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1862 June, The Second Wisconsin

From the 2d Regiment

General Augur’s brigade take the cars for Fort Royal in the valley, and there is talk that a whole division will follow to support General Banks, for which purpose we lay at the point until June 2nd, when General King’s division march by way of Greenwich to Haymarket under a scorching hot sun, and the men straggle badly; camp at sunset, distance 12 miles. 

June 3rd, rained in torrents all night. We are nearly drowned out , blankets, clothing all wet as water can make them; continues raining until the 5th. The division is here concentrated.

June 6th, at an early hour, we march out on the Warrenton pike and on through New Baltimore and camp, distance 13 miles. The Iron Brigade is now playing a game of hide and seek, making short and rapid marches back and forth over a strip of country for the sole purpose of keeping the enemy from slipping into Washington; at the same time the enemy scarcely keeps up in appearance, if anything he is playing with us about here and there as a kind of ruse, which has more or less of Confederate smartness in its makeup. We are not in the secret of the part we are expected to play, we take to the work right humbly and view the country around Warrenton with a relish that defies competition.

June 7, 1862 , found the brigade quiet in camp near the beautiful little town of Warrenton, the capital of Fauquier County, Virginia. The town consists of a handsome court house, a jail, a town hall, four churches, two academies (one for male and one for female), several stores, two hotels, two printing offices and, previous to the beginning of the war, 2,000 inhabitants. Here the women folk were somewhat haughty and arrogant at us Lincoln chaps, and seemed to delight in taunting those of the soldiers who stood guard over Gov. Smith’s residence.
Many of the Iron Brigade will remember the free bath they received by the ladies then in charge of the governor’s residence. 

June 8th opened with a fine summer morning, many of the boys going to the Episcopal Church to hear a sermon by the resident rector, but before the text was read marching orders were received, services were abruptly broken up and each soldier repaired to his regiment. After a march of ten miles go into camp at Warrenton Junction.

June 9th brings to Elk Run, ten miles distant. 

On the 10th we make ten miles under a heavy rain, camping to the right near Harwood Church. 

On the 11th we reach Fredericksburg, after a march of 10 miles, and go into camp on the Lacy farm opposite the end of the city. Here orders were given to make ourselves comfortable, and we take advantage of the privileged and proceed to enjoy the short respite from a great deal of marching over pike roads. Previous to the war this Fredericksburg had a population of about 6,000 people. 

June 13th, Second and a section of Battery L, First N. Y. Artillery and a squadron of cavalry cross the river to reconnoiter immediately southwest of the city, a distance of seven miles over the telegraph road, returning to camp without so much being permitted as to exchange the usual morning salutations with our enemies.

Cornelius Wheeler’s diary

June 9 

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Camp Five Miles south of Catlett's  Station
June 9th, 1862

Dear Sentinel:- while McClellan was Driving the rebels from the Peninsula and Halleck was weaving a web around Corinth, stranger would have supposed from the quietude that reigned on the banks of the Rappahannock, the drills and parades, the reviews and inspections that McDowell was forming a camp of instruction. The in-coming of "contrabands," deserters, and flags of truce relieved us of the ennui and monotony of camp life and told us that the terrible God of war still ruled the fair valley beneath us. All were impatient for the word to advance and began to doubt that it would ever be given. The song:

Our flag shall wave to the Rio Grande,
and treason shall go down!

that was sung with such enthusiasm on our march was heard no more. We hear that Gen. McClellan has crossed the Chickahominy but still no signs of moving.-
Vague rumors are floating about of our being reinforced. It is said we are waiting until the bridge shall be finished. The meanwhile our new Brig. General, Gibbons, a North Carolinian, and an experienced officer of the regular Army, late of the Gibbons'  Battery, is issuing new orders, and furbishing up old ones. He reviews each regiment of the brigade separately. Of  the "Second" he said, "I never saw better marching and never wish to, the faults are so slight that I have already forgotten them." He paid a well merited compliment to our gallant Lieut. Col. Fairchild, and praised the line officers for the efficiency displayed in their respective companies.
Pay day comes as usual and our epicures, Bacchanalias and grumblers are once more in high spirits. On Friday, the 23rd day of May, Gen. King's division was reviewed by the President. Sec. Chase was also there.
The Western brigade: the physique of the men , their soldierly bearing excited the comments and the admiration of all the spectators. Companies D and F are detailed to build block-houses &c.
We had heard that Gen. Shields was to reinforce us at this review; we saw the brave Irishman, his arm still in a sling. - The bridge is completed but still no indications of moving. Such is a brief resume of our sayings and doings in camp opposite Fredericksburg for nearly three weeks. - On Sunday, the 25th of May rumors were abroad that Gen. Banks was defeated, Washington threatened, and Shields was to fall back.
Your correspondent was one of those detailed for division guard. On arriving at Gen. Shields' headquarters, the brigade was ordered to prepare to march; at eight o'clock they were off via Falmouth. Our regiment had also orders to march; there were countermanded. But again at twelve o'clock orders came; again at twelve o'clock orders came; we were ignorant of the route but in about an hour we saw regiments filing over the hills south of Fredericksburg. After marching about eight miles they encamped, Companies A and B doing picket duty during the three days of their stays.
At Fredericksburg I had opportunities of seeing the genuine secesh. The women, for I cannot call them ladies- were especially delighted in displaying their sentiments, though not so bitter as on our first arrival - closely veiled, with head erect and taking insolent care lest their dresses should touch the uniform of a Federal soldier. It is one of the oldest cities in Virginia; its streets are shaded with a avenues of magnificent trees, where one could sit and luxuriate in the soft Southern breezes through the whole day. Many memorials of the early history of our country are found here. The Masonic Lodge, containing the records of Washington's initiation into the mystic brotherhood, an old dilapidated frame house is shown you, in which Mrs. Washington passed her days and where she died in 1789. About a quarter of a mile from the city is a half finished Doric column, the corner stone of which was laid by President Jackson. This monument was created to commemorate the virtues of Mary, the mother of Washington, and stands to-day, an historical truth testifying to the wickedness of this great rebellion, smeared by shot and racked with bullets by rebel soldiers who had made a target of it which from the top to the bottom was sacrilegiously scrawled with the names of traitors from all the rebellious States - Let them be anathema maranatha!
Reports have been circulating for two days to the effect that we should soon leave Fredericksburg; that McDowell was sent to Fort Lafayette; these came from "secesh" They were in great glee when the news of Banks' defeat was confirmed.
On the 20th, King's division was en route for Catett's Station. We had marched to Fredericksburg with hopes of participating in the capture of Richmond, and now we were to retrace our steps. There is deep, silent desire in our regiment, the determined resolve of men who have mingled in the thunder of battle, and know what fighting is to be once more face to face with the enemy in the field of blood. In the abilities and courage of the Colonel we place implicit reliance; our Lieut. Colonel, also our Major and Adjutant, we know, "have been tried in the fire," and will not be found wanting; and if the day should ever come you may rest assured the "Second" will tell a different tale than that of the 21st of July 1861.
It was discouraging to countermarch but the prospects of a fight cheered us. All that had been said of marching in broiling heat, cold rains and mud, was experienced on the march to Catlett's Station. We arrived there in the 31st. It was said we were to take the cars for Front Royal. Augur's and part of Patrick's brigades were on board and off the same day. Sunday passed. A collision, it was reported had occurred - some killed and many maimed. On Monday, June 2d we marched to Hay Market. On the 6th we left for Warrenton, a place that had hitherto been occupied by our troops. Two streams had to be crossed - the Sixth on the lead; for them the pioneers had to build a bridge. Gen. Gibbons chafed at the delay. He said, "Let the Second Lead they want no bridge;" and with ease we crossed in a twinkling keeping the advance to Warrenton and entered the town precisely at the clock on the court house struck four. We arrived at our present encampment to-day. We wait here for further orders and in a day or two march for Richmond

Camp Opposite Fredericksburg 
June 11th, 1862

I expected to post this at Catlett's, but the mail had closed. We arrived here today having made a circuit of 102 miles. Three times we have marched over the road between Catlett and Fredericksburg and each time it has been through a drenching rain. The freshets have destroyed the bridge over the Rappahannock and it must be reconstructed; but rumors are we march to-morrow for Richmond. May it prove the truth. You shall hear again soon from

A. L.

From the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment 
Division of the Rappahannock
Opposite Fredericksburg, Va., June 13th, '62

EDITORS WITNESS:-It is not with the view of furnishing you news that I attempt writing you at this time, for important events are chronicled aboard as soon as they occur and reach you before I could possibly advise you. As this division of the army of the Potomac has as yet been in no engagement (the Second once visited Manassas) my letters, I fear have been barren of interest yet there may be a "good time coming," so I pray you "wait a little longer."
Since my last letter, this division has been on a contended march, and have walked over two hundred miles. Had the weather and roads been good it would have been all right, and none would have complained, yet we had quite a conglomerated mass of hail, rain, sunshine and mud, which made it quite disagreeable. It was supposed by those in command that we would be of service to Banks and lend a helping hand in defeating Jackson, yet when we reached Warrenton we received orders to return and this brigade is again opposite Fredericksburg. Some complaint is made that this division has not a fair chance- and not a few censure McDowell for our continued inactivity but I think this is hardly fair. According to the agreement between the President, Secretary of State and McClellan, this portion of the army was to be, and to act as a reserve, to be used when necessary.
This agreement has in part been broken for McClellan has no inconsiderable portion of McDowell's command with him at Richmond, and may shortly call for the entire corps. Brigades are leaving here daily for Richmond, and though soldiers are proverbial for profanity, one prayer, I am confident, is continually being offered, "Pray send us to McClellan."
Competent military judges pronounced this the best corps in the army of the Potomac and partial judges say this division stands first in the corps - and friends say "the Wisconsin brigade is decidedly the superior brigade of the division." Let that be as it may, we have skillful officers, not shadows dressed cloth, gold lace and feathers, but regular army officers who know their duty and knowing it, dare do it.
The Second and the Fifth Wisconsin regiments are on the best of terms yet there is a feeling of jealousy now pervading the Second that is quite natural and of which I am proud. The Fifth made its mark at Williamsburg, and nobly earned the compliment so gallantly paid them by McClellan - and that 's the rub - not that we love the fifth less but because we love the Second more is this the case. Though this regiment "fought, bled and died" last July at Bull Run, they got no distinguished compliment - Bull Run we never inscribed on their banner. But, candidly, the fifth may boast of their action at Williamsburg, and Wisconsin will feel proud that she has so gallant a regiment in the field. Though the Second may not again have an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, nothing loth will they be of "rendering unto Caesar the things that are Cesar's" we are proud of the Fifth.
Wisconsin has another regiment here or near. The 4th is in Washington and I am not advised to what command they have been assigned. People generally think Wisconsin turns out a good many "badgers."
Should the rebels stand at Richmond, I look for the hardest battle of the war, and who would think otherwise? A people who will not fight for their capital disgrace the name of men and cast a shadow upon the fair escutcheon of humanity.
The question naturally arises among us, "Will we be there to see?"
I hope so respectfully, Labrick

From the 2d Regiment 

Our ancient "Auntie'" Jones, alias Metcalf, now doing his country honor in the 2d Wis. regiment, near Fredericksburg. Writes us a letter detailing the situation of affairs their way. He says most of the boys have secured to themselves a contraband to "tote" their knapsacks and do their cooking, &c.

The one Jones has displeases him by persisting in carrying his knapsack on his head instead of strapping it on his shoulders. The Boys are greatly pleased with their new possessions and hope that government will permit them to keep them.-

Portage Register
June 1862

Letter from Charlie Dow

The following from our ancient fellow-soldier and fellow-printer Serg't Dow is so like the boy that it carries right back a year when Bull-Ran along together into the jaws of rebels who treated us roughly. Dow was shot plum through his tongue and neck the ball going between the neck-bone and main artery passing lengthwise through the tongue taking out two lower teeth, and going on seeking who else it might shoot somebody. It was considered by Surgeons one of the most remarkable escapes known in this war. Whew! what a night that was! We followed the ambulance Charlie was in six miles bathing his mouth with water filtered from a bloody brook, and had no kind of an idea he would ever with another letter.

Camp Opposite Fredericksburg June 22, 1862

Friend Sam:-do you want a blast from my bugle to-day? Well I don't know whether you do er not, but I am bound to blow it I don't sell a clam. I have just been to dinner, and now I am laying astride a board which I am using for a desk, and my little cotton house is doing me proud in keeping off the rays of a very scorching sun.

I imagine I present about the same appearance that Jonah did when the whale found him a stranger and took him in; but then I ain't no Jonah or whale. In fact I don't know of there being but one of the lst mentioned articles in the Union Army and he is down near Richmond under the special charge of one McClellan, who is making a tour through the the south this season, and I understand he is to exhibit the critter at Richmond in a few days, when it is my private opinion somebody will get whaled. I have seen a part of him, and if you will allow, me to Judge, I should say he is a "big thing." I don't suppose a recitation of what we have been doing and where we-have been for the past month would be any more interesting to you than it is to us for we have not accomplished anything consequently I will pass it by.

This place seems to be the one allotted us for "three years or during the war,' for every time we take a scoot out into the country we are sure to return hereafter an absence of a few days. this may be a strategically point, but I "don't see it" except that it is a good place to watch (on a bluff,) but it is a poor place to Prey, and as we think more of the latter than we do the former, we are anxious to leave camp, to go we care not where, but would prefer going where the army had not been, for there we can find just what we like, hoe-cake and honey, &c. that "and so forth" means a great many things too numerous to mention and can't be drawn from the Quartermaster's even with a requisition.

Judging from present prospects, our "onward to Richmond" move will be made about next Christmas - perhaps not till New Year's. "Twill depend altogether on how soon the SLIDING comes; that is all they are waiting for, I believe. Then the programme will be, we shall slide in, while the rebels slide out of Richmond. I suppose you are all anxious to have this war progress faster, or have us, in the language of McClellan, "push the enemy to the wall." Well, I would admit that it would be a good thing for you who have to foot the bill, to have the war ended, but having no particular interest in that part of the programme, I go for the extension of the war, and I would say to the POWERS THAT BE, make it just as long as you can, for it is seldom that we get a good thing, and we have got it, let us keep it.

Is is not every year that we have a war, especially one where private soldiers get thirteen dollars per month and officers receive pay in proportion, and all for doing NOTHING. Just 'go on' with your warring. I can do as heavy sitting around as any man on the public works, and I shall not leave the job till they cut the pay down to less than six dollars, for I can earn that amount at this time of year, chewing tobacco and spitting on onion beds, which is a new patent for killing bugs on vines. There is no news in this part of the army worth reciting.

The boys are quite well, in fact, I might with propriety say, they are tough. As for your humble servant, he is quite unwell, and does not expect to live from one end to the other.

Our regiment is considerably reduced in numbers from what it was when we started from Arlington Heights, last spring, but I think what there are left of us are made of the "real old stuff." I don't think it would be safe for any such diseases such as cholera, small pox, or typhoid fever to attack us single handed. Perhaps take the three combined they might make us SICK - nothing more; for nothing short of a Minnie can kill us, or we would have been dead ere this.

We are having some very warm weather, but how warm I cannot say, for I have not seen a thermometer since I left Wisconsin, but if I remember aright as to their length and which way the mercury runs, I should think it would take one about three feet long to indicate the weather here.

When you want any more bugling from me just let me know.

Respectfully, Charlie

From the Second Regiment 
Camp of Gibbon's Brigade, Opposite
Fredericksburg, Va., June 23, '62


'You will burn the bridge at Port Republic without delay
"(Signed) J. C. Fremont, 
Maj. Gen. Com"

"You will approach the bridge at Port Republic from the East side. Hold it. 
If any one attempt to fire it shoot him on the spot.
(Signed) Franz Sigel
Maj. Gen. Com."

"After crossing the bridge at Port Republic, burn it behind you.
(Signed) N. P. Banks, 
Maj. Gen. Com."

" To the Provost Marshal:-Send all of your command at Fredericksburg to spare to my assistance immediately.
'(Signed) James Shields,
 Maj. Gen. com."

"To the Provost Marshal: - You will have all of you command at Fredericksburg to-morrow, as I will be down from Washington with some ladies to visit you.
"(Signed) Irvin McDowell, 
Maj. Gen. Com."

The foregoing I copy from the Philadelphia Enquirer and though it is but but a device at the head of an advertisement for the purpose of attracting attention, it is a good illustration of the present condition of affairs upon the Rappahannock and in the valley of the Shenandoah. We have altogether too many "Major Generals commanding" for the amount of troops commanded and the reason that Stonewall Jackson has been so successful in baffling pursuit and outgeneraling the Generals sent against him is there are too many heads to our army, and when we see an order like the following which concludes the "bulletin for the Valley of the Shenandoah we may look for movements more telling than we have had:

"Until further orders the army of the Shenandoah will report to Major General McClellan
"(Signed) Abraham Lincoln
Commander -in -Chief."

Since my letter from the south of the Rappahannock on our way, as I then hoped, to Richmond, we have marched over a good many miles of Virginia turnpike and through some bye, but unluckily for us, not forbidden paths.
I have seen some very beautiful country for instance around Warrenton where we camped for a day or two among the spurs of the Blue Ridge and where 25 or 30 men from Gibbon's Brigade were not left sick and by the rebels captured. That is the most picturesque portion of Virginia that I have seen but it seems that the more beautiful the country the more fiendish are the inhabitants. They are the rankest set of secessionists at Warrenton that we have yet found.
Sight seeing in heavy marching order can gladly be called delightful and were I to travel for pleasure I would prefer some other method of transportation to the one in present use in the army, and I find it more congenial for far here on the banks of the Rappahannock than on a wild goose chase of a march. Thank fortune we are back here again and the fruitless chase, for the present, ended. Had we been at all successful we could join in the next chase with a better sprit but as it is, we are distrustful of the ability of some of our leaders and would be glad to see the consolidation of all these separate departments that we could again belong to the "Army of the Potomac"
There has been blundering somewhere. It never has yet failed, since man first warred with man that when a General divided his army into small detachments, if opposed by a General of any merit, he has surely met with reverses if not utter defeat. The secret of Napoleon's great success was simply this: He did one thing at a time. He concentrated all his forces upon one point until that point yielded and whenever a General opposed to him divided his army his destruction was surely and quickly accomplished. As nearly as I can learn McClellan opposed the cutting up of his department from the first but there were too many against him and the army of the Potomac, Rappahannock and Shenandoah and while Halleck moved forward to certain victory with an army that could not be resisted because all moved together harmoniously directed by one master-spirit, McClellan moved to battle with the disadvantage of a complicated war machine, not harmonious because it was propelled by too many main springs. In his own department McClellan has been successful as far as he has gone, for now will not move unless he is sure of success, and it is well upon himself and his army he must depend, and on them now hangs the fate of the Republic. Overwhelming numbers may equal superior numbers, it cannot drive him back and if the Capitol has been in danger at any time since last August, if the Valley of the Shenandoah has been over run and Banks, Sigel, Shields and McDowell with their small armies have failed to capture Jackson's whole force, the fault is not McClellan's. The poser was taken from him when the army of the Potomac was decided and the heads of departments ordered to report to the Secretary of War.
Affairs look a little dark at present, but the lessons of the past three weeks may not have been given in vain and the clouds may soon be lifted from our paths of war and complete victory and permanent peace crown the efforts of our armies in the field our statesmen in the Cabinet and our patriotic liberty loving people throughout the land.

R. K. B.

DEAN AT HOME.-We learn from Capt Ryland who has just returned from the East that he traveled part of the way returning with Adjutant C. K. Dean of the 2nd Wisconsin on his way to visit his family and home at Boscobel. Dean was a prisoner for some weeks, at Richmond but lately released. His account of what came under his eye during his short stay at Richmond among the secesh is reported as amusing and highly interesting. We hope Adjutant Dean will call down this way among his hosts of friends before leaving, and read us a volume of his experience.

A letter from Adjutant Dean to the Grant County Herald states that Frank Noble and John M. Vantassel of Co. G. who were enlisted by Lt. Hill in Brant Co. have been missing since the 21st of April. the regiment had stopped for the night while on the march from Catlett's Station at Elk Run and Noble and Vantassel "deployed" for some straw to sleep on and probably fetched up in the jaws of some rebel scouts as they have not been heard of since. They were good boys we knew him well, and there is no probability that they deserted. Bad joke on the boys.

The Wisconsin 2d, 5th, 6th and 7th 

A correspondent from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, writing from "Headquarters Third Brigade, King's division, McDowell's Corps, Catlett's Station, Va., speaks as follows of the condition of our regiments:

As many of our readers are especially interested in the Wisconsin regiments, I will give you briefly a few items relating to them. The 2d, 6th and 7th went on no expedition down their river as was announced frequently in your city. Their destination at one time was the Peninsula, but it was subsequently changed, and they were sent to the front. The 5th Wisconsin is the only one of your regiments before the battlements of Yorktown and they have already been in the advance during several severe skirmishes conducting themselves bravely, of course.
The condition of the Wisconsin Regiments is very good. They are free from any severe sickness and in good spirits at the prospect of making a steady and sure advance into the enemy's country.
The Third Brigade is now commanded by Col. Lysander Cutler of the 6th Wisconsin. who is acting Brigadier General. His staff is as follows:

Assistant Adjutant General Lieut Frank A. Haskell, 
Adjutant 6th Wisconsin regiment

Brigade Commissary Lieut. John Drum, 
19th Indiana

Brigade Quartermaster Lieut I. N. Mason 
Quartermaster 6th Wisconsin

Brigade Surgeon Dr. J. McNulty 
late of the 37th New York

Aids-de-Camp Lieut Nat. Rollins, 
2d Wisconsin

and Lieut. C. W. Cook, Adjutant 
7th Wisconsin

Lieut. Mason has just been appointed to his present position which entitles him to the rank of Captain. A prompt energetic business man, he is just the man for Quartermaster and has earned his present promotion. The staff officers perform their duties promptly and accurately and the headquarters of Col. Cutler's brigade is as pleasant a place to live as I have found in any camp on the line of my travels.
The western troops feel proud of the recent victories of their brethren in Tennessee and long for the chance to prove their own valor in a like manner on the soil of the the "Old Dominion."
The superiority of drill and capacity for endurance exhibited by Wisconsin troops heretofore is still maintained by the Third Brigade, the regiments of regulars in the army of the Potomac, and it is only a just and impartial opinion when I say that they are equal in appearance or drill to the good old Second Wisconsin. This may be accounted for, how ever, from the fact that the regulars have been largely made up, within the year, from raw recruits. Still their reputation for superiority is a myth, in a grand measure, while there is an entire absence to the esprit d 'corps which animates and gives moral, as well as physical, force to the volunteers.