1861 July, Second
Wisconsin In Camp, Washington D.C.
(From Echoes from the Marches
of the Famous Iron Brigade..prepared for The Evening Wisconsin. The following descriptions
draw heavily from Cornelius Wheelers diaries )
Arriving in Washington at daybreak of the 25th; quartered in
Woodward Block on Pennsylvania Avenue. Later in the day moving to Seventh Street Park,
where we go into Camp Randall, remain here about a week.
Letter from Second Regiment
Camp Randall, Near Washington
District Columbia July 1, 1861
Friend Cover: - Having a few leisure moments I embrace the opportunity to post
you and our other good Grant county friends relative to our recent movements
and upon some facts and speculations which may interest you all.
Of course you have seen in the papers and perhaps published the leading incidents connected with our departure from Madison and trip to this place
so I will, in this connection, allude to such matters only as may not have
found their way into the public prints.
Our march through Chicago though not performed with such military propriety was witnessed and applauded by a larger concourse of people
than I ever before saw on such an occasion.
We were clapped and cheered by dense masses of people filling the side walks for a mile or more; but more, as I learned, on account of our great size
and athletic appearance than for any other reason except that of patriotism.
But Indiana and Ohio, particularly the latter, bore off the palm.
The patriotism of the people was irrepressible all along the route and at Cleveland our highest conceptions of female loveliness and patriotic
hospitality were more than realized.
The ladies there had prepared an entertainment for the regiment, sufficient for
twice the number of men, of substantials and delicacies which were distributed
and forced upon the soldiers nolens volens by themselves the wealthiest
and most respectable taking the lead. The roughest soldiers were fraternized
with, shook by the hand and talked with as though they were equals and when
we marched from the Park back to the cars, there was not an officer or
soldier in the battalion but would have stormed any secession Sebastopol or
laid down his life instantly at the command of the Cleveland ladies.
One genteel lady, whose perseverance must have been
equaled only by her patriotism was reported to have shaken hands with every man in the
Regiment; and when the train moved out of the city at every available point
within its limits we were saluted by the waving of delicate hands and
handkerchiefs and by such spoken adieus as friends and patriots only can give.
The boys were all perfectly wild with excitement; they cheered continually and
made themselves hoarse by such exertions. This continued all through the
Buckeye State; every house turned out its inmates and every village or city its
population to do us honor.
Female adieus which brought tears to the eyes, and the stalwart hurrahs of the
yeomanry excited and encouraged us on every hand. Angels of ladies came into
the cars and occasionally kissed us, gave us bouquets of choice flowers and
brave words of encouragement and even ran after the train as it got under
way to again cheer us by their smiles and kind words. Well! it would require
volumes to do justice to these events and to the feelings of the regiment
and, as my time will not suffice and as I am inadequate to the occasion, I
must from the double poverty leave the subject. I will remark however that
any allusion to the buckeye ladies made in the camp even now so far removed
in time and distance brings our from the boys a universal burst of admiration.
They will never have done talking about and praising their angel friends.
There can be no question but that Ohio would vote her last man aye!
Women, too, to carry on this war if necessary. Never were a people so united
or more patriotic. The principles of liberty and justice are a part of their being,
without the enjoyment of which, Life to them would not be tolerable.
How proud her honored servants, Chase, Wade, Giddiness and others must
be of their constituency? and who could desire higher honor than the privilege of representing such a people?
Before leaving Harrisburg our guns (furnished us there) were all loaded with ball and buck-shot and at the Maryland line they were capped and half cocked
ready for instant use. Soon after we entered that State, secessionism began to show itself. Many of the settlers either took no notice of us while passing or
stood grim and hateful doubtless venting but half suppressed maledictions upon our heads. But the darkies were all in clover. It was amusing to see them
enjoy the influx of Northern troops - some in a wild boisterous way and others under the surveillance of their masters in a very sly yet expressive manner.
One chap, evidently of the latter class, I noticed sitting in an elevated doorway of a barn having one eye upon our train and the other upon the
mansion of his master while with a slow stately motion as if fanning himself
he waved his handkerchief to our welcome. It was characteristic and to me
vastly suggestive of the condition and hopes of the poor Negroes.
Two other incidents of the same tenor: 1st On the morning of our arrival in Washington I took a stroll up the avenue to the capitol and noticing several
colored men sitting at a gate to the public grounds I singled out the oldest one (quite an old man) and bowing said to him "good morning uncle."
He returned the salute and I passed on but after I had passed two or three steps I heard some one of them give a clap of his hands when looking around
I saw the same old man with his eyes raised his hands clasped and raised in
an attitude of thankfulness and prayer which once seen can never be forgotten.
2d. A day or two after our arrival here I said to a colored woman in camp "Auntie what do the colored people think of so many of our Northern soldiers
coming in here?" "Why!" she replied "they think they are God Almighty
come to deliver his children." Could anything be said more expressive? It seems
that the poor Negroes universal expression of despair - a despair wrought by
the oppression of ages - of "how long! my God how long!" - is at last
giving away to emotions of hope. "May their hopes grow brighter to the perfect
But to return to our experience in Maryland. We soon came upon the picket guard of Pennsylvania troops stationed all along and patrolling the Railroad
to guard it from seizure and destruction. They were stationed at close intervals in from squads of 7 up to full companies from the State line to
Baltimore and wherever necessary from Baltimore to Washington always in immediate connection with the bridges. There were frequent traces of
secession vandalism in the shape of burnt timbers and distorted irons lying
under and around the new bridges which had been built by Gen. Butler's troops.
We felt our way carefully over the road sounding the whistle frequently and so got
through without accident. The picket guards turned out and formed line as we approached and it was good, gloriously good, to witness the fine
fraternal feelings manifested between them and our boys whilst passing. Some
of the Maryland's, in fact the most of them, seem to be Unionists; many of them
saluted us. Though I fancied in more than one instance that I saw a lurking Judas in their countenances. A few miles out of Baltimore, as we were moving
slowly along in the night ,one of the villains threw stones into one of our cars and as we were to pass through Baltimore, later at night than any other
Regiment had done, we apprehended serious trouble from the ruffians on this account.
We arrived in Baltimore about 11 o'clock at night and after forming line marched through the city in column of sections for 1.5 miles the side walks
being lined with people, including mayor, of the most respectably dressed and behaved ladies. But the Plug Uglies were all on hand - watching for a chance to
wreak their vengeance upon us.
We were continually insulted and tantalized by them during the entire march.
They cheered for Jeff. Davis and his brother gallows birds fired two pistol shots at or near us to provoke a collision but we marched straight on with not
a word being said save the words of command. They finally left us near the Washington depot evidently not liking our firmness and determined aspect. I
hear through Lieut. Gov. Noble that the general opinion among them was expressed by a secessionist. There something like this:
"We could have whipped
out any Regiment which has gone through here - except the Wisconsin
Second &c." It is certain that we were all ready and anxious to a man to
into them and had they assaulted us, the police not interfering to arrest the
offenders, we should have formed a hollow square, fired on the crowd, cleaned
out the streets at the point of the bayonet and then broke into the houses right
and left, set fire to them and so fought our way in smoke and flame through
Nothing could have restrained us from so doing. The blood of the murdered Massachusetts soldiers cried to us from the very ground over which we
marched and at every step we were looking for a provocation sufficient to
justify us in punishing the murderers who groaned and clamored around us.
The fall of one man in the Regiment would have been
sufficient for us, orders or no orders.
It was evident that Marshal Kane and all his police force were in the interest of the secessionists - which more recent events have proved - but a large majority
of the people in the streets seemed to be Unionists. We received several hearty cheers and the Union was also loudly and frequently cheered. The
ladies nearly all seemed to be on our side.
We encamped here Tuesday morning last and have entered upon soldiers duties and partaken of soldiers fare in right sober earnest. Our camp is to the right
of 7th Street near the Park and about 1.5 miles from the capitol. There are New York and New England regiments encamped all around us and looking
from the most elevated parts of the Capitol large collections of white tents can
be seen near and remote on every hand. There are now, I believe, encamped
in and around this city, about fifty thousand volunteers and regiments after
regiments are pouring in every day.
The Ninth Massachusetts Regiment, 1,000 strong, has just marched passed us.
We shall soon have force enough to wipe out Beauregard and secessionism
at a blow. Washington is safe in any contingency and I believe that the
secession forces will be in full retreat from Virginia within four weeks.
I am inclined to think that our advance will be the signal for their retreat
and that no pitched battle of any great magnitude will be fought on Virginia
soil. Jeff Davis and his minions must go under; there is no help for them.
A few nights since a secession emissary was shot and wounded and taken by the guard of the New Hampshire Regiment which is encamped near us and it is said
that a pound of strychnine was found upon his person. Instead of his being shot or hung immediately, he was sent to the city under guard for civil trial. So
much do the military authorities give away and become subordinate to the civil power. Perhaps this was best on the whole but there should be a limit to
leniency in such cases. Poisoning troops and shooting sentinels is too inhuman a warfare to merit the least indulgence. To prevent the scoundrels from
poisioning us, a guard has been placed over every well and spring throughout the
Secessionists are continually prowling around the camps seeking information and taking notes but the greatest vigilance is maintained day and night: all
suspected persons are arrested and examined in the most summary manner.
Thursday, about midnight, our Regiment was turned out by the long roll and formed in line ready for march or action; we loaded, primed, remained under
arms an hour or more till satisfied that the alarm was a false one when we
retired to quarters. Our company was the 1st. on the ground where it formed
in about five minutes after the alarm was sounded.
There has been no death in the Regiment since its organization but on account of the change of water and the mid day heat of the sun there have been several
on the sick list within a day or two; there is nothing serious however and the general health is good. The flies are very numerous and troublesome and we
long for the cool clear springs of old Grant County. The food is nothing to brag of neither, it is too abundant but soldiers must not expect to get along
in active service without much discomforts. We expected to be annoyed by Mosquitoes buy they have not troubled us.
Washington far exceeds my expectations in every respect and the splendors of the public buildings and grounds filled all that boys with admiration. They
are proud of an opportunity to defend such a Capitol as well as such a government. But it was amusing to see with what assurance and assumption of
right they roamed and rambled over and around in and out wherever and whenever they wished. - Had they possessed a "free simple" of the entire
property they could not have been more at ease . Yet misled with all this were
painful exhibitions of a want of self respect, of drunkenness and of consequent
disorderly conduct which all good soldiers and decent people most deprecate, such cases were exceptions to the general rule however.
Whiskey and want of refinement are the great drugs
and discomforts of a soldiers life, as whether you will or no, you are forced into immediate contact
with infernal effects.
Would to God it were otherwise. For my part I see nothing in camp life or soldiers duties to justify the least departure from the rules of sobriety and
good conduct so rigid in civil life in respectable communities - but I question whether those evils can ever be wholly remedied among soldiers. Certainly not
unless totally abstemious habits are observed by all officers having authority to command.
I perceive that my communication is getting to be long while my time is getting to be the reverse. I must therefore defer other matters which might
interest you till another opportunity offers. My friends reading this must remember that a small crowded tent with no conveniences pitched in a noisy
bustling camp with a thousand duties demanding attention is a case not favorable to rapid or agreeable writing.
This communication must therefore be read and judged of in the light of all these allowances. I bid you adieu.
Friends who desire to communicate with any member of our Regiment will direct their letters to the care of the Quarter Master of Second Regiment
Wisconsin Volunteers, Washington, D.C.
(From Echoes from the Marches
of the Famous Iron Brigade..prepared for The Evening Wisconsin. The following descriptions
draw heavily from Cornelius Wheelers diaries )
July 2d break camp and march
through Georgetown, Washington, and across the Aqueduct bridge, ten miles west of Fort
Cochran on the Fairfax road; camp at Camp Peck. While here we are brigaded with the
Thirteenth, Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth New York Volunteers (2), under command of Col.
W. T. Sherman, afterwards Gen. Sherman. This brings us to the preparation for the first
conflict of the war, the battle of Bull Run.
Today orders were received to prepare for a march when, in one hour, everything being in readiness, we started for Arlington Heights just across
the Potomac River where we arrived at 8 o'clock P.M., weary and very thirsty, having marched over seven miles in three hours with knapsack and gun which was load enough
on so warm a day.
The sick, of whom there are but a few, were carried in the baggage wagons.
Our place for the camp was selected near a fine spring of cool water and, partaking
fully of the same, Company A lay down upon the ground with
only one blanket each and had a very refreshing nights rest.
Next morning all were up at the roll of the drum prepared for the duties of the day such as pitching tents &c. This was quickly done and many of us went
out of camp and spent the remainder of the day in rambling through the wood, forming new acquaintances among the farmers in the neighborhood who I may say are very
friendly and kind. All are unionists from the little child up to the old silver-hairdo man who has resided in the neighborhood from forty to sixty
To day I met one who had lived on the same farm and in the same house for over seventy years who, with the exception of two of three others, was the
only man in this section of country who voted the Union ticket at the last election although many others were there who sympathized with the North but
did not vote for the Union ticket through fear, as the the country was then scoured daily by companies sent out from the Southern part of the state who
were authorized to hang and drive out all who did not openly support the Jeff Davis Confederacy. There are no secessionists in this part of the country now
except it be an occasional spy sent out by J.D. as up on the arrival of the Federal Troops from the North who showed not their colors were arrested for
treason and confined.
We are pleasantly located and all are in good spirits. We are seven miles from Washington by way of the long bridge through Georgetown.
On the Virginia side, one mile and a half from Arlington House, two miles from
Fairfax Court House and ten miles from a masked battery of the rebels on or near the road
to Fairfax Court House.
FOURTH OF JULY
This has been an unusually dull day, nothing of interest has transpired in or out of camp except instead of J.D.'s grand ball at the White House invitation
was sent to the commissioned officers of the different regiments in and about Washington to attend a grand Ball given in honor of the day and as no
Noncom's were invited, some endeavored to drive away sorrow by singing or
dancing to the music of the Banjo and violin but it would not work, the mind
was not on the subject but would revert to old times at home and we imagined
ourselves seated around a sumptuous table well filled with tempting viands
from father's garden; or as evening came many were accustomed to trip the
light fantastic toe to such music as if heard here in camp would alone
compensate for remaining all day in camp.
Some of the boys have spent the day in adorning and arranging the campgrounds where we expect to stay several weeks.- Some are seated in one
corner of their tent with pencil and paper in hand with a knapsack for a writing
table and mother earth for a stool. Some have got a pass to go our into the
woods where after wandering about in quest of wild berries have lain down
on the grass under the shade of some old chestnut or apple tree to muse
and while away the few remaining hours before Dress Parade; some are asleep -others are singing, talking or reading Scott's Tactics, or
the home paper which some kind friend has sent them.
But now the day is past and the camp fire again burns brightly while around may be seen congregated in little squads.
Soldiers recounting scenes through which they have passed to others with attentive ears and after the story is told, another follows in the same strain
recounting scenes of pleasure and good old times a home and other scenes and stories that have come under their notice while traveling or of perilous
scenes passed through while in war. Yonder is a fire around which a gayer party is assembled and a the Indian war whoop rings our upon the air
accompanied by the lively dance seems for a time to drown all else.
We have been visited for a week past by a very large comet which at full day appears very bright and transparent; late at night the tail stretched nearly
to the Zenith while the star was near the horizon.
Letter from Cap't McKee
We are requested to print the following letter from Capt. McKee; Camp Peck
near Washington July 4, 1861
Friend Mills:-I have waited for a long time to hear from you.
When at Madison I wrote to you and never received any answer, and of course, I expected a reply.
After leaving Madison we had a very pleasant trip to Washington stopping one day at Harrisburg. We were met by crowds of people - men, women and
children at every station along the route; more enthusiasm was shown than
I ever expected to see on any occasion.
It would astonish you to see the intense excitement and feeling exhibited by
the women; they excelled if possible the men in their manifestations of joy,
and their welcome to the soldiers as they advance in their travels to the seat
of war. In some instances, yes, in many instances, you could see tears starting
from the eyes of people who had never before seen us.
When the cars would move off after having stopped but a moment at the depots where they were congregated in some instances, strangers would think
it the separation of old friends. Not a farm house was passed in the free States
but had handkerchiefs and banners waving and flying, and the ladies as well
as men seem to have abandoned everything else to the promotion of the
glorious cause we are enlisted in.
The Historian who shall record the great event of this epoch and who fails to
award to the women of the time at least one-half of the credit of the brilliant
victories which await our armies will have committed great injustice to the
kindliest portion of community will be looked upon as a perverted of history;
his works consigned to oblivion and he forgotten as he should be. When those
citizen soldiers who are now in the service of their country shall, in after year,
sit by their hearth stones listening to the reading by their children of the history
of this great war for human rights and human liberty, they will not be satisfied
unless the little incidents of womanly kindness and her magnanimity of heart
are related therein.
It must speak of the sad parting of solders from their wives, mothers, sisters,
sweethearts and the last expressions of those virtues and noble spirits, their
admonitions to pursue religious and virtuous habits, to stand by the good
cause to the last and to die, if they must, facing the enemy and fighting bravely
in the cause. I tell you candidly that I believe that the individual who is not
made better and who is not encouraged by the man exhibitions of womanly
patriotism and womanly devotion and virtue as brought out and exhibited in
this great struggle of a free government for its own existence is fitted only
for an inheritance with traitors Jeff Davis and the balance every little kind
office performed by the hand of woman, every word of encouragement,
every kiss given to departing soldiers must be remembered in making up
the history of this great campaign.
It is the remembrance of them now by those in action that inspired them to
acts of daring bravery and adventure on the field. Every individual must
endeavor now to make himself worthy of the meeting with these dear hearts
which are in waiting for him on his return.
This war must put an end to the institution of slavery. And should something,
now by us unforeseen, happen which would cause the defeat of our arms, it
still makes no difference with the ultimate destiny of this institution.
I have conversed with some of the slaves I have met here. They say they
expect better time after while. I don't think that insurrections among them will
amount to much from the fact that their extreme ignorance will prevent the
formation of any fixed purposed or places among them and consequently
they cannot design and carry out any definite plan of operations. The Negroes
on the plantations seem to be ignorant almost of the existence of a great North
and, at the present time, all the knowledge they have is derived from rumors
set afloat amongst them. The fact is strange, as it may seem if the Negroes on
the plantations here were to be now freed and turned loose with full
permission to go where they chose, they could not, without great difficulty,
make their way to any of the northern states.- That this deplorable state of
ignorance does exist among the slaves is true. But Oh! if there is a just God
how I pity those who are responsible for this damnable and deplorable state of
human degradation. The extermination of this institution is, at most, now but a
question of time. You and I, if we live to the allotted days of man will have
seen it exterminated. God grant that it may be speedily accomplished.
We are now stationed about seven miles from Washington in Virginia. We
will probably leave here for a more active scene in a day or two. We are within
twelve miles of a large body of the enemies forces. All we want is to get at
them. This "sacred soil of Virginia", if located in Grant County, would not
entered under the graduation act for the next twenty-five years. The dirt thrown
out around our mineral holes looks better. I verily believe it is too poor to
raise good healthy ants on. There is no use in my attempting to give you the
news respecting the movements here. You receive them through other sources
long before this would reach you. The boys are all getting along very well
and keep in good spirits. The change of water has created some little diarrhea
amongst them otherwise they are all well. I think the Second Regiment of
Wis. Vol. is the finest body of men in the field. All think they will do good
execution where ever they have an opportunity.
Remember me to all the friends in Lancaster. Let us hear from you as often
as you can make it convenient. I would write for Cover's proper occasionally
but I have been so very busy and the mails are so slow in conveying news that
I thought it useless; besides I learn that others are corresponding with him.
I have not seen a Grant Co. paper since I left Madison. I should like to
get them because we are anxious to know what is going on at home.
Any communication or paper directed to us in Company C, 2d Reg. Wis. Vol.,
Washington City will be received by us or forwarded to where ever we may be.
Yours very truly,
Letters of Charlie Dow
Sergeant (later Captain)
Charlie Dow, Company G
Many of Charlie
letters are in the
from the Front"
Arlington Heights, Va.,
July 5th, 1961.
undoubtedly expecting a letter from me by this time as you had that assurance when I left
Portage. Well, here goes for a short one at least.
You will perceive
by the heading of this letter that we are occupying the veritable Heights that you read so
We came here on
the 3d inst. from Washington City, where we have been encamped since our first arrival in
this country, and of course spent the glorious 4th.
There was no
demonstration made toward celebrating, with the exception that the Fortification (which is
a short way below us,) belched forth a few times at noon, which just made things jar. I
dont know the size of the guns they have mounted there, but they are the largest I
ever saw, and when they are discharged they remind one of a small earthquake.
We are about 9
miles from Fairfax Court House where it is reported there are about 8,000 Secessionists
quartered. Our advance pickets are in sight of the enemys pickets, and occasionally
they exchange shots just to while away the time. It is believed in our camp that lively
preparations are being made by the Government for a fight in the vicinity of Fairfax, and
every indication goes to substantiate the belief. Troops are passing here all hours of the
day, and the scouts (horsemen) are busy as "a devil in a gale of wind."
These scouts are
old Texan Rangers and seem to understand their "regular business." Each man is
armed with a heavy sword, revolver (army size) and Halls breech loading carbine, and
seem to be as familiar with their use as a Chinaman with his chopsticks.
There are now six
regiments in advance of us on the road toward Fairfax, but I dont know how long it
will be before we are placed in front, for it seems to be the discipline of the Government
in motion, its troops, to move them just as boys play leapfrog - that is to say - the rear
one jumps those in advance until he comes to the front and then halts and the rest jump
So you see, as we
dont know how many there are in the game we cannot tell when it is our turn
to jump, but we hope it will be soon, for to be held here so near the enemy and cant
get at them is like holding a piece of fresh meat in front of a hungry dog that is just
out of its reach.
We got reports
from the 1st Regiment last night that they had a fight somewhere in the vicinity of
Harpers Ferry and came out victorious, having captured quite a lot of baggage and a
number of prisoners. Reports say that the officers had no control over the men -
every one went in on his muscle, and their motto was "Die dog or eat a hatchet."
I think this will be the case with the 2d Regiment if they ever come to a fight.
I will not
attempt to tell you the number of soldiers in and about Washington, but to say the least,
the level ground is covered.
I took a ride out
in the country with my Uncle and family the day before we left the city, and as far as we
went it was one complete field of soldiers, and all we saw were a fine looking set of
fellows. The 1st Minnesota Regiment were the best drilled men I ever saw. Col. Gorman is
their commander I believe. It would do your soul good to see them drill, everything is
done with such precision. I dont know but the Portage Home Guard and Artillery
Company could clean them out, but I hardly believe it.
Our campground is
rather a poor one but we have a fine spring of water close by and we have found out that
water cannot be dispensed with. Give us good water and we can get along without grumbling
much, but take that from us and there is a loud row sure.
The weather is
very warm and dry and the nights cool. We sleep on our arms, ready for a jump at a
minutes warning. Six men sleep in a tent, and it is rather amusing to see them go to
bed; each man takes his knapsack for a pillow and his regular blanket for a winding sheet
and lies down by his musket, which is always loaded with a ball and three buckshot. I tell
you what it is, "things is working," and the boys are beginning to appreciate
that they are not on any 4th of July celebration. We are remarkably well considering the
excessive warm weather and the amount of green fruit that the boys eat. There is no
serious illness however in the camp. I must now close as I am Corporal of the Guard today
and it is nearly time for my relief to go out. You will please tell the boys that it is
almost impossible for me to get time to write, but I will write to some of them as soon as
I have an opportunity.
You will please
give my respects to all. Should be glad if you would send me a Register occasionally.
Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain,
P. S. All communications to the boys
should be directed to Company G, 2d Regt Wis. Vol., Washington, D. C.
The Wisconsin State Register
Washington, July 8, 1861
Editors Patriot: - Last night was infernally hot, or if the weather was not sufficiently warm there were fires in different parts of the city and the fire
bells played their ding dong incessantly. Startled out of a hasty nap by the sharp crack of a musket apparently under your chamber
window, or the distant
booming of some signal gun, one wakes up to find himself completely captured by a large flock of
Secessions Mosquitoes, that have invaded the city from
across the Potomac, over in Virginia in order to suck the blood of good Union men here. I really believe that the savage fellows that
me last night have been regularly mustered into the Confederate service. One thing however
they are better fighters then the Rebels they won't run-"blood or death" is
their motto. In other respects their mode of warfare resembles that of the Rebels; they lie in ambush and come upon you unawares in the night time and
administer poison through their murderous bills. Suffice it to say that Washington musketoes are the largest and bloodiest ones I ever saw.
Yesterday a party of us, including Congressmen Henchett and Sloan, your P.M. Keyes, Gen. Lawrence and B. Rixford, of Oshkosh, visited the camp of the 2d
Reg. of W.V. We crossed the Potomac at Georgetown and passed up and over Arlington Heights. We formed the camp in the level country beyond - their camp
adjoins the 13th N.Y. As we approached, the two regiments were being inspected and reviewed by Generals McDowell and Sherman. It is needless to add that our
regiment appeared to be superior in every respect. I strolled along through the camp of the 13th, supposing it was the camp of the 2d. I met one of our
boys and complimented him over the left about it. He said "hold on", our camp
is over yonder," pointing to a cedar grove where the while tents were dotted
thick. I at once proceeded there and found a different state of things entirely. Their camp is very tastefully laid out and cleanly kept. The boys
seem to enjoy themselves first rate. There is some little sickness in camp, the most of which is in the Randall Guard, eight or ten of whom are down with the
measles - strange their mamas did not give them the measles when they were young. I saw three pieces of calico in camp, they belong to Capt. Ely's
Company - a mother and two daughters, one the wife of a volunteer - they were busy cooking supper. We enjoyed the hospitality of Surgeon Lewis tent;
he gave us for supper fried bacon and eggs, which went first rate.
Ice from Lt. Hunter's ice house near by supplies the camp with this great luxury. This Lieutenant is in the confederate army - his forty tons of ice is
contraband of course.
Fort Corcoran on the highest of Arlington Heights has numerous heavy guns mounted. - they are fearful to behold to the passer by. No Secession arm will
ever come within their range. On our return we met a huge forty-two pound rifled cannon, doubtless designed to unmask some Rebel battery, lying in ambush
near our lines. The "crazy parson", as he is called, who accompanied the 2d has
graduated, if not with the highest military honors. He certainly deserved them from all accounts. His eccentricities are not unknown to you. I have made as
careful an estimate as time and opportunity allowed and have come to the unpleasant
conclusion that rifled whiskey will prove more deadly to the
volunteers than the rifled cannon of the Rebels. The excitement of the campaign seem to drive many temperate men to excess. I have noticed one
feature wherein Washington and Madison are not unlike. Hogs and geese roam the streets here undisturbed. By this I don't mean that they are bold enough to
inhabit Pennsylvania Avenue but they are found in almost every other street.
Dan. Coit has got his
as first lieutenant in the Regular army. He leaves to-night to report himself to his regiment at Boston. He says he is
appointed without expense to the State.
Lieut. Coit has ability to make a good officer. His principal failing, I suppose, will be looked upon as a
virtue in his new position. Success to him .
Bebee, Sergeant at arms of the last Assembly, has had the good luck to get appointed Assistant Post Master in the House. Harrison Reed is here carefully
looking after the 2d regiment. He will accept some good position if tendered him - would prefer a place in the House. Not a red cent will be disbursed to the
members of Congress at this session unless they legislate specially on the subject. Under the law they cannot even get mileage. When this state of things
first broke upon them, many were in great trepidation as they only had money enough to get here. If they get a good chance, they can burrow. Gen. King
arrived here last night. On Saturday p.m. the Rhode Island battery of James rifled cannon gave an exhibition of target practice on Monument Square. The
target fired at was the Potomac, lengthwise and crosswise. The balls only missed the Potomac twice, and then went slam bang into the rocks on the other
side. These guns may be a useful invention but really, from my little knowledge of the use of the weapons, I think they are far from being accurate in aim.
The projectiles used are cone shaped and are calculated to explode when they come in contact with anything. There is no doubt that they would do good
execution when they hit. The President was present and took great interest in the practice. Gov. Sprague was there dressed in a blue shirt and gray pants.
If he had been in Madison he certainly would have been admitted to the 2d regiment. His spectacles were gold rimmed.
It is too confounded hot to-day to write anything readable. You will observe this
communication is very thin-spread out too much altogether. I will go and
"take something" at Ross' expense.
Letter from Virginia
Hazel Green, July 15
Mr. Cover-dear sir:-Enclosed I send you the copy of a letter received by me
from my brother now in the federal army in Virginia. You can judge by its
contents and the tone of the writer, some thing of the spirit which actuates
the people of the "Pine Tree State."
Falls Church, Fairfax Co.
Virginia, July 6, 1861
Dear Brother:-I received your letter in due course mail and take this opportunity to answer it. I enlisted at Bangor in the Second Regiment Company,
K, and arrived at Washington June 1st. We were stationed on Arlington Heights where we remained about four weeks, drilling digging trenches, &c. Last Monday
we received orders to march at 4 o'clock we were ready at five but were detained until eight by a heavy rain. At 9P.M. we crossed the Potomac and took
up our line of march into Virginia. We arrived at this place at four o'clock the next
morning and pitched our tents.
We are within eight miles of Fairfax Court House where the rebels are stationed with ten thousand men. It is rumored that there is to be a fight
soon, if the rebels do not run and that we are to march on Fairfax Court House with thirty thousand men. All I know about this is that every man is provided
with twenty rounds of cartridges.
To--day we hoisted the "flag of our Unit over the "sacred soil of Virginia"
As soon as our flag was raised three more were flung to the breeze by the Connecticut regiment.
Our flag was run up to the mast head by our brave colonel when three hearty cheers were given for the Stars and Stripes which meant nothing less than that
we were ready to defend it to our last drop of blood. We assembled on the ground at 11 A.M. and at 12 PM our flag was saluted by Lieut. Tompan's
Artillery of thirty guns. We are stationed nearer to the rebels than any other Regiment this side of the Potomac. the climate affect us some. Our drill
exercises are not very hard; while we were stationed on Arlington
Heights we were pretty busy; now we are on duty about four hours a day. Reveille beats at
4 A.M. when all hands must turn out and fit for duty. Battalion
drill at 4:30 A.M.; breakfast at 7. At 8 A.M. all assemble for company drill which lasts
one hour and a half; at 12 M. we have dinner and then we have the afternoon to ourselves until 7 P.M. when we assemble for the dress parade; at 9:30 the
tattoo beats, after which no soldier is allowed to leave his quarters without leave from the commanding officer.
Our food consists principally of pilot bread and salt beef with fresh beef once in four or five days; a few beans now and then; coffee twice a day cold
water at dinner.
Between the hours of drill we are occupied in cleaning our guns, washing our clothes, mending &c. We spend the Sabbath as follows: Reveille beats at six;
Breakfast at seven; Inspection of arms at nine; Dinner at twelve; Prayers at five; Dress parade at seven; Tattoo beats at nine.
We expect to leave here soon; we expect other Regiments here tomorrow; and as soon as we get ready we shall move from here to some place where we shall have
a chance to show our courage.
Brother George is in the Third Regiment. Our town raised $2,000 for the volunteer's families and in a company of 98, there were but three married
men - There were a great many young men in our town that wanted to go, but no more could get a chance. Father said that he was proud to know that he could
give his two sons to fight for his country and told us that if we never returned he should feel that we died in a glorious cause. L-has returned home;
I received a letter from him yesterday; he will enlist the first opportunity and I expect to see him here soon. You speak of enlisting if there is another
call made; there is no need of any man leaving his family or business to come here. There are thousands in our State who are ready to get and three from one
family is enough. If I live till the war is over, I shall come out west. I will close by asking you to write often; as I get but few letters your will be
quite a treat.
F. A. Nye
Our Three Wisconsin Regiments
A Tribune correspondent from Martinsburg says: "the 1st Wisconsin, Rhode Island and 23d Pennsylvania are regarded as the crack regiments and have so
far the posts of honor.
An army correspondent of the Sentinel states that the 2d Wisconsin, the 8th, 18th and 79th New York regiments with Sherman's battery of six guns, the finest
in the world, together with a troop of 300 cavalry for scout duty, are to form a brigade under command of Gen. Sherman who is known as the head of
Sherman's battery and the brigade is attached to Gen. McDowell's division .
The 2d Wisconsin has the second position of honor the
left of the brigade.
The regiment is drilled daily by its own field officers and a Lieutenant fresh
from West Point. Gen Sherman said pointing to the Regiment:
"I have confidence in those men and will make that the most splendid
regiment in the field"
"I have confidence in those men and will make that the most splendid
regiment in the field"
we are, says the Sentinel correspondent, drilling Hardee, altogether every movement being made in double quick time a
change which is liked much.
None of the regiments that I have seen drill anything
else then Hardee which you know has been changed to the U. S. Infantry tactics.
So your regiments at home may take a lesson there from.
It is a most sensible change."
News from the Boys
of the 2d Regiment
The following extracts from a private letter to friends in this city give an
idea of what is going on about the location of the 2d Regiment:
Camp Peck near Fort Corcoran
July 8th, 1861
We are in Gen. Sherman's Brigade, much to our satisfaction; he is one of the best officers in the service. His splendid battery goes with us, consisting of
rifled cannon howitzers and field pieces. Our brigade consists of the New York 69th, 13th, 2nd, and Wisconsin 2nd. Yesterday we were reviewed by the General.
Yesterday Cary Tuckerman and myself got permission to take a walk. We went about several miles from camp passing through the New York 2d and Ohio 1st and
2d camps, in fact, we went to the extreme outposts of the Grand Army at Falls Church. "Contrabands are very lively; two came into the Connecticut camp while
we were there; they grinned all over their faces. We had the pleasure of seeing Ed. Isbell in the Ohio camp; he is well. This is a glorious country for
blackberries, whortle berries, in fact all kinds of fruit. New potatoes are also
None of our company are in the hospital; we are tough, rugged and very saucy.
You recollect the pet "kitten" our boys adopted at Madison and brought
along? It affords us much fun. Our new uniform is received; it is cool and very comfortable.
R. F. R.-We are indebted to R. F. R. for a copy of a letter from one of the boys
in the 1st. Regiment, and would have published it with much pleasure had we not already put in type a letter received from one of the "Park City Grays,"
giving in substance the same incidents.
News from the
Knowing how anxiously any news of our boys is looked for and with what interest it is read, we have been permitted to take some items of interest
from letters received by friends in this city.
The first is dated at Camp Randall in which the writer says: "Here I am in camp at Capital Hill, 1.5 miles from Pennsylvania Avenue, 2 miles from the
Potomac and within a dozen miles of the rebel army. Around us on all sides can be seen the camping grounds of 10,000 men all ready to fight for the good
cause. On the left of us are 4 Regiments from Maine, just to the right the N.Y.
31st and 71st. Farther off towards the Potomac is the Brooklyn Fire Brigade,
3 regiments, back of us, the Rhode Island Brigade, 4 regiments, and still further
on can be seen the four Connecticut and 1st and 2d New Hampshire Regiments.
We are in the midst of the enemy and I verily believe there are rebels enough in Washington, if the army was withdrawn, to take it and bury it.
Shoots a Rebel.
The other night about 12 o'clock all the military in our vicinity were startled by the firing and long roll of the N. Y. 31st. Our company got out in
12 minutes, dressed, muskets loaded, bayonets fixed and the whole Regiment formed into line in less than 20 minutes from the first alarm. We rested on
our arms until a detail had been sent over to the 31st to find our what the alarm was. It grew out of a sentinel being shot at by some unseen rebels. The
men got back to bed again about 2 o'clock. Shortly after Capt. Strong, who was yet around, was informed that a man had been seen by one of the sentinels to
skulk into a ditch between the camp and a dense wood. Captain Strong immediately started along with his navy pistols and when within about 40 yards
of the spot where the fellow lay, he started and run for dear life.
The Captain challenged him three times without getting any response when he - for the first time in his life - fired at a man with the view of taking his
life. Being now some 60 yards distant and quite dark, his 3 shots did not take effect, when he commenced a hot pursuit. The rebel kept his distance for a
time but as he entered the wood Captain Strong was not more than 35 yards from him and again getting a good sight, he aimed and fired when the villain fell
striking his head on the ground. Not wishing to be caught in ambush the Captain called out the guard but
its believed the body was removed by the
fellow's comrades concealed in the bushes - So you see our captain has had
the honor of firing the first shot in the 2d. Regiment at a traitor.
We are here, having left Washington Tuesday afternoon, marched the whole distance without halting and, of course, felt tired when we arrived. Turned into
our beds (?) that is a comfortable spot on the bare ground with a single blanket for covering and slept soundly as we ever did in our lives. Camp fare
and camp beds we are used to now and like it.
The route between this place and Washington is guarded by two Regiments. We expect to go into action soon yet we cannot tell. Now we are not permitted to
go out of camp. As for writing to me, we shall be on the move, and I hardly think a letter would reach us. I am writing on my knapsack for a table , in a
tent where 6 boys are 'going" and you can judge how hard it is to collect ones
thoughts but I will write as often as I can. I like a soldier's life much.
Here we are, dear mother, on Arlington Heights some ten miles from where we
were encamped when I last wrote you.
We are twelve miles from Fairfax Court House and five miles from the Rebel Pickets. The 2nd Ohio Regiment, which is two miles beyond us, have pickets
stationed within two miles of them. They had a skirmish this morning. Gerrit Ajax was Lieutenant in that regiment but has since got a
commission as Lieut. in the regular army.
The Wisconsin boys
believed to be savage
These Virginians are by no means so intelligent as they might be.
They hold strange notion of the Badger Boys, they think we are mostly made up
of savages and that our tents are hung around with scalps by way of ornament.
A couple of our boys, Bauman and Huggins, went on a foraging expedition
yesterday to a farmer's near by. The man enquired if they were the soldiers
who could hit an Indian's eye at 10 rods. They replied 'yes' and turning round
pointed to an animal not far off, enquired innocently what that critter was?
They were informed it was a cow - the like of which they said they had never
seen before in Wisconsin, they did not have anything but Buffalo!
We are all well and feel ditto.
I have written and written to you but can
get no answer!.
Direct to Company F.
2d regiment, Wis. volunteers, Washington, D.C.
We are a big thing in the military line, if what they say about us is true.
We are on the "sacred soil of the F.F.V's
We are a big thing in the military line, if what they say about us is true.
We are on the "sacred soil of the F.F.V's (first families of
Virginia)- have a magnificent camping grounds - four beautiful springs of cool water in it and as
for Blackberries, this is the spot. The weather has been cool. I have not felt the
heat as much as at Madison. We get a glimpse of the enemy occasionally - they
are dressed like us except that they have a yellow stripe on their pants and we
Ed. Isbell is in camp about two miles from us.
Our 4th July was celebrated by a false alarm that turned us all out.
Another letter says: "Last night (July 3d) Lieut. Doolittle was sent with a
squad of twenty men to skirmish a little around the enemy's pickets. They started at dusk, armed to the teeth; had their canteens filled with water, and
one day's rations in their haversacks. It was a dangerous service, yet they cheerfully entered upon it, determined to bring back a flag if a fight ensued.
They returned next day having penetrated the enemy's lines and gained some important knowledge of the rebels position, but not succeeding in getting up a
fight, the flag was not obtained.
Of the scouting party we heard Cary Tuckerman and Sidney Mead formed
part both of whom stand high in the estimation of their officers.
From the camp our boys can see the rebels drilling and their flags flying.
It is almost certain a conflict must ensure ere many days.
Human circular - Governor Randall has issued a
circular to the Governors of the several loyal States, advocating
the sending of messengers with each State
regiment to look after and forward to their friends, such of the soldier, as may
be wounded. We learn that Messes Van Slyke and S.G. Benedict leave to-morrow on such a mission having the soldiers of the 2nd regiment as the special
objects of the attention.
Letter from the 2d Regiment
Camp Peck near Arlington Highs
July 10th, 1861
We are now in a strange land, at least ten people are strange people when they talk of secession. I do not know how they expect to live, for they can raise
nothing to eat off the land here in the north-western part of Virginia and they say this is a specimen of the whole state. Tuesday, July 2d., 2 o'clock P.M., we
received orders to march into Virginia; we pulled down our tents, packed up and marched eight miles, and fetched up here about 8 in the evening, fully
convinced that marching with gun, knapsack and haversack was no fun. We were all so tired that we did not stop to put up tents. Each man wound himself up
in a blanket and dropped where he pleased. I slept soundly although we were told to lookout for Jeff's scouts. In the morn a novel sight presented itself.
Ten hundred and sixty men lying scattered over the ground, with scarcely two heads being in the same direction. After getting up and shaking the sand out
of our hair we began to look around and found that we had been surrounded during the night. Some 3,000 men were making preparations - not to fire upon
us - but to pitch their tents. They were New Hampshire and New York regiments who had followed us from Washington. After taking our breakfast which
consisted of a cup of coffee and two hard biscuits, we commenced to clear away the bushes and stones preparatory to pitching our tents. It was an animating
scene to view 4,000 men all busy. All the bushes were piled in one monster heap,
calculating it for a bonfire on the night of the 4th, but some one fired it that afternoon.
We are some four miles from Fort Corcoran and eight miles from Fairfax Court House, where it was said there were 10,000 rebels encamped. Yesterday an
officer of the New York regiment, which is encamped within three miles of there, went up in a balloon and took a peep at their encampment. He says there
cannot be more than 500 rebels at said Court House.
I expect one of these regiments will slip down there some night and take them prisoners and I am afraid we will not have a hand in the sport. I guess we
shall have a chance before long of showing our fighting qualities.
Our regiment is talked of a good deal. All have an idea that we are all sharpshooters as we came from away out West and always lived in the woods. As
we were marching through the streets of Washington an old man stepped up and asked one of the boys where we were from. On receiving the answer "from
Wisconsin" "What!" said he "all these men from Wisconsin!"
And on being told there were four more regiments coming, he was perfectly astounded. Gen. Scott paid us a visit. He said we were all good, healthy looking
fellows; and he must give Wisconsin the credit of clothing and equipping her men better than any other State had done.
That was the general remark through Ohio and Pennsylvania. The 4th we received another suit, of summer clothes, well made and good goods. They were very
acceptable this warm weather. The weather is not as warm as I expected to find it. We have a few sick ones; some few cases of the measles and other sickness
caused by change of water and climate, but no fevers. I do not get sick; never was tougher in my life. All we have to complain of is our food. For some time
we have fared rather slim. I do not think Uncle Sam calculates to feed us so poorly; but some cut-throat is making money out of the operation. Although we
are poorly fed, there is very little grumbling. I just believe there is a heap of patriotism in the boys of the 2d regiment, for they will endure anything
for their country. They are all for going in and making short work of the war.
Some seem to think Scott is slow, though they have great faith in him.
Yesterday we were inspected and drilled by Brigadier General Tyler. He gave us the credit of doing well. He says he will endeavor to procure Enfield rifles
for us. It will just suit the boys. I rather think they will use rifles to pretty good advantage as they make good shots with the muskets.
We left Washington sooner that I wished as I only had one day and a half to look around. I paid to visit to the capitol, from there I went to the Patent
Office where I saw everything man could invent; saw one very precious relics, among them were the military clothes and camp utensils of George Washington-
The Japanese presents are splendid specimens of workmanship. I could not stop long enough to take notice. The next public building I visited was the War
Department where I found everything all astir. From there I propelled for the White House; I was shown all over the house, everything is nice; the reception
room is a perfect palace. I was asked to be seated; planted myself upon one of the lounges. While I rested I wondered to just think how many had entered that
room; me a common solder seated on a seat where the notables of the land had rested themselves and some of then had proven false to their country. After
taking a good rest I went into the garden; found two men busy raising a pavilion. I inquired about Old Abe's where about; they informed me there
was going to be a flag-raising at three o'clock and Lincoln would be there. You may be assured I was there too. A few minutes before three, the 12th Regiment
of New York marched in and formed a hollow square around the flag-staff, next came a company of Uncle Sam's Regulars who formed in two lines on each side
of the wall leading from the house. After all was ready Gen. Scott appeared upon the balcony accompanied by a goodly number of military officers, who
seemed to pay him a great deal of attention.
The old general is a very large man, looks very old
and walks lame, but made a very graceful bow when three times three cheers went up for him. Lincoln
made his appearance accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln, a number of other ladies,
Seward, the English minister, and a dozen more notables whose names I did not learn. As they marched down the walk, the United States Marine Band
played "Hail to the Chief, &c." After a prayer by the minister, Abe
hoisted the Stars and Stripes amid the cheers of the multitude and the roar of cannon.
The New York band played the "Star Spangled
Banner." I expected a speech, but nary a one. I must say Abe is rather homely, but he wears a very pleasant
face; I should say, an honest one, too. Seward is a great deal shorter than
Soldier Boy, G.E.S.
P.S. Do not be surprised if you hear of a fight in this region in less than
Letter from the "Sacred Soil"
Camp Peck, Va., 12th, 1861
This forenoon finding myself without any engagement on hand, I procured an introduction from an
M. C. to Gen. Mansfield for a pass to go from Washington to the "sacred soil" of the Old Dominion and within the federal lines on the
south of the Potomac. This introduction was presented to a clerk in a room opposite the war department, and after falling into line and waiting in turn
for something over an hour, I received a paper duly dated "Head Quarters, Military Department of Washington, July 12, 1861. Pass---over the bridges and
within the lines. By order of General Mansfield commanding" signed "Drake de
Kay, Aide de Camp." I am going to keep that paper for two purposes, first, for
the curiosity of the signature, which though plain enough and legible enough must have been written with the end of a chawed stick; and second to show that
in this year 1861, a citizen of the "Daughter of Virginia" had to obtain
permission of the General Government to visit one of the United States and
that the "Mother of States" Immediately below this ten line signature, my attention was directed by a
(hand) to turnover and over it went and I read "It is understood that the within named and subscriber accepts this pass on his word of honor that he is
and will be ever loyal to the United States; and if hereafter found in arms against the Union or in any way aiding her enemies the penalty will be death".
Well, I had accepted the pass and was now and ever had been loyal to the Union and had no idea of being found in arms against, much less of aiding her enemies,
so I scrawled my name under "the penalty of death" as nearly as I could write
it with a pen placed there for every body to write with and one which would write about as well as two needles tied together.
Thus armed and equipped, I marched up through Georgetown as far as the canal and crossed over on the toe-path because I had made up my mind to see all
which was to be seen and that could be best done on foot. Washington and Georgetown need no descriptions from me so they are left for the sacred soil
if there can be said to be any soil in this part of the State; where one of the Wisconsin Volunteers contemptuously struck the toe of his brogan in the
ground exclaiming "do you call this soil?" From the river to this place, a
distance of two miles, the geological formation is granite, red sand, clay, gravel drifted
upon granite. Wanting in line to make a soil for the production of the cereals; and what little was ever here has been exhausted in the production of tobacco
and the heavy rains of this region washing away the vegetable and lighter materials of the soil. But with proper manures it would be most admirably fitted
for grazing purposes, owing to the large supply of rain and the length of the summer. The manure required to make this the best of stock growing lands is
always near at hand and in abundance, in the form of lime rock and the oyster beds, and, better
still in the pits of marl and vegetable matter which has washed from the higher grounds waiting to be returned to again enrich the
lands from which they have been taken.
As it is this land lies here within the ten miles originally ceded to the United States and within two miles of where every pound of butter would bring
35 cents, and every bushel of potatoes a dollar, a waste and almost barren. And
its inhabitants seceding from the Union and incur the penalty of a military
occupation because they would continue the same cause in existence which has thus cursed their land.
This is the land from which they have forcibly driven every man, and the only men by whom this land could be redeemed from the curse of slavery, the men of
the Northern States.
But I set out to tell you of my trip to the Camp of the Wisconsin Volunteers and I have been betrayed into an episode upon the soil of the State of
Virginia and unless I return soon I shall never reach the camp.
From the Georgetown side of the river, the Stars and Stripes were visible over Fort Corcoran, which lies about a third of a mile from the river on Arlington
Heights. But before leaving the canal bridge, I was required to try the virtue of my magic pass, by the challenge of a soldier, and it worked to a charm.
Immediately after passing from the river, I fell into the trenches of the army now deserted except by the sentinels. Climbing over these and up the hill, I
entered the gate of the fort. This was laid out in military style, I suppose, a sand embankment of twenty feet thickness, made from a ditch of about a rod
wide and six feet deep, dug round the outside over the top of which, at its various angles, frowned twelve colunbiads, ready to send forth their
canister, grape or heavier shot, upon an advancing foe. This fort was full of men, Col. Corcoran still remaining there.
Leaving the Fort and within half a mile were the two parks of artillery from West Point, the Sherman and West Point battery. Though a portion of the men
were there, the horses were gone to their feed, and I could see no practice.
Both batteries were in the same field - it was a field before the fences were burnt up by the Grand army and had been plowed this year, now it is all beaten
Just beyond the batteries stands the house of a brother of Jackson, the assassin of Ellsworth, who has been compelled to take the oath of allegiance;
but on being discharged he made such threats that it was seemed safe to confine him to his house under guard. I caught a glimpse of this "secesh" as he
sat in the porch conversing with a lieutenant who had him in charge.
Half a mile from Jackson's house, I passed the 13th New York regiment in camp; and here found the first soldier of the 2d Wisconsin, a member of the Fox Lake
company, picking berries and a quarter further brought me to quarters of our own men; and to familiar faces and to mutual inquiries and explanations. But I
have stretched this so long, that further particulars must be postponed to another number and this is closed with saying all is well.
Letter from Second Regiment
July 12, 1861
Friend Cover: - The cost is now clear; all's well, and I must write you. We are all in good spirits to-day as we have had a refreshing shower. It has been
very warm for 3 or 4 days; in fact too warm to drill. The prospect to forward march within a day or two enlivens all. We have orders from head quarters to be
ready to sling our accoutrements at a moment's warning; thus you will hear soon that a rebel's nest is broken at Fairfax. It may be well for me to remark
that we have been strutting about for a day or two with our summer uniform; it is light and durable and is an addition to our comfort one hundred per cent.
It appears that Uncle Sam has taken some notice of us as he has placed General McDowell over our Brigade, and is making ready to pay us up in gold, (not
depreciated bills worth 50 or 60 cents on the dollar,) and too will soon give us the U.S. uniform. The uniform first received from Wisconsin is of no use to
us now or will not be at the words "forward march" for it is pronounced by
Gen. Scott himself as a facsimile uniform of the Confederate States Army.
We are within 12 miles of Fairfax where it is reported 4,000 rebels are fortified; yet some of our scouts are somewhat disbelieving. We are between
Prof. Lowe's balloons, which is a grand sight, and which we think represents the American Eagle to perfection, while he has a bird's eye view of the enemy.
The invalids of the Regiment were examined yesterday with a view to send home such as were not constitutionally able to stand the trip. Four of our
company were examined and pronounced sound. We want no exaggerations, such as we have received from home about us. Since we started no one has been
killed, no one mortally wounded and not a single fight, no, not even a fist fight, we
are peaceable here. Doubtless when we move we will be one Regiment among 10
as an advance guard, and should we meet a force of 40,000 remember our
Our good Captain understands his place as well as we could wish and thus our company moves off with even tenor with any of rest. Col Peck is spoken of by
the whole Regiment with praise; indeed we are all proud that we can have so gallant a man for our leader. Hoping that all my friends will consider
themselves indebted to me in Grant wishing all to write, address Company C, Second Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers,
Washington, D.C. care of J. D. Ruggles,
Yours truly, E. K. McCord.
Letter from a Member of Grant County Greys
We are permitted to publish the following letter from W.B. Reed of Capt. McKee's company:
Camp Peck, near Arlington Heights
Fairfax County, Va, July 14, 1861
Dear friends:- This is Sunday evening and I have just returned from dress parade taken off my accoutrements and coat and placed my gun in the corner of
the tent, with my belt and catridge box hung over the muzzle, right where I can lay my hand upon them at any hour of the night. Our parade always comes off
every evening in the week and since we have been here, we have had our regular battalion and other drills upon the Sabbath, about the same as other days.
Last evening orders were published at parade which indicate that we are to march toward Manassas in a day or two at the farthest. The orders were
relative to our baggage and rations; we are to carry with us our blankets which are rolled into long close rolls and slung over our shoulders. Our knapsacks which must not weight more than ten lbs, are to be either sent to
Alexandria or left here with our tents with a guard of one hundred men. The cooks must be ready to cook three day's rations whenever the order is given.
In fact this whole army is like a train of cars with the passengers all seated with full steam up in the engine, the machinery oiled and the whole ready to
thunder forward at a slight movement by the engineer. Our engineer is Gen. Winfield Scott; he has been laying his plans for months and now it is evident
that he is about to strike the blow and the rebels must either fight with certain defeat staring them in the face or ignominiously run. If they make a
determined stand at Manassas where it is said that they have extensive
fortifications and a force of about eighty thousand men, the battle will necessarily be a bloody one. The result of this battle can hardly be
questioned as we have a much superior force, and it will probably be approached from three sides at once with three large armies. A few days ago we sway a balloon
over one of the regiments which is three or four miles in advance of us and apparently at the height of about two hundred feet; it remained but a short
time, when it again descended to the earth.
Our regiment is unusually healthy now; when we first came here the men were a good deal troubled with dysentery, but now we have become more used to the
climate and water and but few are complaining. I think it is very remarkable that our regiment has not lost a man either by disease or in any other manner
since I enlisted; I don't know that any had died before. The young man who was so severely injured near Harrisburg has since recovered and a few day's ago
rejoined the regiment. My health is excellent; in fact I never felt better in my life. The other Lancaster boys are will I believe.
I must hurry to finish this as soon as possible for the roll has already been called and I am expecting every moment to hear the drum tap for lights out.
Our mail carrier starts for Washington about 6 o'clock in the morning.
Patriot Army Correspondence
Washington, July 15th, 1861
"The work goes bravely on" Our army is winning new glories on the battle-field. Congress is voting more men and money than the President called
for and that too with a promptness and unanimity approaching the sublime.
Public confidence is every where being restored. The stocks of Southern States are on the rise, buoyed up by the popular belief that the States issuing them
will be saved to the American Union by speedily returning to their allegiance to the Constitution and the laws. Under the exigencies of the times what more
could a true patriot desire? Nothing, unless it be the hanging of the traitors and the confiscation of their estates.
Yesterday an advance movement was made into Virginia from this city under the leadership of Brig. Gen. King, Minister to Rome, &c.
In the ranks were Senators Howe and Doolittle, Representatives Hanchett and Potter, Attorney General Howe, Bank Comptroller Van
Steinwyk, P.H. Smith, E.W. Keyes, Hon. Walter D. McIndoe, and numerous other distinguished
gentleman from Illinois and Wisconsin - with them also went your correspondent.
The column was provided with rations for one day only. It is needless to add
that our expedition was eminently successful. We captured our first prisoner on
the Government ferry boat, crossing the Potomac. It was no less a personage
than the "crazy parson" whose brilliant exploits on a Sabbath morning not a
thousand miles from Milwaukee astonished the Christian people of that city, When confronted by his captors, he discoursed about as follows: "I am Chaplain
of the 2d Reg. Wis. Vol. I am going out to preach in camp but I am afraid you big men going there will drive God out of camp - now you must not do that. I
must keep God in there, and so he continued to rattle away - I do not care to
record any more. We administered to him the oath in a manner peculiar at least
to one of our company and let him go.
We found the 2d Regiment in "good condition" - the men were busy getting ready
four days rations and expecting every moment to be ordered forward. The sick list has diminished rapidly. Again I enjoyed the hospitality of Surgeon
Lewis - he is the right man in the right place; "may his shadow never grow
Finding the camp of the Badgers "all right" we concluded to visit some points
of interest before our return. We visited the camp of the N.Y. 8th, on the estate of the late George Washington Parke Custis and now owned by Gen. Lee,
of the Rebel Army. The Traitor Lee was, at the time of his desertion, Aide to General Scott. His wife was the only daughter of Mr. Custis and through her
this recreant son of Virginia obtained this beautiful estate. It is now the headquarters of Gen. McDowell. The rascal and his family left in so much haste
that the house and all its appointments were undisturbed by them on their departure.
Every thing remains in about the same condition now. The house in its front view with its heavy stone columns not a little resembles the old Capitol
building in your city. Its location on Arlington Heights is very fine and commands a full view of the city and all its surroundings. Immediately in
front and between it and the river, is a wide stretch of meadow land dotted over with beautiful groves and in a high state of improvement; at the base
the broad Potomac sweeps majestically by. In the rear of the old mansion a deep shady grove with running brooks coursing through it, extends back some
distance into the country. It is in this grove that the sons of New York have pitched their white
tents. Soon may they strike them for the morning march.
The soldiers have done much to beautify and adorn their camp. They seem fully to appreciate the natural beauty of their location and to have whiled away the
idle hours of camp life in adding many little adornments to the grounds which contrasts so pleasantly with the wildness of nature. I never visited a spot,
that with all its surroundings appeared to me so grand and beautiful as this - my poor
pen utterly fails to do it justice. Is it not strange that one who was in the possession of this favored spot, gifted with talents of no common order,
high in the confidence of one of the greatest Generals of the age, and with a brilliant future before him, could desert his country in the hour of its greatest
peril and prove false to its time honored flag?
But he has done it. His name shall be black with infamy, and he shall meet the traitor's doom. This man seemed to enjoy the confidence of Gen. Scott to the
last. It was not until the rebellion had assumed formidable dimensions in Virginia that he deserted. From his course, it would seem that he was one
"whose base and ignoble blood has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood."
From this point we passed several extensive fortifications to Long Bridge and then home.-
If you ever visit Washington you had better bring your horse and buggy along.
Packmen are extortionate in their demands. If you once get into a hack it is doubtful if you get out with money enough to pay your bills. The city is full
of army contractors and applicants for good fat army contracts. As the savage and bloodthirsty
succeeds the swarms of the mild humming fly of early summer, so have the hordes of hungry jobbing contractors succeeded the crowds
of office seekers in the streets and in the public departments of Washington.-
The Second Wisconsin Regiment
Another letter from Klio
Washington, D.C., July 18, 1861
In my last dated at Camp Peck, I said of Wisconsin
Volunteers, "All is well" So it was, as far as the change of country, from a country watered with lime
water to where the springs are as soft as the rains of heaven, would permit to men who have no knowledge of the laws of health and if they had cannot live
with them. When I found myself in camp I was once taken possession of by the men and to try a day in camp. This I did readily, because I desired to see the
evening drill and also what was the fare of the active soldier.
There had been a large fall of rain within a few days and the men had kept the water from running under their tents by means of a ditch. They are encamped in
an old field that is in ground which has once been cultivated but is now grown up to black pines as the men of Wisconsin call them. They are all
recovering from the effects of the water by a free use of blackberries which they gather and buy in their neighborhood.
They spoke with regret of Camp Randall and its fare, hard as they then thought it was, and longed again for its onions. Here they are confined to
bread and meat exclusively and not too much of that and, what there is, cooked by them selves in such vessels as they have. At one period of my life I had
some experience in camp life in the woods and from that experience I have to say that the camp equipage is deficient in a very important article. They have
no Frying pans. Salt beef should be boiled but pork and ham should be fried.
With the frying pans the men cook their pork in less then one half the time it can be boiled and as they are furnished no butter, the gravy of the meat is an
excellent substitute and all is saved, so much that I have no hesitancy in asserting that pork and ham cooked in the frying pan will go at least one half
further and give better satisfaction when cooked in the frying pan than when boiled; and then, from the utility with which it can be used, the camper will
never eat a cold meal. Some other article could be dispensed with for the purpose of having the pan. The men should all be instructed in take art of
cooking before or immediately after coming into actual service, as there are so many little articles of what, to the encamped solider, would be a luxury which
might be made from what he now absolutely throws away. All could and ought to be saved, as it now is, inexperienced men undertake the work of cooking and the
food is prepared in an unpalatable manner, and is refused and wasted, all owing more to the manner of cooking than the kind of provision. The soldier becomes
discontented; and wanting proper nutriment he becomes careless of his person and clothing, if not of his health, and resorts to "rifle whiskey" an article
which will kill more soldiers than rifle cannon, before this contest is over.
I am convinced that the prospect of a battle, strange as it may seem, serves to keep the volunteers in camp more than military discipline- all are eager to
meet an actual engagement; and if there be discontent in the 2d Wisconsin regiment, it is that being within six miles of Fairfax Court
House, they are not permitted to go to it, or at least to be placed on the front line.
I spoke of their tents, they are as good as any in the service. Of this I had personal experience on the night I was with them. Although it rained hard for
two hours, yet there was no leaking at all, and I suffered no inconvenience beyond the coolness created by the evaporation. This was so great that the men
require all the clothing they have to keep them comfortable during the night.
Their rubber blankets answer the double purpose of protecting them from the dampness of the ground on which they sleep and from the rains when up and I
must say they have no article more necessary for their comfort and health.
Col. Coon has been assigned to the staff of Gen. Sherman, and the command of the regiment is in the hands of Lieut. Col. Peck. Nat Rollins is acting
Adjutant and as Capt. Randolph was sick, the command of the Randall Guards was with Lieut. Meredith.
Yesterday about 6,000 men crossed the long bridge into Virginia and it is supposed that a descent will be made upon the enemy at Manassas by to-day, or
to-morrow at the farthest. Gen. Scott seems to have got ready new, and McClellan and Patterson are moving,
McDowell must move also or the game will not be played, a junction will be formed at Manassas.
On the 15th of July, the regiment received marching orders to
prepare three days cooked rations, with the knowledge that the order meant business.
The boys entered into it quite heartily, directions being given each man to discard all
surplus articles of wearing apparel. The blankets to be rolled lengthwise and carried
across the shoulders. All tents to remain standing and baggage left at camp in fact. Light
marching orders was the word; at 1 oclock P.M. that day found them on the Fairfax
road taking position in Shermans Brigade and Tylers Division, Marching 12
miles to Vienna where we camped for the night.
Early the next morning we resumed the march
when we bivouacked at Centerville, marched eight miles, a nights rest and on the
morning of the 18th we halt for further orders.
Every man now scents the battle from afar. At noon the brigade is ordered up to
support the troops and engage with the enemy at Blackburn Ford on the Famous Creek known
as Bull Run. We go forward at a double quick for more than three miles, a hot sun pouring
down; finally take up position on Warrenton Pike, bivouac in line of battle three
days distance, march ten miles.
On the 20th orders received to prepare ten
days rations, provisions to the commencement of this campaign. The army, 45,000
strong under McDowell, was in five divisions.
Battle "Bull's Run"