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The Forty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment: the Washburne Lead Mine Regiment in the Civil War

Description: Of the roughly 3,500 volunteer regiments and batteries organized by the Union army during the American Civil War, only a small fraction has been studied in any scholarly depth. Among those not yet examined by historians was one that typified the western armies commanded by the two greatest Federal generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. The Forty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry was at Fort Donelson and Shiloh with Grant in 1862, with Grant and Sherman during the long Vicksburg campaign of 1862 and 1863, and with Sherman in the Meridian, Atlanta, Savannah, and Carolinas campaigns in the second half of the war. These Illinois men fought in several of the most important engagements in the western theater of the war and, in the spring of 1865, were present when the last important Confederate army in the east surrendered. The Forty-fifth was also well connected in western politics. Its unofficial name was the “Washburne Lead Mine Regiment,” in honor of U.S Representative Elihu B. Washburne, who used his contacts and influences to arm the regiment with the best weapons and equipment available early in the war. (The Lead Mine designation referred to the mining industry in northern Illinois.) In addition, several officers and enlisted men were personal friends and acquaintances of Ulysses Grant of Galena, Illinois, who honored the regiment for their bravery in the final attempt to break through the Confederate defenses at Vicksburg. The study of the Forty-fifth Illinois is important to the overall study of the Civil War because of the campaigns and battles the unit participated and fought in. The regiment was also one of the many Union regiments at the forefront of the Union leadership’s changing policy toward the Confederate populace and war making industry. In this role the regiment witnessed the impact of President ...
Date: December 2015
Creator: Mack, Thomas B.