By DAVID COSTIGAN
In marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, there are many perspectives available to those interested in this crucial period in U. S. history. A personal and virtual day-by-day look into the life of a common soldier in the Union army is provided in the memoir of Francis T. Moore, a carriage maker from Quincy. Moore, from a prominent Quincy family, enlisted as a private in July 1861, and he rose by election to the ranks of lieutenant and then captain. He served until June 1865, two months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Moore's memoir was discovered by Anne Bahde, a special collection librarian at San Diego State University. Mrs. Bahde informed her husband, historian Thomas Bahde, of her find. Not expecting much, Bahde was amazed to find that the memoirist presented "the great adventure of his life" in vivid, realistic detail. Moore's story, edited skillfully but not intrusively by Bahde, was published by Northern Illinois University Press in 2011.
Written many years after his service as a memoir, not reminiscence, Moore's account presents an ongoing narrative -- almost as if the events described had just happened. This technique is derived from the use of his diary and newspaper clippings accumulated during his service. His accounts eliminate the intrusion of later perspectives or reminiscences. The result of his method was a detailed account of his four years of service. The memoir disclosed that Moore was fighting primarily to preserve the Union and subsequently to end slavery and felt it was his patriotic and moral duty.
When the Civil War commenced with the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Moore did not rush, as many Quincyans did, to enlist. Because he had served in the cavalry in the local militia, he waited until such a unit was organized. The Second Illinois Cavalry regiment was organized in the summer of 1861. Leading the effort to organize a company for that regiment was a well-known Quincy attorney, Sterling P. Delano, a frequent associate and friend of Sen. Orville H. Browning. Moore enlisted as a private along with many other Quincy and Adams county men. Before leaving for Springfield's Camp Butler, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan presented a beautiful silk guidon to the 100 men of Company L of the Second Illinois Cavalry. Also, the women's philanthropical group provided each recruit with a well-supplied sewing kit. After these festivities and a religious service, the unit headed to Camp Butler and then on to Cairo. For several months, the regiment participated mainly in training and scouting expeditions in the region of southern Illinois near both Missouri and Kentucky, both slave states but tenuously remaining in the Union.
Along with his meagerly trained comrades, Pvt. Moore participated in his first major combat on Nov. 7, 1861, at Belmont, Mo., under command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Moore described the excitement, confusion, and horrors of the battle he first saw as a defeat, but later recognized as action that had achieved its objectives. An emotional experience recognizing the trauma of battle came when he saw one of his former schoolmates, Lt. William Shipley, with two fatal bullet holes through his bowels. Shipley, who since the age of seven had lived with Orville and Eliza Browning, was Quincy's first combat fatality of the war. The experience caused Moore to reflect on his own mortality. Shortly after Belmont, with a vacancy at second lieutenant in L Company, Moore was elected to that post. This certainly testified to his character and personality for Moore, unlike a number of others, had not campaigned for the position.
Later having moved on to Sikeston, Mo., the new lieutenant witnessed a horrible and disturbing calamity on March 25, 1862. Sick and on a cot in Capt. Delano's headquarters, he saw his commandant seriously wounded by the accidental discharge of a pistol. Moore accompanied the grievously wounded Delano to Quincy, where local doctors did all they could to save his life, but the captain died on April 27, 1862. Before that date, Moore had returned to his unit. Soon after hearing the news of their respected leader's death, another election was held and again without seeking the position, Moore was elected captain of Company L of the Second Illinois Cavalry.
Moore's account of his personal war did not reflect an ordinary recapitulation of Civil War engagements. He never mentioned the bloody battle of Shiloh where many Quincyans participated and where the death and wounded toll was huge. He seldom mentioned his Commander-in-Chief Lincoln, who was remote from Moore's own action that was confined to the length of the Mississippi Valley. Much of Moore's campaigning was against Confederate guerrilla bands. His force frequently encountered ununiformed troops commanded by Col. William Clark Faulkner of Mississippi. Faulkner, the great-grandfather of the celebrated Southern author of the same name, led troops often armed with squirrel guns and shotguns brought from home. This type of irregular combat is described as playing a decisive role in the war by historian Daniel E. Sutherland in his persuasive work, "A Savage Conflict." Faulkner was captured by Moore's troops at Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River, but he was later released in a prisoner exchange and subsequently returned to fight Moore's troops again.
In Moore's year-by-year chronicle, 1864 stands out as the most active. Union forces had by this time adopted many of the guerrilla tactics of the rebels, destroying rail connections, food and cotton stores, and other properties useful to the rebel cause. Readers of the memoir also learn that Moore and his companions visited homes for meals on invitations from local inhabitants, some pro-Union and some not. Also, there was enough leisure time to attend a local dance or visit the theater. Moore seemed to delight in recounting how he "flirted" when females were present. So Moore's war fluctuated between intense periods of danger and death to the almost normal activities of a civilian.
In his narrative, Moore addressed his "loves" and his "hates." He loved his country as a Union he strived to preserve. He obviously possessed the commonplace racism of the day, yet he expressed admiration for former slaves striving for freedom. He wrote "…t hat dusky crowd of beings, toiling along after our army, cared not for the past, nor thought of the future. They only felt that their ‘day of jubilee' had come and that Yankee soldiers were their deliverance." These sentiments of respect led Moore to request that he be allowed to raise and serve as an officer of a regiment of black troops. However, no response ever came to his request.
Perhaps the most vigorous of his "hates" was reserved for Northern Copperheads. He viewed these anti-war activists as giving substantial psychological aid and support to the enemy, and thus helping prolong the war. In addition, he loathed a number of ranking generals in his own army that he saw late in the war profiting from speculation in cotton in former rebel territory. However, two Union generals – Ulysses Grant and Benjamin Grierson – received his complete admiration.
Moore wandered in the war's aftermath. He returned to Quincy but left to spend time in various occupations in Missouri and Kansas. Eventually Moore returned again to Quincy and participated in a number of enterprises, his most notable endeavor serving as manager of the prestigious Quincy Opera House. Moore twice became a widower and married for a third time and moved to National City, Calif., where he was elected to the city council. As an elderly veteran, he determined to put his war experiences on paper for we know not whom. Moore complained of his inadequate writing style, but this is belied by his clear and engaging prose. The memoir is quite compelling reading. By his effort and the participation of the Bahdes, he added yet another dimension to the understanding of the common soldier in the Civil War.
David Costigan is Professor Emeritus of History at Quincy University, a member of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Interpretive Center Advisory Board, a respected authority on local history, and a frequent speaker.
Bahde, Thomas. The Story of My Campaign: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Francis T. Moore, Second Illinois Cavalry. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011.