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Illinois Independent Artillery
Regiment History

Chicago Mercantile Light Artillery          

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Adjutant General's Report

This Battery was recruited and organized under the auspices of the Mercantile Association, an association of prominent and patriotic merchants of the City of Chicago.

It was mustered into the United States service on the 29th of August 1862, at Camp Douglas.

Remaining in camp till November 8, they were ordered to the field, reaching Memphis on the 11th, where they disembarked and went into camp on Poplar street. Here they remained for several days, and were then ordered to accompany General Sherman on his march to Oxford, Miss., it being sometimes known as the "Tallahatchie March". The object of the expedition being accomplished, the Battery returned with the army to Memphis.

From thence they accompanied General Sherman on his expedition up the Yazoo, or the first attack upon Vicksburg, being assigned to the old Tenth Division of the Thirteenth Army Corps, under command of General A. J. Smith. They reached the battle field on the morning of the 27th of December, performing splendid service on the right of the line.

A retreat was ordered on the night of the 1st of January 1863. One section of the Battery covered the retreat of the rear guard and were the last men to leave the famous Yazoo swamps.

They then embarked on transports and with the rest of the army took part in the reduction of Arkansas Post on the 11th and 12th of January. One section was planted on the right bank of the Arkansas River, opposite the fort, and the other four guns were on the left of the line of the left bank or fortified side of the river. In the gallant service rendered by them on this occasion they were highly complimented by General Osterhaus, and publicly thanked before the whole army.

From thence they embarked upon transports and proceeded to Young's Point, opposite Vicksburg, where they remained for a few weeks, and were then ordered to Milliken's Bend.

On the 15th of April, they led out with the Thirteenth Army Corps, under the command of General John A. McClernand, and took part in the glorious campaign which finally culminated in the capture of Vicksburg. Crossing the Mississippi at Bruinsburg on the night of the 30th of April, they were in time to take part in the battle of Magnolia Hills, May 1, and were actively engaged, and performed splendid service during the entire day. Continuing its march towards Vicksburg, it again encountered the enemy on the 16th of May, at Champion Hills, where it had a fearful artillery duel with an eight-gun battery belonging to the First Regiment of Mississippi Light Artillery. The fight occurred at the short range of three hundred yards. General Tilghman, was killed by a well directed shot from No. 2 gun of this Battery. The fighting was severe and the Battery lost heavily. The following day more laurels were won at the battle of Black River Bridge. Participating in the pursuit of the retreating foe, they came within sight of the heights of Vicksburg on the afternoon of the 18th of May.

On the 22d of May, an assault was ordered along the whole line, and one section of the Battery literally charged a bastion, pulling their guns by hand up to within twenty feet of the works. Here they remained for eight long hours in the face of a fearfully heavy fire. Hand grenades were tossed over from behind the works, and were as quickly thrown back to explode among the enemy. When night set in they ran their guns down into the ravine below and saved them. For this and other acts they were specially mentioned by General McClernand in his dispatches.

The following day one section was ordered to report to General Alvin P. Hovey, on the extreme left of the line, where it remained for several days, and performed gallant service in the good cause. Having taken part in the whole siege it was, on the afternoon of the surrender (July 4), ordered to start at once to meet General Joe Johnston, who was rapidly marching with a large army to the relief of Vicksburg. Encountering the enemy at Jackson, they were hotly engaged with him for seven days.

After Johnston was driven across the Pearl River, the Battery returned to Vicksburg, and went into camp on the river bank, below the town. A few weeks of rest and recuperation, and marching orders were received to report to General Banks, commanding the Department of the Gulf.

Arriving at New Orleans, the Battery went into camp near the village of Carrollton, six miles north of the city. We nest find it up the Bayou Tech. A few months of pleasant camp life were spent at Franklin and at New Iberia, on that celebrated bayou, but no arduous service was performed.

In December orders were received to repair to New Orleans and embark on an ocean steamer for Texas. On arriving at New Orleans they embarked on board the steamer St. Mary, and reached Pass Cavollo, on Matagorda Bay, on the first day of the year 1864. In early March they were again put aboard an ocean steamer, and headed for Berwick City, on Berwick Bay. On arriving at Berwick they debarked and joined the column under Lieutenant General Banks, and here commenced the long march made famous as the Red River Expedition.

On arriving at Sabine Cross Roads they took part in that disastrous affair, but fought bravely to the last, fighting at close quarters, double-shotting their guns with canister. This Battery was the only battery that brought their guns off the field. Pulling their guns onto the road, they could get them no farther, as the road was blocked by every conceivable form of vehicle-one facing the other. A shot was wedged in one of the guns, and tow of the others were spiked. About one-half of the horses were saved by cutting the traces. The losses were two officers killed and two taken prisoner; four men were killed, nine wounded, and twenty-three taken prisoners.

Sick at heart but true and loyal they reached Grand Ecore on Red River as best they might. At this point they were put aboard the hospital steamer Rob't Morris. On reaching Alexandria they were transferred to the Mobile packet Kate Dale, and steamed away for the Crescent City. On arriving there they were sent to a cotton press, only remaining there a few days, from thence they were sent to Post Paropet Defenses of New Orleans. Here they were ordered to take muskets and perform infantry duty. A protest against this was drawn up and signed by every man in camp but one. Lieutenant Roe the only Commissioned Officer with the Battery, and the Non-commissioned Officers were placed under arrest and marched to Baroone street Military Prison where they remained in confinement for 35 days, at the expiration of which time the non-commissioned officers were reduced to the ranks and released. Lieutenant Roe was tried by Court Martial and acquitted. As nothing was said against reinstating the non-commissioned officers they were all put back in their old places on the following day. Shortly after this the guns, horses and equipment of Battery G, Fifth U.S. Artillery, were turned over to them at Carrollton, La. Leaving New Orleans November 1st they joined the column under General Davidson at Baton Rouge, the purpose of the expedition being to cut the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The object of the expedition was not obtained, but they brought up at Pascagoula, situated on the bay of that name. They marched three hundred miles over some of the most horrible roads ever traveled. In some instances the men were in their saddles for 24 hours and only making a distance of 7 miles in that time. Thirty horses died out of the Battery on this raid. On the 25th of December the Battery completed a breastwork and christened it Fort Christmas. A few days later they were loaded aboard of an ocean steamer, under orders for New Orleans. On arriving there they were again ordered to Baton Rouge, remaining there until May 1865, then down the river again to New Orleans. Late in June the Battery was ordered home to be mustered  out, reaching Chicago July 3d, there they received their final payment and were mustered out of   service July 10, 1865, having traveled by river, sea and land over eleven thousand miles. On their arrival at Chicago a banquet was given in their honor at the Tremont House, and a glorious reception awaited them from the Mercantile Association and other friends. The total number of men connected with the Battery was 244, it having been recruited several times in the field. On the original 156 officers and men who left Chicago with them November 8, 1862, but thirty-five returned on July 3, 1865. A few days previous to their leaving New Orleans for home, Captain P. H. White, Lieutenant P. S. Cone and 22 of the men who were captured at Sabine Cross Roads joined them from their prison pen at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas, they having been confined 14 months; one of the members (Walter Felter) died in prison. The following is a roster of the officers upon their return to Chicago: Captain P. H. White, Senior First Lieutenant P. S. Cone, Junior First Lieutenant Henry Roe, Senior Second Lieutenant F. D. Meacham, Junior Second Lieutenant J. C. Sinclair.

Transcribed by Susan Tortorelli

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