FROM THE 6th REGIMENT
EDITORS REPUBLIC:-I am aware that in writing home from the army we are to apt to fall to the error of praising those regiments and brigades of which we are members to the disgust of persons more interested in other troops and perhaps to our own friends even. Although a person may guard against this habit in writing doubt not you can discover much self praise which he at the time was unconscious of indulging in. I would never admit however that the Wisconsin troops in this portion of the army had received more credit than was due them at the hands of any one. they simply ask what they have earned, and that the honor of a movement shall not be taken from them and given other troops by partial reporters, as has bet done in one or two instances heretofore.
I design to give a brief account of the crossing the Rappahannock at the beginning of the campaign under Gen. Hooker. the 1st army corps was to cross four miles below Fredericksburg and hold the enemy there, while Gen. Hooker with the greater portion of the army crossed about five miles above the city and turned the enemy's flank. Our operations were therefore on the left.
At the break of day on the morning of April 29th, we had reached the river where we were to cross, but only a few of the pontoons had been launched and the bridge was not begun. As soon as it was light enough for the enemy's sharp shooters to see across the river and while our pontoons were being unloaded they opened on us sharply, wounding some of the horses of the pontoon train setting them to rearing, plunging and running, which added to the disagreeable sensation that invariable comes over men at the opening of a battle. The 6th. reg. moved by the flank and filed towards the river behind a stone wall, but as the wall ran perpendicularly to the river it afforded but little protection, and after the 24th Michigan had fired a volley across which was too much at random to take good effect both regiments were withdrawn a few rods, it being too hot where we were for so large a force when the river prevented out advancing.-
The 14th Brooklyn reg. were sent forward in line as skirmishers and took shelter behind some timber on the bank, but the enemy who were well concealed could not be driven from his position by this force. Our batteries opened on them but they were determined not to be shelled out. Two hours or more had passed and yet it was impossible for the engineers to approach the water to commence the bridge. We lay quietly observing how unsuccessful were out attempts until it become evident that some other plan had to be adopted or we should never cross.
Soon Gen. Reynolds rode up and after a few minutes consultation Col. Bragg called his officers together and informed that Gen. R. had designated the 6th reg. to cross the river in boats and charge up the steep bank on the opposite side. It was adopted as the last resort and no one who knew by experience the accuracy and determination of the enemy we were fighting doubted for a moment that the blood of many would mingle with the slow current of the disputed stream;
I confess that I never saw anything that appeared so much like certain death as this movement did. As the boys took off their knapsacks and haversacks and piled them up so as to have nothing about them that would impede their rapid moment they replied "We shall not need this baggage any longer" there will be two knapsacks for every man that returns, " &c. I do not believe one of them desired to remain behind however. They felt that it was necessary to be done and that they were as able to do it as any one.
The preliminaries were arranged carefully so that there might be as little confusion as possible.
The boats or pontoons would hold about one of out companies and the men were ordered to lie down in the bottoms of the boats except four good men in each boat who would row it across. The 24th Michigan was to follow us immediately, and as many cross with us as could get in the boats.
We moved forward in line until with a few rods of the river, when the order was given "By the right of companies-to the front double quick march!" On we marched with a badger" yell, down the bank, over the Brooklyn skirmishers to the water's edge, plunged into the boats until we lay about three deep and pushed off.
The scene of wild excitement which then ran high is indescribable. If enactors will carry its impression through life, but can never convey if to other "Whiz" whiz" spat" spat" their bullets struck around us. Our men rose in the boats and fired. The other regiments of the brigade which had followed us to the bank kept up an incessant roar of musketry. I never saw soldiers so enthusiastic before. The Col. of the 24th Michigan crossed over with co. "A" and could hardly keep himself in the boat he was so impatient to reach the opposite shore Bodley Jones stood on the edge of the boat cheering at the top of his voice, and I half expected to see him fall into the river and drown. There was but one of the regiment I think who was lost in the river. A little fellow of co. "K" was seen tipping forward. A stream of blood rushing from his temple over his face showed where he as struck He sank but did not rise! Before we reached the shore the shaggy bucked butternuts began to climb for the top of the rugged bank but some came rolling down. As soon as the boats touched the shore the men sprang from them and scrambled up the steep hill every man for himself and rebel. After reaching the summit there was a large open plain before us, and we beheld the enemy fleeing before us in every direction. col. Bragg found it difficult to rally all his men here they were so impatient for the chase. Many laughable incidents took place.- Wm. Palmer of co. "A" well known for his ready sarcasm and joking proclivities amusing the whole regiment by undertaking to chase a rebel down. He gained on him at every step and finally caught him. The regiment forward to a large brick house and from its roof our flag was swung at the retreating foe. it was said that we took as many prisoners as equaled our own numbers that crossed in the boats first- Little Charlie Kellogg brought in a large burly fellow about twice his own size.
The scene which I have been so long describing from the time that we moved forward in line toward the river until we reached the brick house was performed in less than fifteen minutes. The grandest fifteen minutes of our lives worth one's life to enjoy.
Gen Wadsworth sprang into a boat and swam his horse across holding on by the bridle. As he rode up the reg. he said: Col. Bragg, I thank you and your gallant regiment for their noble conduct today.
We remained here until the 2d of May when our corps moved to the right and joined Gen. Hooker's forces there but were not in the engagement. You are aware that we returned tor the side of the river again but our confidence in Gen. Hooker which was unbounded is yet unshaken. the regiment list in crossing below but five killed and ten wounded James Whitty of Co. "A" who was wounded at south Mountain received another wound here.
I find I have occupied considerable space. but I am sure the material is sufficient for a much longer and more concise letter.
We would hail with satisfaction an order to attack the enemy again to-day.
H. J. H.
FROM THE IRON BRIGADE!
May 9th, 1863
On the 28th ult. we broke up camp at Belle Plaine, and in a drenching rain storm, marched to our position in column. Before we fairly got under way, however, we were with the Second, detailed to put down mutiny in the 1st brigade of our division among the two years men from New York who as their time was nearly out refused to march. When they saw us drawn up in line however they took their arms and went in the ranks knowing that if they did not they would meet no mercy at our hands as we have the reputation of obeying orders, and General Wadsworth pledged his word that not a man should leave the ground alive if they persisted in their enroute. We went into camp at night but were roused up at about 10 o'clock, with the information that we had been designated to cross the Rappahannock first storm the rebel rifle pits and a house on the bank. Although we did not crave the job the honor of being selected from among all the regiments of our corps was gratifying and our hearts beat with a stern resolve to prove ourselves worth of of the trust.
At about two o'clock we reached the bank of the river and an attempt was made to put the pontoons down without disturbing the pickets, but it was a failure as they opened a brisk musketry fire on the engineers causing them to skedaddle and creating a perfect panic amongst the drivers of the pontoon train. Here was officer with a pistol in hand threatening to shoot a runaway driver if he did not stop and there was a team of six horses one dead hanging in the harness while the others dragged him along at their utmost speed. But during the whole of this confusion our boys stood fast waiting for orders which soon came, and in a few moments we were sheltered by a stone fence running at right angles with the river and giving as much as we received. We were ordered them to leave two companies behind the fence and put the rest of the regiment behind a knoll. companies c and G were accordingly left behind in charge of Capt Phil. Plummer of Co. G. Capt Toin. Plummer of Co. C. and private Charles Adams, same company were wounded here the former in the hand and the latter in the shoulder and back these two companies remained in this position exposed to an enfilading fire for about and hour when they were ordered to rejoin the regiment.
The 14th Brooklyn and 24th Michigan -the latter of our brigade-remained on the bank engaging the enemy until 9o'clock when preparations for our crossing and charge were made. The oarsman were selected-four for each boat-boats chiefs appointed; knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, all superfluous weight laid aside, &c. &c. We were about a quarter of a mile from the river, which at the place of our crossing is about three hundred feet wide; very easy musket range. We were to cross in the pontoon boats which you must know are clumsy, flat bottomed, square bowed institutions, about twenty five feet long, four wide and about three deep. they were laying close to the shore ready to shove off when loaded. The rifle-pits on the opposite bank were swarming with "confeds," who could fire with safety at us while crossing, and the bank on which they were located was about forty feet high overgrown with vines and underbrush, and very slippery from the recent rains. Wounded men came straggling back from the regiments on the bank, bearing evidence that the rebels were doing their best to keep their stronghold and every now and then the whiz, whiz, of a bullet saluted our ears, giving us an earnest of what was in store for us.
We deployed into line and marched out into the open field just above where our boats lay. it was a sight to remember, to see the weather-beaten soldiers of the "Old Sixth," as they marched on to what seemed then almost sure destruction- They "kept step!" They felt the danger but knew that they were making a way for the corps to cross that dreaded river. No one faltered and every man was in his place. The order was given "by the right of details to the front; double quick march: and each boat's crew, headed by their chief, started on the run for its boat. As we raised a little swell in the ground before descending the bank we received a volley from the rifle pits, but undaunted rushed on down into the boats. Jesu!
How the bullets did rattle against their sides while here and there some poor fellow with a gasp fell back wounded or killed. To use the hackneyed phrase, "It hailed lead," fails to describe it Splinters from the gunwales of the boats flew in every direction. every one cheered and we were answered by our friends in our rear. We pushed off and soon reached our goal. In the meantime the other regiments of the brigade moved down to the bank and kept up a lively fire over our heads thus to some extent keeping the enemy below their embankments.
As our boats touched the shore, the rebels commenced running. We scrambled up the bank and found the large plain dotted here and there with grey backs flying as if they had been kicked in the end. Our torn and tattered colors were soon waving over the house and rifle pits.
We captured prisoners at every step and after sending out skirmishers to act as pickets we halted to rest.
Thus the sixth Wisconsin barely three hundred muskets crossed the river under fire from rifle pits manned by two regiments captured two hundred prisoners killed twenty-eight and put nearly four hundred to flight. 'Something to brag of most assuredly. didn't we cheer! I rather think we did.
One boat load of the 24th Michigan crossed with us and did good work.
Our oarsmen went back with the boats and the rest of the brigade crossed after which the bridge was laid and our whole division came over.
Our loss besides the two casualties above enumerated was as follows:
Corp g. A. Ruby Company
We remained in position a little below our point of crossing without being disturbed exvept by occasional artillery fire, until the night of the 1st when we threw up rifle pits. On the 2d inst. we recrossed and on the 3d found Hooker who with the rest of the army-save the sixth Corps had while we attracted the enemy below crossed above. We fell back again on the 6th, and on the 8th arrived in this camp. We lost no men while with him being all the while in the second line of battle. Of the battle at large I do not propose to say anything, as I do not arrogate to myself the privilege of criticizing the plans, failures or successors of my superiors. Suffice it to say that there was some terrific fighting and we lost the day by the cowardice of the 11th corps, (Sigel's old command).
In conclusion, let me say, that if any one intimates that the late movement of the army has had a "demoralizing" effect on Wisconsin-soldiers here they are mistaken. We need recruits, and if, instead of talking of the effect of such things and pitying the "poor soldiers"-who don't care a fig for their pity-your croakers would join us, they will help us more than in any other way.
A HIGH COMPLIMENT FROM GEN. WADSWORTH
Gen. Wadsworth of the first corps of the Army of the Potomac, has published an order complimenting the 6th Wisconsin, Colonel Bragg, particularly and the Iron Brigade generally for gallantry in the recent actions at Fredericksburg.
The following is a copy of the order:
The General commanding availing himself of the temporary repose now enjoyed by his command to review the operations of the past few days deed it proper to express his thanks to Col. Bragg, 6th Wisconsin, col. Morrow, 24th Michigan volunteers and the gallant men under their command, for the heroic manner in which they crossed the Rappahannock and seized the heights on the opposite shore, on the 26th of April, and likewise Gen. Gen. Meredith and the whole of the 4th Brigade for the promptness with which they followed in this daring enterprise.
By command of Brig. Gen. Wadsworth
FROM THE SIXTH REGIMENT
We extract the following encouraging remark from a letter written by F. K. Jenkins since his return to the Army of the Potomac.
The army of the Potomac is in first rate condition. I have never seen a better feeling than is manifested just now. It is patiently waiting for the mud to dry up to give the rebellion a death blow. I don't hear the character or conduct of Generals discussed at all, but there is one thing very manifest to me, and that is the growing confidence in Gen. Hooker. You know that the army of the Potomac is both ready and willing to follow ay general that they think will lead them to victory, for bear in mind that this army is not demoralized, as a certain class of men in the north would have others believe. I am more convinced than ever, that is unholy rebellion is nearer being bro't to a termination than many in the North are led to believe. Let the men outside of the army be true, and you may rest assured that this army will be true to its country and its god.
WESTERN TROOP-SIXTH WISCONSIN
The correspondent of the Chicago Times, writing from Washington, has the following about western troops:
In this connection permit me to speak a word in praise of the western troops. None have a more brilliant report than they. They were the first to cross the river and have stood their grounds at all points with a fortitude and power of end ice that had never been surpassed. An instance was conspicuous at the meeting below Fredericksburg. At the lower crossing, the one made by the first corps the resistance was so obstinate as to call for an exhibition of valor of the part of our troops deserving of the highest commendation The enemy lined the south bank of the river with sharpshooters so securely posted in rifle-pits as to baffle all attempts to dislodge them made from the north side. From their sheltered position they were enabled to pour upon our pontoons such a galling fire that it was impossible to proceed with the construction of the bridge at that point and the engineer corps was obliged to fall back. At this repulse the first brigade of Wadsworth division was ordered up for the day. The pontoon boats were thrown into the water and quickly filled with the picked regiment from the brigade-the 24th Michigan Col. H. A. Morrow and the 6th Wisconsin, Col. Bragg, who proceeded across the river in these open boats under a most murderous fire, and charging up the banks on the south side, cleared the rifle-pits, capturing about one hundred prisoners and driving the remainder of the rebel force in the wildest confusion back across the fields. These western men can not be too highly complimented on the gallantry displayed on this occasion. It was largely owing to their invincible courage that we succeeded in making the crossing at that point.
Indeed our bridges could not have been laid had the opposite bank not been cleared and there appeared no other way of clearing that bank but by this hazardous and daring adventure. The regiments that performed this perilous duty suffered considerably in killed and wounded.
On the right of our line above Fredericksburg equal valor was shown by these sturdy western men. The 20th Indiana was singled out by Birney for his advance guard when he pushed his column so far beyond the plank road on Saturday and were even preferred as skirmishers, to the famous Berdan Sharpshooters.
the 3d and 5th Michigan were among the best of Birney's troops as he had sid himself in my hearing. they have both suffered severely in the recent battles the former having. its Colonel (Pierce, from Grand Rapids) wounded though slightly and the latter its Lieutenant colonel commanding the regiment-E. T. Sherlock of Detroit-killed.
In nearly every army corps there were representatives from some of the western states principally Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and I have yet to learn of a single instance in which any of them failed to distinguish themselves