When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, many German immigrants in Illinois rushed to enlist in the Union Army. Volunteers from Illinois towns in St. Clair County - Belleville, Millstadt, Mascoutah, Lebanon, and others - marched to Springfield under the command of August Mersy, a veteran of the failed 1848 revolt in Baden, Germany. When these German immigrants reached Springfield, however, Mersy was rejected as commander because of his limited facility with English. Replaced by Colonel Eleazer A. Paine, an Ohioan and West Point graduate, Lieutenant Colonel Mersy fell to second in command of the Ninth Illinois Infantry Volunteers. As the two officers led the Ninth off to war, Mersy condemned Paine as a martinet and a politician. Within a few months, however, Paine received a promotion to general that left Mersy in charge of the Ninth. Once Grant began his Tennessee River campaign, the Ninth found itself in the thick of battle, bearing the brunt at Fort Donelson of the Confederate attempt to break Grant's siege lines. Less than two months later, the Ninth shored up sagging Union lines after the surprise Confederate attack at Shiloh Church, retreating only when their ammunition was gone. Depleted in numbers, the Ninth received 103 men from the 128th Illinois from Williamson County and 105 imprisoned deserters, who, under the influence of the veterans of the Ninth, became acceptable soldiers. After eighteen months of heavy fighting, the Ninth guarded supply lines. When the original three-year enlistment expired, only forty veterans from the original regiment reenlisted.