The Ninetieth Infantry was mustered into the United States service, at Chicago, on the 7th of September, 1862. Company A was recruited at Rockford; Company B, at Galva; Company C, at Lockport and LaSalle; Company D, at Joliet; Company E, at Chicago; Company F, at Chicago and Springfield; Company G and Company H, at Chicago; Company I, at Belvidere, and Company K, at Ottawa. Timothy O'Meara, formerly a Captain in the Forty-second New York Infantry, and who had been taken prisoner at the battle of Ball's Bluff, was commissioned Colonel, on the recommendation of Colonel Corcoran, of the Sixty-ninth New York Infantry.
The Regiment remained in Chicago until the 27th of November, performing guard duty at Camp Douglas, when it was ordered to the front, by way of Cairo. From thence it proceeded, by transports, to Columbus, Ky.; thence to Lagrange, Tenn., where it arrived at 8 P.M., December 2, when it went into camp, naming its first village of tents in the South Camp Yates, in honor of the great war Governor of Illinois. After a stay of three days the first march was commenced, in the direction of Holly Springs. When Cold Water was reached a camp was established, and the Regiment was assigned the duty of guarding the railroad bridges. This railroad was Grant's chief line of communication.
On the morning of December 20, Van Dorn, after having surprised and captured Holly Springs, attacked our position at Cold Water, but Colonel O'Meara was prepared for him, having his Regiment in position, and being re-enforced by some of our troops which escaped from Holly Springs. Van Dorn was repulsed, when he moved his force to the right and passed on. For this encounter with the enemy General Grant afterwards took occasion, in a general order, to commend Colonel O'Meara and his Regiment.
The fall of Holly Springs determined the return of Grant's army, and the Regiment marched back to Lagrange, and again occupied Camp Yates. After a stay of a few weeks the next move was to Lafayette, a station on the railroad between Lagrange and Memphis, where the Regiment remained until some time in May, 1863, when orders were received to move, via Memphis, down the Mississippi to Vicksburg. On arriving there, the Regiment was attached to General Wm. Sooy Smith's command, engaged in noting the movements of the enemy in the rear of Vicksburg.
After the fall of Vicksburg, took part in the Jackson campaign, which resulted in driving Johnson out of Jackson, and across Pearl River, July 17, 1863. This had been a severe and tiresome march, the weather being excessively hot, and water scarce. Returning to the Big Black River, the Regiment went into camp and remained until September 27, when the Fifteenth corps, to which it then belonged, set out for Memphis, up the river by boat, and thence, along the line of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, for Chattanooga.
On the 11th of October, at Germantown, twelve miles out from Memphis, the Regiment boarded platform cars and was hurried forward to Colliersville, where General Sherman, with an escort of the Thirteenth Regulars, together with the garrison (Sixty-sixth Indiana) had been surrounded by 3,000 Confederate calvary, with eight guns, under command of General Chalmers. Arrived only to find that the enemy, alarmed at our approach, had disappeared. The march was resumed, arriving at Trenton Valley, opposite the Lookout Mountain range, Colonel O'Meara was ordered to move his Regiment some four miles to the right of the Fifteenth Corps, and after dark to build camp fires enough to represent a large body of troops, which was successfully accomplished, and resulted in making the enemy extend his line to the left. The next morning the Fifteenth Corps moved through the valley under the Lookout range towards Chattanooga.
On the 24th of November, crossed the Tennessee River, and on the morning of the 25th was in line for the desperate struggle on that day-the battle of Mission Ridge. Colonel O'Meara, Lieutenant James Conway and a number of men were killed, and many officers and men wounded. Among the officers seriously hurt were Captains M. W. Murphy, Daniel O'Connor and William Cunningham, and Lieutenant Colonel Stewart. The list of casualties reached nearly a hundred.
Our most serious loss was Colonel O'Meara. He was a man whose place was not easily filled. Captain Flynn was now in command of the Regiment, and it, with the Fifteenth Corps, went in pursuit of Bragg's Army as far as Greysville, GA., and from there to the relief of Burnside, at Knoxville, Tenn.
On the 5th of December, at Morgantown, it was learned that Longstreet was in full retreat towards Virginia, and the Regiment returned to Chattanooga. On this march an incident occurred that gave the Fifteenth Corps its badge. One morning while laying by the road side while the Twentieth Corps was passing to the lead in the day's march, one of its stragglers with a full "haversack," asked one of our number what Corps? "The Fifteenth" was the reply. "What is your Badge?" "Badge!" says the man of the Ninetieth, as he gave his cartridge box a slap, "we have no badge but forty-rounds." General Logan heard the story and adopted a cartridge box inscribed "forty-rounds," set diagonally on a square, as the Fifteenth Corps badge.
From Chattanooga we went to Scottsboro, Ala., and finally into camp at Fackler, a station on the railroad between Stevenson and Scottsboro. The command had been continually on the move since leaving the Big Black, often on short rations and with poor clothing: many of the men were nearly barefooted, and all tired and worn out.
Early in May, 1864, the movement towards Atlanta began, and the Ninetieth, attached to the First Brigade, Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, bore its full share in that campaign. The march was by way of Ships Gap, Villanow, and through Snake Creek Gap upon Resaca where a lively battle was fought, the Regiment sustaining a small loss in wounded. The next move was on Dallas, where a lively skirmish was had; thence to New Hope Church, Big Shanty, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Nickajack Creek, Rosswell, and across the Chattahoochie River on the 9th of July. On the 22d of July one of the fiercest battles of the campaign was fought.
The enemy occupied a line of breast works, from which he retired during the night of the 21st. Early on the morning of the 22d the Union forces moved up to this line and immediately went to work and moved the dirt to the other side of the ditch, thus facing the breast work towards Atlanta. This was a timely piece of work, for the enemy had during the night massed a considerable force on the left of our army and made a desperate attempt to double us up, when the line in front had been greatly weakened by troops going to the left. To prevent this he attacked the Union line furiously directly in front, and finally flanked our position by getting through the line at a deep cut on the Augusta Railroad, and drove us out of the breast work, which had been of great service to us and great damage to the enemy, their loss in killed and severely wounded in the immediate front of our Regiment being very heavy. The Ninetieth lost a considerable number of men taken prisoners, who were taken to Andersonville. This was the day General McPherson was killed. He was a man admired and loved by all who knew him. The left wing of our army was at length able to maintain its position and the line of the breast works was again occupied by the Union forces.
On the 27th, moved from the left to the extreme right of Sherman's Army, and on the 28th another hard battle was fought. Among the officers of the Regiment, Major Flynn, Captain Feeney and Lieutenant White were wounded. This battle was followed by heavy skirmishing at intervals until the 25th of August, when another move to the left in the night brought the army to Jonesboro, and on the 30th to another hot encounter with the enemy, which resulted in his retreat and in the occupation of Atlanta by Sherman.
The regiment now returned to East Point and went into camp, after having been on the move flanking and fighting for five months. The next disturbance was occasioned by Hood's attempt to break Sherman's line of communication with Chattanooga, and we followed with the army in that direction until the march to sea was resolved on, which was commenced on the 16th of November, the Regiment being attached to the Third Brigade, Second Division, Fifteenth Corps, General W. B. Hazen commanding the Division. The march was one more laborious than dangerous, road making forming the greater portion of the work, the fighting being confined mostly to skirmishes at the crossing of streams. The enemy gathered in force at Savannah.
The Second Division was assigned the important work of taking Fort McAllister by assault, which was completed on the 13th of December, the colors of the Ninetieth being the first in the fort. In this affair the Regiment lost three killed and twelve wounded.
December 20, the enemy evacuated Savannah in the night, and the next morning our forces occupied it. The Regiment remained in camp near Fort McAllister and Savannah until January 15, 1865, when we were loaded bag and baggage on board the United States Gunboat "Wenona," and steamed around to Beaufort, S. C. Moved out on the 24th of January to Pocotaligo.
On the 1st of February began the march towards Columbia. The most noticeable event before reaching there was the wading of a swamp after crossing the North Edisto River. The enemy was disputing the passage of the river on the road, so General Hazen took our Brigade about two miles to the right, crossed the river on a raft made of hewn pine logs found there, and immediately came to the swamp. It was covered with a low growth of timber, and its extent could not be discerned. Just at this time the firing at the road became more rapid, when General Hazen gave the order forward--himself taking the lead. The swamp proved to be about half a mile wide and the water from waist to arm-pit deep, and cold as ice-(12th of February, 1865). But on reaching the further shore it was found that the enemy had gone. A citizen came into camp next morning and told us that he had lived there for twenty years and had never heard of any one crossing that swamp before.
The 17th of February brought us without much trouble to Columbia, and that night made us spectators of its destruction. The town had already been occupied when our Brigade marched in about 3 P. M. After dark the wind arose, fire broke, and spread with resistless fury and dreadful results.
On the 20th took departure from Columbia, and by devious routes and marched reached Bentonville, N. C., on the 21st of March, where the last hostile shot was heard. From there marched to Goldsboro, and thence to Raleigh, where the Regiment was encamped when President Lincoln was so cruelly slain. The war being over, we marched from Raleigh to Petersburg, Va., thence to Richmond and on to Washington, and took part in the Grand Review of Sherman's Army, May 24, 1865.
June 7 the Regiment took its departure for Chicago, where it arrived at midnight the 9th, being among the first to arrive at home from the seat of war.