Wisconsin's 2d. Regiment returns,
Spring 1864, Full News Account
Honors for the Brave
Procession, Salutes and Bell RingingA SPLENDID DINNER PROVIDED
Welcome by Governor Lewis
Gen. Fairchild Happily Responds to Call
Address by Judge O. Cole
Songs of Welcome by Glee Club
O! day thrice lovely! when at length the soldier
Returns home into life; when he becomes
A fellow man among his fellow men.
The colors are unfurled, the cavalcade
Marshals, and now the buzz is hushed, and hark!
Now the glad music beats, home, brothers, home!
The caps and helmets are all garlanded
With green boughs, the last plundering of the fields.
The city gates fly open of themselves,
They need no longer the petard to tear them.
The ramparts are all filled with men and women,
With peaceful men and women that send onwards
Kisses and welcomings upon the air,
Which they make breezy with affectionate gestures.
From all the towers ring out the merry bells,
O happy man, O fortunate! for whom
The well-known door, the faithful arms are open,
The faithful tender arms with mute embracing.
It is three years ago, to a day, since the
Second Wisconsin Infantry, the first of the three year regiments from this State, left
Camp Randall to begin their term of active service.
The country was then unused to war. Everything pertaining to military affairs was novel. An organized regiment was a spectacle to attract people for miles around to witness. On that bright June morning our city, now accustomed to such scenes and scarcely moved to a ripple of excitement by them, turned out almost EN MASSE to view the unwonted sight of a thousand Wisconsin men leaving their homes to face the perils and hardships of war. Little did we then know what the future hid behind its veil. The most sagacious had but a faint conception of the real magnitude of the struggle then hardly begun. Who of that many spectators present that morning does not vividly recall the scene of the departure? - the jubilant spirits of the new volunteers - the blare of martial music - the roar of artillery - the waving handkerchiefs - the mingled emotions of sadness and pride - the hearty hurrahs of the multitude and the not less enthusiastic responses of the departing soldiers.
No one of all that gathering of people anticipated what was to follow. On Saturday last a spectacle was exhibited not less novel, and appealing to the emotions of those who witnessed it more powerfully even than the scene of three years ago; the return of the little remnant of that noble regiment, after its long baptism of fire and blood, to receive the All Hail of a grateful people, as the meet of a faithful services.
What gaps have been made by shot and shell in its full ranks, how it has been sifted and winnowed in the tempest of repeated battles, how it has been refined in the crucible of trial has already been narrated in these columns. Not an officer of the line who left with it came back! OConnor, Stevens, Randolph, Colwell, McKee, Hughes, Noble, Sanford and Spoerri lie "dead on the field of honor."
Col. Mansfield and Lieut. Col. Parsons are wounded and in the hands of the enemy at Gordonsville.
Capts. Rollins and Baldwin are still in Libby Prison; Richmond, unless they have been recently been sent farther South. The regiment returns under the command of Maj. Geo. H. Otis, who left the State as a private in the ranks.
After a tedious journey of seven days between Washington and this city, the Veteran Second arrived here before 5 oclock on Saturday afternoon. The programme for the reception, prepared by the committee of arrangements, was fully carried out as follows: The escort will form at 4 oclock P.M. on Saturday, the 18th, on State street, the right resting on Johnson street, in the following order:
Cavalcade consisting of the Governor, Staff
and State Officers
and United Stated Military Officers.
Judges and Clerk of the Supreme Court
Judges of the Circuit and County Courts.
Mayor, Common Council and City Officers of the city of Madison.Madison Turnverein.
Chief Engineer and Fire Department of the City of Madison.
Citizens and Strangers.
Detachment of the 37th and 38th Regiments Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.
Detachment of Volunteer Reserve Corps.
2D WISCONSIN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY.
The principal streets were gaily decorated with banners, and the large flag belonging to the State were suspended above the streets at the corner of the Park. A triumphal arch had been erected at the entrance to the Park, decorated with flowers, intertwined with the stars and stripes, bearing in large letters beautifully wrought from green oar leaves, this inscription -
"A WELCOME TO THE SECOND"
Thirteen guns were fired, at intervals of
three minutes, commencing when the procession moved, and all the bells in the city rang
during the progress of the procession, until it arrived in the Park.
One of the most pleasing features of the procession was a company of boys, from ten to fourteen years of age, uniformed in red shirts, garabaldi fashion and armed with rifles. The little fellows marched well and bore themselves proudly. A part of them acted as guard about the tables to keep back the crowd of people. As the regiment entered the Park and moved up the walk to the Capitol, little girls, dressed in white and arranged on either hand, threw flowers under their feet - the peaceful flowers of our Wisconsin summer under those feet so lately red-wet from the bloody turf of the Wilderness! Tumultuous cheers went up from the crowd that thronged around, ladies waved handkerchiefs, and parents who had sons, and wives who had husbands among the veterans were straining forward to catch a glimpse of the beloved forms. Here and there among there numbers were an empty coat sleeve, and bringing up the rear were a number of wounded who had been conveyed to the Park from the depot in ambulances, and now hobbled along on crutches or with canes, but with gladness of the occasion beaming upon their faces.
As a whole, though covered with dust and soiled with travel, the remnant of the Second is a splendid looking body of men. Their three years of service has given them a development of muscle, and power of endurance such as is rarely found. They are indeed iron men, and a brigade of such is well called the 'Iron Brigade.'
The tables were beautifully decorated with
flowers, and loaded with both substantials and delicacies.
The dinner was prepared at the Capital House and served by the ladies of the city, who, as the guests seated themselves at the table, pinned a white satin badge upon the collar of each veteran, bearing this inscription in gold letters:
HONOR TO THE BRAVE -
Presented to the Surviving Heroes of the Second Wisconsin Infantry
by the ladies of Madison, June 18, 1864.
BILL OF FARE
Baked Pickerel. Baked Bass Baked Trout.
Roast Beef. Roast Veal. Roast Lamb.
Roast Pig with Apple Sauce.
Boiled Mutton. Boiled Ham. Boiled Tongue.
Boiled Corned Beef.
Boiled Potatoes. Mashed Potatoes Boiled Rice Mashed Turnips.
Boiled Hominy. Spinach with Eggs.
Lobster Salad. Lettuce. Pickled Beets.
Radishes. Pickles. Horse Radish.
Currant Pudding. Apple Pie. Blackberry Pie.
Cherry Pie. Wine Jelly. Ice Cream.
Apples. Raisins. Almonds. Filberts.
Coffee., Bottles of Beer.
Gen. Fairchild, their former colonel presided at the head of the table, where were placed the old, shot-riddled colors of the regiment that were borne at Bull Run, Gainsville, Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, &c. together with the new colors that had been consecrated in the terrible battle of the Wilderness. And all about the table were suspended from the overshadowing trees the torn and riddled battleflags sent home by our other regiments - the sacred trophies of the patriotism and valor of Wisconsin men - flags that waved victorious in the van at Stone River, that were borne at Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, and Perryville; and Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove and Chickamauga, and Mission Ridge, and carried at the head of the Forlorn Hope that stormed the heights of Fredericksburg - flags representing all the great battles of the war, and which, in all its vicissitudes, have never been dishonored.
After a song of welcome by the Glee Club,
and the invocation of the Divine blessing by the Rev. Mr. Matson, the dinner was served,
and enjoyed with a keen zest by the tired and hungry soldiers. During its progress
relatives and friends of the veterans were pressing around, and many toughing incidents
occurred. Here and there amid the general joy might be seen a woman in mourning weeds with
tearful eyes. The general gladness only heightened her sense of desolation.
Her boy, or her husband, was among the unreturning brave.
One mother was eagerly looking after her son. He had passed unharmed through all the battles, but she could not find him. He must be somewhere at the table. Would some gentleman find him for her? She gave his name, and inquiry was made. Her boy had not come home, but had reenlisted for the war in another regiment!
Though proud of the patriotism of her boy, it was a grievous disappointment to the poor mother.
After dinner was concluded Gov. Lewis welcomed the regiment in the following address:
Officers and Soldiers of the Second Wis. Reg.:
years ago, when danger threatened on every side, when, the dark clouds of war thickening
fast, and to portend destruction to our fair land, a noble body of Wisconsins sons
sallied forth to breast the impending storm. Grand and ennobling was the spectacle. A band
of freemen, a thousand strong, going out to the sacrifice at a nations bidding,
going out to defend the right, and carve a still higher niche in their countrys
fame. Sacrificing the pleasures of home and all its endearments, tearing asunder the ties
that bound them to their friends, and society, showing by these acts by their acts that
they had higher ends, and aims in life that mere personal ease and enjoyment, and that
they intended to perform that higher duty, one of the first and highest duties of man,
their duty to their country.
For the first time the hand of rebellion had been raised against our nations flag, and the noble Second Wisconsin regiment was on the war path to avenge the wrong. for three long years has it followed that ragged path. for three long years has a nation watched it on its perilous course. for three long years have a nations prayers ascended to Heaven for its safety.
Wherever the fight was fiercest, there might be found this noble regiment. There did it "rally around the flag." At Bull Run, Gainesville, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and the Wilderness, in all these bloody engagements it was among the first and foremost to meet the foe. Of its gallant leaders the brave OConnor is no more, Fairchild, a part of him is here and the balance he has made a sacrifice in his countrys cause. Thank God for what is left of him. He can serve his country still, and is ready to respond at the bugle call.
Mansfield is now wounded and a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, God grant him a safe
return. And oh! how many others, who went forth with this regiment have made the last
great sacrifice, the sacrifice of life itself on the altar of their country. The few we
now see before us tells the sad tale.
The honored dead! a nation mourns their loss, "its tears have fallen like the rain drops its voice of mourning is as the wailing wind," but there is consolation in the fact that they died in a noble cause. They sleep in honored graves, their memory is embalmed in the hearts of their countrymen.
Those who have been wounded, who are sick and in rebel prisons, are not forgotten. We would that they were with us to-day. They have our sympathy; they have our prayers, and shall have all the aid we can give them; and those that are still fighting in the ranks God bless, and protect them; and may they soon return with honor crowned to receive the welcome plaudits of a grateful people.
And now what shall we say to this noble little band I see before me, who after passing through all the perils of war have returned to meet and greet their friends once more, returned with palms of victory in their hands to receive a soldiers welcome, returned to enjoy the blessings of a government they love so well and have so bravely defended.
"Flag of the free
hearts hope and home,
By angel hands to valor given,
Thy stars have lit the walking dome,
And all thy hues were born in heaven."
Noble patriots! for you valorous deeds you have a nations gratitude, a nations thanks. With warm hearts we greet you and bid you welcome, yea, thrice welcome home again. Your deeds have gone before you, your names are inscribed on the roll of fame. With your own right arm have you written your own proud history-inscribed your own bright page: That page, which covered with letters of living light, shall live when we are gone; to be read and honored by millions yet to be, who shall say when time hath buried
"The kingly toll of ages
How brightly from this western world
Shall beam the light of you renown."
And of! let us not on this festive occasion forget our country, our bleeding country. She is passing through the fiery ordeal; like gilding the furnace she is being tried, and like that pure metal may she come out purer and brighter from having passed through the flames.
"God bless our native
Firm may she ever stand,
Through storm and night.
When the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave,
do thou our country save
by thy great might."
At the conclusion of the Governors remarks, the regiment loudly called for Gen. Fairchild, who took the speakers stand, in the midst of
enthusiastic cheers, and said,
Comrades of the Old Second: when I rode at your head to-day, for the last
time, as a volunteer aid to Major Otis, I tried to think that I was once more an honest
Colonel in the army. (Laughter and cheers.) We have been through many rough experiences together; we
have been through many long marches, many dangers and many hardships; we have seen many of
our brethren fall by our sides in battle; but I have never seen you flinch, or known you
to be discouraged. And I have always thanked God that it was my fortune to be honored with
the command of such a regiment. (cheers.)
The last time I spoke to you before this,- and, boys, you know I never talked to you very often-was at Rocky Camp just after the battle of Antietam. Then there were but seventy of you able to report for duty. during the three preceding weeks four hundred of your number had fallen in battle. I told you then that I wanted you to so acquit yourselves that every parent who had a son, every sister who had a brother, and every sweet heart who had a lover in the old Second, would be proud to acknowledge it, and that when you returned to your homes the whole people would welcome you as having done your entire duty. Faithfully have you heeded those admonitions, and now you have returned to receive that welcome. You will be soldiers no longer, but citizens. Let me admonish you-each one of you-to remember that you have still the reputation of the old Second to maintain. Show yourselves as true to your country when citizens as you have been when soldiers. Act so that you can hold your heads up. Never let the good name you have won as soldiers be tarnished by anything you may do as citizens. I know you will not. I know that you who have fought so well to sustain the Government in the field, will at home, by word and deed as citizens, do all you can for its support, and to cheer on am maintain our armies.
Comrades, from the bottom of my heart I give you welcome. (Great cheering.)
After another song by the Glee club, the regular address of the occasion was delivered by Hon. Orsamus Cole, of the Supreme Court. This will be published in full hereafter.
Mr. Rublee, from the Committee on Resolutions, then read the following, which were unanimously adopted:Resolved, That the warm and heartfelt welcome which we here extend to-day to the returning veterans of the Second Wisconsin Infantry, who for three years past have stood, a living wall, periling their lives in the defense of their country, is but an expression of the deep and genuine sentiment of affection, gratitude and admiration which is felt for them by the whole people of the State, express our profound sense of the weight and force of the services and the magnitude of the sacrifices made by the faithful soldiers in our national armies. The history of the world can furnish no brighter examples of fervid patriotism, of steadfast resolution and self-sacrificing heroism than have been displayed during this gigantic conflict for the preservation of the Republic and the perpetuation of its free institutions by the rank and file of our patriotic soldiery. No pecuniary considerations could secure such services. They have sustained the toll of weary marches, the slow and tedious days of sickness and pain in hospital, the terrific risks of battle, not for the pittance of their monthly pay, but that the Government, which their fathers founded in wisdom and sealed with their blood, might be maintained and vindicated and transmitted with all its blessings unimpaired to posterity.
Resolved, That in the annals of this war, abounding with the evidences of this courage and patriotism of the people of the loyal North, there is no chapter more glorious than that which records the illustrious valor and distinguished services of the Iron Brigade in the Army of the Potomac, mainly composed of Wisconsin men, and of which the "Old Second" constituted an important part; and, while we welcome these returning veterans with the honors they have so bravely won and so richly merit, we do not forget, but invoke Gods blessing and protection for their heroic comrades who still tarry "at the front," and who, on the perilous edge of battle, with inveterate purpose, still confront the enemies of their country.
Resolved, That how ample soever in other respects may be the resources of this great people, a national debt has been already contracted during the progress of this war which can never be discharged - the debt of gratitude which we owe to the heroic defenders of the Republic - to the gallant boys in blue - to whose unshaked fortitude, unshaked endurance, and persistent faith which in the darkest hours have never known what it was to despair, more than to all besides the country owes its preservation from the wicked designs of treason and rebellion. They deserve and will receive the thanks of all good men, and applauding smiles of fair women, and the lasting love and gratitude of succeeding generations.
Resolved, That the memory of the brave men who have fallen in the service of their country in this great national crisis, is embalmed in the hearts of a grateful people and shall never fade.
Resolved, That all hope of permanent peace or the restoration of the Union, until armed resistance to the authority of the National Government has been crushed beneath the tread of our victorious armies, is delusive and dangerous, and that the foremost duty of the hour is to hurry forward reinforcements to the tried and faithful generals now thundering at the gates of the rebel capital, and forcing, with indomitable resolution, their way through the mountain passes of Georgia to the vital centre of the rebellion.
After music by the Glee Club, the old and new colors of the regiment were brought forward, when Gen. Fairchild proposed to give three cheers for them, which were given with wild enthusiasm.
The crowd then dispersed, and the regiment proceeded to its quarters at Camp Randall.
Nothing occurred to mar the harmony of the proceedings. The soldiers were well pleased with their reception, while to all it was an occasion of unexampled interest. God grant that the yet gladder and more glorious day may not be far distant when other Wisconsin regiments shall return, not because their term of service has expired, but because the rebellion has been crushed and a permanent and beneficent peace established, rendering their services in the field no longer necessary.