Southern Illinois in 1861 was inhabited to a great extent by families who had migrated from Virginia and Kentucky in search of new farm land. It is not surprising that when secession came there should be considerable sympathy for the South in this section of a Union state.
On April 15, 1861, a resolution was passed by a local citizens’ committee in Marion, Williamson County, Illinois, supporting the Confederacy and protesting the use of Illinois troops in suppressing the Southern states. Thorndike Brooks and Henry C. Hopper were among the leaders of this pro-Southern group and soon set about recruiting a company.
The company was raised in Williamson and Jackson counties. Great precautions were necessary to prevent the entire group from being arrested before they even got started. By this time Union forces had occupied Cairo and more troops were pouring into Southern Illinois.
About 45 men were recruited and met six miles south of Marion on May 25. The scene that followed must have been similar to that enacted in many Southern towns during this period. Speeches were made by the leading citizens of Marion encouraging the men to go forth and defend the rights of the South. Some members of the company even alleged after the war that John A. Logan, who was then Congressman from the district in which the company was raised, knew about its organization and gave encouragement to many of its members. It was with some bitterness in later months that the members of the Illinois company learned that Logan was a Union general and many of the same citizens who had addressed them as they left had also joined the Union Army.
The Illinois company began to march to Paducah, Kentucky, some 60 miles away, with its baggage in two wagons. On the second day out they planned on stopping at a hotel for supper, but much to their distress found it already occupied by a company of Home Guards. Six men of the company, who had been sent to scout ahead were captured. The company grimly determined to fight it out if necessary, but after a little maneuvering the would be Confederates managed to avoid the Home Guards and recapture their six comrades. They then resumed their footsore hike to Paducah.
The Ohio River was reached on May 27 and the company crossed on a steamer just like a group of tourists. They put up in a hotel in Paducah which was run by Confederate sympathizers. Here they were winded and dined and presented with a Confederate flag. The next day the company paraded through the streets of Paducah in full military glory.
From Paducah they took the train to Mayfield, Kentucky, where several additional recruits were secured including Dr. John Wall. After another night spent in the luxury of a hotel, the company took the train to Union City, Tennessee. Here they were drilled and finally mustered into the Confederate service as Company G, 15th Tennessee Infantry, with Brooks as captain and Wall as first lieutenant. The regiment was reorganized for the war on May 15, 1862, and Brooks was elected lieutenant colonel and Wall major of the regiment.
The Illinois company participated in the heaviest fighting of the western campaigns and its casualties were staggering. They were first engaged at Belmont, Missouri, on Nov. 7, 1861. Then followed Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Stones River, The Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and the Atlanta Campaign. Major Wall was killed in action leading the regiment in front of Atlanta. Many of the men, including Hopper, who had become first lieutenant in the reorganization, were forced to return to Illinois to protect their families.
The earliest muster of the Illinois company which has survived shows a total of 75 officers and men present at Columbus, Kentucky, on Oct. 31, 1861. The last roll dated Oct. 31, 1864, at Tuscumbia, Alabama, shows one officer, one sergeant and one private present for duty. After June, 1863 the regiment had been consolidated with the 37th Tennessee Infantry and these two were consolidated in April, 1865 with 10 other regiments to form the 4th Consolidated Tennessee Infantry, which surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina on My 1, 1865.
(Written by Richard P. Weinert , Civil War Times Illustrated, Gettysburg, Pa., October, 1961, Vol. I, No. 6, pages 44-45.)