History of the 7th Illinois Infantry
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Illinois having sent six regiments to the Mexican war, by courtesy the numbering of the regiments which took part in the war for the Union began with number seven. A number of regiments which responded to the first call of the President for troops claimed to be the first regiment in the field, but the honor of being the first was finally accorded to Col. John Cook, and hence his regiment was numbered seven. The Seventh regiment was recruited as follows: Company A from Elgin and vicinity; Company B, Mattoon and vicinity; Company C, Aurora and vicinity; Company D, Litchfield and vicinity; Company E, Atlanta and vicinity; Company F, Bunker Hill and vicinity; Company G, Springfield and vicinity; Company H, Lincoln and vicinity; Company I, Springfield and vicinity; Company K, Carlinville and vicinity.
The regiment was mustered into the United States service at Camp Yates April 25, 1861, by Captain John Pope, U.S.A. Was forwarded to Alton, St. Louis, Cairo and Mound City, where it remained during the three months service.
Was reorganized and mustered for three years service July 25, 1861, by Captain T. G. Pitcher, U.S.A. Proceeded to Ironton, Missouri, and joined the command of Brigadier General B. M. Prentiss. August 23, 1861, marched to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where it remained some time, Colonel Cook commanding Post. The regiment went into winter quarters at Fort Holt, Ky., Colonel Cook commanding Post. The garrison consisted of a brigade – Seventh and Twenty-eighth Illinois and McAllister’s battery. General Grant commanded the District of Cairo.
Was with the reconnoitering expedition, under General Grant, in the rear of Columbus, Ky.
During the battle of Belmont was sent to Elliott’s Mills, just above Columbus. On February 3, 1862, embarked for Fort Henry, and on the 12th for Fort Donelson, taking part in the investment and siege of that place, February 13, 14 and 15, and was engaged in the last charge of the left of the enemy’s works. At Donelson the regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Babcock, Colonel Cook commanding Third Brigade Second Division, Major General C. F. Smith commanding. Loss three killed, including the gallant Captain Mendell of Company I, and nineteen wounded.
February 21, 1862, left Fort Donelson for Clarksville, Tenn., Major Rowett commanding, Lieutenant Colonel Babcock absent, sick, and Colonel Cook commanding Brigade. Ordered to Nashville, and afterwards to Pittsburg Landing, where it arrived March 22, 1862. Was engaged continually, April 6 and 7, at the battle of Shiloh, under command of Lieut. Col. Rowett, Col. Babcock being absent, sick, and Colonel Cook having been promoted to Brigadier General on the 2nd of March; was a part of Colonel Sweeny’s Brigade of General W. H. L. Wallace’s Division; went into action between 9 and 10 o’clock April 6th, and first took possession at Duncan’s Field and drove the enemy in its front across the field but was in turn driven back; and when the Division Commander, General W. H. L. Wallace, was killed and the Brigade Commander, Colonel T. W. Sweeny, was wounded and taken off the field, Lieutenant Colonel Rowett obtained permission from General McClernand to form on his left and become a part of his line, where his horse was killed in a charge on the enemy. The Seventh was in the line that repulsed the last charge of the enemy on the night of the 6th, when it was advanced to a picket line and remained there until relieved by General Buell’s command near daylight next morning. It went into action before noon on the 7th, and was hotly engaged when the enemy retreated at 3 o’clock P.M. In this battle the regiment lost, in killed, 2 commissioned officers and 15 men; wounded 79. Lieutenant Colonel Rowett was among the latter.
Was engaged up to May 30th with Third Brigade, Second Division, and in center of right wing, moving upon Corinth – meanwhile having several skirmishes with the enemy. On evacuation of Corinth, May 30, by the enemy, the regiment marched to Farmington and Booneville, Mississippi,
repairing roads and bridges, and returned to Corinth, June 11, 1862. At battle of Corinth, October 3 and 4, 1862, the regiment was engaged both days, entire, on right of Third Brigade, and still in Second Division. Colonel Babcock was in command. On 5th October marched in pursuit of enemy as far as Ruckerville, and returned on 10th. Loss at Corinth – 2 commissioned officers and 6 men killed, and 46 wounded. Also, 21 prisoners, who have since been exchanged and returned to duty. December 18, marched to Lexington, Missouri, in pursuit of guerrillas.
February 28th, 1863, Colonel Andrew J. Babcock resigned and retired from the service, when Lieutenant Colonel Richard Rowett was promoted Colonel, to rank from that date.
April 15, 1863, marched with General Dodge’s command through Iuka, Glendale and Burnsville to Bear Creek, on the Alabama line. On 17th, deployed as skirmishers, drove the enemy from the creek, and, as soon as the cavalry had crossed, companies C and K pushed forward at a double quick in support of a battery. The remainder of the brigade then crossed, and, moving forward to Cherokee, engaged the rebels. The Seventh, on the right, killed 12 of the enemy and captured two prisoners. At dark retired, and next morning moved back to Bear Creek.
April 25, again moved forward to Tuscumbia, and the same evening to South Florence, joining the Ninth Illinois (mounted) Infantry. The next day moved with main column to Town Creek. April 28th, crossed Town Creek and drove the enemy three miles, and remained on the ground during the night with the Second Iowa Infantry. On 29th, recrossed and returned to Corinth with the command, arriving May 2. Loss, during this expedition, one man killed – accidentally shot.
May 12 to June 8, 1863, guarded railroad from Bethel to Jackson, Tennessee. June 18, mounted, by order of Major General Dodge, and the remainder of the month was scouting through West Tennessee. July 7 to 9, on scout. July 26 to August 5, on expedition under command of Colonel Rowett, of the Seventh, capturing 42 prisoners, including one Colonel and two Captains, and many horses and mules. Lost one man, accidentally killed. Again went out, together with 100 men of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry. Had several skirmishes, and captured 20 prisoners. September 26, commenced a four days’ expedition with the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, Colonel Rowett in command. Had some very brisk skirmishes, and captured 30 prisoners and several horses and mules. October 4, relieved Eighteenth Missouri at Chewalla, and was again relieved on the 28th.
October 26, proceeded to Iuka. Here guarded approaches until the 6th of November, when marched to East Point, and, crossing the Tennessee river, moved on flanks of Dodge’s command, capturing horses, etc., and fighting guerrillas until November 12, when camped at Pulaski. November 17th to 19th, scouted to and beyond Lawrenceburg, capturing 30 prisoners. December 10, ordered on scout toward Shreve Creek and Florence, Alabama.
The Seventh Infantry re-enlisted as Veterans at Pulaski, Tennessee, December 22, 1863, and was mustered in January 6, 1864, and left immediately for Illinois, to receive 30 days furlough. Arrived at Springfield, January 18, 1864. Received an enthusiastic reception from the citizens. Quartered in Representatives Hall until next day, when furloughed. Reassembled Feb. 18, 1864, reinforced by 200 recruits. Left Camp Butler for Pulaski on the 23d, under command of Major Estabrook – Col. Rowett being in command of Camp Butler. Arrived at Pulaski Feb. 27, 1864, where the regiment was mounted, and left for Florence, Alabama, 90 miles distant, to patrol the Tennessee river and watch Forrest’s command, which were just leaving Tuscaloosa, Ala., on the memorable raid on Paducah and Fort Pillow. The regiment was divided into three detachments – four companies at Florence, two companies at Sweet Water, and four at Centre Star.
April 8th, Colonel Rowett returned to the regiment, whose headquarters were at Florence, Alabama, and again assumed command, having been relieved from the command at Camp Butler, at his own request.
On the morning of the 7th of May, General Roddy’s rebel brigade crossed the Tennessee, between Sweetwater and Centre Star, and attacked the companies at Florence and Sweetwater. After six hours severe fighting against ten times their number, the companies were obliged to retire with a loss of three officers and 32 men wounded and captured. On the 13th of May, the 7th returned with the 9th Ohio Cavalry, under command of Colonel Rowett, and drove the rebels across the Tennessee, capturing a number of prisoners. Was engaged in patrolling the river until June 14th, when the regiment was dismounted and ordered to report to the Brigade Commander at Rome, Georgia. Arrived at Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the 17th of June, and was ordered to Tilton, Georgia, to patrol the railroad from Dalton to Resaca, which was then threatened by rebel Cavalry. On July 7th was relieved by the 18th Wisconsin Infantry, and proceeded to Rome, Ga., and went into camp on the south side of Etowa river. On the 29th of July the non-Veteran officers and men was mustered out by reason of expiration of term of service. Capt. Hector Perrin was mustered as Lt. Colonel, and Capt. Edward S. Johnson as Major. On the 3d of October 1864, the 4th Division, 15th Army Corps, (to which the Seventh was attached) commanded by Gen. John M. Corse, was ordered to Allatoona Pass to assist in the defense of that important station, then threatened by Hood’s army. The 3d Brigade, consisting of the 7th, 50th and 57th Illinois, and 39th Iowa, commanded by Col. Rowett, reached the Pass on the morning of October 4th. The railroad being destroyed after the passage of this Brigade, the rest of the Division failed to reach its destination. On the morning of the 5th the Pass was attacked by Gen. French’s rebel Division, numbering six thousand men. The 7th, armed with the Henry rifle (or 16-shooter), did gallant and fearful work – successfully repelling four separate charges made by the desperate and hungry enemy on the line occupied by them – its torn and bleeding ranks told at what a fearful cost. Its colors, under which fell many a gallant bearer that day, were never lowered.
“Let its stained and tattered mass,
Tell the story of the terror and the glory
Of the battle of the Allatoona Pass.”
The brave Capt. Jack Sullivan and Adjutant Robinson fell mortally wounded. Col. Rowett was severely wounded in the head. Thirty-eight men were killed and sixty-seven wounded. The enemy lost two thousand two hundred killed and wounded, and, not able to stand against this gallant little band of defenders in the Pass, they fled, leaving this number on the field. The Seventh, together with all those who assisted in that gallant defense and glorious victory, won never fading laurels, and was highly complimented by the Division Commander and Gen. Sherman, who said: “For the numbers engaged, they stood upon the bloodiest battle-field ever known upon the American continent.” After the battle the regiment returned to Rome, and on the 12th of November, with their Corps, under command of General Osterhaus, joined the Grand Army of Sherman, at Kingston, Georgia, where preparations were being made for the “March to the Sea”.
On the 21st of November the regiment was remounted and detailed as the advance of the 15th Army Corps. On December 22nd, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Perrin, it entered Savannah with Sherman’s victorious columns. Then turning northward, with the army into the campaign of the Carolinas; participated in the battles of Salkahatchie Swamp, Bentonville and Columbia.
While on the march to the sea the regiment was surprised by the appearance of Captain E. R. Roberts, who was captured, with most of his company, May 7th, 1864, at Florence, Alabama. He had effected his escape from the prison pen at Columbia, South Carolina, and by night had traveled 180 miles to join his regiment.
April 20th Colonel Rowett returned from his enforced absence, caused by wounds received at the battle of Allatoona, and again took command of the 3rd Brigade.
After the surrender of General Johnson April 26th, the regiment took up its line of march for home by way of Petersburg, Richmond and Alexandria May 17th, 1865, and took part in the grand review at Washington, when it was ordered to Louisville, Kentucky, where on the 9th of July it was mustered out of the service. The regiment arrived at Springfield July 11th, when it was paid off and discharged.
As a little retrospect it will not be improper to say that the Seventh Infantry takes great pride in the fact that it was the first organized regiment from this Stated and mustered into the United States service in the war that was waged to save the Union, and the first to return to the capital of the State and re-enlist as veterans, as well as being the only regiment in the whole army that purchased its own guns – the Henry rifle, 16-shooters – paying $50 each for them out of their meager pay of $13 per month, thereby increasing their effective force five-fold. Colonel Rowett, who commanded the Seventh the last four hours of the battle of Allatoona, where Sherman had stored millions of rations, while according to all the highest meed of praise for gallant conduct and stubborn courage, insists that without the aid of the 16-shooters, French’s 6000 rebels would have overwhelmed the gallant 1500 of “The Pass”. Colonel Rowett was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General on recommendation of General Sherman, for gallant conduct in this battle.
General Sherman speaking of this battle in his official report, says:
“I esteemed this defense of Allatoona so handsome and important that I made it the subject of a General Order, viz:-No. 86 of October 7, 1864:
“The General commanding avails himself of the opportunity in the handsome defense of Allatoona to illustrate the most important principle of war, that fortified posts should be defended to the last, regardless of the relative numbers of the party attacking or attacked. The thanks of this army are due and are hereby accorded to General Corse, Colonel Tourtellotte, Colonel Rowett, officers and men, for their determined and gallant defense of Allatoona, and it is made an example to illustrate the importance of preparing in time, and meeting the danger, when presented, boldly, manfully and well.
“Commanders and garrisons of the posts along our railroads are hereby instructed that they must hold their posts to the last minute, sure that the time gained is valuable and necessary to their comrades at the fronts.
By order of Major General, W. T. SHERMAN. (Signed) L. M. DAYTON, Aid-de camp.