as Lovejoy Station; returned to East Point. After a few days rest at East Point, the Seventeenth Army Corps, under Major General T. E. G. Ranson, moved. October 1st. on a reconnaissance toward Sandtown.
Returned to East Point; October 4th, moved north in pursuit of General Hood's army. Followed Hood's army to Gaylesville, Alabama, where the army halted and rested a week or so.
October 27th, the army received orders to move to the vicinity of Atlanta. Major General Ranson being very sick, and not able to ride in an ambulance, the Fifty-third was detailed, at his request, to carry him on a litter and escort him to Rome, Georgia; carried him to within six miles of Rome, where he became too weak to go farther. At the farm house of James Berryhill, near Rome, the brave and gallant General T. E. G. Ranson died at 2:30 o'clock p.m., October 29. 1864. The Regiment escorted the remains to Rome, and the next day acted as an escort for a large number of officers, who were returning to their commands in the main army.
Went into camp near Marietta, Georgia, November 6. November 13th, moved to West Point, and on the 15th commenced the March to the Sea. Brigadier General Giles A. Smith commanding Division. Arrived in front of the fortifications of Savannah December 10th: a very foggy morning. The first shell from the enemy exploded in the ranks of company I, killing five and wounding six men. On the 21st marched into the city, and went into camp near Bona Venture Cemetery.
January 4, 1865, the Forty-first Illinois, of 222 men and officers, Major Robert H. McFadden commanding, was consolidated with the Fifty-third Illinois.
On the 6th, embarked for Beaufort, South Carolina. and soon after for Pocotaligo.
On January 29th, commenced the Carolina campaign. Moved by the way of Orangeburg, Columbia, Fayetteville and Cheraw, participating in the battle of Bentonville, March 20th and 21st, losing one man killed and three wounded, among whom was Lieutenant Palmer, who had his right leg amputated just below the knee.
Marched to Goldsborough, Raleigh and Jones Station; and after Johnson's surrender marched with the army to Washington. Was in the grand review of May 24, 1865.
June 6th, left Washington for Louisville, Kentucky, where, on the 22d of July, the Regiment was mustered out of service by Lieutenant Robert M. Wood, A. C. M., and moved to Chicago. July 28th, received final pay and discharge.
The Regiment was commanded from its organization until the latter part of August 1862, by Colonel Cushman, when he tendered his resignation, and left for his home In Illinois.
By Captain McClanahan from September 1, 1862,
to October 15, 1862.
By Colonel Earl from October 15, 1862, to July 12, 1863.
By Colonel McClanahan from July 12, 1863, to June 21, 1865.
By Colonel McFadden from June 21, 1865, to July 28, 1865.
Lieutenants Mark M. Bassett and John D. Hatfield made their escape from Libby Prison on the night of February 9. 1864, through the famous tunnel, Hatfield coming into the Union lines at or near Washington. Bassett was recaptured the fourth night out, but subsequently effected his escape from Columbia, South Carolina.
The following officers from the Forty-first Illinois were assigned positions In the Fifty-third, upon the consolidation of the two Regiments:
Major Robert H. McFadden, promoted to Lieutenant
Surgeon George M. Warmoth.
Captain David H. McFadden, Captain K Company.
Lieutenant John M. Robinson. Second Lieutenant K Company.
Lieutenant William R. Palmer, First Lieutenant B Company,
Lieutenant Jonn Churchill, Second Lieutenant B Company,
The Regiment marched 2,855 miles. Transported by boat and cars 4,168 miles. Over 1,800 officers and men belonged to the Regiment during its term of service.