Second Wisconsin Cavalry
The organization of the Second Cavalry
was authorized by the War Department, in the Fall of 1861, as an
"independent acceptance," but was finally turned over to the State
authorities, under a general order revoking all power for the raising of
volunteer regiments independent of the State. The regiment was recruited and
organized under the superintendence of Colonel Cadwallader C. Washburn, at Camp
Washburn, Milwaukee, and the muster of the last company into the United States
service was completed March 12, 1862, fully organizing the regiment. Under
orders, they left the state on the 24th of March for St. Louis, Mo.
Arriving at St. Louis on the 26th of March, they were furnished with quarters at Benton Barracks, where they drew their horses, and were fully equipped for the field. On the 15th of May, the first battalion left St. Louis for Jefferson City, Mo., followed, on the 19th, by the second and third battalions. They remained in this place until the 28th, when they marched, in three divisions, to Springfield, where the command was concentrated on the 9th of June. On the 13th of June, the first battalion, under command of Major Miller, marched to Cassville, Mo. This battalion remained on duty in Missouri, until September, 1864, when they rejoined the second and third battalions at Vicksburg.
The second and third battalions, on the 14th of June, 1862, took up their line of march for Batesville, on White River, Ark., where they joined the forces of General Curtis, the two battalions having been assigned to a brigade, of which Colonel Washburn had been placed in command. Lieut. Col. Stephens was detached from the regiment, by order of General Brown, and placed in command of a Camp of Instruction, at Springfield, Mo., and Major Sterling placed in command of the two battalions which left Springfield on the 14th, as an escort to a train loaded with rations for General Curtis' army. They marched all night, reaching Ozark at four o'clock, on the morning of the 15th. Here Captain Sherman, Of Co. L, with thirty men, Lieut. Ring, of Company I, with fifteen men, and Lieut. DeForrest, of Company F, with fifteen men, were sent in pursuit of a party of rebels, under command of the notorious McBride. Returning in the evening, Captain Sherman reported that he had overtaken about 150 of the enemy, ten miles out on the Forsythe road, with whom he had a running fight for ten or fifteen miles, killing six rebels, capturing three prisoners, some horses and other property, without any loss on his side. On the next morning Col. Washburn joined them with the first battalion of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry, and they left Ozark and followed the north bank of the White River, by the most practicable route, to Batesville. This command was first to follow the march of General Curtis' army after the battle of Pea Ridge. The road passed over the spurs of the Ozark Mountains, and in many places was almost impassable for the heavy trains.
The rebel force, reported 2,500 strong, under Coleman and Crabtree, hung upon their left flank, and annoyed them greatly, for 150 miles, but did not make any attack. Scouting parties were kept out by Col. Washburn, but no attack was made upon them. The train extended ten miles, and it required constant vigilance on the part of Colonel Washburn, with his command of a thousand men, to prevent its capture. When within twenty miles of Batesville, three messengers, sent by Col. Washburn to warn Gen. Curtis of his approach, were fired upon when two miles of the camp, upon which they returned, and reported the enemy near. Col. Washburn, with an adequate force, when in pursuit, but did not find the enemy. In the afternoon, Lieut. Ring, of Company I, while out reconnoitering, had his left arm broken in two places by rebel shots. The enemy, however, had fled. On the 1st of July, learning that General Curtis' army had left Batesville for Jacksonport, sixty miles distant, and that the rebels had possession of Batesville, Col. Washburn left that town on the right, and reached Jacksonport on the 4th of July, and joined General Curtis at Augusta on the 6th, having marched 400 miles without the loss of a man, and having captured 150 prisoners.
On the 5th of June, 1862, Col. Washburn was appointed Brigadier General.
On the 8th of July, the Second Cavalry, under command of Brig. Gen. Washburn, took part in the battle of Cotton Plant, and pursued the enemy to Cash River, destroying two ferry boats, and capturing several prisoners. Moving by way of Clarendon, they reached Helena on the morning of the 12th of July.
On the 7th of August, Lieut. Col. Stephens was commissioned Colonel of the regiment, vice Col. Washburn promoted. Major Sterling was commissioned Lieut. Colonel on the 21st of August. On the 2d of October, Captain Luxton, of Company I, was promoted to Major of the third battalion. The regiment remained in Helena until January, 1863, engaged in scouting, and sundry expeditions against the enemy. Among others, in November, together with a cavalry force comprising 2,000 men, under General Washburn, they made a raid into Mississippi, and succeeded on getting on the enemy's communications, in the rear of Abbeville, where he was confronting the forces of General Grant, which were marching southward to get into the rear of Vicksburg, causing the rebel force to retreat from their position. The battle of Oakland was fought while on their raid, the forces of General Washburn driving a brigade of Texas troops, under General Whitfield, entirely from the field, with considerable loss. Thomas Welch, of Company I, and Henry C. Cook of Company M, are reported as killed at Helena, and Wm. Bartle, of Company F, as having died of wounds, December 30th, 1862.
Early in February, 1863, the second and third battalions, under orders, moved to Memphis, Tenn., and reported for duty to Major General Hamilton, department commander, and afterwards to Brigadier General Veatch, commander of the post. Here the regiment remained during the months of February, March, April and May, Lieut. Col. Sterling commanding, Col Stephens being Chief of Cavalry, commanding Third Brigade. In April, a detachment of the Second Cavalry, took part in the action at Coldwater, under command of Colonel Bryant, of the Twelfth Wisconsin, and did very effective service.
The next morning after Col. Bryant started, 100 men of the Second Cavalry, under Major Eastman, followed and overtook the main force, just after the battle on the Coldwater, and returned with them to Hernando, and camped. Next morning a detachment of the Second Cavalry, under Lieutenant Riley, of Company C, was sent forward to ascertain the whereabouts of General Smith, who was to cooperate with Col. Bryant, but they returned to Camp without finding him. They returned toward Memphis, and, with the whole force, were countermarched to the Coldwater. It was ascertained that a large number of horses and mules were to cross the river, to be sent south. Lieut. Riley was permitted by Col Bryant to attempt their capture, which he successfully accomplished, obtaining sixty to seventy head of mules and horses, and a variety of other secesh property, and returned to camp.
Maj. Gen. Washburn, placed in command of all the cavalry forces at Memphis, on the 10th of June, received orders to report to Gen. Grant at Vicksburg. The regiment reported for duty to Gen. Washburn at Snyder's Bluff, on the Yazoo River on the 13th of June. Here they were employed in scouting, up to the 4th of July. On that day the regiment moved to the forks of Deer Creek and Big Black River. On their way, they received the information that Vicksburg had surrendered, which caused great satisfaction within the regiment. On the 6th, they joined Col Bussy's command, and moved up the river, and on the 7th, under orders, Marched with the other forces of General Sherman to Jackson, Miss. Johnston's forces disputed their advance, and on the 8th, the Second Cavalry, being in the advance, had a sharp skirmish with the enemy, near Clinton. The fire was so severe that Col. Stephens was ordered to fall back and remain in the woods until daylight the next morning. On the following day, the enemy continued to contest their progress. On the 9th, they reached the vicinity of Jackson, where the Second Cavalry went into camp near the Insane Asylum, three miles form the city. On the morning of the 11th, the entire cavalry force of the left wing, under Col. Bussy, proceeded towards the city of Canton, destroying the railroad track, and demolishing station houses, until they arrived within a mile and a half of Canton.
Here the entire force was ordered in another direction and on the 14th, went into camp near Jackson, where the men and horses rested until the 18th, when they were again ordered to Canton, with an additional force of four pieces of ordnance and three thousand infantry. The Second Wisconsin Cavalry was in advance, engaged in skirmishing, which continued until within two miles of Canton, where the enemy was found in great force. Filing to the right of the road, they formed a line of battle in a large field. The enemy, finding that the force consisted of infantry and artillery, besides cavalry, retired towards the town, burned the two bridges, and attempted to prevent their being rebuilt. They were, however, taken possession of, and made passable. During the night, the rebels burned the railroad buildings, with all their supplies, and evacuated the town, our forces entering it the next morning.
Major Eastman was commissioned Lieut. Col. on the 1st of April, and Captain Wm Woods commissioned Major of the second battalion.
After scouring the surrounding country in search of the enemy, they left Canton, and on the morning of the 17th, reported to Gen. Sherman at Jackson. On the 21st, they moved towards Vicksburg, in the rear of Sherman's army, and on the 26th, went into camp near Gen. Sherman's headquarters, where they remained until the latter part of August, and were ordered to Redbone Church, twelve miles from Vicksburg, where they remained in camp until about the first of September, when they moved nearer Vicksburg, to a more healthy locality.
On the 12th of June, Lieut. Col. Sterling resigned, and Major Miller was commissioned Lieut. Colon3el, and Capt. N. H. Dale was commissioned Major of the first battalion. In September, Col Stephens and Lieut Wagner were ordered to Wisconsin on recruiting service. On the 11th of November, 1863, Lieut. Col. Miller was dismissed form the service. Five members of the Second were killed at Redbone Church.
The regiment remained on duty during the winter of 1863 and '64, at Redbone Church, under command of Major Eastman. Col Stephens returned form Wisconsin in March, 1864, with a large number of recruits, reported to General McPherson at Vicksburg, and on the 22nd, rejoined the regiment at Redbone Church. On the 23d, Major Eastman and Major Richmond returned to Wisconsin with the veterans, on veteran furlough. Col Stephens and the other officers remained in camp to drill the recruits, during the absence of the veterans. Scouting parties were sent out daily, and many men were lost by the fire of their bushwacking enemy.
On the 1st of April, 1864, Major Eastmen was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel. On the 27trh of April, 1864, the regiment moved to Vicksburg, and on the 11th of May, the veterans returned from Wisconsin. Col. Stephens was placed in command of all the cavalry regiments at that post, and Major Richmond took command of the regiment.
The first battalion, under Major Miller, which remained in Missouri in 1862, consisted of Company A, Capt. Wm Woods, Company D, Capt. Burnell, Company G, Capt. Dale, and Company K, Capt. Hutchins. We find but little on the records showing the history of this battalion. Company A was retained by General Brown at Springfield, as a body guard, and on the 10th of June, Companies G and K, under command of Major Miller, moved to Cassville, and reported to Col. Julius White, in command of the post. Here they remained until the 1st of August, engaged in scouting in southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. On the 1st of September, the battalion returned to Springfield, where it acted as General Brown's body guard until the 10th of November, when they were detached, and assigned to the First Brigade of the Third Division of General Herron. The battalion took part in the forced march of General Herron to the aid of General Blunt, and was sent forward to general Blunt with the other cavalry of General Herron, and participated in the battle of Prairie Grove, with General Blunt's forces, without sustaining any loss.
The battalion remained in connection with the command of General Herron until the 16th of April, when they were assigned to duty as the escort of General Orme. The Adjutant General's office affords no data or information in regard to the movements of the first battalion while in Missouri, except the record of casualties in a skirmish at Lane's Prairie on the 26th of May, 1864 in which 5 were killed.
The battalion remained on duty in Missouri, mostly in the vicinity of Rolla and Springfield, engaged in guarding trains and scouting through the surrounding country, until September, 1864, when they rejoined the regiment at Vicksburg. The regiment remained in the vicinity of Vicksburg, sending out scouting parties in the direction of Big Black River. On the 14th of July, 1864, Liut. Col. Eastman was dismissed the service, and Major Dale was commissioned Lieut. Col. of the Regiment. Corp. Nathan L. Bebee is reported killed at Clinton, July 13, 1864.
During the months of October, November and December, the regiment was engaged in heavy scouting duty.
By special order No. 402, dated Nov. 17th, 1864, Col. Stephens and Maj. G. N. Richmond were dismissed the service. By special order No. 35, January 23d, 1865, so much of special order No. 402, of November 17th, 1864, as related to Col. Stephens, was suspended, and he was ordered to report to General Dana for trial by Court Martial. What further proceedings were had we are not informed. Col. Stephens was mustered out of service in July, 1865.
Lieut. Col. Dale, with 250 men of the Second Cavalry, on the 2d of December, 1864, encountered a large body of the enemy on the Vicksburg Road, near Yazoo City. After fighting some time, the enemy appeared in such numbers as to outflank the force of Lieut. Col Dale. After twice repelling the charges of the enemy, Dale's forces were withdrawn, the Lieut. Col. being wounded in the ankle. The casualties show 2 killed and 8 wounded. Twenty-seven were reported being taken prisoner.
On the 8th of December, the regiment moved up the river to Memphis, where they were engaged in scouting, under General Grierson, and other commanders, up to the last of April, when they were put upon the duty of guarding citizens from depredations of returned rebel soldiers and bushwackers. They were engaged in this duty until, in June, they were ordered to report the General Sheridan, at Alexandria, La.
J. H. Sigsby of Co. A, died of wounds at Vicksburg, April 9th, 1865.
On the 3rd of July, Col Stephens, and the officers and men whose term had expired on or before the 1st of October, 1865, were mustered out, embracing about 200 men.
In compliance with orders, the last of the regiment moved from Memphis to Alexandria on the 3rd of July, under command of Lieut. Col. Dale. At Alexandria, the regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division Cavalry. They left Alexandria on the 8th of August, 1865, crossed the Sabine River at Burr's Ferry, and proceeded by way of Jaspar, Livingston and Swartwout, to Trinity River, thence through Danville an Montgomery to Hampstead, Texas, arriving there on the 26th, after a march of 31o miles in nineteen days, through a poor country where men and animals suffered for rations and forage. Here they were employed in drilling and camp duty, and on the 30th of October, they commenced their march to Austin, where they arrived on the 4th of November. Here they were mustered out on the 15th, and on the 17th, set out for home, marching on foot to Brennan, 100 miles, thence by steamers and rail, by the way of New Orleans and Cairo, arriving at Madison on the 11th of December and were paid off and disbanded.
While in Texas, an unhappy difficulty is said to have arisen, by which Lieut. Col. Dale caused the arrest of several of the officers and men of the regiment, for an alleged refusal to obey his orders. We know so little of the character of this affair, that we do not feel authorized to place it on the record as a matter of history.
Regimental Statistics: Original Strength: 1,127. Gain by recruits in 1863, 137, in 1864, 630, in 1865, 212; substitutes, 18; by draft in 1865,1; veteran reenlistment, 61: Total, 2,510. Loss by death, 271; by missing, 5; deserted, 103; transferred, 33; discharged, 557; mustered out, 1541.
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