In November of 1861 the entire country came to the realization that there would be no quick and easy end to the War Between the States. The Union Army had taken quite a beating thus far, and it was determined that more men in the field was what was needed to win the war. To that end, new calls for new regiments were made. Will County did not cringe from that call. They stepped up to it.
Recruitment officers were everywhere is Will County in November of 1861. Major Fred Matteson, son of former Gov. Joel Matteson was recruiting for the 64th Illinois Voluntary Infantry, also known as Yates’ Sharpshooters. Lieut. O’Kane had an office in Joliet to enlist men in the 23rd, also known as the Irish Brigade.
Plainfield saw 60 men enlist in Company I of the 46th regiment, while thirty men from Crete enlisted in Company D of the 9th Cavalry. Company K of the 8th Cavalry was raised in Plainfield and Wheatland Townships, and Company F in the same regiment was raised in Crete and Beecher.
Boys from Will County were also enlisting in regiments from other states, perhaps where they grew up, or where a relative was enlisting. In the end, Will County provided soldiers to every state in the Union, but only two men to the rebel cause.
The 20th, returned to Bird’s Point after the battle of Fredricktown on Oct. 31st, where they constructed log structures for their winter quarters and settled in. While there, they boys received visitors from Joliet.
Woodruff gives an account of it. “Soon after the return of the 20th to Birds Point, it received a visit from some of its Joliet friends.”
“Among them, Otis Hardy, Esq., and his two eldest daughters, and Mrs. Button, the wife of the worthy chaplain. Brother Hardy” had heard that somehow hospital stores which had been forwarded to the boys from Joliet had failed to come to hand, and with his usual zeal and thoroughness he made it his business to investigate the matter.”
“He accordingly looked up the stores in Cairo, and got them into the hospital. Not liking the looks of the hospital, (of which our boys had just taken possession,) he pulled off his coat, and with the assistance of the others, he thoroughly “policed” it, without waiting for orders or even a permit from headquarters. Some officials looked on astonished at so extra-judicial a proceeding, but I guess the inmates rather liked it.”
This points out the first hand civilian participation in the war effort that was unprecedented before or since the Civil War.
It was at this time, between battles, that in-fighting started to occur. The protracted stay at Bird’s Point with little to do made the 20th restless and old disagreements broke out again.
When the 20th was first mustered in, an election was held for Colonel, and a man elected whose name none of the locals had ever heard before. C. Carrall Marsh had been joined up by Governor Yates himself. His occupation is listed as corn merchant on his service record, but he seems to have had a lot of political influence.
There had been a question as to whether the fledgling regiment would be accepted into service. Regiments had been forming all over the state and the competition was stiff. The men were eager to serve, and so elected someone who could help them reach that end. As to the fitness of a merchant to lead a group of men in to battle, it would have to be tested later.
Now that Col. Marsh had been tested in battle, many found him lacking. A petition was circulated, signed by three-fourths of the officers and most of the enlisted men, demanding Col. Marsh resign. He refused to do so.
It was also at this time that Marsh denied Capt. Hildebrant leave to go to Cairo to meet his wife. Hildebrant went anyway. He was arrested and ordered to report to command. He did so several days later, and on his release he was assigned to special services, where he served as a scout.
Later, he was tried on disobedience and other charges. He was cleared of all charges, but for some reason the papers failed to reach headquarters. Captain Hildebrant continued in special services until April 1862 when he rejoined the regiment as a private, carrying a musket. When the mistake was discovered, he was restored to his original rank.