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Thielman's (16th) Illinois Cavalry
Regiment History


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Adjutant General's Report

This company was organized in Chicago in June 1861, by Captain Christian Thieleman, with Berthold Marshner as 1st, and Mathew Marx as 2d Lieutenants.

In July the company was ordered to St. Louis, where it was encamped near the fair grounds for about two weeks, then to Paducah, Ky. While at this place a raid was made on a recruiting camp some sixty miles from Paducah, but without results, the camp having been hastily vacated.

In October a detachment was ordered to Smithland, Ky., at the mouth of the Cumberland River, and remained there as its garrison throughout the winter, scouting thoroughly the country toward Forts Donelson and Henry. While the company was thus divided permission was obtained to recruit a second company to be known as Company B, Thielemanís Illinois Cavalry, the first being designated Company A. The larger number of this new company were Kentucky men, a few coming from across the Ohio River from Illinois. The Captain was now promoted Major, commanding squadron. The officers for Company A were Berthold Marshner, Captain; James W. Lavigne, 1st; and I.L.L. Ponds, 2d Lieutenant; for Company B, Mathew Marx, Captain; Milo Thieleman, 1st and George Hamilton 2d Lieutenant. The squadron was ordered to Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., in March 1862. Arrived one week before the frustrated attempt to drive in, and drown in the Tennessee River the sturdy sons of the North. During the battle, April 6 and 7, the squadron did service as orderlies, escorts and "back-stops" for some regiments that showed disposition to move rearward when not so ordered.

Moved with the army, snail-like, to Corinth, Miss., doing picket and vidette duty, and scouting the country toward and beyond Bethel and Purdy. In the latter place the squadron had a lively passage at arms with four companies of confederates, and defeated them. From Corinth to Bolivar (where we were encamped for two months), and from Bolivar to Memphis, where the squadron performed provost duty during the winter of 1862-1863. With Sherman to Youngís Point, Millikenís Bend, Grand Gulf, Raymond, Champion Hills, Bakerís Creek, Black River and Vicksburg. Just as the squadron rode on the brow of a hill, where the first view of the confederate works was obtained, Lieutenant Lavigne, at the head of the column, received a ball through his lungs and shattering his backbone. It is supposed that he was the first man killed in the rear of Vicksburg.

During the siege of Vicksburg the squadron performed escort duty for General W. T. Sherman, orderlies being detailed for various Division and Brigade commanders in the Fifteenth Army Corps.

After the surrender of Vicksburg, accompanied Sherman to Jackson, then to quarters on the Big Black River.

Having prepared for winter quarters, we were unceremoniously ordered up the Mississippi to Memphis, thence overland to Chattanooga.

Sixteen men of this command were with General Sherman at his memorable little fight at Collierville, where he held the 5,000 confederates under General Chalmers in check for eight hours with about six hundred men.

Present at Mission Ridge, and participated in the cavalry pursuit after that engagement.

Then on to Knoxville, where the 5,000 cavalry from Grantís Army compelled Longstreet to raise the siege.

Ordered to winter quarters at Huntsville, Ala.

In February 1864, ten men re-enlisted at Veterans, and about the same time the squadron was consolidated with other companies, and were designated the Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry.

16th Illinois Cavalry Regiment History

The Sixteenth Cavalry was composed principally of Chicago men. Thielemanís and Schambeckís Cavalry companies, raised at the outset of the war, formed the nucleus of the Regiment. The former company served as Gen. Shermanís bodyguard for some time. Captain Thieleman was made a Major and authorized to raise a Battalion. Thieleman and Schambeckís companies were thenceforth known at Thielemanís Battalion.

In September 1862, the War Department authorized the extension of the Battalion to a Regiment and on the 11th of June 1863, the Regimental organization was completed. In October 1863, the Sixteenth Cavalry was ordered to Knoxville, Tenn., and a portion of it participated in the memorable defense of that place in November and December. A detachment under Col. Thieleman constituted the garrison at Cumberland Gap, and one Battalion, under Maj. Beers, was sent up Powellís Valley in the direction of Jonesville, Va. On the 3d of January 1864, this Battalion was attacked by three Brigades of Longstreetís command, and after maintaining its ground for ten hours, against five times its own number, and losing heavily in killed and wounded, its ammunition having become exhausted, it was compelled to surrender. The loss of the Regiment upon this occasion was 356 men and 56 officers. Long afterward the Rebels exchanged less than one-third of these prisoners, sent them back in the most wretched condition from the horrors of the prison pen at Andersonville. The others were victims of the frightful tortures to which they were there subjected, and now lie buried in the National Cemetery at that place.

After the conclusion of the East Tennessee campaign, the Regiment was, in February 1864, ordered to report at Camp Nelson, at Mt. Sterling, Ky., where it was remounted, and in the latter part of April it left that place for Georgia. It then constituted a part of the Cavalry Corps under Gen. Stoneman.

It arrived at Red Clay, Ga., May 10, and on the 12th was engaged in the battle of Vornell Station, where it lost one officer, Lieutenant Kerfurth, wounded and captured, and twelve men. It was there on duty almost every day, from that time until after the fall of Atlanta - a period of nearly four months, during which it participated in the battles of Rocky Face Ridge, Buzzardís Roost, Resaca, Kingston, Cassville, Carterville, Allatoona, Kenesaw, Lost Mountain, Mines Ridge, Powder Springs, Chattahoochie, and various engagements in front of Atlanta and Jonesboro. Returning to Decatur, Ga., it remained there until September 14, and was then ordered to Nicholasville, Ky., to again remount. On the 22d of October it left that place for Nashville, and was ordered thence to Pulaski, thence to Fayetteville and back, and then, after a few days, to Waynesboro, near the Tennessee River. It had been there but three days when Hood crossed the river at Florence and below, and the Brigade in which the Sixteenth was then serving was ordered to fall back. On this retreat it kept up a running fight with the enemy for three days and nights, until it reached Columbia. While the main army remained here, the Sixteenth was sent up Duck River to defend some fords at which it was supposed the enemy would attempt to cross. The expectation was realized, and in the six hours engagement which followed the Regiment held its position triumphantly against a vastly superior force of the rebels until dusk, when it learned that a large body of the enemy had crossed the Duck River and got completely in its rear. The only support the Regiment then had was part of a company from the Eighth Michigan, and one company from the Eighth Iowa. The enemy had two Brigades in line of battle across the pike, and directly in the rear.

The night was dark, and our boys approached quietly until within one hundred yards of the enemy, when the charge was sounded, and the lines of the enemy were broken.

The Sixteenth next participated in the battle of Franklin, and in various skirmishes between there and Nashville.

It engaged in the two days battles at the latter place, and in the pursuit of the enemy to the Tennessee River. It then returned to Pulaski and there went into camp, but most of the Regiment was kept on scouting duty from that time until March 1865. It then moved to Springfield, and in May returned to Pulaski, whence most of it was sent to Holton, Courtland and Decatur, Alabama.

On the 18th of June, it returned to Pulaski, and on the 2d of July it was ordered to Franklin, where it remained, scouring the country in all directions, until ordered to Nashville for muster out. It arrived in Chicago on the 23d of August 1865, for final payment and discharge.

During its term of service the Sixteenth marched about 5,000 miles and engaged in thirty-one general battles, and numerous skirmishes. At its muster out the only members left of the original Field and Staff officers were Colonel Smith, Captain Ford and Lieutenant Finger. The original force of the Regiment was 1,200 men. It received 100 recruits, and at its discharge could muster only 285 men, showing a casualty list of nearly one thousand.

In January 1865, Captain Hiram S. Hanchett, of this Regiment, was captured at Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, and taken to the rebel prison at Cahaba, Alabama. There he organized the sixty men he found in prison, systematized a plan of escape, and this band of brave overpowered the guard, broke out and marched for two days, fighting all the while, hoping to reach the river and capture a steamboat on which they might escape. After that struggle, however, there were overpowered and then taken back. A number of the fugitives were killed, but for Captain Hanchett a worse fate was reserved. He was enclosed in a wooden box eight feet square with one aperture, through which his food was passed.

Here he remained until the rebels heard General Wilson was coming, and deemed it was best to shift their quarters.

Poor Hanchett was, by over a month of this confinement, reduced to too feeble a state to move, and they blew out his brains when they left.


Transcribed by Susan Tortorelli

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