Civil War Flags

          5th Illinois Cavalry


            The Fifth Illinois Cavalry Regiment was organized in the fall of 1861 at Camp Butler near Springfield, Illinois and mustered in for three years’ service in November 1861 under the command of Colonel Hall Wilson.[1]  The men volunteered from the following counties, Company A from Cumberland County, Company B from Coles, Moultrie and Piatt Counties, Company C from McLean County, Company D from   Wayne County, Company E from Coles County, Company F from Crawford County, Company G from Pike and Shelby Counties, Company H from St. Clair and Washington Counties, Company I from Cumberland County, Company K from Randolph County,[2] Company L from Effingham and Jasper Counties and Company M from Wayne County.  The Regiment trained at Camp Butler until February 20, 1862 when it departed for Benton Barracks in St. Louis.  On March 3 the Fifth Cavalry moved to Pilot Knob in southern Missouri.  The men saw their first action in a skirmish with the enemy near Doniphan, Missouri near the Arkansas border on April 4.  For the next six weeks the Regiment remained in the area of the Arkansas-Missouri border skirmishing and scouting.  A detachment containing Companies D, F and L, was sent to Smithville in northwest Missouri on June 17 and on June 27 the Fifth Cavalry marched east toward the Mississippi River.  The Regiment arrived at Jacksonport, Arkansas on the White River on June 29 and at Helena, Arkansas on the Mississippi River on July 13.  While en route the Regiment fought at Hill’s Plantation on the Cache River on July 7 and defeated an enemy force three times its size. The Regiment remained headquartered at Helena until May 29, 1963.  While at Helena[3] the Regiment participated in an expedition to Clarendon, Arkansas in August, and expedition up the St. Francis River to Jeffersonville and Mariana, Arkansas on September 26.  During late November the Fifth Cavalry participated in a scout to Arkansas Post and to Grenada, Mississippi.  In May 1863, Grant surrounded Vicksburg and Grant requested cavalry to guard the Union Army’s rear. The Fifth Illinois Cavalry reported to Grant at Chickasaw Bayou on May 31 and moved up the Yazoo River to Snyder’s Bluff.  During the first week in June the Regiment was part of a cavalry action against Satartia/Mechanicsburg.[4] On July 6 the Fifth Cavalry moved with Sherman’s Army toward Jackson, Mississippi.  In the siege of Jackson the Regiment saw action near Canton, Holton’s Depot, Grant’s Ferry on the Pearl River and at Briar Creek.  In August the Fifth Cavalry along with the Third and Fourth Iowa Cavalry was ordered on a raid to Grenada, Mississippi to destroy the Mississippi Central Railroad.  Having accomplished destruction of the railroad, engines, cars and bridges, the Regiment moved toward Memphis.  En route, the Regiment met and defeated enemy cavalry at Coldwater, Mississippi and arrived at Memphis on August 22,1863.  In late August the Regiment was ordered back to Vicksburg and went into camp at Black River.  The Regiment was headquartered at Black River until May 1, 1864 when the Regiment moved to Vicksburg.[5]    Late September 1863 a Regimental detachment participated in a raid from camp at Big Black River to Yazoo City and in late October moved with the XVII Corps in a raid on Jackson, Mississippi.  As part of that action the Regiment took part in a cavalry charge that routed Confederate General Wirt Adams.  During February 1864, as part of Sherman’s Meridian, Mississippi campaign, the Fifth Cavalry saw action at Champion's Hill, Jackson, Brandon, Morton and Meridian.  In early May a detachment went on scout from Vicksburg to Yazoo City and on May 27, 1864 Colonel John McConnell, formerly a Major in the Third Illinois Cavalry, took command of the Fifth Cavalry.  Due to the Regiment’s deficiency in horses, Companies A, B, C and D were completely mounted and equipped while the other eight companies were dismounted. On July 1, 1864 the mounted Battalion, along with members of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, Second Wisconsin Cavalry and the Third US Colored Cavalry moved to Jackson, Mississippi.  On the return from Jackson, on July 5, the expedition was attacked but the enemy repulsed.  The mounted detachment of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry participated in an expedition in late September down river to Port Gibson, drove the enemy from the place and moved on to Natchez, Mississippi and finally to Tonica Bend, Louisiana. The men fought at Woodville, Mississippi, drove the enemy off and returned to Vicksburg on October 11.  The entire Regiment participated in operations in Issaqueena and Washington Counties, north of Vicksburg in late October, and then participated in expeditions from Vicksburg to Gaines’ Landing, Arkansas and Bayou Macon, Louisiana in early November.  In late November the Regiment was part of an expedition east of Vicksburg that successfully destroyed the Mississippi Central Railroad, thus denying the transport of supplies to Confederate General Hood. In January 1865 the Regiment moved to Memphis, Tennessee and went on an expedition through Southern Arkansas and Northern Louisiana during January and early February. The Fifth Cavalry was part of another Expedition in Northern Mississippi in early March, moved to Alexandria, Louisiana on July 1 and then marched to Hempstead Texas, arriving in late August.  The Regiment remained on duty at Hempstead until October when ordered to Springfield, Illinois for muster out on October 27, 1865.[6]

[1] The original Colonel was John J. Updegraff but he was court-martialed for drunkenness and dismissed from service before the Regiment was mustered.

[2] Many of the men came from Liberty in Randolph County.  The name of the town today is Rockwood.  Slaves who came through the town on the Underground Railroad called the town Liberty.

[3] While in Helena 74 members of the Regiment died of sickness or wounds.  Kohl, Rhonda, “On Grant’s Front Line, The Fifth Illinois Cavalry in Mississippi,” Illinois Historical Journal, Vol. 90 (Spring, 1998).

[4] The Cavalry forces were commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin Wiley of the Fifth supported by Infantry forces that moved up the Yazoo River.  The expedition is detailed in Kohl’s paper in the Illinois Historical Journal.  A 39-man detachment of the Fifth Illinois, attempting to destroy Confederate rail and communication lines, was captured near Ellisville, Mississippi on June 25.

[5] On January 1, 1864 many men of the Regiment re-enlisted as veterans; on March 10 the veterans were sent home on furlough to return May 10.

[6] Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, H. W. Rokker, State Printer and Binder (1886), Volume VII, page 691-2.


5th;  Illinois  Cavalry  Regimental  Flag

The military flag collection of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois contains two flags—a National and Regimental--carried by the Fifth Regiment Illinois Cavalry. Interestingly, both of the flags are “full size” flags usually carried by Infantry regiments. Presumably these two flags were issued to the Regiment when six of the ten companies were dismounted in May 1864. There are no cavalry standards or guidons from this Regiment in the Illinois collection. The Regimental flag is typical of flags manufactured by Horstmann Brothers & Company for the Philadelphia Depot.


5th;  Illinois  Cavalry  National  Flag

The National flag shows a star pattern typical of those flags manufactured for the Philadelphia Depot by either Evans & Hassall or by Horstmann Brothers & Company. There are no battle honors or unit designation of the flag. It appears to be a 34 star flag.


Many of the photos are the property of and used with permission from the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois.

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