78th Illinois Infantry


This Regiment was organized at Quincy, Ill., and mustered into service September 1, 1862.

Company A was recruited in Schuyler county; Company B in Adams; Company C in

McDonough; Company D in Hancock; Companies E, F and G in Adams; Company H in

Hancock; Company I in McDonough; and Company K in Adams county.

September 19, 1862, the Regiment was ordered to Louisville, Ky., and was provost guard for a

few days in that city, while Buell was equipping his army after his celebrated race with Bragg.

October 5, the Regiment was marched to Shephardsville, Ky., and on the 14th was divided into

detachments, under the command of Brigadier General C. C. Gilbert, to guard railroad bridges

on the L. & N. Railroad and the Lebanon Branch, from Elizabethtown, Ky., to New Haven, Ky.,

with Regimental headquarters at the latter place. At these points the Regiment constructed rifle

pits and stockades for protection.

December 26, 1862, the guerrilla John Morgan captured Companies B and C, at Muldraughs

Hill, two and one half miles from Elizabethtown, and paroled them. They were under fire from

nine pieces of artillery some two hours. The companies were sent to St. Louis, Mo., and were not

exchanged until October 1863, when they joined the command at Stringers Ridge, Chattanooga,

Tenn. John Morgan, in the same raid, on the morning of December 30, attacked Regimental

Headquarters at New Haven, after his demand for surrender had been declined, but his efforts

were not very vigorous, and he retired.

Company H, the only company at New Haven, suffered no casualty, but it was supposed that

Morgan's command did, as they were exposed to the fire from the stockade. About the last of

January 1863, the command was collected at Louisville, and embarked on steamboats for

Nashville via Cumberland River, arriving at Fort Donelson February 3, 1863, in time to relieve

the Eighty-third Illinois, who were surrounded by a largely superior force under Forrest and

Wheeler. The enemy had made a number of assaults, but had been repulsed with great loss.

They retired on the approach of the transports, and the command proceeded on to Nashville,

Tenn., where the Regiment disembarked. On coming up the river the federal steamboats made a

very imposing appearance. The Regiment was in the command of Brigadier General C. C.

Gilbert, in the Army of Kentucky, under Major General Gordon Granger.

February 12, the Regiment marched to Franklin, Tenn., where it remained four months. At this

place it was diligent in company, battalion and brigade drill, the first good opportunity it had

enjoyed for such exercise. On March 4, 1863, General Gilbert sent out quite a force from

Franklin under Colonel Coburn, and it was met by Van Dorn and Wheeler and routed, and a

great number of Coburn's men captured. The Seventy-eighth with the Brigade was in line of

battle in reserve, and met with no loss. April 11, the command was threatened by a heavy force

under Van Dorn and Wheeler, but no general engagement occurred, simply the outposts and

pickets skirmished with the enemy, and on June 4, the enemy made a similar attack on the

outposts with like results.

On June 9, 1863, a very unhappy affair occurred. Two Confederate spies entered the camp

disguised as Federal officers. They gave their names as Colonel Orton and Lieutenant Peters.

They were fortunately detected as spies and they admitted they were Confederate officers, but

denied being spies. A court martial was immediately organized and they were tried and

condemned to death; they died like brave men. The Seventy-eighth constructed the gallows and

furnished the chaplain and escort.

On June 23, 1863, marched to Triune and Murfreesboro, Tenn. The troops had now been reorganized,

and the Seventy-eighth was assigned to the Brigade of Colonel John G. Mitchell in

General James B. Steadman's Division, Reserve Corps, under Major General Gordon Granger.

Mitchell's Brigade was composed of the One Hundred and Thirteenth, One Hundred and Twentyfirst

and Ninety-eighth Ohio, and Seventy-eighth Illinois. We were glad to exchange General

Gilbert for Colonel Mitchell, who ably commanded the Brigade from this time, with the

exception of a few months, to the end of the war. The feeling existing between the above named

regiments was exceedingly friendly and fraternal. On June 28, 1863, moved south from

Murfreesboro in the rear of the general advance against Bragg's army. The Brigade entered

Shelbyville, Tenn., July 1, and encamped. While at this place Colonel W. H. Beneson resigned,

and Lieutenant Colonel Carter Van Vleck was promoted. September 6, 1863, the Brigade moved

southward, crossing the Tennessee River September 12, pursuing its march around Lookout

Mountain, and arrived at Rossville, Ga., about September 14, 1863, and for the few days previous

to the battle of Chickamauga was kept on the move day and night, marching, skirmishing, etc.,

all the signs of an approaching general engagement being visible. On the 17th of September, the

Division made a reconnoissance to Ringgold, Ga., and there discovered that Longstreet's corps

from Lee's army was re-enforcing Bragg. The command was followed closely on its return from

Ringgold, and at midnight the enemy opened upon us with artillery with no damage but an

extremely disagreeable reveille.

During the commencement of the battle of Chickamauga the Regiment lay with the Division

before Rossville, guarding the road through the gap to Chattanooga. Before noon on the 20th of

September, General Steadman, apprehending that General Thomas needed assistance, double

quickened Mitchell's and Whitaker's Brigade to the front. This proved to be very timely

assistance to General Thomas, as Longstreet was getting around the Federal right and rear.

These two Brigades were put into action immediately and made a charge on Longstreet's corps

and drove them from the hill with great loss on both sides, and maintained their position until

after dark, though the enemy made repeated assaults. At length when darkness had put a stop to

the deadly work, the command retired in an orderly manner to Rossville. The Seventy-eighth

lost very heavily in killed and wounded, being about 40 per cent of the number engaged, with

eight officers out of twenty. Van Horne, in his history of the Army of the Cumberland, says:

"The opportune aide of these two Brigades (Mitchell's and Whitaker's) saved the army from

defeat and rout".

On the 21st of September, the Seventy-eighth Regiment remained in line of battle on the ridge at

Rossville Gap, holding the rear. The morning of the 22d it fell back to Chattanooga, and then

crossed over the Tennessee River to the north side and camped with the Brigade on Stringer's

Ridge, protecting the rear from that quarter. When the Regiment left Rossville on the morning of

September 22, pickets were left in front of the enemy with the understanding that they would be

relieved later on, but by the blunder of a staff officer the pickets were not relieved, and hence

were captured and sent to Southern prisons, where twenty-four of them died. The Seventy-eighth

lost by this capture four officers, Captain Hawkins, Lieutenants Hovey, Morse and Irwin, and

fifty-one men from Companies I and F, who were on picket duty. Those who survived the

cruelties of Andersonville and other prisons were not exchanged until May and June 1865, being

prisoners almost two years.

Bragg's Army surrounded and besieged the Federal Army at Chattanooga; and the troops were

put on half rations.

In the early part of October the Brigade went over into the Sequatchie Valley to help pursue

Wheeler, who was destroying supply trains. October 9, 1863, Mitchell's Brigade was put into

Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis's Division, and was called Second Brigade, Second

Division, Fourteenth Army Corps. On the morning of October 27 the Regiment, with the

Brigade, crossed the Tennessee River below Lookout Mountain, on a pontoon bridge, to the

assistance of the Potomac troops, who were coming to the support of the Army of the

Cumberland, and the enemy was trying to prevent their advance by assaulting General Geary's

Division. This battle is known as the battle of Wauhatchie.

On November 24 the command broke camp at Stringer's Ridge, and crossed the Tennessee River

on pontoons at the north end of Missionary Ridge, the Division being for the time attached to the

Fifteenth Army Corps, and lay in reserve while the Fifteenth Army Corps assaulted the Ridge.

On the afternoon of November 25, 1863, Missionary Ridge was carried in the center, but too late

for pursuit.

Early on the morning of the 26th the Second Division pursued the enemy, and before noon

reached Bragg's depot of supplies, Chickamauga Station, in time to see it destroyed by fire. At

dark overtook the enemy and had a sharp skirmish with them. November 29 started to the relief

of Burnside, at Knoxville. December 5, at Marysvile, learned that Longstreet had raised the

siege, and December 7 counter-marched, and returned to Chatttanooga, arriving December 17,

and encamped December 26 with the Brigade at Rossville, where the Regiment went into winter

quarters. The march toward Knoxville was a very severe one, as the men were poorly prepared

for it, having just emerged from the battle of Missionary Ridge, and many being without shoes or

proper clothing. They were also without rations, and were obliged to subsist on the country,

which had been already nearly devastated, and hence many suffered from hunger as well as

exposure. But these ills were endured without murmur, and General Sherman complimented

Davis' Division on its good order and behavior on this march.

The Regiment remained at Rossville until the commencement of the Atlanta campaign, in May

1864, drilling and doing out-post duty, and occasionally making a reconnoissance. January 28

and 29, and February 24, found the Regiment on such a march, in the vicinity of Ringgold and

Dalton, finding the enemy in force behind their works.

February 9, the Regiment encamped for about two weeks at Tyner's Station, and on April 11 was

detached and made a reconnoissance to Lafayette, Ala.

While at Rossville, in winter and spring of 1864, the Brigade was augmented by the addition of

the Thirty-fourth Illinois and One Hundred and Eighth Ohio.

On May 2, 1864, the Atlanta campaign commenced. The enemy were forced into their works at

Buzzard's Roost and Dalton, where they presented a defiant front. They were flanked out of

Dalton, and May 13 finds the Regiment in line of battle in front of Resaca, where the command

was engaged, with a slight loss, and during the night of the 15th the enemy evacuated Resaca.

The Division then proceeded to Rome, Ga., and on the 17th drove back their cavalry, with some

loss, and forced the enemy into their fortifications. The next morning the enemy abandoned the

city. The Regiment left Rome the 24th, and marched toward Dallas, and drove the rebel pickets

through Burnt Hickory. The enemy was strongly entrenched at New Hope Church, and constant

and heavy skirmishing occurred on both sides. There were now some twenty days occupied in

throwing up earthworks and skirmishing with the enemy, until June 27, when Sherman

determined to make a grand assault on Kenesaw. The Brigade, with others, were massed in the

rear of the rebel entrenchments, and at about 9 A.M. the command jumped the works on a charge

to capture the enemy's entrenchments. The Brigade was received with a rattling fire of both

musketry and artillery, which was deadly. The assault was a failure, as the obstructions in front

of the works were very difficult to penetrate, but the Brigade maintained a position within 75 or

100 feet of the enemy, and that night the command entrenched itself. The loss in the charge was

very great. A day or so after, by common consent, hostilities ceased, and details from each side

buried the dead between the lines

On the morning of July 4, it was discovered that the enemy had abandoned their entrenchments

the night before, and the pursuit was immediately commenced, skirmishing with them constantly,

and on July 17 we crossed the Chattahoochie River, and at Peach Tree Creek had quite an

engagement, with some casualties in the Seventy-eighth Illinois. After heavy skirmishing pushed

the rebels into their Atlanta entrenchments.

July 28, the command was ordered to assist General Howard, and we kept moving to the right

around Atlanta, skirmishing, fighting and building works until August 25.

Brigadier General Jas. D. Morgan, August 22, assumed the command of the Second Division,

and remained in command until the muster-out.

August 22, Colonel Carter Van Vleck died from wounds received in front of Atlanta. He was

much beloved by the entire Regiment, and was sincerely mourned.

August 28, abandoned the works in front of Atlanta and struck south, skirmishing with the

enemy as usual. On September 1, assaulted the enemy's entrenchments at Jonesboro, Ga., and

after a desperate resistance, mounted their works, capturing men, cannon and battle flags,

performing a feat that was not often equaled on either side during the war. The Regiment did not

lose more men that at Kenesaw, but the result was more gratifying.

Atlanta was evacuated on the 2d of September 1864, and the Regiment encamped in the outskirts

on the 8th.

On the Atlanta campaign the Regiment was hardly out of the sound of guns any day during the

entire period from the 2d of May to the fall of Atlanta, and casualties were of almost daily

occurrence. The Regiment must have lost, in killed and wounded, two hundred men, from May 2

to September 1, 1864.

September 29, 1864, the Regiment and Division were moved by rail to Athens, Ala., and then

marched to Florence in pursuit of Forrest, who was in the rear with a large force doing great

damage. The command had a skirmish with the enemy and drove him across the Tennessee

River at Florence.

Returned to Athens and Chattanooga, and then marched through Gaylesville, Rome and

Kingston to Atlanta. The grand march to the sea commenced November 16, when the command

moved from Atlanta after the city was burned, advancing through Covington upon Milledgeville,

arriving there about November 23.

About November 26, 1864, passed through Sandersville, and thence to Louisville and on to

Savannah. About fifteen miles from Savannah were confronted by earthworks and artillery, and

on December 10, 1864, the enemy retired into their entrenchments at Savannah, Ga., and the

investment of the city was completed.

On December 21, 1864, the enemy abandoned the city, but we skirmished with them more or less

before the evacuation.

The Regiment broke camp about January 20, 1865, at Savannah, and marched northward into the

Carolinas, crossing the Savannah River February 5, 1865, at Sister's Ferry, and advanced through

Barnwell and Lexington, and passed to the left of Columbia. February 17 proceeded on to

Winnsboro, and arrived there February 21, the troops in their march destroying railroads and

other property of value to the enemy

On March 9 the Brigade arrived on the field in time to help Kilpatrick regain his camp from

Hampton. March 11 reached Fayettesville, N.C., skirmishing with Hampton's Cavalry.

The march through South Carolina could be easily traced, for it was a track of desolation. The

Regiment proceeded in a northeasterly direction toward Averysboro, and at this point the enemy

made the first positive resistance since leaving Savannah, and on March 16 had quite a lively

engagement, with some loss. On the morning of March 19, near Bentonville, N.C., found the

enemy in force across the line of march.

The Brigade formed line, and the Seventy-eighth was put out as skirmishers, which soon

developed a heavy rebel force, which completely surrounded our Brigade, and we had to fight

both front and rear. The enemy was repulsed several times, and soon our entire Division was

engaged. The enemy did not fall back until other troops came to the assistance of the Division.

The issue of this action was decided by the stubborn resistance of the Second Division. The loss

in the Bentonville fight was heavy. On the 21st, in a skirmish, Lieutenant Summers was killed,

and he was probably the last man in the Regiment who met his death by the fate of war. After

the Bentonville fight the Regiment advanced to Goldsboro, and encamped. April 10, advanced

toward Raleigh, and remained there until Johnson's surrendered, which occurred April 26, and

the war was over.

After the surrender, marched north through Richmond, Va., arriving at Washington, D.C., May

19, and participating in the Grand Review May 24, 1865.

June 7, was mustered out and sent to Chicago, where the Seventy-eighth Illinois was paid off

June 12, 1865.

The Regiment participated in the battles of Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Buzzard's Roost,

Resaca, Rome, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesboro,

Averysboro and Bentonville.

It is estimated that the Regiment lost about four hundred men, killed and wounded, - about

ninety-six killed on the field, twenty-four died in rebel prisons, and seventy-seven in hospitals,

from wounds and disease.

On September 1, 1862, enlisted men mustered in............................863

Recruits ..........................................................................................140

June 7, 1865, mustered out .............................................................393

The following officers were killed, or died from wounds: Colonel Carter Van Vleck, Atlanta,

August 23, 1864; Major William L. Broddus, Chickamauga, September 20, 1863; Captain Robert

M. Black, Jonesboro, September 1, 1864; First Lieutenant Tobias E. Butler, wounds received at

Chickamauga, May 29, 1864; First Lieutenant George A. Brown, wounds received in action at

Kenesaw, died June 30, 1864; First Lieutenant Daniel W. Long, Jonesboro, September 1, 1864;

First Lieutenant George T. Beers, Bentonville, March 19, 1865; First Lieutenant William E.

Summers, Bentonville, March 21, 1865; Second Lieutenant John E. James, Kenesaw, June 27,


The above completes the history of as good a regiment as Illinois ever sent to the field, and the

men of this command can claim the proud distinction, at the battle of Jonesboro, Ga., of being

represented by a regiment that achieved the only successful assault on entrenchments made in the

Atlanta campaign by either side