J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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"On the 24th of April," says Charles B. Kimbell, in his "History of Battery
A," "the steamer 'Baltic,' in passing Cairo, disregarded the blank shot summoning
her to land, when a solid shot was fired across her bow which had the desired ef-
fect. These shots, fired by 'squad one,' under command of Lieutenant John R.
Botsford, were the first fired from a field piece in the war for the Union, and the
first on the banks of the mighty river." Soon after a challenge was received to
"mortal combat" by the Battery, from the Washington Light Artillery of New
Orleans. "The challenge was accepted," writes Kimbell, "but not until the ter-
rible battle of Shiloh did the trial take place, which was decided in our favor."
Visitors to Rosehill Cemetery will recall the beautiful and appropriately designed
monument, erected near the entrance on a commanding elevation, in memory of
the members of Battery A. It is made in the form of a field piece partially hidden
under a flag draped over it, and placed on a pedestal, the whole carved in stone.

Some account will be given here of the various military organizations which
in whole or in part were composed of men from Chicago, and from Cook County
in general. It is quite true that our young men were found in many regiments,

1 Kimbell: "History of Battery A," p. 19.


botli in this state and elsewhere, other than those which will here be mentioned.
An account of the companies and regiments found here will therefore not include
all of the men who, at one time or another, joined the armies of the Union from
Chicago. Indeed some of our people joined the cause of the Confederacy, being
influenced by ties of family relationship or political sympathy with Southern friends
and their cause.

It is a strong temptation for a writer to follow the fortunes of the soldier
boys in their campaigns. Indeed their adventures abound with interesting details,
but for the sake of keeping within proper limits in a work of this kind a lengthy
narrative must be avoided. Therefore only a cursory account of their experi-
ences on their campaigns will be attempted, and only incidents of striking inter-
est mentioned.


Some further details regarding Battery "A" may here be related. The records
of the Chicago Light Artillery, the name by which it was originally known, show
that the organization dated back to 1851, in which year it began its existence, with
Captain James Smith as its chief officer. After the first call made by President
Lincoln for seventy-five thousand volunteers, in April, 1861, all the militia organiza-
tions of the city were filled to their maximum number within three days, and their
services offered to the governor of the state. These troops were accepted by the
governor, and on the night of April 21st, the first body of Illinois troops left the
city bound for Cairo.

The full number required to complete the company was enrolled within twenty-
four hours after the call had been received. The company reached Cairo on the
22d of the month. "Our reception by the citizens," writes C. B. Kimbell, one of
the members of the Battery, "was not the most cordial, and it was plainly evident
that they would have been better pleased if the occupying forces had come from
the opposite direction." The Battery, which had thus far been known as the Chi-
cago Light Artillery, was regularly mustered into the service for three years, "or
during the war," on July 16, 1861, as Battery "A," First Regiment of Illinois
Artillery, and soon after became actively engaged in the campaigns of the western
armies. The Battery took part in the siege and capture of Fort Donelson, and the
bloody battle of Pittsburg Landing, where its losses were severe.

Afterwards the Battery was engaged in the Vicksburg campaign, and with
Sherman's army in Tennessee. General Sherman held a high opinion of the Bat-
tery's services, and in the course of a letter written by him to one of the men of
the battery, who had sent him a present of a "beautifully stitched breast-strap
and martingale," he said, "as Battery 'A' was one of the first to fire a hostile shot
in the war in the great valley of the Mississippi, I hope it will be the last, and
that its thunder tones will in due time proclaim the peace resulting from a war
we could not avoid, but which called all true men from the fancied security of a
former long and deceitful peace."


It is well known that the twelve companies or batteries forming an artillery
regiment are seldom found in service together, as their usefulness in the field is


greatest while on duty separately, either as batteries, usually of six guns, or suc-
tions of batteries. The First Regiment of Illinois Artillery was as usual com-
posed of twelve batteries, but the history of each is quite distinct from those of
the others. The various batteries or companies of this regiment were mustered
in at various times, the earliest one being Battery "A."

The field officers of the First Artillery were J. D. Webster, of Chicago, Colonel,
who served until May 6, 1863; and Captain Ezra Taylor, also of Chicago, who
was promoted to be colonel on the same date. The Rev. Jeremiah Porter, whose
name is often met with in the early annals of Chicago, was the chaplain of the
regiment. Dr. Edmund Andrews was the regimental surgeon.

Company "A," First Illinois Artillery, was mustered in July 16, 1861. Its of-
ficers were almost entirely Chicago men, Charles M. Willard being the first captain.
Company "B" was likewise mostly officered by Chicago men, Ezra Taylor, after-
wards colonel, being the captain.


After the first call of troops was made in April, 1861, the regiment, afterwards
known as the Nineteenth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, was formed at Chicago
with John B. Turchin as its colonel, and Joseph R. Scott as lieutenant-colonel.
The regiment was mustered into the service June 17, 1861. John B. Turchin, the
colonel of this regiment, was a native of Russia, where he received a training in a
military school. He was at first a lieutenant in the Russian army, and afterwards
promoted to higher rank. He distinguished himself particularly as an engineer
officer and planned some important fortifications for the Russian government, but
having become democratic in his views he came to America and located in Chicago.
At the time of the breaking out of the Civil War he was in the employ of the Illi-
nois Central Railroad.

Six of the companies of the Nineteenth were from Chicago, the remaining four
coming from other parts of the state. The regiment, after being mustered in, left
Chicago on the 12th of July, reaching Quincy on the Mississippi river the next
day. It was in service at various places on the river in the state of Missouri,
where it remained until September, when it was ordered to join the army of the

On the 17th of September, the regiment was placed on board the cars of the
Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, and began its eastward journey. While crossing a
river the bridge gave way, precipitating six cars filled with soldiers into the channel
of the river, killing and injuring a large number. There was a greater number of
fatalities in this accident than in any one of the battles in which the regiment was
subsequently engaged. Twenty-five men were killed outright and one hundred and
five injured. Seven of the latter afterwards died of their injuries. In Colonel
Turchin's written account of this disaster he says:

"Out of three companies that suffered most, hardly one company could be
formed. One-third of the arms of those companies were entirely ruined, and
knapsacks, blankets, and accoutrements greatly damaged. One captain and twenty-
four men were killed, and over one hundred men, including one lieutenant, wounded
of whom, perhaps, thirty or forty will not be fit for service. Out of three com-


panics one hundred and thirty men have left the ranks a number hardly possible
to be lost in the most severe battle. I am an old soldier, but never in my life have
I felt so wretched as when I saw by moonlight, niy dear comrades on the miserable
pile of rubbish, below agglomerated cars, and heard the groans of agony from
the wounded."

Many of the soldiers had enlisted from Galena, and after the accident the
mayor of that city, Robert Brand, made a report to a meeting of citizens, in which
he paid a tribute to Colonel T urchin and his wife, both of whom were on the
scene. He said that the wounded men spoke especially of the heroic conduct of
the brave Mrs. Turchin, "how when the dead, dying and mutilated lay in one
mass of ruin ; when the bravest heart was appalled, and all was dismay, this brave
woman was in the water, rescuing the mangled from a watery grave, and tearing
from her person every available piece of clothing to use as bandages for the
wounded." The mayor further declared that this woman was "a fit consort for
the brave Turchin in leading the gallant sons of Illinois to battle."

Detained by this lamentable accident, the regiment did not continue its journey
eastward, but was ordered into service with the western armies. During the fol-
lowing year its field of activity was in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.


At the battle of Stone river, otherwise called the battle of Murfreesboro, the
Nineteenth Illinois gave a good account of itself. On the 2d of January, 1863,
at that battle, General Negley was holding the left of the Army of the Cumberland,
General Rosencrans in chief command, and among the forces under Negley was
the Nineteenth Illinois of which Joseph R. Scott was then the colonel. The fol-
lowing spirited account of the part played by this regiment in the battle is quoted
from Eddy's "Patriotism of Illinois," with some slight changes: "At four o'clock
in the afternoon the fierce cannonading which had prevailed for some time on the
left was accompanied by a deafening crash of musketry, and it was evident that
the battle was renewed in earnest. The enemy advanced three of its divisions and
hurled them against the Union left. The men bravely withstood the onset, but
were literally overwhelmed by superior numbers, and two brigades out of three
standing together were broken to pieces. The third stood its ground for a time,
but in order to save themselves from being surrounded they were obliged to re-

"The Confederate troops were preparing to follow when Negley suddenly ap-
peared with fresh troops from the reserves ranged in line of battle. His practised
eye at once saw the danger unless an almost superhuman effort was made. He
rode rapidly to the front and in his clear voice shouted: 'Who will save the left?'
In an instant came back the reply from the gallant Scott, 'The Nineteenth Illinois !'
'The Nineteenth Illinois it is then; by the left flank, march,' was the command.
Scott put his cap on his sword and shouted, 'Forward !'

"The men advanced with alacrity and fired a volley, after which they fixed
bayonets, and started on that grand charge which saved the day, immortal as the
charge of Balaklava. Into the river they plunged waist deep, although by that
time a whole division of the enemy's troops was disputing the passage, up the


precipitous bank, bristling with bayonets, exposing themselves to the pitiless rain,
against bayonets, shot and shell, regardless of the storm that was tearing through
their ranks, unmindful of the brave fellows falling in the bloody track they made,
they swept on resistless as a Nemesis. At the top of the hill the rebels try to make
a stand, but they are shivered like a glass, as the Nineteenth strikes them. They
hesitate, they stand as if almost dumb with amazement at the terrible charge. Their
ranks waver, they break and flee, the Nineteenth, closely followed by the Eleventh
Michigan and the Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania, pouring destruction through their
fugitive ranks.

"Across the open fields they rush to the protection of their batteries beyond,
but the march of the Nineteenth is like the march of fate. Regardless of the fact
that the field is swept by the battery, they still roll back the foe. Over the corn-
fields, up to the very muzzles of the guns, in spite of their belching fury and sheeted
flame, over the parapet, and the battery belongs to the Nineteenth ! The left is
saved ; the day is ours ; the victory is won ! Thus the Nineteenth made one of
the grandest and most glorious charges of the war."

The regiment lost one hundred and twenty-four men killed and wounded out
of three hundred and forty, the strength of the regiment in that battle. Colonel
Scott was seriously wounded and died from the effects of his wounds some months
afterwards. He was not yet thirty years of age at the time of his death.


At the battle of Chickamauga, in September, 1863, the Nineteenth was heavily
engaged, and lost sixty-two men in killed, wounded and missing. Still later in
the year, at the battle of Missionary Ridge, the Nineteenth was in the line that
made the grand charge upon the heights, and was among the first of the troops
to plant the colors on the summit of the ridge. The losses suffered in the battle
of Missionary Ridge were twenty-five killed and wounded.

On July 9, 1864, the term of service for which the men had enlisted had ex-
pired, and the regiment was mustered out at Chicago.


In a previous chapter an account was given of the brief but brilliant career of
the military company known as the "Ellsworth's Zouaves," or more properly the
"United States Zouave Cadets." A short rehearsal of the history of this company
will be given here as its sequel belongs to the history of our own part in the war.
It will be remembered that there had been a voluntary military organization in
existence in Chicago for some years before the outbreak of the Civil War, called
the "National Guard Cadets." E. Elmer Ellsworth, a young man but little past
twenty-one years of age, had succeeded to the command of this company in 1859,
and had reorganized it entirely, changing its name to that of "United States Zouave
Cadets." A new uniform was adopted, modeled after the famous Zouave corps in
the French army, consisting of a loose jacket of dark blue cloth and red Turkish
trousers. In this picturesque costume the company visited many cities, giving
exhibition drills in which its members had attained to a remarkable degree of


proficiency, and had won much applause everywhere. On the return of the com-
pany to Chicago after its trip it was received with great enthusiasm by the people.
Mayor Wentworth made a speech, and a banquet was provided for its members
at the Briggs House. Soon afterward the company was disbanded.

When President Lincoln issued his first call for troops the Zouaves were reor-
ganized, and were among the first to respond to the call. In due course of time
this company became a part of the Nineteenth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers,
and came under the usual army regulations as to uniforms and drill. Ellsworth,
however, went to New York and there organized a Zouave regiment of which he
became the colonel. It was one of the first regiments to arrive at Washington,
and its brilliant young commander was the first officer to sacrifice his life for his
country. "While passing through Alexandria," says Cook, in "Bygone Days/'
"he caught sight of a rebel flag. Indignant at this flagrant display of disloyalty,
he rushed forward to haul it down, and was shot in the act by its embittered de-
fender. Ellsworth's death under such appealing circumstances gave an indescrib-
able shock to the country, and went far to open Northern eyes to the bitterness of
the struggle before them."

The particulars of this tragedy may be more explicitly related. Ellsworth
had gone up to the roof of the house, the proprietor of which was a man named
Jackson, closely followed by one of his own men, Frank H. Brownell, and had
hauled down the obnoxious flag. While descending the stairs with the flag under
his arm he was shot and instantly killed by Jackson. Brownell, who was near
Ellsworth, shot Jackson immediately afterwards, killing him on the spot. When
Lincoln was informed of the tragedy he directed that the body of the young com-
mander be brought to the White House, where it was laid in the East Room. Mr.
Lincoln was deeply grieved and said as he looked at the cold form lying before
him, "Was it necessary that this sacrifice should be made?" Brownell was at
once hailed everywhere as "Ellsworth's Avenger," and soon afterward a regiment
was called during the recruiting period the "Ellsworth Avengers," later known as
the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers.

"There is little doubt," says Cook, "that in the untimely death of this brilliant
tactician the cause of the Union lost a man who, through the exceptional oppor-
tunities before him, would have risen to high distinction." Ellsworth was the first
officer killed in the Civil War.

It has long been the habit of writers on Chicago history to give Ellsworth's
name in full as Elmer E. Ellsworth. His name was Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth.
He was born in New York State, April 23, 1837. At the breaking out of the
Civil War Ellsworth, as we have already stated, went to New York City and was
active in the formation of a regiment composed principally of firemen, the regiment
being called the New York Fire Zouaves. The uniform adopted was somewhat similar
to that formerly worn by the Chicago company which Ellsworth commanded in
the year before the war. The regiment afterwards became known as the Eleventh
Regiment of New York Volunteers. "The rank and file," says a writer in the
Daily News, "embraced as fine a lot of young men as could be seen under any
flag intelligent, alert, well set up, trained by their former calling to rapid and
strenuous movements, and filled with a bubbling enthusiasm for war."



The Chicago Board of Trade, at a meeting held on July 21, 1862, resolved to
recruit a battery of artillery, to be called the "Board of Trade Battery," to serve
for three years, and that the same be tendered to the government. A bounty of
sixty dollars was offered each man who enlisted, and in order to provide the funds
necessary for the purpose it was resolved that the Board make an appropriation
of ten thousand dollars, and that the members be invited to subscribe to this fund
such amounts as their patriotic feelings might prompt them to do. The members
pledged themselves to any among their employes who should join the battery that ;
on their return with an honorable discharge, they would be reinstated in their
former situations, if within their employers' power, and that all so enlisting should
receive half wages from the Board, until discharged.

In a few davs seventeen thousand dollars had been raised, and the company was
filled by young men, principally in the employ of members of the Board. So sue- i
cessful were these efforts that it was determined to gather recruits to form a com-
plete regiment of infantry, to be called the "Board of Trade Regiment." The
Young Men's Christian Association, through John V. Farewell, tendered five
companies towards making up the required number. In fact throughout the entire
period of the war the Chicago Board of Trade showed the utmost liberality and a "
high degree of patriotic enthusiasm in support of the Union cause.


When the Second Board of Trade Regiment, the Eighty-eighth Illinois Regi-
ment of Volunteers, was formed in August, 1862, John A. Bross was commissioned
captain of Company A. He was a younger brother of William Bross, at that time
one of the owners of the Chicago Tribune. John A. Bross was a lawyer by pro-
fession, practicing in Chicago, and was thirty-six years old when he entered the
army. During his service he took part with his regiment in the battles of Perry-
ville, Murfreesboro' and Chickamauga, and in many other actions of lesser note.

On Governor Yates' call for the recruiting of a colored regiment in Illinois,
Bross resigned his command in the Eighty-eighth to assume the task of forming a
colored regiment, which afterwards was designated the Twenty-ninth Regiment of
United States Colored Troops. Bross was commissioned as Lieutenant-Colonel
in this regiment in April, 1864, and in the following June joined the Army of the
Potomac with his regiment before Petersburg, which at that time General Grant
was besieging. When the famous mine explosion took place on the 30th of July,
the colored troops were ordered to lead the assault through the breach immediately
following the explosion. Colonel Bross was at the head and during the charge
five color bearers were shot down, when the intrepid leader seized the flag and car-
ried it to the top of the ascent, and planted it upon the highest point. When, at
length, it was found that all their efforts were of no avail, and that the attack had
become hopeless, the order was given to retire; and while striving to extricate his
faithful and heroic followers, who had gallantly made the charge under his leader-
ship, he was struck by a ball and killed on the spot.

The death of Colonel Bross was similar in several respects to that of Colonel
Robert G. Shaw, at the head of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Colored Regiment


the year before in the assault on Fort Wagner. Colonel Shaw was a young man
like Colonel Bross, both men being brave and impetuous. Both died in fruitless
attacks while leading colored troops. Shaw's Memorial on Boston Common per-
petuates the memory of Colonel Shaw and his men, but here the parallel fails;
there is no memorial to Colonel Bross in Chicago.


The "Fremont Rifle Regiment," afterwards known as the Thirty-seventh Regi-
ment of Illinois Volunteers, was recruited in Chicago. It was organized by Julius
White, who was at that time collector of customs at Chicago. Three of the com-
panies were composed of men from Chicago, the other companies of the regiment
coming from other sections of the state. One of the companies from Chicago was
called the "Manierre Rifles," Captain John W. Laimbeer; another was called the
"Turner Rifles," Captain Henry N. Frisbie; and the third was a company of
which Ransom Kennicott was the Captain.

The regiment was mustered into the service of the United States on Septem-
ber 18, 1861, and at the same time was presented with a banner of blue silk
containing a portrait of General Fremont, painted by G. P. A. Healy, the well
known portrait artist. Colonel White was presented with a fine black horse by
Chicago business men, and Lieutenant George R. Bell, of Company G, a sash and
sword by the members of the Chicago bar.

The first service of the Thirty-seventh was in Missouri, where it joined the
division of General Pope. In the following spring the regiment became a part
of General Curtis' army, and participated in the hard fought battle of Pea Ridge.
In this battle the regiment suffered heavy losses, out of four hundred and fifty
men who went into action one hundred and thirty-four were killed and wounded.
The men of this regiment withstood five charges in succession from a superior
force of the Confederates, and in the last charge the enemy captured a battery
which the Thirty-seventh at once recaptured in the most gallant manner. The
battle was a Union victory. In this battle Major John C. Black was severely
wounded. In the accounts of this battle it is mentioned that "Oscar Howe, the
little drummer boy of the regiment, although severely wounded, would not leave
the field, but carried ammunition to the men for seven hours, in the midst of shot
and shell. On the return of the regiment to Chicago, he was made an honorary
member of the Board of Trade, and later was sent to the Naval Academy by the

Colonel White was soon after promoted to be Brigadier General for services
at the battle of Pea Ridge, and was transferred to the Department of the Shenan-
doah Valley. The regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Black, at length joined
General Grant's forces in the siege of Vicksburg, and were present at the capitula-
tion of that city. Afterwards it transferred its field of operations to the South-
west. In the spring of 1865, the regiment, having re-enlisted at the expiration

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) → online text (page 16 of 55)