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«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»

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On the 29th of June the United States mustering officer appeared upon the scene. Rolls were made out and the companies mustered in, each man passing before the mustering officer as his name was called. Two or three fickle fellows who had enlisted refused to muster. They were dealt with in a manner that did not secure many followers of their example. The colonel ordered their heads to be shaved or cut closely and they were then drummed out of camp, objects of boisterous derision. We were “mustered in” by Capt.

J. B. McIntyre, of the regular army.

The secretary of war sent orders on the 5th of July for the Third and Fourth regiments to repair to Hagerstown, Md., by way of Chambersburg, and

-10report to Gen. Robert Patterson, whom Gen. Scott notified the same day that the Wisconsin regiments were coming; and our departure was hastened.

Uniforms were furnished us — a gray hat, a blouse or frock, such as oldfashioned, western people call “wamuss,” and light gray trousers, and blue flannel shirts. The uniform was far from graceful, though comfortable for hot weather. The hats soon went out of shape. The trousers were of exceedingly tender material not suited to rough service; though it is undeniable that “the boys” had more fun out of them than shelter in them. They were excellent for ventilation.

Friends came and said good-bye. All preparations were made and the day of departure drew near.

–  –  –

HE authorities having decided to call the Third regiment into the field, the T city of Fond du Lac was selected as the place of rendezvous. It appears to have been fixed upon as early as the 26th of May, having been announced in the journals on that date. The grounds selected were described in a local paper as situate north of Forest street, about half a mile west of the West Branch. They afforded an open field for camp, with ample space for drill by company or battalion.

A large mess house was built, 100 × 90 feet, in dimensions, sufficient to seat the whole regiment at table at once. The contract for subsisting the regiment was awarded to one J. W. Carpenter, at 26¼ cents per ration, to include three meals per day per man. The rate, $1.87¾ per week, was hardly a warrant for a very luxurious bill of fare.

–  –  –

The companies came in, on the days designated in the order, and before June 20th they were all in camp. An incident that happened to the Green county volunteers is well worthy of mention here. While marching from the cars to the camp, in crossing the bridge over the “Branch,” the men were marching in perfect step and time to show they were not raw in drill. The steady step broke down the side walk of the bridge, and several men were thrown into the water. One of them, William Carter, struck upon a saw log and

-12was considerably injured. Thus was learned the military rule to march over bridges at route step.

Space will not permit a lengthy record of the experiences in camp. We were put to drill at once; and toes and heels were soon sore from the treading of the men before and the kicks of those behind, as we marched by file, by flank and in line. Not having any arms we held out hands at our sides, directing our mental faculties to the task of keeping our little fingers on the seams of our trousers’ legs, and the more difficult requirement of keeping step. As duty was then impressed upon us, the salvation of the Union seemed to depend on our fidelity in just covering the seams and keeping step with our front rank men or file leaders.

The men were a motley host, mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, full of animal spirits, light hearted, disposed to see fun in everything; and what witty thing one did not think of some one else did. There were men of all trades and professions. Clergymen from the ranks preached earnest discourses on gospel themes on Sunday. There were athletes who could “do” all the feats of the circus ring. There were clowns, too, full of a waggery that kept the camp in a roar. Tailors, barbers, expert clerks to keep company records, teamsters, lumbermen skilled with the axe; in short, the regiment could find in its ranks men adapted to any service from running or repairing a locomotive to butchering an ox. There were but a small number of ne’er-do-wells in the camp. Only a few were the slaves of drink. They became frequent tenants of the guard house and soon in one way or another got out of the service. Their pranks and strategems [sic] to get liquor were many and witty, musing to men and annoying to officers. One scape-grace would make shoulder straps out of orange peel, pin them on his coat and stride out of the guard house past the innocent sentry with the consequential air of a major general, only to turn up a little later roaring drunk in camp.

Life in camp was very regular. At five o’clock the reveille sounded, and all must rise at once, and bound from the little A tents in which six men slept in straw and blankets. As soon as straw and chaff could be combed from the hair, the line was formed in each company street for roll-call. A half-hour was then spent in “policing” camp, that is, in cleaning up the streets, airing tents, blankets, etc. At half past six, the companies formed to march to breakfast, each man armed with a knife, fork and tin-cup. Marched to the mess hall, opening files to surround tables, the command “inward face” brought the company in line of battle in front of rations. “Touch hats — seats,” was next ordered and executed. The rattle of knives, forks, cups and tin plates, and the roar of a thousand voices, calling in every key for “bread,” “coffee,” “water,” presented a scene of very active service.





At half past seven a tap of the drum called for squad drill. For an hour

-13squads of men — nearly all the regiment marches, filed, faced, turned, double-quicked, invariably holding on to the seam of the trousers’ legs, and soon became familiar with the simpler movements and motions in the school of the soldier.

At nine the guard mount came, a pompous ceremony, in which the sergeant major and adjutant figured as great dignitaries.

At eleven battalion drill for an hour gave all an insight into how much our company commanders did not know about war. Then dinner and some lolling about in the heat of the day; but two o’clock found the battalion again formed, and executing many movements, the command and execution of which are long since forgotten. We drilled in Hardee’s tactics, then thought to be the perfection of simple, direct evolution. We formed line, advanced and retreated, charged front forward and to rear; we marched in close column, formed square, we charged at double-quick, and retreated slowly, as if yielding the field inch by inch; and we kept the little finger on the seam of the trousers, though the sweat tickled our faces, and the flies tortured our noses.

A grateful country never fully appreciates the services and sufferings of the raw recruit.

“Dress parade” came off at five o’clock, the grand ceremonial of the day, described by one of the wags of the regiment as “a —— hard job o’standing still.” At six o’clock, supper, and then the play spell of the day. Usually a “circus” was organized and the athletes of the regiment vied with each other;

while the wags made the welkin ring with their drolleries.

As the darkness stole on the noise subsided into a hum of conversation in the tents, or the singing of plaintive songs, for the hallowing influence of eve steals over the rough soldier as well as the sentimental poet. At nine o’clock the tattoo was beaten, the evening roll called. Then, a little later, “taps” commanded stillness; and soon the camp was in slumber. Boots for pillows, straw and a blanket, worse than a white horse in coat-shedding time, made us comfortable beds — whatever our opinion may have been of them in those days of our callow experience.

On the 29th of June the United States mustering officer appeared upon the scene. Rolls were made out and the companies mustered in, each man passing before the mustering officer as his name was called. Two or three fickle fellows who had enlisted refused to muster. They were dealt with in a manner that did not secure many followers of their example. The colonel ordered their heads to be shaved or cut closely and they were then drummed out of camp, objects of boisterous derision. We were “mustered in” by Capt.

J. B. McIntyre, of the regular army.

The secretary of war sent orders on the 5th of July for the Third and Fourth regiments to repair to Hagerstown, Md., by way of Chambersburg, and

-14report to Gen. Robert Patterson, whom Gen. Scott notified the same day that the Wisconsin regiments were coming; and our departure was hastened.

Uniforms were furnished us — a gray hat, a blouse or frock, such as oldfashioned, western people call “wamuss,” and light gray trousers, and blue flannel shirts. The uniform was far from graceful, though comfortable for hot weather. The hats soon went out of shape. The trousers were of exceedingly tender material not suited to rough service; though it is undeniable that “the boys” had more fun out of them than shelter in them. They were excellent for ventilation.

Friends came and said good-bye. All preparations were made and the day of departure drew near.

–  –  –

E STRUCK tents on Friday, July 12th at 1 o’clock, took cars at 7; and W as the long train of twenty coaches pulled out, the cheers from many throats mingled with the farewell of friends. It was well that we were lighthearted, and that like Sidney Smith, we took “short views of life.” No thought seemed to come to mind, that of that body of men some would die in battle or hospital or in the prison pen. We could not have set out more gaily on any pleasure excursion. We reached Chicago early in the morning, before the city was much astir. Thence we got an early start for Toledo by the Michigan Southern. The women in the far cottages waved their kerchiefs; and the sweaty harvesters in distant fields cheered and swung their hats as we swept through Indiana and all along the route. At Adrian, Mich., we were treated to lemonade. At Toledo, where we arrived Saturday evening, a substantial supper awaited us. At Erie city on Sunday morning a large crowd greeted us laden with baskets of dainty food. The stuffing we got made light work for the commissary sergeant, but double duty for the surgeons. At 4 o’clock we drew into Buffalo. The military were out in fancy uniform, and all the population turned out to see the wild woodsmen of the northwest. We had to march through the streets with our knapsacks on; we listened to a speech of welcome from the mayor. We had a grand banquet in the depot building;

and we took cars again at 6 o’clock for Elmira. There we marched to the barracks where a number of New York regiments had been quartered, and the ladies of Elmira gave us a sumptuous breakfast. We thought then we had never seen so many beautiful women as those who served us. An immense crowd escorted us back to the cars, and a cloud of kerchiefs waved us a cheering adieu.

A long ride through the picturesque, mountain scenery of northern Pennsylvania brought us to Williamsport, Penn. A princely feast served by the ladies of the town regaled us here; and the ladies urged us to fill our haversacks with the daintiest of cakes and the choicest of cold meats.

Blessings on the noble women of 1861! One could go nowhere in all the land, but they were doing something for the soldiers. Along our entire route, I might almost say, we did not pass a house, the dwellers wherein did not make some demonstration of encouragement and sympathy. At midnight of Monday, we were at Harrisburg, supposing that we were to halt here; for our destination was unknown, except to the colonel and those about him. It was expected that we should stop and arm at this place; and we were much surprised to find that we were moving to Hagerstown, in Maryland.

The journey was very fatiguing, as we were unable to lie down and

-16sleep. There were two men to each seat in the car, and four nights of such broken sleep as could be got in that position were anything but refresh ing.

[sic] marching with opportunity to lie down and sleep was ease and comfort compared to such a sleepless journey.

–  –  –

ERY weary of travel night and day in crowded cars we reached V Hagerstown on the morning of the 17th of July. It was then a quaint, oldfashioned town, with red brick houses, worn out brick sidewalks, and an air, as it seemed to Western men, of great antiquity. There was some military bustle, as at the time a regiment of Connecticut troops was in camp near by, and the place was or had been the base of supplies of Patterson’s command, then across the Potomac. We went into camp here a short distance from the town; and glad enough we were to drop down and sleep.

In our military verdancy, we, the men of line and ranks, deemed it a great piece of blundering to set us down in an enemy’s country — for so we deemed it — unarmed. What if an army of rebels should swoop down upon us and massacre us all? The possibility was considered and much alarm felt.

A few guns and cartridges were borrowed for the use of the guard of the regiment. After we were well composed to sleep we were awakened and thrown into much excitement by the firing of the sentinels. There fears working upon their imaginations saw enemies approaching, and they fired at bushes and what not, with great recklessness. The humor of the scene was taken in by Lieut. James G. Knight, officer of the guard, who patriotically declared that the “guard would protect the regiment, if they had to shoot every calf in northern Maryland.” Years after, when the regiment had grown steady, the men used to laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks, while they told on each other the silly expressions of alarm uttered on our first camp night in Maryland, with no armed enemy within fifty miles.



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