Memorial, or Decoration, Day is one of those holidays that
has evolved with as many stories as to how it began as there are storytellers. Officially,
the federal government granted Waterloo, N.Y. the designation as the birthplace of the
holiday as on May 5, 1866, the town closed down all its shops, flew flags half-mast and
had parades and memorials for their fallen Civil War dead. Another story is that the wife
of a General stationed in Richmond after the War observed groups of school children going
to the local cemetery every spring to decorate the graves of their Civil War fallen and
was so touched by the children, urged her husband to try to have an official day of
observance set aside.
Finally, in 1966, the government recognized Waterloo for their 1866 beginning and in 1971, Memorial Day was made into a legal federal holiday.
Restoration of gravesites
After some checking relative to the best approaches to the
restoration of gravesites in preparation for the project at Rhine township, it occurs to
us that many of you may get involved in this type of project on a personal or group basis,
you might like the information The Old Cemetery Society has offered the following
A brief History of the
Original Company K
It says that "Co. K, the original company under the
three months service, was transferred under Charles C. Messervey to the heavy artillery
about June 12. "Now the facts are that Co. K, enlisted for three years, as did all
the other companies in the Second Regiment; and served during the first season;s campaign
in said regiment with the following exceptions. After the first battle of Bull Run; the
regiment was stationed in support of Fort Corcoran, and Co. K, did garrison duty, learning
the heavy artillery drill.
The chances for seeing the general seemed rather slim, but I
walked out to consider the matter and returning in about an hour, I asked the janitor
again if I could see Ben. Townsend, and upon his asking me if I was in the regular
service, I replied immediately that I was, I stated my business briefly, saying that
myself and company were very much opposed to leaving the Second Regiment, and asked to
have the order rescinded, Gen. Townsend's reply was, "go back to your command, sir;
we cannot alter orders to suit the whim of every volunteer officer." As there is no
"jawing back" in the army, I had only to obey orders, choking down my resentment
as best I could. This is the history of our leaving the Second Regiment, but we are
entitled to recognition as one of the patriotic companies who filled its ranks during its
The Tradition of the Sanitary Commission
Lisa Peterson has been fortunate to find a first edition of a book published in 1866 and has sent the following history. The question is unimportant as to which city or which state was the first to organize those societies for soldiers relief which were eventually merged and comprehended in the great national systems of beneficence known as the Sanitary and the Christian Commissions. Those noble, self-sacrificing, and far reaching organizations were the natural growth and logical development of a desire common to ten thousand hearts. Large credit may be due to this or that organizing brain for the skill with which the popular zeal was utilized, and made to bear uniformly and with success upon the sufferings created by war; but the popular zeal, the devotion and self-sacrifice, were kindled by no eloquence, they were manufactured by no daily press, they emanated from no metropolitan center. Even before one hostile gun had been fired, and while the national flag was still afloat, without challenge or insult over the defenses of Charleston harbor, here and there busy hands, prompted by saddened hearts, were scraping lint and rolling bandages - the first fruits of womans thoughtfulness and womans love. In April, 1861, it was known that war must be; how vast, how long, or how bloody, was known only to the Creator of the universe. Cleveland, probably, can claim the honor of calling the first public meeting with the view of organizing a Soldiers Aid Society. This was five days after the fall of Sumter. Six days later, on the 25th of April, a company of women assembled at the Cooper Institute, in New York, and organized themselves into what was so long ago known as the Womens Central Relief Association of New York. Miss Louisa Lee Schuyler became the president of this organization, and prepared the circular, which was sent out over all the land, as an appeal to the women of the country, already engaged in preparing against the time of wounds and sickness. For weeks, till the eventful months became years filled with the records of a nations sacrifice, did this accomplished and energetic young woman devote herself to the wide field of home labor which the presidency of this association opened for her. It was in a great measure due to the breadth, the wisdom and practical efficiency of her plans, that the organization expanded, taking on a form worthy of the great metropolis where it originated, and became the United States Sanitary Commission. Early in the summer of 1861, Miss Schuyler and the ladies whom she represented felt that there was wanting a system to act for the soldier with the government, and in harmony with the established modes of sanitary relief. To accomplish this, an address was made to the Secretary of War, by the Womens Central Relief Association, the advising committee of the Board of Physicians and Surgeons of the hospitals of New York, and the New York Medical Association, for furnishing hospital supplies. After some natural delay and hesitation, not without some opposition from red-tape routinists, it was established under the authority, but not at the expense of, the government, on the 9th of June, 1861, and went into immediate operation. The general ideas which it strove to carry into effect, and upon which its great usefulness was based, were as follows: 1. The system of sanitary relief established by the army regulations to be taken as the best, and the Sanitary Commission is to acquaint itself fully, and see that all its agents are familiar, with the plans, methods of care and relief, of the regular system. 2. The Commission should direct its efforts mainly to strengthening the regular system in every practicable way, and securing the favor and cooperation of the Medical Bureau, so as to win a cheerful and unobstructed pathway for the mercy and charities of a great and loyal people, in their desire to sustain the soldier in the field. 3. The Commission should know nothing of religious differences or state distinctions, distributing without regard to the place where troops were enlisted, in a purely federal and national spirit. With these cardinal, and, as it were, constitutional provisions, the Sanitary Commission, in the summer of 1861, completed its organizations. No feature of the war was more extraordinary than that series of Sanitary Fairs that were so wonderfully successful in producing abundant supplies for the Commission in the years 1863 and 1864. For more than two years the appeals for money had been made to be paid directly, and on principle, for the benefit of the soldier, and the returns thus realized, though small in detail, gave a magnificent amount in the sum total. More than seven millions had been sent from the people to the soldiers, through the agency of the Sanitary Commission, before the battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg. Chicago was the first of the great metropolitan cities to begin this splendid series. If the honor of the original conception of a magnificent fair belongs to Mrs. Hoge and her co-laborers at Chicago, Mrs. Mendenhall and her assistants at Cincinnati are entitled to the credit of carrying into execution to the true plan upon which such enterprises should be conducted. They saw that, in order to obtain a complete success, the effort must be general, appealing to all classes, calling the farmer from his golden harvest-field to come and bring with his the first fruits of the earth, as a free-will offering on the altar of his country, appealing to the artisan to give from his workshop his most cunning and elaborate handicraft. Enlarging thus amply the original idea of Chicago, the executive committee of Cincinnati proposed to raise two hundred and fifty thousand dollars - just ten times the sum proposed at Chicago; and the result showed that the liberality of the people then appealed to the manner suggested, had not been over-estimated. The Cincinnati Fair was in all its features, and in its returns, a magnificent success. It was the true beginning of those noble enterprises that afterwards astonished Europe, and by whose operation over five millions of dollars were, in a little more than a twelve-month, contributed to promote the sanitary condition of the armies in the field. The Christian Commission, as well as its predecessor and co-laborer, owes its efficiency mainly to the zeal, the patience, and the generosity with which it was sustained by the loyal ladies of the country. Organized in November, 1861, at first as a Christian enterprise for evangelical labors among the soldiers, its operations became each year more and more sanitary in their character. It was found that to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to bind up the wounds of battle, were the way of reaching the heart of the soldier for spiritual suggestions. The system of special diet kitchens, that in the latter part of the war was extended so as to reach every corps, every division and often every brigade in the whole army, was especially the product of the organized benevolence of the Christian Commission. Mrs. Anne Wittenmeyer had this work under her special superintendence, with Miss Mary Shelton and Miss Goodale for assistants. It proposed to supply to the sickest in each hospital food as nearly resembling a possible that which his mother and sisters would have furnished him at home. It was a gospel of suitable and delicate food, administered with Christian kindness and in the name of a disciple, the effect of which in relieving suffering and saving life is alike beyond estimation and above praise. Soldiers Aid Societies were formed in almost every large town throughout the Northern States. In these, ladies assembled weekly, and sometimes more frequently; sometimes at the public rooms of the association, but oftener at private houses; and made clothing for the soldiers. These garments, together with various articles of food, such a pickles, dried fruit, jellies and wine, were securely packed, and sent to the nearest large city where the Sanitary and Christian Commissions had depots of supply. No computation has been made, and none can be, of the entire amount and value of articles thus furnished. As a specimen we may take the State of Wisconsin, where there is no metropolitan city, and which held no great sanitary fair. In her final report, Mrs. Joseph S. Colt, of Milwaukee, corresponding secretary of the Wisconsin Soldiers Aid Society, a most admirable and praiseworthy home laborer, says We present our last report with devout thankfulness, not unmixed with a degree of pride in our state. We are thankful that the war is over, the republic saved, human freedom established over the whole land. We are proud that Wisconsin, without the excitement of a fair, and remote from the seat of war, has done her part so well. Gifts to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars; packages numbering six thousand; bureaus whose success has been unexampled; a society for forwarding supplies; a bureau for getting state pay for the families of soldiers; another for securing pensions and arrears; another for obtaining employment for the wives and mothers of volunteers through government contracts; still another for securing work for those partially disabled in the war; still another for supplying the wants of those who have been permanently crippled in the service, and thrown upon wives and mothers for support, - these, and more, have been our work. In Philadelphia the three leading societies were the Soldiers Aid, represented in the field for a long time by Mrs. Brady: the Ladies Aid whose secretary was Mrs. John Harris, and the Penn Relief Association. The Penn Relief dispensed clothing and delicacies to the value of fifty thousand dollars. Most of their packages were forwarded directly to representatives at the front. Mrs. Husband received a great amount of clothing, of a superior quality, from the Penn Relief. Mrs. Fales, of Washington, Mrs. Hetty K. Painter, and Miss Anna Carver all drew largely from the same source. With these facts, the question is natural, How were these unequalled largesses disbursed? and what was the practical result to the sick, the wounded, or the destitute soldier, of systems of relief so varied and so copious? We have in answer the testimony of one of the ablest of our commanding officers, that the two most effective ways in which our armies in the field were sustained in the long struggle, were, first, by the general assurance that was felt, that neither the wives, children, parents, nor others dependent on those in the field, would suffer for the necessaries of life, while their supporters were in the service of the country; second, that the sick and wounded would not lack for any of those things, which, though not provided by army regulations, might conduce to comfort, expedite recovery, save lives, and sustain the morale of the soldier. Another and more perfect answer may be found in sanitary statistics. Before this war of ours, it was considered as inevitable that for every soldier killed in battle, four must die in disease. During our national struggle, 280,420 men - good, true and loyal - sealed their patriotism by death in the service. Of these over 60,000 died in battle, while 35,000 survived the day of the conflict to die of their wounds, and 164,331 died of disease. Thus two persons died of disease for every one that fell by the enemys weapons. With ordinary sanitary and medical appliances, such as Napoleon had in his armies, and such as the English had in the Crimea, our deaths by disease would have reached the fearful aggregate of more than 360,000. Thus it appears that the result of all these labors and sacrifices by our loyal women, of all abundant returns from our sanitary fairs, and of the constant, loving, unremitting care for the brave champions of the Union, has been a saving of more than 184,000 lives, that climates, the exposures of the camp, the transport ship, and the bivouac, the infection of hospitals, the depression consequent upon being forgotten and neglected among strangers, homesickness, and the slow corrosion of constant anxiety for the loved ones left behind, and all the horrors and hardships of terrible war. Women of the War; their Heroism and Self Sacrifice
The Northwestern, March 31, 1889
Caught Old Abe
Madison, Wis..March 15 - Famous all over the United States was "Old Abe," the noble war eagle which on the march and in battle accompanied Company C of the Eighth Wisconsin volunteers all through the war. Yesterday his Indian captor, Oge Ma Ge Zek, who, while the bird was little more than a nestling, sold himto a white man for a bushel of corn, was brought here in charge of United States Marshal Anseley and lodged in jail, his arrest having been made for selling liquor to his fellow Flambeau red mea. In the museum of Wisconsin war relics here are perched the stuffed remains of the old bird, he having died in 1881.
This afternoon his captor of over a quarter of a century ago was taken to se him, and in broken English gave a narrative of his capture.
The Nationality of Soldiers in the Civil War
The statistics after the war gave the following breakdown as to the origin of those who served in the Union Army:
American Born 75 %
The above statistics reflect Union troops from all states. The breakdown for the Second Wisconsin was somewhat different and will be covered in detail in a separate article.
THE DEAD BROUGHT TO LIFE
Collected by Frank Moore, 1889
General Sheridan's story
I knew General Sheridan quite well. He was stationed in Chicago in the early seventies, I don't know but considerably later; I guess up to '80. I meet him several times. On one occasion I attended a banquet given to him by the Loyal Legion in Chicago in celebration of his birthday. My recollection is it was his fifty-fourth or fifty-fifth birthday. There were many speeches; it was a magnificent affair.
I remember that the district attorney made a powerful response to a toast; and Martin Russell, editor of the Chicago Times at that time, read a delightful paper, old order the old Order of Cincinnati with the new patriotic Order of the Loyal region, showing the difference in the pomp and cermony of those days compared to the plain proceedings of these days; and it fellow front the navy read a beautiful poem. Well, I enjoyed it very much and after the formal proceedings were over, to my overwhelming embarrassment, the commander remarked that I was there and called on me, and I said something in return; and after that was over "Little Phil", as we all used to call him,came around with General Forsythe and in a very gentle and beautful way invited me to go up to his house.
Sheridan was a very singular man in appearance; he was of short stature, very heavy, with a sort of German mustache coming out here (indicating), but in his voice and manner of speech he was as gentle as a girl. He invited me up to his house, not very late, about eleven o'clock, and we went up there with two or three other gentlemen, and we stayed until a late hour, and he told us it, great many things, all about the last dying days of the Confederacy, and among other things he told this story, Old Captain Shears, it, a jolly old Irishman fron the north of Ireland lived near North Lake, and Sheridan was very fond of fishing; and it was Sheridan's custom at the time he was stationed in Chicago, for quite a number of years, to go out to North Lake on fishing excursions.
Sheridan said that early one morning he was returning from his fishing, and walking along on the road he was attracted by a farmer who was plowing. He stopped and looked at him, and was interested to see how beautifully and gracefully the sward would turn over, and he waited for the return trip of the farmer and then engaged him in conversation. Sheridan was a man of very short stature; I should not think he was over five feet five inches high, perhaps not over five feet four; he was dressed in his fishing regalia, which made him look all the funnier that morning, and he engaged the farmer in conversation and asked him about his crops, and told him how interested he was in seeing him plow, and spoke of the horses attached to the plow, "nice looking horses", etc., and finally Sheridan courteously asked the farmer if he wouldn't have a drink, which invitation was accepted with alacrity.
The general's new horny-handed friend then became more communicative and discoursed freely about his farm, and finally said, "By the way, what is your name?" "Why",the general replied, "my name is Sheridan." "Sheridan is it? Why, that is the name of one of our great generals in the army." "Well, yes,' said Little Phil, "I am General Sheridan, I am Philip Sheridan." The farmer eyed him very suspiciously and assumed almost at once a hostile attitude, a very unbelieving attitude at any rate, and they talked a little longer, and finally they repeated the ceremony and pledged each other's health a second time.
The farmer, perhaps realizing it was his last
chance, took a good drink, and after a few nore words Sheridan walked on down the road,
and he said he had gone about a hundred yards when he was hailed by the farmer, who
shouted, "Hello, you there, stranger; them drinks that you gave me were mighty good,
but when you tell me you are General Philip Sheridan I think you are the damdest liar in
From The Record Herald, Wednesday, June 11, 1913
FIFTY YEARS AFTER
By J. A. Watrous
Let me again speak of the Gettysburg anniversary and the great re- union that is to take place there July 1, 2, 3 and 4, the days upon which, fifty years ago, there was fought the high-tide battle, second to no battle ever fought on this continent, in men killed and wounded and in its importance. Nearly 50,000 American soldiers were killed or wounded. Then and there it was settled that the attempt to establish a southern confederacy would fall-that the Union could not be shattered.
Fifty years after there will assemble a few thousands of the nearly 200,000 who met there half a century ago and hold a joint reunion-the enemies of that day now friends, all loyal to and proud of the nation whose life was assured as a result of the greatest war of modern times.
The hearts of the soldiers who were there in the long ago have been deeply touched by the interest state governments and the national government have taken and are taking in the reunion-and will continue to take until its end-to make it pleasant and profitable to the participants on their second visit to Gettysburg. The camp, in which accomodations will be made for 40,000, will be the most perfect for a large gathering of soldiers and ex-soldiers ever seen in this country. It will be supplied with water, kitchens, dining-rooms, sleeping accommodations, including a cot for each person, hospitals, surgeons, nurses and three ample, wholesome meals each day, all free of cost to the remnants of the two old fighting machines. Nothing in the way of accomodation and comfort will be omitted. Pennsylvania has contributed nearly a quarter of a million in the preparation: it supplies all of the rations for those entitled to them during the entire stay, which is evidence that the Keystone State appreciates what was done for her as a state and her people at the battle of Gettysburg.
Some of the northern states have appropriated a sufficient fund to pay the railroad fare from their homes to Gettysburg and return of all soldiers within their respective states who participated in the battle or belonged to regiments that were in the battle. It should not be forgot- ten that a great number of soldiers who were on the way to Gettysburg never reached there. They were "held up" in one of the battles on the peninsula, under McClellan in 1862, or they were wounded at Gainesville, second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fitzhugh Crossing, Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville. All of these splendid characters would have been at Gettysburg if they had not been "held up" by wounds.
Some of the southern states have appropriated money to send the confederates who were in the battle, but not all of them. However, many of them will be present. Many are abundantly able to pay their fare and are glad of an opportunity to do so, but the number of confederates who cannot afford to make the trip, while strongly desiring to do so, is large. These will be provided for in every one of the states that attempted to secede. The Daughters of the Confederacy are raising money to send their fathers to the field that they helped to place on the world's map. The Daughters of the Confederacy have done some things that the people of the North have criticised. But the people of the North will be united in thanking them for making it possible for a large number of worthy old confederates, whose worldly wealth would not permit them to enjoy one of the greatest treats of their lives--participation in a reunion unlike any other ever held in any portion of the world.
The infantry fighting of the battle of Gettysburg was begun the forenoon of July 1, 1863, by troops of the First Army Corps, then commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds, who was killed as the battle opened. They were troops belonging to the first division, commanded by General James S. Wadsworth, killed at the Wilderness the following May. Two brigades of that division began firing almost at the same time. Representatives of both have claimed that they were first, the Iron Brigade of the West and Cutler's Brigade made up of New York and Pennsylvania soldiers. To use a phrase by the immortal Lincoln, "It matters little" who first began to fire, but it matters much what their firing resulted in.
In the Twenty-fourth Michigan of the Iron Brigade a young printer soldier, a private, stood and shot from the beginning to the end of the day's awful work and fell back with the small remnant of his regiment that had escaped death, wounding and the prison. His regiment was faced and and fought for hours by the Twenty-eighth North Carolina. This young soldier had varied experiences after the war. He made and lost a fortune or two and then made another. His love for his old brigade has led him, on sev- eral occasions, to expend large sums in looking out for their comfort and happiness. As soon as they began to talk about a great reunion at Gettysburg on the fiftieth anniversary he started to plan to make the most of the event for his old brigade comrades. He has been given permission to erect a tent in which 1,200 can be confortably accomodated and where they can hold their public meetings. Every survivor of the Iron Brigade is invited to accept of his hospitality. He has done still more to invite the comrades who fought with him on the Union side. He has invited the officers and men of the Twenty-eighth North Carolina of the confederate army to join him and them in the big tent, where all of their public and semi-public exercises will be held, and the invitation has been accepted. I submit that that Gettysburg soldier has done his full share to make the coming reunion memorable in many ways. His name? The story would be incomplete without it, but were I to consult him he would prohibit its use. I have not consulted him. He is known as Major C. H. McConnell, for many years one of the prosperous, public spirited and patriotic business men of the next to the greatest city on this continent-Chicago.
Major McConnell is particularly anxious that every survivor of his old brigade join him at Gettysburg. His invitation is as cordial as ever was an invitation.
It should be added that several officers of the quartermaster's department, United States army, have for months been busy at Gettysburg getting everything in readiness for the coming interesting event. They will remain on duty there until the camp is dismantled and the government's property is cared for.
How very little next month's meeting will resemble that of fifty years ago. Then there was seen two of the greatest fighting machines that ever made the earth tremble with war's weapons. Only a few thousand pieces of the long ago fighting machines will reappear, and there will be no fight in them; there will be no enemies among them. They will take rank with as loyal a body of men as the nation ever possessed.