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January, 1864 – Looking for a Few Good Men

As 1864 began, most of the Will County men were in winter camp, some were home on furlough after having reenlisted after their first three years of service, while others went home to recruit new faces to fill in the blanks places where fallen comrades had been.

At home the impartial face of the draft was looming over everyone’s head. The Will County Board of Supervisors was doing everything in their power to avoid it. A special committee was appointed. George Woodruff reported on it in his book “Fifteen Years Ago, Will County in the Civil “T he special committee reported in favor of a bounty of $100 (about $1,450 today), to be paid to all who should enlist before the draft; and that the sum of $39,225 (about $568,000 today) should be appropriated for this purpose. Also that Geo. Woodruff, B. F. Russell, H. Howk, of Joliet, and Wm. Gooding, of Lockport, and A. J. McIntyre, of Wilmington, should be a war fund committee, whose duty it should be to sell orders for cash, as many as would be required, at not exceeding ten per cent, discount, and pay the proceeds to those who should be entitled to receive it.”

“This report was adopted. It was also resolved that justice to all the brave men in the field from Will county, (except such as have already received it), and the widows and minor children of such as have died or been killed in the service, required that they should be paid a bounty of sixty dollars;” but it was found that the board had already appropriated all that they legally could.”

Taking advantage of the winter lull in fighting, officers from the front came home to help enlist new recruits. Woodruff tells us, “Capt. (afterwards Major) Logan, enlisted Co. G, with the aid of his lieutenant, Benj. Snyder, for the 64th regiment, or Yates’ Sharpshooters. Thirty-three men for Co. I, were also obtained in this County, and five for Co. K. All recruits had to pass the scrutiny of a medical examination by Dr. McArthur, of the enrolling board.”

Woodruff also reports on a scene which was taking place all over the country. Women were trying to enlist, disguised as men. His delicate description follows:

“On one occasion, a youth of slender form, and delicate but interesting countenance, full-breasted and sinewy, though slight and short, applied for enlistment in Capt. Logan’s company. The applicant was handed over to the surgeon, for the usual examination. The doctor had not proceeded very far in the discharge of his official duties, when the recruit most decidedly declined further examination, and suddenly left, in disgust with the service, (or the preliminary thereto), the doctor advising a radical change of costume. This was very unfortunate for Capt. Logan, who, I presume, thought he had got a very valuable recruit!”

Meanwhile the 100th records the memories of one of the men. “On the 17th, our regiment was called up at four, and ordered to fill their cartridge boxes and get breakfast. There was fighting at the front yesterday. It is said to be only four miles to Longstreet’s line. We are ordered to stay in camp. In the afternoon we hear firing at the front which continues until after dark. We are ordered to be ready at a moment’s notice.”

“After dark we “fall in,” supposing that we are to cross the “French Broad,” which is but a little way off. But we soon find that we are taking the same road we had come on. We think we are going Illinois Voluntary Infantry was still on the march in Tennessee. Woodruff back a little to protect the rear, but we keep on without stopping, except for a few moments to rest. We keep on, the roads are slippery with mud, and rough and uneven with the rocks. It is the worst of marching, bad enough in daylight, but in darkness, just horrible.”

“The men fall out one after another by the way, unable to keep up. We get so sleepy that we can hardly keep awake. And thus we go on all night, that is, part of the force, for many fall out, and lie down to sleep.” It was not until later that the men of the 100th found out why they marched all that way, turn around.

“The encounter with Longstreet’s corps was unexpected. It was not supposed that he was so near. But his forces were driven through the day, and our army would probably have held the advance, but for the discovery made, that for some reason or other, through somebody’s neglect, the ammunition train had not come along, and that on inspection they were found with an average of less than twenty rounds, and an immediate retreat was ordered.”

But there is a comical side to the affair, for it was afterward ascertained that Longstreet was also retreating just as hastily in an opposite direction, so when the sun of the 19th of January rose on Dandridge, it found the vicinity free from the presence of both armies, except a detail of our boys that had been put to work grinding corn in the vicinity. These were quite surprised to find themselves in possession of the country, and they made their way leisurely back to the army without molestation.

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