History 31st Regiment Illinois Volunteers Organized by John A. Logan

By W. S. Morris; L. D. Hartwell et al. | Go to book overview

Foreword

When Confederate batteries fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in April 1861, North and South divided into warring nations. Lines of division, however, were not foreordained. Contention between Unionists and secessionists brought internal disorder to Missouri and a brief attempt at official neutrality to Kentucky. Nestled between these two states, southern Illinois also experienced the upheaval of a region torn between North and South.

Eighteen counties of southern Illinois formed the congressional district of Democrat John A. Logan, who held political sovereignty. His constituents had given him 80 percent of their votes in the 1860 election, and even his Republican opponent for Congress received a few more votes than presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. In essence, Logan's district contained a population of hardscrabble subsistence farmers of Southern origin, fiercely Democratic and devoted to Logan, who had established his reputation as a proponent of legislation excluding free blacks from Illinois and as a defender in Congress of Southern rights. Illinoisans gave the name Egypt to the southernmost region, whose people were labeled "ignorant, disloyal, intemperate, and generally heathenish." While acting as state mustering officer at Anna, former captain Ulysses S. Grant noted the stereotypes but was "agreeably disappointed in the people of Egypt" after mustering in the 9th Congressional District Regiment, later the 18th Illinois. If these troops and Colonel Michael K. Lawler refuted the stereotypes, Logan reinforced them.

Usually vociferous in his opinions, Logan maintained an ominous silence during the first two months of the Civil War, a silence interpreted by many as sympathy for the South. In Marion, where Logan had recently become a resident, a public meeting called soon after the surrender of Fort Sumter adopted a resolution pledging adherence "to the Southern Confederacy." The next day, however, other citizens of Marion, influenced by Unionists in Carbondale, repealed the resolution. Concerned about turmoil in Egypt, Illinois Governor Richard Yates responded to a federal call for

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