The Seventh Cavalry was organized at Camp Butler, near Springfield, Illinois, and mustered into the United States service October 13, 1861.
Colonel Kellogg was absent in Nebraska during the early days of the Regiment and the drilling, instruction and discipline were mainly conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Prince, until the last of October when he, Major Rawalt and Companuies A, C, I, and G were ordered directly to Bird's Point, Missouri, where they were joined by the other eight companies of the regiment on the 25th of December. Some time in January the regiment, all except companies B, C, I, and L moved to Cape Girardeau, from which point they did good service in scouting the country, giving protection to Union citizens and running out the rebels. The companies at Bird's Point were similarly employed during the remainder of the winter. Early in the spring of 1862, the portion of the Regiment at Cape Girardeau joined the forces under Pope at Commerce, and took the advance of that army against New Madrid, capturing a battery of steel breech-loading guns from the famous Jeff Thompson.
At New Madrid the Regiment again came together and operated south of that place on the Mississippi River, keeping a keen eye on the batteries along its banks and watching the operations of the rebel fleet of six vessels, part of which were ironclad, until the fall of Island No. 10, after which it moved up the Tennessee River with the forces under General Pope to Hamburg Landing, and thence in the direction of Corinth. The roads were nearly impassable, and before advancing roads had to be constructed by corduroying. In this manner four or five miles of progress were made each day until Farmington was reached. At this place Major Aplington fell, leading a charge on a concealed force of infantry.
After the evacuation of Corinth the Regiment occupied the Memphis and Charleston Railroad from Tuscumbia to Decatur, Ala., a distance of over forty miles, defending it from the local guerrilla bands of Roddy and others until December 1. It fought at the battle of Iuka, and afterward at Corinth October 2, 3 and 4, losing about 40 officers and men killed, wounded and missing.
November 23, seven companies fought Richardson near Summerville, and captured 70 men and two stand of colors. December 1, the Regiment was assigned to Colonel Dickey's command of Cavalry, which was joined at Holly Springs, Miss. The Cavalry pursued Prince as far south as Coffeeville, where he made a stand and repulsed Dickey's command with severe loss. About 1200 prisoners were taken from Prince on his running expedition. December 21, 500 men from the Seventh Illinois and 300 from the Second Iowa, under Colonels Dlickey, Hatch and Prince marched from Oxford to Pontotoe, Miss., and thence to Tupelo, on the 22d, proceeding as far south on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as Okalona, destroying immense quantities of stores and all the bridges between the two places. The command returned to Tallahatchie River and January 1, to LaGrange, Tenn., having marched over 900 miles during the month of December, and being engaged with the enemy nearly every day to a greater or less extent.
At LaGrange the Sixth and Seventh Illinois and the Second Iowa were brigaded together under Colonel B.H. Grierson. They made frequent forages into West Tennessee, relieving the rebel inhabitants of many fine horses and mules, which were abundant in that region. The rebel Colonel Richardson was conscripting every able bodied man and sending all the serviceable animals to the rebel army. His camp was frequently broken up by Colonel Grierson. His quartermaster was captured at one time and he himself narrowly escaped capture, being wounded in the leg.
On the 17th of April, the Seventh started with the Brigade on what is best known as "Grierson's Raid." Probably no movement in the war so clearly and unmistakably illustrated the dash, courage, hardihood and power of endurance of Illinois soldiers as this raid. The country traversed by this little force was in many places almost impassable, owing to swamps and bayous, and it swarmed with rebel troops. Not a day passed that they were not in danger of being cut off and annihilated. Swinging loose from all communications, destroying everything behind them so that return was impossible, they gallantly made their way to Baton Rouge.
After remaining at Baton Rouge two weeks the command moved up with forces under General Augur to invest Port Hudson, taking part in the battle of Plain's Store. During the seige the cavalry guarded the rear against the dashes of the rebels with whom it had several spirited engagements.
After the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the river being open, Grierson's command was ordered to Memphis, by steamer, from whence it was distributed along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. It was engaged at Collierville, Tenn., in October, 1863, and had numerous encounters with a force of cavalry under the rebel General Chamlers once at Byhalia, where Lieutenant Nicholson, Company M, was killed and Lieutenant McCausland, Company B, seriously wounded.
December 26, the Regiment fought the entire force of Forrest without support, coming out of course, second best. A few days later it was engaged at Moscow, Tenn., where Captain Styles, Company G, was seriously wounded.
In February, 1864, it marched with W. Sovy Smith from Germantown south, to West Point, Miss. The Seventh was in the rear most of the time returning and withstood some severe assaults from the neemy, none of which broke through to the main column. After returning to Germantown in March, 1864, 289 officers and men re-enlisted and were furloughed in April. Some of the non-veterans, about 120, were at Guntown under Sturgis in his celebrated defeat at that place. When Forrest made his raid on Memphis, seven companies of the Seventh Cavalry fought gallantly against the entire force on the Hernando road, losing several men killed, wounded and missing, and, joined with the Sixth Calvary, followed him to the Tallahatchie River.
September 30, the Regiment, having been assigned to General Hatch's Division, marched toward the Tennessee River, via Summerville and Bolivar, crossing it at Clifton, where it was joined by an equal force of infantry, commanded by General Washburne in pursuit of Forrest, who crossed the same river safely at Florence about the same time the Seventh was crossing at Clifton. After remaining in the vicinity of Savannah, Clifton and Lawrenceburg until October 26, it was ordered to Pulaski, from which point it marched to Shoal Creek Novmeber 8, and remained on picket duty until the 21st, when Hood crossed and advanced as far as Lawrenceburg, when a short stand was made.
On the 24th, at Campbellsville, the Division was nearly surrounded by Forrest but succeeded in getting off without any serious trouble, save the loss of about 100 men and a hard march to Columbia, from which point the cavalry covered the rear and flanks of the infantry to Franklin, engaging the enemy at Harts' Cross Roads and at one or two other points.
At Franklin it charged a division of infantry, driving it across the Harpeth River, capturing several of its number.
December 13, Hatch's Division carried three lines of works and captured thirteen pieces of artillery, besides a large number of prisoners. Loss to the Seventh, 13 killed and wounded.
On the 14th, it charged the works at Brentwood Hills. Loss, Major Grayham wounded seriously; Captain McCausland, mortally; Captain Brant and Lieutenant Skinner seriously, and 23 enlisted men killed and wounded. The rout of Hood's Army being complete, the cavalry followed him to the Tennessee River, having a lively skirmish every day until the 23d of December, when he crossed at Bainbridge. In this affair the Fifth Division, Cavalry Corps M.D.M., (Hatch's) captured 23 pieces of ordnance, about 2,000 prisoners and a large quantity of small arms.
January 13, 1865, found the command at Gravelly Springs, numbering 199 officers and men for duty, and they subsisted for about ten days on parched corn after arriving there. On the morning of December 13, 450 men were reported for duty, showing a loss of 251 in the short space of one month. After remaining at Gravelly Springs about three weeks the Fifth Division was dismounted and sent to Eastport to receive recruits, who poured in from every quarter, until the Regiment numbered over 1,600 men.
After the surrender of the rebel armies it was sent down to Okalona, Miss., where it remained until the first of July. It then moved to Decatur, Ala., and was mounted. It remained near Decatur until October 20, when it marched to Nashville and was mustered out of service and received its final pay and discharge November 17, 1865, at Camp Butler. Its period of service was about four years and three months.