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1863 February, Seventh Wisconsin

Camp Near Bell Plaine, feb. 1 1863

I mailed you this morning the proceedings of the past few days. I would try to send you the products of my pen in time so that you would receive them a day or two before your weekly goes to press but I have forgotten the day of its publication; so I write to the end of the week, and then forward my production. I would prefer to have my letters reach you in season so that the news contained in them would not become too old; but as I had not yet received any numbers of your paper, I have been unable to ascertain the day on which it is published.
It does a person good to get hold of a good Democratic paper from home. Nearly all the papers that we receive in camp are abolition Republican, of the strongest kind. I get sick of reading their blarney and long for a Patriot.
The regiment has gone on picket duty. I did not have to go and am glad of it because there is a storm brewing. The snow is nearly all gone.
I have just heard the result of the balloting which took place yesterday. Major Bill had resigned and of course the vacancy must be filled. At first there were four candidates. The first ballot showed that we were very far from an election. Two or three more ballotings resulted in nothing more satisfactory. Finally they settled down on two Captains- Finnicum of Company H, and Gordon of Company K. The result of the last ballot was Capt. Finnicum 11; Capt Gordon, 10. Finnicum was therefore elected by one majority- pretty close running.
MONDAY, Feb. 2- This is a beautiful day. The mud is drying up very fast. I have said that the Regiment had gone on picket duty. As a matter of course, a great many were left in camp. Just before dark, last night an order came that every man who was able should join the Regiment. Before they got started, the storm, which had been brewing all the afternoon, began to "let down." There was every prospect of a dreary dismal night. The boys did not know what to make of it. Some thought an attack was expected; others were gloomy about starting out on such a night; but it cleared up in a few hours and the weather has been beautiful ever since. I have not yet found out the reason for doubling the picket as the Regiment has not yet returned. They will come back tomorrow.
Capt. Oakly; formerly a Lieutenant of Co. K  of this regiment, came to see the boys before he leaves for his seat of duty. He was one of the first on our list of wounded - I believe he was the second one. The ball that broke his arm struck a private in his company on the thigh, only broke the skin, then struck the lieutenant near the shoulder, shattered the bone so that amputation became necessary. He has now a commission as Captain in the regular service, and is detailed, or has charge of, some quartermasters department or something of the kind. I know it is a good situation and remunerative. It will in part compensate him for the loss of his arm.
The brigade band (brass) came down and serenaded our colonel the colonel offered no remarks or toasts, simply passed around the old rye. The band then went to the Colonel of the Second. I hear them playing now. It is long after taps. It is a beautiful moon-lighty night, just in keeping with serenaders, moon-light strolls, with the choice of our hearts. &C.
TUESDAY, Feb 3- Getting quite cold. The regiment came in from picket this morning.-The cause of their calling out all the men in camp was because they wanted to establish a new picket line farther out. To do this required more men; thus it came that the balance of the regiment were called out. Our regiment when on picket stretched a distance of five miles. There were fifty posts, and three men on a post. (According to Mrs. Partington that would be getting them pretty close.) The weather was very favorable all the time our boys were gone.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4- I believe it is the coldest day we have had this winter; last night was a cold one; wind high and keen, commenced to moderate this afternoon. Nothing of any interest that I have heard of, only the boys are afraid if the roads freeze up they will have to go out again; I do not fear any such move; it would be fool-hardy to start out now.
THURSDAY, Feb. 5- Moderate. Too cold to snow early this morning, but finally got warm enough to snow an inch and a half and then turned to rain. The storm is a south-easter. The change in the atmosphere has been quite sudden. The changes in the weather are not sudden as a general thing in this section but gradual.
Our regiment drew soft bread this afternoon; the first since we left Fredericksburg for Cedar Mountain last summer, which was about the 27th of July. We have gnawed "hard tack" as the boys generally term them. I have become so used to hard crackers that it seems as if I could not make out a meal without them. The bread was brought either from Washington or Bell Plaine. We are to have it regularly. They are building a bakery at the brigade headquarters for the use of the brigade, but it is not completed yet. The bread we received to-day was old and of an inferior quality. I traded most of mine for crackers. I am very fond of good crackers but I believe I would prefer good bread. A change once in a while (six months or so) is beneficial - good for the health. We know how to appreciate health as well as good soft bread. When the cry of 'fall in for your bread', rung out, you ought to have seen the boys hop out, some of them singing. "Hard tack! hard tack! come again no more;" but give me the hard crackers in preference to all such bread as the quality of to-day.
FRIDAY, Feb. 6th- Rain continued to fall more or less all day or till nearly night, clearing up nice about sunset. You know I have said all along that it was the opinion of some that the Army of the Potomac would be divided which has also been my belief. Well the 9th Army Corps is reported to be embarking at different points. I give it as a report. Another rumor is that our brigade is going to Washington to do guard duty. that can hardly be possible. It would be too good news and too easy time for us. I do not believe we are born to such good fortune.
It appears that there are active measures on foot for the capture of Vicksburg. Of course we all hope it may be successful. That place is far preferable to the rebel Capital in a military point. It (Vicksburg) is second to no place in the South, and is fact it is the place, of all others, most desirable. The reb's know this as well as we, and they will fight desperately before they give it up.
The capture of Vicksburg will weaken the rebels and do more towards bringing peace to our distracted country than the loss of many thousand lives on the part of the rebels. We could spare very near 100,000 men from this army. Why not send them to the West where they can be of some use - some service to the country? It seems too bad to keep this vast army here in idleness when their presence before the works of Vicksburg would give strength and courage to those already there and thereby make victory doubly sure. If we can but gain a great victory at that point it will be like severing the head from the body.
SATURDAY, Feb 7th-Has been a beautiful day.
The Pennsylvania Reserves have shipped to Washington for the purpose of gaining rest and recruiting.
The 9th Army Corps is shipping for some point South, supposed to be South Carolina. I do not think there is any need of secrecy in this matter, inasmuch as there has been no orders to that effect. There are a good many batteries at our landing, expecting to take shipping to-morrow. I suppose all the batteries of the corps are here, as this landing is more accessible than others, there being a corduroy road to it.
In case we should leave, it would not be till about the last as we are on the left of the army and would be left to guard the landing till everything was removed. We may not leave at all; then again we may be among the first to go. I, for one am ready and willing to go anywhere - it don't make any difference where - if there is anything to be accomplished-ready to go and at anytime.
S. J. M.

Feb 8, 1863



SUNDAY, Feb. 8 - I resume my Journal again. I cannot make it so interesting to your readers as I could if we were on the march, the most I can do is to give a statement of the weather, the changes of officers, promotions, affairs of our camp life and the feelings of the soldiers.
I said the Pennsylvania Reserves were shipping. I went down to see how it was conducted; it is a tedious job; the men are stowed on the boats about as thick as they can conveniently sit; the boats are open canal boats. They got on the boats in the morning and were taken out into the channel and anchored there and there they were when I left which was near night. I presume they were left there for the night. The reserves are in good spirits; they are on their way to Washington. 
The 9th Army Corps are expecting to go to New Bern, North Carolina.
MONDAY, Feb. 9th - weather continues fine. Gen. Meredith has gone to Washington. We are ordered there; he will look out for a chance to get his brigade where they can have easy times. Col. Robinson is in command of the brigade, and Capt. Finnicun is in command of the regiment. We had dress parade this afternoon, the first dress parade we have had since we came here.
The boys are to have furloughs now, two out of every one hundred; two line officers and one field officer can be absent at a time. Fifteen days is the length of the furloughs granted to Wisconsin boys. There are but few that will want to go, to be gone so short a time; only those who have business that requires their presence will be apt to go. The boys as a general thing don't want to go home till they go for good.
TUESDAY, Feb. 10th - Muddrying up fast -very pleasant. Our boys are getting anxious over the report that we are to go to Washington. This Brigade is about the only old troops in the Division now. Most of the old troops are doing provost duty. It looks quite reasonable to me that we will not be kept here or in active service when there are posts which must be filled and which old regiments that have had it rough and tumble so long are entitled to, and the new troops put in the field. Get them sobered down - give them a chance to distinguish themselves. The Col. of the 24th Michigan, (a new regiment that joined our brigade after the battle of Antietam) wants to keep in the field; all the other Cols. of the brigade want to go to Washington. I guess the Col of the 24th wants to distinguish himself, and if he has the opportunity he will do it too; he is a good officer and brave man. We all feel that it is no more than our just dues to take us to Washington. We feel that we have earned the rest that such a programme would afford us.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11 - Has been quite moderate to-day; commenced to rain this afternoon and continued all the evening. We drew soft bread and grain to-day much better quality than the last was Our brigade bakery is nearly completed; the bakers tell us they will get to baking this week then we will get bread regularly; good bread will be an excellent change. 
The 2nd and 6th have orders to be ready with two days rations in their haversacks. They expect to go on some secret expedition; I have not learned much about it yet; in fact they do not know their destination or the purpose of the expedition themselves.
THURSDAY, Feb. 12- The storm that was threatening last night passed off and this morning opened clear and bright. The 2d and 6th started on the expedition this afternoon; they went to the landing took a boat and went off down the river. Some say the expedition is to break up a gang of smugglers; others that the expedition is for the purpose of dislodging some rebels that have constructed some works and planted some guns with which they fire on the passing boats; they will be back in a few days then I will find our the object of the expedition.
FRIDAY, Feb. 13th- clear and warm. The board, or more properly the medical board, to examine applicants for discharges has convened and our boys went before the board to-day. It will be some time before we know how many will get their discharges. Some of them were not examined on account of their papers being incorrect, a cast of the negligence of our regimental surgeon, but thank the Lord, is now discharged for incompetencey. These men will have to wait till the board convenes again, which may be in a month and perhaps not before two months. Some of them may never have to appear before that board again; their forms may be laid in the cold and lonely grave.
There is a heavy responsibility resting on him who thus neglects the calls of humanity. It costs him nothing but a little exertion to administer to the wants of these poor weak men yet they are frequently abused because they are so unfortunate as to be sick. We hope to see things different now. Our present Surgeon is kind and considerate and has rectified many errors of the former surgeon.
SATURDAY, Feb. 14th- weather continues fine. to-day is St. Valentines day, yet I do not see any difference between this and any other pleasant day. Our boys have not sent many valentines because they were not to be had in season. There was a peddler around with some a few days ago but he only had a few and they went off like hot cakes.
We expect to her great doings in Carolina or some other place. Foster is in motion with a large fleet. We hope to hear good news from him soon. Our forces are gaining a little on the Mississippi too. That was a daring undertaking of the ram Queen of the West to pass the works at Vicksburg. She has done great mischief to the rebels and will do more. It is a wonder the boat was not blown two pieces.
I hope we will not be taken away from here at least not to be sent to another army. I think we have done our share. Let others try their hands. There has been no more changes so far as shipping troops is concerned since the 9th Army corps, the the Pennsylvania Reserves, left and from present appearances I not think there will be immediately.
S. J. M.

Feb. 13, 1863

FRIEND SMITH:- In compliance with your request I will try to give you a brief sketch of Co. "K".
My connection with my boys, both socially and officially has ever been of the most delightful nature; and I can say that for morality, discipline and bravery, though we may have been equaled by many, yet I think excelled by no company from the state. The many hardships we have endured have bound our hearts together for ever; and I have always considered it an honor to command so noble a body of men.
The proudest hour of my life will be to bring this disseminated company back to Beloit (after the war!).
We have been actively engaged in six battles, viz.:
Rap. Station August 23, 1862
Gainesville, August 28, 1862
Bull Run, August 29&30 1862
South Mountain, Sept. 14, 1862
Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862
Fredericksburg, Dec. 12, 13, 14&15, '62
In the engagement of Aug. 3, Lieut. Oakley lost his right arm, and private Martin Kramer was severely wounded.
At Gainesville we lost three noble fellows, Killed-Corp. Martin L. Cochran, Privates Charles B. Norton and Josiah H. Beard. Nathan Sebring died of wounds.
At Bull Run none of my boys were killed, but three of the wounded have since died; Corp. Chester R. Garner; Privates Elisha H. Oviatt, F. Lewis Rubin, and two discharged.
South Mountain-two killed: Private William S. Wilson, Fred J. Garner, wounded, Lieut. S. B. Morse, and nine Privates.
Antietam-killed, Corp. George H. Sedgwick, (or rather supposed to have died soon after he was carried to the hospital where his right leg was amputated at the thigh; he was then put into an ambulance, which is the the last heard of him. This young man was nephew of Gen. Sedgwick. His parents are wealthy and have use every exertion to recover his body, but without success. He doubtless died, and was probably buried somewhere between Sharpsburg and Middletown.)
Fredericksburg - killed, Nathan H. Morton.
Since we entered the service six have died from disease. Sergt. Jerome B. Davis, May 21, 1862, on board of Hospital boat between Aquia creek and Washington- James B. Crawford, Gen'l Hospital, Washington, Nov. 27, 1862. Nathan H. Eddy, Carver Hospital, Washington, Oct. 16, 1862. David Lord, Camp Arlington, Feb. 22, 1862. Lysander J. McFarland, Hospital, Washington, Dec. 19, 1862. Alfred Tenchrist, discharged Aug. 4, 1862, and died soon after his arrival home.
The officers were, originally, Capt. Alexander Gordon, Jr.;  1st Lieut. F. W. Oakley; 2d Lieut. David Shirrell; Orderly Sergt. S. B. Morse; 2d Sergt. J. b. Davis; 3d Sergt. Geo. S. Hoyt; 4th Sergt. Henry Harbaugh; 5th, Amos D. Rood.
About April 20, 1862, 2d Lieut. Shirrell was promoted to 1st Lieut. in Co. "E"-S. B. Morse promoted to 2d Lieut. to fill the vacancy; George S. Hoyt, Orderly Sergeant.
About Sept 25, Lieut. Morse was honorably discharged from the service on Surgeon's certificate of disability; and 1st Sergt. George S. How was promoted to fill the vacancy.
1st Lieut. F. W. Oakley being disabled from active field duty by the loss of his right arm, was appointed Military Storekeeper in the U.S.A.
No recommendation to fill the vacancy has yet been sent forward.
The officers now are-Capt. A. Gordon, Jr.; 1st Sergt., A. S. Rood; 2d Henry Harbaugh; 3d Washington Stone; 4th Daniel McDorman (Color Seargt. promoted for gallantry); 5th, John M. Hoyt, (promoted for gallantry.)
The Corporals I have endeavored to appoint from the most intelligent and meritorious of the company, but after there were so many who merited promotion and among whom there was no choice, I resorted to the method of writing the names upon a separate slip of paper and throwing them into a hat and the first one drawn out was the lucky man. They are as follows:
1st corp. John f. Foss, (wounded at South Mountain.)
2nd, John W. Bruce, (in every battle.)
3rd, Michael McNamara
4th, H. Kinsman.
5th, Wm. Barnum, (in every battle.)
6th, John F. Claflin, (Colonel's Orderly.)
7th, John H. Fenton, (wounded at Antietam.)
8th, Patrick Barrett, (in every battle.)
Private James Dunham, enlisted from my company into the Western Gunboat service was killed on the "Mound City."

Total killed and wounded,  41
Total enlisted  97
Killed and died of wounds, 12
Discharged & to be discharged of w'nds, 12
Died of disease,  6
Discharg'd & to be discharg'd of disease, 24

Now in service, 43, of which 34 are present for duty.
In Haste,
Capt. A. Gordon, Jr.

Feb 22, 1863



FEBRUARY 22d - It has been a very stormy day. It commenced snowing last night, and has continued all day. The snow being quite fine, and the wind high, it has drifted through into our tents there being very few tents that have not more or less snow in them. Not withstanding the storm the national salute was fired at 12 o'clock, M.
FEBRUARY 23d - It is clear and pleasant and thawing. The roads are in an awful condition. We have had a dress parade. The snow is about eight inches deep on the level. It is almost impossible for a team of six mules to haul an empty wagon to the landing.
FEBRUARY 24th - It continues warm. The roads are so bad that the cavalry are obliged to pack their guns on the backs of their horses. By this you can judge something of the condition of the roads in this section.
FEBRUARY 25th - The boys have lively times by snow balling. The streets are lined with men each with a snow-ball, ready to throw it at the first shoulder-strap that presents itself. Occasionally the companies form themselves into opposing parties and then we have any amount of fun. The boys take delight in throwing at the bass drum, which lies some distance from the Regiment. When any one is fortunate enough to hit it, he is is considered a good marksman. It is really amusing to hear the boys use technical terms employed out the battle-field, when they are snow-balling, such as "cross-fire," "flanked," "attacked in the rear," &c.
The Brigade Brass Band in improving rapidly. They came down and serenaded the Colonel of the Second Regiment last night, their pieces were well executed.
FEBRUARY 26TH - It has rained more or less all day. The snow has nearly disappeared. The news in not important.
FEBRUARY 27th - It is pleasant overhead but very unpleasant under foot. The Regiment went on picket duty today. Company D, and a few men from other companies, returned as they were not needed.
FEBRUARY 28th -The mud is rapidly disappearing. All the men who are left in camp were mustered at 8 o'clock, A.M. Major Finnicum is our mustering officer. He has to go out and muster the balance, who are absent.
He will be obliged to go the whole length of our picket line. It will keep him busy to get through to-night.
S. J. M.