THE 24TH ILLINOIS AT PERRYVILLE.
The following letter was originally published in the ethnic German Chicago IL Illinois Staats Zeitung. It was subsequently translated into English and reprinted in the 18 October 1862 Chicago Daily Tribune.
Report of Dr. Wagner, Regimental
Surgeon of the Old Hecker Regi-
ment (24th Illinois) of the Battle of
Camp near Perryville,
Boyle County, Ky., Oct. 10, 1862.
ditors of Illinois Staats Zeitung: I am still too much exhausted to-day to send you much more than the list of our heavy losses, and some disjointed notices of the bloody battle which we fought the day before yesterday.
On the 1st of October, [Lovell H.] Rousseau's and [James S.] Jackson's (formerly Jeff. C. Davis') divisions, under command of Major General [Alexander McD.] McCook, left Louisville, and slowly marched by way of Taylorville, Bloomfield and Chaplin. On the morning of the 8th, under a burning sun and under a terrible want of water, we advanced from Mackville, a village in the strongly Union county of Washington, towards Perryville.
Towards the afternoon, we espied the first rebels, and our left wing was soon engaged. It was not McCook's intention, as I know from good authority, to give battle here, and it was soon apparent that we stood against an enemy vastly superior in numbers. Our two divisions were opposed by the united army corps of [William J.] Hardee and [Leonidas] Polk (six divisions). The 28th brigade formed our extreme left. On the left of our regiment was the 21st Wisconsin, which had recently joined our brigade, on the right there was another regiment of recruits. We occupied the height of a thickly wooded hill, and on the first charge in solid columns by the brigade of the enemy, the two regiments of recruits broke and could not be rallied again. Major [Frederick] Schumacher of the 21st Wisconsin was killed at the first fire, and Col. [Benjamin J.] Sweet was severely wounded; of the yet undrilled company officers none seems to have been able to assume the command of the regiment .
Thus we had to stand the full and terrible charge of four regiments. Soon the fire of the enemy thinned our ranks to such an extent, that a retreat into a better position, about 100 paces to the rear, was ordered. Of the few officers the regiment had, the gallant [Company I] Capt. [August] Steffens . was already disabled by a shot wound, also [wounded was] the intrepid first lieutenant of the Turner company [G], Peter Hand .; the old Mexican [War] soldier, [Company H] Captain [Frederick] Hartman ., had been unhorsed by a rebel bullet while riding along the line and cheering on the men; [Company A] Capt. [George A.] Gunther's . horse had been wounded by three balls, and many of our bravest men lay bleeding on the ground. But our centre, grouped around the regimental colors, refused to give way. "I received the flag to carry it on to victory," cried Joseph Broesch ., the color-bearer, ready to die at his post, "never an enemy shall see my back." But immediately afterwards he too sank down, holding the flag-staff -- the flag had already been shot to tatters -- bravely aloft. Quick as thought a rebel officer sprang forward from the column of the enemy, which was only a few paces from ours, in order to conquer our palladium, but a ball from [Company E] Corporal [John G.] Vogelberg's rifle laid him low at the same moment, however, the gallant corporal, too, was struck down by the deadly lead ..
A terrible hand to hand conflict with butt and bayonet now ensued around the remnants of the flag. The enemy's flag was only twenty paces from ours, and twice the bearers of it were shot down by our riflemen; but from our heroic color guard one by one sank to the dust. Here our [Corporal Charles] Kirchner [Company G] received his death wound [., and now Hollen . fell to the ground with shattered arms at the moment when he again levelled his rifle against an [enemy] officer who had laid hands upon our flagstaff. [Corporal] Paul Kemmler [Company H], already bleeding from a wound in the arm, cried not to forsake the flag, but he, too, was felled by a second shot in the leg .. During the melee the flagstaff was broken -- it never should fall into the hands of the enemy. We have collected the remnants [of our regimental color] as a sacred memory to our dead brothers, and we shall send them to the citizens of Chicago, who once presented the flag to us.
From our second position, we took up the combat with renewed rage, and from here we struck down the enemy, who now fought without cover, by the whole ranks. Here General Rosseau made his appearance with us, and, waving his plumed hat at the point of his sword, brought three cheers for the heroes of the 24th Illinois, and encouraged us to stand firm. Our left flank was now protected by the 1st Wisconsin and a battery, which made terrible havoc among the rebels. They did no longer make a stand against our joint efforts, but retreated in wild disorder, and did molest us no more. New attacks would necessarily have been pernicious to us, for our ammunition was nearly spent, and it took an hour to replenish the cartridge boxes. While thus the fire on our left wing lulled, we distinctly heard from our right that the enemy had the advantage, and soon we received the terrible news that our centre had been broke, and that the enemy was pushing vigorously forward. Our brigade, too, received the order to fall back half a mile.
At this critical moment the roar of cannon and the rattling fire of small arms suddenly rose to a stunning, earthquaking fierceness. Major General [George H.] Thomas, with his division, had arrived to reinforce us. His timely arrival saved the day for us. The fresh troops threw themselves with irresistible impetuosity upon the enemy, already elated by his supposed victory, and although the rebels made a stout resistance, their whole line finally had to retreat.
The rising moon shone upon the Union troops victorious and masters of the battlefield.
During the night our regiment and the 79th Pennsylvania, which had also suffered terribly, held a position about one mile to the right of our first one. Towards morning the whole army was placed in line of battle two miles further to the right, but soon it became apparent that the enemy had further retreated and was not willing to accept another battle.
There was a church three miles behind our position, which had been assigned to the medical director as a temporary hospital for the wounded, who, aside from the pains caused by their wounds, had to suffer very much from the utter want of water. The transporting over the uneven road, now up a hill then down another again added to their sufferings. My means of transportation were very limited. Just in the beginning of the battle my largest ambulance had been shot to pieces, and thus there remained only two small ones, which were kept busy the whole of next day until dark, to pick up on the hill and underbrush, our poor wounded, and to carry them back. Already in the night after the battle, I had tried, with the assistance of my indefatigible steward, [Hospital Steward] Mr. [Theodore] Wild ., to reach the battle field of our first position with some brancard bearers, but by a fierce fire the rebels compelled, as to retire. I am sorry to say that I was not allowed to stay in the hospital to nurse the wounded, as a renewal of the struggle was momentarily expected, and I had to return to the regiment; but I hope that the medical director ordered a sufficient number of surgeons, to proceed to the hospital.
The losses of our brigade are enormous; about 900 dead and wounded in four regiments, the 17th Kentucky had to stand guard over the ammunition, and was not in the fire. In consequence of the fatiguing march from Nashville to Louisville, a great number of our men had to remain in the hospitals at Bowling Green and Louisville, so that we numbered at the highest 350 bayonets. Col. [Geza] Mihalotzy [., also, we had to leave severely sick at the latter place [Louisville]; also Lieuts. [Frank] Schweinfurt, [Edward] Borneman, and [Jacob] Paull [of companies E, G, and A respectively] .. As we had no field officers, the three oldest captains ([August] Mauff, [George A.] Gunther and [Frederick] Hartmann . [of Companies E, A, and H respectively] had to act as such, and in reality the ten companies only had seven commissioned officers instead of thirty! Sergeants [sic: Sergeant Major William] Vocke, [Charles] Fritze, [Moritz] Kaufmann, [Edward] Lohmann, and [August] Bitter acted as lieutenants [of companies D, D, H, C, and G respectively] .. It is high time that the vacancies among the company officers are filled at last. We have lost twenty-four dead, seventy-six wounded and four missing. The number of the dead will, alas, be still higher, as several of the severely wounded cannot survive. Most of the missing are probably wounded, and were transported to the hospitals of other regiments.
To-day our two divisions marched over the field where the center of the enemy had stood. The sight of the battlefield was appalling. The rebel dead lay in heaps, still unburied; and to appearance, and from the statements of prisoners, the losses of the enemy were still higher than ours. Field officers, who fought in Mexico and at Shiloh, said that in those hard contested fields they had never heard such a terrible fire by column. We have now advanced again a few miles and stand in line of battle. The heat of the last few days has been followed by a cold, piercing rain, and as we are without tents, we must expect to suffer much from the inclemency of the weather.
I must close for to-day.
P. S. -- Ten of our men, who had been taken prisoners, returned to-day from Harrodsburg. They say that they were brought before Gen. Hardee, who asked them the name of the regiment that had fought so stoutly on the hill. When he heard that it was the German 24th Illinois, he said, "I thought it; these d--n Dutchmen fight like bulldogs."
These paroled prisoners say that [General Edmund] Kirby Smith joined [Braxton] Bragg yesterday, so we may prepare for other battles.
Surgeon, 24th Illinois Vols.] .
"On the 8th of October the regiment was engaged in the Battle of Perryville. In this battle, Colonel Sweet was in command. The regiment was placed, erroneously, about a hundred yards in front of the left of the main line in a position between the two armies and, in consequence, suffered from fire from both lines. From this position the regiment was quickly driven back to the rear of our line with severe loss. Major Frederick Schumacher, Captain Hiram M. Gibbs, Captain George Bently and Second Lieutenant David W. Mitchell were killed. Colonel Benjamin J. Sweet, First Lieutenant Abner B. Smith, and First Lieutenant Ferdinand Ostenfeldt were wounded and Second Lieutenant Charles H. Morgan was taken prisoner...."
Source: "21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry," http://www.batteryb.com/webmaster/21stWIVI.html
 Captain "August Stefins" was "dismissed" from the service effective 13 January 1864.
 1st Lieutenant Peter Hand was subsequently promoted to Captain of Company K.
 Captain Frederick Hartman, Company H, reportedly died 9 November 1862 either from wounds, an injury, or disease.
 Captain George A. Guenther was subsequently promoted to Major and mustered out with the regiment on 6 August 1864.
 "Joseph Broesch" is not specifically listed under that name in the regimental rolls. This individual may be either "Ferdinand Brosch," originally of Company G, or possibly "Matthias Brausch," Company H.
 Corporal John G. Vogelsburg was reported KIA at Chaplin Hills, 8 October 1862.
 Corporal Charles Kirchner was reported KIA at Chaplin Hills, 8 October 1862.
 Identity of “Hollen” is uncertain. No individual is known to be listed under that name in the regimental rolls. However, several men by the name of “Hoffman” are carried so this name may have been garbled in the translation.
 “Paul Kemler” was discharged 26 March 1863 due to “disability.”
 Hospital Steward Theodore Wild was promoted to 2nd Assistant surgeon and mustered out with regiment on 6 August 1864.
 Colonel Geza Mihalotzy, an ethnic Hungarian, was mortally wounded on 24 February 1864, near Buzzard Roost Gap TN, and subsequently died on 11 March 1864. Two forts, one in Knoxville and the other in Chattanooga, were later named in his honor.
 1st Lieutenant [Frank] Schweinfurt, Company E, was “discharged” 12 March 1865. 2nd Lieutenant [Edward] Borneman was eventually promoted to Captain of Company G and mustered out 6 August 1864. 2nd Lieutenant [Jacob] Paull, Company A, was later promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Company D and mustered out 6 August 1864.  Captain August Mauff was mustered out with Company E on 6 August 1864. Captain George A. Guenther was subsequently promoted to Major and mustered out with the regiment on 6 August 1864. Captain Frederick Hartman died either from wounds, an injury, or disease on 9 November 1862.
 Sergeants Major William Vocke was later promoted to Captain of Company D and mustered out 6 August 1864. Sergeant Charles Fritze was “Trans[ferred] for promotion” (i.e., apparently commissioned). Sergeant Moritz Kaufmann was subsequently promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Company H and mustered out 6 August 1864. Sergeant Edward Lohmann was subsequently promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Company C and mustered out 6 August 1864. Sergeant August Bitter was later promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Company G and mustered out 6 August 1864.
 Surgeon William Wagner resigned his commission effective 7 November 1863.
All muster roll information was obtained at the following website:
"24th Illinois Infantry Regiment (Lincoln Rifles, First Hecker Regiment, Mihalotzy Rifles), Three Years Service, July 8, 1861 - August 6, 1864"