Unit History – 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

2 03 2022

Second Infantry . – Cols., S. Park Coon, Edgar O’Conner, Lucius Fairchild, John Mansfield; Lieut.-Cols., Henry W. Peck, Duncan McDonald, Thomas S. Allen, George H. Stevens, William L. Parsons; Maj., George H. Otis. This regiment was organized in May, 1861, and was mustered in June 11, with a numerical strength of 1,051. It left the state on June20 and was the first regiment of three years men to appear in Washington. It was brigaded with three New York regiments under command of Col. W. T. Sherman, Col. Coon being detached for staff duty. The regiment participated in the first battle of Bull Run, losing 30 killed, 125 wounded and 65 missing. It was transferred from Col. Sherman’s command to that of Brig. Gen. Rufus King, commanding a brigade consisting of the 5th and 6th Wis. and 19th Ind. infantry. Co. K was detached permanently and organized as heavy artillery, a new Co. K being mustered. Later Gen. King was succeeded by Col. Lysander Cutler and from Dec., 1861, the history of the regiment is merged with that of the famous “Iron Brigade” until it was detached in May, 1864, its loss being the greatest in proportion to numbers of any regiment engaged in the Civil war. The “Iron Brigade” consisted of the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wis., 19th Ind. and 24th Mich. At Bull Run the end regiment bore the brunt of a determined onset by “Stonewall” Jackson’s entire division on the Warrenton pike until the brigade could be moved into position and the enemy repulsed. The brigade held the line of battle until the army had passed on the road to Centerville, and was in a later engagement on the Warrenton and Sudley roads. It stormed the enemy’s position at South mountain, the 2nd leading on the left of the road and the 6th and 7th on the right, routing the enemy: At Antietam the brigade dislodged the enemy after a severe conflict. At Fredericksburg it held an exposed position, subject to heavy artillery fire. At Gettysburg the regiment led the marching column and was the first to meet the enemy, (Heth’s division), advancing upon it and receiving a volley that cut down over 30 per cent of the rank and file. Dashing upon the enemy’s center, the 2nd held it in check until the brigade came into line, when the enemy was routed. At Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Gaines’ mill, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and in numerous skirmishes, the “Iron Brigade” added new luster to the Union army, the 2nd Wis. bearing well its part. The regiment became so reduced in numbers that it was permanently detached from the brigade May 11, 1864, and employed as provost guard of the 4th division, 5th army corps until June 11, when it was sent home, the last company being mustered out July 2, 1864. The members who joined subsequent to its original organization were organized into an independent battalion of two companies June 11, 1864, under command of Capt. Dennis B. Dailey. The battalion was assigned to provost duty; took part in the advance and assault on Petersburg and the skirmishes at Yellow house; was transferred to the 1st brigade, 3d division for guard and picket duty; fought at Hatcher’s run; and on Nov. 30 was transferred as Cos. G and H to the 6th Wis., with which it remained until mustered out. To its original number was added by recruiting, drafting and reënlistment 215, making a total of 1,266. The death loss was 261; missing, 6; desertions, 51; transferred, 134; discharged, 466; leaving 348 to be mustered out.

From The Union Army, Vol. 4, pp. 44-45.

2nd Wisconsin Infantry roster

Pvt. Jonathan Coward*, Co. D, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

2 03 2022


In your issue of July 27 you published an account of those missing from the Thirty-eighth regiment of New York – Second regiment of Scott Life Guards. Among the names appears that of my brother, Jonathan Coward. Although a coward by name I hope he will prove himself not one by nature. He is a fine large fellow, and will not, as his school teacher used to say, be afraid to go up to a cannon’s mouth. Mother received a letter from him written July 22, saying “I’m safe. All’s well.”

Washington City, July 22, 1861

Dear Mother – I suppose you are very anxious to hear from me since the battle of Bull run. I am so tired I can scarcely write. I have not had one minute’s sleep in forty-eight hours, and very little to eat. In fact, I have had no time to think of eating, or doing anything else but march, fight and run. You will know all about this fight long before you get this hurriedly written letter. I can hardly see to write. I’m “played out,” as they say. You should see our troops! They look near dead. I am quite a hero around Washington, no matter where I go, people stop me to ask about the fight. I could have been drunk a dozen times if I drank liquor, for the men who talk to me ask me to have a drink, but I say no, sire. And the girls look so sweetly on me as I pass them. One dear old lady made me go home with her and have breakfast. I have walked since I first started, night before last, over sixty miles without any rest. We ran into the battle, and (?) left ran away! But don’t blame the boys for not (?) the day. We will make then sing the next time we meet them. Now you can’t imagine what a sight it is to look over a battle field. It seems like a dream to me to think what I have gone through the last two days. I was in the thickest of the fight; the balls flew around me as thick as if it was raining bullets; two of them had the pleasure to strike me, but I had the pleasure to know that they were spent – that is, they came so far they had lost their power – although, I thought certainly I was shot. One of them hit me on the back, which knocked me down, but after awhile I commenced to feel around me, and came to the conclusion I was not dead yet. So I jumped up and commenced to fire away again with a vengeance among the enemy. How many I shot I don’t know. I am sure I killed one, for I picked him out from the rest and led him have it. I fired altogether twenty rounds. I am writing this at the Clarendon Hotel. I do not know what they are going to do with us. I still have good health. Your loving son,


I had the presumption to think that probably you would give this a place in your valuable paper, and therefore wrote it on one side of the paper only.

126 New Canal street, New York City.

The New York Herald, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Jonathan Coward mustered out as Jonathan Howard, per below roster.

38th New York Infantry roster

Jonathan Coward/Howard at Ancestry

Jonathan Coward at Fold3

Jonathan Howard at Fold 3

Jonathan Coward at FindAGrave