The One Hundred and Sixteenth Infantry was recruited almost wholly from Macon county, numbering 980 officers and men when it started from Decatur for the front on November 8, 1862.
Company F was from McLean county, Company H, from Christian and Shelby counties. The Regiment, with the noble and brave Colonel Nathan W. Tupper in command, went into Camp Macon near Decatur, and was mustered into United States service September 30, 1862 by Captain Wainwright of the regular army.
The regiment remain in Camp Macon until November 8th, when it was ordered to Memphis via Cairo to join General W.T. Sherman's Fifteenth Army Corps, and was assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division (the same which General Sherman commanded at Shiloh,) and the one he selected from his whole army subsequently near Savanah, Georgia, to storm Fort McAllister, to open his cracker line, as the General facetiously put it.
From Memphis the Regiment marched to the Tallahatchie River, reaching it on December 13; returned to Memphis and started down the Mississippi on the 20th, and on the 26th reached the Yazoo River and ascended it 15 miles.
During the following three days the Regiment received its first baptism of fire, engaging in the battle of Chicksaw Bayou, the officers and men fighting so gallantly as to receive the highest compliments from the veterans of the older regiments in the Brigade. General Morgan L Smith was wounded in this engagement.
On January 1, 1863, passed down the Yazoo to the Mississippi River, and up that and the Arkansas River to Arkansas Post, where on the 10th and 11th of January it fought its second battle, sustaining very heavy losses. Here Captain Lewis Eyman, of Company F, and Lieutenant John S. Taylor, of Company B, were killed. The casualties in Company B were particularly severe, the company coming out of the battle with but 25 men, in command of Fifth Sergeant, afterward Lieutenant and Captain Christian Riebsame.
On the 22d of January landed at Young's Point, Louisiana, opposite Vicksburg and assisted in digging the historical canal it was here during the next 2 months that the One hundred and sixteenth lost over 100 of its members by sickness. Their remains were buried on the levee, no other ground being available; this was the only ground that was high enough to serve as a graveyard; but it has long since been swept away and the bones of the patriot dead have been carried down the gulf.
In the month of March the One Hundred and Sixteenth went up the Black Bayou and Deer Creek in company with the Eighth Missouri, to save Admiral Porter's fleet and gunboats worth $3,000,000 from the clutches of the rebels, which was done after a hard fight, General Sherman in person and on foot with his own Regiment, the Thirteenth Regulars, coming up at a critical moment to assist in accomplishing the object.
The Regiment engaged in the battles of Champion Hills and Black River Bridge and in the bloody charges on May 18th and 22d and lost very heavily. Among the losses and casualties were these: Lieutenant Colonel Jas. P. Boyd was shot through the lungs and died of this wound at his home in Decatur. Captain Gustin F. Hardy of Company A, was mortally wounded and died in the hospital. Lieutenant Nathan W. Wheeler, of Company K, was killed May 22d. Captain Joseph Lingle, of Company D, was wounded and died at home, and Captain William Grason, of Company A, was shot through the brest, but recovered and promoted Major. Then followed the long siege of Vicksburg which ended by the surrender of that stronghold on the 4th of July.
The following day started in pursuit of General Jos. E. Johnston, and chased the enemy to and beyond Jackson, Mississippi, and across Pearl River.
On July 25, went into Camp Sherman, near Black River, enjoying a season of rest until after the battle of Chickamauga, when General Grant sent for his trusty lieutenant, General Sherman, and his veterans, to come to Chattanooga.
The One Hundred and Sixteenth embarked at Vicksburg in October for Memphis; from thence marched via Corinth to Chattanooga, which was reached on the 21st of November. During the night of November 23d the One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois and Sixth Missouri Regiments, under General Giles A. Smith, floated down the Tennessee River in pontoon boats to the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, capturing the rebel pickets and holding the position until the whole Corps had crossed over.
On November 24, advanced to the foot of Missionary Ridge, after a lively skirmish, during which General Giles A. Smith was severely wounded. (The General's death after the war was the result of the wound received that day.)
The great battle of Missionary Ridge, Tunnel Hill and Lookout Mountain was fought next day, November 25.
The One Hundred and Sixteenth, with the other Regiments of the Brigade, formed the extreme left of General Sherman's Army, and obtained the credit of turning the enemy's right flank on that boody day.
Colonel N.W. Tupper, after General Smith was disabled, assumed command of the Brigade, and proved that he was the right man in the right place. When disease, contracted in the service of his country, and of which he died on the 10th day of March, 1864, compelled him to leave the army, every man in the One Hundred and Sixteenth felt that he had lost a friend and the Nation a patriot.
After the victory of Chattanooga, and without being permitted to return to camp across the Tennessee for blankets or overcoats, the One Hundred and Sixteenth, with others of Sherman's Army, was hurried forward to Knoxville to the relief of Burnside. The winter was a very cold one, and while the goys could keep warm marching twenty-five to thirty miles during the day, they suffered greatly while camping at night. They would build big fires and hug them close, but the other side would be chilled to the marrow of the bones; rations, also were very short, and when at last the Regiment went into winter quarters on January 9, 1864, at Larkinsville, Ala., the men all felt that they had been on the hardest campaign during their service.
The march from Missionary Ridge to Knoxville, and back to Larkinsville via Tellico and Strawberry Plains and Chattanooga, will never be forgotten by Sherman's boys who were along.
In May, the One Hundred and Sixteenth, with the rest of the Army of the Tennessee, moved against the enemy, and found him at Resaca, Ga., where, on the 14th of May, the Regiment was hotly engaged, losing heavily, but driving the enemy across the creek, and planting their colors upon the rebel works. The One Hundred and Sixteenth was repeatedly attacked, but could not be driven from the position gained. It was in this battle that Major Anderson Froman was wounded, and he died in the field hospital.
Then followed in quick succession the battles of Dallas, Big Shanty and Kenesaw Mountain. Captain Thomas White, of Company C, commanding the Regiment, was killed on the skirmish line May 26, at Dallas, and Captain James N. Glore, Company K, was wounded about the same time. The Regiment lost heavily on June 27th, 1864, in the assault on Kenesaw Mountain. Among the wounded was Lieut. John H. Miller, of Company B.
Crossing the Chattahoochie, engaged the enemy at Stone Mountain, driving him to the vicinity of Atlanta. Fought in the battle of Atlanta, July 22, (where its Army Commander, General McPherson, fell,) and with the Fifteenth Corps, General Logan, the hot battle of Ezra Chapel, July 28.
Captain George T. Milmine, Company D, and Lieutenant Samuel R. Riggs, Company F, were wounded before Atlanta in August, 1864.
August 31 and September 1, was hotly engaged with the enemy at Jonesboro.
After the fall of Atlanta, and when Hood started for General Sherman's rear, the One Hundred and Sixteenth assisted in the pursuit of the enemy as far as Gadston, when, leaving the rebels to the care of General Thomas, marched back to Atlanta, and on the 15th day of November went with Uncle Sherman from Atlanta to the Sea, arriving at Fort McAllister, Ga., near Savannah, December 12.
The next day, December 13, General W.B. Hazen, commanding Division, selected nine regiments, including the One Hundred and Sixteenth, to carry the fort, and within five minutes after the sound of the bugle "Forward" the Regimental colors were on the works and the garrison captured. Lieutenant Isom Simmons, of Company H, was killed in this charge.
After a few days rest in the beautiful city of Savannah, we started on the campaign of the Carolinas, hunting the enemy and finding him first near the swamps of Pocotaligo, chased him through creeks and across rivers, skirmishing constantly until nearing Columbia, S.C., where the Fifteenth Corps, the One Hundred and Sixteenth included, run short of chewing tobacco. Learning that there was an ample supply of the article in the city of Columbia, paid that city a visit on the 17th of February, 1865, and replenished stock. After a few days rest resumed march, facing home, crossing the great Pedee River at Cheraw, S.C., thence to Fayetteville, N.C., and to Bentonville, where the One Hundred and Sixteenth for the last time encountered its old foe, General Joe. E. Johnston's Army, and fought its last battle. From Goldsboro, where the army was re-equipped (and it was in need of everything except the musket and forty rounds), the Regiment started picnicing for Washington via Raleigh, Richmond and Alexandria, participating in the grand review before the President in May, 1865, being finally mustered out near Washington on June 7, 1865.
The history of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Infantry is identical with that of the Army of the Tennessee from Memphis, 1862, to Washington, 1865. It was never on detached service, but always with the moving column.
The Regiment was peculiarly fortunate in retaining through its eventful history the very efficient services of its medical staff, and the members had plenty of work to do. Major Ira N. Barnes, M.D., Decatur, Ill.' Assistant Surgeon John A. Hedkelman, M.D., St. Louis, and Assistant Surgeon J.H. Hostetler, M.D., Decatur, all served to the end of the war, and every one of the 350 survivors in 1865 had cause to feel grateful to them.
The espit de corps of the Regiment, under the command of Colonel Tupper, was splendid, and under such Brigade Commanders as General Giles A. Smith, and Division Commanders as W.B. Hazen, retained it to the end of the war.