Brief History of the 17th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry — 1861-1864.
Ten companies went into camp at Peoria, Illinois, May 10, 1861: Co. "A," Capt. A. S. Norton; Co. "B," Baldwin; Co. "C," Rose; Co. "D," Bush; Co. "E," Smith; Co. "F," Moore; Co. "G," Burgess; Co. "H," Ross; Co. "I," Wood; Co. "K," Walker.
May 20, the 17th Regiment was organized by electing Capt. Ross, Co. "H," Colonel; Capt. Wood, Co. "I," Lieutenant Colonel; Capt. Smith, Co. "E," Major. Lieut. A. H. Ryan, Co. "A," was appointed Adjutant; Lieut. C. C. Williams, Co. "F," Quartermaster; Dr. Lucius D. Kellogg, Regimental Surgeon; Dr. C. B. Tompkins, Assistant Surgeon.
After spending about one month at Peoria, engaged in drilling and making preparation for service, we were moved by steamboats to Alton, Illinois, where we went into camp and spent another month in drilling. About the middle of July we were transported by steamers to St. Charles, Missouri, thence by railroad to Warrenton, where we spent a week. The regiment was then ordered to St. Louis, where it became a part of the command of Gen. Fremont; and accompanied him August 1 on his expedition to Cairo via steamers. August 3 it went into camp at Bird's Point, Missouri, and was engaged for about two weeks in building fortifications; was then ordered up the Mississippi to a landing about thirty miles below St. Louis, known as "Sulphur Springs"; thence by railroad to Ironton, Missouri, where the regiment was encamped for a short time. While here the officers of the regiment, about August 20, had the pleasure of meeting for the first time Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant, who had recently received his commission as brigadier general.
From Ironton the regiment was ordered to move to Fredericktown, Missouri, and garrison the place, where it remained about a week; when, being attached to the command of Gen. Prentiss, moved under that officer to Jackson; thence to Cape Girardeau, reaching the latter place September 2, 1861. About September 10 the regiment was removed to the Kentucky shore opposite Cairo and aided in constructing Fort Holt. By this time Gen. Grant had established his headquarters at Cairo. From him came orders to Col. Ross to take his regiment, the 17th, the 19th, Col. Turchin, and the 7th Iowa, Col. Lawman, and a section of artillery and occupy Elliott's Mills, a place about half way between Fort Holt and Columbus, Kentucky. This place, about twelve miles from Columbus, was named Camp Crittenden, and was held only four days when the brigade was ordered to fall back to old Fort Jefferson and soon after to Fort Holt, where work was resumed on the fortifications. This proved a very unhealthy location, and a large portion of being attached
185the regiment was very soon in the hospital. As a sanitary means, the regiment was moved from Fort Holt, Kentucky, by steamer to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a higher and more healthy location. This change was made October 3, 1861; disembarked October 4; went into camp, and those who were able went to work on the forts being constructed at that place.
On the 18th of October, the 17th Regiment composed a part of the forces, of Col. Plummer, with which he moved to Fredericktown, where on the 21st of October, Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson was met and defeated. As the 17th Regiment had the advance in this engagement, bore the brunt of the battle and had the enemy about conquered before any other infantry reached the field of battle, it is usually referred to as the "fight of the 17th Boys." Loss: killed, 1; wounded, 20, 1 mortally — Lieut. J. Q. A. Jones, of Co. "C" who died three days after the battle.
In this, the first engagement of the 17th Regiment, Thomas Layton was killed, who, so far as the writer is informed, was the first Illinois soldier killed in battle in the War of the Rebellion. The battle of Fredericktown was but a skirmish compared with those which soon followed. But it was a decided victory for the Union forces, which at that date were not frequent in the west. It gave the members of the regiment confidence in themselves as soldiers, and proved of great advantage in their future operations.
October 23, the regiment started on the return march to Cape Girardeau, where it arrived October 25; November 5 moved out and made demonstration on Bloomfield, and went into camp at "Round Ponds." The next day was moved back to camp. It was afterwards learned that this demonstration was made in order to prevent reinforcements being sent to oppose General Grant while he fought the battle of Belmont. November 29, 1861, Col. Ross of the 17th was assigned to the command of the post of Cape Girardeau. On the 30th of November, sent Lieut. Col. Wood on expedition to Benton with 150 men to chastise guerrillas and protect Union families. December, 1861, was spent in drilling, in holding weekly officers' meetings and discussing various subjects on the efficiency of our soldiers, giving instructions in regard to guard and picket duty, enjoining temperance, pointing out the great danger of intemperance and excess with soldiers, etc. December 14, on invitation of Gen. Grant, embarked on steamer Illinois with Companies "A" and "B" for Cairo, to attend a review of the troops at that place. December 16 attended review and inspection at Bird's Point, Missouri, and Fort Holt, Kentucky. On December 18 there was review and inspection of the troops at Cape Girardeau by Generals Sweeney, Sturgis and Van Rensselaer. The month of January, 1862, the regiment encamped still at Cape Girardeau, was engaged in drilling, strengthening the defenses of the place and making preparation for more active service. Several expeditions were sent out from the Cape into the interior in pursuit of bands of Gen. Thompson's forces. January 15, three expeditions were sent out, one to Benton in command of Major Smith, one to Bloomfield under Capt. Murdock and the third to Dallas in command of Maj. Rawalt. January 25, Col. Wood and Maj. Smith Went again on expedition, the first with 200 infantry, the latter with
186200 cavalry, to go to Benton and below to capture guerrillas who had been firing on passing steamers.
February 8, 1862, the 17th Regiment was ordered to break camp and proceed by boat to Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Arrived there and disembarked, went into camp; on the 11th received orders to take two days' rations and leave all tents and camp equipage in charge of a camp guard, and report to Gen. John A. McClernand, commanding the right division of the advance on Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.
On the 12th, arrived within view of the outer defenses of Donelson. Col. Ross and Lieut. Col. Wood being absent, Maj. F. M. Smith was in command of the regiment. The brigade, consisting of the 17th, 48th and 49th Illinois Regiments, Infantry, and Capt. McCallister's Battery was commanded by Col. William Morrison of the 49th Regiment.
On the 13th, Gen. McClernand ordered the brigade to make an assault on the enemy's works, with a view of capturing a battery which had been annoying our troops very much. After charging up to within a few yards of the works, it was found impossible to get inside; the order was given by Gen. Grant to withdraw, which was done in good order under a severe fire of shot and shell from the battery. Col. Morrison was severely wounded while on his horse leading the charge; loss of the 17th regiment was quite severe. February 14 the 17th regiment was under fire all day; during the afternoon it rained and by night turned quite cold, and by morning of the 15th there was two inches of snow on the ground, much to the discomfort of the troops. While in line waiting for orders, the regiment was a target for the gunners in the fort, who got such good range that the second shell killed four men in the four right companies and wounded two others.
Company "A" and "B" were sent on the skirmish line, and the regiment was moved to the left, without ordering in the skirmishers; they were cut off by some rebel cavalry and several captured. The enemy attempted to cut their way out and were successful in driving the right of our line back, but with reinforcements the lost ground was all retaken.
Col. Ross returned and was assigned to command of the brigade and directed to report to Gen. Lew Wallace at the front. After so reporting, the 17th and balance of the brigade supported Gen. Wallace under severe fire and protected his left flank while the last fight was made on Saturday night prior to the surrender.
Sunday, February 16, the 17th regiment was in line ready for the general assault, which was to be made all along the line, when, to the joy of all, a messenger came galloping up with the information that the enemy had surrendered to General Grant. The regiment was soon inside the works. The loss of the regiment was: killed, 14; wounded, 58; captured, 7; total, 79.
From date of surrender on the 16th of February to 4th of Starch, remained in camp at Fort Donelson. In the meantime was brigaded with the 43d, 29th and 49th Illinois Infantry and McCallister's and Schwartz's Battery, Col. Ross commanded. March 4th, started to march to Mineral Landing on the Tennessee River; March 6th, embarked on the steamer Minnehaha and arrived at Savannah, Tennessee, March
18714th. On the 18th moved out on an expedition to Pinhook, twenty-five miles southeast of Savannah to destroy flour being ground for rebels at mill five miles from town; destroyed considerable flour and then distributed 150 sacks among the poor of that vicinity. Then returned to Savannah where arrived at 10:00 a. m. on the 80th of March, and there received orders to move further south at 9:00 o'clock a. m. on the 21st. High winds delayed the embarkation till night, when the entire brigade was on board of four steamers which landed at Pittsburg Landing and went into camp about two miles from landing on the morning of the 23d of March, 1862. The 17th regiment was assigned to the First Division, commanded by General John A. McClernand, and was brigaded with the 29th, 43d and 61st Illinois regiments. Col. Ross being unavoidably absent, the brigade was commanded by Col. Raith of the 43d Illinois. On Sunday morning, April 6, the battle of Shiloh opened; the 17th regiment was ordered to support Taylor's Battery, located near Shiloh Church, on the left of General Sherman's Division. All day long the battle raged; the regiment with others was driven back step by step until 4:00 p. m., when General Grant succeeded in getting his lines more compact and checking the advance.
On Monday morning, the 7th, a general advance was ordered and the fight opened early, fierce and furious; the enemy was gradually driven back and by nightfall the 17th regiment had regained possession of their camp which had been abandoned Sunday morning. The loss of the regiment in the two days was: killed, 16; wounded, 114.
The regiment remained near Pittsburg Landing till April 25, when it moved five miles south to Camp Stanton; then on the 28th to Camp Tecumseh, four miles further on the road to Corinth. May 5, encamped near Monterey. The regiment was now in the memorable advance on Corinth, where General Halleck was in command, which continued to May 31, when it was discovered that the enemy had evacuated the place and the Union forces moved in and took possession.
Among the changes in field officers up to this time were the following:
Col. Leonard F. Ross promoted to Brigadier General, April 25, 1862.
Capt. Addison S. Norton, Co. "A," promoted Colonel.
Lieut. Col. Enos P. Wood, resigned, April 19, 1862.
Maj. Francis M. Smith promoted Lieutenant Colonel.
Capt. Frank F. Peats, Co. "B," promoted Major, April 23, 1862.
After several moves, the regiment was stationed at Jackson, Tennessee, where, July 10, 1862, it was brigaded with the 43d, 48th, 49th and 61st Illinois Infantry and 12th Michigan. July 18, 1862, regiment with entire brigade removed to Bolivar, Tennessee, where Gen. Ross was in command of the post and all the forces stationed there. Here was a long line of railroad to guard; scouting parties were sent out almost daily to keep advised of the movements of the enemy. This was continued until in November, 1862, the regiment was moved to LaGrange, Tennessee; thence to Daviss Mills, Holly Springs, Abbyville and Oxford, Mississippi. The 17th was distributed along the railroad guarding the bridges.
December 20, Gen. Van Dorn captured Holly Springs and destroyed the large accumulation of munitions of war, food and forage, thus
188cutting off communication with the north. The campaign was abandoned, the troops returning to Holly Springs and LaGrange. The 17th regiment assembled at Abbyville December 86, and arrived at Holly Springs next day and was transferred from Gen. Logan's to Gen. John McArthur's Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, commanded by Gen. James B. McPherson.
Left Holly Springs on the 39th to Moscow and went into camp at Collierville, Tennessee, January 2. January 12, marched to Memphis and encamped in the navy yard, guarding Government property and doing provost duty until January 18, embarked on steamer for the Vicksburg campaign.
January 25, arrived at Youngs Point, Louisiana. February 1, embarked on steamer for Lake Providence, Louisiana, where went into camp, remaining there until April 30. During the time while at Lake Providence, the regiment went on frequent expeditions up the river and out through the country for forage and were engaged in several skirmishes.
While the regiment was encamped at Lake Providence, Adjutant General Lorenzo D. Thomas came down the river for the purpose of organizing colored regiments and several members of the 17th Illinois Infantry were selected as officers for the two regiments being formed at this time. Sergt. Maj. Frank Bishop, Color Sergt. Robert M. Campbell, Corporal William M. Voris were commissioned as officers in the 47th United States Colored Infantry and W. T. Sullivan and C. R. Berry were commissioned as officers in the 48th United States Colored Infantry.
Just prior to leaving Lake Providence, an order had been issued transferring the regiment from Gen. McArthur's Division to Gen. Logan's Division, and in order to gain time, before the order had been promulgated, the 17th Illinois Infantry was sent up the river near Greenville, Mississippi, to drive some guerrillas away who were annoying passing boats at that point; we were gone several days, but on our return to Lake Providence, found an order for the regiment to join Gen. Logan's Division at once, this Division having left a few days before, so on April 30 we embarked on boat for Milliken's Bend and disembarked the same evening, and on May 1 took up our line of march for Grand Gulf by way of Perkin's Plantation and Hard Times Landing. Arrived at Hard Times Landing May 4 and the same evening the regiment was ferried across the river to Grand Gulf, Mississippi. On landing, Col. Green B. Raum. of the 56th Illinois Infantry commanding post, delayed us here until May 14 for the purpose of assisting in unloading and forwarding ammunition and supplies for the army in front: on this date, the regiment again started on its march to join the 3d Division, 17th Army Corps. The regiment came up to the Division during the battle of Black River Bridge on May 17. On the 18th we crossed Black River and were ordered to report to Gen. Smith, commanding 1st Brigade. 3d Division, 17th A. C.; reported about 10:00 o'clock that night to Gen. Smith, who informed Maj. F. F. Peats, commanding regiment, that he had more troops than he could use on his part of the line, that they were three lines deep at that time. On 19th, reported to Gen. John A. Logan in person, and explained situation of the regiment; Gen. Logan ordered
189the regiment to the left of his Division, saying at the same time he would place the regiment in person, and that it would be the post of honor, being the nearest troops to the enemy's works. Our position was close up to Fort Hill on the Jackson Road and some distance in front of our batteries which threw shot and shell over our heads into the rebel works. The regiment held this position for some time after the charge on the enemy's works on the 22d of May, but owing to an accident caused by a defective shell bursting that was being fired over us from Capt. Bolton's Battery, Chicago Light Artillery, and severely wounding one member of the regiment, we were ordered to the rear of the battery.
In the charge on the enemy's works on the 22d of May, the 17th Illinois Infantry was selected by Gen. Logan as skirmishers for the 3d Division, driving in the enemy's outposts at an early hour and holding an advanced position until the storming column was formed, and when repulsed, falling back and maintaining the same line as originally formed before the assault; this line was held by the regiment until relieved by other troops about 3:00 p. m. After the failure of this assault, the regiment was continually under fire until the surrender of Vicksburg, July 4. When Gen. Logan was ordered to occupy and take possession of the city with one brigade of his Division (1st Brigade, 3d Division, 17th A. C.), he took with him the 17th Illinois Infantry (3d Brigade, 3d Division, 17th A. C.) as an appreciation of services during siege. Loss during the siege of Vicksburg, 9 killed and 34 wounded. During the siege, the 17th Illinois Infantry was attached to 3d Brigade, 3d Division, 17th A. C. The 3d Brigade was commanded by Gen. John D. Stevenson, a good, brave and efficient officer, ably assisted by Capt. Frank Whitehead, his A. A. A. General. After the capture of Vicksburg, the regiment did provost duty and was on several scouting expeditions, both in Mississippi, and Louisiana, until February 3, 1864, when the regiment started with Gen. Sherman on his Meridian expedition. At and near Clinton, Mississippi, the 17th regiment being in the advance, had quite a little skirmish with the enemy, which earlier in the war might be termed quite a severe engagement, but here General Hurlbut's Corps took the advance and kept it until we occupied Meridian, Mississippi. Here the regiment rested for a few days and then began the return to Vicksburg. While at Meridian, the regiment had some prisoners captured while on a foraging expedition, the only ones captured from the regiment when on duty during their terms of service — seven in all as reported.
After returning to Vicksburg, March 1, the regiment was scouting and doing garrison duty until May 20, when the regiment was ordered to Springfield, Illinois, to be mustered out of service.
At this time a number of the 17th who had enlisted as veterans were left at Vicksburg and afterwards consolidated with the 8th Illinois Infantry Volunteers.
List of Officers of the 17th Regiment Mustered Out with the Regiment June, 1864.
Francis M. Smith, Lieutenant Colonel.
Frank F. Peats, Major.
Charles B. Tompkins, Surgeon.
Wilbur P. Buck, Assistant Surgeon.
Rev. S. A. Kingsbury, Chaplain.
Henry S. Smith, Quartermaster.
William H. Struthers, Sergeant Major.
William H. Schell, Quartermaster Sergeant.
George B. Millard, Commissary Sergeant.
John R. McDowell, Hospital Steward.
John W. Wonder, Musician.
Addison Fillmore, Musician.
Gawn Wilkins, 2d Lieut.
John A. Collier, 1st Lieut.
Thomas McFarland, 2d Lieut.
Chauncey Black, Captain.
James B. Rowley, 1st Lieut.
Cyrus Allen, 3d Lieut.
Henry H. Bush, Captain.
Edward C. Robbins, 1st Lieut.
Henry K. Stewart, 2d Lieut.
William J. Merrill, Captain.
David Clough, 1st Lieut.
John H. Wells, 2d Lieut.
Josiah Moore, Captain.
Charles C. Williams, 1st Lieut.
Jonathan H. Rowell, Captain.
Henry D. Clark, 1st Lieut.
William W. Hull, Captain.
William C. Stockdale, 1st Lieut.
William E. Yarnell, 2d Lieut.
William A. Lorimer, Captain.
Theodore Glancy, 1st Lieut.
Jacob Wheeler, Captain.
James H. Mitchell, 1st Lieut.
George E. Buck, 2d Lieut.