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39th Illinois Infantry
in the American Civil War

Online Books:
39th Illinois Infantry Soldier Roster - Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, Volume 3, Revised by Brigadier General J.N. Reece, Adjutant General, 1900       View Entire Book

Regimental History
Thirty-ninth Illinois Infantry. Cols., Austin Light, Thomas O. Osborn; Lieut. -Cols.. Thomas O. Osborn, Orrin L. Mann; Majs., Orrin L. Mann, Sylvester W. Munn, Samuel S. Linton, Homer A. Plimpton. The organization of this regiment was commenced as soon as the news of the firing on Fort Sumter reached Chicago. Gen. T. O. Osborn was one of its contemplated field officers and labored zealously to get it accepted under the first call for troops, but did not accomplish his object. The state having filled its quota without this regiment, efforts were made to get it accepted into the state service of Missouri, but without success. The regiment had already assumed the name of the governor of Illinois and was known as the "Yates Phalanx." Gov. Yates manifested an earnest desire to see it brought into service and sent Gen. O. L. Mann to Washington, with strong commendatory letters to the president and secretary of war, urging the acceptance of the regiment, which had at that time over 800 men on the rolls. The regiment was accepted on the day succeeding the first Bull Run disaster, and the organization was completed and left Camp Mather, Chicago, on the morning of Oct. 13, 1861. The day previous to the departure a beautiful stand of colors was presented to the regiment by Miss Helen Arion, daughter of Col. Arion. It had also won a handsome flag at a prize drill under the auspices of the Illinois agricultural society, then in session at Chicago. On leaving Chicago the regiment reported to Brig.-Gen. Curtis, at Camp Benton, St. Louis, Mo., but very soon thereafter was transferred to Williamsport, Md., where it was armed and equipped. On Jan. 3, 1862, the advance of a Confederate force 15,000 strong attacked Cos. D, I and K, near Bath, Va., and, after a brisk little fight, were repulsed. Then, with 2 pieces of artillery and a liberal display of strategy and courage, the enemy was held in check for nearly 24 hours. Co. G was also attacked at Great Cacapon bridge, but repulsed the enemy with considerable loss. The remaining portion of the regiment was simultaneously attacked at Alpine Station, where Cos. C and F drew into ambush about 500 of Ashby's cavalry, and after killing and wounding 30 routed the remainder. In March the regiment participated in a reconnoissance from Martinsburg to Strasburg, and on its return took part in the brilliant fight at Winchester, that resulted in the utter defeat of "Stonewall" Jackson's forces. The regiment suffered but little during the engagement, owing to its position, which was on the extreme left. Four companies met a small cavalry force at Columbia bridge, and after a brisk skirmish dislodged it, patting out the fire which had been applied to the structure and capturing 30 prisoners. The regiment was ordered to Alexandria, Va., and immediately embarked on transports for the James river, reaching Harrison's landing in time to take part in the closing scenes of Gen. McClellan's Seven Days' fight. While at Harrison's landing the regiment was kept at the front on picket duty and had a series of unimportant skirmishes until about the middle of August, when it participated in the second Malvern hill fight, but without material injury. On Sept. 1 it was sent to Suffolk, Va., where it remained for the space of three months, fortifying the place and making frequent expeditions to the Blackwater, where heavy skirmishes frequently occurred. On one occasion it participated in the capture of 2 pieces of artillery and 40 prisoners. The regiment was then transferred to South Carolina, participated in the siege of Fort Wagner, and after assisting in strengthening and remodeling the defenses on Morris island returned to Folly island. It next embarked for Hilton Head, where it remained for several weeks, and there reenlisted, being the first organization in the entire department to accept veteran honors and responsibilities. It left Hilton Head on veteran furlough for Chicago, Ill., via New York, on Jan. 1, 1864, amid great enthusiasm. Returning to the front in Virginia the regiment was located on the extreme left of Gen. Butler's command in May, when the entire force under Butler was attacked and driven back. The regiment was at one time completely surrounded by the enemy, but succeeded in cutting it way out after great loss. Its entire loss in that engagement, including killed, wounded and missing, reached nearly 200. The regiment was again ordered out on May 20, to dislodge the enemy from some temporary works near Ware Bottom Church, which was accomplished in a most gallant manner, with a loss of 40 in killed and wounded. It captured in this charge a large number of prisoners, including Gen. Walker, who was seriously wounded. On June 2 the regiment was again called into action on nearly the same ground, and in the engagement it lost in killed, wounded and missing some 40 men. About the middle of June it came in contact with Gen. Longstreet's corps near the Petersburg and Richmond pike and fought him night and day for 3 days, losing about 35 men in killed and wounded. On Aug. 16 the brigade to which the 39th was attached was ordered to charge the works of the enemy at Deep run, during the performance of which the enemy's lines were broken and a large number of prisoners captured. In this battle the regiment lost 104 men in killed, wounded and missing. In the latter part of August it was ordered to the trenches in front of Petersburg, where it was almost constantly on duty and under fire both night and day. In the latter part of September the 10th and 18th corps moved over to the north side of the James river again and on Oct. 7 the regiment met the enemy near Chaffin's farm, where three desperate charges were made by the Confederates upon the hastily constructed works behind which the Federals were stationed. A few days later the regiment took part in a charge upon the enemy's works near Darlington road, 7 miles from Richmond, and out of about 250 men who went into that charge, 60 fell, struck by the enemy. On Oct. 27 the regiment took part in a reconnoissance near the same place and had a brisk engagement with the enemy. During the winter it had frequent skirmishes but no regular engagements. It crossed to the left of the Army of the Potomac and on April 2 took part in the charge upon Fort Gregg, the key to the works about Petersburg and Richmond. It fell to the lot of the 1st brigade to charge and take the fort, the 39th was the first regiment to gain the ditch, and the first to plant its flag upon the structure. Out of 9 of the color-guard 7 were shot down, and out of 150 members who went into that fight 16 were shot dead and 45 severely wounded, many of whom died from their wounds. After this affair the regiment took the advance of the Army of the James in the pursuit of Gen. Lee, and succeeded in heading off his army after forced marches and frequent skirmishes. At Appomattox Court House after a brisk engagement on April 9, 1865, in which the regiment had several men wounded, it had the proud satisfaction of witnessing the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee, with the remnant of his great Army of Northern Virginia. The regiment remained on duty at Norfolk until Dec. 5, 1865, at which time General Order No. 131 was issued from the headquarters of the Department of Virginia, ordering its muster-out of service, and on the afternoon of the 7th the regiment started for Springfield, Ill., via Chicago, for its muster out and payment, where it arrived on the afternoon of Dec. 10.

Footnotes:
Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 3

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