Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and Peoria’s involvement in the Civil War take the spotlight early this year.

On February 20, a noted authority on both Lincoln and Grant will speak to the Peoria County Bar Association’s dinner in celebration of its 125th anniversary. In May, a history trip will take participants on a six-day guided tour of several southern battlefields where Grant and Peoria soldiers fought.

Renowned Lincoln author, editor, and collector the Hon. Frank J. Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, will speak at Peoria’s Hotel Père Marquette for the Bar’s 96th Lincoln Memorial Banquet. Appointed by Congress as a member of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and president of The Ulysses S. Grant Association of Carbondale, Judge Williams recently wrote Judging Lincoln. He’s also working on a bibliography of all Lincoln titles published since 1865, and is co-authoring a book on the Emancipation Proclamation. He’s authored or edited 11 other books and contributed chapters to several more.

From May 17 to 22, a bus tour organized by Bernie Drake of the Peoria Historical Society will visit Civil War sites in Tennessee and Mississippi. Drake, who’s taught courses on Grant and the Civil War at Bradley’s Institute for Learning in Retirement, also coordinates tour guides for the history trolley tours presented by CityLink with guides certified by Peoria Historical Society.

Several central Illinois regiments that trained in Peoria saw action with General Grant, including the 12th infantry at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and Corinth; the 17th infantry that continued on to Vicksburg; the 11th cavalry that moved from Shiloh to Corinth and Vicksburg; as well as the 47th cavalry, whose service included Corinth, Memphis, and Vicksburg. The 77th, 103rd, and 108th infantry were also among the Peoria-trained regiments that were with Grant at Vicksburg. The 103rd and 108th later also saw action at Memphis.

Stone monuments with bronze plaques commemorate the two sites in Peoria where these and other Illinois regiments of volunteer soldiers were encamped for training during the Civil War. Erected by the George A. Wilson Circle #49 of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, the plaques carry the dates of muster into the United States Service and the names of the colonels of the regiments.

The older tablet, erected in 1907 at the corner of Prospect and Arcadia across from Glen Oak Park, recalls Camp Lyon and the soldiers from eight regiments who trained there between May 1861 and June 1864. A 1911 tablet on N.E. Adams Street at Mary Street marks Camp Peoria and the five regiments there between August 1, 1862 and November 1, 1862.

Those interested in local history might notice familiar names: Col. Robert G. Ingersoll of the 11th cavalry, Col. John Bryner of the 47th infantry, and Col. John Warner of the 108th infantry, among others. Ingersoll later became known for his outspoken ideas and political involvements; Bryner served for a time as commander of both Camp Peoria and Camp Lyon and is recalled today as namesake of Peoria Post 67 of the Grand Army of the Republic; and Warner was Peoria’s first mayor in 1875, and served six additional terms-12 years in all, although not all consecutive-through 1898.

Peorians affiliated with other regiments also were present at some of these battles, while other soldiers trained in Peoria saw service elsewhere, including Chattanooga and Sherman’s March through Atlanta.

Battlefield memorials at Shiloh and Vicksburg commemorate the Peoria regiments there. At Shiloh, participants will be on the lookout for the Iowa memorial, a work by Peoria sculptor Fritz Triebel. While not as elaborate as his work in Peoria’s Courthouse Square, it carries an identical rendering of his wife as "History," writing on granite, with a familiar eagle topping the column.

Some 60 bronze tablets in the Illinois State Monument and Memorial Temple at Vicksburg hold the names of the 36,325 Illinois soldiers who lay siege there between March 29 and July 4, 1863. The Mississippi Monument at Vicksburg, another Triebel work, included a seated figure of "History" above the fray of fighting figures. The bronze pieces were removed for restoration several years ago.

The Bar Association dinner costs $60 per person and requires reservations prior to February 6 by calling 674-6049. Tour registration is due by March 1. Costs range from $849 to $1,045. AA!