Militia Units of Chicago Before the War  and the formation of Battery "B"


    As war in the East reached westward, it was time to look about and see what military material was still left in the city. The old military companies had been enrolled in two regiments the 6oth Regiment, I.S.M. and the Washington Independent Regiment, No.1.

    THE 60TH REGIMENT was now commanded by Colonel Joseph H. Tucker, Colonel Ezra Taylor having resigned. The balance of the field and staff offices were vacant. The companies composing it were the Chicago Light Dragoons, Chicago Light Guard, Emmet Guards, Montgomery Guards, Shield's Guards, U. S. Zouave Cadets, and the Chicago Light Artillery. The boundaries of the 6oth Regimental District were as follows: beginning at the northeast corner of fractional Section 33, 40, 14, on the shore of Lake Michigan, and running west along north line of Sections 33, 3, and 31, to the north branch of the Chicago River ; thence northerly up said river to west line of Township 40, 14, and Township 39, 14 ; thence south to southwest corner of Township 39, 14 ; thence east along south line of said Township 39, 14, to Lake Michigan ;  thence northerly along said lake to place of beginning. The 60th Regiment consisted of the following companies: 

    THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REGIMENT was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Shirley, its colonelcy being vacant by the death of Colonel William H. Davis. It's Major was W. H. Wallis, and there were no other regimental officers. It's companies were the Highland Guards, Washington Light Cavalry, Washington Rifles, Washington Grenadiers, and the Black Jager Rifles. These two regiments formed the Second Brigade of the Sixth Division, Illinois State Militia, commanded by Brigadier-General R. K. Swift, who had three aides with rank of major. These were William S. Johnson, Jr., John Ross and E. W. Griffin. Major Charles B. Brown was quartermaster. In January, 1861, the status of these several companies, formerly the pride and glory of Chicago was anything but satisfactory.  The old militia system had borne heavily on both the time and finances of men and officers, and as the belief had been forced upon all that the showy glories of parade and drill did not compensate for a depleted purse or the possible neglect of more important duties, the military spirit had gradually died out, and the drill room had been abandoned.

    THE CHICAGO LIGHT DRAGOONS, organized by Captain Charles W. Barker, in April, 1836, and still commanded by him, had rapidly risen in favor and popularity. With their scarlet hussar pelisses and gay accoutrements, they formed a brilliant feature in a holiday parade. The strict discipline and thorough training of Captain Barker had made them proficient in each feature of company drill.  But the money pressure had proved too much for them. Now their equipment was seldom taken from the racks where they lay in the old Armory Building, on the corner of Monroe and LaSalle streets.  In this armory had been the drill rooms of nearly every city militia company.  The arms of the dragoons; pistols and sabers belonged to the State, the latter being in good condition, the former worthless.

    THE CHICAGO LIGHT GUARD, organized by Captain J. B. Wyman, in February, 1854, was par excellence.   For years the crack corps of the northwest. In the old Armory Light Guard Hall, in Couch's building, the company formerly drilled, and to be a guardsman then was to be envied by all less favored mortals.  Now the few left, who were faithful to the tradition of their former greatness, occasionally drilled at the Armory building, under the leadership of Lieutenant George W. Gage. Forty-two Minie muskets, well kept and in good condition, a gallant prestige and unblemished name, were all the Light Guards could now bring to the service of the country.  Below is a picture of a Lt. from the Guard.

    THE EMMET GUARDS, organized May, 1834, by Captain Patrick O'Connor, and commanded as late as 1858 by Captain D. C. Skelly, as a corps was extinct. Dust and devouring rust had brought their forty altered over muskets to a state more formidable to friend than foe.  They were allowed to keep ward and watch over the vacated rooms in the upper floors of the block on the corner of Randolph and Wells streets, where their owners once drilled with Irish energy.  In the same rooms was another case of forty equally valuable muskets, carried for many years by the Montgomery Guards, the longest established company in the city.  It's existence dating back to the spring of 1842, when it was organized by Captain Patrick Kelly.  Under Captain Michael Gleason, it had maintained its reputation as one of the best Irish companies in the Northwest, from 1850 until three years before the breaking out of the war, when it succumbed to the pressure of hard times, and was now practically among the things of the past.

    THE SHIELDS GUARDS, a company composed mostly of mechanics, and organized November 25, 18 34, under Captain Charles E. Moore, was still alive, officered and keeping up its drill. Thirty-six names were on its roll, and its officers were: Captain, James Quirk; First Lieutenant, D. Crowley; Second Lieutenant, James H. Lane.  Their armory and drill room was in North Market Hall, and their arms fifty old-style muskets, worth about the value of their weight in old iron. The Shields Guards was the first Chicago Company that took measures to offer its services to the Government.   This was done in accordance with resolutions passed at their Armory on the evening of January 14, 18 61, while the excitement in regard to the treasonable proceedings at Charleston was at its height. Their fourth resolution was:                                 

Resolved, That we, the Shields Guards of the City of Chicago, laying aside for the present our individual political predilections, and having in view only the interest and demands of our common country, tender our services as citizen soldiers, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States, to be placed in whatever position our country calls upon us to.

    THE UNITED STATES ZOUAVE CADETS had disbanded soon after their return from their Eastern tour, and their arms had passed from their possession.  Below is a picture of the Cadets from Haper's Weekly.

    THE CHICAGO LIGHT ARTILLERY, one of the oldest and best of the city military companies was organized in 1854, with James Smith as captain, was alive and in good shape for duty; its officers being Captain, Ezra Taylor; First Lieutenant, Amos Grannis; Second Lieutenant, Darius Knights; Third Lieutenant, Cyrus P. Bradley. Fifty men were enrolled, and at their rooms at the Armory, corner Franklin and Cedar streets, were four brass six-pounders, with caissons and harness complete, all in excellent order. This company was made up of reliable material, and was conceded to be one of the best organizations of the kind in that branch of military service.  

The companies described  above constituted the 6oth Regiment, Illinois State Militia. Only  one company the Artillery had both men and arms fit for immediate service. The Light Guard had arms, but no men; the Shields Guards had men, but worthless arms; and the remaining four companies were, to all outward appearance, extinct as organizations.


    THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REGIMENT, of the companies constituting the Washington Independent Regiment, the Highland Guards, organized May 10, 1855, still retained a military Organization.  It's officers being John McArthur, captain,  Alexander N. Raffen, first lieutenant,  John Wood, second lieutenant. Captain Mc Arthur was an excellent officer, and the Highland Guards had ranked among the best of the city military companies. Unfortunately, it  was now reduced to thirty five members, who still kept up their drill at their Armory in Lind's Block, South LaSalle Street.   Where they had a neatly furnished reading room and a well selected library. The company offered their services  "for the preservation of the Union and the enforcement of the laws."  A few days after the shelling of Fort Sumter the Shields Guards  immediately commenced extra drill, and took measures to fill their ranks. This company had no arms fit for service.

    THE WASHINGTON  LIGHT CAVALRY, a German company, commanded by Captain Frederick Schambeck, with Henry Stupp as first lieutenant, was composed of forty mounted men, each armed with carbine, sabre and pistol.

    THE WASHINGTON RIFLES, Washington Grenadiers and Black Jager Rifles were also German companies. The Washington Rifles, commanded by Captain Fred. Mattern, with John Morat as first lieutenant, mustered twenty-five men, armed with United States rifles.  Twenty men were on the roll of the Grenadiers, their officers being; Captain T. Weiler; First Lieutenant, John Schmidt and Second Lieutenant, Martz Franzen. The Black Jagers numbered twenty-two men, also armed with United States muskets. They were commanded by Captain M. Marx.  

    In addition to the companies comprised in the two regiments, an independent company of Zouaves had been organized in the city.  James R. Hayden was captain, S. Hosmer, first lieutenant; and B. F. Yates, Second lieutenant.  This corps was organized on the ruins of the Zouave Cadets, the drill and uniform being the same. The Minie muskets and a brass mounted howitzer, originally borrowed from Missouri for the drill of the cadets, were now in the possession of the new company of Zouaves.  

    As a whole the united military organizations of the city, at the opening of  1861, could not muster over one hundred and fifty men, fully equipped according to their regulations.  Four brass six-pounders, one mountain howitzer, about fifty good muskets, and as many inferior rides, constituted the arms ready for immediate service.

    REORGANIZATION OF REGIMENTS, on the receipt of the news from South Carolina, the military spirit became freshly aroused.  Old companies revived, and new ones sprung into life.  During the first week of February, a meeting of citizens was held for the purpose of procuring arms from the state, and measures originated, in order to place the Highland Guards in proper condition for active service, if required.  The first new military company formed was that of Captain Frederick Harding, which received the silk flag promised by J. H. McVicker to the " first company organized in Chicago for the support of the Government."  He at the same time, pledging himself to "make one of twenty who will clothe the company during the war."

    The Zouave Cadets also revived, the old members uniting with the already existing company of Independent Zouaves, under Captain Hayden. Measures were set afoot for the formation of a zouave regiment, and a call issued for the reorganization of the corps for sterner duties than had hitherto fallen to its lot. Following are the names Of the old Zouaves, who answered this call, among them those who proved through the coming years of strife that they were not Carpet Knights, but earnest, loyal and brave men., And that the discipline to which they had been subjected  to was such as would stand the test of war.   James V. Guthrie, Presly N. Guthrie, William Dehrend, Henry S. Wade, Charles H. Hosmer, James W. Dewitt, A. A. Bice, G. True, Samuel I. Nathans, Charles C. Smith, R. R. W. Lock, H. M. Olcott, Frank Rogers, W. B. Smith, L. B. Hand, William H Cutler, John A. Baldwin, Albert B. Hatch, Edwin L. Brand, I. B. Taylor, G. Q. White, L. L. James, William Inness, John C. Long, Charles Varges, John H. Clybourn, James A. Clybourn. Henry Kelly, William . Danks, John Parsons, James G. Mc Adams and Lucius Larrabee.

    On the evening Of January 8, 1861, the Germans held their first war meeting in Chicago.   It was held  in their hall on the corner of Indiana and North Wells streets.   They organized by appointing Fidel Schund as chairman and W. S. Eschenburg as secretary. Casper Butz and E. Schlaeger addressed the meeting in German, and patriotic resolutions were drawn up and adopted with true Teutonic fervor.  They emphatically announced to Chicago and the world that they had "no concessions to make," and expressed their approval and admiration of the course of Major Anderson, not alone by resolution, but by voting him the gift of an elegant sword. '

    On the 1st of February, the Hungarians, Bohemians and other Sclavic nationalities organized themselves into a rifle company, under the leadership  of Geza Mlihalotzv, who afterward followed the flag of his adopted country from Missouri to Georgia, and finally laid down his life in its defense while leading a charge at Tunnel Hill. The old companies drilled diligently, and filled up their ranks during the early months of the year.   Fearing, yet hardly believing, that war would come in earnest.


    When Sumter was fired on, and Governor Yates issued his proclamation, on April 15, calling for volunteer troops to aid in preserving the Union, Chicago lost no time in responding to the call.  On the 16th of April the infantry company of Captain  Fred Harding and the Chicago Dragoons offered their services to the Governor, and were accepted. A day or two later the Washington Independent Regiment was tendered entirely.   The ranks of the Zouaves rapidly filled; companies " A " and " B " were already ready for service. By April 18th sufficient names had been offered to commence the formation of a Zouave regiment, which was to be organized under their old commander, Captain Joseph R. Scott.  Captain Ezra Taylor's company of Light Artillery, which had during the winter added two howitzers to its four brass field­pieces, and was acknowledged to be one of the best drilled companies in the Northwest, formally tendered its services to the President for the defense of Washington. New companies were rapidly formed, recruiting offices were thronged with men, ready and anxious to enroll their names among the defenders of the old flag, and only fearful lest the requisite number would be made up and their names left out.

    BATTERY, “A, CHICAGO LIGHT ARTILLERY,  as early as May, 1854, a company, called the Chicago Light Artillery, was organized in the city by James Smith,  a first lieutenant of Captain Swift's "Chicago Hussars and Light Artillery,". At the organization of that company in 1847,  the first officers of the Chicago Light Artillery, elected May 5, 1854, were;  James Smith, captain ; Ezra Taylor, first lieutenant ; E. W. Hadley, second lieutenant; H. S. Spears, commissary.  In the spring of 1861, Ezra Taylor reorganized the Chicago Light Artillery, or recruited a second company to be attached to it. The two being thereafter known as Batteries A" and " B" of the Chicago Light Artillery.  On April 19, 1861, the day that the first Union troops were fired upon in the streets of Baltimore, Governor Yates, of Illinois, was ordered by the Secretary of War to send troops to Cairo to hold that important point.  General R. K. Swift, of Chicago, in turn, was ordered by the Governor to arm and equip as quickly as possible, as strong a force as he could raise, including a company of artillery, " ready to march at a moment's warning."  In three hours after this order was received in Chicago , Battery " A " was recruited to full strength about one hundred and thirty men and ready to march under the command of the following officers: Captain  James Captain, James Smith; First Lieutenant, Charles M. Willard, Second Lieutenant, Francis M. Morgan ; Third Lieutenant, John R. Botsford.  At 1 o'clock on April  21st, forty-eight hours after receiving the dispatch, General Swift left Chicago with a force of four hundred and forty-six infantry, (The Chicago Zouaves, and  the Chicago companies of Captains Harding, Kowald and Mlihalotzv), and  Battery "A"  of the Chicago Light Artillery.  Consisting of  four six-pounders guns and one hundred and thirty men. The battery was without  shell or canister, but well provided with slugs, which it was able to use with good effect.    

    On arriving at Big Muddy Bridge, on the Illinois Central Railroad, about 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the 22nd, one section of the battery, under Lieutenant Willard, was detached and, with Captain Harding's Zouave company, was left to guard the bridge and vicinity.  The remainder of the battery proceeded to Cairo , where its services were called into requisition on the 24th.  Their duty was to prevent traffic in contraband property between St. Louis and the rebellious states below Cairo, Illinois.  On the morning of the 24th, the steamers "C. E. Hillman" and " John D. Perry" left St. Louis, laden with arms and munitions for southern secessionists. Colonel B. M. Prentiss, who arrived at Cairo and took command of the forces there the same morning, was ordered by the Governor to stop these boats at Cairo and seize all goods that were contraband of war. He delegated the duty to Captain Smith, of the battery, and to Captain Joseph R. Scott, of the Chicago Zouaves.  These two young officers, with their companies, gladly performed this duty boarding the vessels when they neared Cairo and confiscated large quantities of arms and ammunition.  This act was approved by the War Department, and further shipments to ports hostile to the government were forbidden.  Battery " A "  of the Chicago Light Artillery was mustered into United States service for three months, at Cairo, under a special act of the State Legislature, passed May 2.   During this  their term of service remained at Camp Smith, on the Mississippi River.  About three miles above Cairo proper, where Camp Defiance was located and the area that Battery "A" was camped  is described on May 22nd 1861 as a "Narrow peninsula or a long point, sunken 10 to 12 feet below the level of the rivers which meet at this point, and only preserved from inundation by a narrow wall, or levee, of mud.  Along the inner bank of the levee, from the point at the junction of the two rivers Mississippi and Ohio, and extending back a half-mile or more on the Mississippi shore.  Near Camp Defiance are the principal barracks for the infantry and artillery. 

    BATTERY " B," CHICAGO LIGHT ARTILLERY. Early in the spring of 1861, the Chicago Light Artillery, then consisting of one company, organized in 1854, by Captain James Smith, and commanded by him until 1860, was under the command of Captain Ezra Taylor.    Fifty men were on the rolls of the company its equipments were four brass six-pounders, caissons and harness complete, and its drill room was on the lower floor of the old armory on Adams street. The officers of the company were Ezra Taylor, commander; Cyrus P. Bradley, first lieutenant; Darius Knights, second lieutenant; Charles M. Willard, third lieutenant; J. K. Botsford, first sergeant; E. D. Osband, second sergeant; Edgar P. Tobey, third sergeant; E. Mendson , fourth sergeant.  Immediately upon the call for troops, in April, the Chicago Light Artillery was reorganized by Captain Taylor. Battery " A "  left for Cairo, Illinois under Captain Smith and Battery "B" was organized and offered to the Governor,  and accepted under the provisions of the "Ten Regiment Bill". The Battery was mustered into Federal service under the following officers: Captain, Ezra Taylor; Senior First Lieutenant, Samuel E, Barrett; Junior First Lieutenant, Levi W. Hart; Senior Second Lieutenant, Patrick H. White. Each of the above commanded a section of pieces. Junior Second Lieutenant, Israel P. Rumsey, was chief of line of caissons. Non-Commissioned Officers: Orderly Sergeant, Charles W. Everett; Quartermaster-Sergeant, Theodore P. Roberts; Chiefs-of -Pieces, with rank of Sergeant, John G. Loy, D. F. Chase, H. F. Towner, J. M. Moore, G. L. Purington, S. C. P. Bogue ; Gunners, with rank of Corporals, Abraham Heartt, C. H. Root, G. S. Blout, F. Wright, W. H. Prince, J. F. Whittle, William J. McCoy; Chiefs-of-Caissons, F. Whitfield, J. A. Moore, G. P. Clarke, J. C. McGrath, J. B. Easson, Thomas George.

The armament of the Battery consisted of four six-pound field­pieces, and two twelve-pound howitzers.  The side arms were Colt's revolvers, and sabers. The battery remained in Chicago, until June 1, when it proceeded to Cairo, and was there joined by Captain Taylor, who had been absent in St. Louis procuring arms for the artillery organizations of the State, In July, Battery "B" crossed the Mississippi River to Bird's Point, Mo. From Bird's Point the battery went on to fight in the early battles of Fredricktown and Belmont.