Company A., 40th Illinois Voluntary Infantry

As transcribed and donated by LoriA. Smith, from what may or may not have been the originalmanuscript, donated by Lola Novak for Aleen LeMaster, 1405 ShawneeDr., apt B (997-2471), a relation of Dr. Hunt. Dr. Hunt was bornin 1844, an only child.

June, 1998

I have thought that at some period of my life I would try towrite down some of my personal experiences and recollections ofthe great struggle through which our country passed during thememorable years of 1861-5. Right in the very beginning I am confrontedwith a realization of the enormity of the vast undertaking. Aftera lapse of more than forty years, memory is likely in many respectsand particulars to lay fickle. After we are done with our effortand subject it to critical review many thrilling scenes and incidentswill occur to us that previously escaped our memory, temptingus to go back and rewrite the whole story. I promise, however,that I shall not permit myself to be drawn into any such arrangement.If I did, the very same thing might occur again.

Before beginning a relation of things in which the war is immediatelyconcerned, I shall relate a few incidents of my life prior thereto.For four years immediately preceding the opening of hostilitiesbetween the two sections, I had been living in Benton and Frankfortin Franklin County and remember quite well many of the stirringevents connected with the presidential election in 1860, whenit was rather dangerous to express your political sentiments.Particularly, if you happened to be a Republican and for AbrahamLincoln, you were most likely to have to "hide out"on election day. My antecedents had all come to this country fromthe south, so it may be readily understood that my political inclinationsand tendencies were to the Democratic party. I may further confesswithout shame that under my political tutelage I thought the southwas being needlessly oppressed by the free-soil element of themiddle western and northern states. Like a great many poor misguidedindividuals living contiguous to the southern border I was almostready to join the issue with "our brethren of the south",but when they permitted themselves to become the aggressors, andcommitted the unpardonable of firing on the flag, they revolutionizedpolitical sentiment in southern Illinois, and as a result a vastmajority of our able-bodied male population, myself with the rest,declared fealty and loyalty to the Government and sooner or laterenlisted under the banner of "Old Glory" in defenseof our country.

I was the only child of a doting and loving mother, whose memoryit does me honor to revere. I had been away from her for fouryears and she was very loath to give me up, especially to becomea target for rebel bullets. But when recruiting began in our midst(though not yet seventeen years of age) I was exceedingly anxiousto enlist. Mother demurred for awhile, but seeing I was determinedto go gave her consent. At liberty, I enlisted at once in Co.A. 40th Regt. Ill. Inf. Vol. on the 12th day of August, 1861,the remainder of the Company having preceded me by ten or twelvedays.
Partial roster of our company and regimental officers:
Regimental officers
Col. S. G. Hicks, Salem, Illinois.
Lieut. Col. J. W. Booth, Kinmundy, Illinois.
Major John B. Smith, Enfield, Illinois.
Adjutant R. S. Barnhill, Fairfield, Illinois.
Surgeon Wm. Graham, Mt. Carmel, Illinois.

"Co. A."

Capt. H. W. Hall, promoted to Major and Liet. Col.
1st Lieut. F.J. Carpenter, McLeansboro, Ill.
2nd Lieut. B.W. Harrelson, Knights Prairie, Ill.

This is only a partial roster, but serves my purpose, so Iwill give no other.

Our company when mustered in at Camp Butler, near Springfield,Illinois, was found to be short in number. Lieut. Harrelson wassent back for recruits. At the same time Lieut. Ingram was senton a similar mission for Co. F. These officers raised about sixtyrecruits, myself among the number. We rendezvoused at what iscalled Baine's Hill, in Franklin County, on the evening of August12, 1861. This may be said to be our first night at actual soldiering.The events of that night are indelibly stamped upon my memory.

After partaking of supper which had been prepared and broughtwith us, quite a number of the boys went down to Uncle Pete Phillips,who kept a store on the Benton road and procured a barrel of cider.I expect it had a "few songs in it," leastwise someof them became quite hilarious after partaking of it. One of theCo. F. boys procured a violin, and the boys organized a regularstag dance. I had not been brought up and educated so that I wouldappreciate and enjoy such a carnival as that turned out to be,consequently, in company with another young man two or three yearsolder than myself, strolled off from the crowd and constituteda gang by ourselves. What our feelings and reflections sere forthe succeeding hour or two would be hard to tell. SubsequentlyI heard much talk about "Home Sickness." If ever I experiencedany of that kind of feeling it was certainly on that evening.It seemed to me that I would have given all my present and prospectiveinterest in Heaven to have been back with my mother at that time.That was the first, last and only time I ever had such feelings.I most assuredly do pity from the very bottom of my heart thosepoor unfortunate individuals who pined away, grieving themselvesto death over the mistake they had made in leaving home for asoldier's life.

Next morning, bright and early, we had breakfast, got intoour wagons and started for Ashley. On this trip many amusing incidentsoccurred which I cannot stop here to relate. We arrived in Ashleyin the afternoon of that day. Some kind of arrangements had beenmade to board us at a hotel while we were waiting for our transportationto arrive. One of the dishes served us at this hotel was eggs.Some of the boys observed that it was the first time they hadever been served with both eggs and chicken from the same shell.During our stay of one day and two nights at Ashley many incidentsamusing and otherwise occurred. Many of the boys so far forgotthe last injunctions of a loving mother, or the loving appealsof a wife or sweetheart as to imbibe too freely of the "winethat becomes red", of which fact no doubt many of them weresubsequently ashamed.
As most everything must end somewhere, so our stay at Ashley cameto an end. Cars for our transportation having arrived, we wentaboard and were soon on our way to St. Louis, arriving in theevening of the same day at East St. Louis, went on board a steamerwhich took us down to Jefferson Barracks, twelve miles below St.Louis. Disembarking we were soon with the boys that were to beour comrades and messmates for many, many long days of arduoustoil and hardships, and how glad we were to see each other. Ifwe had been separated twelve years instead of only twelve dayswe could scarcely have been prouder to see each other.

On the day following our arrival at the Barracks we were dulyconverted into a soldier in due form, this due form consistedin being examined and sworn into the service of the United States.The boys that had preceded us had been subjected to a very rigidphysical examination and some were so unfortunate, or rather fortunateas to be rejected. But by the time we arrived they had relaxedtheir vigil and seemingly were quite glad to have us with them.Nor, do I see anything wrong in that for we were quite a finelooking, lively set of fellows.

I do not remember how long we remained at Jefferson Barracks,not, however, very long. While here we began the training thatall have to take before becoming proficient soldiers, such asdrilling, guard duty, camp police, etc. Here we drew our firstarms, the old Harpers Ferry musket, which was about as dangerousto those behind as to those in front. I remember very well thatwith one exception the worst wound I received during my servicewas from a retrograde action of that same old musket.

Bird's Point

One day the word came to strike tents. In less time than ittakes me to tell it the little city of white houses were foldedand ready for transportation. We took a steamer and were soonon our way to Birds Point, floating down on the majestic bosomof the "Father of Waters". I remember but one incidentof this trip worthy of mention. For some reason unknown to methe boat landed on the Illinois side of the river, and a greatmany of the boys took advantage of the occasion to take a strollover in their home state. After a bit the whistle was blown andsuch scampering as there was to get aboard again. After she hadloosed her moorings and was well out in the stream one of theboys, Henry Hals, appeared on the bluff cutting all sorts of monkeyshines to attract our attention. The captain of the boat at firstrefused to stop for him, but Col. Hicks very soon gave him tounderstand that he was commanding that expedition, so a boat waslowered and Henry brought in. During the night some time we landedat Birds Point which is opposite Cairo, Illinois.

We passed the night some way and woke up next morning to findourselves in an old field on the bank of the Mississippi River.It was a very nice place, with some large Pecan shade trees. Ourtents were soon up and we were making everything as comfortablefor ourselves as we could. During our stay at this place we hadsome lively times. Before we had been there long our officerstried our mettle by rallying us out in the night, under the impressionthat we were about to be attacked by the enemy. Of course youwant to know how we behaved. It would have tickled a "lopearedmule" to have seen us. Getting right out of a warm bed, especiallyunder excitement, naturally has a tendency to disrupt the quietudeof the nervous system. We doubtless, were not very much infectedwith malarial poisoning, yet to have seen us shake that nightand heard our teeth chatter one would certainly have thought theentire regiment had the chills, and congestive chills at that.Speaking for myself, and judging other by myself, I will say thatmy feelings on that occasion would be hard to describe. Theseutterances are not altogether made in a spirit of levity. If yousay that this shaking and chattering of teeth was an evidenceof cowardice, then we were all cowards. Many of these very menmade soldiers of unquestionable courage and daring, and gave theirlives a bleeding sacrifice upon the alter of their country, paidtheir last full measure of devotion to their country's service,left an empty place at some hearthstone, some mother, sister,wife or sweetheart left at home bereaved and disconsolate, watchingfor the return of that dear one whose presence would never greetthem again.

While at this point we took a little jaunt out in the countryto or near a place called Charleston. At this time we had a regimentalMascot ­ a yellow dog ­ I do not remember his name. Heremained with our regiment for a long time. On this trip we tookour dog on the cars with us. You see, we made this forced marchon the cars. It was quite seldom during our service that suchfortune befell us. On our return we again took up our dog, buthe seemed to think the old shackly train was not safe, jumpedoff, and much to the delight of the boys kept right along withthe train.


General Grant, through the different mediums he had of acquiringinformation, had ascertained that the rebel general in commandat Columbus, Kentucky, was figuring for the possession of Paducah.Grant, always alive to the "main chance", anticipatedthe rebels, placing three brigades on steamers after night, ourbrigade being one of them. During the night we steamed up theOhio River. At daylight we were at the wharf and disembarkingto the utter surprise and mortification of not only the rebelsoldiers but the rebel citizens as well.

Paducah was a nice little city. We remained there a long timefitting and qualifying ourselves for the life that was beforeus. During our long stay there we got to be quite proficient indrill exercises. We also assisted in making the great fort fromwhich subsequently Col. Hicks whipped the famous rebel, GeneralForest, with a detachment of Negro troops. Here we did about ourfirst of what is called "Picket Guard". It was herealso that we sustained the first loss in our company. Hiram Fannsuccumbed to disease and died. I was among the number detailedto bury him. What a sad, sad duty that was. It impressed me verymuch ­ arms reversed, drums muffled ­ as we marched withour deceased comrade to his last resting place in the silent cityof the dead. As we fired the mournful salute over the grave ourfeelings can be better imagined than described.
During our stay at Paducah many of our friends paid us a visit.My own dear mother expressed a desire to visit me, but I did notthink the camp a suitable place for ladies, I so told her andshe never came. Even now I do not regret my decision. I had sooften been made to blush on account of the presence of ladiesin our camp.

While in Paducah we took our first march of any consequence.General Grant had ordered a preconcerted move threatening Columbus,by a portion of the troops at Cairo, Paducah, and those in Missouri.We were ordered out one morning for a march. Remember this wasour first one and then you will not be so astonished at what follows.By this time we had acquired some clothing ­ a blanket ortwo, an overcoat, our little mementos, which were dear to us ­to say nothing of our cooking vessels, gun and necessary accompaniments.Of course we did not know when we left that we would ever seePaducah again and, therefore, must carry all we had with us orabandon it. Well we did not abandon it at camp, but were gladto leave a great portion of it on the road to Mayfield. Many ofthe boys came into camp on our return destitute of everythingbut their guns.

During the march out toward Columbus our ears were salutedby the sound of battle for the first time, and although the menhad become footsore and almost exhausted, it would have done yougood to have seen them brighten up, take the step to the musicof the Union, and rend the air with cheers for "Old Glory".We could hear the firing most of the afternoon of that day. Hurryingon we reached Mayfield about nightfall and went to bed, motherearth constituting our couch and the starry sky our covering.With the coming of the morning we partook of a very meager breakfastconsisting principally of "Hard Tack" and "SowBosom", wet up with some very black coffee.
The fight at Belmont on the day before having ended in what maybe termed a drawn battle, both sides claiming victory, our journeyfurther south was unnecessary, so we turned our faces back towardPaducah. On our return trip we had an opportunity to see how foolishwe had been in loading ourselves when we started, the roadsidewas strewn with overcoats, blankets, cooking utensils, etc., etc.

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