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1863 May, The Second Wisconsin

Camp 2d Wis. Vols.
Near Fredericksburg Va.
May 1st, 1863

C. Seymour, Esq:
This the 1st brigade of the 1st Division 1st Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, now lies some three miles below Fredericksburg on the North side of the Rappahannock and I hope it will not be considered vain in me should I assert that we are in the best of health and spirits, and await the next onset with all confidence in our officers  and arms. During the last grand struggle of this army never were we more confident of success and we could have held the position we occupied on the right with surety; but it is evident that the enemy were twice our number; therefore we could not advance and we were compelled to seek another channel. We were neither beaten nor compelled to retreat as is stated by numerous journals of but little consequence.
Our picket line runs along the bank of the river while the enemy's lines are on the opposite shore. Notwithstanding, we we are in conversational distance to the "Rebs". On either shore can be seen soldiers drawing seines for fish, cooking meals, playing at games, &c.
We are indeed sorry to state that there are some eight regiments now preparing to leave this army which will be something over a third of the Army of the Potomac, as they are mostly nine months men while a few are two years.
We are inclined to believe that this army will not enter upon active service until a reorganization is resorted to and the army filled up with new troops, &c.
The weather here is extremely warm and summer is truly upon us; but we are not cognizant of the fact by such evidences as greet one in those States where the clash of arms have not resounded on the field of battle. No ploughmen can be seen at work, no building of any description is visible and, in truth, not even a lettuce bed or flower pot graces the surroundings of once beautiful residences while a majority of dwellings in this section are used by the army for hospitals headquarters, &c. It is true that this country is actually devastated - mere grave yard for both armies!
I am happy to announce that Lieut. G. M. Woodward of Co. "B" is promoted to Adjutant of this regiment. While every member of the Light Guard regret the loss of such an efficient officer and gentlemanly personage from their immediate midst, they cannot but rejoice at the success of which he is so worthy.
We are now "falling in" for picket.
Respectfully yours.
C. C. Bushee

There is on exhibition at the store of Messrs Tiffany & Co. a beautiful flag which has been procured for the celebrated Iron Brigade of the First Army Corps Army of the Potomac. The flag is an regulation size and made of heavy dark blue silk.  
It is embellished by a handsome "vignette" of an eagle shield and scroll, motto "E Pluribus Unum", the same as on the ten dollar Treasury note. The names of the principal battles in which the brigade had been engaged are handsomely worked each on a separate scroll. The vignette, the scroll work and the name of each regiment composing the brigade, the Second, Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin, Nineteenth Indiana and Twenty-fourth Michigan, are all worked in, the designing is most exquisitely done. A rich and heavy border adds to and completes the effect. 
The staff is mounted with a massive silver spear head. The flag has been manufactured by Messrs. Tiffany & Co. under the supervision of W. K. Selleck, Esq., Military Agent of Wisconsin and is the gift of number of gentlemen from the States of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. It is a fit and elegant tribute to the heroism of one the most glorious organizations in the entire army. -
N.Y. Times, May 17th '63

The following is a private letter from a member of the Janesville company in the Second Wisconsin regiment:

Dear Father:-We have been having a great time since I wrote you last. We started from our old camp on the 28th of April, marched about six miles and pitched tents. 
Remained about three hours when we were ordered to march again, it being about twelve o'clock at night. Marched four miles to the Rappahannock river, where we waited for the pontoon bridges; but they were delayed so long in getting them ready that it became daylight and the rebels commenced firing on the pontoon train.
The Fourteenth Brooklyn was ordered down to the river to drive the rebels away but it was "no go" they were behind breast works. Our men were obliged to come up in plain sight although the rebels were not to be seen. Our batteries then endeavored to shell them out but the rebels obstinately held their position. A fire of artillery and musketry was kept up on them until about noon but no bridge down yet.
During this time our brigade was lying where we could see all that was going on, a shot dropping among us once in a while. Our turn came at last, as it always does, when anything desperate is to be done.-
Companies B, E, and G, (our company,) were ordered to draw the pontoons down and put them into the river; and away we went, hallooing and yelling, the rest of the brigade following to cross in the boats as we got them ready.
When we came to the river the rebels opened a heavy fire of musketry upon us but that didn't stop us. The boats were launched and filled with soldiers who went across the Rappahannock on it. The rebels then began to scatter but the Austrian riffles "fetched them to" and we captured over a hundred prisoners. Within half an hour from the time we commenced, we had a bridge across the river and the troops crossing. The rebel officers wanted to know what troops we were and when we told them they said it was a most desperate undertaking and was the "biggest thing of the war."
After our division had crossed, we put out our pickets within a stone's throw of the rebel pickets. The pickets of the two forces made it up among themselves not to fire on each other. We did nothing of any importance afterwards that day. The next day we spent in entrenching. On the evening of the second day, our company went on picket. We had not been on this duty more than an hour when the rebels opened their artillery upon our fellows who were entrenching. 
Our batteries replied and they had a splendid artillery duel, every shop passing right over our picket line and we could see the result of every shot. They kept it up two hours and then brought it to a close, our battery firing the last gun. There were two men killed and two or three men wounded in our brigade by the explosion of a shell.
The next day nothing of importance expired. On the second of May we recrossed the river, our batteries keeping up a heavy fire. We got over with out any loss but we didn't like leaving after having so hard a time in gaining our position but we learned that the general did not intend to hold it.
On the third of May we crossed the Rappahannock again where Hooker's main force was taking the right and forming the second line of battle. We then entrenched ourselves and waited for the rebels but we happened to be in luck this time as they did not attack the one where we were. The hardest fighting was about half a mile on the left of us. On the 6th we recrossed the Rappahannock again, no better nor worse than we were before. I don't know what the next move will be but the general impression is that we will attack Fredericksburg again but in a different way.
C. H. Cheny
Co. D. 2d Wisconsin, Regiment

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Camp Near Fredericksburg Va.

In our experience of nearly two years that "when it rains, we march," and when on the 20th of April we broke camp marching to and bivouacking about eight P.M. near the Rappahannock, the rain and mud bespattered us in regular Virginia style. Thoughts of home and speculations on the issue of the morrow had hardly expired undue the influence of sleep when we were ordered to fall in. It was about 11:30, the night dark and cold.- The pontoons were rumbling over the corduroy road and troops on either side of us were ready to march. 
We marched slowly and in silence now, watching for the boats to pass; and then falling out, literally to put our shoulder to the wheel! Thus we advanced, the stillness of the night being broken occasionally, the increasing mist and steady murmuring of waters, the distinct report of a rifle and the mosquito, like hum of a bullet, told us were filing on the banks of the Rappahannock and in the presence of the enemy.
Hardly had the grey mists which curtained the river and its banks been dispelled by the approaching day when the enemy opened fire on our ranks.  To a part of the First Brigade of our division (Wadsworth's) was given the task of driving the enemy from the river and placing the boats in a position to cross, but after about three hours desultory firing, assisted by a battery they failed and, leaving their boats on terra firma and their accoutrements! behind, - ran. The 14th Brooklyn, however, of this Brigade fought manfully. During this time, the "Iron Brigade" were lying close under the bank of the river in order in which they charged thus; 24th Mich. 7th, 6th, and 2d Wis. and 19th Ind. and were greeted every now and then by the enemy's sharpshooters losing a few from their fire. It had been said ,early to the morning, that the Iron Brigade were to lead the way across the river but when about nine o'clock the order came for the 2d, and 7th regiments to follow the 24th Mich. and our two Regiment's knew, on arriving at the river's brink, that any of our troops had crossed or that it was the intention to cross immediately. This sad blundering, the reasonability of which rests with those staff officers who gave the orders, cost the 6th two or three killed and wounded.
Being myself in the second line of the Brigade, the 2d and 7th, can I only speak directly of their movements advancing at the double quick and deploying into line of battle as we went. We arrived at the river the moment a company of the 6th had landed with bullets whistling, hurrahs, yells, and cries of the Boat! The Boat! and Forward! our fellow simultaneously with the 6th Mich. rushed on and crossed and in
a second, like hounds slipped from their leashes, were hunting the rebs from their rifle pits in every direction; and in ten minutes all was over. The enemy fought bravely and well, yielding only when our bayonets were at their hearts. 
In this affair the enemy's loss was 29 killed, nearly 200 wounded and 200 prisoners; our loss was much less, about 50 killed and wounded. The 7th lost three commissioned officers, two killed and one severely wounded. Of the fighting that has taken place on the Rappahannock these past ten days this is the only one in which the "Iron Brigade" has been actively engaged and though this is small in comparison with others yet the dash and eclat which characterize it makes it well worthy of mentioning and shows that the esprit du corps of the Iron Brigade is still at its meridian. 
The spectators were loud in their praises and pronounced it brilliant. An old moustache, always careful of not be lauding the feats of others, will tell you "It was a pretty good affair." Though should any one attempt to gather light from Headquarters, he would hardly be able to tell whether anything was accomplished by any Regiments save the 24th Michigan, 6th Wisconsin and 14th Brooklyn, palmam qui merit ferat.- with the exception of about one company of the 6th, the crossing was simultaneous so far as could be and Col. Fairchild was one of the first to organize his regiment and deploy his skirmishers, a precaution very necessary at this time as the enemy's skirmishers were closing in, in one long semicircle and our position was not one of absolute security. 
Entrenching ourselves we remained here until the 2d of May; we then marched down to the U.S. ford, and on the 3d took position near Chancellorsville, where we again entrenched ourselves, behind breast works and abattis remained until 3 o'clock P.M. on the 6th of May, when our army fell back from its position and we took up  our line of march to our present camp. 
Such is a brief outline of the operations of the "Iron Brigade" since the 20th of April.

Near Hamilton's Crossing, Va.,
May 19th, 1863

Editor, LaCrosse Republican:
The grand National amphitheatre still abounds in scenes of gigantic proportions, as well as tableaux of interest to the world. Notwithstanding this fact, as soldiers we are not expected or allowed to criticize; therefore we will bide our time as we are sworn to do until such times as we are able to return to the States we long so much to view.
The Second Wis has but just returned from picket on the north shore of the Rappahannock; on the opposite shore of which abounds in squads, thousands of butternuts, the distance across the Rappahannock is about one hundred and fifty yards; and during our two days on picket enjoyed ourselves hugely by conversing and trading with the "rebs".
At least fifty small sail boats were continually plying from shore to shore loaded with coffee, sugar, salt, pen knives, pipes, canteens and Northern newspapers from our side, while from the other tobacco and Richmond papers would greet us; also letters from either side were exchanged! And on the morning of our leaving them, one of the Light Guard swam across with a boat load of truck, and was allowed to return unmolested, although one Major and Capt. and one Lieut. were with the rebel soldiers. They say that when they make a promise it shall be kept sacred, therefore our soldier returned as promised he should by the enemy. 
Here is a copy of a letter we received form one of the rebel officers which gives the truth of the death of their chieftain, Gen. Jackson:

May 17th, 1863
Gentlemen 2nd Wis Vol's:
The favorable breeze of the morning wafted to the southern shore of the Rappahannock your kind favor which met a kind reception. 
We would have preferred a political paper better but suppose you sent such as you have for which you the thanks of Co. "I",, 19th Ga. Vol.
We send you a Richmond Sentinel of yesterday which is the only paper we have. Our great Jackson is dead!
He was killed by our own men though his own order; he having given orders to fire upon any person approaching from the direction where he was fired upon - having his left arm broken in two places and receiving a shot through his right hand. This caused an engagement to commence and one of the litter bearers, who was taking him from the field, was shot, which gave the General a severe fall. His left arm was ambulated near the shoulder and he seemed to be doing well until pneumonia set in which proved fatal.
We will send you later and more interesting papers if any reach us in time from Richmond.
Gold Digger

Our regiment was relieved by fellows with "caps" on, when the rebels bid us adieu and prepared for active service. They say they know us, and appreciate our good qualities both as civilians and soldiers,-They admired the quality that makes up the Regiments from the Northwest and particularly the Black Hatted Brigade.!
We are in good trim but anticipate no engagement soon.
C. C. Busher

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Camp Stoneman's Switch
May 29th, 1863

 EDITOR SENTINEL. Having something to say to the friends of the above regiments at home in relation to their late doings. Therefore I communicate through the column of your widely circulated journal.
I visited the Second yesterday and found them in a state of "rest", they with the brigade having but lately returned from six days expedition down stream bringing in back with them a large supply of contraband mounted on mules and horses, also some prisoners, among them a rebel Lieutenant Colonel. The extent of their march, I learn, was about 150 miles - the weather at the time extremely hot. On their return trip, they traveled some days, thirty-five miles and other last day made twenty miles before dinner. The consequence was that I found them slowly recovering from the effects of great fatigue, the result of their hot and wearing tramp. The regiment was under command
of Lieut. Col. Stevens.
The part taken by the "Iron Brigade" in the late fighting on the Rappahannock has already been noted in the State papers yet probably a few statements in reference to the affair at the crossing on the left,  and the part taken by the Second, would not be out of place in this connection. 
It was on the A.M. of the 29th inst. when the crossing was effected. The 6th Wisconsin and the 24th Michigan crossed below the line of rifle pits, together intending to attack the enemy on their right flank. Meantime a squad of fourteen men under Captain Converse and Lieutenant Clarke of Company A, 2d, had shoved over the stream in one of the pontoon boats, dragged down the hill and launched, by Companies B and E, under cover of the regimental fire at the rebels beyond. This boat load landed directly in front of the rifle pits, which were about one hundred yards off, and while the 6th were forming about thirty yards below the boys of the 2d rushed forward as skirmishers, others as they crossed, falling in. But the "greybacks" began to skedaddle, and the rifle pits were soon taken. Several members were prominent in capturing prisoners, among them. Corporal Jas. Daniels and Private Jno. Mason who rushed quickly over the plain and headed off a number off the runaways. The bridges were then laid and a general crossing took place. The boys were then employed in digging rifle-pits beyond, using for the purpose, tin plates and wooden shovels with which miserable tools, I understand, they made substantial ones. They left this point on the 2d inst. and appeared at Chancellorsville, off the right, early on the morning of the 3d, while the battle was raging, but did not become engaged.
In this connection, I wish to state that the brigade looks as tough as ever although considerably reduced in numbers, especially the 2d regiment which latter is not to be wondered at considering that they have been in the service two years and have participated in many hard fought engagements besides various skirmishes and marched many long and weary miles. Besides that, they have not been recruited up to any great extent.
And it is not strange, therefore, that this Brigade in which, also, is the 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan, should think that certain nine months Pennsylvania and New Jersey troops, now gone home, were treating them rather unfairly by endeavoring to rob them of their well earned title of "Iron Brigade" which was earned by them at Gainesville where they alone kept a much larger force of the enemy at bay. In fact, so stubborn were the "black hats" on that occasion, that Jackson himself made the remark afterwards in the presence of a sharpshooter who was taken prisoner the next day that it was impossible that one Brigade could keep back his whole division and refused to credit the story told him by a member of the 7th, also a prisoner. The Pennsylvania troops are good men and so are the "Jerseys" and in proof of their bravery do not need to adopt a title given to the western men by Gen. Gibbon and endorsed by General McClellan: "Let well enough alone," is a motto the Western men think they might adopt.
I would like to say a few words in reference to an officer in the 2d well known in Dodge county. Captain Convers of Co. A. has received notice of a transfer to the Invalid Corps on account of disability caused by wounds received in the Second Bull Run and he probably will not take an active part for some time to come at least in the future movements of this regiment. The Captain, however much he may regent leaving his company, may rest assured that his previous conduct while with them and this regiment ,especially while on the battle-field, has been such as to gain for him the good wishes of his company and the highest consideration of the officers of his regiment. In this last affair, on the left, at the rifle pits, the captain was one of the first to cross the river, helping heartily to push the boat over and although obliged to leave the field through sheer exhaustion after the affair, was all over, yet did he suffer none in the estimation of his friends in consequence. On the contrary, great praise was awarded to him for the manly manner in which he acted during the whole affair although known to be unfit for duty.
A few words about the 26th and I am done, It is with pleasure that I learned from good authority that the Brigade of the the 11th Corps, of which this regiment is a part, did all in their power to check the advance of the enemy at the fight of May 2d who came pouncing on them so suddenly that the 26th became nearly surrounded but fighting savagely, according to a General's account, they clubbed in many instances the advancing foe and kept up the combat until ordered back the third time. They then fell back.
S.  S.