Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

The First Brigade of Illinois Militia: Three Months Volunteers

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

The First Brigade of Illinois Militia: Three Months Volunteers

Article excerpt

President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation of April 15, 1861, calling out the State Militias to suppress the rebellion was the nation's call to military service. Then Governor of Illinois, Richard M. Yates, issued his own Proclamation on April 15 calling for the State Legislature to meet on April 23 and consider the, "more perfect organization and equipment of the Militia of the State... and to raise such money or other means as may be required."1 That same day Yates sent out his General Order No. 1 as Commander-in-Chief to those, "Commandants of the several Divisions, Brigades and Regiments, and Independent Companies to perfect their drills, and to hold themselves in readiness for actual service."2

The Illinois State Journal published out of Springfield offered the militiamen the needed, "Information in Regard to Enrolling Volunteers."

In view of the fact that Illinois has been called upon to furnish six regiments, her quota of volunteers for the defense of the Federal Government, we have thought that it might facilitate matters to give such information as we can gather in regard to enrolling such troops, forming Companies, etc. As our Militia has long been in a state of disorganization, the Governor when he issues his call, will probably direct the Commanders of Regiments and odd Battalions in each county - or, should there be no such officers, then the sheriff of each county, immediately to convene the several Regiments and odd Battalions en masse, and enroll such volunteers there from as may offer their services. But, another plan, and in our judgment a better one, would be the one adopted when raising volunteers for the Mexican War, viz: let any patriotic man who desires to do so take the names of all able bodied men who are willing to volunteer, form them into a Company or Companies, and report to the Governor.

Each Company will consist of one Captain, one First Lieutenant, one Second Lieutenant, four Sergeants, four Corporals, two Musicians, and eighty men. Each Regiment will consist of one Colonel, one Lieut. Colonel, one Major, one Adjutant (a Lieutenant of one of the Companies, but not in addition), one Sergeant Major, one Quartermaster Sergeant, two principal Musicians, and ten Companies. Each Company will select its own Officers, and when several Companies have met at the place of rendezvous, they will be formed into regiments and will elect their own Regimental Officers. As fast as Companies shall be formed and Officers elected, the Militia Officer, commanding in the county, or if there be none the Sheriff, shall make return to the Governor, stating the number of men in each Company.

No one under the rank of commissioned Officer will be received, who is apparently over the age of forty-five or under the age of eighteen.

The Governor in due time will give notice or place of rendezvous...3

The next day April 16, 1861, General Order No. 2 was issued calling for the immediate organization of the six regiments. This order contained instructions pertaining to the number of officers and men per company, per regiment, election of officers, and that the state capítol of Springfield was to be the place of rendezvous. The companies were to be received in the order in which their services were offered. The statement, "first come-first served," made it a race to be enrolled in one of the First Six Regiments.4 By April 19 the papers reported, "forty-seven Companies accepted." By the 20th, "sixty-one Companies [were recorded as ready to march]." This exceeded the number of men called for, [4,458] but, Governor Yates made it known that he would not restrict the number of volunteers. The Chicago Tribune, reported that Yates "will accept all that may be sent in, though the access may not be received for immediate service."5

By April 21, 125 Companies, or fully 12,000 men, were recorded by the State Adjutant General as on the rolls. Another twenty-five were conditionally accepted, and forty more were ordered to hold themselves in readiness and perfect their drill in anticipation of another call. …

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