So in my last post, I talked about how Salathiel Timmons enlisted into the Union Army in Illinois in August 1862, traveled by rail to Kentucky, and then immediately went into action in a terrible and bloody first battle at Perryville in October.
Salathiel was in Company “A” of the 123rd Illinois Regiment along with his brothers Laban, Leroy and Battle. Here is a little background on how Union soldiers were organized during the Civil War. Generally, a “Company” was comprised of 100 men, and a “Regiment” included 10 companies (1000 men). Regiments were combined into “Brigades”, Brigades were combined into “Divisions”, Divisions were combined into “Corps” and finally Corps were combined into an Army.
During the Perryville battle, the 123rd Illinois was assigned to the Thirty-Third Brigade (under General Terrill) of the Fourth Division (under General Jackson) in General McCook’s Corps under General Don Carlos Buell’s “Army of the Ohio”. During the Perryville battle, the 123rd Illinois was in the worst of the action. Within twenty feet of the Regiment’s line, General Terrill and General Jackson were immediately killed, depriving the 123rd Illinois – raw recruits – of their senior leadership. In fact, a fifth of the entire regiment was killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Salathiel and his brothers were lucky to have survived this battle!
After Perryville, the 123rd Illinois only had a few days to recover before they were called upon to help chase Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan‘s cavalry, who was wreaking havoc across Kentucky. They soon gave up the chase and settled in for a few weeks at Munfordville, Kentucky where they were able to do some drilling and forage for supplies. During this time, a measles outbreak swept through the camp causing widespread illness.
Meanwhile, General Don Carlos Buell was relieved of his command and replaced by General Rosecrans. The 123rd Illinois also got re-assigned and was now part of Colonel Hall’s Brigade under the the Fifth Division (General Reynolds) of the Fourteenth Corp (General Thomas). Rosecrans renamed the Army and it was now called the “Army of the Cumberland” (I’m boring you with all of this because it will be important to understand later in the story).
In late December 1862, Hall’s Brigade (including the 123rd Illinois) was called upon to again chase after Morgan. While they were off on the chase, they missed out on a big battle that the rest of their Division got caught up in (Stones River near Murfreesboro). On January 2, 1863, Rosecrans recalled Hall’s Brigade – the Brigade’s help was needed elsewhere.
During the winter months, the 123rd Illinois helped protect supply trains. They were called out for scouting expeditions and sometimes had to chase after Morgan, who kept causing trouble in the area.
Then, one hundred and fifty-one years ago TODAY (March 20, 1863), this happened:
The engagement at Milton was later called the Battle of Vaught’s Hill. Morgan had 63 men dead, while Hall lost only six – even though Hall’s forces were seriously outnumbered. (This was only a temporary setback for Morgan, though – his most famous raids occurred later that summer.)
The 123rd Illinois had proven themselves in this battle. A few days later, they were temporarily called away from Hall’s Brigade to accompany a different one – Wilder’s Brigade. This was the start of something new, something that radically changed the way the Timmons brothers took part in the Civil War.