History of 54th Illinois Infantry

History of Regiment

---This history was submitted by Dale R. Lutz.

More Coles County soldiers were enrolled in the ranks of the 54th Illinois Infantry Regiment than in any other regiment.

The 54th was under the command of Colonel Greenville M. Mitchell of Charleston.

The Field and Staff officers included:

The 54th was organized at Camp DuBois, Anna, Illinois, in November, 1861, as a part of the "Kentucky Brigade". It was on the extreme left of General Sherman's army at the Big Black River, and briefly engaged the enemy at that point.

In January 1864, three-fourths of the regiment re-enlisted as veteran volunteers and were sent to Mattoon for veteran furlough. They arrived on March 28, and on the same day, an organized gang of Copperheads at Charleston, led by Coles County Sheriff O'Hair, attacked some of the men of the regiment, killing Major Shubal York and four privates, and wounding Colonel Mitchell. An hour after the riot started, the balance of the 54th arrived in Charleston after a hasty trip from Mattoon, where they occupied the town and captured several rebel sympathizers. (For a complete account of this incident, see Coleman, 'Riot', cited in part I above. James Goodrich and Oliver Sallee of Charleston, were two of the privates killed.)

In August of 1864, the 54th was guarding 16 miles of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad, having two companies located at each of five stations. They were attacked by 4,000 rebels. Colonel Mitchell concentrated six companies at one station, and they fought for five hours when they were forced from their hay breastworks on account of fire and were captured by detail. In this engagement, Lieutenant Thomas P. James of Mattoon was killed along with 13 other men. The regiment was exchanged on December 5, 1864, and remained as a railroad guard at Hickory Station, Arkansas, on the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad until June, 1865. It was here that Enos D. Jones, Charleston private of Company G, was dishonorably discharged on March 30, 1865. He was later sent to Tortugas Island, off the coast of Florida, for imprisonment, but the writers could not discover the nature of his offense, the length of his sentence, or what ultimately happened to him.

The 54th was mustered out on October 15, 1865, and discharged 11 days later at Camp Butler, Illinois. Since its original beginning, the regiment had a total of 1,342 enlisted men and 71 commissioned officers.

Reference: Coles County in the Civil War 1861-1865, pp.32-3. Eastern Illinois University Bulletin No. 234, April 1961, Lavern M. Hamand, General Editor. Published by Division of Regional Services; printed by Prather The Printer, Charleston, Illinois.

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