History of the 37th Illinois Infantry
during the Civil War
From the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois
The THIRTY-SEVENTH INFANTRY, known as "Fremont Rifles", was organized by Colonel Julius White in August 1861, and was mustered into service September 18th. The Regiment rendezvoused at Camp Webb. On the 19th of September it left for St. Louis. The Regiment numbered: Field and Staff, 15; company officers, 30, and 964 enlisted men. It was composed of ten companies of infantry and two of cavalry. Companies C and F were from Lake county, commanded respectively by Captain Eugene B. Payne and Captain E. B. Messer; Companies A and H, from Rock Island county, commanded respectively by Captain John A. Jordan and Captain John B. Frick; Companies D and G, from Chicago, commanded respectively by Captain John W. Laimbeer and Captain Henry N. Frisbie; Company I, from Boone, commanded by Captain Ransom Kennicott; Company E, from LaSalle, commanded by Captain P. B. Rust; Company B, from Henry and Stark, commanded by Captain Charles V. Dickinson, and Company K, from Vermilion, commanded by Captain William P. Black.
Before departure, the Regiment was presented with battle flags by the Board of Trade of Chicago, and upon reporting to General Fremont, at St. Louis, Mo., was reviewed by him and his staff in front of his headquarters, upon which occasion ribbons of red, white and blue were tied to the spear-head of the battle flag of the Regiment by the hands of the distinguished wife of the General, Mrs. Jesse Benton Fremont. The Regiment was armed - the eight inside companies with Springfield rifles, and the two flanking companies and all non-commissioned officers with Colt's repeating rifle (seven shooters).
About October 2, the Regiment proceeded to Booneville, Mo., where it went into camp. About October 10th, Captains Black and Payne embarked their companies on board the steamer "War Eagle", and proceeded up the Missouri to Arrow Rock, and after exploring Saline county for the rebel General Claib Jackson, returned. About October 13, Captain Payne was left in command of the post at Booneville with Companies C and H, and seven companies of Home Guards, and Colonel White proceeded with the other eight companies, as a part of General Fremont's army, to the capture of Springfield, Mo., then held by Price's (rebel) army. The rebels retreating, the Regiment went into camp on the Lamine river, where it was joined February 7th, 1862, by Captain Payne's command from Booneville, when the Regiment became a part of the Army of the Frontier, under Generals Curtis and Herron. From the Lamine, the Regiment marched by way of Cassville, Mo., along the "Wire road", skirmishing all the way with the retreating rebel army, to Sugar Creek, in Arkansas, where, on the 6th, 7th and 8th of March 1862, it participated in the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where, although the rebel army outnumbered the Federal army two to one, we one a complete and brilliant victory, and saved St. Louis from Price's grasp. At this battle, Col. Julius White commanded the Brigade, composed of the Thirty-seventh and Fiftyninth Illinois, and Davidson's Peoria Battery.
From 10 A.M. of the 7th of March until sundown, this Brigade met and repulsed the onslaught of 6,000 rebels, under Generals McCullough and McIntosh, both of whom were killed in front of this Brigade. The night of the 7th, the Regiment slept on its arms, and next day renewed the fight, and at 11 A.M. a general charge was made, which resulted in putting Price's army to flight and our taking many prisoners. The rebel army numbered 35,000 men, and were completely whipped and forced to retreat south by Gen. Curtis' Union army of 15,000. For his gallant handling of his heroic Brigade at this battle, Col. White was made Brigadier General of Volunteers. At this battle the Thirty-seventh lost, killed, 21; wounded, 114 - total, 135. After this battle, the Thirty-seventh Infantry, with the Peoria Battery and Hubbard's Missouri Cavalry, were stationed at Cassville, Mo., on outpost duty.
In June 1862, General White received his commission as General, and departed east to report for duty Lieutenant Colonel Barnes was then promoted to Colonel; Major John Chas. Black Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain H. N. Frisbie, Major.
During the summer of 1862, the report coming in that a large force of rebels and Indians were at Neosho, mo., 40 miles distant, Lieutenant Colonel Black, taking all the available force at the Post, started at sunrise, marched to Neosho, met and defeated the enemy and drove him into the Indian Territory; returned to Neosho at midnight, and reached Cassville by sundown the next day, with over 300 prisoners and a large number of horses, mules and wagons captured from the enemy, having marched 100 miles and fought a battle in two days.
The Thirty-seventh guarded the frontier in southeast Missouri all through the summer of 1862, having frequent fights with roving bands under Coffee and Quantrell, alternating between Springfield and Cassville, Mo.
During the summer of 1862, Company F, of Thirty-seventh Illinois, Captain E. B. Messer commanding, was detailed as a guard of the College Military Prison at Springfield, Mo., and occupied part of the summer in the construction of a stockade, and otherwise fortifying Springfield.
September 29, 1862, found the Thirty-seventh again on the march after the enemy. October 1, reached Pond Springs, Mo. October 4th, drove the rebels out of Newtonia, Mo.,; thence to Gadfly, thence to Cassville, Mo., thence to old battle-field of Pea Ridge, thence to Huntsville, Ark., arriving there October 20th. Started on the evening of October 22 for Bentonville; marched all night. Crossed White river, and camped four miles south of Cross Hollows October 23d. Reached Osage Springs October 24th. Broke camp on the evening of October 27th, marched all night, and at daylight surprised the rebels at Fayetteville, Ark.; took some prisoners, and returned to Osage Springs October 30th.
Continued marching in light order, chasing rebels from one place to another, until December 1, 1862, when the Regiment went into camp at Camp Lyon, Mo.
On account of the rapid marching qualities of the Thirty-seventh, and the fact that it was always on the march in pursuit of the enemy, when not actually engaged in battle with him, it gained the sobriquet of "The Illinois Greyhounds", by which name it was known all over Missouri and Arkansas.
December 3, 1862, Colonel Barnes having retired from the service, and Lieutenant Colonel Black being Colonel, H. N. Frisbie Lieutenant Colonel, and Eugene B. Payne, Captain of Company C, Major, the order came to the Regiment, then at Camp Lyon, Mo., to proceed to the relief of General Blunt, then besieged at Sugar Hill, Ark.
Leaving the baggage to follow, the Regiment started for the relief of Blunt, and marched to Prairie Grove, Ark., in three days, a distance of 112 miles, double-quickening the last ten miles. On the morning of December 7, 1862, engaged the enemy at Prairie Grove, Ark., near Illinois Creek. General Herron commanded the Division at that battle, and Colonel Dye, Twentieth Iowa, commanded the Brigade composed of his own regiment, the Thirty-seventh Illinois, and one battery. The battle lasted all day, and was one of the most hotly contested and bloody battles of the war, considering the number engaged.
The Thirty-seventh lost about one-seventh of its number in killed and wounded. Colonel Black, at this battle, commanded the Regiment with one arm in a sling, shattered at the battle of Pea Ridge, and late in the fight had his other arm shattered by a rifle ball. Many of the company officers were killed and wounded.
That night General Marmaduke, commander of the rebel army, and under a flag of truce, approached the outpost, under command of Major Payne, Officer of the Day, and after being disarmed and blindfolded by that officer, was escorted by him to the headquarters of General Herron. Exactly what transpired at this conference is not known, except that the battle was named Prairie Grove. It is surmised, however, that General Herron demanded an unconditional surrender, to which General Marmaduke could not fully accede. Returned, the rebel leader muffled his artillery wheels, and fled during the night across the mountains. The Thirty-seventh accompanied General Herron the next day, and pursued the rebel army over the Boston Mountains to Fort Smith, Ark., where General Marmaduke, with the remnant of his rebel army, crossed the river and escaped.
The Thirty-seventh returned to Prairie Grove, and as a part of General Herron's Army of the Frontier, spent the winter and spring of 1862-63 in marching from point to point, in Missouri and Arkansas, having numerous skirmishes with the enemy, until April 24, 1863, when the Regiment proceeded to St. Louis, and from thence to Cape Girardeau, Mo., where it engaged the enemy single-handed, and drove him across the sunken country to Chalk Bluffs, on the St. Francis River. It was at this battle of Chalk Bluffs, fought May 2, 1863, that the brave Lieutenant Joseph Eaton, Company H, was killed.
Returning to St. Louis, the Regiment accompanied General Herron's Division to Vicksburg, Miss., where about June 13th, 1863, it helped to completely environs Vicksburg by closing up the gap between General Logan and the river on the south side. Major Eugene B. Payne was here detailed as "Picket Officer" of General Herron's Division, and had full charge of the rifle pits during the siege. The Regiment took a prominent part in the siege of Vicksburg, and being hardy veterans, marched with every man into the captured city, July 4, 1863.
July 13, 1863, the Regiment proceeded up Yazoo River, landing near Yazoo City and captured that place after a hard fight, taking many prisoners. Thence marched to the Big Black River in pursuit of enemy. Was from thence ordered back to Vicksburg, thence to Port Hudson, and from thence, August 13, proceeded to New Orleans, La., and went into camp at Carrollton. September 4, 1863, the Regiment was reviewed by General U.S. Grant. September 5, proceeded to Morganzia, La., and on September 8, in company of 20th Iowa, and 26th Indiana, started in pursuit of General Dick Taylor, and General Green's Rebel forces, west of Atchafalaya River. On 29th September, met enemy near Morgan's Bent. Rebel force 3,000 - Union force 1,200 - whipped them. Rebel loss, 32 killed, 110 wounded. Union loss, 13 killed, 34 wounded.
On September 30, General Dana took command of our Division. October 1, Regiment had another "scrape" with the enemy and took 65 prisoners. Returned to New Orleans, La., October 11. Lieutenant Colonel H. N. Frisbie having resigned, Major Eugene B. Payne was promoted Lieutenant Colonel, commanding Regiment, as Colonel Black was in command of the Brigade composed of Twenty-sixth Indiana, Twentieth Iowa and Thirty-seventh Illinois. October 13, Colonel Black with his Brigade embarked and proceeded to, and took possession of Brownsville, Texas. From that time until Feb. 1864, the Regiment guarded the Rio Grande River as far north as Ringgold Barracks. In Feb. 1864, the Regiment re-enlisted for three years, and was remustered Feb. 28, 1864. Receiving a furlough of thirty days the "boys" visited their homes for the first time in three years. Reporting at Chicago, the Regiment proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., April 30th, where Colonel Black with his Brigade was sent after the rebel General Forrest whom he forced to retreat into interior of State. Returned to Memphis, the Regiment proceeded to "Atchafalaya Bayou", where General Black's Brigade constructed the celebrated "Steamboat Bridge" over which General N. P. Banks escaped from the rebel General Dick Taylor.
May 30th, started out on another scout; marched 60 miles and camped at Morganzia, La. Between June 2d and 14th, 90 the of the Regiment were on another scout. Attached to Nineteenth Army Corps June 14th; July 12th proceeded up White River and fortified St. Charles, Ark. Returned to Morganzia July 12th. The Nineteenth Army Corps (Banks) having returned east, the Regiment was attached to Thirteenth Army Corps and placed in General Lawler's Division. September 20th, all the non-veterans returned home. October 7th, the Regiment went into regular winter quarters at Duvall's Bluff, Ark. (a thing they had never done before). January 4, 1865, the Regiment received marching orders and proceeded to New Orleans, La., and thence to Barrancas, Florida. March 11th, marched to Pensacola, Florida. The Regiment was now in First Brigade Second Division Thirteenth Army Corps, General Steele commanding. March 20th, the Regiment marched across Peridio River and Aslumbia River on bridges built by themselves to Pollard, Florida, having several skirmishes by the way.
March 13th, Colonel John C. Black, was promoted Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers, and Lieutenant Colonel Eugene B. Payne was promoted to Brevet Colonel of Volunteers by the President and Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. General Payne having resigned on account of sickness as Lieutenant Colonel, Major Ransom Kennicott was promoted Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain H. Wolford, Co. H, was promoted Major. April 2d, the Regiment participated in the siege and storming of Fort Blakely, Ala. April 9th, stormed Fort Blakely, and after a hard fought battle captured the Fort, capturing 1,200 prisoners and much property. The Regiment's loss was 1 killed and 7 wounded.
April 14th, entered Mobile, Ala., and went into camp. April 20th, embarked on steamers and proceeded up the Alabama River to Cahawba, Ala., (a late rebel prison pen) and took on board the half starved emaciated Union prisoners confined there. Near Selma, Ala., a gang of Bushwhacking rebels fired into our boat killing one man of Co. A. Retribution quickly followed, for the Regiment landed and burned the houses of the leader of the Rebels, and General Steele issued his proclamation that if his boats were fired on again his troops would burn all buildings with 15 miles of the shooting. This put a stop to it.
On April 29 reached Montgomery, Ala., (seat of Rebel Government). Returned to Selma, May 1. Reached Mobile, Ala., May 15. June 12th received orders to march with 60 rounds. Remained in suspense until June 28th, when the Regiment embarked on steamer and for the 5th time ploughed the Gulf. Arrived at Galveston, Texas, July 1. Reached Sabine Pass July 5, and camped at Beaumont. July 17th, went to Houston, Texas, where the Regiment, with Headquarters at Houston, was stationed by companies along the railroads leading out of Houston. July 13th, Major Wolford was mustered out and Captain J. J. Huntley, Co. C, was promoted Major. Co. A, was stationed at Brenham, B at Milligan, C at Columbus, D at Beaumont, F at Richmond, H at Alleyton, K at Hempstead with E, G and I at Houston.
General Black resigned August 15, 1865, and Lieutenant Colonel Ransom Kennicott was promoted Colonel, and Major J. J. Huntley Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Jack Moran Co. D, Major. On May 15, 1865, the Thirty-seventh was mustered out of the U.S. service at Houston, Texas, and reached Springfield, Ill., May 31, 1866, where it received final payment and discharge, having been in the service of the United States four years and ten months, and having participated in eleven hard fought battles and sieges and innumerable skirmishes, and having marched a distance of 17,846 miles as follows: By steam 14,560 miles; on foot 3,286 miles, according to the tabulated statement kept by Henry Ketzel, veteran of Co. A.
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