Sunday, June 23rd 1861
Well mother, I received your letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from you and to know that you were all well. I was very sick but am better again.
I suppose you would like to know something about what is going on in the barracks. ¹ We are all enjoying ourselves as well as we can. The Captain marched the whole company up to the Lake yesterday so we all had a cold bath & all came back & was presented our uniforms. We’ve got a handsome uniform—a blue jacket with green trimming & brass buttons up the front. Our pants are grey. We have not got our coats yet so that’s all we can tell about them at present. I don’t think you thought much about anybody else when you wrote to me as you said nothing about Jim & Father or Lois nor Susan. I am sorry to hear that Esther has left Reuben. As for Mrs. Scott, she is better off now that she was at John’s. I am glad to hear Ben has enlisted—only I wish we could have been both in the same company.
I am in Company A—[the] Jackson Guards, Captain F. McMurray. [We are] the first company in the Irish Brigade. ² I am very well suited with the Captain & also the officers. There are ten companies in the barracks—all fine hearted fellows as you could find in the state. There are about 800 privates besides officers which will amount to about 50 so you see we’ve got a jovial lot. You may know they are a rough set as it takes fifty-eight every morning to mount guard,
I think I shall go downtown this afternoon. I am going to get my likeness taken as soon as is convenient. Then I will send it to you. I want you should send me yours. I want you to tell me when you write how much sugar you made last spring. Tell Aunt Amanda that I hope she is well and all the boys & girls. Tell Jim to be a good boy and I will send him a brace of revolver and tell him to go up to Smiths and smoke five cigars for me. Tell Jim to let Content Morella alone and not be going home with her every time she comes down to visit you.
I have nothing more of any consequence to relate—only everything looks green and flourishes around Chicago. But there is no fruit so a feller don’t get a strawberry, a huckleberry, & might go two weeks & never see an orchard. So I guess you know the down east boy don’t like that. You told me to support the flag and never turn my back upon the Stars & Stripes. When I do, I guess I will come home & let you know it. If the flag is not disgraced till I disgrace it, I guess it won’t be this year.
I do not [know] as I have any more to write only that there is no woods here to run so no more at present. From your affectionate son, — E. M. Whipple
E. M. Whipple
Care of Captain McMurray
of the Jackson Guards
Attached to the Irish Brigade
¹ The formal muster of the 23rd Illinois was made June 15,1861, at Chicago when the Regiment was occupying barracks known as Kane’s brewery on West Polk street, near the river.
² There were two companies in the regiment named the “Jackson Guards” — Co. A from Detroit, Michigan, commanded by John McDermott, and Co. C from Chicago, commanded by Capt. Francis McMurray. Though Edwin states he was in Co. A, he clearly gives his captain’s name as McMurray leading me to conclude he served in Co. C.
The Jackson Guards (a.k.a. Detroit Jackson Guards) was formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1860 by a group of patriotic Irish-American citizens from Detroit. They had an image of their namesake, Andrew Jackson, on their flag. They decided that they would wear gray uniforms with buff facings and some appropriate color trim befitting their name [green?]. Captain Mark McGraw was the first commander. In 1860 they were known to carry Minie rifles.
Soon after the start of the Civil War the company believed they were selected for inclusion in one of the state’s first two regiments. James McGrath came to their armory and measured the men for uniforms. The McGrath supplied uniforms mirrored those of the 1st Michigan Three Month Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment to include dark blue 9-button roundabouts and dark blue trousers and caps. They also received dark blue overcoats with capes.
They were disappointed when they were not accepted in either of the first two Michigan Regiments. They were also unable to secure a position in any of the other regiments forming in Michigan in early 1861, so they traveled to Chicago to join the Irish-American Regiment currently forming there. They became Company A of the 1st Illinois Infantry Regiment (Mulligan’s Irish Brigade (a.k.a. 1st Irish Brigade, a.k.a. Irish Brigade of the West). Just prior to departing from Detroit, Captain McGraw was preparing to issue new “suits of clothing,” but if these uniforms were of the same style as their original uniforms, copies of the 9-button roundabout uniforms or a new style is not known.” [Source: Mulligan’s Irish Brigade, Civil War Talk Forum, 2012]