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About this Book

The celebrated Chicago Mercantile Battery was organized by the Mercantile Association, a group of prominent Chicago merchants, and mustered into service in August of 1862. The Chicagoans went on to serve in some of the Western Theater’s most important campaigns until the war ended in the spring of 1865.

As part of Maj. Gen. John McClernand’s 13th Corps, the battery participated in the long and arduous Vicksburg campaign. The artillerists performed well everywhere they were tested, including Chickasaw Bluffs, Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Big Black River, and the siege against Vicksburg. Ancillary operations included the reduction of Arkansas Post, the capture of Jackson, and others. During the siege of Vicksburg on May 22, 1863, Captain Pat White and his “Battery Boys” took part in the bloody attack against the 2nd Texas Lunette, pushing a one-ton field piece up a ravine to fire point blank within the shadows cast by the enemy’s fortifications. (White and five of his artillerists would eventually receive the Medal of Honor for their valor that day).

After Vicksburg fell, the Chicago battery was transferred to New Orleans for service under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, who was preparing for an invasion along the Red River into Texas. On April 8, 1864, at Sabine Crossroads (Mans-field) the “Battery Boys” were overrun by the enemy and nearly wiped out. In addition to the killed and wounded, nearly two dozen gunners were shipped off to a Southern prison. Letters from the battery broke the wall of silence Banks erected and alerted the country that disaster had befallen the Union army in Louisiana. Swift retribution against White’s cannoneers followed.

Richard Brady Williams’ Chicago’s Battery Boys: The Chicago Mercantile Battery in the Civil War’s Western Theater sets forth in stunning detail the magnificent history of this long-overlooked artillery outfit. Based upon years of primary research and a wealth of archival documents, this study features more than 100 previously unpublished wartime letters, diaries, and other eyewitness reports that enrich our understanding of who these men were and what they endured for the cause of liberty and the Union. Williams skillfully weaves these contemporary accounts around a powerful narrative that will satisfy the most discriminating Civil War reader.

Noted historian and author Edwin C. Bearss, in his long and insightful Foreword, writes this:

As a unit history, The Chicago Mercantile Battery and the Civil War in the Western Theater measures up to the standard of excellence set for this genre by the late John P. Pullen back in 1957 when he authored The Twentieth Maine: A Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War.”

Chicago’s Battery Boys will be hailed as a classic unit history.