From Pittsfield or exiting off of Interstate 72 you will want to head north on Highway 107. Follow 107 through the town of Griggsville and continue heading north. Just before the town of Perry you will see a large John Deere dealership on your right. Just past the dealership make a right on county road 5. Travel about four miles the monument will be located on your right. You will need to park along the road so please use caution.
21st Illinois Monument
History of the 21st and the Monument:
East of the small Pike County, Illinois town of Perry alongside of a country road sets a modest historical marker that highlights an event from the early days of the American Civil War. In early July of 1861 the colonel of the newly formed 21st Illinois Infantry guided his regiment from Springfield west toward Quincy, Illinois. At Naples, Illinois the regiment would cross the Illinois River by ferry and enter Pike County. They would march about 4 – 5 miles across the vast flood plain of the river before reaching higher ground where they would make camp in the fields along McKee Creek.
When President Lincoln first called for 75,000 volunteers to serve for ninety days a quota was sent out to each state. Illinois was to raise one company from each district which would then be organized into six regiments. However there was such a turn out that a new plan had to be implemented. The answer was the “Ten Regiment Rule” which allowed for a full regiment to be organized in each district. The regiment raised in the 7th District stationed itself in a camp near Mattoon, Coles County, Illinois waiting further orders.
The 7th District Regiment as it was known was diversified like most volunteer regiments its ranks were composed of farmers, lawyers, physicians, politicians, bankers, merchants and ministers. Early in the war, volunteer regiments elected their command structure. If an individual of status or prominence in a community had recruited a company then typically that individual was elected captain of that company. The problem was that many times these elected officers did not display any leadership skills that showed they could lead men into battle.
When the 7th District Regiment elected regimental officers the men elected Simon S. Goode to be their colonel. Goode was a native of Henry County, Kentucky, where he was born in 1815. At the beginning of the Civil War he was living in Decatur, Illinois practicing law.
As the newly elected colonel of the regiment Simon S. Goode was said to have some strange habits of dress and personality characteristics. It was said that he was tall, booted to the hips, shirted in handsome gray, obsessed with Napoleon to the point that he quoted him constantly. He wore a wide brimmed hat, three revolvers and one bowie knife. At night he would wander the camp in a cloak like Napoleon telling the camp guards “I never sleep”.
The other problem Goode suffered from was drinking too much. He was a man that liked to have a good time and his behavior influenced many of the men in his ranks to follow suit. Others in the ranks did not like him period and did not want him to lead them. As time went along discipline dissolved to the point that many of the men roamed the countryside stealing eggs and chickens from neighboring farms or spent all night in the saloons. It was so bad that one of Mattoon’s leading citizens called upon Goode to keep his men away from the saloons which Goode replied, “You mind your own business, and I will tend to mine”. News of the regiments behavior spread fast causing the regiment to become known as Yates Hellions.
Up in Galena, Illinois U.S. Grant was working as a clerk in his father’s leather business. Grant had graduated West Point in 1843 and was a veteran of the Mexican War. He was not looking to get involved but when local officials asked him to organize a meeting regarding the company of men to be raised from Galena, Grant agreed. At the end of the meeting men enlisted and officers were elected. The next morning the men turned out and Grant organized them into squads and began leading them in drill. When they were ready, he accompanied them to Springfield.
In Springfield Grant was approached by Gov Yates who asked for Grant’s help in organizing and swearing in the regiments in the state’s districts. Grant agreed. Grant went to Mattoon and formally sworn in the 7th District Regiment as the 21st Illinois Infantry. The men of the regiment that had issues with Goode were impressed by Grant, even to the point that they renamed their camp after him. When Grant left, the bad behavior, lack of discipline and leadership continued forcing Yates to do something. Yates transported the regiment to Springfield and offered Goode’s command to Grant who accepted the position on June 15, 1861.
As for Simon S. Goode it does not appear that he served in any capacity during the war. By 1868 Goode had made his way to Mexico, Missouri where he was running a grocery business. In early February of that year Goode was arrested and prosecuted for selling empty barrels with the United States brand on them. The charges against Goode came from W.D. Campbell the United States Assessor for the city. Goode was brought before the Commissioner who discharged the parties because he believed that Goode had no attentions of defrauding the government. Campbell would not let the issue go and openly threatened to have Goode re-arrested. On February 11, 1868 Goode assaulted Campbell with a hickory walking stick. During the beating Campbell retrieved his revolver firing two shots. One shot entered the left breast near the heart, the second through one ear. Goode was taken to a Dr. Russell’s office where he took one or two breaths but never spoke before he died of his wounds.
Back in Springfield Grant boarded a train car on June 16th and headed out to Camp Yates and his new regiment. When Grant arrived he was dressed very clumsily in citizens clothes with an old coat with worn out elbows. Many of the men took issue with the way he was dressed even though many of them were barefooted and ragged.
As Grant addressed the men, some of the troublemakers slipped behind him and began to spar behind his back. Another proceeded to deliver a blow between Grant’s shoulders that pushed him forward with such force he lost his hat. Grant picked up his hat dusted it off turned and stared at the men for a moment. A real colonel had arrived.
Grant immediately went to work and in a short time had his regiment clothed and outfitted in good style. His first order was to disband the guards that carried clubs to keep the men form climbing the fence and going to town causing trouble. He told the men that there would be no more guards but there would be several daily roll calls and each man must be present.
The next hurdle Grant faced was the lack of numbers in his regiment. When the men originally volunteered it was for ninety days now they were being asked to serve three years. When Grant had sworn the regiment in it contained 1250 men. Now on June 28th it contained only 600. This loss was totally contributed to Goode’s mismanagement of the regiment. On June 16th when Grant had taken command he was joined by Democratic Congressman John A. McClernand and John A. Logan. Speeches by both men were at hand and Grant had no issues with pro-unionist McClernand but he was a little nervous about Logan. Logan hailed from the southern part of Illinois where he was idolized and a staunch supporter of Stephen A. Douglas in 1860. Since the election and the start of the war, he had openly denounced Douglas but some still doubted his loyalty. Grant decided that with McClernand present, it would be safe to allow Logan to speak.
McClernand spoke first delivering a patriotic speech as expected. Years later Grant was still moved by the speech that Logan gave which he confessed his deep loyalty to the Union. Logan spoke “I made a speech ridiculing the idea of soldiers going out of service in a time of war without having seen what war is and without having left the peaceful borders of their own state.” Grant then recalled that Logan changed his tone, “You can’t fall out now. If you go home to Mary, she will say, Why, Tom, are you home from the war so soon?” “Yes”. “How far did you get?” “Mattoon”. At that the room roared with laughter and Grant knew his worries were over.
Grant remained in Springfield with the 21st until July 3rd when he received orders to take his regiment to Quincy, Illinois. At the time there was good railroad service between the two points but Grant choose to march his regiment in order to better discipline his men. Once the regimental baggage was loaded upon wagons the regiment left Camp Yates with the honor of being the first regiment to leave on foot.
In the following days the regiment made good time reaching the banks of the Illinois River where it went into camp near the town of Naples. Naples was a steamboat stop and terminus point for the Great Western Railroad of Illinois. While camped at Naples it is said that a crowd of 10,000 people visited the camp to see the soldiers.
On July 8, 1861 the 21st ferried across the Illinois River into Pike County. Once across the river, the regiment slowly continued marching west four or five miles across the Illinois River bottoms until reaching the Gardner home. The regiment went into camp about one and half miles west of the home in a grassy cove near were the Chambersburg bridge crosses McKee Creek. Grant would established his headquarters nearby at the Gardner house. The house was a unique piece of architecture in the area because it was built in the shape of an octagon with eight sides. Many locals referred to the house as Fort Gardner because it resembled the old way of building forts.
It was during this time that a dispatch was delivered to Grant stating that his orders had changed, he was now being ordered to Ironton, Missouri. On July 9th Grant issued orders for the camp to be moved back and re-established on the west bank of the Illinois River while he remained at the Gardner house. The orders stated that a steamboat had been dispatched up the river to take them to St Louis, but before the boat could arrive it ran aground on a sand bar below the camp. The remainder of July 9th, Grant and the 21st remained in camp to see if the boat might be able to free itself.
During the days that the regiment camped in Pike County a few things of interest took place. In his letter to his wife 1st Lieutenant Phillip Welshimer of Company B talked about some young visitors to the camp on the night of July 8th. “While I am sitting on an old log writing, a company of twenty or twenty-five little boys about the size of Dora all in uniform, red caps white shirts and blue pants, have come into camp and are drilling to the great delight of the soldiers. Their little captain has his sword in hand and gives commands like some old officer and the little fellows are well drilled. A little boy played his fife and another the drum. They have come some five or six miles from some little town.”
That same night twenty-four soldiers from the regiment paid a visit to the home of William W. Taylor near Perry. The solders arrested Taylor around 9:00 o’clock pm taking him from his home and forcing him into the night on foot until being placed on one of his own horses. Once he arrived at the camp he was guarded by several well-armed soldiers while two held the bit of the horse he set on. Finally Taylor was brought before the Major (James E. Calloway) at which time the men began to hoot and yell and required Taylor to take the oath of allegiance. Taylor refused at first because he was already under oath to support the United States Constitution since he was the Postmaster at Perry.
This was not good enough. The men demanded that he take an oath to “bear true allegiance to the Government of the United States and obey all orders of the chief Executive of the United States.” Taylor still refused. He was then threatened to be hanged as a “damn secessionist.” After reaching a compromise, Taylor took the oath. Taylor was then released and allowed to return to his home where he arrived around 3:00 o’clock am in the morning cold and wet.
Local tradition tells the story that while camped in the bottoms the 21st looked to the local farmers for supplies. One story that has been passed down is that Colonel Grant was visiting the farm of Tom Reynolds when he noticed a claybank colored horse that he liked and wanted to purchase. Tom Reynolds and Grant came to an agreement on price and Grant walked away with the horse.
On July 10th Grant received orders directing him west to Quincy, Illinois by rail. Once the camp was packed, the soldiers and baggage were ferried back across the river to Naples, Illinois where they had camped just a few days before. As the last load of soldiers and baggage pushed off from the west bank, it would be the last time a civil war regiment would step foot on the soil of the Pike County. However the one thing that no one knew was that the clumsily dressed colonel of the 21st Illinois would go on to be the highest ranking general since Washington and direct the forces that would lead the Union Army to victory.
It would be one hundred and two years before Pike County would honor the memory of the events of those few days in the Illinois River bottoms. Great planning went into the dedication of the monument that now sets along the road. On Sunday May 19, 1963 despite the rain a crowd gathered at the site to hear Father Landry Genosky tell the history of the 21st Illinois Infantry’s first march. Originally when the monument was dedicated it contained a bronze plaque. Sadly many years later the plaque was stolen and never recovered. In 2005 a group of citizens from Perry raised the money to have the information that was on the original plaque cut into the stone and highlighted in black.
I close with the words of Father Landry from that day. “The marker is not a spot, nor man, a small man in an old slouch hat and overcoat of fading blue. We are also commemorating and perpetuating for posterity the image of the civilian turned reluctant soldier who once aroused, could and would fight and die to protect his beliefs.”