Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry  
Dedicated to the Military and Civilian History
of Wisconsin in the Civil War
And The Iron Brigade of the West

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Thanksgiving 1861
A moment to reflect that for many in the Iron Brigade, 
this was their last Thanksgiving. . .

 From the Second Regiment
Fort Tillinghast, Arlington Va.
Thursday, Nov, 28, 1861

It has been one of the loveliest days possible for this season of the year, although it is raining delightfully now and earth and sky are overcast with clouds and darkness.

We have had cold, bleak days, and stinging, frosty nights already here in old Virginia since we pitched our tents between Fort Tillinghast and Arlington Grove and once the fleecy flakes of snow made the whole earth white and beautiful for the earth is always beautiful when robed in spotless white - but this day seemed as one made on purpose and set apart for Thanksgiving. There was not a breeze to shake the few remaining dry brown leaves upon the old forest trees, nor a cloud to obscure the bright face of the sun.
It was such a day as we often have in dear Wisconsin, in the months of September and October when Indian Summer makes her welcome visit to brighten the face of Nature and gladden the hearts of the people. What a lovely delightful day we have had for a holiday - the first holiday we have had for the six long months we have been in the service.
Governor Randall was here and made a short speech to King's brigade. This is probably the last visit he will make us and therefore the last time we shall see him in the capacity of governor of the State of Wisconsin.
We have had our Thanksgiving, and though far away from our State we have had our Governor with us. He will probably return to Wisconsin in a few days but he will never be forgotten by the soldiers for whom he has so diligently labored. May the man who shall be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office that he has filled with such honor to himself and glory to his State be as faithful in the discharge of his duties, as faithful to the government and the people, as he has been and his reward will be great, for he shall live long in the hearts of those whose confidence he has not betrayed.
We have had a pleasant jovial time. Those of us who were not content with the plain ration furnished us by Uncle Samuel, purchased from the Sutler such other things as we wanted and prepared a Thanksgiving dinner good enough for a King, therefore, good enough for a soldier. I hope our friends in Wisconsin enjoyed their Thanksgiving as well as we did.

Thanksgiving Dinner of the Second Regiment
An officer in the Second Wisconsin Regiment in a private letter dated Washington Nov. 29,
gives an enthusiastic account of the Thanksgiving Dinner of his regiment. He says:

"Perhaps you think, because we are away from home, living in tents with nothing but tin cups and plates that we suffer for the want of the necessaries of Life. Now that you may not grieve away your life and flesh, I enclose you a Bill of Fare which we had to select from on Thanksgiving - yesterday. GOV. Randall was present at our table in our tent and ate off our tin dishes, drank champagne from our borrowed glasses and coffee from our tin cups. So was Gov. Seward, so was Senator Wilson, so was Gen. King and staff some of Gen. McDowell's staff and sundry other distinguished officers and individuals too numerous to mention beside some who were not. The President intended to come but was interrupted just at the time of starting. Golly! weren't we proud of the day and the occasion and the dinner and company? 
So we ate and drank and talked and talked and drank and ate and sung and toasted and joked and joked and toasted and sung until the flesh which was weak gave out while the spirit was still willing . But the best of it was we adjourned in good season and departed in quietness and peace leaving the largest share of the eatables to the men and music and others who had assisted us. The were about fifty and officers and guests at the table and as the Apostle says it was
"A feast of reason and a flow of soul"

The bill of fare was as follows:
Second Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers At Arlington, Va.
November 28, 1861

thansgiving collor small .JPG (233836 bytes) Soup
Turkey with Jelly, Ducks, Spring Chickens, Lamb with Mint sauce, Sirloin Beef
Pig, Wild Goose, Baked Beans
Ham, Corned Beef with Cabbage

Sweet Potatoes, Irish Potatoes, Onions, Celery
Pork Chops with Fried Apple, Chicken Pie
Yankee style, Fried Liver, Mutton Chops,
Beefsteak, Ham and Eggs
Chicken Pie, Lobster Salad
Scalloped Oysters
Corn Bread, Rye Bread, Wheat Bread
French Mustard, Cole Slaw, Pickles, Horse Radish, Celery, Worcestershire Sauce
Pumpkin Pie, Mince Pie, Ice Cream
Sparkling Catawba, Heidsick
Coffee and Tea


Camp Arlington, Nov, 28, 61

Editors Patriot: Thanksgiving in camp is somewhat differently observed from what it is back in the Badger State, still, said day has its peculiarities here. We were ordered to appear in our best blue, Sat, 11 o'clock, to march over to the Arlington House to listen to the farewell. Drawn up in front of the house, on the beautiful green award which descends from a small knoll used as the speakers stand with the Potomac, Long Bridge and city of Washington in full view. 
The four regiments were drawn up describing a half circle. When all had come to "order arms" the governor made his appearance amid the cheers of drums, then the brass band of the 19th Indiana struck up the inspiring air of 'Hail Columbia'. The governor was brief in his remarks enjoining in on the soldiers to obey their officers to place implicit confidence in those at the helm of our national forces, &c. 
He enumerated the numerous wrongs we have suffered by being too lenient to the South and that now it was a question of Liberty and freedom or tyranny and despotism. Of course there were numerous cheers given in honor of the Governor, old Wisconsin &c. 
The Governor proposed three cheers for the Governor of Indiana, which was greatly responded to then the brass band played our national air, Yankee Doodle. (I came away about that time).
My tent mates and I had a luxurious meal. We had some turnips, which we drew from the field when out on the grand review, sweet potatoes, good bread, fresh beef, hominy, baked apples ginger bread, &c. 
We pronounced it the best meal we have had since we have been in "Dixie." 
Our stove is a combination of brick, sheet iron, mud &C.- brick we drew. The  oven where we bake our taters and apples is situated on the back part of the institution- said oven is formed by placing four of said bats together forming a hollow square over which makes quite a good oven.
The prevailing opinion is that we will winter here, in case we do we will build logs huts.
Rains about every day hinder slippery -to see the boys walking, guess you'd think they'd been at their old failin'.
S. I. M.

Messers. Editors:-we beg the privilege to say a few words to our friends and relatives through the medium of you valuable paper. As today is Thanksgiving, and as we are not compelled to drill, we have a little time to spare to write and feeling that our Annual fast day will be this year to many households an unusual solemn occasion - the empty chair telling a story of devotion, of courage, of determination, to shield the remaining ones in the enjoyment of the blessings they are singing praises for and tenderly will the prayer ascend of the absent one's protection and guidance. We hope the day throughout the land will be observed as it never was observed before.
A portion of the day might will be devoted to the preparation of a fitting tribute to our country's defenders.
To-day the weather is fine the sun shines bright and warm as at a June noon day. At half past eleven we, Gen. King's brigade, were assembled in front of the Lee mansion - Gen. King's headquarters - where His excellency,, Gov. Randall addressed us. He spoke at some length, paid us many compliments and bade us farewell - yes, I fear, a last farewell to many of us. 
We then retuned to our quarters to partake of our noonday meal which, I may say was almost a feast; and as there is a good deal of doubt on the part of our friends at home as to our having enough to eat, I will mention the bill of fare, which is not an uncommon thing with us: 
We seated ourselves at a pine table covered with a white muslin cloth. After returning thanks to the Giver of All good, the thought occurred to us whether our friends and loved ones at home had as good a dinner to eat--but I am digressing. We commenced with mashed potatoes, roast beef, warm biscuit, fresh butter, pickles, tea and cream, winding up with apple pie, sweet cakes and crackers, fresh peaches, plum sauce, tomato sauce, oysters, fried nut cakes, green apples and good sweet cider. Considering that we are in the midst of enemies and in a soldier's tent almost on the field of battle, you may well imagine, that as it was, all prepared by a sister's experienced hand, who was seated at the head of the table, that it had a look of homelikeness; and as I said before, having good appetites, we did ample justice to our repast.
The health of the regiment is generally very good and being as it is a holiday the time passed off pleasantly.
While on dress parade, Hon. Wm. H. Seward and Senator Wilson drove up in front of our line and halted to see the regiment maneuver. The men having all received their new uniforms felt well and performed their exercises with spirit.
The day closes with a gentle rain showering on us, and the same of our enemies a few miles beyond verifying in a singular manner the scriptural saying that it rains the same on the just and unjust.
Before another Thanksgiving  - probably before another holiday - we may have the opportunity of showering a rain of fire on their heads which we hope will annihilate them as effectually as Sodom and Gomorrah were annihilated. Let us hope and pray that when another Thanksgiving rolls around it may be such an one as will see our country rescued from its present dangers, and that we will again be a united people joining in a general Thanksgiving to Him who holds our destiny in his hands.


150 Years Ago this Year

The Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

Returned to Wisconsin

It is three years ago, to a day since the Second Wisconsin Infantry the first of the three years regiments from this State, left Camp Randall to begin their term of active Service.
The country was then unused to war. Everything pertaining to military affairs was novel. An organized regiment was a spectacle to attract people for miles around to witness. On that bright June morning, our city now accustomed to such scenes and scarcely moved to a ripple of excitement by, turned our almost en masse to view the unwented sight of a thousand Wisconsin men leaving their homes to face the perils and hardships of war. Little did we then know what the future hid behind its veil. The most sagacious had but a faint conception of the real magnitude of the struggle then hardly begun. Who of the many spectators present that morning does not vividly recall the scene of the departure? the jubilant spirits of the new volunteers, the blare of martial music, the roar of artillery, the waving handkerchiefs the mingled emotions of sadness and pride, the hearty burbs, of the multitude and the not less enthusiastic responses of the departing soldiers.
No one of all that gathering of people anticipated
what was to follow.

On Saturday last a spectacle was exhibited not less novel and appealing to the emotions of those who witnessed it more powerfully even than the scene of three years ago the return of the little remnant of the noble regiment after its long baptism of fire and blood to receive the All Hail of a grateful people as the mend of its faithful services. What gaps have been made by shot and shell in its full ranks how it has been sifted and winnowed in the tempest of repeated battles how it has been refined in the crucible of trial has already been narrated in these columns. Not an officer of the line who left with it came back! O'Connor, Stevens, Randolph, Colwell, McKee, Hughes, Noble, Sanford and Spoerri lie dead on the field of honor. Col. Mansfield and Lieut. Col. Parsons are wounded and in the hands of the enemy at Gordonsville. Capt. Rollins and Baldwin are still in Libby Prison, Richmond unless they have been recently sent farther South. The regiment returns under command of Maj. Gro. H. Otis who left the State as a private in the ranks.
After a tedious journey of seven days between Washington and this city, the veteran Second arrived here a little before 5 o'clock on Saturday afternoon

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The Storm Cometh-we hope the infatuated rebels like the 
appearance of the northern horizon. 
The storm of patriotism may shortly become the hurricane of vengeance, 
and they have only themselves to thank...

Those who sow the wind must reap the whirlwind.

Milwaukee Sentinel Editorial Saturday, April 20, 1861

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"I was not a Wisconsin soldier, and have not been
honorably discharged, but at the judgment day
I want to be with Wisconsin soldiers,"

John Gibbon 1880

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Gather up the fragments; let nothing be lost,
To show the coming ages what liberty cost

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The Grand Review

And here are passing now those yet spared from earth and
heaven of that
"Iron Brigade," of Meredith's,
on whose list appear such names as Lucius Fairchild,
 Henry Morrow, Rufus Dawes, and Samuel Williams, and
such  regiments as the 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan, and
2d, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, which on the first day's front
line with Buford and Reynolds, in that one fierce onset
at Willoughby's run, withstood  overwhelming odds, with
the loss of a thousand, a hundred and fifty-three of
highest manliness.

Here draws near a moving spectacle indeed, the last of the
dear old First Corps; thrice decimated at Gettysburg 

in action and passion heroic, martyr-like, sublime. 

Sit down again together, Army of the Potomac!  all that
are left of us,-on the banks of the river whose name we
bore, into which we have put new meaning of our own. 

Take strength from one more touch, ere we pass  afar
from the closeness of old. 

The old is young to-day; and the young is passed.
Survivors of the fittest,-for the fittest, it seems to us, abide
in the glory where we saw them last,-take the grasp of
hands,  and look into the eyes,

without words!

Who shall tell what is past and what survives?
For there are things born but lately in the years, 
which belong to the eternities.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Brevet Major-General U.S. Volunteers-

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Site Awards

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We thank the following organizations for their excellent 
facilities and help over the years: 
in the research of the Second Wisconsin, 
Iron Brigade of the West and Wisconsin Military History

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum,
The Civil War Institute at Carroll College,
The Public Libraries of Milwaukee,
Manitowoc, Stoughton, Oshkosh, Shawano,
Waukesha, Fond du Lac and Fox Lake,
and the National Archives. 
And public record sources across the state.

We also wish to acknowledge the help and interest of National Park Service staff at Manhattan Sites, Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Bull Run.

And the many local historians who have taken time to answer
questions and give direction.

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