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1864 February 20: Frank A. Haskell Named Colonel of the 36th Wisconsin Infantry

February 25, 2014

The following history of Frank Haskell’s service in the Civil War comes from the February 20, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Regiment.

By an order from the Adjutant General’s office, to be found elsewhere, it will be seen that the organization of a new regiment in this state has been authorized, the field officers and Second Lieutenants, and recruiting commissions issued.

The field officers are as follows:

Frank Aretas Haskell

Frank Aretas Haskell¹

Colonel—FRANK A. HASKELL¹ of Madison.
Lieutenant Colonel—JOHN A. SAVAGE, Jr.,² of Milwaukee.
Major—HARVEY M. BROWN,³ of Columbus.

The promotion of Lieut. HASKELL to the Colonelcy of this regiment will afford great pleasure to his many friends in this section, and is an act of tardy justice to one of the most brave and accomplished officers who have gone from the State.  He is a gentleman of liberal education being a graduate of Dartmouth College, of fine personal appearance, of entirely correct habits and in all respects calculated to win and retain the confidence of those placed under his command.

Colonel HASKELL entered the service as Adjutant of the 6th Wisconsin, to which place he was appointed June 20th, 1861, and much of the neatness and good discipline for which this regiment has been distinguished is attributable to his influence during its organization.  When Gen. GIBBON [John Gibbon] took command of the Iron Brigade, Lieut. HASKELL was promoted to Aid [sic: Aide] on his staff, where he has since remained, serving temporarily on the staffs of Generals SUMNER [Edwin V. Sumner], WARREN [Gouverneur K. Warren] and others.  The fact that he was selected for this position and has since been retained in it by Gen. GIBBON, who is one of the best officers in the service and strictly a military man, is high evidence of his ability and acquirements4 in the profession of arms.  He has been through all the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac since the Iron Brigade was organized, having taken part in reconnoissances [sic] to Orange Court House and Stephensburg, skirmishes at Rappahannock Station and Sulphur Springs, and the battles  of Gainsville, the second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam—where he had a horse shot under him—Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  At the last named battle, on the 3d of July, after Gen. GIBBON was wounded, he led the division in an assault in which 2,300 prisoners and 17 battle-flags were captured.  He had two horses shot under him and was slightly wounded in the thigh by a bullet.  On all occasions he has acquitted himself so as to receive the highest encomiums of both officers and men.  It affords us great pleasure to be able to give the following extracts from official reports:

General Harrow,5 commanding the first brigade of Gibbon’s Division says:
“I mean not to disparage any other by saying that General Gibbon’s Aid [sic]-de-Camp, Lieut. Haskell, greatly distinguished himself by his constant exertion in the most exposed places.”

Col. Hall, a regular officer, commanding the 3d brigade, says:
“I cannot omit speaking in the highest terms of the magnificent conduct of Lieut. Haskell of Gen. Gibbon’s staff in bringing forward regiments, and in nerving the troops to the work by word and fearless example.”

Major General Gibbon says:
“I desire to call particular attention to the manner in which several of the subordinate reports mention the services of my gallant Aid [sic], F. A. Haskell of the 6th Wisconsin, and to add my testimony of his valuable services.  This young officer has been through many battles and distinguished himself alike in all by his conspicuous coolness and bravery ;  and in this one was slightly wounded, but refused to quit the field.  It has always been a source of regret to me that our military system offers no plan for rewarding his merit and services as they deserve.  Such men as he should be promoted on the field, though I regret to say they are frequently overlooked by the State authorities, and incompetent persons, not soldiers, placef over their heads.”

Major General Hancock [Winfield S. Hancock], commanding the corps, says:
“I desire particularly to refer to the services of a gallant young officer, 1st Lieut. F. A. Haskell, A. D. C. to Brig. Gen’l Gibbon, who at a critical period of the battle, when the contending forces were but fifty yards apart, believing that an example was necessary, and ready to sacrifice his life, rode between the contending lines, with the view of giving encouragement to ours and leading it forward, he being at the moment the only mounted officer in a similar position.  He was slightly wounded and his horse was shot in several places.”

Gen. GIBBON also says, in a letter to the Governor dated the 2d inst.: “Lieut. F. A. HASKELL, of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers, has served for nearly two years on my staff.  He has shown great bravery and capacity as an officer, and  I am anxious to see him promoted.  *  *  *  I presume I need hardly say that I have such faith in Wisconsin troops, and such a regard for their welfare, that I would not recommend an undeserving officer to command them.”

Major Gen. MEADE [George G. Meade], commanding the Army of the Potomac, endorses the above recommendation in the following language:
“Lieut. HASKELL’s services are personally known to me, and I consider him as justly entitled to promotion for his gallantry and good conduct at Fredericksburg and subsequently at Gettysburg.”

Colonel HASKELL is now, and has been for some months, at Philadelphia, where Gen. GIBBON, temporarily disabled for active service, is in command of a rendezvous of drafted men.  His numerous friends will rejoice to greet him at home and congratulate him on his promotion.

Lieut. Colonel SAVAGE is widely known through the State as one of its most talented and patriotic young men.  He was appointed Adjutant of the 28th Regiment, August 30th, 1862, and was compelled to resign on account of ill health in August, 1863, having seen a year’s service in the field.  He has been highly commended as a gallant and skillful officer.

Major BROWN was appointed First Lieutenant of company I, 31st Regiment, December 27th, 1862, and has been in the service ever since.  He is highly recommended as a fine young officer, and particularly well qualified for the position to which he is appointed.

The second lieutenants of the regiment are taken from the ranks of regiments in the field and promoted for good conduct.

With field officers all young men, and men of approved military experience, and at least one  veteran line officer in each company, this regiment, when it takes the field, can hardly fail to win a good name, and its organization affords an excellent opportunity to those ambitious of securing commissions by raising companies, while its ranks will give just the place for men who hesitate owing to their ignorance in military drill and tactics about taking their stand by the side of experienced veterans.  Those enlisting in this regiment can be assured that they will be wisely led, and well cared for, and we doubt not its ranks will be speedily filled.

1.  Frank Aretas Haskell (1828-1864) grew up in Vermont and came to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1854. He practiced law in Madison, and also became captain of a local militia group known as the Governor’s Guards. Haskell was appointed adjutant of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry in August 1861, with the rank of 1st lieutenant. In March 1862, his colonel temporarily took command of the Iron Brigade and brought Haskell with him as aide-de-camp. Two months later, Brig. Gen. John Gibbon retained Haskell when he took over the Iron Brigade. When Gibbon was promoted to lead a division in the spring of 1863, Haskell again accompanied him. Haskell was close to the Union’s top commanders as the Iron Brigade fought at Gainesville, South Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. On February 9, 1864, Haskell was appointed colonel of the 36th Wisconsin Infantry and he travelled home to Wisconsin to take command. It joined Gibbon’s army in Virginia on May 19 and fought for the first time in the Battle of Cold Harbor (May 31-June 12, 1864), where he was killed shortly after taking command. For more on Haskell, see the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
Haskell wrote a famous account of “The Battle of Gettysburg” that was published posthumously, in 1898. It is available digitally on the Project Gutenberg website. The image used above is from here.
2.  John A. Savage, Jr., from Milwaukee, was the lieutenant colonel of the 36th Wisconsin Infantry. He will become the colonel of the 36th when Haskell is killed in action at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. Savage, however, will be wounded shortly thereafter, at Petersburg, on June 18, 1864, and will die on July 4.
3.  Harvey M. Brown, from Columbus, was the 1st lieutenant of Company I, 31st Wisconsin Infantry until named the major of the 36th Wisconsin. He will become the lieutenant colonel when Haskell is killed and the colonel when Savage dies.
4.  Attainment of an ability or skill.
5.  William Harrow (1822-1872) was a lawyer in Indiana before the Civil War and became a controversial Union general. Harrow led the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps, during the Gettysburg Campaign. He served as acting division commander while Brig. Gen. John Gibbon led the corps late in the day.  Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock at that time was in charge of the left flank of the army. Harrow’s men helped repel a part of Pickett’s Charge. With the wounding of Gibbon, Harrow took command of the 2nd Division. Questions persisted, however, about Harrow’s ability to work with his superiors and his abilities to lead and inspire soldiers, as well as about his sobriety. In his official report on Gettysburg, John Gibbon praised his other two division commanders, but did not mention Harrow as an officers deserving recognition. Soon afterward, Harrow was relieved of command and never again served in the Army of the Potomac. Harrow was reassigned to the Western Theater, where he participated in the Atlanta Campaign. After a reorganization in September 1864, Harrow was left without an assignment and formally resigned from the army in April 1865.

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