Eighteenth Annual Reunion
Survivors of the Seventy-Third Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry
- we live. How General Rosencrans appointed a commission to examine our officers and to give to those who were thought to be incompetent, the opportunity to resign--and how some accepted the chance and were mustered out--and their places filled from their subordinates, and in some cases from the ranks. We were still to continue in our school of training and we were faithful and obedient to the trust thus imposed upon us and not until Christmas did we change the routine of our daily lives--such as picket duty and excursions into the country between our lines and that of the enemy to procure forage for the sustenance of the mules and horses upon which we were so soon to depend for the transportation of our rations, ammunition and baggage. And while still encamped at this place, we were subjected to another (as we thought) great injustice by the government which consisted in taking from us the large and cumbersome sibley tents and substituting in their place the pup tent, and what a huge joke we made of it, thinking to prove to those in authority that they had made a great mistake in taking away from us our good tents made of the best of material, and giving to each of us only a square piece of muslin about the size our mothers would use for her kitchen table, the only difference we could see was that on one side of each of our table cloths there was a row of buttons and on the other a row of button holes. How were we to get along with such frail things for shelter from the winter's storms and cold? But we were not long in finding out that we were much better provided for than we thought, for when we moved our camp to march, no difference how bad the roads or the weather when we stopped to bivouac at night our baggage trains were there as soon as we and we could join in with William or Bob or both, and by attaching the buttons on one side of our table cloth to the button holes of one of theirs and exercising a little of the latent architectural talents slumbering within us soon we would have a shelter fit for the most fastidious. On the 26th day of December 1862, we again broke camp and moved out towards the town of Murfreesboro, where the army of General Bragg lay waiting our approach. And through rain and mud, skirmishing at almost every advantageous position selected by the Rebels, we pushed on until we were soon pressing the extended front of their army at Stone river, where, after three days of hard fighting and severe manuvering we were again the victors, and how proudly after it all we marched into the town and through the streets of the now deserted old stronghold. We were brought into camp on the outskirts of the town and felt that we had earned a long rest. Up to this time we had experienced many hardships and had participated in two fierce battles; had lost many of our comrades in killed and wounded and were progressing fairly with our education as soldiers and soon settled down to the regular duties of acquiring further the knowledge which was so vital to our well being in the future prosecution of the war. Our camp life was married often in the few months of our stay by attacks of the Confederates upon our picket lines and of the oft recuring expeditions into the enemy's country for forage, but the most important event of our five month's stay at Murfreesboro was the long and tiresome drills--company, batalion and brigade--in which we were constantly engaged and in which we became very proficient, and were now beginning to feel that we had almost graduated in the life and accomplishments of the soldier, but truth to tell, we had only taken the first degree, and were yet to be led on to perfection. And so from this place on the 24th day of June, A.D., 1863 we again marched out, moving as an invincible body of men against Bragg's army of veterans through mud and rain such as we never yet had experienced, crossing swollen streams, climbing mountains, fighting almost at every step of the way until we were led by the grand old Rosey in the greatest and most superb exhibition of strategetical movements of the whole war to the field of Chickmauga where amid the awful roar of musketry and the thunder of the artillery the terrible battle of September 19th and 20th thinned our ranks down to almost one-half our number. We then occupied Chattanooga and held it in the face of the most terrible opposition by the now defiant Confederate commander who occupied Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain and whose cavalry forces made it almost impossible for us to communicate with our base of supplies, and in this very critical condition, living on what little rations could we brought across the mountains to us we managed to eke out a miserable existance until re-enforcements were brought to our aid. Oh, how hungry and how weak we were for long time, but never undaunted and as determined to conquer as the most tried and approved soldiers of any nation on earth. Of our campaign in East Tennessee it is not easy to write, but suffice it to say that we had no luxuries, but plenty of hard marching and exposure, with very scant supplies of rations and of necessity had to live off of the country through which we passed, and, as that had been picked over by the Rebels, it may be infered that we did not fare very sumptiously. And after spending the winter under such conditions we could not be expected to be in the best condition to engage in the Atlanta campaign which we did about May 1st, 1864. But be it said to the credit of the American volunteer soldier that under any and all circumstances he is always willing and has always proved to the world that he can be trusted. We took our places in the grand army which General Sherman had gathered together to further march into the interior of the confederacy--and so we entered upon that very memorable and arduous expedition where we were soon to be taught more of the duties and experience of the soldier than we had yet learned--that of cautious and careful approaches to the enemy in his previously fortified positions--we were to learn the greatest part of the life of a soldier, that of digging and throwing up rifle pits and fortifications and the art of self protection, which is the highest art of military achievement, for we were now under the command of General Sherman, whose greatest ambition was to achieve results with the smallest loss of men possible, and how well we learned to fight and inflict as great punishment upon the enemy as we could without the loss of our own lives. We were digging rifle pits, putting on head logs and making embrasures for the artillery constantly when not on the march or fighting, and thus for more than four months of almost continual digging and fighting, we moved on toward the city of Atlanta, where we proceeded to extend our lines as nearly around it as possible and began to think of taking it by seige, but General Sherman knew best and we begun again a flank movement which would put our army in the rear of General Hood and thus by cutting his railroads, compel him to evacuate, which we soon accomplished and after the battles of Jonesboro and Lovejoy's Station we marked back and took possession of the city, feeling we had been instrumental in dealing such a blow to the Confederacy, that we were now entitled to all the praise which might be given to us by our grateful country, for we now felt that we had proved ourselves very proficient in the art of war and were no longer a mere army of citizens, but could claim with some degree of propriety the right to be called soldiers--such as any nation might be proud of. And thus I might go on and give some of our experiences through the remainder of the war--how we made that memorable retrograde movement north and of the race with Hood's army for the possession of Nashville, and of the awful battles of Franklin and Nashville and the pursuit of the remnants of that once defiant army flying for dear life--not as it came north but as a struggling mass of demoralized and disheartened men never more to be known as the army of the Tennessee. Also of the movement into East Tennessee and our arrival at Bull's Gap; of the energy with which we began to repair the railroad into Virginia to close in on Lee's forces and to help crush them as we had already done for our adversary and of the joyful news of the evacuation of Richmond and a few days later the still more glorious news of the surrender of Lee with the army of Virginia to that valiant commander, General U. S. Grant and the great rejoicing of the whole 4th corps when we realized that the war must now soon come to a close; and of our return to Nashville--after all these fatiguing marches and the great battles participated in, we were now hopeful of a speedy return to our homes, to greet loved ones and to take up again the more peaceful and agreeable pursuits of life. We were not long in waiting, for soon came the orders from the government at Washington to muster out the troops whose time of enlistments were the nearest completion, and to our joy the news came to us of the 73rd that we would be among the first, and how we hailed the glad tidings and began to count the days that yet remained before we could lay down our arms and resume our places as citizens. It seemed to us almost an age since leaving our homes to begin our course of training as soldiers and now soon we were to lay off the paraphanalia of war and dwell in peace at home. But there remained yet one more duty to perform--one more exhibition of our efficiency as soldiers, and that was to be the last grand review of the 4th corps by our greatly beloved General George H. Thomas, which was to be to us as our graduating exercises. And so we were put to work drilling in anticipation of that great event and in a few days our muster rolls being complete, we were formed by brigades and divisions and led forth to take part in that never to be forgotten grand review--how proudly we marched with the procession of veterans--passing the reviewing stand where so many heroes looked upon us. We were now giving to the world our last display of thorough discipline and leaving an indelible proof that we had in the almost three years of our enlistment made wonderful growth in the accomplishments of the soldier; that we had passed very successfully from the citizen to that of approved veterans and could now resume our places in the life we had put aside so willingly when our country called us to arms and we soon took up our way to what to us was God's country. But amidst the expressions of joy at the thought of meeting our loved ones there came to each of us the sad thought of the host of dear comrades who had fallen in the strife and whose bones were left to bleach on many a southern field, some having been killed outright, others falling by the wayside and counted among the missing. While still others were among the maimed and crippled, whose life, be it long or short, would be one of sadness to them and their friends, and after our muster out at Camp Butler, only a handful as compared with our numbers when we first left that place, we soon scattered to meet around the firesides of our loved ones. Many since that day have passed over the dark river and have been awaiting our coming. When we, who remain at this time, look into each other's faces we realize the fact that we are no longer boys, but with steadfast look and with slow and measured tread we are marching on to the brink of that river, listening for the final trumpet call to cross to the eternal camping ground.
Comrade Ingersol made a motion that Comrade Jack's address be made a part of the minutes and that a vote of thanks be given to him for the splendid address.
Motion seconded and carried.
After the address there were several little matters of business disposed of. First, the bill of $10.00 to the stenographer and $1.50 to the janitor. The bills were allowed.
The nominating committee were to give their report at this session. They reported as follows:
President--Giles H. Penstone.
Vice President--W. H. Newlin.
Secretary and Treasurer--D. R. Gooch.
Chaplin--T. J. Underwood.
Annual address--Adna Phelps.
The meeting of 1905 will be held in Springfield because it seems a central point for all. And Comrade Randall suggests that we make the year of 1905 the best year on record. Let all the comrades make special efforts to attend the Re-union and bring their families and all enjoy the day together. Comrade Newlin made the motion that we accept the invitation to lunch at the Fair Grounds. The motion was carried. As all the business was disposed of Comrade Randall stated that we had plenty of time and that one of our representatives took a prominent part in the G.A.R. Encampment at Boston and all would be glad to hear Comrade Ingersoll tell of his trip to Boston. By request Capt. Ingersol gave a description of his trip to Boston to attend the national Encampment of the Grand Army. The captain said, in part, that with a party of friends and his wife they started Friday, one-thirty p.m. over the Grand Trunk line by Niagara Falls to Montreal, then down through Vermont and then down to Boston by the Boston & Main railroad, arriving there Sunday noon. Sunday evening we went to the temple where we were delightfully entertained by the minister, a visitor from New York. It was a beautiful auditorium, with a grand display of the national colors and pictures of the generals and statesmen of our country which made it seem real home like to us. The orator delivered a grand patriotic discourse and the choir sang "Home Sweet Home" with so much feeling that it made one think more of home than ever before. We stopped at the Adams House, which is the oldest hotel in Boston. It has been refitted and is run on the European plan. There we met several comrades from Illinois, among them Comrade Clemmons, governor of the Danville Home with his most excellent wife. It seemed good to meet an Illinois comrade in the east. On Monday we visited Washington street. It is the longest and the most crooked street in Boston. Our hotel was located only three or four blocks from the Old South church, which is a land mark of Boston. It was erected in 1729 and where the horsemen were taught and drilled by the English for the cavalry. Near there is a marked spot where the first blood was shed for our independence. A negro was killed by the English soldiers and it is pointed out as the first blood shed for liberty. Later the same day there were four or five white men killed in their attempt to obtain justice. We were shown the place in the Boston harbor where the famous tea party took place and the tea thrown into the sea. It has partly been filled up for about one-half mile. We then visited Bunker Hill. A monument has been erected there in honor of the battle fought, and from there we followed Paul Revere's brave ride saw the steeple where the signal was given as in the poem.
"One of the land,
Two by the sea."
Then on to Lexington to see the other historical places. There were tablets of stone and monuments all around marking each place of interest. We visited the place where the first battle was fought, which was at Concord. We have always been used to saying "Con-cord", but a lady said "'You must not say "Con-cord", but "Concord," emphasis on the last syllable. It sounds very much like conquer and I like the name because it was the first victory of the Revolution.'" There is the old bridge near by over which the American army crossed. It was washed away and a short time ago they rebuilt it as nearly as possible like the one before. The descendants of the people who fought in the Revolution still live in those houses along the road. There is the house where the physician lived and where he heard the heavy tread and clatter of soldiers; he went to the door and thrust his head out to see what was the matter and the British seeing, fired a shot at him which lodged near the casing and the hole remains to-day. Your guide will tell you the story and mark the spot. We also visited "Wright's Tavern," which is one of the most intresting points in Concord and now contains many things of those historical times. This house is where Washington and the British officers had their headquarters alternately. It has been kept in good repair, and the old dining room is used for serving meals to-day. It is a beautiful country to travel over--the scenery is charming. Leaving Boston, we saw the tree under which Washington stood when he took command of the army. The next day we got on the trolley line and rode about five hours seeing the lime-stones, granite hills and such beautiful lands. It is no wonder that Dr. Smith had the inspiration given him to write that song we all love so much:
"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing."