The Seventy-second Regiment Illinois Volunteers was organized at Chicago, as the first Regiment of the Chicago Board of Trade. Its first bills were put out for one Company, calling itself the "Hancock Guards," on July 23, 1862, and, exactly one month afterwards (August 23, 1862), the entire Regiment was complete and mustered into the service of the United States, for three years, or during the war. The very day of their muster they were started off for Cairo, where they arrived on the 24th. Thei strength at that time was thirty-seven (37) officers and 930 men.
On the 6th day of September they were ordered out to Paducah, Ky., where they went on post duty, until the 17th, when they were sent down to Columbus, Ky., at which point they did guard and picket duty, mainly, until November 21. They were not, however, idle in this time; but in addition to the thorough and constant drilling, which has since made them one of the finest organizations in the army, found time for two expeditions, one to Clarkson, Missouri, on October 6th, when they dispersed a rebel camp and captured a number of prisoners, horses, etc., and the other, on October 21, to New Madrid, which was not so eventful. On November 21 they were ordered to join General Quimby's command, Seventh Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, at Moscow, Tenn, and, with that command, they arrived, on December 1, 1862, at Lumpkin's Mills, Miss., whence they accompanied Grant's Army as far as the Yaconapatafa River. Owing to the supplies being cut off at Holly Springs, the army was forced to return, after penetrating as far as the point mentioned; and the Seventy-second was sent, as guard to the wagon train, to Memphis, Tenn. There, at a distance of about eight miles from the city, on the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, they went into camp, and remained until January 19, 1863, when they were sent into the city, and quartered at the Navy Yard, to do provost guard duty. While making Memphis their headquarters, the Regiment went out on an expedition to Horn Lake Creek, where they dispersed a gang of Blythe's rebel guerrillas, capturing quite a number of them.
On March 1, the Division, of which the Seventy-second Regiment formed a part, started down the Yazoo Pass; but finding Fort Pemberton in their way, and not being able to take it just then, went back. April 23, they landed at Milliken's Bend, La., and, from there, marched up with Grant's Army to Vicksburg. On May 16, they arrived at Champion Hill, Just in time to turn the enemy's left, and, by that movement, decided the fate of the day. That was their first battle, and, fortunately for them, their share in it, although a most important one, was not very severe. On May 17, they found themselves at Big Black, in the rear of Vicksburg, and on the 19th, this Regiment was the first to open the attack on the rebel stronghold. In the desperate charge of the 22d, they participated with the highest honor to themselves, losing some 130 of their number killed, wounded and missing, but fighting as bravely as men could fight, until the last. From that time until July 4, when the rebels capitulated, the Seventy-second did its duty among the foremost in the siege, and, on the capituliition were among the first to enter the city,
On July 12, the Seventy-second embarked for Natchez, Miss., where they landed the succeeding day, taking possession of the town, capturing a large number of prisoners, pieces of artillery, confederate government stores, and 5,000 head of Texas cattle. Here they remained until October 17, doing provost duty, with the exception of a couple of skirmishes at St. Catherine's Creek, Miss., September 1, and at Cross Bayou, La., on September 28.
October 18, 1863, they went on provost guard duty at Vicksburg, Miss., where they remained until October 30, 1864. During this year of comparative inaction, they only went on two expeditions. The first of these was to Benton, Miss., on May 7, 1864, where they had a short, but pretty severe fight with a body of rebels; and the second was to Grand Gulf, Miss., on July 18.
October 30, 1864, they were ordered to report to Major General Howard, command Army and Department of the Tennessee, then with Sherman's Army; and, in pursuance of this order, arrived at Nashville, Tenn, on November 18. They there found themselves too late to join Sherman in his great "march to the sea," and were ordered to Columbia. Tenn., to join Major General Schofield's command, which they did, on November 21, when Hood crossed the Tennessee River, and seemed coming down, "like a wolf on the fold." Schofield's Army found it convenient to retire towards Nashville. On November 29, they evacuated Columbia, and the Seventy-second was in a severe skirmish with the enemy at Spring Hill, on the road between Columbia and Franklin. On the succeeding day they arrived at Franklin, and hastily threw up some light earthworks. About 4 o'clock that afternoon Hood attacked them, and the battle raged from that hour until midnight, with terrific fury. In that fight the Seventy-second lost 9 officers out of 16 engaged, and 152 men, who were either killed or severely wounded. That night they left their works and retreated towards Nashville, which they reached on December 1; and here the Seventy-second was thrown on the extreme right of the Federal lines enclosing Nashville. under command of General A. J. Smith. On December 15, the whole Union Army was moved outside its works to give battle to Hood, and on that and the succeeding day the great battle of Nashville took place, resulting in the complete whipping of the "Rebs." From that time until January 3, 1865, they were engaged in the pursuit of Hood's Army, following it up closely as far as Clifton: but Hood managed to escape across the Tennessee River. From Clifton, the Regi ment went, by boat, up the Tennessee River, to Eastport, Miss., arriving there January 13, 1865, and there remaining in quarters until February 9, making, in that time, but one expedition, and that a fruitless one, to Iuka and Corinth, Miss.
February 9, they started for New Orleans, where they arrived February 21. Until March 21 they remained in camp eight miles below the city, and then they were embarked and taken across the Gulf to Dauphine Island, Ala., where they arrived on March 17. The next day the Brigade, which included the Seventy-second, crossed over to the main land, on the western shore of the Mobile Bay. Here they remained a few days. skirmishing with the enemy, when, having accomplished the object of the expedition, which was merely a feint on Mobile from that direction, they re-joined the army at Fish River, near Smith's Mills, Ala.
On March 26, the Corps to which they were attached moved, and on the morning of the 27th, appeared in front of Spanish Fort. From that time until the night of April 8, the Regiment was actively engaged in the siege. At 5 o'clock, on the evening of the 8th, the Union troops were ordered up into the first line of their works. The attack began, and at near midnight the First Brigade (including the Seventy-second) and the Third Brigade, Sixteenth Army Corps, charged on the enemy's works, and carried them, capturing the fort. The next morning they moved out on the road to Blakely, when their Division was held in support of the other Divisions charging the enemy's works at that place. The place having been taken, the command went into camp here until the 14th, on which date they moved forward on the road to Montgomery, Ala., marching over the 200 miles to that place in exactly eleven days. At Montgomery they remained in camp until May 23, when they were ordered to Union Springs, Ala., 45 miles from Montgomery. There they remained, doing post duty, until July 19, when they started on their homeward journey.
On August 6, they were mustered out of the service, at Vicksburg, and thence marched directly home to Chicago.
During their term of service they received some 450 recruits, and when ordered home they transferred 270 of these to the Thirty-third Regiment Illinois Veteran Volunteers, at Meridian, Miss. They brought home 22 offIcers and 310 men.
In an attack upon some of the Regiment by a gang of drunken rebels, at Yerger's Landing, on their way home, private Levi Derby, of Company E, was killed, and Sergeant Major Blake was so seriously injured by a pistol shot that his life was endangered.
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