The Eighty-first Illinois Infantry volunteers was recruited from the counties of Perry, Franklin, Williamson, Jackson, Union, Pulaski and Alexander, in the southern portion of Illinois, in what has, from the early history of the State, been known as "Egypt." Was mustered into the service of the United States at Anna, Union County, August 26, 1862, with the following field and staff officers: James J. Dollins, of Benton, Franklin Co., as Colonel; Franklin Campbell, of DuQuoin, Ill., Lieutenant Colonel; Andrew W. Rogers, of Carbondale, Jackson Co., Major; Zebedee Hammock, of Pinckneyville, Perry Co., Adjutant, and Logan H. Roots, of Tamaroa, Perry Co., as Quartermaster; L. Dyer, Surgeon; Isaac M. Neely, First Assistant Surgeon; Abel Campbell, Second Assistant Surgeon; W. S. Post, Chaplain, and a full Regiment of enlisted men. Immediately after the organization of the Regiment, it was ordered to Cairo, then on 8th of October to join the Army in the field under General Grant in Tennessee, the first duty being to do garrison duty at Humboldt, Tenn., Nov. 1, 1862. The Regiment moved with the Army from Lagrange, Tenn., southward, traversing the country as far south as Abbeyille, Miss., when the unfortunate raid of General Van Dorn, in our rear, capturing Holly Srpings, December 21, 1862, and destroying millions of supplies, caused the retreat of the command to Memphis, Tenn., arriving at that point January 19, 1863. From this point the campaign against Vicksburg, that resulted in surrender, was begun February 20, 1863. The winter of 1862-3, is looked upon as the gloomiest period of the war, when the Copperheads and the Knights of the Golden Circle and other enemies of the Government were the most active, resulting in greater desertion from the ranks than ever before or since that time. On February 23, the command arrived at Lake Providence, remaining there until April 17, when the command moved to Milliken's Bend, 20 miles above Vicksburg. On the 21st, a call for volunteers was made to run the Vicksburg and Grand Gulf Batteries with (7) seven common transports, loaded with supplies for the Army. On the success of this undertaking depended the success of the campaign against the rear of Vicksburg.
From the Eighty-first Illinois Infantry, Captain George W. Sisney, Co. G, privates George W. Winfield, Co. G, Edward Hoxsey, Co. K, Uriah Butler, William T. Green, Eli J. Lewis and Frank Mayo, all of Co. I, were accepted. Many volunteered who were not accepted. Captain George W. Sisney was assigned the command of the transport "Horizon" and carried her through safely, but in a disabled condition. One boat, the "Tigress," was sunk before passing the Grand Gulf Batteries. The Regiment crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg below Grand Gulf, May 1, and marched 20 miles, to Port Gibson, by 2 p.m., and participated in that battle, as a portion of the Third Brigade, Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, the division commanded by Major General John A. Logan, the Corps by Major General James B. McPherson. The Regiment participated in the battle of Port Gibson, May 1, Raymond, May 12, and the capture of Jackson, the State Capital, May 14, and Champion Hill, May 16, at Black River Bridge, May 17. On the 19th the active work of investing the city of Vicksburg began. On the night of th 20th, the Regiment took the position occupied during the seige, just south of the Jackson road. On the 22d, the Regiment participated in the general assault on the enemy's works. Was repulsed, with the loss of 11 killed and 96 wounded, including Colonel J. J. Dollins, Lieutenants Hugh Warnock, Co.A, and James M. Farmer, Co. G, killed. C. S. Ward, Captain Co. D, died of wounds June 15. Zebedee Hammock, adjutant, died of wounds May 29, and A. L. Lippincott died November 3. The loss of Colonel Dollins was deeply felt by the Regiment. He was brave to a fault, chivalrous, a strict disciplinarian in battle, one of the coolest and most collected soldiers ever in command of a regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Campbell succeeded to the command of the Regiment as Colonel, Major Rogers to be Lieutenant Colonel, and Thomas Hightower, Co. B. as Major, and Private James J. Fitzgerald, Co. H, to be Adjutant. The promotions took place during the seige. The Regiment participated in its seige duties until July 4, 1864, (NOTE FROM K. HOOVER: This should be 1863, not 1864.) when the Third Division (Logan's) was assigned the post of honor in occupation and garrisoning of the city.
August 21, the Regiment received orders to participate in the Washita, La., campaign, under the command of Brigadier General John D. Stephenson. The expedition resulted in much good, with small loss.
October 16 the Regiment participated in the engagement at Brownsville, Miss., leaving an expedition, sent out from Vicksburg to Canton and Brownsville, to destroy all the property belonging to the enemy, possible.
January 10, 1864, the Regiment participated in an expedition up the river from Vicksburg to Greenville, Miss., returning with small loss.
The Regiment left Vicksburg March 9, 1864, to participate in the Red River campaign, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Rogers, who proved himself to be an able regimental commander, the column numbering about 10,000 troops, under the command of Major General A. J. Smith. Of that number six regiments belonged to the Seventeenth Army Corps, with one Division under General Jo Mower, belonging to the Sixteenth Army Corps.
The Regiment participated in the capture of Fort De Russey and Alexandria before the arrival of the army from New Orleans, commanded by Major General N. P. Banks. The advance on Shreveport, La., began April 2, the six regiments belonging to the Seventeenth Army Corps guarding the transport fleet convoyed by the gun-boats. The fleet met with determined opposition on their way up the river.
On the 8th of April Banks' Army met with defeat at Mansfield, to be redeemed by the command of General A. J. Smith at Pleasant Hill on the 9th, resulting, however, in the retreat of the army to Grand Ecore.
On the 10th the fleet received orders to retreat. On its way down the river, meeting with the most determined resistance from numerous batteries planted on the river banks and from clouds of infantry and cavalry sharpshooters, making one continuous series of engagements until the 13th when the fleet returned to Grand Ecore. The Regiment met with considerable loss.
On the 20th the army moved in retreat, arriving at Alexandria on the 26th. The Regiment formed a part of the command, covering the retreat of the army from this point to the mouth of the Red River, participating in the daily series of skirmishes amounting to the dignity of battles, as at Coulterville, Marksville Prairie, Cain River, Atchafalaya Bayou, arriving at the mouth of the Red River May 21, arriving at Vicksburg May 24.
From Vicksburg the Regiment was ordered to Memphis, Tenn., and participated in the expedition to and battle of Guntown, Miss., June 10, 1864. The Eighty-first and Ninety-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, being the only regiments belonging to the Red River expedition participating in this expedition, commanded by General Sturgis, who proved himself to be a thoroughly incompetent commander. The Eighty-first was the first Infantry Regiment to open fire, and continued under fire from 11 a.m. until dark, resisting charge after charge of the enemy, forming the last line of battle some two miles in the rear of the first line, closing the bloody drama with a loss of 9 killed, 18 wounded, and 126 prisoners, out of a total of 371 men. Of the number captured, six were line officers, who, while prisoners of war, were placed under the fire of the Union batteries at Charleston, S. C. The enlisted men were sent to Andersonville prison. The true history of the sufferings of our comrades in Andersonville prison can never be written. The mind of man can not convey to tongue or pen a language sufficient to portray the realization of the sufferings of the 30,000 Union soldiers who gave up their lives, or the survivors of that terrible imprisonment. No brighter page adorns the pages of the history of heroic soldiers than the heroism shown by our comrades who, while starving to death by inches, refused the daily offer of health and liberty by simply taking the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. In every case the offer was rejected by members of the Eighty-first.
August 3, 1864, the Regiment was ordered to Duvall's Bluff, Ark., and participated in a number of expeditions and skirmishes from that point throughout the state, until September 17, when the Regiment broke camp, and marched with the command, under the command of General Jo Mower, in pursuit of General Price, on his last raid into Missouri. The pursuit was made to Cape Girardeau, Mo., thence by boat to St. Louis, and to Jefferson City by boat, and by rail and marches to Warrensburg, Mo., arriving at that point October 25, remaining until November 8, when General Price having escaped into Arkansas, the Regiment returned to St. Louis, Mo., and from that point was ordered to Nashville, Tenn., under the command of General A. J. Smith, participating in the battle of Nashville and the utter defeat and rout of the Confederate army, December 15 and 16, 1864. The Regiment joined in the pursuit of Hood's army to Eastport, Tenn., and to Corinth, Miss. Upon the arrival of the Regiment at St. Louis, the Adjutant, J. J. Fitzgerrell, was ordered to Springfield, Ill., to bring up recruits for the Regiment. The Regiment being ordered to Nashville in the meantime, he missed the Regiment at Cairo, on its passage up the Ohio. Taking the first boat loaded with supplies for Nashville, Tenn., the "Thomas E. Tutt," he proceeded up the river, until at Cumberland City, just below Nashville, the boat was captured by the command of General Lyons, who crossed the river and raided on the communications of General Thomas. The prisoners capured were paroled and sent to Fort Donelson under flag of truce, from there to Pawl Camp, at Benton Barracks, Mo., by order of Major General Dana. Colonel Robert Buchannan, Seventh Missouri, Adjutant J. J. Fitzgerrell, Lieutenant Jacob B. King, First Lieutenant Company C, and six enlisted men from the Eighty-first, were captured at the same time, who remained in Pawl Camp until exchanged at the close of the war.
The Regiment was ordered from Eastport, Tenn., to Mobile, Ala., via New Orleans and Mexico, and held the advance in the investment of the Spanish fort and opened the fight March 27, 1865, and continued under fire from that date until the close of the siege, April 8, when the works were captured by a charge, the Eighty-first being the second Regiment inside the enemy's works, capturing 83 prisoners, losing 6 killed and 14 wounded.
After the fall of Mobile, the Regiment was ordered to Montgomery, Ala., where the Third Brigade, consisting of One Hundred and Twenty-fourth, One Hundred and Eighth, Eighty-first Illinois, and Eighth Iowa, were assigned the position of army post duty in recognition of efficient services in the siege, remaining there until ordered home via Meridian and Vicksburg, Miss., leaving Vicksburg July 31, 1865, going direct to Chicago for final payment and muster-out August 5, 1865.
There were mustered into the Eighty-first, enlisted men, a total of 1,144; of that number there were 54 killed or died of wounds received in battle, 287 died of disease, 274 resigned or were discharged, and 529 mustered out of service.
Now that twenty-one years have passed since the Regiment broke ranks at muster-out, each member of the Regiment feels that his Regiment made a glorious record, for unflinching courage, and bravery in battle, much of which was due to the stern discipline of the duty of the soldier, drilled into the raw undisciplined citizen by Colonel J. J. Dollins, whose fall was lamented by the Regiment, and the undaunted courage of Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Rogers, who commanded the Regiment the greater portion of the time after the siege of Vicksburg.
To speak of the soldierly qualities of any particular officer and soldier would be making, perhaps, invidious distinctions where all alike did their duty, in the fullest sense of the term.
Be it said to the honor of citizen soldiers, the members of this Regiment have since conducted themselves as good citizens, many of them occupying prominent stations in life.