Reminiscences - 103rd Illinois Infantry

This is an excerpt from Reminiscences of the Civil War from Diaries of Members of the 103rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The book was compiled in 1904 by a committee of members: H. H. Orendorff (Lieut, Co. F), G. M. Armstrong (Sgt - Co. C), Newton Ellis (Pvt - Co. C), M.V.D. Voorhees (Capt - Co. D), S.R. Quigley (Sgt. Maj.), C. F. Matteson (Capt - Co. G), and A. J. Stutes (Pvt - Co. H).

[p. 44]

(Having received the Diary of Capt. C. W. Wills, of Co. G, we will continue this account of the doings of the 103rd, returning to the date when we left Scottsboro [April 30, 1864], and until we reached Washington, with such annotations as may be necessary, to as complete a record as can be made. This diary was written as time and occasion permitted, and sent from time to time to his siter at Canton, Ill., and by her copied and retained. Another account of the battle of Griswoldville of the 22nd of Nov. will be introduced at that date. It was written by Maj. A. Willison, of the Reg't.)

[p. 150]

Nov. 20th. - Near Clinton.

Struck out foraging before daylight this morning. Almost any house on the road to-day would furnish pork and potatoes enough for a Brig. I got to the Regt. about 8 P. M. last night. They say our Brig. marched till 3 A. M., and the reveille sounded before the men got through supper. We passed over the scene of Stoneman's fighting and surrender last August. Some of our men found two of our dead soldiers unburied, which don't speak well for the Rebs, and is charged against them. I think there is less pillaging this trip than I ever saw before.

Nov. 21st. - Near Macon, Ga.

This makes 7 days from Atlanta, 114 miles by the roads we have marched. I think that time for an army like ours, over bad roads, too, for at least 4 days, is unprecedented.

Our Cav'y had a little skirmish at Macon last evening and were driven back. I heard some cannonading, but don't think it amounted to much. There was a little skirmish about the rear of our Div. at 4 this P. M., but beside racing and maybe capturing some half-dozen of our foragers, it amounted to nothing. Our left occupied Milledgeville. Gov. Brown is here at Macon, also Beauregard, and they have scraped together some ten or a dozen things to defend the town with. I don't think from looks at present that "Pap" is going to try the town, but can't tell. We have thrown up a little rail barricade this evening, which looks as if we were intending to destroy the Macon and Savannah R. R., on which rests the right of our Brig. We are afraid at this writing that Sheaff Herr was captured to-day. He was foraging where that

[p. 151]

little skirmish took place this P. M., and Rebs were seen after, and within 75 yards of him. It has rained steadily all day and for the last 60 hours, but has turned cold and is now clear.

Nov. 22nd. - Near Griswoldville.

Has been a gay day for our Brig. The other two Brigs, of our Div. went to work on the R. R. this morning, and we on a reconnoissance toward Macon. Found Rebel Cav'y at once. My Cos., A. and B., were thrown out as skirmishers. Forty of us drove at least 400 Rebel Cav'y at least 4 miles, and kept them a mile ahead of the Brig. I think we killed and wounded at least 20 of them. We finally charged them out of a rail barricade and thoroughly stampeded them. It was the richest thing I ever saw. We got highly complimented on the way we drove them. Griswoldville was the point we started for, and having reached it we lay there an hour or so, and were then ordered back to the Brig. We found it in line along an open field, building a rail barricade along the front. We had a nice open field without even a fence on it, full 600 yards wide in our front. We were getting dinner, not dreaming of a fight, when lively musketry opened on the picket line, and in a minute more our pickets came in flying. A fine line of Johnnies pushed out of the woods after them, and then started for us. We commenced throwing up logs in our front and did not fire a shot until they were within 250 yards of us, by which time our works would protect us from musketry. We all felt that we had a sure thing, and had there been but one line of Rebs, we would have let them come up close to us. But, by the time the first

[p. 152]

line had got within 250 yards of us, three other lines had emerged from the woods, and they had run two batteries out on the field further to our right which opened on us. Our artillery returned the fire, but was silenced almost immediately. We then let loose on them with our muskets, and if we did not interest them, it is queer. One after another their lines crumbled to pieces, and they took the run to save themselves. There was a ravine 50 yards in front of us, and as the Rebs did not dare to run back over that field, they broke for the ravine. It was awful the way we slaughtered those men. Once in the ravine most of them escaped by following it up, the willows and canes screening them. We let a skirmish line into the ravine, which gobbled some 50 prisoners, a number of Africans among them. It was a most complete repulse, and when the numbers alone are considered, a glorious thing for us. Only our little Brig. of say 1,100 muskets were engaged on our side and no support was nearer than 4 miles (and then but one Brig.), while the Rebels had four Brigs. and two Regts., about 6,000 men. But the four Brigs. were "Militia." We estimate their loss at 1,000, and I do not think it an over-estimate. Ours is 14 killed and 42 wounded in the whole Brigade; 4 killed and 7 wounded, in the Regt.; two in my Co.; 25 out of 30 Rebel bullets went 20 feet over our heads. Not one of ours went higher than their heads. Gen. C. C. Wolcutt was wounded much as Col. Wright was, but more severely. No officers in our Regt. were wounded. Two Rebel Generals were either killed or wounded. Gen. George, who formerly commanded in North Miss., and Gen. Hall or Call. I was never so affected at the sight of wounded and dead before.

[p. 153]

Old grey haired and weakly looking men and little boys, not over 15 years old, lay dead or writhing in pain. I did pity those boys, they almost all who could talk, said the Rebel Cav'y. gathered them up and forced them in.

We took all inside our skirmish line that could bear moving, to our hospital, and covered the rest with the blankets of the dead. I hope we will never have to shoot at such men again. They knew nothing at all about fighting, and I think their officers knew as little, or else, certainly knew nothing about our being there. About dark we moved back to this place, two miles from the battle field. The Johnnies drew off before we did, I think.

Account of the Griswoldville fight, as given by Major Willison:

Nov. 22nd.

"On reaching the Georgia Central R. R. (from Macon to Savannah), about 8 miles east of Macon, our Div. (the 1st now), was ordered to take position some two miles to the right of the Corps to cover the other Divs. while destroying the Road. We had marched perhaps one and a half miles, when we met our small Cav'y force on a stampede, flying toward the main column. The Rebel Cav'y had surprised them and put them to flight. The Command was halted and the 2nd Brig. was ordered to drive the Rebs back, and with one section of the 2nd Mich. light Artillery we started out to meet the Johnnie's "Creeter Regt.," throwing forward two Cos. of the 103rd, and two Cos. from the 97th Ind. We marched forward to a skirt of timber, where we met the Reb Cav'y, and drove them back through the timber and across


an old farm, through another skirt of timber, and through the little town of Griswoldville, where just before reaching the town, Co. G., under Capt. Wills, charged upon the Johnnies, capturing three prisoners and their mounts, one of which was a very nice horse, and by Gen. Wood's permission was turned over to Adjt. Frank Lermond, he being without a horse. After a time the enemy was discovered marching in force from the direction of Macon. The Brig. was formed in line at the east side of the old farm, and a slight barricade of rails and logs was hurriedly thrown together, and the skirmishers called in. Our little barricade being completed, we laid down and awaited their coming.

Col. Walcutt having been wounded in the leg while out reconnoitering, the front, went to the rear, turning the command over to Col. R. F. Catterson, of the 97th Ind., who gave orders for the command to hold their fire until he should give the order. Well, here we lay behind our slight barricade, and watched the Johnnies march out of the pine timber onto the open field in our front in three battle lines and one 6 pounder battery. Either of their lines stronger in numbers than our whole Brig., which now numbered about 1,200, rank and file. The enemy moved up in solid lines, their battery as soon as formed on the field, opened on our battery which had been posted behind a small Lunette, and replied to the enemies' guns feebly, and, in fact, was soon withdrawn from the field.

The Johnnies had now advanced so near that we could hear every command from their officers, and we, of course, began to feel a bit nervous and anxious to begin our work, for it really looked as though we had a big job ahead of us, and frequently we turned our faces to see what had become of our


Brig. commander, who had taken position behind a pine tree and a little to the rear and center of the Brig., was eagerly watching the movements of the enemy, and waiting for them to come within easy range of our guns.

Finally, he gave the command to "commence firing," which was repeated by Regimental commanders and promptly responded to by the entire command by delivering almost a solid volley of musketry square in the faces of the first line, the effect of which was most terrible; literally mowing down the first line, which halted, wavered, and seemed amazed. We continued our fire as fast as we could load and fire (some of our Regts. were armed with repeating rifles, and kept up a constant fire). The enemies' second and third lines advancing, soon took the place of the first line, pouring into our line a steady fire, but our little barricade now served us a good purpose, and warded off many ball intended for us. Finally our ammunition began to run low, when the Maj. dispatched the Drum Corps for more cartridges, who, failing to return in due time, another detail was sent on the double quick, and finally when our last cartridge was loaded into, our muskets we ceased firing and fixed bayonets, and awaited the charge that we supposed the enemy would surely make, they having advanced to within pistol range of our line, but now came ammunition in abundance. The boxes were burst open and cartridges distributed along the line when our fire was again renewed with terrible effect on the enemy in our front, who wavered and fell back to a little ravine, some fifty or seventy yards in our front. The Maj. now ordered Cos. A. and F. to make a sortie out from the right of our Regt. to get in rear of the Johnnies, who had taken cover in the ravine. The


order was executed in fine style, capturing and driving into our lines about 200 of the enemy. The fight lasted about two and a half hours. We had met and repulsed about five times our number. Our Regt. lost four killed and seven wounded. Lost in the Brig. killed and wounded, 82. We afterward picked up a Macon paper containing a description of the battle, in which they admitted a loss of 1,500 killed and wounded, and censuring their Commander, Gen. A. G. Smith, for recklessness and foolishly sacrificing so many lives, in contending with only three Brigs., against Sherman's whole army."

Nov. 23rd. - Near Gordon.

Came here to-day, about 8 miles, find the Army of the Tenn. all here. Have heard nothing of the Rebs to-day; saw ice 1 1/2 inches thick that formed last night. Wore my overcoat all day. The left wing is either at Milledgeville or gone on east. A branch road, runs up to the Capitol from the Macon and Savannah R. R., leaving it at Gordon. It is now all destroyed. This road is very easily destroyed. The iron is laid on stringers, which are only fastened to the ties, with wooden pins. We have yet done nothing at it, but boys who have, say they pry up one stringer with the iron on it, roll it over to the other half of the track, lay some rails on, and fire it. The iron being firmly fastened to the stringer, expanding under the heat destroys it completely. The counttry [sic] here is quite rolling, not quite as rich as the Indian Spring Country, but there is yet plenty of forage. The woods are mostly pine, and we are all most anxious to get where we will have some other fuel. The smoke of pine wood is so disagreeable.

Head Quarters, Dept. and Army of the Tenn.,

Gordon, Ga., Nov. 23rd, I864.

Mayor General Osterhaus, Com'dg 15th Corps.


I take sincere pleasure in congratulating the Brigade of Gen'l Walcutt of Gen'l Wood's Division of the 15th Corps, on its complete success in the action of yesterday.

Officers from other Commands who were looking on say that there never was a better Brigade of Soldiers.

I am exceedingly sorry that any of our brave men should fall, and for the suffering of the wounded, the thanks of the army are doubly due to them.

I tender my sympathy through you to the brave and excellent Commander of the Brigade, Brig. Gen. Walcutt.

It is hoped that his wound will not disable him.

Very Respectfully

Your Ob't Serv't.

(Signed) O. O. HOWARD,

Maj. Gen'l.

P. S. The loss of the enemy is estimated from 1,500 to 2,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners. O. O. H., M. G.

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