This Regiment had its origin in the magnificent burst of enthusiasm which greeted Mr. Lincoln's call for more men in the summer of 1862. It was organized, examined, inspected, mustered in and put into the field within ten days. It was composed entirely of residents of McLean county, and was usually called "the McLean Regiment." Largely through the exertions of the Hon. Isaac Funk and the Hon. Harrison Noble the county authorities gave each enlisted man a bounty of fifty dollars, and also presented the Regiment with a magnificent stand of colors, costing five hundred dollars. Nearly all the companies had an excess of men offered, and two companies raised simultaneously for the purpose of joining the Ninety-fourth were afterward mustered into other organizations, in several instances a father and two or three sons (in one case four) enlisted together, and there was a generous emulation who should do the most for the favorite organization. The full strength at muster-in was 945, and 149 recruits afterwards joined, making a total of 1,094. It lost 11 men killed in battle, had 45 wounded, 157 died, and 164 were discharged. The small percentage of loss, notwithstanding the active service and severe actions in which it participated, must be attributed to the rare skill displayed by Colonel McNulta in taking care of his men and preventing their unnecessary exposure in action, and to the very efficient medical staff, which was continually on the alert to secure the best sanitary regulations in camp, and assiduous in the care of the sick and wounded.
Colonel Orme being promoted to Brigadier General in November, 1862, the command of the Regiment was practically held by Colonel McNulta during the entire term of service.
Leaving Bloomington August 25, 1862, it was quartered for two weeks in Benton Barracks, where it was brigaded with the Nineteenth Iowa and Twentieth Wisconsin, forming the Second Brigade of the Third Division of what was at that time called the "Army of the Frontier," and designed to operate in Missouri and Arkansas. The Brigade was commanded by Colonel Orme and the Division by General F. H. Herron, the whole being commanded by General J. M. Schofield. Afterwards the Division became attached to the Thirteenth Army Corps, under McClernand.
On September 10th the Brigade was moved by rail to Rolla, Mo., and thence in a few days to Sprinfield, at that time upon the extreme front of the Union forces. Here six weeks were spent in the most assiduous company and battalion drills, the men being especially exercised in firing while lying down, and in the skirmish drill, in which they became remarkably proficient, and the results of which were very apparent when they came into action. The advantage of being able to deliver an accurate and rapid fire while lying down and almost entirely protected by the slightest irregularity of ground is obvious.
The territory lying south of Springfield was occupied by the Confederate General Hindman with a large force of troops, mostly irregular, which were suddenly concentrated about December 1st, and surrounded General Blunt at Cane Hill, in the northwest corner of Arkansas, and threatened him with annihilation Upon receipt of intelligence of this occurence, the Second and Third Divisions made a forced march of 120 miles in 90 hours, and on the 7th of December attacked the whole force of the enemy, fully 30,000 strong, advantageously posted at Prairie Grove, near Fayetteville, Ark. Our troops numbered only about 4,000 men, the Second Division not having come up, yet they boldly attacked the enemy and "hammered" him until evening, when General Blunt broke through the small force which Hindman had left in his front, and, attacking the enemy on the flank, turned the fortunes of the day in our favor. In this engagement the Ninety-fourth held the extreme left of our line, and covered the road to Fayetteville by which the Second Division was coming to our assistance. Had they once given way, as several parts of the line did, at different times, before assaults of the enemy, the latter would have siezed the road, cut off our reinforcements, and had us at his mercy. Here the drill at Springfield proved its value. Scattered in a long, irregular line, lying flat on their faces, taking advantage of every stump, fence and irregularity of ground, the Regiment maintained so destructive a fire that no troops could be brought against them without being cut to pieces, while our men were comparatively unharmed. Colonel McNulta contributed largely to this result by riding constantly up and down the lines, urging the men to "lie close and fire low," utterly regardless of his own exposure. It was owing to this policy that our loss was so trifling--1 killed and 26 wounded--compared with regiments at our side who were not so well handled. The enemy retreated during the night, finding the Second Division coming up, and left us in possession of the field.
In about two weeks the Regiment took part in an expedition to VanBuren, on the Arkansas River, burning two Rebel steamers and making so imposing a display of strength that that part of the country was afterwards comparatively quiet. Returning through Missouri to near Rolla, the Regiment drilled and recruited until June, 1863, when it was sent down the river to Vicksburg, where it was stationed below the city on the left of our line, and assisted in all the siege operations terminating with the capture of that stronghold on the 4th of July. Here, again, the indefatigable McNulta was constantly among the men in the trenches, rapping them on the head when they needlessly exposed themselves, and keeping so sharp a lookout that, although exposed alternate days for two weeks to a hot fire in the trenches, and their camp almost constantly under the range of the enemy's shells, the Regiment only sustained a loss of 1 man killed and 5 wounded, showing how much a prudent and sagacious commander can do in preventing needless sacrifice of life.
After the surrender, the Regiment was sent on an expedition up the Yazoo, and on July 24th went down the river again, making brief stop at Port Hudson, to Carrollton. six miles above New Orleans. In the month of September it was sent up to Morganzia, and made a reconnoisance through the swamps of that delectable region, without any especial results except undergoing a severe shelling, during which Colonel McNulta was knocked off his horse by a piece of shell, and received injuries which since have resulted in permanent disability.
On October 25th, the Ninety-fourth embarked for the Rio Grande, where, at Brownsville and in that vicinity, the men spent nine of the most miserable months of their enlistment, the monotony only being relieved by an occasional revolution upon the Mexican side of the river at Matamoras, during one of which they were called on to spend a night upon the streets in that city guarding the American Consul.
Under the policy of concentration inaugurated by General Grant upon assuming chief command, in July, 1864, the Regiment was withdrawn from Texas, and during the first half of August took an active part in the siege of Fort Morgan, which surrendered on the 21st, after sustaining a most fearful bombadment from the fleet and mortars on shore. Another period of inaction following, only broken by a short expedition to Pascayoula, until the 17th of March, when the Brigade, as an independent command under Colon Bertram. of the Twentieth Wisconsin, who reported directly to General Granger, moved up the east side of Mobile Bay to take part in the siege of Spanish Fort, the key to the city Mobile. Here, as at Vicksburg, the Regiment held the extreme left of the line, and during thirteen days was constantly under fire, digging rifle-pits, trenches and mines; and here, as at Vicksburg, the constant care of their Colonel brought them through this memorable siege with a loss of only 1 killed and 3 wounded.
Participating in the final assault, they had the honor of being the first to mount the walls of Fort Alexis, at 10 o'clock P. M., April 8, 1865.
After the fall of Mobile. which followed that of Spanish Fort, the Ninety-fourth was sent to Ship Island in charge of a large number of prisoners, after which they went into camp on the "shell road," below Mobile, until June 18th, when they moved to Galveston, Texas, and did garrison duty until their muster-out, on the 17th of July, the Regiment reaching Bloomington on the 9th of August, being received with a superb ovation
The Ninety-fourth served just three years, marched 1,200 miles, traved by railroad 610 miles and by steamer 6,000 miles, took part in nine battles, sieges and skirmishes, and not one retreat.