52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Military

Jesse David Smith enlisted in the 114th Illinois Regiment, Company E, for three years. August 14, 1862, he enlisted as a private at Camp Butler, Illinois. For two long years, Jesse and his Regiment slogged through the South until June 10, 1864, when Jesse was captured by Confederate soldiers and shipped to Andersonville, Georgia.

Camp Butler courtesy of the Sangamon County Historical Society

During the remainder of 1862, the Regiment did a lot of hard marching interspersed with picket duty and guard duty of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Throughout his assignment, the military was in the hurry up and wait mode like many in the military experience today.

On March 17, 1863, the Regiment left Memphis on transports which took them down the Mississippi river to Young’s Point, Louisiana. They arrived on April 2nd and where they were assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Fifteenth Army Corps under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman. They engaged in the battle of Jackson, Mississippi. They participated in the siege of Vicksburg followed by more picket duty.

The Regiment was then ordered to Oak Ridge, Mississippi. While on picket duty they had several skirmishes with guerrillas. They left again on transports for Memphis where they went on provost duty. On February 5, 1864, they left again on a scout and engaged Confederates at Wyatt, Mississippi. They then returned to Memphis for provost duty again.

On April 30, they left on scouting duty where they had a hard couple of weeks of marching under General Sturgis. They returned to Memphis and were put on picket duty.

On June 10, the Regiment under General Sturgis and the Confederates under General Forrest commenced action early in the afternoon. “The infantry was immediately hurried forward, at more than double quick, for about 3 miles, and, the day being one of excessive heat, numbers fell from the ranks, from fatigue and sunstroke. Almost completely exhausted the troops were pushed into the fight, and after a severe engagement of 5 or 6 hours the lines were everywhere repulsed, and commenced falling back.  The 114th remained as rear guard, assisting in holding the enemy in check.”¹ The Regiment consisted of 397 men. The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, also known as the Guntown Battle, resulted in the loss of 205 men killed, wounded, and missing. Jesse Smith was one of the missing. He was captured and sent to Camp Sumter military prison in Andersonville, Georgia.²

The word Andersonville raises feelings of horror and disgust. Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate prisons during the Civil War. It was overcrowded to four times its capacity. About 45,000 Union soldiers walked through its gates during the 14 months it existed. Almost 30% of the soldiers confined there died. “Yankee soldiers imprisoned there lived under open skies, protected by makeshift shanties called shebangs, constructed from scraps of wood and blankets. A creek flowed through the compound and provided water for the Union soldiers. This became a cesspool of disease and human waste.”³

Andersonville, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Jesse Smith marched about 1,100 miles as the crow flies, that can be calculated, from the time he entered the military until he was captured. No doubt, he marched many more miles over dirt roads, through bogs and forests, fording rivers and traveling over land that was inhospitable to those on foot. Somehow, Jesse Smith managed to live 355 days in the hell-hole called Andersonville. He survived, unlike many unfortunate souls, and returned to his wife and children in Sangamon County, Illinois, where he lived the remainder of his days. He died at the age of seventy-seven.

Jesse Smith is the son of Garland Smith. You can read about Garland here. Jesse is my husband Dave’s second great-uncle. 

¹The Illinois USGen Web Project, https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/history/114.html

²National Park Service, “The Civil War,” database(https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-prisoners.htm : accessed 2 Jun 2021), Jesse D. Smith held at Andersonville and survived.

³Andersonville, History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/andersonville

Note: Much of the history of the movement of the 114th Illinois Regiment was taken from the Illinois USGen Web Project.