The Second Regiment Reception
Address of Judge O. Cole
I arise to perform a pleasant task. to me has been assigned the
agreeable duty of welcoming the officers and soldiers of the second Wisconsin regiment of
Volunteers to our homes and
the capital of the State. When that duty was first assigned me, I had not the heart to decline its performance, though fully conscious of my utter inability to discharge it in a worthy manner. But I confess that I have a peculiar interest and regard for the officers and men of the second I care not to inquire as to the fact or circumstance in which that sentiment or feeling had its origin.
It may possibly have arisen from the fact that this was the first regiment which left our State enlisted for three years or the war. More probably it had its origin in the known for years-some of whom were my warm personal friends. Possibly its trials and sufferings at an early period of the war aroused and increased this sympathy in its favor. But what ever may be the cause, I am conscious of bearing towards it a somewhat different feeling from that which I entertain for any other our State has sent forth, brave, noble, worthy of regard as they all are.
Never shall I cease to respect every man who has worn the Federal uniform in this conflict unless by some act of his he has disgraced and polluted it. Never shall I cease to feel a lively interest for the safety and success the welfare and honor of all our troops - of every military organization which Wisconsin has sent to the field. At the same time permit me to entertain and cherish for the Second the peculiar love and interest I bear it, for it is to it alone that I instinctively feel like
uncovering my head and bowing it in reverence and silence while it passed before me.
Feeling thus, why should not I embrace the opportunity to welcome it home- and trust the tongue to speak out from the fullness of an overflowing heart? Yet I trust to no feeble words of mine to express the profound feeling of this multitude on this interesting occasion. I trust rather to these better utterances-these shouts of triumph and good cheer-to this reception and the interest that all take in it-to this general exultation and joy-the wild enthusiasm of the hour which will not be restrained; and above all, I trust to the thousand faces around me beaming with gratitude and gladness-it is these things nod not words of mine which will convince these noble men that we cherish them in our heart of hearts; that we are not unmindful today of what they have sacrificed, of what they have suffered for us and our beloved country, that we are not insensible to the debt of everlasting gratitude we owe them.
Officers and men, heroes of the immortal Second, hail! all hail!! IN behalf of these innocent and lovely girls whose garlands of flowers have strewn your pathway to this spot-flowers, the emblems at once of the purity of the givers and the warm affection they bear you their brave defenders-on their behalf I welcome, I greet you.
In behalf of these ingenuous boys whose bosoms are now swelling with emotions of pride and admiration at the recollection of you wonderful deeds, I welcome, I greet you. In behalf of the many federal and state officers now resident here, their assistants and clerks, the city authorities of Madison, its fire department, the Turnverein in behalf of the citizens of Madison and the surrounding country generally, whose care has provided these refreshments, these fruits for you comfort, of these patriotic ladies who cheerfully serve you; in behalf of all these men, women, and children who have come forth from their homes to meet you intoxicated with joy at your arrival, almost banging upon your garments and every one eager to grasp your hands in friendship, in their behalf I welcome, I greet you.
And finally, in the name of and in behalf of the citizens of the entire state, all of whom I doubt not, would be glad were it possible to unite with us in extending to you this splendid reception-whose hearts as they read the accounts of this day's proceedings will thrill with pleasure and send back a responsive and approving echo to every kindred word, every generous sentiment here uttered in your praise-in their name-on their behalf one and all I greet you and welcome you. I give you much joy at your safe return from those scenes of conflict and blood with which in obedience to the demands of a high patriotism you have so long been familiar and with which your names are now and will be forever indissoluble connected. Officers and men, heroes of the immortal Second, again I hail you! again I bid you a hearty welcome to the capital of the State. It is now about three years since your regiment left our city 1,051 strong-consisting of men of almost all occupations-all professions-robust, active, industrious, intelligent-every way fit representatives of our vigorous population. Your lives had always theretofore been devoted to peaceable pursuits, and you took up arms only in obedience to the call of your imperiled country. Your destination was the National Capitol, then beleaguered by the most devilish traitors that ever raised a patricidal arm against any government. that insolent foe you were to meet in deadly conflict- take up the gage of battle which he tendered, and try the issue whether you would fight for you country, and if so whether one Southern man was equal to and a match for five Northern men, fighting in such a cause that matter already been settled I need not say haw. But of all the fatal mistakes made by the sons of men none so fatal or sad in its consequences as the notion that the Northern man would not, dare not fight to preserve the Union, which was the assumption of
"The chivalry" when they commenced the war.
Arriving at Washington on the 2d of July, 1861-the first three years'
Regiment to reach that city-your regiment immediately became identified with the fortunes
and history of the Army of the Potomac. During these three sorrowful years, you have been
absent, the citizens of this State have kept their eyes upon you. They have witnessed with
pride and satisfaction your humane, orderly, obedient conduct everywhere and on all
occasions. No act of military insubordination rests upon your fair fame. No act of
inhumanity in the hour of victory-no fort Pillow barbarity-no deed of rapine, or plunder,
no atrocious iniquity perpetrated even upon spiteful she rebels with your power, ever
sullied our bright career. Your personal honor has been as bright, as free from spot of
blemish as the arms you carried by your sides. Trials and temptations in camp and field
you doubtless have had which severely taxed your patience and sorely tried your
principles, but patriotism, fidelity to duty, constancy to virtue have enabled you to pass
through and resist them without leaving any imputation upon your character as citizens,
without a stain upon your reputation as soldiers.
In becoming soldiers you did not forget that you were likewise citizens, nor were you unmindful of the responsibility of that relation. No rights of property were violated except so far as the necessities of the occasion, and the rules of war set them aside, and then you were amply justified in disregarding them. you have never perverted this war to the unholy purpose of acquiring self and gain. No man will be able in the future to point at you the finger of scorn an say "that fellow made his money in the great rebellion by cheating the soldiers out of their rations"- or "selling hospital supplies," or "by speculations in cotton compelling his men to expose their lives and exhaust their strength in marauding to collect it for his own gain or advantage." thank God, you, in common with every other high minded soldier hold in abhorrence such base, such ignoble acts. In the performance of you more active military duties, you have without confusion, without any lawless violence, made many a fatiguing march in summer's heat and winter's cold, in dust, in mud, in sunshine and storm without the least faltering or murmuring. Such was your discipline that you promptly executed every order,
what ever it might be.
"Yours not to make reply.
Yours not to reason why,
Yours but to do or die."
This was the sentiment, the esprit de corps of your regiment. By your admirable conduct on the battlefield you have elevated the character of the American soldier throughout the world.
Participating in many sharp skirmishes an perilous reconnaissance you never failed to meet every just expectation. fearlessly and firmly have you faced dangers and difficulties of the most appalling character But on no field, in no place, in no emergency however terrible have you quailed before danger or failed to do all that the National authority. Many an insolent traitor has, by your blows, been made to bite the dust. everywhere have you essentially contributed by your valor to avert disaster from the Army of the Potomac and materially aided it in winning the substantial fruits of victory. Amid frightful slaughter, the horrors of blood and gloom which have made the battlefields of Bull Run, Gainesville, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and the Wilderness ever memorable, you bore yourselves nobly and well. your regiment was always in its proper position that brigade, whose glory or fortune it was ever to be,
"On the perilous edge
Of battle when it raged' in all assaults,"
When death strokes fell the fastest, obstinately contesting every inch of ground with
the enemy-now by an impetuous charge falling upon his bewildered lines like a thunderbolt
and hurling his masses before it-then by a well directed musket fire thinning his
ranks-now repulsing some desperate charge of cavalry then unmasking and taking some
battery dangerously posted-now recovering some ground that had been lost-and then with
consummate skill and in the most perfect order covering the retreat; such has been the
position, the work of that Brigade which has won for itself the title it so well
deserves-a title at once suggestive of its magnificent courage, its unconquerable will,
its invincible spirit and resolution. Need I add that title is "The Iron
Brigade"-that it is now known and is forever to be distinguished by that name so
nobly won-so proudly won?
And it is called "The Iron Brigade" because on many a bloody field has the fact been established that it was composed of men who, like the Old Guard of Napoleon, die in their places facing the foe, but they never fly, they never surrender. It was with that Brigade soldiers of the Second, that you were associated. Such were you rivals to fame, such your companions in glory. And you all achieved for yourselves imperishable renown. What ever fortune may betide that Brigade in the future- upon whatever fields it may win new honors or lose its already hard earned laurels, the past at least is secure. When you connection with it resplendent its name was resplendent with glory. And when the Muse of History comes to consign to her immortal records the deeds of valor and devotion performed by our soldiers and sailors in this war she will find no page upon which she can dwell' with more delight than the one which tell the story of the brilliant career of "The Iron Brigade" while you were associated with it.
But this is not the occasion to recount your exploits, so marvelous and wonderful. I
will add that I know of nothing in your career that I would alter or change were it in my
power to do it. There is nothing in your conduct as a regiment, from its first baptism in
fire and smoke at Bull run on the 21st
of July, 1861, down to the recent period, when in triumph and with garments purple with blood its men emerged from that Armageddon, the Wilderness, that you fellow citizens would have otherwise than it is. Quite true it is that you were not always victorious-that the fortune of war sometimes inclined to the side of the enemy. True it is that our hearts were at times terribly depressed, almost crushed at the result of some conflicts in which you had been engaged. We believed the first dispatches that no blame for those failures attached to you, either as individuals or a regiment. In this gook opinion of you we found ourselves always confirmed by the full accounts of the battle. No, whatever others did or failed to do, the Second Wisconsin always did its assigned work, thoroughly seasonably and well.
In these remarks I make no exception, because in justice none should be made. Not even
in the first battle in which you were engaged, disastrous as it was in its result, did you
disappoint any hope or forfeit any confidence we had reposed in you. as did our rank and
file generally, acquitted yourselves well on that bloody field. undisciplined troops as
you all were, just from the farm, the shop, the counting room, the college, and the
lawyer's office, unacquainted with war, ignorant of the
country, you were sent-after a fatiguing march-by regiments, without concert into the brush and woods over hills and through obscure roads to hunt the enemy wherever you could fight him
in his fortified, admirable chosen positions. Under these disadvantages even, by your desperate valor, you succeeded in whipping him. But after you strength was exhausted, suddenly, late in the day, you found yourselves confronted by fresh troops. Your supports were at a distance, and not brought into action at all, while another force that should have co- operated with you in the engagement- whose men were burning with impatience to do so-was, under the command of its general! Rapidly retiring from, instead of advancing upon the enemy.
That you were finally driven back, defeated under these circumstances, was no matter of
surprise, no wonder. But as I have said, not alone our regiment, but our rank and file
generally, conducted themselves will on that day. The first battle of Bull run, then has
its bright features and great compensation. or, while we can but admit that the battle was
illustrated by no consummate generalship, no high military genius planning the movements
and directing the undisciplined
valor of your troops, yet the discriminating observer will not fail to mark numerous examples of the greatest bravery displayed by regiments and individuals there engaged-deeds of heroism
which illumine the bloom of that dark day's business with a terrible beauty, like the lightning on the edge of the cloud. I have dwelt for an instant on the incidents of that battle, because it is the only debatable ground in the entire military career of the Second Wisconsin regiment upon which an envious mind could fasten, to limit its praise. For myself, I am fully satisfied with its conduct that day as upon all other occasions.
It commenced its active service by exhibiting some of the noblest qualities of the
citizen soldier of the Republic, and its course continued to increase in brilliance until
it has ended in
complete glory. let no one say that this is the language of panegyric-the warm expressions of excited feelings. It is the simple unadorned truth. for in what I have said, I believe I but anticipate the verdict of impartial history. I pronounce the present irreversible judgment of all candid men. And now as Wisconsin receives from the possession of this regiment, these sacred colors entrusted to its charge, colors faded and torn by the smoke and shot of many a battle field, and folds them up and places them away among her archives with these other blood-stained and battle-scarred banners borne by her gallant sons on other fields-priceless relics-symbols of her power and grandeur-she well knows that not one among them all has been carried by braver men-not one has been in the hour of conflict more steadily or further advanced in the face of a haughty foe. soldiers, I have said that three years ago your regiment left the State 1,051 strong.
You return to us today numbering about one hundred and sixty. Your regiment has had
killed in the
various battles in which it has been engaged, 195 men-676 wounded, and 169 missing; making a total loss of 1,051 men. You have received 135 recruits, making 1,186 men, all told, connected with the regiment. From your regiment have reenlisted for three years about 80 men, principally from company K. I may here properly remark that the original company K was permanently detached from the regiment by an order of the War Department towards the close for the year 1862 and organized as heavy artillery, while its place in the line was filled by the company just alluded to. Of the field officers connected with the regiment, none return with it. Your first Colonel, S. Park Coon, resigned July 29th, 1861.
Your second Colonel the brave and lamented Edgar S. O'Connor, fell August 28, 1862, at the battle of Gainesville, while gallantly leading his command in action. Your third Colonel, Lucius Fairchild, resigned October 30, 1863, or rather I should say was promoted as Brigadier General about that time, and was subsequently elected by the people of the State to the office he now fills with so much credit to himself and so much satisfaction to the public. The presence of that gallant gentleman here today will restrain me from dwelling as I should otherwise be ;leased to do upon his great merits as an officer, and of uttering some truthful words in his praise, which I doubt
not would be most acceptable to your ears. But it is for you to speak of his exploits, for you witnessed them. And none have had better opportunities than you for seeing how beautifully are united in his person the chivalric nature, the daring intrepidity, the self-devotion of a true knight of old with the tenderness and gentleness of a child. Since the promotion of Col. Fairchild, your regiment has been commanded by Col. John Mansfield, who I regret to say was wounded and together with Major William L. Parsons, was made a prisoner in the recent battles in Virginia. Your regiment is now commanded by Major Otis, who left this State three years since as a private soldier. This brief narrative would remind us, if we could otherwise forget the fact, that our great joy today is not unmixed with sadness. We would remember with the liveliest sympathy the sick,
the wounded, the disabled soldiers of the Second, wherever they may be. May they be sustained in their trials by the kind attention of friends, and constantly receive strong proof of the public gratitude for their great services. Nor will we fail to breathe a prayer for the speedy return of those wasting their lives away in rebel prisons. Alas! alas! that the garlands of laurels which we today entwine for the living must be united with cypress for those who have fallen on the field of honor. How can I worthy express the mournful emotions awakened by the remembrance of the character and virtues of the heroic dead? How shall I properly speak of Col. O'Connor, Lieut. Col. George H. Stevens, Captains Randolph and Colwell, and many others less distinguished but scarcely less lamented, who fell upon the field or have died of disease contracted in the serve? I dare not trust myself to speak of them in my own words. Permit me therefore to borrow and apply to them the sentiments of a poet, expressed in lines doubtless familiar to you all, but which no cultivated person can ever listed to with other feelings than those for pleasure and delight:
"How sleep the brave who sink to
By all their country's wishes blessed;
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By forms unseen their dirge is sung,
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall a while repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there."
We have not had the mournful privilege of even consigning the remains of the
illustrious dead to their resting place. We have not performed for them the last sad
offices of humanity, nor
had the sad pleasure of giving them.
"Such honors Illion to her hero paid
And peaceful slept the mighty Hectors Shade."
But no matter; no matter the soil that drunk their blood is henceforth hallowed ground. It shall for all ages possess for the wise and good, the same undying interest that attaches to the ;plains of Platae and Marathon, and which consecrates the spots where our Warren and Montgomery fell. Wisconsin truly mourns her fallen braves. And if she erects to them no columns of brass or marble to perpetuate their names and memory, she will give them a more noble, a more abiding monument by engraving their names and memory in ineffaceable characters upon the hearts of her people I desire here to read the following military order published in "The Daily Journal" of this city in its issue of the 16th inst., to which my attention has been called since this address was written. it is alike creditable to the heart of the brave General who issued it and the troops so highly commanded by him. This is the order:
HEADQUARTERS, FOURTH DIVISION,
FIFTH ARMY CORPS, June 10, 1864.
The Second Wisconsin Volunteers, having served their full term of three years in this army, and being about to leave for their homes, the General Commanding deems it proper for himself, and in behalf of those of their comrades who remain behind, to address the officers and men of that command a few parting words.
Three years ago you entered the service, more than a thousand strong. you now leave with one hundred and thirty-three, all told. Where are they? O'Connor, Stevens, Colwell, Randolph and many others-both officers and men-are mustered with the hosts on high. Others are disabled for life. Others still are in rebel prisons. Among all these things you have always been true to your flag and your country. You have never failed in any duty required of you. You have a right to be proud of your record The State has reason to be proud of you. You leave with the best wishes of all your comrades and to that I wish to add my most cordial desire for your future honor and prosperity, collectively and individually.
Brigadier General Commanding.
Soldiers, something I desired to say in regard to the moral character of the conflict
in which you have been engaged-of the vast issues and great principles involved and staked
upon it of the sad and depressing effects upon the destinies of our race which will
inevitably follow should this wicked rebellion be successful. But I for bear. A few words,
however, I will add upon this topic and they are, that you took up arms not at the call of
some ambitious chief to wage a war of aggression and conquest nor even to gratify a
national sentiment for military glory.
At the call of the constituted Federal authorities, you went to the field to protect and preserve the best constitution ever devised for the government of man against the assaults of wicked traitors. You have fought for the great cause of humanity and oppressed peoples; for law, order, popular and constitutional government. You struggled to repress and overthrow principles which lead to misrule, anarchy and social disorder, and to defeat a system of government that would blast, if successful, all hope of progress by the vicious political and social maxims it seeks to establish. You have contended in behalf of liberty as against the curse of slavery; for the principles of justice and right as against those of injustice and wrong. You have struggled to preserve our free institutions. against those who would stop them. You have contended for the rights of all as against the privileges of the few. You have endeavored to preserve unimpaired that rich inheritance of freedom bequeathed us by Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, and other great worthies of the Revolution. You have freely offered you bodies as shields to the life of this nation against the blows of those who seek to destroy it. You have endeavored to maintain the Republic in its integrity and to make hood our national motto ensorcelled on our flag, engraved on our coin and our arms, "E Pluribus Unum." One nation formed of many States-one constellation with many stars.
Can it be possible that these your efforts should be put forth in vain? Can it be that the great sacrifices and exertions of millions of brave men and heroic women have been made to no purpose in this great struggle?
Can it be that this great temple of constitutional liberty, whose lines and proportions
were originally marked out by such matchless statesmanship-whose foundations were laid in
such profound political wisdom-can it be possible that it is to be destroyed, utterly
razed from its place on the earth?
By the restless power that rests in freedom's arms, by the unconquerable spirit and resolution which animate their bosoms, I answer-No: Never, never! I will not seem to admit by dwelling upon this thought that I consider the final result as at all doubtful. In this year or the next, or in some one which will succeed it , this atrocious, this wicked, this gigantic rebellion will be crushed amid the ruin, the dismay and confusion of those who inaugurated it. The stars in their courses fought against Sisera; they will likewise fight against this unholy, this wholly unjustifiable rebellion.
Soldiers I will detain you no longer, Am I mistaken when I imagine that you are
impatient to see the end of this day's proceedings, grateful as they must be to your
feelings? Am I error in supposing that while you favor me with your attention and listen
to my words, your hearts are elsewhere? Am I in error in believing you are very anxious to
reach your homes and see the dear ones there now impatiently waiting your coming?
Go then to those homes, brave Defenders of your country, and enjoy your rest under the
consciousness of duty will performed. May you find those homes the abodes of health,
comfort, contentment and peace, and may they long remain so. May you live to let the world
see refuted in your persons the disparaging remark that "Republics are
ungrateful." May your eyes soon see these clouds of gloom and blood which overshadow
our country roll away forever, and the sun of peace once more shining upon us. May you
speedily behold the Union restored and the just authority of the federal government
re-established in all our States and Territories where treason has expelled it. May you
also soon see the credit of the National Government, now suffering a sad eclipse,
restored-its faith ever maintained incorruptible in all its transactions. May you likewise
speedily behold all the ruin and desolation which the war had made in our country,
repaired by the activities. the industries, the spirit of a free people.
May you see the springs and sources of national wealth and individual prosperity soon
again flowing in increased volume and strength. May you see commerce retrim her trembling
sails and again performing the important mission of contributing to the wants, while she
civilizes the nations of the world. May the wonderful activity of the plow, the incessant
clink of the anvil, the constant hum of the spindle, greet your ear and meet your eye
everywhere in the land. May you see all our educational, charitable, and religions
institutions again flourishing and in full operation; multiplying and extending their
appropriate works with the increase of their resources, and throwing across this continent
and around the world, an constantly widening belt of intellectual, moral, and religious
light to bless and illumine the abodes of men. May you see that flag which derives new
luster from your achievements, everywhere respected and floating over only a race of
And, finally, may you see spring up and grow, until it pervades every Horace like the atmosphere, as healthy public sentiment, which shall infuse its spirit into and dominate over all our policies and systems, permeating our national and state laws and jurisprudence-a sentiment utterly intolerant of legalized wrong and oppression to even one of the lowest and weakest of mankind-a public sentiment which will demand for all and secure to all in this land the imprescriptive rights of nature-the right to, "LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS,"-and secure those rights to every human being, regardless of the place of his birth of the color of his skin, BECAUSE he is a MAN and not a CHATTEL.
The immortal Second, I finally hail and
"Welcome! thy work of glory done
Welcome! from dangers greatly dared."
Wisconsin State Journal, June 21, 1864,