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October, 1864 – The 100th on the Move, the 39th in a Fight

October of 1864 saw fighting all over the map, Richmond, Atlanta, and in Tennessee. The 100th Illinois Voluntary Infantry traveled the roads and rails of Tennessee almost the entire month in a back and forth journey that criss-crossed and then returned to the original spot. In a journal published by George Woodruff in his book 15 Years Ago, Will County in the Civil War, one soldier documented the trek.

“Oct. 7th, we went by railroad to Cleveland, thence to Resacca and back the next day, and on the night of the 11th, we were roused about midnight, went to the cars (railroad freight cars), but did not start out till 5 a.m., when we ran out as far as Ringgold, bivouacked near thetown, and started back again between seven and eight p.m.”

“We ran off the track in the night, and did not get on again until 11 o’clock next day, (13th).”

“The 14th was an exciting day. Reports came of the surrender of Daltori by our force there, and the evacuation of Tunnel Hill and Ringgold. The troops in Chattanooga were set to work on the fortifications. In the afternoon of the 15th we went to Ringgold again, and back next night to Chattanooga.”

“We did not leave the cars, but drew three days’ rations, and about daylight started for Bridgeport. On the 18th returned to Chattanooga, disembarked, and started off on the march again, camping that night on the old Chickamauga battle field where we had been just one year and a month before, and where we had left many a brave comrade.”

“On the 19th we marched 15 miles; on the 20th, 12 miles, passing through Lafayette. On the 21st we reached Alpine about noon, rested two hours, then our brigade moved west to Henderson’s Gap in Lookout Range. Next morning we crossed the mountain, camping in Mill’s valley. The sides of the mountain were steep, but the roads were good. The distance across was 12 miles.”

“We crossed two rivers on the mountain, on one of which there was a fine waterfall, and the whole route presented much to interest the lover of nature. Mill’s Valley we found a very nice one, rich in grain, vegetables and cattle, all of which were very acceptable, and a grateful variation of our fare.”

“On the afternoon of the 24th we re-crossed to the camp of the 21st, remaining there until the 28th, this time taking two sections of artillery, drawn by convalescent horses. The men had often to turn to and reinforce them, up and down the mountain.”

“On the 29th we marched all day, camping about three miles from Trenton. On the 30th we went up Sand Mountain and nearly across it, and on the 31st descended and went to Bridgeport, halted, and drew rations. While at Bridgeport, headquarters’ mess drew new tents, and camped in the dooryard of a large residence, which must have been a place of great beauty before the war.”

“The yard showed evidences of having been filled with choice shrubbery. A magnificent climbing rose was over the door-way. The dining table of the mess was placed upon what had been a fine flower bed, and a beautiful peach tree was the hitching post for the officers’ horses. Some roses and other shrubs remained to mark thepathway, and the cook hung his dish-cloth upon a choice rosebush.”

“Although the owner is a rebel, we cannot but feel a pang at seeing so much that was beautiful thus destroyed. The palings of the fence have been taken by the cook to boil the coffee, and the big mule teams drive ruthlessly over the garden where some southern lady has no doubt expended much time and money. But these people have sown to the wind, and must reap the whirlwind!”

Meanwhile in Richmond the 39th Voluntary Infantry did more than march; they were in a battle. Woodruff describes it like this: “On the 13th of October, the 39th shared in the charge made under command of General A. H. Terry, upon the enemy’s works near Darlington road, seven miles from Richmond.”

“The regiment went into this fight near 250 strong, out of which number they lost 60. Several officers were killed. Indeed, the fight left the regiment again with but three commissioned officers on duty. In this engagement we lost Geo. W. Yates, of Co. A, from Wilmington. He had been promoted color sergeant for his bravery, and fell with the colors in his hand. Someone passing rapidly by him in the charge, seeing the flag, seized the staff to take it along, Sergt. Yates, though dead, held the staff with so firm a grasp that his body was dragged some distance before the muscles relaxed sufficiently to let go. Meanwhile back home an election was going on. Would it be Abraham Lincoln or Gen George McClellan? With one month until election politics replaced the war at many a dinner table talk.