Lt. Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On the Battle

26 10 2022

THE WISCONSIN SECOND IN THE BATTLE

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A FULL AND GRAPHIC ACCOUNT

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(Correspondence of the State Journal)

Arlington Heights, Va.,
Near Washington, July 15, 1861.

I have just received your paper of the 22d, and do not feel justified in allowing the grossly false accounts of the battle of Bull’s Run, given in your telegraphic dispatches, to go uncontradicted. I wish to give a sufficient explanation of the battle to let our friends know that it was not cowardice of the men that caused the defeat.

We left camp near this place, on Tuesday afternoon, and proceeded by way of Vienna and Germantown to Centreville, the rebels retreating before us. About one mile beyond Centreville we encamped in an open field, without tents; and while in this vicinity we had the battle of Thursday, in which a few were killed, and of which your readers have doubtless heard. On Saturday we received orders to march at 6 P. M., but near evening this order was changed to march at 2:30 A. M., on Sunday. The next morning, at 2 o’clock, we got up, prepared in light marching order, formed a column, and advanced towards Bull’s Run, directly west, marching left in front. Our column was under Maj. Gen. Tyler. To the north of us advanced a column under Gen. Hunter; to the south of us advanced a column under Col. Richardson, and another under Gen. Schenck, all moving westerly, to attack the rebels at different points. We proceeded about three miles, when our column filed to the north, into the woods, made a turn in the woods, and came back to the road, so that our left rested on the east and west road, and our line extended north. The other regiments were formed at different points, covering batteries. – Carlisle’s battery was placed in front of us, and the 32 pound rifled cannon, of which we had one, instead of eight, as stated in your report, was stationed in the road. These movements were all made very quietly. At precisely 6 o’clock the performance was opened by a shot from the 32 pounder. It was instantly answered by a gun from the north-west, probably from Hunter. Again all was quiet as a Sabbath morning in a country village. By dressing our line forward, we advanced by the front through the woods, near to the open fields, where we found our batteries had been placed ready for action. Here we halted and sat down in line. The regiment was behind a rise of ground and about fifteen rods from our battery. We shortly heard from Richardson’s guns at the south of us, near where the battle of Thursday had been fought. Very soon our guns opened fire across the open field in front of us. The field here is about one hundred rods wide, skirted on the west by thick bushes and farther on and up the next hills by heavy woods. The firing continued from this position for about one or two hours. A few shots were returned but they fell short. Many of our officers went up near the guns to see the sport which we watched with much interest. After the fire had continued perhaps an hour we saw the line of Hunter’s column moving rapidly forward on the road north of us, and bending to the south, evidently coming in to the rear of the rebels. He was discovered by them shortly after he was by us, and they at once began to change the direction of their forces to meet him. His column soon emerged from the woods on to a large elevated plain, where they encountered the rebel army in considerable force. This plain is about one and one half mile from the position occupied by us and across Bull’s Run. The fighting that ensued there was of the sharpest kind. In a few minutes that field was covered by a dense cloud of smoke, through which we could see the blaze of Hunter’s cannon as he advanced and drove the rebels into the woods to the south west of the plain. They soon appeared to be reinforced and rushed from the woods and renewed the fight. But Hunter was too much for them still and again drove them back. This much of the fighting had been in plain sight of our position. Still the heavy cannonading continued at the south of us, near the battle ground of Thursday. Hunter’s condition becoming critical by the continued reinforcements of the enemy, our brigade was ordered across Bull’s Run to reinforce Hunter. We flanked to the right and moved rapidly off to his assistance. We passed round over a high ridge of land to the north west of our former position and before descending the hill to cross the run, we halted and relieved the men of their blankets and then proceeded at double quick time down the hill, then about one half mile to the run. Here we were halted and filed on the right into line of battle along the north-east bank of the Run. Sherman’s Battery came down, but being unable to cross the Run there, returned up the hill. When they returned our Brigade flanked to the right and filed across the Run and up the rugged bank on the opposite side and hastened on to the high ground. When we reached the upper plain several regiments were already there and the rebels had retreated. On the north-west side of this plain is timber from which Hunter emerged. On the south-west side is the timber in which the rebels first retreated. This high plain contains several large farms. To the east the ground descends about one hundred and sixty rods. The high ridge extends around to the south in a circle forming a basin of about one mile in diameter with an outlet to the north-east toward Bull Run. We now occupied the high ground on the west side of the basin. The rebels occupied the east side, where they had a strong battery or fort that had already opened a fire upon us of cannon balls and shells. Our batteries of flying artillery now began to come up the hill. Several regiments of infantry were now formed fronting the enemy’s battery, and we began to move down the hill to the east. Some regiments were in advance of us and some following. The plain in the rear of us showed signs of hard fighting. Many dead and wounded men were lying on the ground, although most of them had been carried into the edge of the woods. This battery of the rebels with several others near it, was masked by thick woods, and from our position we could see nothing of it except the smoke from their guns. As we moved down the hill the balls and shells plowed up the ground all around us, frequently throwing dirt all over the men. The bottom of the ravine is not smooth, but the water from the high land around had cut it into numerous smaller ravines. When we had got to the foot of the western slope of the basin, we were ordered to halt and lie down. Here we laid for some minutes. The most of our line by lying close to the ground were a foot or two below the range of their sot, which flew over us thick and fast. While lying here, some things occurred worthy of note.

Our 32 pounder had been brought across the run and planted at our left on the high ground, and opened a sharp fire on the enemy’s battery on the hill. Most of our other batteries had been brought across and planted on the high ground in our rear, when all (six batteries, I think) commenced fire on the same battery of the rebels. This firing continued from one to two hours with perfect fury. While lying here I was a regiment coming down the hill behind us in column of companies. A cannon ball aimed at the column hit their color bearer, cut his head off, and broke the flag staff. The colors were caught by one of the color guard before it struck the ground, was raised to its place. The companies closed in, and in less than a minute the column was moving on again at quick time as if nothing had happened.

During this cannonading one battery after another of ours was silenced by the guns of the rebels. Still the enemy’s fire was as fierce and effective as ever. The air seemed to be full of balls and bursting shells. During the firing, we got up, flanked to the left, and filed over the hill side down further into the ravine, and immediately to the bottom of the hill on which the enemy’s large battery was located. Before we left our first position, the fire from our batteries had nearly ceased, and while lying there (which was by order of the General) we saw the New York Fire Zouaves, Ellsworth’s regiment, charge on the hill. They were repulsed and driven back after a terrible resistance, by a large body of infantry and cavalry. The fight between the Zouaves and the rebels became so hot that all lines and forms were broken up, and they were entirely overpowered by numbers; their retreat was of course a confused mass. We afterwards learned that this was the point at which the rebels had just been reinforced by twenty thousand fresh troops under Johnston. When the rebel cavalry charged on the Zouaves, they turned on the rebels and swept their men and horses like chaff. By this time all our cannon except one or two were silenced, and the enemy’s battery appeared to work as briskly as at first. As the Zouaves began to fall back, the battery opened on them such a fire of grape shot and bullets as we have never seen before. Under this fire it was absolutely impossible for men to form and rally, but before they had got fairly to retreating down the hill, another regiment of infantry was ordered to charge in the same place. Our cannon was now silent, demolished, ruined. We were ordered forward. We had come from our first position to the foot of the last hill, during the charge of the Zouaves and two or three other regiments. A narrow road is cut into the hill on the south side leading up to near the battery. On the North side of the road, next to the battery the bank is some three to five feet high. On this side of the road the water had cut a ditch one or two feet deep. Here the road, and especially the ditch was crowded full of dead and wounded men. By getting close to the bank they were partially protected from the enemy’s fire, and here the poor fellows had crowded in, and crawled one upon another, filling the ditch in some places three or four deep. I will not sicken your readers by a description of this road. By this time the ground on the lower side of the road was covered with men from different regiments, who had charged up to that battery and been overpowered by the superior numbers, and fallen back. – They were already in such a confused mass that they could not be reorganized without much trouble, even if they had not been exposed to a fire, much less could they do it when the air was literally full of grape shot and rifle bullets. Under these circumstances the 2d Wisconsin Regiment were moved forward along this road and halted. The smoke prevented us from seeing the length of our line, and the noise from hearing commands, even if any were given. By a sort of mutual consent we rushed over the dead men, climbed up the bank, over the fence, and up the hill to the rebels’ guns. Here the rebels displayed a Union flag, when a part of our officers cried out, “They are friends, don’t fire.” By means of this delusion they gained an advantage over us, when down went the Union flag, and up went the emblem of treason. This piratical warfare is a favorite game of theirs. We had rushed up too near to be much effected by cannon, when our men commenced the wickedest kind of a fire ever known. The woods in front of us was full of men firing on us. The fort now plainly seen was full of men, and its embankments lined with the fire of musketry aimed at us. Under this fire they stood some minutes returning it steadily but with terrible effect, when they fell back three or four rods toward the road, firing all the time, here they stopped retreating and rallying again rushed back to the rebels and poured three or four rounds into them. On their side ten guns were fired to our one. The bullets whistled all kinds of tunes, but mostly in quick time. As we fell back a little toward the road again, the New York 69th, about which there has been so much gas, fired a full volley into us from the rear. Our men after standing such a fire from the rebels, and then a rear fire from a set of fools from our own side, retreated to the road, and there got mixed with other regiments, and as was an inevitable consequence retreated down the hill in confusion. The 69th after firing one or two rounds broke and ran in perfect confusion. As we went down the hill they opened a terrible cross fire from the woods on our left, at the same time the fort in our rear kept up a constant fire of grape shot and shell after the retreating regiments. The regiments had been sent up one at a time, not near enough to render each other any assistance, and still so near as to be in each others way when they were forced back. As the men retreated there were no officers of high rank to stop them and rally them again. No reserve had been prepared to cover our retreat in case of defeat. We went into the battle with not more than thirty thousand to the outside. The rebels had full sixty thousand in the morning and were largely reinforced during the day. Their artillery was better and heavier than ours. They were at home, acquainted with the country, and had been fortifying these hills for months. The result is before the world. The retreat was bad enough, Heaven knows, but I deny positively, that it was through any fault or cowardice of the men. Through the battle Lt. Col. Peck led his regiment as became a soldier. The fault on the field was higher up than the rank of Colonel. But it commenced with certain parties at the North, such as the editors of the New York Tribune, in urging this battle before the army was ready. There is no doubt it was fought, at this time, very much against the wish of Gen. Scott. Northern impatience wanted a battle and they have had it. But let the proper parties father the imp and not charge it upon the men who fought like tigers against every odds and disadvantage. – During the engagement Col. Coon acted as aid to Col. Sherman, (acting Brigadier General.) and did his duty bravely and well. I have made this letter much longer than I had intended. We all hope your next news from us will be more cheering.

N. R.

Wisconsin Daily State Journal, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Nathaniel Rollins at Ancestry.com

Nathaniel Rollins at Fold3

Nathaniel Rollins at FindAGrave

More on Nathaniel Rollins here and here and here.





Image: Lt. Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

26 10 2022
Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (Civil War Voices)
Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Nathaniel Rollins at Ancestry.com

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Nathaniel Rollins at FindAGrave

More on Nathaniel Rollins here and here and here.





Lt. Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

26 10 2022

Extract from a Private Letter from Lt. Rollins of the Second Regiment

Battle Field.
July 18, 1861, 6 P. M.

This forenoon I wrote you a note. – Shortly after I sealed it, a heavy cannonading commenced to the West of us. We waited for a while. At about two P. M. nothing was doing, and I went to the grove after some water. As I returned, the line was forming. Several regiments formed as quick as possible, and pushed forward at double quick time to the scene of action. A sharp musketry fire had been kept up for some time. As we neared the place, we met a number of ambulances and other conveyances bringing wounded and dead men from the field. We pushed on still farther at double quick time, and filed to the right into the line of battle, across the road. All this was in thick woods. Cannon balls whistled through the air, and cut through the trees in all directions. One struck the ground about forty feet ahead of our line and bounded over us about two or three feet above our heads, and directly over mine. We were then ordered to sit down. One ball struck the La Crosse company, and wounded three or four men very badly. – We stayed here about one and a half hours. Rifled cannon balls were flying all the time; most of them too high, but some covering us with dirt. We were then ordered to retreat, as we could be of no use where we were. The rebels are in a ravine, with cannon, where we cannot reach them without very great exposure. Since we have halted by the roadside, several regiments have passed – First and Second Ohio, and some others – towards the field again.

8 o’clock P. M. – When I had got so far in the above, the bugle sounded “to arms,” and we fell in, and started again towards the enemy. We are now encamped for the night in a field, where we are to sleep again by our arms in the open air. The New York Twelfth was cut up this afternoon very badly. We shall most likely try them again in the morning. – Through so much of the battle, Col. COON has acted in the capacity of aid to Gen. SHERMAN, our Brigadier, and behaved very bravely. Lt. Col. PECK appears as cool as on parade.

N. R.

The (WI) State Journal, 7/24/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Nathaniel Rollins at Ancestry.com

Nathaniel Rollins at Fold3

Nathaniel Rollins at FindAGrave

More on Nathaniel Rollins here and here and here.





Image: Pvt. Harrison R. McKenzie, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

29 09 2022
Harrison R. McKenzie, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (Courtesy of Marc and Beth Storch Collection)

Harrison R. McKenzie at Ancestry

Harrison R. McKenzie at Fold3

Harrison R. McKenzie at FindAGrave

Shows in Roster and above records as McKenzie, but may also be McKinzay





Image: Capt. Wilson Colwell, Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

11 08 2022
Wilson Colwell, Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (Courtesy Marc Storch)
Daughter Nannie Colwell (1859-1952) and Vacant Chair (Courtesy Marc Storch)

Wilson Colwell at Ancestry

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More on these photos by Marc Storch





Pvt. William Boardman Reed, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Eve of Battle

20 03 2022

Letter from 2d Regiment

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Camp Near Centreville, Va.
July 19, 1861.

Dear Parents: – You will have heard before receiving this that we have had a battle, and knowing that you would feel concerned about my safety, I have thought best to write to you, though I think it is doubtful whether this letter can be sent to Washington very soon. Yesterday about noon some of our advanced regiments were drawn into and ambuscade where the rebels had a masked battery and several thousand men. This was in some very heavy timber where the underbrush was very thick and they had belled trees before it and so fortified their position that it was impossible to see either their guns or men. When the firing commenced our main army, some fifteen or twenty thousand men, were lying in camp about two miles back. We heard the cannonading distinctly, and occasionally the volleys of musketry I continued over an hour when our brigade (Col Sherman’s) was ordered to the assistance of those engaged. This brigade consists of the New York 13th, 69th, 79th, and our regiment. We formed into a line in a few minutes and proceeded towards the scene of action, going most of the way on a run. As we neared the place the cannon balls whistled over our heads and struck the woods all around us. We met the cavalry returning, saying that there was no chance for them to do anything in the thick woods. A little further along we met the ambulances bringing back the dead and wounded. One officer was lying wounded by the roadside, and as we passed him, his attendant begged us to give him a little water. One of the men stepped out and gave him some from his canteen. I tell you it was a dreadful scene for new volunteers to look upon, but we marched steadily forward as coolly as you could expect of us when cannon balls are falling all around us. One man whom we met riding a horse was wounded in the foot, others we could see lying and bleeding in the ambulances. When we got within a short distance of the scene of action we turned to the right into the woods and formed into line. There was not room in the woods for but a few to fight at a time, and we understood that we were to take the place of those who had been fighting and who were much fatigued. We waited then in the ranks for some time while cannon balls were whizzing over our heads knocking the limbs off trees and striking the ground both before and behind us. One of the La Crosse Company which is on the left of our regiment was struck near the knee by a cannon shot; his leg was afterwards amputated at the hip, and this morning at 4 o’clock he died. Two others of that company were wounded, one in the foot and the other in the face. The cannon ball came so near the eyes of the latter that he has since become blind. The woods were so thick that we could see but a few rods towards the rebel battery. Men were continually coming back past our line who had been fighting. We asked them how it was going; they replied that some of our regiments were badly cut up, that they came right upon the rebel battery before they knew where they were, and that the brush was so thick that they could keep no lines, and consequently they became scattered while the rebel batteries kept playing upon them, killing many of them. After we had been there exposed to their fire without being able to return it for nearly half an hour we retreated.

You will get much more reliable accounts of the battle from the papers than I can give you, for we have no means of hearing the exact number of men engaged or all the circumstances attending it, for the men are not supposed to know all these things. We retreated to our present camp, about 2 ½ miles from the battle field, last evening. We were reinforced last night by about fifteen thousand men, and some heavy artillery, and report says that Gen. Scott is here with them. I have not heard how many of our men were killed. A negro who came into camp to-day says that “dead rebels were lying about there as hail” and that the cars were running all night carrying them back to Manassas, which place is said to be about six miles from here. We hear that the rebels have about forty thousand men around here but this is probably much exaggerated. We shall probably attack their position again this afternoon or to-morrow, if we do we are bound to take it.

There are many exciting incidents which I could tell you about this battle if I had the time and space. Those who were in the battle say that when any of our men were wounded and fell near the battery the savage fiends leaped over the breast-works and stabbed them; this has so exasperated our men that some of them swear that they will never give the rebels any quarter.

The enemy has retreated before us all the way until we got here, and we should certainly have driven them from their batteries yesterday if we could have brought even on-fourth of our men to bear on them. When the firing first commenced one or two batteries of flying artillery started from the camp to their assistance, but after they had gone but a short distance they were ordered back, as there was no chance to use any more cannon than they had.

You never saw men in such high spirits as we were when we heard the firing. Every one inquired why they did not march us over there, so we could have a hand in. It was the first cannonading that most of us had ever heard and we could hardly continue ourselves; we were so anxious to see and fight the rebels. When we heard the volleys of small arms Jeff. Dillon remarked that it sounded like a lot of “darkies dancing on an oak floor.”

When we started for the fight we were carrying our blankets, haversacks and canteens, besides our belt and cartridge boxes and forty rounds of cartridges and heavy woolen coats. When we got to the top of a hill we started down on a “double quick” with loud yells and hurrahs; the road was crowded with dust and the air was sultry hot so that some of the weaker ones began to give out. Before we had gone far the boys commenced throwing off their blankets and haversacks and even their canteens until the road was fairly filled with them. Two or three of our company, one of whom was John Cahill, gave out entirely and sat down by the roadside. I carried all of my things until the balls began to fly around us when an order was given to throw off the blankets and haversacks.

I then threw mine off, but before I had got them fairly off the order was countermanded and I put them on again. Our position in the woods was a most trying one even for old soldiers, but we all stood it like majors. When the great six pound balls come near our heads some of our boys rather squatted to dodge them, and Col. Peck, who was riding coolly along before the line seeing them dodging the balls laughed at them and asked if they were afraid of a few cannon balls. Capt. McKee too, stood at the head of our company but a few feet from me apparently as calm and collected as he would be pleading law in the old court-house.

Col. Coon, our former Colonel, is one of the aids to Col. Sherman, the commander of our brigade; he came down our line once in a while with orders to Col. Peck; he showed more courage than we supposed him capable of, for he rode along in the most unconcerned manner possible, asking as he passed, how we felt; we replied that we were ”all right” and asked him how he felt; he answered that he was perfectly cool and hoped he would remain so. I have just heard that our loss was 25 killed and 40 wounded, the rebel loss must have been more than this, for our artillery kept up all most an incessant fire upon their battery for about three hours. And many of our riflemen assert that they concealed themselves behind trees close to their works and picked off many of their officers and men. It is said General Beauregard was there and directed the battle. I don’t know how true it is.

It is now about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and we have been lying here all day. We are sure that our Generals are at work. It is said that a part of our army had gone around towards Manassas to cut of the enemies retreat. We have now got some heavy columbiads and rifled cannon and arrangement for firing hot-shot and shell, so that without exposing our men to much danger we can soon make their position too hot for them. I expect this letter will last you a long time, for it is written so poorly that you cannot read it in a week, but you ought not to expect it to be very elegant for the paper has been crumple in my pocket for days, and then I have to write on a it of board, or cracker box or any thing else I can get. Our Col. and Major, are both writing letters, and I notice they do not have any more conveniences than I do; the Col. is sitting on the ground writing on a board placed across his knees; the Major is partly reclining upon the ground writing on a low box. I intend, if I can get it finished in time, to send this letter to Washington by J. F. Potter, member of Congress from Wis., who is in camp to-day; he is around with the bowie knife that he made to fight Pryor, with several pistols; for, as you may suppose, it is not very safe travelling the road from here to Washington without being well armed.

We have taken quite a number of prisoners along the road; three of the rebel cavalry deserted and came to us; they say that they were pressed into the rebel service. One of them has been furnished with a musket and has gone into our ranks. At one of the houses we passed I saw two rebel soldiers who were left behind sick; they did not seem to be near as intelligent as many of the slaves.

We have slept out upon the ground for three nights and have lived almost entirely upon hard bread or crackers, and though the nights here are very chilly and the dew very heavy, we stand it very well. It is a grand sight to see our army over the hills and along the road; it might be called a river of bayonets flowing along glistening in the sun, seeming to one who is in the middle of it, to have neither beginning nor end. And then when we encamped for the night we are divided according to the brigades, each regiment being formed in a line by itself, the cavalry generally occupying one field, the artillery another, and as far as the eye can reach in every direction the fields are fill of men and horses, with the covered U. S. wagons scattered over the whole. It is indeed a grand view, and especially to us, who never saw a company of soldiers before leaving home. Our chief trouble on the march is want of water. Evey time we halt a few men are allowed to go from each company with a lot of canteens for water; they immediately break for the nearest well or spring, and on getting there never fail to find it surrounded by twenty or thirty soldiers, each one of whom tries to crowd himself as near the water as possible. If it is a spring, in less than five minutes it is converted into a regular mud puddle and the men ladle up the dirty with water an eagerness which can be only caused by thirst. If it is a well, one of the soldiers winds up a pailful, but before the bucket gets to the top a score of cups ae plunged into it, and the bucket is quickly drained. I have not suffered very much from thirst, for by standing my ground and gradually working my way into the crowd I have generally succeeded in getting a drink, though I was seldom fortunate enough to fill my canteen.

July 20 – It is said that Gen. Scott condemns most severely the action of Gen. Tyler in so needlessly exposing his men in the battle day before yesterday. Last night our company was detailed as part of the picked guard, and consequently I got but little sleep. We heard firing in the direction of our advance at intervals during the whole night. I have not heard what it was but presume that our flanks were pushing forward and driving in the enemy’s pickets. I have never seen our company in better spirits than they are now and in fact the whole army is composed of as jolly a lot of men as could be got together. Gen. Tyler and staff came riding along our line of ”gun stacks,” and as he passed where several of us were writing he remarked to one on his staff, “what a difference you see between this and the 69th (Irish) Regiment; these men are all writing letters.” He then asked us if we were writing home; we replied that we were; “tell them,” said he, “we shall have some good news for them before long.”

I want you to write to me oftener; I have received but one letter from you since leaving Madison; direct to Washington, the same as before. You will no doubt hear all kinds of reports about my being killed, &c., enough to keep you in a worry all the time if you believe them, but just consider them all false until you hear from me.

Your son,
Wm. Boardman Reed.

Grant County (Lancaster WI) Herald, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William Boardman Reed at Ancestry

William Boardman Reed at Fold3

William Boardman Reed at FindAGrave

William Boardman Reed auction page

William Boardman Reed at Civil War Voices





Pvt. Edmund K. McCord, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Preparations for the Campaign

4 03 2022

Letter from Second Regiment.

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Arlington Heights,
July 12, 1861.

Friend Cover: – The coast is now clear; all’s well, and I must write you. We are all in good spirits to-day, as we have had a refreshing shower. It has been very warm for 3 or 4 days; in fact, too warm to drill. The prospect of a forward march, with a day or two, “enlivens all.” We have orders from headquarters to be ready to sling our accoutrements at a moment’s warning; thus you will hear soon that a rebels nest is broken up at Fairfax. It may be well for me to remark that we have been strutting about for a day or two with our summer uniform; it is light and durable and is an addition to our comfort one hundred per cent. It appears that Uncle Sam has taken some notice of us, as he has placed General McDowell over our Brigade, and is making ready to pay us up in gold, (not depreciated bills worth 50 or 60 cents on the dollar,) and too will soon give us the U. S. uniform. The uniform first received from Wisconsin is of no use to us now or will not be at the words “forward march,” for it is pronounced by Gen. Scott himself as a facsimile uniform of the Confederate States Army.

We are within 12 miles of Fairfax, where it is reported 4,000 rebels are fortified; yet some of our scouts are somewhat disbelieving. We are between Prof. Lowe’s Balloons, which is a grand sight, and whish we think represents the American Eagle to perfection, which he has a bird’s eye view of the enemy.

The invalids of the regiment were examined yesterday with a view to send home such as we were not constitutionally able to stand the trip. Four of our company were examined and pronounced sound. We want no exaggerations, such as we have received from home about us. Since we started no one has been killed, no one mortally wounded, and not a single fight, not even a fist fight; we are peaceable here. Doubtless when we move we will be one Regiment among 10 as an advance guard, and should we meet of force of 40,000 remember our backing. Our good Captain understands his place as well as we could wish, and thus our company moves off with even (?) with any of rest. Col. Peck is spoken of by the whole Regiment with praise; indeed! we are all proud that we can have so gallant a man as our leader. Hoping that all my friends will consider themselves indebted to me in Grant, wishing all to write, address, Company C, Second Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers, Washington, D. C., care of J. D. Ruggles, Quarter Master.

Yours truly,
E. K*. McCord

Grant County (Lancaster, WI) Herald, 7/24/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* McCord shows in the roster with middle initial K. He shows in records as Edward K., Edmund K., Edwin K., and Edmund H. His (likely) tombstone reads Edwin Kimball McCord.

2nd Wisconsin Infantry roster

McCord at Ancestry

McCord at Fold3

McCord at FindAGrave





Image: Pvt. William Boardman Reed, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

3 03 2022
William Boardman Reed (Source)

William Boardman Reed at Ancestry

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William Boardman Reed auction page

William Boardman Reed at Civil War Voices





Pvt. William Boardman Reed, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Preparations for the Campaign

3 03 2022

Letter from a Member of the Grant County Grays.

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We are permitted to publish the following letter from W. B. Reed, of Capt. McKee’s Company:

CAMP PECK, near Arlington Heights,
Fairfax County, Va., July 14, 1861.

Dear Friends: – This is Sunday evening and I have just returned from dress parade, taken off my accoutrements and coat and placed my gun in the corner of the tent, with my belt and cartridge box hung over the muzzle, right where I can lay my hands upon them at any hour of the night. Our parade always come off every evening in the week, and since we have been here we have had our regular battallion and other drills upon the Sabbath about the same as other days. Last evening orders were published at parade which indicate that we are to march toward Manassas in a day or two at the farthest. The orders were relative to our baggage and rations; we are to carry with us our blankets, which are rolled into long, close rolls and sling over our shoulders. Our knapsacks, which must not weigh more than ten lbs., are to be either sent to Alexandria or left here with our tents with a guard of one hundred men. The cooks must be ready to cook three day’s rations whenever the order is given. In fact, this whole army is like a train of cars with the passengers all seated, with full steam up in the engine, the machinery oiled and the whole ready to thunder forward at a slight movement by the engineer. Our engineer is Gen. Winfield Scott; he has been laying his plans for months and now it is evident that he is about to strike the blow, and the rebels must either fight with certain defeat staring them in the face or ignominiously run. If they make a determined stand at Manassas, where it is said that they have extensive fortifications and a force of about eighty thousand men, the battle will necessarily be a bloody one. The result of this battle can hardly be questioned, as we have a much superior force, and it will probably be approached from three sides at once with three large armies. * *

A few days ago we saw a balloon over one of the regiments which is three or four miles in advance of us and apparently at the height of about two hundred feet; it remained but a short time, when it again descended to the earth.

Our regiment is unusually healthy now; when we first came here the men were a good deal troubled with dysentery, but no we have become more used to the climate and water and but few are complaining. I think it is very remarkable that our regiment has not lost a man either by disease or in any other manner since I enlisted; I don’t know that any had died before. The young man who was so severely injured near Harrisburg has since recovered and a few days ago rejoined the regiment. My health is excellent; in fact I never felt better in my life. The other Lancaster boys are well, I believe.

I must hurry to finish this as soon as possible for the roll has already been called and I am expecting to hear the drum tap for lights out. Our mail carrier starts for Washington about 6 o’clock in the morning.

Yours,
W. B. Reed

Grant County (Lancaster, WI) Herald, 7/24/1861

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2nd Wisconsin Infantry roster

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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