In August 1862, the 89th Illinois Infantry was mustered into service. The regiment was nicknamed the “Railroad Regiment,” as many of the Chicago-based railroad companies had actively promoted and encouraged the railroad men to fill the regiment’s roster. The motto, “Clear the Tracks,” was stitched into their flag as well as many of the battles they fought in, including Stone River, Liberty Gap, Chickamauga, Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge, Pickett’s Mill, the Atlanta Campaign and Nashville.
There were at least a dozen men from the village of Harlem, Cook County, (former name of Forest Park) who joined the Union Army during the Civil War, but four of these men were railroad workers. This special Railroad Regiment had the Harlem boys in company K. The 89th Infantry Company K included 19 year old Michael Connor, a fireman on the railroad; 22 year old Orson T. Wadsworth, a brakeman, who was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant in 1864; and 23 year old Christian Snider, a clerk, who later transferred to the Mississippi Marine Brigade in April 1863, the union fleet that patrolled the Mississippi River and acted as a Ram fleet.
Only Charles Roe, the 23-year old carpenter, who retired as Quartermaster, returned to Harlem after the war. He lived on the 200 block of S. Maple (present day Oak Park) and was active in the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), the fraternal organization of Union veterans of the Civil War.
Click through the photos to see the map, the 89th Infantry flag and the Forest Park Cub Scout recreation of the flag.