Revelations of a Soldier's Life
by Samuel C. Broughton, Sgt
Co. I, 21st Illinois Infantry
I first enlisted at Robinson, Illinois, April 27th, 1861, for three months. Was mustered at Mattoon, Illinois into Co I, Seventh Ill, afterwards 21st, Ill. We held an election at which S. S. Goode was elected Colonel. We were mustered by Captain U. S. Grant, who held our first dress parade. We changed the name of our camp from Camp Cunningham to Camp Grant in honor of the distinguished man who mustered us, it being the first camp named after him.
There seemed to be a mutual attachment between the regiment and Grant. He complimented us on being the finest body of men he had seen and said he would be proud to command such a regiment of nearly all young men from 18 to 25 years of age. The regiment liked Grant. He was a common appearing man who seemed to know what he was about; and when compared with the pomposity of Colonel Goode, our preference was largely in favor of Grant.
Then commenced what was known as the Mattoon War. Chickens began to disappear, and in a short time there wasn't a rooster to crow in five miles of Camp Grant. Milk and butter grew scarce and dear. The cows all came to camp to get milked, and the women of that region set us down as the biggest lot of thieves that was ever got together and vowed if we couldn't whip the Rebels we could soon steal out the Southern Confederacy. But for all that I believe they liked us pretty well for they brought us cakes and pies and eatables.
After all, I believe that was the best part of our drill. It gave us confidence in ourselves. We learned that wherever chickens grew and cows gave milk that we could get along somehow. Here my company got the name of the Wabash Riff Raff, which I suppose meant we were rough customers. The name stuck to us as long as the war lasted, but time passed and we were ordered to Springfield and was there when Lincoln made call for three years. Then we were given the opportunity to reenlist but were rather slow to do so.
When Governor Yates and Uncle Jessie Dubois, with whom we were well-acquainted, asked us the reason we told the governor to give us a Colonel we could depend on and we would. He told us to select our man and he would appoint him. We held elections in the company, and nine of the ten were unanimous in favor of Grant. The regiment then reenlisted for three years. There never was any meeting as has been reported. The boys were a little wild and did not like Goode, and Grant was appointed at the request of the regiment. I was orderly at headquarters when Goode received notice of his removal. He stormed and raved like a mad man. Swore he would take a musket and follow his regiment and see that his boys were not imposed on. But he thought better of it after he became cool.
I met him(Goode) after Grant had reached the position of Commander-in-Chief. With his usual bluster, he said if it had not been for Captain Peck of my company he would have then be filling Grant's position. Shortly after reenlisting, we were paid off. Eleven dollars a month.
Soon after, Grant arrived and took command of the regiment. In a few days we were ordered to Quincy. Grant made a requisition for wagons, although he could have got cars easier and cheaper, and we started to march through distance 160 miles. We marched to the Illinois River, when we were ordered to take the cars; and the same night we camped on Missouri soil. The next day we went by rail to Palmyra, Missouri, where we found the 14th, 16th and 19th Illinois regiments. The next morning Grant arrived, having left us at Quincy, with orders to take command of all the troops in that district. It raised a terrible howl. Colonels Smith, Palmer and Turchin all claimed to be Grant's seniors, but after threatening to arrest the fiery Turchin if it took his whole regiment to do it. Turchin's regiment were nearly all of stealing chickens. They found he was not to be fooled with and obeyed. Here Grant showed some of nerve and strength of will which distinguished him afterwards.
But there was one man Grant could not master. We called him Mexico. That man would have whiskey. Grant would tie him to a tree every night and keep a guard over him in daytime. On a march Grant would make him carry two guns with a guard over him, but he would get whiskey somehow, and when he came in to camp one night with both gun barrels full he gave it up as a bad job. One day his gun went off, accidentally, he claimed; and the bullet whistled close to Grant's ear. He arrested him for it, but as we had no military prisons then he gave him a furlough, promising to renew it when it expired. That was the last of Mexico. Grant kept his furlough renewed.
A short time afterward, Company I had a skirmish at High Hill station on the north Missouri railroad. We killed one man and two horses and would have captured the whole lot, but they run so fast we couldn't catch them. We captured some chickens and some fine hams and confiscated some Irish whiskey. We had no one hurt on our side, but I wrote home and called it a battle. After that I was in a detail to patrol the north Missouri and Hannibal & St. Joe Railroads, which we did for a month and had a rattling good time.
My company and Company F was sent to Troy, some distance from the railroad. We found a camp of 7 or 800 they said 1500 Rebels. We threatened to burn the town if molested. Stayed all night and returned next day without a skirmish as we had orders not to bring on a fight; but we thought we could lick them if they would only come out and fight us.
Along about the first of September we were ordered to Ironton, Missouri, where we lost our colonel. Shortly after, Grant got his commission as Brigadier General. As he was walking from his boarding house to his office in the courthouse a billy goat, which the boys had named Jeff Davis and who was of a belligerent disposition, spied the general, who was walking with his head down probably planning out some future campaign. After watching for a favorable opportunity, Jeff finally made an attack in the rear with such impetuosity that the general immediately took a position on his hands and knees. They boys yelled, and Jeff, thinking he had vanquished one enemy, turned his attention to the boys. Grant rose to his feet and, shaking his fist first at Jeff and then at the boys, went on his way amid shouts and roars of laughter. Grant probably thought of that goat when he dictated terms of surrender to General Buckner, Commander at Fort Donaldson.
After the usual amount of scouting, drilling, picketing and so forth, we learned that General Jeff Thompson and Colonel Lowe had concentrated quite a force at Fredericktown, and my regiment and the 1st Indiana Cavalry were sent to see about it. The next day news came back that they had had a fight and one company of 21st was all cut to pieces and the Eighth Wisconsin with their Eagle and the 38th Illinois were sent to reenforce them. I was then on duty guarding Rebel prisoners, but being spoiling for a fight I deserted and went with them. We found them in camp as unconcerned as if nothing had happened. Finding the enemy too strong, they had not attacked them, but fell back towards Ironton. The next day we returned to camp, and after a day or two of preparation, they saw that I was spoiling for a fight and made me go along.
We started one evening, marched all night, and just at day light reached Fredericktown and made a dash but found no enemy. The citizens had most of them left too, but those who were there said the Rebels had gone towards Greenville. The sun coming up warm and pleasant, we lay down on sidewalks on the sunny side of the houses and were soon nearly all asleep. After a while, a force from Cape Girardeau came marching into town with bands playing and wakened us up with their racket. They passed through town, and in a short time we heard a cannon. Our major said the Cape Girardeau boys were going into camp. Just then another and another followed by muskets. "A fight", yelled the boys. "Fall in," shouted the major, and in a minute's time we were on the double quick for the battlefield, followed by the other regiments, who being scattered more than we, took longer to get into line. We were soon overtaken by our colonel, who, spurring his horse and waving his sword, shouted, "On my brave boys. We've got to have a hand in this game."
We met a staff officer who ordered us into a field to the left. The boys began climbing the fence. The colonel says, "Pull down the fence boys, I am going with you." This became a byword in the regiment. We wheeled into line and in a few minutes were charging across a cornfield completely routing the enemy, killing Colonel Lowe and three hundred Rebels, with loss of 17 on our side. Among them was the lamented Major Garett of the 1st Ind Cavalry. The Rebel force amounted to about 7000, ours to about 10,000, of which only about half were engaged.
To show how the Rebels respected their oaths, there was an old man, a prisoner. He pretended to be sick and was finally discharged upon his taking the oath (not to fight in the war again). We called him Beauregard. Well, some of the boys found him on the field and sent for me to see if it really was old Beauregard. I went, and sure enough, there he lay with a ball through his head. He had taken an oath at last that he never would break. That was the first fight I was in, and it made me sick to go over the field and see the dead and wounded. I never hankered for a fight after that; and although I have been in many a battlefield since where the dead were counted by the thousand instead of hundreds, I never was affected in like manner.
After the fight, we went back to Ironton, and the 21st and 1st Indiana Cavalry were sent to find out what had become of the Rebels. We followed them to Indian Ford on the St. Francis River. Not finding them, we returned to Ironton. While on this march away down in the St. Francis bottoms, we halted close to a log shanty. Some of the boys went to it and found a woman and two small children who were almost starved, having nothing to eat but parched corn and roasted acorns, and not clothing enough to hide their nakedness, no floor, no bed, but leaves and some old rags. The boys divided their rations, gave her coffee, sugar, meat and bread. They even divided their clothing with her, gave her shoes, blankets, shirts, and everything that would be of benefit to her. Finally one of the boys proposed taking up a collection, which he did, and in few minutes raised $3.00 dollars, which he gave to her. We then went on. About a mile from there we came to a large plantation. Colonel stopped, went to the owner and asked if he did not know that a woman and her children were starving under his very eyes. He knew nothing about it. The colonel told him if she was not well provided for when we came back he would turn the boys loose and they wouldn't leave very much behind them. He took the colonel at his word, and when we came back we found her well-provided for, but she was to wealthy to leave there. We put her in a wagon and took her to Ironton, where we got her a house; and when we left there she was well-fixed.
When we reached Indian Ford we camped till morning. In the morning we were ready to cross, but the water was cold and the officers dreaded the undertaking. Henry Ross, a big Irishman, agreed to carry them over for a quarter apiece. He carried a number of them over until he attempted to carry Lieutenant Easly of Co. G, who he did not like very well. When about in the middle of the river, he fell and pulled the lieutenant clear under. He didn't charge him anything. When the officers had all got over, we got orders to go back, and they had to wade back. Oh, but it was fun for the boys.
When we got back to Ironton we built houses and went into winter quarters. I was restored to my old position in the provost guards. It was while there that I met with quite a mishap, which I never got over. While in the house we got up some private performances for the fun of it to pass the time away; and I let them put my name on the bills as "Brudder Bones", which name stayed with me as long as I was in the service. They left off the "Brudder" after while and called me "Bones." I never liked the name. One time on picket, the officer of the guard, who was not acquainted with me, came around enquiring for Sergeant Bones. Sometimes the boys would say to me, "Bones, ain't you dry?" To which I would reply in the affirmative. They got to saying Bones was always dry and got to calling me Dry Bones. The name never done me any good, but once. One day on a march I stopped at a house. The lady was very clever and gave me a chicken. I stopped to have some sweet potatoes to eat with my chicken, when along comes some of the thieving provost guards. They arrested me and confiscated my property and marched me under guard all day. When they sent me under guard to the colonel, they wanted my name but I wouldn't tell it. But one of the boys came along and says, "Hello, Bones, they have got you have they?" I answered, "Yes." So they sent me up with charges under the name of Bones. I got away from the guard, but the fool went on with the charges. Now there was a man by the name of Bone in Co. 8. The colonel sent for him and put him on extra duty. When he got off, he came around hunting that fellow they call Bones, but I wasn't around just then.
Things went on very nicely after we got in our winter quarters till the regiment was ordered to Greenville. They left a while before Christmas. The good folks at home got to thinking of the boys down in Dixie and they sent pickles, preserves, honey, eggs, hams, butter, besides socks, mittens, under clothes and lots of good things. There being but few of us left, we had hard work to get away with all of it. We done the best we could, and there was not much spoiled.
About Christmas we got orders to join our regiment at Greenville. We had become attached to the place by that time and also to some of the young ladies who lived there and hated to leave, but orders had to be obeyed so we began to get ready. We concluded we would have a ball before we left so we fixed up a hall, sent out invitations, and had a supper prepared. The provost marshal furnished us an ambulance to bring in the ladies. He also gave us six kegs of beer, telling us not to make hogs of ourselves. There were 18 couples and two fiddlers. I will not tell on the girls, I don't think it would be right, but the six kegs of beer gave out before morning. We sent the ladies home about four o-clock in the morning and we turned in. The night was cold, but Wes Stevenson undressed and lay down on the floor by the side of his bunk and there we found him next morning. He was probably a little muddled.
Go to page 2 of the Journal
Go to Samuel Broughton's Discharge Papers from 1864 and 1865 and obituaries.
Many thanks to Kathy and Mel Jangard who submitted this information.
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