Sunday, 06 April 2014 19:42 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
A correspondent of the New York Evening Post with the army before Vicksburg sends the following description of the soldiers graveyard: "Perhaps one of the first things you would notice in the vicinity of Vicksburg would be the long lines of graves on the river slope of the levee, boarding our path with a foot of it for a considerable portion of our walk.
The do not lie side by side, there is searcely room on the top of the levee for two abreast but are buried head to foot a long single file of dead that crowd upon the path of the living. Every regiment carries its dead to that portion of the levee immediately in front of it: and if no one guides you, the rude head-boards would tell you what regimental camps you are passing. The best of these head-boards are only pieces of box lids. Somethimes those that belong to one regiment or to one battery present an appearance and similarity of execation that betrays the workmanship of the same handsome one who has been tacitly elected by his conrades carver of the grave boards; some kindly soul that with deftly handied jacknife carves the name of comrade after comarade on those frail materials to guide the friends that may sometime come to take them home. In the majority of cases however the name is only written with a pencil on a small piece of board and in many instances only a stick or small bough is stuck into the ground at eith end of the grave to warn the throng that passes to withhold their feet.
Nearly all of these graves are below the level of the river, but it is the only place where the dead can find a rest. The ground where the camps are pitched is too wet, and the narrow top of the levee must be reserved as a thououghfare for the living. The sight of these graves so slightly marked, and whose borders encroach upon the only highway shocks one at first but in a day or two one becomes accustomed to it. Solders lunge among the graves and smoke their pipes sitting on the ground regardless of the fact that only a couple of feet beneath lies one who perhaps a few days belore lounged and smoked there as unconcerned as they.
Ripon Weekly Times Ripon, Wisconsin Friday, April 15 1863
Sunday, 16 March 2014 18:45 | Written by Susan Johnson
Celebrating St. Patrick's Day, which has been done in the United States in one form or another since it's inception, it's time to share a story of one of Wisconsin's Medal of Honor recipients, Sgt. Dennis J. F. Murphy. He was born in Ireland in 1830 and hailed from Green Bay prior to the War and joined the De Pere Rifles, Co. F of the 14th Wisconsin. He received his Medal of Honor January 22nd, 1892 for his service at Corinth on October 3rd, 1862 He had already been through the horrors of Shiloh and on that morning in October was a color bearer for his regiment. Major General Rosecrans ordered three of his divisions to leave Corinth and occupy the old rifle-pits of the Confederacy north and north-west of the city as CA General Van Dorns Army of West Tennessee prepared to try to retake the town. One of the regiment's was the 14th Wisconsin commanded by the recently promoted, due to illness and subsequent death of Col. Wood, Col. John Hancock. They were among those who were holding the left of the line at 10AM when Major-General Lovell's troops attacked their position. Waves of Southern troops attacked. The 14th, were in the old rifle pits at the top of a hill, Co. E and K were forward as Skirmishers, and were taking substantial fire. Sgt. Murphy stated, from the first, "to come out a dead Sergeant or a live Lieutenant." As the Mississippi Sharpshooter battalion attacked up the hill, the advance skirmish companies pulled back and with their comrades unleashed a devastating fire that sent the Confederates falling back. The Confederates attacked again with the CA Sharpshooters joining the 22nd Mississippi. This charge found the two sides within yards of each other and they began to exchange fire. Suddenly the 15th Michigan, at the Wisconsin right, fell back at the onslaught of the 1st Missouri and the 33rd Mississippi. This left Sgt. Murphy and his comrades facing a crossfire that was devastating. As men began to fall to the left and the right, the entire Color Guard was injured. In ensuing terrible hand to hand fighting, the soldier carrying the Regimental Colors was bayoneted and the flag was almost lost. Dennis Murphy was hit over and over, but retained the flag, albeit covered in his blood. Eventually the 14th had to withdraw, too late for some of their men who were captured.
The 14th took heavy casualties, and were called on again later in the day. Their brigade commander, commenting of their involvement at Corinth, said "though suffering more losses than any regiment is his command, they maintained their lines and delivered their fire with the coolness and precision which could have been maintained upon drill." Sgt. Murphy was wounded three times and received his commission. On November 13 1862, he was discharged with disability and later received a lieutenancy of Co, B of the 24th WI.
His heavy price was being crippled for life due to the wounds received at Corinth. The Medal od Honor he received 30 years later contains the citation "although wounded three times, carried the colors throughout the conflict." He died June 19, 1901 and is buried at Alloez Cemetary, Green Bay. The color he carried is now preserved at The Wisconsin Veteran's Museum in Madison.
Sunday, 16 March 2014 14:51 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
Col. Harrison C. Hobart, of the 21st Wisconsin, at the capitol in Madison The great occasion of the present session took place last night, when Col. Harrison C. Hobart, of the 21st Wisconsin, recently escaped from the Libby Prison at Richmond, was honored with a public reception by a, joint convention of the two houses, and delivered an able and interesting address.
The meeting was attended by the largest - audience that ever assembled in Madison, and the address was listened to, throughout, with the deepest and most absorbing interest. Col. Hobart, it will was Speaker of the Assembly during the session of 1859, and was the opponent of Governor Randall during his last race for the Governorship. He was a hearty endorser of the Ryan Address at the time it was issued, and just how far he is now a supporter or a subscriber to its pernicious theories, the reader can conclude from extracts of his speech which I subjoin, taken from the report made of it by the State Journal. After thanking the legislature for the honor conferred upon him he gave a graphic description of the battle of Chickamauga, and the manner in which he was taken prisoner.
AFTER THE BATTLE. Col. H., as he was taken to the rear, saw the rebel dead, and learned that they had suffered terribly, and that their troops were broken and scattered. Yet they had succeeded in defeating us. The conduct of Gen. Thomas and his troops that day deserved the high commendations bestowed on them. But it was his impression that it was not Gen. Thomas alone that saved our army. It was Gen. Thomas and sundown together. Col. Hobart and his companions were that night taken ten miles to the rear, without food. The prisoners had no clothes excopt those worn when- they were captured. In the morning about 2,000' of the prisoners were gathered together, of whom several hundred were officers. The next day they were marched twenty-five miles to Tunnel Hill. There they 'were given a little raw Indian meal and a very little meat. From thence they were taken in cattle cars, via Atlanta, to Richmond. In passing through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, he kept his eyes open. Far greater than he suspected. The farms were uncultivated. Where men were engaged in labor, it was in connection with the military operations of the country. All other business was suspended. The whole country had given all its energies to the war. You may ask if I saw any evidences of Union sentiment? He saw many such evidences. He talked with many of the soldiers, and took every that they had been iu the army a long time, and that they had an impression that we wanted to take away their southern rights. But most of them had only a vague impression of what they meant by the phrase, as very few of them have any slaves. They said they wanted the war to end, as they "wished to go home. Many of them hud not been home since the beginning of the war, and were anxious about their families. The officers are mostly from wealthy families. They feel differently. They arc defiant, and declare that to sustain the institution of slavery they must fight to the bitter end. If unsuccessful, they know that slavery is dead. They will fight as long as there is a hope of success. But the private soldiers did not share in these feelings. The minor officers taken prisoners were treated well till they reached Richmond, but the private soldiers had indignities heaped upon them that he had never heard of being practiced on our prisoners. At Tunnel Hill they had their rubber blankets taken from them. At Atlanta they were put in an enclosure and their other blankets and overcoats were taken from them, (cries of shame.) That night, which was cold, the men slept on the naked ground, with nothing to protect them from the inclemency of the elements. On reaching Richmond 'the officers were put in Libby prison ; 1,100 officers were confined in six rooms. These rooms were low and dingy, and 100 feet by 30, in dimensions. Thus nearly 150 men were shut up in each room. They were not allowed to go out, they slept on the floor. No cots were allowed. Scarcely a man had a blanket to lie on. He shared a ragged old horse blanket with Dr. Dixon, of this State. The filth was indescribable. The audience would spare him from going into details. ' The stench was such that sometimes he wrapped his blanket about his head to' avoid the odor. It was sickening and horrid in the extreme. They were treated by the rebel officials with every species of indignity. Some of the time, small pox prevailed in the rooms. Everything that human ingenuity could devise, was done to avoid the gloom of the prison, and keep up' tlieir spirits. But-at the best, it was but a lingering death. When officers were in'' a dying state they were refused an opportunity to have friends come, and see them: from adjoining rooms. No respect was: shown them, and everything was done to* aggravate the misery of their condition." Gen. Winder, who had general charge over' the Richmond prisoners, did riot visit them: while he was there, and made no-response' to' their request for an amelioration for their 'sufferings.
EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS Col. H. next spoke of. the difficulty in the exchange of prisoners. He said it all grew out of the refusal of the rebels to allow our Government credit for the prisoners we took and paroled at Vicksburg. Those paroled prisoners had been put back in the. ranks of the rebel army. Our Government demanded that credit for tliem should be allowed in making exchange of prisoners. The subject of colored soldiers had nothing whatever to do with the difficulty of effecting an exchange. He had it from Gen. Breckinridge himself. Furthermore Col. Hobart said he would state here, and etate it with the expectation that it would, go back to his late comrades that in his intercourse with his coinrades, in Ibby prison, notwithstanding all their sufferings,, he did riot believe there was a man there that desired the North to surrender a. single' .point in 'regard the exchanged (Cheers.) They would have the country do nothing inconsistent with its honor and true interests. That was the sentiment of the nearly eleven hundred officers now confined there. Judge Hubbell—Three cheers for the eleven hundred. Three cheers were given with uproarious zest. Col. H. resumed : The rations of the prisoners were half a loaf of tasteless, unbolted corn bread, and sometimes a little rice or soup, and the muddy water of the James river. When the officers received boxes of provisions from the North, they threw out their tasteless rations to the windows and the poor women and children that crowded around the prison to receive them. The situation of the privates on Belle Island were far worse, of course, than that of the officers at the Libby prison. They received comparatively little from the North, and it was a fact that they had killed and eaten every cat and dog that came within their reach. This fact told more in regard to their famishing condition and suffering than could be given in an equal number of words. After detailing the mode of exit from Libby prison, substantially as published by us in a previous article, the Colonel thus gives the history of the latter portion of their journey. Saturday night the journey was resumed as usual, "it was Col. Hobart's turn to play the part of picket and pilot. During the night, incautiously emerging from the thick pine forest, he suddenly found himself almost in the immediate presence of a party of rebel cavalry. its surprise and alarm for the moment welded him to his tracks. Not doubting that he was seen, he felt his case hopeless. Recovering his self-possession, however, he perceived that his presence was unobserved. Fortunately no guard had been stationed. He was but three or four rods from his enemies, and the slightest noise on his part might seal his fate. Cautiously putting one foot behind the other, he retreated from the place. The party of fugitives feeling considerably confused as to the "situation," scarcely knew now whether to retreat or attempt to turn the enemy's flank. They finally returned a distance of about three miles, and halted for further consultation. They lost their way, and being satisfied that there was danger ahead, and that it would be labor lost to return farther toward Richmond, they concluded to make an effort at considerable risk, to obtain information as to their locality. The others concealing themselves, Col. Hobart marched up to the door of a negro dwelling and knocked. The voice of a black woman responded, inquiring who he was. Col. Hobart answered that he was a traveler who had lost his way. After considerable parley, during which Col. H. refused to comply with the request to go to another house for his information, the door was opened, when it appeared that a large good looking negro was inside and had heard the conversation. The negro said, " I know who you is. You'so one of dein 'scaped officers from Richmond." Col. H. laid his hand on the negro's shoulder and said "I am, and you are just the person 1 wanted to see. I want you to help me through." The negro asked if there were any others with him. Col. H. told him. He said they must not stay there, that the road was picketed with rebel cavalry, who passed up and down every hour looking for the fugitives. The negro woman offered Col. H. some milk to drink which he said did him more good than anything he ever took before in his life. The negro proved a sharp and shrewd fellow, and he invited Col. H. to a private spot at a distance in the field where the party all assembled and held a conference. The result was that the negro engaged to pilot them round the cavalry pickets. He then, conducted them through a long cane brake path, then through "a low swamp, the cavalry sitting their horses not over thirty or fifty and accompanied them a mile further on. They asked him to go with them, but he said he would not go unless he could get his family away also. he was a slave. As they were about 'leaving him, he said to Col. H. "Now, 'Mighty God, massa, how soon is you 'going to come down here'! We all want'to go wid you? Col.. H. told him he thought we should be along very soon. (Laughter and cheers.) He said he had the name of that negro, and he should remember him, and 'his kindness to his dying day and should repay it if ever opportunity was given. The line of the Williamsburg pike was then followed rapidly, as far as the "Diascum ? river," which was reached just at light on Sunday morning. To cross this river without assistance from some quarter was found impossible. They endeavored to wade through it, but failed. After a while they succeeded in reaching an island in the river, but could get no further. At this juncture a rebel citizen was seen coming up the river in a row boat, with a gun. Col. H. concealed himself in the bushes by the river to get a look at the man. finding his countenance to indicate youth and benevolence, Col. H. accosted him as he approached. "I have been waiting for you," said the Colonel. "They told me here at these houses that you would take me across the river." The end of the boat was toward the shore. "There are three more of us," said Col. H. having by this time got his foot on the boat and his eye on the gun. _ The other three approached. The determination was to pass the riverin that boat—peaceably if possible, forcibly if they.must. "Where do you all come from?" said the boatman, seeming to hesitate and consider. The party rep°: resented themselves as farmers from various localities On the Chickahominy. "The officers don't like to have me carrv men.; over the river," said the man who held the oars. That's right," said Col. H., "you shouldn't carry soldiers or suspected characters. Besides there are, Yankees about here-sometimes. But, we farmers should be taken over without trouble." Suffice it to say that the boat went and the escaping prisoners went in it, but in a short time thereafter" a hue and cry was raised, and the entire population seemed to be out on the paths of the fugitives. Fortunately-, a fact to which their escape at this time was, due; At dark, the flight was again commenced with renewed hope, but perceiving evidence of continued pursuit, they returned to their hiding places where they remained until toward midnight. They then-took a fresh start, going to the Williamsburg pike, where they lay in, ambush by the roadside for an hour before venturing to progress. It was now early in the morning of Monday. For five days arid six nights this little band of hunted and almost exhausted fugitives, with the stars for their guide, had slowly picked their way among surrounding perils toward the camp fires of their friends. They knew they must be near the outposts of the Union troops and now began to feel as if their trials were nearly over. After six nights, they approached our pickets. The danger now was in being shot by them. They now changed their style and took the middle of the pike, walking leisurely and irregularly. At length, as they came into a thick wood at about 4 o'clock in the morning, they were startled and brought to a stand still by a sharp and sudden command, "Halt!" Looking in the direction whence the command proceeded, they discovered the dark forms of a dozen of cavalrymen drawn up in line of battle, who seemed to have risen from the ground. Neither knew whether they were friends or foes. His heart sunk in his breast, as in the shadows of the night he saw the gray confederate uniform, while sickening visions of Libby prison, and despairing thoughts of another exile from home and still worse durance vile than he had yet endured, passed over his brain.- "Who are you?" was the next question. "Citizens !'"' they answered. Col. Hobart thought he could see distinctly that their uniforms were gray, he had "gray" on the brain about that time. (Laughter.) They were immediately He and his comrades, without stopping to make explanations, lifted their hats and gave one long, exultant shout of joy, which at once assured the soldiers who they were. The party proved to belong to the 11th Pennsylvania, and they were but twelve miles from Williamsburg. Here their sufferings and perils ended.
Sunday, 09 February 2014 16:05 | Written by compiled by James Johnson
The Janesville Gazette publishes a letter from Col. Lyon stating that the 13th Regiment to the number of nearly 400, had reenlisted and had orders to report at Janesville for the usual veteran furlough. He hoped the regiment would reach there by the 16th or 17th. We learn that the Adjutant General has received iuforniation to the same effect. The Janesville people calculate to give these veterans a rousing reception. The regiment will necessarily have to come here, and'will be Officially welcomed and warmly greeted. Madison Wisconsin State Journal February 13, 1864
Sunday, 09 February 2014 15:59 | Written by compiled by James Johnson
A day or two since we mentioned that a soldier who was one of the notable "six hundred" at Balaklava, immortalized by| Tennyson, had enlisted in a Connecticut \ regiment. We have since learned that another of the "six hundred" is a private in the Second Wisconsin cavalry, his name is Jackson. He served in the British army thirteen years, and came to this country & little over a year ago and enlisted here last month. The Milwaukee News, Feb. 11, 1864