The Sixty-eighth Illinois Infantry was enlisted in response to a call made in the early summer of 1862 by the Governor for some State troops to serve for the period of three months as State Militia. The Muster of the regiment was effected early in June. Commissions were issued to Elias Stewart, as Colonel; Houston L. Taylor, as Lieutenant Colonel, and George W. Lackey, as Major.
Shortly after the regiment was organized a petition was circulated and very generally signed by both officers and men, asking that the terms of enlistment be changed from that of State Militia to Illinois Volunteers, and that the Regiment be sent into the field. In accordance with the petition the Regiment was mustered into the United States service, and on the 5th day of July received marching orders. Leaving Camp Butler it proceeded by rail to Wheeling, Virginia, arriving there on the 7th. After remaining there two days it moved again, under orders from the Secretary of War, to Washington City. It remained at the "Soldier's Retreat," a place more romantic and endearing in name than in fact, until July 14, when under special orders it proceeded down the Potomac on boat to Alexandria, Virginia, and thence, by march, out on the Duke street turnpike about two miles. A spot was selected by Lieutenant Colonel Taylor, then in command. (Colonel Stewart being absent on business) and "Camp Taylor" was established.
After remaining hhere about two weeks, during which time the measles appeared among the ranks, upon the return of Colonel Stewart the Regiment was ordered to a more healthful location about two miles above Alexandria, near the Potomac.
It remained in the new camp, spending the time in company and battalion drill, until August 24, when it was ordered into Alexandria as Provost Guards.
Colonel Stewart being sick, Lieutenant Colonel Taylor commanding, was appointed Provost Marshal, and First Lieutenant H.C. DeMotte, of Company "G." Assistant. The Regiment remained on duty at this point until the term of its enlistment had expired.
On the 17th of September it was ordered to report at Camp Butler to be mustered out. Reaching that place on the 21st, the men were mustered out on the 26th and received their pay October 1. Some of the men immediately re-enlisted to fill up other regiments, but most of them returned to their homes.
The sixty-eighth Regiment, though in the service only a short time, had some companies that were thoroughly drilled in the manual of arms, and in company and battalion movements. The skirmish companies of the Regiment, "F" and "G", were especially profieicnt in the school of the soldier and in skirmish and Zouave drill.
Though the boys of the Sixty-eighth were never under fire, they did the duty assigned them with alacrity. It was theirs to care for the wounded as they were sent into Alexandria from the disastrous field of Bull Run.
They once passed in Grand Review before President Lincoln, being the only Illinois Regiment present on that occasion, and when Company G, at the command of their Captain, gave a lusty "seven and a tiger: for the President, his kindly recognition of the boys from Illinois by waving his hat, and his evident pleasure, manifested by a smile which lit up his careworn countenance, waved the company from reproof by superior commanders.