Wisconsin in the American Civil War

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The coat of arms of Wisconsin during the war.

Wisconsin in the American Civil War, being a northern state, fought for the Union. When the Civil War started, Wisconsin raised 91,379 soldiers for the Union Army. They were organized into 53 infantry regiments, 4 cavalry regiments, a company of Berdan's sharpshooters, 13 light artillery batteries and 1 unit of heavy artillery. Most of the Wisconsin troops served in the Western Theater. However, several regiments served in Eastern armies, including three regiments within the famed Iron Brigade. A total of 3,794 were killed in action or mortally wounded. Another 8,022 died of disease. About 400 were killed in accidents. The total casualties were 12,216 men. This was about 13.4 percent of total Wisconsin enlistments.[1]

Soldiers[change | change source]

Approximately 1 in 9 residents (regardless of age, sex or qualification for service) served in the army. In turn, half the eligible voters served. Wisconsin was the only state to organize replacements for troops that had already been sent to war. This led northern generals to prefer having Wisconsin regiments in their command if possible.

A number of Wisconsin regiments were distinguished, including three that served in the celebrated "Iron Brigade"&mdash. These were the 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, and 7th Wisconsin. All were noted for their hard fighting and dashing appearance. They were among the only troops in the Army of the Potomac to wear Hardee hats and long frock coats. They suffered severely at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. The 8th Wisconsin, another hard-fighting regiment, was often accompanied into battle by its mascot, Old Abe, a bald eagle.

In a January 1863 letter to his sister, Union soldier Chauncey Herbert Cooke, a private from Company G of the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, gave his reasons for fighting for the Union in the war, stating that "I have no heart in this war if the slaves cannot go free."[2][3][4]

Women during the war[change | change source]

While men were fighting, many women needed to learn how to farm and do other manual labor. Besides having to tend to the home and children while the men were away at war, women also contributed supplies. Quilts and blankets were often given to soldiers. Other items women often sent included: shirts, sheets, pillows, pillowcases, coats, vests, trousers, towels, handkerchiefs, socks, bandages, canned fruits, dried fruits, butter, cheese, wine, eggs, pickles, books, and magazines. At one point, after the Battle of Resaca, women sent every wounded man within a certain distance a fresh orange or lemon. These fruits were to quench the strong thirst that was known to accompany a wound.[5]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion", ed. J. D. Beck The Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin. Madison: Democrat Printing Company, 1907, pp. 822-823.
  2. James M. McPherson (1997). For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York City, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. p. 117. ISBN 0-19-509-023-3. OCLC 34912692. Retrieved March 8, 2016. Our cause is nobler even than the Revolution, for they fought for their own freedom, while we fight for that of another race. 
  3. Carl M. Cannon. The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War. pp. 293–294. Retrieved March 9, 2016. 
  4. Chauncey Herbert Cooke (1919). "Soldier Boy's Letters to His Father and Mother, 1862–1865" (PDF). Mondovi: The Mondovi Herald. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2016. Retrieved March 9, 2016. 
  5. Ethel Alice Hearn, Wisconsin Women in the War between the States. Wisconsin History Commission. 1911. pp. 26-79.

Other websites[change | change source]