From The Bookshelf
by Mike Denton
History of the 115th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry
by Isaac Henry Clay Royse
Recently Past Commander Fred Apgar gifted your editor with a copy of this book, I having mentioned to him that my great-grandfather, Micager Denton, served in this unit from the time of Lincoln’s early call for volunteers to prosecute the war against the confederacy. Denton and his brother, David, enlisted on the same day in June 1862 and served in Company A, until the regiment was mustered out in in July 1864.
Royse, the book’s author, was a Lieutenant in Company E of the regiment. The book is based on official rescords and the memories of Royse and his comrades. Micager Denton died about the time Royse started work on the book, which was published in 1900) so Micager’s personal experience is not included.
Since moving away from Edmonds, Fred has been touring civil war battlefields, all over the southeast, including the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19–20, 1863, in southeastern Tennessee, in which the 115th Illinois played a significant role. Chicamauga was one of the bloodier battles of the war featuring Union forces under General William Rosecrans and Gen. Braxton Braggs Confederate troops. The two sides suffered over 35,000 casualties in those two days, distributed as shown below:
5,157 captured or missing
1,468 captured or missing
Bragg out-generaled Rosecrancs, as the southern generals often did, but as was also so often the case, took more casualties than the south could readily replace, thereby bringing the eventual Union victory that much closer.
Royse vividly describes three years of marching around Tennessee and Kentucky, chasing small Confederate units, skirmishing along the way, in the lead-up to Chicamauga and the subsequent battles to neart Nashville., which preced Sherman’s “March to the Sea”
Also included in the book is an exploration of the experience of Union troops captured and held as prisoners of war in such notorious places as the Andersonville POW camp. The experience of a POW is never pleasant and that of captured troops in the Civil War was no exception, on both sides.
Royse’ descriptions of camp life would probably not seem unfamiliar to any infantry soldier in the field to this day, absent modern communications, transport and medical care, (though one has to think that today’s MRE rations would beat the civil war soldiers’ hard tack and salt meat, supplemented with local foraging).
If such histories interest you, this is one well worth reading. Following Apgar’s travels around the civil war battlefields, as her reports them on Facebook, which is what started us on this journey, has also been a worthwhile activity.