Civil War: October 1862, Morgan’s Raiders meet Will County

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“Notorious guerrilla” Col. John Hunt Morgan, leader of Morgan’s Raiders

By Sandy Vasko

October 1862 saw the Will County boys heavily engaged in battle, especially the 64th and the 100th. Our story today will start on the home front.

George Woodruff, in his book, “Fifteen Years Ago or the Patriotism of Will County,” tells of one group of men who, while supplying the needs of our soldiers, also hoped to make a little money from the venture. These kinds of men were called sutlers.

“During this month (October 1862), some of our citizens, Caswell, Morgan and Bush, who were trying to supply the wants of the 100th, in the way of notions, tobacco, eatables, and some other things which Uncle Sam did not include in the regular rations, had a rather unhappy experience, which I believe disgusted them with the calling of sutlers.

“The notorious guerrilla, John Morgan, had the impudence to disregard the dignified neutrality of Kentucky, and gobbled up a government train, to which our friends had attached their wagons, on the way out from Louisville to the 100th. Morgan confiscated all their goods, made a bonfire of the wagons, and appropriated the horses to his own use. Our friends returned, sadder, wiser, but not as they had hoped, richer men.”

Another civilian from Will County got to meet Morgan as well. “Calvin Knowlton, had an introduction to the notorious Col. Morgan about this time. Happening to be at Louisville, he was invited by a brother railroad official to take a trip to Nashville. Being a little curious to see how things looked at the front, he accepted the invitation, and took passage on a train, not apprehending any trouble, as our forces now had possession as far south as Nashville.

“But after they had got along nearly to Cave City, the engineer was obliged to stop the train, on account of a pile of ties which had been thrown on the track; and no sooner had the train stopped than it was surrounded by a lot of men, who seemed to spring out of the ground, and who carried those ugly looking weapons called six-shooters, and who ordered the passengers to get out of the cars forthwith an order which was obeyed without parley.

“Every man who had the misfortune to wear military clothes was taken prisoner. Everything except private property was confiscated. The train was set on fire and burned up, except one old car and engine with which the citizens were allowed to return to Louisville. Col. Morgan was extremely polite, but he didn’t care anymore for railroad officials than anybody else.”

The 100th, still a pretty green regiment, also got a look at Morgan’s raiders. They went into camp near Walnut Grove Kentucky, and were ordered to the picket line. Woodruff continues the story: “They were warned that Morgan was rumored to be near. Nothing of note occurred until in the gray of the morning, when an officer, who was supposed to be the inspector of the line, rode up to the left of the line, and asked for the officer in charge.

“Lieut. Nelson responded. The officer then gave his orders to the lieutenant to keep a sharp lookout, as there were rebels about. He also told the lieutenant that ‘we’ had some cavalry in front, and if they should be driven in, they must be careful and not fire at our own men. The officer then rode down the line and disappeared.

“Very soon from over the hill came the sound of officers giving commands, as if troops were forming, and in a few minutes a company of cavalry came dashing up in front of the picket line, and formed in handsome style only a few rods off. They presented a handsome appearance, riding splendid horses, the men all wearing U. S. overcoats and hats.

“As soon as they had formed their line, they advanced toward the fence, and an officer dismounted and commenced laying down the fence. One of our boys caught a glimpse of some “butternut” (butternut, not gray was the color of most Confederate uniforms) under the U. S. overcoat, and sang out “Rebels! Rebels!” But the officer still laying down the rails, cried out, “don’t fire, don’t fire, we are friends.

“One Johnny Sarver, who saw the butternut and was determined not to be fooled, drew a bead on the officer and fired, wounding him and killing his horse. The rebels, for such they were, no longer attempted to conceal their character but fired a volley from their carbines at our men and turned to run, taking the wounded men along.

“One man of our regiment, James S. Connor, of Co. H, was slightly wounded. Here then was the first blood drawn from the enemy by the 100th, and also the first blood shed by the regiment in the good cause.”

Meanwhile the 64th Illinois, filled with a good many Will County soldiers was at the second battle of Corinth (Mississippi) which pitted Rosecrans’ troops on the Union side against Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s troops on the Confederate side. A private from Company E wrote home after the battle describing it:

“I am safe and sound after the great battle of Corinth, fought Friday and Saturday. The enemy attacked us 50,000 strong, under Price, VanDorne and Villipugue. The first day’s fighting was terrible, but nothing to the next.

“We were out in the woods, three companies of us. Our men were driven in and the rebs attacked the reserve. We fought about an hour; at last they came so fast that we had to retreat behind our breastworks. We went out with 42 men, (referring to Co. E) and when we got back, had but 21. Serg’t Henry Clark, from Lockport, is killed. Peter Brown from Channahon, Mike McGalligut and Geo. Rouse are killed. Messrs. Coyles, Casey and Tom Garlish, from Lockport, are wounded. Captain David Grover from Joliet was also killed.”

The same soldier writing again on the 16th, talks about “lifting” his comrades. During the heat of battle, men were buried on the field, and then later, after the fighting stopped, they were lifted out of their makeshift graves to be sent to their final resting place.

“We had a job yesterday of lifting our little orderly who had been buried ten days without a coffin. We will have to lift our captain today.”


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