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Battles of Belmont and Champion Hill

Battle of Belmont - 27th Illinois Infantry

On August 20, 1861, George W. Cross enlisted in the 27th Illinois Infantry Regiment at New Boston (see IlGenWeb roster of the 27th ). We do not find him in the 1860 census in Mercer County, unless he is censused as William Cross, who is found in Keithsburg Township in 1860: William Cross, 27, laborer, born Indiana; Nancy, 28, born Ohio; Thomas, 3, born Iowa. We did not find George W. anywhere else in the area in 1860.

From the History of the 27th Illinois Infantry (see IlGenWeb History of the 27th )
"At the battle of Belmont, Mo., November 7, 1861, under General McClernand, it received its first baptism of fire, when it formed the right wing of the attacking force. Under the inspiration of its brave Colonel it drove, in the midst of a perfect hail of bullets and canister shot, the enemy from his camp in utter rout, capturing two brass field pieces which it immediately manned and turned upon the retreating enemy. It lost severely in the engagement and was the last Regiment to leave the field after the enemy had been reinforced from Columbus."

George W. Cross wrote a poem about that battle. Mary Riseling, a descendant of Joseph D. Whitson who wrote down the poem, kindly gave permission to post it here. Please note Mr. Whitson's plea that special care be taken of the poem. Some of the parts of the poem have been obliterated due to folding of the paper over time. Mary has had it restored with the help of the Illinois State Archives. This poem was found in the family bible of Pruella Whitson Richardson (daughter of the Joseph Whitson and great grandmother of Mary Riseling). The transcript of the poem was written in the hand of Joseph D. Whitson but he credits Mr. George W. Cross for the text. They both served in the 27th IL Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

Battle of Belmont

by G. W. Cross, Co. G, 27th IL Vol. Inf.

Came all my friends both far and near
A song I’ll sing for the volunteer
And also for the timid ones
That stay home in sixty one.

The best of our men are far away
Drilling and maneuvering every day
To learn to whip the southern hounds
And make their rebel kingdom sound.

On the seventh of November Sixty One
The battle we fought and victory won
Twas on that day we did them haunt
And took their cannon at Belmont.

Our colonel was as brave a man
As ever in battle did command
For thru the fight that lasted long
We cheered the 27th on.

The fight that day began at ten
Our force was twenty eight hundred men
And ere that night we did return
Their property and tents did burn.

We fought them hard from ten till four
And many a poor man we passed o'er
But could not stop to ease his pain
For on we went victory to gain.

Hot was the fight that day with all
For many a brave man there did fall
And as the dead and wounded fell
Huzza, my boys were going well.

The balls flew hot and fast around
When Lieutenant Lytle their flag hauled down
And when it fell, we gave three cheers
For all the union volunteers.

And on that night when we returned
On board the Tyler an' Lexington
Kind were the men with their scant fare
And passed the water everywhere.

The men on these boats so true
Should be remembered by all of you
For their kindness to us that night
May God assist them in every fight.

And when they are sent down the river
They'll make the Southern rebels quiver
For shot and shell that day will fall
Till loud for quarters they will call

Oh that these days were past and gone
Contented would I end this song
And on my couch would repose
And pray to God to save my foes.

The only other notation on the page were the words of Joseph D. Whitson: “This song ballad is for any person that want to read it but they must take special care of it. Jos. D. Whitson”

The poem fits well with historical accounts of the Battle of Belmont (ref. Civil War Medicine... Robert E. Denney (Sterling Publishing Co, N. Y. 1995), page 55-56.

"November 7 (Thursday) ...Brig. Gen U. S. Grant fought his first battle, capturing a Confederate fortified postion near Belmont, Mo., across the Mississippi from Columbus Ky. Confederate Gen Leonidas Polk sent troops across the river to counterattack, and Grant was forced to retreat.

"...John H. Brinton, Surg., Battle of Belmont, Mo: The expedition started from Cairo on the afternoon of the 6th of November, and proceeded down the Mississippi in transports. ...Early the following morning the boats crossed to the Missouri side of the river, and the troops debarked at a point three miles distant from the enemy's camp at Belmont...

"...The advance of the national troops was steadily pushed on, and the enemy were driven from tree to tree, from behind the bushes, and across the cornfields, until their camp at Belmont was reached, when they sought the cover of the riverbank. It was in dislodging the enemy from the rolling cornfields that the chief loss was sustained. The standing corn screened him perfectly from the observation of the national troops as they ascended the cleared slopes to the attach, whilst the latter presented a target against which every shot told: At the same time the enemy opened with fearful execution, from his batteries planted on the ridges...

"As soon as the enemy were driven from their camp, it was immediately fired and destroyed, by order of Gen. Grant....

"...In the meantime, an attempt had been made by the enemy to land a large force...and thus to cut him [Gen Grant] off from his boats. The backward path was, consequently, the scene of fierce conflict, but Gen. Grant finally succeeded in reaching his transports, which lay at the original landing, under the protection of the gunboats Tyler and Lexington...

"With the withdrawal of the Union troops, both sides claimed a victory. The Union had suffered a total of 485 killed, wounded, and missing. ..."

Battle of Champion Hill - 124th Illinois Infantry

This was sent to us by Don Finch of Iowa with the following comment:
This was written by Walter [Hodgson] at a GAR meeting held in New Boston and he read the poem to his fellow comrades. Walter lived and died in New Boston and is buried there. I could imagine that Patrick Welch and Brenton Pratt heard Walter read that.

Walter D. Hodson enlisted in the 124th from Millersburg on August 19, 1862. Patrick Welch and Benton Pratt were in the 124th, Benton Pratt following Lyman Scudder as Captain when Lyman resigned June 19, 1864. Charles Shafer died at Memphis on June 18, 1863 of wounds. William Chichester survived and was transferred out of the 124th May 21, 1864. (see IlGenWeb roster of the 124th ).

Wrote by Walter Dillon Hodgson

The Battle of Champion Hill Mississippi

It was the 16th day of May,1863. That day I do remember well.
It was the day of the Battle of Champion Hill Where so many brave men fell.
We arouse at five that morning,and breakfasting in haste.
The enemy's host were marshalling, and we had no time to waste.
We started out at seven and went on double quick time.
We reached the hills at eleven and quickly formed in a line.
The battle fierce was raging. McClernard was losing ground.
His men completely exhausted and all their ammunition gone.
We strengthened the shattered ranks of General McClernard's Corps.
And took the places of the fallen, who had been slain by scores.
That charge through a leaden hail storm was lead by brave John A.
And history now records the same How Logan saved the day.
As I remember the dear old comrades,who perished in the fight.
The thought almost unnerves me. As now I attempt to write.
The names of the dead and wounded are names you all know well.
For ther upholding our Flag our Brave Charles Shafer fell.
Other comrades equally brave who were wounded in the fray.
Was our Captain Lyman Scudder who was left upon the battlefield for one we thought was dead.
And William Chichester today carries a hidden scar
And there was other comrades who was wounded in the fray.
They are not forgotten tho they are far away.