Home Page Second Wisconsin
1863 February, The
Letter from Co. C, 2d Wis
Camp near Belle Plain, Va.
Feb, 7th, 1863
FRIEND COVER: - we have the pleasure to receive the
Herald quite regular, it
is always a very welcome visitor. In the edition of the 27th inst., we find a
communication, by a certain Mr. C. B. who, as it seems, is making great efforts by the aid of your valuable sheet to run down the 2nd
Wis and whitewash
the 7th and take the glory for it. I wish the valiant Knight would not be rough
on us and stay within the limits of truth. It appears that the lines in your
former issue which gave the 2nd some praise and us, I believe, nothing more than
it merits set the said C. B. into an awful seat. It must have went seriously against
his stomach to have the Ragged Second called fighting ditto. Accordingly he tries to work off his bile by the eruption with which he gives vent to his
feelings in the Herald.
He comes in for the lion share of the fame and laurels but methinks he has
chosen a very bad method for accomplishing his desire towards his companions on
terms. It seems that newspapers are the only refuge for such characters to
The public must be surely aware of the fact that the Second was of course the
Bear at the battle of Fredericksburg, but how is it that there were none killed
and wounded in the regiment. The 7th was, as a matter of course, the principal
body of troops to be relied upon for the protection of the left wing of the
whole army and for the reason pushed into the advance. I do not want to give a
long account on what we did and didn't do. Suffice it to say that for the greater
part of the time the Second had to do picket duty deployed as skirmishers and
the flanking companies actually engaged in skirmish with the corn Feds. This is
not meant as self praise but a vindication and Mr. C. B. should have known that
self praise is a poor recommendation. You may have received letters from us but
as as far I know there was no practice made to elevate ourselves or depress the
reputation of them for our Motto is Suvm Cuique.
By the perusal of the records of causalities in the different regiments, Mr. C.
B. would have found that the 2d has been the most ill fated and by comparison he
may perhaps become convinced that Co. C, especially, lost more men that any other
company which left Grant County.
How does this correspond with the question of the advance position? Does the
gentleman recollect Gainesville, (or was he perchance with the wagon train)?
Does he know which regiment was called into action first and why? Because Gen.
Gibbon was aware that the Second had been previously under fire, (at Bull Run,
first, but had to retreat like the rest of the army.) He fully perceived the
dangerous position his Brigade was placed in and he confidently sent the 2nd in
to show the modus operandi. At South Mountain he remarks that we were in the
He must be very well posted but, nevertheless, he made a very serious mistake. He
may have limbered to the rear and mistook the war, the battalions were in line of
battle. So to strengthen his memory, I will only say that the 19th Indiana and
2nd occupied one side of the turnpike, while the 7th and 6th were on the other.
He must, indeed, find it very tantalizing to those having friends in the 7th to
hear the recognition of the fighting bestowed upon a sister regiment. But we are
all fractious for a name or title and quite willing to substitute the old
nickname of the Ragged A-; this may be some reconciliation.
I see that he forgot to mention that we were rear guard again in the last
disastrous advance. But the people of Grant County ought to know it and I will
tell them of it and the duty of a rear guard, which is to pick up stragglers
etc. It may be that he had reasons for not doing so because, as performing our
duty, we picked lots of such men up as Mr. C. B. in distance corners and hiding
such heroes were tying to heel it, instead of toeing up towards the enemy while
their fellow combatants marched forward.
Away from, guns, bombs and shells Mr. C. B. shows great valor in wielding his
pen, the roar of musketry don't weaken his nerves. Should he, after this, piously aspire toward glory, I will
help him. In case he as few greenbacks to spare, a competent New York reporter who will make him a cid or Bayard, elevate him to the
highest notch and till higher if required. For my part I do not make any
practice in corresponding with papers but I wish Mr. C. B. would take the
proverb at heart: "Virtus Fortitudine Vincet."
WAR CORRESPONDENCE - 2D REGIMENT
WE HAVE RECEIVED A LETTER FROM OUR OLD CORRESPONDENT IN CO. E. DATED BELL PLAIN,
VA., FEB 17. AS IT IS QUITE LONG WE ARE OBLIGED TO OMIT THE FIRST PART AFTER
SPEAKING OF THE WEATHER, HIS OFFICERS, &C., HE PROCEEDS:
The "old Second still lives."
We now turn out something over two muskets. The reputation of the "Iron
Brigade" is still above par in army circles. We were unfortunate enough to
be rear guard in the late fruitless effort at another demonstration against
Fredericksburg, which is one of the most unenviable positions in which a
regiment can be placed although it is considered a post of honor.
The storm (more severe than any which I ever experienced) commenced the first
day. The roads were never worse and men and teams suffered fearfully. The first
night, from being compelled to wait, the movements of artillery, teams, &c.,
which stuck in the mud in advance, it was 12 o'clock at night when we camped, the
rain falling in torrents, accompanied by a severe Nor'easter. The storm continued
three days which put an effectual check upon any further movement at that time.
The troops were ordered to return and take up their old positions. It was some
time, however, before all the artillery, wagon, &c., could be got back, so bad
were the roads, which for miles were completely blocked up with army wagons,
artillery, dead mules and horses.
T'was a sad failure to say the least, and venture the assertion that government
lost as much by it in men, (through desertion, sickness, &c,) and material,
and that esprit-d'-corps, so essential to success, as when we failed to take
impregnable batteries at the point of the bayonet in Burnside's first attempt on
Fredericksburg. Since then we have been doing picket and fatigue duty - such as
building "corduroy roads, bridges, docks, &c.", so that the men are on
duty almost every day.
Some changes have taken place in the command of the 2d.. Lieut. Col. Allen is now
Col. of the 5th, and Maj. Stevens in now Lieut. Col. with Capt
Mansfield,-"G" Co., Portage City Light Guard, as Major.
We now have a Brigade band composed mostly of the old members of the 2d's Band
that was discharged last summer. They met with a most hearty welcome from the
boys who had never forgiven our venerable Uncle Samuel for depriving us of the
only source of pleasure ever afforded them. The present band is a good one, and
under the direction of their gentlemanly leader, Mr. Fischal, discourses most
The last "grand movement" of the 2d, was a foraging expedition down
the Potomac, in company with the 6th Wis, under command of Col. Fairchild, the
plan of the expedition was this: the 2d and 6th Wis, and the 7th Ind. (not in
our brigade) were to take transports at the landing not more than half a mile
from the camp, sail down the river and canal in Northumberland Co., where, at
Heathsville, the county seat, we were to meet and act in conjunction with a
force of cavalry , who were to have taken the overland route. Thursday,
the 12th, the infantry force embarked - the 2d and 6th on the Alice Price, and
the 7th Ind. on the Edwin Lewis. T'was 4 o'clock P.M. before we left the dock and
steamed down the river. Our picket line (the left of which rests on the river
about three miles from point of embarkation,) was passed, and from that point to
the mouth of the Potomac, the country is in the possession of the rebels.
By 10 o'clock the second day, having run up what is known as Cove Creek, we
effected a landing at a point about 3 miles from where it empties into the
Potomac. I will state here that the boat with the 7th Ind. on board failed to
land and returned without accomplishing anything and our force was consequently
much weakened. "E" Co. was first ordered to land and instantly pushed
out into the country picking up horses, mules, forage and suspicious looking
citizens and not returning to the boat until late in the evening, having captured
26 mules, six horses, four thousand lbs. bacon, ham shoulders, &c., not a bad
day's work for a company of 11 privates, 6 non-commissioned officers and one 2d
Lieut. The remainder of the force in the meantime having marched to Heathsville
and although behind time some three or four hours the cavalry we were to have
met there had not arrived; neither did they arrive at all having been badly
frightened soon after leaving our picket lines by indications of the presence of
a large force of the enemy's cavalry in the vicinity. Their loss was not felt
for although our cavalry in this division is probably as good as any in the
field, it isn't what it should be; in fact, our cavalry is the most ineffective
arm of the service. At Heathsville we broke up a conscript meeting and made
several valuable captures. At night "E" Co. was on picket. Having more
horses and mules than we could take back on the boat early in the morning of the
second day, volunteers to the number of thirty were called for to take the extra
stock to camp by land -a most hazardous undertaking, as you will acknowledge
when you consider that the distance to be traced was near ninety miles and that
through an enemy's country, "E" Co. being on picket was only
represented by one man, Geo. E. Smith, who, having been on duty away from the co.,
was on hand and made one of the party. At day break the cavalcade started under
the command of Lieut. Daily, "B " Co., LaCrosse L. G.
It was a daring feat and the well wishes of those who remained for the
safe arrival of each and all were given with many a sad foreboding.
What the Col. thought of it may be implied from this: When asked why he didn't
send more that one commissioned officer with the troop he remarked, "I
thought one was enough to be captured!" Those who remained embarked in the
afternoon of the second day with all the horses, mules, bacon, &c., the boat
could carry and the next day, at night, found us at our quarters. The second day
after our arrival the land force reached camp having, by judicious management,
eluded the enemy's cavalry at every point and bringing with them an additional
number of horses and mules besides making some very important captures of rebel
Many interesting incidents are related by the boys-hair breadth escapes,
romantic adventures, first experiences at bareback mule-riding &c., but for
fear of trespassing too much on you space will mention but one. The first day
out from Heathsville, through information received from a conscript who had for
some time been making it his headquarters in the woods thus eluding the authorities
whose business it was to enforce the conscript act,- they became apprised of
their near proximity to the house of a Col. Claybrook - noted secessionist and a
man prominent for his exertions in enforcing that act and consequently no
special favorite with its victims. Determined upon his capture; Lieut Daily
disposed his men so as to surround the home before approaching close enough to
alarm the inmates and then gradually closing in; thus effectually preventing an
escape. On arriving at the door and before the Lieut. could dismount, the party
were suddenly confronted by a specimen of female chivalry as represented in the
indignant persons of the old lady and two remarkably fine looking daughters -
most beautiful of which demanded, with revolver leveled, what was wanted. The
Lieut., respectfully touching his cap, (a tribute to the youth and beauty of the
fair secessionist ) replied that it was the Col. they were in quest of, begging
them not to alarm themselves assuring them that Union soldiers never war upon
women. With pistol still pointed she then asked -What 's you name, sir?"
The Lieut., who had dismounted in the meantime, replied: "My name is Lt.
Daily, 2d Wis. Vol. "O!" then exclaimed the young lady with a good deal less
asperity "so you are Wisconsin men. I thought you were eastern
the same time dropping the pistol by her side and assuming her own proper
character of the refined and accomplished lady. She then informed the Lieut.
that the Col. was not in and gave them permission to search the house which they
did but no Col. was to be found.
I mention this as it is only one of the many tributes paid to the superiority
of western troops.
The expedition was most successful as the result will show. We captured
ninety-eight horses and mules, several thousand pounds of bacon, ham, & .,
broke up a gang of smugglers, burned a rebel schooner and returned without the
loss of a man.
This letter is much longer that was at first intended abut I will strive to
avoid a repetition of the offence.
Members of "E" co with the Reg. are all well and on duty . The
health of the Reg. is good
Yours W. S. R.
March 25th., The routine of dull camp life is
again broken by an expedition under Col. Fairchild to Mechsdoe Creek, with a detachment
of cavalry men on a steamer.
La Crosse Weekly Democrat
"Local and Other Intelligence"
Friday March 27, 1863
"Proud -- We feel proud of Co. B, 2d Wisconsin Volunteers, The La Crosse
Guard --and we have reason so to feel -- It is the oldest Company in the U.S.
service. We state this as a fact and can substantiate it. It has been in as
many battles, if not more battles than any other Company, and has yet never
shown the white feather. We believe it never will. First on hand in time of
danger and the last to leave the field of battle except under orders. Capt.
Hughes has reason to have great pride in his Company, and the friends of
boys" will also be pleased to know of their proud position.
Thanks to Fred Beseler, La Crosse
"Feb. 12th, the Second and Sixth Regiments go
down the Potomac on a foraging expedition; return by boat at night. March ten miles, bring
back a quantity of hams, grain and bacon, horses, mules and prominent Confederate