Frederick A. Bartleson was a young attorney serving as Will county Prosecutor when the Civil War started in the spring of 1861. When President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to serve the Union, several hundred men gathered in front of the County courthouse in Joliet. Local politicians delivered fiery speeches about patriotism and war. Bartleson, then 26 years old concluded his speech with these words:
I will not urge you to do what I am unwilling to do myself. I propose to head the list.
He walked over and signed the enlistment as the first volunteer from will County. Bartleson was made captain of the first company of volunteers of the 20th Infantry Regiment and they left for the war in June 1861. In April 1862, Bartleson, then a major, lost his left arm at the Battle of Shiloh.
At home and recovered from his wound, he was urged by city leaders to retire and remain in Joliet to help on the home front. He replied:
No, Gentlemen. No, I still have an arm left for my country, and she shall have that one too, if need be.
In the summer of 1862, Bartleson accepted command of the new 100th Infantry Regiment and was promoted to full colonel. He led his regiment to war.
In the late summer of 1863 at Chickamauga, Bartleson and a small squad of soldiers holding an advanced position, were surrounded and captured. He spent six months as a prisoner of war at Libby Prison in Richmond. He became a part of a prisoner exchange and returned home. In May 1864, he returned to his 100th regiment and a month later was fatally wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw mountain.
A regimental honor guard brought Col. Bartleson home to Joliet for burial. The city closed down for his funeral and a mile long procession of horses and buggies escorted the coffin to Oakwood Cemetery in Joliet.
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Joliet Civil War Soldiers