The One Hundred and Nineteenth Infantry was organized at Quincy, in September, 1862, and was mustered into the United States service, October 10, by Lieutenant K. Knox, of the United States Army. It was recruited from the counties of Adams, Brown, Hancock, McDonough and Schuyler. Thomas J. Kinney, Captain of Company H, was elected Colonel, and no man in the Regiment ever found cause to regret this selection. He was brave, generous, considerate and reliable under all circumstances.
The latter part of October the Regiment moved under orders, by transport, to Columbus, Kentucky, and from thence to Jackson Tennessee. From this point we were stationed at different points along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, guarding the lines of communication. In December, General Forrest made an effort to destroy the roads in this section, capturing at Rutherford Station, Company G, and K, at Dyer Station. Three of the Companies were stationed at Kenton, and anticipating the attack, fell back towards Columbus, Kentucky, and when near Union City, Tennessee, joined the advancing forces. General Cheatham was supposed to be marching on Columbus, and the entire force fell back to this point.
The Christmas times were employed here in digging ditches in the rain, and preparing for anticipated attack. Either the apprehension was groundless, or else the enemy feared the forces. General Davies was then commanding the post, but was soon relieved by General J.M. Tuttle. Our presence having restored quiet in this quarter, the work of re-constructing the railroad was commenced, and we remained at Union City for a time, impressing the natives, including the contrabands, into the service, for work repairing the railroad. This work accomplished in February, by order we reported, and our scattered companies came together at Humboldt, Tennessee. From that point, with other forces added, a movement was made eastward to Huntington, Tennessee, expecting to meet or attract the enemy at this point. The march was in the worst of weather; the roads in just the condition to provoke the wrath of the most devout. Our Headquarters were established at Buntyn Station, about six miles out from Memphis. This was about March 10, 1863. At this point, and one or two others along the road, we guarded the approach to Memphis. This we did effectually, and much to our enjoyment until May 30, 1863, we were ordered into Memphis, and assigned to the Fourth Brigade, Colonel David Moore commanding; Fifth Division, Brigadier General J.C. Veatch commanding; Sixteenth Corps, Major General S.A. Hurlburt commanding.
The Brigade was composed of Fifty-eighth Illinois, Twenty-first Missouri, Eighty-ninth Indiana, One Hundred and Nineteenth Illinois Infantry Volunteers, and the Ninth Ohio Battery, commanded respectively by Colonels W.R. Lynch, David Moore, Charles D. Murray, (Colonel of Eighty-ninth Indiana,) Thomas J. Kinney and Captain Brown, the Battery. We mention the Brigade organization, for as above composed it remained during the war, and the history of one regiment is the history of each. In the after scenes we sympathized, endured and fought together. Our Regiment remained on duty in and about Memphis until January, 1864, guarding the roads entering into the city, and such provost work and other duties as details might be ordered. If I except the daily drills, squad, company and battalion, this was the "good time of our recollections.
On August 14, 1863, George Parker, Captain of Company B, died, the result of amputation of a broken lag. He was a brave and accomplished officer and a true friend.
On or about January 27th, 1864, the Regiment moved by transport down the Mississippi to Vicksburg. From here we marched with quite an army, General W.T. Sherman commanding, to Meridian Miss. En route, and before reaching Jackson, Miss., we were engaged in several skirmishes, but without regimental loss. We met the enemy at Meridian. At this point, the bridge across quite a stream being burned, we were annoyed by the firing of the enemy from behind cotton bale works, until a temporary structure enabled us to cross, when, on the double quick, we routed the enemy, and occupied Meridian, situate on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. From this point north and south we effectively destroyed communication by tearing up the rails, heating them on burning ties, and bending to prevent future use until again run through the rolling mills. A temporary stay in this section developed in a return movement by a somewhat different route, crossing Pearl River north of Jackson, and through Canton back to Vicksburg. the march was a weary one. Removed from our base of supplies, foraging was largely depended upon for subsistence.
At Vicksburg we rested for a time, from about March 4th until the 10th, when we again embarked on transports. Objective points were always unknown; but we disembarked at Simsport, on the Atchafalaya, and entered upon the Red River campaign. We here surprised a small Rebel camp, they falling back in the direction of Fort De Russey. The gunboats from the river, and our forces from the land side, on or about March 12th, captured the fort with 283 prisoners and 10 guns. This, after a march in one day of 40 miles, and the work all done by sunset. The main Rebel force escaped up the river, commanded by Walker. Marching to Alexandria, we halted for a time for the arrival of Banks' command, doing general duty, and engaging in occasional raids with meager results.
We joined in the general advance to Shreveport, brining up the rear. We were called upon to engage in the second day's fight, and, as a part of A.J. Smith's veterans, we assisted in routing the enemy, and retaking one of the lost batteries and a number of prisoners - this last one by our own particular Brigade. We fell back and guarded the rear of the retreating army until reaching Alexandria. Here a halt was necessitated by the receding river. Our gunboats were unable to pass through the rapids. This developed the Bailey plan of wing dams to press the water into the narrow channel. These we helped to construct, and they proved successful. The boats over, we moved toward Simsport on the Atchafalaya, the initial point of our campaign.
At Mansura, near Marksville, we had a skirmish which resulted in rout to the enemy. Still in the rear, we were attacked at Yellow Bayou by a large force, which occasioned a desperate fight, General Smith commanding. We did valiant service, losing many men. Captain May, of Company I, was killed here. Colonel Lynch, commanding our Brigade, was here wounded, and the command of the Brigade devolved upon Colonel Kinney. He was a brave man, and from this wound, years afterward, he died. Putting bow to bow of many steamers, a bridge was formed across the Atchafalya, and now, after forty days and forty nights in sound of the enemy's guns, and always at the post of danger, we are freed from the orders of General Banks, who was relieved by General Canby.
We were ordered back up the Mississippi. We were landed in the southeastern part of Arkansas, and at Lake Chicot engaged a Rebel force successfully. This was reported to be under command of Marmaduke, and was well entrenched across a bayou; but we fought as always to win, and drove the enemy, who retreated and left us the field. We made a detour and reached transports, and were moved up the river, and disembarked next at Memphis to assist in wiping out the disaster of Major General S.D. Sturgis, at Guntown. We arrived at Memphis about June 24th, and moved by rail to Lagrange, where the One Hundred and Twenty-second Illinois Infantry Volunteers, Colonel J.I. Rinaker, was assigned to our Brigade, and July 5th commenced marching through Mississippi. Met Forrest on July 14th, at Tupelo, Miss. The battle was admirably planned, skillfully and desperately fought, resulting in victory fully convincing the enemy that Guntown was remembered. At bugle sound we assumed position, and poured a deadly volley upon the forces, now so near that we could see the men face to face. The dead and wounded were many; and after several advances, charges and retreats, we rejoiced in a signal victory.
After a day's delay burying the dead and caring for the wounded, we started on a return movement. This was without interference, except cavalry skirmishing at Old town Creek the next day, after the battle. Withdrawing to Memphis, another movement was made into Mississippi, through Holly Springs to the Tallahatchie. No enemy interfered with this campaign. At this time Forrest flanked our forces, and made his raid into Memphis.
Returning to Memphis, under orders to report to Sherman in Georgia, we took transports up the river. Developments in Missouri, and the movements of Price in that direction, made it necessary to reinforce Rosecrans, then commanding this department, with headquarters at St. Louis. Our objective point, by order of General Halleck, was changed, and accordingly we reported to Rosecrans at St. Louis.
We at one time moved south from Jefferson Barracks to intercept Price; but at length fully organized under command of General Smith, we started westward in the vain attempt to out travel and overtake a mounted enemy. We moved along, without obstacle, until we were left at Lamine River to guard supplies, the enemy having burned the bridge. From this point we advanced toward Dunksburg. We forded the rivers on all occasions, all bridges being destroyed, which was no pleasant occupation for October. We well remember going into camp late one night, about October 22, and after enjoying a cup of coffee we were ordered to fall in, and we marched all night, passing through Independence about day break, and pressing towards the Big Blue. This point we reached too late for usefulness. We could hear the fight going on, but the enemy were routed before our arrival. We found Price in full retreat. Pursuing no further, we soon after began our movement back towards St. Louis.
We had marched a distance of about 700 miles: a weary and uncomfortable march; exposure to the elements more than to the enemy, but truly, a trip that tried the mettle of the soldier.
From this point, St. Louis, we were loaded on steamboats and passed down the Mississippi and up the Cumberland River to Nashville, and here reported to General Thomas at, or about, December 1, 1864. Disembarking, we were marched out late in the day, going into camp after night on the right of the then collected forces. Here Colonel Kinney being the ranking officer, took command of the Division, until General Kenand Gerrard was assigned to the command, when Kinney returned to command of the Brigade. We did some faithful work, entrenching and throwing up earthworks, expecting Hood to attack.
On one bright day, December 15, we left our defenses, and moved on the enemy, and in two days' battle, officers and men acquitted themselves honorably. Our loss was slight. We captured a battery of brass guns. We never fell back in any movement during the battle. The enemy routed and fleeing, we joined the movement south, over the Granny White Pike, seeking the retreating and flying enemy.
We marched through Franklin, passing the late field of carnage here, camping just south of the town. It may have rained before, but it now made a success of it. We lay until morning by letting the water run over our bodies, our heads propped up above the high water mark. On through Columbia, crossing Duck River without resistance, Hood's forces now effectually dissipated. We enjoyed our Christmas and New Year's on the trip. How we enjoyed it , we knew.
We were transported from Clifton, on the Tennessee River, to Eastport, Miss. At this point we had much to amuse and annoy - little to do and less to eat. A cavalry movement having been contemplated from this point, the Quartermasters and Commissaries had all thoughts fixed on horses, so that supplies arriving were for beast and not man. Parched corn and improvised corn cakes from cracked corn, with occasional efforts to digest hay, was our diet for over a week. The unexpected rise in the river gave us occupation in that we were trying to save the immense supply of grain, but nevertheless the Government lost heavily by the freshets.
Always a reinforcing Division, Brigade and Regiment, a weak point or a point of attack seemed to turn attention to us. At this juncture a contemplated movement against Mobile resulted in orders for our reporting to General Canby, then selected to command in this attack. Again we embarked on transports, and after days of tiresome steamboat confinement down the Tennessee, and then the Mississippi, we arrived at New Orleans, arriving the latter part of February, 1865, on the opposite side, in the town of Algiers. Remaining in camp for several days, finding shelter in an old sugar house in the shadow of the monument erected in commemoration of the battle of New Orleans, we spent the time awaiting embarkation. We shipped from New Orleans on a boat for the mouth of the Mississippi. We disembarked at what seemed a coaling station near its mouth, constructed of plank which seemed floating among the grasses. Here the fresh oyster opportunity broke upon us, and we bought, begged and grabbed all in reach from incoming natives. But eating was not our mission, and so the Fairchild, a half sea-going vessel, carried us out the mouth of the Mississippi into the Gulf, and brought us alongside the steamer Guiding Star. So we were stored on board a sea-going vessel, and steamed into the Gulf. This riding on the seas is disturbing to a well regulated stomach, but we heaved with the sea, and finally landed on Dauphine Island, off Mobile Bay, about March 12, 1865, moved March 21st to the mouth of the Fish River. This was as if an opening in to a swamp, but vessels pushed up its dull and sluggish channel. After putting our feet on land we advanced, resisted only by skirmishers. The roads were planted with torpedoes, and occasional explosions were deadly. Not a few men and horses were in this way killed or wounded.
March 27, 1865, Spanish Fort was invested while we directed our attention to Fort Blakely. This investment of Spanish Fort continued until April the 8th when all the guns small and great opened their fires upon the doomed fort, and this grandest of all sounding battles or bombardments silenced the fort. This fort was constructed for resistance. The approach over a plateau, bristled with abattis, palisades, ditches, and with its cannon arranged for death dealing. We had been on picket all night, and so were to the front for the assault on Sunday afternoon about April 9th. The time came for a charge on this stronghold. So struggling with all manner of obstructions, and amid shell canister, grape shot and musketry for about an hour we overcame all obstacles and resistance: mounted the works, took the Fort:; captured the enemy, and complete victory was ours. Our loss was not heavy, Company A suffering the most. How we danced over our prizes in the way of prisoners, guns, swords, flags and ordinance stores! Once agian we could square ordinance accounts. This battle was fought after Lee's surrender, and when the war was practically ended. After marching several days, about April 19th, we began to hear rumors of Lee's surrender. At last official notification reached us that Lee had surrendered, and the demonstration we made is simply indescribable. This was the happy day of the war for us.
We marched on however, to Montgomery, Alabama. Here we were recieved by the citizens with a measure of apprehension. Gentlemanly conduct convinced them that we were without "horns" or "cloven feet," so we had a comfortable sojourn of a few weeks at this delightful place.
While at this point, discipline demanded the organization of a court martial, and we tarried long enough to apply the rules and regulations to offenders.
From Montgomery we moved south in the hottest of weather, when as much as a leaf to shade a man was better than a feast.
We marched to a point about one hundred miles above, and took transports for shipment to Mobile.
Our Regiment embarked on the Osborn, and reached Mobile in comparatively good condition. Here we entered upon fatigue service, such as details for guards, and provost duty.
Colonel Kinney was ordered to report, and assigned duty as provost marshal of the department and District of Mobile with some of his command as assistants. He was the executive officer in all matters pertaining both to the civil and military life, directing the soldier and protecting the citizen. A position demanding quick and accurate judgment, and unbending determination in all the varied questions under his jurisdiction and control. He measured himself a man in all these things, and won the commendation of his associates.
Here we were mustered out in August, 1865, Kinney only a brigadier, and the rest of us all feeling like major generals.
Coasting via Lake Pontchartrain up the Mississippi to Cairo, and from thence to Camp Butler, near Springfield, where we were finally paid off, rehabilitated as citizens, and dispersed to our several homes, rejoiced at the outcome for our country and ourselves.