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1864 March 21: History of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry Up to Now

March 22, 2014

The following article on the 12th Wisconsin Infantry was included in Edwin Levings’ letter posted yesterday.  It comes from the Wisconsin State Journal,—a Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper—dated March 21, 1864, the same date Ed wrote his letter.  The 12th Wisconsin was in Madison, waiting to get paid, before starting their re-enlistment furlough.

THE TWELFTH WISCONSIN VETERANS.

The Arrival of the Regiment.

An Account of their Services.

The veteran regiments from this State, reenlisting for the war, are returning home in rapid succession to enjoy the thirty days furlough given them.  The ceremony of their reception upon their arrival in the State is both a pleasant and profitable one.  These men have been absent for a long time from their families and friends; they have confronted peril and endured hardships in the service of the country; and they have a right to expect a warm and hearty greeting from the State authorities.  We are glad to observe that GOV. LEWIS [James T. Lewis] and his staff are omitting no pains in this behalf, and trust there will be no diminution of their efforts.  As regiment after regiment of these brave men come back, something of the novelty and thrill of feeling with which the spectacle of their bronzed faces and soiled uniforms and tattered battle-flags was first attended may pass away, but the occasion is wholly new to each regiment in its turn.  It is their first return as an organization from the scenes and privations of war to the peace and abundance with which the State continues to be blessed, and it has all the charm and zest for them that belongs to a new and joyful experience.

To-day we have to chronicle the return of the veteran Twelfth Wisconsin.  It arrived here at about 5 o’clock this morning, and numbers between 600 and 700 hundred men.  After a bountiful supper provided at the Railroad Restaurant, by direction of Quartermaster Gen. LUND, who was up all night awaiting their arrival, the regiment marched to quarters at Camp Randall.  Their formal reception by the Governor is postponed till to-morrow.

The following is the roster of the regiment:

Colonel—GEORGE E. BRYANT.
Lt. Colonel—JAS. K. FROUDFIT [sic: Proudfit].
Major—WM. E. STRONG.
Adjutant—LEVI M. BRESSE.
Quartermaster—ANDREW SEXTON.
Surgeon—E. M. ROGERS.
1st Asst. Surgeon—SAM’L L. MARSTON.

Company A Capt. O. T. Maxon 1st Lieut. Chas. Reynolds 2d Lieut. Wallace Kelsey
Company B Capt. Giles Stevens 1st Lieut. Benj. F. Blackman 2d Lieut. Charles G. Higbee
Company C Capt. Francis Wilson 1st Lieut. M. J. Cantwell 2d Lieut. Daniel G. Jones
Company D Capt. J. M. Price 1st Lieut. Wm. J. Morton 2d Lieut. Harlan M. Waller
Company E Capt. John Gillespie 1st Lieut. Lewis T. Linnell 2d Lieut. James H. Thayer
Company F Capt. Geo. C. Norton 1st Lieut. Levi Odell 2d Lieut. David Jones
Company G Capt. W. W. Botkin 1st Lieut. W. P. Langworthy 2d Lieut. Harlan P. Bird
Company H Capt. Carlton B. Wheelock 1st Lieut. Ephraim Blakeslee 2d Lieut. Wm. R. Boughton
Company I Capt. Van S. Bennett 1st Lieut. Francis Hoyt¹ 2d Lieut. Salma Rogers
Company K Capt. Daniel R. Sylvester 1st Lieut. A. N. Chandler 2d Lieut. Geo. D. Clark

The history of the 12th is a little peculiar.  It has been in the service for two years.  During that time it has been almost constantly within the theatre of some of the most stirring events of the war.  Nevertheless, it has suffered less in battle than any of the veteran regiments.  It has shirked no duty. It has done more hard marching, and gone farther into the bowels of the land of Dixie than almost any other Wisconsin regiment, but it has not happened to be engaged in any of the great battles of the war.  Thus it has lost but few men at the hands of the enemy, while, in consequence of the excellent discipline of the men and the care bestowed upon their sanitary condition by its officers, it has suffered less from sickness and the strain of long and fatiguing marches, than any other regiment from this State  Its ranks are still nearly full and for a year past it has been mistaken for a brigade instead of a regiment, when marching through the country.

The 12th was organized at Camp Randall in October 1861.  On the 11th of January following, it left camp en route for Weston, Mo.  It was during the coldest weather of the season.  Unable to cross at Hannibal the regiment in order to reach a point of crossing performed a march of twenty-two miles down the river with the thermometer below zero, and suffered severely.  From Weston it proceeded to Leavenworth, Kansas, on the 15th of February.  On the 1st of March it set out for Fort Scott, and marched 160 miles in six days.  Twenty days later, it was ordered to Lawrence, involving another march of 115 miles.  About this time, JIM LANE [James H. Lane] conceived the idea of an expedition to New Mexico.—About two weeks later, the 12th was ordered with other troops to Fort Riley, and performed another march of 120 miles.  On reaching there, the expedition was abandoned, and 125 miles back to Leavenworth, reaching there the 27th of May, 1862.  Thence they embarked, and went down the river to St. Louis, and from there were sent to Columbus, Ky., reaching that place on the 2d of June.  They were engaged in that vicinity in repairing the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and removed to Humboldt early in July.  There, a part of the regiment was mounted and employed in scouring the adjacent country, and fighting guerrillas until October, when it moved to Bolivar and was attached to the 17th army corps.  After the battle of Corinth, it marched in pursuit of the rebels, making thirty miles in ten hours, and arriving at the Hatchee just too late to participate in the battle.  It joined in the movement of the army South which was frustrated by the surrender of Holly Springs, and in the following February was stationed on the Memphis and Charleston road doing guard duty.  On the 14th of March, 1863, it went to Memphis.  Soon after, Col. BRYANT [George E. Bryant], with the 12th and some other troops, started on the expedition for the Coldwater, co-operating with SMITH [John E. Smith] against the rebels under CHALMERS [James R. Chalmers].  Encountering the enemy at Hernando, a sharp skirmish occurred, in which the rebels were routed with the loss of seven officers and sixty men left prisoners in our hands, besides their killed and wounded, who were carried off.  There was sharp skirmishing the following day with the enemy, who were diverted by this expedition while Gen. GRIERSON [Benjamin H. Grierson] made his famous raid.

The 12th embarked at Memphis on the 11th of May, and joined GRANT’S army [Ulysses S. Grant], arriving at Grand Gulf on the 18th.  Here they were left to garrison and fortify the post until the 9th of June, doing a heavy work meantime, running off the slave population of the vicinity.  They then proceeded to Vicksburg, and served in the trenches until its surrender.  One man was killed and five wounded during the siege.

The next day, it marched with Sherman [William T. Sherman] against Jackson, acting as skirmishers in the engagement of the 12th, but sustaining no loss.  The place was subsequently evacuated by the rebels, and the 12th returned to Vicksburg, proceeding to Natchez on the 15th.  The regiment was then employed in Natchez and vicinity, and more recently about Vicksburg, in guarding the river and hunting guerrillas, until the late expedition of Gen. SHERMAN.  Its experiences in this expedition were detailed by our correspondent “W,” in Saturday’s paper.  The regiment was in the advance, and destroyed the ninetieth mile post on the railroad from Mobile.  In the fight at Jackson it lost three men killed and three wounded.  From this sketch it will be seen that within the last two years the Twelfth has marched on foot nearly, if not quite, two thousand miles, and has fairly earned the titled by which it is known in the army,—“The marching Twelfth.”

The formal reception of the 12th has been postponed until to-morrow.  It will occur in the Park in case the weather is pleasant.—The hour is not fixed, but a salute will be fired upon the arrival of the regiment at the Park.

1.  Francis Hoyt was from Prescott and had originally been second lieutenant in Company A, until his promotion on March 19, 1862. In January of 1865 he will become captain of Company I.

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