William James Smith
William James Smith served as a private with Co. I, 66th Illinois Infantry from 1861 to 1865. He was described as 5'8" tall, blue eyes, light complexion, light hair.
The SIXTY-SIXTH ILLINOIS INFANTRY was organized at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, Mo., during the months of September and October 1861. It was originated under the special patronage of Major General John C. Fremont, and was designated as a Regiment of "Western Sharp Shooters" to be used as skirmishers. Eight companies were collected, three from Illinois, three from Missouri, and two from other points, embracing the States of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. The Regiment was mustered into the United States service, November 23, 1861, by Lieutenant Bundy, U.S.A., with John W. Birge as Colonel, and Benjamin S. Compton as Lieutenant Colonel, and was assigned as the Fourteenth Missouri Infantry Volunteers. A ninth company was organized and added to the Regiment December 5, and on the 12th, the Regiment was ordered to the field, not being yet thoroughly organized or equipped. It was armed with the Demmick, American Deer and Target Rifle, but with meager accouterments. The Regiment moved by rail to Centralia, Mo., and camped upon the prairies. From the 14th to the 28th of December, the Regiment was constantly engaged in fighting and skirmishing with rebel bushwackers of Sterling Price's Army. On December 20, companies "H" and "I" had a brisk skirmish with Colonel Keene's Confederate scouts, in which Lieutenant T. D. Mitchell and the rebel Colonel were exchanging shots with their revolvers, the rebel being the better shot and seemingly getting the best of Mitchell, when Privates John V. Tompkins and Charles F. Kimmel came to the rescue and captured Colonel Keene. On December 25, in a skirmish at Silver Creek, William D. Kyler, of Company H and John Kile, of Company I were killed. At daylight, December 26, captured Columbia. December 28, engaged in the battle of Mount Zion. The enemy was repulsed, and next day the Regiment marched to Sturgeon, Mo., where it joined the command of General B. M. Prentiss, who highly complimented the Regiment for gallantry in the battle of Mount Zion. During the month of January 1862, the Regiment was scouting and skirmishing at Renick, Macon and Centralia. It was a severe winter, the weather, very cold, and the snow a foot deep.
February 4, left Sturgeon via the North Missouri Railroad, arriving at St. Louis on the 5th, and embarked on the steamer Belle Memphis, and steamed down the Mississippi River, arriving at Cairo at 7 P.M. February 6, steamed up the Ohio River, arriving at Paducah, Ky., February 7, just in time to hear the news of the capture of Fort Henry at 9:35 A.M., February 8, 1862. February 9, disembarked at 8 A.M., and marched into Fort Henry on the 12th of February, via the Dover road, with Colonel Jacob G. Lauman's Fourth Brigade consisting of the Second, Seventh, and Fourteenth Iowa, Twenty-fifth and Fifty-second Indiana. On the 13th, companies A, E, H and I were sent to the front and were soon engaged with rebel skirmishers, driving them back. Three companies, A, E and H, directed their attention to a rebel battery on the Dover road which they soon silenced and kept it silenced during the three days battle of Fort Donelson. The Regiment was upon the front line every day during the battle. Sunday, February 16, 1862, when the Fort was surrendered, the Regiment marched in. Sergeant R. F. Larimer, of Company E, captured the flag of the Eighteenth Tennessee, and Private C. F. Kimmel captured the rebel mail. General C. F. Smith and Colonel Lauman congratulated "Birge's Sharpshooters" for gallantry in the battle of Fort Donelson.
February 24 left camp, marching through Dover, and embarked on the steamer Champion No. 3 for Nashville, but the order was contermanded and the Regiment marched back to camp at 9 P.M. March 5 marched to Metal Landing on the Tennessee River. On the 14th, embarked on board the Lancaster, No. 4, and sailed up the river to Savannah, Tenn., the headquarters of General C. F. Smith. March 17, left Savannah, and sailed up the river to Pittsburg Landing. Disembarked and marched one mile on the Corinth road to Camp Wallace and was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Tennessee. March 20, Major Charles W. Smith took command of the Regiment, vice B. S. Compton resigned.
On the 6th and 7th of April, the Regiment was engaged in the terrible battle of Shiloh, April 18, 1862, General R. J. Oglesby took command of the Brigade. April 20, a new company, Captain George A. Taylor, form Lima, O., joined the Regiment as Company K. Up to this time the Regiment had been known as "Birge's Western Sharpshooters", but that name was now dropped and the Regiment was known as the Fourteenth Missouri Volunteers. April 29, left camp at Owl Creek, Tenn., and started on the siege of Corinth, skirmishing daily with the enemy. May 21 was in the battle of Phillips Creek, and on May 30, entered Corinth. On June 1, proceeded to Booneville, Miss., via Farmington, Danville, Rienzi and Blackland; had a skirmish near Booneville. June 8, returned to Camp Montgomery, at Sulphur Springs. June 12, General E. O. C. Ord in command at Corinth, and Company G detailed at General Ord's headquarters. June 23, Captain P. E. Burk, First U.S. Artillery, took command of the Regiment and it was assigned for duty at General Grant's headquarters in Corinth. August 25, the Regiment relieved the Twelfth Illinois Infantry on provost duty in Corinth. August 28, a portion of the Regiment, with the Fourteenth Wisconsin, were sent on a scout to Bethel, Tenn., engaging in two skirmishes with the enemy. Returned to Corinth August 30, and on September 18, marched to Glendale and Iuka, Miss., with General Ord's command. September 19, was engaged in heavy battle at Iuka. September 21, returned to Corinth, and on the 3d and 4th of October 1862, was engaged in the battle at Whitehouse and at Corinth, losing 19 men killed and wounded. General R. J. Oglesby, commanding the Brigade, was among the seriously wounded. October 5, followed the rebels to the Hatchie River and had a skirmish with them on the 9th. On the 10th, returned to Rienzi, Colonel Mersey commanding the Brigade, which consisted of the Ninth and Twelfth Illinois, Eighty-first Ohio and Thirteenth and Fourteenth Missouri Infantry. November 2, went out on another scout to the Hatchie River. On November 20, 1862, by order of the Secretary of War, E.M. Stanton, and Richard Yates, Governor of Illinois, the Regiment was changed from the Fourteenth Missouri Infantry to the Sixty-sixth Illinois Infantry, by which designation it was thereafter known. November 26, the Regiment left Rienzi, marching through Danville, and camped on the Tuscumbia Hills, where it established a stockade camp, enclosing 15 acres of ground, as an outpost to the garrison of Corinth, which was named "Camp Davies". While here the Sixty-sixth was engaged at the following places with rebel scouts and guerrillas; At Tuscumbia Bridge December 19; Danville 20th; Hatchie Bridge 30th; Rienzi January 7, 1863; Danville and Tuscombia Bridge and Rienzi January 24 and 25; Danville February 8; Ripley Cross Roads March 25; Booneville April 1; Glendale April 14; Jumpertown May 12; Kossuth May 24; Cartersville June 6; Yellow Creek June 8; Seward House and Jumpertown July 19; Jacinto August 9; Rienzi August 11; Seward House August 19; Whiteside's Farm September 9. November 1, 1863, the Sixty-sixth was relieved at Camp Davies by the Seventh "Kansas Jayhawkers", and on the 2d it left camp, passing Pine Ridge, Glendale and Burnsville. On the 5th of November crossed the Tennessee River at Eastport and marched to Bluffton, Ala., General T. W. Sweeney commanding the Division, and the Sixty-sixth Illinois, in the advance. Skirmishing occurred at Bluff Creek, Waterloo, Lauderdale and Lexington, in Alabama. Arrived at Pulaski, Giles county, Tenn., November 12, 1863.
December 16, members of the Sixty-sixth began to re-enlist in the Veteran service, and by December 23, 470 men had re-enlisted, and they were mustered in as veterans by Captain T. D. Mitchell, mustering officer of the Second Brigade. The greater portion of the men supplied themselves with Henry Rifles at their own expense, which cost $43 each. January 16, 1864, left Pulaski and marched via Petersburg and Lynnville to Columbia, Tenn. January 17, a very cold day, forded Duck River and marched to Dark Station and embarked on the cars for Nashville, where they arrived at 10 o'clock P.M. Took cars again for Louisville, arriving on the 18th, and marched to Park Barracks. January 22, the men received four months pay and $100 veteran bounty. On the 23d, left Louisville and took cars for Chicago, where they arrived January 28, and marched to North Market Hall. Here the Regiment received its thirty days veteran furlough. On March 3, 1864, the Regiment re-assembled at Joliet, Ill., and on the 5th, left that city bound once more for Pulaski, Tenn., where it arrived on the 8th. From this time to April 29, the Regiment was engaged in scouting and foraging, with occasional skirmishes with the enemy. On the 29th, the Sixty-sixth left Pulaski, with the Second Division, Sixteenth Army Corps, for Chattanooga via Elkton, where they forded the Elk River, marching on through Florence, Huntsville and Larkinsville, Ala. At a latter point took cars for Bridgeport, Ala., and from thence to Chattanooga, which place was reached May 4. On the 6th moved forward with the Grand Army on the Atlanta campaign. The Sixty-sixth had the honor of opening the campaign by driving Wheeler's cavalry and a Brigade of rebel Infantry through Snake Creek Gap, and holding until night the high hills of Resaca. On this campaign the Sixty-sixth was under fire 120 days, being engaged in all the noted battles from Chattanooga to Atlanta. On this campaign the Sixtysixth lost 225 men in killed and wounded. August 26, 1864, the non-veterans, whose term of enlistment had expired, were mustered out.
July 22, the Sixty-sixth was hotly engaged, its colors showing 65 bullet holes through it. The Regiment lost many of its best officers in this campaign, but it never wavered or lost heart. After the fall of Atlanta, September 26, left East Point, Ga., for Rome. October 12, was engaged again with Wheeler's cavlary. On the 13th, marched to Coosaville, Ala., to intercept General J. B. Hood's Rebel Army, and was engaged in several skirmishes with the enemy until the 24th, when the Regiment returned to Rome. November 10, destroyed Forts Johnson and Stonewall Jackson and burned Rome, and on the 11th, started on the March to the Sea. On the great march the Sixty-sixth had its full share of battles and skirmishes with the enemy. On November 27 and 28, was engaged with Jackson's rebel cavalry, and on the 29th, drove Cobb's Legions through Wrightsboro, Ga. December 5, destroyed a railroad bridge over the Ogeechee River on the Macon and Savannah Railroad, and again had a fight with Cobb's Legions. On the 9th, the rebels opened on the Sixty-sixth with a two-gun battery. The Regiment charged upon the battery, capturing a fine Blakely gun and seven prisoners. At Eden Cross Roads, unaided and alone, the Sixty-sixth defeated 980 Georgia Militia, who fought behind breastworks. On December 21, marched into Savannah, and General Sherman conferred the honor on the Sixty-sixth of assigning it to Ogethorpe Barracks. January 28, 1865, left Savannah on Sherman's picnic through South Carolina. February 5, camped at Bald Ridge, where everything combustible was on fire. On the 7th, joined the command of General John A. Logan at Hickory Hill, where we received the first mail since leaving Savannah. Was at Bentonville, N.C., March 20, at Goldsboro March 23, and assisted in the capture of Raleigh April 13. On May 24, 1865, participated in the Grand Review at Washington, D.C. Left Washington June 3, for Louisville, Ky., arriving on the 8th. July 7, 1865, the Regiment was mustered out of the service by Captain W. B. Guthrie, at Camp Logan, Ky. It then proceeded by cars to Camp Butler, where it was paid off July 15, and discharged, and the men bade each other adieu never to meet again as the Sixtysixth Regiment of Illinois Infantry.
The following is a list of the most important battles in which the Regiment was engaged: Mount Zion, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Phillips Creek, Siege of Corinth, Advance on Booneville, Iuka, White House, Corinth, Hatchie, Whitesides Farm, Snake Creek Gap, Resaca, Lays Ferry, Rome, Cross Roads, Adairsville, Dallas, Lone Mountain, New Hope Church, Big Shanty, Fayetteville, South River, Bentonville, Goldsboro, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Ruffs Mills, Nickajack Creek, Howes Ferry, Chattahoochie River, Decatur, Bald Hill, Howard House, Atlanta, Ezra Church, Proctors Creek, Siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, Rome, Sherman's March to Sea, Eden Cross Roads, Savannah, Congaree Creek, Columbia, Camden, Cheraw, Raleigh.