Sunday, August 18, 2013

Illinois in the Civil War

Illinois in the Civil War

During the Civil War, the State of Illinois ranked 4th (behind New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio) in total soldiers serving in the Union military.

to the 1860 U.S. census, Illinois, a free state, had a population of 1,711,951. During the conflict, 256,297 Illinois men served in the Union army and as a result the state suffered 34,834 killed and several thousands more wounded. According to The Union Army, "the losses among the Illinois troops, the computation being made on the basis of the whole number of men furnished by the state, one in 20 was killed in battle or died of wounds; one in 11.2 died of disease."

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Illinois was a major source for troops (particularly for those armies serving in the Western Theater of the Civil War), military supplies, food and clothing for the Union Army. Situated near major rivers and railroads, Illinois was a vital region early in the war for Ulysses S. Grant's efforts to seize control of the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers. Illinoisans in various factories and mills, as well as the port and stockyards, helped provide a steady source of materiel, food, and clothing to the Union war effort. Mound City foundry workers converted river steamboats into armored gunboats for Federal service. With traditional Southern markets cut off by the war, the port of Chicago rose in prominence as Illinois expanded trade with the Great Lakes region.

Beginning with Illinois resident President Lincoln's initial call for troops, the state mustered 150 infantry regiments, which were numbered from the 7th Illinois to the 156th Illinois. Seventeen cavalry regiments were also mustered, as well as two light artillery regiments. Although there was a high response to the voluntary calls to arms, the military draft was a factor in supplying manpower to Illinois regiments late in the war. Illinois troops fought predominantly in the Western Theater, although a few regiments played important roles in the East, particularly in the Army of the Potomac. Several thousand Illinoisans were killed or died of their wounds during the war, and a number of national cemeteries were established in Illinois to bury their remains.

There were no Civil War battles fought in Illinois, but Cairo, at the juncture of the Ohio River with the Mississippi River, became an important Union supply base, protected by Camp Defiance. Other major supply depots were located at Mound City and across the Ohio River at Fort Anderson in Paducah, Kentucky, along with sprawling facilities for the United States Navy gunboats and associated river fleets. One of which would take part in the nearby Battle of Lucas Bend.

Leading major generals with Illinois ties included Ulysses S. Grant, John Buford, John Pope, John M. Schofield, John A. Logan, John A. McClernand, Benjamin Prentiss and Stephen Hurlbut. Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth, who began his career in the 8th Illinois Cavalry, died at the Battle of Gettysburg. President Lincoln maintained his home in Springfield, Illinois, where he is buried. More than 100 soldiers from Illinois units would be awarded the Medal of Honor during the conflict.

The Union Army states," The splendid record made by the volunteers from Illinois could not have been accomplished, however, but for their gallant and able leadership. The state gave to the nation and the world not only the illustrious Lincoln, but the great commander-in-chief, Gen. Grant, who led her armed hosts to final victory. Eleven other major-generals of volunteers were credited to Illinois, namely: John Pope, John A. McClernand, Stephen A. Hurlbut, Benjamin M. Prentiss, John M. Palmer, Richard J. Oglesby, John A. Logan, John M. Schofield, Napoleon B. Buford, Wesley Merritt, Benjamin H. Grierson and Giles A. Smith. Twenty of those who started out as commanders of regiments were promoted to brevet major-generalship; 53 — excluding those named above — rose to be brigadier-generals, and 120 attained the rank of brevet brigadier-generals. The state was equally well served by the staff officers and aides-de-camp appointed therefrom, headed by the brave and efficient Gen. John A. Rawlins."

Throughout the Civil War the Republicans were in control, under the firm leadership of Governor Richard Yates. The Democrats, however, had a strong Copperhead element that opposed the war and tried in local areas to disrupt the draft. In Chicago, Wilbur F. Storey made his Democratic newspaper the Chicago Times into Lincoln's most vituperative enemy. See also Illinois and the Civil War (1861-1865).

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