James L. Chamness
Regiment Name: 128 Illinois Infantry
Soldier's Rank_In: Pvt.
Soldier's Rank_Out: Pvt.
Film Number: M539 roll 15
My grandfather has a record which states James Chamness was 1 of the approximately 700 that deserted the 128th Infantry Regiment. The 128th Regiment was assigned to 16th Army Corps, District of Columbus, Ky. November 1862 - April 1863. The 16th Army Corps was formed in Dec 1862 and left for Tennessee shortly after the 128th left Illinois for Tennessee in November 1862. These troops were stationed in the vicinity of Memphis, La Grange, and Corinth Tennessee until June, 1863.
An Account of the 128th Infantry Regiment:
Joseph A. Logan, US Congressman from Benton, Franklin County, IL
originally supported the southern states' rights to own slaves. But once
the talk turned to secession, Logan withdrew his support and openly and
violently opposed secession. He was instrumental in raising several
companies of Union soldiers in Franklin, Williamson, and St. Clair
Counties. Unfortunately, his former law partner, William Joshua Allen,
was a high mucky-muck in the KGC who was later arrested for
sedition. Because of this, some of Logan's initial recruits for the Union
army were viewed with open suspicion and scorn, and hounded and ridiculed
by violent diatribes in the papers and by armed and hostile
unionists. The 128th Illinois Infantry, in which three of my ancestors
enlisted, was formed immediately after one of Logan's recruiting speeches, and two of its officers were KGC members.
The 128th were sent up to Springfield, most of them with only the clothes
on their backs and only a few had rifles, expecting to be outfitted when
they were mustered in. During the march up to Camp Butler in Springfield,
they were constantly verbally abused by the citizens of the areas they
passed through, and by the newspapers of the day, who accused them of
being a "fifth column" (subversives) for the Confederates. When they got
to Springfield, whether by deliberate design, or innocent accident, there
were no barracks or other shelter for them, and no food, uniforms, shoes,
guns or ammunition. They were furloughed home until the situation could
be rectified, and forced to re-march through the same hostile
countryside. When they were finally called up to muster, more than 700 of
the 860 men refused, effectively becoming deserters. The decimated 128th
lasted for five months and fought in only one battle before it was
disbanded, and the officers cashiered for gross incompetency. The
deserters were rounded up by bounty hunters.
One of my ancestors, Archibald Odum, of Benton, IL was one of the
deserters, and was captured by a bounty hunter who was paid $6.00 for his
troubles. Arch, along with some of the other captured deserters and most
of the loyal former 128th members, was sent to the 9th Illinois infantry,
where he served with his brothers Thomas and Wiley. Arch was wounded when
mounting up for a patrol. While convalescing, he was on duty in the
kitchens. He was delivering dinner to the pickets, when they were all
captured by a rebel patrol. Arch was sent to Andersonville Prison, where
he was joined by his brother, Wiley who was captured in a separate
incident. Arch survived and was released at the end of the war, but he
was a skeleton, his gums black and his body covered with scars from
scurvy, and he suffered life-long from rheumatism and chronic
diarrhea. Brother Wiley died of starvation and scurvy and is buried in
the prison graveyard.