I always enjoy hearing about the backgrounds of the men in the ranks. There’s a great quote describing this heterogeneity,
Almost every known trade, profession, or calling, has its representative in our regiment – tailors and carpenters, masons and plasterers, moulders and glassblowers, pudlers and rollers, machinists and architects, printers, bookbinders and publishers; gentlemen of leisure, politicians, merchants, legislators, judges, lawyers, doctors, preachers – some malicious fellow might ask the privilege of completing the catalogue by naming jailbirds, idlers, loafers, drunkards, and gamblers; but we beg his pardon, and refuse the license. – A. M. Stewart
The 33rd is often referred to as the “Teachers’ Regiment,” because it had its start as a military company comprised of Normal University teachers and students. In August 1861, the “Normal Rifles” became Company A in the newly organized 33rd Illinois, with Normal University President Charles E. Hovey serving as the regiment’s colonel.
This regiment was composed of teachers, which seems to be the one profession not mentioned in Stewart’s list!
The 33rd spent most of the war (save a veteran furlough and regimental reorganization in early 1864) deployed in the South, often in hostile territory. As with most Illinois regiments, the 33rd was ordered “West,” grinding out the months in the humid, swampy, malarial backcountry of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. Dysentery and other camp-borne illnesses were an ever-present killer, though the 33rd experienced its share of grisly action and losses to enemy fire.