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1863 November 28: The First Wisconsin—Something to be Proud of

November 30, 2013

The following article on the 1st Wisconsin Infantry comes from the November 28, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press.  Company F, under Captain M. M. Samuels, was the Saint Croix Rifles.

The First Wisconsin—What if has Done and Suffered.

A letter from the First Wisconsin, in the Army of the Cumberland, says :

This army has advanced three hundred and fifty miles into the enemys’ [sic] country, conquering as it advanced, and holding every important position gained, in spite of the determined resistance of the foe.  We used the spade and pickaxe at Muldrow’s Hill [Kentucky], on the Ohio, as we are doing now on the south bank of the Tennessee, within rifle range of the State of Georgia, Mumfordville [sic], Bowling Green, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Tulahoma [sic], Chattanooga.  Flanked by Bragg [Braxton Bragg] a year ago, we fought him at Perryville [aka Chaplin Hills], and here the more dazzling record of our regiment begins.  Forty-nine per cent of those engaged in our regiment fell there in line of battle—every second man—while the rest held the position and repulsed the enemy, who left their dead for loyal Kentuckians afterwards to bury.  Wisconsin’s First Infantry saved Indiana’s Fourth Battery, every piece of it.—When the horses were nearly all killed, the Infantry of Wisconsin moved the guns from position to position, until the foe had retired, and then drew them by hand with them.  Indiana’s artillerists presented a splendid stand of colors, and Wisconsin those noble deeds of a half destroyed regiment.  A stand of colors from the soldiers of another State to their fellows in the field is something to be proud of.¹

For the glorious deeds done at Chaplin Hills our Colonel was appointed Brigadier General.²  But the story of the regiment would be too long ;  let us pass to the last great battle, Chickamauga.  We were among the first who passed through Stevenson’s Gap, in the Lookout range, and while feeling the enemy, as it is termed, this regiment lost the only officer killed.  On the morning of the 19th of September we were among the first engaged.  We lost in less than twenty minutes time, sixty-five per cent. of the balance of the regiment.  On Sunday, the 30th, we were among the first to feel the rebel fire, and to resist all the forenoon the rebel advance, and until disasters befell other portions of our army, when a new line must have been formed, and then with our glorious old hero, the Corps Commander, Gen. Thomas [George H. Thomas], we took a new position and held it thirty-six hours, and then came with him and the rear guard into Chattanooga.  Official records make thirty-six officers killed in Gen. Thomas’ Corps.  Wisconsin’s smallest regiment in the army lost five, one-seventh of the whole.  We suffered all this, and yet we shout victory, whatever army contractors and gold speculators may cry.  This army lost 13,000 and gained a position.  Bragg gained part of our dead, some of our wounded, and lost 25,000 men, fourteen Generals, and what was considered a great loss still, the stronghold north of the Tennessee river.  If Bragg had the magnanimity of the old Roman, he would exclaim, “One more such victory and I am ruined.”³

To close, this regiment has had no dismissals for cowardice or otherwise disloyal acts, no court martials for any misdemeanors.

1.  This is confirmed in the official account of the regiment, published in E. B. Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin, (Chicago: 1866), chapter 11, pages 428-30. Casualties at the Battle of Perryville are listed at the bottom of 429 and top of 430. (UWRF Archives E 537 .Q56 1866; available digitally on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website).
2.  John C. Starkweather was appointed brigadier general on July 17, 1863.
3.  Pyrrhus after the Battle of Asculum. A victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat is known as a Pyrrhic victory.

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