The One Hundred and Eighth Illinois Volunteer Regiment was organized at Peoria, Ill., by Colonel John Warner, and mustered into the United States service on the 28th day of August 1862.
The Regiment remained in camp at Peoria, until the 6th of October, when it proceeded by rail to Covington, Ky., on its arrival there, reporting to Major General Gordon Granger, and was assigned to the First Brigade, Third Division, Army of Kentucky; commanded respectively by Colonel John Coburn, Thirty-third Indiana Volunteers; Brigadier General A. Baird, and Major General Gordon Granger.
The Regiment was here fully equipped for active field service, and on the 17th of October, marched with its Division, passing through Falmouth, Cynthiana, Paris and Lexington, to Nicholasville, Ky., where it went into camp on the 1st of November 1862.
The army being here reorganized, the One Hundred and Eighth was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, commanded respectively by Colonel William J. Landrum, of the Nineteenth Kentucky Infantry, and Brigadier General A. J. Smith.
November 14th, 1862, broke camp at Nicholasville, and marched with Division, passing through Versailles, Frankfort and Shelbyville to Louisville, Ky., where it arrived on the 19th of November, and on the 21st embarked on board of transports for Memphis, Tenn. Arrived at Memphis November 26th, and went into camp near the city.
Here the troops were again re-organized, and the One Hundred and Eighth was assigned to the First Division, Right Wing, Army of the Tennessee, Colonel Landrum and General A. J. Smith commanding the Brigade and Division respectively. The Regiment remained at Memphis performing picket and other guard duty until December 20th 1862, when it embarked on board the steamer "City of Alton", and proceeded with the expedition under General W. T. Sherman against Vicksburg. The expedition proceeded down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Yazoo River, and up the latter to a place called Johnson's Landing, where it arrived on the evening of December 28th.
On the morning of the 29th, the Regiment disembarked and formed in line of battle; found the enemy strongly fortified on the bluffs running northeast from the City of Vicksburg.
The One Hundred and Eighth occupied the extreme right of the Union line its right resting on the Mississippi River. The Regiment opened fire on the enemy's pickets on the afternoon of the 29th, and sharp skirmishing was kept up until dark, when it received orders to fall back a distance of 300 yards and hold its position.
It remained under arms during the night, and the rain came down in torrents. Early on the morning of the 30th, it received orders to advance, retake and hold its position of the previous day. In carrying out this order, there was some pretty lively skirmishing which continued for about a half hour and resulted in the enemy being driven back with a loss to him of 7 killed and 4 prisoners in front of the One Hundred and Eighth's line. The orders were to retake and hold its position of the day before, and having done this, no attempt was made to do more, and about noon the Regiment was relieved and allowed to fall back to rest and refresh itself.
January 1st, 1863, the One Hundred and Eighth was again ordered to the front, where it remained on the skirmish line until near midnight, when, in compliance with orders received early in the evening, it silently withdrew, and with a section of the Chicago Mercantile Battery, covered the retreat of the entire army; arrived at Johnson's Landing about daylight on the morning of the 2d, and re-embarked on board the steamer "City of Alton". The withdrawal of our forces was so well arranged and conducted that the enemy was not aware of our departure until they saw our fleet of transports steaming down the Yazoo River. The One Hundred and Eighth has highly complimented by the General commanding for its part in this affair.
The expedition proceeded down the Yazoo to the Mississippi, up that river to the mouth of White, up the latter and through a cut-off, into the Arkansas to Arkansas Post, or as it is sometimes called, Fort Hindman, when, on the afternoon of January 10th, 1863, the One Hundred and Eighth disembarked and took an active part in the investment of that fort. On the following morning, January 11th, the Regiment was ordered to advance through a narrow strip of timber and across an open field within short range of the enemy's guns, to within pistol shot of the fort.
The fighting immediately opened at this point, and was very severe. From the moment that the order to advance was given, the officers and men, without exception, displayed a coolness and courage which, taking into consideration the fact of its being the first time that the Regiment was under a heavy fire, was greatly to their credit. The casualties in the One Hundred and Eighth on this occasion was 13 men wounded, none mortally.
Immediately after the capture of Fort Hindman, to wit: on the 17th of January 1863, the Regiment embarked and proceeded down the river to Young's Point, La., nearly opposite to Vicksburg, where, on the 24th of January 1863, it disembarked and went into camp.
Owing to its long confinement on board of transports, the want of pure air and sanitary conveniences during this expedition, great mortality prevailed. First Lieutenant Philo W. Hill, Company A, and 134 enlisted men died of disease during the months of February and March 1863.
Major General John A. McClernand arrived and took command of the expedition just previous to the engagement at Fort Hindman, and the title of the army was then changed to the Army of the Mississippi, the Brigade and Division organizations remaining the same as before, and the Division was designated the Tenth Division of the Thirteenth Army Corps.
Here it remained on outpost duty and furnishing heavy details to work on the famous "canal", up to the 10th of March 1863, when it embarked on board the steamer "Spread Eagle", and proceeded to Milliken's Bend, La. Disembarked and went into camp. Remained at this point until the 15th of April 1863, when it broke camp and marched with the Division and Corps via Richmond, Smith's Plantation and Lake St. Joe to Hard Times Landing, arriving there on the night of the 29th of April 1863.
April 30th, in the afternoon, crossed over the Mississippi River on the ironclad gunboat "LaFayette", which had run by the rebel batteries at Vicksburg and Grand Gulf.
May 1, 1863, at 1 o'clock A.M., the Regiment was on the march, and after a rapid march, at about 8 o'clock A.M., reached the battlefield of Port Gibson, or, as it is sometimes called, Magnolia Ridge, Miss. Fighting had begun a little before the One Hundred and Eighth arrived on the field, and there was no time given for rest; the Regiment immediately moved into position. The maneuvering, marching and counter-marching over steep and rugged hills and across deep ravines, which continued during the entire day until nearly sunset, was very fatiguing, the day being excessively hot, but the result was a grand victory for the Union forces.
After a very circuitous march, the Regiment reached Champion Hills on the 16th of May, where the enemy were again met and beautifully whipped. The One Hundred and Eighth bore a conspicuous part in this bloody battle, and was highly praised for its valor by its commanders. Here the Regiment was detached for the duty of guarding our prisoners of war.
May 17th, marched its prisoners to Black River Bridge, where it was joined by the Twenty-third Iowa Infantry, who also had in charge a large number of prisoners. The number of prisoners then in charge of both Regiments was about 4,500.
On the night of May 19th, reached the landing at Haine's Bluff, on the Yazoo River, and, on the 20th, embarked with a portion of the prisoners on board the steamer "Fanny Bullitt", and proceeded to Young's Point, La., where it disembarked and went into camp on the same ground it occupied some five months previous.
May 25th, embarked with its prisoners on board the steamer "Gladiator", and proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., where it turned over its prisoners to the commandant of that post, and returned to Young's Point on the steamer "Emerald". On its passage down, the steamer was fired into a number of times by guerrillas from the shore, but the only casualties in the Regiment was one man of Company K severely wounded in the leg.
The Regiment remained at Young's Point, La., in the performance of various kinds of duty, until after the surrender of Vicksburg. It kept up a line of pickets across the point of land opposite the city of Vicksburg, which, together with the gunboats stationed above and below the city, formed with the lines on the east side of the river a complete circuit around Vicksburg.
The One Hundred and Eighth furnished heavy details of men to man and work the heavy mortars upon the mortar boats above the city, and a number of the men so detailed were permanently disabled by the concussion of the discharge of the mortars.
July 18th, the Regiment crossed over to Vicksburg, and reported to Major General McPherson, commanding the Seventeenth Army Corps, and went into camp.
July 26th, the One Hundred and Eighth embarked and proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., where it arrived on the 29th, and reported to Major General Hurlbut.
On the 5th of August, it left Memphis, and proceeded by rail to LaGrange, Tenn., and, upon its arrival there, was assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division, Sixteenth Army Corps.
October 28th, marched to Pocahontas, Tenn., and garrisoned that post until the 9th of November, when it proceeded by rail to Corinth, Miss. Remained at Corinth until the 25th of January 1864, when it proceeded by rail to Memphis, Tenn. Here the Regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade, District of Memphis, Sixteenth Army Corps.
June 2d, 1864, a detachment of Lieutenant Colonel R. L. Sidwell, marched with the expedition under Brigadier General Sturgis, which left Memphis at that time to meet the enemy under General Forrest. For the first nine days that the expedition was out, it rained nearly every day; the condition of the roads was bad, and the troops suffered in many ways.
On the 10th of June the advance came up with the enemy at Brice's Cross-roads or Guntown, Miss., and immediately engaged them; the day was excessively hot, not a cloud appeared in the sky, and the sun's rays came down on a road moist from previous rains, causing a steam to arise that was almost suffocating. Under this condition of things, as soon as the first gun was heard in the front, the troops were hurried forward on the double quick, and upon arrival at the scene of action, were hastily marched to the field, and assigned their position in line without a moment's time to rest after a long and tiresome march, the last two miles of which was made on the double quick. The One Hundred and Eighth has cause to feel proud of its record on this occasion, for notwithstanding that our forces were defeated, owing to the treachery or incompetency on the part of some one, the One Hundred and Eighth did its part bravely and well, and were the last to leave the field, and then not until it had expended its last cartridge, and found it impossible to obtain a fresh supply.
Colonel Sidwell, in his report to the Brigade commander, gave the casualties in the One Hundred and Eighth as 2 enlisted men killed, 1 officer and 4 enlisted men wounded, and 10 officers and 97 men missing. A number of those reported as "missing" came up afterwards. Captain Henry C. Sommers, of Company G, was captured and murdered by guerrillas on this expedition, and the leader of the gang, one Dick Davis, was afterwards captured, tried for the crime and hanged at Memphis.
On the occasion of Forrest's raid into Memphis August 21, 1864, the One Hundred and Eighth did good service in causing him to make a hasty retreat.
On the 28th of February 1865, the Regiment broke camp at Memphis and embarked for New Orleans, La., where, upon its arrival it was assigned to the Third Brigade, Third Division, Sixteenth Army Corps, its Colonel, Charles Turner, having command of the Brigade.
March 12, embarked on board the ocean steamer "Guiding Star" for Fort Gaines, on Dauphine Island, arriving on the 16th, disembarked; here Colonel Geddis, Eighth Iowa Infantry relieved Colonel Turner of command of the Brigade, being the senior officer, and the latter resumed command of his Regiment.
March 21, embarked and moved up Mobile Bay and Fish River to Danley's Mills, about twenty-five miles from the mouth of Fish River, dis-embarked in the direction of Mobile.
Early on the morning of the 27th, met the enemy and drove him within his works at Spanish Fort, the strongest of Mobile's defenses.
Heavy fighting was kept up all day, and during the night siege works were begun. The One Hundred and Eighth occupied the extreme right of the Union line, which was a most important position, for it was expected that the enemy would attempt to turn this flank.
The Regiment pushed its works within one hundred yards of the enemy, the men working night and day, and constantly exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharp-shooters. The siege of this stronghold lasted thirteen days, and was brought to a close on the night of the 8th of April, when the Third Brigade, of which the One Hundred and Eighth was part, charged the enemy's works from the works constructed by the One Hundred and Eighth, which were two hundred yards nearer the enemy's works than any other part of our line. The casualties in the One Hundred and Eighth during the siege and assault were, considered their exposed position, extremely light -being 3 enlisted men killed, and 1 officer, Captain W. M. Bullock, of Company E, and 10 enlisted men wounded, the first named severely.
On the 9th of April 1865, marched with the Corps in the direction of Montgomery, Ala., where it arrived on the 25th of the same month. Here it remained performing provost duty until the 18th of July, when it broke camp and embarked on steamer for Selma, Ala.; moved thence by rail to Jackson, Miss., via Demopolis and Meridian. From Jackson the Regiment marched to Black River and proceeded thence by rail to Vicksburg.
On the 5th day of August 1865, the final muster-out rolls were signed by the mustering officer, and the Regiment embarked for Cairo, Ill.; from thence it proceeded by rail to Chicago, where, on the 11th of August 1865, it was paid and finally discharged from the service of the United States.