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The Twenty-First Illinois Regiment on the Retreat.


July/August 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 12, 1861.

The Twenty-First Illinois Regiment on the Retreat—Ordered down the River—Afternoon and Night in Camp—Another Secessionist Taken—President’s Message in Camp.

[Correspondence of the Missour Democrat.]

OPPOSITE NAPLES, July 9th, 1861.

The regiment yesterday crossed the river and made an advance of some four miles, reaching place of encampment about 11 A. M. The farm houses in every direction were by the soldiers besieged for pies, cornbread, milk, chickens and the like, for camp dessert. Being less fatigued than usual, an uncommon lively spirit seemed to possess the “boys,” who now prefer to call themselves soldiers, having at least been on the march. Everything that occurred in camp was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, which rebounded through the woods most eloquently. Orders were given to prepare for marching at 2:30 A. M. this morning, and you would have thought by the strong participation in food and sleep during the afternoon that full preparations were being made for the strict obeyance of orders. But halt; about face; change. About 6 P. M. the word “We are ordered to Cairo,” started through the camp, and if permitted to stop in one place was soon caught up in another and vociferated onward with a vehemence which showed that there was no mistake in the boys’ earnest desire to see the enemy and try his strength and metal. The dispatch, however, proved to be an order to Col. Grant, to the effect that if he had crossed the river, to turn back to either Naples or Meredosia, and await the conveyance of camp equipage and baggage down the river. Accordingly this morning a retreat was made to present encampment, arriving about 10 A. M.

The following appeared in this morning’s Illinois Journal, which was also greeted with cheers, loud and long.

“Col. Grant’s regiment, which left this city on the Fourth, received orders to take steamboat at Meredosia and proceed with dispatch to Ironton, Mo., the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad.”

Rainy night in camp. The heavy atmosphere and hot sun of yesterday seemed to bear heavily upon the soldiers, as evinced by their strong disposition to inertness. But few tents had been pitched, and scarce any of those ditched. An early march had been ordered, and most preferred, for a covering, the canopy of heaven to the tent. But again, attention! soldiers. The heavy rustling of leaves is heard in the distance, prognosticating a slight descent of vapor, in concentrated form. Immediately all hands are at work, pitching tents, staking, ditching, securing knapsacks, blankets, &c. Not a few who are too inactive to make full security against the rain, which then poured in torrents, and tents being new, are soon to be seen, as near as can be, floating upon their blankets, inside of tents. Some sat upon their knapsacks, some stood up, and others retreated to private dwellings to spend the first rainy night upon the march. This morning found all again in fine spirits though, and the dazzling of old Sol soon absorbed the dampness from the boys’ clothing, and all is now new again.

Last night again had Maj. McMakin the pleasure of administering the oath of allegiance to another of Jeff. Davis’s loyalists. Information being received that Taylor, Postmaster of Perryville, was a secessionist, a squad from Company H posted instanter to his (Taylor’s) place of residence, a distance of some five miles, and demanded his presence in camp. He wished his horse to ride, as he was not used to marching, but the boys couldn’t wait, and in consequence he was obliged to make a forced march until his horse was saddled and brought on to him. Closely guarded, drenched to the skin, he reached camp, and after considerable reluctance took the oath. Citizens from that vicinity to-day express much gratification on this account.


The first appearance of the message in camp was in the Illinois Journal’s extra of Saturday, but a supply was not furnished until yesterday. Could you have send the avidity with which its contents were devoured, and heard the remarks upon it of different ones in groups, you would have certainly admitted that a more positive truth was never told, than that “there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts and sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known to the whole world, and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a court, abundantly competent to administer the government.”