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1865 February 11: News from the 5th Wisconsin Infantry, Rejoicing at the Taking of Fort Fisher, Opinions on the New Call for 300,000 More Men

February 13, 2015

For once the predictions are not so far off.  This letter from Brant C. Hammond, chaplain of the 5th Wisconsin Infantry, comes from the February 11, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.  The 5th Wisconsin contained many men from Menomonie in Dunn County.


The Campaign in Virginia.
The Armies of the Potomac and the James. 


From the Fifth Regiment. 

Rejoicing for Victory—The Beginning of the
End—The New Call—Advantage of Old
Regiments—Officers Brevetted for Merit—The
Sixth and Seventh—Men needed for the latter. 

Correspondence of the State Journal.

Near Petersburg, Va., Jan. 20th, 1865. }

Messrs Editors :  As I write there is universal joy and exultation at the victory of our brave boys and glorious tars that gives us Ft. Fisher, and thus seals the way of entrance of blockade runners to Wilmington.  Thus has Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] closed the back door of Richmond, and thus will he compel Lee [Robert E. Lee] to submit, to fight or run, and that very soon.  In accordance with oft-repeated assertions of the Richmond press, while exulting at Butler’s [Ambrose E. Butler] shameful withdrawal and our supposed failure, no more severe blow than this could be given to the Confederacy.  Why then may we not rejoice and take courage ?  It must be that the end is at hand ;  for it is not in human nature to contend where there is no prospect of success.  And where is their prospect of ultimate triumph ?  Surely in the estimation of the most violent and unbelieving traitors, they have vanished as the mist of the morning.  A few more blows, or rather the one tremendous blow which Grant has reserved for Lee may be necessary ;  that blow cannot be long delayed, and already may our hearts swell in anticipation of final victory.  The writer expects on next Fourth of July to rejoice over peace and the restoration of national unity.


Is not generally regarded here as a necessity, although gladly received “God bless Abraham Lincoln for this !” is the ejaculation of every true soldier ;  not that he believes the number in the field are sufficient for the task of crushing the Confederacy ;  not because we are not even now superior in numbers ;  but because it is at last a coming up by our governmental authorities to what has ever been our true policy—to crush the rebellion by simple might of military power.  Too long did we face them man for man ;  too long have we seemed to stand upon etiquette, in meeting them man for man.  But at last have we been aroused to the determination that, having a wickedly inhuman foe, engaged in a cause so base that were all the devils in hell to put their heads together for a million of ages, they could not fittingly describe it, and therefore being privileged to dictate all the terms, we will use this privilege and grind them to powder, if need be, by simple preponderance of numbers.  If this had been the motto and the spirit of the government at first, who can doubt but that many husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, whose bones enrich this soil of traitors, would be enjoying the sweets of their own firesides, the great end for which they have fallen having been accomplished ?  We are glad, beyond expression, that such is its motto and spirit now ;  and we trust that no trivial or weakened spirit will seize our home friends and keep them from honoring this draft upon their courage and patriotism.  Come, friends ! you who by any possibility can do so, with eager avidity serve thus the government of your fathers.  You may  thus leave to your loved ones that richest of all legaciesthe memory of your having been a Union defender.  The only remaining chance is now presented.  Grasp it without delay, or in mingled shame and sadness very soon it will be yours to lament that you bore no part in this greatest struggle of the ages.

The forming of new regiments may be a necessity, and yet the universal spirit of the army is averse to this.  No officer or man would commend it.  Look at it as we may, viewing it in its every aspect, to us it seems the better way to fill up the maximum organizations honored and tried by time.  It is better for the common soldiers, for they are then placed under those who understand their wants, and know how to provide for them in a way unknown to officers of inexperience.  Many of the things the men may want, will be undiscovered by a new officer, or if discovered, unprovided, because of failing to know just what course to pursue in obtaining these, while by an old officer, if true to his trust, they will be obtained.  It is surely better for the service ;  for there is a saving of the expense connected with the organization of a new regiment and bringing more officers into the service than are really needed ;  beside there is the loss of time, a greater period being needed to attain drill and discipline when all are new men, than when the new men are surounded [sic] by those accustomed to all the duties of a soldier.  One, who by actual observation has seen the need of perfect training as an antecedent to efficiency cannot but feel that the three months men are a useless expense to the government, except it be in some very special emergency.—It takes all of this length of time for a body of new men to become, even under good drill masters, good soldiers.

But if we are to have new regiments let us have them officered as far as possible by men fresh from the field, men whose minds and hearts are all absorbed in the great cause.  Judging from military appointments announced in your valuable journal, we trust our Governor is thus honoring those who have perilled all on many a hard fought field for country and right.

The rank of Brevet Lt. Col. and Brevet Major has been given respectively to Major Kempf¹ and Capt. Butterfield² of this regiment for bravery and meritorious conduct in the field.  Most worthily are these honors bestowed.  I may be permitted to say that Capt. Butterfield has been highly recommended by his commanding officers in the Regiment, Division and Corps for a place of greater prominence in some one of our new regiments.  He is no doubt fully elegible [sic] to any position to which he may be appointed, and it will afford his old comrades in-arms, those who know him best, great joy to see him thus honored by our State authorities.


which I have just visited, are camped side by side, being in the same brigade, some distance in the rear of our main line.  The sixth occupies a camp which we are told is pronounced by Maj. Gen. Meade [George C. Meade] to be the most beautiful and attractive of any in the army of the Potomac.  The camp is neatly and regularly laid out, the huts of uniform make and same size, and all are enclosed by a fence of pine and cedar boughs interwoven with arches at the end of each street, underneath which is the letter of the company occupying the street.  In the rear of their parade ground is another arch of large size, in front and upon a platform made of the same material very skillfully arranged ;  in the centre of the arch is the seal of our state, with the veritable Badger and motto “Forward.”

The health of both regiments is said to be good.  The aggregate number of the Sixth is over eight hundred, that of the Seventh about a third of this amount.  This latter regiment should be reimbursed wen the drafted men are forwarded, to fill up these battle-scarred organizations.

Chap. 5th Wis. Vols.

1.  Charles W. Kempf, from Milwaukee, had been captain of Company A of the original 5th Wisconsin Infantry before being promoted to major of the reorganized 5th Wisconsin Infantry on September 5, 1864. Kempf’s brevet lieutenant colonelcy was in the U.S. Volunteers and was dated back to September 19, 1864.
2.  Miles Butterfield was from Waukesha and had been captain of the original Company F before becoming captain of Company C in the reorganized 5th Wisconsin. He was brevetted major of U.S. Volunteers as of September 9, 1864, and brevetted lieutenant colonel as of April 6, 1865.

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