On August 6, 1862 the headline in the Wilmington Independent proclaimed, “GOOD FOR OLD WILL!” It went on to say, “Glorious “little Will” is among the first to answer the call of the President for troops. She now has a full regiment, and we learn the Governor has allowed the companies to be formed into a Will county regiment, to go into camp at Joliet.” The President’s call had been answered, the 100th Regiment was formed.
In the August 20th edition we read, “A general election for officers of the Will County Regiment was held pursuant to adjournment, at the Court House, in Joliet, on Friday last. Everything passed off in good shape. Major Bartleson, of the 20th Regiment Illinois Volunteers, was elected Colonel by acclamation. A. N. Waterman, Esq., of Joliet, was elected Lieut. Colonel, and C. M. Hammond, of the Wilmington Rifles, was elected Major.”
In the same edition we read, “On Saturday last Maj. Hammond, Capt. Gardner and Lieut. McConnell chartered the steamer “Pioneer,” for the purpose of giving the brave volunteers under their command, and their favorite dulcineas, a gala trip down the river (the Kankakee River). A prolonged cheer, a rousing huzza, (such as only a soldier by the side of his sweet-heart can give) wafted a brief adieu to those on shore. Music, under the direction of Fife-Major Young and Major Hammond, Jr., was discoursed in lively martial strains. All were joyous; all were happy!”
But as George Woodruff says in his book Fifteen Years Ago, “But the 100th regiment does not absorb all the interest, or all the volunteers. The “Casey Guards,” Capt. O’Connor’s company, joined the 90th regiment, or Irish Legion. A company was also raised in Lockport by some of the well-known citizens of Irish nationality, which joined the same regiment, under the captaincy of Patrick O’Marah. Our county was represented in this regiment by eight commissioned officers and 140 enlisted men.”
“During the month of August, also, Captain (afterwards Major) Holden, of Frankfort, enlisted some men for the Holden Guards, which became Co. E of the 88th regiment. Some twenty young men of Lockport also enlisted in the Chicago Mercantile Battery, and the 72nd, or 1st Board of Trade regiment, obtained twenty-five men from our county, mostly from the towns of Dupage and Channahon.”
Reading about all the hometown fervor one unnamed volunteer of the 39th Voluntary Infantry stationed in Virginia, wrote back to the Independent, “It gladdens our hearts to hear of the patriotic, manly feelings which are moving our friends at home. The awful truth is just at present staring them in the face for the second time, that our beloved country and her institutions are terrible threatened with destruction.”
“We have felt it ever since the conflict began. In the various changes, victories and reverses of the war, we have not lost sight that the odds, at least in numbers, were against us. But the victories in the West and East seemed to blind the people to the fact, until at last the great reverse at Richmond opened their eyes to the dread reality.”
“They see that we must have reinforcements of men and means, or our cause must perish, and the thousands of lives which have already been lost in the struggle will have been for naught.”
“Did our friends at home know how anxiously we watch the actions of those we have left behind us; it would probably stimulate them to greater exertions. Then, friends of the Union, rally around our glorious standard. Patriots, arise’ your country calls upon you, perhaps for the last time. Our cause must prevail; fill up the companies already started in your midst, and when they are full come and go with us. We are decimated in numbers, but strong in heart.”
And as always, the people of Will County went to work to be sure that their “boys” had what they needed. A new round of fund raisers was kicked off. We read in the Joliet Signal, “Ladies Festival– A festival for the benefit of the 100th regiment, under the auspices of the Ladies, will be held at Young’s Hall in Joliet, on Thursday evening, the 21st inst. A supper is to be contributed, and the funds will be applied to the purchasing of a regimental flag and for hospital stores. Admission 10 cents (about $2.25 today). Supper – Tickets 50 cents (about $11 today). By order of Committee.”
Two young men from Wilmington, friends since childhood, prepared to go to war. Rodney Bowen, only son of Will County pioneer Dr. Albert Bowen, looked to his wife and children. He went to his father for a loan, to keep his family in necessities while he was away at war. His father responded by giving his son $2,000, but taking his collateral out by way of a mortgage on Rodney’s beautiful home on what is now First Street.
Malcolm Neil McClaren Stewart, only son of Peter Stewart, famous Will County abolitionist, had enlisted in the Chicago Dragoon’s at the start of the war, but came home to join the 100 th and help his old friend Rodney Bowen form Company A. He was a seasoned vet now, a man others would look to for leadership, but only elected First Lieutenant in the Company. He had seen the elephant, and knew what was ahead.