Civil War: November, 1862 – of Mules and Men

Shoeing a mule became an important task for the Union.
Shoeing a mule became an important task for the Union.

By Sandy Vasko

November of 1862 saw most of the Will County regiments starting for winter camps. The heavy fighting had eased a bit.

The 20th found themselves in Mississippi, marching from place to place, with no heavy action. The 39th was quartered near Suffolk, Virginia, having only occasional heavy skirmishes with the enemy. The 64th was ordered to Glendale, Mississippi, where it was stationed on outpost duty engaged in hunting guerillas and erecting fortifications. McAllister’s Battery was also in Mississippi with Grant’s first Vicksburg campaign near Bolivar. They then went into La Grange, then on to Memphis.

The 100th had had a hard time of it in Kentucky. October had seen 12 men sent to the hospital and another 171 reported at sick call. On November 1st, they reached Glasgow, where they camped on the fair grounds. Here they received their mail. On the 4th, they started toward Cave City, where 16 more men were sent to hospital.

Soon they were in Tennessee. When the 100th crossed officially into “Dixie,” all of the 100th gave a great hurrah. At this point, Woodruff introduces us to two “things” that became necessary for the North to win the war — mules and escaped slaves.

George Woodruff, writing in 1876 in his book, “15 Years Ago, Will County in the Civil War,” writes, “Almost immediately upon the entrance of the regiment upon the sacred soil of Kentucky, they had made the acquaintance of two classes of vertebrates, which played an important part in the war of the rebellion. I mean the mule, and the contraband (escaped slaves). I wish it distinctly understood that I mean no disrespect to either, in thus classing them together. I do so simply because in the experience of the 100th, they came together, and because, although each deserves a separate chapter in our history, yet the necessities of brevity forbid.

“Occasional specimens of both had been seen here at the north before the war. Now and then a man had ventured to ride a mule, or to drive a span through the streets. And we had had frequent glimpses of the contraband, as the naughty abolitionists transported them through on the underground railroad. But in Kentucky both were seen in their glory.

“One of the first lessons it became necessary for the boys to learn was how to subsist, and how to manage a mule team, and how to keep the mules from chewing up at night the wagon and its contents, which they had so patiently drawn through the day. Another lesson on which they studied long and hard, but which I do not suppose this or any other regiment ever learned perfectly, was how to tell when a mule was going to kick; but they never found any difficulty in telling when a mule had kicked! Without the mule, I do not see how the war could ever have been conducted, as no other animal could have endured the labor and deprivation incident to the transporting of the impedimenta of an army through a

country that had already felt the devastating effects of war.

“We turn our attention to the contraband, between whom and the mule there were many points of resemblance. Neither had any rights which a white man is bound to respect. Both had from time immemorial been the subjects of prejudice and abuse, and both have exhibited the most wonderful patience under such abuse, although both have occasionally been known to kick. Both have a wonderful capacity for music, and delight in exhibiting their powers, ‘oft in the stilly night.’ Both came to be recognized at last as important instrumentalities to be employed in the service of the Union, although I fear that there are many still left, even here at the north, who are not willing that the contraband should have, a fair chance to prove his claims to manhood. Some, I suspect, are afraid of being outstripped in the race, if the negro is permitted to enter the lists on an equal footing.”

Meanwhile, back at home, yet another regiment was forming, the 90th or Irish Regiment. Its rank and file were mostly Irishmen or Irish-Americans. It mustered into service in October 1862. Four of its companies were organized in Cook County, and one each in Winnebago, Jo Daviess, Boone and LaSalle, while two companies were from Will County.

Woodruff tells its early history this way: “As may be imagined, a thousand Irishmen could not be got together without having some restive ones; and to bring so many men, who had heretofore regulated their movements by their own sweet will alone, into proper regard for the discipline of the camp, was not an easy task.

“Under this restlessness many deserted. An officer had to be sent to the city every day to hunt up the missing ones. The captains with suitable details had to take their turn at this duty. It will be easily understood, that it was no easy task to get one thousand Irishmen all aboard of a railway train, at the same time, and keep them there until the train left.

“This labor was performed by company C, and cheerfully done, although they had been on duty all night, and the day previous. Some little excitement had been created by the burning of a portion of the camp buildings on the eve of their departure. The 90th broke camp at Chicago, Nov. 27th, and went to the front via Cairo, Columbus and Grand Junction.”

As the winter of 1862/63 approached, the Will County regiments headed for winter camp. The 20th, Will County’s first regiment to enter the War, found themselves in Mississippi. They marched from Holly Springs, crossed the Tallahatchie, marched to Oxford, then on Christmas Eve, returned to the Tallahatchie.

The 39th remained in Virginia, taking part in several small skirmishes, but in general, spending their time guarding railroad cars, although on one occasion it aided in the capture of two pieces of artillery.

The 64th, arriving in Glendale, Mississippi, was engaged in hunting guerillas and scouting, and would remain there for nearly one year. We have little record of what they did, but one remarkable thing did happen: Capt. James Cameron, of Ottawa, organized a regiment of cavalry from the loyal Union men living in the area. They became known as the 1st Alabama Cavalry, southern fighters for the Union cause.

Capt. Cameron commanded the unit until his death in April of 1863. Phillip Steinberg, from Wilmington also joined the 1st Alabama, was promoted to Captain, serving with them until his death in October of 1863.


July 2024
August 2024
September 2024
October 2024
No event found!
Prev Next