«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
There was great eagerness to be mustered out and impatience at the delay. The veterans who had endured so patiently the hardships of an eventful service, now, that their work was done, the Union re-established on firmer foundations than ever, the great cause of dissension between the two sections eradicated, and a new era of peaceful development opened, desired to lay aside their arms and enjoy the liberty of the citizen, and devote their energies to enterprises of their own. On the march from Raleigh each had beguiled the hours by forming plans, building castles in the air, perhaps, regarding his future pursuits. With but little interest they laid out their camp, and irksome enough were the dull duties of camp, the five roll calls a day, the drills that were ordered, and the policing, guard mount and other drudgery so
-260necessary to good military organization. “I want to go home,” was on every lip. Never did military discipline seem so galling. The men began to hate the sight of blue uniforms, and a shoulder strap was their abomination. They never wanted again to see a drum or hear a reveille; and their feeling found vent in the old saw, “There’s no use of fifing after the war is over.” The men were also close observers of political events. They saw by the movement of troops towards the Rio Grande, on the boundary between Texas and Mexico, that the government meant to expel the French from Mexican territory. During the war, when we had our hands full at home, the Emperor Napoleon and the Austrian emperor had sent an army into that country and set up an empire. To this movement the Confederacy had given encouragement; and our people naturally regarded the invasion of Mexico as a part of their contract of enlistment, and were quite apprehensive that they might be selected for a campaign in Mexico; but this was not to be.
The work of dissolution of the great armies went on. Gen. Hawley published his farewell order to the brigade on the 6th of June. The next day the Twentieth corps was broken up. Then came the parting of friends in other regiments. Between the Second Massachusetts and the Third Wisconsin the separation was the parting of brothers in arms and comrades tried and true.
The following communications expressed the feeling, so far as words could
express it, which existed between the two regiments:
Second Massachusetts Infantry Camp Slocum- Washington- D. C.June 4- 1865.
We- the undersigned- officers of the Second Massachusetts Infantry- wish to express to the officers of the Third Wisconsin Infantry our heartfelt regret that the fortunes of the service are about to separate our respective organizations.
From the campaign of 1862- in the Shenandoah Valley to the present glorious close of this bloody war- we have fought and marched side by side with you in almost every rebellious state. To have been brigaded together for so long a time is in itself remarkable;
no less so is it that between our two regiments there should always have existed such strong feelings of friendship and mutual regard- untinged by the slightest shadow of jealousy.
As we recall now- some of the hard positions we have been in- we cannot help remembering how often our anxiety was lessened by the knowledge that the old Third Wisconsin was close at hand to support us. We know that you have had the same thoughts about us. Nothing in this whole war will be pleasanter for us to look back upon than this feeling of mutual respect and reliance. It not only elevated the tone of both our regiments- but we honestly believe- it went a great way toward making our brigade and division what they are now acknowledged to be - among the very best organizations of the army.
We assure you that in our own State- wherever the Second Massachusetts is known- its brother regiment is also famous. Whenever any of us have been at home- among the first inquiries would be- “How is the Third Wisconsin?” It has been with pride that we have
-261answered- “It is the same staunch regiment that fought at Antietam and Chancellorsville.” These are not compliments but expressions of plain- honest feelings. We have been knit together by deeds not words; deeds- which- as time goes on- we shall look back upon with continually increasing pride.
Together we have shared dangers and hardships- victories and defeats; and it is hard now for us to part; but in the natural order of things- the war being over- you go towards your homes in the west- we stay near ours in the east. Let us not- however- though separated by thousands of miles- forget these old associations. Let us rather cherish them with the fondest recollections: let it be a story to hand down to our children and children*s children- how the Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin fought shoulder to shoulder through the great rebellion- and achieved together glory and renown. We ask you to accept this testimonial as a slight evidence of our affection and esteem. We bid you farewell- and God bless you- one and all.
C. F. Morse- Lieutenant Colonel- Com.; James Francis- Major; C. E. Munn- Surgeon; John A. Fox- Adjutant; E. A. Hawes- Quartermaster; Captains - Daniel Oakey- F. W.
Crowninshield- E. A. Phalen- George A. Thayer- Theodore K. Parker- Dennis MehanHenry N. Comey- William E. Perkins; First Lieutenants - George J. Thompson- Jesse Richardson- Moses P. Richardson- William T. Mc Alpine- Jed C. Thompson- William D.
-262Third Wisconsin V. V. Infantry.
Camp Slocum- near Washington- D. C.
June 7- 1865.
To the officers of the Second Massachusetts Veteran Volunteer Infantry:
The undersigned- officers of the Third Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry- tender their heartfelt thanks for your friendly communication of the 4th inst. It was with mingled feelings of pride and pleasure- not- however- unmixed with pain- that we perused it - pride at being thus associated with a regiment- which by patient endurance- good discipline- and unflinching bravery- has won for itself so honorable a name as the Second Massachusetts;
pleasure at the thought that- even amid the stirring scenes of active war- the finer attributes of humanity are not forgotten- and that friendship- one of the noblest sentiments of the soul- still asserts her claims; pain at the recollection of the many gallant and brave- whose names have been associated with yours in the great struggle now happily terminated- but who have given their lives for a country they loved so well.
That “every rose has its thorn” was never more apparent to us than now. While in the toil and suffering of our active campaigns- we have looked forward with unmixed joy to the time when the angel of peace should once more spread her wings over the land- and we should return home to enjoy the sweets of social and civil life- but now that the hour is at hand when we must say farewell to those with whom we have been associated in the service of our common country- when we must join the parting hand with you- our companions and brothers in arms- our joy is mingled with sadness and our smiles with tears.
We accept your communication- not only as a manifestation of personal regard- but also as a fraternal greeting from the east to the west- which rising superior to local jealousies and factional strife- and remembering only the mingled dust of our dead on many battlefields- and the common country for which they sacrificed their all- proclaims us- in heart and in country- one and inseparable.
In parting- we assure you that- highly as we prize this expression of sentiment toward usand sacredly as we will preserve it as the highest honor yet received- it is not needed to secure remembrance. The ineffaceable pictures of the past deeply engraven in our heartsand lit up by the eternal flame of friendship will ever keep the Second Massachusetts Veteran Volunteer Infantry prominent among our pleasing memories in the future.
Wishing you all success and happiness and Heaven*s best blessing- we bid you farewell.
We are- brothers- yours fraternallyGeorge W. Stevenson- Lieutenant-Colonel; Warham Parks- Major; J. G. Conley- Surgeon;
T. J. Kopff- Assistant Surgeon; A. C. Taylor- Adjutant; J. T. Marvin- Quartermaster; I. E.
Springer- Chaplain. Captains - Ralph Van Brunt- Julian W. Hinckley [sic]- N. Daniels- E.
Giddings- A. D. Haskins- C. R. Barager- J. Woodford- John M. Schweers- John E. Kleven.
First Lieutenants - Stephen Lieurance- Oliver A. Hegg- J. D. Goodrich- John Agnew- John B. Du Bois- Abner Hubbell- J. D. Babcock- W. W. Freeman- George H. Cutter. Second Lieutenants - E. V. Moran- Lewis Colby- Edwin F. Proctor- Elon G. Biers- David Clark- A.
-263In publishing these letters the Wisconsin State Journal of June 15, 1865,
“The Second Massachusetts and the Third Wisconsin have fought in the same brigade, side by side, throughout the war. Among the earliest regiments in the field, they first saw active service under Banks in the Shenandoah valley. When Stonewall Jackson with his usual force of ‘forty thousand men’ fell upon Banks, these two regiments covered the rear, and bore the brunt of the fighting. They stood together at Cedar Mountain under the withering cross-fire of the enemy when the noble Crane laid down his life for his country. They fought at Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Subsequently, transferred to the west, they formed a part of that invincible column which, under Sherman, hewed its way through the central mountain fastnesses of the south, and poured an irresistible torrent through Georgia and the Carolinas. Both regiments were among those that re-enlisted for the war.
We remember a conversation had, about a year ago, with an officer of the Third, respecting the comparative merits of eastern and western troops. He had served in the Army of the Potomac and at the west, and had therefore large opportunities for seeing and judging upon the subject.
He spoke particularly of the Second Massachusetts as a specimen of New England troops, and said that when the Third Wisconsin was first brigades with them, our Wisconsin boys conceived a strong antipathy against them. The Massachusetts men were fitted up in the height of military style. They had the finest tents and wagons in the service; their uniforms were of the best material; they wore white gloves on parade; and our Wisconsin boys looked upon them as a set of dandies and counter-jumpers who would take to their heels at the first approach of actual danger. Be and by the hour of trial came. Stonewall Jackson launched his thunderbolts upon Banks’ little army. And lo! While most of the troops were hastening out of harm’s way there were the brawny boys of the Third, and those white-gloved fellows of the Second Massachusetts, side by side, hanging stubbornly to the rear, their hearts swollen with rage, covering the retreat, contesting every inch of ground and chastening the exultant foe with terrible punishment from their well-aimed muskets. After that, said the officer, there was no further distrust or contempt on either side between the Third Wisconsin and Second Massachusetts, but mutual good-will, affection and pride in each other, which only increased as they became better acquainted under yet severer trials.
The parting of officers and men with the other regiments of the brigade was scarcely less kindly. The One Hundred and Seventh New York, One Hundred and Fiftieth New York and Thirteenth New Jersey were to be mustered out in a day or two; and to those war-worn regiments, with ranks thinned, but with records of most gallant service from first to last, the benison of the Third Wisconsin was genuine and hearty.
By the 9th of June it was lonesome enough on the camp ground of the brigade. The Second Massachusetts, the One Hundred and Fiftieth New York and Thirteenth new Jersey had started for home. The One Hundred and Seventh new York had gone before. The Third Wisconsin was alone. The Twenty-first Wisconsin, about 400 strong, were transferred to it for the purpose of muster-out, and a number from the Twenty-second and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin.
-264On the 11th of June the regiment took cars by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad for Louisville, Ky. At Parkersburg, Va., the steamer “Nevada,” was boarded; and on that the regiment proceeded down the Ohio. The Ohio side of the river was lined with people who cheered the troops as they glided along. Some of the Ohio troops, on an accompanying boat, jumped overboard and swam ashore, so eager were they to go to their homes.
There were a number of well-merited promotions: Lieutenant-Colonel Stevenson was breveted colonel; Major Warham Parks, lieutenant-colonel;
Captains Van Brunt and Woodford as majors, for their gallant and meritorious service in the Georgia and Carolina campaigns. There were a large number of non-commissioned officers who richly deserved commissions, and a few of these received a late recognition. Edwin F. Proctor, George H. Cutter, John R. Amidon, Sidney I. Thompson, George W. Norton, Wilber F. Haughawout, David Clark, Algie S. Hill, Herman Buchner, Edward V. Moran, Elon G. Beers, George N. Faucett and Lewis Colby were commissioned second lieutenants in the spring of 1865.
The Third Wisconsin reached Louisville on the 16th and encamped in a beech tree grove, three miles southeast of the city, on the Crittenden place.
Here there was much speculation and conjecture as to destination. The troops sent to Louisville had been formed into a provisional division under Gen. Williams, who had served in the Mexican war, and the Second brigade was under Gen. Hawley, also an old Mexican campaigner; and it was thought probably that they were intended to be sent to the Rio Grande, and to the support of Juarez in Mexico if necessary, to expel the French army under Bazaine, or “Benzine,” as the soldiers very generally called him.
The paymaster came June 29th and paid off the troops, just four years after the first muster in of the regiment.
On the 4th of July, the regiment made its last march in review. The day was very hot and it extinguished any vestige of willingness in any mind to go to Mexico. General Sherman was here present and took the last look of the last armed remnant of his once magnificent army.
On the 18th of July, the regiment was mustered out of the service at Louisville, broke camp on the 21st, marched through Louisville, crossed the Ohio river and took cars for Madison, Wisconsin, arriving there on the 24th.
“But not the six hundred” — not the 978 officers and men who had marched away so eagerly from the camp at Fond du Lac in July of four years before.
Of the original 37 officers only six — Hawley, Stevenson, Parks, Van brunt, Daniels and Meeker — were in commission and mustered out with the regiment. [Errata - 1stLt Edwin J. Meeker was actually promoted to Captain in the U. S. Signal Corps on 3 Mar 1863, and mustered out on 25 Nov 1865.
— Editor’s Note from errata at end of original text, with supplemental information from the roster of Wisconsin Volunteers.] Of the original enlisted
-265members mustered at Fond du Lac, only 194 had followed the fortunes of the regiment and stood in its last parade. Of the others hundreds had been discharged for disability, broken down by the hardships of the service, and a larger number than so came back lay sleeping in humble but honorable graves the soldier’s last sleep. Their widely- scattered graves — in the valley of the Shenandoah, under the bold crests of Maryland heights, along the banks of Antietam, at Chancellorsville and the dark forests of the Wilderness, on the Rappahannock by Beverly Ford, amid the rocks of Gettysburg, in the hilly regions of middle Tennessee, at Resaca by the Oostenaula, in the forests around New Hope Church, in the woods by Pine Mountain and Kenesaw, on the banks of Peach Tree Creek, by the trenches before Atlanta, in the swamps about Savannah, in the dismal regions of North Carolina — marked the path of honor and duty, the true path of glory, which the brave old regiment had trodden in so many parts of the theatre of the great civil war, from its beginning to its close. In announcing its arrival the Wisconsin State Journal of the 25th, gave a lengthy account of the career of the regiment.
Among other things it said: “The veteran Third, the oldest of the Wisconsin regiments in the service since the Second went out, arrived here about dark Sunday evening, with 830 men. The regiment as mustered out numbered more than any other from the state — 34 officers and 1260 men. After the review at Washington 288 men whose terms of service expired before the 1st of October, were mustered out, and 491 men from the Twenty-first, 300 from the Twenty-second, and 62 from the Twenty-sixth regiments, whose terms of service did not expire with those organizations, were transferred to the regiment swelling it to the number of 1594 on paper, of whom 985 were present at Washington, June 10th. Some 200 of the regiment were at home on furlough, and the rest who did not accompany it are in hospital or detached.
The history of the Third differs from that of any other regiment of the state, except the Twenty-sixth, in that it has fought in some of the most important battles of the Potomac and western armies, in all of which it has acquitted itself most nobly, and those, who have been so fortunate as to survive all the perils to which the regiment has been exposed, have in their recollections an experience of surpassing interest. The regiment was organized at Fond du Lac in June, 1861, by Col. C. S. Hamilton, ably assisted by Lieut. Col. Thos. H. Ruger and Maj. Bertine Pinkney, a trio of field officers unexcelled, and the admirable drill soon acquired, the gallant and efficient service of the regiment since, the fact that four generals have come from its ranks — Hamilton, Ruger, Hawley and Bertram, — and that it has furnished many officers for new organizations, scarcely a regiment having been formed since the call of 1862, which had not one or more officers from the Third, have shown the advantage which it possessed in having men of military training
-266and experience at the head in the outset.” The flags of the regiment were deposited in the state capitol; and then the Third Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry broke ranks — forever.
A few weeks later, August 10th, the last regiment of Gen. Williams’ command was mustered out. He and his staff officers departed, leaving in that grove of stately beeches, where his headquarters had been located, a spear-tipped, lancewood staff, with a large white flag drooping from it, having a red star in the center — the flag of the First Division, Twentieth corps. The superb organization had ceased to exist, and there was none to bear its banner. The other regiments which had followed it in so many eventful campaigns, like the Third Wisconsin, whose story has been in these pages but imperfectly told, lived only in history.
-267ENDNOTES Endnote 1: There has been much acrimonious discussion and no little contrariety of statement as to the responsibility for this battle. General Pope stoutly and always insists that he never ordered nor expected it. General Banks produces the order conveyed to him by Col. Marshall of Pope’s staff, which is given above [ “They were verbal and Banks’ adjutant took them down in these words:.....” ].
This and Gen. Robert’s conduct on the field led Banks to conclude, as he avers, that he was sent out there to fight. On the other hand, Pope says in his report, “General Roberts, as well as General Banks, was fully advised of my wishes, and that I desired General Banks merely to keep the enemy in check by occupying a strong position in his front, until the whole of the disposable forces under my command should be concentrated in the neighborhood. General Roberts reported to me that he had conferred fully with General Banks, and urgently represented to him my purposes, but that General Banks, contrary to his suggestions and to my wishes, had left the strong position which he had taken up and had advanced at least a mile to assault the enemy, believing that they were not in considerable force, and that he would be able to crush their advance, before their main body could come up from the direction of Rapidan.” General Gordon, who is very severe in his judgments against General Banks — having much of the West Pointer’s lack of confidence in a “political general” — makes a very strong case in proof that Pope’s intentions, which were evidently clear and definite, were clearly conveyed to banks, and that he understood them well. General Roberts testified before the McDowell Court of Inquiry, that he told Banks where to take positions and to “hold them, if attacked.” “I told him,” said Roberts, “that General Pope wanted him to hold the enemy in check until Sigel’s forces could be brought up, and all his other forces united to fight Jackson.” It needs no military judgment to see after the event, that it was on our side a miserably managed battle, most impudently precipitated.
2.Endnote 2: A knowledge of the art of building railroads is certainly of more value to a country than that of the best means of destroying them; but at this particular time the destruction seemed necessary, and the time may again come when such work will be necessary. Lest the most effectual and expeditious method of destroying railroad tracks should become one of the lost arts, I will here give a few rules for the guidance of officers who may in future be charged with this important duty. It should be remembered that these rules are the result of long experience and close observation. A detail of men to do the work should be made on the evening before operations are to commence. The number to be detailed being, of course, dependent upon the amount of work to be done. I estimate that one thousand men can easily destroy about five miles of track per day, and do it thoroughly. Before going out in the morning the men should be supplied with a good breakfast, for it has been discovered that soldiers are more efficient at this work, as well as on the battle-field, when their stomachs are full than when they are empty. The question as to the food to be given the men for breakfast is not important, but I suggest roast turkeys, chickens, fresh eggs, and coffee, for the reason that in an enemy’s country such a breakfast will cause no unpleasantness between the commissary and the soldiers, inasmuch as the commissary will only be required to provide the coffee. In fact it has been
-268discovered that an army moving through a hostile but fertile country, having an efficient corps of foragers (vulgarly known in our army as bummers), requires but few articles of food, such as hard-tack, coffee, salt, pepper, and sugar. Your detail should be divided into three sections of about equal numbers. I will suppose the detail to consist of three thousand men. The first thing to be done is to reverse the relative positions of the ties and iron rails, placing the ties up and the rails under them. To do this, Section No. 1, consisting of one thousand men, is distributed along one side of the track, one man at the end of each tie. At a given signal each man seizes a tie, lifts it gently till it assumes a vertical position, and then at another signal pushes it forward so that when it falls the ties will be over the rails. Then each man loosens his tie from the rail. This done, Section No. 1 moves forward to another portion of the road, and Section No. 2 advances and is distributed along the portion of the road recently occupied by Section no. 1. The duty of the second section is to collect the ties, place them in piles about thirty ties each — place the rails on the top of these piles, the center of each rail being over the center of the pile, and then set fire to the ties. Section No. 2 then follows No. 1. As soon as the rails have sufficiently heated Section No. 3 takes the place of No. 2, and upon this devolves the most important duty, viz., the effectual destruction of the rail. This section should be in command of an efficient officer who will see that the work is not slighted. Unless closely watched, soldiers will content themselves with simply bending the rails around trees. This should never be permitted. A rail which is simply bent can easily be restored to its original shape. No rail should be regarded as properly treated till it has assumed the shape of a doughnut; it must not only be bent but twisted. To do the twisting Poe’s railroad hooks are necessary, for it had been found that the soldiers will not seize the hot iron barehanded. This, however, is the only think looking towards the destruction of property which I ever knew a man in Sherman’s army to decline doing. With Poe’s hooks a double twist can be given to a rail which precludes all hope of restoring it to its former shape except by recasting. — H. W. S. [Henry Warner Slocum] From Sherman’s March from Savannah to Bentonville, in the October 1887 edition of The Century Magazine, The Century Company, New York. Page 930. MWTH