Skip to content

1865 February 25: News from the 35th Wisconsin Infantry in Arkansas—Including a Court-Martial and a Suicide

March 1, 2015

The following are two reports from the 35th Wisconsin regiment in the field.  It comes from the February 25, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

THE CAMPAIGN IN VIRGINIA. 

Recent Battles South of Petersburg. 

Affairs in Southwest. 

The New Regime in Arkansas.

IMPORTANT MOVEMENTS OF TROOPS. 

Affairs in Tennessee. 

+++++++++++++++

From the Thirty-Fifth Regiment.

Change in Brigade Commanders—Marching—
Bushwhackers—Suicide—Negro Troops—
Gen. Reynolds a Joker.

Correspondence of the State Journal.

DUVALL’S BLUFF [sic: De Valls Bluff], Ark., }
February 1, 1865. }

Messrs Editors :—Many changes have occurred in the Thirty-firth Wisconsin Regiment since I last wrote.  Col. Wm. McE. Dye¹ has accepted a Majorship in the Regular army, and consequently resigned his rank as Colonel in the Volunteer service, and commander of the 4th Brigade, Reserve Corps, Military Division, West Mississippi, which Brigade the 35th is now in.  This Brigade is composed of the 35th Wisconsin, 20th and 23rd Iowa, 37th Illinois, 161st new York, and 96th Ohio infantry, and a Massachusetts battery, and is commanded by Col. Chas. Black, of the 37th Illinois infantry.  The Reserve Corps is under the command of Brig. Gen. M. K. Lawler, with headquarters at Memphis, Tenn.  The Brigade left here for New Orleans, some days ago, except the 35th, which still remains at this place, and the 161st New York, and 96th Ohio, which are stationed at the mouth of the White River.  The Brigade left Brownsville, Arkansas, on the 30th day of November, and after a two day’s march arrived at this post, a distance of 25 miles eastward.

Duvall’s [sic] Bluff is a small village on the west bank of White River, 180 miles from its mouth, and is a perfect model of thrift and enterprise, and is unquestionably destined to be the leading city in the State ;  from the fact of its being on the line of the Memphis & Little Rock railroad, and has constant communication, all times of the year, by boats from the Lower Mississippi ;  an advantage which is not afforded to the Capital of the State, as the Arkansas River is not navigable one-third of the year, on account of its great width and shallowness.

The Post at this place is commanded by Brig. Gen. Shaler,² and he is having it thoroughly fortified by a heavy line of outer breastworks, and numerous small forts ;  within, in each of which forts will be mounted six heavy guns, some of which have already arrived.  The work on the fortifications is going on every day, and and has been during the entire winter, there having been no weather no cold as to render it uncomfortable to work.  The Thirty-fifth is also doing a heavy picket duty on the west of the village, their line being about a mile in length, and the only point from which an attack is expected, if at all.

The rebels and bushwhackers in the Rackensack country are very demure at present.  During the summer and fall of the year, while their corn and sweet potatoes last, they are all active in prowling about the country, robbing, murdering, and shooting our pickets ;  but when winter sets in, they stack their arms and bring their plunder and produce into our camps and sell them for greenbacks, and with the money buy enough of salt, tea, coffee, clothing, &c., to last them through the coming summer campaign.  One of these bushwhacker will shoot a man on picket one night, and early the next morning will sell a pack of sweet potatoes to the brother of the murdered man.  Thus things have been running for the past six months, until Maj. Gen. Reynolds³ assumed command of the Arkansas Department ;  and the first, among his many praiseworthy sets, was to effectually close the lines and exclude all outsiders and include all within.  Gen. Reynolds is a great joker—though his jokes are rather severe on the rebels, and the derelicts of our own army.  Soon after he assumed command he issued an order that Commissaries should not sell rations to citizens.  In order to ascertain whether his orders were observed or not, he attired himself in the habiliments of a Rackensack, and wended his way to the office of the Commissariat, in Little Rock.  He soon made a bargain with that functionary for a large bill of rations for which he promptly paid over the money, and when the Commissary asked him where he would have the goods sent, the General told him to send them to General Reynolds’ Headquarters!  The officer being much astounded at the idea of sending contraband goods to the General’s headquarters, was relieved from his embarrassment by the General, who also relieved him of a beautiful pair of staff officers’ shoulder straps !  On another occasion he had learned that a wealthy lady living in town wished to go outside the lines.  Thither the General quickly repaired, in citizen’s attire, and informed the lady that he had a “pass” and was going out, and if she desired might accompany him in his carriage.  The offer was gratefully accepted by the lady ;  and in the morning the General appeared at her residence with his carriage.  The lady ordered her servants to place her box of clothing in the carriage, which order was promptly obeyed, and they drove off together.  The General drove up to his headquarters and took the lady and her box in, having a curiosity to know what kind of clothing the lady was in habit of wearing !  The box was opened and found to contain a large number of “caps” (gun-caps), revolvers, and various other articles of such clothing, all of which were respectfully confiscated, and the lady very politely remanded to prison!  By the utility of such jokes, the status ’d armee [sic] in this department is very good.

Last night a young man by the name of Adam Rodermund4 of Co. K, committed suicide while standing on picket post, by getting on his knees, placing the muzzle of the gun against his breast and discharging it by means of a forked stick pushed against the trigger.  No cause can be assigned for the rash act, except that he had been suspected by his Captain of stealing tobacco and threatened with court martial, and during the day his comrades had teased him concerning the charge, and spoke to him of the consequences as being loss of pay and hard labor with ball and chain, which it is thought discouraged and broke his spirit.

They are now examining applicants here for information in a Colored Regiment, 57th U. S., of which Board of Examiners Col. Henry Cobb is President.  Gen. Canby’s draft goes off in this department next month [Edward Canby], and it is making the natives and northern skulks—wharf rats, as the boys call them—wince, and hence the filling up of the colored regiments.  The health of the regiment is good, there being but few sick, and few losses by death since I last wrote.  James Farrell, Co. G., died of chronic diarrhea at Post Hospital, Duvall’s [sic] Bluff, on the 21st of December, 1864, and Charles Keller, same Co., died of the same disease at the same hospital, on the 18th of January, 1865.

I am as ever, G.

divider
On the way to New Orleans—An Important Expedition on the tapis—
General movement of troops—Rival Drum Corps—
Smith Acquitted—Is in Command of the Regiment.

Correspondence of the State Journal.

Mouth of the White River, ARK, }
February 9th, 1865. }

Messrs. Editors :—The 35th Regiment landed at this place yesterday evening, and disembarked to await transportation down the river.  We left Duvall’s Bluff on the Sunny South on the evening of the 6th, and were two days making the trip down—180 miles—in consequence of having two large barges in tow, containing the 77th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  The Sunny South and two or three other boats go back to the bluff to-day, for the purpose of bringing more troops, which are principally from the Little Rock, and among which is the 28th Wisconsin Infantry, and 12th Michigan Infantry.  Six companies of the 27th Wisconsin arrived here yesterday from Little Rock on the Rowena ;  they also disembarked, and are here with us.  All the white troops at Little Rock are under marching orders to report at New Orleans, except two regiments, and all at Duvall’s [sic] Bluff are under the same orders, and there will be no troops left at either place but colored ones.

There appears to be an expedition of the Sherman kind going on [William T. Sherman], and it is surmised to be for the purpose of operating against Mobile by land.  Troops are moving toward the South from almost every point on the river, and the appearance down here at present is energetic and very war-like.

The second day after leaving the Bluff, on our way down, the respective drum corps of the 35th Wisconsin and 77th Ohio, both happened to come out at the same tine to “retreat” roll-call.  Each, as a natural consequence vied with the other, both as to number of tunes and skillful playing.  Old Coppel, the chief musician in our band, alarmed the chief of the 77th very much by the shrill eccentric notes of his “possum-tail” bugle, and the two bands played alternately, much to the amusement of the whole crew.  All I know about the result of the match is, it was reported that the chief of the 77 had “played out,” and old Coppel  next morning was tooting on the bugle and dancing a jig !  The Thirty-fifth has a good drum corps, and would rival anything we have found, if they had a chief musician that could do justice to the profession.

The Court Martial, before which Lt. Col. Smith5 was arraigned, finished its labors on the 5th inst., and the findings of the court were partly disapproved by Brig. General Shaler, in they found him guilty on a charge that which the General thought the evidence did not justify.  We are happy to see the Lt. Col. again free and on duty, and hope the “good order and military discipline” of the regiment may not soon again be so “prejudiced” as to justify his arrest and trial by Court Martial on such charges, that, after twelve days, patiently listening to studied evidence, the members of the Court find themselves unable to convict him of anything more than superior and inferior officers of the army are at sundry times equally culpable.

I think the trial of Col. Smith will produce a healthy influence in the regiment, as it will no doubt, to a great extent, dissipate the former style of preferring charges against officers for every trivial offense.  The volunteer service is such that many mistakes must be, though innocently, committed ;  as it is impossible to obtain experienced  military men to command all the troops now in the field ;  and if every mistake and innocent dereliction is to be seized upon, and men thrown out of the service, and oftentimes disgraced, it is the government that is the loser—not the man.

The sanitary condition of the regiment is good.  A few were left in hospital at the Bluff, but no deaths have occurred since I last wrote.

Respectfully,  G.

1.  William McEntyre Dye (1831-1899) graduated from West Point in 1849. When the Civil War started, he accepted a commission as colonel of the 20th Iowa Infantry. He participated in the Battle of Prairie Grove, the siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Brownsville, the Red River Campaign, the attack on Fort Morgan during the Battle of Mobile Bay, and the Battle of Fort Blakely. He was brevetted a colonel in the U.S. Army and in 1866 was promoted to major. In 1873 Dye traveled to Egypt to become one of several Union and Confederate veterans who offered their service to Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. In 1880 he book on the experience, Moslem Egypt and Christian Abyssinia; Or, Military Service Under the Khedive, in his Provinces and Beyond their Borders, as Experienced by the American Staff, was published. In 1888, General Philip H. Sheridan recommended Dye for the position as Chief Military Adviser to the Korean Government under King Gojong, and he served in that position for the next 11 years.
2.  Alexander Shaler (1827-1911) was active in the New York State militia, becoming major of the 7th New York Militia in 1860, and published a Manual of Arms for Light Infantry (New York : T.B. Harrison & Co., 1861). When the Civil War broke out, Shaler and his regiment, the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, were sent to defend Washington, D.C. Next, Shaler became lieutenant colonel of the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the 1st United States Chasseurs. They served in the Peninsula Campaign and the the Maryland Campaign, and Shaler became colonel in June, 1862.  He received the Medal of Honor (in 1893) for his actions at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg. Shaler also fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, and then commanded Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp. He participated in the Overland Campaign, fighting at the Battle of the Wilderness, where he was captured. After being exchanged, Shaler was transferred West where he served in the Department of the Gulf. Then he served in Arkansas, under Major General Joseph J. Reynolds; the division was based at Devall’s Bluff and was engaged in occupation of the region and minor skirmishes with Confederate forces. Shaler was brevetted major general in July 1865. After the war, he was at various times the head of the New York City Fire Department, president of the National Rifle Association, and Mayor of Ridgefield, New Jersey from 1899 to 1901
3.  Joseph Jones Reynolds (1822-1899) graduated from West Point in 1843 and served at Fort Monroe (Va.), at Carlisle Barracks (Penn.), in Zachary Taylor’s occupation army in Texas in 1845, as an assistant professor at West Point (1846-1857), and again on the frontier. He resigned his commission and taught engineering for a time at Washington University (St. Louis), and in 1860 moved to Indiana, where he was in the grocery business. When the Civil War started, Reynolds received a commission from Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton and was placed in command of Camp Morton, the militia muster encampment. Colonel Reynolds and his 10th Indiana Volunteer regiment was sent to western Virginia, where it played a decisive role at the Battle of Cheat Mountain. Promoted to brigadier general, Reynolds resigned in January 1862 and resumed training Indiana regiments at Camp Morton. He was appointed colonel of the 75th Indiana volunteers and then a brigadier general and major general of U. S. Volunteers. Reynolds commanded a division of the XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, at Hoover’s Gap and Chickamauga. Reynolds was transferred to the Gulf of Mexico, where he led a division of XIX Corps that garrisoned New Orleans, Louisiana. He was later promoted to the command of the XIX Corps, and then commanded VII Corps in Arkansas. After the War, Reynolds remained in the U. S. Army, participating in the Black Hills War (1876-77), leading the Big Horn Expedition and the Battle of Powder River (1876). His campaign ended in failure and he was court martialed and resigned from the Army in 1877.
4.  Adam Rodermund was from Theresa, Wisconsin, and had enlisted in February 1864. The official roster states that he was “accidently killed.”
5.  Charles A. Smith, from Milwaukee. Before becoming lieutenant colonel of the 35th, Smith had been 1st lieutenant of Company E, 24th Wisconsin Infantry. He was mustered out on May 17, 1865.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: