Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

BLACK IRON MERCY  TO BE LAUNCHED IN JUNE

I’m so very happy and proud to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Deeds Publishing of Athens, Georgia, to publish my novel, Black Iron Mercy.  Final edits have been applied to the manuscript and it’s on its way to the creative director for the layout process.

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Whew!  It’s been four and a half years since I started the research for this project.  Nine months of research, two years of writing, a lifetime of editing, and five long months of querying and rejection have culminated in success.  It’s been a long road, but could have been so much longer if not for the help and support of my family and friends.

Thank you to all of YOU, my friends and followers, for your continued support through your words of kindness and encouragement, assessment and criticism.  So many of you have said the right words at just the right moment, providing motivation and inspiration to continue this voyage.  I’m grateful!

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CHAPTER 28

An excerpt from an unpublished novel of our civil war
SUBJECT TO SOME MAJOR EDITING

 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

          July 1, 1863

             10:30 am

 

 They’d been ordered to lie down in the field by Lt. Colonel Dawes, who was in command of the regiment, as Colonel Bragg had been kicked in the foot by a horse a few weeks back and was recuperating in Washington.  The regiment was being held in reserve as the rest of the brigade went into action against the Rebel line in the woods ahead of them.  The brigade had hurried forward on the run, the Sixth Wisconsin being the last regiment in the order of march for the day, rushing to gain a position on the left flank of the brigade, which was hastily moving en echelon into the woods to the west.  They ran into the trees and disappeared into the undergrowth, no longer visible to the men of the Sixth.

Suddenly, an aide galloped up to Dawes and had spoken hurriedly to him, causing the commander to order the regiment to lie down in the field as they were now.  Gunfire erupted in a tremendous crash from the woods as the rest of the brigade ran headlong into the rebel line.

“Something’s wrong.” Arlis said, lying prone in the field.

Bath, who lay to the immediate right of Arlis, said, “Why?”  His head flailed from side to side, franticly scanning the scene before them.  He was wide-eyed.  “What’s going on?”

“That aide that rode up to the colonel is Lieutenant Marten, one of Doubleday’s aides,” Arlis said, loud enough for most of the men around him to hear.  “Something must have happened to Reynolds if Doubleday is giving the orders.”  Reynolds, a very competent Pennsylvanian, commanded the First Corp.  He was in command of three divisions, containing seven infantry brigades and a brigade of artillery.

  Arlis watched as the commander of the brigade guard, which consisted of about one hundred men, briefly met with Lt. Colonel Dawes and then split the guard into two, fifty man companies, ordering each to lie down on the flanks of the Sixth, one company per side.  This strengthened the regiment to 340 men and officers, which was less than thirty-five percent of the strength that they’d mustered in at Camp Randall two years prior.  The Sixth Wisconsin was now the only regiment that was not yet engaged in all of Wadsworth’s division, consisting of the Iron Brigade and Cutler’s Brigade, which was made up of four New York regiments, a Pennsylvania regiment, and an Indiana regiment.  Cutler’s Brigade was already in action on the right flank of the Iron Brigade.

“We’re in reserve?” Bath asked, irritation in his voice.  “Why the hell don’t they let us in on the left of the twenty-fourth?”

“Relax, Tubber,” Arlis said, using the nickname that the company had bestowed on Bath.  Bath… Bathtub… Tub… Tubber.  He looked sideways at Bath, “Usually they use the regiment that’s in reserve to plug the line where the action is hottest.  Be careful what you wish for, Private.  You’re gonna see action today.  The whole damn Rebel army is out there somewhere.”

Another aide approached the mounted Dawes on horseback.

“That’s Lieutenant Jones,” Arlis said.  “He belongs to Doubleday, too.”

“How do ya know,” Bath bellowed, attempting to be heard over the gunfire.

Arlis spun his head wildly toward Bath and yelled angrily, “Because I pay attention, Bath.  Open your eyes and shut your mouth now!”

Dawes turned and passed the order down the chain of command.  Captain Ticknor, now the commander of Company K, passed it to his men.

“On your feet, men…”

 

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Soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment

According to “Wisconsin losses in the Civil War” compiled by Charles Edward Estabrook, 1915, 275 of the 1203 soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment died while serving. 105 were killed in action; 62 died of wounds; 62 died from disease. One died in a fall less than a month before Gettysburg. Other sources differ slightly, but most are comparable. Wikipedia says the regiment saw 315 total deaths.

These numbers do not include those who were wounded and survived. They also don’t show those that were wounded multiple times, perhaps as many as three or four, before finally succumbing or being no longer fit for duty and sent home.

In a war that saw one soldier in ten killed in action and one soldier in three die of disease, the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment suffered 3.4 soldiers killed for every one that died of disease. It was through their blood that they forged their iron.

Included among the deaths from disease is John A Thompson, who is listed in the roster as being simply from “Wisconsin.” Thompson was murdered sometime in March of 1864. If anyone has more information on that story, please share!

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Capt Rufus R Dawes, CO K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers

Mr. Dawes is quite a remarkable man. Forever cemented in the histories of the Iron Brigade, the affections of Mauston, WI natives, the leadership of the 6th Wisconsin, and the spirit of the “Lemonweir Minutemen,” Dawes wasn’t even a Badger by birth.

Like everyone else in early 1861, Dawes got swept up in the excitement of Lincoln’s call for Volunteers. Dawes, who happened to be in Mauston, Wisconsin with his father on extended business at the time of the firing on Fort Sumter, chose to raise a company of volunteers right there, rather than return to his home town of Marietta, Ohio to do so.

In a letter to his sister dated May 4, 1861, Dawes writes: “I have been so wholly engrossed with my work for the last week or I should have responded sooner to your question: ‘Are you going?’ If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit I am. I am Captain of as good, and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star-spangled banner.”

He’d get to lead them under that banner, too. At 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and while covering the retreat of the Army after Chancellorsville. All the while, he lead from the front while enjoying an uncanny ability to come through battles unscathed, bringing to mind suggestions of the fortunes of Wyatt Earp and Captain Richard Winters, who had both had plenty of opportunities to die in fire fights but had escaped all of them unharmed.

“My Dear Mother,” he wrote home after Antietam, “I have come safely through two more terrible engagements with the enemy, that at South Mountain and the great battle of yesterday. Our splendid regiment is almost destroyed. We have had nearly four hundred men killed and wounded in the battles. Seven of our officers were shot and three killed in yesterday’s battle and nearly one hundred and fifty men killed and wounded.”

By Gettysburg, Dawes was a Lt. Colonel, leading the 6th Wisconsin in the absence of Colonel Edward Bragg, who was convalescing in Washington after being kicked in the foot by a horse. Here, he’d lead the regiment in the famed railroad cut charge, escaping unharmed while leading the 6th in capturing the entire 2nd Mississippi Regiment.

On July fourth, the day after the third day of Gettysburg, Dawes wrote to his fiance’, “The Sixth hast lost so far one hundred and sixty men. Since the first day we have lost only six. O, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men. Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them.”

Examining this last statement, there are typically three officers per company: a Captain, a 1st Lt, and a 2nd Lt. There are ten companies. 30 officers, ranked Captain or lower, plus the Colonel, Lt. Colonel, Major, and the Adjutant of each regiment. Since there were four regiments in the brigade, we’ll multiply the numbers by four and come up with 136.

Out of 136 field officers, the Iron Brigade had only four that were fit for duty on July 4, 1863. It would be most interesting to see what was going on in Lt. Colonel Dawes mind while he was drinking his coffee and writing his report in the rain on that day… which happened to be his 25th birthday, by the way.

Whether or not Dawes believed that he was being spared for higher purpose or not is not chronicled, but he certainly gave Providence credit for his survival. He’d lead the regiment again and again and again, at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.

To his wife, June 8, 1864, he wrote: “We came down here today, and are located on the left flank of our army, and we are at last out from under the fire of the enemy… it is impossible for one who has not undergone it, to fully understand the depression of spirits caused by such long, continued, and bloody fighting and work. Colonel (Edward) Bragg said yesterday: ‘Of all I have gone through, I cannot now write an intelligent account. I can only tell my wife that I am alive and well. I am too stupid for any use.'”

Dawes’ three year enlistment came up soon after. He would indeed go on to big things… including a stint in congress representing the 15th Ohio District.

In August of 1865 Dawes’ son, Charles G Dawes was born. He’d serve as Vice-President of the United States during the Coolidge administration


Source: 

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus Dawes, 1890

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Lt. Frank A Haskell (1828-1864), Adjutant, 6th Wisconsin Infantry.

Haskell, a Vermonter by birth, was a Dartmouth graduate who was practicing law and drilling a militia unit in Madison, Wisconsin when the Civil War began. Quick to offer his services to his country, Haskell was commissioned as 1st Lt and served as the 6th Wisconsin’s Adjutant for nearly a year. Known for his attention to detail and commitment to excellence, the 6th owed much of its discipline to the efforts of Haskell.

In April of 1862, Haskell’s experience and professional bearing caught the attention of the Brigade’s new commander, General John Gibbon, who made Haskell his new aide-de-camp. Haskell would apply his trade in fine fashion, serving at the General’s side through the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Maryland Campaign, when the Iron Brigade would earn its metallic nickname.

Having followed Gibbon when the General was promoted to command of the 2nd Division of I Corp, Haskell served in that capacity until Gibbon received a wound in the Fredericksburg Campaign, after which Gibbon was replaced. Gibbon would recover. This time, Haskell followed Gibbon when he was named commander of the 2nd Division, II Corp.

Gibbon’s division would see action at Chancellorsville, and then again at Gettysburg, where they would bear the brunt of the attack that would become known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Haskell, after Gibbon went down with another wound, admirably led the men of the division against the assault.

A few weeks after the Battle, Haskell wrote the account of what he had experienced at Gettysburg to his brother Harrison in Portage, Wisconsin. Haskell’s account would be published in 1898 as “The Battle of Gettysburg.” This account was hailed by Bruce Catton as “One of the genuine classics of Civil War literature.”

In November of 1863, Haskell would accompany Gibbon back to the Gettysburg Battlefield for the dedication of the National Cemetery. Both men would bear witness to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

On February 9th, 1864, Frank Haskell was appointed Colonel of the 36th Wisconsin Infantry. On June 3rd, after the commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps, Colonel Henry Boyd McKeen was killed, Haskell took command of the brigade. A few minutes later, he would be killed by a bullet through the temple as he led the brigade in the final assault at Cold Harbor, Virginia. He was 35 years old.

Upon receiving news of Haskell’s death, General Gibbon lamented, “My God! I have lost my best friend, and one of the best soldiers in the Army of the Potomac has fallen!” Gibbon wrote to his wife that he had planned on promoting Haskell to a field command after the battle.

Frank Haskell is buried in Silver Lake Cemetery in Portage, Wisconsin.

SOURCES:

Photo is public domain.

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus Dawes, 1890

“The Iron Brigade,” by Alan Nolan, 1961

THE IRON BRIGADE WAITED MORE THAN A YEAR TO PROVE ITS METTLE

 

The Iron Brigade is widely renowned for its discipline, performance, valor, and for having suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.  Few major battles in the eastern theater of the war can be mentioned without the inclusion of the brigade, which was initially composed of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin regiments and the 19th Indiana Regiment.  The 24th Michigan Regiment was added in December of 1862, after the brigade had suffered heavy losses in the campaigns of that season.

But fame, glory, and even the occurrence of battle were a long time coming for the brigade, as one competent officer can surely attest.

Dawes

Rufus R Dawes, Captain

Rufus Dawes was a 22-year-old graduate of Marietta College when Fort Sumter was fired upon.  A native of Marietta, Ohio, Dawes found himself in Juneau County, Wisconsin at the time of Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers.

“With the proclamation of the President came the announcement that the quota of the State of Wisconsin would only be one small infantry regiment of seven hundred and eighty men.  It seemed quite evident that only by prompt action I might secure what was then termed the ‘glorious privilege’ of aiding in crushing the rebellion.”

Dawes went about the business of forming a company in Mauston, Wisconsin, drawing up a pledge and gathering volunteers on the 25th of April, 1861.

“Forty-eight signers were secured as the result of my first day’s work.”

On April 30th, one hundred men met in Mauston’s Langworthy’s Hall to organize the company.  Dawes was elected “Captain,” which was no surprise, and the company adopted the name “The Lemonweir Minute men,” after a local sleepy river, and spirits were high and the excitement level through the roof.

In early May, Dawes wrote his sister in Ohio:  “I have been so wholly engrossed with my work for the last week or I should have responded sooner to your question: ‘Are you going?’  If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit, I am.  I am Captain of as good, and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star-spangled banner.”

The question of being mustered into the active service now filled the minds of all, and by the second week of May, having received no word from the government as to such, Dawes sent an influential friend to Madison to advocate on behalf of the company.

Shortly, word came that the company was to be mustered into the seventh regiment, but no solid date for such an event to occur was given.

“The first six regiments are now accepted by the General Government,” Dawes wrote in a letter dated June 10th, “and I expect to be ordered into quarters.”

Dawes waited patiently, yet anxiously.  In the meantime, his recruits went about their daily lives, scattered throughout the whole of Juneau County, causing concern in the captain.

To his sister, Dawes wrote, “…I fear they will order us into camp without giving me time to collect my men or recruit for vacancies.”

To ensure he’d have the eighty-three men required to report, Dawes initiated another recruitment drive.

“RALLY!

BOYS, RALLY!  RALLY!

ENLISTMENTS WANTED FOR THE LEMONWEIR MINUTE MEN!

HEADQUARTERS L. M. M., MAUSTON, JUNE 17th, 1861

On June 29th, a very welcome telegram came from W.H. Watson, Military Secretary of the State of Wisconsin:

“Captain R. R. Dawes:  You can board your company at expense of the State at not more than two dollars and a half a week, until further orders.  It is possible that you may be wanted for the sixth regiment.”

More than two months after organizing at Langworthy’s Hall, the company, in compliance with orders, took the cars for Madison and joined the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  They were able to do so because several companies that had registered higher on the list had failed to report.  The Lemonweir Minute Men were mustered in as Company K of the Sixth Wisconsin, to serve for three years or the duration of the war, should it end sooner.

Even now, as the green troops of McDowell’s army moved south to confront the green troops of Beauregard’s, near a creek known as “Bull Run,” the Wisconsin boys were more than a year away from seeing their first real battlefield.

Instead, they settled into camp at Washington City, where they’d be placed under General Irvin McDowell, who had just recently been trounced at Bull Run.  There, they’d be charged with protecting the capital and spend their time becoming soldiers of a real sort, drilling, drilling, drilling.

The men were becoming restless and agitated.  Some feared they’d never see combat.  When McClellan led the Army of the Potomac out of Washington in the spring of 1862, in what would become known as the “Peninsular Campaign,” the Wisconsin boys were left behind, protecting Washington.

“Somebody’s got it in their skull that we western men are ta sit out the whole scrap,” Private Hugh Talty had said.  “If I ever find out who that is, I’ma gonna show the bugger up close that we kin fight better ‘an most, be gob!”

The army had been reorganized, and the Sixth Wisconsin had been reassigned to a brigade with the Second Wisconsin, who had been at Bull Run, as well as the Seventh Wisconsin and 19th Indiana, both of which had yet to see combat.  This grouping would remain for the duration of the war.

While McClellan and his army floundered to the south, the brigade, under General John Gibbon, marched, drilled, trained, and molded themselves into one of the finest brigades in all of the world.  On the parade ground, others took notice.

From General Irvin McDowell:  “Many times I have shown them to officers of distinction, as specimens of American Volunteer Soldiers, and asked them if they had ever anywhere seen even among the picked soldiers of royal and imperial guards, a more splendid body of men, and I have never had an affirmative answer.”

McClellan’s campaign would prove to be a disaster, ending with the Army of the Potomac scampering back toward Washington and the General himself being replaced by General John Pope.

Now, Gibbon’s brigade got their chance.

At Brawner’s Farm, in the 2nd Bull Run Campaign, the brigade would stand toe to toe with the Stonewall Brigade, slugging it out with the veterans for more than an hour.  At the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, they’d hold their ground as the rest of the army collapsed around them.  The brigade would help cover the retreat of Pope’s battered army.

A few weeks later, they’d earn their famous moniker while ascending the battlefield at South Mountain, moving General McClellan enough to exclaim “they must be made of iron.”

They’d see action at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, and Five Forks.

Dawes finest moment would come on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, where his Sixth Regiment would charge alone and unsupported on a Rebel line that was hidden in an unfinished railroad cut.  He and his men would capture nearly the entire 2nd Mississippi Regiment, including its officers and colors.  The victory came at a very high price, however.

“The Sixth has lost so far one hundred and sixty men,” Dawes wrote to his wife on July 4th, his 25th birthday.  “Since the first day we have lost only six.  Oh, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men.  Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them…”

In every engagement, the Iron Brigade would hold their own, proving that their nickname was more than a label. They earned their name through the expenditure of flesh and blood, and in giving the enemy worse than they received.  Outnumbered in nearly every engagement, the brigade seldom, if ever, turned their backs to the enemy.

Dawes, having turned down a promotion to Colonel in late July of 1864, mustered out of the service on August 10 of that year.  He would settle into civilian life with his wife, Mary, in Marietta, Ohio, operating a lumber business.  Dawes would be promoted to a rank of Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865 by President Johnson.  The Senate would confirm the promotion on April 10, 1866.  In August of that year Mary would give birth to a son, Charles, who would later serve as Vice-President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge.  Together, Rufus and Mary would raise six children.

Dawes would serve on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, Marietta College, from 1871 until his death.  He also served for a time as a trustee for the Ohio Institute for the Deaf and Dumb.  He spent one term in congress, elected as a Republican in 1881.  He lost his bid for reelection due to his resistance to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Rufus R. Dawes died at his home in Marietta, Ohio on August 1, 1899.  He was 61.  He is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta.

SOURCES:

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus R. Dawes, 1890

“In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg,” by Lance J. Herdegen, 1990

“The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory,” by Lance J. Herdegen, 2012

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.  It is public domain.

Private James P “Mickey” Sullivan, CO K, 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, 1862

What makes a man who has lost several toes and half a foot in combat re-enlist?

The price of thread, for one thing.

Mickey found himself and his comrades under a heavy fire in the rocky terrain at South Mountain on September 14th, 1862. “When the crash came, either a bullet slit in pieces against the stone or a fragment of the boulder hit me on the sore jaw, causing exquisite pain, and I was undetermined whether to run away or swear.” A few moments later, “there was another crashing volley,” causing, ” a stinging, burning sensation in my right foot followed by the most excruciating pain.”

Mickey would lose much of the foot, being mustered out and sent home to Mauston, Wisconsin. He couldn’t sit still for long. Boredom… boredom….

“There was no company, only discharged invalids that had killed half the rebel army, and men growling about the draft, the army, the scarcity of money. The women were growling because they had to pay fifty cents a yard for calico and twenty-five cents for a spool of thread.”

By the end of February, Mickey was back with Company K at Belle Plain, Virginia, having re-enlisted and traveled by railroad and boat to rejoin the company. This was the 2nd of three times he’d sign up with the 6th.

After being shot in the shoulder in the charge on the railroad cut at Gettysburg, Mickey would convalesce long enough to meet his future wife, fall in love, and then sign up again. He’d return to Wisconsin after mustering out in 1865 with his new wife, Angeline, and an infant son.

Sources:

“The Men Stood Like Iron, by Lance Herdegen, 1997

“An Irishman in the Iron Brigade; The Civil War Memoirs of James P Sullivan, Sergt., Company K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers,” by William J. K. Beaudot and Lance J Herdegen, 1993

“The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory,” by Lance Herdegen, 2012

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Henry Matrau, CO G, 6th Wisconsin Regiment

“We had an awful hot time at Gettysburg but it does seem that I was the luckiest fellow in existence. There were men falling in every direction around me & the best-hearted fellow in our company was killed right close to me, so near that he nearly fell on me.”

Matrau’s description is in line with most other accounts of the 1st day of Gettysburg. Nearly all literate survivors of the battle would write to someone about their experience, but few would go into gory detail.

Only a veteran can describe the real horror of combat, and every veteran needs only one shot fired at them to understand that civilians will never understand, never empathize, never see how war really is. This effect was multiplied in the days before mass media, when a propaganda song was all that was needed to convince a town that war brought all those involved in it absolute glory.

How does one sit down and compose a letter, and themselves, after spending nearly an entire day killing the enemy and watching those around them die or become maimed?

“My dear Mother,” wrote Major Rufus R Dawes to his mother on September 5, 1862. “I have tried in several ways to send you word of my safety. We have had a terrible ordeal. We were in battle or skirmish almost every day from August 21st to 31st. Our brigade has lost eight hundred men; our regiment, one hundred and twenty-five. The country knows how nobly our men have borne themselves. I have been at my post in every battle…”

Dawes, even in mentioning the losses in terms of numbers, keeps the horror of war masked behind cold figures and the gallantry of the regiment.

Many, including Dawes, would credit a higher power with their survival. Some would skim right over the details of battles, especially after having seen a lot of it, begging excuse for the omission. After the battle of Weldon Railroad, Matrau would write his parents, “… I take this opportunity to tell you that we had another battle, or, rather, a series of battles, scince (sic) I wrote to you and that your unworthy son, by the watchful guidance of Providence, is still left alive and well. I will not go into a regular detailed acct of the battles for I hav’nt (sic) the room or time…”

Although it is possible, probable even, that Matrau hadn’t the room or time, it is even more likely that he hadn’t the words to describe what he’d seen and done that day.

Sources:

Letters Home, Henry Matrau of the Iron Brigade, Edited by Marcia Reid-Green;

Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, Rufus R Dawes

 “Until the Sanitary Commission came along we were in a horrible condition.  I do not care to describe my own.

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Sgt. William H Harries, CO B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

Harries, a LaCrosse Wisconsin native, was 19 years old when the Iron Brigade went into the Cornfield at Antietam. Shot in the left breast, Harries removed himself from the action, finding medical attention in the rear of the battle line. He would survive the wound and return to the 2nd Wisconsin, mustering out as a 1st Lieutenant when his enlistment expired in June of 1864. He’d serve the rest of the war as a Captain in the Veterans Reserve Corp.

34 years later, Harries would chronicle his experience at Antietam in “In the Ranks at Antietam,” the text of which appears below.  The text and spelling remain as written.

“General Hooker crossed Antietam Creek on the afternoon of the 16th by the bridge in front of Keedyville and the ford below it. The Iron Brigade crossed at the ford. After crossing we turned sharply to the left, feeling our way until the skirmishers became actively engaged, when we halted after dark and bivouacked on the ridge, Doubleday’s Division resting with its right upon the turnpike. While getting into position we could hear the commands given by the officers of the enemy’s troops. The combatants slept on their arms that night, well knowing that the morning would bring bloody work. I slept very little…I felt certain that there would be desperate fighting in the morning and that many of my comrades would fail to answer at roll call when the morning sun had again sunk behind the western hills. I realized that I might be among the killed…When we woke up in the morning of the 17th, Doubleday’s Division faced south from the Poffenberger farm and beheld a beautiful landscape with gently rolling fields and woods, of which the prominent point appeared to be the little Dunkard church with its brick walls covered with a coating of whitewash, situated on the west side of the Hagerstown turnpike, and backed by the foliage of the west woods.
The cornfield that was soon to be deluged in the blood of blue and gray was on the east side of the turnpike and between Doubleday’s troops and the Dunkard church….
The brigade moved out just as day was dawning in close column by division, the Sixth Wisconsin leading, followed by the Second Wisconsin, Seventh Wisconsin, and Nineteenth Indiana. I was in the first division of the Second Wisconsin. We were hungry, ragged, and dirty. Before starting we pulled up our belts a notch or two. As we had very little to eat the day before and no breakfast at all, this was an easy thing to do. The brigade marched towards the D. R. Miller house and after proceeding about ten rods and before we were deployed, a battery of the enemy opened fire on us. When I saw the battery moving into place, I thought it belonged to our own forces, The first and second shells it threw, exploded above us, but the third, which I think was a percussion shell, struck and exploded in the rear rank of the last division of the Sixth Wisconsin, killing two men and wounding eleven, one of whom had both arms taken off. As I passed to one side to avoid stepping on the killed, the voice of Colonel Bragg of the Sixth Wisconsin rang out, “Steady on the right, Sixth.” We then were deployed in line of battle, marching steadily forward, and when we reached the corn field we halted and began firing at the enemy. We had not been firing very long when a Minie bullet struck me in the left breast. I at once dropped my gun and started for the rear, going back as far as the Poffenberger farm, where I lay down at the side of the house on this farm which was opposite to that from which the enemy’s shots were coming. In a short time the ground about me was covered in wounded. Here the surgeon of our regiment slapped a handful of lint on the wound, cut the shirt and wrapped me with a roll of bandage…
Sometime in the afternoon I was taken from the stone house to a small frame house still farther in the rear, where all the wounded of my company were collected together. I was placed on a blanked with Sergeant Uriel P. Olin, who died some time during the night. He was left by my side until morning when he was taken out and buried…
On the 18th we were taken to a barn in Keedysville, every other place in the village that could be used being already occupied, and from there in a few weeks we were taken to Frederick.
The barn that I was in at Keedysville contained about sixty wounded, all but two or three belonging to the Iron Brigade. Until the Sanitary Commission came along we were in a horrible condition. I do not care to describe my own; suffice to say that I felt like a new creature when I got on a clean shirt.”

SOURCES:

Glimpses of the Nation’s Struggle: Papers Read Before the Minnesota Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1892-1897, Fourth Series.

www.ironbrigader.com

Company B, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry (LaCrosse Light Guard) Facebook page

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Major Jerome A Watrous, formerly of CO E, 6th Wisconsin Infantry

Watrous, a Conklin, NY native, was living in Wisconsin and serving on the editorial staff of the Appleton Crescent at the outbreak of the Civil War. Enlisting in Company E of the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry, he’d rise to the rank of Ordnance Sergeant, gaining fame and notoriety for his actions in the infamous “Mule Train Charge” on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. (See
http://unionreenactor.com/Gburg%20assets/MuleTrainHerdegen.pdf for an excellent article by Lance J Herdegen on this topic)

Serving for a short time as Adjutant General of the Iron Brigade, Watrous would muster out of service on May 15, 1865 with a brevet rank of Captain.

Following the war, Watrous would enjoy a long career as a newspaper man, writing and editing for publications like The Black River Falls Jackson County Banner and The Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph.

A Republican, Watrous would serve for a time in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Later, he’d serve as Wisconsin State Pension Agent from 1887 to 1889, and from 1890 to 1892 he held the position of Milwaukee Collector of Customs.

Called to duty again when war with Spain broke out, Watrous was commissioned as a Major in the regular U.S. Army in 1898, serving as paymaster of the Department of the Columbia. In December, 1901, Watrous was made chief paymaster of the Department of the Southern Philippines, serving in this capacity until September of 1904, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and retired from active service.

He returned to Milwaukee, spending the majority of his time writing historical articles and organizing/advocating for Grand Army of the Republic events and reunions, especially those pertaining to his beloved Iron Brigade. He died on June 5, 1922 in Whitewater, Wisconsin at the age of 81.

SOURCES:

Wisconsin Historical Society

www.Unionreenactor.com

“Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 1,” edited by Jerome
Watrous and published by the Western Historical Society at Madison, 1909

Photo appears as the front piece of “Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 1,” 1909. It is now public domain.