General Thomas B. Allen
|Gen. Thomas B. Allen, editor and soldier, was born in Allegany County, New York, on July, 26, 1825 and was the son of Rev. Asa S. Allen and Lydia Kingsbury. His life was a most eventful one and only an outline can here be given. He received a substantial primary education and before sixteen years old had acquired a practical knowledge of the printer's art, by means of which he paid his expenses while taking a collegiate course of study at Oberlin, Ohio. Owing to serious trouble with his eyes he was obliged to leave college before graduating. Recovering his eyesight sufficiently, he taught school in his native village, but soon gave that up, worked his passage down the Ohio and up the Mississippi, to reach Chicago, where he obtained a position as foreman on a daily newspaper, in which capacity be remained until his father's family came west. In 1847 he moved with them to Dodgeville, where he was soon engaged in mining, surveying and teaching. From 1850 to 1852 he was clerk of the County Board of Supervisors, and in 1857 he having become citizen of Mineral Point, was elected to the legislature from that district. In 1860, he was appointed chief clerk in the United States land office of Madison, and retained that position until April, 1861 when he enlisted as a private soldier in the military company organized in that city, known as the "Governor's Guard," which later was merged into the "First Wisconsin Regiment."|
The Mineral Pointers having raised a company -"Miners Guard"- would have no
one but Mr. Allen as leader, he was therefore, commissioned as such by Governor Randall and
mustered into service at the beginning of the war as captain of Company I of the Second Wisconsin
Volunteer Infantry which later became famous in the Iron Brigade.
The command was in reserve at Blackburn's Ford and in the rout on the third day it was the last to retreat and displayed its pluck in a manner that attracted the attention of the authorities even in that situation of disaster and dismay.
The organization of the Second was preserved at Bull Run and brought from the field in good order under Captain McKee and Captain Allen, the latter conducting the rear guard. Captain Allen was promoted for his gallant conduct, and in August, 1862, became Major of the regiment and shortly afterward Lieutenant-Colonel of the same regiment. In January, 1863, he was commissioned Colonel of the Fifth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and was mustered out of service in March, 1865 as Brevet Brigadier-General.
General Allen participated in several of the most sanguinary engagements of the war and became conspicuous for his gallant and heroic conduct. He was twice wounded in the battle of Gainesville when he was Major of the Second Regiment, but did not leave the field; and was again wounded at Antietam while commanding the regiment in the absence of Colonel Fairchild. In that engagement he had his arm broken.
In the famous charge of the Third of May, 1863, on Maryes Heights, where General Burnside had lost 5,000 men in a former engagement, giving it the name of "Slaughter Pen", Colonel Allen led his men of the Fifth Wisconsin with the Sixth Maine and Thirty-first New York. The brave commander walked among his men, inspiring them to the hazardous deed. "My boys," he said, "do you see those works, in front? We have got to take them. Perhaps you think we can not do it, but I know we can. I am confident of it. When the order to advance comes, you will trail arms, and move forward on the double-quick. Do not fire a gun and do not stop until you get the order to halt.
You will never get that order."
Mr. Thwaites, in the "Story of Wisconsin' writes the following: "The order 'to forward' came. From the riflemen behind the stone wall flanking the roadway, from the houses along the base, from the batteries from the heights above, was poured upon these devoted men a terrible storm of iron and lead. Grape and canister mowed their ranks. They were in the grand highway to death: still they pushed on and on over stone wall, through brier and bramble, over the slippery places, up among the rolling boulders , clutching to bushes, scrambling on all fours, digging, pitching, and climbing over heaps of dead and wounded, overcoming line after line of redoubts, the men who were not to halt finally reached the summit.
There were wild hurrahs, the gleam of bayonets, the roar and smoke of cannon, the shrieks of the dying; then the enemy turned and ran, and Colonel Allen's men - such of them as were left - were the victors of Maryes Heights. The Southern-sympathizing correspondent of the "London Times", writing from Lee's headquarters about this terrible assault, declared: "Never at Fontenoy, Albuera, nor at Waterloo was more undaunted courage displayed." And Greeley wrote: "Braver men never smiled on death than those who climbed the Maryes Heights on that fatal day." The Confederate commander told the Wisconsin Colonel, as he handed him his sword and silver spurs, that he had supposed that there were not troops enough in that entire Army of the Potomac to carry the works, and declared that it was the most daring assault he had ever seen."
At the charge at Rappahannock Station on November 7th, as his regiment was crossing the parapet of that redoubt and taking possession, his hand was so badly shattered by a bullet as to render him unfit for duty. He was complimented for his gallant service in that action in the General Orders by Major-General H. G. Wright, commander of the Sixth Corps.
After the time of his regiment had expired, he returned to Wisconsin, raised seven new companies, and returned with them to the seat of the war, where they served in the Campaign of the Shenandoah Valley under General Sheridan.
In the charge of the enemy's works at Petersburg, April 2, the Fifth Wisconsin and Thirty-seventh Massachusetts were led by Colonel Allen, and he again distinguished himself again by his gallant conduct.
General Allen returned to Wisconsin at the close of the war and was Secretary of State in1866 and held that office until 1870, when he moved to Oshkosh and began the publication of the "Northwestern" a daily and weekly paper. His varied experiences which had given him a large fund of general information and had brought him into contact with many of the leading men of the country, fitted him well for this position. As a writer he was forcible and wielded a vigorous pen, not only for the benefit of Oshkosh and its' people, but for the state and country at large as long as he was editor of the "Northwestern." His editorials and letters had a beneficial effect on party leaders, until money then, as now, ruled for right or wrong as interest lay in the balance. He could not stand for wrong, he was a man of firm convictions and principles and could not be tempted by office or money. He was identified with the Republican Party from the beginning, and remained true to it under all temptations for selfish interest. His favorite quotation was:
"He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."
In 1885 General Allen sold his
interest in the "Northwestern" and became one of the proprietors of the German newspaper
widely known throughout the Northwest as the "Wisconsin Telegraph" which did such excellent work through the McKinley campaign.
He was Commander of the Wisconsin Department of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868, and commander of the John W. Scott Post No. 241 at Oshkosh in 1888 - the oldest post of the city.
General Allen married twice, in 1861 to Miss Sarah Bracken, by whom he had one daughter, Mrs. Francis Reed, now living in San Diego, Cal. In 1866 to Miss Natalie Weber of Mineral Point, by whom he had four sons and four daughters - only four of whom are living - Mrs. Georgia A. West, Henry Asa, Mary N. and Edward W. Allen, and also five grandchildren.
General Allen died December 12, 1905, as he had lived, nobly resigned to God's will.
History of Winnebago County