37th Wisconsin Infantry
The 37th Regiment was organized pursuant to the President's call of February 1, 1864, under the superintendence of Col. Sam Harriman. Six companies - A, B, C, D, E and F - were mustered into service in the latter part of March and, there being immediate need of their services, were sent forward under the command of Major Kershaw, to report at Washington, where they arrived on the first of May.
Col. Harriman remained at Camp Randall to fill up the other four companies. The six companies went into camp on Arlington Heights, in the neighborhood of the Long Bridge. Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle joined regiment at Chicago, and took command. On the 17th, Companies H and I joined the regiment, here they were engaged in drilling. On the 30th, they embarked at Alexandria, and proceeded by way of fortress Monroe and York River to White House, Virginia, which was at that time the base of supplies for the Army of the Potomac, on the 2d of June. Here they remained, guarding prisoners and picketing the line of the Richmond Railroad, until the 10th of June, when they marched as guard to a supply train, under the charge of Captain Samuels, of the 5th Wisconsin, reached Cold Harbor on the 11th, and were assigned to the First Brigade, General Hartrufth. Third division, Brigade General Wilcox, Ninth Army Corps, General Burnside. On the 12th, they took position in the first line of works, from the whence, on the evening of that day, they took part in the general movement of Grant's army across the James River, to Petersburg, before which place they arrived on the afternoon of the 16th. They were immediately ordered to move to the support of a charge of the Fourth Division against the enemy's works, which were taken, and the Thirty-seventh occupied them during the night. On the next day, the brigade formed in line of battle in a ravine, preparatory to another charge on the works of the enemy. These were situated in the middle of a cornfield, on the crest of a slight elevation. The position was a strong one, with rifle pits and batteries to the right and left, which could pour in an enfilading fire. In the afternoon, the order was given to charge, and the brigade rushed forward, under a perfect storm of shot, shell and canister. when about halfway across the intervening space, and were was given by some one to "half-wheel to the right," which produced confusion in the movements of the brigade, and exposed the left to an enfilading fire from the batteries, which made terrible havoc in the ranks of the Thirty-seventh. The brigade fell back, and the regiment return to the ravine, where they remained till towards night, when they went to the support of the Second Division, and completed and strengthened a line of breastworks on the edge of the ravine, where they rested until morning. Early next morning, line of battle was formed, and the brigade advanced over the scene of yesterday's battle.
The rebel rifle pits were found vacated, and the command advanced beyond them and through a piece of woods, the edge of an oat field. Here they threw up a light line of breastworks, and awaited the arrival of additional forces. An order was given to move forward, and the command, under a sharp fire of cannon and musketry, pressed on across the field, towards a line of works, about half a mile in advance. The line moved forward as steadily as the uneven ground would permit, and the enemy's skirmishers fell back to their main lines. They soon came to a deep cut of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, and there were met by a terrible fire, which swept the top of the cut. An attempt to charge up the opposite side was met by the same sweeping fire, and soon the rebel sharpshooters obtained a position on the right, where they could fire along the whole length of the cut. Under cover of an artillery fire, two charges beyond the railroad cut were attempted in the afternoon, but the men were obliged to return to the cut, where they remained until nearly night, when they were relieved by fresh troops, and the brigade returned to the works in the rear.
In these engagements, of June 17th and 18th, the Thirty-seventh suffered severely. Major Kershaw was shot through both legs, Captain Stevens, of Company A, and Lieutenant W. H. Earl, of Company B, were mortally wounded, and Second Lieutenant Freeman B. Riddle of Company C, was killed.
The Thirty-Seventh behaved with great gallantry, and General Grant issued a complimentary order, praising the division for their endurance and success, after a march of twenty-two miles on the night of the 16th.
The casualties show the manner in which the Thirty-seventh stood up under a heavy fire, at the first battle in which they were engaged. Killed or died of wounds, 65; wounded, 93.
Lieutenant Prutzman, of Company D, was shot through the head, on the 28th of June, while the regiment was on picket.
On the 22d of June, the regiment returned to its old position near the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, where it remained under heavy fire of artillery and sharpshooters. The duty in the trenches tried the physical powers of the men, and many of them were sent to the hospitals. Company G joined the regiment at this time. Enjoying a week's respite from duty in the trenches, on the 17th, the regiment returned again to the front line of rifle pits, where they remained until the 30th of July. On the 23d, Company K joined the regiment making its organization complete and Colonel Harriman assumed command.
The explosion of the mine under the enemy's fort on the 30th of July, 1864, and the disastrous defeat of the whole scheme, has become a matter of history. Its results live in the memory of those who were present at the grand display of warlike operations, and in the hearts of those who mourn fathers, brothers and sons, who fell in the desperate charge. The Third Division was a portion of the Ninth Corps, to make the charge on that fatal morning. Accompanying the movement, the Thirty-seventh, led by Colonel Harriman, as soon as possible after the explosion, and under a severe fire from the surrounding batteries, occupied the ruined fort, which had been so leveled as to afford but little protection to the troops therein. The affair has been before described. Colonel Harriman and Adjutant Miltimore assisted in disinterring two of the enemy's guns, which were used in silencing a rebel fort in the vicinity. The Third Division repelled all attempts of the enemy to dislodge them, until about four o'clock in the afternoon, when, finding no chance of receiving support, they fell back to the line they had left in the morning. Out of 250 men who went out in the morning, but ninety-five answered at roll call that evening.
Captain A.A. Burnett, of Company K, and Captain Frank A.
Cole, were both mortally wounded.
Lieutenants Atwell, Company G,
L.U. Beall, and George D. McDill, received wounds which incapacitated them from further service, of Company E, Lieutenant Atwell having his leg amputated. Lieutenants Munger, of Company D,
and Holmes, of Company G, were taken prisoners.
The casualities were 57 killed or died of wounds and 53 wounded.
"In 1889 the Shawano Post sponsored a G.A.R.
Post at Keshena (Menominee Reservation) which was the first Indian G.A.R. organization in
the United States with Joe Venus, the Agency clerk as Commander.
Company K, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin were all Indians but two. They were mustered into service June 27th, 1864. On July 31, 1864, they were caught in the front of Petersburg, and were caught in the explosion of the mine celebrated in the history of that fight, and nineteen of the company were killed and several others wounded."
Most of the Menominees were recruited by Joseph Gautier, a strong Union man, whose step father had been a French fur trader who married a Menomonee woman. Gauthier was an interpreter and operated a mercantile business in Keshena with Charles Upham. He is given credit for being the prime mover in raising the company, paying the expenses of transporting the group to Madison, resulting in his being appointed special quartermaster for the services he had rendered.
Llewellyn Wescott had this to say about one of the Menominees in a speech he gave to a local club about 1939:
"The Civil War coming took its toll from Shawano as well as elsewhere. When Lincoln called for help a whole company of the younger men marched proudly away and many of them never returned."
(Grandma's Footprints - A History of Shawano from 1843-1918 by Ila Hill Moede)
The Menomonee Indians in War Council
Proceedings of a War Council held by the Menomonee Indians at Keshena, August 28th, 1862 for the purpose of expressing their loyalty to the Government of the United States, and their willingness to assist their Great Father in keeping peace upon the Northern frontier.
The following chiefs were present:-
Ah-co-ne-may....................Head Chief of Nation,
Shoo-na-nee.......................Head War Chief,
Carrow .................................Chief of Band
Ka-man-e-kin...................... do do
La-mote.................................. do do
Shoe-wau-tuk....................... do do
Wau-ke-shon........................ do do
Wau-she-sha.......................... do do
Nau-wa-to-wa-pe-nech..... do do
Ash-ke-na-wich.................... do do
Mah-pe-ta-powess.............. do do
Way-kah................................. do do
He says that last Spring he had a talk with Mah-che-cowe, a Pottowatomie, who told him that Dandy, chief of the Winnebagos was on the Lemonweir River and that all other tribes of Indians except the Menomonees were in communication with him. That all other tribes had sent their wampums (belts) to Dandy and that the Menomonees must send their wampum to him too. That all the tribes had held their last council, and that this was the last offer they should make to the Menomonees. That THE BLOW WAS TO BE STRUCK THIS SUMMER!!
That all of the tribes east of the Mississippi were governed by Dandy, and had communication through him with the secessionists of the South. If the Menomonees would join them they would be protected, but if they did not, the South and all the Indians would look on them as Northerners and exterminate them.
Ma-che-cowe said further that he thought that a number of Menomonee chiefs would come over to their side if it was not for one old chief in their tribe. Carrow was the chief - he stood in the way and kept the Menomonees from joining them. He said the Indians were selling their ponies to buy ammunition with for the war, and he wanted to sell his pony to buy powder and asked if the traders at Keshena had any powder, and how much.
The Southerners had told them to buy all the powder and caps they could get - especially caps, for they were very scarce, and when the north found they were about to be subdued, they would throw all the caps into the river and destroy all the ammunition, so the Indians and Southerners could not get any more. He said that if I did not believe what he was telling me, to go and see Dandy and talk with him - that he had a large house filled with provisions, and I would be treated with plenty, for he was well provided to receive all runners from the South or from the different tribes of Indains.
Says that he saw Dandy some time in July, at Necedah, on Yellow River. The first thing Dandy asked was, "who was going to conquer in this war, the North, or the South, and which side was best to join and take part with." I told him the North was the side. Dandy said "you are a fool and dont know anything." He then said that he would tell me which was the best side. He told me that all the western tribes were going to join the south! He then said he would not talk with me any more till he could see Match-o-ke-mowe of Way-kahs Band, who was acting as an interpreter. - I went down the Wisconsin River on a raft a short time after, and did not see Dandy again to have more talk with him.
Statement of Way-Kah.
My brother told me that Match-o-ke-mowe wanted him to leave Keshena while the war lasted and take his wife (who is a sister of Match-o-ke-mowe) and all his relatives with him, to withdraw from the Menomonees for the present, until they could find out whether the North or the South was going to conquer, so that they would be safe and know which side to take.
Several stated that they had a council for the purpose of ascertaining if their men had carried news to Dandy and was assisting him against the North, and that all they had been able to find out was what had already been stated by Match-ke-nieo and Katch-no-niew.
Ah-co-ne-may the head chief, spoke as follows, in behalf of the Menomonee nation:
What I say at this moment us the same as though I were talking to the President, my Great Father. I am going to speak from my own knowledge of the feelings the Menomonees always bore towards the American Government. That the Government has always told them that they would take care of us, as their children, that they would always protect us, that if harm was done to us they would be the ones to punish the aggressor. The young men of the Menomonees have been killed by the Chippewas and Winnebagos, and we have never resented it, but adhered to the advice of out Great Father. The Menomonees could not find in their hearts to do otherwise than to take the advice of their Great Father, and the General Government and would take no other. These bad messengers who bring news would not be heard by the Menomonees, our ears are closed against them, and we give this assurance to the Government, that we will be deaf to their entreaties. I want my friends, the whites to know that no injury will be done them from the Menomonees and that we entertain nothing but the kindest feelings towards them. We are their friends, not their enemies. All the Menomonee tribe looks towards Washington, the seat of the Government, as the only source of day, and the government had the assurance of the Menomonees that their ernest prayer is in behalf of the Government, and that the Great Father will put down the rebellion.
Keshena, the second chief, spoke as follows:
The first time the Americans ever put foot upon the soil they gave good advice to our fathers, who are now dead and gone, and have told us that if we adhere to them we would be happy people - and we have found it so. It would be impossible for us to take any other advice than that of our Great Father, and the grasp of the hand given with the advice has left an everlasting impression on this people. Our forefathers held the advice given by the different administrations of this Government as sacred, and their children have not departed from it. Although the head chief has assured the whites that we are their friends and brothers, and that no harm will be done to them by us, I wish myself as second chief, of the nation, to make the same assurance. The reason that we cling to our Great Father is because his laws are good and we are sorry that some of his white children are trying to destroy those good and wholesome laws, under which they have so long prospered.
Shoo-na-ne, head war chief, spoke as follows:
I wish to say that I am shaking hands with my Great Father at Washington. I am an old man and was here at the landing of the Americans. My chief opened the door for them to land on our sod - The first council held after the landing an officer of the Government said, "I am sent here by your Great Father to take care of you, and to give you good advice, he wants you to be peaceable and adhere to his counsels, if any other tribe molest you dont resent it, but leave it to your Great Father to resent it for you. Although he is a great way off, his arm is long and he will bring the aggressor before you." I make this remark to assure the Government that the Menomonees still remember these words, and keep his advice. - We return our great thanks to our Great Father for his protection, and for providing us with tools to cultivate our lands that we may become farmers, like our white brethren, and that we dont wish to meddle in any way with the government, I am a pretty specimen for a warrior, for I have no weapons but my teeth which are now old and dull, so our Great Father can see that we have no desire to be warriors, and only wish to become farmers.
Carrow, chief of a band said;
I am highly pleased with the manner in which the other chiefs have spoken. By the treaty of 1848, we ceded our land to the Government, and by the treaty we were to be sent west of the Mississippi. We asked our Great Father not to send us there because there were bad Indians in that side of the Mississippi who we were afraid of, we knew there were tribes there like a snake, and the first intimation of their presence would be their bite. What would become of us - a mere handful - had we been sent there. We will not be counceled by a redskin like ourselves but will adhere to the counsels of the government. We have pledged ourselves to the government and can take advice from no other source. The flag that is now waving at the door is our flag and we recognize no other. We are the children of this government and the stars and stripes we will live by.
Way-kah, Chief of Band, spoke as follows:
"Our head chief generally speaks our sentiments. Every time an agent had come here he has given us good advice and told us not to commit any depredations upon our white neighbors, but always look upon them as friends. I wish for my part to assure the citizens around here that they need apprehend no danger from us, but to look upon such as friends, and we will act as such.
After the battle the regiment was relieved from the front line and withdrew to the rear, where it remained until the 19th of August, engaged in building a large fort afterwards named Fort Schenck. on the Jerusalem Plank Road. On the 19th, the Third Division of the Ninth Corps was ordered to the left to the aid of the Fifth Corps, which had, the day before, a severe fight with the enemy near the Yellow Tavern, on the Weldon Railroad. The Thirty-seventh over took the brigade, and after a short rest, were ordered into action to repel an attack of the enemy. The rebels were driven back through the woods where they received reinforcements, and made another stand. The Thirty-seventh took a new position the left which they held till dark, having lost ten men killed and wounded. Until the 21st, the regiment was occupied at different points in preventing the enemy from regaining possession of the Weldon Road. On the 21st, the regiment had barely time to complete a line of works across the Weldon Road before the enemy attacked at three different points on the line.
The Thirty-seventh was sent to the support of the 19th New York Battery on the extreme left of the line. Here the regiment suffered severely, but finally compelled the enemy to withdraw his guns. They were occupied till the 25th in picket and guard duty and building breastworks and fortifications commanding the Weldon Railroad and its approaches. On that day the brigade was ordered to march to Ream's Station and support the Second Corps, which were being hard pushed. A part of the brigade was left to do provost duty and collect the stragglers from the Second Corps, while the rest, including the Thirty-seventh, moved forward and covered the retreat of the Second Corps, holding the enemy in check till dark, when they fell back within the lines and slept on their arms.
On the 27th, they constructed new works at Blick's Station where they remained until the 24th of September, engaged in guard and picket duty. On the 29th, they moved to the vicinity of the Yellow House where Colonel Harriman assumed command of the First Brigade, First Division, to which they had been transferred, and Major Kershaw having partially recovered from his wounds, had returned to the regiment and took command.
On the 7th of September, Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle resigned and Major Kershaw was appointed to that position.
On the 29th, the brigade marched to the neighborhood of the Poplar Grove Church where it formed as a reserve to the Second Brigade, which made an assault on the works of the enemy on the Southside Railroad. The Second Brigade was repulsed and retiring in confusion threw the First Brigade into disorder, which was added to by the battery which had been sent to check the enemy, retreating hurriedly through their lines. The regiment, with the Thirty-eighth Wisconsin, fell back to the temporary shelter of a fence, and reformed their line of battle, and by a heavy and well directed fire, succeeded in checking the enemy's advance until reinforcements arrived and the enemy were forced to retire.
On the 10th of September, the flag of the Thirty-seventh was returned to the governor, and by him placed among the battle flags in the State Capitol. The flag of the Thirty-seventh was in service but a little over sixty days, during which it passed through the fiery ordeal of the 17th and 18th of June, and 30th of July.
On the 17th of June, the brave color Sergeant, William H. Greek of Company C, was so severely wounded that he was obliged to drag himself off the field with his hands. Like a true hero, as he was, he rolled the flag around the staff and placing it between his teeth, dragged it more than a hundred rods, and thus saved it from capture. The brave fellow died of his wounds a few weeks after. Corporal Jesse S. Hake, bore the flag in the next day's fight and escaped unhurt. On the 30th of July, Private Rueben D. Shaw, of Company C was color bearer, and bore it in the charge upon the blown-up fort, and planted it on the works, when the flagstaff was shot away and flag blown out of the fort. Adjutant Miltemore coolly walked out, picked up the flag, and returned unharmed, amid a terrific fire of musketry. Private Shaw brought off the flag and it was handed to Quartermaster Webb who sent it to the Governor.
They went into camp on the Pegram farm, constructed a heavy line of works protected by strong forts and abattis, where they remained occupied in picket and fatigue duty until the 28th of October, when they took part in the reconnaissance in force to Hatcher's Run. They returned to their former position on the 29th.
On the 18th of October, Major Kershaw who had mustered as Lieutenant Colonel, resigned, and Captain John Green was appointed Major.
In November the brigade moved to a position in front of the Mine or Crater Fort, which they occupied on the 30th of July.
On the 10th of December, in company with the 109th New York, the regiment joined the Provisional Brigade of Colonel Robinson, and marched to Hawkins' Tavern, on the Nottoway River, to reinforce the Second and Fifth Corps, under General Warren, who a few days before made a raid on the Weldon Railroad, pushing on nearly to Weldon. After a severe march, they met the corps on their return, and returned with them and went into their old camp on the Baxter road where they remained till the Spring campaign opened.
On the 15th of December, Major Green was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain R.E. Edon was commissioned Major.
On the 25th of March, 1865, the rebels succeeded in surprising and capturing Fort Steadman, which was situated nearly in front of the position of the Thirty-seventh. Their bold attempt to break our lines at this time was frustrated by the activity of the forces in the immediate vicinity of the Fort. The Thirty-seventh was not engaged in the action, but remained on the field for the purpose of covering the right flank and rear of the First Brigade.
The Spring campaign around Petersburg was opened by the forces of General Grant, on the 27th of March, when General Sheridan began his brilliant movements which culminated in driving the enemy into his works at Five Forks, and with the assistance of the Fifth Corps, under General Warren, making the 1st of April, 1865, a famous battle day in the history of the rebellion. From that day, the fortunes of Lee and his army wained rapidly. It becoming apparent to General Grant, after that battle, that the Southern Confederacy was getting weak in the knees, he ordered a general demonstration to be made along the whole line on the 2d of April.
The First Brigade, under Colonel Harriman, consisting of five regiments, two of which were the Thirty-seventh and the Thirty-eight Wisconsin, about midnight of the 2d of April, was formed in front of brigade headquarters, and shortly after moved rapidly to the left, and about an hour before daylight, formed in line of battle in Fort Sedgwick. The Thirty-eight Wisconsin, under Colonel Bintliff, was to lead the storming column, followed by the other regiments of the brigade. Just as the first gray streaks of dawning day appeared the column emerged from Fort Sedgwick and made for Fort Mahone, one of the enemy's strongest positions. The enemy had prepared for them, and a perfect storm of shot and shell and bullets met them, but nothing daunted, they rushed over the abattis and other obstructions on their front and over the enemy's works, driving the rebels out on the other side, and immediately turning the guns of the fort upon their late proprietors. Several times during the day the enemy attempted to retake the fort but were every time repulsed.
The brigade lay on their arms all night, and moving forward next morning found their advance was unopposed, and that the enemy had left during the night, and that Petersburg and Richmond were ours. The joy of the army at this announcement was unbounded, and enemy's works were soon swarming with the boys in blue and the town was quickly taken possession of.
The collapse of the rebellion, brought to a sudden close the active history of the Thirty-seventh. Remaining in the vicinity of Petersburg or Burkesville until the 20th of April, the regiment broke camp on the Southside Railroad, moved to City Point and took transports for Washington, where they arrived on the 26th and encamped near Tenallytown. They were present at the Grand Review on the 23d and 24th of May, returned to camp and remained until the 26th of July, when they were mustered out of the United States service and embarked on the cars for Wisconsin, taking the Grand Haven route and reaching Madison on the 31st of July, where they were publicly received by the State authorities,and furloughed fifteen days till their pay rolls could be prepared, at the end of which time they were paid off and regiment formally disbanded.
For meritorious services Colonel Harriman was brevetted Brigade General. He resigned his position as Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel Green was appointed Colonel, and Major Eden Lieutenant Colonel, and Alvin Nash as Major. Major Eden was also brevetted Lieutenant Colonel U.S.V.
Regimental Statistics.-Original strength, 708. Gain-by recruits in 1864, 25, in 1865, 75; by substitutes, 64; by draft in 1863, 135, in 1864, 136, total 1,144. Loss by death, 211; deserted, 29; transferred, 29; discharged, 195; mustered out, 680.