July 6, 1862, the President made a call for three hundred thousand soldiers. There was not that ready response that characterized previous demands. At this juncture men with minds to grasp the situation, and whose moral judgment urged them to support the right, appeared with a fixed determination. These characteristics were developed in Chicago thus:
We, the undersigned members, request you to call at an early day a general meeting of the Board to pledge ourselves to use our influence and money to recruit a battery to be known as the Board of Trade Battery.
George Steel, L. Y. Munn, C. H. Walker, Jr.,
Wm. Sturges, G. L. Scott, E. G. Wolcott,
E. Akin, T. J. Bronson, Flint & Thompson, M. C. Stearns
The meeting was called in their rooms, corner South Water and Wells streets, July 21, 1862. Second Vice-President John L. Hancock presided with an outspoken patriotism in accord with the assembly. C. H. Walker, Jr., introduced resolutions in harmony with the call, which were unanimously adopted. Subscriptions were announced, and $5,121 was pledged. A muster roll was presented, bearing the legend, "Chicago Board of Trade Battery". The following names were enrolled for three years or the war: S. H. Stevens, S. C. Stevens, J. W. Bloom, Calvin Durand, Valentine Steel, H. B. Chandler, A. F. Baxter, H. J. Baxter, J. A. Howard.
The muster roll was entrusted to S. H. Stevens, and an adjournment carried. Thus was established a precedent-a commercial leadership-with the material result of placing in the field the Chicago Board of Trade Battery; the Seventy-second, Eighty-Eighth and One Hundred and Thirteenth Infantry Regiments Illinois Volunteers, and $50,000 war funds on deposit. On lightning wings this action flew east and west, firing the patriotism of commercial America, until the Nation felt its assuring influence. An enthusiastic meeting was held the evening of the 22d, and the muster roll increased to 63 names. The roll was closed at 4 P.M. on the 23d with 180 names and many waiting to sign. This dispatch was transmitted:
The Board of Trade of this city have within the last forty-eight hours raised $15,000 bounty money, and have recruited a full Company of Artillery.
July 24, 1862, Company occupied City Armory as drill-room. August 1, 1862, Captain J. Christopher, U.S.A., selected 155 men from the 180 enrolled (there was no medical examination), and mustered them into the service of the United States as the Chicago Board of Trade Battery Illinois Volunteers. James H. Stokes, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, was elected and mustered as Captain. August 2, en route to camp, marched in review past the Board of Trade rooms on South Water street. Partook of the hospitality of Mrs. Henry B. Clark, corner Michigan Boulevard and 16th street. Marched to camp and pitched tents south of Camp Douglas, near what is now 37th street and Stanton avenue. George L. Robinson was elected Senior 1st Lieutenant, Trumbull D. Griffin, Junior 1st Lieutenant. S. H. Stevens was appointed Orderly Sergeant. August 4, A. F. Baxter was appointed Quartermaster Sergeant; Calvin Duran, Commissary Sergeant; F. J. Deane, 1st Sergeant; L. B. Hand, 2d Sergeant; Wm. Randolph, 3d Sergeant; A. L. Adams, 4th Sergeant; George Bowers, 5th Sergeant; M. H. Salisbury, 6th Sergeant; together with twelve Corporals, six artificers and two Buglers.
August 11, received six James rifled ten-pounder field artillery guns. August 13, appeared for first time in uniform. August 20, received 110 artillery horses. August 22, drilled with horses for first time. September 9, broke camp and moved via M.C.R.R. Arrived in Louisville on the 10th, at 7 P.M.; 15th, grand review on Broadway by General Charles Cruft; 16th, exchanged four rifled for four smooth-bored six-pounders guns. October 1, 1862, the army moved from Louisville on the campaign of Perryville. The Battery was attached to General Dumont's Division, which occupied the extreme left at Frankfort. October 11, Brigade of General R. S. Granger, of Dumont's Division, was ordered to report to Major General A. McD. McCook at the front. The Battery moved with the Brigade. Struck rebel General Forrest's command at Lawrenceburg. First engagement. One direct shot caused the enemy to retreat. October 30, Major General Rosecrans took command at Louisville. A department of the Cumberland was the second time created. The troops of the department were designated Fourteenth Army Corps.
November 4, the army was ordered to advance on Nashville, Tenn. With General R. S. Granger in command of post of Bowling Green, and battery parked at headquarters, this kind of soldiering was not our wish. Captain James H. Stokes made application to be allowed to go to the front. His request was granted December 4. Infantry muskets and ammunition were furnished for all the cannoneers, and without escort, the battery moved in the direction of Nashville via Tyree Springs. The enemy held possession of the entire route, but we arrived safely December 7, 1862. Same evening S. H. Stevens took command of left section as Senior Second Lieutenant, and L. B. Hand was promoted Orderly Sergeant. December 14, 1862, a detail consisting of Lieutenant Stevens and Quartermaster Sergeant Durand, and ten men with three teams, were ordered out on Franklin Pike for forage. Sixteen mounted Confederates made a dash, wounded one man and captured six.
December 20, attached to Pioneer Brigade. This organization, formed by a detail of two men from each company of Infantry in the Army of the Cumberland, divided into three battalions under detailed officers, the whole command by Captain St. Clair Morton, of the Engineer Department Regular Army. December 26, 1862, campaign of Stone River opened. During the night of December 29, built two bridges over Stewart's Creek. December 20, army fighting for position. Bivouacked on the field three miles from Murfreesboro. December 31, 7 A.M., from the distant right came the sound of battle; 8 A.M., the whole right wing out of the fight, and the centre desperately engaged. The Battery came into position near the graveyard between the railroad and the pike. A slight rise beyond was occupied. To the left and front lay the key to the position-not to hold the gap would be fatal. At this juncture Major General Rosecrans dashed from left to right, and discovered the Chicago Board of Trade Battery right for the fray but without positive direction. His orders were given to officers and men indiscriminately, as the case demanded. He spurred back to near the gap, returned part way, beckoned, and shouted "Right this way". As on parade, the command at a trot came into battery in the gap on the crest with diminished intervals, made necessary by a point of second-growth forest on either flank. On the right and immediate front on open field beyond, within easy musket rage debouching from the death-masked cedars, the enemy in pursuit of the retreating blue. The cannoneers were at their posts, the General on the right in line. The order rang out, "load"; before the word "fire" came he raised his hand and plunged down the declivity in front. He had seen the approaching routed mass of soldiers, who at once would swarm on the front, over and through the battery, followed by the victorious foe; a moment's delay, and the capture of the Battery would be inevitable. On came the exultant yell. The artillerymen stood with lanyard tightly drawn, until to longer wait all was lost. As from one gun six death-dealing shells passed over the head of the commanding General into the mass of "grey"-beyond, and from thence thirty per minute until the front was clear.
Our Battery stood in relief on the crest; each gun squad could be counted by the relief across the intervening space. The enemy's artillery opened with deadly precision, and so admirably was it masked that their guns could be located. The infantry, formed in from of the forest, delivered a volley, and charged across the open field. Then canister was the cry,-within thirty yards the foremost went down, when all not disabled sought shelter in the rear. This was thrice repeated. By 11 o'clock the enemy had learned that neither bravery nor numbers could carry the battery in their front, and all was quiet. Three of our men lay dead by their disabled guns. Then wounded were taken to the rear. The Battery having held its ground, it became the pivotal point on which the right and centre rested. Late in the afternoon, to meet a threatened assault of Preston's and Palmer's rebel brigades, the left section of Battery changed front to the southwest. Palmer's brigade was in ambuscade on the border of an open field, 200 yards to our front, and at twilight unmasked their line by a dropping fire on Union soldiers gathering dead and wounded between the lines. The section opened with a zeal unsurpassed. The rebels; others advancing firing until they reached our line and were taken in. The section returned to its original position, and the second day at Stone River was closed. In the chill night, without fires, we buried our dead, and then lay on the frozen ground awaiting the coming of the morning of the new year and a renewal of the contest. January 2, six volunteers from the command took from between the lines under fire an abandoned six-pounder gun to replace the one disabled. In recognition General Rosecrans declared the organization a seven-gun Battery, and it so remained until after the battle of Chickamauga. 4 P.M.,-The Battery in reserve, in battery, in the forest on the left bank of Stone River, one-fourth of a mile in rear of left wing. Then General J. S. Negley came dashing bank. "For God's sake, Captain Stokes, come to the front; our men are giving way". The order rang out clear and full: "Limber to the front".-"By pieces from the right, forward into columns",-"Trot"-Gallop". Without change of gait the order came, "Forward into battery". Fifty-eight cannon poured their iron contents into the rebel mass, and with lightning rapidity repeated until their lines waver, reel and break to the rear, pursued as by an avenging Nemesis,-the Stars and Stripes. It was estimated that in 40 minutes, 2,000 rebels lay bleeding on the field. In the meantime the rebel General Bragg had ordered a division on the left bank of the river but the repulse had been so quick and decisive that the troops did not get into position until late-absolute victory appeared to cover the movement to all except Captain Stokes. He ordered the Battery forward and without support checked the advance at short range. Our position being noticed, infantry was ordered up and the enemy dispersed. The Battery crossed the river. Commands which belonged to the "left" coming into line, the Battery returned. January 4, Sunday, rebel army in full retreat. Our loss was 3 killed, 8 wounded.
The following dispatch was sent:
Murfreesboro is ours. Terrific fighting on Friday. No more casualties in the Battery; it has won glorious distinction.
Without our knowledge it was the first news received of the victory of the Union arms at Stone River. January 6 to June 23, 1863, in camp at Murfreesboro, Tenn. The most notable event was the changing of the command from mounted field to horse artillery, and being attached to the Second Division of Cavalry, Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Brigadier General John B. Turchin, and were the only Battery of horse or flying artillery in the western armies. June 24, moved with the army, keeping on the flanks as it advanced, following Bragg's army through Tullahoma and Winchester to Huntsville, Ala. July 15, from here the third section, under command of Lieutenant Griffin, went via McMinnville and Pikeville, crossing the Tennessee River on the left of the army, and at Ringgold, Ga., fired the first gun, which opened the battle of Chickamauga, September 19. August 20, crossed the Cumberland Mountains toward Stevenson.
September 2, went over the Tennessee River, moving south to Big Wills Valley; 9th marched south on top of Lookout range, down into the valley, scouting on the left of Bragg's army, going within two miles of Lafayette, Ga. Sunday, 20th, moved through Stevens' Gap, and at 10 A.M. joined the army, and fought on the extreme right during the battle of Chickamauga; also 21st and 22d; our loss being 12 horses, and three wheels from the guns.
From September 23d to October 1st, the Battery with the Second Division of Cavalry, under Brigadier General George Cook, was guarding fords above Chattanooga. On the 1st the rebel Major General Joseph Wheeler crossed at Washington, 40 miles above, with 6,000 men; two other columns were preparing to cross below, one at ellefonte, the other at Courtland, Ala. October 2d, Second Division Cavalry and guns 1, 2 and 4 from the Battery, passed over Waldron's ridge in pursuit of rebel General Wheeler. October 3d, descended the Cumberland Mountains. Encountered the rebels in severe skirmish. October 4th, passed through McMinnville, and drove rear guard seven miles beyond. October 5th, General Wheeler reached Murfreesboro, and threw out feelers to the south for his anticipated divisions, but they did not come. Charged his rear guard two miles out, and by a flank movement placed the Division between the enemy and Nashville. This and the non-appearance of the other columns caused Wheeler to turn south to effect a junction as well as to avoid an engagement. October 6th, marched through Guy's Gap to within six miles of Shelbyville. October 7th, crossed Duck River at Shelbyville. Three miles beyond discovered a rebel brigade camp, enjoying the rich loot of the town. Mounted infantry charged and dispersed them. The Second Division of Cavalry ordered in pursuit. Without orders, the Battery joined. The rear was pushed on to the main column by an almost continuous fire until late in the afternoon. General Wheeler was forced to mass at Farmington. The frequent contests had fully advised the rebel General of the capabilities of each arm engaged. This knowledge urged him to guard against cavalry and make his own heavy short-range artillery effective. Dismounted cavalry was formed across the road, protected by the fences and buildings of the town, with an open country to the rear. In front at short musket range, a cedar thicket about 400 yards in extent, resting on a gentle incline toward the west, which began with the cedars on the east. This thicket was so dense that dismounted men could not form until the open ground toward the enemy was gained. The road through the cedars was narrow, the evergreens meeting overhead. The rebel artillery, consisting of two twelve-pounder howitzers and a three-inch rifled gun, was placed at a bend in the road four hundred yards down the incline. The distance left them outside of the cedars, so as to have an enfilading fire on any troops emerging therefrom. The rebel artillery no longer sweeps the road. Our troops have passed the cedars, their lines enfiladed. Fifty yards down the incline beneath the cedars within three hundred and fifty yards of the enemy, their weight of metal as five to one. Our percussion shells explode in their midst. A caisson goes up; but the enemy fights with a will. A three-inch shell strikes our trail. Every man is swept from his place. All are wounded. Another shot, and our gun is disabled. Lieutenant Stevens in command, hurries to the rear, and willing hands amidst a hell of fire roll the second gun into position. It opens, and the slaughter is such there is none to serve the rebel guns. The dismounted men, charged, and the enemy fled. October 8th, in pursuit. 9th, found the enemy entrenched at Sugar Creek. Charged and routed them and pursued hotly to Tennessee River. General Thomas reported: "This pursuit is unsurpassed for its energy, bravery and endurance". October 10th to 15th, marched to Deckard for C. and Q. M. stores. Found none. Countermarched to Maysville and lived off the country. October 20th, Captain Stokes relieved of command to take position in Q.M. Department. November, moved to Huntsville and Battery again united. December 2d, Lieutenant Stevens ordered to Nashville in interest of Q.M Department.
The other four guns of the Battery moved, November 7th, from Smith's Cross Roads, Tenn., via Bridgeport, and, after various stops, went into camp at Huntsville, Ala., November 25. Here recruited horses and rested, moving. December 24, toward Pulaski, Tenn. Camped there on 27th. Lay in camp at Pulaski, Tenn., from December 27, 1863, to January 12, 1864; from Pulaski a large part of our division re-enlisted, and went home on 30 days furlough. On the 14th we reached Huntsville, Ala., and went into camp until February 2, when the old guns and equipment, with the harness, were shipped by rail to Chattanooga. General George H. Thomas having declared "we had earned tow or three new batteries", and gave the order for a battery of Rodman's. February 10, left Huntsville with the horses for Nashville, Tenn.; on the 24th were fitted out complete with battery of new 3-inch Parrots, harness, etc. Leaving camp March 110, marched back to Huntsville, Ala. On April 4, started as guard to 200 wagons, being escorted by the Third Brigade of the Second Division Cavalry; reached Columbia, Tenn., on the 8th, going into camp with the whole Division now in command of Brigadier General K. Garrard. April 30 left for the front by the way of Shelbyville, Farmington, Tullahoma, Deckard, and over the Cumberland Mountains at Cowan; crossed the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, going over on top of the railroad bridge as far as it was built, and the rest of the way via pontoon. Camped the 7th at Nick-a-Jack cave, having thoroughly explored which, we destroyed the rebel saltpetre works at its mouth. Moved by the way of Chattanooga to La Fayette, Ga., where the whole Second Division Cavalry, Army of the Cumberland, came together, most the Division having crossed Lookout Range; from the 11th to 17th were continually on the scout, and on right flank of the army, going as far as Rome, Ga.; on the 19th made a forced march of 20 miles toward Kingston, Ga., pressing Polk's rear guard, and getting to the Etowah River bridge in time to shell the rebels off and save it from destruction by fire; from Etowah were day and night in the saddle on the left wing of the army. At one time were sixty hours on picket duty without relief. In June, rations were very short, the men receiving four crackers to last five days; were forced to steal corn from the horses. Were in action June 8th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 20th and 27th. July 3 passed through Marietta, Ga., driving the rebels to and through Roswell, capturing that place, and destroying the large cotton factories there. July 10, crossed the Chattahoochie River; 18th, started on a raid, and tore up six miles of Augusta & Atlanta Railroad, south and east of Stone Mountain, getting back safely. On the 20th went into the main line, filling a gap between McPherson and Thomas. On the 21st the center section went on a raid; 22d was a terrible day; we were in camp at Decatur, Ga., with the wagon train of the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twenty-third Army Corps, and they had as guard a Brigade of Infantry and a section of the Third Michigan battery under a Colonel Sprague. Suddenly at noon the rebel Wheeler's cavalry Division attacked the camp. We formed battery in our camp, and got into action just where we were. Our use of cannister was fearful in its effects; but having no support, the rebels came over fences and around buildings, and we lost eight men out of thirty-two; but held them so long that not a wagon was captured. On the 27th started on another raid, getting round Atlanta to Jonesboro. General Stoneman having gone south, we retraced our way to Decatur. Rations for 22 men 7 days was 50 pounds hard bread.
From August 1 to 15th, occupied position in the line circling Atlanta, and took our share in its destruction. On the 17th, guns 1, 3, 4 and 5, with the First and Second Brigades, Second Division Cavalry, reported to General Kilpatrick, at Sandtown, on the right of the line; at 6 o'clock P.M. on the 18th, we started to make the raid around Atlanta, and to cut the railroads running into the city. Kilpatrick, instead of using the battery belonging to his own division, placed us in the advance of the column in the movement to Lovejoy Station, then, when the command was entirely surrounded, used us to open the way for his troops to retreat, throwing gun into a river, but captured and brought away a 6-pounder. We reached Decatur on the 22d,-four days and three nights in the saddle, having made a complete circle around Hood's army, and the city of Atlanta. First Lieutenant George I. Robinson commissioned Captain August 22, 1864. When the army moved south of Atlanta, were in the rear guard, and on the flanks until September 10, when we went into camp at Cross Keys, having been moving almost daily since April 30. September 21, broke camp, going through Atlanta out on the Sandtown road. October 8, moved through Atlanta, north to the Chattahoochie River, crossed on pontoon (which swung in a raging stream) safely, reaching Marietta at noon on the 4th, where we halted; some of the command went on top of Kenesaw Mountain, and were present when General Sherman signaled to General Corse, at Allatoona, his world-wide known message, "Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman".
Moved on the 9th, going from flank to flank, or back to the rear, as needed, to keep off Forrest's and Wheeler's rebel cavalry.
On November 1 all good horses were turned over to Kilpatrick's Division, and we moved north to Chattanooga, which place was reached on the 5th. On the 13th, went by rail to Nashville, Tenn.
December 1, having received new horses, we moved our camp into the city; and, as Hood's army threatened the city, we went into the breastworks. Major General J. H. Wilson was now in command of the Cavalry Corps.
On the 15th we were on the extreme right in the battle of Nashville. We did not lose a man; our Division captured 1,200 prisoners, 18 pieces of artillery, 200 wagons, and drove the rebel left 5 miles, halting for the night on the "Brentwood" pike, following next day to Franklin. The bridge over the Duck River having been destroyed, we could not get across until the 23d.
On the 24th, were on the skirmish line all day, and in action almost every hour; lost 1 man killed; drove Hood's rear guard 21 miles, and by our quick and accurate firing saved the long covered bridge over Richland Creek. During the night the rebels did not stop, but by 11:30 A.M., we had overtaken them, and our shells threw them into fearful disorder, and we captured 14 wagons of ammunition, and they threw into Elk River 7 guns, and into Duck River 17 guns. The roads were in fearful condition. Hood's army having crossed the Tennessee River, we marched to Waterloo, Ala., going into camp at a place called Gravelly Springs. Here gunboats and transports brought us rations, and we remained in camp until March 22, 1865; then, being fully and well equipped, and still attached to the Second Division Cavalry, Army of the Cumberland, we commenced our last great move, going through Frankfort and Russellville, crossing Big Bear Creek to Jasper.
March 29, we safely forded the Big Warrior River, a wild, rough stream, where many men and horses of our Cavalry were drowned. Crossed the same day the Little Warrior River. Water so deep that the powder was taken from the limber chests and carried on the shoulders of mounted men. Crossed Cahawba River on the ties of the railroad bridge, 40 feet above the water, taking the horses from the guns, leading the horses over, and running the guns by hand. Each day we drove the rebel Cavalry; but they did not succeed in making a stand that required the use of our guns.
March 30, marched 37 miles; April 1, 47 miles. This day the rebels set fire to the pine woods, and we had to go through them for a half-mile at a gallop; fortunately, no horse fell, and none of the men were seriously burned; but it was almost a miracle that no caisson was blown up. The rebel Cavalry under General Roddy made a stand in the afternoon, when we got into action, quickly capturing 3 pieces of artillery, and our support capturing 200 prisoners and a train of cars loaded with forage.
April 2, 1865, Sunday, day never to be forgotten while any member of the Battery lives, a march of 20 miles brought us to the works in front of Selma, Ala., when 1,200 men of the Second Division Cavalry, armed with their Spencers, charged and captured the works, driving 7,000 men out of the works, taking 2,300 prisoners and all the artillery. The Battery fired over the charging line until the works were carried, then moved into the city with the charging line and materially helped the rebels out of the city.
April 3, 4, 5 and 6 were spent destroying the artillery and carriages in the breastworks and forts, throwing all the ammunition in the arsenal into the river. On the night of the 8th we burned the arsenal, foundry and machine shops.
Left Selma 6 o'clock morning of the 11th, going toward Montgomery, Ala. Marching was exceedingly severe on men and horses, we having but 3 1/2 hours sleep out of 108 consecutive hours.
Captured Columbus, Ga., the night of the 18th. We had the advance, as we always had when any fighting was expected, made 58 miles, halting twice only.
On 19th, marched 42 miles (100 miles in two days), going into Macon, Ga., and camping two miles out on the Columbus road. 23d, rumor of Lee's surrender. 25th, rumor of the shooting of President Lincoln. May 3d we had confirmed the rumor through a New York Herald only five days old.
May 9, we remained in camp, while the Fourth Michigan Cavalry (of our Division) went after Jeff. Davis. On the 13th they returned having captured his family, himself, and others of the Confederate cabinet.
On the 23d (the war over), we started North, marching through Atlanta, Marietta, Kingston, Dalton, to Chattanooga, 254 miles. Loaded the guns on cars, while the horses and postillions went with the Cavalry to Nashville, Tenn., 151 miles.
June 23, left Nashville by rail, arriving at Chicago at 3:30 A.M. on the 27th. At noon were received on Change of the Board of Trade. At 8 o'clock that evening were given a banquet at the Metropolitan Hall.
June 29, reported to Camp Douglas, but allowed to go to the city afterward. July 3, paid in full and mustered out to date June 30, 1865.
The Battery marched 5,268 miles; traveled by rail 1,231 miles. Were in 11 of the hardest battles fought in the West. Were in 26 other battles. Were in action 42 times while on scouts, reconnoissances, or outpost.
That you may know in what esteem we were held by all the Generals under whom we served, we have only to bring to mind one incident: General George Crook said: "I thank the command for their good behavior in every particular. So long as I have had command of you I never had a single complaint made against the Chicago Board of Trade Battery. I never saw so well drilled or so good a battery in action as you are-all gentlemen, and act the gentleman at all times". By special orders our flags (these being the first carried by an artillery company, and then by special orders), had placed on them "Stone River", "Elk River", Chickamuaga", "Farmington", "Dallas", "Decatur", "Atlanta", "Lovejoy", "Nashville", "Selma". The flags (2) were placed in the vault of the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, and in the great fire of 1871 were destroyed. All papers in the possession of General James H. Stokes, our first Captain, were destroyed in the same fire. The company books, orders, etc., were burned in 1878, at the destruction of Captain George I. Robinson's residence in Milwaukee, Wis.
This sketch is complied at the request of Adjutant General J. W. Vance, by B. F. Nourse, S. H. Stevens, S. M. Randolph, J. C. Camberg and Chas. Frink, May 1886, and approved by the Veteran Battery Association, June 24, 1886, and is from diaries in their possession, which were written daily as the events of the time occurred.