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1863 October 31: The “Fiftieth” Wisconsin

November 1, 2013

The following article is from the October 31, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.  Little did they know at this time that there will eventually be a 50th Wisconsin Infantry!

“The Fiftieth Wisconsin”

The La Crosse Democrat propounds to Mat. Carpenter [Matthew H. Carpenter], Charley Robinson,¹ Judge McArthur,² J. E. Arnold,³ and others, the following interrogatories :  “Are you War Democrats ?  If so, to what regiment do you belong!”

To this Charley Robinson replies :  “We belong to the Fiftieth Wisconsin.—This is the regiment organized to look out for the enemy at home, while our brave boys are giving them battle abroad.  We claim for it fully as much honor as they are reaping, for a hidden foe is harder to fight than an open one.”

Good for the Fiftieth Wisconsin !  It is a new regiment but a gallant one ;  it is composed of men who are enlisted for life, and it pushes its victories all through the State.  The groans of the wounded are frightful ;  more like howls than honest groans ;  indicating as the victims are put, Hors de Combat,4 not only a sense of present pain, but a consciousness that for them “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins but a certain, fearful looking for of Judgement and fiery indignation.”5—No regiment of Wis. has hit more, or more dangerous foes to the public good, than the Fiftieth.  The third of November will dot States with numberless new-made graves ;  graves over which no tender prayers will be uttered, and for whose occupants no pious masses will be performed.  And as time rolls on, and when the graves of open enemies, watered and purified with tears of generous pity and forgiveness, shall grow green, and be point[ed] to by the historian as the resting places of men whose bravery would have “deserved a better cause,” the graves to which the Fiftieth Regiment will consign its victims will be loaded with over increasing execrations.  To the valiant soldier who valiantly falls, even in a bad cause, religion offers its consolations.  But for the politicians who die in the odors of the Ryan address, there is no hereafter.—Wisconsin [newspaper].

1.  Charles D. Robinson (1822-1886) was a Wisconsin newspaperman (Green Bay Advocate) and a Democratic politician. He “was Wisconsin secretary of state (Jan. 1852-Jan. 1854), and in 1869 was an unsuccessful candidate for governor. During the Civil War, he accepted a citizens commission from the President as captain and assistant-quarter master, U.S. Volunteers, serving in this capacity from Sept., 1861, until his resignation, Apr. 21, 1864.” For more see Robinson’s entry in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
2.  Arthur Mcarthur (1815-1896) was a Wisconsin lawyer, judge, politician, and author. “A Democrat, he was city attorney (1851), and in 1855 was elected lieutenant governor as the running mate of William A. Barstow. Barstow’s election was contested by the Republican candidate, Coles Bashford (q.v.), who charged that fraud had been committed in the balloting. Governor Barstow resigned, and on Mar., 21, 1856, McArthur became governor. The state supreme court upheld Bashford as the duly elected governor, and although McArthur had at first decided to hold the governor’s office regardless of the court’s decision, he reconsidered and relinquished the office four days after assuming it. He resumed his duties as lieutenant governor, and officially remained in this position until Jan., 1858. In 1857 he was elected judge of the 2nd Wisconsin circuit, and served in this capacity for two terms (1858-1869). During the Civil War, McArthur was known as a “War Democrat,” and subsequently joined the Republican party.” For more see Mcarthur’s entry in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
3.  Jonathan Earle Arnold (1814-1869) was one of the leading lawyers in Wisconsin and a Democratic politician. “Originally a Whig, he served in the territorial council in 1840 and 1841. He joined the Democratic party after the collapse of the Whigs, and was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1860.” For more see Arnold’s entry in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
4.  Hors du combat is a French term meaning that the soldiers were unable to participate in the action, incapable of performing their military function, often because they were wounded or killed.
5.  From the Bible, the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, verses 26-27.

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