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1861 December, The Second Wisconsin

From the Second Regiment
Fort Tillinghast, Arlington, Va., Dec 8, 1861
Winter has not yet set in, although it is the season of storms and frost. December has brought us sunshine instead of snow. It is the most delightful winter weather that I ever beheld in northern latitude and reminds me of the bright winter days in the far off sunny South. The sky of Cuba seems above our heads cloudless and bright and beautiful.-

We are in our canvass houses yet but as comfortably situated as need be and if this weather lasts we will want no other winter quarters; still it is well to be prepared for a rainy day. And many regiments are building log cabins for themselves and log stables for their houses. This delightful weather cannot last long and, as we have made no preparation yet for wintering here, I think it is not decided whether we will remain here or move away to some other point. We have been at this encampment over two months, the longest time we have remained at any one place since going into camp, and we are getting tired of Fort Tillinghast, Arlington Grove, the Potomac, and Washington in the distance. For one, I have seen enough of this portion of the Old Dominion and ready for a move at any time. I had hoped that our regiment would be sent south with Butler or Burnside but that is past hoping for and we must await some other movement.

We expect to commence picketing again next week and then we will have a livelier time and see something to relieve our eyes from the monotonous pictures that we have gazed upon so long. They have become so by being constantly presented to our view and though they have not lost their beauty, we fail to see it as we did when they were less familiar.

Camp life becomes tedious without frequent changes in locality; drill &c.; and for that reason soldiers all like to do picket duty though they are more exposed and have a harder time than when excused for such duty. We have not had any picketing to do since leaving Camp Advance and all the boys seem highly pleased with the prospect of a change and a chance to try our hands again at our old sport.

Congress being in session now there is a great demand for papers in our camp. The soldier read a great deal and keep themselves well-posted in political affairs and military movements. The morning paper can be found in every tent Newsboys have a splendid chance to make money and they know how to improve it for when there is any  important news in their papers they charge us five cents for the same paper that at other time can be brought for two but money is nothing in comparison with news and no soldier will stand for a few pennies.

The health of the 2d Regiment is good. We have plenty of clothing and floors and fireplaces in our tents. 

Editorial Correspondence
A Visit to the Wisconsin Troops
Washington, Dec. 9, 1861

As we indicated in our last, we left Now York on Friday morning, (the 6th) and arrived in this city the same evening. We immediately learned that Gen. King's brigade, of which the 2d, 6th and 7th Wisconsin form a part, was to be reviewed on Saturday principally for the benefit of residents of our State who are now in this city. We at once went to work to obtain the necessary passes to be present also.

This work of obtaining passes is ordinarily attended with considerable difficulty and delay but owing to remarkably good luck, we received the necessary papers for passing over to the "sacred soil" in a very few minutes and were on our way to Arlington Heights soon after breakfast on Saturday morning.

The weather was mild but until afternoon there was a dense fog that interfered with our seeing things to as good advantage, as we should have liked. It broke away however clear and pleasant in the afternoon.

The Brigade was on parade on our arrival and had nearly completed the exercises; but we witnessed enough to convince us that our Wisconsin regiments are thorough soldiers and fully prepared for any emergency that may await them. As the regiments were marching off the grounds, our carriage was near the passage and our party consisting of Senator Hopkins, B.E.Hale of Beloit and ourselves were first recognized by that genial member of the editorial fraternity, Charley Robinson of Gen. King's staff, whose cordial greeting made us feel at home. He was followed in rapid succession by Gen. King, Colonels Fairchild of the 2d, Cutler and Sweet of the 6th, Robinson of the 7th, Majors Hamilton, Allen and Bragg, Capt. Randolph, Quartermaster Ruggles, Dr. Ward, F.P. Brooks and numerous others whose hearty greeting and strong shaking of hands gave abundant evidence that they remembered Wisconsin and the friends they had left behind them. It was a joyous meeting, such an one as does the soul good. It afforded us great pleasure to answer the anxious inquires each one had to make about friends at home.

After making a visit to the headquarters of Gen. King at the Arlington House, we went to the camps of the 2d, 6th and 7th Regiments. They are located very near together on remarkably pleasant grounds. The men seem to be well cared for and they are really happy and healthy.

The command of the Second Regiment devolves almost exclusively upon Lieuts. Col. Fairchild - Col. O. Connor not having recovered the use of his voice - and we are happy to find that the Regiment is remarkably well pleased with the field officers. Lieut. Col. F. is very active and efficient in his amies and extremely popular with his men. This is just what we expected of Lucius, for he was always a Prince among good fellows and was always popular with all who know him. -His Regiment will go where he directs without faltering, Maj. Allen is also an excellent health and no Company can boast of a braver and better Captain and his men know how to appreciate him. -Lieut. Rollins is also a most capital officer, giving great energy and ability to the discharge of his duties. This Company- the Randall Guards- is a very superior one and could not be otherwise made up as it is of the best kind of men and under the command of such capable officers- Indeed we are happy to find that the Second Regiment has entirely recovered from the Bull Run disaster and ranks among the very best Regiments of the Army. It deserves the reputation it has obtained for it has earned it by good deeds.

The sixth Regiment under command of Col. Cutler ..... war. Major Hamilton is active and efficient in his duties and the Regiment gives abundant evidence that the duties of all the officers are well performed.

Indeed the men in all the regiments seem to be contented and happy and only anxious to have some work to do for now they feel prepared for action .We trust they will be gratified in this respect before long and we have no fears but they will act well their parts.

The supplies of provisions to the troops seems to be abundant and satisfactory. - We heard no word of complaint. In fact all seemed to be well pleased. We partook of a soldier's dinner at the headquarters of Gen. King, and can only say that we have no pity for the man who would complain of such living. The General is very popular with his Brigade and is giving great satisfaction as an officer. The members of his staff hailing from our State - Messrs. Chandler, Robinson, Hathaway and Randall- are in the best of spirits. "Ad" was especially pleased to meet us Madisonians. A Wisconsin man has a right to feel proud as he visits the different regiments from that State and learns of the excellent character they sustain. No regiments in the service stand higher in the estimation of Military men, than do those from Wisconsin. Their praise is upon the lips of all who speak of them. 

The property of the regal Gen. Lee of Arlington Heights is among the most delightful spots on earth. 
The view from the House is most enchanting. How a man living upon such a spot overlooking, as it does, the Capitol in all its grandeur and educated to love and protect the Government is more than we can divine.
There must be an innate corruption in such a being not common to even depraved humanity. Hanging is altogether to good for such a man. A band from Gen. King's Brigade came into the city Saturday night to serenade the delegation in Congress from Wisconsin. At the National where Messres. Potter and Hanchett stop, the band failed to bring either of these gentlemen out- neither of them being within at the time. John J. Crittenden and others were called out and made patriotic speeches- Whether the balance of the delegation was found we have not learned. 
We have seen nothing of the city yet worth mentioning having spent our time thus far with the Wisconsin troops but we feel that we have made a rapid progress and that we have done our first duty after arriving at this place. 
During the coming week we shall look about the duty and may have something to say about what we see and hear in future letters.

The weather here is as mild as September. Fires and overcoats are superfluous articles. We have met Capt. Bugh of the 5th Wisconsin in the city who reports that the regiment all right, it is located some thirteen miles from here.

Patriot War Correspondence
From the Second Regiment

Fort Tillinghast, Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 1861

"The trumpet calls - trek out, trot out
We cheer the stirring sound
Swords forth my lairs there smoke and dust
We thunder o'er the ground

At 8 o'clock on the morning of the 12th, the 2d Regiment, in heavy marching order, was paraded on our regimental parade ground to the South of Fort Tillinghast preparatory to a march to the out skirts of the out line for the purpose of guarding for a day or two that portion of the Old Dominion where yet the Stars and Stripes float proudly in the breeze. 
The meaning of the expressive phrase "heavy marching order" may be unknown by many of our friends in Wisconsin and for that reason I will here state that it is simply being ready to march with equipment all on and consisting of gun and ammunition to the amount of forty rounds, haversack containing from one to three days rations, canteen filled with water and knapsack packed with two blankets and, if warm, an overcoat strapped on top. 
On this occasion most of us wore our overcoats, for the morning, though pleasant, was frosty and cold and as we marched away over the hard frozen ground our heavy tramping added a charm to the soul-inspiring music of the fife and drum. 
We passed over the same road that led us to Bull Run last July until we reached Fall's......

Milwaukee Sentinel, December 20, 1861

Letter from the Second Regiment

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Fort Cass, Va., Dec. 16, 1861

Dear Sentinel:-If General McClellan don't know enough to be President some day or other, he does seem to understand just what is wanted to keep his army from dying of ennui.
Our division is up to something every day- marching long distances under the knapsack, drilling by brigade and division, and firing blank cartridge by thousands. 

Any quantity of powder is burned every day, and so much are the soldiers indulged in this that an order for blank cartridges to any amount is always honored. 

The inspection by Gen. McClellan's staff of the Army is going on rapidly, and the Sixth and Seventh will be inspected to day, and the Second and Nineteenth Indiana to morrow. The inspection is no farce, but the most minute particulars regarding the condition of the soldiers are gone into, and if any defects are found they are ordered remedied immediately.

During the last week there have been several rumors of the approach of the rebel forces, and our troops have been ordered under arms. That the rebels have been moving in force no one doubts. but it is explained in this way: Beauregard's army must be kept on the move to keep down insubordination's. Let the troops from the South set down quietly for any length of time, shake with the cold, and compare their condition with that they left to come here, and then soberly talk over what they are fighting for and dissatisfaction would soon break out into insubordination. While on the move, even if they accomplish nothing, their minds are busy in expectation.

Beaureguard is undoubtedly fortifying Centerville in expectation of an advance from the Federal forces. I think he may well calculate upon it, or some fine morning he may wake up to find himself surprised. One of the reasons which lead to this conclusion, is the preparations on the line of defenses around Washington. All the forts, and their name is legion, are being filled up with troops, regiments and companies being taken for the purpose. I understand, too, that three regiments of artillery, raised for light batteries, will also be put in to them. It will be a good school of practice for the artillery , as these forts comprise every variety of guns, from the lightest field pieces to the heaviest coast guns. C

Congress has made an onslaught upon the sutlers. The idea is to drive out from camp everything which the Government does not permit the troops. 
The question is one that admits of no little discussion. A well regulated sutlery is necessary to every Regiment. It furnishes all those little necessaries that can not otherwise be obtained, and which are in fact indispensable. Still the sutlery business wants and needs overhauling, and the class who would go to the wall if they attempted to carry on business in any community, should be rooted out, and their places filled with good and honorable men. Wilson, of Massachusetts, goes in dead against sutlers, and would not have them in camp, and thinks and said the troops need nothing more than is furnished them by Government. Senator Wilson is evidently not much of a soldier. 
Among the troops petitions are being circulated asking that they may be allowed sutlers - men of character, to furnish their necessary articles but not one like heard the other day, boasting that his profits were just five percent, that is what he bought for one dollar he sold for five. 
Congress has also under consideration some way by which the soldiers may be allowed to save a portion of their pay, for the use of their families at home. This is an excellent idea........

The weather still continues delightful. 
To us Badgers, who have been used to storming December, it is a treat, and frequently the question is asked: 'When does winter set in?'. The evenings are particularly lovely. 
To one of a romantic nature, it presents all of the employment his mind wants.

The round full moon shines forth brilliantly, and opens distinctly to any eye any object within a long range - The evening air is balmy with music coming from every quarter, in full strains from bands near us, and less distinct, yet not less sweetly from the distance....All it wants to carry a mind back to those romantic times of which the novels speak, is the lovely red-skinned maiden Wash-ta-willow, Ash-to-gusha or Minnegusto, and oft times as the mind is wound up in the subject thought, and the eye meets some object in the distance, you imagine that she, too, has come, and the romance is complete. 

You watch and watch her light and airy footstep, as the heart bounds with life and happiness. Never, still never comes she, and you feel that you are too happy to live, yet, oh!, too eager to die, Nearer still, and your lovely dark skin is a greasy contraband, who is hastening home with some soldiers washing, and - you leave the subject with disgust.

Quite an amusing thing occurred while the Second was out on picket Thursday. I say amusing because nothing serious turned up out of it, although the chances are ten to one against such a prank being played without serious results. The regiment was in the outer line, doing duty, when a contraband told some of the boys there were some chickens at a house about two miles off. 
Now, there have been so many stories circulated about the rebels being badly fed, the boys determined to test the question, and go take a look at the chickens, reasoning in this way: If the chickens were fat, of course the rebels were well fed; if poor vice versa. 
Leaving their coats behind but taking their muskets, they managed to get by the pickets and picked their way along, keeping out of sight of headquarters until nearly at the spot. About this time the boys started off, Lieut. Col. Fairchild and some half dozen officers, mounted, rode out to an eminence overlooking the country and with the glasses discovered a body of rebels, in re
d shirts, some distance off, and made up their minds they would capture them, and taking a round about way, started off for that purpose. Meanwhile, the boys had visited the house, satisfied themselves on the chicken question* and were carefully making their way home, when they discovered a small body of rebel cavalry which they determined to capture. 
The cavalry were making their way around a swamp, and the boys seeing their guns carefully capped, worked their way up, until they came to the spot where the cavalry were emerging from a path along the edge of a light piece of woods, when suddenly the two parties met, and when the boys were just ready to demand a surrender, they discovered the rebels to be Col. Fairchild and his party. 
The surprise was mutual, and you may guess some boys soon reached home as prisoners, when they expected to be marching someone else home the same way. 

*I have just been eating some chicken. I think it pretty fat for Virginia.

The Army Bakery. - A great pressure is made upon the War Department by Members of Congress to have the army bakery removed from the basement of the Capitol. The objection to it can be none other than the perfume of freshly baked bread. It will cost from $30,000 to $50,000 to erect a new bakery, and to introduce into it gas and other conveniences indispensably necessary to the punctual product of the enormous quantity of loaves daily dealt out to the army.

Milwaukee Sentinel, December 28, 1861

Letter from Washington
The Mason and Slidell Matter---Review and Sham Battle

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Washington, Dec 30, 1861

The Mason and Slidell matter is just now the chief topic of conversation here. Your readers of course have had the particulars of it before this and I need not allude to them. I first heard of the result when in company with our regiments returning from a drill of McDowell's division on Saturday last. The expressions among the officers and soldiers were by no means complimentary of the decision arrived at, nor of those who did it. But it is easily accounted for. "Pluck" is the "best bolt" of the army; and as this looked like a want of pluck it naturally created dissatisfaction. Among the civilians, in and out of office, there is a great diversity of opinion. In fact this is the very head-quarters of confusion on every question.
The country seemed almost unanimous in the conviction that these men had been rightfully seized; but as I have before had occasion to remark, the President and Cabinet were not committed to that opinion and therefore the fact of this unanimity of sentiment weighs nothing against them in the result at which they arrived; and whatever others may think of the desire of England to pick a quarrel with this country at all hazards, the President and Cabinet could not take that into account in this matter. It was their business to judge of the act itself in view of established national law or in view of law we would have established. They have done so and have given the result and the reasons for it, to the country. England and France and, it is said, other powers agree that the act of Capt. Wilkes was a flagrant violation of national law. It was so, according to the principles for which we had been contending. It can scarcely be, then, that our act of delivering up these men can be construed otherwise than as the result of a determination to do right which cannot weaken and defeat us with other powers as is feared but must, on the contrary, dignify and strengthen us. At all events, our threatened difficulty with England is at an end; and the Administration can easily silence all clamor as to the mode by which it was done by simply exercising the national energies thus at liberty in crushing the enemy we have already on hand.
I alluded in the opening of this letter to a review of McDowell's division. This is said to have been one of the most stirring and interesting drills or reviews which the Grand Army or any division of it has had. It comprised about 10,000 men including cavalry and artillery and took place on the broad plain at Bailey's Cross Roads which stretch around the base of Munson's Hill This plain was once, I suppose, farms enclosed with fences but every vestige of fence, even those more immediately enclosing the houses, having been swept away, it is a broad level plain admirably adapted to the purpose for which it was used. Part of this farm was a large well stocked nursery through which the cavalry and infantry plunged, as though it were a field of stubble. I rode my horse over what had evidently been a handsomely laid out garden pertaining to a house, bare in its desolation, and paused for a moment under the vines torn and ragged depending from the summer houses. Waterloo after its battle could scarcely have been more desolate.
A sham battle was the chief purpose and chief interest of the drill and review. All over the plain, the different regiments were drilled in plan of battle; the scouts, or skirmishers, being so far off that although the smoke of every discharge could be seen the sound could not be heard. There was charge and retreat and all the maneuvering of a battlefield. The artillery thundered, the small arms rattled, the cavalry clashed their sabers and sped over the field and the sulfurous cloud enveloped the whole. It required no vivid imagination to make a battle field of it and to a novice as well, probably, to others it was interesting and at times thrilling. The number of troops engaged, although but a very small part of the Grand Army, was about equal to the whole army with which we conquered Mexico. Nothing could be more beautiful than to see these columns defiling in lengthened lines over the partially wooded hills that surround this plain and spreading out over its surface. Occasionally where the infantry were crowded on a narrow defiled tier, abutments, catching the sun's gleams, would look like a meandering stream of silver. Who can tell the future of these now gay regiments.
The field is about five miles from the camps of the Second, Sixth and Seventh Regiments which had, of course, to travel over that extent of country to reach it. I was with them and seldom, if ever, did I see a more beautiful country. It is now, however, desolate to everything except the presence and tread of colliery. Every house of any pretensions has some flag floating over is as a General's quarters and every fence which marked the boundary of farms has disappeared from the face of the earth. To re-claim it after the war will be very much like beginning life on the Western prairies.
Gen. King's brigade was in this drill, commanded by the General in person and was the best, as it was the best looking on the field.
While standing with my horse on Manson's Hill, Gen. McDowell and staff rode on to the hill to survey the field. There is nothing very remarkable in his appearance although I have heard the opinion freely expressed that he is the ablest General in the service. His lady was also on the field on horseback apparently entirely unattended. She is evidently a frank and strong-minded woman but her personal charms are not calculated to excite envy among the sex.
During the review, a gun burst in the hands of a member of Capt. Bouck's company of the Second, badly shattering his arm and slightly wounding his neighbor. He was removed to the hospital.
Measures are on foot to secure the exchange of Dr. Lewis, surgeon of the Second, for a rebel surgeon now in Camp Chase, Ohio.

Was dead but is Alive again!
No young man of our acquaintance has died so many times and come to life again as Willie H. Upham, member of our gallant "Belle City Rifles" 
Our readers will remember that at the bloody encounter at Bull Run he was killed. The Advocate had an appropriate obituary notice. 
His funeral sermon was preached and hundreds of friends mourned his death with unfeigned sorrow. But you see he was not dead by a good deal, thanks to a strong constitution but healthy system.
The wound, though a severe one, did not produce death and found by the rebels, he was conveyed to Richmond a prisoner of war. From there, he soon communicated with his friends in this city and an exchange of prisoners having been made, they hoped to welcome him home again ere long.
Who can tell the anguish felt by his relatives last week when hourly looking for news of his arrival at Fortress Monroe, they received a letter from an officer there stating that he was no more!
We are sure a feeling of sympathy ran through the length and breadth of the city as the news spread and a feeling of sadness filled every heart. 
Yet was it premature for on the following day, a telegraphic dispatch from S. Whitely, Esq., at Washington, announced that in conversation with some of his released comrades just returned from Richmond, they said he was alive and well.
Thank God that it is so and we sincerely hope he may soon be home to read his obituary funeral sermon and all trusting that many years may elapse ere they need be called into requisition again.

Good for a Racine Boy
The Milwaukee Sentinel contains the following notice of A. J. Sexton of this city. "Andrew J. Sexton of Racine who enlisted in Capt. Strong's company the Belle City Rifles in the Second Regiment as a private is an instance of what intelligence added to a proper self-respect and ambition will do for one in the army. 
He shortly afterwards became Orderly Sergeant and then Lieutenant and after wards acting Captain of the Company. 
We now see that Gen. McDowell had formed a Construction Corps of two hundred men of which corps Sexton has been appointed engineer. 
He rebuilt the railroad bridge - 700 feet long and 58 feet high which had been destroyed by the rebels at Fredericksburg and has been doing excellent service in building railroads also.