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Twelfth North Carolina Infantry Regiment

Posted 11/21/2022

The Thirty Sixth {36th} Illinois Infantry mustered into service to the Union on September 23, 1861, and subsequently mustered out of the service on October 8, 1865. During the regiments four years and two weeks in the service, the regiment traveled to eight states, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. The 36th was  involved in thirteen major engagements, Pea Ridge, Perryville, Stone’s River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Pleasant Hill, Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta Campaign, Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville. During this time, the regiment lost 332 men, with 11 officers, and 193 enlisted men killed or died from wounds. 128 men died from disease. One only has to look at the battle honors on their national flag to see what these men from Illinois endured during their 4 years fighting for the Union.

Most writers of Civil War stories seem to focus on battles where infantrymen, cavalrymen, or artillerist are involved in their duties of fighting their enemy. As I was reading some of the regimental history of the 36th Illinois, two people caught my attention that you rarely hear about in books, articles, and reports. These 2 people were the Chaplain, and Surgeons. I was caught by them while reading their humorous account of what they were doing the night before the great battle in Rutherford County, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at Stone’s river. The river in most places now looks to be no more than a creek due to dams, and reservoirs, placed on the river at various locations over the years since the war. Stone’s River is named for explorer Uriah Stone who navigated the river in 1767. (Collins, 1874)

The Union army was on the move in Tennessee in December 1862. They were moving several thousand strong from Nashville, headed south, where their first real encounter with the enemy would be in Rutherford County, just 34 miles or so, south of downtown Nashville. The Union army was basically following the route of old 41 highway, the north south route from Miami to Cooper Harbor, Michigan.

The 36th Illinois Infantry was part of that great movement. Embedded with the regiment was their Chaplain William Moorhouse Haigh. Reverend Haigh had just been appointed as Chaplain of the regiment in August, 1862. Being from Yorkshire, England, William Haigh was of the Baptist faith and was baptized in that faith in England. In 1852, Haigh was found in mostly northern Illinois pastoring several Baptist churches for the next 20 years, until the outbreak of Civil War. For two years, Chaplain Haigh endured all the hardships of war the men of the 36th Illinois were forced to endure. December 1862 would find him in the middle of one of the worst fought battles of the war in regard to casualties on both sides. The Chaplain would also briefly be taken prisoner by Confederates.

Also found with the 36th Illinois at Stone’s river was Dr. William Palmer Peirce. Dr. Peirce, a New Yorker by birth, graduated from New York University as a doctor in 1852. Dr. Peirce practiced medicine in Mississippi, and several places in Illinois until the outbreak of the war. In Lisbon, Illinois, Dr. Peirce raised a company of Infantry, which was mustered in as Company D, 36th Illinois. Dr. Peirce was the companies Captain. In September 1862, Dr. Peirce was promoted to Assistant Surgeon of the 36th Illinois Infantry. In late December 1862, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, Dr. Peirce, and Chaplain Haigh would be together when both Union and Confederate soldiers would overwhelm their small hospital site, and Dr. Peirce would also briefly be taken prisoner.

While moving towards the unknown battlefield at the time, the Surgeon and Chaplain seemed to be friends. Chaplain Haigh would hold bandages and act as a surgeons assistant while Dr. Peirce performed his work on wounded soldiers. Two nights before the great December 31, 1862 battle, the two found themselves in the open with the army after moving their makeshift hospital from the Harding house. All the ambulances available were sent to the rear a half mile back from the suspected encounter location with the enemy, and parked in one place in a field by the side of the road. It was cold, and a place to sleep was hard to find. The Surgeon and the Chaplain decided the best place to try and get some “shut eye” was under one of the ambulances. Chaplain Haigh, who is also one of the co-writers of the regiments history records the following about their night: “So off we started, and found that another muddy cornfield had been selected, and that all the ambulances of the division were to be brought together. I confess the prospect was gloomy, no fire, consequently, no coffee. It was already seven o’clock, cloudy, and threatening rain. But there was no help for it. We ate supper of cold beans, pork, and crackers, drinking water. Now the bed. After discussing the question, decided to make our bed under the ambulance. We plucked corn stalks sufficient-small stakes would have made a great substitute-on them we spread our blankets, and then with great difficulty took off our cloths, which had to be done under the ambulance, our heads knocking against hooks and axletrees, all outside being soft mud of the clay family, and stretched ourselves to sleep.” The Chaplain reports further, “ Soon a new difficulty arose. No less than five horses were tied to the ambulance, while at something more than two horses’ lengths off was the hospital wagon, to which were attached six mules. Not content with making their usual noises, which while unsufferable to a citizen, are not supposed to be even heard by a soldier, the horse tied to the wheel close by my head, persisted in taking his hind feet too near the mules, and a general kicking and yelping, together with the violent jerking of the ambulance were the consequence. The horses had by this time pretty well eaten up their cornstalks, all the forage we could obtain for them, and in their eagerness for more they began to pick and pull at the ends of the stalks composing our bed. In addition, the same horse, thinking it a good and appropriate act, laid down in the mud for a good roll, by which he succeeded in fastening his hind legs in the wagon wheel.” Chaplin Haigh then finishes the story with the rain beginning to fall. Not such a good situation for the Surgeon and the Chaplain. (Bennett, 1876)

After skirmishing for two days or so, the two great armies finally got at each other in earnest.  The  Chaplin and the Surgeon found themselves in what they thought was the back of the battlefield behind Union lines doing the awful work of trying to patch men up and save lives. When all of a sudden, the small hospital area was now just to the rear of Union artillery that was firing at the enemy, thus drawing fire from Confederate  artillery, and was also drawing the ire of the rebel infantry. Soon, the position was overrun by the Confederates and the Surgeon and Chaplain as well as all the wounded were taken prisoner. As the battlefield shifted, as they seem to always do during that war, Dr. Peirce and Chaplain Haigh were again in Union hands. During their work at Stone’s River, 212 of the 36th Illinois were the casualties that includes 65 killed with the remainder being wounded, most of which were treated by the Surgeon and the Chaplain. At the end of the battle, approximately 3000 men on both sides lay dead on the field, while 16,000 were wounded.

After his part of the war, Chaplain Haigh continued his pastoral duties in Illinois, eventually moving to Chicago where he became the head of Baptist Union for Theological Education where he was involved in mission work to new immigrants coming to Chicago. Chaplain Haigh died on January 1, 1898, 36 years, and 1 day from the great battle in Rutherford County, Tennessee.

Dr. Peirce stayed in the war until June 1865 when he was mustered out of service. Dr. Peirce became an elected member of the Illinois legislature and a state senator, going on to be mayor of Hoopeston, Illinois. The doctor died on February 28, 1911 and is buried in Iroquois County, Illinois.

In September 2022, while on an trip to northern Illinois, a stop was made by me, and brother-in-law John Mulsoff at the DuPage County, Illinois Historical Museum in Wheaton.  On the wall of a large meeting room hanging in a frame is the national flag of the 36th Illinois Volunteer Infantry which is on loan to the museum by the Illinois Military Museum in Springfield. The picture was taken by me.



1.Collins, Lewis, A History of Kentucky, 1874, Clearfield Publishers, Louisville, Kentucky.

2. Bennett, L.G. & Haigh, William M., History of the Thirty-Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, During the War of the Rebellion, 1876, Knickerbocker & Hodder, Aurora, Illinois,

3. Townsend, Carla, Museum Specialist, Illinois Military Museum, Springfield, Illinois

4. Mark Krausz, Wheaton, Illinois, CDV, 36th Illinois Color Bearers

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