William Geilhausen to Richard Yates


William Geilhausen to Richard Yates


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Illinois and her Defense

The States of Missouri and Kentucky have refused to furnish their quota of troops to the general government. They must therefore be regarded as our enemies; those who are not for us, are against us. It matters not that there are, at the present time, many loyal citizens in those states, so long as their governers side with the Secessionists they must be regarded as our enemies, and in order to protect our borders, must be treated accordingly.

In time of war the first lesson of every general is forsight.

Illinois from the position which she occupies has a great part to perform.

First, she must defend her borders.

If we look on the map we find our state separated from Missouri by the Mississippi river, on the west, and from Kentucky, on the south, by the Ohio, the border to be defended stretching from Warsaw to Cairo, about 300 miles, and from Cairo to the Wabash, about 120 miles, in all about 420 miles. That such an


extent of country cannot be successfully defended by ten regiments every man, on a few moments reflection, will readily admit; As for myself I believe it will require ten times that number of troops.

It is to be expected that the enemy in time of war will attempt to occupy such points as will be to them most advantageous.

Some of those places in Illinois of which the enemy will doubtless endeavor to obtain possession are as follows,

1st Quincy, in order to occupy the northern part of the State, and the Chicago and Quincy railroad.

2nd Grafton and Milan, that they may command the mouth of the Illinois river.

3d At Illinois Town, to command the railroads running to the north and east,

4th The enemy will endeavor to station forces at Kaskaskia and Breesville, to command the small streams entering the Mississippi at those points and the railroad from Chicago to Cairo,

5th At Shawneetown Elizabethtown or near Liberty, on the Ohio in order to occupy the southern part of the State.

In the mean time we seem to blieve that


Cairo is the key of Illinois and the only point at which an attack is to apprehended.

In time of war every thing is possible; Forsight should be doubled, Even with the utmost vigilance we will fail to foresee all the enemie's movements. One false step, or one strategic position overlooked may cause us more harm than can be retrieved by two successful battles.

If the enemy attempts to make inroads into our state, it will probably be only by a sort of Guerilla warfare. We cannot tell when, where or at how many places at once, they may attack us.

The passage of the Mississippi and the Ohio will be easier for them because they may take advantage of darkness and fog - an alliance against which we cannot fight.

This makes it easy for their troops to enter our country, for the moment, at places where they would be least expected, for the purpose of plundering our citizens. From such incursions our citizens should be protected.

Every river mouth, the termination of every railroad and every other point which might be of advantage to the enemy should be occupied by our troops; and should the troops stationed at these points prove insufficient, then should


the citizens of the adjacent country form themselves into home guards to aid in their own defense. Besides these, we want small numbers of flying troops to reconnoitre the border and give report of the enemy's movements.

We should also station larger forces at Peoria, Springfield, Alton and Centralia, because from these points we can, in any emergancy, most readily furnish assistance to the different points along our border.

It would also be wise to establish larger forces at Kaskaskia and Breesville on the Missipissippi and below the mouth of the Wabash, on the Ohio, than at Quincy because, the enemy are able to bring larger forces to these points, and, should they succeed in obtaining possession of the Illinois Central Railroad, they can occupy the Southern portion of our state and attack our forces at Cairo both in front and rear.

If the enemy coming from Kentucky and Missouri find us unprepared and should they be able to unite their troops in our state and find sympathy and help from the people, they can give us much trouble because in most cases the aggressor has the advantage


against his antagonist.

If we carry the war into the South then shall we need about 100,000 men, including those for the protection of our border, with the necessary cavalry and artillery.

It would also be well that every regiment of infantry should have at least one company of sharpshooters, who kill with nearly every shot a man. These companies should fight by themselves; and it should be their duty to seek out the enemy, engage them and prove their strength. The sharpshooters will be found exceedingly useful for the safety of the artillery.

Whenever the riflemen are obliged to retreat then should the infantry advance, en masse, Should the enemy lose the battle then it will be the duty of the Cavalry to pursue them and prevent them from any where making a stand for their defense. In this case must we have ready pioneers and [sapraures?] to rebuild bridges and remove all other obstructions which the enemy in their retreat may throw in the way.

Every regiment should have about 60 servants also provisions, water &c and a sufficient number of wagons and good



Every soldier without exception should be taught the art of war in time of peace. Especially should he learn the field service and trumpet signals perfectly; because it is not possible for the commander to make his commands known by word of mouth.

It is not the mass of the troops, but their skillful arrangement and a cunning practice of strategy, which secure the victory. Forsight, a knowledge of strategy, and of the best locations for an army, must always be the foundation of successful warfare. Planless marching and loose discipline endanger the lives of the soldiers, and ruin the country and the people.

Above all should a thorough knowledge of the face of the country which is to be the seat of war be acquired. Every road, every wood, every hill and valley, every river and creek and every swamp or morass should be carefully noted in order to determine how and where an attack may be most successfully made and in order by feints of retreat and other strategems to decoy the enemy into places where they may defeated. At the same time we should be equally careful not


to be entrapped by the snares of the enemy and to secure a good retreat in case of our own defeats.

If we carry the war into the southern states and Kentuckey and Missouri still remain neutral our border must not be left without protection, for should our armies be defeated, it will then be possible for these states to cut off our retreat and attack us at home.

As I remarked in the outset everyone who is not for us is against us, and must be looked upon as an enemy. In time of war every one who goes only half way in yealding obedience to his government is a traitor to himself and his country.

Finally I must remark that the consequences of having commanders in office who know nothing of service will be a sad thing for the Country. Men who have not military experience and education are by no means fit for officers. The surgeons likewise should be men of skill and experience and the cooks such persons as know how to furnish the soldiers


with good, healthy food.

In general every thing should go hand in hand so that our operations may go on harmoniously and that we may be in the end invincible.

Wm Geilhausen

Late Editor of the Ill. Banner and formerly secretary of the Royal Prussian 16th Infantry Brigade

Peoria, Ill. June 4 1861.

Wm Geilhausen


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“William Geilhausen to Richard Yates,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed August 8, 2020, http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/1325.