1861 September, The Second Wisconsin
To join our future comrades we struck tents across the Potomac on Aqueduct bridge and Maridian Hill near Washington City, marching five miles; here we remain until September 3rd, when in the evening the long roll beats and we fall in and march rapidly through Georgetown up the Potomac to Chain Bridge, seven miles.
September 4, 1861, the Second and Fifth Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana Regiments were temporarily detached from Kings Brigade and assigned to Brig.-Gen. Wm. F. Smithers command, and immediately crossing the river his division occupying a command in position, covering the approaches of Chain Bridge, distance marched, three miles.
Cornelius Wheelers diaries
....of drill and soldierly bearing highly creditable to both officers and men. For three days previous to the Review at Bailey's Cross Roads, they marched out to the review ground, a distance of six miles, and went through the drill. Accustoming themselves to the part, they were in the greatest assembling of armed men the Western continent ever witnessed and it is stated that were highly complimented by Gen. McClellan for their soldierly bearing, being the only regiment that observed strict discipline and military etiquette while passing the General. Other regiments it is stated shouted, sang, threw and made many other extravagant demonstrations but not a man of the 2d turned his head until the order to present arms was given and their conduct elicited special praise from the Washington papers.
A Soldier's Life in the 2nd Regiment
L.E.A. has the utmost confidence in the superiority of the 2nd regiment and the Randall Guards in particular. Hear Him:
"We have slept on the ground every night and it has rained every other night but we don't care for that, we are tough and can whip more Secesh than any other regiment in the army. We have done more picket duty than any other company in the regiment in the army, but we don't care for that; for when we have the Captain at our head we can climb the Missouri or swim the Allegheny Mountains. But to return, we are in tip-top fighting order and all Anxious for a fight and all we want to make our company complete is your presence.
E.R.C. after speaking of the present location and condition of the regiment writes in the
S.E.S. among other things says: "Hard crackers are getting to be a great delicacy in this God forsaken land of Virginia, especially for the ragged Second, as the fighting Fifth calls us; but we will show them how to put on style when we get our new clothes. We are having some of the best times out on picket you ever saw.
H.A.S. writes thus: I am enjoying the best of health and better spirits. I have not been sick since I enlisted. The boys are all in good spirits and eager for a fight.
J.R.B. writes quite a long letter giving the scenes since the Bull Run affair. We make the following abstracts.
"Although we have war in the land yet we have had during the past week more rumors of war than anything else. About midnight every night some of our pickets will imagine they see a rebel army creeping through the shadowy bushes, and the result is that some fated stump or pig or cow tastes lead or at least gunpowder; but sometimes good luck makes it a rebel so the long roll beats, then turns out boys quick.
J.H.C. says: "The boys all long for another fight with Old Secesh. I was
R.F.B. says: "Give my best wishes to all the friends of freedom in Madison. Stir up the boys, so that Wisconsin may fill up her regiments without drafting. I received a letter from my brother yesterday. Good for him - he has enlisted."
J.D. writes: "Secesh are getting bold, but we will soon give them a lesson they will not forget. McClellan is the boy that suits me. There is fire in his eye, and I think he will give them fits."
B.M. expresses himself thus: "We have finally got settled down in old Virginia once more and are ready to give the cowardly traitors what they deserve. We got our pay yesterday and you had better believe we will not eat any sheet iron crackers for awhile."
F.W. waxes warm as follows: "We expect to whip the rebels before long. I don't think it will be another Bull Run. I know it will not as long as there is a Wisconsin boy left to hold up that glorious old flag for which our forefathers have fought and bled that this land night be free and their children have a home. Shall a mess of bigoted Southerners upset this glorious Union, which has stood so firm so long a time? Never! They shall quail before us like cowards and yelp like young pups!"
H.R.M. speaks thus confidently: "The Secesh are not far off. We will have a warm time here soon; but we will clean them out."
N.R. writes that John Grover of Co.H, was accidentally shot in the thigh on evening of the 16th; the wound was a bad one and he has been sent to the Georgetown Hospital.
T.B. expresses a great desire to see the Lieut back and says: "The boys are all in good spirits, and are all ready for another fight."
J.W. discourses thus; "Good health and excellent spirits prevail throughout the regiment and we are more anxious than ever not to have another Bull Run affair but to drive the enemy from Bull Run in more disorder than they did us. The 5th and 6th regiments think that we are wonderful hard cases and style us the rowdy Second. They sometimes call us the Ragged Second as we still wear our old State clothes and they are dressed up in their Regular U.S. uniforms. But let them go on with their abuse, our new clothes are now received and though they may call us rowdies, we will show them that we can do our duty."
S.W.D.says: "We have what we call a dress parade every night about two o'clock, caused by picket firing.
J.M.E. gives the following account of things: "You will see by the heading of this that we are again on the sacred soil of Virginia. We have had some good times since you left and also some pretty tough ones. When we first crossed chain bridge it seems like a perfect wilderness and now we have a Fort as large as Fort Corcoran and another one containing four or five acres besides about ten or twenty thousand men. There is not much prospect of a fight just at present, but we never know anything about it until we are within hearing of the enemy's guns. We have either been working on the Fort or on picket duty every day since we have been over here. I have been on sight of the rebel pickets."
H.C.A. writes a long letter, giving full particulars of events since the Bull run affair most of which are familiar to our readers He says: "We are all well or nearly all, as there are but three or four sick. Capt. Randolph and Lieut. Rollins, are well, and seem to be in good spirits; in fact all the Company are in good spirits; in fact all the Company are in good spirits - especially to-day as we got paid off. We are but a short distance from the enemy and have an alarm almost every night"
J.H.S. writes thus: "We are now in a low green valley on the old Virginia shore in daily anticipation of a call from Lord Jeff, and in view of this we have been under arms almost without cessation since we crossed the Potomac. We are all, I think, if possible, more anxious to meet Secesh than we were previous to the Bull Run. We are on picket duty nearly all the time and that suits us, for the peaches are not all gone yet, and green corn and potatoes are quite plenty, and we live well."
J.E.N. writes thus: "You are aware that we have a new Lieut. Colonel. I suppose you are well acquainted with him. He attends to his regular business--up and dressed every time, and we believe when the time comes to try his mettle, he will stand fire.
W.S.C. writes: "We have to do some scouting once in a while to take a look at our neighbors 'Secesh. We like to look at them once in a while, but we would like to shoot at them better."
D.M.B. says: "We have got out tents on this side of the river, and have got settled. We are enjoying ourselves first rate and to make us feel happy we have got our pay, but a few of the boys had got in debt $12 or $13 to the sutlers and they did not care much about seeing him."
E.H. speaks thus kindly of Lieut. Meredith. All the letters express great sympathy for that officer, and a strong desire to see him back with them. We copy this as a fair specimen of the good feeling for the lieutenant, that pervades the entire lot of letters: "We are now pleasantly and comfortably in camp at present and in good spirits; and we are all very anxious to see your phix once more, I have been afraid you would not be able to join our company again. I hope your arm is getting better. I know that if we could we would any of us relieve you from pain and bear it cheerfully. When I speak of myself, I speak of the company; they are all perfectly crazy to have you back again. I do not think there is any prospect of a battle at present. We have erected a pretty substantial fort on the hill in advance of Chain Bridge. I hope to see you back in time to lead us into the next battle, when I hope we will have a glorious victory. I wonder what kind of name the Second has in Madison. We have a very good one in adjoining regiments with the exception of the Fifth, which calls us the ragged Second. We played a good joke on them the other day. We took a private and dressed him so as to resemble a Secesh as much as possible and then made believe he was a prisoner and let him go near the camp of the 5th. There was a scattering for him, I can tell you, but when they discovered the cheat they looked rather cheap"
J.K. goes off in the following style: "We are a hard looking set of boys at present - dirty ragged pants is our uniform; but the material inside of them is as good as it ever was. We are pretty close to Old "Secesh," and have to get out of bed in a hurry sometimes in the rain. The boys are all in good spirits and want to pitching Old Secesh."
H.C.W. gives the realities of a soldier's life thus: "We have been trying some of the realities of soldiering the past week - working on for days and sleeping in the open air-nights; but we are good for all such things. Our company goes out on picket this afternoon. This picketing is a grand old business; for there is lots of green corn and sweet potatoes where we go and the Second knows how to get them."
L.O.I. gives some idea of what they are doing: Since we left camp Kalorama, we have had no tents but had to sleep in some brush huts which we have made. We have been at work on a fort which we call Fort Smith and it is now finished so that I think the rebels will meet a warm reception if they come within range of the thirty-two pounders that are pointed in every direction. I will also tell you that it is a general thing to be called out in the night and stand in line of battle for two or three hours because the pickets are firing nearly the whole night. A couple of nights since we had to stand out in the rain until we were wet entirely through. We did not feel well the next morning but we are all right now for yesterday we got our tents and were paid off so that we have everything we want except our new clothes; and we think we shall have them in a few days so the 5th and 6th will have no cause for calling us the "ragged Second."
Prison life in Richmond
The Tobacco Houses -
Experience of 1,500 Union Prisoners in Them during the Past Nine Mouths - An Authentic and interesting Narrative.
Lieut. J.M. Grumman of the Brooklyn Fourteenth Regiment has given us most of the material on which the following abstract is founded. We know the Lieutenant and we know his authority to be reliable, He was taken prisoner when acting as officer of a detachment of pickets at Falls Church Virginia on the 18th of November last; and from that time to the present has had his experiences in the Richmond tobacco warehouse life. There are now so many of such War prisoners that by a change of names and a slight alteration the following account might stand for scores of other cases.
How they were taken
On To Richmond
On their way, as they neared Manassas, they were saluted by some of the rebels with such speeches as "Yanks, there's Bull Run! Did you ever hear of Bull Run, Yanks?" A secession flag was also brought out and the bearer of it planted himself close along the road so that the prisoners would have to pass in its shadow. Lieut. G. pulled out his handkerchief and fiercely blew his nose as a salutation to the fluttering ensign.
At Manassas the men were placed in the common guard-house among the rebels. At day light
the next morning, one of the Union prisoners found his pocket cut and the contents gone;
another had his watch stolen and another was minus his overcoat.
The Prison Buildings
The rooms were generally the whole width and depth of the building. Through the middle of a room would be a row of tobacco presses and fixings making a sort of semi partition . In the officers prison there was water and closet partitioned off at the end.
The officers were kept rigidly confined in their prison most of them never being allowed to go out in the open air at all. All this was not so bad; however as the special case of the condition of Col. Wood of the Fourteenth Brooklyn regiment. He was sent to the county Jail as a hostage and was kept there three months among felons, Negroes &c. altogether a disgrace and scandal to even the secession authorities.
They appear to have become conscious of it themselves; for about three weeks ago they changed his quarters and, as all are aware, the Colonel is now released and home at the North.
A Day's Routine
Life was quite monotonous. The two meals of the day, reading the papers, a few minutes down in the yard, songs, carving rings or toys, listening to some yarn spinner &c. were about all that could be called in requisition to make the weary days pass along.
The nights were the longest sometime as if by common consent everything would subside and while they sat around the fires after the lights were put out each would appear to busy himself with the silent musings of his own heart. But these quiet hours were not frequent.
All winter the men have only been allowed two meals a day. The afternoon meal, or dinner, consisted of soup with rice &c. and half of a small loaf of bread. The meal the next morning for breakfast would be the beef cold from the previous day's soup and another half loaf of bread.
This diet continued throughout without any variation. Coffee was unknown and tea was very
rare, Potatoes and other vegetables could had by those with money.
Number of Prisoners
They formed, partly for amusement and partly for a police among themselves, a "Prison Association," with regular officers, constables, &c. The seal of this Association was ingeniously and appropriately designed of a ring of lice chasing each other around with the motto, "Bite and be d-d!" Congressman Ely from his rank was elected President of this Society.
At 9.5 o'clock, the lights were withdrawn from the men's prisons and the gas turned off from that of the officers. Then they would gather around the stove, (they had plenty of fuel,) and often pass away hour after hour in singing "America" the "Star-Spangled Banner," and "Fight for the Union," and in telling stories and sometimes in religion, exercises, hymns, &c.
In the officers' prison, among other good fellows, was a gentleman named Isaac W. Hart, (Old Hart,) Quartermaster of the Twentieth Indiana Regiment who did a good deal to make Richmond prison life endurable, with his cheerfulness, and singing a song composed by himself to inspire his fellow prisoners. While they were all sitting there around the stove, perhaps, thinking of home by the dim light of the fire if nothing else was offered, Mr. Hart would strike up his song, and sing verse after verse and all the prisoners would come in strong on the chorus:
"Roll on roll on sweet moments roll on,
Shot at the Windows
The infamous Captain Todd
Rebel arms and appearance
All the talk of the Richmond and other Southern papers about the high-strung readiness of the Southern solders to dare wounds, starvation and death for the protection of their homes and liberties appears to be sheer nonsense as applied in the rank and file of the great body of whom it is plain that they are dull, slow, ignorant and without any spirit of their own to push them into the contest. Of course, there are a few who are fierce and determined enough but they are exceptional cases. The great body of the soldiers are more than sluggish - they are the roughly callous and impassive about the war.
They can hardly be said to have any uniform to any regiment; their clothes are poor and the same regiment has every variety of rig. There is no military esprit among the men. The sentinels never salute the officers when the latter pass.
They have little idea of obedience or decorum and dissipate at once all notion of their fighting "to the death" against the National Government or indeed fighting at all any longer than compelled by the false stimulus of the secession leaders.
When the prisoners had any money forwarded to them in gold or treasury notes of Northern backed bills, they would generally exchange it for these shinplasters. We have, as we write this, just been looking at quite a stock of the stuff which one of the released men had on hand last Thursday when the order came for the prisoners to be given up and sent down to Chesapeake Bay. As he had no further use for it to make purchases in Richmond, he kept it and brought it home for curiosity.
Bright and early were they all up the next morning the 19th. In the dusk of the morning, at 5 o'clock, they were marched down in squads to the Richmond wharf, 380 men and 20 officers; and there under charge of four Secesh deputies they went on board the Southern tug William Alison and started about 8 o'clock down the James River - for home.
They came down the river within ten miles of Newport News but here they were unfortunately detained all the rest of the day and all night, the men crowed and sleeping doubled together like slaves in the middle passage. Many, however, were too happy to sleep. They sang exuberant songs and hymns all the night long; dwelling on the patriotic allusions with emphasis. But early on the morning of the 20th (and a joyous celebration of the day it made for them) the hired national boat Express, with the Stars and Stripes flying over her, arrived and took them off. It was worth going a couple of hundred miles to see the sight that was presented when the unbent soldiers first caught the look of the flag and it drew closer and closer to them. Such cheering, such joy and many a manly tear that could not be suppressed; and then to raise them to the highest, all of a sudden, when they got aboard the Express and started off down the Chesapeake, a fine military band that had been sent up by one of the regiments drummed and blared out with great energy the tune of Yankee Doodle!
At 10 o'clock that forenoon (20th) they all arrived safe and sound under the massive defenses of Fort Monroe - 400 happy liberated souls!
How A Wisconsin Boy became a
Lieutenant in the Regular Army-
From the Second Regiment-
From the Second Regiment
War news is contraband. It is death to go babbling to you what the army is doing when it is going to move and what point it will strike at first. So if you may excuse me from making any such exposure of my body on that account.
As to the number of troops in and about Washington I suppose there is no harm telling that so I will put the number down as "slathers" -in other words there are "slathers" of them. Camps rise up here there and everywhere by night and by day and more troops are coming all the time.
A day since, 210,000 loaves of bread were issued by the commissary Department as one day's
rations for the troops in this immediate vicinity. Each soldier gets a loaf, and
if that doesn't
make "slathers" I don't know what does.
There are funny looking creatures with their faces closely shaved, their hair closely cropped and head covered with a red turban.
The dress is red white and yellow, green and grizzly and every other color and the pants look like a bag with a hole cut in the bottom through which both feet are stuck. By looking at them I can imagine something about ladies running gear, and that is about all. They are lively as crickets, fly around, swing their arms as if they were pendulums to clocks with springs broken, smoke in the ranks when drilling and pay no attention to drill whatever; nearly all saw service in the Crimean war and, as they are Frenchmen, will no doubt fight better than they drill and be a strong arm of whatever brigade they are attached to"
Editors Journal: -My promise to keep you informed of the doings of our Regiment I fear has not been well fulfilled but you know enough of us to know the reason. About ten days ago we were ordered to move our camp from Fort Corcoran and cross the river and join Gen. King's Brigade. It seemed to us like another of our many misfortunes to leave the "sacred river" for we had been there since the battle of Manassas and unlike many other regiment had staid there when things looked the darkest. Our stay however at our new camp was a short one for on Tuesday night last we received orders to leave our tents and baggage and proceed at once in light marching order to Chain Bridge where an attack was anticipated before morning; it did not come and we enjoyed a refreshing sleep in the rain for three hours. All day we were under arms and at night crossed the bridge once more into Virginia and bivouacked in a ravine about 1.5 miles from the river.
There is a large force about here of infantry and artillery and entrenchment's are being hastily thrown up as an attack is hourly expected on our position. Near us is the 5th Wisconsin, two Vermont Regiments, one from Maine, two from New York and Col. Baker's California Regiment. Not withstanding our large force not a tent is to be seen and all of our principal movements are made at night.
Something great is going on and none but our general officers seem to manage this time. The
utmost confidence is placed in Gen. McClellan by all and he can often be seen riding,
with his body guard bar behind, along our line.
A Californian tears open letters, throws away the envelope, devours the contents and says nothing. A soldier of our regiment, after reading his letter, talks of the price of wheat, the new regiments at home and who may be our new Colonel. Wisconsin soldiers stand well in the estimation of all here and I have been amused to hear our boys tell the ragged Pennsylvania soldiers what our State had done for us and the interest our Governor took in our welfare. Our Governor is always represented as a fighting man and one fellow wondered if he looked anything like Hoeman.
I have just had an improvement added to my brush tent - two rails and a gatepost for a floor which is considered very aristocratic here.
I have just been notified to take my company and report to the field officer of the day to go on picket so I must have to close. Before you receive this perhaps there will have been a battle and we all hope that if we have a victory it will be such a one that it will not take two columns of a journal to prove it a success.
You desired me to make a minute examination of the ground , and be ready to report when you should return, at three o'clock P.M. of that day. Accordingly, after dinner, I passed along the line until I reached the extreme outpost on the right, which consisted of Lieut. Dodge, Corp. Manderson, and three privates, and then proceeded along over very rough and densely wooded ground to the river. I soon ascertained that these physical obstacles were so great that no body of troops could, in this direction, turn our right flank and there was no necessity of extending our pickets. I then concluded to return; and for the purpose of avoiding the dense undergrowth, I turned back on a line about a hundred rods in advance on the direction of our line of pickets. As I was passing through a thicket, I was surrounded by six rebel soldiers - four infantry and two cavalry. The footmen were badly dressed and poorly armed. Seeing I was caught, I thought it best to surrender at once. So I said, "Gentlemen, you have me." I was asked various questions as to who I was, where I was going, what regiment I belonged to, &c., all of which I refused to answer. One of the footmen said, "Let's hang the d---d Yankee scoundrel," and pointed to a convenient limb. Another man said, "No, let's take him to the camp, and then hang him.' One of the cavalrymen, who seemed to be the leader, said, 'We'll take him to camp.' They then marched me through an open place - two in front, two in the rear, and a cavalryman on each side of me. I was armed with two revolvers and my sword.
After going some twenty rods the Sergeant on my right , noticing my pistols, ordered me to give them up, together with my sword. I said, 'Certainly, gentlemen,' and immediately halted. As I stopped, they all fled past me, and of course, were in front. We were at this time in an open part of the woods, but about sixty yards to the rear was a thicket of undergrowth. Thus everything was in my favor; I was quick of foot, and a passable shot; yet the design of escape was not formed until I brought my pistol pouches round to the front part of my body, and my hands touched the stocks. The grasping of the pistols suggested the thought of cocking them as I drew them out. This I did; and the moment I got command of them, I shot down two footmen nearest me - about sixty feet off - one with each hand. I immediately turned and ran towards the thicket in the rear. The confusion of my captors was apparently so great, that I had nearly reached cover before shots were fired at me. One ball passed through my left cheek, passing out of my mouth. Another one, a musket ball, passed through my canteen. Immediately upon this volley, the two cavalrymen separated - one on my left and the other on my right - to cut off my retreat. The remaining two footmen charged directly towards me; I turned, when the horsemen got up, and fired three or four shots, but the balls flew wild. I ran on, got over a small knoll, and nearly regained one of our pickets, when I was headed off by both the mounted men. The Sergeant called out to me to halt and surrender; I gave no reply, but fired and ran in the opposite direction. He pursued and overtook me; I turned, took good aim, pulled the trigger, but the cap snapped. At this time his carbine was unslung, and he was holding it with both hands on the left side of his horse. He fired at my breast without raising the piece to his shoulder, and the shot passed from the right side of my coat, through it and my shirt, to the left, just grazing the skin; the piece was so near as to burn the cloth out the size of one's hand. I was, however, uninjured at this time, save the shot through my cheek. I then fired at him again, and brought him to the ground, hanging by his foot in the left stirrup, and the horse galloping towards the camp. I saw no more of the other horseman, nor of the footmen, but running on soon came to our own pickets uninjured, save the shot through my cheek, but otherwise much exhausted from my exertions."