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1863 February, The Second Wisconsin

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 vindicate themselves.
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 rear again.
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 not 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 places; 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."

February 1863
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 excellent music.
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 officers.
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 - the 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 troops", at 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 Light
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 "the boys" will also be pleased to know of their proud position.

Thanks to Fred Beseler, La Crosse
Co. B

"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 prisoners.

Cornelius Wheeler’s diary

March 1863