Thursday, April 04, 2013

39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Another regiment leaves the painting table...!

The 39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (nicknamed "Yates' Phalanx") was organized at Chicago, and mustered into service on October 11, 1861, for a three year term.

The organization of the Regiment was started by Thomas Ogden Osborn (August 11, 1832 – March 27, 1904), a lawyer in civilian life, as soon as the news of the firing on Fort Sumter reached Chicago.

Recruitment was from the following counties:

Company A - Will and Cook Counties
Company B - McLean County
Company C - Livingston and Cook Counties
Company D - Ogle and DeWitt Counties
Company E - Will and Cook Counties
Company F - Cook and Lake Counties
Company G - Cook and Will Counties
Company H - Cook County
Company I - DeWitt and Boone Counties
Company K - LaSalle, McLean, and Cook Counties

Unfortunately the state filled its quota before the regiment completed preparations so they then tried to get the regiment accepted as part of the muster of Missouri (also without success).

The regiment had assumed the name of the Governor of Illinois (the aforesaid Yates), who as a result was keen to see them accepted into service. He wrote to the President and Secretary of War.

Osborne (seated left) and his staff - piccie
courtesy Wikipedia
The Regiment was accepted on the day following the Union defeat at First Bull Run, but Austin Light, of Chicago, was appointed Colonel with Osborne as Lieutenant Colonel (which must have been a disappointment to Osborne??) According to the sources I've seen though Light was well liked...

They left Camp Mather, Chicago, on the morning of October 13, 1861, and reported to Brigadier General Curtis, at Camp Benton, St. Louis, Missouri.

On October 29, the Regiment received orders to proceed to Williamsport, Maryland, where it was fully armed and equipped.

Colonel Austin Light was dismissed on November 25 (he was a regular army officer and my sources seem to indicate this was because of technical reasons going back some years rather than any fault), and Osborne finally became the regiment’s colonel in December 1861. In the same month the regiment was armed with Springfield rifled muskets..

On January 3, 1862, Confederates "under the command of "Stonewall" Jackson, attacked Companies D, I and K, in the command of Major Mann, near Bath, Virginia, and, after a brisk little fight, were repulsed; then, with two pieces of artillery, and a liberal display of strategy and courage, the enemy was held in check for nearly twenty-four hours". Company G, was also attacked at Great Cacapon Bridge, while Osborn, with the rest of the Regiment was attacked at Alpine Station. The Regiment finally retreated by fording the Potomac, having lost most of their baggage....
Cumberland was then threatened, and the Thirty-ninth was ordered to make a forced march of forty miles over poor roads, this was accomplished in just eighteen hours.

From Cumberland the Regiment was ordered to New Creek, Virginia, and assigned to the First Brigade of General Lander's Division. It was then ordered to Martinsburg, to protect workmen repairing the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Regiment then took part in the battle of Kernstown where they fought in the Second Brigade (this is the first unit I've painted in that brigade) commanded by Colonel Jeremiah C. Sullivan, but were little involved owing to their position on the extreme left.

The regiment went on to serve throughout the war - but never in any of the big battles - they seem to have been a well respected, veteran regiment, who happily, fought in very few of the major bloodbaths...

  • the siege of Fort Wagner
  • Jan. 1, 1864, returning to the front in Virginia the regiment was located on the extreme left of Gen. Butler's command in May, when the entire force under Butler was attacked and driven back. The regiment was at one time completely surrounded by the enemy, but succeeded in cutting it way out after great loss. Its entire loss in that engagement, including killed, wounded and missing, reached nearly 200. 
  • on Aug. 16 the brigade to which the 39th was attached was ordered to charge the works of the enemy at Deep run, during the performance of which the enemy's lines were broken and a large number of prisoners captured. In this battle the regiment lost 104 men in killed, wounded and missing. 
  • In the latter part of August it was ordered to the trenches in front of Petersburg, a few days later the regiment took part in a charge upon the enemy's works near Darlington road, 7 miles from Richmond, and out of about 250 men who went into that charge, 60 fell, struck by the enemy.
  • it crossed to the left of the Army of the Potomac and on April 2 (1865) took part in the charge upon Fort Gregg, the key to the works about Petersburg and Richmond, the 39th was the first regiment to gain the ditch, and the first to plant its flag upon the structure. Out of 9 of the color-guard 7 were shot down, and out of 150 members who went into that fight 16 were shot dead and 45 severely wounded, many of whom died from their wounds. 
  • After this affair the regiment took the advance of the Army of the James in the pursuit of Gen. Lee, and were present at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865,
The regiment was mustered out on December 6, 1865.

Figures are 20mm by Newline Designs - these guys take me over my painting total for the whole of last year so clearly I'm on a roll given it's only April...  the next unit will mark a return to 25mm tricorne's - American War of Independence time...

Apologies for the yellowing of the pictures, had to use my new camera which is slightly more sensitive to available light than my trusty old one (battery flat)...  must invest in a light box.... 


  1. Great post! You might have got me back on my ACW unit!

  2. Lovely regiment and thanks for the history lesson - knowing the history of a unit helps to give it some character

    1. Cheers Tamsin, the history is such an integral and interesting part I don't think I could ever just treat them as a game piece.... :o) The ACW is so "recent" you get the added advantage of also having photograph's in some cases....

  3. Well done Steve. You always do those Newlines proud.

    I'd be very interested in a post about your photographic technique.

    1. Thanks CK... to be fair, I find them to be on of those figures that almost paint themselves... I reckon this unit took no more than a couple of hours to complete....

      W.r.t the photography, are you sure? I rank my photography skills right up there next to Stalin's ability to make friends...... :o)

  4. Yes. Not my period, but your troops look great. I'm surprised there isn't a memorial to these men somewhere here in Bl------ton, which is the country seat of McLean County.

    Best Regards,


    1. Stokes - hear hear - the closest I got was this one,_Illinois%29

  5. Very nice unit! Great work...

    1. Cheers Phil/Fraxinus/Anne.. appreciated...

      Ray - kind words from the painting production line master! Hoping to see you and the Rejects next Saturday as DG and I will be at Salute..

  6. a couple of hours to complete crikey! superb as usual Steve I always enjoy the history with the posts too

  7. Cracking figures there sir and the history you provided was first rate.