This Regiment was organized at Quincy, Ill., and mustered into service September 1, 1862.
Company A was recruited in Schuyler county; Company B in Adams county; Company C in McDonough; Company D in Hancock; Company E, F and G in Adams; Company H in Hancock; Company I in McDonough; and Company K in Adams county.
September 19, 1862, the Regiment was ordered to Louisville, Ky., and was provost guard for a few days in that city, while Buell was equipping his army after his celebrated race with Bragg. October 5, the Regiment was marched to Shephardsville, Ky., and on the 14th was divided into detachments, under the command of Brigadier General C.C. Gilbert, to guard railroad bridges on the L & N Railroad and the Lebanon Branch, from Elizabethtown, Ky., to New Haven, Ky., with Regimental headquarters at the latter place. At these points the Regiment constructed rifle pits and stockades for protection.
December 26, 1862, the guerrilla John Morgan captured Companies B and C at Muldraughs Hill, two and one-half miles from Elizabethtown and paroled them. They were under fire from nine pieces of artillery some two hours. These companies were sent to St. Louis, Mo., and were not exchanged until October, 1863, when they joined the command at Stringers Ridge, Chattanooga, Tenn. John Morgan, in the same raid, on the morning of December 30, attacked Regimental Headquarters at New Haven, after his demand for surrender had been declined, but his efforts were not very vigorous, and he retired.
Company H, the only company at New Haven, suffered no casualty, but it was supposed that Morgan's command did, as they were exposed to the fire from the stockade. About the last of January, 1863, the command was collected at Louisville, and embarked on steamboats for Nashville via Cumberland River, arriving at Fort Donelson February 3, 1863, in time to relieve the Eighty-third Illinois, who were surrounded by a largely superior force under Forrest and Wheeler. The enemy had made a number of assaults, but had been repulsed with great loss. They retired on the approach of the transports, and the command proceeded on to Nashville, Tenn., where the Regiment disembarked. On coming up the river the federal steamboats made a very imposing appearance. The Regiment was in the command of Brigadier General C.C. Gilbert, in the Army of Kentucky, under Major General Gordon Granger.
February 12, the Regiment marched to Franklin, Tenn., where it remained four months. At this place it was dilligent in company, battalion and brigade drill, the first good opportunity it had enjoyed for such exercise. On March 4, 1863, General Gilbert sent out quite a force from Franklin under Colonel Coburn, and it was met by Van Dorn and Wheeler and routed, and a great number of Coburn's men captured. The Seventy-eighth with the Brigade was in line of battle in reserve, and met with no loss.
April 11, the same command was threatened by a heavy force under Van Dorn and Wheeler, but no general engagement occurred, simply the outposts and pickets skirmished with the enemy, and on June 4, the enemy made a similar attack on the outposts with like results.
On June 9, 1863, a very unhappy affair occurred. Two Confederate spies entered the camp disguised as Federal officers. They gave their names as Colonel Orton and Lieutenant Peters. They were fortunately detected as spies and they admitted they were Confederate officers, but denied being spies. A court martial was immediately organized and they were tried and condemned to death; they died like brave men. The Seventy-eighth constructed the gallows and furnished the chaplain and escort.
On June 23, 1863, marched to Triune and Murfreesboro, Tenn. The troops had now been reorganized and the Seventy-eighth was assigned to the Brigade of Colonel John G. Mitchell in General James B. Steadman's Division, Reserve Corps, under Major General Gordon Granger. Mitchell's Brigade was composed of the One Hundred and Thirteenth, One Hundred and Twenty-first, and Ninety-eighth Ohio, and Seventy-eighth Illinois. We were glad to exchange General Gilbert for Colonel Mitchell, who ably commanded the Brigade fronm this time with the exception of a few months, to the end of the war. The feeling existing between the above named regiments was exceedingly friendly and fraternal. On June 26, 1863, moved south from Murfreesboro in the rear of the general advance against Bragg's army. The Brigade entered Shelbyville, Tenn., July 1, and encamped. While at this place Colonel W. H. Benneson resigned, and Lieutenant Colonel Carter Van Vieck was promoted. September 6, 1863, the Brigade moved southward, crossing the Tennessee River September 12, pursuing its march around Lookout Mountain, and arriving at Rossville, Ga., about September 14, 1863, anf for the few days previous to the battle of Chickamauga was kept on the move day and night, marching, skirmishing, etc., all the signs of approaching general engagement being visible. On the 17th of September, the Division made a reconnoissance to Ringold, Ga., and there discovered that Longstreet's Corps from Lee's army was re-enforcing Bragg. The command was followed closely on its return from Ringgold, and at midnight the enemy opened upon us with artillery with no damage but an extremely disagreeable reveille.
During the commencement of the battle of Chickamauga the Regiment lay with the Division before Rossville, guarding the road through the gap to Chattanooga. Before noon on the 20th of September, General Steadman, apprehending that General Thomas needed assistance, double-quicked Mitchell's and Whitaker's Brigade to the front. This proved to be very timely assisatance to General Thomas, as Longstreet was getting around the Federal right and rear. These two Brigades were put into action immediately and made a charge on Longstreet's Corps and drove them from the hill with great loss on both sides. and maintained their position unil after dark, though the enemy made repeated assaults. At length when darkness had put a stop to the deadly work, the command retired in an orderly manner to Rossville. The Seventy-eighth lost very heavily in killed and wounded, being about 40 percent of the number engaged, with eight officers out of twenty. VanHorne in his history of the Army of the Cumberland, says: "The opportune aid of these two Brogades (Mitchell's and Whitaker's) saved the army from defeat and rout."
On the 21st of September, the Seventy-eighth Regiment remained in line of battle on the ridge at Rossville Gap, holding the rear. The morning of the 22d it fell back to Chattanooga, and then crossed over the Tennessee River to the north side and camped with the Brigade on Stringer's Ridge, protecting the rear from that quarter. When the Regiment left Rossville on the morning of September 22, pickets were left in front of the enemy with the understanding that they would be relieved later on, but by the blunder of a staff officer the pickets were not relieved, and hence were captured and sent to Southern prisons, where twenty-four of them died. The Seventy-eighth lost by this capture four officers, Captain Hawkins, Lieutenants Hovey, Morse and Irwin, and fifty-one men from Campanies I and F, who were on picket duty. Those who survived the cruelties of Andersonville and other prisons were not exchanged until May and June, 1865, being prisoners almost two years.
Bragg's Army surrounded and besieged the Federal Army at Chattanooga, and the troops were put on half rations.
In the early part of October the Brigade went over into Sequatchie Valley to help pursue Wheeler, who was destroying supply trains. October 9, 1863, Mitchell's Brigade was put into Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis' Division, and was called Second Brigade, Second Division, Fourteenth Army Corps. On the morning of October 27 the Regiment, with the Brigade, crossed the Tennessee River below Lookout Mountain, on a pontoon bridge, to the assistance of the Potomac Troops, who were coming to the support of the Army of the Cumberland, and the enemy was trying to prevent their advance by assaulting General Gray's Division. This battle is known as the battle of Wauhatchie.
On November 24 the command broke camp at Stringer's Ridge, and crossed the Tennessee River on pontoons at the north end of Missionary Ridge, the Division being for the time attached to the Fifteenth Army Corps, and lay in reserve while the Fifteenth Army Corps assaulted the Ridge. On the afternoon of November 25, 1863, the Missionary Ridge was carried in the center, but too late for pursuit.
Early on the morning of the 26th the Second Division pursued the enemy, and before noon reached Bragg's depot of supplies, Chickamauga Station, in time to see it destroyed by fire. At dark overtook the enemy and had a sharp skirmish with them. November 29 started to the relief of Burnside, at Knoxville. December 5, at Marysville, learned that Longstreet had raised the siege, and December 7 counter-marched, and returned to Chattanooga, arriving December 17, and encamped December 26 with the Brigade at Rossville, where the Regiment went into winter quarters. The march towards Knoxville was a very severe one as the men were poorly prepared for it, having just emerged from the battle of Missionary Ridge, and many being without shoes or proper clothing. They were also without rations, and were obliged to subsist on the country, which had been already nearly devastated, and hence many suffered from hunger as well as exposure. But these ills were endured without murmur, and General Sherman complimented Davis' Division on its good order and behavior on this march.
The Regiment remained at Rossville until the commencement of the Atlanta campaign in May, 1864, drilling and doing out-post duty, and occasionally making a reconnoisance. January 28 and 29, and February 24, found the Regiment on such a march, in the vicinty of Ringold and Dalton, finding the enemy in force behind their works.
February 9, the Regiment encamped for about two weeks at Tyner's Station, and on April 11 was detached, and made a reconnoisance to Lafayette, Ala.
While at Rossville in winter and spring of 1864, the Brigade was augmented by the addition of the Thirty-fourth Illinois and One Hundred and Eighth Ohio.
On May 2, 1864, the Atlanta campaign commenced. The enemy was forced into their works at Buzzard's Roost and Dalton, where they presented a defiant front. They were flanked out of Dalton, and May 13 finds the Regiment in line of battle in front of Resaca, where the command was engaged, with a slight loss, and during the night of the 15th the enemy evacuated Resaca. The Division then proceeded to Rome, Ga., and on the 17th drove back their cavalry, with some loss, and forced the enemy into their fortifications. The next morning the enemy abandoned the city. The Regiment left Rome the 24th, and marched toward Dallas, and drove the rebel pickets through Burnt Hickory. The enemy was strongly entrenched at New Hope Church, and constant and heavy skirmishing occurred on both sides. There were now some twenty days occupied throwing up earthworks and skirmishing with the enemy, until June 27, when Sherman determined to make a grand assault on Kenesaw. The Brigade, with the others, were massed in the rear of the rebel entrenchment and at about 9 A.M. the command jumped the works on a charge to capture the enemy's entrenchment. The Brigade was received with a rattling fire of both musketry and artillery, which was deadly. The assault was a failure, as the obstructions in front of the works were very difficult to penetrate, but the Brigade maintained a position within 75 to 100 feet of the enemy, and that night the command entrenched itself. The loss in the charge was very great. A day or so after, by command consent, hostilities ceased, and details from each side buried the dead between the lines.
On the morning of July 4, it was discovered that the enemy had abandoned their entrenchments the night before, and the pursuit was immediately commenced, skirmishing with them constantly, and on July 17, we crossed the Chatahootchie River, and at Peach Tree Creek had quite an engagement, with some casualties in the Seventy-eighth Illinois. After heavy skirmishing pushed the rebels into their Atlanta entrenchments.
July 28, the command was ordered to assist General Howard, and we kept moving to the right around Atlanta, skirmishing, fighting and building works until August 25.
Brigadier General Jas. D. Morgan, August 22, assumed the command of the Second Division, and remained in command until the muster-out.
August 23, Colonel Carter Van Vieck died from wounds received in front of Atlanta. He was much beloved by the entire Regiment, and was sincerely mourned.
August 28, abandoned the works in front of Atlanta, and struck south, skirmishing with the enemy as usual. On September 1, assaulted the enemy's entrenchments at Jonesboro, Ga., and after a desperate resistance, mounted their works, capturing men, cannon and battle flags, performing a feat that was not often equaled on either side during the war. The Regiment did not lose more men that at Kenesaw, but the result was more gratifying.
Atlanta was evacuated on the 2d of September, 1864, and the Regiment encamped in the outskirts on the 8th.
On the Atlanta campaign the Regiment was hardly out of sound of guns any day during the entire peiod from the 2d of May to the fall of Atlanta, and casualties were of almost daily occurrence. The Regiment must have lost, in killed and wounded, two hundred men, from May 2 to September 1, 1864.
September 29, 1864, the Regiment and Division were moved by rail to Athens, Ala., and then marched to Florence in pursuit of Forrest, who was in the rear with a large force doing grreat damage. The command had a skirmish with the enemy and drove him across the Tennessee River at Florence.
Returned to Athens and Chattanoogaand then marched through Gaylesville, Rome and Kingston to Atlanta. The grand march to the sea commenced November 16, when the command moved from Atlanta after the city was burned, advancing through Covington, upon Milledgeviole, arriving there about November 23.
About November 26, 1864, passed through Sandersville, and thence to Louisville and on to Savannah. About fifteen miles from Savannah was confronted by earthworks and artillery, and on December 10, 1864, the enemy retired into their entrenchments at Savannah, Ga., and the investment of the city was completed.
On December 21, 1864, the enemy abandoned the city, but we skirmished with them more or less before the evacuation.
The Regiment broke camp about January 20, 1865, at Savannah, and marched northward into the Carolinas, crossing the Savannah River February 5, 1865, at Sister's Ferry, and advanced through Barnwell and Lexington, and passed to the left of Columbia. February 17, proceeded on to Winnsboro, and arrived there February 21, the troops in their march destroying railroads and other property of value to the enemy.
On March 9 the Brigade arrived on the field in time to help Kilpatrick regain his camp from Hampton. March 11, reached Fayetteville, N.C., skirmishing with Hanpton's Cavalry.
The march through South Carolina could be easily traced, for it was a track of desolation. The Regiment proceeded in a northeasterly direction toward Averysboro, and at this point the enemy made the first positive resistance since leaving Savannah, and on March 16 had quite a lively engagement with some loss. On the morning of March 19, near Bentonville, N.C., found the enemy in force across the line of march.
The Brigade formed line, and the Seventy-eighth was put out as skirmishers, which soon developed into a heavy rebel force, which completely surrounded our Brigade, and we had to fight both front and rear. The enemy was repulsed several times, and soon our entire Division was engaged. The enemy did not fall back until other troops came to the assistance of the Division.
The issue of this action was decided by the stubborn resistance of the Second Division. The loss in the Bentonville fight was heavy. On the 21st, in a skirmish, Lieutenant Summers was killed, and he was probably the last man in the Regiment who met his death by the fate of war. After the Bentonville fight the Regiment advanced to Goldsboro, and encamped. April 10, advanced toward Raleigh, and remained there until Johnson surrendered, which occurred April 26, and the war was over.
After the surrender, marched north through Richmond, Va., arriving at Washington, D.C., May 19, and participated in the Grand Review May 24, 1865.
June 7, was mustered out and sent to Chicago, where the Seventy-eighth Illinois was paid off June 12, 1865.
The Regiment participated in the battles of Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Buzzard's Roost, Resaca, Rome, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Averysboro and Bentonville.
It is estimated that the Regiment lost about four hundred men, killed and wounded,--about ninety-six killed on the field, twenty-four died in rebel prisons; and seventy-seven in hospitals, from wounds and disease.
On September 1, 1862, enlisted men mustered in....862
June 7, 1865, mustered out...................................393
The following officers were killed, or died from wounds: Colonel Carter Van Vieck, Atlanta, August 23, 1864; Major William L. Broddus, Chickamauga, September 20, 1863; Captain Robert M. Black, Jonesboro, September 1, 1864; Lieutenant Tobias E. Butler, wounds received at Chickamauga, May 29, 1864; First Lieutenant George A. Brown, wounds received in action at Kenesaw, died June 30, 1864; First Lieutenant Daniel W. Long, Jonesboro, September 1, 1864; First Lieutenant George T. Beers, Bentonville, March 19, 1865; First Lieutenant William E. Summers, Bentonville, March 21, 1865; Second Lieutenant John E. James, Kenesaw, June 27, 1864.
The above completes the history of as good a regiment as Illinois ever sent to the field; and the men of this command can claim the proud distinction, at the battle of Jonesboro, Ga., of being represented by a regiment that achieved the only successful assault on an entrenchment made in the Atlanta Campaign by either side.
ORDER OF TRANSFER
---------------------------- HEADQUARTERS FORTEENTH ARMY CORPS, ARMY OF GEORGIANEAR WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1, 1865
Special Orders No. 76
III. In accordance with telegram order from War Department, dated May 18, 1865, the enlisted men of the Seventy-eighth Illinois Volunteers whose terms of service do not expire prior to October 1, 1865, are hereby transferred to the Thirty-fourth Illinois V.V.I.
By command of Brevet Major General J.C. Davis.