Wednesday, 04 September 2013 15:42 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
Sept 18 1863 FLAG PRESENTATION TO THE "IRON BRIGADE". H'DQ'RS, 1st DIV., 1st Army Corps Camp near Culpeper, Va.
EDITORS SENTINEL:-Yesterday the 17th, being the anniversary of the battle of Antietam, is a day long to be remembered by the 1st Brigade of the division and by all who were present and witnessed the presentation of one of the most beautiful flags ever presented to a body of soldiers. The Brigade had for some time past been encamped near Rappahannock Station and the 17th of September having been the day appointed as the day upon which the flag should be presented to them they had devoted all their energies to making preparations for a grand demonstration in celebration the anniversary of one of the hardest fought battles of the war and in honor of the flag to be presented to them and the donors. They had erected a beautiful bower in the midst of a grove of trees; laid floors, fitted up stands and tables and most tastefully festooned it all with flowers and evergreens- they laid out a fine race course for riding and driving on; in fact everything was in the most complete shape that circumstances would permit for a grand celebration. A large number of guests had been invited and had signified their intention to be present and participate in the ceremonies among them Hon. J. P. Usher, Secretary of the Interior, Hon. D. P. Holloway, Commissioner of Patents, Hon. A. W. Randall, First Assistant Postmaster General and other distinguished guests.
A special train had been provided to take them from Washington to Rappahannock Station. The prospects of a grand jubilee were suddenly cut off by an order issued on the 16th to march at 5 o'clock a.m.. The Brigade broke camp and marched toward the enemy; they bought up near Culpepper in the evening where they are now encamped. The flag to be presented to them had that day been brought from Washington by W. Y. Selleck, Esq., Military Agent for Wisconsin, who, finding that the brigade had left Rappahannock Station, proceeded to Culpeper. In the same train was sent out the dinner which had been prepared for the occasion in Washington together with the refreshing and invigorating liquids which inspire in man "a feast of reason and flow of soul."
The flag and the necessary articles for refreshing the inner man having arrived it was concluded by the commanding officers of the brigade that the ceremonies of presentation should take place that day - the 17th - as previously designated. Several wagons were detailed and sent to Culpepper to bring up the provisions while about two hundred men went to work and built some rustic tables in a beautiful grove, near the encampment. At 4 o'clock P.M. the ceremony of the presentation took place. The regiments composing the brigade - the 2d, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana and 24 Michigan and also Battery "B" 4th U.S. Artillery- were drawn up in line forming three sides of a square, within which stood Major General Newton, commander of the 1st Army Corps, General Rice, commanding 1st Division and General General Robinson, commanding 2d Division of the same corps, together with a brilliant array of staff and other officers of the army also the fine band of the brigade which discoursed sweet music on the occasion.
The flag, in the absence of Hon. A. W. Randall, who intended to be present and present it, was presented by W. Y. Selleck, Esq. Military Agent for the State of Wisconsin, with the following short and appropriate address: "SOLDIERS OF THE IRON BRIGADE!- This day was appointed by your commanding officers for the presentation of this beautiful flag. Quite a number of the distinguished citizens of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan intended to be present on this occasion and witness the ceremonies of the presentation and reception of this flag. It was intended that Hon. A. W. Randall of Wisconsin, First Assistant Postmaster General, should be present on this occasion and present this flag to you. The movements of the army have interfered with the intended programme and prevented his attendance, together with that of others of your many friends who with great pleasure would have been present at this time. It devolves upon me to present to you this beautiful flag on whose folds is inscribed our country's motto, "E Pluribus Unum." Those States in the far West, your homes, look upon you and your achievements with pride and admiration. Though far distant they have not forgotten you but watch with anxious solicitude your movements. They honor you for your bravery and valor as also do the whole country... More than two years since the majority of the regiments composing this brigade marched through the city of Washington to join and form the grand Army of the Potomac. I witnessed your arrival. You then numbered in each regiment a thousand or more. You marched with light steps and buoyant hearts. Since that time your ranks have been decimated, not so much by disease but by hard fighting on many a hard contested battlefield to all of which I say it with the greatest pride - you have conducted yourselves with the greatest bravery and gallantry and have never at any time on any battle-field given cause for your friends, the States from which you came or your country to be ashamed of you. Your courage and valor have been shown on the battlefields of Gainesville, Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Fitzhugh's Crossing, Chancellorsville, and last but not least the Glorious battle of Gettysburg where your noble corps commander fell, the brave and gallant Gen. Reynolds. By desperate fighting in the many battles in which you have been engaged your numbers have been so reduced that you brigade numbers less than a thousand men. I hope that what remains of you may be spared to return to your homes and friends in those glorious States of the West. This gigantic rebellion has been prosecuted with a vigor and energy worth of a better cause; but methinks the sun of their treason is set; their vigor and energy is faltering and giving way before the triumphant march of the army of freedom and the Union. Press on to the glorious end which, I believe, is near at hand. There is a black speck that hovers on the horizon far away across the ocean's waters, threatening to interfere with us in our efforts to restore peace and preserve our great and glorious country. We say let them come!
They will learn that a nation of freemen can and will preserve their country and its glorious institutions whether assailed by foreign foes or domestic traitors. That glorious emblem of our country emblazoned on the folds of this flag - the eagle - shall be borne aloft on your banners by the hosts of freedom when the Lilies of France shall have withered and the Lion of England shall lay rotting the noonday sun. Soldiers of the Iron Brigade!- I will not ask you if you will rally around and protect and preserve this flag; it would be a foolish question for me to ask. I know that you will; and, if needs be, sacrifice your lives for its preservation and maintenance.
Remember, soldiers, the motto inscribed upon its folds, "E Pluribus Unum," one formed of many. Though the old Allegheny may tower to heaven, and the father of water divide The links of our destiny cannot be riven While the truth of these words shall abide. Then oh! let them flow on each helmet and brand, Though our blood like our rivers shall run; Divide as we may in our own native land, To the rest of the world we are one. In behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan resident in Washington, I present to you this flag. Take, protect and preserve it; may your future be, like the past, brilliant and glorious and may you be spared by God in his providence to once again witness a united and happy country, enjoying peace, happiness and prosperity.
The flag was received and the address of Mr. Selleck responded to by Col. W. W. Robinson of the 7th Wisconsin Volunteers - commanding the brigade - in the following remarks: SIR:- In behalf of the officers and men of the brigade, I return you and the gentlemen associated with you in this donation, sincere thanks for you beautiful gift. If our conduct as soldiers during the two years and over that we have been in the field merits the commendation of our countrymen, your present is appropriate. Since the organization of the brigade over two years ago, the four original regiments Second, Sixth, and Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana have served together. They have shared the labors, privations, and hardships of the camp together with two or three exceptions only, they have endured the fatigues of the march, breasted the storms and waded the mud of the severe campaigns of the Potomac and together they have met the foe. During the past thirteen months, these regiments have stood shoulder to shoulder more than twenty days under the enemy's fire; in one stream has mingled the blood of their comrades slain - poured out a willing sacrifice in the cause of our suffering country. Soon after the battle of Antietam, the 24th Michigan was assigned to the brigade. At that time it was a young regiment, though large of its age--neat and soldierly in its appearance. We thought from the circumstances of its broad front and bright uniform that it was inclined to put on airs, and were somewhat anxious to have the time soon when we could take it into a fight and see the rebels take the conceit out of it. At the first battle Fredericksburg in December last, the Twenty-fourth was with us the first time in a fight. After that battle they were taken into full fellowship and since that time we have felt proud of the connection.
At Gettysburg (with a disposition common to the younger boys of a family to imitate the feats of the elder brothers) it undertook to whip a division of rebels who were turning our left flank; although it received severe punishment, it came promptly to time after every blow and came handsomely out of the fight; although it lost heavily in flesh and blood it was lost nothing in spirit. The feeling existing in the several regiments is that of mutual confidence in each other; perhaps no body of troops ever possessed this feeling to a greater extent.- Whenever a duty is assigned the brigade where hard fighting is expected, there is but one other circumstance required to give the men entire confidence in their strength and ability, to accomplish the object desired and that is for them to see that Battery "B" is on hand to back them. This battery is manned principally by volunteers from the brigade commanded by Lieut. Stewart of the regular artillery than who a braver officer is not in the service. If laurels have been won by any of the regiments of the brigade since its organization they have been won by the assistance of the others; and we feel a deep interest and are peculiarly sensitive in regard to praise or censure bestowed. Under these circumstances your gift is a meet and appropriate reward for any merit we may possess; and coming, as it does, thro' the donations of some of the most distinguished and patriotic citizens of the states from which the several regiments respectively hail, this banner, inscribed with the name which our over admiring friends have have conferred upon the brigade, and with the names of the several regiments together with the names of the battles in which we have participated, we look upon it as the highest compliment that could be paid us. I need not undertake to tell you with what love and pride it will be cherished by the brigade nor with what firm resolve and stern defiance it will be flaunted in the face of the foe; but I will say that our conduct will be such as never to cause a blush to mantle the cheek of the donors.- This day will be remembered with pride by every member of the brigade as long as life shall last and in future years the day and the gift will be pointed to by our children as a testimonial to the services rendered by their fathers to the country in the hour of its sore trial; not only to us, the fragment of the old brigade which you now see before you, but we feel it to be also a testimonial to the gallant deeds and faithful services of you brave comrades who have won honorable graves in the field; and their children also will have an equal interest in the memory of this day and this gift.
If it be true - As we trust it is - that the spirits of the departed have cognizance of the affairs of this life then the balance of our brigade, the commander we miss, whose life blood moistens the sods of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are now marshaled near us in the bright uniform of the Heavenly Corps to which they have been transferred, witnessing with approving smiles the ceremonies of this occasion. This mark of your approbation, Sir, will add new life to the brigade; the sight of this banner will recall proud memories to cheer the drooping spirits in the hour of fatigue and revive every man's arm to deal heavier blows in the hour of battle. And now, Sir while we continue the fight with traitors in arms whose power is rapidly crumbling away under the blows of the army and navy, you, with our fellow patriots at home have a duty to perform, if not so dangerous to life and limb, perhaps, no less arduous - the struggle with and final victory over the subtle invidious and dastardly treacherous foe in our rear. For our sakes, and for the sake of the memory of the deeds of which you have this day by this token signified you approbation - for the sake of the memory of the patriots slain - for the sake of our beloved country, the cause of human freedom and the progress of civilization, we admonish you to put down this foe at the North. We can now easily crush the rebellion in the field if you will crush the scoundrels at home. Let not the sophistry and whining about respect for the Constitution of these treacherous office seeking self-appointed leaders mislead the unthinking portion of our people into acts of disloyalty to the government and opposition to the highest interests of the nation. Let it not be recorded by the future historian that in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century the United States of America, one of the most powerful of the nations with the best Government ever organized, a model for the world, a country most rich, beautiful and salubrious, the hope and asylum of the oppressed of all nations, in the height of prosperity while every branch of industry was thriving beyond precedent and every channel of commerce was flowing with untold wealth the government was shocked by a revolt in a certain portion of its territory where the system of Negro slavery, a relict of the barbarous ages existed authorized and sustained by the local laws instigated by a few unprincipled, ambitious politicians, men who had been pampered by the government until they had become so arrogant as to claim as a right all the principal places of trust in the gift of the people, and who had become so pregnated with aristocratic notions through the influences of their domestic system as to become disgusted with democratic institutions and had, by insidious arguments, for a long time been poisoning the minds of the people until excited to madness they rose in armed revolt. In the first place, they find fault with the Emancipation Proclamation and say it is unconstitutional and should be revoked; that the measure was intended to, and would, incite servile insurrection; that it would create a feeling of hatred against the North that could never be allayed. I suppose that the opposition will not dispute the premises of the old arguments used against the Abolitionists, that the slave is as much the property of his master as his horse or cow. Now I think it would puzzle these astute politicians to show us the law - either constitutional or national - that prohibits the appropriation or destruction of the property of our enemy, if by so appropriating, or destroying, we cripple him. I am confident no one measure has done, and is doing, as much to cripple the power of the rebels as the appropriation of their slaves.
Over eight months have passed since the emancipation order was issued and we have looked in vain for the servile insurrections prophesied of. As to that sweet love feast that these prophets held as was to be so rudely and unconstitutionally interrupted, we were never much alarmed about; we knew their hatred could be no greater against the North, we know that nineteen twentieths of the slaveholders were rank traitors and we are satisfied that there are more loyal Union people in the seceded States today than on the day the first rebel gun was fired at Fort Sumter and we further know should any loyal citizen lose slaves through the operation of this order he would have the same claim against our government that he or any other loyal citizen may have, North or South, for the loss of a horse or other property used or destroyed by the orders of the government. We have implicit confidence in the integrity and ability of the President and our generals in the field. As I said before if our patriots at home can hush the blatant traitors in their midst (for there is where the greatest danger now lies) we will finish the traitors in the field. And when our work is done, when from the crystal lakes on the north to the Gulf on the south, from the Atlantic on the east to the Pacific on the west, over every mile of our domain - when every piratical leader - these Southern thieves - shall have fled from our soil, we will return to our homes and upon our banners shall be inscribed the Wheat States, the Cotton States, the Gold States, the Lumber States, the Granite an Marble states and also the Nutmeg States, (our Southern sisters to the contrary notwithstanding.) E Pluribus Unum and the Union forever. To the distinguished officers of the army present whose names have become associated with fame and are house hold words through the land, I return sincere thanks for the approbation expressed and honor conferred by their visit. Again, I thank you, sir and the gentlemen donors for this highly prized present. May you all live to enjoy the blessing of a reunited and happy country. Under the favor of God, we hope ere long to return to our homes in the Northwest - the land of crystal lakes, pure running brooks and beautiful rolling prairies where the wild rose and honeysuckle bloom in rich profusion, the land where the wild vine and linden intertwine in peaceful and loving embrace.
When that time shall come when the patriot can point with pride to a reunited and prosperous nation saved by her sons from dissolution and anarchical ruin and can dwell with renewed confidence in the justice and wisdom of God to counteract the machinations of the admirers of the institutions of the dark ages, to stay the growth of liberty and the progress of civilization , we shall be happy to meet you at our homes on the beautiful prairies and in the shady groves of the northwest. Be assured that all our companions in arms and all the patriot friends of the Iron Brigade will ever be welcome guests on the hearthstones of its members. The flag was handed over to the Color Sergeant and was escorted by the 2d Wisconsin Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Mansfield, and proceeded by the Brigade Band to the Brigade Headquarters. The officers of the brigade, together with their invited guests, proceeded to that part of the grove where the tables had been prepared and which were spread with everything for a sumptuous feast one that would have done honor to any of our first class hotels.- Champagne and other wines flowed and all went merry as a "marriage-bell" the table was three hundred feet in length and lined on either side with a glittering array of officers of all grades dressed the the best. After the wines had been discussed, toasts and speeches were the order. Captain Halstead of Gen. Rice's staff proposed the following! "The Iron Brigade"- which was drank amid loud cheers and responded to by Col. Morrow of the 24th Michigan Volunteers in a very happy speech. Col. Edward S. Bragg, of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers, chairman of the committee of arrangements, then introduced Mr. W. Y. Selleck who read the following letter received from the Hon. J. M. Edmonds, commissioner of the General Land Office; General and officers, Sept. 14, Sir:- I gratefully acknowledge the receipt of your invitation to attend the flag presentation to be made to the Iron Brigade composed of regiments from Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. I thank you for the invitation which I would gladly accept did other duties permit. To me the interest of the occasion is enhanced because one of the regiments whose services you thus recognize is from my own State and among its numbers are many personal friends. Let me assure you that these are worthy associates of the heroes from Wisconsin and Indiana. The Iron Brigade! Oh fit synonym for the inflexible courage which had hurled back the traitorous hordes from Antietam , Gettysburg and other equally well contested field. But the Iron Brigade requires no praise from me. No recital of mine can add luster to its glittering steel or to the existing roll of its noble achievements. It had carved for itself and the flag it upholds a broad pathway though the ranks of treason wherever and whenever they have been encountered. It has illustrated some of the brightest pages in our country's history - flowing as that history is with deeds of heroic daring and patriotic devotion. It is a worthy representative of the great and free Northwest and of the Nation it has helped to save. The Iron Brigade! Most appropriate designation -strength, durability, tenacity - good for guns, balls or bayonets, it can destroy or resist either, it is more than a match for copper whether in heads or balls. It is our means of defense and offense. It fights our battles; transports our munitions; clothes our ships; protects our enemy, it is our reliance, our safety. It will give us victory, liberty and country. It is indispensable. Therefore let us love and cherish the Iron Brigade. Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin - three free States carved out of the territory ceded by Virginia with the express condition that slavery should be forever prohibited therein. In the hour of trial, their sons have remained true to the precepts of the fathers of the Republic and are now ready with their lives if need be to restore to the people of the mother of States, the priceless boon which treason, inexcusable and senseless treason and traitors, have deprived them. But for the wisdom of the early statesmen of this once honored and patriotic commonwealth, as exhibited in their provision for the freedom of the great Northwest, never more apparent than at this moment, whose arms would now be raised for the redemption of the people from the grinding despotism prepared and enforced by her degenerate sons. But, thank God, Virginians are not all traitors.
The denizens of her mountains have wrenched their farms and houses from the hand of the spoiler and planted forever and in congenial soil that standard which in little more than half a century had made an empire of the territory Northwest of the Ohio. And one of the regiments of the Iron Brigade is led by a brave and loyal son of eastern Virginia who has breathed the fire air of our western plains and whose hand will not be stayed whilst the old dominion is furrow by a single bondsman, or her soil pressed by the foot of a despot. Virginia wants but that freedom which she imposed upon the people of the Northwest to make her again the pride of the Republic. Shall she have it? The answer is in your hands. Grave it upon her valleys and mountain sides with pens of steel and in characters that shall be ineffaceable by the hand of time or treason. Plant there the standard which she placed in your hands at the nation's birth. Point to her the developments under its protection. Invite her participation and remove all obstacles to its enjoyment. Give us back the constitution as it is and Virginia and all other erring States as God and our fathers intended they should be - free, united, prosperous and happy for all time. This is your mission. Your work to this time is evidence of your fitness and ability for its accomplishment. We feel we know that it will be done and quickly For encouragement I might point you the victorious marches of the Union columns their advance from place to place and from state to state, but you know these you see with practiced eye the waning proportions of the rebellion and the rising destinies of the national cause. Every where the standard of Liberty is triumphant. The sun of peace and unity already gilds the horizon and but for the black spec over the great waters we would soon emerge into perfect day., That black speck is the shadow of the crumbling despotism of the Old World and if, in their decrepitude, they desire to break a lance with the giant of America, let our answer be ready.
Respectfully, you ob't serv't J. M. Edmunds To W. Y. Selleck, Esq., Washington, D. C.
The reading of the letter was received with much enthusiasm and at its conclusion Mr. Seleck proposed the following toast:- "The non-commissioned officers and privates of the Armies of the United States"-which was responded to by Major General Newtown, Brigadier Generals Robinson and Rice; giving great praise to those soldiers for their patriotism, endurance, courage, gallantry and valor; stating that there were thousands among them fit, capable and worthy to wear a general's shoulder straps which they had earned by their intelligence, patriotism and bravery.
The following toast was given by General Robinson:-"To the memory of that brave and gallant soldier, Major General John F. Reynolds,"- which was drank uncovered and in silence. Toasts were given to the health of the President, the invited guests, Generals McClellan, McDowell, Hooker, Meade, Newton, Rice, Robinson, Wadsworth, Meredith, Gibbon, King and others. Speeches were made by Cols. Williams, Morrow, Bragg and others. Col. Bragg made a very handsome and appropriate speech in which he gave a glowing history of the old "Iron Brigade" and its achievements and a just and merited tribute to its gallant dead. The soldiers, non-commissioned and privates, were not forgotten but received their full share of those substantials &c., which go to support and revive the inner man and which they greatly enjoyed. Notwithstanding their disappointment, caused by by being obliged to move after they had made such fine preparations for the ceremonies attending the presentation of the flag, they were greatly elated by the pleasant manner in which the occasion passed off.
The following letters were received from Generals McClellan, McDowell and Paine, regretting their inability to be present and witness the ceremonies of the occasion.
New York, Sept 14, 1863 W. Y. Selleck, Esq,. Military Agent for Wisconsin: DEAR SIR:- Your very kind invitation of the 9th was received this morning. I regret that it is impossible for me to visit the Army of the Potomac even for the purpose of participating in a ceremony so interesting as the presentation of colors to the gallant Northwestern Brigade. It happens to be precisely one year to day since I first saw them in action at South Mountain and with the recollection of their superb bearing brought thus freshly to my mind, I feel renewed in my heart the pain of separation from them and their comrades. But say to them that my heart and prayers are ever with them and that although their new colors can witness no more brilliant acts of patriotism and devotion than those which the old torn flags have shared in; I know that on every future field they and the whole Army of the Potomac will maintain, on their part, the honor of their country and their colors. With my sincere thanks for your kindness,
I am very truly And respectfully yours GEO. B. McClellan Major Gen., U.S.A.
Sept. 24th, break camp and march to the Rapidan, taking up position at Martin's Ford. Cornelius Wheeler’s diary
Saturday, 03 August 2013 01:18 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
By First Lieutenant Cornelius Wheeler, U. S. V.
[Read April 5, 1893.]
I have selected as my topic for this occasion the Battle of Gettysburg, not intending, by any means, to give a description of that, the greatest and most important battle of the war, for it is not within the province of any one participant to do that from actual observation, but to give something of my personal experience and recollections. That it was the great battle of the war I think there is no question, and I am proud to have been a participant in it, even in my small and unimportant way. I was at that time Orderly Sergeant of Co. I, of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, of the now famous Iron Brigade, of the 1st Division, 1st Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.
From the 28th of April, 1863, when it broke camp at Belle Plaine, Va., the Corps had been on an almost constant campaign;--was at Fitz-Hugh Crossing on the 29th of April, and Chancellorsville, May 2d, and the brigade was on an expedition to the Northern Neck, a point between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, May 21st to the 26th, for the relief of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, which was reported as having been cut off by the rebels. During this time the brigade made a march of 120 miles for the five days; was up and down the Rappahannock and Rapidan; out to near Culpepper, Kelly's Ford, Brandy Station, Bealton, Fitz-Hugh Crossing again, Hartwood Church, Deep Run, Spotted Tavern, Catlett's Station, Centreville, Gum Springs, Herndon Station, Guilford Station, Franksville and Edward's Ferry. There it crossed into Maryland on the 25th of June; marched through Poolesville to Barnesville, thence across Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Monocacy River at Greenfield; through Adamstown, on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, over the Catoctin Mountains, to near Jeffersonville in Middle Valley, and to Middletown, until June 28th, when it recrossed the Catoctin Range and camped near Frederick City. On the 29th it marched north, via Lewiston, Catoctin Furnace and Mechanicsburg, and on the 30th moved out along the Emmettsburg pike towards Gettysburg, and bivouacked on Marsh Creek.
On the morning of July 1st the Second Wisconsin Regiment was mustered, showing 306 men, of whom 278 were combatants. Shortly after 7 o'clock the regiment moved out on the Emmettsburg pike at the head of the brigade, towards Gettysburg, without any particular anticipation in general of a fight on that bright morning, although we were all beginning to feel that we were getting near to Lee's army, which of course we understood was making a raid upon the North,--that we were running a race with it, and that a battle could not be far off. While I say that there was no anticipation in general of an impending battle, there were exceptions, and there came to me that morning two cases of presentiment--the only cases which came to my knowledge during my experience as a soldier. We had not been long upon the march before Sergeant Joseph 0. Williams of my company, a soldier who had never missed a skirmish, a battle or a day's duty, who had done a soldier's duty at Bull Run, Gainesville, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Fitz-Hugh Crossing and Chancellorsville, and through skirmishes too numerous to mention, all without a scratch, came forward and fell in alongside of me at the head of the column, and opened up a conversation by saying that he did not feel quite right, that he felt as though something was going to happen to him, and that he should not get through the day. I laughed at him and told him he was foolish to feel so blue, there seemed to be no trouble ahead for the day, but if there should be, that he would come out alright as he always had done. Poor Joe did not have much more to say and soon fell back to his place. But be was right. He fell--shot dead at the first volley we received as we made surcharge that morning, not two hours later.
Soon after Sergeant Williams had left me, the Sergeant-Major of the regiment, George H. Legate, who had been promoted from a sergeantcy in my company, came forward from the rear of the column, and he, too, had a presentiment and said, "Corny, we are going to have a fight to-day, and I will not come out alive." I laughed at him also, and told him he was the second man who had been to me, and that it was all nonsense, that there was no prospect of a fight and that if he really felt that way, he had better not go in if there should be one, as he could easily avoid it--that a Sergeant-Major was not of much account in a fight, anyway. But George said "No, I will stay with the regiment whatever happens," and stay he did, and died a soldier's death. He was shot during the afternoon attack.
We had moved out on the Emmettsburg pike at the head of the Iron Brigade, as before stated, and in the lead of the 1st Army Corps, and of General Reynolds' left wing of the Army of the Potomac. When within about a mile of Gettysburg, Buford's Cavalry was seen and heard to be engaged with the enemy off to the left or West, and about a mile distant. Almost immediately orders came from the front to our Colonel, Lucius Fairchild, and the regiment filed off from the road into a field at the left, and across that field into another, and soon came the order "Forward, into line," followed with "Forward, double-quick." Forward we went into line and towards Buford and to his relief. As our guns were not loaded, Colonel Fairchild gave the order, and we loaded as we double-quicked. The regiment soon passed over the intervening ground and over Seminary Ridge south and west of the seminary, and met Heth's Division of A. P. Hill's Corps, which was posted on a wooded ridge about half a mile west of the seminary, receiving a volley as we advanced to the crest of the ridge, which cut down nearly one-half of the regiment, but, not daunted, it continued the charge upon the rebel line, crushed it and drove it in confusion across Willoughby Run, capturing the rebel General Archer, and some 600 of his brigade. At Willoughby Run the regiment was halted to await the results with the other regiments of the brigade; for the Second, as on the right of the marching column, had gone into line and forward on the double-quick, and it very naturally took the balance of the column some little time to get forward. After a wait of about half an hour the regiment was withdrawn from its advanced position and placed on a new line at nearly right angles with that just left, facing the north, but after a short time the line was again reformed, its location this time being near the summit of the ridge but somewhat to the right of where the battle had opened, and facing again to the west.
Lieutenant-Colonel George H. Stevens was mortally wounded, Lieutenant Winnegar was killed, Colonel Lucius Fairchild received a wound which cost him an arm, and Major-General John F. Reynolds was killed just as the charge ended at the crest of the ridge. He fell immediately in the rear of the right of the Second Wisconsin, and not over 100 feet distant.
While the Iron Brigade was engaged in this charge, the Second Brigade, under Brigadier-General Lysander Cutler, had passed on to the right, and to the north of the Chambersburg pike, and became engaged in a hot fight in which it was not quite so successful as the Iron Brigade had been, but the Sixth Wisconsin having been detached from the latter just as it was going into action, went forward to the right to Cutler's assistance, captured a Mississippi regiment of several hundred men, saving the day in that part of the field.
This practically ended the fighting for the forenoon. The Second Wisconsin Regiment remained in line in the new position at the apex of something of an angle, being nearly joined on the right by the new Pennsylvania Bucktails, the Eleventh Corps prolonging the right, the balance of the brigade and division to our left, until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when the rebels advanced to the assault along our whole line in overwhelming numbers, and from then until about half-past four o'clock it was a continuous struggle, advancing, retreating, and contesting every foot of the way. The ground was rolling, the little ridges running nearly or quite north and south, and as the rebels would drive us over a ridge we would reform on the other side and give it to them as they came to the top, and often ran them back some distance, but on the whole they were too much for us, and we could never gain quite so much ground as we had lost; and so it continued until we were forced back to the Seminary Ridge, where artillery had been posted, and there a stand was made for some time, but the Eleventh Corps having given away on the right, and the left having been turned, the Position at the seminary became untenable, and what was left of the First Corps was forced to fall back through Gettysburg in considerable disorder. That we did not fall back any too soon is manifest by the fact that about 5000 of our men were captured before they could get through Gettysburg; and I know that when I passed up the street leading to Cemetery Hill, the rebels had appeared at each end of the cross streets, and it was like running a gauntlet as the bullets came from both sides. At Cemetery Heights the artillery having a good position, our troops naturally concentrated, and a stand was made which the rebels did not seem to care to contest, and the first day's battle at Gettysburg was ended.
Late in the evening the Iron Brigade, then reduced to the size of a very small regiment, was placed in position on Culp's Hill to the right of the Baltimore pike.
The losses of the Second Wisconsin in this day's battle were 2 officers and 25 men killed, 10 officers and 144 men wounded, 5 officers and 47 men missing, leaving a regiment of 45 men under command of Captain George H. Otis. I, as First Sergeant and ranking officer, was left in command of Company I, nine men, the largest company in the regiment.
The brigade remained unengaged in its position on Culp's Hill during the succeeding days of the battle. From this position not much of the field of operations could be seen, excepting from the top of the hill in our rear occupied by the artillery, and not a very comfortable place for sight-seeing. We lay anxiously awaiting the result of the afternoon fight on the second, at the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top. Later we listened to the desperate attack made upon our extreme right on Culp's Hill, which was followed by a night attack across our front on Cemetery Hill, upon the 11th Corps, by Early, and in which the rebels succeeded in forcing our infantry line back through the artillery, capturing Rickett's battery and spiking two of his guns, but were soon driven out again, this ending the battles of the second day.
July 3d opened with heavy artillery firing from the enemy, which after some hours gradually slackened, with no particular result. During the forenoon there was a heavy engagement just to our right on Culp's Hill, in which, after some hours of hard fighting, the rebel General Johnson was compelled to retire by Geary's and Ruger's Divisions of the 12th Corps. This fight lasted until about 11 o'clock A.M., after which came an ominous calm, and the whole army lay waiting in expectancy of the next move. About 1 o'clock the rebel batteries opened from along the whole line, to which our batteries soon began to reply, and then ensued probably the most tremendous artillery duel of the whole war, lasting for about two hours. The ground fairly shook beneath the feet of the assembled armies from the terrible concussion; the skies were clouded with smoke, and the air filled with shrieking shot and shell, the explosion of caissons, the groans of the wounded, and the yells of men, until it seemed as though hell itself had broken loose. About three o'clock the cannonading ceased, and soon after came that magnificent charge of Pickett's with his 17,000 men upon Hancock's center, in which they came on and on, never faltering or swerving, but gallantly closing up their ranks as they were swept by our batteries, until they reached the front held by the gallant Gibbon and his Division of the Second Corps, when there came a struggle, indeed to the death, and during which it seemed as if even the grand fighting veterans of the Second Corps, with Hancock and Gibbon in their midst, could not repel the charge, but they did. The gallant rebel army made its charge in vain, and had made a glorious failure--glorious for themselves for having made one of the most magnificent and desperate charges in the history of war, and glorious for the Union because the death-knell of rebellion was sounded then and there. During the charge, and while the rebels had temporarily gained the Union line, our brigade was hastily rushed across to Hancock's support, but just as it came within helping distance, the charge had failed and the brigade returned to its position on Culp's Hill. With the failure of Pickett's charge the battle of Gettysburg was practically ended.
Of late years it has been something of a disputed point as to what infantry troops opened the battle of Gettysburg, which at the time of the battle was generally supposed to have been the work of the Iron Brigade, with the Second Wisconsin in the lead. General Doubleday, who was in command of the First Army Corps on that day, and who succeeded General Reynolds in command of the left wing at the death of the latter, and many others, have claimed that the battle was opened by Cutler's Brigade of Wadsworth's Division of the First Corps. General Doubleday, in an article on the battle of Gettysburg, published in the February number of the North American Review, 1891, states regarding the opening of the battle on July 1st:
"Buford's Cavalry, since early morning, had been holding on desperately to the ridge nearest the water (meaning Willoughby Run), contending with two large divisions of Hill's Corps, while the First Corps was five miles away to the south, on Marsh Creek. As it was all quiet there, and the stress of battle lay with Buford, Reynolds hastened forward with the nearest troops at hand two small brigades of Wadsworth's Division, and directed me to bring up the remainder of the corps as soon as possible.
"Having withdrawn the pickets and put the two other divisions enroute, I galloped ahead and reached the field just as the contest began between Cutler's Brigade on the right, against Davis' Confederate Brigade. Meredith's Brigade (the Iron Brigade) was still on its way a quarter of a mile to the rear. In the meantime I had sent an aide to ask for orders, and received this message from General Reynolds in reply-- 'Tell Doubleday I will hold on to this road and he must hold on to that one.' This was the last order he ever issued.
"Archer's Confederate Brigade, however, which formed the right of the attacking column, did not advance by the town road, but attempted to take possession of a piece of woods between the two roads. Reynolds imprudently rode in there, almost unattended, to reconnoitre. As he turned his head to the rear to see how near we were, one of the enemy's sharp-shooters must have seen him, and put a bullet through his neck, killing him instantly. As Meredith's men came on, I made a short address to them, telling them that this was the decisive battle of the war, and that the result would decide whether the Confederate President or Abraham Lincoln was to rule the country. I urged them to take the wood and hold it at all hazards. Full of the memory of their past achievements, they replied, 'If we can't hold it, where will you find the men who can?' They went forward enthusiastically, entered the grove, and not only overpowered Archer's brigade, but captured him and the greater portion of his men."
In his article on Gettysburg, in "Campaigns of the Civil War," page 128, General Doubleday says: "While this fighting (referring to Buford's Cavalry) was going on, and Reynolds and Wadsworth were pressing to the front, I was engaged in withdrawing the pickets and assembling the other two divisions, together with the corps artillery. As soon as I saw that my orders were in process of execution I galloped to the front, leaving the troops to follow, and caught up with Meredith's Brigade of Wadsworth's Division, commonly known as the Iron Brigade, just as it was going into action."
This was the same brigade which was a "quarter of a mile to the rear" when the General galloped to the front, and to which he subsequently made a short address as "it came on," as stated in the article in the North American Review. Surely, this little bit of history has gotten somewhat mixed.
At the time General Doubleday overtook "the Iron Brigade, just as it was going into action," if he did so, it was after it had marched across from the Emmettsburg road, which had been its route from Marsh Creek to within about a mile of Gettysburg, with the Second Wisconsin leading the brigade, and to Seminary or Oak Ridge in front of the seminary, when it went into line and forward on the double-quick to the second or wooded ridge, about half a mile west of the seminary, when it encountered Archer's Brigade of Heth's Division, routed it from its position, driving it across Willoughby Run, and capturing General Archer and the greater part of his brigade.
We gather from General Doubleday's various statements that Cutler's Brigade had engaged Davis' Confederate Brigade on the right, or to the north of the Chambersburg or Cashtown road, and that it had been repulsed and nearly overpowered before the Iron Brigade (Meredith's) went into action, and that General Reynolds was with it, for General Doubleday says (Campaigns of the Civil War, page 130):
"I reached the field just as the attack on Cutler's Brigade was going on, and at once sent my Adjutant-General Major Halstead, to General Reynolds to ask instructions. Under the impression that the enemy's columns were approaching on both sides, Reynolds said, 'Tell Doubleday I will hold on to this road (referring to the Chambersburg road) and he must hold onto that one,' meaning the road to Fairfield or Hagerstown."
History has it that General Reynolds was killed at the opening of the battle, which is quite true, and be was killed directly in the rear of the right of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, and not more than 100 feet distant. He was struck by a stray ball immediately after the volley the Second Wisconsin received as it charged over the top of the ridge where Archer's Brigade was lying. The writer was at that time on the right of the regiment, and as the line came to a temporary halt when it reached the top of the ridge, he turned to look for those of his company who had fallen, and glancing down the slope to the rear saw General Reynolds fall from his horse. This was on the ridge "nearest the water" (in General Doubleday's words), which Buford's Cavalry had been desperately holding on to."
General Doubleday and General Wadsworth in their official reports place the time of General Reynolds' death at about 10:15 A. M., at the beginning of the attack. Lieutenant-Colonel Mansfield of the Second Wisconsin, and Colonel W. W. Robinson of the Seventh Wisconsin, in their reports, fix the time of leaving the Emmettsburg pike and advancing to the attack as about 10 A.M. General John Buford, commanding cavalry, says in his report, "A portion of the 3d Indiana found horse-holders, borrowed muskets and fought with the Wisconsin regiment which came to relieve them."
In the reports of the action of Cutler's Brigade, Captain James A. Hall, 2d Maine Battery, says-- "We opened with shot and shell at 10:45 A.M. In 25 minutes from the time we opened fire, a column of the enemy's infantry charged up the ravine on our right flank." Colonel William Hoffman, 56th Pennsylvania, says-- "We reached Gettysburg and engaged the enemy at 11 A. M." Captain John E. Cook, 76th New York, says-- "At about 10:30, being the extreme advanced regiment of the First Corps, we reached the battlefield near the seminary at Gettysburg."
From the reports of Confederate officers in the official records, Lieutenant-Colonel S. G. Shepard, 7th Tennessee, Archer's Brigade, says-- "We had advanced (from Cashtown) about three miles when we came upon the enemy's pickets, who gradually fell back before us for about three miles, which brought us in sight of the enemy upon a slight eminence in our front and to the right of the road. General Archer halted for a short time while a section of artillery opened fire upon them. He then deployed the brigade in line and advanced directly upon the enemy." General John R. Davis, commanding a brigade of Heth's Division, says: "I moved in rear of Archer's Brigade with three regiments of my command. When within about two miles of town, our artillery was put in position and opened fire. I was ordered to take position on the left of the turnpike (Cashtown), and with the right resting on it. press forward to the town. At about 10:30 a line of battle was formed. The line of skirmishers advanced and moved forward about one mile, driving in the enemy's skirmishers, and came within range of his line of battle which was drawn up on a hill in a field a short distance in front of a railroad cut. The engagement soon became very warm."
So, from the records it appears that the engagement between the Iron Brigade and Archer's Brigade took place between the roads and at an earlier hour than is claimed in any of the reports, Union or Confederate, for the engagement between Cutler's and Davis' Brigades on the north of the Cashtown road.
General Doubleday has always given Cutler's Brigade credit for the infantry opening of the battle. General Cutler having once been in command of the Iron Brigade, during which time it was sometimes referred to as "Cutler's Brigade," it is possible that General Doubleday may have been misled in his opinion as to which of Cutler's Brigades was in the lead and opened the battle. The Iron Brigade made no halt from the time it left the Emmettsburg road until it became engaged; it listened to no speech from General Doubleday; it heard no musketry firing at the right, as it must have done had there been any; it went into the fight on the double-quick and fought in advance of General Reynolds, and at the time when he was killed at the opening of the battle.
In addition I have the testimony of a gentleman, Mr. H. J. Fahnestock, at that time a resident of Gettysburg, now of Watertown, South Dakota, who in a letter to me says:
"Buford's Cavalry came into Gettysburg on the evening of the 30th of June, and they opened the fight on the morning or forenoon of the 1st of July, dismounted. I could not see the opening of the fight by Buford's men, nor by the First Army Corps from my residence, as the Seminary Hill and the grove to the west of the hill and the buildings intervened to prevent it. What I did see was the First Army Corps going on the field of battle, which I saw from the upper porch or balcony of my house. The First Army Corps came in on the Emmettsburg road on the forenoon of the 1st, passing as I saw them along the base of Seminary Hill, and crossed over the hill at a point south of the Chambersburg turnpike, and along the hill south as far as, and beyond, the Fairfield road. There is no question that the opening fight was between the two roads (the Fairfield and Chambersburg pikes) and spread later in the fight to the north, beyond the Chambersburg pike. The spot where Reynolds is reported to have received his death-wound was at a copse of trees almost due west from the main seminary building, and about equidistant between the Fairfield road and the Chambersburg pike."
This was where the Iron Brigade, the Second Wisconsin in advance, opened the battle of Gettysburg.
Saturday, 03 August 2013 01:11 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
August 1st, break camp, march to Beverly Ford. August 2nd, cross on pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock River below the railroad and bivouac in line of battle. In this position we remain until August 7th, when we recross the river to go into camp on the riverbank near the pontoon bridge. Whole distance marched, eight miles.
Saturday, 06 July 2013 16:18 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
Dear Parents: The Iron Brigade had again been baptized in blood. The victory so far, is ours. The battle commenced on the first, the Iron Brigade leading Capt. Ticknor was killed and lieut. Temington wounded, but not severe. Our company lost 20 men killed and wounded. Pratt, Rose, and A. Fletcher are severely wounded and Chancy Wilcox had lost an arm. I am acting Lieutenant. Our regiment captured a rebel regiment twice as large as our own, also their colors. We captured Gen. Amstrad yesterday. I send a piece of the coat of the Adjutant of Gen. Ewels staff. Our soldiers captured 22 stand of colors yesterday. Good by Ras.
Saturday, 06 July 2013 16:12 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
In the field at Gettysburg, Pa. July 2d, 1863 Editors Republic:-I will write you a word but I do not know as I shall have an opportunity of sending it soon. Our Corps fought a severe battle at this place yesterday, which resulted in our being driven back a mile. The 11th Corps came in to assist us but did not fight. I believe a Wisconsin brigade could whip the whole corps. The 1st corps has been reduced in numbers by regiments leaving whose time of service has expired. The 1st Division-Gen. Wadsworth-has but two brigades-the 5th or Iron Brigade, and the 2d brigade commanded by Gen. Cutler. The Iron brigade last 1140 men yesterday. it has 450 for duty this morning. We never did harder fighting. The 6th Wisconsin charged on the R.R. cut and captured the 2d Miss Reg. entire, Maj. Stone commanding surrendered his sword and regiment, which numbered 430 men to Lieut. Col. Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin, but not until after a resistance which excelled in desperation anything we had ever witnessed before. Our regiment pushed on with terrible loss to the edge of the ditch; it received and returned the fire of the rebel hundreds crouching beneath it. Soon many of them held up their hats as a signal of surrender and our men ceased firing to spare them. But they were reluctant and reckless, and many of them seeing we were small in numbers continued to shoot our men, and of course death was the ready punishment by Yankee bullet, bayonet or blow of musket. The work of murder continued for moments, and was only stopped when Maj. Stone came forward and made a formal surrender. Bodley K. Jones and Wm. Pearson-as brave men as ever went to battle, fell dead at the ditch. The 11th Corps on our left with heavy lines of uninjured infantry commeneed a pusillanimous falling back, and a retreat was ordered. We are now in position and other corps have come up. Gen. Meade in also here. Gen. Reynolds was killed in the early part of the engagement and Gen. Howard took command. There is no fighting to-day, but both sides are preparing. The 6th Reg. went in with about 300 muskets and lost 158, Co. A took 15 into battle. Their loss is as follows: Killed-Bodley K. Jones, Wm. Pearson. Wounded-Lieut. F. Pruyn, Sergt. P. Stackhouse, Corp. d. Hedges, Corp A. Fopwler, John Hedges, Uriah Palmer. Missing-Frank Graham. The most seriously wounded of any I believe is John Hedges, who was hit by three bullets, but he will get well. Lieut. Pruyn was wounded through the wrist: while we were advancing on the R. R. cut. His sword dropped from his paralyzed hand and stooping he picked it up with his left had and moved to the rear with a painful but not serious wound. Uriah Palmer was detached to Battery B, and was wounded while working one of the "big guns." I send you this note friend Editors with the simple hope that with the list of casualties you may be able to relieve the anxiety of our friends and relatives, by showing them who live and who do not. I hope to be able to give more of the details soon. Yours. H. J. H.