31st Illinois Regiment: Recruitment and Training


Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/CairoIllPerspectiveMap1885.jpg

The 31st Illinois was recruited by Congressman John A. Logan. Logan, upon enlisting was given a colonel position by Governor Yates and sent to recruit 1,000 men organized into 10 companies. After receiving his orders in Cairo, Logan went out to his old Congressional districts where he made a pro-union speech in Marion, Illinois. Here he is praised by General Grant for speaking in the Marion town square stating, “[the] time has come when a man must be for or against his country.” (Morris pg.xvi) Logan quickly raised the 10 companies enlisting 1,100 total volunteers and setting an example for the Union. Just as Governor Yates had hoped, a former Democrat leader had set aside his disdain for President Lincoln, and answered the call to preserve the Union. The 31st Illinois was organized and trained in Cairo, Illinois, which was made into Fort Defiance and under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Here the men drilled under former Mexican War officer John H. White. (Morris p. 26)

1861 Sept 6 Paducah 6 Ill Cav

Painting of Cairo, Ill.

It is in Cairo that Little Egypt had a large contribution to Union war effort. Troops from all over the Midwest including Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, and Northern Illinois, gathered in Southern Illinois to train. The location on the river fronts was a key launching point for several Union campaigns, which used the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to penetrate into the South. Moreover, the Central Illinois railroad helped to bring in supplies from the factories of the North. In their memoirs the men of the 31st recall the time spent in Cairo as miserable. The troops were lodged in box house style barracks, and were given inadequate supplies. Steamers constantly crossed the river to the Kentucky border under close guard, which men from the 31st took turns watching. The region itself lies in a swampy lowland, and malaria and fever spread throughout the 31st boys during their time at Cairo. In the fall of 1861 the 31st was able to move out of Cairo, Illinois and into Kentucky and later Missouri. Here, they would begin their historic span of commitment to the Union cause which would last until the war’s end of 1865. (Morris pg. xvi-48)