Return to the Home Page of the
1862 September, Part 2, Antietam
Correspondence of the Democrat
Sunday, Sept, 14, 1862
Brick:-Since the 9th inst, an ordeal
through which the Army of Virginia, with one half of the Army of the Potomac,
have passed, Washington has been my place of rendezvous. Much can be said
relative to the coup du main of our respective generals; but it would worry you
peruse the sentences promulgated by denizens of all classes; therefore it is
only necessary to reiterate the statement of thousands that "all is
well," now that George B. McClellan is present. Washingtonians are very
busy filling orders for the wants of our soldiers and the streets present a much
different look from what has heretofore been visible since the occasion of this
premeditated outburst of a Southern Confederacy - but few soldiers - either
officers or men are to be seen flooding the beautiful thoroughfares - all are in
the field. King's division usefully operating in Maryland within 37 miles of
here. Suffice to say - Jackson for once and the only time will surely be beaten. I
trust the people of the Northwest still have the utmost confidence in McClellan.
It is a pleasure to me to contradict a certain charge made against our noble brave Captain. Letters have been received here to the effect that
Colwell deserted his men at the battle of Bull Run, July 21st, 1861! - Good
Heavens! What next? You cannot point to a braver or more cool officer in the
service of this great Republic. Gov. Salomon with his many good traits fails to
do justice to the veteran sons of Wisconsin. Why does he not fill the positions
in the new Regiments with men from the ranks of the old ones? Has not the 2d
done their duty? Have they not been in the field sufficiently long to reap the
confidence of Gov. Salomon, or any other man?
The 2d Wisconsin - the first three
years Regiment in the city of Washington! The sick and wounded Wisconsin
soldiers are carefully looked after and well provided for by Norman Eastman,
Esq., the responsible State Agent of Wisconsin. He has the attention of five
hospitals allotted to him; and they are looked after! In the basement of the
treasury building Eastman has any quantity of clothing and luxuries which are
freely distributed by him among the wounded and indisposed ones. Give Eastman
credit for his incessant labors in behalf of Wisconsin soldiers. Tell me! are
there any Canadians to do him justice? It was our fortune to visit the war
Department to-day and our pleasure to shake the hand of one that left La Crosse
under humiliating circumstances - It was John Watson of stationery notoriety! By
the way, how fares the Hon. Luther Hanebett? It must be that he is a stranger among you for no such undeniable rumors ever greeted us while residing in the
old Badger State, as come to us here! Please ask him of his fair friends(?) that
stop at Clay's Hotel in Washington. The horse railroad is in full vogue here is
much apprenticed. Brick, please direct my papers to the regiment as McDowell's
are busted and the clerks return to their respective regiments.
Correspondence of the Democrat
Washington, Sept. 17, 1862 P.M.
Pomeroy, Esq:- Dear Sir- Gibbon's Brigade has
again been in the fight and, as usual, has suffered severely. Wherever the post of
danger is those true and tried men are there. Wisconsin has reason to be proud
of the achievements of that Brigade - its well earned reputation however is
carrying sorrow to many hearts in the Badger State. La Crosse has here to fore
suffered lightly but it has to mourn the loss of her brave and daring Capt.
Colwell. Jacob Markle of Mormon Cooley is severely wounded. These are all the
casualties in Co. B. Lieut. Woodward of Company B, arrived in the city this
morning bringing with him the remains of Capt. Colwell. If possible the body
will be embalmed- but should it prove to be too much decomposed it will be
disinfected and held here subject to the order of Mrs. Colwell. From Lieut.
Woodward I learn that Capt. Colwell was in command of companies B and E, which
were sent in advance as skirmishers, and that while bravely leading his men he
was struck by a raking shot in the left side which passed into the lower bowels
and striking the back bone glanced forward. He sat down but urged on his men and
calling Olin to him requested to be carried to the rear where he soon expired
suffering but little pain through expressing much solicitude for his wife.
Lieut. Woodward procured a conveyance and as rapidly as the crowded state of
the roads would admit made his way to Frederick where he had the body encased in
a metallic coffin and brought it from thence to this city. He also has
possession of his sword, watch and other private property. The officers of the 2d
are unhurt.- Lieut. J. D. Wood, of La Crosse is acting Adjutant.
Yours in haste
THE GREAT BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
A FULL AND GRAPHIC ACCOUNT
Battle-field of Sharpsburg
Wednesday evening, Sept. 17, 1862
Fierce and desperate battle between
200,000 men has raged since daylight, yet night sloshes on an uncertain field.
It is the greatest fight since Waterloo - all over the field contested with an
obstinacy equal even to Waterloo. Of not wholly a victory to-night I believe it
is the prelude to a victory to morrow. But what can before be told of the future of
a fight in which from five in the morning till seven at night the best troops of
the continent have fought without decisive result?
After the brilliant victory near Middletown, Gen. McClellan pushed forward his
army rapidly, and reached Keedysville with three corps on Monday night. That
march has already been described. On the day following the two armies faced each
other idly, until night. Artillery was busy at intervals; once in the coming
opening with spirit and continuing for half an hour with vigor till the Rebel
battery as usual was silenced.
McClellan was on the hill where Benjamin's battery was stationed and found
himself suddenly under a rather heavy fire. It was still uncertain whether the
rebels were retreating or re-enforcing - their batteries would remain in position
in either case and as they had withdrawn nearly all their troops from view there
was only the doubtful indication of columns of dust to the rear.
On the evening of Tuesday, Hooker was ordered to cross the Antietam Creek with
his corps, and feeling the left of the enemy to be ready to attack next morning.
During the day of apparent inactivity McClellan had been maturing his plan of
battle of which Hooker's movement was a one development.
The position on either side was peculiar. When Richardson advanced on Monday he
found the enemy deployed and displayed in force on a crescent shaped ridge the
outline of which followed more or less exactly the course of Antietam Creek. -
their lines were then forming and the revelation of force in front of the
ground which they really intended to hold was probably meant to delay our attack
until their arrangements to receive it were complete.
During that day they kept their troops exposed and did not move them even to
avoid the artillery fire which must have been occasionally annoying. Next
morning the lines and columns which had darkened cornfields and hill crests had
been withdrawn. Broken and wooded ground behind the sheltering hills concealed
the rebel masses. What from our front looked like only a narrow summit fringed
with woods was a broad table land of forest and ravine; cover for troops
everywhere, nowhere easy access for an enemy. The smoothly sloping surface in
front and the sweeping crescent of slowly mingling lines was only a delusion. It
was all a rebel stronghold beyond.
Under the base of these hills runs the deep stream called Antietam Creek
fordable only at distant points. Three bridges cross it, one on the Hagerstown
road, one on the Sharpsburg pike, one to the left in a deep recess of steeply
falling hills. - Hooker passed the first to reach the ford by which he crossed and
it was held by Pleasanton with a reserve of cavalry during the battle. The
second was close under the rebel center, and no way important to yesterday's
fight. At the third Burnside attacked and finally crossed. - between the first
and third lay most of the battle lines. They stretched four miles from right to
Unaided, attack in front was impossible. McClellan's forces lay behind low disconnected
ridges in front of the Rebel summits, all or nearly all unwooded. They gave some
cover for artillery, and guns were therefore massed on the center. The enemy had
the Shepherdstown road and the Hagerstown and Williamsport road both open to him
in rear for retreat. - Along one or the other, if beaten, he must fly.
other reasons, determined perhaps the plan of battle which McClellan finally
The plan was generally as follows: Hooker was to cross on the right, establish
himself on the enemy's left, if possible flanking his position, and to open the
fight. Summer, Franklin, and Mansfield were to send their forces also to the
right, co-operating with and sustaining Hooker's attack while advancing also
nearer the center.-
The heavy work in the center was left mostly to the batteries, Porter massing
his infantry supports in the hollows. On the left, Burnside was to carry the
bridge already referred to advancing them by a road which enters the pike at
Sharpsburg, turning at once the rebel left flank and destroying his line of
retreat. Porter and Sykes were held in reserve. It is obvious that the complete suddenness
of a plan contemplating widely divergent movements of separate corps
must largely depend on accurate timing that the attacks should be simultaneous
and not successive.
Hooker moved on Tuesday afternoon at four, crossing the creek at a ford above the
bridge and well to the right, without opposition. Fronting southwest, his line
advanced not quite on the rebel flank but overlapping and threatening it.
Turning off from the road after passing the stream, he sent forward cavalry
skirmishers straight into the woods and over the fields beyond. Rebel pickets
withdrew slowly before them, firing scattering and harmless shots. Turning again
to the left, the cavalry went down on the rebel flank coming suddenly close to a
battery which met them with unexpected grape and canister. It being the nature
of cavalry to retire before battery, this company loyally followed the law of its
being and came swiftly back without pursuit.
Artillery was sent to the front, infantry was rapidly deployed and skirmishers
went out in front and on either flank. The corps moved forward compactly. Hooker,
as usual, reconnoitering in person. They came at last to an open grass sown field
enclosed on two sides with woods protected on the right by a hill and entered
through a corn field in the rear. Skirmishers entering these woods were
instantly met by rebel shots but held their ground and as soon as supported,
advanced and cleared the timber. Beyond, on the left and in front, volleys of
musketry opened heavily and a battle seemed to have begun a little sooner than
it was expected.
Gen. Hooker formed his lines with precision and without hesitation. Rickett's
Division went into the woods on the left in ????. Meade with the
Pennsylvania Reserves, formed in the center. Doubleday was sent out on the
right, planting his batteries on the hill and opening at once on a Rebel battery
that began to enfilade the central line. It was already dark and the Rebel
position could only be discovered by the flashes of their guns. They pushed
forward boldly on the right after losing ground on the other flank but made no
attempt to regain their first hold on the woods. The fight flashed and glimmered
and faded, and finally went out in the dark.
Hooker had found out what he wanted to know. When the firing ceased the hostile
lines lay close to each other - their pickets so near that six Rebels were
captured during the night. It was inevitable that the fight should recommence at
day light. Neither side had suffered considerable loss; it was a skirmish not a
battle. "We are through for to-night gentlemen, remarked the General, but
tomorrow we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic."
Not long after the firing ceased it sprang up again on the left. Gen. Hooker, who
had taken up his headquarters in a barn which had been nearly the focus of the
Rebel Artillery, was out at once.-
First came rapid and unusually frequent picket shots, then several heavy volleys.
The general listened a moment and smiled grimly. We have no troops there. The
rebels are shooting each other. It is Fair Oaks over again. So everybody lay
down again but all the night through there were frequent alarms.
McClellan had been informed of the night's work and of the certainties awaiting
the dawn, Summer was ordered to move his corps at once and was expected to be on
the ground, at daylight. From the extent of the rebel lines developed in the
evening it was plain that they had gathered their whole army behind the heights
and were waiting for the shock.
The battle began with the dawn. Morning found both armies just as they had slept,
almost close enough to look into each others eyes. The left of Meade's reserves
and the right of Rickett's line became engaged at nearly the same moment, one
with artillery, the other with infantry. A battery was almost immediately pushed
forward beyond the central woods over a plowed field near the top of the slope
where the corn-field began. On this open field, in the corn beyond and in the
woods which stretched forward into the broad fields like a promontory into the
ocean were the hardest and deadliest struggles of the day.
For half an hour after the battle had grown to its full strength the line of
fire swayed neither way. Hooker's men were fully up to their work. They saw
their general everywhere, in front, never away from the fire and all the troops
believed in their commander and fought with will. Two thirds of them were the
same men who, under McDowell, had broken a Manassas.
The half hour passed, the Rebels began to give way a little, only a little, but at the first indication of a receding fire, forward was the word and on went the
line with a cheer and a rush. Back across the corn-fields leaving dead and
wounded behind them, over the fence and across the road and then back again into
the dark woods which closed around them went the retreating rebels.
Meade and his Pennsylvanians followed hard and fast - followed till they came
within easy range of the woods among which they saw their beaten enemy
disappearing - followed still with another cheer, and flung themselves against
But out of those gloomy woods came suddenly and heavily terrible volleys -
which smote and bent and broke in a moment that eager front and hurled them
swiftly back more than half the distance they had won. Not swiftly, nor in panic, any
further. Closing up their shattered lines, they came slowly away - a
regiment where a brigade had been, hardly a brigade where a whole division
had been victorious. They had met from the woods the first volleys of musketry
from fresh troops - had met them and returned them still their line had yielded
and gone down before the weight of fire and till their ammunition was exhausted.
In ten minutes, the fortune of the day seemed to have changed - it was the rebels
now who were advancing, pouring out of the woods in endless lines, sweeping
through the cornfield from which their comrades had just fled. Hooker sent in
his nearest brigade to meet them but it could not do the work. He called for
another. There was nothing close enough unless he took it from his right. His right
might be in danger if it was weakened but his center was already threatened with
annihilation. Not hesitating one moment, he sent to Doubleday: "Give me you best
The best brigade came down the hill to the right on the run went through the
timber in front through a storm of shot and bursting shell and crashing limbs
over the open field beyond and straight into the corn-field passing as they went
the fragments of three brigades shattered by the rebel fire and streaming to the
rear. They passed by Hooker whose eyes lighted as he saw these veteran troops
led by a soldier whom he knew he could trust "I think they will hold it" he
Gen. Hartsuff took his troops very steadily, but now they were under fire, not
hurriedly up the hill from which the corn-field begins to descend and formed
them on the crest. Not a man who was not in full view - not one who bent before
the storm. Firing at first in volleys, they fired, then, at will with wonderful rapidity
and effect. The whole line crowned the hill and stood out darkly against the sky
but lighted and shrouded ever in flame and smoke. There were the 12th and 13th
Massachusetts, and another regiment which I cannot remember - old troops all of
There for half an hour they held the ridge, unyielding in purpose, exhaustless in
courage. There were gaps in the line but it nowhere quailed. Their general was
wounded badly early in the fight but they fought on. Their supports did not come
- they determined to win without them. They began to go down the hill and
into the corn, they did not stop to think that their ammunition was nearly gone,
they were there to win that field and they won it. The Rebel line for the
second time fled through the corn and into the woods. I cannot tell how few of
Hartsuff's brigade were left when the work was done but it was done. There was
no more gallant determined heroic fighting in all this desperate day. Gen.
Hartsuff was very severely wounded, but I do not believe he counts his success dearly purchased.
The crisis of the fight at this point had arrived: Rickett's division vainly endeavoring
to advance and exhausted by the effort had fallen back. Part of Mansfield's
corps was ordered in to their relief but Mansfield's troops came back
again and their General was mortally wounded. The left, nevertheless, was too
extended to be turned and too strong to be broken. Ricketts sent word he could
not advance, but could hold his ground. Doubleday had kept his guns at work on
the right, and had finally silenced a rebel battery that for half an hour had
poured in a galling enfilading fire along Hooker's central line.
There were woods in front of Doubleday's hill which the rebels held, but so long
as those guns pointed that way, they did not care to attack. With his left then
able to take care of itself, with his right impregnable, with two brigadier of
Mansfield still fresh and coming rapidly up and with his center a second time
victorious, Gen. Hooker determined to advance. Orders were sent to Crawford and
Gordon - the two Mansfield brigades - to move directly forward at once, the batteries
in the center were ordered on the whole line was called on, the the General
himself went forward.
To the right of the cornfield and beyond it was a point of woods. Once carried
and firmly held it was the key of the position. He rode but in front of his
furthest troops on a hill to examine the ground for a battery. At the top he
dismounted and went forward on foot, completed his reconnaissance, returned and
remounted. The musketry fire from the point of woods was all the while extremely
hot. As he put his foot in the stirrup a fresh volley of rifle bullets came
whizzing by. The tall soldierly figure of the general, the white horse which he
rode, the elevated place where he was, all made him a most dangerously conspicuous
mark. So he had been all day, riding often without a staff officer or an orderly
near him - all sent off on urgent duty - visible everywhere on the field. The Rebel
bullets had followed him all day, but they had not hit him and he would not
regard them. Remounting on this hill he had ridden five steps when he was
struck in the foot by a ball.
Three man were shot down at the same moment by his side. The air was alive with
bullets. He kept on his horse for a few moments though the wound was severe and excessively
painful and would not dismount till he had given his last order to advance. He
was himself in the very front. Swaying unsteadily on his horse he turned in his
seat to look about him. "There is a regiment to the right. Order it
forward! Crawford and Gordon are coming up. Tell them to carry these woods and
hold them - and it is our fight!"
It was found that the bullet had passed completely through his foot. The surgeon
who examined it on the spot could give no opinion whether bones were broken but
it was afterward ascertained that though grazed they were not fractured. Of
course the severity of the wound made it impossible for him to keep the field
which he believed already won so far as it belonged to him to win it. It was
nine o'clock, the fight had been furious since five. A large part of his command
was broken but with his right still untouched and with Crawford's and Gordon's
brigades just up above, all with the advance of the whole central line which the
men had heard ordered with cheers, with a regiment already on the edge of the
woods he wanted, he might well leave the field thinking the battle was won - that
his battle was won for I am writing, of course, only about the attack on the Rebel
Summer arrived just as Hooker was leaving and assumed command. Crawford and
Gordon had gone into the woods, and were holding them stoutly against heavy
odds. As I rode over toward the left I met Summer at the head of his column
advancing rapidly through the timber opposite the point where Crawford was
fighting. The veteran General was riding along in the forest far ahead of his
leading brigade, his hat off, his gray hair and beard and mustache strangely
contrasting with the fire in his eyes and his martial air as he hurried off to
where the bullets were thickest.
Sedgwick's division was in advance moving forward to support Crawford and Gordon.
Rebel reinforcements were approaching also and the struggle for the roads was
again to be renewed. Summer sent forward two divisions, Richardson and French, on
the left. Sedgwick, moving in column of divisions through the woods in
rear, deployed and advanced in line over the corn field. There was a broad
interval between him and the nearest division and he saw that if the Rebel line
were complete, his own division was in immediate danger of being flanked. But his
orders were to advance and those are the orders which a soldier - and Sedgwick is
every inch a soldier - loves best to hear.
To extend his own his own front as far as possible, he ordered the 34th New York
to move by the left flank. The maneuver was attempted under a fire of the
greatest intensity and the regiment broke. At the same moment the enemy,
perceiving their advantage, came round on that flank. Crawford was obliged to
give on the right and his troops, pouring in confusion thro the ranks of
Sedgwick's advance brigade, threw it in disorder and back on the second and third
lines. The enemy advanced, their fire increasing.
Gen. Sedgwick was three times wounded in the shoulder, leg and wrist but he
persisted in remaining on the field so long as there was a chance of saving it.
His Adjutant General, Major Sedgwick, bravely rallying and trying to reform the
troops was shot through the body the bullet lodging in the spine and fell from
his horse. Severe as the wound is, it is probably not mortal. Lieut. Howe, of
Gen. Sedgwick's staff, endeavored vainly to rally the 84th New York. They were
badly cut up and would not stand. Half their officers were killed or wounded,
their colors shot to pieces, the color Sergeant killed, every one of the color
guard wounded. One hundred and thirty two were afterward got together.
The 15th Massachusetts went into action with 17 officers and nearly 600 men.
Nine officers were killed or wounded and some of the latter are prisoners, Capt
Simous, Capt. Saunders, of the Sharpshooters; Lieut Derby and Lieut. Berry are
killed. Capt. Bartlett and Capt. Jocelyn, Lieut. Spurr, Lieut. Gale and Lieut.
Bradley are wounded. One hundred and thirty four men were the only remnant that
could be collected of this splendid regiment.
Gen. Dana was wounded. Gen. Howard, who took command of the division after Gen.
Sedgwick was disabled, exerted himself to restore order; but to little purpose.
Lieut. Col. Revere and Capt. Audenried, of his staff, were wounded severely but
not dangerously. It was impossible to hold the position. Gen. Summer withdrew
the division to the rear and once more the corn field was abandoned to the
French sent word he could hold his ground. Richardson, while gallantly leading a
regiment under a heavy fire, was severely wounded in the shoulder. Gen. Meagher
was wounded at the head of his Brigade. The loss in general officers was
At 1 o'clock, affairs on the right had a gloomy look. Hooker's troops were
greatly exhausted and their general away from the field. Mansfield's were no
better. Summer's command had lost heavily, but two of his divisions were still
comparatively fresh. Artillery was yet playing vigorously in front, though the
ammunition of many of the batteries was entirely exhausted and they had been
compelled to retire.
Doubleday held the right inflexibly. Summer's headquarters were now in the
narrow field where the night before Hooker had begun the fight. All that had
been gained in front had been lost! The enemy's batteries, which if advanced
and served vigorously, might have made sad work with the closely massed troops
were fortunately either partially disabled or short of ammunition. Summer was
confident that he could hold his own but another advance was out of the
question. The enemy on the other hand seemed too much exhausted to attack.
At this crisis Franklin came up with fresh troops and forward along the slopes
lying under the first ranges of rebel hills while Smith, commanding the other
division, was ordered to retake the cornfields and woods which all day had been
so hotly contested. It was done in the handsome style. His Maine and Vermont
regiments and the rest went forward on the run and cheering as they went, swept
like an avalanche through the corn-fields, all upon the woods, cleared them in
ten minutes, and held them. They were not again retaken.
The field and its ghastly harvest which the reaper had gathered in those fatal
hours remained finally with us. Four times it had been lost and won. The dead
are strewn so thickly that as you ride over it you cannot guide your horse's
steps too carefully. Pale and bloody faces are everywhere upturned. They are sad
and terrible but there is nothing which makes one's heart beat so quickly as the
imploring look of sorely wounded men who beckon wearily for help which you
cannot stay to give.
Gen. Smith's attack was so sudden that his success was accomplished with no
great loss. He had gained a point however, which compelled him to expect every
moment an attack and to hold which if the enemy again brought up reserves would
take his best energies and best troops. But the long strike, the heavy
losses, incessant fighting over the same ground repeatedly and won inch by inch
and more than all perhaps the fear of Burnside on the left and Porter in front
held the enemy in check.
For two or three hours there was a lull even in the cannonade on the right which
hitherto had been incessant. McClellan had been over the field after Summer's
repulse but had speedily returned to his headquarters. Summer again sent word
that he was able to hold his position but could not advance with his own corps.
Meantime where was Burnside and what was he doing? On the right, where I had
spent the day until two o'clock, little was known of the general fortunes of the
field. We had heard Porter's guns in the center, but nothing from Burnside on
the left. The distance was too great to distinguish the sound of his artillery
from Porter's left.
There was no immediate prospect of more fighting on the right and I left the
field which all day long had seen the most obstinate contest of the war, and
rode over to McClellan's headquarters. The different battle fields were shut
out from each other's view but all partially visible from the central hill which
General McClellan had occupied during the day. But I was more than ever
impressed on returning with the completely deceitful appearance of the ground
the rebels had chosen when viewed from the front.
Hooker's and Summer's struggle had been carried on over an uneven and wooded
surface, their own line of battle extending in a semi-circle not less than a
mile and a half. Perhaps a better notion of their position can be got by
considering their right centre and left as forming three sides of a square. So
long, therefore, as either wing was back, the centre became exposed to a very
dangerous enfilading fire and the further the centre was advanced, the worse off
it was, unless the lines on its sides and rear were firmly held. This formation
resulted originally from the efforts of the enemy to turn both flanks. Hooker at
the very outset threw his column so far into the centre of the Rebel lines that
they were compelled to threaten him on the flank to secure their own centre.
Nothing of all this was perceptible from the hills in front. Some directions of
the rebel lines had been disclosed by the smoke of their guns, but the whole
interior formation of the country beyond the hills was completely concealed.
When McClellan arranged his order of battle, it must have been upon information
or have been left to his corps and division commanders to discover for
Up to 3 o'clock Burnside had made little progress. His attack on the bridge had
been successful but the delay had been so great that to the observer it appeared
as if McClellan's plans must have been seriously disarranged. It is impossible
not to suppose that the attacks on the right and left were meant in a measure to
correspond, for otherwise the enemy had only to repel Hooker on the one hand, then
transfer his troops and hurl them against Burnside.
Here was the difference between Smith and Burnside. The former did his work at
once, and lost all his men at once - that is all whom he lost at all; Burnside
seems to have attacked cautiously in order to save his men and sending
successively insufficient forces against a position of strength distributed his
loss over a greater period of time but yet lost none the less in the end.
Finally, at 4 o'clock McClellan sent simultaneous orders to Burnside and
Franklin; to the former to advance and carry the batteries in his front at all hazards
and any cost; to the latter to carry the woods next in front of him to the right
which the Rebels still held. The order to Franklin, however, was practically
countermanded in consequence of a message from Gen. Sumner that if Franklin went
on and was repulsed his own corps was not yet sufficiently reorganized to be
depended on as a reserve.
Franklin, there upon, was directed to run no risk of losing his present position
and instead of sending his infantry into the woods, contented himself with
advancing his batteries over the breadth of the fields in front, supporting them
with heavy columns of infantry and attacking with energy the rebel batteries
immediately opposed to him. His movement was a success, so far as it went the
batteries maintaining their new ground and sensibly affecting the steadiness of
the Rebel fire. That being once accomplished and all hazard of the right being
again forced back having been dispelled, the movement of Burnside become at once
the turning point of success and the fate of the day depended on him.
How extraordinary the situation was may be judged from a moment's consideration
of the facts. It is considered that from the outset, Burnside's attack was expected
to be decisive as it certainly must have been if things went well elsewhere and
if he succeeded in establishing himself on the Sharpsburg road in the rebel
Yet Hooker and Summer and Franklin and Mansfield were all sent to the right
three miles away while Porter seems to have done double duty with his single
corps in front, both supporting the batteries and holding himself in reserve.
With all this immense force on the right but 16,000 men were given to Burnside
for the decisive movement of the day.
Still more unfortunate in its results was the total failure of these separate
attacks on the right and left to sustain, or in any manner co-operate with each
other. Burnside hesitated for hours in front of the bridge which should
have been carried at once by a coup du main. Meantime Hooker had been fighting
for four hours with various fortune but final success. Summer had come up too
late to join in the decisive attack which his earlier arrival would probably
have converted into a complete success; and Franklin reached the scene only when
Summer had been repulsed. Probably before his arrival the rebels had
transferred a considerable number of troops to their right to meet the attack of
Burnside, the direction of which was then suspected or developed.
Attacking first with one regiment, then with two and delaying both for artillery,
Burnside was not over the bridge before 2 o'clock - perhaps not till 3. He
advanced slowly up the slopes in his front, his batteries in the rear covering, to
some extent, the movements of the infantry.
A desperate fight was going on in a deep ravine on his right, the rebel
batteries were in full play and apparently very annoying and destructive, while
while heavy columns of Rebel troops were plainly visible, advancing as if
careless of concealment, along the road and over the hills in the direction of
Burnside's forces. It was at this point of time that McClellan sent him the
order above given.
Burnside obeyed it most gallantly. - Getting his troops well in hand, and sending
a portion of his artillery to the front, he advanced them with rapidity and the
most determined vigor straight up the hill in front on top of which the rebels
had maintained their most dangerous battery. The movement was in plain view of
McClellan's position and, as Franklin on the other side, sent his batteries into
the field about the same time. The battle seemed to open in all directions, with
greater activity than ever.
The fight in the ravine was in full progress. The batteries which Porter
supported were firing with new vigor, Franklin was blazing away on the right and
every hill top, ridge and woods along the whole line was crested and veiled with
white clouds of smoke. All day had been clear and bright since the early cloudy
morning and now this whole magnificent, unequaled scene shone with the splendor
of an afternoon September sun. Four miles of battle, its glory all visible, its horrors
all veiled, the fate of the republic hanging on the hour - could any one be
insensible of its grandeur.
There are two hills on the left of the road the furthest the lowest. The rebels
have batteries on both. Burnside is ordered to carry the nearest to him which is
the farthest from the road. His guns opening first from this new position in
front soon entirely controlled and silenced the enemy's artillery. The infantry
came on at once, moving rapidly and steadily up long dark lines and broad dark
masses being plainly visible without a glass as as they moved over the green
The next moment the road in which the Rebel battery was planted was canopied
with clouds of dust, swiftly descending into the valley. Underneath was a tumult
of wagons, guns, horses, and men flying at speed down the road. Blue flashes of
smoke burst now and then among them, a horse or a man or half dozen went down
and then the whirlwind swept on.
The hill was carried but could it be held? the Rebel columns, before seen moving
to the left, increased their pace. The guns on the hill above sent an angry
tempest of shell down among Burnside's guns and men. He had formed his columns
apparently in the near angles of two fields bordering the road - high ground
about them, everywhere except in rear.
In another moment a rebel battle line appears on the brow of the ridge, above
them moves swiftly down in the most perfect order, and though met by incessant
discharges of musketry, of which we plainly see the flashes, does not fire a gun.
White spaces show where men are falling but they close up instantly and still
the line advances. The brigades of Burnside are in heavy column; they well not
give way before a bayonet charge in line. The rebels think twice before they
dash into these hostile masses. There is a halt the rebel left gives way and
scatters over the field the rest stand fast and fire. More infantry comes up, Burnside
is outnumbered; flanked, compelled to leave the hill he took so bravely. His position is no longer one
of attack. He defends himself with unfaltering firmness but he sends to McClellan
for help. McClellan's glass for the last half hour has seldom been turned away
from the left. He sees clearly enough that Burnside is pressed - needs no
messenger to tell him that. His face grows darker with anxious thought. Looking
down into the valley where 15,000 troops are lying, he turns a half questioning
look on Fitzjohn Porter who stands by his side, gravely scanning the the field. Porter slowly shakes his head and one may believe that the same thought
is passing through the minds of both generals: "They are the only reserves
of the army - they cannot be spared"
McClellan remounts his horse and with Porter and a dozen officers of his staf,
rides away to the left in Burnside's direction. Sykes meets them on the road - a
good soldier whose opinion is worth taking. The three generals talk briefly together.
It is easy to see that the moment has come when everything may turn on one order
given or withheld, when the history of the battle is only to be written in
thoughts and purposes and words on the General.
Burnside's messenger rides up. His message is "I want troops and guns. If
you do not send them, I cannot hold my position for half an hour."
McClellan's only answer for the moment is a glace at the western sky. Then he turns
and speaks very slowly-"Tell Gen. Burnside that this is the battle of
the war. He must hold his ground till dark at any cost. I will send him Miller's
battery. I can do nothing more, I have no infantry."
Then as the messenger
was riding away he called him back "Tell him if he cannot hold his ground then
the bridge - to the last man! always the bridge! If the bridge is lost all is
The sun is already down, not half an hour of day light is left. Till Burnside's
message came, it had seemed plain to every one that the battle could not be
finished to day. None suspected how near was the peril of defeat, of sudden
attack on exhausted forces, how vital to the safety of the army and the nation
were those fifteen thousand waiting troops of Fitz John Porter in the
hollow. But the rebels halted instead of pushing on, their vindictive cannonade
died away as the light faded. Before it was quite dark, the battle was over. Only
a solitary gun of Burnside's thundered against the enemy, and presently this
also ceased and the field was still.
The peril came very near, but it has passed and in spite of the peril at the
close the day, was partly a success, not a victory but an advantage, had been
gained. Hooker, Summer, and Franklin held all the ground they had gained and Burnside
still held the bridge and his position beyond. Everything was favorable for a
renewal of the fight in the morning.
It is hard to estimate losses on a field of such extent, but I think our cannot
be less than six thousand killed and wounded - it may be much greater. Prisoners
have been taken from the enemy - I hear of a regiment captured entire but I doubt
it. All the prisoners whom I saw agree in saying that their whole army is there.
Washington, D. C. Sept. 20, 1862
The world's people are truly astir! A portion
of the citizens are in ecstasies while other are languishing beneath the scorn
and contempt of a mighty northern populace! Suffice to say the gloom that be
spread amongst the Unionists in consequence of the actual defeat of our arms while under
the immediate command of Maj. Gen. Pope, has been since the second inauguration
of Geo. B. McClellan, entirely removed and now thanks to the upholders of
McClellan, the wiry foe are being more than matched. The devils, with who we have
coped for sixteen long months, are becoming extinct; while an accession of over
200,000 have been made to our arms. It is becoming talked in this city again
that the war cannot much longer exist! and we have very good reasons to coincided
from the fact that deserters tell us that both Lee and Jackson have openly
avowed their intention to continue advancing upon us until we either submit to
their sway or else be crushed themselves! Should such be their intention we
are inclined that rebellion will soon be done for.
The weather here is beautiful - the city is intensely crowded with
Northerners. Geo. F. Train can be seen at Willard's!
Capt. Tucker of the 19th Wis. has been stopping at Kirkweed's for a few days; he
is very unwell- having an attack of that horrid disease - chronic diarrhea. He starts
of Wisconsin to-day. From all I can learn he has done good service and proved
himself an efficient officer. If I mistake not he is worthy and should have a
better position tendered by by the Governor. Give him a cordial hearty greeting,
The 19th is at Norfolk. Gen. King and staff are still biding their time at the
national. Tt's rumored a new command will be given the General. We hope so.
Add. Randall is here on the "loaf" and says that he is expecting his
brother Alex. who is to be made a Brig. General. Deliver us from
such an observation!
Lieut. G. M Woodward, with the body of Capt. Colwell, arrived her Wednesday
evening last. The corpse had been too much exposed and it was impossible to
embalm it; therefore to disinfect was the only course left which was resorted
to. This morning three gentlemen from Kittanaing, Pa. made their appearance here
under orders from the father of the deceased and the body was turned over to
them. We are indeed sorry that the corpse of our good and noble Captain could
not be buried at La Crosse, Kittanaing is to be the place of interment. It is
impossible to describe the sensation created among the Light Guard in
consequence of their Captain 's death.
LETTER FROM CAPT. ELY.
We are permitted to make the following extract from a letter written in Washington
Sept. 20th by Capt. Ely to his wife and received here today.
"I reached here last night from Keedysville, Md. I was wounded in the left
arm just above the hand by a piece of a shell on Wednesday, just as the regiment
a was being taken from the field. The wound is not very serious though
The regiment is nearly annihilated. We went into action Wednesday with 150
muskets and 90 men are either killed or wounded of these. Of my company Asahel
Gage, Andrew Bean and Stewart Marton were killed in the battle of South Mountain
on Sunday and Charles H. Cheebney wounded in the arm; Bela W. Bebee in arm and
hand severely, but not mortally; John N. Eble wounded in leg, since amputated,
doing well; John M. Kellogg wounded slightly in head. On Wednesday, Sergeant
Jamison was slightly wounded in the leg; Charles E. Marsh, severely in the knee;
Clark E. Thomas, in leg; Jeremiah G. Burdick, in shoulder; none of these fatally:-
Andrew Waggoner is, I think, wounded also. Capt. Gibson, Lt, Hill; Lt. Jones and
Lt. Col. Allen were wounded and Lt. Sandford killed. Capt. Colwell was killed
and Capt. Parsons wounded, Sunday. There are eleven officers left with the
regiment. Col. Fairchild was sick Wednesday, and after Lt. Col. Allen was
wounded, I was left in command, and took the regiment off the field after it was
relieved. I was wounded by a stray shell when all supposed us out of danger.
The regiment behaved gloriously. It had never yet broken before the enemy or
failed to hold a position assigned to it till relieved or ordered off.
Glorious Old Second! Its banners are torn by bullets, but those tattered colors
are dear to the heroic men who defended them. Wisconsin has no cause to be
ashamed of the 6th and 7th; their ranks are thinned almost as badly as the 2d's
They are heroes who remain, as were those who have fallen before the foe,
wounded always in the front. Thank God, Sunday and Wednesday were days of
GEO. B. ELY.
FROM THE 2D WIS. REGIMENT
Camp, 2d Wis. Vols.
Battlefield of Sharpsburg, Md.
Sept. 21st 1762
(ed: that is a typo)
The first opportunity offering, I avail to write a long letter of our doings in
Maryland. I doubt not but what the telegraph has informed you of our brilliant
victories of Sunday and Wednesday last. They were indeed victories that this
country may well be proud of.
The newspapers have doubtless given you the meager accounts of the fights of Gainesville
and of Manassas. I cannot say that our cause was very much benefited in those
three days struggle - but of the part that the Wisconsin troops took, I believe
was performed with honor to themselves and the state.
In the battle at Gainesville, our Brigade suffered most terribly, with a loss of
720 killed and wounded. Our noble and brave little Col. O'Connor was killed
while he was cheering on his men to greater exertions. His last words to his men
as they gathered around him were "boys, you've nobly done your part - stick
to the old flag - fight and if needs be die for it. - He was buried close by the
field of battle and his place marked.
In this battle our brigade was under fire one hour and ten minutes. My company
suffered a loss of three killed and twelve wounded. Our boys done well and
showed themselves capable of performing wonders. A braver nobler set of men
never held a musket."
We left the Gainesville battlefield at 2 o'clock Friday morning leaving our
wounded to fall into the hands of the enemy and our dead on the field unburied.
It was hard to fall back to Manassas thus but there was no help for it. On
Friday we marched to the old Bull Run battlefield where, a year ago, a great
battle had been fought, the results of which are undoubtedly familiar to all the
During Friday, while the fresh troops were in battle, we were under the fire
of the enemy's artillery. It seemed rather hard to lay flat on one's belly
and hear those missiles drop and burst all around you. Friday morning our
regiment was consolidated with the 7th Wis., under command of Lieut. Col. Fairchild
- making a regiment about 500 strong. On Saturday our division was marched up to
engage the enemy's centre - our brigade taking possession of an orchard and
supporting Gibbon's Battery. Here our Brigade was freed to undergo the terrors
of a thorough rain of cannon balls, shells and canister. Our loss in this
engagement was 250, that is from the brigade, in killed and wounded. The brigade
held its position until late at night covering the retreat of our forces to
Centreville, where we were relieved by some of Smith's division. In the forenoon
I had been detailed with a squad of twenty men to go to the field of Gainesville
and have all the dead buried, but I had scarcely reached the field when the
enemy's skirmishers opened on us, and a battery sent a shell or two near us,
when we fell back receiving orders to await until the field was cleared - a thing
which proved out of the question on Saturday. On Saturday our Brigade marched to
Fairfax thence to Upton's Hill, where we remained a week, when we started for
Maryland. Our march to Frederick was a hard one and considering what our men had
already undergone, it was a wonder how they held out.
At Frederick we overtook the Secesh and followed them to the South Mountains.
Our Brigade was formed on the turnpike to the right and left and at dark, after
having under gone the terrors of an artillery duel, we marched up and opened on
the enemy at the foot of the mountain.
Previous to reaching the mountain, a shell from the enemy's battery burst
in our regiment, killing seven and wounding five. As usual with Jackson, his
forces were behind a stone fence and in a ravine at that. After being under fire
for some time our Regiment made a wheel giving us a clear range on the secesh behind
the fence.- Here our boys piled them up in heaps most awful to speak of. The
most of the Secesh appeared to be struck in the head. Gen. Robert Lee, son
of the rebel general R. E. Lee, was killed beside several Col's and Majors on
their side. We withdrew about 10 o'clock at night. During the time that Gen.
Hooker had drove the enemy on the right, General Reno had run them on the left,
giving us, after three hours contest, possession of the field. In this engagement
our Brigade suffered a loss of over 400. My company had five wounded as follows:
Corporal W. A. Nelson, A. T. Budlong, B. F. Knowlton, G. W. Williams and Geo.
In this battle, as in the former, our men behaved most gallantly and nobly
held their ground. The next morning (Monday) we commenced the pursuit of the
enemy, after capturing a large number of prisoners. Both Monday and Tuesday we
were occupied in cannonading and pushing forward close upon the heels of the
retreating foes. Tuesday evening we came upon their lines and lay down without
supper, in sight of the enemy, and directly under their guns. During the night,
heavy skirmishing and continual cannonading was kit up. At daylight our brigade
was forded forward to open for the enemy. We were marching in division front,
and had reached a clump of woods when the enemy opened with a battery on us, but
a shell burst in a division of the 6th Regiment, killing several and wounding a
number - how many I know not. We passed through the woods into an open field and
through a corn field with 6th Regiment on the right, and a N.Y. regiment on the
left.-We slowly crawled up through the corn field while Gibbon's Battery was
throwing canister and shell into the enemy. After passing through the corn field
into the open field, the enemy was discovered to be in great force on our right
and left, leaving their centre almost open, Cos. I and A had the first shot at
the foe, and soon the 6th Reg't., 7th and 19th Ind, and the N. Y. regiments
opened upon them. Then commenced the shower of Bullets - volley upon volley was
poured in by the contending parties. It seemed as if it were a perfect rain of
hail. In all battles I have not seen the like. I thought the battle of the 28th
bad enough, but this day's battle seemed most horrible.
Soon our regiment charged directly on the first company giving us a cross fire
on the enemy.
Major Allen was wounded and had to leave the field. Captain Ely of
Co. D then took command. Our men were falling fast - our ranks were thinned when it
seemed that we had scarce forty men left to defend our colors. All around me, men
were falling - some begging to be carried off the field - others giving their last
request to some comrade. For once, while standing there with but six of my own
company left, with the bullets flying all around me and man after man dropping
here and there, I thought of the awful carnage - of this dastardly work of taking
the lives of human beings. The N.Y. Brooklyn boys came up and with a cheer our
boys turned to them and asked them forward. With a hurrah they rushed through
our ranks and opened on the enemy, our boys joining with them. But it seemed as
if the Secesh rose from the ground - for of a sudden a whole brigade of fresh
rebels rose and poured in on our distracted men volley upon volley of Minnie
balls. Then, and not till then, did it seem that the old brigade would give way.
But alas! it slowly, gradually fell back till it passed through a column of
fresh Union troops who marched forward to meet the exultant foe. Lt. Sanford of
my company had fell, wounded in the head- his brains partly protruding when I
had him put in a blanket and carried to the rear. Lt. Hill of Co. C was also
wounded and carried to the rear, as also was Lt. Jones of Co. A. Our men what
could served the wounded. As many as possible rallied around the old Colors and
as soon as we reached the woods, a column was formed to stop stragglers coming
from the field.
My Orderly Sergeant, Wm. Noble, (and a braver man never shouldered a musket)
stuck by the colors, and done his whole duty. He has been all to me and his
course and manly bearing has taught me to love the man. For his noble conduct he
deserves an honorable promotion. I had Lt. Sanford carried to the hospital but
the doctors gave him up. He is now at Keedysville under the care of Geo. H.
Legate. He is about the same and as yet unable to speak - at times out of his
head. The Surgeons all agree that he cannot live. I have sent, by telegraph, for
some of his relations to come to him. In this battle I had wounded:
C. Schloser, badly; William Virgen, badly; N. Geib, slight; H. Coates, slight;
Samuel Whitehead, slight; Jerome F. Johnson, slight.
During the balance of the day we lay in the open field and at night again under
- went the tunes of a cannonading. This battle, all day the enemy being
driven at all points. The number killed and wounded in our Brigade was over 400.
In the four battles, our Brigade has suffered a loss of over 1,700 killed and
wounded. What the loss can be to our Army I cannot tell but it must be great.
The rebels have certainly, in this last battle, lost two to our one. The
rebels under the cover of a flag of truce to bury their dead (which they failed
to do) retreated across the river leaving their wounded in our hands. But on the
Virginia side, they run into the old Dutchman Sigel and undertook to cross back
when they were met by our force and brought to a stand still.
As the thing now stands Secesh are in a bad fix and
likely to be annihilated. Their whole army is here and the thing must decide the
fate of our government. It is either Confederacy or no Confederacy. Maryland and
Pennsylvania are safe enough.
In the fights of Maryland we must have captured at least 12,000 of their
army. Our late battle field is an awful spectacle - only our own troops have been
buried. The Wisconsin boys were nicely interred and a fence built around their
graves - the place marked &c.,
If you should pass over that field
you would never go over another. The dead so disfigured - swollen and black as ebony. It would seem out of the question for
human beings to be treated so, but be it said - war has its evils.
My letter is growing too lengthy and perhaps you will say a tiresome job to read
it but I have tried to give you a hurried sketch of our doings in Virginia and
Maryland knowing that you would naturally enough want to hear something from me.
Heretofore I have had no chance to write you for the great Pope had deprived us
of that privilege and now the gallant Mac, says write. Strange to say I have
passed through all these battles with out getting a scratch. My Lieutenants are
both gone. I am comparatively alone with twelve or fourteen men, and I assure
you I feel lonesome - and at times moan, pine for old Wisconsin. I have seen so
much, passed through such terrible fields of strife, that my heart is sickened
against war. I would gladly grasp the old "Stick" and pick the
types "as of yore" but I came here to perform a part and that
part, whatever it may be, I shall cheerfully perform to the end. Our regiment,
after receiving some of its absent duty men, is now 110 strong - it is all we can
muster. Col. Fairchild has gone to Washington sick. Capt. Stevens of Co. A. is
in command. I shall enclose a list of causalities of my company and of absentees
& which you will please furnish the Mineral Point papers to publish. Present
my compliments to all enquiring friends. Let me hear from you soon.
Correspondence of La Crosse Correspondence
FROM CAPT. COLWELL'S HOME
Kittanning, Pa., Sept. 23, 1862
Friend Seymour:-The sad ceremonies of to-day proclaimed to a multitude of
sorrowing friends and relatives that Captain Wilson Colwell is no more. His
remains were brought to this, the home of his childhood, to be deposited in the
cold narrow grave. He dies where a soldier loves to die - amid the shouts of
victory on the battle field of his country: He sleeps where the dead love to
sleep - amid the scene of his early life where cling the associations of an affectionate
home. Although this town is honored by his grave, our own city and State will
claim his noble deeds and the honor he gained them. All claimed him as their
friend and all unite in the last privilege of paying him tribute.
His funeral took place at 2o'clock this P.M. from his father's residence.
good old flag that he gave his life to defend was placed over his coffin.
Earnest prayers were sent up to Heaven in behalf of the affected living and then
started the mournful procession to the village grave yard, headed by the Masons.
He was lowered into his earthly chamber. Prayers were said. The heart bleeding
widow; the fond the devoted mother; tender and loving sisters; bereaved friends
and relatives, gave one last look into the house of death and passed on to leave
him alone in his glory. Farewell, fond loving husband and father; faithful son
and loving brother, kind, genial and noble friend; brave soldier and patriot -
farewell! Buried but not forgotten; dead, but still living - living in the
hearts and memories of a grateful people as one who died in defense of his
country and the glorious cause and sacred rights of humanity. Autumn will come,
and the leaves will fall; Spring will return, and the bud will burst. Ever
changing nature will continued her changes, but the memory of the brave will
live always. When he lay mortally wounded and his life blood ebbing away his
last and almost dying words were:
"Advance the right; and press forward
- don't give
Those are words that will stand on boldly on the pages of history and
inspire other to deeds of glory. "Advanced the right" and all will be
well. Then, as his faithful comrades were taking him from the field, he placed his
arms around their necks and shoulders to better support himself but his hold
soon grew weak weaker still, his arms slip gently from their shoulders - his pulse
grew still- "my poor, poor wife"! and the cord of life of the
noble hero was broken. "More broken hearts - more desolate
homes - more blood - more sacrifice - more weeping - more
treasure!"- still cries out this unnatural and wicked rebellion, and it is
given yet, it is not lost.
The Seward will be equal to the sacrifice; and by the graves of our brave
dead will we trace the history of our Government in its fearful struggles; and
learn the value of our country by the inscription upon the tomb stones of such
men as Captain Wilson Colwell.
Interesting Items of Wisconsin Heroes
We are kindly permitted by Hon. J. L. Pickard, to copy the following
interesting extracts from a private letter received by him from Wm. Noble, of
the 2nd Wisconsin regiment, who formerly attended school at the Academy in this
The letter is dated "Battle field of Sharpsburg, Sept. 28, 1862.
"I was with my regiment through all the hard battles in which it suffered
so severely. My company has had three killed and over thirty wounded. My own
messmates are all wounded and back in hospital yet I have escaped without having
a thread broken. Issac Kay, of Co. I, 2nd regiment was killed in battle near Gainesville
on the 28th of August. Geo. Mitchell of the 7th was left sick at a private
residence since we came into Maryland and was there the last I knew of him.
George Wilson, 2nd regiment, Co. C. was wounded in the leg at the battle of
Sharpsburg, Sept. 17, a flesh wound and not considered dangerous. Jasper and
Henry Rewey and Theodore Smelker of the 7th regiment were all wounded since we
came into Maryland-"Jap" and Smelker at the battle of South Mountain,
Sept. 14, and Henry at the battle of Sharpsburg - Russell Moore and John Atizer
are both with their company and well. Capt. A. R. Bushnell is absent on sick
leave. I saw Richard Carter and de Witt Smith since the battle of Sharpsburg.
They were both well. Saw Capt. Bentley at Manassas Junction August 29. He had
been unwell since the battle of Slaughter Mountain and was, at that time, with the
trains in the rear of his command. His regiment (3rd Wisconsin) was engaged and
suffered severely at the battle of Sharpsburg, but whether he was with them or
not I am unable to say. Scott Williams is still with the First New Hampshire
Battery and well. I see him frequently. Major T. S. Allen of our regiment has
been wounded three times twice during the battle of Gainesville, Aug. 23, both
slight, however, so much so that he did not deem it necessary to quit the field
till, in the battle of Sharpsburg, he was again wounded in the arm, more severely
that before, and compelled to go to the rear. He is now in Washington, as is
also. Col. Fairchild, on sick leave. We consider them both brave and true men.
Capt. Randolph was killed in the engagement August 28th. He commanded the
company from Madison. The 2nd Wisconsin regiment has suffered as much in rank
and file as in field and line officers. That regiment of stalwart men that used
to form such a long line across the fair grounds at Camp Randall is now scarcely
large enough to form a good artillery company. When it first come to Washington,
the commissary issued 1060 rations, to day 165. The 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin
regiment together with the 19th Indiana constitute the brigade and have each
suffered nearly in proportion to the 2nd. The brigade has taken part in four
different battles in each of which it suffered severely yet in none has it
behaved discreditably or stigmatized the reputation of the western troops. In
each engagement, the regiment has been subjected to a fire that more than
decimated its ranks so when you quadruple the 10th part you have not a full
proportion of its loss. We are now camping in a fine grove that was occupied by
the rebel army before and during the battle of Sharpsburg. The trees bear
abundant marks of the effective force of loyal rifle cannon. Nearly every house
that stood in a secure place during the battle is filled with wounded rebels who
were unable to be carried away. There surgeons and hospital stewards are with
them giving every attention that circumstances will allow. But with all cure
that can be rendered, many of the poor fellows will never be fit for service
again. If we are to form any conclusion from what they say a great proportion
would have been willing to quit the rebel service at a less cost than a leg or
an arm. "I have ranked all summer as First Sergeant in my company. It is a
post of much labor and in the volunteer service the Orderly Sergeant is said to
run the company. Yet if I am deserving a higher post I will get it soon, for
promotions are not slow these times."
Correspondence of the Herald
LETTER FROM ALF. THOMAS
CAMP ON THE BATTLEFIELD of ANTIETAM
near Sharpsburg, Maryland, Sept. 24th, 1862
THE BATTLE FIELD
This memorable and ever to be remembered battle field continues to be the center
of attraction notwithstanding that the material evidences of that sanguinary
struggle have been hidden from the public eye. Hundreds flock to the field with
the hope that there may yet be some relic left for them to pick up and place in
their cabinets of curiosities. The fence rail breast works of the rebels, the
tall oaks of the forest with their shattered limbs, the bullet pinned dwelling
houses, the Dunkard meeting house with its bombarded holes, smashed windows,
splintered pews and broken doors will long remain as signs whereby visitors can
tell that here it was that the fearful and bloodiest struggle of this fratricidal
war was fought. Here, where but a few days since, the dogs of war belched forth
their missiles of death and rivulets of blood flowed as free as water from the
mountain springs, peace and quietude now rule supreme. Long may it so remain!
THE WESTERN BRIGADE
of which so little has been mentioned through the press of the east is here in
camp awaiting orders to march, where and when none can tell, except those in the confidence
of the General in command. The temporary rest which this brigade is now enjoying
is refreshing to the veterans of this branch of Hooker's corps. It is a sad and
sorrowful sight to one who knew these gallant regiments composing the brigade in
their balmy days, to see them now with not enough men to form one good regiment,
all their field officers, with the exceptions of two or three, have been either
killed or wounded since the 20th of last August. From the time of the advent of
the brigade into Virginia up to the 20th day of last August, the campaign had
been, comparatively speaking, an easy one on our western boys with the exception
of the 2nd Wisconsin, which took an outdone part in the ill fated battle of Bull
Run on the 21st day of July, 1861.
From the official records, we find that on the 20th, 21st, 22d, 23d, 24th, 25th,
26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th of August and Sept. 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th,
this "Iron Brigade of the West" as it is termed, met the enemy on the
field of battle. During those several hard fought engagements, the number of this
gallant command has been reduced from nearly five thousand to less than one
regiment of fighting men. In all of these terrible conflicts where the battle
raged the fiercest, our gallant western volunteers have displayed indomitable
courage and unparalleled endurance, never flinching from the stern and arduous
duties required of them to perform. The fighting men of the West, wherever they
have met the foe and crossed bayonets with them, have established for themselves
a reputation for undaunted bravery not to be excelled by any people or nation.
From prisoners captured at the last great battle in this state. I learn that the
"Black Hat brigade," as Gibbons' pets are termed are the terror of
"Secesh." A rebel officer remarked to me that if the western men would
stand back from the fight the South would whip the "D--D Yankees" in
three months. I do not make mention of this with any intentions upon my part to
from the tried valor of our eastern troops as they are a brave, courageous and
gallant set of fighting men as any country need have to defend it against any
attack of the most formidable foe, but merely for the purpose of giving your
readers an idea of the estimate placed in the fighting qualifications of our
western troops. Upon the lines of the Potomac, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana
have every reason to be proud of the noble and daring deeds performed by their
sons in "my Maryland," and upon the "sacred soil," of
Dixie," the remnants of this veteran brigade capable of shouldering a
musket are eager still for the fray and ready whenever the command is given to
"up boys and at 'em," as they did at Bull Run, South Mountain, and
appears in some of the eastern journals as regards the time that Gen. Hooker's
corps went into the fight on the 17th at Antietam which I have taken occasion to
correct, if for not other reason than to place the western brigade where it rightly
belongs in the battle. I see it stated in a Philadelphia paper that Hooker went
into the fight between two or three o'clock in the afternoon. Now the facts are
these; Hooker's corps lay on their arms Monday night within five hundred yards of
the enemy which was ranged upon our tight center; neither party was aware of
their close proximity to each other until morning just before sunrise when the
enemy discovered the advance of Hooker's command, which was Gibbon's Brigade, and
opened a galling and murderous fire upon them which was returned by our boys who
fought the rebels until nine o'clock a. m., driving them from their position in
most gallant style, killing and wounding hundreds of the enemy. At this time, Gen
Summer brought up his command and relieved Hooker. The wounded and captured
prisoners all agree in saying that the "Black Hat Brigade gave them the
devil" during that morning 's brief and bloody contest for the mastery of arms.
As an act of justice to our western volunteers, I made this statement so that
the public and their friends may be acquainted with the part the west had in
that fight and that they were the ones that opened the bloody ball at that
point of our line of battle under the gallant fighter, General H.ooker.
BATTERY B, 4TH REGT., REGULAR ARTILLERY
which is attached to Gen. Gibbon's brigade is the crack battery of the army of
the army of the Potomac. The Rebel Gen. Lee swears that he will capture
that battery if it costs him ten thousand men--this I am told by one of
our wounded prisoners. The artillery men of this institution are, with the
exceptions of fifteen of the old company, dedicated members from the various
regiments of the brigade. At the battle of the 17th, Gen Gibbon who is
acknowledged to be the best artillerist in the service, paid especial attentions
to the workings of this battery. The execution done to the enemy from this
engine of destruction is said to have been truly terrific.
To the anxious ones at home it will be gratifying to learn that our wounded
soldiers are receiving the best of care and attention at this and other points. Reedsville,
Sharpsburg, Boonsboro, Middletown, Fredericksburg, and Hagerstown's are
converted into hospitals; citizens of these places are extremely kind and
benevolent to the sick and wounded. From the surgeons in attendance I learn that
it is estimated that at least sixty per cent of the wounded will be able to
return to duty. As yet few deaths have occurred in our hospitals.
HOW THE BOYS STOOD THEIR AFFLICTIONS
What has particularly attracted my attentions is the power of endurance
manifested by the poor fellows who now are suffering from the effect of their
wounds. I passing through the hospitals one can scarcely hear a murmur of
complaint. Their sufferings appear to be alleviated in the knowledge of the fact
that in the battles of the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th, of Sept. they achieved a
glorious triumph to the Union arms and successfully wiped out the lamentable
defeat of the second edition of the Bull Run disaster. To get well and
again meet the enemy face to face is the crowing wish of their patriotic hearts.
WHEREABOUTS OF THE ENEMY
You doubtless can form some idea of the difficulty a man would encounter in
hunting a needle in a haystack; if so you can appreciate the happy time your
correspondent is having in trying to find out just at this time the precise
location of the fleet footed "butternuts." That they are somewhere on
the Virginia side of the Potomac is true but whereabouts devils bit are after
knowing. Were it possible to get across the river without running any risk of falling
into the arms of secesh and becoming a recipient of its tender mercies, we might
burrow them out of their holes and give you some information of the
"varmints." As it is, we postpone the excursion for the reason that we
neither fancy their company or relish the smell of the "butternut"
BURNING THE DEAD
Your readers have doubtless heard of the rumor to the effect that our soldiers
had to burn the dead rebels on the battle - field of Antietam on account of the
decomposition which had taken place. As a report of this character would have a
tendency to make a bad impression at home and abroad, I deem it proper to state
that there is not a word of truth in the report.
There is no doubt but the report originated from some relic hunters on the
battlefield who snuffed up their distended nostrils the scent of some dead horse
that had been fired.
I understand that a few days after the battle of the 17th, thirty pieces of
cannon, the identical ones captured by the rebels, had erected a head board upon
which was inscribed "Respect the Dead."
Since the memorable battle of Antietam was fought there has been a continual
stream of humanity pouting into this country from the Eastern, Northern and
Western States. Hundreds of the great family of Adam have come with sorrowful
hearts in search of the loved ones of their homes who were either wounded or
dead. On the other hand, hundreds have visited the blood stained fields of the Antietam
to behold the ghastly and mutilated forms of the dead and to note every tree.
fence, rock and house struck by the dread messenger of death which had been
belched forth from the cannon. Among this class of visitors, a perfect mania for
relics possessed them. Pieces of shells, broken bayonets, canteens, knapsacks,
cannon balls, splinters from fences and trees struck by shot are seized upon and
carried off in triumph. Had it been possible, I believe some of these relic
hunters would have carried off a dead "Secesh."
A DISAPPOINTED FOE
The rebel campaign in "my Maryland" has proved a sad and disastrous
one. Their fond hopes and great expectations of realizing in this State glory,
honor and immortality has vanished like the mist before the rays of the morning
sun. Instead of being welcomed with outstretched arms and patriotic
demonstrations, they met with a cold reception. Even those who did sympathize
with the mongrel crew now curse them as a thievish ragamuffin set of land pirates.
The thousands which they were led to believe would rally around their standard
when planted upon the soil of "my Maryland" dwindled down to about
three hundred, the half of who returned disgusted with "secesh".
In this part of the State the grandeur of "Southern chivalry" which, in
the prospect, looked so brilliant to the imagination of its admirers, had lost
its charms, since the advent of the ragged, shoeless, hatless and scallawag army
into the state. Terrible has been the punishment inflicted upon them for daring
to set their traitorous feet upon the soil of Maryland. Four thousand and upward
of their blind and infatuated followers have been buried on the battle field of
Antietam. Thousands of their wounded fill our hospitals, while their prisoners
crowd our prison houses. Thousands of southern homes have, by this mad invasion,
been conferred into mourning and affliction and the state upon which they so confidently
counted as being the house of their family has forever passed from their hands.
Such is the fate of the ruthless invaders.
This pleasant country town which but a few days since was enjoying the full
blessings of peace and tranquility is now converted into a place of sorrow and affection.
Every house, barn, stable and place of public resort are now hospitals for the sick
and wounded. Its citizens, who are free from the taint of treason, are untiring in
their efforts to render aid and comfort to our wounded. A worthy and
venerable old citizen by the name of Reede, rich in worldly possessions, with a
heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness, pays his daily visits to the
hospitals, dispensing little delicacies among the suffering, and at night offers
up soul stirring appeals in presence of of the wounded to the throne of mercy in
their behalf. His disinterested kindness is highly appreciated by those who are
the recipients of his favors as well as those who witness the performance of his
arts of mercy. The same venerable and noble hearted son of Maryland on learning
that Battery B, of the 4th regular artillery had lost in the battle of the 17th,
several horses, presented the company with six of his finest horses. There is one
little incident in which the old gentleman performed a conspicuous part, which I
must notice. Sunday last, in company with Capt. John B. Callis of the 7th
Wisconsin regiment, I visited the old man's barn where a number of wounded were
located; as we were passing a wing of the building our attention was attracted
by the voice of one engaged in prayer; we stepped in and found this old man
kneeling by the side of a poor dying soldier whose leg had been amputated
praying in the most fervent manner. While thus engaged another poor fellow who
was slowly passing from this life suddenly brought the benevolent old soul to a
dead stand by addressing him thus--
"I say old fellow, I wish you would stop that here noise as I have a devil
of a headache and I want to go to sleep" Your readers better imagine than I
can describe the sensation it produced upon our worthy friend who rose from his
knees, passed to the door, raised his hands to heaven and exclaimed "the Lord Jesus
have mercy upon that poor sinner's soul."
contains a population of 1500 and is situated about three miles from Reedsville,
and twelve miles from Hagerstown and within a mile of the Potomac; unlike most
of the towns that I have visited in this State, it presents a rough and uninviting
appearance, resembling very much the dilapidated inland villages of Eastern
Virginia, uninteresting as it appears, it had become celebrated in the history of
the slaveholders rebellion. During the terrible conflict of the 17th this town
was riddled by shell and shot fired from ours to the enemies battery. Nearly
every building bears the evidence of the terrible cannonading.
The terror stricken residents of the village flew to the rocks and cliffs of the
mountains for protection, many of them who feared to venture from their dwellings
took to their cellars and remained there until the thunders of the artillery
ceased and the din of battle was heard no more; then it was they come forth from
their hiding place to witness the destruction caused by the terrible tornado of
shell and shot.
LOSS OF PROPERTY
Three dwellings, two barns and three stables took fire and were entirely
destroyed. Roofs were torn to pieces, walls battered in, furniture smashed to
pieces, chimneys knocked over, flooring splintered and doors perforated. The loss
sustained by the bombarding of the town is estimated at from $10,000 to $15,000.
rebels who held the place at the time, finding it inconvenient to remain to the
village, retired leaving Sharpsburg to its fate until the close of the battle,
when they again entered and held possession until the next morning when they skedaddle
at double quick for the river.
FREAKS OF SHELL AND BALL
At one house a shell entered the top of the chimney passed down and exploded
just above the fire place, knocked out the wall, smashed a sideboard, cut three
legs off a table and finally buried itself in the bed. Another passed through
the side of a house, missed a pitcher from a table, shivered a looking glass and
made its escape through the side of the building and went on its way in search
of a rebel. In a two story frame building, the male occupant was looking out of
the garret window when a ball struck the house about two feet from the window,
glanced to the floor passed through to the second story, keeled over a chair,
dived thought the floor, entered a cellar and knocked a washtub into a cocked
hat. To give a full account of the singular freaks of these fearful instruments
of death would take up half of your paper. The 17th of Sept. will never be
forgotten by the present generation inhabitants of the shell bored towns of Sharpsburg.
Butternut chivalry, which boasts of its noble bearing and honorable mode of
warfare, established a reputation in Sharpsburg for being the most accomplished rascals
and burglars that ever disgraced the State with their presence. They broke into
private dwellings, robbed the occupants of everything in the way of clothing and
eatables; one wantonly destroyed their household furniture. This I know to be
true as I obtained the facts from those who had been victimized by these
southern chivalrous desperadoes. Curses loud and deep have followed them out of
Today nearly three hundred more dead rebels were found scattered through the
woods. This will swell their list of dead up to nearly five thousand.
Dr. Ward of the 2d Wisconsin come very near making a hasty exit from this world
to the other side of Jordan this afternoon through the explosion of a spherical
case shell which his curiosity bid him to unscrew and examine. How the Dr. and
those around him escaped is a miracle.
A DESPERATE ACT
At the battle of the 17th a Sergeant of Battery B was struck by a shell which
mangled the lower part of his limbs in a most fearful and mortal manner; seeing
that there was no possibility of his living, he drew his pistol and blew
out his brains, preferring immediate death to a lingering and painful one.
CHANCE FOR AN ONWARD MOVE
Orders have just been received by the officers in command of the regiments of
this brigade to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment's notice.
Rumor fixed our point of destination to be the the vicinity of Hagerstown. It
may be once more "down in Dixie."
THE BOYS OF THE OLD GRANT
The friends and relations of the brave boys of old Grant county will be
gratified to hear that those who are still in the ranks are in fine spirits
ready and willing as usual to meet the enemies of our glorious republic and give
them another specimen of the "Iron Brigade" fighting qualifications.
Those of them in the hospitals are being well cared for and are fast recovering.
Your correspondent is again with the "Brigade" and will endeavor to
send a few penciling by the wayside to the Grant County Herald.
Hospital, near Reedy'sville,
Sept. 26th, 1862
Dear Parents-I am now at our brigade hospital
helping to take care of our wounded. There are eighteen of us nurses. We take
care of them and dress their wounds. We have one hundred and twenty of the
wounded in this hospital; only one from our company, John Hinton, from
Waukesha.- He is wounded below the knee. The bone is badly shattered but the
pieces have all been taken out. He appears to be doing well and we think
he will not lose his leg.- I act as hospital steward part of the time. I suppose
you have heard the particulars of the late battles in Maryland, one on the 14th (Sunday)
the other on the 17th (Wednesday). Sunday, a heavy cannonading was kept up and
about three o'clock the whole line was ordered forward. We were advancing up a
ravine and when we got up within shooting distance, they opened a battery on us,
shooting solid shot and shell. They got good range on us; one of their shells
bursting among us, killing and wounding seven. Capt. Parsons, one of the
wounded, was struck in the shoulder with apiece of the shell. We soon got up
where we could see our Austrian rifles and we did good service with them. We
drove them off the mountain. Our ammunition falling short, we were obliged to lay
on the battle-field until morning and we discovered that the rebels had
We then got our breakfast, a new supply of ammunition and started on again, our brigade
taking the lead. After marching a short distance beyond Boonsboro, I
became so tired and footsore, I, with one other of the company (Bradshaw), fell
out of the ranks to rest. After I had got rested, I left my gun and traps with
him and taking the canteens, started for water. I saw a house about half a mile
distant and started for it. Passing through a grove and over a small rise of
ground when suddenly I discovered a gentleman and by his dress I knew him to be
a secesh. His gun was standing against a fence. We were both about the same
distance from it and both started for it at once; but I having the best pair of
legs; beat him about four feet. I grabbed his gun, came to a charge bayonets and
told him to come to time, which he did, as he saw I had him where his hair was
He belonged to Philip's Legions, from Georgia. He was a corporal and I must say
he was the best looking and most intelligent southern soldier I ever met. I
marched him out on the road and gave him up to an officer who had a squad of
prisoners in charge. My comrade and I then started on and overtook our regiment
that night. We were moving along until Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, bright
and early, the big battle commenced which lasted until after dark. We drove them
from every point for three miles and held the ground. The slaughter was terrible
on both sides; from our company John Yates was killed; Thomas Kelly wounded in
the arm; Hinton, I have spoken of before.
PARTICULARS AS TO COL. O'CONNOR'S BODY
We are kindly permitted to copy the following letter from the Adjutant of the 2d
Wisconsin regiment which well be read with interest:
Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, '62
Hon. B. O'Connor:
Dear Sir: I have just returned from Richmond, Va., where I was taken on the 23d
of August last and confined till the 24th inst.
While at Annapolis yesterday, I saw J. P. Blakeslee and Robert Scott, of Co.
"B" of our regiment and they gave my the following information as to
the body of your son, our Colonel, which I esteem a duty, thought a melancholy one,
to impart to you:
On Friday morning, Aug. 29th, about 5 o'clock they saw his body and as they could
do nothing more, Scott took from the saddle of his horse, which was tied to a
fence near, his rubber coat and spread it over his face and in this condition he
laid till Saturday morning when he was buried under the direction of Capt.
Gerrish of the 1st N. H. battery. I think his watch, money and other valuables
about his person must have been taken by some one during the night as they said
nothing about them. Had they been on his person at that time, the persons named
would have secured them in trust for their Colonel's friends, I have no doubt,
and I hope you have received them from other friendly hands. Blakeslee took from
the saddle of the Colonel's horse (which was shot in the leg) his field or
marine glass, a fine one presented him by Lieut. Daniels of the Signal Corps, and
brought it away with him; and which he has entrusted to me for delivery to you.
I now have it and as I start for home on a 20 day's leave of absence to-morrow,
I will forward it either from Janesville or Milton to you. I live at Boscobel,
At Annapolis, I also saw Capt. Gerrish and got from him a sketch of the burial
place of the Colonel, so drawn as to fix the location of his grave quite
accurately. This information I know to be particularly valuable to you, and I
take the first opportunity to impart it. I am not acquainted with the ground
and can only copy the sketch made by Capt. G. which you will find on the
opposite side. I much regret that it is not more closely noted as to distances,
&c. but with the assistance of Dr. Ward, there will be no difficulty in
determining the precise spot.
In conclusion, allow me to say that I mourn with you the sad fate of our Colonel.
His complete ability as an officer, his great coolness and bravery under all
circumstances and his unusual goodness of heart had made him, on full
acquaintance, the idol of the regiment. It will take many rebel lives to pay for
his loss, and the 2d will take care to avenge his death at every opportunity.
I should be pleased to hear from you while at Boscobel.--
I have the honor to be,
Very respectfully, Yours,
C. K. Dean
Adjutant 2d Wisconsin
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 2D REGT. WIS.
ITS MARCHES, BATTLES AND CAMP LIFE.
(BY A MEMBER OF THE REGIMENT)
On the eleventh, day of June 1861, at our State Capital, Ten Hundred and Forty of
our freemen calling upon God to witness the sincerity of their motives, did
solemnly swear to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, to serve
them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers what so ever;
and obey and observe the orders of the President of the United States and the
orders of the officer appointed over them; according to the rules and articles
of the government of the Armies or the United States.
Not a single man hesitated, flinched or showed the white feather; all alike seemed
anxious and impatient for the fast approaching day that should place them upon
the road to the scenes of their future usefulness and glory. At length, the
morning of the day dawned on which they took their southern flight, and after a
brief and appropriate farewell address, by his Excellency, the governor, all
joined in three hearty cheers for the Union and they were quickly on their road
toward Dixie - Although much might be said of the trip to Washington, especially of
our receptions at Chicago, Toledo, Cleveland and other places along the rail road, a single remark must suffice. The ladies generally seemed master of
ceremonies and such luxuriant bountiful and rich repasts as were served by their
fair hands probably never did before and certainly never will again greet the
hungry eyes and stomachs of our camp fed soldiery.
Vast numbers of bouquets, each bearing the name of the fair donor on a neatly
written card and ingeniously hidden among the flowers, were presented to our
soldier boys and many, no doubt, were the hearts that from that moment beat
strong and more in unison of the Union than they were ever before wont to do.
The regiment, at lengths, reached Washington and was temporarily quartered on
Pennsylvania Avenue and I venture the assertion that not thirty minutes had
elapsed from the time of stacking arms before different members of the regiment
might have been found in every part of the city. Indeed, I saw myself, in an
incredibly short space of time, some of the boys taking a view of the city and
its surroundings from the dizzy height of the Capitol Dome. And chancing, a short
time after, in company with an officer, to make a hurried visit to the White
House, I there found preceeding us, leisurely seated at a window in the noted
East Room, one of our soldiers busily engaged writing an affectionate note to a fair
correspondent somewhere in Ohio.
Time had now discarded its leaden wings and the hours and days went whirling
by. At length on the third day of July, we struck tents and moved camp across
the Potomac into Virginia upon whose sacred soil we were destined to tread and
meet our country's foe. We were here brigaded! with the 18th, 69th and 79th N.Y.
regiments and placed under command of Col. William T. Sherman, then acting
On the 19th day of July, the regiment was ordered to fall in and take up its line
of march toward Manassas. Reaching Centerville about noon of the 18th, we had just
filed out in an open field preparatory to partaking of the accustomed dinner,
when the booming of cannon a short distance in advance, announced to us that our
advanced columns were already skirmishing with the rebels at, or near, Blackburn's
Ford whither we were ordered to repair at double quick to support Gen. Tyler's
command, who were feeling after the rebels with leaden and iron fingers.
We hurriedly fell in and for a distance of nearly, or quite, two miles and under a
scorching hot July sun, double quicked, our regiment. The skirmish proved to be
short, sharp and quite satisfactory when we were ordered to fall back to
Centerville, bearing our dead and wounded with us.
It was here we lost our first man, a private in Co. B by the name of Gardner, who
fell mortally wounded by a rifle cannon shot, most horribly mutilating his limb
which was amputated the same evening. But before the dawn of the next day
his sprit had fled from its earthly tenement and with muffled drum and measured
tread he was borne to his final resting place by his comrades.
The 19th and 20th were passed quietly in camp near Centerville while the plans
of the battle for the eventful 21st were being matured. At length all the
arrangements for the coming day had been completed, night had again drawn its
sable curtain over the scene, and the troops lay on their arms under heaven's
broad canopy. The full moon shown out from a cloudless sky, the air was balmy and
all nature seemed hushed in quiet repose. Long before the gray morning
dawned however the different camps were astir and the different columns were
moving toward the scene of action.
All alike seemed impatient for onslaught as they marched rapidly forward merrily
singing the stanzas set to the celebrated song of "Dixie" little
imagining what were to be the reverses of feelings and conditions before another
morning should dawn. The gallant lads, after about five miles march, took their
positions in line of battle and all waited in breathless suspense the opening of
the action. At length, a heavy and deep explosion from our 32 pounder announced
that the first deadly message had been sent into the rebel ranks; and other and
still another explosion followed in quick succession and in a short time the
fight became general.
The battle raged without cession until about 5 o'clock and up to this time every
countenance seemed big with hope that victory was about to crown the hard fought
battle when swift as the besom of destruction came the news that our lines had
been broken and that a complete rout ensued. This intelligence was soon
too fearfully confirmed by the disorderly retreating masses, broken sections of
artillery and squads of infantry all mixed up in utter confusion, began to rush
by, scattering their arms and accoutrements in every direction. Next came the
charging columns of rebel cavalry closely pursuing our already worn out and
affrighted infantry. The scene now beggared description.
The Second Regiment, although ordered to fall back at an early moment, maintained
their position and were the last regiment to leave the field. I would not do
justice to a brave officer were I to omit mentioning in this connection the
name of out gallant Col. Coon although not in command of the regiment during the
battle, he, having acted as volunteer aid to Gen. Sherman. Yet he most nobly
acquitted himself on that battle field of all charges that had been raised
against him. At this late day, I will not undertake to either praise or censure
any one. The defeat and disaster at Bull Run has long since become a matter of
I may, however, be allowed to quote a short sentence from an address recently made
by our then commander Col. Sherman now Major General in the South Western Army.
Addressing his command, a part of which are Wisconsin troops he says:
"Wisconsin may always be proud of her troops: - The Second Regiment was with me
at Bull Run. They were the bravest regiment on the field; they stood up like
veterans - stood till was madness to stand any longer. Wisconsin had no shame in
that disgraceful defeat. I shall always consider it an honor to command
We collected together such of our wounded as could walk and did the best that
could be done for them toward making them comfortable at Centerville and that
night, between the hours of 10 and 11, commenced a slow and painful march on foot
of 28 miles to Fort Runyon which place we reached at noon of the next day
dripping wet from the rains that had fallen without interruption during the last
six hours. What remained of the regiment were gathered together on the 28d and
went into camp at Fort Corcoran, Va. where we lay for some time until we were
ordered into Maryland and were brigaded with the 6th and 7th Wisconsin and 19th
Indiana and placed under command of Brigadier General Rufus King.
Having crossed and recrossed the river several times for specific purposes, we
were finally ordered to camp at Arlington Heights early in November where we
spent the winter of 61'- 62'.
While at Arlington Heights, our time was spent in drills, reviews and the
performance of picket duty Nothing of any particular note occurred to disturb
the monotony of camp life, exempt a thanksgiving dinner at which Senator Wilson
of Massachusetts and Secretary Seward were guests, and the presentation to
the regiment of a pair of Gurdon flags, richly and elaborately worthy in gold
bullion on a ground work of heavy blue silk with silver mountings. This magnificent
gift was the handwork of the donor, a Miss Benkhart, one of New York's fair
daughters and presented to the regiment for its perfection in drill and
marching. The presentation was made with some very appropriate remarks from Gen.
The Guidons were received in behalf of the regiment by Capt. Mansfield with a
like response of patriotic eloquence and delivered over to the color bearers who
have often been heard to made the remark that they would sooner lose their lives
then the flags.
The spring of '62 at length arrived and the busy note of preparation again
sounded for the campaign which was Onward to Richmond as of yore and the 4th
day of April found us again with faces set southward, passing through the
deserted rebel strong hold of Centerville, Bull Run and Manassas. We slowly wended
our way through rain and storm to the Rappahannock River which point we reached on
the 23d. We, finding no enemy, we were ordered back to Brock Station and set to
work rebuilding the rail road bridges destroyed by the rebels before evacuation
their positions at Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg. This work completed, we were
moved up with Gen. King's division, took possession of and occupied
Fredericksburg. With the exception of two reconnaissance's into the enemy's
country on the 24th of July and 4th of August, nothing partaking of the nature of
an active campaign was experienced until the 10th of August when we were ordered
to join Gen. Pope's army, then marching on Culpepper by the way of Warrenton, but
did not reach him until the day after the battle at Slaughter's Mountain. The
enemy having fallen back across the Rapidan, we remained in camp on the
battlefield until the 18th when an order came for the whole army to fall back
and recross the Rappahannock River which was accomplished on the 21st, the enemy
closely following in our rear. On the 21st, the rebels began to show themselves
in considerable force at Rappahannock Station and at different points both above
and below, with the evident intent to cross, to defeat which purpose our forces
opened a brisk cannonading from our side of the river while the river bank was
thickly lined with pickets and skirmishes. This kind of warfare was kept up on
the 21st, 22d and 23d. at the station, on all of which occasions the Second
participated with very slight loss .
On the 23d, King's division was ordered to fall back to Warrenton and protect the
crossing of the river at White Sulphur Springs which point we reached on the
25th and held until the 27th when we were again ordered to fall back with all
possible dispatch to Manassas. The division fell back from White Sulphur Springs
and Warrenton late in the day of August 27th when we were again ordered to move
out again at 3 o'clock on the morning of the 28th. On the 28th, shortly after 1
o'clock P.M., our advance guard came up very close to the rear of the enemy where
skirmishing had already taken place by the advance of our cavalry. We here
halted until about 4 o'clock P.M. when we again fell in and resumed the march
making however but a short distance when unexpectedly and suddenly came upon the
enemy who had posted themselves in select and chosen position and immediately
opened fire upon our brigade. This little episode was not on the day's programme
but did not take us altogether by surprise. Quick as thought the ambulances and
transportation trains were wheeled out of the marching column, the clear shrill
voice of Gen. Gibbon rang out commanding the brigade to form their line of
battle and in less time than I am consuming in narrating the event, the deadly
strife commenced. The battle lasted one hour and ten minutes when pitchy
darkness closed the scene - our brigade holding their position and the fields:
There probably had not been so unequal and deadly a fight as this battle during
the war. I was afterward informed that we fought the famous Stone Wall Brigade
of Jackson, all picked and chosen troops supported by Ewell's entire division.
The rebel hordes during the fight would charge upon a feeble column, uttering the
most hideous yells, seemingly sufficient to have to have unstrung iron nerves, but
the demonstration and effort did not win for one cool and well directed fire
from our Austrian riles sent them back reeling, silencing many voices forever. We
have gained the significant name of the "Iron Brigade" as the rebels
themselves acknowledged that Gibbon's Brigade was the first that had ever made
them turn their backs, but most dearly did the name cost, the scene on the
field was truly appalling.
Thickly scattered lay our brave dead and wounded officers and men; Oh the misery
that crowded itself into that short hour the killed and wounded of the brigade
We remained on the field, rendering all the aid possible in the removal and care
of the wounded and with as many as could be moved in the division train of
ambulances, fell back to Manassas Junction , 3 o'clock on the morning of the
29th. The principal part of the day was spent in forcing our new position, again
in front, and in reorganizing to some extent the troops of the brigade by
consolidating the 7th with the 2nd regiment, placing the same under command of
Lt. Col. Fairchild. The position now occupied by the brigade was very near the
old Bull Run battle field of 1861 where we lay until noon of the 20th when the
Iron Brigade again fell in and once more moved to the scene of strife.- Our army
held their ground but a very short time when they gave way and now followed the
most disgraceful defeat of the war.- Vain and unsuccessful attempts were made to
rally the army but every entreaty seemed to fall upon deaf ears and a steady
line of retreating masses kept pouring by until the whole army was under way
Here, again, as on the former occasion the 2nd, with the brigade of Gen. Gibbons,
were the last troops to leave the field and constituted the rear guard of Pope's
army reaching Centerville an 10 o'clock a.m. of the 31st. The time intervening
between this and the 2nd of September was spent in slowly falling back and
skirmishing until we reached Upton's Hill late in the day and went into camp.
Here we fell in with a part of our old Co. K. (now Wisconsin heavy artillery)
who were garrisoning the fort at this place. Here also we first saw General
McClellan and staff, who met with a very cheering reception from out old Brigade.
We remained at this place in camp resting and recruiting our exhausted and worn
down editors until the 6th when the order came to pack up and move at 8 o'clock
p.m. and at 9p.m. The last of our column had filed off into the main road leading to Arlington
FROM A MEMBER OF THE LIGHT GUARD
The Fate of the Second Regiment.-
The career of the Second Wisconsin Regiment is practically ended. All that
remains of the eleven hundred who left Wisconsin a little more than twelve months
ago are fifty-nine war-worn and battle grimed men. Almost every bloodstained
field of Maryland and Virginia is enriched by the bones of the dead from that
noble regiment. There were ten overflowing companies when the regiment left the
State. Every fight took away some of them from the ranks. The hospital did
its share in the fatal work. Nobly the brave boys bore their misfortunes beholding
their ranks grow thin and burying their comrades beneath their feet as they
passed without a murmur. They were at Bull Run, at the first disaster. Afterwards they were with McDowell many months in Virginia.
Then they were at Bull Run again passing through all the principal battles of
Pope's retreat toward Washington. Then McClellan took them with him into Maryland
to drive the enemy from there. They were the foremost in every battle fought. -
bravest among the brave of "Gibbon's Iron Brigade" On the morning of
the 19th they mustered about one hundred and fifty men. That was all but there
was one more battle to fight. and they were not the soldiers to flinch from
duty. The fighting they did that day alone would have covered the regiment with
imperishable glory even had that been his first and last exploit and the
regiment full. Night came, the roll was called and fifty-nine, and fifty nine only
we are told, were left to answer to their names. Fourteen of the one hundred and
fifty had been killed and sixty-three wounded and some were missing.
Wisconsin owes a monument to its dead regiment, and imperishable gratitude and
honor to the few of its representatives left.
The company from this city has suffered less than any other in the regiment but
the deaths are missed. The first man killed at Bull Run over a year since, was Gardner
of the La Crosse Light Guard. Death seems to have spared this company in after