The 109th Illinois — The Cause of Its Arrest.


Correspondence of the Chicago Times.

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Feb. 2.

There has recently been so much said and written about the arrest of the 109th Illinois Regiment, and so little bearing any semblance to truth, that I would ask space in your paper — the organ of the people and soldiers, versus rotten demagogues and plundering contractors — for the narration of a plain, unvarnished tale." I would take no trouble for the mere purpose of gaining black republican favor, for we have no desire to be judged by their standard of loyalty; but, should no defence be made against the many lying and slanderous fabrications of our enemies, — who, for the most part, consist of your nigger freeing, subjugating, "On to Richmond," stay-at-home Greeleyites, — many true Union men might form an erroneous and unfavorable opinion of our regiment.

It is true that, on the 31st of December last, by order of Gen. Grant, we were placed under arrest. We had been branded by "the faithful" as a secession regiment because our men were uncompromising Egyptian Democrats, devoted to the Constitution and the Union of our fathers, and as a consequence opposed to the infamous and illegal proclamation of the President, and the policy upon which the war has lately been conducted. In short, the men, as, well as officers, of the regiment remained firm in their adherence to Democratic principles, and did not show evidence of becoming "Abolitionized" to give encouragement to the policy-endorsing Generals in command. A packed court of inquiry was convened to investigate the charges against us — not called by demand of the accused or by order of the President of the United States, as provided by the Articles of War. With their minds gangrened with prejudice and bigotry, this republican board entered upon their work. No one was permitted to be present during the sitting of the court to cross-examine on behalf of the accused, or to hear any testimony against them. After sixteen days diligent research, the court relaxed its labors, and surely the "mountain labored to bring forth a mouse." Of course nothing to the injury of the regiment was adduced; but, from the evidence of those who had urged its arrest, it was shown that the regiment had always been prompt and faithful in obedience to orders, and, though it had been on heavy guard duty ever since its entrance into the service, no property, bridge or trestle work placed under its charge had ever suffered loss or injury. — Its great offense consisted in differing with Greeley, Lincoln, Phillips, and other disunionists in the policy that should govern the war. That and nothing more. The regiment was marched from Holly Springs, on the evacuation of that place, to LaGrange, without arms, and between rows of glistening bayonets. The object of this, as well in fact as of the arrest, was to terrify other regiments which had shown indications of dissatisfaction and revolt in consequence, of the free nigger policy of the administration. It was well known that the mass of the soldiers, who had enlisted to battle for the Union as it was, were tired of the programme pursued and marked out for them by the " powers that be," and, it was daily becoming more evident that the original object of the war was totally abandoned, and that they were no longer periling their lives for their country and its preservation, but that the policy of men who had "labored nineteen years to carry nineteen States out of the Union" had obtained its stead, revolt among these soldiers was feared; in fact, it has been repeated; in fact, it had been repeatedly threatened. To intimidate these, it was deemed necessary to "make an example" of some known Democratic regiment, and the 109th was selected. But the desired effect has not been produced. The mass of the soldiers are true to the Union and the only principles that can preserve it, and are daily becoming more hostile to the policy of the leaders.

Without being furnished with a copy of the testimony adduced before the court, or any reasons given for our arrest, we were informed by Gen. McPherson that we were released from arrest, and ordered at once to this place for duty. The whole thing, from first to last, was a farce — a grand fizzle. Though the arrest was instigated by malice, and the investigation prosecuted in a spirit of malignity, the regiment was shown to be as loyal as any in the service. It was further shown that the men could not be intimidated or scared to an abandonment of their principles, for they were ten-fold more steadfast in their faith after than before the arrest.

The 109th never claimed to be the especial pet of black republicans, nor any other class of actual disunionists. Though going out to fight the battles of the Union, they have always received the especial maledictions of that class of patriots who go in for "exterminating the southern people," "letting slip the dogs of war" among defenceless women and children, "exhausting the resources of the nation in prosecuting the war," but who never enlist, or contribute one cent for the comfort of soldiers suffering families! We are proud of being for the Union of our fathers, and of being true Egyptian Democrats. It was with pleasure I noticed the correction in the lying Tribune, of Colonel Fox, of the 101st, and one of the gallant defenders (!) of Holly Springs, who surrendered his command without firing a dozen guns! It is true the 109th was raised in Union and adjoining counties, and rendezvoused in Jonesboro previous to starting for the scene of war.

I presume it is scarcely necessary to say here that all the ridiculous stories in circulation, to the effect that the 109th had stacked its arms and refused to fight, or in any way been in communication with the enemy, are unfounded in fact. They are as false as the black hearts of the base miscreants who placed the lying reports in circulation. Four hours before the attack was made on Holly Springs, a contraband reached the headquarters of our regiment, four miles below the Springs, and warned us of the approaching danger. Col. Nimmo immediately dispatched the negro, with two of our men, to report to Col. Murphy, commanding the post. They reached Murphy's headquarters three hours before Van Dorn's arrival, but, instead of giving the alarm, or preparing for defence, Col. Murphy dismissed the couriers by saying that he was aware of the intended attack the day before! The attack was made with the most disastrous result to our cause, as we all too well know. Col. Murphy and the Provost Marshal (the aforesaid Col. Fox) were aware the day before that the attack would be made, yet, instead of offering resistance, they surrendered the whole force and immense government stores at that point. It was these worthies — as we have since learned from a General commanding a division of this army — who advised the arrest of the 109th, to shield their own infamous and disgraceful conduct. I may say that, immediately upon these facts being elicited before the court of inquiry investigating the case of the 109th, Gen. Grant, by special order, summarily dismissed Murphy from the service in disgrace. Had the 109th been ordered to reinforce Holly Springs, that post would never have passed from Federal possession.

These, Mr. Editor, are the true facts in the case, and stories to the contrary are either repeated in ignorance, or are willful and malicious lies.

Be assured that the 109th never has, nor never will, stack their arms in the face of an enemy; never have, nor never will, surrender any post intrusted to them without making a creditable resistance, especially if they have advices of the intended attack days before! Nor can they be driven to an abandonment of their principles through the bullying of those in power, but will remain as firm to the doctrines of the great Democratic party, and the teachings of the immortal Douglas, as they have heretofore to the flag of their country.
J. E.