The 18th Illinois Infantry regiment¹ was organized at Aurora, Illinois, with US Colonel Michael K. Lawler being appointed its commander. It was mustered into Federal service on May 28, 1861. It would be sent to Bird’s Point, Missouri, in June and on to Cairo, Illinois on October 5. It would remain in the District of Cairo until February 1862, when it was assigned to the First Brigade (Colonel Richard J. Ogelsby) of US Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s First Division of the District of Cairo.
In February 1862, the 18th Illinois would participate in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. As part of McClernand’s Division, they would be repulsed during CS Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow’s break out attempt, at Fort Donelson. With US Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant arriving at the battle, they would be reformed and participate in the counter attack that would lead to the capitulation of the fort. Colonel Lawler would be wounded during Donelson with command passing to Major Samuel Eaton.
The regiment would move to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee in March and would be in bivouac there on March 23. On April 6th, Confederate forces under the command of CS General Albert Sidney Johnston, would attack Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, at Pittsburg Landing. The ensuing Battle of Shiloh would be a Union victory, but it would come at a terrible cost. Still part of McClernand’s First Division, the 18th Illinois would be engaged in some of the fiercest fighting at the Crossroads, and the Hornet’s Nest.
From April 29 to May 30, the regiment would participate in the advance, and siege of Corinth, Mississippi. In early July, the regiment would have a new commander, Major Daniel H. Brush, from Carbondale, Illinois. They would be detached to Bethel, and then to Jackson, arriving on June 15, 1862. They would remain there May 30, 1863, participating in battles against CS Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, in west Tennessee. Companies A and E would fight against Forrest at Parker’s Crossroads on December 30 and 31, 1862. They would participate in the pursuit of Forrest’s cavalry to Clifton, Tennessee.
On May 30, they would be moved to Vicksburg and participate in its siege. At Vicksburg, they would be assigned to the Second Brigade of US Brigadier General Nathan Kimball’s Provisional Division of the XVI Corps. After Vicksburg, the 18th Illinois would take part in the occupation of Hickman, Kentucky.
In July 1863, they would participate in Steele’s expedition against Little Rock, Arkansas. On September 10, 1863 the 18th would fight at Bayou Forche, leading to the capture of Little Rock. For the remainder of the war the 18th Illinois would be on duty at Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Duvall’s Bluff, all in Arkansas. Non–Veterans would muster out on May 28, 1864, with the regiment mustering out of Federal service on December 16, 1865. They would be discharged at Camp Butler, Illinois on December 31, 1865.
The regiment would suffer a total of 394 casualties during the Civil War.
¹ The Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System was used to research this article.