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Vermilion County,

Civil War
History of the

Twenty-Fifth Regiment Illinois Volunteers

This article has been contributed by Mary Paulius
Aug. 14, 2006

     The 25th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, three companies of which (A, B and D) were from Vermilion County, was organized in Vermilion County, June 1, 1961, and mustered into service at St. Louis, Missouri, August 4, 1861, and from there transported by rail to Jefferson City, Missouri, and thence to Sedalia, Missouri, and marched to Springfield, Missouri, under General Fremont, in pursuit of General Price's army, and from thence to Rolla, Missouri, where, with a portion of Fremont's army, it spent the early part of the winter of 1861 and 1862, but returned to Springfield, Missouri, in February, 1862, under command of General Siegel, and pursued General Price's army to Bentonville, Arkansas, where, on the 6th, 7th and 8th of March, 1862, the memorable battle of "Pea Ridge" was fought.
     The 25th Regiment, having been held in support until early morn of the third day, took the front under the immediate command of General Siegel, in support of the artillery, which opened the engagement.  After a fierce contest with grape, canister and shell at short range, the enemy's batteries were silenced, and the memorable order, "Up, 25th, Minutes!  Col. Minutes!" was given by General Siegel in person, and the next moment the regiment, under the most terrific fire of musketry, with other troops, charged the enemy in a thick wood, where, after a fierce and deadly contest, the enemy's lines gave way, and the whole army and soon in full retreat, and thus was victory brought out of what but a few hours before was considered, by the general commanding, a defeat.  The regiment was highly complimented for its gallantry in this (its first) engagement.  Then, in connection with the army, it took up the line eastward, where, after al long and tedious march, it arrived at Batesville, in Arkansas, and was there detached from the army, and, with nine other regiments and command of Gen. Jeff. C. Davis, marched eastward to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles in nine days, having made an average of about twenty-eight miles per day.  The regiment then, by river transportation, joined Gen. Halleck's army in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, which place was soon evacuated by the enemy; and after a short stay in Mississippi marched eastward under command of Gen. Buell by way of Nashville, Tennessee, to Louisville, Kentucky, a distance of nearly five hundred miles in the month of August, in the most extreme heat and drought.  Here a few days were spent in reorganizing the army, when it was ordered in pursuit of Gen. Bragg's army, then invading Kentucky.  Later, the battle of Perryville, or Chaplain Hills, was fought between a portion of the two armies, wherein the 25th Reg., and more than sixty thousand other well-equipped soldiers were compelled to act as spectators in the slaughter of a portion of our army under command of Gen. McCook, because the general commanding said that McCook had brought on the engagement without his orders.  After this battle the regiment returned to Nashville, Tennessee, and Gen. Rosecrans was put in command of the army, then known as the the Army of the Cumberland, which remained at Nashville until the last of December, 1862, when it was advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and met the enemy under command of Gen. Bragg at Stone River, Tennessee, on the 30th of December, 1862, and at the dawning of the 31st the enemy attacked in great force.  The 25th Regiment, being in the unfortunate right wing of our army, was soon sharply engaged, when the charge grew fierce and deadly.  The line on the left of the 25th gave way, and being fiercely assailed in front and left, the regiment was compelled to change front under a most withering fire.  Here the color-bearer was stricken down and the flag lay on the ground, when Col. Williams, of the regiment (than whom no more worthy patriot had died), raised the colors with his own hands, and having indicated the new line to be formed, he planted the flag firmly, and uttered in loud tones his living and dying words: "Boys, we will plant the flag here and rally around it, and here we will die!"  The next moment, with flagstaff in hand, he fell.  The regiment, after twice repulsing the enemy in front, finding itself flanked on both right and left, retired from its position and fell to the rear, leaving more than one-third of its number dead and wounded on the field.  The enemy was finally checked, and the battle continued sullenly until the 2d of January, 1863, when Gen. Breckenridge made his celebrated assault on the left wing of our army.  The charge was brilliant beyond comparison.  The shock of battle was terrific.  Our left was broken, defeated and driven back.  Fresh troops were in like manner swept away like chaff before the wind. Fifty pieces of artillery were brought to bear on the enemy's right. The earth trembled and shook as a leaf in the storm beneath the iron monsters, as they poured their storm of death into the advancing column, and yet their onward march was as the march of destiny, until the shout from Gen. Negley rang out, "Who'll save the left?"  "The 19th Ill., " was the reply-the 25th Ill. being close in their support. They did save the left, and the 25th held the front thus carried until the retreat of the enemy, while the heaps of the enemy's dead testified to gallantry worthy of a better cause.  The regiment, in connection with the army, next marched south in pursuit of Gen. Bragg's army till it reached the Tennessee River, near Stevenson, Alabama.  To cross this river in the face of the enemy and lay the pontoon bridge was given in charge of this regiment alone; consequently, at early morn our shore was lined with skirmishers and a battery of artillery, while the regiment embarked in pontoon boats and rowed away to the opposite shore a mile distant, drove the enemy back, laid the bridge and was crossing the entire army over by eleven o'clock A.M.  The sight of this little circumstance was extremely grand, but the danger great.  The regiment next crossed over Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain and entered into the valley, again engaging the enemy in the terrible battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, where it left more than two-thirds of its number among the dead and wounded on the field, all of whom fell into the hands of the enemy.  This battle, for severity, stands second to none in the history of the war, and no regiment in the engagement suffered greater loss than the Twenty-fifth Illinois.  The regiment was next called to meet the enemy at the battle of Chattanooga, under command of Gen. U. S. Grant, and when the order came to storm Mission Ridge, the Twenty-fifth Regiment was assigned the front, or skirmish line, where it advanced slowly until within a few rods of the enemy's guns, when, with a simultaneous charge, in connection with the Thirty-fifth Illinois, carried the enemy's works, captured their batteries, broke their lines on Missionary Ridge, and made way for a magnificent victory.  Along the entire line here again connection with the Thirty-fifth Illinois, carried the enemy's works captured their batteries, broke their lines on Missionary Ridge, and made way for a magnificent victory,  Along the entire line here again the carnage was great, but the achievements brilliant in the extreme.  The regiment was then ordered to east Tennessee, where it spent the winter in various unimportant campaigns, and in the spring of 1864 rejoined the Army of the Cumberland, near Chattanooga, under command of Gen. Sherman, and started on that memorable campaign to Atlanta, Georgia, at which place it terminated its service and returned home to be mustered out.
     During the months of this campaign, the endurance of both officers and men of the regiment was taxed to its utmost-it was one long and tedious battle, often violent and destructive, then slow and sullen, both armies seeking advantage by intrenching, maneuvering, flanking and by sudden and by desperate charges, the Twenty-fifth Illinois, bearing its equal burden of the toils, the dangers and losses, as will more fully appear from the following order or address, delivered by Col. W. H. Gibson, commanding the brigade, on its taking leave of the army, at Atlanta, Georgia, August 20, 1864, to wit:
     Soldiers of the Twenty-fifth Illinois Volunteers:  As your term of three years' service has expired, and you are about to proceed to your state to be mustered out, it is fitting and proper that the colonel commanding should express to each and all his earnest thanks for the cheerful manhood with which, during the present campaign, you have submitted to every hardship, overcome every difficulty, and for the magnificent heroism with which you have met and vanquished the foe.  Your deportment in camp has been worthy true soldiers, while your conduct in battle has excited the admiration of your companions in arms.  Patriotic thousands and a noble state will give you a reception worthy of your sacrifice and your valor.  You have done your duty.  The men who rallied under the starry emblem of our nationality at Pea Ridge, Corinth, Champion Hills, Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Noonday Creek, Pinetop Mountain, Kenesaw Mountain, Chattahoochee, Peach Tree Creek and Atlanta, having made history for all time and coming generations to admire, your services will ever bee gratefully appreciated.  Officers and soldiers farewell.  May God guarantee to each health, happiness and usefulness in coming life, and may our country soon merge from the gloom of blood that now surrounds it and again enter upon a career of progress, peace and prosperity."


       Martin J. Barger, at present the governor of the Danville Branch of the Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, is a son of Vermilion County.  He was born February __, 1845, in Newell township.  He was the son of William J. Barger.
     His father died when he was quite young, and his mother married again.  Upon this he left home and apprenticed himself to the shoemaker's trade.  He did not work at this trade, however.  When the war broke out, he determined to enlist, although he was but sixteen years old.  He made application to Capt. McKibben, but was laughed at.  Nothing daunted, he followed the soldiers to Springfield and thence along until they had reached Cape Girardeau.  At every place he insisted on enlisting and was everywhere laughed at, for there were plenty of men ready to go into the service and he was a boy, who looked even younger than he was.  He had attached himself to the Twenty-fifth Illinois regiment without enlisting, and gone with them as far as Forsythe, Missouri, where he made one more appeal to Capt. Wall of Company B, and was told it was no use, that he would die in a few days.  He insisted on following the army whether they would let him or not, and they gave him an outfit and a suit of clothing.  In about a week the army was in motion for Batesville, Arkansas.  The boy started with them and the first day he kept up; the second day he did not get into camp with his command and the third day did not arrive until late at night, and the fourth day he lost sight of the army.  He had a little money and could get his meals along the way and make inquiries of directions.  He camped out at night and moved forward footsore and weary and went into Batesville but a little behind the army.  When he was first seen the cheers rang out long and strong.  He had not been seen for a week, and everyone thought him either captured or dead.  When the time came to pay off the army he was asked if he wanted pay.  "If you think I will make a soldier," he answered.  "O, you'll do, " was the answer, and the boy was given a payroll to sign, and he was legally a soldier.  He was wounded at the battle of Chickamauga and taken prisoner.  He was held about ten days and then paroled.  He was not exchanged until the next summer.  He remained with his regiment until he was exchanged, but not doing duty.  He was discharged in March, 1865.  His wound was of such a nature as to incapacitate him for hard work, and he draws a pension. 
     He was discharged in March, 1865.  His wound was of such a nature as to incapacitate him for hard work, and he draws a pension.
     He has held public office often in his life and has been one of the officers of the Home since its being established here.  When Governor Clements died and made a vacancy, Mr. Barger naturally succeeded him, having been his assistant for some time previous to this time.


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